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Ransu1089
11
Sep 26, 2021
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*Quick update: (Edits are between *)* Hey, fellow Dropers! I finally got my Drop Sennheiser HD8XX this morning, and after some burn in hours, I'm finally sitting down to enjoy them... and I can proudly declare that I am absolutely blown away... To any other fellow Dropers who may run into issues related to what's below, I offer the following proper fit for wear and DAC/Amp chain advice by way of friendly suggestion, with audio impressions as a last thought. DISCLAIMER - We're all humans with differently shaped heads/faces/jaws, and most, if not all, headphones have a fairly straightforward design that's ordinarily decided upon and implemented once for as many people as possible (I feel like this design philosophy is a bit different for the HD8XX). Proper fit from choosing how to wear headphones can make or break a flagship product, or it's re-designed sibling, as much as not having a proper DAC/Amp chain will. I say all of this knowing, fully and very well, that I'm in the midst of an EXTREMELY audio savvy community, but there has been a ton of hate shame towards this Drop, and it truly does deserve a fair shot, so I figured if anyone's not used to the Sennheiser HD8** series, or is looking to carve a place into audiophile space, might benefit from this bit of information since the HD8** earcups are odder than some other cans I've tried/owned.

  • HD8XX Proper fit for wear (to each their own; though, I found this extremely helpful when I first joined the HD8** club)
  • https://www.head-fi.org/threads/how-do-you-wear-your-hd800.428147/
  • Post #2 (Most accurate description, for me, for these headphones)
  • Wear as high and as tight as is comfortable, bottom of earcup as close as is comfortable to bottom of ear, with the headband as close to the rear-ish part of the crown of your head, if possible, and adjust the front to back center position to the ear as required to get that forward-middle and outside-of-your-head sound stage with a full-bodied frequency response
  • These cans were engineered to have cavernous ear cups (I think concert halls, where the acoustics aren't designed for an audience in the rafters, they're *designed* for the audience in the stands, who aren't quite as high as the roof) and it's easy to get lost in these ear cups and *possibly* loose the original design intent
  • Overall point: How you wear the HD8XX can significantly determine what you hear and experience, *so see what works best for you :)*
  • Proper DAC/Amp chain (the HD8XX had me worried for a minute...)
  • My usual drivers are my PC, the Drop Grace Standard DAC (Balanced on the way), and the Drop THX AAA 789
  • My usual consumers are the Sennheiser HD650 and the JH Audio 13 Pros
  • These two consumers are driven happily on amp gain setting 2 (no gain added from the THX 789) at the ~12 o'clock position on the volume pot
  • Casual use and with foobar2k replay-gained music also on gain setting 2 at ~ 3 o'clock position on the volume pot
  • The HD8XX on replay-gained music at gain setting 2 music is dialed right in at ~5 o'clock position on the volume pot (the HD8XX are pretty power hungry, IMO)
  • Being that replay-gained music is the more strict requirement by reducing input signal strength to the DAC/Amp, this can be overcome by kicking up the THX 789 to gain setting 3 (I prefer not adding direct gain into the signal chain, personnel preference, as I feel like it overheats the presentation and thins out the overall sound stage, kind of like compressed music can do)
  • Overall point: Just be sure you have a strong signal chain if you want to get the best from the HD8XX (I'm already excited for my Grace Balanced DAC and Moon Audio balanced cable to show up to give my amp a voltage rail efficiency improvement and, hopefully, a tastefully altered cable sonic signature (as this same cable did for my JH13Pros) without tampering too much with the incredible articulation of the HD8XX)

TL/DR: Audio Impressions (so far) It's been a while since I owned a pair of headphones that could pull the soundstage as far forward and wide as the HD8XXs do. They carry an abundance of upper-frequency energy which lends a significant sense of spaciousness without being sharp/sibilant, and a deeper/fuller lower-frequency which none of the HD8**s I've had in the past could pull off. If I had anything negative to say, it's in-line with what's been previously stated by the media reviewers: If you're a bass-head... these will not win any awards with you; and if you're trying to keep the raw signal (no EQ), you may find that you have to compromise with amplitude when trying to get enough bass without being fatigued by the high frequencies (YMMV). For most crafts, one tool in the toolkit alone will hardly ever suffice. I stand behind my previous enthusiasm, and am glad to have the Drop Sennheiser HD8XX as part of my toolkit as they provide a very detailed, compelling, and competent performance. Cheers, all!
(Edited)
Sep 26, 2021
Evshrug
2627
grell audio
Sep 29, 2021
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I appreciate your efforts to provide tips and encourage experimentation. You can’t please everyone, but these have been hate-shamed to an extreme level where I feel like some people have been turned away who may well have enjoyed what is on offer here.
Sep 29, 2021
Ransu1089
11
Sep 30, 2021
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Thanks, Evshrug. I appreciate your input. The whole Sennheiser HD 8** series wearable-design is an enigma... they don't positionally wear the same way (center, center, for most) as any other headphone in any other caliber really would. I figured this advice could help first-timers and posted it in hopes to help. I'm proud to share my experience, because I'm saddened to see the incomplete science of non-exhaustive objective (because even after all these years, factors we don't understand influence sonic traits) measurements be the basis to rip a pain/sweat/tear developed product apart. Subjectively, I left my little blurb of initial impressions in the original post. These headphones worn properly with the right signal chain, including mind-blowing mastered audio file, or even casual and compressed audio files, treat me to an experience that I choose not to fight, and one which will bring you to the birds-eye view of full-spectrum with accuracy. I'm loving the HD 8XX more and more as an open-back over-ear which is more capable of precise imaging whilst narrowing the tonality/impact gap of my JH 13 Pro CIEMs from other products I've used/still use. I'll buy a new set of CIEMs soon, but these HD 8XXs really did throw me for a loop. They're fun/full/accurate/deep/considerate in all genres, where I'd only reach at an HD 8** , or Etymotic E4S, for sterile accuracy once before, and prefer my JH 13 Pros, full-room stereo, or in-vehicle tuned, setups instead for a "fun" listening experience. I mentioned tools in a kit. This is, a tool I'm happy to have join the others in my kit. I appreciate the uplift, Evshrug. Keep the optimism alive. I hope this Drop sees an embrace in the near future.
Sep 30, 2021
Evshrug
2627
grell audio
Sep 30, 2021
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In order to be more uplifting, I will point out how more people are getting them in-hand now, and you’re not alone in positive impressions. No, I don’t want to overhype these, and yes the tuning does trade some accuracy/ transparency for more emotional satisfaction, and someone who is coming from listening to bright cans won’t be happy (nor will the most ardent bassheads), but what we have here is a meatier but also more polite variant of a very high performance headphone with great soundstage and comfort. This tuning (and the lower price) is exactly what many people, especially in North America, were asking for. Now, Sennheiser themselves still consider the HD 800S to be the flagship, but this tuning will still fit many people’s preferences better. It’s not the exact same tuning, but people who prefer the HD 650 (or HD 6XX) over the HD 600 may find themselves gravitate to the HD 8XX for similar reasons. I do like to explore different sound signatures, and I already “finished” my video preview of a demo unit on YouTube, but it had a sound I would like to revisit, so my own HD 8XX should be arriving next week.
(Edited)
Sep 30, 2021
Ransu1089
11
Oct 4, 2021
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Apologies for the delayed response. I was out of state for a family event, and my hobbies get side-barred when I get to be there. No need to state you intend to avoid over-hype. I think that the communication of what this Sennheiser Drop product was intended to be, versus what people thought it would be, and what it really is, ended up being very different things entirely. Despite that, all I'll say is that I'm not disappointed. "what we have here is a meatier but also more polite variant of a very high performance headphone with great soundstage and comfort" I couldn't agree more. These aren't going to be the cans I reach for when I want a "critical" listen, or a full-on "slam" fest. They'll be the cans I get way more satisfaction out of as a "tastefully bigger picture" painter while still being enjoyable. They're revealing and spacious, without being in your face (for better or for worse), and I find myself making excuses to sit down and listen to them. Far better for mixed usage than even my HD 650s themselves were. If you do manage to get your thoughts out on your own HD 8XX when they come in, I look forward to hearing them. (Demo units don't count IMHO :P)
Oct 4, 2021
keithrosier
15
Oct 4, 2021
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I'm also surprised at the attitude against the HD8XX which are some fine headphones. Interested buyers shouldn't look at the graphs on these or listen with their eyes. Also, these can be returned no questions asked. I'm keeping mine.
Oct 4, 2021
ilumo
27
Oct 7, 2021
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These are my goto daily drivers at the moment. Currently I’m listening to a lot of female vocals, acoustic performances and a little bit of instrumental and I love these. I agree with a lot of comments stating that this these are likely not the detail machines of the 800s but it’s for that same reason that allows these to by my daily driver. I have clears, lcd-x, aryas and the former 2 have more clarity/detail but I can’t listen to them for long. 8xx are so comfortable and the sound is not fatiguing that I can listen to them for much longer. Note I don’t play at loud volumes 65-85dB as I have mild tinnitus. Perhaps at louder volumes the dynamic changes for all of these cans.
Oct 7, 2021
Ransu1089
11
Oct 7, 2021
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@keithrosier & @ilumo, Thanks for the additional inputs! I've long since divorced active duty military, which awkwardly kicked off my audiophile life, because preservation of hearing is a thing. For happy listening, I probably push a little harder into the 100-110dB range, but the overall balance of these HD8XXs are pretty (you will return and listen again...) convincing. I'm keeping mine, and I think you're keeping yours.. and the audio still runs deep :) Thus far, do you have any Cons?
Oct 7, 2021
keithrosier
15
Oct 7, 2021
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I can see why you like them, as the HD8XX is an easy set to listen to. I really enjoyed the first 2 hours straight of listening to varied material with the HD8XX.
Oct 7, 2021
keithrosier
15
Oct 7, 2021
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I just wish the bass was a little more immersive. I know that an eq would fix that, but I will take the HD8XX as it is.
Oct 7, 2021
ilumo
27
Oct 7, 2021
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I think the most notable CON at this early stage is the lack of low end. The Arya's excel in this area the most for me, but the vocal reproduction with the sense of airyness with that etherealness(if thats even a word) makes me keep going back to the 8XX's. I am still A B ing the AMP too. I am preferring the solid state(M500) vs. the tube (TA-30) at this moment. It seems to give the voice more punch, and it's clearer than my tube, which kind of muddies it up a little bit. I've tried a couple of different tubes (JJ + tungsol) at this point and they are both too warm for vocals. Lastly, my listening volume probably makes a big difference in the perceived performance of these cans too. If there is a sweet spot, it's probably in the higher volumes which I will most likely not be able to experience (hearing preservation).
Oct 7, 2021
Ransu1089
11
Oct 7, 2021
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@Evshrug @keithrosier @ilumo After listening more, and more, and more... Lack of low-end seems to be the consensus for the HD 8XX, but I cannot shake this feeling... Implied bass that some headphone's profiles can backfill with transducer articulation, versus something closer to true frequency spectrum articulation. While listening to mixed material, I find myself going from one side to the other between: "wow... this is super bass thin..." and "woah... this is actually pleasant and full bodied..." Put another way, I feel like some headphones can give a solid cropped view, and some are more bird's-eye view of the whole picture. HD 8XX lands weirdly as: full upper/clean lower (not necessarily the most articulate to bass, nor is it the prime focus, but it at least gets you there cleanly while giving a monstrously articulate upper frequency presentation) Other headphones I've heard can swap traits (as few, if any, can do it all), but from the HD 8XX I get fair lows, clean and clear mids, and crisp highs that don't singe my eardrums. So far, I'm okay with that trade-off until I need some tubthumping (and my JH13Pros are on deck).
Oct 7, 2021
Evshrug
2627
grell audio
Oct 7, 2021
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I getcha. IMO, part of our perception of “more bass” is associated with rumble and bloom. The HD 8xx does bass very clean… so even if it does it a with a bit more amplitude than the HD 800 and HD 800S, most of us notice the lack of wetness, reverberance, and looseness. It is a distortion that a full featured DSP program can add in (a bit more than what a simple EQ would do), so it’s nice to be able to summon it on command. But… usually I like to use headphones as they were designed, often when I manually EQ things they sound worse 😅 My HD 8xx just shipped!! Not another review loaner, but MINE!
(Edited)
Oct 7, 2021
Ransu1089
11
Oct 7, 2021
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Heard that. I like my bass with some quick decay and clean spring. No bloom necessary... lol (and per above... when your impressions of YOUR HD 8XX are ready, please let me know) @ilumo - would you say that the "focal" point of the HD 8XX presentation also changes a bit when you're swapping between tube types and solid state?
(Edited)
Oct 7, 2021
Ransu1089
11
Oct 8, 2021
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I just tried APO Eq and I feel like it ripped the soul right out of the HD 8XX.. Tonality was far greater, but that *spark* and *energy* which lend to the spatial feel and separation were simply lacking... I feel like it flattened the presentation. Thoughts from anyone else using heavy enough EQ profiles to bring the HD 8XX to equilibrium? *Edit - I'm reminded all the time that flat audio/phase controlled audio (1D/2D/3D) are all playthings for the master mixer... Recent example of strong and well played mixing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuPzpoC3QNc&list=RD4Z1Gx3DYVqs&index=11 (It's Chainsmokers - The Feeling). I use SVP4 Pro to pull the un-tampered-with stream from YouTube, but in addition to my own lossless audio repository... certain songs remind me why Sennheiser isn't a sleeper, and why the HD 8** is nothing but sometimes misunderstood (I'm becoming more and more convinced that no (1) graph alone can speak to sonic capability) (Stark contrast) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u4d4GWdpo8&list=RD4Z1Gx3DYVqs&index=14 (Martin Garrix - In the Name of Love) - Fairly centralized image & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=725WlG1idPc&list=RD4Z1Gx3DYVqs&index=15 (Chainsmokers - Who Do You Love) being varying levels (with wide expansion). [My favorite song with the HD 8XX, so far, is Sarah Brightman - Captain Nemo] I like bass as much as anyone else, but.. stage setting comes from audio mixing, and ability to reproduce from our choices in audio gear.. I'm trying to find a fault with the HD 8XX.. Aside from upper-pitch being damn near too much.. and EQ spoiling the fun.. I've got nothing. It's showing me new sides of audio mastery, and letting me play with audio without needing my chair to rumble with the fun. For what it's worth, I listen to pretty much every genre (kids bop and mariachi being my only taste exclusions).
(Edited)
Oct 8, 2021
Evshrug
2627
grell audio
Oct 15, 2021
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Finally got and played with my HD 8XX… was up till like 6 am 😅 I was listening to various things, but I remember listening to the remastered Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back album on Apple Music (HiRes lossless settings), and spending awhile looking for a good vinyl pressing on Discogs. I listened to the whole album through, entranced… that’s how I knew it would be a great record to own. I may order a 2 LP set from Europe partially because the price is good and the red cover art is so cool… I like the John Williams/London Symphony score better than the version conducted by Charles Gerhardt and performed by the “National” Philharmonic Orphestra. Still want/need to listen more :)
(Edited)
Oct 15, 2021
Ransu1089
11
Oct 17, 2021
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Thanks for taking the time and for sharing your impressions. Can't tell you how many times these things have kept me up past midnight when I have work at 6 am... So far, I've only fed my signal chain a strictly digital diet. If you get some more vinyl analog going, let me know how you feel like it changes the characteristics. If Drop can get it together and restock the Grace SDAC Balanced, I'll pick up my Moon Audio Silver Dragon balanced cable. Can't wait to see how that'll sound in combination with letting me back off the gain on my THX AAA 789.
Oct 17, 2021
Evshrug
2627
grell audio
Oct 17, 2021
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I’m having some difficulty dialing in my AT Carbon VTA, not sure if the garbled sound I’m hearing is from a bad setup or a defective phono amp in my PS Audio Sprout II 🌱, which has been admittedly misbehaving a bit with the optical input for the past year… but yeah, I’ll be back! I know Vinyl can sound great (and where it’s limitations are, having listened to a T+A turntable at Sennheiser’s booth with HD 800S in the past), so I just need to tinker around a bit so it doesn’t sound like an FM radio that’s between two stations 😅 Edit: By the way, I used to not be a “cable believer,” even once giving a fairly reputable brand an audition at a 2015 CanJam RMAF (test in peace) with a fairly decent headphone but not being able to hear a difference… but one day, hanging out with my groomsmen they day before my wedding actually, one of them had brought a DanaCable that we plugged into my Chord Mojo + Cavalli Liquid Carbon stack, and I was astonished to hear the difference it made. No slight difference that would take a back and forth A/B session to tease out the contrast, a bigger improvement than I’d heard in a few of my DAC upgrade steps. What I noticed most was the clearer perception of soundstage and more effortless presentation across the frequency range, like some sort of resistance had been decreased. I think cables have a spectrum of quality just like anything else, and the difference is more easily noticeable when everything else in your setup is of high quality. I don’t look to cables to “add bass” or “reduce highs” or any other frequency tweak better left to an EQ; I like the cable that just gives me a little more of everything :D I’ve never heard a Mood Audio cable, but the silver audio cable seems well-regarded. I picked up a Wireworld pure silver cable 👍 for an excellent price, before that company stopped doing headphone cables, and I would still like a DanaCable some day (they don’t seem to do deals, so I have to save up a bit longer and not have any car emergencies etc, we just had to replace my wife’s car over the summer and guess where the funds came from 😅). The stock Sennheiser cable is tough and better than average (I think a re-terminated Mogami microphone cable would actually be a downgrade), with silver plated copper and wired in a balanced configuration internally right up until it is terminated in a single ended 1/4” plug, and seems on the level with some other $300-$400 cables. I think some people buy cheaper cables hoping there won’t be a difference, while others might buy an upgraded cable and assume the improvements came from the balanced output in their amp 😅
(Edited)
Oct 17, 2021
GCE1701D
32
Oct 18, 2021
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There's definitely something to be said about cables that are an upgrade. while waiting the eternity for the 8XX's to finally come out, I decided to splurge and give the Sennheiser CH 650 S upgrade cables a try when I saw a reseller having them on sale. And they definitely made a different on my trusty 6XXs, it was almost night and day. So think to your point it's a quality tier thing with cables like anything else and some really can made a difference.
Oct 18, 2021
Evshrug
2627
grell audio
Oct 18, 2021
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Yeah, if some cables can make the sound worse, it follows that others can be better 🤷‍♂️ The stock HD 650 cable isn’t bad… but it is just like $11 to buy direct from Sennheiser 😅
(Edited)
Oct 18, 2021
Evshrug
2627
grell audio
Oct 18, 2021
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I got the turntable working!! Turns out my switch on the turntable is reversed, so I have to turn the turntable’s phono preamp “on” and plug everything into my PS Audio Sprout II’s Phono input and turn on the phono there as well, then everything’s gravy baby! I will say, however, the first time I got it working was with the Sprout’s phono amp not engaged (just the regular amp), so the Carbon VTA’s built in phono amp is actually pretty good too. So, as an all in one piece of kit (once I realized the Switch on the back was reversed), I’m actually quite pleased with the Carbon VTA!
Oct 18, 2021
Ransu1089
11
Oct 23, 2021
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Some say that cables are a pathetic waste of money. All I can say is that, at least for my JH13Pros, the stock cable vs the Moon Audio Silver Dragon is as you say: "night and day." When you super conduct the signal chain, characteristics start to manifest themselves. My $.02.
(Edited)
Oct 23, 2021
Ransu1089
11
Oct 23, 2021
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Glad to hear that you got the magic 'turning' the right way! New found love of analog sound is never a bad thing.. I feel like audio mastery has gone through phases of unbelievable to unremarkable, and remains in flux within that state depending on who decides to become an audio engineer. I haven't been able to go balanced yet, so I'm still cooking hot with gain for now. That said... I fall in love with the HD 8XX over and over and over again. I really cannot believe what this creation has done to allow me to enjoy music the way that I currently do. Even older music in my catalog leaps out me in a fun new way.
Oct 23, 2021
Ransu1089
11
Oct 30, 2021
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We're over a full month in, not even balanced, yet, and these cans are beyond fantastic. Music I've owned for years have re-revealed themselves (signal chain pure with no EQ). Thanks again, Drop + Sennheiser. The only thing left at the end (again) is poorly mixed music, and I cannot get enough of my HD8XX.
Oct 30, 2021
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