Drop x Sennheiser HD8XX (final tuning)

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by Marvey, Jul 20, 2021.

  1. roughroad

    roughroad formerly mephisto56, Rando

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    I have to agree with your assessment of the HD8XX RD. I tried them out on two of my vocal test albums, Holly Cole Don't Smike in Bed and Misty River Live at the Backgate Stage. This may not be an approved descriptive but the best way I can describe the vocals was dead-sounding; i.e., there was no emotion coming through, no fullness or richness, it was very bland, very much the opposite of what they sounded like the the GenG's. And yes, at least so far, the HD8XX's do work well for classical music.
     
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  2. tranq

    tranq Facebook Friend

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    I thought the HD800 and HD800s were already beloved by fans of classical music. Wasnt the HD8XX supposed to appeal to fans of different genres.
     
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  3. SchwizzelKick66

    SchwizzelKick66 Rando

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    I'm not sure I could stomach the vocal performance of these. One of the main reasons I love the 6 series is the phenomenal mid range and vocals. Tracks with well recorded vocals just sound magical on the 6xx and 660s. From what I've heard so far it seems this is precisely where the 8xx drops the ball and has a chunk taken out of it so to speak.
     
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  4. SchwizzelKick66

    SchwizzelKick66 Rando

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    Has anyone tried the 8xx with a Loki or Loki mini?

    I'm wondering if the Loki mini would be enough to EQ the 2khz-ish drip up a bit.

    Edit: must have missed Marv's posts earlier in the thread with Loki settings. Seems promising.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2021
  5. JellyRhino

    JellyRhino Facebook Friend

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    First day impressions...

    Chain: Galaxy Book Pro 360 -> MusicBee -> ReaEQ VST (on/off) -> Bifrost 2 Unison -> SW51+ (HiZ out) or Asgard 3 (High gain)

    Compared to HD650K:
    -Better comfort, headstage, extension, resolution, transients, clarity and bass quality. Worse midrange tonality.

    Tweaks:
    -As previously discussed, the hollow sounding midrange can be improved depending on the position of the headphones. I think bass extension is worse when you position the headphones to prioritize midrange tonality. That might be due to the shape or size of my head (both are pretty normal I guess). The midrange tonality is never completely satisfactory to me, but it's acceptable (YMMV). The acceptable midrange tonality may not live up to expectations at this price.
    -A slight digital EQ boost (2KHz, +3dB, Q1.3) makes it a better headphones than the HD650K in every way. I'll be considering a Loki mini.

    Of course, short term impressions are subject to change over time...
     
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    Last edited: Oct 7, 2021
  6. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    For anyone that wears glasses, like me, the perceived loss of extension in the bass by wearing them a bit forward is about the same or a teensy bit less than wearing with glasses/broken pad seal.
     
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  7. roughroad

    roughroad formerly mephisto56, Rando

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    @yotacowboy, I too wear eyeglasses but take them off when doing critical listening. And I'm just about blind without them! When using the HD8XX, I'm doing only critical listening so that is not a problem.

    With the GenG's, I have found it preferable to again listen critically without my eyeglasses on. However, the glasses are not too much of a hindrance when watching a movie that I cannot wear them at the same time, i.e., the seal is still OK. Off topic but BTW, the GenG's are fantastic for movies.
     
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  8. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    Take these thoughts lightly as I only listened for about 5-10 minutes:
    -------------
    Summary - It's pretty good. No majorly audible peaks. Relatively inoffensive with more of a "fun sound" tuning, loses some of the strengths of the HD800/s but corrects most of the issues too while introducing a few new ones which were minor in comparison.

    Would I buy one - yes, if I wanted an enjoyable and comfortable for my head headphone. No if I was looking for a top end neutral reference headphone with super resolution.
    --------------
    Listened to the upcoming loaner unit on @ChaChaRealSmooth 's > Yggdrasil GS > Starlett > Balanced cable (unlike many headphones HD800 benefits noticibly from a balanced cable). Music from Qobuz. For reference my normal system is Yggdrasil A2 / Spring 2 L2 > Stellaris. Also for reference, aside from 1 early SN HD800 and 1 Darth Vader modded HD800 (@Mdkaler ), I haven't heard a single HD800/s that wasn't offensive to me due to the treble and peaks.

    Likes or general comments about sound:
    - No sibilance and the annoying treble / peaks that really bothered me immediately with the HD800/s are gone!
    - Bass is definitely fuller and sounds somewhat boosted on most tracks. It also seems to reverb more and "fill more". Some may hear this as diffuse though and it may mask some technical performance - hard to say definitively with <10min. Overall sound was definitely less tight vs original HD800.
    - The mids are good but subdued and drawn back.
    - Still very good for classical music and acoustic instruments, and not in a meme way like the HD700. Although I say below something is slightly off in the highs, overall the highs are still good, smooth, and natural sounding, which enable this.
    - Can't speak much about staging as I didn't listen to anything could show staging very well.
    - Otherwise, you know it's an HD800 (family) of headphone.
    - In some ways the sound is kind of what I wish my Auteurs were sometimes - colored and fun sound, but just a little less of the coloring.

    Problems:
    - Music lacked "life" a little bit. I did not have this problem with the original HD800/s with or without mods. If poorly implemented DACs suck out 80-100% of the life (as some of us have heard), I felt that 25-50% of the life was missing depending on the track.
    - Something is slightly off with the highs. Came out mostly with higher female vocals, not as much with say higher frequencies that make up the color in a cymbal splash or the upper end of a violin, etc. - these are actually very good. There is also something very slightly odd to me about the mid to highs transition but the issue here is very minor. It's less of an issue than with other comparable headphones. This may just be due to the mids being relatively withdrawn and the highs being more prominent.
    - Sort of glosses things over a little bit but not overly so. Not in a "plastic timbre" sort of way though. Original HD800/s did not gloss anything over for me.
    - Seemed slightly less resolving vs HD800/s based on memory but again, still a HD800. May have also been the sort of reverb-ish sound masking it.
    - Slightly congested with busy music.

    FWIW, I was deciding between this an a Utopia. Probably going Utopia but I could see myself owning both if I didn't already have ZMF Auteur. For triangulation, the 3 flaws with Utopia for me are 1) Peak around 5.5k 2) Transients overshoot a bit and can be a bit weird sometimes 3) Staging is "only OK" - less so when you consider the price and performance vs many headphones above even $1k, much less with a MSRP of $4k. 4) Not a sound flaw, but Focal RMA rates are scary.

    edited and written over 2 days as I was very tired when I first wrote my initial thoughts and left them incomplete both times to sleep.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 11, 2021
  9. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Poopsmith

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    Introduction

    You've seen the measurements; yes indeed, in a lot of ways this is the HD800 with the FR problems fixed. However, it's a bit hard for me to judge properly versus a HD800 or HD800S (mods or no) because I haven't spent too much time with those headphones. For me, the HD800 with mods was always a "this is pretty nice and I kind of get why people like this, but not really for me" experience. With the HD8XX, that statement doesn't really change, but it becomes much easier for me to recommend and is indeed a very good headphone that I could recommend.

    Sonics

    Now, personally I never really felt the HD800 was "bass lite." This could be because I'm more forgiving towards bass performance in headphones, or that I'm generally pretty forgiving of brighter headphones, but anyhow, I digress. My opinion on this is that the HD800 sounds "bass lite" because the 6k peak is so fucking huge in amplitude that I tended to turn the volume knob down just to make it tolerable, which makes everything else softer in comparison. The HD8XX though definitely does not bass lite at all; in fact, it lays the lows on somewhat thickly, almost like a ZMF Auteur but not quite. I'd say the bass quantity is somewhere between the JAR HD600 and HD650, with it closer to the HD600 versus the HD650. In terms of directly against the HD800, the bass probably isn't as clean and sounds a bit thicker in terms of just the quality of bass. I did not feel there was much difference other than that; bass slam and transients sound like a HD800 (well, the HD8XX definitely extends down lower).

    A happy note: the HD8XX retains the treble resolve and extension of the original HD800 without that frickin' annoying 6k peak. The HD8XX might actually have among the best, if not outright the best, treble performance of any headphone I heard. It's just the right amount; no peaks and nothing sticks out, yet it has absolutely fantastic extension and glorious timbre up in the highs. It is very true to the recording; the HD8XX will not lie to you and give a sense of "space and air," or "extra sparkle" if it doesn't exist in the song. Drop and Sennheiser nailed it here.

    The mids are where people who hoped for the type of "reference sound" that many modded HD800s give will be incredibly disappointed. The upper mid dip is very real, starts early, and is very noticeable coming from something like Utopia or SR1a. I personally didn't mind this that much since I don't mind dips in this region much, but both male and female vocals will definitely be more of an interpretive listen versus a reference one. Now, I don't mind this much (especially since the timbre is still good), but it kind of sounds like a ZMF Auteur with this kind of tuning, except the dip starts earlier on the HD8XX.

    Speaking of timbre, it's very Sennheiser. Those familiar with the HD600/650 will be very happy.

    In terms of transients, it's kind of like the JAR HD650. The JAR mods on the HD650 help tighten things up especially on the lows. The HD8XX is maybe a touch more lively, but it's nothing like the JAR HD600, and definitely not anything like the Focal headphones. I'm not detecting much overshoot. However, the HD8XX might occupy that middle ground where it doesn't sound unnaturally overshot or "fast" in transients; especially in the highs it sound just right, with metallic percussion having the right amount of attack.

    The headstage is HD800. Maybe not as huge (or nebulous) as the OG HD800 with no mods, but with no mods the OG HD800 is just unlistenable for me. Anyhow, very good and still what I'd consider class-leading (basically, best headstage for any headphone that uses a traditional cup. I don't include things like the K1000 or SR1a). The imaging isn't as laser accurate as the Focal Utopia, but it's certainly very good still.

    I think one of the only "real flaws" this headphone has is the resolution in the mids and bass. I'm sorry, but it just doesn't match up to the incredible treble performance. It certainly isn't bad in the not-treble regions (sure beats the HD6x0 stuff in this region JAR mods or no), but just not up to snuff to the other highly regarded headphones. Then again, the OG HD800's biggest strength was resolve in the treble as well, so maybe this is to be expected. But yes, in comparison to Utopia I felt the HD8XX glossed over some things that other headphones (even the ZMF Verite) did not in the mids and bass.

    If you're getting the sense that I don't think the HD8XX does much wrong, you're absolutely correct. These really don't have many sins of omission or commission, with the only real sins being the dip in the mids affecting vocal timbre and maybe the somewhat thick-sound in the lows and mids.

    Amp Synergy (out of what I tried)
    • DNA Starlett: DNA amps are an obvious choice for the OG HD800 and the same holds here. It's absolutely fantastic since the DNA stuff stages very well and they complement each other.
    • EC Ultralinear: I bring this amp up only because I was curious if the HD8XX could actually mesh well with a very neutral amp. Actually, the EC Ultralinear does very well with the HD8XX. I would extrapolate from this and say things like the DSHA-3F and SW51 should do very well with the HD8XX. The highs are not annoying and the Ultralinear grips the driver by the balls. I actually liked this pairing more than the Starlett.
    • OG Cavalli Liquid Carbon: Okay yes, this is the second OOP amp I'm talking about (the EC Ultralinear being a one-off), but unfortunately this is essentially the most down-to-earth thing I have that is a standalone amp. Actually, this pairing works fairly well, but it can be a bit thick and slow. Personally I'd like some more kick and grunt.
    • Schiit Fulla E: Surprise surprise....not bad! The Fulla E obviously won't bring the HD8XX to its potential, but unlike the OG HD800 which basically demanded very good amp synergy (and also depending on your tolerance for the treble), the HD8XX isn't as picky.

    Something To Note

    I've long been an advocate in saying "stop paying attention to balanced/unbalanced; listen to what sounds good." Well, for some reason I found that differential balanced drive* makes a difference with the HD800. For some reason the drivers like balanced drive and sound better damped and more resolving, and the HD8XX is no different. Not saying that these headphones sound bad out of amps that are only single-ended, but for those looking to pull maximum performance from these will need to have careful consideration as to what amplification is used.

    Why is this? I have no idea; no other headphone driver seems to actually sound better using balanced drive. Maybe, just maybe, the JAR HD600/650 I have sound a touch better on balanced on a good day (and there's no way in hell I would pass a blind test on this). But on HD800 and HD8XX, this is a very noticeable difference.

    *by this I don't mean that you need to go crazy and have a fully balanced setup throughout. I only mean that the HD8XX will benefit from amps that can deliver a balanced output.

    Conclusion

    I like the HD8XX; just not enough to buy one. It honestly reminds me of a Sennheiser version of the ZMF Auteur and might work for those who get very annoyed by the ZMFness of that line of headphones. But this is something I could comfortably recommend; in fact, for those who are looking into moving into the more TOTL cans and don't have the luxury of being able to audition a bunch of stuff, the HD8XX gets my top recommendation. It's a safe choice and does still have incredible strengths, and it will scale like mad with better gear (and it appears to at least be less amp picky, thought obviously synergy is still king).

    That being said, I can't see anyone who has already established the systems they like to drop what they have and buy this. And if the OG HD800 is what you have and you like it, pretend the HD8XX doesn't exist.

    P.S. If I may make a bold statement: this is the closest thing to a straight upgrade to the HD600/650, even with mods. Just mind the midrange dip.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 12, 2021
  10. Baten

    Baten Friend

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    Nice review. Just wondering, how do we best "mind" the midrange dip? Could a passive filter maybe fix it a bit à la https://diyaudioheaven.wordpress.com/headphones/passive-filters/ ? Otherwise, just hardware or software EQ?

    I've been waiting for a solid HD650 upgrade and have never been convinced so far. OG HD800 wasn't for me :D
     
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  11. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Poopsmith

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    I meant it more as "know it exists and be mindful of its effects." Because of this dip, I can totally see why Crinacle and @rhythmdevils hated this headphone.

    Another way to think about it; the slight forwardness the HD600/650 has in the upper mids is not present in HD8XX.

    I'm hesitant to recommend EQ. The reason why is despite the fix to FR, the HD8XX still has significant 2nd order distortion around 3k (which would manifest itself around 6k IIRC).

    That being said, I haven't tried EQ myself so I can't really say.
     
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  12. Jerry

    Jerry Friend

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  13. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    I will be applying quality digital EQ when the loaner comes around to me. Eyeballing Marv's measurements, my hope is that a broadish fill of about 4 or 5 db centered around 3k will be enough, and looking at:

    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...nheiser-hd8xx-final-tuning.11235/#post-354082

    my hope is that 2nd order (6k) harmonics will still be low enough to not be bothersome (at least at "normal" listening levels), perhaps only adding a touch of "edge" to that area. All hope and speculation for now, ears will tell.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 11, 2021
  14. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Definitely curious to hear your results with that.
     
  15. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    Apex Teton driving the HD 8XX is the best traditional dynamic setup I've heard, in terms of technicality, musicality and versatility. I can even listen to an entire thrash metal album without fatigue. I don't know what magic Pete has pulled off. but for HD800 and its variants, this OTL amp easily beats TOTL OTC amps from DNA, EC, etc. I have a Lokius between my DAC and Teton, but bypass it because this combo is tonally perfect without any EQ or mods.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 29, 2021
  16. Sonorus

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    Don't you hear some sharpness - a touch of ringing while violins or piano reach their higher registers?
     
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  17. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    Nope, not with Teton and HD 8XX.
     
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  18. Sonorus

    Sonorus Facebook Friend

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    I have switched to Feliks Euforia and everything settled down.
    Just the slightest hint of metallic timbre (well at least for my ears).
    It certainly matches great with OTL stuff.
    I think that is the best HD8.. version by a fair margin and one of the best dynamics.
    Congratulations to everyone involved in the final tuning.
     
  19. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    [​IMG]

    Amps:
    MJ2 with Amperex Orange Globes 6922 (BAL in and out)
    DarkVoice 336SE (PSVANE 6SN7 + Stock power tube)
    Jotunheim 2 (SE input, BAL OUT)
    DAC: MJ2+Yggdrasil GS (SPDIF), Laptop+Jot2
    Content: Tidal

    General comments
    The HD8XX preserves a lot of the hallmark characteristics of the HD800 series but the new upper mid scoop is deep and does bad things. It's still got the Sennheiser timbre, wide headstage, bright tilt, and decent detail retrieval with a pleasant liquid decay. Additionally, we get the desirable 6khz peak suppression of the HD800S without the furry bass. The big issue for me is the historically excellent treble and clear, correct mids are not there.

    The vocals reproduction seems wrong. I let our lead audio engineer at the station listen to them and playing AC/DC's 'Back in Black', a track he has used for decades to test gear, he kept asking me if there was compression or EQ in the chain somewhere, which of course there wasn't. He agreed, they didn't suck, but messing with the quality of the mids on the HD800 is a ballsy and questionable move. In 2021 the HD800 series doesn't really kick ass in a lot of areas it used to. That there's the suggestion of congestion here indicates sacrilege may have been committed.

    So exactly who is this headphone for? I don't know. I don't hate them, they're not "rip off and put back in box." They're also hard to recommend though because I don't know who would want them given diminished treble, wack mids, and relatively weak bass. I let one of the younger people on our staff listen and while they thought they might like them for gaming because of the wide headstage they disliked the lack of bass and bright signature, and thought for classical they sounded thin and for vocals the scoop did bad things, both of which I agree with. If you're signing up for an HD800, I would go with an OG HD800 + SDR.

    Would I get an HD8XX over the HD800S? Toss up, but probably HD800S, given that they'd have more correct mids. If you want a good high clarity 'Audeze' tuning dynamic headphone I'd get a Focal Mg.

    As a side note, the classic HD800 amp sensitivity is preserved, with the scoop more problematic on Jot 2 than MJ2 for me. Perhaps the extra warmth of the MJ2 obscures that a bit? Anyway, I liked them more on MJ2.

    Update: I enjoyed the HD8XX on my DarkVoice OTL, but I'm not calling it good. There is an engaging quality there, despite the total non-cohesion where you get recessed vocals and the drums feeling excessively wide. I would not tell someone to buy this combo without them having heard it first, but it's weird enough to be worth a glance. The HD8XX has an eclectic set of properties that might be the bizarre combo that is someone is looking for.

    [​IMG]
     
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    Last edited: Nov 8, 2021
  20. wadec22

    wadec22 Almost "Made"

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    Drop took these down to $950. I assume it's an attempt to move some units thru holiday. If you were wanting a 800S, seems a pretty good deal. almost pulled the trigger and took my name off the loaner. almost :)
     
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