This is a Sennheiser HD800 review. Shortly after the Sennheiser HD 800 over-ear circum-aural dynamic premiere headphone was first produced it was awarded the title of “Headphone Of The Year” from the European Imaging and Sound Association. Since it first appeared in January of 2009 it hasn’t had any major modifications. It hasn’t needed any changes because many professionals and audiophiles consider it to be the best set of around-ear hd headphones that can be found anywhere. In Amazon reviews it gets a grade of 4.6 stars out of 5.
Sennheiser HD 800 are dj-style, pro audio headphones for professional use, or for the audiophile who can afford to listen to the very best. They are not cheap. The best price for the HD 800 is probably on Amazon for about $1,500. At times it is also possible to get a reduced price on Amazon for a used or refurbished set. Someone who needs a professional dj headphone at a much more reasonable price might consider something like the Sennheiser HD25.
This is a very powerful set of over the head headphones. The first design priority is excellence in sound quality, the second priority is for comfort, to make long listening sessions comfortable, and the third priority is for durability. The overwhelming majority of Sennheiser HD800 over ear headphone reviews indicate that these headphones have accomplished all three functions of durability, comfort, an sound quality.
Every unit is assembled by hand, and each one is individually tested. On the headband there is a special unit serial number engraved. The owner can use the serial number to check the history of the headphones and to know how well the it did in the factory test.
Since these are designed as a set of professional dj headphones, or pro audio headphones for studio work, they use a lot of power. For the best results a listener would need to use them with a good headphone amplifier. For this reason they are not very practical to use with a cell phone or a mobile listening device.
What Are The Specifications Of The Sennheiser HD 800?
The designers and engineers have spared no expense to build into the Sennheiser HD 800 headphones the best materials with a combination of specialized features which are not to be found in any other set of lightweight stereo headphones. Some of the most important results include the following specifications:
- 6 hertz – 51,000 hertz frequency response
- 300 ohms impedance
- 102 dB sound pressure level at 1,000 hertz
- Less than 0.02% total harmonic distortion at 1,000 hertz
- 500 mW maximum long term input power
- 3.4 (approximate) Newtons contact pressure
- 11.6 ounce (330 grams) total unit weight (without the connecting cable)
- 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) stereo jack plug connection
- 9 foot 10 inch (3 meter) connecting cable
- 2 year warranty
What Do The Sennheiser HD 800 Headphones Sound Like?
The most important goal in the design of the Sennheiser HD 800’s is a near-perfect sound stage with the most natural reproduction that is possible from the audio source. Damping properties must be optimized to reduce distortion, at the same time sound pressure waves are produced that closely mimic nature.
For the best results, it was necessary to use an open-back ear cup design. This, of corse, means that the HD 800 has no noise isolation. Outside sounds will penetrate the headphones, and anyone nearby can hear what the user is listening to. If the listener just wants to enjoy his music, he will have to use the headphones in a quiet room. But for some kinds of studio work, the open back design adds the benefit of allowing the user to hear the sounds of what’s going on around him, as well as well as being able to hear the sounds that are coming out of the headphones.
Whether the headphones are being used for work or for pleasure, the open ear cups, along with other design features, work together to produce several important quality audio effects:
Spatial Acoustic Effect
The HD 800 is engineered to replicate the natural acoustic conditions by an effect which the Sennheiser company calls the “Spatial Acoustic Effect.” This adds depth the sound imaging by introducing the sound pressure waves at a more natural angle.
Other headphones introduce sound waves into the ear at an angle of 90° degrees. This is unnatural because the human outer ears are shaped in such a way as to best pick up sounds coming from directly in front of us. The ear cups of the HD 800 are shaped in such a way as to introduce the sound waves at a more natural angle of about 60° degrees.
In nature, the 60° angle of our outer ears allows the human brain to localize the direction of the sound waves for precise, natural sound staging and imaging. In other words, the angle allows the listener do discern where he is in relation to the sound source. When this angle is imitated in the ear cups of the HD800’s, it gives the listener the illusion that the sounds are actually surrounding him.
When sound is introduced at an angle of 60° degrees, the acoustic pressure waves stimulate the auditory nerves which are closer to the outer ear first, slightly before the waves stimulate the audio nerves deeper in the ear, kind of like a natural, organic echo chamber. The effect is the perception of natural sound depth, so that the user feels as though he were surrounded by natural sounds.
Extended Frequency Range
Sennheiser HD 800 has an unusually broad frequency response range of 6 hertz to 51,000 hertz. That goes far beyond the limits of normal human hearing. A person with perfect hearing can only hear tones as low as about 12 hertz, and can only hear pitches as high as about 20,000 hertz.
Usually, a set of headphones will have some extra distortion in the very lowest tones that it can produce because, at those low frequencies, the drivers are being stressed to their limit. This is less of a problem with large drivers because, the larger the driver, the better they can handle low bass tones. A larger transducer surface area produces purer sound, especially in the lower bass tones. HD 800 has unusually large 56 mm transducers. These are the largest found in any set of headphones, so they can produce lower bass tones than any other headphones. And since the lowest tones produced go far below the threshold of human hearing, any distortion in those low bass tones cannot be heard.
Many headphones make certain pitches stronger than others within their frequency ranges. Some are designed to produce especially powerful bass tones. Sennheiser HD 800, however, is designed to be a reference headphone because of its application as a dj or a professional studio headphone. This means that all pitches have the same emphasis throughout the frequency spectrum, and no tones are louder or softer than any others.
Sennheiser 800 HD headphones have the lowest distortion level of any headphones available to the public. Very rigid materials are used in the construction to bring the distortion level down to below 0.02%. Without rigid materials, much energy is wasted in rattling and shaking the materials and distorting the sound. The unusually sturdy materials of the HD 800s increase the acoustic efficiency at the same time that they reduce and virtually eliminate the distorting mechanical vibrations.
Damping properties in the headband and in the ear cup cushions and linings absorb mechanical or harmonic vibrations that are not eliminated by the rigid materials. More detailed information about the rigid construction materials will be discussed below.
Distortion of high pitches is another problem when volume is increased. Most headphones use a flat diaphragm in their speakers. A flat diaphragm produces a dome-shaped sound pressure wave which strikes the ear’s auditory nerves unevenly. The HD800 uses a ring shaped transducer driver with a v-shaped diaphragm. The ring shape produces a flatter sound wave which stimulates the auditory nerves more evenly, and the v-shaped geometry of the diaphragm virtually eliminates harmonic distortion in the higher frequencies by inhibiting the build up of standing pressure waves on the diaphragm. The result is greater clarity in the higher pitches, even at high volume.
What Special Features Do The HD 800’s Have?
One unique feature of the Sennheiser H800’s is the specialized 56 mm transducer speaker driver. Not only is it the largest transducer of its kind found in any set of headphones, so that it produces cleaner and purer bass tones, but its size also allows extra space for some refinements in design. 98 windings of aluminum wire in 3.5 layers make a precision coil that is only 42 micrometers thick. This coil oscillates freely in a space that is only 0.6 mm wide between two supporting surfaces inside a 42 mm magnet system. This arrangement keeps the coil oscillations from being transmitted to the headphone mountings.
The thick, removable, braided cable is nearly 10 feet (3 metres) long, and is made of reinforced, silver-plated, oxygen-free copper for the best conduction possible. The cable attaches to the sound equipment with a 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) Swiss gold-plated jack plug. Gold plating gives the jack very low transfer resistance. And the jack plug is set in a thick, durable teflon resistance sheathe. At the other end, the connecting cable divides into two with a Y harness, and the two tips plug into each ear cup with a precision mini connector, designed to eliminate the effect of a loose connection that can cause static, reduce volume, or lose the signal altogether.
Are the HD 800 Headphones Comfortable To Wear?
The HD 800 headphones are built with several comfort features and materials to make long lisening sessions more pleasant for the audiophile who wants to enjoy his music or for the professional who might need to wear his headphones for several hours each day. The contact pressure exerted by the headphones is about 3.4 Newtons. This pressure is distributed over a very wide surface area on both sides of the head by extra large, soft ear cushions. Ear pads are made of a very special, soft, microfiber Japanese Akantara fabric material.
The large size of the Sennheiser HD 800 headphones is necessary in order to house the extra large transducer drivers for the very best sound quality possible. The size makes the headphones look heavy, but they don’t feel heavy because the rigid materials are actually very light. The total weight of the headphones is only 11.6 ounces (330 grams) without the cable.
The ear cups are mounted on two pivot points: one just under the headband for horizontal rotation, and one at the rear of the ear cup for vertical rotation. This allows the ear cups to comfortably and automatically conform to the shape of any sized head. The sliding headband adjusts easily to virtually any sized head with a circular slide, not with a straight slide like most headband adjustments.
One common complaint about over ear headphones is the problem of uncomfortable heat buildup. The open-back design of these ear cups relieves much of the heat build up by allowing air from outside to circulate inside the extra large, ear-shaped cavities. One of the audiophile headphone reviews has complained, however, that there was some heat build up under the foam headband cushion after prolonged use.
How Are The HD 800 Sennheiser Headphones Constructed?
Sennheiser has spared no expense to build into the HD800’s the finest materials for the best sound quality, comfort, and durability. This means using the most rigid materials in some parts to resist mechanical vibrations, and using the softest materials in other places to absorb vibrations and enhance comfort. As mentioned above, the extra-large ear cushions are made of a special, soft Japanese Akantara microfiber material. A cloth lining inside the ear cup cavity is removable and washable. The headband is cushioned against the head with a highly advanced material used in the aerospace industry. All these soft materials have quality damping properties.
Rigid, vibration-resistant elements of the HD800 construction include an outer basket on each ear cup made with a 60% glass-filled liona plastic material. The transducer itself is enclosed in a precision, stainless steel casing. The headband consists of a heavy metal strap sandwiched between several layers of high-tech plastic.
What Do Sennheiser HD 800 Reviews Say About Their Purchase?
Since the Sennheiser HD 800 headphones are such a big investment, naturally someone wants to know what previous owners have to say about them. Most owners of the Sennheiser HD 800 headphones say that they are very satisfied with their purchase. A few disagree.
The thing that positive reviewers mention the most is the sound quality. They say that the sounds seem very accurate. Several mention that the bass, mid tones and high pitches are all very well balanced throughout the frequency range without any tones being stronger than the others. And reviewers like that they could not hear any distortion at all, even in the very high pitches.
The second most mentioned quality among positive reviews is the comfort. They mention that the around-ear design of the cushions doesn’t even touch the ears at any point, so the pressure rests on the sides of their heads, not on their ears. For their size, they find the headphones to be very light. They find the ear cups to be very cool to wear, even in very warm weather, so that they can wear them for hours on end. One reviewer praises the very solid construction.
There are also some reviewers who are disappointed with the Sennheiser HD800. With regard to the sound, one reviewer says that he had wanted to hear more bass, and this is not a bass-heavy headphone. A few say that, tough they usually think that the sound is good, they don’t think that it is good enough to justify the price of $1500. One reviewer complains about size and weight, saying that they felt more like a helmet than a set of headphones. And another says that there is so much sound leakage that he can’t use them in public because everyone in the room can hear what he’s listening to.