5.0 out of 5 stars | Expensive But Quality That Matches The Price
There's a distinct law of diminishing returns when it comes to high-end audio gear. I suppose that can be said for any kind of product but weighing the pros and cons and determining the "value" of a headphone like this is purely up to the beholder since sound is so subjective and people hear things differently. I work in the musical instruments (high-end electric guitars) and music (artist/band management) industry so I'm around high-end gear and people who take sound very seriously all the time. When it comes to sound people can be very opinionated and one cannot prove or dispute that one piece of high-end gear is better or worse than the other at relatively similar price points. And as we get to higher and higher price points, we are sure to find more and more people arguing about the justification of such prices. Some new custom electric guitars can cost $5000 and up. Does that make a custom guitar from company "A" twice as good as a custom guitar from company "B" that's priced at $2500? Of course not. This also applies to amplifiers, speaker cabinets, effects pedals, cables and everything else involved in producing a good sound. Ultimately, all that matters is that the gear you choose works for you. Obviously, this applies to audiophile gear as well. I've had some good headphones from the likes of AKG, Grado and Sennheiser and I've noticed that all manufacturers have their distinctive sonic stamp. For me, the Sennheiser's character seemed to suit me best as I highly value clarity, balance and prefer "brilliance" over "mellow" and "warmth". Again, it's personal taste and I perfectly understand why some people would prefer more bass or mellowness. I, for one, do not like bass to be emphasized at all and despise boomy bass that overwhelms all the other frequency ranges. So I decided that I could afford to splurge on the one "ultimate" (for me, anyway) over-ears open-back headphone that I've always wanted. After going over various options, I settled on the HD800S and I can honestly say that I'm very pleased with what I'm hearing. I use it with Chord Electronics' Hugo and Mojo DAC/headphone amps and they match up perfectly. I only play ALAC, high-res FLAC and DSD files to listen to my favorite music with a heavy emphasis on classical music and jazz. For rock, metal and modern pop, ALAC in my iTunes library is fine but for classical and jazz that have much greater dynamic range I definitely prefer high-res FLAC and DSD. The soundstage of the HD 800S is superb - extremely broad but also with detailed depth that I have not heard from my previous headphones. There is a three-dimensional quality in where the instruments are placed in the stereo spectrum - not only left to right but front to back. It's by far the largest soundstage I've heard from a headphone but it should be noted that high-res FLAC and DSD files along with a superb DAC like the Chord Hugo have a lot to with that as well. To get the most out of a headphone like the HD800S, you do need other critical components to work in conjunction with it. As for the overall sound quality, it is what I expected out of Sennheiser - bright and super clear but not strident, firm and defined lows, rich mids that are beautifully balanced but with a tad bit more emphasis on the high-mids. I can understand why some would consider this kind of "voicing" to be too bright and prefer something more mellower and warmer but, as I said before, everyone hears things differently. I love the clarity and the definition of the HD800S but also the smoothness of the highs. I haven't heard the 800 but I can say the 800S' highs are silky smooth - especially the string sections of an orchestra which, to me, is the benchmark to check during listening tests. The lows are big and firm but play more of a "supporting" role to everything else than being out at the front which is, again, exactly the way I like to hear things. Listening to some techno-electronica kinds of stuff, the bass has more than enough punch with plenty of definition along with a nice smooth balance amongst the bass frequencies. The truly beautiful thing about the HD 800S sound is its smoothness across the entire sonic spectrum without any noticeable peaks and valleys. It's not just a matter of balance but a very musical "sheen" around the edges. The all-critical mids where the ears naturally tune into is rich but super clear with excellent separation between instruments (including voice) across the stereo field. Whether it's Beethoven's 'Eroica' symphony or Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue' or The Rolling Stones' 'Let It Bleed', I'm hearing details that I've never heard before in all their sonic glory and every one of those little details sounds sublime. Yes, the HD 800S is certainly an expensive piece of gear but if music and sound quality matter that much to you, it's worth a shot. I certainly didn't expect a $1600 headphone to sound "three times" better than a $500 headphone (and I've had a few in that range). Anyone who expects that doesn't understand the law of diminishing returns when it comes to high-end gear. But in the end, if that last 5~10% in greater clarity, depth and detail can be experienced over the previous headphone and greatly increases your overall enjoyment of the music, then it becomes worth every extra dollar and penny. It's easy to feel a sense of "buyer's remorse" after purchasing a headphone like this. Expectations can be too high. I had very realistic expectations and in which areas I expected to hear improvements. In those areas, the HD 800S actually exceeded all my expectations and sounds even better than I thought it would. And, as expected, the sound keeps improving as I'm only now reaching the 100th hour with it. It's a great audio device - one of the best I've ever owned and heard. The industrial design and the workmanship are about as good as they get but, ultimately, it's the sound and the HD 800S really delivers like none that I had ever heard. Addendum: I believe my HD 800S now has surpassed the 150-hour mark. It really does sound so much better than the first few hours. The bit of stiffness I heard around the edges of the notes is now gone. I can sense more "elasticity" in the way the different frequencies and instruments interact with each other. The highs sound smoother, the lows have more bounce and the mids sound richer with even greater detail. The first 100~120 hours really do make a big difference. It just keeps sounding better and better and that's a mighty good thing.
Reviewed in the United States on September 17, 2016 by Virtuoso Fan
1.0 out of 5 stars | Headset cord connection defective, quality issues
Brand new headphone. Went to change the cord and when pulling the left side connection out of the headphone the part that should have remained in the headset pulled out and the wires broke. I"m aware that the cable is to be pulled straight out without turning. It looks like there should be some sort of internal ring that would have kept the part of the connector with the red wire attached to the headset. Tried to remove the right side of the cord and again (second picture) it looked like the internal part of the connection was coming out. I did not attempt to remove the right side. Returned the product to Amazon. Received replacement but for some reason this second headphone did not have the nice cloth liner inside the box. Photo attached of side by side comparison of boxes. They definitely have some quality control issues. For the price you pay you should get better than this.
Reviewed in the United States on November 21, 2018 by Dave G
5.0 out of 5 stars | Brilliant Master Audio Equipment
These are utterly GODLY and I haven't even gotten their full potential from them yet (I have a balanced DAC & Amp on the way - Topping DX7 but currently powering them on a Modi2 MB and Magni 2U). These are my endgame.. Period.. I've read over the months-years and always contemplated trying the HD800 but never thought it was worth it due to "diminishing returns" being so minimal. Here is the list of Cans I've gone through or currently own: Audeze LCD-X, BeyerDynamic T5P Gen2, Sennheiser HD650, Hifiman HE400i, Oppo PM-3, , Audio Technica MSR7, BeyerDynamic DT770, and DT880, V-Moda M100, Bower & Wilkins P7, briefly HD800 (this was a lender that got me to dive into the HD800S). Long Story Short: I've never been happier with a purchase. I got these things in "Open Box - Like New" condition form an authorized dealer and these cans are worth EVERY PENNY. The sound stage is a miracle and these ear speakers are the "Truth". By that I mean, they are brutally honest and will give you the most true representation of what was occurring at the recording studio or concert hall as it was occurring. I have fallen in love with bands I never even knew I could like thanks to these guys. If you enjoy music with a flat EQ, these should be right up your alley. Quick Run-Down (This is my perfect cocktail): Highs - Sweet and roll off the top at just the right point. They don't extend quite as high IMO as the old HD800 (which also sounds phenomenal!) Mids - Present and fairly full. Not as full or in your face like the HD650 but man.. you can easily fall in love with the perfect balance that these maintain so well. Bass - I hear complaints about bass being weak on the HD800s and this surprises the hell out of me. I think for a neutral reference headphone, the bass is just perfect - I wouldn't change it one bit. I've heard it extend so low and well on certain tracks that it just blew me away. Tight, controlled, and just present enough. Comfort: This is a VERY comfortable headphone - no complaints. Love the padding material! Quality: Very high end quality. Demands delicate handling but extreme level of detail was put into the design and creation of this piece. Final Thought: I'm someone who truly enjoys picking songs apart and focusing on analytical pieces.. That being said, I think these are extremely musical. I can sit back and enjoy the music without thinking about it. Not sure where some of these complaints I've read about come from. *Do yourself a favor and at least try them if you're thinking about it.
Reviewed in the United States on October 15, 2017 by CryptixPhi