Sennheiser HD800 Impressions These just arrived. They are the latest flagship phone from Sennheiser, and reputed by them to be a "major advance" in headphone technology (from them anyway). No burn-in. These views are totally biased, of course. Still, as a long-term headphone freak, I know some folks who've been along with my adventures in headphones these many years might be curious what I think. Now I have anti-placebo at work in that I'm not 100% rooting for a winner here, but at first blush, my immediate feeling is still one of relief as a competitor, disappointment as a headphone freak. Unless these transform quite a bit with break-in, I don't think this phone will appeal that much to people who like our cans. Test Bed: Marantz SA-7S1 CD/SACD player with $5K of additional mods/upgrades. Amp: Rudistor RP010B. Physical 1. Me no likey where they've terminated the "Y", the junction is up too high, a little too "choke-y". 2. Cord is fairly flexible (not as flexible as Jena) and except for the Y junction, mostly unobtrusive. 3. Box is nothing special, certainly no better than the D7000 box I have already mocked in the past as a pretty weak try at "luxury". Not a lot of your $1400 went into this box. 4. These phones have acres of real estate inside the ear pads. This means positioning is everything. I expect it will take a LOT of experimenting before you find the right position for you. 5. Nice "grippy" feel, and quite comfortable overall (though some will find it too tight, I tend to prefer a more snug fit than most). Foam pads are a little scratchy but not at all awful. It is starting on summer though, and these foam pads are going to be WARM and soak up a lot of persperation I predict. They will start to smell before long I think. I hope Senn plans on providing cheap replacements, regular listeners are going want to change them every year or so. Sound Real-time musings on what I'm hearing as I hear it. 1. 1st impression, slooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwww ww as molasses. Weird, everything is e l o n g a t e d and stretched out like a silly putty newspaper cartoon you pull apart. (Reference may be too old-school for some younger members. ). It sounds like vocalists are over-enunciating their words. 2. Large soundstage (not as huge and enveloping as we've heard), but with typical headphone gap in the middle of the image. Our phones don't have this. The HD800 is much better at reproducing left-to-right, much weaker at front-to-back, not enough depth to the image. 3. Tone is on the dry, cold, mechanical, analytical side. Not nearly enough warmth or richness, or body. I suspect especially tube-y tube amps will be required to offset this to restore decent tonality. 4. Cymbals are "white" and splashy, more tinny than brassy. Highs are bit brittle and yes, sibilant. It has that astringent quality that tweaks the ears sort of like rubbing alcohol on the skin that tingles a bit then quickly evaporates after the fact. 5. Mids seem a tad recessed, and lack the substantiality or fullness of a good closed can. Upper mids/lower highs have a slight peaky-ness that dominates the proceedings, that's definitely where these cans center of gravity is, everthing else recedes back from that point. We used to have a "Sennheiser veil" (I still contend I coined this term :tongue_smile: ), these are bit too active in the upper mids/lower treble. This makes them sound sort of thin, yet I don't think it will cause too much listening fatigue, as the edges of sounds are soft and somewhat indistinct. 6. Single-note bass, no mid-to-upper bass warmth. This is typical of un-broken-in phones, though. There is a hollow-ness and "tubby" sound to the bass I don't think any amount of break-in will cure, though. Still bass not quite as weak as reported by some (but not as solid or defined as on the Denons). I chalk that up to my having a bruiser of a solid state amp in the RP010B, where other impressions were formed on weaker amps. 7. By far, the phones these most resemble at first blush is the K701, a phone that sounded horrible out of the box but once broken in became... merely adequate. 8. There's a haziness to the image, foggy soundstage with a white background where everything sort of bleeds in together into a sort of soup, typical of open cans. I focus a lot on the singer, and on these cans, there is an indistinctness to the position of vocalists with a blurry edges around the image that bleeds into surrounding instrumentation. This is also related to slight midrange suck-out and gap in the middle of the image I noted above. 9. A Jena cable on these puppies is going to be the *perfect* way to help offset many of its weaknesses; it's precisely strong where these phones are weak. Richer, fuller tone, better definition around images, a fuller, thicker, more substantial sound. As soon as we figure out the connectors, we'll have a high-quality solution for you guys. God help anyone who puts a silver cable on these cans, YUCK! Multiply it's weaknesses by a thousand. In fact this observation is worth a whole separate point. 10. These phones tonally sound exactly like a typical silver cable-- brittle, thin, cold tone, hashy, insubstantial, white background. If you fancy typical silver cables, the tone of the HD800 will likely appeal more to you. 11. Impact, tactile response is a bit on the soft side, again typical of open phones. If you are looking for subwoofer-like tactile repsonse and great slam and punch, these won't deliver that. They are very well-behaved, possibly a bit "wimpy" to some ears. The assembly/frame of these phones disappears quite well all in all.