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Sennheiser HD 800 review

Andrew Williams




  • Editors choice

1 of 7

Sennheiser HD 800
  • Sennheiser HD 800
  • Sennheiser HD 800
  • Sennheiser HD 800
  • Sennheiser HD 800
  • Sennheiser HD 800
  • Sennheiser HD 800
  • Sennheiser HD 800


Our Score:



  • Incredible breadth to sound
  • Excellent build quality
  • Comfortable


  • The look... not subtle is it?

Key Features

  • Removable cable
  • 6.3mm jack
  • Open back design
  • Manufacturer: Sennheiser
  • Review Price: £995.00

Sennheiser’s HD range of headphones is full of superstars, from the classic HD 650 to the new budget HD 518. But all the open-back models look a little bit too similar for our liking. Apart from the majestic £1000 HD 800 that is. These emperors of the range look like they’ve been transported from a sci-fi future envisioned in 1982, with a sound so precise it could have been crafted with lasers.

Can paying a grand for a pair of headphones ever be worth it? Call us loons in the comments if you like, but the Sennheiser HD 800 prove to us that it can be.

Sennheiser HD 800 1

These are Sennheiser’s top-end headphones, and it has gone all-out on the design to prove it. One model down, the HD 650 may be big – engulfing even granddad-sized ears – but they offer a sensible, simple look that doesn’t cry out for attention. The same can’t be said about the HD 800. These silver and black beauties sit atop your ears like a prop from a sci-fi movie, as if they’re about to create a wormhole between your ears.

Functionally, the design is traditional enough, with a black grille protecting these otherwise open-back headphones, but in style terms they’re rather unusual. Where most other high-end manufacturers opt for a fairly “classic” look for their top-end models – Grado and Ultrasone clad their £1000 in wood to do just that – Sennheiser seems to want to make the HD 800 look technologically advanced. In a way that conjures memories of films like Blade Runner and The Fifth Element – sure to put off some.

Sennheiser HD 800 5

For all its silvery trappings, it’s surprising that much of the HD800 is still plastic. The arms that connect the ear cups to the headband? Plastic. The rim that surrounds the pads? Also plastic. This is standard for the HD range, and the materials used are of excellent quality – but plastic nevertheless lacks that “ooh” inducing quality that a metal-plated (or wood for that matter) gadget can often summon.

There is a huge benefit to the use of plastic here, and that’s reduced weight. Although they’re huge, the Sennheiser HD 800 headphones are fairly light at 330g (without cable). Thanks to perfect distribution of this burden, helped along by the gigantic, head-hugging fabric ear pads, they are supremely comfortable to wear. The wooden Grado GS1000i are lighter still, but the design of the Sennheisers edges them for comfort – especially if you know and love the feel of the HD series ‘phones, which is present and correct here.


July 22, 2011, 2:59 pm

I do enjoy the TR site and I check it almost everyday but this has really got under my skin!

You have given a set of headphones that cost the best part of 1k 10/10!? I could understand a 10 if it scored a 10 in every category but it didn't!

We're forever hearing from you guys how every apple product is over priced and that's what let's the product down! And that can be said for most products that fall short of a 10 due to price! There's just no consistency guys!


July 22, 2011, 4:15 pm

Hi Chris,

It was awarded on the basis that we think they're the best in their class - even if it is a somewhat ridiculous class for most people's needs.

When reviewing high-end audio products there is inevitably some level of disconnect from the concept of value in the pure "factor X per £" sense, as there's no great way to benchmark headphones in the way you might a laptop. Frequency response graphs are useful, but they don't always relay what a pair of headphones is actually like to listen to. Yet, this factor is the most important in any headphone review. To attribute a perfect level of value to what is a very subjective reaction to sound quality requires a bit more ego than I'm packing.

I can tell you that I think they're better than X and Y, and that they're super-duper-awesome, but caring that much about sound quality is an expensive disease. And if everyone caught it, the Western World would quite possibly collapse. That 7/10 score is there for the good of humanity. Because we don't really want you to sell your kids. We want people who are considering buying expensive headphones to put the HD 800 on their "100% must audition" list.

Hope that makes some sense. Thanks!


July 22, 2011, 5:14 pm

Hi Andrew, thanks for your response.

I can see what you're saying but it kind of backs up what I'm saying. You say that they are best in their class (high end headphones) and that's why they got a ten. So why doesn't a MacBook Pro get a ten? There is nothing on the Market that competes with a MacBook pro and the argument to why it doesn't score a ten would be down to the value would it not? Agreed that you could buy a more powerfull laptop with a better graphics card in but overall, build quality, design and the OS is second to none so on that basis, it should score a ten.

I hope you can see where I'm coming from? :S


July 22, 2011, 5:34 pm

It's not quite the same - it would kinda be the same if the Macbook Pro also has better CPU performance and GPU performance than it's competitors, but it doesn't. These are still very important factors in any laptop review. It's not quite as simple as saying Mac OS beats Windows 7 either. While Mac OS is great, Windows 7 isn't a chump and software support (esp for games) is much better. Yes you can install Windows on a Mac but that's another thing altogether...

The primary stand-out feature of a Macbook Pro is its gorgeous design (an opinion!) where the primary stand-out feature of the Sennheiser HD 800 headphones is their performance.

It's still a conundrum though - bringing Apple into it complicates things because the Macbook Pro is something of an aberration within the laptop market where the Sennys sit among their peers more comfortably.


July 22, 2011, 5:49 pm

Ahh now we're getting caught up in details :) I just talking about how you guys review products.

I used a MacBook Pro as a example because in the review, it scored two tens, two nines and a 8 for value (I believe) and it only got a 9/10. The cons said "pricey" so I'm assuming that's why it got a nine instead of a ten?

The Sennys got a seven for value and an eight in design and still managed to get a ten! Also, price wasn't even mentioned in the cons!

I don't want to get caught up in a debate about apple products, I'm just a bit lost to why the Sennys managed a 10/10?

If the review of the Sennys is anything to go by, a different product that scores a 2/10 for something could still go on to have an overall score of 10/10?


July 22, 2011, 5:54 pm

Oh and the "stand-out feature" for the MacBook Pro wasn't just it's design, it scored a ten for performance too ;) But that's another discussion......


July 22, 2011, 6:05 pm

In my mind, it's a case of how the two markets work - expensive headphones and expensive laptops are very different things. There is no way to make £1000 headphones categorically worth the money. Most people who buy headphones at this level would rather have more money spent on the speaker quality than accessories like extra cables, adaptors and so on. If this pair of headphones was made of some (sonically inert) semi-precious metal that would actually be bad value in a headphone sense - because it would mean the £1000 was going towards this flamboyance rather than sound quality. Bizarrely, high-end headphones can seem to be better value the simpler and more austere they are. Grado's top-end headphones come in cardboard boxes, for example.


July 22, 2011, 6:25 pm

Right, I'll put it another way...

AKG Q701 Review. Same style as the Sennys. Price £365, value 9/10, sound quality 10/10!!!, design and features 9/10. Overall score 9/10!!! The score better than the Sennys throughout but get a lower overall?

Please learn English

July 22, 2011, 6:50 pm

My take... Different reviewer = different scores.


July 22, 2011, 9:07 pm

The overall score isn't an average of the other scores. When in doubt, it's better to read the text rather than obsess too much over the logic of the numbers, which are by their nature reductive (if mighty useful when doing some quick research into the goodies and not-so-goodies).

I didn't review the Q701s myself - although we all tend to check out new headphones when they come in - but the comparison to the cheaper K701s and K702s would hold me back from a top score there.


July 27, 2011, 12:46 am

On great issue with this review is say that anything on here is plastic when it clearly says the contrary everywhere; including on Sennheisers packaging, website and the nice manuals included in the box. What the parts are made that are important for dampening and killing sound (structural parts) is a special complex product more advanced but sorta like carbon-fiber parts. Plastic like metal etc. simply can't produce acoustic "dead" parts needed for this type of headphone so its physically impossible for products with these requirements to have anything to do with plastics. Thats why wood are often use as it will at-least distort sound signatures in a pleasant way. Why Grado and others intentionally have products with metal is still confusing to me and other industry people - I've had listening sessions with all the high-end models and own quite a few so I can confirm that still doesn't make sense compared to other higher-end intentionally colored products like Grado. I'm Gamerphile on head-fi.org BTW.
I own a pair of HD 800 and use it as my main/normal use headphone due to the non-colored, great stage and great but neutral bass. Have Headroom UDDAC+BUDA+DPS setup with HD 800 in balanced mode on original cables as can be read about on Head-Fi.org


July 27, 2011, 2:42 am

Some folks might still be slightly surprised by the plastic outers though, was my thinking. We actually spent a while in the office trying to work out what each outer part was made of. You're right about the importance of the inner sonically "dead" parts though. We do seem to agree about the sound, mind, which is the most important bit :)


January 17, 2012, 9:03 am

I'm sure I would love these, hell I would love to listen for an hour on any reference-class headphones. However I decided that if I ever buy a pair, it will most probably be AKG K3003, for their inconspicuousness and comfort of wearing outside.


January 20, 2012, 1:30 am

Maybe they deserve a 10/10 overall because they offer more than any other headphone on the market?


June 6, 2014, 1:30 am

I saw the other day that one of my favorite audiophile albums, After Silence, by the master Trumpet player Andre Heuvelman, is mixed and mastered with the HD800.

I have been listening to the album for month and enjoying it tremendously, unknowingly that mixing was done partly on the HD800.

No wonder it sounds so good on my pair.

Also says a lot about the quality of the HD800 that a top audiophile boutique label as Sound Liaison actually mix on the Sennheisers.
The album is available as 24/96 studio master download at the Sound Liaison site,

and there, on the site they describe in detail how the album was made, very interesting recording philosophy.

from the Sound Liaison site;
Main system: Schoeps MK5 AB
Spot mic's: Neumann KM84, Neumann TLM170, Neumann U47, Van Medevoort C1000
Micpre's: RME Micstacy (Analog > MADI)
Microphone cables: Grimm Audio TPR
Master clock: Grimm Audio CC1

Mixing headphones: Sennheiser HD800
Mixing speakers: Grimm Audio LS1

Recording and mixing - Frans de Rond[/qoute]


June 23, 2014, 2:32 pm

The same goes for the Batik album; 'The Old Man and the Sea'' (Sound Liaison)
That album is also mixed with the Sennheiser HD800.
Google it and you will see that both albums are creating quiet a stir on the Audiophile forums.
I would say that the HD800's are the quickest and cheapest way to an audiophile experience.

James Siggers

July 22, 2014, 7:06 am

I've been looking for a closed back headphone equivalent to the HD800 and based on auditions so far it looks like the Final Audio Design Pandora VI is the only headphone that comes close (it's also £450 less than the HD800!).

The hybrid driver technology of the Pandora VI gives a pretty amazing all around the head experience that I've never heard from headphones before. Definitely worth an audition.

Steve Hickley

June 3, 2015, 9:44 pm

But is it worth buying closed-back cans at that price? The "microscopic details" will be largely missing outdoors anyway (presuming you're looking for closed back headphones at that price because you intend to use them outdoors)

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