Best Amps For the Sennheiser HD800 - 2017 Edition

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Dec 2, 2016.

  1. chakku

    chakku Friend

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    They already had an HDVA 600 as opposed to the HDVD 800, maybe the former didn't sell well enough for them to bother this time around?
     
  2. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    That's a possibility. Or the incentive was there to simply refresh the offer and come up with something new to keep the buzz going.
     
  3. chakku

    chakku Friend

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    I only noticed today actually but the 820 is actually called the HDV 820 and not the HDVD 820, which could either mean the amp only would be an HDV 620 or they've decided to kill the option of having a seperate amp only product, since the 600 and 800 were HDVA and HDVD respectively.
     
  4. iDesign

    iDesign Almost "Made"

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    Sennheiser will not release a version of the HDV 820 without a DAC. The HDVA 600 was discontinued over a year before the introduction of the HDV 820. At this time Sennheiser only continues to produce the HDV 820 and HDVD 800. On an unrelated note, the significant improvement in the HDV 820 makes the debut of new HD 820 headphone interesting since the two were likely developed together-- and that may explain why the HDV 820 is such a big leap forward from its predecessors. I get the Sennheiser is standing itself back up after years of being complacent and intends to compete with Focal in 2018.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2017
  5. chakku

    chakku Friend

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    With the Utopia at $4k I don't think Sennheiser need to compete with Focal at all, they have a competitive headphone at less than half the price and have for 8 years now. We already know the HD 820 is a closed headphone as well so it may very well exist to compliment the HD 800 rather than be a significant improvement over it.
     
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  6. deserat

    deserat Acquaintance

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    Just cause I don't see it mentioned anywhere. Easily the best amp I've heard to to date with the HD800 is the Bottlehead Mainline. The dynamics make my MJ2/Ether C Flow pairing seem flat and uninteresting, detail is mind boggling - beaten only by low register bass detail when running my Ether C Flow with the MJ2 and LISST - planars just have more bass detail so it's not suprising. I swear Holy Cole is spitting in my ear, and never realized how much of of Massive Attacks heligoland is acoustic. The only thing I've heard to date I thought sounded better than my Yggdrasil, Mainline ( with mundorf supremes ), HD800 stack was the HE-1.

    Would love to hear from anybody who has spent time with this and other TOTL amps and has thoughts. How does it stack up against the EC or DNA lines?
     
  7. allegro

    allegro Friend

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    @Marvey have you had a chance yet to listen to any of the ampsandsound tube amps with the HD800?
     
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I have not been able to listen. TBH, I would prefer not to listen and offer opinions because it could be a conflict of interest. Solid-state amps, hybrids, or low cost tube amps are another matter. But the Amp+Sound stuff seems a bit too close to EC.

    However, if I ever get a chance to listen, and I feel they belong here on this list, I would not hesitate adding them.
     
  9. Vorlon

    Vorlon self-important, pompous ass

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    I´ve been quite surprised how different the HDV 820 sounds compared to the HDV 800 I used to own. First I thought it must be down to the DAC change, but lately I´m not so sure anymore. My guess is that they redesigned the entire amplifier part as well during the long delay. The HDV 820 was delayed for a notoriously long time.

    This is obviously speculation, but for example Sennheiser has said that it uses a zero-negative-feedback current amplification design (source: Sennheiser @ Head-Fi.org). Now this is of course marketing talk, but I´m pretty sure there was never any mention of this kind of design with the original model. The zero-negative-feedback thing is a neat audiophile "checklist point" item so if the original was the same I think they would have mentioned it then as well. Unfortunately there seems to be no pictures of the HDV 820 insides available online yet - would be really interesting to compare how the circuit board looks vs. the original.
     
  10. murphythecat

    murphythecat Friend

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    Ive done a shoot out my HD800 sdr + sbaf mod vs my Focal Utopia level matched using my Pro iCan and Micro iCan

    with the xbass setting at flat, the utopia eats the hd800 for lunch. The bass of the 800 in comparison is just so flat. the presentation is just clinical and id sell the hd800 on the spot.

    when I turn the xbass at max setting on the micro ican or pro ican, the hd800 are fun!. its no longer a analytical presentation. the bass align more in line with utopia level of bass. Its a fun listen and shockingly trades serious punch with the Utopia. Without xbass, the hd800 are just way to lacking in the bass department for me.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2018
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  11. Forza AudioWorks

    Forza AudioWorks MOT: Forza AudioWorks

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    I like what they did with Xbass in general. It doesn't influence anything above and that 'fun' part you wrote about? In 100% agreed! I had early (serial no. #13xx) HD 800 at my place and Pro iCan in the Tube+ mode and Xbass on made it quite listenable.
     
  12. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    This is the first time I am considering the a tube amplifier for HD800s, for anything, and need some advice.
    I recently arrived at the point when I think I have a setup that to my ears is perfect or close to perfection. Few months ago when I connected HEKv2 to the Bryston stack BDP-2, BDA-2 and BHA1, I knew right away I found something special.
    Bryston DAC/amp combo is very transparent, a bit dry in presentation. But with HEKv2 it sounds musical, engaging, great resolution, instrument separation is superb, and to my ears the sound of instruments is pretty natural. I do not ask for more.
    After few months it still sounds perfect.

    So I tried HD800S and what a let down: yes the famous details, sound stage etc.. all is there but, comparing to HEKv2 it sounds disjointed, dry and fatiguing.
    I want to keep BDP-2 and BDA-2, but want the amp that would make HD800S sound as good, not identical, as HEKv2 sounds with BHA-1. HD800S sounds lovely with a bit warm amplifier like T-3H, even with less resolving DAC.

    I would like to try a tube amp like DNA Sonett 2, that is said to work well with 800S,. Or maybe something from the Schiit lineup? I know nothing about tubes.

    I am prepared for to spend 1K maybe a bit more.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
  13. allegro

    allegro Friend

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    There is an Amps & Sound Kenzie Encore for $1800 in the for sale section that would work very well with your HD800S. Might be out of your price range. Sonett 2 very rarely come up for sale used and sell quickly you would have to be very lucky to buy one.
     
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  14. BillOhio

    BillOhio Friend

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    I have a Sonnett 2 that you'd be welcome to try out were you local. It's on another level than Mjolnir 2/Lyr 3/Asgard 2 etc. etc.(Just got back from the Schiitr)... on account of the holographic sound, but, yeah, unobtanium.
     
  15. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    I would love to be local to CA, but thank you for a good lead. So in your view even Mjolnir 2 does not come close? I will be looking for Sonett 2 used but as @allegro said its is not easy to get one.
     
  16. Veng

    Veng Rando

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    Thanks a lot for have taking your time to give this information! Have you heard the La Figaro 339? I could use your advice here.
     
  17. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

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    Some thoughts on some amps and amp/dacs for the HD800.

    - Scores are based on 3 aspects. 1. Performance, 2. Price and 3. Synergy with HD800
    - All scores are relative to the list of devices in this post and this post alone.

    ----------------

    iPhone 6, MacBook Pro – Score 3/10
    I am adding this to establish a baseline for the scoring and provide context for the rest of the scores here. If I was lost on an island in the middle of nowhere with just my 800 and my iPhone 6, I wouldn’t mind plugging my 800 directly into it listening to some tunes with some EQ.

    Sony PHA-3 (Single Ended) – Score: 4/10
    Slightly better than the iPhone or Mac. Actually the PHA 3 helps smooth the treble out a bit. But nothing more. The headphone sounds flat and boring.

    ----------------

    Schiit Magni 3 – Score: 5/10
    The bare minimum. A peek through a key hole into the world of what desktop amps can offer over portable audio gear. It provides the 800 with sufficient power and gives you a taste of what you can expect from discrete amps, once you move higher in the chain. More like a gateway drug. Although, from what I have seen, for $50 more, Vali2 might be a better choice over the Magni 3 for the 800.

    Chord Hugo 2 – Score 6/10
    In portable audio, Hugo 2 is one of the best sources you can get for your IEMs. But desktop audio is a different ball game. Driving the 800 directly out of Hugo 2 will be a treble overload, especially if your 800 is not modded, or if you are not an EQ user. But what you do get out of this combo is, a very black background, precise imaging, excellent resolution and micro dynamics. Areas where Hugo2 falls short with the 800 are; tone, stage, bass dynamics and macro dynamics. My theory is, its analog section (which doesn't have a typical amp stage) doesn't have the grit to push the 300Ohm Senn drivers.

    Schiit Lyr 3 (with TS 6SN7) – Score: 7/10
    It’s a great all-rounder amp. Good clarity, stage, decent resolution, micro and macro dynamics. But can’t push the bass on the 800. While it helps retain most strengths of the 800, it doesn’t provide some aspects that the 800 needs. If 800 is your only HP, look elsewhere.

    iFi Pro iCan – Score 7/10

    Literally a swissarmy knife in amp form. A great tool for reviewers. Has quite a few tricks up its sleeves. And settings like, the sub-bass boost actually work well for the 800. But then, this again is like the Lyr 3. Good all-rounder and works great for planars as well. But if 800 was your only HP, better not to go this route, especially given the price tag.

    ----------------

    MD x EC ZDT Jr (with Marv’s GE Tubes and High Z port) – Score 8/10 – THE MVP
    Get one of this + the GE tubes that Marv has on his unit and call it a day or start saving up for an expensive amp. If 800 is a jig, this amp is a saw. Very good synergy. Not as clean sounding as the Lyr 3. But has good enough resolution, microdynamics and timbre, while taking the edge off in the treble and adding some warmth and body to the mid-range. Slightly warm in tone, opens up the stage of the 800 and most of all, helps get some bass going on the 800.

    McIntosh MHA150 – Score 8.5/10

    I am probably going to receive a lot of heat for adding this on the list, especially given its price tag. But I do want to share what I thought about this with the 800 and the 800S. While I can’t whole heartedly recommend this amp to the masses, I can’t deny the fact that it made the 800 sound very very good. Clean sounding, super spacious stage, detailed, yet smooth in note delivery, good macro and micro dynamics. The bass dynamics wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t lacking either. All these characteristics made this amp to pair excellently with the 800 and the 800S. And given the adjustable impedance setting and the speaker taps for sensitive speakers, it is a quite a versatile unit. But I what I felt was, the holistic performance of the unit as a AIO, was held back by the DAC section. Given the reliability, build quality and looks, if there was an amp-only version that retailed for $2k, I’d give it a 9.5/10.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
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  18. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    It's always interesting that we all hear differently. Nothing wrong! (probably..)

    After intensively playing with Lyr 3 and HD800 (borrowed from my friend IRL) for four straight days, my verdict is quite the opposite. This is the amp (before dropping several grands on the next league amps) if hd800 matters a lot to you. I roughly guess that mileage may vary depending on how one perceives 800 (e.g., strength, weakness, needs and wants).

    There are unique virtues which Lyr 3 really do well for 800
    • Accurate dynamics - There are many amps in various price ranges that resolve well. Lyr 3 is also good at resolving small nuances. Not only that, small nuances at different levels are amazingly consistent. From super-deep black to white, each step of (volume) gradation is nearly the same. Note that only a few amps do this well (one $5k tube amp failed this.. surprisingly). Of course every headphone is benefited by this, but 800+Lyr3 reproduce Rostropovich's cello works just on another level.
    • Clean and tight bass control - This might be varying across different people. Probably the most differing area between me and eaglewings. I don't want either more warmth or more bass quantity from 800. Of course 800 bass is not planar good. Some may improve 800 bass by higher output impedance. But relatively high Z-out does harm more than good (at least for me). What I want is rather more authority and control which can show goodness of dynamic headphones in terms of pitch differentiation. Well controlled 800 bass is beautiful. Maybe not ideal for Daft Punk, but really great for Saint Saens.
    • Relaxed but still sharp trebles - I agree that some level of relaxation is essential for 800, especially when unmodded. Sadly there are tricky tradeoffs in this region. So, it's not a matter of doing or not doing. It's a matter of how artistically doing. To my ears, Lyr 3 minimally changes treble characters of 800 with sufficiently addressing harshness. I might be sensitive to the sin of commission though.
    I finally purchased an used hd800 today, which is en-route to my place now. As a long-time hd800 hater, this tells a lot.

    Honestly, if I start over, I will just buy lyr 3 and hd800 (or Elex.. whichever available at the time). And put the remaining budget on dacs.
     
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  19. Crazypanda

    Crazypanda Rando

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    Anyone have thoughts on the lyr3+multibit vs the woo wa7 2nd gen as an amp\dac for the hd800 (sdr)? I have a pair coming in and with where i live auditioning things ahead of time is impossible. Thanks in advance!
     
  20. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    You may need to do this first: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/new-members-introduce-yourself.17/

    As a general assumption, people use hd800 because they want more details and nuances. That said, Woo's products are hard to recommend based on my previous experience unless you really like their house sound. I also think no AIO in the market is good enough for hd800, but may take lyr3+4490 (non-multibit) temporarily to save budget for the upcoming dac upgrades (such as Yggdrasil).
     

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