Since Sennheiser launched the HD800 in 2009, it has become a top pick for many headphone users world wide and is now known as one of the top benchmarks in the open-back headphone category. In February this year, Sennhesier decided to up the game from the HD800 to the HD800 S, while physically they both look very similar and have an almost identical design; optimizations have made the HD800S a superior headphone.
Like the HD800, the HD800 S are precision built in Germany with only the finest materials used in their manufacture. The transducer is surrounded by stainless steel, while the headband and headphone mounting utilises advance materials developed by the aerospace industry.
Unlike the HD800, the HD800S comes with 2 cables bundled together, the standard ¼” Jack connector and then a balanced 4 pin XLR headphone cable to be used with the Sennheiser’s own HDVD 800 amplifier but will work with many other high end headphone amplifiers.
The enhancements to the HD800 S are mainly due to Sennheiser’s new technology which was created for the IE 800 in ear headphones – the “Absorber Technology” which is a breakthrough technology that allows the audibility of very high frequency sounds by eliminating a phenomenon known as the “masking effect”. The masking effect is where the human ear struggles to make out the higher frequencies when lower frequencies are played at a louder level.
Sennheiser’s Absorber Technology prevents any unwanted peaks and allows for all frequencies in the song to become audible, this innovation was key to make the IE 800 “The worlds best sounding in ear headphone” and in the HD800 S it helps to being even greater purity and precision.
As with the HD800 the HD800 S uses a 56mm sound transducer, which is the largest ever used in a dynamic headphone.
So how does it sound
The Sennheiser HD800 S is an amazing headphone that improves on the HD800 in the ways that Sennheiser wanted them to, they improve on the bass without compromising the high and mid end range. Like the HD800, the HD800 S still has that amazing soundstage while keeping a flat response that many have known to love. They also like the HD800 still have great accuracy, once again proving that Sennheiser have improved HD800 without losing its main character.
With the HD800 S its their soundstage and vocal clarity that mainly draws me to them, songs like Michael Jackson’s Love Never Felt so good really show the vocal clarity with great separation in the vocal part of the song too, in this song the HD800 S’s really show the amount of detail in this song given the fact you can hear the room reverb. Another track that has great vocal clarity is Somebody Else by The 1975, it sounds very rhymic with a great soundstage with again amazing separation of the entire track.
Moving onto more fidelic songs like Gregory Porter’s Holding On, the HD800 S gives you a very good presentation of the song it sounds like Gregory is singing right in front of you while still having composure during the louder parts of the song where you can still make out the reverb. Boz Scaggs’s Thanks to You has very very clear vocals with great bass from the keyboard, it also has great separation in between the instruments used.
Glass Animals’s Black Mambo has a great stereo image with the HD800 S, they also produce a great low end with the kick drum, however its not so in your face as you’d expect. The song also has great vocal clarity and good separation. Alica Key’s In Common (Black Coffee Remix) has sliky smooth vocals on the HD800 S and I managed to hear some imperfections that ive never herd in that song before.
Moving onto songs which have more bass in them, Rhythm & Sound’s Lightning Storm shows that the HD800 S have an improvement in the bass compared to the HD800 but they lose control over some of the deeper notes in this song but they still manage to have an excellent sound stage. Disclosure’s Hourglass also seems perhaps a little boomy to my tastes but still also has good vocal separation and a good soundstage. However, Benga and Coki’s Night sounds just about right with bass that isn’t too in your face.
In conclusion from my limited time with them, the HD800 S improves on the HD800 the way that Sennheiser wanted to, they increased the bass without clouding the mid and highs of the headphone, while it isn’t quite Audeze LCD bass its still excellent given that it’s a dynamic driver. The midrange is sliky smooth without any peaking and given that its not fatiguing its easy to listen the HD800 S’s for longer periods of time, the comfort is also excellent with no ear ache or neck strain from the weight of the headphones. The cable is also nice and light unlike other headphones which I’ve used, some almost feel like the cable is actually pulling the headphones down. The soundstage from the HD800 is still there and very present, its very open and wide giving you a real sense of the room it was produced in, while still producing massive amounts of detail and separation.
- HD800 S.
- Grado 3.5mm to ¼” jack.
- Chord Mojo.
- iPhone 6 w/ Camera Connection Kit.
- PC (Windows 10) with JRiver Media Centre 22.
- Impedance – 300Ohm.
- Frequency Response – 4-51,000Hz (+-10dB).
- THD – 0.02% (1kHz, 1Vrms).
- Connector – XLR4, 6.3mm (1/4″) Jack.
- Transducer – Dynamic Open Back.
- Weight – 330 grams.