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    Table of Contents
  1. Intro
  2. Design
    1. Style
    2. Comfort
    3. Controls
    4. Stability
    5. Portability
    6. Case
    7. Build Quality
    8. Breathability
    9. Cable
    10. Front
    11. Angled
    12. Side
    13. Rear
    14. Top
  3. Sound
    1. Bass
    2. Mid
    3. Treble
    4. Frequency Response Consistency
    5. Soundstage
    6. Imaging
    7. Total Harmonic Distortion
  4. Isolation
    1. Noise Isolation
    2. Leakage
  5. Active Features
    1. Wireless
    2. Latency
    3. Battery
    4. App Support
  6. In the box
  7. Conclusion
  8. Q&A
Reviewed on May 04, 2016 , Marc Henney, Jean-Christophe Lamontagne

Sennheiser HD 800 S Reference
HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings
5.9Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
8.5Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
5.0Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
5.4Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
4.7Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:
7.1Home Theater
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Score components:
Type : Over-ear
Enclosure : Open-Back
Wireless : No
Noise-Cancelling : No
Mic : No
Transducer : Dynamic

The Sennheiser HD 800 S are excellent sounding reference headphones. They're comfortable and have a sturdy, durable build. However, they're not the most versatile. They're not designed for commutes or to use casually, but plugged into an amp, they deliver an exceptional listening experience.

Test Results
Design 6.9
Sound 8.6
Isolation 2.1
Active Features 2.7
Pros
  • Excellent audio reproduction.
  • Sturdy, durable build quality.
  • Comfortable design.
Cons
  • Can only be used in a well-isolated room.
  • Sensitive to ambient noise.
  • Bulky and heavy.

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6.9

Design

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Score components:
Sennheiser HD 800 S Design Picture

The HD 800 S are well-crafted, comfortable critical listening headphones. They feel sturdy and use a lot of metal to strengthen their build. The large, open ear cups are coated with a suede-like padding that feels good on the skin and promotes long listening sessions. However, they're not casual headphones. They're bulky, heavy and not designed to use outdoors or while doing any physical activity.

Style
Sennheiser HD 800 S Design Picture 2

The HD 800 S are studio headphones, and it shows in their design. The massive open back ear cups and headband are reinforced with metal and padded with a suede-like material which makes these headphones look and feel premium. They may be a little too bulky to be worn on a daily commute but are stylish studio headsets that would look great on a stand by your amplifier.

8.0 Comfort
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What it is: Adjustability and degrees of freedom, pressure, stiffness and weight.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used for long durations.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Sennheiser HD 800 S Comfort Picture
Weight : 0.82 lbs
Clamping Force
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What it is: The force that the headphones exert on your head, once you have them on. This is purely a measurement of the force applied, which does not take into account the earpad's surface area and the resulting pressure you will feel, on or around your ears.
When it matters: The tighter the headphones, the more force they put on your head. This can get uncomfortable or cause pain and soreness during long listening sessions.
:
0.75 lbs

The HD 800 S deliver a comfortable listening experience. The large ear cups easily fit around most if not all ears and are well padded with a suede-like material that feels good on the skin. Sadly, these headphones are a little heavy, and the ear cups may be too big for some.

0 Controls
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What it is: The control scheme of the headphones, the number of functions provided, button layout and ergonomics as well as the quality of tactile feedback.
When it matters: If you want to control volume, pause your music or make phone calls without directly interacting with your audio device.
Ease of use : N/A
Feedback : N/A
Call/Music Control : No
Volume Control : No
Noise Canceling Control : N/A
Talk-Through : N/A
Additional Buttons : N/A

6.5 Stability
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What it is: How the headphones are designed to prevent them from slipping off your ears or falling off your head.
When it matters: If you plan on using the headphones while doing sports or other physical activities that requires a lot of movement.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Sennheiser HD 800 S Stability Picture

These headphones are not designed for use during sports or physical activities. They easily slide off your ears when running or jumping. However, they will maintain their position during casual listening sessions even when tilting your head. The cable is detachable but takes a lot of force and may damage the headphones if violently removed, which slightly reduces their stability score.

5.2 Portability
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What it is: The volume of space occupied by the headphones when folded into their most compact format.
When it matters: If you're often on the move and need to carry your headphones in a bag, purse , or pocket.
Score components:
Sennheiser HD 800 S Portability Picture
L : 7.48 "
W : 7.68 "
H : 4.53 "
Volume : 259.94 Cu. Inches
Stand required : N/A

The HD 800s are big and bulky headphones that do not fold into a more compact format for transport. They're not designed to be portable, and will take up a lot of space in a backpack and would barely fit in a regular handbag. The box they come in can be used as a substitute for a case. Unfortunately, it's far too large and cumbersome for regular use.

0 Case
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What it is: The provided carrying options to protect your headphones when transporting them.
When it matters: To prevent damaging your headphones, if you often carry them in your bag or pocket.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Type : No case

8.5 Build Quality
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What it is: Durability, material quality, cheap/expensive feel.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used by multiple users (classes/studios), by children, in tough conditions, on a daily basis, or for exercise.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Sennheiser HD 800 S Build Quality Picture

The HD 800 S have good build quality. They feel sturdy and make use of a lot of metals to strengthen the build. However, the joints are made out of plastic. The plastic is dense, but this makes the joints susceptible to damage and feels out of place on such a premium build.

7.8 Breathability
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What it is: How hot the headphones get when you wear them for an extended period of time.
When it matters: If you often have long listening sessions or use your headphones while doing physical activities like running or working out.
Score components:
  • 100% Avg.Temp.Difference
Sennheiser HD 800 S Breathability Before Picture Sennheiser HD 800 S Breathability After Picture
Avg.Temp.Difference : 2.5 C

.

Cable
Sennheiser HD 800 S Cable Picture
Detachable : Yes
Length : 10.7 ft
Connection : 1/4" TRS

Comes with two cables; a 4-pin XLR balanced audio cable and a 1/4 TRS audio cable.

Front
Angled
Side
Rear
Top
8.6

Sound

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What it is: How accurately the audio is reproduced. The tests are performed with the headphones' most commonly used features enabled (noise-cancelling, wireless, etc.)
Sennheiser HD 800 S Frequency Response
8.3 Bass
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What it is: Frequency Response from 20Hz-250Hz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on bass frequencies, such as those of kick drums and bass guitar.
Score components:
Sennheiser HD 800 S Bass
Std. Err.
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What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in bass frequency response (20Hz-250Hz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) bass performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
2.15 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
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What it is: The lowest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response.
When it matters: Shows how extended the bass is.
Good value: <40Hz
Noticeable difference: 5Hz
:
46.89 Hz
Low-Bass
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 20Hz-60Hz.
When it matters: Kick drums and low frequency effects get their 'thump' from this range. Mostly felt than heard.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-3.49 dB
Bass
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 60Hz-120Hz.
When it matters: Melodic bass instruments have most of their fundamental frequencies in this range. This is where the 'body' and 'punch' of the bass sits.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-1.04 dB
High-Bass
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 120Hz-250Hz.
When it matters: Most instruments get their warmth and full-ness from this range. When over-emphasized, mixes tend to get muddy and boomy.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
2.02 dB

8.5 Mid
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What it is: Frequency Response from 250Hz-2KHz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on mid-range frequencies. This is the case for the majority of audio content.
Score components:
Sennheiser HD 800 S Mid
Std. Err.
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What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in mid frequency response (250Hz-2.5KHz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) mid performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
1.98 dB
Low-Mid
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 250Hz-500Hz.
When it matters: Most instruments have their fundamentals or low harmonics in this range. Over-emphasis in this range sounds muddy and cluttered. Under-emphasis, thins out the vocals and lead instruments.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
2.72 dB
Mid
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 500Hz-1KHz.
When it matters: This range is occupied mostly by upper harmonics. Over-emphasis sounds forward and boxy. Under-emphasis pushes instruments to the back of the mix.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
1.9 dB
High-Mid
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 1KHz-2KHz.
When it matters: Most instruments, especially vocals, get their intensity and clarity from this range. Over-emphasis sounds honky and harsh, under-emphasis sounds weak and distant.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
0.37 dB

9.0 Treble
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What it is: Frequency Response from 2KHz-20KHz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on high-range frequencies, such as voice, cymbals, and any other material where brightness, brilliance and airiness is desired.
Score components:
Sennheiser HD 800 S Treble
Std. Err.
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What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in treble frequency response (2.5KHz-20KHz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) treble performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
2.16 dB
Low-Treble
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 2KHz-5KHz.
When it matters: Almost all instruments rely on this range for their presence, detail, and articulation. Over-emphasis can sound harsh and painful. Under-emphasis hurts the comprehensibility of vocals and lead instruments.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-0.01 dB
Treble
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What it is: The average amount of over/under emphasis in frequency response from 5KHz-10KHz.
When it matters: This is the sibilance range. Cymbals, vocals, and lead instruments rely on this range for brightness and presence. Over-emphasis sounds piercing and painful, under-emphasis sounds dull and lispy.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
0.84 dB
High-Treble
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 10KHz-20KHz.
When it matters: This range gives brilliance and airiness to the sound. Over-emphasis sounds hissy, under-emphasis sounds closed-up and lifeless.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-1.26 dB

8.5 Frequency Response Consistency
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What it is: The amount of deviation of each frequency response pass, from the average frequency response.
When it matters: Shows how consistently the headphones perform after re-positioning them.
Score components:
Sennheiser HD 800 S Consistency L Sennheiser HD 800 S Consistency R
Avg. Std. Deviation
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What it is: The average amount of deviation in frequency response of 5 re-seats, from the average frequency response.
When it matters: Shows how consistently the headphones perform after re-positioning them.
Good value: <0.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
0.3 dB

8.8 Soundstage
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What it is: Soundstage qualities are not inherent to the audio content, the headphones have to 'create' them rather than 'reproduce' them. They determine whether the sound is perceived to be coming from inside or in front of the head, how open and spacious the soundstage is, how much the headphones acoustically interact with the environment, and how strong the phantom center is.
When it matters: When an accurately produced, large and spacious soundstage, similar to that of a stereo loudspeaker setup is desired.
PRTF Error
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What it is: The average amount of deviation in Pinna-Related Transfer Function of the headphones, compared to that of a loudspeaker. Whether the soundstage is perceived to be unnatural, located inside or in front of the head, is dependent on this quality. The more the headphones activate the HRTF resonances of the ear (similar to what loudspeakers do), the more the soundstage will be pulled out from inside the listener's head. This quality affects both stereo and mono content.
When it matters: When a natural, in-the-front soundstage is desired, similar to that of a loudspeaker.
Good value: <5
Noticeable difference: 0.5
:
3.94 dB
Openness
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What it is: How open the headphones are, and how open and spacious they sound. This quality affects both stereo and mono content. This test differentiates between acoustically and electronically produced crosstalk and only takes the acoustically generated crosstalk into account. This value is the inverse of the Noise Isolation test score.
When it matters: When an open, wide and roomy sound is desired. A value of 10 indicates a fully open headphone, and a value of 0 indicates a fully closed headphone.
Good value: >7.5
Noticeable difference: 0.5
:
9.0
Acoustic Space Excitation
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What it is: How loud the headphones are, and how much they excite their environment acoustically. If the headphones are loud and open enough, the sound leaking from the headphones takes some of the characteristic of its environment (reflections/reverb) before reflecting back into the open headphones and to the listener's ears. This quality affects both stereo and mono content. This value is the inverse of the Leakage test score.
When it matters: When an open, wide and roomy sound is desired.
Good value: >7.5
Noticeable difference: 0.5
:
9.1
Correlated Crosstalk
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What it is: How strong and solid the phantom center is. This is mostly a stereo quality and its effects on mono content are minimal. This test is sensitive to the phase of the crosstalk and whether it is produced acoustically or electronically.
When it matters: When a true reproduction of the stereo image is desired. A value of 0 indicates no crosstalk, or that the existing crosstalk is not correlated enough to affect the phantom center. A negative score means the crosstalk is out of phase with the original signal, resulting in a slightly wider stereo image at the expense of creating a 'hole' at the center of the stereo field. A positive score means the crosstalk is in phase and positively affecting the phantom center.
Good value: >1dB
Noticeable difference: 0.3dB
:
0.01 dB

8.4 Imaging
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What it is: Imaging qualities are inherent to the audio content, the headphones have to 'reproduce' them rather than 'create' them. They determine how accurately the objects are positioned in the stereo image, and how transparent the imaging is.
When it matters: When accurate positioning of the objects in the stereo image, and clear and transparent imaging is desired.
Sennheiser HD 800 S Phase Response
Phase Error
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What it is: The average amount of deviation in the phase, from the ideal flat response.
When it matters: When an accurate and transparent imaging is desired.
Good value: <60°
Noticeable difference: 10°
:
21.57 °
Driver Mismatch (Amplitude)
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What it is: The Left/Right balance of our test unit, that is, the amount of amplitude difference between the left and right drivers. This is not a design test, but a marker for manufacturing tolerance and ergonomics.
When it matters: When a properly balanced stereo image and low manufacturing tolerance is desired. A poor score indicates a noticeable difference in level between the left and right drivers.
Good value: <0.3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
0.17 dB
Driver Mismatch (Frequency)
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What it is: The amount of difference (Std. Err.) between the frequency response of the left and right drivers of our test unit. This is not a design test, but a marker for manufacturing tolerance and ergonomics.
When it matters: When an even and stable stereo image, as well as a low manufacturing tolerance, is desired. A poor score indicates there may be 'holes' in the stereo image at certain frequencies.
Good value: <2dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
1.82 dB
Driver Mismatch (Phase)
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What it is: The amount of difference (Std. Err.) between the phase response of the left and right drivers of our test unit. This is not a design test, but a marker for manufacturing tolerance and ergonomics.
When it matters: When an even and stable stereo image, as well as a low manufacturing tolerance, is desired. A poor score indicates there may be inaccuracies in the stereo image reproduction at certain frequencies.
Good value: <90°
Noticeable difference: 30°
:
36.66 °

8.0 Total Harmonic Distortion
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What it is: The subtle, unwanted frequencies (harmonics) produced alongside the intended frequencies.
When it matters: When clean and pure sound reproduction is desired, though its effect is not as noticable as frequency response.
Score components:
Sennheiser HD 800 S Distortion
Weighted THD @ 90
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What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion measured at 90dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: How pure the sound is at moderate listening levels.
Good value: <0.100
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
0.435
Weighted THD @ 100
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What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion measured at 100dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: How pure the sound is at loud listening levels.
Good value: <0.300
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
1.911

2.1

Isolation

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Score components:

These headphones are not meant to isolate listeners. The open-back ear cups encourages leakage, to improve sound quality. Unfortunately, this means they are not studio recording or casual headphones, and they  will disturb anyone around you, with their loud, unobstructed leakage. They also don't block any noise, which makes them practically unusable outside of a well-isolated room.

2.8 Noise Isolation
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What it is: How much outside noise is blocked out by putting the headphones on.
When it matters: If the headphones are going to be used in a noisy envinronment (airplane, subway, etc.)
Score components:
Sennheiser HD 800 S Noise Isolation
Overall Attenuation
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What it is: The overall amount of environmental noise reduction in dB.
When it matters: In loud envinronments like planes, trains, offices, etc.
Good value: <-20dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-3.5 dB
Bass
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What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the bass range (20Hz-250Hz).
When it matters: When the outside noise is bass-heavy, like in airplanes.
Good value: <-15dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-0.07 dB
Mid
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What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the mid-range (250Hz-2.5KHz).
When it matters: When the environment's noise is mid-heavy, like in an office.
Good value: <-15dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-0.61 dB
Treble
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What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the treble range (2.5KHz-20KHz).
When it matters: When the environment's noise is treble-heavy. Although uncommon, areas with sharp sounds fall under this category.
Good value: <-30dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-9.74 dB
Self-Noise
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What it is: The amount of noise created by the active electronics of the headphones (if applicable), measured from 300Hz-20KHz. Applies mostly to wireless and noise-cancelling headphones.
When it matters: If too loud, it could become distracting when listening to quiet material like podcasts and audiobooks.
Good value: <16dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
0 dB

Poor isolation. These headphones are very open and do not isolate well. The overall amount of isolation in bass and mid regions is virtually 0. In the treble range, these headphones fail to achieve more than 9dB of isolation which is very poor.

0.9 Leakage
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What it is: The amount of sound bleeding out of the headphones.
When it matters: When the listener doesn't want people around them (in office, recording studio, etc.) to hear what is being listened to.
Score components:
Sennheiser HD 800 S Leakage
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
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What it is: The amount of sound leakage heard 1 foot away from the user, while the user is listening to a 100dB SPL signal.
When it matters: When you don't want people hear what you are listening to.
Good value: <35dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
66.5 dB

Poor leakage. With "Overall Leakage" of 59.08dB, these are one of the loudest headphones we have measured so far. The significant portion of the leakage is between 200Hz and 20KHz, which is extremely broad. These are not designed to be used in public, for recording, or in loud environments.

2.7

Active Features

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What it is: Headphones with active components that require a battery. This includes noise cancelling and wireless headphones that actively reduce noise or transmit audio via a wireless connection.
When it matters: How suitable the power and wireless specifications of an active headphone will be, depending on your listening habits. The range and/or discharge time of the active headphone you select will be important if you're often on the move or have long uninterrupted listening sessions.
Score components:

No active features.

0 Wireless
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What it is: Headphones that offer a cable-free listening experience over a wireless network, typically via Bluetooth or radio frequency.
When it matters: If you don't want to be limited by the length of an audio cable. This means having the freedom to move around in your home or office with a much greater range than an audio cable could provide, especially, if the Bluetooth source is heavy or difficult to carry.
Score components:
Type
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What it is: The type and version of the wireless network, the headphones use to connect to the audio source. This could either be Bluetooth or radio frequency.
When it matters: The Bluetooth version will determine how compatible the headphones are with your Bluetooth enabled devices. Typically, newer Bluetooth versions are backward compatible with older ones but may lack the additional features that more recent Bluetooth protocols provide.
:
N/A
Obstructed Range
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What it is: The range that the wireless headphones can reach before dropping any audio when the Bluetooth source was placed in another room.
When it matters: If you can't or prefer not to carry your Bluetooth source on you, while listening to your audio in an indoor environment. Although, the obstructed wireless range will slightly depend on your home or office layout.
Good value: >35ft
Noticeable difference: 5ft
:
N/A
Line of Sight Range
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What it is: The range that the wireless headphones can reach before dropping any audio when in direct line of sight of the Bluetooth device.
When it matters: If you can't or prefer not to carry your Bluetooth source on you, while listening to your audio in a large and open environment.
Good value: 170ft or more
Noticeable difference: 10ft
:
N/A
NFC
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What it is: Near Field Communication technology that allows you to quickly, pair your headphones with your Bluetooth and NFC-enabled device.
When it matters: This makes pairing with an NFC-enabled device a lot easier than the typical and often tedious hold-to-pair procedure that most wireless headphones have.
:
No

10 Latency
Base Latency
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What it is: The latency for the default sub-band coding of most Bluetooth headphones.
When it matters: When watching videos a high latency can cause sync issues between the images you see and the audio you hear.
Good value: 75ms or less
Noticeable difference: 15ms
:
0 ms
aptX Latency
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What it is: An audio coding algorithm (Codec) that improves bit rate efficiency. It reduces latency and improves sound quality over Bluetooth.
When it matters: For better sound quality if your often streaming music over Bluetooth. Also it slightly improves latency when watching videos with wireless headphones.
Good value: 130ms or less
Noticeable difference: 15ms
:
N/A
aptX(LL) Latency
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What it is: Low latency variation of aptX that significantly reduces sync issues between video and sound when using Bluetooth headphones.
When it matters: When watching videos or gaming latency is a lot more noticeable than just listening to music.
Good value: 50ms or less
Noticeable difference: 5ms
:
N/A

Battery
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What it is: The power source of your headphones. All headphones with active features have a battery that will deplete over time.
When it matters: To continue using the active features of your headphones. Some models lose features or switch off completely when the battery is drained, which limits what you can do with them until the next charge.
Score components:
Battery Type
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What it is: The type of battery that the headphones use. Usually AAA or embedded, Li-ion rechargeable batteries.
When it matters: When your headphones run out of power. Rechargeable batteries usually charge via the headphones Micro-USB port whereas AAA batteries have to be replaced or charged with an external device.
:
N/A
Battery Life
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What it is: The amount of time it takes for a headphones' battery to be completely drained. Battery life will vary depending on the active features used and volume level.
When it matters: For active headphones that connect wirelessly, have noise cancellation or other audio-enhancing features, that cease to work once the battery is dead.
Good value: >10hrs
Noticeable difference: 0.5hrs
:
N/A
Charge Time
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What it is: The amount of time your active headphones have to be connected to a power source to charge from 0 to a 100%. However, charging time will vary depending on your power source.
When it matters: To be able to use the active features of your headphones. Especially, wireless ones that completely switch off and need to be recharged when the battery is dead.
Good value: 2h or less
Noticeable difference: 0.25h
:
N/A
Auto-off
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What it is: A feature that turns off the headphones, after a set time, when they're not in use.
When it matters: To prolong battery life when the headphones are not being used, or if you forget to manually turn off your headphones.
:
N/A
Audio while charging
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What it is: Some active headphones remain usable while charging. They continue to stream audio and do not disable other active features.
When it matters: This makes sure that your headphones's battery are not being drained when your relatively close to a power source. However, this means wireless headphones will need a wired connection to the power source during the charging process.
:
N/A
Passive Playback
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What it is: Active headphones that still work when all their active features are turned off or out of power.
When it matters: If you run out of power and do not have spare AA/AAA batteries or access to a power source to recharge your headphones.
:
N/A

0 App Support
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What it is: The additional app provided to enhance your listening experience. They typically deliver a set of practical features that give you more control over the sound, noise cancelling and effects that the headphones produce.
When it matters: An app with a lot of features allows you to customize your listening experience to suit your taste and preferences. For example, additions like an equalizer can give you more bass or treble and room effects can simulate a bigger Soundstage in closed back headphones.
Score components: Subjectively assigned

No compatible app.

In the box

Sennheiser HD 800 S In the box Picture

  • Sennheiser HD 800 S Headphones
  • 1/4" to 1/8" Adapter
  • Audio cable (x2)
  • Carrying pouch
  • USB memory drive

Conclusion
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

5.9Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
These headphones are only designed for critical listening and appreciating the detail in high-res audio.
8.5Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
The HD 800S are built for critical listening. Their sound quality is excellent with an almost neutral frequency response. They create a spacious soundstage and reproduce an accurate stereo image. Plugged into an amp with some high-res audio, they will deliver a great listening experience.
5.0Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
Not designed for commuting.
5.4Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
Not meant for sports. They're heavy and require an amp so you won't be using them outside anytime soon.
4.7Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:
These headphones are not meant for office use. Unless you work in an isolated environment.
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Questions & Answers

7 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
10
Why do you test the open-back headphones for isolation & leakage? They're all going to score horribly in those areas and falsely skew the rating. "Very high leakage. No isolation from ambient noise.", should not be listed as Cons for these headphones as they aren't supposed to perform that way in the first place. I know you are currently revising how you test headphones but I believe there should be a separate test or 2 used for open-back sets in place of isolation and leakage. On a semi-related note, do you plan on reviewing anything from Audeze or Beyerdynamic in the future?

It is true that all open-back headphones do poorly in isolation and leakage, but still, some open headphones perform better/worse than other open headphones. That's one of the reasons for testing and ranking them. More importantly, this is how we calculate the Openness value that we use in Soundstage. The Openness value is the inverse of the Isolation category score. So the actual issue, as you mentioned, is that poor isolation and leakage should not be considered a flaw in an open-back design. We think that the new scheme will not only fix this issue but also greatly improves the usability of our scores.

We have already tested the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro, and the review is in queue to be published this month. We are also planning on reviewing Audeze headphones soon, but if planar magnetic headphones are what you are interested in, we have a couple of HiFiMan reviews coming up before we get to Audeze headphones.

Update: We have made changes to our Scoring system and got rid of the Overall score. Read more here.

8
I hate to say this, but you really need to change the way you are reviewing headphones. I have been using your site for TV reviews, and just now visited the headphones section for the first time. I'm seeing a 7.0 for Sennheiser HD800? I'm sorry, but you can't dock a headphone that much for noise isolation and leakage, when it's by design. That's what makes open-back headphones sound so great in the first place. If anything, consider the price, and give it a poor rating for value. But it's just ridiculous to give any open-back headphones a rating of 0.9 and 1.1 for noise isolation and leakage. That's like criticizing a passenger car for it's towing capacity. Who does that?
Yes, we have been aware of the issue for a while. However, coming up with a complete solution and implemeting it took some time. A major update to the reviews and the scoring system is coming in about a month.

Update: We have made changes to our Scoring system and got rid of the Overall score. Read more here.

4
I think you guys should show the "Raw" Frequency Response graph along side your compensated graph. Also, it would be a good idea to tell us what compensation curve you are using so we can get a better idea of how to read your FR graph.
We are planning on adding the option to view both the Raw and Compensated responses in the near future. Below is our current compensation curve, which is a modification of the Harman Target Response curve. At the moment, we are working on improving our current Compensation curve, as well as adding a dedicated compensation curve for the In-Ears, based on Harman's recent paper. Rtings.com Headphones Compensation Curve
2
Hi! Just wanted to put down a feedback comment here after reading the review. I greatly appreciate the categorical approach to headphone reviewing and inclusion of many helpful measurement points. I can see that your approach will become invaluable as more headphones are added. I agree with the other posters in the comments section that it appears a bit weird to criticize an open headphone based on isolation. An open-design is an intentionally non-noise isolating design, so it is not supposed to isolate any noise at all. 0 noise isolation on an open-design is to be expected. The other thing is that I do not believe there are currently any full-sized, high impedance, open headphones on the market that includes audio controls on the cable. These types of headphones are designed to be driven out of an external amplifier and not intended for portable usage so the inclusion of audio controls on cable would actually be a bit of a baffling addition. I think it would be important to separate out factors that are important and relevant to closed portable headphones (such as remote or isolation) out from reviewing open full-sized headphones (where the lack of remote or isolation is standard for all open full-sized headphones on the market due to their designed intended usage). It may also be helpful to have a buying guide/resource where those types of product category differences can be explained, so there is no need to rehash that open headphones do not isolate and are not intended for portable usage every time a open headphone is reviewed. Look forward to seeing upcoming reviews of other great audio products here. Have a great day! :)

Thanks for your message, and we agree with you. As we have mentioned in the previous responses, we expect the upcoming changes to our scoring system to fix all of the mentioned issues, since it will be built around "use-cases". So for example, Isolation and Cable categories will have little to no impact on the "Critical Listening" use-case score, and a lot more influence on the "Commuting" or "Office Use" scores.

We already have some articles on the website that could be used as a buying guide, however, we agree that they are quite minimal at the moment and we are planning on expanding them in the future.

Update: We have made changes to our Scoring system and got rid of the Overall score. Read more here.

1
I love this website. I'm so glad an unbiased review site exists. But I have a question about the headphones and can be for the TV's too. What do you guys consider a 10/10? There's a scale but there has to be a reference product or a goal a TV or Headphones is trying to reach.

We are aware that our current scoring scheme doesn't represent the performance of products for different use cases well. And especially for headphones, a product that may be best for one use case, may - by design - be quite bad at other use cases. An obvious example would be open headphones performing well in soudnstage, and performing poorly in isolation/leakage.

There will be a major update to our scoring system in the coming weeks which should take care of this shortcoming.

Update: We have made changes to our Scoring system and got rid of the Overall score. Read more here.

1
Given the type of headphone you are reviewing, I think it would be nice to also have amplifier recommendations, whether general, like basic specs or more specific like models.
Thanks for your suggestion. That would require us to review headphones amps, and reviewing a new product category takes a lot work. We may add them when we have the time to develop a proper test bench for headphones amps.
0
Also you cannot criticize this headphone for not being suitable for physical activities. It's an open headphone which requires serious amplifiers and a decent DAC to perform. You cannot review like this.

In order to be able to rank and score headphones properly and with consistency, we need to test all headphones against the exact same test bench. That's why even large and bulky headphones like the HD 800 S are tested for their stability.

However, since we have different scores for different use-cases, the poor stability performance of the HD 800 S is not having any effect on its Critical Listening score, and only affecting its Sports/Fitness score.

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