I would pick my Sennheiser HD800S over pretty much any speaker

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by ls35a, Apr 21, 2017.

  1. ls35a

    ls35a Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Eagle, Idaho
    I've been a headphone guy for maybe eight years or so. And I've finally come down hard on the 'headphone' side of the 'speakers/headphones' debate.

    I have original Quads in my main system and I realized the other night I prefer my HD800S to them. They are more detailed, easier to listen to, have zero room interactions. And I love the comfy chair sitting next to my headphone setup.

    I have maybe six grand worth of amp/pre running the Quads (and yes, it sound spectacular). But to get astonishingly good sound out of the HD800s? A fourteen hundred dollar amp.

    If you haven't liked headphones try listening to a really good headphone setup sometime. I often think I'm not a headphone guy I'm a 'HD800S' guy. They are so comfortable and sound so freaking good.

    If I had it to do over again I would have a nice but unspectacular speaker setup for background music and the same headphone setup I have now (amp is a Violectric V280, BTW. Dac is Chord 2Qute and source is a Node 2 streamer).
    oldschool, forthlin, Robert C and 3 others like this.
  2. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Makes sense that there is such a discrepancy over cost as there are no room factors to contend with when using headphones. Also, not as much power is needed to drive them.

    Personally, I wouldn't be able to stand being corded and having something to wear on my head when listening to music at all times.

    Aren't the 800s touted as being a pair made especially for classic music?
    Tullman, Sneaky Pete and Helom like this.
  3. Ecki

    Ecki Active Member

    Don't you miss the pressure on your breast, when the speakers seem to hop off the chassis? The feeling of hardly being able to make a step forward? Or the fear they will blow you off the chair? Not completely joking...
    JNTEX and Waxfreak like this.
  4. bruce2

    bruce2 Forum Resident

    Connecticut, USA
    I love the sound of my headphones, AKG K712, but like strat-mangler said I don't like being corded and wearing something on my head for any length of time. Even though my headphone system sounds better I still listen to speakers over 90% of the time.
  5. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Washington, D.C.
    Headphones are quite a different listening experience from speakers. The sound is detailed, intimate and free of distracting environmental noise, even when the phones are not designed to block out the rest of the world. I do more speaker listening, but, I can easily see how someone would prefer phones.

    As to specific phones, taste seem to vary at least and widely with phones as they do with speakers. Personally, I prefer the cheaper, lower level models of Sennheiser phones to the 800. The 800 sound too thin and bright for my taste. The plus side for the 800 is that they are quite comfortable and reasonably light in weight.
  6. murphythecat

    murphythecat Forum Resident

    I totally feel you LS35a, I feel the same way. I prefer headphone listening over speakers.
    I think its the room the culprits. or maybe the single driver in headphones, but i think its the room. Room colorations are very severe, even in relatively well treated rooms, unless your going full on room treatment.

    I have got the shl5+, and I can say that this brought a lot of pleasure to listening to speakers vs all the smaller speaker I had prior:p3ESR, SCM7, One18, ect. P3ESR or smaller standmount just lacks too much low down to really satisfy I think. I will test Tannoy berkeley to see if going even bigger then shl5+ could help because Im in the same boat, I prefer good headphones setup over speakers.

    hd800 are one of the best headphones in the world, I lovemy modded pair. if you want something different, I highly recommend:
    Focal Utopia
    ZMF Atticus
    Kennerton Odin
    Hifiman h1k v2
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
  7. Waxfreak

    Waxfreak Forum Resident

  8. ls35a

    ls35a Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Eagle, Idaho
    Looking forward to hearing headphone news from Chicago this weekend. I wonder if the MrSpeakers electrostat will finally be ready for prime time?

    LARGERTHAN Forum Resident

    I like speaker and headphone listening pretty much equally - both have their merits. Sometimes I plug my 600's into my amp, disable speakers but leave the sub on - makes for a great melding of the two! Detail and visceral slam. 101 antithesis to all things audiophile but fun nevertheless.
    timind likes this.
  10. murphythecat

    murphythecat Forum Resident

    ls35a, I see you got benchmark ahb2. I know some headphone enthousiast using those amps to drive headphone even after having owned headphone tube amps such as EC ZDS, DNA startus, EC studio. I highly recommend with your amps to power your phone with it.
  11. Electrostat headphones can be very nice. I'm curious too about the Mr. Speakers electrostat, and any other electrostat headphone. Unfortunately they get expensive and the amps to drive them get expensive too. Electrostat headphones becomes too much of a specialized and expensive rabbit hole. For those that can do it, it's very nice.

    I'm trying to decide between the HD800S, Focal Elear, and possibly some other similar level headphone as my next headphone. The HD800S seems to be the most likely one to win. I already have a good amp that will pair with the HD800S.
    Rolltide likes this.
  12. Mike-48

    Mike-48 Forum Resident

    Portland, Oregon
    And I would pick my Janzen Valentinas over any headphone. But if I were buying headphones, I think the 800 would be a great choice.
  13. Litejazz53

    Litejazz53 Enjoying Sparkling Crystal Clear Digital

    Ham, you should jump on board the HD-800S bandwagon. I upgraded from the 800 to the 800S, they really are very nice headphones. Also changed to the 800 Sennheiser headphone amp and balanced from the headphone amp to the headphones. I know you have been looking at these for a good while. Call up Todd the vinyl junkie and get that nice Sennheiser discount and grab a pair! Happy listening. :edthumbs:
  14. Litejazz53

    Litejazz53 Enjoying Sparkling Crystal Clear Digital

    You should see the in-ceiling model, stunning! :yikes:
    Kyhl and Waxfreak like this.
  15. I tend to think it's the single driver thing doing the magic. Have you heard a single driver "full range" speaker? Like the type/style of speaker from Blumenstein Audio? There can be a surprising amount of headphone style sound in a speaker like that. The coherence and lack of a crossover comes through. That leads me to believe that that may be where the benefits of the headphone style sound are in comparison to speakers.

    I don't find all headphones to be equally coherent. Coherence is more than just a single driver. There is something else going on that also needs to synergize. If a headphone manages that coherence and synergy the way I like then magic happens. When that coherence and synergy happens I hear that soundstage/imaging depth blooms, everything sounds as if in the same style of space, it's all as one. The Audeze LCD series have demonstrated that style of coherence and synergy with the Cavalli Liquid Fire or Liquid Crimson or EC Balancing Act, and a few other amps, but with most other amps they lose it and sound flat and with a bass and treble that don't become properly coherent. The HD600/HD650 do it with a variety of good amps, the HD800 can but it's often a case of close but no cigar due to the lack of bass oomph and their tendency to the treble side of things. Fostex T50RP mods often end up sounding like 2-way speakers with a lack of coherency between the bass and the treble. Kennerton Odin, no, it sounds like a 2-way speaker. HiFiMan H1K v1, no (I haven't heard the V2 yet) the soundstage of the V1 is not coherent and is flat and disjointed like a sideways figure 8. Focal Elear has a strange weird narrow depth style that sounds like it's in an expanding hallway (the Utopia didn't have that problem but it's several thousand more than I can spend on a headphone). The Mr. Speakers Ether were flat in depth, but I haven't heard the latest version. There is more to this coherence thing than just having a single driver and no crossover.

    When a headphone and amp and source all synergize and do that coherence thing and soundstage/imaging depth thing the results are wonderful and will rival the speaker experience if you are listening predominantly for those things.
  16. I have been looking for my next headphone for a while. And the HD800/HD800S has been at the top of that list for a while.

    What keeps me from pulling the trigger is that I'm very very very happy with my Cavalli Liquid Fire and LCD-2 combo. It's not perfect. It's not what I consider neutral. But it sounds so so so good to me. What it is doing right is what I like. I can forgive what it is doing wrong because I like what it is doing right so much, and I haven't heard another headphone and amp do this same "right" as well. The HD800S is good, but it doesn't grab me and make me realize "this is right" the way I did when I heard the Cavalli and LCD-2 combo. While the HD800S is good, it's not good enough to get me to immediately pull the trigger. I'm waiting for perhaps a new headphone to come along that manages to grab me and make me go "wow, this is what I want". The HD800S or HD800 doesn't quite do that. It's good, but not quite the style of sound I'm after. It's close. But close only gets a score in horseshoes, hand grenades, and dancing girls. I'm after a direct hit, because what I've got already is pretty close to a direct hit for what I want. For now I'm patient and satisfied with what I've got. I'm not in a hurry. When I hear what I want next I'll know it. If I had to settle for a complement to my LCD-2 right now it would be the HD800S, but I'm waiting for something that suits me better. I've been thinking the Focal Elear might do that for me, but its soundstage depth is wonky and I'm not sure if I could deal comfortably with that.
  17. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident

    Surprise, AZ
    To each his own - I like the imaging and sound stage that good speakers present. I have phones but rarely use them because of the imaging.
    hvbias likes this.
  18. murphythecat

    murphythecat Forum Resident

    yes, I have built 2 fullrange based speakers using Fostex fe127 and alpair12p and also had Coral beta 8 fullrange drivers. so im very used to fullrange drivers in speakers. the problem with those speakers are manyfold.
    in many ways, a fullrange driver for speakers and those for headphone are really not comparable in the sense hat the speaker fullrange driver is very large in comparison, and the larger the fullrange driver, the worst the performance over the break up point (depending the model, but normally over 2khz) will be coloured/compromised. I personally was never happy with fullrange based speakers

    Personally, I think its the room the problem and why some of us prefer headphones over speakers!

    you already have a good collection. id prefer hd800 over he560 personally.
    have you considered the new ZMF atticus or the new phones from Kennerton?
  19. royzak2000

    royzak2000 Forum Resident

    I have never really enjoyed head phone listening, there is something not real about the in your head experience, and I have tried ear speakers like Stax and Jechlin Floats.
    There is nothing like having the music in front of you through speakers, head phones are for late at night when the people next door get hissy.
  20. hvbias

    hvbias Forum Resident


    After getting into hifi via headphones and still having a Stax 009 (sold my HD800 and EC Balancing Act), they are only used when I don't want to disturb others or I'm play grading vinyl. Otherwise nothing sounds like what you hear live like good speakers, unfortunately means big speakers, lot of space, good room and treatments.

    After seeing the NYPO and BSO so many times it's just impossible to listen to classical on headphones.
  21. Archimago

    Archimago Forum Resident

    Although I've enjoyed headphone listening and still bring out the HD800 on occasion, just the nature of the experience has always left me wanting more. Lack of a convincing soundstage where I can imagine "seeing" the band or vocalist virtually up front is disappointing. Also the lack of the "pressure wave" as it "hits" when the sub is rocking adds a level of physicality that I enjoy. This is all on top of the inconvenience of wearing anything over the ears and hassles like cords and microphonics.

    Of course as others have said, it is great that headphones free us from room interactions and can be very accurate from a time domain perspective. No escape from spending some money for room treatments. And using DSP room correction will make a world of difference for time-domain accuracy in a good sound room.
    timind and hvbias like this.
  22. hvbias

    hvbias Forum Resident

    Loved your articles on Acourate, I'm going that route as well with it handling the crossovers as well.
  23. jlykos

    jlykos Forum Resident

    Parts Unknown
    I don't want to necro this thread too badly, but what kind of amplifiers are all of you using with the HD 800 S? I'm thinking of picking up one for myself and am curious to know what others use with it. I was thinking of using it with a Line Magnetic mini 218 IA, but I am curious to hear what is being used. I'm more of a tubes guy than a solid state one and believe in trying to get a totally accurate headphone / loudspeaker and then warming it up with electronics if needed.

    For solid state, I was looking at the Sennheiser HDV 820 and for tubes, the aforementioned Line Magnetic or anything else that people would recommend.
  24. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    I have a decent set of HD 600 headphones in the study and I still prefer listening to the KEF LS50 speakers. I find headphones to be too limiting and I miss the staging, presence and depth that I get from the speakers. Does it get better with the HD 800s?
  25. ls35a

    ls35a Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Eagle, Idaho
    For tubes I have a Quad VA One, a Sound Quest SQ84-V2, and for solid state a Violectric V280.

    Sennheisers like tubes, but the Violectric is a very good match with them as well. And has the best volume control setup I've ever seen. A really good (best I've ever used) volume pot and 4 different gain settings mean you always get the PERFECT volume level.
    jlykos likes this.

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