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.
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.
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.