Sennheiser is one of the few companies that can create audio products that stand the test of time. The amazing thing is that Sennheiser makes several of these types of products and a good number of them are the exorbitantly priced ones. This is a price a bit beyond the audiophile level. Think north of $1,000, which is well beyond the budget of many music lovers. That kind of money can get you a decent set of headphones along with a fairly powerful home theater receiver. But the Sennheiser HD 800 doesn’t play around. Even though, this product is more than 5 years old, the price remains at a premium point and for good reason too.
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About the Sennheiser HD 800
The HD 800 is basically the result of Sennheiser’s drive to make something that is far more epic than the already expensive HD 650. The funny thing is that the Sennheiser HD 800 makes the HD 650 look cheap since you can get that pair of impressive headphones for several hundred dollars less. But in terms of looks, the HD 800 flat out wins because of the sheer amount of modern engineering Sennheiser did to make this product truly a timeless classic.
Sennheiser describes the pair of headphones as open, circum-aural dynamic stereo headphones that have uncovered earcups giving it a nice techie feel. It uses a nice combination of high-quality plastics and stainless steel with aerospace-class design. It is unlike any set of headphones out in the market today and that’s important because you want it to stand out and look unique if you plan on spending more than $1,000.
The cable deserves a special mention too because it uses a proprietary technology. This 10-foot Y-shaped cable can be detached from each headphone unit revealing unique connectors. The 6.3mm phono plug can’t directly be used with a portable media device like an iPod but you can buy your own adapter to use the product with the standard 3.5mm jack. The cable itself feels very high quality as it feels like cloth but it is actually made of Kevlar. Finding a third-party cable that works with the HD 800 might be tricky but you shouldn’t have to as the connectors are also made with high-grade material that is sure to last.
The futuristic design of the Sennheiser HD 800 didn’t sacrifice on comfort. The earpads are made of microfiber fabric and are handcrafted to meet the highest standards. Not only do these earpads feel luxuriously comfortable but the earpad pressure felt right at home. It feels pretty light too making it one of the best headphones for long-term listening ever made.
Carrying a pair of highly expensive over-ear headphones isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. But for those feeling brave, the HD 800 does come with a nicely designed carrying case. Build quality is excellent as expected. The Sennheiser HD 800 is certainly light enough for travel.
There are a lot of serious technologies within the HD 800 that make the huge price tag far more reasonable. When the Sennheiser HD 800 was first introduced, the 56mm doughnut-shaped transducer broke the record for being the largest transducer ever and results to less distortion. Virtually every design aspect of the product had something to do with boosting the performance. For instance, Sennheiser tried to emulate the sound of a high-quality speakers by putting the earcups at an angle and giving it adequate stainless steel support. The actual feeling is hard to describe but imagine listening to a pair of headphones where the sound goes right to your ear so they sound like actual speakers.
Thanks to the way the HD 800 was tuned for sonic balance, it sounded far better than any other set of headphones at a lower price point. The fact that the Sennheiser HD 800 is open may or may not attract people. Some folks might consider the sound too spacious or distant but it also varies depending on the type of music you are listening to. If you are looking for something noise isolating, the HD 800 is the worst possible choice.
The Sennheiser HD 800 can handle just about any genre of music you throw at it. The mids are open, transparent and perfectly accurate. It is easy to imagine some audiophiles planning to buy this pair of headphones for this reason alone. The bass performance of the HD 800 is very natural and sounds a bit overdamped which is something that purists and audiophiles should appreciate. It is by no means a superior replacement of any of those $300 headphones that boast emphasized bass. Light and stupendous are the best two words to describe the bass. The treble is a bit bright although the results will vary depending on the type of amp you use.
One of the best ways to truly experience the uniqueness of the Sennheiser HD 800 is to watch movies with it. Closing your eyes while watching a Blu-ray title does make the experience sound as if the speakers are right next to you. It won’t give you that surround-sound feeling but the way your ears actually listen to the sound is literally amazing.
• Tested and proven to be one of the best sounding headphones ever.
• Excellent midrange.
• Solid, well-defined bass.
• Very durable Y-cable.
• Carrying case feels premium.
• Outstanding build quality.
• Still ridiculously expensive.
• Cannot use with portable media players out of the box.
It is still amazing to know just how old the Sennheiser HD 800 is. The price hasn’t changed all that much and it really shouldn’t because the amount of tech channeled into this pair of headphones is huge and the design is second-to-none. It may not be the perfect all-around set of headphones but the excellent mids alone means that just about everything sounds better than any of the more affordable high-end headphones. By getting the HD 800, you are not just buying a pair of headphones; you are buying a pair of small powerful speakers that you can happen to wear.