Sennheiser HD800 vs HD800s: Worth The Extra Cost?

The Sennheiser HD800 was released back in 2009 and have made their mark on the audiophile world. Some audiophile would even consider the HD800 the world’s best headphones.

When they were first released the HD800 was criticized for being too bright. Headphones that are too bright are more likely to reveal hisses and other imperfections in the audio and can make you ear fatigued if you listen for too long.

Sennheiser aims to resolve this criticism with the HD800s by releasing a slightly more bass heavy version that uses sound absorber technology that was originally used in the IE 800 in-ear headphones.

Sennheiser Hd800 Vs HD800s: What Are The Differences?

The Sennheiser HD800s were first shipped in limited quantities back in February 2016. They were supposed to have heavier bass with the additional sound absorber technology and a color paint job change to black (the HD800 comes in silver).

The release of the Sennheiser HD800s wasn’t supposed to be a replacement for the HD800 but an addition to the range. It offers a slightly different sound that is a bit more mellow.

I was surprised at how many good reviews the Sennhesier HD800s listing on Amazon has.

Sennheiser HD 800 S Over-the-Ear Audiophile...
335 Reviews
Sennheiser HD 800 S Over-the-Ear Audiophile...
  • Open back, around ear, reference class dynamic headphone
  • 56mm ring radiator transducers are the largest drivers ever used in dynamic...
  • Innovative absorber technology reduces unwanted frequency response peaks allowing all...

They both weigh 330g and are made out of stainless steel which makes them both light, durable and built to last. The microfiber clothe insides makes them very easy to clean and comfortable to wear.

Unlike the HD800, the HD800s comes with a symmetrical 4 pin XLR that can be used with amps that support balance outputs.

The HD800s also has a different frequency response and is suppose to have an improvement on the tremble in the 6k range with -2DB.

Some sources say there is a higher distortion in the bass that isn’t really noticeable unless somebody was to tell you or you listen extremely carefully.

…and lastly, the HD800s has the new sound absorber technology that was originally used in the IE 800 in-ear headphones.

The new sound absorber technology that has been patented by Sennheiser and it claims to eliminate “masking effects”.

Masking effects is where the human ear can struggle to hear sound frequencies when lower frequencies of a higher volume are being played at the same time. It does this by stopping any unwanted frequency peaks which allows all the frequencies to be heard.

Here’s to sum it up:

  • Suppose to be heavier bass
  • New Sound absorber technology
  • New paint job from silver to black
  • Sound slightly more warmed up
  • Differences in the frequency response – An improvement on the Tremble (2DB less 6k EQ)
  • Higher distortion in the bass (not noticeable)
  • HD800s comes with a 4 pin XLR

Sennheiser HD800s Review

The Sennheiser HD800s (and HD800) have extremely large speaker drivers (the largest in the world as of when this article was written) that uses a new innovative dynamic transducer design. The size of the drivers is a similar size to driver’s you would find in speakers.

This means they can offer an extremely large range of wider frequencies which gives these headphones an immense amount of clarity with minimal clipping as well as a very realistic, natural hearing experience with minimal resonance.

It’s important to mention that the HD800s are not a replacement for the HD800, they both sound quite different. The HD800s offers a much more mellow sound that is extremely detailed and high end.

Due to the open back headphone design, this creates a huge sound stage that is airier.

The 800s come with a 6.33mm jack plug, balanced 4.4mm jack plug and a balanced XLR-4 connector lead that can be hooked up to amplifiers to give your headphones an extra boost.

They are extremely stylish and weigh 330g which makes them quite light.

The casing is made out of stainless steel which is very durable and built to last. The inside material is made out of handcrafted microfiber cloth that doesn’t rub against your ear and is extremely comfortable to wear.

Since the earcups are uncovered it enhances the headphone’s acoustics and sounds extremely natural and realistic.

These headphones are built to last years but also come with a 2-year warranty just in case they break or need repair.

Some other specifications are a frequency response of 4 – 51,000 Hz (+-10dB), 300Ohm impedance and a 0.02% (1kHz, 1Vrms).

Inside the box, the Sennheiser HD800s comes with a range of accessories:

  • HD800S
  • Cable with 6.35 mm jack plug
  • Cable with balanced 4.4 mm jack plug
  • Microfibre cleaning cloth
  • Manual
  • USB flash drive

How Do They Sound?

Out of the box, many people are disappointed with the sound of the Sennheiser HD800s until they’ve tried them with a good amp. Although you don’t need an amp (more on this later) without one you will lack volume as they need extra power to give it the drive it needs.

Many people suggest getting a ‘tube amp’ to use with the HD800s as they will give you enough power to get the great sounds that these headphones were built for.

Tube amps are able to create great warmth and emotion that other amps aren’t able to do.

Another great suggestion is to use an equalizer when using these headphones so you can change the sound to exactly how you want it. If you want to bump the highs or mids or add extra treble and bass you can with an EQ.

They are also superb headphones for gaming and videos as the 3D technology built into these headphones is amazing and extremely well made.

You need to make sure to use uncompressed file types such as flac files when using these headphones to get truly uncompressed audio. Streaming services such as Spotify will limit the sound quality.

Once set up and used with an amp the Sennheiser HD800s sound truly amazing. The mids sound amazing, the vocal sounds like they’re speaking to you and everything sounds really defined and detailed. The video below describes it as ‘truly pleasant to listen to’.

Below is a video that covers this in depth and how you can get a great sound.

HD800s Frequency Response

No two headphones will have exactly the same frequency chart due to production tolerances however, they’ll be extremely similar that you won’t be able to hear much of a difference.

HD800s frequency response chart (provided by

Do the Sennheiser HD800 and HD800s Need to be Used with an Amp?

Without an amp, you’re going to be slightly limited on volume and some audiophiles will argue you’re wasting your investment if you don’t use a $1600 pair of headphones without one.

The HD800 or HD800s do not need to be powered by an amp and will sound amazing without one, but an additional amp can really give these headphones an extra boost.

Without an amp, these headphones are going to sound much better compared to the majority of headphones on the market but you’re not using them to their full potential.

Cables Make a Big Difference

It’s important to note that the type of cables you’re using can make a huge difference in the sound quality. The difference between a $5 and a $40 cable is going to be huge.

The cables that already come with the HD800/HD800s are most likely enough so don’t upgrade them or lose them!

Sennheiser HD800s: Is it Worth The Extra Cost?

At the time of writing this article, the Sennheiser HD800s currently cost $1600 – $1800.

Whether they are worth the costs really comes down to what you’re going to be using these headphones for and how much you appreciate amazing sounding headphones.

If you’re an audiophile that loves headphones that are well made, sound truly amazing and aren’t going to break for a very long time, then these headphones are well worth the investment.

Due to how sturdy these headphones are and how amazing they sound (especially when plugged into an amp), then it’s very unlikely you’re going to need to be buying a new pair of headphones anytime soon, especially with the 2-year warranty.

Is it worth upgrading from the HD800 to the HD800s?

It’s hard to call it an upgrade. Although the headphone’s name might give the illusion that they are a newer product, the HD800s are actually completely different when compared to the HD800s.

These two headphones have a different sound signature which makes them sound quite different. The HD800s main difference in the sound is that its 6k peak is tamed significantly, but that can also be achieved with the HD800 by using an equalizer. The HD800 has a very linear bass response which is due to the high damping.

The outer casing and design/looks of the product are also different. The HD800s also have a Sennheiser new sound absorber technology.

They may as well be released under a completely different range as they are completely different sets of headphones.

Headphone Alternatives

Before deciding to buy a pair of high-quality headphones, it’s a good idea to check alternatives on the market that might be cheaper (or more expensive) and deliver similar sound quality. We’ve put together a list that we believe competes with the HD800s. Some are more expensive while others are less expensive.

Fostex Th900

Fostex USA 25-Ohms TH900 Premium Stereo Headphones...
53 Reviews
Fostex USA 25-Ohms TH900 Premium Stereo Headphones...
  • Neodymium magnetic circuit with a 15,000 gauss magnetic flux density for wider...
  • Soft, comfortable ear pads
  • Housings made from Japanese Cherry Birch and finished with Urushi lacquer

The Fostex Th900 is a good cheaper closed back headphone alternative to the HD800s. The TH900s uses a newly designed 50mm 1.5 tesla (15,000 gausses) driver pard with a patented bio-dyna diaphragm that is able to pump out an impressive sound.

They can be found online for around $1400 – $1600 which makes them slightly cheaper than the HD800s.

They use a Japanese cheery birch casing that makes them very durable and eggshell membrane ear pads that pushes against your ears for comfort. It also uses 7n grade oxygen free copper cable.

Quite often these pairs of headphones also come with a wooden headphone stand included in the price.

Fostex Th900 comes with a 3m 1/3″ unbalanced stereo cable, a headphone stand to rest the headphones on while you’re not using them, a carrying case/bag and 1 year Fostex warranty.

Focal Elex

Costing around $700 the focal flex is a significantly cheaper alternative to the HD800s. These headphones are very impressive, they sound amazing and are very well defined. Some people say these headphones are a little on the bright side, but not enough to put you off and not want to use them. (In fact, many people preferred that these headphones were a little on the bright side.)

These headphones are especially good for vocals and are great at separating the vocals from the background sounds. The lower signals in the mid-range creates a very rich, inviting sound signature.

The only downside of these headphones is that the dynamics are almost too good, to the point where the peaks are too loud and the other parts of the song are too low. This is can have its benefits and flaws, but overall the headphones are a good pair for the price. If you’re listening to perfectly mastered music than the dynamic range isn’t going to be a problem, but it tends to become a problem if the drums are slightly too loud and the vocals are too low.

Focal Flex comes with a storage box that uses a magnetic closing system, a 1.8m 6.35mm plug cable that is cloth wrapped as well as another cloth wrapped 1.8m balanced cable with a 4 pin XLR plug and 2 years manufacturer warranty.

Focal Clear

Focal CLEAR Over-Ear High-Resolution Audiophile...
93 Reviews
Focal CLEAR Over-Ear High-Resolution Audiophile...
  • Audiophile high-end circum-aural open-backed headphones for low-noise environments
  • A pure, technophile and sophisticated design thanks to their solid aluminium yoke and...
  • Open high-fidelity headphone made in France

Another Focal pair of headphones, the Focal Clear costs around $1500 and are an excellent alternative to the HD800s. Just like all the other focal headphones the built quality is extremely good. You won’t have to worry about these breaking any time soon. The pads are extremely soft and well padded, they will keep your ears very comfortable.

You can run these headphones without an amplifier but you will notice a performance boost when plugged into an amp.

Just like the name suggest these pair of headphones are very clear (especially with the vocals). The ear pads have the ability to be angled and are spring loaded so that when you put them on your ears it keeps them pressured and tight against your head.

Similar to other headphones on this alternative list, the focal clear also comes with a sturdy carrying case that can fit all the other headphones in the focal brand.

The focal clear comes with a bunch of accessories such as a hardshell case which is 250mm by 240mm by 120mm in size and a 3m balance XLR 4 pin cable, 3m unbalance 1/4 TRS jack, 1.2m unbalanced 1/8″ TRS jack and finally a 1/8″ jack to 1/4″ stereo jack adaptor.

Audeze LCD2

Audeze LCD-2 Closed Back Over Ear Isolating...
37 Reviews
Audeze LCD-2 Closed Back Over Ear Isolating...
  • Incredible bass response due to the 100mm planar drivers and closed back design. Our...
  • It's the most neutral closed back headphone available.
  • Our exclusive glass-infused nylon rings are rugged and improve the sound quality.

Audeze LCD2 costs around $800 – $1000 and are fairly well known in the headphone world. What makes these headphones great is that (they sound great!), but also come with an extremely sturdy and well-made carrier case that has a durable foam inside.

These open back headphones weigh around 500 – 600 gram depending on which wood model that you’ve got. Weight will vary depending on which version you have.

LCD2 has been on the market for a while and have been frequently updated yearly. The 2018 model headband is metal with a leather strap, on the older models they use to be less durable but Audeze has now improved this to stop them from breaking. They use giant leather pads that will support your ear and are very well made and super comfortable. The Audeze are known for their great, deep pads.

The only downside of these headphones is that they are quite heavy and this can really stop them from being as comfortable as they could.

Unlike the other headphones on this list, the Audeze LCD2 comes with 3 years warranty as well as a 1.8m 1/4inch to dual 4 pin mini XLR cable and a professional carry travel case.

Hifiman HE1000 v2

HIFIMAN HE1000 Over Ear Planar Magnetic Headphone
13 Reviews
HIFIMAN HE1000 Over Ear Planar Magnetic Headphone
  • World’s First Diaphragm in Nanometer Thickness
  • "sounded remarkable and may motivate me to do a lot more headphone listening" -Jim...
  • Advanced Asymmetrical Magnetic Circuit offering perfect reproduction of live music

The Hifiman HE1000se is one of the highest price headphones on this alternative list and will cost you around $3500 and upwards. One thing to note of these headphones is that they are giant, and are not for outdoor portable use, rather they are supposed to be used inside or in a studio.

The HE1000se open back headphones use earpads that can rotate a complete 360 degrees and use huge drivers.

At the top of the headphones, you can adjust the tightenest of the strap by pushing it up or down so that it can fit all size heads.

These headphones are extremely comfortable and one of the lightest weight headphones on this list with only weighing only 440g.

What makes these headphones extra special is that it uses the Hifiman’s advanced asymmetrical planar driver that uses an advanced magnetic circuit. According to their website, 7 years of ‘painstaking research has been put into this driver.

Hifiman He1000 2 has been changed significantly from the first version. Some of the changes they have done is use an improved headband to give a greater range of motion to fit bigger head sizes, the earcups have been reduced by 3mm which makes the headphones a lot lighter, the earpads material has been changed and the earpads now creates a stronger seal between the ears which also creates a better bass response. Inside the box, you get the headphones as well as a 3.5mm, 6.33mm plug cable as well as a 4-pin XLR Plug cable.

HD800s Final Thoughts

Sennheiser HD800s are one of the best headphones in production. If you’re somebody who loves to hear sounds to the best of their ability then the HD800s aren’t going to disappoint, especially when hooked up to an amplifier.

Although they can be used for every day they aren’t recommended for outdoor use and are best to use at home or in a studio, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wear them outside.

The Hd800s are actually extremely lightweight, some people have even reported that they forget they are wearing the headphones due to how light they are and that the earpads don’t touch the listener’s ears.

The HD800s also make fantastic gaming headphones due to their amazing 3dimensional sound technology.

This makes them very good for games where you need to hear sound in different directions, whether it’s right, left or behind you, the HD800s will be able to replicate those directions perfectly.

One of my favorite parts about the HD800s is that they are super comfortable. They don’t hurt your ears and you will sometimes forget you even have them on since they don’t touch your ears and are super lightweight (especially compared to other headphones such as the Audeze LCD2 which weighs 500 – 600g), the Hd800s only weigh 330g. According to the Sennheiser website, the hd800s uncovered earcups also enhance the headphone’s acoustics.

So to summaries, the Sennheiser Hd800s are no doubt great headphones (if not one of the best headphones you can buy in the industry), but they are expensive.

If you’re somebody who loves to hear every little detail in your music and enjoy hearing the crisps and clarity of the audio waves then the Hd800s are completely worth it but do keep in mind that they are at their best performance while being powered by an amplifier.

With the addition of the headphones and the amplifier, this set is going to set you back $1400+ (as the time of writing this article).

If you’re unsure about these headphones, you can always try to find your nearest dealership to see whether they will let you hear the quality before you decide to purchase them, or you could also check online retailers to see if they have a money back guarantee if you return them within a certain amount of time.

Related Questions:

Are Sennheiser HD800s good for gaming? The HD800s are great for gaming due to their ability to represent 3D sound and block off sound from the outside world (sound isolation).

Whats is Sennheiser’s HD800s cable length? The HD800s come with a 3m length high quality 6.3mm jack cable and a balanced cable that can be used alongside headphone amps.

How to tell the difference between fake and real Sennheiser HD800s? There are many videos online that can help you with identifying counterfeit products. The biggest give away are the boxes photo images and the built quality of headphones. You can always try registering the product on Sennheiser’s website to tell if they are legitimate.

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