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CES 2009: Sennheiser Redefines Sound Quality


CES 2009: Sennheiser Redefines Sound Quality

Sennheiser chose to launch its new top-of-the-range headphones at CES, the HD 800s. Just looking at the HD 800s, it's clear that they're something special, with a completely new ear-cup design. Not only are these new ear-cups very large, in order to create a comfortable over-the-ear fit, but they're also designed to deliver the sound at a slight angle, giving the music a more spatial feel, similar to the effect created by a pair of stereo speakers.

The standout component in the HD800s is a 56mm sound transducer - currently the largest available in dynamic headphones. Sennheiser has also made the vibrating part of the diaphragm a ring, rather than a circular surface, in order to eliminate unwanted distortion at the high end that can occur with a large surface area transducer. The transducer is also mounted in a stainless steel gauze to avoid any partial vibrations.

The HD 800s definitely look the part, with the bare steel construction and completely open back design. The ear-cups also sit incredibly lightly over the ears, and there are no problems with your ears getting hot, or your skin sweating - in fact it's easy to forget that you're even wearing the HD 800s once you close your eyes and immerse yourself in the music.

And you'll be able to immerse yourself like never before, because the sound produced by the HD 800s can only be described as heavenly! I spent some time in Sennheiser's listening booth auditioning the HD 800s, and to say that I was impressed would be an understatement of gargantuan proportions. The level of detail that these headphones produce is like nothing I've ever heard, and even at modest volumes the slightest, most subtle effects can be clearly discerned.

Even though the show floor at CES is hardly the best environment for auditioning high-end, open back headphones it was clear that Sennheiser has created something truly wonderful with the HD 800s. In fact I had to fight the urge to just bed down on Sennheiser's sofa and spend the whole afternoon listening, they really do sound that good.

Obviously nothing this good comes cheap and in the US Sennheiser will be charging around $1,400 for the HD 800s. What that will equate to in the UK remains to be seen, but I'll be chasing up UK availability and pricing when I return home. That said, after spending only a short time listening to the HD 800s, whatever the UK price, I'm tempted to think that it will be worth every penny.

Update: UK pricing has been confirmed at £999, which is pretty much in line with current exchange rates - well done Sennheiser.


January 11, 2009, 5:31 am

"Obviously nothing this good comes cheap and in the US Sennheiser will be charging around $1,400 for the HD 800s...whatever the UK price, I'm tempted to think that it will be worth every penny"

It's a pair of headphones. I'm sure most non-oil country owning readers would consider spending that amount of money on a complete system about once every 10 years!

Just who do you think your main demographic is? Sultans? Worth every penny, I'll take your word for it!


January 11, 2009, 12:58 pm

i almost considered spending &#163800 for the grado gs 1000's after listening to them, before my wallet crept up behind me, knocked me out and dragged me home.

i had to fight my wallet to the death before it let me buy a pair of grado sr325i's/

Lord Comben III

January 11, 2009, 2:05 pm

Mmmm they are expensive but we can all dream. I have a pair of HD650's and if they are better than them they must be epic


January 11, 2009, 9:53 pm

Sounds like Sennheiser hospitality hit gold there.


January 11, 2009, 11:24 pm

I know what you mean ilovethemonkeyhead. The GS1000's are utterly astonishing. I'll be very interested to compare them to these new Sennheisers, if I ever get the chance.

What do you think of the sr325i's? I've been contemplating getting a pair. I really want the huge over-ear cups of the GS1000 though - they're just so comfortable.


January 12, 2009, 5:32 am

lifethroughalens - Many audiophiles would laugh at the idea of spending &#1632,500 on a few lumps of glass in a metal tube - "it's just a lens!" Although I'll hold judgement until I can persuade Sennheiser to loan me a pair to try out.

And they're a convenient &#1631 under my overdraft limit, hmmmm...


January 12, 2009, 5:27 pm

Just what I've been looking for to get the best out of my 128kpbs mp3s. :)


January 12, 2009, 6:28 pm


Difference being, I'm still using (and making a living from) some lenses made in the 1920's USSR, today...and there is still nothing that can out-do them in terms of quality and build. And (being a Canon user) most of my 'L' series lenses will last an eternity in terms of optical quality and build and i'm not considered a 'photo-phile' (made that word up)for buying them.

Can't say that about any headphones. Although I get the drift of your comparison, I don't think they are comparable. I still can't believe someone would spend &#1631000 on a set of headphones, audiophile or not.

I'll have to try and get to listen to some, problem is - what on earth could I plug them in to in order to do them any justice?! :)


March 11, 2009, 12:05 am


Well, believe it or not, I probably would, if I had the money...

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