MadLustEnvy
289
Mar 21, 2021
I'm Mad Lust Envy, and I do headphone reviews for my guide on Head-fi. Web search Mad Lust Envy to find it. Anyways, below is my 8XX review, if you wanna call it that. Some formatting errors may have occurred during the transition. I apologize in advance. ---------- ---------- Drop + Sennheiser 8XX
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$1100 Disclaimer: A special thanks to Drop for 8XX out to me for the quick impressions/review. As always, whether products are sent to me or not, I do my best in being 100% honest with my views and opinions. If I don't like a product, I will refuse to write a review of it, or at the very least mention what I don't like about them, though I like to focus on products that people would like or at the very least are interested in. The only bias I have is to my readers. No one, Drop or otherwise, paid or asked me for anything. They only asked for my honest impressions. That's it.

Note: There are various things I need to discuss in terms of the 8XX and this 'review'.

1. The unit sent is a pre-production unit within the shell of an HD800S, with the driver tuning of the 8XX. So they should effectively feel and sound like the finalized 8XX, outside of aesthetics. This means I can't show you the unit, as it is clearly not indicative of the final release. So no pictures here, other than those done by Drop themselves.

2. I was restricted to a very short, few day loan, before needing to send it out to the next person. This means, that you really should take my impressions with a huge grain of salt. I generally believe one needs at LEAST a week to get truly intimate and comfortable with a headphone. However, I received the unit on my days off, and was able put in many hours, which may have actually been better than if I had 5 days with them during my work week. I do have some modicum of confidence with my impressions.

3. I have zero experience with either the HD800 or HD800S, so the 8XX is my first experience with this grade of Sennheiser headphone. I can't say it's better or worse than the formers simply because I have not heard those. So if you're looking for comparisons to those, you won't find them here. I'll be reviewing the 8XX like I tend to review all headphones: I review the unit by its own strengths and weaknesses, and not how it compares to anything else, with zero expectations. I also may repeat some things over and over. This is to really hammer home how I feel about certain things, so if you see me repeat myself, it's just the way my thought process is when I write. It may not be utterly professional, but hey, I'm self taught.

4. None of the 800-line including the 8XX one would be something I'd generally be into. This means, I generally like a fuller bottom end, warmer character, more intimate, and smoother upper range rather than the highly defined, incisive, spacious, detail-oriented tuning that I would expect of the HD800 line. HOWEVER, just because I'd be more inclined to go for something like an LCD2 over an HD800, does not mean I can't enjoy, or see the benefits and merits of an HD800-type headphone. I can be objective, and I can absolutely enjoy tunings that don't fall under my general preference. All I'm trying to say here is that If I don't go crazy for these, it's because they're not what I typically want in a headphone. It doesn't mean that I can't like them as a contrast. They wouldn't be my first or even 5th choice for a headphone I'd spend money on (especially in this price range), but for those knowing what to expect, and want this specific type of sound, the 8XX should still be looked into. So ONCE again, I may not be enamored with the 8XX mainly because from the beginning, it wasn't a headphone geared towards my taste. I can't stress this enough.

You are free to disagree, but if you're looking someone that further reinforces your belief of "OMG BEST HEADPHONE EVER", look elsewhere. I'll tell you what I like, and what I don't like about them based on my own feelings towards them and not what you want to hear or not hear.

As long as you understand all this, we're good. So let's get into it.



Intro
I think by now those who know me, know that I'm a huge fan of Sennheiser, particularly Drop's variants of their headphones in general. The 6XX is arguably my favorite headphone of all time, especially anywhere near its price range, and I could never see myself without them. I called them the best headphone of all time. You don't have to agree. Yes, they're not technically the BEST, but so many factors about the 6XX make them an absolute legend. Argue all you want, it's my belief. Then there's the PC38X, which to me, IS the best wired headset you can buy. Period, no ands ifs or buts. I love their tuning, their performance, their stellar microphone, their comfort, just...everything. I don't care who you are. Get the PC38X if you want a wired headset. "But what about--", NO. Be quiet and listen. Get the PC38X. End of story. I reviewed the PC37X as the Game One long ago and liked them well enough, and while I haven't heard the 58X, I highly doubt I wouldn't think fondly of those either. So as far as I'm concerned, I believe DROP has Sennheiser headphones on lock. They know what they're doing with those. This brings me to the HD800 and its offspring. When I first started my journey into headphone audiophilia, the HD650 was the first 'unobtanium'. Once I experience the HD650, the HD800 became the second headphone unobtanium. The one I'd always want to experience but wouldn't personally spend my money on due to high price and what I've heard on its tuning which didn't fall under my tastes. Even so, I still always wanted a chance to try them out. Life never quite led me down a path where I'd get the chance. So, for so many years, the HD800 managed to evade by grasp. To my surprise, Drop had announced the 8XX. It really was only a matter of time, but it still felt like a dream come true. The moment I saw the unveiling, I IMMEDIATELY contacted Drop, and more or less told them I'd sell my soul audition these. Maybe not in those words, but the point got across. Under normal conditions, and for other headphones, I would've declined making quick impressions due to the very strict time limit. I feel that we need more time to truly understand a headphone. Still, I had to listen to these. I just had to. Yes, they normally don't fall under what I personally would spend my money on, but I can certainly try to help those who would. In any case, the 8XX is absolutely worth consideration. I won't bore you guys with the details on these. Product description and specs can be found on Drop's page.
Build Quality

Note: While the unit reviewed isn't a final release 8XX, I wouldn't expect any immediate, structural changes to the design and build of the 800S. I honestly didn't know what to expect upon opening the box. I always thought the HD800-line would be big chungus levels of huge, but they're smaller than anything I dreamed of. Don't get me wrong, the cups are still very, very big, but they're not as comically large on my head as I thought. Maybe it's my big head, though I've definitely worn bigger. There's something timeless about Sennheiser's designs. For instance, the 6XX looks modern enough to fit as a release in 2021 to my eyes. In comparison, the 8XX looks like the outright future. They are a marvel of modern engineering and design. While the main shell is plastic, it looks and feels extremely durable. In any case, the 8XX doesn't look it'll suffer from any random hairline fractures or paint chipping that other Sennheisers have had issues with. There's a large mixtures of materials here, which no doubt would lead to a higher manufacturing cost compared to practically all other headphones I have ever experienced. The 8XX looks and feels absolutely premium in practically all aspects of its design. Headband: The headband is possibly the most modest piece of the 8XX. Looks rather nice, but nothing particularly out of left field. Just a solid metallic headband, with the size extension markings etched on the top as opposed to the inner extension pieces. The bottom side of the headband has a generously wide surface area with enough cushion to keep the 8XX from feeling uncomfortable on top of the head. Microfibers are used instead of any type of leather which I appreciate. The plastic size extension pieces have ample size adjustment, though not as much as the 6XX. For example, I wear the 8XX fully extended, whereas the 6XX has much more size to give. Cups: The cups are truly one of a kind, and you would never mistake an HD800 variant like the 8XX with anything else. It's what defines the looks of the headphone, and it truly is a stellar design. As stated earlier, the cups are quite large. They are also *quite* open, and deep on the inside. Ear Pads: I'm quite happy that the 8XX continues to use microfiber pads instead of leather or faux-leather, meaning I'd get all day comfort out of these. Not quite plush like the 6XX, but their firmness isn't to its detriment. They have a huge opening, and your ears won't bottom out against the drivers, or touch the side walls. Cables: The stock cable is quite long, and terminates into a 1'4" plug with a comically large barrel and strain relief. The main body of the cable is covered in a somewhat loose fabric sleeve, which I assumes helps keep it a little more flexible. I do wish the Y split was about 2 inches or more lower, though it's a general complaint I have with most dual entry headphones. The cable on the splits are rubberized and use a proprietary plug into each cup that I'm not particularly fond of due to it being prohibitively expensive to find aftermarket cables that terminate into it. The plugs have to be inserted a specific way and don't feel all that great when inserting or disconnecting. At least it feels more durable than the plugs on the 6XX, which I've never been a fan of. Can all headphones just move on to 3.5mm or XLR inputs please? Final Build Impressions: I expected mostly high level build quality and design from the 8XX, and that's exactly what we received. The materials used, including the plastics all seem top notch and extremely durable. The only point of contention for me would be the proprietary plugs, which I'm just not fond of, though I can't attest to their quality or durability.
Accessories
From the Drop page, looks like, the 8XX will only come with the cable. I don't find the 8XX to be particularly difficult to get to a loud level, so I would've liked to have seen at least a 3.5mm plug with a 1'4" adapter, instead of being limited to just 1'4". 1'4" to 3.5mm barrel adapters are highly inadvisable, leaving you with 1'4" to 3.5mm cables if you wanna plug into amps with 3.5mm inputs. I understand they're not meant to be used with smaller devices, but really, there's no reason why they can't just always have 3.5mm plugs with an adapter.
Comfort

Weight: Without the cable, the 8XX comes in at 330g, which I feel is perfectly adequate for such a large headphone. It's far from heavy, and while not particularly lightweight, it is distributed well by the headband design, and decent clamp which forces the weight to the cups. Rating-wise, Very Good. Headband: The wide band has plenty of surface area to rest on the head. This, in addition to the shallow but decent enough padding keeps the headband from becoming a problem with comfort, even after prolonged listening sessions. You'll feel its presence, but far from ever becoming an issue. I'd say good headband comfort, nothing particularly amazing. Ear Pads: The 8XX's pads are quite huge and I'd say moderately deep. This means your ears have a good amount of space to breathe. The microfiber pads themselves are on the thin side, and not very plush. However, due to the way they sit on your head, the even distribution of pressure keeps them comfortable all day long. They don't really call attention to themselves one way or another, which is a good thing. Inoffensive in the best possible way. They are just there to keep the headphones in place, with little contact with your head. Great ear pad comfort, personally. If there was one area that may be slightly problematic, it may be that the lower side of the pads rests on the jawline, and some people are highly sensitive to that. Personally, not an issue here, though you may wanna take note. Clamp: The clamp on the 8XX is what I'd consider moderate. Clamp is generally not something I'd say would come up as an issue 99% of the time. The ear pads large area of pressure distribution keeps the clamp in check. As far as ratings, let's say... very good clamp pressure comfort. Overall Comfort Impressions: To say that the 8XX is a headphone I could wear all day is high praise. While I wouldn't consider the 8XX to be the greatest headphone in terms of comfort, it generally does well enough in most areas of that I'd say would land quite high on my list of most comfortable full sized headphones. To sum up all areas of comfort, I'd rate the the 8XX as great overall.
Noise Control
This may come as a surprise to absolutely no one: The 8XX leaks about as bad as the worst open backed headphones out there. There is simply very little noise attenuation inside or out. This means you definitely will want at least a few closed doors between you and others who may be bothered by headphone noise. Definitely 'personal home office at night + a comforter blocking the gap between the door and the floor' type of noise control needed.
Sound
In the beginning of this review, I had mentioned that the HD800, 800s, and 8XX wouldn't be headphones typically geared towards my specific tastes. That does not mean I can't enjoy them for their outright contrasts to my preferences, and the strengths on what they ARE geared towards. After over a decade of building up the HD800 in my head and how it might sound like, I've finally been give a chance to listen to at least some variant of it. The 8XX may not be a 1:1 realization of the original HD800, but for better or worse, I can take the HD800 off my bucket list. Now, how about the Stax SR-009 somebody, anybody? I jest. My expectations of the HD800 were that they'd have great soundstaging, highly nuanced detail retrieval, and many layers and intricacies to its midrange and upper range. Perhaps a bit brighter than I'd like out of a headphone. Its bass would be that they extend low, but not have a lot of weight or fullness. Oddly enough, in terms of the 8XX, I was correct for the most part, though I find them a little more more pleasing in its tonality than I anticipated of the HD800. Again, these were expectations, and not indicative on how the HD800 truly sounds like. So how DOES the 8XX sound? They aren't quite the HD800 from what I've seen of the graphs. There's also the expectation that Drop would tune them and correct their less desirable traits. To this degree, and from what I'm hearing, Drop has succeeded. The 8XX sounds magnificent in some truly meaningful ways. There is a bit of disappointment here as well, but depending on what you're looking to get the 8XX for, they can be amazing, or passable. If it sounds like it'll be polarizing, that's because I believe it will be. Bass: I don't think many people will dispute this: bass is the weakest aspect to the 8XX's sound. Which considering how graphs made it seem like the 800 and 800S has LESS bass, I'm quite surprised by this. I don't think I really would've looked at the HD800 or HD800S favorably if they have less bass than the 8XX. I definitely wouldn't recommend the 8XX if bass was any sort of priority for you. The 8XX's strengths lie in many things. Bass is not one of them. On the positive side, it has tightness, gobs of texture, and detail within the bass, but weight, presence, fullness, low end rumble, and general impact is noticeably below what I'd consider even close to neutral. Midbass has some warmth to it, but unfortunately hits a bit light. You can hear the bass, and it does have some decent extension, but much of it can't really be felt in any meaningful way. In terms of frequency tests: You can actually hear it all the way down to 20hz, though not much to it down low other than knowing it's there. Volume of the general sound starts to equalize at around the 180hz-200hz range to my ears, much too high for any real sense of bass or the frequencies below. To sum it up, don't go getting the 8XX thinking you'll be pleasantly surprised by its bass output. Even in the range of what I'd consider neutral, it's well below that. To put it into perspective, something like an Audeze LCD-1 has very good extension down low, but is definitely a few decibels south of neutral in its bass. The LCD-1 would satisfy someone looking for bass way, way more than the 8XX ever could. So do yourselves a favor, and be realistic when it comes to the 8XX's bass. It's bass shy, simply put, no two ways about it. Get it for anything OTHER than its bass output. I didn't expect to be wowed by the bass, so I won't rate it too harshly in the sense that it's just not something one should be looking at the 8XX for. What is there is clean and defined. You just won't get much in terms of it. I'd rate the quality highly. Presence not so much. I have to once again reiterate that I like some slight to moderate forwardness in the bass. I don't need basshead levels of bass, but I'd like some warmth and weight to it. So the 8XX was going to have a hard time impressing me long before I got my hands on it. If you're someone with a more reserved taste for bass, perhaps the bass will suit you just fine. Just don't say I didn't warn you. Manage your expectations. The 8XX's bass leaves me a little bit wanting for more. No sugarcoating it. I even brought a friend over to try the 8XX out. He isn't exactly a basshead himself, and even he felt there was just too much missing down low. Music is felt nearly as much as it is heard, and the feeling just wasn't there for a lot of music. Subjective preference and even some objective opinions can vary greatly. I don't want to rate the bass, because personally, I'm disappointed. But for those who want the 8XX for what I assume would be heavily leaning towards the strengths of the headphone, may not find the bass on the 8XX disappointing. Midrange to Treble: No we move on to the better aspects of the 8XX. The midrange to treble ranges are exceedingly much more impressive than the bass. The 8XX has some excellent level matching all the way up to the treble, with very little deviation between left and right channels. Of course this can vary from headphone to headphone, but I have to say it's impressive on this particular unit. I can describe the midrange as neutrally colored in tonality, with fantastic presence. Unlike the intimate midrange immediacy of a headphone like the 6XX, the 8XX remains highly detailed and upfront while maintaining a great sense of space. There is some decent spacing between your virtual listening position and the midrange, but it is evident that it's the focal point of the 8XX's sound. I don't wanna say spaced back, because that'll give people the idea that it's recessed. It is absolutely in no way shape or form recessed. What I'm trying to say is that it's not in your face. It can take center stage without it breathing in your face? Get it? I hope so. Frequency-testing (to my ears, and not graphs): Great presence all the way up to a slight dip at 1.5khz, and a general rise to a 5khz peak main prominence. Dip at 5.5khz, with a rise back up to 6-7khz, down to its lowest valley in the 7.5khz range (noticeable), with good presence all the way up to great 10khz shimmer and beyond. If there were any problem areas to note, I'd say maybe the 4.8-5khz peak being quite a bit louder than the rest of the sound, and I believe some faint ringing at around 6.8khz. 9.6khz isn't a frequency I'm too fond of either. Of course, this is pure frequency testing, and under normal use, these problem areas aren't going to make themselves so obviously known. Constant tone testing and general listening are completely different experiences, so whatever issues I take note of, I wouldn't look too deep into it. Under normal use, I didn't find myself truly being irked by any aspect of the 8XX's midrange and treble. I've had many warmer/darker headphones than the 8XX that would hurt my ears with sibilance, harshness, and overly abundant zing. To sum up, I believe the 8XX had to knock the midrange to treble ranges out of the park. Did the 8XX nail it? It certainly did. Fantastically clean and always present midrange all the way up to the upper treble with little to no excess peakiness. Aside from the valley at 7.5khz, nothing sounds subdued or missing. The only aspect of the treble that may hit a bit rougher than the rest is around 9.6khz, but then I doubt much will linger there for too long. I honestly expected overly clinical, or even some treble harshness. In reality, the 8XX ended up being much more pleasant and smoother than I could've ever hoped for. Not so smooth as in to be blunted down, but just enough to knock off the edginess that can hamper detail oriented headphones. The midrange to treble tonality is just peak brilliance. Seriously though, I'm very impressed by the 8XX performance. I would watch some video and with literally any other headphone that isn't smoothed over, I'd brace for those moments when someone speaking would just sound overly zingy and artificial. It never came with the 8XX. Like, you would expect it to come because the 8XX doesn't exactly smooth over details, but somehow, it'd just get their voices going without that sudden tizz when people speak. A lesser headphone aimed at clarity and details would certainly fail that test. Good on you, 8XX. If I had to rate the midrange to treble, it'd be outright excellence. I now understand why people loved the better parts of the HD800 and HD800S. Soundstage and Imaging: After having heard so much about the HD800's soundstage for well over a decade, the 8XX had a lot of hype to live up to. If there was ONE thing I could take away and expect from it, it was going to be soundstage. Had the 8XX failed in this regard, I would've considered it an utter disappointment. Thankfully, the hype was justified. The 8XX has a wide, utterly open, spacious soundstage, with great layers to the sound and the objects within it. Everything is cleanly and clearly defined in the virtual space. Nothing sounds hazy or overly diffused, nor do objects blur between one another. I was already spoiled by large soundstages from cheaper headphones for long enough that another large soundstaging headphone wasn't going to blow me away. Due to personal anticipation, the 8XX didn't quite wow me as I was hoping for, but perhaps I set my expectations too high. That, and I'm so accustomed to using virtual surround DSPs that expand soundstages far, far more than any headphone can realistically portray without aid of a surround DSP. Thankfully, the 8XX is a prime candidate for those surround DSPs, so the large, realistic headphone stage that it does have, is a fantastic foundation for some wonderful soundstage magic. The last time I was wowed by soundstage presentation was with the HiFiMAN Ananda, and that's because the soundstage is just, different? The Ananda has that planar depth in addition to an incredibly notable tall sonic ceiling, which isn't something I would have expected from any headphone. The 8XX doesn't give up much of anything against that, but it was already something I experienced, so the 8XX didn't bring me anything new on that front. What the 8XX did bring was an overall soundstage performance that wouldn't be outdone from anything other than possibly its own brethren, the HD800 and HD800S. If I had to rate the soundstage on the 8XX, it would be that it is simply stellar. As expected. You want vast, open sound, you want the 8XX. That simple. Clarity: Another thing the 8XX had to live up to, was the expectation of endless clarity and micro-detail retrieval. Ok, maybe more an expectation of the HD800, but since the general balance on the 8XX follows the HD800 and HD800S closely, it shouldn't sound too farfetched that I would expect some level of similarity in terms of how they pick up the nuances in the smallest of details. Of course, having not heard either the HD800 or 800S, I could only go off what I would expect out of a headphone that is leaner, analytical, and focused on mid to upper range performance. It may not be a tuning my preferences steer towards, but it's not an tuning that is alien to me. From the first moment I pressed play, it was clear that the 8XX would stand high and above so many others. There is this pristine, crisp clarity to its analytical subtleties, yet, it does it would it sounding sterile or lifeless. There's a sense of realism even in the smallest micro-details. Just a teeny hint of fleshiness there to dodge the 'artifical' boost in sound that so many other headphones duffer from. Clarity is magnificent, through and through.
Sound Signature and Amplification
After having heard the slight complaints about the bass being a bit south of perceived neutrality, with a neutral sounding midrange and treble, what can you expect with the sound signature? To my ears, it sticks to being in credibly transparent and neutral, despite an obvious lack of bottom presence. Apparently the 8XX is supposed to be a little warmer than the HD800 and HD800S, but even so I still feel it treads on being neutral and open to being altered by the gear you attach to it. This brings me to amplification. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind, that the 8XX will be transformed by whatever you pair with it. I used a Modius/Jotunheinm 2 for this Review, so I stayed on the SS side of gear. I've heard the HD800 (and by association the 8XX) shines with OTL tube amps, and I can totally picture why. Some sweetness would go a long way with the 8XX, though I don't think going the route of solid state to highlight its strengths instead of trying to gloss over its lesser desirable traits is such a bad idea either. Having heard for so long that the HD800 is very picky with amplification, I have no reason to believe otherwise. From experience with the 8XX, I believe that to be absolutely true. So, if you're in the market for the 8XX, make sure you know what you're getting into, and plan around it accordingly. I don't find it particularly forgiving, so I would do my homework in what works well and what doesn't.
Gaming
Gaming performance on the 8XX is about what I expected. By expected, I mean the expectation that the 8XX would be one of the best, (if not arguably THE best) headphone for competitive gaming. If you were looking for a headphone where the ability to pick up the subtlest of sound cues, and the ability to place them around you accurately, the 8XX is the headphone for you. Likely, THE headphone. This means that the 8XX should be heavily, HEAVILY aimed towards competitive gaming, whether it's at home, or in a pro setting (as long as open-backed high leakage headphones are acceptable). I'm not going to sit here telling you that you NEED the 8XX for competitive gaming. You can certainly get by with much less, and to a good enough level to be just as competitive. However, there are no tradeoffs in quality here. Clarity, definition, soundstage, positional accuracy, and a host of other benefits are all at an extremely high level, where there really is no need for you to look further beyond. If you have an 8XX, you're absolutely set for life. Now when I say you can do with much less, you only need to look at something like an AKG K701/K702/Q701, Sennheiser PC37X, or an Audio-Technica AD700X for cheaper, lower level, but nearly as performant headphones. However, the 8XX just brings gaming performance to the absolute max. I know I don't do scores anymore, but the 8XX would absolutely hit a Masterful 10/10 for competitive gaming. It's about as close to perfect as anything I've heard. The only tradeoffs for such a ridiculously high degree of competitive performance, is the less than stellar immersive qualities. Namely, the less than impactful bass performance. A lot of casual, non-competitive gaming needs a nice, full, bold presence in the bass, which the 8XX just isn't about. It's there, only just, but it won't excite you by any stretch of the word. I have stated that headphones with fantastically large soundstages do bring a level of fun even if they lack some low end, but there's just no replacement for that atmospheric rumble, explosive impact, and weight added to the sound by a solid low end. It wouldn't be anywhere close to my choices for playing something like Gears of War, God of War, Resident Evil, or Doom 2016. You will definitely want to balance the 8XX with a more fun oriented headphone. Summing up the 8XX for gaming, it is absolute, sheer brilliance for competitive gaming. For anything non-competitive, it is a somewhat decent, if unremarkable headphone. If you want to focus on fun, casual, immersive gaming, there's just better out there, without question. Even Drop's own PC38X is a more fun Sennheiser product, and it doesn't give up too much in competitive either. It's definitely not on the technical level of the 8XX, but for the price, it is the best darn headset I can think of. I only wish there was a headphone variant, but I digress. Bringing it back to the 8XX, it is a headphone that I'm split on for gaming, just as I am for all other uses. Get it for what it's good at (competitive), balance it out with something else for other forms of gaming uses.
Personal Recommendations

Media: I'm going to stick my neck out here in telling you guys that I believe the 8XX isn't a very versatile headphone. You will really want to use it for very specific genres that aren't bass reliant. Think of anything where bass isn't a huge contributor to the sound, and the 8XX will likely excel. I love it for competitive gaming, podcasting or interview format videos, news, slice of life anime, and any casual gaming where I don't feel the need to be immersed. Anything where you want to 'feel' the raw, gritty, dark, depth of explosions and things of that nature won't exactly change your life on the 8XX. The name of the game is to use the 8XX what it is good with, and not as a workhorse all rounder, which it absolutely isn't. Practicality: The 8XX is quite large and unwieldy. It ridiculously open with absolutely nothing in the way of noise control. It comes with a very long, not very transportable friendly cable. It is very picky with amplification. What I'm trying to say with all this, is that you will want to keep it the 8XX at home or personal office. I wouldn't dare tread anywhere public with it, not only in fear of it getting stolen (she is quite a looker after all), but also because you wouldn't want to annoy everyone else with your audio. That and it looks quite ridiculously oversized when worn. It would simply garner all sorts of unwanted attention. Don't be silly. Keep it at the home/office. Who It Is For: Rather than start who it's for, I can with confidence tell you who the 8XX ISN'T for. It isn't for those that want something that they can jam out to when they hit random on their entire music library. You will find them lacking for some things. Really, the 8XX needs to be used to its strengths, and mainly that. Like taking a day where you feel like classical, acoustic, folk, and things like old timey music are your desired selection. They are for those who have a large staple of headphones, or at the very least, one main headphone that can contrast the airy, light, clean sound on the 8XX. Something more impactful, deeper, bolder, and aggressive. Perhaps even something more well rounded, that doesn't particularly excel in anything, but can work with all manner of uses. The 8XX makes an EXCELLENT high end complementary headphone. As far as gamers go, the 8XX will be for those that simply want a headphone of the highest caliber that can play competitive/detail-focused games, without feeling like they've given up any auditory information. If you've heard of the AKG K702 or Q701, and would like a higher tier, refined version of that level of detail retrieval, amplified to the max, the 8XX will feel right at home. Those were among the highest rated headphones for competitive gaming on my list, and the 8XX bests those, plain and simple. Now whether the premium of moving up to the 8XX is worthwhile, that's entirely on how you like to spend your money. Personally, I can live with much less. Yet, I'm not you, or anyone else. If you want the best on offer and can afford the 8XX to use for competitive gaming, more power to you. They certainly won't let you down, and I doubt you'll find much of anything that competes. Those looking into the HD800 line (8XX included) know what they're getting into. I don't believe the 8XX will stray far away from what people have come to expect from something like the HD800S. A battle of subtleties is more likely than a complete turn around from what has been established by those that have come before.
Likes and Dislikes

Likes:
  • Futuristic looks and color scheme
  • Sturdy build
  • Surprising comfort
  • Amazing, top level clarity and detail retrieval, without the fatigue usually associated with a headphone this clean sounding
  • Incredible soundstage
  • Legendary competitive gaming performance


Dislikes:
  • Limited availability
  • Long cable with proprietary plugs
  • Bass output deficiency (this is really the only real area of disappointment I can find in terms of the 8XX's sound)


Final Impressions
Drop did what everyone wanted for a long time now. They brought us what is essentially the HD800S, made subtle tweaks, added their own colorway, and priced it well below the 800S. If you're in the market for the 800S, I don't see why anyone wouldn't just opt for the 8XX instead. You're saving around half a grand for use in other things, and you get likely the best tuned version of this driver. Perhaps more subtle more rather than significant, but nonetheless, a net positive. I know my impressions here are undoubtedly polarizing, but hey, the 8XX is a polarizing headphone. Many people will love them and use them for what they truly excel in. Other may not like them all too much, because it ultimately just won't be perfectly suited for some modern genres of music, and casual uses like many action movies and games. Despite it all, the 8XX is a fantastic headphone. It truly is. Once you have a firm understanding on when and where it will shine. You don't wanna go listening to EDM with these. Use them for the stuff they're good with, and you'll be absolutely blown away. Leave the rest to something else. So the final question is: Is the 8XX for me? For my tastes in music, and general media, as well as how I tend to use my headphones in general, the simple answer is; not really. Other than for competitive gaming, (which it is an undeniably juggernaut of a headphone for), I just don't see myself having many uses for something like the 8XX. To placate some of you, I can sit here and tell you guys that I'm not a hardcore music listener to begin with. I use my headphones for a variety of media, but rarely will I sit here and just listen to music outside of when testing for reviews. This is odd for a headphone reviewer, but I'd like to believe I have enough experience to still give you decent impressions. Not like I never listen to music. I do. But I'm not the diehard music audiophile like others may be. I use my headphones for movies, games, TV shows, streaming services, podcasts, and THEN some music. Stating this, there may be a sudden realization that the 8XX is first and foremost a music oriented headphone, and of this I have no doubt. Specific music, but still...music. With the correct application, the Drop + Sennheiser 8XX is exceptional. I'm sure many of you will have a complete understanding of where to aim the 8XX towards. For this I'll be fair and rate them 4 out of 5 stars. This is middle ground between what I personally feel is more a 3.5 out of 5 (which I'd rate as very good overall, with caveats), but I feel others that would use the 8XX properly would rate it an easy 5 out of 5. The 8XX wasn't made for someone like me. For those that it IS made for, I have no doubt, the 8XX will be outright legendary. ---------- ---------- If you guys like my stuff, consider searching MadLustEnvy on that one backer support site that starts with a P. I make no money off any of this, other than the single digit amount of backers I have that give me enough for a meal at Denny's....once a month (and I super appreciate them for it). I can't even mention this on Head-fi, which makes it impossible to even somehow make any sort of living with my writing considering my guide is THERE. So yeah, thanks in advance. Yes, I know about Youtube and making videos, but I'm super camera shy, and it's something I'm scared to do. Sorry.
(Edited)
Holy crap that’s detailed!
MadLustEnvy
289
Mar 21, 2021
Thanks. I did what I could given the circumstances. Lol.
ZALHERA
843
Mar 21, 2021
Your gaming headphone reviews helped me out a few years ago when I first dove into the audiophile scene, glad to read your opinions on this pair. Thanks for the detailed impressions, I appreciate the view of someone who can look at it in isolation rather than immediately comparing it to its siblings.
moorej55
18
Mar 23, 2021
How would you compare the bass to the HD6XX? And the headphone overall to the 6XX? Curious since I have that headphone and not sure if it’s worth upgrading.
It depends on what you like, and if you can appreciate different sound signatures. The HD 6XX has a noticeably heavier/ warmer presentation. The HD 6XX doesn’t sound weird, but when you’re used to it, it can take a week to get used to an HD 800 series headphone, which is light and airy. Because of the contrast, I think the HD 8xx and HD 6xx will compliment eachother well.
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Courteous of Crinacle, you can see that the bass section of the HD 6XX (blue line) is a range of +2 to +5 decibels higher than the HD 800S (green line). The difference will be slightly smaller with the HD 8xx, but a frequency response graph only tells a slice of the story (like a 2D view of a 3D object). In experience, the HD 8xx has a sharper attack and decay, with a tight bass and strong impact from the huge ring shaped drivers, but bass quantity and “meatiness” goes to the HD 6xx, making the HD 6xx have more weight to bass hits and a perception that the difference in bass is greater than what is shown on graphs. That’s why I read reviews like Mad’s with greater interest than reviews that are just judging based on measurements. Mad does use an HD 6XX the most these days when he’s not in bed or out-and-about, and his favorite headphone, the Denon D7000 (maybe now supplanted by the EMU Teaks?), is known for having a pretty heavy bass response. Mad has explained that when he says “immersive,” he means there’s more bass for him to get emotionally attached to it, not immersive in the sense that the headphone becomes transparent and you forget you’re hearing reproduced sounds. If you read Mad’s review of the HD 8xx above, he does say he finds the HD 6xx to be a more well-rounded daily driver because it has the “immersive” bass that suits EDM and action movies more. Of course Mad is free to reply and clarify any of this, as they are his opinions. ”I” personally find the HD 800 I have to be more immersive due to the transparency of the headphone. Sure, it doesn’t sound like a home theater with a subwoofer, but due to the HD 800’s articulation and imaging/ soundstage, the realism is sometimes startling in well recorded/produced tracks, as well as well produced videogames. The HD 800 series also respond really well to DSP effects, as it starts from a clean place and can add decay and heavier bass pressure. Some tracks to illustrate what I mean...
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”Stars” by Yosi Horikawa is beautiful, but mixes in binaural recording samples that will make you think someone is doing construction outside or a train is nearby, and this sensation is startlingly immersive on the HD 800 series 😅
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Singer/songwriter fare sound great on both the intimate HD 6XX and grandiose HD 800 (and HD 8xx, probably), “Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes” by Paul Simon was the first track I heard on the HD 800 and it blew away my expectations that the headphone might be unable to sound rich and powerful (the baritone backing vocals are very important to this track).
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However, without a DSP, dubstep and trip hop like “Angel” by Massive Attack lack that intimidating dark boom in the bass that makes tracks like this so addictive, so I might reach for an HD 6xx the or another headphone before the HD 800 series for this.
(Edited)
MadLustEnvy
289
Mar 23, 2021
I generally prefer the 6XX, and find the bass to be just fine on them, while I find the 8XX to need a bit more. They are also very different sounding. They'd contrast each other well, but I wouldn't put the 8XX as a logical upgrade from the 6XX. As an upgrade from the K702, yes.
(Edited)
moorej55
18
Mar 23, 2021
Thanks for the information! Last question, would you say that the HD8xx would not fare the best with heavy rock music? The 6xx w/ifi dac/amp siganture sounds amazing but the soundstage can be a bit enclosed and really trying to find an emersive headphone that seems wide.
Well, the HD 8xx will certainly bring you that arena rock vibe with large soundstage! However, I don’t think I listen to “heavy” rock, could you give me an example track? Heh, if you get the chance, hook up the headphones AND a subwoofer to physically feel the bass and get the best of both worlds 😂 Funny realization last night, as I was testing out a bunch of songs with a DAC someone generously loaned me... Tastes have changed over time. Listening to classic rock (https://tidal.com/mix/002db250143296c4cc46b4f0df533d), I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. For example, I expected the thunder to be a challenge in “Riders on the Storm,” but actually it was higher pitched than the groove bass guitar, and the HD 800 represents bass guitar well. That whole playlist sounds great. However, with something more modern Pop like “Demons” by Imagine Dragons... I tried three different versions, including a Tidal stream and a 88,200 Hz DSD file I happened to have, but the overly processed drums and effects in general sound like 💩. I think their compressed sound RELIES on slow drivers to blur together the crunch and digital hash, but with the articulate HD 800 it doesn’t get smeared at all... bleh! You may discover flaws in poorly mastered songs, which is something people have been saying since the launch of the original HD 800 in 2008. Songs that RELY on booming bass hits will make you feel like you’re missing out with the HD 800 and probably HD 8xx, like “Venus Fly” by Grimes and Janelle Monáe or “Where Have You Been” by Rihanna. Most Hip Hop and rap is out. IF you mainly listen to stuff that is heavy with synthesized bass beats, I would definitely steer you away from the HD 800 and 8xx... I don’t want you to be disappointed. However, with something modern but well recorded, like “The Resistance” by Muse, the huge bass swell in the beginning is there, but it “just” feels like part of the song rather than this powerful wave that washes over you. “Undisclosed Desires” is another of my favorites from this album, with that buzzing synth bass line that digs into the floor periodically through the song... again, the bass happens, and it’s cool, but it’s not the most prominent part of the mix, and your attention is more excited by percussive strings and the electronic piano “Blip, blomp bip!” While I miss the strength of some of that bass interplay, especially at the end starting at 3:35, it just feels like the emphasis/focus is on a different but still interesting part of the music. However, “MIB” by Ramin Djawadi from the Westwood show is visceral and definitely carries the threatening tone of the horns and cellos. Even some EDM like “The Great Divide (Seven Lions Remix)” by Velvetine sounds awesome on my original HD 800... but I look forward to hearing all of these on the HD 8xx. Sadly, some of my favorite Trip Hop albums do have interesting sounds at all frequencies, but without heavier bass it does feel like that genre often is too restrained. The whole album “Dummy” by Portishead begs for a subwoofer for the complete experience. Never will the bass be absent (the sub bass in “Why So Serious” by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard will still chuff your ears at 3:26), but it might be more restrained than you’re used to (which I actually prefer for “Limit to Your Love” by James Blake... any more would be too much for that song IMO). The original Destiny game soundtrack is freaking amazing 🥲 I love Marty O’Donnel.
(Edited)
moorej55
18
Mar 23, 2021
That's all interesting! I have a system setup for the home theater downstairs which is great for gaming when nobody is home and can turn things up but not always the case able too lol. I will give you two different songs that are in the rock genre, first is by the band RED called "Sever", love how they have harmony within the rock for most of their music. Another heavier hitter would be from Fit for a King called "Breaking the Mirror". Trying to stay away from the heaviest of stuff but I range from rock to metal music mainly which is why I'm trying to find the best suitor.
Milkw
44
Mar 29, 2021
Your review made me feel more confident with this purchase. Im not into too much bass, I prefer mids and soundstage more. I enjoyed your article. You have one more fan.
Yog-Sothoth
75
Apr 6, 2021
I have HD 650 and they sound to me like they have plenty of bass. Songs like Breathe by Prodigy or Angel by Massive Attack have that almost physical punch at lower frequencies. I don't think I want or would like much more bass than that. The graphs (at Crinacle or Rtings) seem to indicate the HD 800 S (and, by extension, HD 8XX) have the same or even, at the lowest tones, more bass than the HD 650. Yet several HD 8XX reviews complain about bass in some fashion. What gives? Are HD 650 also similarly light on bass? Or is there something about bass that the SPL/FR graphs are entirely missing/cannot capture?
Milkw
44
Apr 7, 2021
I personally have own none so i cant say. Im basing everything on reviews. But I dont mind having good bass or more bass. My preference is towards mids and staging. But Since i did own shure se535 and upgraded to se846. I do enjoy overall balance. Still lean towards the mids. So if its bassier as u mention. Im all for it. Plus ive bought Xduo ta10r hybrid to make it warmer, so lets see how it goes. This will be my first high end headphones. Well my Shure Se846 is currently my most expensive and prehaps high end?? . I cant wait. Prehaps u can ask the pros in the comments tread. Im still a newbie Sir
Or is there something about bass that the SPL/FR graphs are entirely missing/cannot capture?” YES! Well, I haven’t overlaid the FR graphs of the HD 8xx and HD 650, but yes a frequency response curve doesn’t tell all. What a FR graph shows is how many dB of sound pressure the other frequencies are to voltage or mW (however you measure your amp’s “power”) compared to the 0 dB point, usually 1000 Hz. In other words, it’s just how loud the bass and treble is in contrast to the mids. This is further complicated because headphones often will have different FR curves depending on how much power you’re feeding them, the volume setting, or the output impedance. The HD 800 I have has incredibly tight, impactful bass. I’ve actually felt the “wind” pressure causing the hairs on my skin to move, and even with just my old Cavalli Liquid Carbon amp I didn’t feel like I needed to add EQ (though upgrading my DAC did increase the organic fullness of the sound, made it less fatiguing or glaring for long term listening). However, the high fidelity means there isn’t much bloom or “fat” to it. Sometimes, the psychology of bass means that we expect the “louder bass” sound to have less control, and to have those artifacts like a slow decay or otherwise sloppy bass. Take my “Demons” by Imagine Dragons example earlier... the mastering almost expects a sloppy subwoofer in a car trunk, just to blend in the distortion inherent on the track. No disrespect to Imagine Dragons or their more recent work, but that’s one track example that fits the message that “the HD 800 is so good it will reveal the flaws in some recordings.” The flipside of that, of course, is that the really well mastered tracks can be an incredible experience, and technically you can use a DSP to add those flaws back in... if you really want. FYI, the HD 650 shows those flaws too, far better than the average headphone, but not quite as “in focus” clearly as the HD 800 😅 An EQ is part of an DSP, Digital Signal Processor, but DSPs can have many other tricks like the slow decay (maybe you want it to be just specific to bass?), crossfeed (more speaker-like, diffused sound), Virtual Surround or HRTF processing, etc. The HD 800S (and presumably the slightly different HD 8xx) are a clean canvas that takes to DSP effects very well. I love my HD 800 with my HDV 820 DAC/Amp, and Smyth Realiser A16 DSP.
(Edited)
Yog-Sothoth
75
Apr 7, 2021
The graphs do show, if I am reading them right, that HD 800S have relatively less bass compared to HD 650. Only in absolute terms, it seem there is slightly more of it. However, HD 8XX seem to be tuned to have even more bass. I am looking forward to hearing what that sounds like, but I feel it is unlikely I will be disappointed with their bass response.
I do think the HD 650 (HD 6XX) has “more” bass as well as “different bass” from the HD 800, but it will indeed be interesting to compare the HD 8xx side by side.
(Edited)
Jessse
4
Apr 14, 2021
Any Dsp’s you recommend for the 800s? I currently use the mayflower arc for gaming and have tried the ifi stuff
Jessse
4
Apr 14, 2021
Going to try to catch your stream!
DSPs can really run the gamut... I use a Smyth Realizer A16, which I hope will be my endgame, but I especially like any DSP that has a digital output so you can connect it to any DAC/Amp you can choose (and afford). I previously used a Creative Labs X7 or a G5 for that purpose, and of course the A16 has digital outputs as well. I really liked the processing on the EPOS Audio GSX1000, though on that latter one it only had analog outputs, so while it benefitted from connecting the headphone out port to a beefier amp, you were kind of stuck with the GSX1000's internal DAC (which was not half bad, inside a $200 device, and it had nice gaming features). Thanks for offering to watch my stream! For now, I think I'm going to focus on making YouTube videos I can edit and people can watch at their leisure. Next up will be a "First Impressions of the HD 8xx" post (text and video) here on the Community section of Drop, compared to my HD 800, but I'll also be exploring the use of vinyl with special guest star... my mother, who has a few records, and I think it will be a nice bonding experience for us near Mother's Day :D In the future, with a few more subscribers, I'll look forward to streaming live so people can interact with me directly :)
Jessse
4
Apr 18, 2021
Sounds good. Excited to hear what you have to say particularly about gaming since I have an 800s
I’m going to formalize my impressions into a post on Drop, but here’s the segment of my gaming live stream where I talked about my impressions: https://twitter.com/evshrug/status/1383151797083209733?s=21
Short version: I really liked it, and it was a touch smoother than the HD 800 while keeping the airy soundstage and hyper detail, and by itself represents an excellent value for a flagship headphone... but if you already have an HD 800S, it’s a lot of money to spend for a small improvement. If you've PREVIOUSLY owned an HD 800 or HD 800S, this is probably your best way in with a fresh new unit and a smoother presentation than ever!
(Edited)
asifyoucared
0
Apr 22, 2021
HA! Color me surprised--all good albums!
Just checking, because Drop doesn’t show me which of my posts you are replying to... do you mean the one with the album art? Or just all the albums I’ve mentioned? Thanks in advance for explaining! I haven’t been sleeping well – and consequently, I am very dumb right now – ever since I sent the HD 8xx demo back. That’s not all the headphone’s fault, I’ve got a lot on my plate 😅
right_meow2703
1
May 9, 2021
Amazing review, I mean I had to utilize the search bar to understand some of the terms so I learned a thing or two or five because of your detailed analysis. I do want to focus on gaming since that is what I am primarily looking for. I have a pair of ATH-AD2000x and they are great, they are powered by a HEL dac/amp combo. I was thinking when you started saying they were amazing for gaming these would be it but then you hit me with but not for the type of gaming I do since I play games like Nier, Resident Evil, etc. Only assuming here you have a wide range of whats good for what, do you have a recommendation to the types of gaming that aren't competitive as you said? I think my ATH's are great but I wanted to see if I can up the "game", excuse the pun, a bit more. Its is very much appreciated and hope you have a wonderful day.
asifyoucared
0
May 10, 2021
Those with the album art.
TopQuark
20
Jul 8, 2021
This is exactly what I want to hear. 8XX can handle EQ with ease. Add a little bump to the sub bass and I will be all set. The 8XX should take EQ easier than 800S. ASR addressed all of this in their review of 800S and the "There is deep bass...." statement. https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/sennheiser-hd800s-review-headphone.18424/ I'm sold. I just picked one up.
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