Sennheiser HD 800 S headphone review
Let's talk about a piece of engineering art, the Sennheiser HD 800 S high-end headphones.
Their predecessor, HD 800, made a splash in the headphone market.
The heart of these headphones and their striking sound was the 56mm Ring Radiator transducer. It leverages the key benefit of a large diaphragm transducer—air displacement—without losing the rigidity that favorably impacts rest and response times.

56mm Ring Radiator dynamic transducer system

The drivers are mounted at a precise angle - it improves the spatial experience making it unique. The headphones immediately got a lot of fans. But a problem was also revealed - unpleasant resonance at a frequency of about 5-6 kHz.

To solve it, enthusiasts modified the driver and added a special resonator, this mod was called "SuperDupont Resonator" or "French Mod" (pictures "before" and "after" modifications we attached at the end of the review)

Having paid attention to this modification, Sennheiser engineers began to improve the design year by year, which made the sound of Sennheiser HD 800 headphones differ depending on the date of production.

The result of these improvements turned into the Sennheiser HD 800 S. Resonance at 6 kHz has been eliminated with the "Innovative Absorber Technology". The transparency and accuracy of the sound were increased. In the new model, the problem of poor quality of paint on cups was also fixed.

The Sennheiser HD 800 S is manufactured only in Germany from materials and components used in the aerospace industry. It gives high durability with low weight. Now, this model is one of the most popular among sound engineers and audiophiles.

Specifications: (Datasheet):
- Frequency response: 4-51000 Hz;
- Impedance: 300 Ohm;
- THD: 0.02 % (1 kHz 1 Vrms);
- Sensitivity: 105.18 dB/1V;
- Efficiency: 101.64 dB/1mW;
- Weight: 330 g;
- Contact pressure: 3.4 N;
- Headphone type: Over ear, open;
- Drivers: dynamic, ring driver;
- Pads: microfiber (replaceable);
- Jack plug: 6.35 mm, 4.4 mm.

Accessories:
- 3m cable with 6.3 TRS connector;
- Balanced cable with XLR4-connector;
- Case;
- USB flash drive;
- Manual;
- Microfiber cleaning cloth.

Design, appearance:
The Sennheiser HD 800 S looks solid, premium, and a little "futuristic". These headphones are lightweight and sturdy. The diameter and depth of the cups of the HD 800 S are the largest among dynamic headphones.

The ear pads are covered with microfiber fabric. They are thin compared to other models of headphones.

Usability:
Sennheiser HD 800 S is quite large but lightweight. Therefore, the head and neck do not get tired during long sessions.

The headphones fit comfortably on your head. They just "hug" your head. There is almost no pressure and no sweating on the head.

These headphones are a great choice for people who have big ears and are not comfortable with wearing regular headphones. There is also a drawback: because of the complex design of the headphones, they sometimes cling to long hair.

These headphones are designed for studio work and are not intended to be worn outdoors.

Reinforcement requirements:
We recommend using the Sennheiser HD 800 S with high-level audio interfaces. However, even with inexpensive interfaces this model also performs very well. The volume is enough for comfortable working. The volume is also enough when using the headphones with mobile devices, such as players and phones.

Among audiophiles, there is a myth about the "capricious" behavior of the previous model, HD 800 (not "S") with various amplifiers and interfaces. The problem lies in the unpleasant resonance in the 6 kHz area, which audiophiles suggest solving by buying expensive tube amplifiers that attenuate this part of the spectrum.

If you use these headphones with Realphones correction, the resonance problem is eliminated with all audio interfaces.

Frequency response:
The frequency responses of the Sennheiser HD800 and HD800 S are similar. The Sennheiser HD 800 S have no unpleasant peak around 5-6 kHz.

The frequency response of the headphones is measured in the dSONIQ laboratory using our proprietary procedure. The resulting graphs are fully consistent with a real listening experience across the entire frequency range.

Sennheiser HD 800 and HD 800 S on measurements in dSONIQ

Sound Analysis:
«Out of the box»/before calibration:
The resolution across the entire spectrum is very high. The clarity of the midrange is excellent, the bass is also good. There is a little lack of high frequencies, but their quality is great.
The separation between the instruments is fine, but not excessive. These headphones are great for restoration, mixing, mastering, and just enjoying the music. When listening to favorite tracks in the Sennheiser HD 800 S I began to hear elements of the composition that I had not even been aware of before. So the HD 800 S can be considered a reference monitoring tool.

The sound of these headphones before the correction I would call a little dark, especially in the high frequencies area. There is a slight V-shape in the middle highs. The sub-bass is not predominant.

The bass can be called calm, the midrange is lush, and the highs are velvety.
The treble is well articulated but not exaggerated, so you can hear the fast attacks on the cymbals, the midrange is moderately dynamic and the bass is quite "fast".

The spatial experience with the Sennheiser HD 800 S is the best of all the headphones that were measured in the dSONIQ lab. This is the unanimous opinion of the entire dSONIQ team. The sound is wide, deep enough.

After calibration:
After turning on the correction, the timbres become more natural and the overall sound is more consistent.
The amount of low-level details in high frequencies has increased. They become more distinct.

Mid frequencies are perceived as if you are working with monitor speakers. The dip in the high mid-range is gone.
The low frequencies become confident, full, and weighty. The low frequencies after calibration are noticeably smoother. The bass and kick sound deeper.

I also want to emphasize the importance of the studio acoustics emulation ("Environment" slider in Realphones). We recommend using it for mixing and recreational listening. It makes the sound softer, smoother, and closer to the real studio environment. When I turned on the frequency response correction and studio emulation, it felt like the sound "moved out" of my head. The depth of the scene increased significantly.

General impression (calibration + emulation):
1) Virtual scene has vast width and depth. The sound immediately seems special. If you close your eyes, you may start visualizing images.

2) A large amount of low-level detail is stunning at first. But at the same time, the resolution helps to hear the quietest details, as if through a magnifying glass.

3) Before and after calibration, a slight sound coloration is noticeable. Some spectrally wide timbres sound less expressive than I would like them to. But on the other hand, it makes it easier to control the level of vocals in the mix and the overall balance.

When describing Sennheiser HD 800 S I want to say that they are "audiophile-like elegant" and "analytically boring", but everything feels so natural that after 10-15 minutes the listener dissolves into sound images and merges with the music, forgetting about the outside world!

The sound of Sennheiser HD 800 S resembles monitor speakers. I think that's why they are so loved by sound engineers and audiophiles.

The differences in sound between the Sennheiser HD 800 and HD 800 S are noticeable because of the pronounced resonance in the 6 kHz area of the Sennheiser HD 800. However, with Realphones calibration, dSONIQ engineers do not see a fundamental difference in sound between these models.

Our scores:
(according to their class)

Musical styles

Studio tasks

The Verdict
The sound of the Sennheiser HD 800 S is unlike any other headphones, thanks to its unique spatial feel. If you want headphones that are as close in comfort and sound as possible to monitor speakers, then we strongly recommend them.

Pros:
- A unique spatial experience;
- Balanced timbre with a focus on the midrange;
- Reference level of detail;
- Excellent mix translation;
- Extremely comfortable fit on the head and ears;
- "Futuristic" design and premium body construction;
- Removable cable.

Cons:
- "Dark" and "empty" sound without calibration;
- Slight coloration in the timbre before and after calibration;
- Sub-low frequencies are a bit limited;
- Bad portability;
- High price;
- Expensive factory and "custom" cables because of proprietary connectors.

We recommend these headphones if you:
- Need reference audio control;
- Love comfort;
- Look for a high level of detail and a natural spatial feeling;
- Don't like using regular headphones because of the tight sound and discomfort on your head.

Alternatives:

HEDDPhone One is a good alternative if you need to work with dance music, but want to have a good focus on mid frequencies. Low frequencies are amazing with excellent detail. But the drawback is their heaviness. And also demands good amplification.

Audeze LCD-X - better than Sennheiser HD 800 S plays the sub-bass and the ultra high. These headphones have a different sound character: open highs, a little smoothed out middle without coloration. The sound has enough clarity. They are also a bit heavy.

Custom modification of the Sennheiser HD 800 to smooth out the resonance around 5-6 kHz.

We do not recommend making changes to the factory design of the headphones yourself. Calibration will be more effective because it can correct all the problems with the frequency response of these headphones.

We publish the pictures solely to satisfy your interest!
Before modification:
After modification: