Sennheiser HD 800 S - Open Back Dynamic Headphone - Official Thread

Good to know that the Pendant could do double duty for my HD 800 SDR and, somewhere down the line, a Vérité, if pennies permit. Thanks!

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Definitely. I love my Utopia’s too, but at 80 ohms the Pendant just doesn’t have the same wow impact with them that it does with the high-impedance Sennheisers.

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Try it with the high Z out. Utopia should slam pretty hard.

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Ahem… Starlett, cough, cough…

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you’re a bad influence!

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Hey all,

Just thought I’d share some quick impressions of the Sennheiser HD800S. @taronlissimore was kind enough to send me one for demo! Please bear in mind that most of my listening background is with IEMs; I don’t have nearly as much experience with headphones, and most listening was done off of an Audio-GD 11.28 (the only amp I have on-hand, I know it’s not great).

To my ears, the HD800S follows a neutral-bright tuning. It exhibits a strong skew toward the treble frequencies with what sounds like a peak in the mid-treble, lending cymbals to excessive crash and something of a tizzy-ness in the decay. The quality of said treble is detailed and well-textured; however, I do find it somewhat fatiguing as a result. The midrange is on-point like most of the Sennheiser headphones, and I think it’s close to tonally accurate, sans slightly thin. The bass, unfortunately, is the weakest link on this headphone. I dislike using the word “blunted,” but that really does describe what I hear. Macro-details have a distinct haziness to them, and on the basis of tonality, the HD800S lacks adequate sub-bass presence. Furthermore, I’ll be frank: The overall tonality of the HD800S simply does not align very closely with my preferences.

Intangibly, the HD800S is a stellar performer. This is not something that I can force-test, admittedly, but I’ve not heard another headphone that exhibits such a grandiose sense of detail retrieval or “innate” detail. The HD800S’s macrodynamic ability is also quite good. Perhaps not to the level of the Focal Elex I heard a-ways back, particularly in snappiness of contrast, but certainly a leap coming from most of the IEMs I’ve heard. Layering and resolution, likewise, are simply on another plane from what I’m used to on even the best of IEMs. And of course, who could deny the HD800S’s staging and imaging capabilities? Image incision is more than ample, and it’s not hard to see why this is oft-dubbed the king of soundstage. I do think the HD800S would benefit from more center image diffusal, though, as it seems to image vocals (positionally) more in-the-head.

The HD800S is no doubt a terrific headphone, albeit one that I think is more geared toward “analyzing” music more so than it is actually “enjoying” it. But hey, who knows? I’m looking forward to applying some EQ and hopefully a better source as I get more time on the headphone.


ZMF Verite, sorry if this is an old post, however ZMF cans, perfection IMO.

I have a buddy letting me borrow these to try out.

I am debating getting these and a some Hifman Arya’s, or just going all out on a the Focal Utopia’s.

I been saving for some time now. I will say going from the Veritie as mostly my daily I wonder what I will think of the HD800s.

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I just got the hd800s in, having a panic attack trying to get the cable out, wow its in there. I was nervous from all the horror story’s around people pulling the whole connector housing out.

OK so far, they have great soundstage, imaging, detail, very dry mids, semi bright highs, and poor lows.

However, there is something about them that makes me enjoy listening to music, perhaps its how clean they sound. IDK if I plan on keeping them at this point.

I think the next realistic step is to just call it a day and buy the Utopia’s. I don’t know if they have enough of a WOW factor for me to justify keeping them.

You’re going to get a much different soundstage with the Utopias though and perhaps less comfort. Tonality wise is a crapshoot based on your preferences. I find the Utopia very balanced with my audio chain but others find them counterclockwise tilted.


Interesting, I had heard and read the Utopia soundstage is pretty much not there especially comparing to other flagship headphones.

The HD800s is probably the most comfortable headphone I have worn to date, that is for sure. It is super light, but feels well put together.


The Utopia has a good bit of clamp, I got a big head though. I cant buy a hat in a typical store that would fit me so legit big not I just think its big big. I know others have had similar issue with various Focals.

With my tube amp I can get a good enough stage with the Utopia and even get some holography. Im not fixated on staging that much. The imaging is tremendous which helps with the smallish stage.


A good bit of clamp on my head as well, plus the ear cup was a bit too small for my largish ears.
Imaging was tremendous and sound stage was small and not very deep with SS or tube amplification.
I hope for a bigger ear cup and less clamping pressure in their next flagship model.
That beryllium driver in a Senn 800 type housing and headband, I’d go for that sound.
No longer own the Utopia, did a barter for a custom built OTL.


When you put on the Ananda of all head headphones and go WOW there is the Dynamic punch!

I am starting to love the HD800s for the things it does do great. It sounds so clean, wide, and resolving, it is very nice. I am hearing little things in the recording I hardly noticed or didn’t notice before.


That’s why I still have / use my HD800’s.Theyt just needs the right driving amp to bring out their best,
That being said, that Beryllium driver in the Utopia is exceptional for a dynamic driver, maybe the best dynamic design I’ve ever heard.

I’m interested in the Diana Phi as a potentially more comfortable super Utopia. But that’s a while down the road. Focal is due to update some things but even “old” headphones sound good.


I found this EQ profile online, I tried it out, it makes less detail but cools the high peaks and adds little flavor of bass. I am on the fence still about it, kind of like the 800s without EQ. Anyone have any EQ profiles they are using?

OK, I love the HD800s, great headphone despite the lack of bass, the soundstage, clarity, and the detail makes you forget all about it. You get used to it. With EQ it can make up for it a little bit.

The problem I am currently having is, Focal Utopia, or HD800s and the Arya… decisions… decisions…

Selling my Empire Ear’s Legend X if anyone is interested, just let me know.


If you’re loving the soundstage of the HD800s, then replacing them with the Utopia sounds like a terrible idea. Soundstage is seemingly the weakest attribute of Focal headphones - I own the Clears and can confirm that they sound a bit congested compared to the HD800s - so forcing yourself to choose between two of the most spacious headphones in existence and the Utopias doesn’t sound like a recipe for contentment.

My suggestion would be to keep the HD800s and find something more tonally rich to complement them. Soundstage aside, the HD800s and Utopia are arguably quite similar in the way they sacrifice tonality for detail - the Clears likewise - so why not go for something completely different?


Thank you for your recommendation, that is the plan I am leaning towards currently, going with the Arya and keeping the HD800s.

However, Sounds stage aside how does the bass, mids, treble, dynamics, imaging, and timbre compare?

From what I have read the dynamics are better, timbre might be more natural on the HD800s, detail and imaging would go to the Utopia, bass extension, mids, and treble would go to the Utopia too maybe?