The Sennheiser HD800 is a headphone that exceeded the standard of personal music reproduction at the time of its release back in 2009. And ‘till this day is still considered and is well regarded as one of the best headphones in the world. Senneheiser’s goal when creating this masterpiece was to eliminate compromise and re-invent the core foundation of the headphone listening experience. What a mighty expectation to set and what a courageous task to achieve.
The HD800’s comes stored in a finely crafted cardboard material box with a luxurious velvety felt that cushions the HD800’s inside. Immediately, the presentation given here is that you are dealing with something of epic proportions. There are documentations also included essentially describing the HD800’s technical abilities and the engineering process in detail kind of making you feel even more enthralled and enthusiastic about your new investment.
The HD800’s physical aesthetics are very futuristic and sci-fi and are more designed to showcase its technical ability as opposed to being purely stylish. This is a headphone that entirely favors function over form. The massive ear cups pivot and swivel to accommodate the subtle angles on the head to achieve that perfect fit. The HD800’s ear cups offer the most room that I have personally encountered from any headphone with not only a wide diameter to completely go around the ear, but incredible depth and distance from the speaker. The ear pads are supple, and feel soothing on the skin. Sennheiser calls the material alcantara which is also found in the interior of high end sports cars. The headband frame has been precisely crafted to minimize any vibration distortion caused by the speakers which can channel thru the headband interrupting the equilibrium of the opposing speaker.
The HD800’s speaker design and the fundamental properties surrounding it are entirely unique. From the steel mesh acoustical transparent filters to the exposed and ventilated rear magnet structure, these design cues point towards Sennheiser’s goal to achieve no compromise.
The sound of the HD800’s have been loved and hated, but there’s no denying the surreal sense of clarity and resolution in the presentation, the microscopic detail retrieval capability and the pin-point accurate imaging separation and projection of this headphone. The sounds that emit from the HD800 sound as if they simply appear out of nowhere and you can reach out touch it. However with all of this clarity and detail comes a flaw. A flaw that may not even be a fault of the HD800, but a fault of our human intellect. A fault that may just well be reality. Simply put, the HD800’s are very analytical.
Bass presentation here is stellar with impeccable levels of control and refinement that simple just allows the subtle textures to just flow off into the ambience unaltered by its neighboring notes. This is only bested by my planar magnetics terms of the sense of authority behind the notes while maintaining precision. The HD800’s bass is simply exquisite and is easily the best presentation of bass that I have heard from a dynamic driver.
Holographic and illusive in its presentation is the midrange response. A vocalist can be rendered with such precision and spatial position that it quite quickly becomes an illusion rather than listening to music. An illusion that they’re actually there, in your room but you cannot see nor touch them. The level of fundamental and spatial detail is astonishing and just allows the core of the music to easily and I mean easily be deciphered and analyzed to your heart’s content. Nothing will make the HD800’s trip over itself and render an even slightly confused passage of the most complex song you can find.
The treble is where either what you may want to call a flaw or the basic principles of our human perception coming into play. The HD800’s in terms of measurements are simply unmatched overall. Looking at the frequency response does show a very present, but not necessarily overly emphasized treble response in relation to the midrange and bass. What must be understood is that a treble response that is linear on paper will not sound like so in reality. The HD800’s treble is accurate, but not natural. Accurate in that it is insanely detailed and resolving and helps power the immensely open and wide soundstage that recreates everything in a 3D venue with laser positioning that just redefines what listening to headphones is all about. However, not natural in that it is a bit too much and emphasizes any flaw in the recording and gives a cold rendition of the music if it’s not optimally mastered.
Thankfully, I know the power of an equalizer and with that applied to slightly reduce some of the energy in the treble, I have pretty much found audio nirvana.