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HD800? Another rumor?


riceboy
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I'm going to firmly plant myself in the "greatly enjoy the HD800" camp, if that's okay with you fellows. Spent about 20 minutes with them on a Cary 300 sei this last weekend, and fell all the way in love.

Well, aside from some sibilance, which was offputting.

They fit my desired sound perfectly. Airy, somewhat dry, clean bass -- loved it all. I preferred my K1K in every way that counts (i.e. not looks or comfort), but these were something else.

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I'm going to firmly plant myself in the "greatly enjoy the HD800" camp, if that's okay with you fellows. Spent about 20 minutes with them on a Cary 300 sei this last weekend, and fell all the way in love.

Well, aside from some sibilance, which was offputting.

They fit my desired sound perfectly. Airy, somewhat dry, clean bass -- loved it all. I preferred my K1K in every way that counts (i.e. not looks or comfort), but these were something else.

I too greatly enjoy them. They are not perfect but there are few things I would change about them - maybe just a tad less lower-treble and a tiny bit more bass punch. Did you get to try them on the WA22 and ZDT?

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I enjoy mine too, I think they play well with the Zana. At first, I was like meeh... thin and edgy, where's the musicality... but with break-in they have mellowed down and smoothened out considerably. Actually to the point where I hope they don't continue. 100dBA for some hours did good.

Either that, or I fucked up my hearing, maybe a combination... Either way, I love what I am hearing.

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I too greatly enjoy them. They are not perfect but there are few things I would change about them - maybe just a tad less lower-treble and a tiny bit more bass punch. Did you get to try them on the WA22 and ZDT?

I spent about 5 minutes on the WA22, which surprisingly did nothing for me with any of the cans I listened to, and a few short seconds with the ZDT, which sounded really lovely. It wasn't euphonic or syrupy or slow, it was just powerful. Dynamics were really effortless, in my short demo, and that's a very good sound.

I suspect the WA22 wasn't entirely to blame, but rather the Northstar CDP connected to it. Also, I imagine the fact that I wore an ill-fitting pair of Qualias contributed more than either of those :) Something in that system didn't quite gel for me. I'd love to hear the WA22 in another setting sometime, as it was a really beautiful amp.

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Your suspicion of the North Star Sapphire may not be entirely amiss Tyler. ;) I took some time to "preview" it before the meet with my HeadAmp AE-2 and found it not quite as good as my Plinius CD-101. (And the reason the Plinius wasn't at the meet is because I'm likely never transporting it again due to mechanical issues - unless of course I can fix the issues, which I might try to do.) What I'd really like to hear is the WA22 on my Plinius....

As for the HD800, it didn't occur to me to try them on the WA22. I did try the HD800 on the Cary CAD-300 SEI that was at the meet though (sourced by an Audio Logic 34MXL) and was again unimpressed by the HD800. I'd still like to hear the HD800 out of more amps and sources to give them a fair shake but my experience so far with them has been underwhelming.

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I've had an HD800 on loan for a few days and so far I'm not digging it. To me it's sorta like a super AKG K701, which is unfortunate since I don't like the K701. Yes it's super clean, yes it's very detailed, but like the K701 there's not much joy in the music. Which would be fine if it had no other issues since it would make for a great tool in testing out amps & sources, or doing recording/monitoring/mastering and that kinda stuff. Unfortunately I had several issues.

My main issue is the bass, or rather, "where's the goddamn bass? I want my bass back, damnit!" If I play any of the songs off Die, Rugged Man, Die by RA the Rugged Man, I expect big fat fucking bass, I don't get that with the HD800, it's more like what I'd hear from a set of Quad ESL-57's. It doesn't hit hard, it ain't got weight to it, and it can't groove for beans. This is a problem even with classical, say for instance the last couple minutes of "Ride of the Valkyries" which should sound huge with good weight behind it. The HD800 fails here once again, I far prefer the presentation of my HD580 here. Yeah it gets confused and compressed, but at least the weight is there to make it sound huge, whereas the H800 sounds wussy for lack of better words. Similar problem with the XRCD version of "Scheherazade", the bass just isn't there to balance out the rest of the piece.

I also noted the upper midrange/lower treble wonkiness mentioned by The Sloth, which showed up in the violin sections of "Scheherazade", it just doesn't sound right. I had some issues with the treble as well, but managed to fix that with the right tubes in my CDP and amp, at least enough so it doesn't bug me at normal listening levels.

One final problem for me was the soundstage, as with the K701 it's always too darn big. When the recording calls for a small acoustic space, the HD800 doesn't shrink down the soundstage to match. For instance if you took the Cowboy Junkies' "Trinity Session" and "Whites Off Earth Now", both of which were recorded with the same single ambisonics mic but in very different acoustic spaces (a medium sized church and their own garage, respectively), the reproduction of the soundfield should be very different as well. My K340 is excellent at this, it'll shrink the space right down and make it nice & intimate whereas the HD800 always sounds like the music is in a bigger space than it should be. I've been in the Church of the Holy Trinity where the Trinity Session was recorded (and heard some cool bands & music there), it's not as big as the HD800's make it sound. I think part of the excellent separation that the HD800 achieves comes from making the soundstage artificially large, if you have more space there's more room to put stuff without having it overlap & get fuzzy.

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Damn Aerius, you pretty much nailed this one on the head for me. The soundstage is my biggest letdown so far. It really does make every recording I listen to unnatural and overly large. The headstage is also very centrally located for me. This coloration is similar to the HE90, but the difference is the HD800 makes recordings sound too large(unnatural), where as the HE90 makes everything sound too "open" :ian:

But I still have hope for the HD800s, they have sounded pretty good to me in some setups and I need to audition them on a longer basis and on a variety of equipment to see what works and what doesnt.

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Contrary to the usual retort, I was mostly talking to aerius.

EAR Acute CD player, plus a couple DIY tube amps of my own design. By changing the tubes & bias points, I can make the amps sound like nice crisp solidstate or overly warm & tubey with rolled off treble, and anything in between. I generally set it for a neutral to slightly tubey sound, but with the HD800 I had to dial up the tubeyness more than normal to try & get the sound to where I wanted it.

I think the HD800 is more in the K701 or Grado HP-1000 family of sound, which is not really my thing, and that's fine. I'm more of an RS-1 person since I own one, and it's not exactly everyone's cup of tea either.

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EAR Acute CD player, plus a couple DIY tube amps of my own design. By changing the tubes & bias points, I can make the amps sound like nice crisp solidstate or overly warm & tubey with rolled off treble, and anything in between. I generally set it for a neutral to slightly tubey sound, but with the HD800 I had to dial up the tubeyness more than normal to try & get the sound to where I wanted it.

I think the HD800 is more in the K701 or Grado HP-1000 family of sound, which is not really my thing, and that's fine. I'm more of an RS-1 person since I own one, and it's not exactly everyone's cup of tea either.

Thanks, that was very helpful since I own K701 and HP-1000.

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All this K701 talk makes me want to give them a couple more listens. I've only heard stock K701 and balanced HD800, and they sound waaay different, mostly in the bass. I think the AKG is missing some midbass and is too relaxed or airy or something. The best adjective I can come up with is "weak." The balanced Senns, though, have all the bass I need, and I'm a borderline basshead.

I wonder if it's as simple as a balanced drive issue. Or maybe the HD800 has problems fitting some people's heads?

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My main issue is the bass, or rather, "where's the goddamn bass? I want my bass back, damnit!"

[...]

One final problem for me was the soundstage, as with the K701 it's always too darn big. When the recording calls for a small acoustic space, the HD800 doesn't shrink down the soundstage to match. For instance if you took the Cowboy Junkies' "Trinity Session" and "Whites Off Earth Now", both of which were recorded with the same single ambisonics mic but in very different acoustic spaces (a medium sized church and their own garage, respectively), the reproduction of the soundfield should be very different as well. My K340 is excellent at this, it'll shrink the space right down and make it nice & intimate whereas the HD800 always sounds like the music is in a bigger space than it should be. I've been in the Church of the Holy Trinity where the Trinity Session was recorded (and heard some cool bands & music there), it's not as big as the HD800's make it sound. I think part of the excellent separation that the HD800 achieves comes from making the soundstage artificially large, if you have more space there's more room to put stuff without having it overlap & get fuzzy.

I think the HD800 is more in the K701 or Grado HP-1000 family of sound, which is not really my thing, and that's fine. I'm more of an RS-1 person since I own one, and it's not exactly everyone's cup of tea either.

All this K701 talk makes me want to give them a couple more listens. I've only heard stock K701 and balanced HD800, and they sound waaay different, mostly in the bass. I think the AKG is missing some midbass and is too relaxed or airy or something. The best adjective I can come up with is "weak." The balanced Senns, though, have all the bass I need, and I'm a borderline basshead.

I think these posts hit the nail on the head too. It's an issue of 3 things, IMO: There isn't the big mid-bass hump that makes a lot of phones give body to the music, making it "fun". It's a monitor phone, arguably one of the best there is, but that doesn't make listening fun, necessarily, as it's going to tell you exactly what you've got going on upstream, which isn't always a good thing, especially if your amp or DAC isn't exceedingly great. The big head-stage works great with some music, but not others (I find HF-1s to be more fun for example). I saw one guy post negatively on them who tried them with rap. No surprises there. The upshot of this is that it's not going to sound great on a lot of rigs, and it's not going to appeal to a lot of people, such as those used to the Denon house sound (lots of mid-bass) and it just isn't for all music tastes either. So, really, it's actually got a lot less going for it than many other headphones.

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I wonder if it's as simple as a balanced drive issue. Or maybe the HD800 has problems fitting some people's heads?

Part of it is a fit issue, with the way my head & face is shaped there's a bit of a gap between the pads & the side of my head/face in some places unless the headphone is perfectly positioned, but in that "perfect" position the tips of my ears touch the 'phones or pads and that's annoying to me. It's not an issue with my HD580 since I made a set of custom pads for them, Grados sit on top the ears so it's not an issue there either. The HD800's do sound better if I push them against the side of my head a bit, but not better enough.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yeah, though he really leaned on the cliched (for my tastes) "good recordings sound good, bad recordings sound good, too" thing. I guess I'm of the "bad recordings should sound bad" camp.

All in all, though, it was a solid review. Seems like he really listened and thought.

Edit: Comments are worth reading, as well. This Tom Martin fellow really holds his own, even against the formidable likes of iPodBJ :palm:

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