Sennheiser HD 800 Best Headphone?

OVERVIEW

More than 60 years of ingenious headphone engineering has been applied to the new HD 800. Incorporating Sennheiser’s most advanced driver technology, these open, around-the-ear, dynamic stereo headphones redefine what reference-grade audio is all about.

The HD 800 is hand-assembled in Germany with only the finest of materials. The transducer is encased in a precision material made of stainless steel, while the headband and headphone mounting utilizes the most advanced development from the aerospace industry.

FEATURES

Reference class wired stereo headphones

Open, around-the-ear, dynamic stereo headphones

Natural hearing experience – realistic and natural sound field with minimal resonance

Biggest transducers ever used in headphones up to today – new innovative dynamic transducer design

Open earcups facilitate transparent sound while showcasing cutting edge industrial design

Metal headband with inner-damping element

Specially tuned symmetrical, impedance matching cable with low capacitance

Precision headphone connectors with detachable cable

Plush, luxurious ear and headband padding

Built-tough with a 2 YEAR warranty
#HD800
FULL-SIZE OPEN HEADPHONE REVIEWS

Sennheiser HD 800 S: Tweaked and Delightful…and a French DIY Response

Sennheiser HD 800 (left) and newly evolved HD 800 S (right).
Sennheiser HD 800 S ($1699)
When introduced in 2009, the Sennheiser HD 800 rapidly became recognized as one of the world’s best headphones, having unbelievably good transient response and detail retrieval, spectacular imaging, and being competitive with the best electrostatics and planar magnetics—having some trade-offs here and there.

But the HD 800 is also quite problematic. It has a sharp sounding peak at around 6kHz that will, at times and with problematic recordings, drill a bleeding hole in your eardrums. Adding to this problem is an overall cool response, lacking the bass extension that, say, an Audeze LCD planar magnetic can has.

I’m not going to do a traditional InnerFidelity headphone review here; the new HD 800 S is very much like its predecessor only changing a few small acoustic tweaks, and being dressed in a black livery—a look I like very much. So, if you want to read about styling, comfort, and build quality—all of which are terrific—you can look at my previous HD 800 review here and just imagine it in black. Oh, and with two cables: one with standard 1/4″ plug; and the other with a 4-pin XLR for balanced use.

In this article, I’m going to bring out exactly what I’ve found as the acoustic differences between the HD 800 and HD 800 S. And! I’m going to tell you about a very cool modification you can do to an old HD 800 to get some of the benefits found in the new HD 800 S. Grab a cuppa, sit back, and enjoy, I promise this will be an interesting read.

Acoustic Changes to the sennheiser HD 800 S
Sennheiser, from what I can tell, has done two things to the HD 800 S to improve its sound quality: Damped the spike in response at 6kHz, and warmed up the headphone a bit. We’ll take them one at a time.

Killing the 6kHz Spike
Right after I published my Sennheiser HD 800 review, I also published what was termed at the time “The Anaxilus Mod”, which intended to damp the 6kHz spike by putting felt in certain positions in the earcup of the HD 800 to reduce its ability to resonate. This mod has evolved over time and it seems lives on in this SBAF thread.

The problem with adding a bunch of damping material in the ear cup is that it’s not particularly selective about what frequencies get attenuated. If the problem at 6kHz is narrow-band, well, using a solution that’s narrow-band makes more sense than wide-bandwidth absorbing material.

Current SuperBAF mod using a specific rug liner material to damp the earcup.
I need to note here that the materials now being recommended by HD 800 modders at this point are not simply wide-band absorbing felt. Many, many materials have been tried and measured. The current material of choice is somewhat elastic and has regularly repeating holes (see photo above)—both of these characteristic may give the material a degree of selectivity in what frequencies are attenuated, and may also be a source of spurious secondary emission of sound.

Sennheiser, being the smarty-pants engineers they are—and I say that with a great deal of affection—took the alternate route of engineering what, it seems to me, is a narrow-band Helmhotz resonator into the opening at the center of the driver. Essentially a surgical attack, providing a tightly tuned anti-resonance at 6kHz.

Helmhotz resonators have been around since 1850 when Hermann von Helmholtz exhaled a sharp sigh of relief after finishing a bottle of poor brew and heard the bottle emit a tone…Ha! No, sorry, I have no idea how he figured it out.