Drop x Sennheiser HD8XX (final tuning)

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

  1. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Sure, will do and attach it to my next impression post.

    Nonetheless I don’t recommend to import my setting. There seem two necessary conditions: (1) head or ear-related transfer functions should match bw mine and replicator; (2) preference should match as well. I’ve tried out popular eq presets myself before (such as oratory or resolve) but none worked honestly while I believe those configurations would work for original developers. After many failures, I concluded the nature of eq must be highly personalized.

    Of course we can always adjust from the existing configuration. Fair point but.. I just feel building eqs from scratch is way easier. In working with other’s eq, identifying exact intention of each single filter and its translations to one’s perception is unavoidable.This almost always introduced good chance of failure because of mutual reactions among (already existing) multiple filters, which would be inherently less complicated in the “clean build” approach.
     
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    Last edited: Jan 26, 2022
  2. Ksorota

    Ksorota Friend

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    Thank you to Drop and SBAF for this loaner tour, and to @rhythmdevils for coordinating.

    Chain for listening. Mac Mini>Gungnir D/S>ECP 3F

    I have read the mixed reviews of this headphone and was excited to give it a listen, trying to reserve judgement for my own. I received them from Zonto who posted a not so favorable review…then saw Wadec22’s review which skewed the other way. As I was starting to put my thoughts down we then got Vtory’s excellent post and I had to pause.

    I had to pause because I fell into the disappointed camp. For reference, when I signed up on the tour I had a HD800SDR which I sold in favor of a Utopia. I also had the Quicksilver HPA and synergy with both headphones was great, but the Utopia was the ultimate winner for engagement. Since then, I fell out of favor with tubes again and went back into the SS world with a 3F and Focal Clear/TH900. These two headphones are a great matchup for the 3F and I had read that the HD800S also had some good synergy (although also heard it was not a good match).

    Fast forward to getting the HD8XX in house…first listen and I was disheartened. What the HD8XX lacked was a solid foundation or grounding if you will. The soundstage is wide, and details were how I remember the HD800, but the vocals were distant, and the tonality lacked weight/richness. Upon initial listen (coming from the Clears) they sounded weak, hollow almost. I took them off and went right back to the Clears. The Clears are warmer, richer and more present at all parts of the frequency response.

    To give them a fair chance I put my other headphones away and started to listen to the HD8XX exclusively. Giving myself some time to adjust to the sonic signature is always important and usually allows me to get into it, but not really with these.

    I never felt any wow type moment while listening to the HD8XX…whereas I got that feeling often with the HD800SDR. Maybe it comes down to synergy…it very well could be. I only have the one amp in the house, and I am using the amorphous transformers as I like them more than the nickel on the Clear and TH900. Could also be that I do not like the tuning of the HD8XX.

    I regret not being able to try them out with a tube amp (QS HPA would have been great I am sure) but I just do not see the fun tuning, but I did notice the mid suck out quite startlingly. I listened to a broad range of music from Lindsey Sterling, pink Floyd, Hans zimmer and The Doors….I couldn’t wait to get them off my head most of the time.

    On the positive side of it all:

    They are extremely comfortable…and construction was very good.
    The stock cable looks like its well-built but could not try it out.
    The color scheme looks very nice

    Summary

    All this is to say that I will not be buying the HD8XX and would not recommend it for the 3F. To be fair, I did not put in the work that @Vtory did (my hats off to you for that) and I would like to hear it on another amp to give it a fair shake. In my current world, the HD8XX is not to my taste.
     
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  3. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    HD8XX Loaner Impression: Part 2 of 2

    Ok, now I spent quite a time enjoying the loaner 8xx and felt relatively confident to say something about its sound.

    I’d first apologize that my impression might be over-enthusiastic, or at least contain a lot of positive psychological biases, primarily because
    • I’ve established a long love-hate history with 800 through three independent ownerships. I always wanted to love them because they do several things really, really well. But even with various treatments (some light mods, sdr, eqs, S-revision, uber amplification, etc) they could not be my stable keeper. TBH I was continuously annoyed by its aggressive and unintended consequences from multiple components’ mutual interaction. Post-eq 8XX was the first experience I could deeply enjoy music without major hassles.
    • I had great fun working on eq filters for 8XX. As a non-DIY person myself, the sense of accomplishment isn’t not what I see very often in this hobby. Eq is surely one way, but even so, it’s rather a way to improve something already good, not to flip/turn anything around. Again, I’ve never experienced dramatic changes this much.
    • I’ve not met anything cheaper than 8xx that had enough technical and/or emotional capability to please me at this level. Perceived value on my end is super high. This is highly YMMV and preferential thing though.
    My evaluation is mostly done with the following setup.
    • Soekris DAC 2541 → iFi Zen Can Signature HFM ver (w/ and wo X-space) → HD8XX.
    • All balanced connections
    • For EQ, I used Mathaudio DSP and Equalizer APO (for foobar and non-foobar uses respectively). Also please see my previous post to get some info about how I eqed.
    Enough disclaimers. Let’s talk.

    Non-Sonic Aspects
    • Comfort is exactly identical to any 800/800S. With the cable connected and partly supported ground, 8xx’s effective weight was around 380g. And I do think the 800 headband is the most comfortable among non-suspension ones. It just sits on the head with well-distributed weights via the thoughtfully placed padding. Alcantara padding feels super luxurious if not the best solution for hot weather.
    • Aesthetics is my biggest grief. As a special collaboration product, I wanted it to have more unique and appealing colors. Midnight blue color per se wasn’t too bad but used very limitedly. What’s worse, the blue nuance didn’t show well except for sunlight or very strong lighting. Not my taste to say the least.
    • I don’t like 800 connectors/plugs, either. I hoped Drop had bravery to change it to mini xlrs or 3.5mm trs ones, which didn’t happen.
    Sound without EQ
    • I didn’t hear much without EQ, only 30-40 minutes or so at first. Let me keep it short.
    • It addressed 800’s resonant problem. Also addressed 800S’s wooly bass problem. Drop/Senn did their homework. Kind of.
    • The suck out made 8xx muddy on upper bass, boxy on mid, and still edgy on treble. All simultaneously. Not to mention lacking clarity/detail/attack in perception.
    • Very unfortunately, the default voicing is almost disastrous for most of the vocal tracks I tested. I think I can somehow hear past HFM or Audeze’s scoops. But 8xx’s hyper scoop was beyond my ability.
    Tonality Correction using EQ
    • I already posted the detailed descriptions of steps I went through.
    • I should emphasize 8xx was more workable with eq than any prior 800 hps I played with. Surely not a very linear experience at all. Often it felt like I should apply stronger filter gain than I initially thought. And the required gains seem to vary by frequency. It wasn’t as responsive as many good orthos (still unsure if this is ortho thing or HFM/Audeze thing .. as I wasn’t as successful with vintage orthos and/or DCA).
    • EQ works for me better than acoustic modding. First, I can try to predict myself each time. Experienced modding guru can do this for acoustic ones, but I am more familiar with conceptual constructs like f,gain,Q rather than real world material and structural dimension.
    • Another virtue is I can immediately hear the results. And can adjust parameters while checking out on a real time basis. I find this easier for me to converge to what I am looking for.
    • As an aside, previously I thought I could hear artificial shits generated by eqs (i.e., thus I should avoid any eq as much as possible). Later ABX tests revealed my ears weren’t golden enough. I’ve shamefully preferred tonally modified tracks over controls.
    • As requested by @roshambo123 , my finalized setting, filter graph window, and fr plot are attached below FYR.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Sound after FR Correction
    • I’ve long hypothesized the reason why 800 has been amp-picky was I might want to offset or compensate for shortcomings with benefits from other areas. With all 8xx’s sonic and tonal corrections, I don’t seem to “need '' pricey amps any longer (apart from “want”). The sound driven by the zen can sig was already convincing to the extent I may sonically prefer this combo over the 800/3F I used before.
    • To my ears, the eq-corrected 8xx has one of the best tonal balances out of nearly any hps I’ve ever owned or heard. I dare to describe it as the 800 souped with Genesis-G .. and on some mysterious steroids. Sound signature, tonality, and part of timbre strongly reminded me of the very fond memory of Gen-G. Clear and slightly warm, maybe somewhat liquid-ish, too? The full spectrum of the music comes together in a way I can fully gratify. Some imperfections are still there to be ironed out.. But almost everything I hear makes me feel it’s fixable once more time is spent.
    • In particular, I found imaging and the way of presenting details were more in line with Gen-G than 800 in both good and bad ways. Definitely right up there with any 1k usd contenders, but images/details were slightly less apparent and emphasized at times compared to 800 OG or more detail-retrivaling references I own (Arya SE or L700.2).
    • Not surprisingly, 8xx’s technical presentation is very much 800. But with the drastically changed tonality over OG, clinical and analytic natures of 800 were largely diluted.
    • And perhaps thanks to the 800 ring radiator and ear cup structure, its spatial presentation is downright fantastic. Wide and open headstage feels like lightly damped 800 (i.e., a little smaller and narrower than unmodded 800 og), but the tonality corrections improved depth greatly. Overall soundstage, layering, and separation experience is very impressive. Let me put it this way.. Spatiality and dimensionality are key things I value hps these days in determining survivors. Nonetheless, hd8xx pulls ahead of my current references in roughly every three tracks not by a big margin tho.
    Sound with X-Space
    • I also enjoyed using Zen Can Sig’s X-space crossfeeder with 8xx. It resulted in slightly mid-centric + bass-shy tonal balance. But it could maximize 8xx’s spatial performance, exhibiting more spatial breath at a cost of tad narrower stages.
    • Maybe adding a little more sub-bass boosting can help x-space even better. But I haven’t experimented yet.
    • More on this from objective perspectives will be found here.
    Conclusion
    • I want to reiterate Senn/Drop’s HD8XX is capable but almost EQ-must headphones no matter whether one likes 800og or not.
    • Will I recommend it to others? Of course not. How can I recommend something to others that doesn’t sound right out of the box?
    • On the flip side, 8xx addressed all the core issues I had with the previous 800-series, which turned the headphones very workable on my end. Correction was relatively straightforward and once done worked very well with my preference. Afterall, every single quality I could hear in the end was too tempting for me to give it a no-brainer pass. It would have been a much easier decision if I wasn’t recently inspired to pursue a specific super big stupid audio purchase. I’m still debating myself anyway.
     

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    Last edited: Jan 28, 2022
  4. batriq

    batriq Probably has made you smarter

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    @purr1n Did you get a chance to try it with the Lokius? If so, is there significant difference between the Loki and the Lokius? Do you think the jump from Lokius to Loki Max significant for this purpose?

    Edit: Current setup if helpful: CEC Player --AES--> Yggdrasil OG/A2 --> Jensen Twin ISO 1:1 600ohm --> Studio B (Bendix/WE300B) --> HD8xx / Elex
     
  5. azooooooma

    azooooooma Rando

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    For anyone reading this I see most people posting equalizer settings that are on different bands than my equalizer. Anyone have settings for a 31/62/125/250/500/1k/2k/4k/8k/16k based equalizer?
     
  6. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    Probably not. You will just have to take @Vtory (and/or any others your looking at) and get as close as possible. For example, since Vtory is using a 2400 and a 3500 modification, try setting your 2k and 4k near his, and tweak from there. With EQ, as most things in this hobby, your going to have to put a little elbow and ear grease in...
     
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  7. RestoredSparda

    RestoredSparda Friend

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    Great review @Vtory. I currently own HD 800 SDR, and with some liberal EQ I am in love with them.

    However, your thoughts on EQ'd HD8XX got me curious, and I just purchased a pair to compare.

    I'm mainly curious to hear for myself which I prefer (both with EQ).

    To be clear, both using your preferred EQ, you would still say HD 8XX's performance exceeds that of HD800 SDR?
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2022
  8. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    I never came up with satisfying eq with 800 (sdr), but even if I could, I might lean toward 8XX. Technical-ish (as opposed to tonal) issues were well addressed in the revised drivers which I don't think EQ very effective.
     
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  9. azooooooma

    azooooooma Rando

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    Received mine and removed the two stickers on each driver. Amazing headphones after doing that mod. You get the 800s sound back but with a meatier low end and a less fatiguing treble.
     
  10. tubefans

    tubefans Rando

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    Although I did not like the original 8XX purchase with $1100 out of my pocket (glad I returned later), I have to say the $699 deal is one of the best deals in the century. Drop sold 700 units just in three days and I am fortunate to grab one before the deal was expired. Even more exciting news now is that there is a very simple MOD which is to remove two stickers on each driver. With this simple MOD, you will get the even better sound than 800S.
     
  11. HotRatSalad

    HotRatSalad Friend

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    that deal for 699 is gone now ? good I was sick of looking at it in my cart like a crack head.
    think I might try the He6 se for 549 though :)
     
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  12. tubefans

    tubefans Rando

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    I notice Drop is able to sell 3 or 4 units every day even with full $1100 price. In one year, Drop should be able to sell 1000 ~ 1500 units with full price. The $400 discount last week is just for marketing purpose and it is really the deal of the century. In 3 days, they sold 700 units and I don't think they will do this kind of heavy discount deal in this year.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2022
  13. RestoredSparda

    RestoredSparda Friend

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    After comparing HD800 SDR and HD 8XX I thought I would share my thoughts. I used parametric EQ through roon with both. I can't stand HD 800 without EQ, but with I find them exceptional.

    Listening chain...PI2AES -> Bifrost 2 -> Bottlehead Beepre 2 -> Bottlehead Mainline (10uf Vcap ODAM) -> HD800 SDR/8XX.

    Comparisons are with my preferred EQ for each. Many align with what others have already stated, so hopefully this isn't too redundant.

    IMO, compared to HD 800 SDR, HD 8XX...

    • Has a strange soundstage. Something sounded off to me right away. The exceptional placement of OG HD800 was gone. Things were diffuse and odd sounding. Hard to place instruments on stage. A bit of boxiness.
    • Has a bit too much bass bleeding into the mids with some male artist vocals.
    • Has a bit of unplessent edge and splashiness in the treble. Female vocals, cymbals, etc. were less enjoyable. Perhaps due to a new pair of phones that need burn in, however, easily noticeable in direct comparison.
    • Has very slightly less resolution throughout. Bass was less resolving, although more abundant.
    I plan on giving these more time to burn-in before I pass a final judgment (return or keep). To be fair, they only had a handful of hours on them before I started critically listening.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 26, 2022
  14. Dachee

    Dachee Rando

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    Been waiting for an update before pulling the trigger on either one of these. Have you had a chance to burn-in and finalize your opinion?

    Edit: sorry should've direct messaged but not sure how to delete this now...
     
  15. RestoredSparda

    RestoredSparda Friend

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    I ended up returning it. For the same price (used) I felt the OG HD800 with SDR performed better with my preferences.
     
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    Last edited: Mar 19, 2022
  16. dasman66

    dasman66 Self proclaimed lazy ass - friend

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    I appreciate @rhythmdevils, drop and anyone else that had a hand putting this loaner tour together. Unfortunately, these impressions are now far removed from my listening spot on the tour... I was able to listen to them for a little under a week and then was called out of town for a number of weeks. I shipped these on to the last person immediately upon returning.

    Loaner Impressions
    This is the first time I've had ears on any sort of HD800 headphones, which is why I was really looking forward to giving these a listen (especially since the HD800sdr seems to be well regarded on the Studio B).

    The listening chains used:
    Pi2AES -> Bifrost 2 -> A&S Mogwai SEv2 on the 32 ohm tap -> LCD-x/HD600/HD8xx
    Pi2AES (HQplayer embedded) -> Holo Spring 2KTE -> EC Studio B -> Auteur/HD600/HD8xx


    I don't have much to add that others haven't already said. I listened against my Audeze LCD-x (2021) and ZMF Auteur (eikon lambskin pads). After an initial listen, I ended up pulling HD600's out of mothballs for comparison (I forgot how much I like the HD600's).

    In short, I was fairly underwhelmed by the HD8xx across the board. To my ears, it was missing the midrange-magic and smoothness of the HD600, I felt that both the bass and resolution of the LCD-x were clearly superior, and I found the Auteurs far more balanced across the frequency range.

    From a headstage standpoint, I was expecting something special based on the HD800 series reputation... but I just wasn't hearing it in these. There was nothing that would make me listen to these over anything else in my stable - irrespective of genre or mood. There was never a "one more song" feeling of engagment, no toe tapping, no nothing.

    From a comfort standpoint, yes they were light... but I did not find them comfortable as the thin padding on the headband creating a hotspot right on the top of my head... I think the HD8xx would benefit from the headband padding scheme used on the HD6xx, which I find far more comfortable for long listening.
    ---------edited to clarify headphone/amp pairings----------
     
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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2022
  17. GanGreinke

    GanGreinke Friend

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    I'm really sorry for the really long delay in posting impressions from the loaner. I was hesitant to post impressions because I've learned that the more I've spent in this hobby the more I realize I don't know, but I figure I should just post what I hear. Maybe it will help someone.

    The chain I was using:
    PC->Yggdrasil OG (A2 with Unison)->EC Aficionado
    My main headphone for comparison was an ETA ESX900 (early iteration, tuned to have elevated bass with gentle down-sloped tuning with no treble peak).

    The biggest takeaway for me was that I could not get over the depression in the mids. Also, the attacks from instruments sounded soft and a bit hazy compared to the ESX900. The headstage was not that much wider compared to the ESX900, which was very surprising (that is either an indictment of the HD8XX, praise of the ESX900, or maybe just a characteristic of the Aficionado). I did not try any EQ or perform any mods (this was the loaner pair), so maybe those would have helped.

    I ended up getting an unmodded pair of HD800 after having the loaner, and the HD800 sounded clearer with better imaging (though also with a sharp treble peak that I couldn't stand). I think that the HD8XX probably over corrected some of the issues people had with the HD800, and I would not consider the HD8XX an improvement or direct replacement for the HD800.
     
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  18. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    HD8XX Loaner Impressions
    Thank you SBAF and Drop for kindly letting me hear these headphones on the loaner tour, I really appreciate it. I feel most fortunate to be able to participate in these loaners, and I’m grateful to the staff members for taking the time to organize them.

    I had a hard time figuring out these headphones. Amp pairings matter a great deal (more on this in a minute). I wasted a couple of days slogging through poor amp combinations and these negative first impressions took a while to overcome. I also couldn’t help but compare these headphones with their progenitor, the HD 800, which I have in their modded SDR form (thank you always sorrodje). I wish I could consider the HD 8XX in and of itself. In the end, I found the HD 8XX quite appealing and I can see why they’d be popular for some.


    Chain, Caveat, and Preference
    • 2012 Macbook Pro used solely for music playback with Audirvana via USB -> Bifrost 2 -> four different amps
      • the ZDT Jr., Massdrop Cavalli Tube Hybrid (MCTH), SW51+, and Mjolnir 1
        • none of these amps struck me as doing justice to the HD 8XX
    • the caveat is that I’m in my mid-40s and have suffered some age-related and other hearing loss so I can’t say much about treble extension above 14-15 kHz
    • my main headphones are the HD 600 and HD 800 SDR, along with such darker ones as the Vérité and LCD-2 Classic
    • I’m not all that fussy about vocals

    Amp pairings
    ZDT Jr.
    The less said, the better, but please allow me to rant for a minute. This amp’s great with the HD 800 SDR but poor with the HD 8XX. The tuning is off. Some frequencies seem to be missing, as though certain instruments - or certain octaves within them - have been abducted by aliens. The sound’s recognizably thin, as with the HD 800, but without the brightness, obviously, and with a darkness that’s odd when combined with the thin sound. Acoustic instruments sound all kinds of wrong. Electic ones are little better. Take Led Zep’s Whole Lotta Love: the electric guitar is off in ways I can’t identify, male vocals are very recessed, cymbals are too splashy and ill-defined, lacking zing; and the rest of the drums sound weird, like synthesized versions of themselves, and they’re far too forward. I really didn’t enjoy listening to this song with these headphones at all; it’s unpleasant, like saccharine instead of real sugar, ersatz if not just plain wrong. Also, people like to joke about the HD 800 being great for classical; the HD 8XX with this amp is its alter ego - terrible for classical. The midrange recession is a killer but the bass is also too strong and flabby and loose; strings lack bite, and there’s insufficient treble extension and air.

    MCTH
    As above with the ZDT Jr but with a bit more clarity and a brighter, more fatiguing sound. No good.

    MJ1
    I was expecting RAGE!!! with this amp but the two were surprisingly good together, less rampant, brain-eating zombie, more an enjoyable if still slightly aggressive listen, at least with rock and electronic music. The pairing made for a nice clean, clear sound, one that benefited from very good, perhaps excellent resolution. For classical, the bass wasn’t overdone; mids were better, although brass instruments lacked a bit of crackle and weren’t quite rich enough. Strings, however, had nice bite, sharpness, and complexity to their resonances even though cellos and double basses didn’t have enough solidity or body to their sound. Vocals are still slightly recessed. Alas, the treble rolls off too soon and there’s not enough air. Technicalities were great, though: fast and impactful, with good separation and imaging but without very spacious staging, which wasn’t all that wide and instead was quite forward but without much depth. The macrodynamics were outstandingly strong, but that’s thanks to Mjolnir 1, the glorious, speeding monster truck of the headphone amp world.

    The SW51+ offered the best pairing with these headphones, so I’ll offer my impressions of the HD 8XX with it:

    Impressions from the SW51+
    The overall sound is better balanced, now, less dark but still tilting in that direction. The bass is quite pronounced. It’s not exactly thick or meaty, nor is it slow or farty (unlike with the ZDT Jr), but it's nice and fast, strong and tight. Those looking for lots of timbral richness in the bass, as per ZMF Headphones, will likely find the HD 8XX disappointing, although these headphones have more bloom and bass emphasis than the HD 800 SDR. I suspect there may be better sub-bass extension here with the HD 8XX, or that those frequencies come with a fuller sound than with the HD 800 SDR.

    Mids are still somewhat recessed - as is readily apparent with male vocals - although the amp’s excellent presentation helps offset this somewhat. Female vocals are more forward and really quite lovely. The overall sound of the headphones is still thin.

    The treble lacks extension. You don’t get the top end air. Ultimately this is the main tradeoff between these headphones and the HD 800 SDR; the latter come with the fatiguing brightness but with lovely air and extension (I’m someone who misses that last bit of air from the stock HD 800 when going to SDR), and the HD 8XX go too far in tamping down that treble, for my tastes. Cymbals don’t sound right.

    The technicalities are reminiscent of the HD 800 SDR. The HD 8XX are fairly fast, have excellent resolution, and offer a decent amount of macrodynamic strength, with a bit more bass slam. Staging is decent, too, although you lose the spacious width of the HD 800 SDR, which may do something to balance out better the width with the depth, although I should note that with the SW51+ there’s not as much depth as with the ZDT Jr. I found it lacking here. One other curious thing: with the HD 800 SDR, the headstage collapsed, as others have noted, losing their lateral spread, in particular. Oddly, this doesn’t happen with the HD 8XX. Finally, layering, separation, and imaging are superb.


    Conclusion
    After an inauspicious start, I came to like these headphones a great deal. My amps didn’t do them justice and I’d be interested to know which amps offer synergistic pairings. I wasn’t keen on the thinness of the sound, which is something I can live with in the HD 800 SDR because it better suits the brighter tuning, for my tastes. Here the thin and the dark sound made for an awkward combination. That might just be a function of me being unfamiliar with such a tuning. If the sound had been more lush and rich, à la ZMF or Audeze, I’d have been much more keen on the HD 8XX.

    Thank you again for the opportunity to hear these headphones.
     
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