Sennheiser HD800S Headphone Review
Back in 2009, Sennheiser created some waves with its new HD800 flagship, for those who wanted an upgrade over the likes of the steadfast HD600. Although they strived for technical excellence with the HD800, some thought that it lacked the ‘human touch’ and came across as overly analytical. The HD800 is still perhaps the best at features such as soundstage and imaging, but it is perhaps a sense of warmer musicality which remains close to people’s hearts when they hear the music they love.
So enter the Sennheiser HD800S, in answer to this problem of capturing hearts as well as minds. Did Sennheiser get it right with this second flavour of HD800?
- Excellent soundstage
- Stellar comfort
- Extra balanced cable for possible future upgrades!
- Requires a good amp to be at its best
- May surprise some with its altered frequency response
- Costs more than the older HD800
Design and Appearance
To those who are at least familiar with the HD800, the HD800S holds no surprises in terms of build and looks, apart from its rather dashing and debonair makeover. The colour scheme is rather reminiscent of the way each sound, but more on that later.
The Sennheiser HD800S comes with an extra balanced cable and an attractive box in which the HD800S can be kept; it’s no use as a travel box but for keeping the HD800S out of the cat’s way when at home.
Again, very similar to the original model; comfort is second to none with the large velour covered earpads, and plush headband padding; we’ve had less comfortable hairstyles. Being the pinnacle of Sennheiser’s output (OK we’re ignoring the Orpheus here), no expense has been spared to keep comfort first-class.
Suitability for intended application
With the natural environment for the HD800S being at home with an easy chair, a selection of hors d’oeurves and an amplifier, the HD800S fits right in. Designed for sound quality and comfort above all else, the Sennheiser HD800S does not do well if we wish to listen from our phones or mobile devices whilst moving about the house; it requires power to sound at its best.
Its open-backed design forbids being at close quarters with those who want to watch TV for instance, and it’s only fair to the HD800S if we give it our undivided attention.
Compared with its silvery forbear, the HD800S is definitely tuned to give more of a bottom end and less prominent detail up at the top end. It’s almost like it’s been tipped like a see-saw to appease a larger section of the headphone-loving public, and why not?
Bass is every bit there and very deep. Some might think that the HD800S gives too much with some tracks but it just delivers what’s put in. Dance tracks and related bass heavy genres will shine on the HD800S, with a fluid, buttery bass quality which is reminiscent of Sennheiser’s IE800 in-ear model.
The midrange is very clear with the subtle details not lost on the listener. Shaking drumskins, rattling guitar strings and rasping woodwinds give a good impression of detail whilst preserving musicality. The HD800 was sometimes criticised for its unremitting accuracy and analytical nature; well, meet its soulful brother!
Vocals can sometimes stray toward the strident side of things and we all have our own sensitivities here, but the Sennheiser HD800S gave no trouble with listening fatigue after at least 90 minutes of listening.
Adding a little extra sizzle and snap to a presentation is fine for the HD800S, but the quantity of treble presence is limited when compared to the original model. There is a good impression of detail and space but the whole theme appears to be comfort with the HD800S, and care was taken to follow this.
Soundstage and Separation
Soundstage is very wide with an impression of depth too. Hard-panned instruments and sounds seem like they emanate from behind with a resultant stretching of the presentation around the head. The effect is to give the impression of added immersion.
Music genres good for and why
The Sennheiser HD800S is a true all rounder with a particular talent for rock, pop, dance and jazz; anything which benefits from really nice bass reproduction and a warm, engaging atmosphere. Its soundstage and midrange are good for genres like opera and classical too, but if you enjoy those genres exclusively, then consider trying the original HD800 instead.
The original HD800 is like the consummate professional; attending to every detail and demanding perfection. Consequently, its manner is curt, clipped and unyielding. On the other hand the HD800S is like most of us; we do most of what we do well; and anything we do not do well, we can more than make up for with charm!