Reviewed on May 18, 2018 , Marc Henney, Jean-Christophe Lamontagne

Sennheiser HD 800 S
HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.2
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Test Benches: test

  • 1.2: Winter 2018
  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2017
  • 0.9: Winter 2016
6.2
Mixed 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:
8.5
Critical 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:
4.8
Commute/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:
5.5
Sports/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:
5.4
Office
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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:
6.2
Home Theater
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Score components:
6.1
Gaming
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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 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.

These Headphones are currently our best Critical Listening Headphones.

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
  • Can only be used in a well-isolated room.
  • Sensitive to ambient noise.
  • Bulky and heavy.
Update 2/16/2018: Converted to Test Bench 1.2.
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

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Score components:
Sennheiser HD 800 S Design Picture

The Sennheiser HD 800 S are well-crafted, comfortable critical listening 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
Sennheiser HD 800 S Design Picture 2

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
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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 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
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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
Microphone Control : N/A
Channel Mixing
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What it is: Being able to mix audio channels directly on the headphones.
When it matters: This is most useful when using a separate chat software so that you can mix in-game audio and chat audio depending on your needs.
:
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
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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:
Sennheiser HD 800 S Breathability After Picture
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
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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 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
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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
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.

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 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
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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 any physical activities. 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
Sennheiser HD 800 S Cable Picture
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

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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

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
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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
Mid-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

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
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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-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

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
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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
Mid-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

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.

Raw Frequency Response
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What it is: The average uncompensated frequency response of the headphone. For in-ears and earbuds, this corresponds to the average of 5 measurements/re-seats on the dummy head (HMS). For over/on-ear headphones, this corresponds to the average of 5 measurements/re-seats on the HMS (Head Measurement System) for the mid and treble ranges, and 5 measurements/re-seats on 5 human subjects for the bass range.
When it matters: This is for those who want to see the raw and uncompensated frequency response of the headphone. Some of the more advanced users, are able to read and evaluate headphone frequency response in its raw form and without compensation. This will be especially useful to them if they have their own headphone compensation/target curve, which may differ from the compensation curve/target response used by RTINGS.com.
Score components:
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

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
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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 Group Delay Sennheiser HD 800 S Phase Response
Weighted Group Delay
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What it is: The average amount of group delay calculated based on a perceptual weighting filter. Group delay indicates how long it takes for each frequency to reach their maximum amplitude. This is a monaural quality and can be perceived even with one ear.
When it matters: Headphones with lower group delay have more transparent imaging and a tighter bass. Headphones with higher group delay in the bass range tend to have a wimpy and loose bass, and headphones with higher group delay in the treble range tend to have a less transparent imaging.
Good value: <0.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
0.15
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
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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: <1.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
0.16
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
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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: <2
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
1.47
Weighted Phase Mismatch
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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: <16
Noticeable difference: 3
:
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
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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.
Sennheiser HD 800 S PRTF
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
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What it is: The standard deviation of the PRTF (Pinna-related transfer function) of the headphones compared to a reference loudspeaker's PRTF at 30°. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This test does not apply to in-ears and earbuds, due to the lack of pinna interaction.
When it matters: An accurate pinna activation is mainly responsible for how natural and speaker-like the soundstage is perceived to be. The less error in the shape of the PRTF, the more natrual and speaker-like the perception of the soundstage will be. High amounts of error may indicate a soundstage that is unnatural or odd.
Good value: <2.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
1.94 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
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What it is: The average amplitude of the PRTF (Pinna-related transfer function) of the headphones compared to that of a reference loudspeaker's PRTF at 30°. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This test does not apply to in-ears and earbuds, due to the lack of pinna interaction.
When it matters: This value is responsible for the perceived size of the soundstage. The higher the value, the larger the perceived size of the soundstage. However, values above the reference (5.0dB) could result in a soundstage that is perceived as unnatural or odd.
Good value: >3.7
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
4.62 dB
PRTF Distance
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What it is: The depth of the "10KHz notch" of the headphone's PRTF, which is caused by phase cancellations at the concha. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This test does not apply to in-ears and earbuds, due to the lack of pinna interaction.
When it matters: This value is mainly responsible for the perceived distance and elevation of the soundstage. A small distance value may result in a soundstage that is perceived to be located inside the head. Larger values may help pull the soundstage out from inside of the head and bring it to the front.
Good value: >13
Noticeable difference: 1
:
22.36 dB
Openness
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What it is: How open the headphones are, and how open and spacious they sound. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. 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, and could be indirectly related the acoustic impedance of the headphones.
When it matters: When a headphone with a sense of an open, and spacious soundstage 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
:
8.6
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 will be affected by the environment (reflections/reverb) before reflecting back into the open headphones and to the listener's ears. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This value is the inverse of the Leakage test score.
When it matters: Headphones with higher excitation values, similar to openness, tend to have soundstages that are perceived as more open and spacious.
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

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
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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

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

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Score components:

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
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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

The HD 800 S have poor isolation. These open-back 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
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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

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

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What it is: The microphone section shows the quality of speech capture and transmission by the mic, as well as how well the microphone under test handles noisy environments.
When it matters: For your speech to be transmitted to and understood properly by the listener, the microphone needs to have a good recording quality. If the environment the microphone is being used in is noisy, a microphone with a good noise handling performance would be needed as well.
Score components:
Integrated
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What it is: The microphone integrated in the ear cup or ear bud of a wireless headphone.
When it matters: For calls, gaming and voice over IP software or for any other use of the microphone.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
In-line
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What it is: The microphone inside the in-line remote of audio cables for wired and wireless headsets.
When it matters: In-line microphone are usually better than integrated mics. If you need better recording quality and noise handling for calls, gaming and voice over IP software then use the audio cable of your wired or wireless headphone if it has an inline microphone.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
Boom
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What it is: A typically better microphone, that's also adjustable and extends so that the mic is closer to your mouth.
When it matters: Much better recording quality and noise handling than in-line or integrated mics. Primarily used for gaming and voice over IP software.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
Detachable Boom
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What it is: A boom mic that is detachable from the headset.
When it matters: If you want to use your headphone outdoors without the bulk and hassle of the Boom mic.
:
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
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What it is: Microphone recording quality shows how natural, neutral, extended and intelligible speech would be with the device under test, in a quiet environment.
When it matters: A microphone with a good recording quality ensures that the person listening to you would hear a full, clear, and easily understandable speech. Therefore, it is important whenever a good quality of speech transmission and intelligibility is needed.
Score components:
Recorded Speech
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What it is: Actual audio recording of the headphone's microphone, recorded while placed on the dummy head, with speech being played back through the dummy head's mouth simulator.
When it matters: When a clean, full, and intelligible speech transmission is required.
:
N/A
LFE
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What it is: Low-frequency extension shows how deep the bass response of the microphone is, and therefore, how deep and full your voice would sound to the listener. It is the lowest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response.
When it matters: LFE is not a big factor in speech intelligibility and even speech recorded with a mic that has an LFE of 500Hz could still be easily understood. Therefore, it is mostly important if you are concerned with how deep and full your voice would be heard.
Good value: <150Hz
Noticeable difference: 30Hz
:
N/A
FR Std. Dev.
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What it is: Frequency Response Standard Deviation shows how accurately and balanced sound is captured by the microphone at each frequency. FR Std. Dev. is calculated between LFE and HFE, and the rest of the spectrum is ignored.
When it matters: A good frequency response is desired when a natural and neutral speech quality is desired. As opposed to HFE which is more a metric for speech intelligibility, frequency response could be considered as a metric for a natural and neutral sound.
Good value: >3.5dB
Noticeable difference: 0.5dB
:
N/A
HFE
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What it is: High-frequency extension is the highest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response. It shows how extended the treble response of the microphone is.
When it matters: HFE is one the most important factors in speech intelligibility. The higher the HFE, the brighter, more open, and more extended the speech quality will be which makes it a lot easier to understand by the listener.
Good value: >8KHz
Noticeable difference: 1KHz
:
N/A
Weighted THD
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What it is: The unwanted frequencies (harmonics) produced alongside the intended frequencies, which cause deformation of an output signal compared to its input.
When it matters: When clean and pure sound reproduction is desired, though its effect is not as noticable as frequency response.
Good value: <1.5
Noticeable difference: 1.0
:
N/A
Gain
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What it is: Shows how much louder the microphone can go above our reference loudness level. The gain value is reported relative to our reference level, which is 94dB at a distance of 5cm from the mouth.
When it matters: A microphone with a high gain is important when the input signal (speech) is very quiet. For example when whispering, or talking on the phone in a library.
Good value: >18dB
Noticeable difference: 3dB
:
N/A

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

0 Noise Handling
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What it is: How well the microphone is able to separate speech from background noise, so that the transmission would include more voice and less noise.
When it matters: When a clean and intelligible speech transmission is desired in a noisy situation like talking on the phone on a busy street or on the bus.
Score components:
Speech + Pink Noise : N/A
Speech + Subway Noise : N/A
SpNR
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What it is: Speech to Noise Ratio is the difference in level between speech and background noise as heard by the listener
When it matters: If the microphone is going to be used in a noisy environment, it is important for it to be able to separate the speech from background noise, so the voice would be easily audible and understandable.
Good value: >24dB
Noticeable difference: 3dB
:
N/A

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

0

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:

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
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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.
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
Power Saving Feature
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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

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

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
App Name : N/A
iOS : N/A
Android : N/A
Mac OS : N/A
Windows : N/A
Equalizer
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What it is: Parametric, graphic or preset sound profiles that slightly alter the frequency response.
When it matters: If you want to tailor, your listening experience. Depending on what you're listening to you may want more or less bass for some tracks or more mid-range for vocals-heavy audio.
:
N/A
ANC control
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What it is: Control over the Active noise canceling technology. This could be either a simple on/off button, and adjustable slider or even adaptive self-regulating noise cancellation.
When it matters: If you're in an environment where you need to monitor your surroundings or completely isolate yourself from ambient noise.
:
N/A
Mic Control : N/A
Room effects
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What it is: Room effects that enhance the audio quality to make it more immersive.
When it matters: If you want to further tweak your listening experience. Adding room effects, can simulate a more spacious Soundstage or deliver a surround sound-like feel.
:
N/A
Playback control
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What it is: An in-app player that gives you access to play/stop, track skipping or volume controls directly with the app.
When it matters: It's a shortcut that allows you to control your audio without leaving the application.
:
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

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What it is: The inputs and outputs of wired and wireless headphones, as well as their latency performance and range.
When it matters: To know how compatible your Bluetooth device, console or PC will be with your wired or wireless headset.
Score components:
  • 10% Bluetooth
  • 32% Wired
  • 10% Base/Dock
  • 22% Wireless Range
  • 25% Latency

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
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What it is: Bluetooth support for wireless headphones.
When it matters: To connect wirelessly to Bluetooth sources like your phone, tablet, console, PC and TV.
Score components:
  • 79% Multi-Device Pairing
  • 20% NFC
  • 0% PS4 Compatible
  • 0% Xbox One Compatible
Bluetooth Version : N/A
Multi-Device Pairing
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What it is: A Bluetooth profile that's allows some headphones to be simultaneously connected to multiple Bluetooth sources.
When it matters: To quickly switch between your Bluetooth sources. For example switching from your phone to your home or work PC.
Good value: 2 devices.
:
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.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
PS4 Compatible
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What it is: Bluetooth compatibility with the PlayStation 4.
When it matters: To connect your headphones wirelessly with your PS4.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
N/A
Xbox One Compatible
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What it is: Bluetooth compatibility with the Xbox One.
When it matters: To connect your headphones wirelessly with your Xbox one.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
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
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What it is: The type and compatibility of audio cables for wired and wireless headphones.
When it matters: For all devices with a regular audio jack (line-out) and also compatibility of the in-line remote/boom microphone with consoles and Personal computers.
Score components:
  • 13% Analog
  • 9% USB
  • 26% PS4 Compatible
  • 26% Xbox One Compatible
  • 26% PC Compatible
Cable Tested : Not OS specific
Analog
Show Help
What it is: A regular 1/8" TRS audio jack or a 1/4 or 1/16 TRS with a 1/8 TRS adapter.
When it matters: For all devices with a line out.
Good value: Yes
:
Yes
USB
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What it is: A USB or USB adapter to connect to your devices for audio and microphone.
When it matters: A digital USB adapter usually offers a slight advantages over a regular audio jack, like a DAC, and amplifier module or software support and compatibility with PCs. However it may not be as compatible with consoles.
Good value: Yes
:
No
PS4 Compatible
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What it is: PS4 compatibility with a regular 3 or 4 pin 1/8 TRS audio cable.
When it matters: When you want to use a wired headphone with your PS4
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
Audio Only
Xbox One Compatible
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What it is: Xbox One compatibility with a regular 3 or 4 pin 1/8 TRS audio cable.
When it matters: When you want to use a wired headphone with your Xbox One
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
Audio Only
PC Compatible
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What it is: PC compatibility with a regular 3 or 4 pin 1/8 TRS audio cable.
When it matters: When you want to use a wired headphone with your PC.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
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
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What it is: The base station, dock or dongle transmitter of wireless headphones that receive data/audio via a proprietary frequency range.
When it matters: Knowing the inputs and outputs of the base/dock/dongle as well as its compatibility with consoles and Personal Computers. Also whether the base supports dock charging to easily recharge the headphones without any cables.
Score components:
  • 4% Optical Input
  • 22% Line In
  • 4% Line Out
  • 22% USB Input
  • 4% RCA Input
  • 9% PS4 Compatible
  • 9% Xbox One Compatible
  • 9% PC Compatible
  • 2% Power Supply
  • 13% Dock Charging
Wireless Type
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What it is: The type of wireless connection used by the base station/dock to communicate with the headphones.
When it matters: For latency and range. For example Radio frequency has low latency but mediocre range when obstructed and proprietary docks have their own 2.x GHz or 5 GHz frequency which varies in performance.
:
N/A
Optical Input
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What it is: Optical input for audio.
When it matters: Optical can carry a bit more data at faster speeds than typical wired connection which allows for more high quality, lossless audio.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
Line In
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What it is: The regular wired input via a 1/8" TRS audio jack.
When it matters: For any device that has a line out for audio transmission.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
Line Out
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What it is: A regular 1/8TRS audio jack output.
When it matters: If you need to share the audio source with other devices. A line out lets you connect other headphones or speakers to the dock/base station.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
USB Input
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What it is: A digital USB input instead of a typical 1/8 TRS line-in.
When it matters: A USB connection can provide both an audio input and power to the Dock or Base station.
:
N/A
RCA Input
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What it is: Audio input using via an RCA connectors.
When it matters: Provides better stereo audio to the dock/base that's then transmitted to the headphones.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
PS4 Compatible
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What it is: Dock/Base station compatibility with the PlayStation 4.
When it matters: To be able to use all the features of the dock/base station with out losing audio or microphone capability.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
N/A
Xbox One Compatible
Show Help
What it is: Dock/Base station compatibility with the Xbox One.
When it matters: To be able to use all the features of the dock/base station with out losing audio or microphone capability.
:
N/A
PC Compatible
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What it is: Dock/Base station compatibility with your Personal Computer.
When it matters: To be able to use all the features of the dock/base station with out losing audio or microphone capability.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
N/A
Power Supply
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What it is: The connector type of the power source.
When it matters: The accessibility of the power source. For example a power supply with USB/USB-C connects to multiple devices, PC , PS4, Xbox One or even with your regular phone charger whereas a A/C adapter is less common.
Good value: USB/USB-C
:
N/A
Dock Charging
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What it is: Charging the headphones via the dock/base station instead of a charging cable.
When it matters: It makes charging your headphones easier and gives you a sport to store your headphones when they are not in use.
Good value: Yes
:
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
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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:
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

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

10 Latency
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What it is: How long it takes for audio to play through your headphones once the audio signal has been sent from a source.
When it matters: When gaming or watching movies. High latency means you will hear the audio much later than the images you see on screen.
Score components:
Default Latency
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What it is: The Base RF latency or the default sub-band coding (SBC) 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: 50ms 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: 50ms 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

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 In the box Picture

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

Compared to other Headphones

Sennheiser HD 800 S Compare Picture

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.

HiFiMan Edition X

The HiFiMan Edition X are also one of the best sounding critical listening headphones that we've tested so far. They have an expertly balanced sound and a slightly better bass performance than the HD 800 S. They're also comfortable with large and roomy open ear cups that help create a spacious soundstage. Unfortunately, the build quality of their hinges/yokes is not as durable as that of the Sennheiser's. If you're going to spend that much on a headphone, then go with the 800S they will last much longer than the Hifiman.

HiFiMan Sundara

The Hifiman Sundara are great-sounding headphones with a comfortable but slightly tight fit. They're an excellent choice for critical listening, thanks to their open design and planar magnetic drivers that help deliver a good soundstage, imaging and frequency response. They do not sound quite as balanced as the HD800s although they have a bit more bass. They also cannot produce a soundstage as spacious as the Sennheiser but they slightly more durable thanks to their all-metal build which is a definite improvement over the HE-400i and even the Edition X. The Sundara are like the budget H800s; if you want the best of the best, then go for the more expensive Sennheisers but if you're on a tight budget, then the Hifimans are a great, and much cheaper alternative.

Sennheiser HD 650

The Sennheiser HD 650 are good sounding critical listening headphones but have a mediocre-at-best soundstage. Their sound quality is not as immersive as the HD 800s, and they can sound a bit too forward with instruments and vocals. Unfortunately, their build quality also doesn't feel as premium, and their treble response can be a bit inconsistent at times. On the upside, they are a lot cheaper so if you are on a budget, the HD 650 could be a more affordable alternative, but for purely critical listening, the HD800S are significantly better.

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

The Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO are sturdy critical listening headphones. They deliver a good audio reproduction that has a bit more bass than the Sennheiser HD 800s but also sounds a lot sharper on brighter tracks. They're also not as comfortable since they can be a bit tight on the head out-of-the-box. On the upside, they are a fraction of the price of the Sennheiser, which makes them a good and affordable entry into critical listening. Unfortunately, you won't get the same soundstage experience that the HD800s does so well. If you have the budget, then get the HD 800s or the Hifiman Sundaras, but the Beyerdynamics are also a good choice especially considering their price.

Conclusion
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6.2Mixed 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:
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.
8.5Critical 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:
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 Editon X 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.
4.8Commute/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 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.
5.5Sports/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.
5.4Office
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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:
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.
6.2Home Theater
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Score components:
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.
6.1Gaming
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Score components:
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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Questions & Answers

7 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
16
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.

11
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.

6
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.

2
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.
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.

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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