Best Amps For the Sennheiser HD800 - 2017 Edition

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

  1. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    I was under the impression that the Studio Jr. retained the neutral if not bright and unforgiving sound of the Studio, as opposed to the warmer ZDS and Aficionado. I couldn't listen to Studio/HD800 for more than 30 minutes, but are you recommending the Studio Jr. because it's forgiving enough to be paired with HD800?
     
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  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Nope. 300B tube and richer sounding OPT.
     
  3. Gaspasser

    Gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    I'm going to mention the Aficionado for inclusion then, in any version, as being a great match for HD800. I am still working through listening to both NFB and negative feedback Af with the HD800. I haven't written anything up yet because I'm too busy with real life. I finally got the rug liner to SBAF mod HD800 (thanks @TheloniuSnoop !) and that changed the sound again and I am still figuring it all out. The point is, that I think the Af, in whatever iteration I heard: bone stock, modded caps, feedback mod, etc is a nice match for the HD800 and deserves inclusion here. I know it is OOP now, but in my opinion, Af is better (for HD800) than many of the other amps on this list already, including S7, BA, ZDS, T3, Stratus.
     
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  4. Forza AudioWorks

    Forza AudioWorks MOT: Forza AudioWorks

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    Ouch, that was harsh (in a good way!) :p

    I've found HD 800 good with two SS amps, but have never heard these with proper valve machines, so I presumably am missing a ton of what HD 800 are capable of. But knowing how they sound, tubes for them make sense. Oh and thanks for your input.
     
  5. Richgard

    Richgard Friend

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    Would the Woo WA6-SE be a good upgrade from the Valhalla 2 and a good entry level SET amp especially in Europe where Ec is not as easy to have a listen to.
    And you will have to pay nore then 4000 € with import fee and taxes added
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I very much like the WA6-SE with the HD800. Lots of tube rolling options which can change the sound dramatically to suit personal tastes. Maybe less of that slight low-end veil, but could be a bit softer than Valhalla 2, but smoother highs and maybe deeper stage. The price is right, even better used.
     
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  7. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Friend

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    What preamp do you use with it?
     
  8. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    I was not entirely happy with BHA-1 and HD800S until I sent it to Bryston to lower the gain by 12 dB.
    I am not going to speculate why, but it made the pairing with HD800S better. You are right about the treble, and sub bass has more texture now. Instrument positioning ans separation got better as well.
    Now I use low gain with HD800S, high gain for HEKv2 and I amd not really looking for any change at this point.
     
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  9. Sonorus

    Sonorus Facebook Friend

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    HD800/S don't like high gain!
    I used Mjolnir 2 always with low gain because at High gain was harsh sounding.
    Now the same with V280 i prefer to listen with -6db gain.
    The same happened when i had a Cayin Iha 6 loaner.
    The only amp i used with high gain was Valhalla 2.
    I prefer to set the gain so i can listen to my music comfortably (to little loud) at 2-3 o'clock
    of course without clipping the amp.
     
  10. Ringingears

    Ringingears Honorary BFF

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    @purr1n. Assuming you left the BW off as it is OOP. Also NBM = EC ZDT Jr. ?
     
  11. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Yes and yes.

    --

    On gain: typically what happens with high gain is more lively sound at sometimes expense of scratchy highs. Low gain sedates the highs and offers better grip, but also results in loss of immediacy and collapsing of the stage.

    If I can't tame the highs via mods, then I won't bother with HD800 on low-gain with solid state amps. Too much soul get lost. This is my rationale for striking all solid-state off the list.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2019
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  12. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    I only wish Craig would bring back the ECBA, as it seems like the only DHT SET amp made by Eddie Current that has both technicalities and tube bloom to tame the HD800's highs. I doubt that not even the 300B version of Studio Jr. could do that, at best it might be as warm as Aficionado (which was not warm enough even for Utopia).
     
  13. dsavitsk

    dsavitsk Friend

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    I bet I could send you an all sand amp that sounds good with the 800's :)
     
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  14. Jerry

    Jerry Friend

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    And I bet there are at least a few of your amps that pair well with the Senns :)

    On top of my head...T3, T4, L2, DSHA 3.
     
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  15. Scubadude

    Scubadude Almost "Made"

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    I have a brute of an OTL amp which makes the HD800 sing beautifully but unlike many others I quite like it on good solid state amps as well. Bryston BHA-1, PS Audio GCHA, Pereaux SXH-2 and Krell KSA-5 clone all have the ability to highlight some of the phenomenal technical talents of the HD800 without sounding strident or harsh. There are others to that I cannot recall now, but my absolute favourite pairing with the HD800 is the original SPL Phonitor. Not immediately impressive, but the extreme resolution, focus and agility of the Phonitor does things I have not heard from a tube amp.
     
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  16. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    This short sentence could not leave my head for several days and finally I decided to put my BHA-1, with modified gain (-12 dB both low and high vs stock), to work to figure out what the heck @purr1n was talking about.

    I used HD800S and HEKv2 Bryston BHA-1, BDA-2, BDP-2.


    I started on high gain, HD800S at 10, HEKv2 at 12, and the “lively sound” was right there. The first Allegro on the CD (below) is a very simple rhythm and melody played in the way that is immediately captivating. I loved it. And yes the highs on HD800S were bothering me a bit at times.

    On high gain HEKv1 and HD800S sounded in some way similar: slightly bright, vivid, with fast transients and good macrodynamics, very good for focusing on the first layer melody and rhythm. But HEKv2 microdynamics and magic of reproduction of multilayered instrumental music was not there.
    Taking some risks here I would say that it reminded me the sound of 600 Ohm DT880, but more open.

    The change on low gain was a surprise and it was apparent for both headphones, but more pronounced with HEKv2. The pot for HEV2 was at 3, for HD800S at 12.

    Suddenly the HEKv2 magic was back. The soundstage moved back, the music just a bit more distant, but the second and third layer of Vivaldi Allegro appeared effortlessly with full details. The highs were not so much sedated, but tamed.
    I expect the effect will be very dependent on the system, I was lucky to play with pretty clean headphone amp and super headphones.
    Nothing more than an example how to take a one liner from SBAF and turn it into three hours of fun listening or rather learning how to listen to headphones.

    I used many tracks but this one is enough to illustrate the difference, the first Allegro in:

    [​IMG]
     
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  17. Sonorus

    Sonorus Facebook Friend

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    And with HD800S on low gain what happened?
     
  18. Dzerh

    Dzerh Friend

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    My understanding that "low gain" is equivalent to "more feedback" for some amps. With all "feedback " pluses and minuses.
     
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  19. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    ^ Exactly.

    The 300B Studio Junior in no feedback is pretty awesome with the HD800 and significantly better than the ECBA (similar tone, but better bass clarity and smoother highs). The issue is that I don't know if Craig will offer a no feedback version since he's been on a neutral sound bent these days.

    Aficionado, even without feedback is not warm / laid-back enough for Elex or Utopia. I think HD600 or modded HD650 works best with Af without feedback. I prefer the Af with feedback with the bassier ZMF cans like Verite.

    This is Craig's problem and not mine. He opened up this can of worms by offering (privately) his customers a choice of feedback of no-feedback, and then bitches about how his customers now want options. What he didn't get is that such private offers become very public. I'm pretty sure he won't put the switch in the Studio Junior as he did with a few Aficionado customers who asked for this.
     
  20. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    The recording has the first layer that is the lead violin and basso continuo, and the second and third layer violins and harpsichord.
    With both headphones on a low gain the second and third were pushed forward. With HD800S the first layer was still very prominent, but I could hear more details from the second and third.
    HEKv2 revealed a lot more from the second and third layer, like the soundstage depth was compressed. Depending on the recording it could be good or not, in this case HEKv2 sounded better.

    EDIT: I am using Accessory House sheepskin pads on my HD800S, and no dust covers.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2019

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