There’s a significant limitation to the HD800. Two in fact… One either side of your head. The headroom of the Sennheiser HD800 is so wide that you will break your ears before you break the headphones. This is no small consideration, because a transducer so clean and so free from break up at high levels will make you push the envelope. It’s almost irresistible, the “let’s see what this baby can do” mind-set that gets Porsche owners their first speeding ticket within a mile of the showroom. In this case, you keep turning up the volume control until something starts to clip. That something is usually the headphone amplifier. By which time you are in the world of potentially serious hearing damage at the very next transient. Fortunately, in most cases good sense prevails, but at the aforementioned German trip to the Sennheiser factory, there were a number of otherwise sober, dour and professional international audio journalists blissfully wigging out to Pink Floyd at some quite ear-threatening levels.
There’s only one last comparison to be made. We were fortunate enough to have a sample of the Sennheiser Orpheus on hand when comparing samples at the initial listening test in Germany. The HD800 gets surprisingly close, but lacks the smoothness and even-handedness of the electrostatic design. That said, I’d happily trade the Orpheus’ smoothness for the level of information the HD800 gives you. As the HD800 is destined to be the start of a new high-end line for Sennheiser, perhaps there will be an even more up-scale version of this headphone with all the trimmings. Cor!
As it stands though, the Sennheiser HD800 leaves us with a very bold claim to make. This £1,000 headphone could be your next £25,000 loudspeaker. By that, I mean it has the sonic qualities of the very best loudspeakers, but without the footprint and the need to barricade yourself away from angry mobs if you plan on some late-night AC/DC at full blast. In reality, most people who own a pair of £25,000+ loudspeakers would never contemplate going without them and moving to headphones, but where the HD800 score is that they do the other thing; they give you high-end loudspeaker sound for times when you can’t play loudspeakers. And for that reason, the HD800 (and a good headphone amp) should be your next loudspeaker purchase.
Type: Open, Dynamic headphones
Ear coupling: circum-aural
Transducer type: ring radiator
Frequency response: 14Hz–44.1kHz (-3 dB)
Nominal impedance: 300 Ohms
Sound pressure level at 1 kHz: 102dB (1kHz, 1 Vrms )
Max. nominal long-term input power: 500 mW (in acc. with EN 60-268-7)
Harmonic distortion: < 0.02% (1 kHz, 1 Vrms )
Contact pressure: c 3.4 N ± 0.3 N
Jack plug: 1/4” (6.3 mm) stereo
Connecting cable: 3m silver-plated, oxygen free (OFC) copper cable, symmetrical design
Operating temperature: -10 °C to + 55 °C
Approx. dimensions (WxHxD): 273 x 348 x 149mm
Weight (without cable): 330 g
Sennheiser UK Ltd
Tel: +44 (0) 1494 551 551