PLAYBACK 22: Sennheiser HD 800 Headphones

Sennheiser HD800
  • Tonal Balance: 9
  • Clarity: 9
  • Dynamics: 8
  • Comfort/Fit: 8
  • Sensitivity: 7
  • Value: 8

Sonic Character

I’m sure Sennheiser worked overtime to try to remove sonic character (as in, discernible colorations) from the HD 800s. As a result, it took me a while to get a handle on what they do. For example, at first I thought they were simply on the light side in terms of bass balance (which they are, slightly). But more listening revealed excellent deep bass and enough warmth to not feel deprived. Similarly, high frequencies are there in proper balance to the midrange, but you don’t initially get the sense of being directly coupled to the microphones that you do with some other top-of-the-line ‘phones. When you get frequency balance right, you often are less impressed initially than you are after a few weeks. That was certainly the case with the HD 800s. You realize over time that the love/hate frequency anomalies of some headphones are just that—anomalies. This is high praise indeed.

So, the HD 800s have a generally neutral frequency balance. They are also clear in the way that comes from being low distortion rather than tweaked to fake your ear into thinking it is hearing true clarity. So we're talking about excellence, but there are variations on excellence.Some people will love and others be left unmoved by the HD 800's character. For that, read on.

The bass of the HD 800s is slightly soft. You don't hear the air of plucked bass or the punch of kick drum to the degree that you would with live music. I can imagine certain listeners wanting a little more bass to make up for the inevitable lack of the visceral impact you get with live music but can’t get with headphones.

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