Drop x Sennheiser HD8XX (final tuning)

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by Marvey, Jul 20, 2021.

  1. Joshvar

    Joshvar Facebook Friend

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    To set the stage, I really have one question/angle: Does this make me want to get away from my HD600 + BHC? I sold my OG unmodified HD800 to @ColtMrFire a good while back because the answer was that superior comfort and occasional wow factor didn't earn it more head time the well-rounded ease of the HD600. I don't have an HD800 friendly setup, but I liked the BF2 + BHC enough to consider keeping the HD800 the first time around, so bear that in mind.

    Doing a quick listen through on the HD600 + BHC using one of my test playlists to reacquaint myself with those tracks was refreshing. I haven't sat down with a new piece of gear in a couple of years now and even starting with the familiar was gratifying. I remember why I stopped at this combo and did my big purge: it just does so many things so well that I'm forgetting to hop to the next track. Oh right, there's an HD8XX sitting here...

    First thing - that ring doesn't really try hard to be blue. Under most light it almost matches the rest of the unit's black plastics. Under some lighting it looks just like the pictures, but...it's much more subtle than I expected. Not much else to talk about - it's an HD800-series headphone!

    Oh..sound, yeah...I...uh...what? If you had any reservations because of the other folks' descriptions of the sound...they are well founded. I'll go through the highs/lows relative to the OG, unmodified HD800:

    Bass+++ - I'm detecting more, but mainly in places I wanted it. Typical of the HD800 series, it doesn't bleed up into the spectrum as much as the HD600 series - it's mainly in places I wanted it.

    Treble+ - Definitely less of a spike and more generally pleasant. I'm a fan of what's going on here - probably gave up that last bit of wow-factor-inducing presence, but more forgiving in exchange.

    Staging--- - Comes across as bizarre - it somehow feels really diffuse but also boxed in at the same time. If the HD800 gave an impression of a natural curvature that may have been overly diffuse, this gets closer to your head as it goes further to the left/right. Still accurate as far as placement, just felt very unnatural.

    Mids----- - This is where it died for me. It hits voices the hardest, but guitars (acoustic and electric) are sometimes harmed by it as they cross through their range...I just can't hear past it.

    The only similar experience I had is with the Focal Elegia - the mids there were so disorienting to me that I couldn't hear past it, and I just kept coming back to the word "Weird" which is unhelpful but about as accurate as I could get.

    HD600 + BHC stays.
     
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  2. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    Thanks for your input @Joshvar and many precise observations.

    HD 600 are quite special and there's always a place for these on my shelf, but I have to say that HD 800 are the most comfortable cans I've ever used and quite remarkable in this regard.
     
  3. bilboda

    bilboda Florida boomer

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    HDxxx just got here on tour. I had paused a Buddy Guy tune that I was listening to on speakers, fired up the ZDS and I like it. I think I like it more than the HD800S that I had previously. It just sounds very very nice. I'm gonna have to get back to some familiar tunes and hp comparisons but this Qobuz fed run of varying blues is just too nice to turn off and the phones are anything but fatiguing. Could be the Spring3 KTE, ZDS and hqplayer upping to dsd256 but it's on a roll, not gonna nitpick.
     
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  4. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    counterpoint, I returned my pair to drop a while ago. much disappoint. Tonally, these missed the mark by a good bit, IMHO. The mid suckout is real, and really these are unremarkable.
     
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  5. bilboda

    bilboda Florida boomer

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    Went thru my regular playlist and was disappointed.
    1st up is Andra Day, Cheers To The Fall. Song starts with a strong kick and punch but not with these cans. Girl likes to get loud which can get exciting with a nice edge, not with these cans, it simply could not handle it with the edge turning unpleasant.
    Clifford Jordan, Live at Ethel's, magical quartet, Blues in Advance, very well presented and expressed interplay which just sounds like an intellectual exercise with these cans. The resonances and tone are wrong which changes everything as these artists incorporate every nuance into their choices and with missing nuances it just sounds like an MP3
    It does well on Hilary Hahn + orchestra classical recording weaving the multi instrument layering of a mystical soundscape quite well but this is all that I liked from the HD8XX.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 4, 2021
  6. tubefans

    tubefans Rando

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    I am glad that Drop accepted the $1100 HD8XX return, great customer service. I bought Focal Elex $549 and Elex is much better than 8XX for my ears.
     
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  7. Phantaminum

    Phantaminum Friend

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    Some notes on the HD8XX:

    Overall, I enjoyed the HD8XX much more than either the HD800 (with mods) or the HD800s without mods. I found that on the non "XX" headphones I could not stand the treble and found them shrill. Too much energy at the top end but could not fault HD8XX's treble at all. As a matter of fact, I thought it could use just a tad more treble energy but don't confuse it with being dark or rolled off. Few things to note - yes, there is a suck out at the upper mids/lower treble but found this to be acceptable. Compared to the HD800, this has more body, more soul to it, and fills out more. This is more of a girl next door type. It may not have the beautiful, skinny, model look but I enjoy this more without any fuss or muss.

    Compared to the Elex the HD8XX wins hands down in comfort and sound stage. The HD8XX takes several hits when it comes to macro dynamics and sub bass extension. The HD8XX sounds dull when compared to the Elex but surprisingly it's a more relaxed presentation than the Elex. The Elex can be fatiguing with its up front presentation. It can at times feels like you're in a club, with speakers blaring bass into your ears, and you're having to scream to be heard. Resolution goes to the Elex. The HD8XX does very well in resolving upper treble but the mids come across muddier. Sound stage hands down goes to the HD8XX.

    Compared to the Auteurs with the Auteur pads; the Auteurs had more treble and transient energy compared to the HD8XX. The HD8XX does have more body in its stock format compared to the Auteur with the Auteur pads. Instrumental timbre is more life like on the Auteurs. I think Marv said it but this sounds like an Audeze version of the Auteurs. With the Eikon perforate pads, the Auteurs have a much smaller sound stage but it's much more cohesive than the HD8XX. We don't have that upper mid recess but now have a similar sound to each other when it comes to body. Sub bass extension goes to the Auteur but resolve goes to the HD8XX but it's a toss up depending on the track. Macro dynamics goes to the HD8XX but the bass is fuzzy and not as tight.

    Compared to the Verite they tonally sound the same but the Verite hits much harder, resolves better, and micro dynamically wins no questions asked. I'd say it's along the lines of comparing the Verite to the Utopia when you think of a jump in detail. The Verite is just a more lively headphone, it makes the HD8XX sound a dull again. Sub bass roll off are very close to each other. The VOs do a much better job at image definition and instrument separation but then I'm comparing a $1000 headphone vs to a $2400 headphone.

    Conclusion:
    I personally don't think you can find a dynamic headphone at this price point that gives you a big sound stage, is light, and has a very pleasing sound signature. I wore it all day while working, listening to music, and mostly forgot they were on my head. I was easily able to follow other players in first person shooters and still had fun listening to crappy YouTube/Spotify playlists. I think this is a headphone you'd buy as a daily driver. Buy the new Honda Civic as it's cheap and civilized, don't feel bad when you get chips on the paint, and then pull out your garage queen on the weekend for some real fun. With this being available in the market you have some great options - Focal Elex (strong micro/macro dynamics and speed), Hifiman Ananda (cleaner sound signature with a much better sub bass extension), or the HD8XX (with its wide and deep sound stage, more body to it's sound signature, without feeling boxed in).
     
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  8. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    I respectfully disagree, I can't see HD8XX as an even-keeled "neutral," if slightly forgiving headphone for extended listening. The midrange suckout eventually becomes grating since it, over time/fatigue, turns into a straight-up v-shaped response unless you've got a highly competent amp. BF2->Jot2->HD8XX was pretty bad, for me. Only running them off Yggdrasil A2->Elekit with some eq made them palatable for more than an album or two. After a couple albums through Jot2 (and even SW51+, but to a lesser extent) I was clamoring for HD6xx, mostly HD650K for respite. As I said, I returned mine and picked up HD800S, which with some minor bass EQ sounds so much more even and less hifi than HD8XX. And that should be saying something given HD800S's already forward tuning.
     
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  9. Phantaminum

    Phantaminum Friend

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    You're right. You don't want to pair these up with a low z-out amplifier. I did not like them at all on the SW51+ (which I should of noted) and thought they sounded flat and boring. I can imagine what they sounded like on a solid state amp. I had much more fun with these headphones on the Elekit sitting on 100 ohms out. Two things: 1. We have another flavor of the HD800s that's not the HD800 (which I loathed) and 2. I wonder how these would stack up against the Gen G. I haven't put ears on Gen G but they may be a better proposition than the HD8XX. I really didn't dislike the sound at all and the upper mid scoop didn't bother me. If I could, I'd combine the Aurorus Borealis' sound signature with the lightweight nature of the HD8XX but, well, those headphones have been sold out for a while. But @yotacowboy we've all been clamoring for a wide sound stage HD6XX for a long time now, that's cheating.
     
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  10. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    I put the Gen G at 2/3 of the way between the HD6XX and Clear as far as resolve/microdetail, so that might be about where the HD6XX sits given your comparison to the Elex. The Gen G did not have a suck out in the mids/upper mids, on the contrary that's their emphasis IMO, though others were more impressed with the bass than I was. That said, if these are not out resolving the Auteurs... :confused:

    Since you use EQ @yotacowboy , did you not try to even up that suckout of the HD8XX?
     
  11. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    I did, first with BF2->Loki->SW51+ and it kinda "fixed" it, but i think the Q is a little too wide on the 2kHz knob, and so the deeper 1-1.5kHz dip doesn't quite get filled in without it getting shrill/shriek-ey, since it's also boosting 5kHz as much as it is 1kHz. It still sounds kinda wonky. It was easy to ruin the sound over-eq-ing with Loki.

    I also tried some more targeted saddle eq-ing using Roon (+6dB @ 1.2kHz, .8Q; +2.5dB @ 2.2kHz, 1.5Q), with a little better results, subjectively, but even still, I'm not a huge fan of any HP that requires such a targeted EQ just to sound like a headphone we already have as a known variable. Hence, I now own HD800S. I'm much more okay with HD800S and it's "requisite" bass EQ, since that's much easier to do on a multitude different chains (like, duh, just twiddle the bass knob if you think it needs it!). Personally, for most of the music I listen to, HD800S fed by my Elekit doesn't need EQ to keep me happy.
     
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  12. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    The OG HD800 and HD800S work with a good number of solid state designs so that the HD8XX doesn't makes it seem like Drop has made a very amp sensitive design even more amp sensitive.

    If it sucks with everything that isn't high-Z and lively in presentation, this limits the occasions to recommend it even further.
     
  13. scblock

    scblock Friend

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    I think the HD8xx works very well with both the Bottlehead S.E.X. wired for 4 ohm output, and the Lyr 3, better than the SW51+ or Crack. This is probably a matter of preference, but I don't agree that it doesn't work with Low Z amps.
     
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  14. DrForBin

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    hello,

    HD8XX loaner impressions.

    tl/dr: at one time, highly aspirational, now, may be too analytical and/or cold for my taste.

    when i started this game, my purchasing choices were highly influenced by Inner Fidelity. for better or worse Tyll liked things that i ended up liking as well.

    my first serious headphone was the much loathed AKG K550. at the time i was convinced that proper headphones were closed so the listener would not impose their taste or volume level on others. (considering the number of overloud, nominally closed Beats i encountered on public transit, i was most certainly delusional.)

    the HD800 seemed at the time i started to be the pinnacle headphone. (for mortals, that is, discounting that strange electrostatic stuff,) then the caveats surfaced: expensive, amplifier dependent, void warranty on a USD$1,500 product so they are listenable??? or, more likely in my case, break a USD$1,500 product and cry a lot.

    i was only able to listen to the OG HD800 at meets. this is a horrible environment to listen to anything. meets are for comradery, ohhing and ahhing, and BEER! (my appreciation for the SBAF loaner program is in direct contrast to the meet experience.)

    i believe in tone control. the Purr1n LOKI settings for the HD8XX helped me a lot.

    with music: the HD8XX are not necessarily aggressive, however they are insistent. this is not what i seek in playback equipment.

    as stated (many times), i want to get lost in the music. to lower stress, to bliss out, or more properly, to hear what we humans can do that is beautiful and true.

    there have been objects that make this happen: Focal Clear, Focal Clear MG, CFA Ara, Stax 35? somethingsomething (MassDrop loaner), DT150 (in bed and tired), and even V-Moda XS on the bus.

    or the AKG K550, when i need to not disturb others.

    cheers!
     
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  15. futbutts

    futbutts Friend

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    Received the HD8XX today as part of the loaner tour and have to say, first impressions are surprisingly positive. Didn't expect much to be honest (mostly just based on community reactions I guess) and my very first reaction was that there was certainly a lot of bloominess or resonance in the bass/midbass regions compared to the vanilla HD800/800S, and what sounds like either a slight bit of a recessed or masked quality in the upper midrange (maybe from the extra bass). I can see how some say it's boxy-sounding.

    But there are strengths of its own that come into relief with extended listening. It does timbre better than the 800/S, in my opinion. Drum hits are more forward and impactful, lower registers of bass guitar is less nebulously omnipresent and more involved in the mix. Cymbals are less shimmery and more muted, which depending on your feelings about the original 800's could be a great thing, and certain particularly percussive cymbal hits (the bell on a ride, let's say) lack the same chime-like clash of the stick hitting metal... the treble sounds less accurate than the 800s, but not necessarily less pleasant.

    Funny enough, I'm not sure I'd feel so good about the 8XX if I hadn't already been conditioned to enjoy this particular sound signature (ish) by the Verite Closed. There's a similar order of priorities to my ear: impact over incisiveness, envelopment over intensity, romance over analyzation. The VC's have the upper hand in resolution and smoothness, and I think they are just that extra bit authoritative in bass and richness (and the 8XX's lack that fucking soundstage), but they are much more alike than different to my ear.

    I couldn't see these replacing my 800's -- but not because the 800's are superior, necessarily, but they're just quite different. They are actually fairly complimentary to the other's sensibilities. I'd pick the 8XX's over the 800S any day -- I find the S'es much too woolly in the bass department and really dislike what it does to the treble, if not listened to via a fairly euphonic tube amp. And these impressions are via the A&S Kenzie 2 -- so it might be an example of happy synergy. I could see that vague boxiness being a bigger issue with shoutier amps like some Schiit fare.

    Again, these are fairly early impressions, so we'll see if my feelings change with other set-ups, or maybe just with exposure.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 14, 2021
  16. tubefans

    tubefans Rando

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    8XX may go on bigger sale next year to be $8xx, based on the data,
    8XX MSRP price $1100 SALE price $949 avg second-hand price $750
    Ether CX MSRP price $900 Sale price $749 avg second-hand price $650
    Elex MSRP price $700 Sale price $549 avg second-hand price $500
     
  17. Marko

    Marko Rando

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    I’ve had the HD8XX for several days and thought I’d add my 2¢ to the discussion.
    I agree with reviewers who say the HD8XX benefits hugely from two things: a good tube amp and EQ. This headphone needs power to reach its full potential. Also its stock tuning sounds wonky, but it’s easily fixed with a little EQ tweaking.

    Anyone who’s used to hyper-dynamic headphones like the Focals will probably find the HD8XX anemic. But to me it sounds far more natural, and it’s only taken me a short time to get completely accustomed to it.

    One thing I really appreciate is the way piano sounds with the HD8XX. Maybe it’s the way DACs - even good ones - decode piano from digital files, but piano notes often sound a bit sharp and grating to me. Not so with the HD8XX. Individual notes just sound rounder, smoother and more pleasing to listen to.

    Anyone with tinnitus will be happy to know that the rounder, smoother and less forced sound of the HD8XX makes them far less likely to leave you with ringing ears. I have to listen to my ZMFs at lower volume and for shorter sessions, but with the HD8XXs I can listen longer and (a little) louder without aggravating my tinnitus. Part of this could be because of the huge open cups and the driver being a little farther from the ear than in most headphones.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 20, 2021
  18. futbutts

    futbutts Friend

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    I actually quite enjoyed the 8XX. Were I to experience them in a vacuum, i.e. without the HD800's on hand, I think I'd be perfectly content to purchase them. To my ears they are a pretty direct correlative upgrade from the HD650's -- there's a similar overall warmth (what some term veiled-ness) and a similar presentation or character, to my ear, but with extra resolution and involvement, in the midbass especially.

    But when compared to the HD800's, they do sound murky and dark and more hemmed-in. One of the great strengths of the 800's is their sense of airiness and space, and the 8XX trades that in for stronger impact and more up-front timbre punch, and for my money I'm not sure it's quite worth the trade. One is tempted to liken to the difference between the 600 and 650, though I don't think it's an accurate comparison beyond one being brighter and leaner than the other. Whereas the 600 and 650 are more similar than they're different, the 8XX does, indeed, smack more of a compromise from the original 800, at least for my preferences (namely, their brightness doesn't bother me and I actually enjoy their bass resonance anyway).

    I do prefer the 8XX's approach of taming the 800's brightness over the HD800S approach, which to my ear has always sounded really weird. So in my opinion, Drop has a great product on their hands, going for $600 less MSRP than the 800S, while not compromising on the sound quality (they're just very very different), and not compromising on build quality whatsoever.

    And most importantly, this is before mods. As with anything Sennheiser their designs lend themselves towards easy modification. Hopefully the lowered price-for-entry will result in some creative folks even further improving on what can be done with the 800 drivers. And if EQ is on your menu (I just generally abstain from it) then what's there to complain about?
     
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  19. loadexfa

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    HD 8XX Loaner Impressions
    These impressions will be somewhat brief. My loaner week coincided with a hectic time at work. I still got a sense of them and what they can do.

    I found these very smooth and a pleasant listen. When I switched to something else (Clear, 800 SDR), it was obvious parts of the music were missing.

    Chain
    Roon (Redbook/Qobuz) -> Ambre -> Pavane -> Freya S (passive) -> A&S XLR to RCA -> Stratus

    vs OG Clear
    • 8XX smoother in the highs (Clear's highs are not an issue for me but this was noticeable)
    • 8XX has a larger sound stage
    • Clear has moar mids
    • Clear sounded better for classical, despite the 8XX's sound stage. Clear sometimes has better separation and more accurate tone/timbre. One advantage for the 8XX, the Clear can be too boomy at times for classical.
    • Clear definitely makes the 8XX sound bass light (800 too)

    vs HD 800 SDR

    • 800 FR more even though also brighter
    • 800 has less clamp, I find the added 8XX clamp more comfortable. This could simply be age but I don't recall my 800 ever having any clamp.
    • Voices sometimes much better on the 800, 8XX vocals more recessed
    • 800 bass is clearer and more extended
    • I prefer percussion hits on the 8XX, more crisp/snap
    • 8XX tone/timbre sounds off, somewhat plasticy
    I found this to be an interesting tweak to the 800 series even though it doesn't suit my taste. I can see many people enjoying the smoothness and the whole 800 series is really comfortable.
     
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  20. tubefans

    tubefans Rando

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    The price of 8xx is dropped to $799 now, but you have to buy their XLR or pentacon balanced cable for $199.
     

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