In this Sennheiser HD 800 S review I’ll get into the best and worst parts of these high-end headphones. Considering their price, they may be a little more than you need, depending on your skill level. However, the serious producer or engineer may get a great deal of value out of them,
These are open back style so they are neither good for recording vocals/dialogue because the microphone easily picks up the sound, nor are they fit for isolated listening, or daily usage for that matter. Where they make a difference is in your final mix or during the mastering process.
They outshine the competition in a few areas but they aren’t perfect so they kind of fall flat in a couple of other areas.
Do you really get what you pay for?
Generally, when you pay a premium price for something you get a premium product. That is definitely the case for the HD 800 S’s. From the design and construction to all the intricacies and details you can see that these were crafted for perfection.
You can feel how rugged they are as soon as you pick them up. They aren’t too heavy but you can immediately tell they are well constructed and some time went into them for sure. They have a weak spot though.
The mesh that surrounds the ear cup is a little soft. If you set them down too hard on that area you can dent it or mar it up a bit. As long as you are aware of how you are handling them, you shouldn’t have any real problems. If they didn’t have that particular weakness, I’d probably say they are the perfect open-back style headphones I’ve tried out.
What makes them shine?
Sennheiser’s HD 800 S‘s have a 300 ohm, 56mm ring-radiator, driver, which is very powerful compared to any consumer headset, but they do need a DAC(headphone amp) to get the correct sound out of them. With a frequency range of 10Hz-44.1khz, they can handle the most dynamic of signals.
This model gives you the choice between an unbalanced quarter-inch plug, a balanced 4.4mm plug, or an optional (sold separately) balanced XLR plug.
The D-shaped ear pads make me wonder why every pair made after them aren’t similar. They make sense and even though my ears stick out a little, they’re just big enough to accommodate my Alfalfa-esk lobes.
Are they comfortable?
I tend to get my mix super close to finalized before I do a final mix and master. During these final two stages, I try my best to get it done as quickly as possible to avoid ear fatigue. So, I don’t really notice the weight pulling on my neck or squeezing around my ears unless I do two eight-hour sessions in a row.
That’s not to say you won’t want to wear them as often as possible because of their incomparable performance. The problem is your ears adjust over time. Granted, you could just turn them down, but what fun would that be?
I do notice I re-adjust them more often, but that probably has more to do with the amount they squeeze which is not nearly as much as most of my other pairs. I’m a head bobber when I vibe with a track, so they eventually slide a little. As, long as I pay attention when I adjust them back, I’m not too worried about damaging the mesh.
What headphones can I compare them to?
Honestly, there’s no real comparison to this particular set of coconuts. There are a few that are almost double their price, and anything in the $300-700 range of models doesn’t even come close to the clarity of sound they produce.
Don’t get me wrong, you can mix and master without them but are you really hearing exactly what you’re about to bounce? There are a few brands that offer something in the same range but all of them are almost double the price or more.
So, when it comes to this category, because of their price and impeccable quality sound reproduction, they are in a class all alone. That’s not a bad position to be in because they are probably the best stepping stone from the under $1,000 to the over $2,000 headsets available.
Who can use these most effectively?
Audiophiles will most likely love them, but your average listener won’t appreciate them for what they are. If you are part of the post-production process, like an engineer or involved producer, you’ll get some major use out of them.
That’s basically it. These aren’t for bragging rights because they don’t come close to the most expensive, and if a person thinks their dollar earbuds are good enough, they would be wasted on them.
If you want the highest quality final mix and master you need the equipment that helps you make that step to the next level. So, as you gain knowledge and experience from training your ears you’ll want to continually upgrade as your needs require a piece of more refined equipment.
What is their entire purpose?
These are definitely made for either audiophiles or producers and engineers working on the final processes after production, recording and general mixing. Since they have an open-air design, they leak no matter what. Even on the very lowest level.
If you’ve read this far, you’re most likely part of the production process, and you’ll be alone in an isolated room or with your artist(s) or engineer(s) anyway. You already understand that the open-air design allows for a more natural listening environment.
The way they make you feel like you’re “in the mix” is uncanny. I’m sure you’ve heard about the “sound stage” and how some closed-back models have limits because of that very reason.
Where can I get the best use out of them?
If you listen to hours of music each day and analyze every intricacy about each track you consume then these might be the right choice for you. Granted the lowest of the lows are a little faint, so if you listen to a significant amount of Rap/Hip Hop because you want that thumpy bassy 808s, you’ll be a little let down in this case.
As much as they are an audiophile’s dream, they’re much more at home in the studio or home studio. You’ll get looks in public for bothering everyone. Everyone trying to watch TV will stare you down like a villain plotting your demise.
So, take it from me, keep them right by your side in the best place for them, right next to your computer and DAW, or at least in the box nearby.
When should I step up my game with the Sennheiser HD 800 S?
As soon as you’re serious about going pro, you should look into getting a set of reference headphones. They make an immense difference in your final product.
I watch as people continue to struggle to create great mixes and masters of their inspired work, but too often they either give up, pay too much for post-production, or even just put out a horrible mix because they neglect to upgrade their personal equipment as they better their skills.
So. if you started making beats last week, these are unnecessary at this point, but if you’re cranking out tracks after years of experience and feel like they are missing something compared to what you hear streaming, these might be right up your alley.
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SENNHEISER HD 800 S Reference Headphone System
How can I get along without them?
You can. I did for a long time, but once I got them, I don’t know if I’d want to continue producing without them. It’s like having a twenty-year-old basic model vehicle when you first learn to drive, but after years of safe driving and your wealth grows you can appreciate a more luxurious vehicle with a little more value to it. After you’ve been rolling around in luxury, it’s extremely hard to go back to the beater.
If you’d like to read more about other Sennheiser headphones I have tried out over the years or the ones I currently own, you can check out the article here.
If you enjoyed this post or have some questions, comments, or corrections that I may need to fix, feel free to hit me up in the comment section below. To contact me directly, you can reach me at email@example.com.