Reviewed on May 18, 2018

Sennheiser HD 800 S HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.2
6.2
Mixed Usage
8.5
Critical Listening
4.8
Commute/Travel
5.5
Sports/Fitness
5.4
Office
6.2
TV
6.1
Gaming
Type : Over-ear
Enclosure : Open-Back
Wireless : No
Noise-Cancelling : No
Mic : No
Transducer : Dynamic

The Sennheiser HD 800 S are excellent sounding headphones for critical listening. They're comfortable and have a sturdy, durable build quality but like most open back critical listening models, they're not very versatile. They're not designed for outdoors 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
Microphone 0
Active Features 0
Connectivity 4.8
Pros
  • Excellent audio reproduction.
  • Sturdy, durable build quality.
  • Comfortable design.
Cons
  • Designed to be used in a well-isolated room.
  • Sensitive to ambient noise, by design.
  • Bulky and heavy.
  1. Update 2/16/2018: Converted to Test Bench 1.2.
  2. Update 8/10/2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1. Learn more about our new versioned test bench system here.

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6.9

Design

The Sennheiser HD 800 S are well-crafted, comfortable critical listening headphones (see our recommendations for the best audiophile headphones). They have a sturdy build quality that makes use of a lot of metal and premium materials in their design. 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

The Sennheiser HD 800S are critical-listening-focused headphones, and it shows in their design. The massive open-back ear cups and headband are reinforced with metal and high-grade plastic. They're also both padded with a suede-like material which makes these headphones look and feel premium. They're bulkier than most of the other critical listening headphones we've tested like the Hifiman Sundara or the HD 700, which may work for some but maybe a bit too cumbersome for others.

8.0 Comfort
Weight : 0.82 lbs
Clamping Force
:
0.75 lbs

The Sennheiser HD800S deliver a comfortable listening experience. They have large, spacious ear cups, they're not too tight on the head and they're well padded with a suede-like material that feels good on the skin. Unfortunately, they are a little on the heavy side and ear cups are so big that they may not be comfortable for all listeners, especially on smaller heads.

0 Controls
Ease of use : N/A
Feedback : N/A
Call/Music Control : No
Volume Control : No
Microphone Control : N/A
Channel Mixing
:
N/A
Noise Canceling Control : N/A
Talk-Through
:
N/A
Additional Buttons : N/A

The Sennheiser HD 800S do not have any buttons or controls.

7.8 Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference : 2.5 C

These headphones have spacious open-back ear cups that do not obstruct as much airflow as typical over-ears. They will keep your ears relatively cool even during long listening sessions, although they will not be as breathable as some on-ears or in-ear models.

5.2 Portability
L : 7.48 "
W : 7.68 "
H : 4.53 "
Volume : 259.94 Cu. Inches
Transmitter required : N/A

The Sennheiser HD800S 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
Type : No case
L : N/A
W : N/A
H : N/A
Volume : N/A

These headphones do not come with a case. You can use the box that they are packaged in as a case. Unfortunately, it's more than double the size of the headphones and not practical to carry around unless you have a dedicated bag or suitcase. Also, the pouch that comes included in the box is for the cables and not the headphones. For open headphones that come with a case, take a look at the semi-open Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation.

8.5 Build Quality

The Sennheiser HD 800 S have good, premium build quality. They have a sturdy metal frame and a high-grade plastic blend that strengthens the headband. The large ear cups are decently dense, and the padding materials feel high-end. However, the hinges/yokes are not the most durable. The pin that keeps the joints of the ear cups in place can sometimes come loose, and overall they have a lot more plastic in their build quality than their price range would suggest.

6.5 Stability

These headphones are not designed for use during sports or any physical activities (see our recommendations for the best headphones for working out). They easily slide off your ears when running or jumping. The ear cups have a large enough surface area that they will maintain their position during casual listening sessions even when tilting your head. The cable is also detachable but takes a lot of force and may damage the headphones if violently removed, which slightly reduces their stability score.

Cable
Detachable : Yes
Length : 10.7 ft
Connection : 1/4" TRS

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

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Headshots 1
Headshots 2
8.6

Sound

The Sennheiser HD 800 S is a great sounding pair of open-back over-ear headphones. These headphones have a very good, punchy, and consistent bass, a great and even mid-range, and an excellent and even treble. They also have an excellent imaging performance and one of the largest and most spacious soundstages we have measured so far. This makes them a great choice for a wide variety of genres including bass-heavy ones, but especially classical, jazz, and vocal-centric music. However, they are a little shy on thump and sub-bass, and they tend to sound a bit muddy and thick in the upper bass/lower mid-range region. Their treble is also slightly on the bright side, which will be more noticeable on overly bright tracks.

8.3 Bass
Std. Err.
:
2.15 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
:
46.89 Hz
Low-Bass
:
-3.49 dB
Mid-Bass
:
-1.04 dB
High-Bass
:
2.02 dB

The Sennheiser HD 800 S have a very good bass. LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 47Hz, and low-bass is lacking by 3.5dB. This means that these headphones will be a bit light on the thump and rumble that is common to bass-heavy genres like EDM and Hip-hop. Mid-bass, responsible for the body of bass guitars and the punch of kick drums is under our neutral target by 1dB. However, high-bass, responsible for warmth, is over our neutral target by 2dB, which adds a bit of muddiness to the overall sound.

8.5 Mid
Std. Err.
:
1.98 dB
Low-Mid
:
2.72 dB
Mid-Mid
:
1.9 dB
High-Mid
:
0.37 dB

The mid-range is great. The response throughout the range is very even and virtually flat. This results is a well-balanced production of vocals and lead instruments. However, because low-mid and mid-mid are over our neutral target by about 2dB, music and especially vocals will sound a bit thick and cluttered.

9.0 Treble
Std. Err.
:
2.16 dB
Low-Treble
:
-0.01 dB
Mid-Treble
:
0.84 dB
High-Treble
:
-1.26 dB

The treble is very good. Low-treble and mid-treble are quite flat and within 1dB of our neutral target. This ensures a well-balanced reproduction of vocals, leads and cymbals. However, the 5dB bump around 6.5KHz could make vocals a bit sharp and bright sounding on S and Ts, especially on overly bright tracks.

8.5 Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
:
0.3 dB

The frequency response consistency of the HD 800 S is great. In the bass range, the maximum amount of deviation at 20Hz is about 3dB. This is subtle but noticeable. However, the bass delivery above 40Hz is very consistent. In the treble range, there's barely any deviation below 10KHz, which is great.

9.1 Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
:
0.15
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
:
0.16
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
:
1.47
Weighted Phase Mismatch
:
4.14

The Sennheiser HD 800 S have excellent imaging. Weighted group delay is at 0.15, which is within very good limits. The GD graph also shows that the group delay response is almost entirely below the audibility threshold. This results in a tight bass and a transparent treble reproduction. Additionally, the L/R drivers of our test unit were exceptionally well-matched in frequency, amplitude, and phase response, ensuring an accurate placement and localization of objects (voices, instruments, video game effects) in the stereo field.

8.7 Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
:
1.94 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
:
4.62 dB
PRTF Distance
:
22.36 dB
Openness
:
8.6
Acoustic Space Excitation
:
9.1
Correlated Crosstalk
:
0.01 dB

The Sennheiser HD 800 S have a great soundstage. The PRTF graph shows a high amount of interaction between the pinna and the headphones, and the activation is also very accurate except for the 6KHz region. The 10KHz notch present is very deep, but also upshifted in frequency a bit, which probably gives the impression that the sound source is elevated (in-front and slightly above). Overall, due to the good PRTF response, and open-back design, the soundstage will be perceived as large, natural, and spacious. But it won't quite be as externalized as a loudspeaker setup, partly due to the lack of correlated crosstalk.

8.0 Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 90
:
0.435
Weighted THD @ 100
:
1.911

The harmonic distortion performance is very good. The amount of THD produced in the upper bass/lower mid-range is a bit elevated, but still within good limits. The sharp peak in THD around 4KHz could make the sound of that region a bit harsh and brittle.

2.1

Isolation

The Sennheiser HD 800 S 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
Isolation Audio
:
Overall Attenuation
:
-3.5 dB
Bass
:
-0.07 dB
Mid
:
-0.61 dB
Treble
:
-9.74 dB
Self-Noise
:
0 dB

The HD 800 S have poor isolation. Due to their open-back design, these headphones don't achieve any isolation in the bass range, where the rumble of airplane and bus engines sits. In the mid-range, important for blocking out speech, they don't isolate either. In the treble range, occupied by sharp S and Ts, they achieve about 10dB of isolation which is inadequate.

0.9 Leakage
Leakage Audio
:
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
:
66.51 dB

The leakage performance is poor. Due to the open-back design and large drivers, these headphones are one of the loudest and leakiest we have measured so far. The significant portion of their leakage is spread between 200Hz and 20KHz, which is a very broad range. The overall level of the leakage is very loud too. With the music at 100dB SPL, the leakage at 1 foot away averages at 67dB SPL, and peaks at 82dB SPL. This is a lot louder than the noise floor of most offices.

0

Microphone

Integrated
:
N/A
In-line
:
N/A
Boom
:
N/A
Detachable Boom
:
N/A

The Sennheiser HD 800 S do not come with a microphone. For a wired headphone with a good in-line microphone, check out the Bose SoundTrue Around-Ear II, the Bose QuietComfort 25 or the Apple EarPods.

0 Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
:
N/A
LFE
:
N/A
FR Std. Dev.
:
N/A
HFE
:
N/A
Weighted THD
:
N/A
Gain
:
N/A

These headphones do not have a microphone so the recording quality has not been tested.

0 Noise Handling
Speech + Pink Noise : N/A
Speech + Subway Noise : N/A
SpNR
:
N/A

The Sennheiser HD 800 S does not have a microphone so the noise handling has not been tested.

0

Active Features

The Sennheiser HD800S have no active features and therefore do not require a battery. They also do not have a dedicated app or software support for added customization options. 

N/A Battery
Battery Type
:
N/A
Battery Life
:
N/A
Charge Time
:
N/A
Power Saving Feature
:
N/A
Audio while charging
:
N/A
Passive Playback
:
N/A

These headphones do not have any active components and do not require a battery.

0 App Support
App Name : N/A
iOS : N/A
Android : N/A
Mac OS : N/A
Windows : N/A
Equalizer
:
N/A
ANC control
:
N/A
Mic Control : N/A
Room effects
:
N/A
Playback control
:
N/A
Button Mapping : N/A
Surround Sound : N/A

These headphones do not come with an app or software for added customization options.

4.8

Connectivity

The Sennheiser HD 800S have a simple 1/4"TRS audio cable with no in-line remote. They will provide audio when connected to your console or PC if you have a 1/4' to 1/8' adapter and have practically no latency since they are wired. However, this also means that they will not have the range and convenience of wireless headphones although they do come with a longer than average audio cable.

0 Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
:
N/A
Multi-Device Pairing
:
N/A
NFC Pairing
:
N/A

These headphones are wired and do not have a Bluetooth connection. If you want a good-sounding wireless headset, then consider the Bose QuietComfort 35 II.

7.2 Wired
OS Compatibility
:
Not OS specific
Analog Audio
:
Yes
USB Audio
:
No
PS4 Compatible
:
Audio Only
Xbox One Compatible
:
Audio Only
PC Compatible
:
Audio Only

They have a simple 1/4'TRS audio cable with no in-line remote/microphone, so they will only provide audio when connected to your PS4, Xbox One or PC.

0 Base/Dock
Type
:
N/A
Optical Input
:
N/A
Line In
:
N/A
Line Out
:
N/A
USB Input
:
N/A
RCA Input
:
N/A
PS4 Compatible
:
N/A
Xbox One Compatible
:
N/A
PC Compatible
:
N/A
Power Supply
:
N/A
Dock Charging
:
N/A

The Sennheiser HD 800S do not have a dock. If you need a headset with a dock that also has a wired connection for gaming or watching movies, then consider the SteelSeries Arctis 7.

0 Wireless Range
Obstructed Range
:
N/A
Line of Sight Range
:
N/A

These headphones do not have a wireless range since they only connect via a regular audio cable with an in-line remote.

10 Latency
Default Latency
:
0 ms
aptX Latency
:
N/A
aptX(LL) Latency
:
N/A

The wired connection of these headphones has negligible latency which is suitable for gaming and home-theater use.

In the box

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

Compared to other Headphones

The Sennheiser HD800S have an outstanding, reference-quality audio reproduction but are not designed for everyday use. They have a great, evenly balanced sound that caters well to most tracks and music genres. They're well built, comfortable and feel durable. However, their open-back design leaks a lot and will disturb the people around you. They are one of the best sounding headphones we've measured with excellent soundstage and stereo image reproduction but they're also considerably pricier than most of the competing headphones below which may not be worth it depending on your use case. See our recommendations for the best studio headphones, the best open-back headphones, the best headphones for music and the best DJ headphones.

Sennheiser HD 820
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sennheiser HD 800 S are a better critical listening headphone than the Sennheiser HD 820. The HD 800 S have a better-balanced sound that is more neutral and even with instruments, more consistent with their bass and slightly more detailed on lead vocals and instruments. They also have a larger soundstage thanks to their open-back design. They're also a bit more breathable since they are open, so your ears won't get as warm during longer listening sessions. On the other hand, the HD 820 have a slightly more polished build quality, although they are very close in design. Also, since they have closed back ear cups, they leak a little less, prevent more ambient noise from seeping into your audio, and have a bit more bass on average.

HiFiMan Ananda
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The HiFiMan Ananda are very close in performance to the Sennheiser HD 800 S. The Sennheiser have a better, more durable build quality, although not by much. They also look a bit more premium and deliver a slightly more open-sounding audio reproduction, but that may also be because they sound a tad brighter. On the other hand, the Anandas have a good, well-balanced sound, with a bit more bass than the HD 800 S, thanks to their planar magnetic drivers. They also offer a slightly better value than the 800 S, but HiFiMan headphones are somewhat prone to durability issues.

Sennheiser HD 660 S
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sennheiser HD 800 S are better critical listening headphones than the Sennheiser HD 660 S. They are more comfortable, noticeably better-built, and their sound quality is also superior. There is also a big difference in soundstage, in which the HD 800 S are also superior. However, the HD 660 S are way less expensive and may offer better overall value for their performance.

Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation 2016
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sennheiser HD 800 S are better critical listening headphones than the Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation. They are more comfortable and their sound quality is superior, especially in the treble range. They have a remarkable soundstage, which can be attributed to their fully open-back design. The HD 800 S are also better-built than the T1, but they don’t come with a hard case like the T1 for when you want to travel with them.

Audeze LCD 2 Classic/LC2C
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sennheiser HD 800 S are slightly better critical listening headphones than the Audeze LCD2-Classic. The Sennheisers are more comfortable and lighter than the Audeze LCD2-Classics. They also have a more neutral sound, a larger soundstage, and a slightly better easier to use design overall. The LCD2-Classic, on the other hand, have slightly better build quality. They also pack a bit more bass with their planar magnetic drivers. They also do not sound as bright as the HD800s, which may be a negative for some but also makes them a good choice for audiophiles a bit more sensitive to high frequencies.

Focal Elear
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sennheiser HD 800 S are better headphones than the Focal Elear, but are also way more expensive. The HD 800 S are one of the best-sounding headphones we’ve reviewed so far. They have more accurate reproduction of the treble range than the Elear and also have a better speaker-like soundstage. On the other hand, the very large cups of the Sennheiser might be too big for some and could create gaps. Also, the Elear are slightly better-built headphones and feel sturdier.

Stax SR-L300
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sennheiser HD 800 S are better critical listening headphones than the Stax SR-L300. They are more comfortable for longer listening sessions, and their build is durable and doesn’t feel as flimsy as the Stax. They also pack more bass, while still having great mid and treble range performance. Their 1/4” TRS connection is also more versatile. You will also need an amp and energizer to drive the Stax correctly. On the other hand, the Stax still have great audio reproduction and are significantly cheaper than the HD 800 S.

+ Show more
6.2 Mixed Usage

Average-at-best for mixed usage. The Sennheiser HD 800s are critical listening headphones, not meant for other use cases except maybe home theater. They deliver an excellent sound quality with a wide and spacious soundstage and a comfortable design that you can wear for hours. This makes them the ideal critical listening headphone but a poor choice to use in noisy environments since they do not block any noise. They're also bulky, cumbersome headphones that are not designed for outdoor use or physical activity so they are best used at home and in isolation where you can enjoy their sound quality and not distract anyone around you or be distracted by the ambient noise of your surroundings.

8.5 Critical Listening

Great for critical listening. The HD 800s have one of the best audio reproduction that we've measured so far. They have a well-balanced mid-range that isn't too forward sounding with instruments and vocals. They also have a good amount of bass to cater well to most genres of music although they will feel somewhat lacking in low-end thump and rumble when compared to the Hifiman Ananda or Sundara. They can sound a bit sharp with already bright tracks, but overall their spacious accurate stereo image reproduction makes them one of the best options for critical listeners. You can also check out our recent review the Stax SR-L300 which have a great open sound and electrostatic drivers instead of dynamic ones like the HD800S.

4.8 Commute/Travel

Not suitable for commuting. The open-back ear cups do not block any ambient noise and leak a lot. Also, They're not portable and do not have a control scheme for mobile devices.

5.5 Sports/Fitness

Not meant for sports. They're heavy and require an amp so you won't be using them outside anytime soon.

5.4 Office

Sub-par for office use. Unless you work alone or in an isolated office the leakage level will be too bothersome for those around you. Also, the open back design does not block any noise so you will hear your environment fairly easily even when listening to music at higher-than-average volumes.

6.2 TV

Average for home theater. They're comfortable headphones with an excellent and open sound quality. This makes them suitable for listening to music and watching videos, and they also have no latency since they're wired. They may be slightly limited by range although they do come with a longer than average 10ft audio cable. They won't be as convenient as wireless TV headphones to watch movies from your couch without needing an AUX extension cord.

6.1 Gaming

Mediocre for gaming. The Sennheiser HD 800S are comfortable, they sound great and have a low latency wired design. However, they do not have a microphone for voice chat when gaming, and no customization options which are typical for most gaming headsets. Also, they do not have the convenience of wireless design or multiple connection options for an optimized experience on Xbox One or PS4.

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