Sennheiser HD 800 S Review – Exceptional Reference Headphones

The term legendary gets thrown around a lot. But in the case of the Sennheiser HD 800 S, it is a well-deserved title. This update to an already iconic pair of headphones was an instant success when released in 2016.

But with so many years gone by, does it still stack up in an increasingly crowded marketplace? Read on to find out.

Sennheiser HD 800 S

Three quarter view of the Sennheiser HD 800 S headphones.

Sound

4.8/5

Comfort

4.8/5

Design

4.5/5

Durability

4.8/5

The Sennheiser HD 800 S is still one of the absolute best reference and audiophile headphones available today. Intelligent design and sublime sound quality.

PROS

CONS

Features

The Sennheiser HD 800 S sets out to deliver premium quality sound. These are a comprehensive set of open-back headphones. Directly aimed at the serious professional or avid music enthusiast. Let’s take a closer look.

Sound Quality 

No amount of marketing fluff or branding power can overshadow how good a pair of headphones sound. And in this area, the HD 800 S is an all-star performer.

The highlight is the exceptional level of neutrality across the frequency spectrum. These are tailor-made for analytical listening. Whether that is in a studio environment or for pure music appreciation.

Sennheiser HD 800 S Specifications.

The Sennheiser HD 800 S is a pro-level pair of studio headphones.

Details are ultra-clear. To the point that you may question some of your favorite music. Sloppy productions have nowhere to hide with the level of transparency the HD 800 S provides.

The highs are bright with plenty of sparkle. For some ears, they may come across as overly bright. But the clarity on offer is fantastic. Cymbals crash with pronounced definition. Even the highs of a coloratura soprano reflect distinctly.

The mids are the most impressive. Super accurate without a hint of movement. The response is about as flat as you’ll find on any pair of headphones. The mid-range takes precedence in a lot of music styles. Instrumental compositions are defined and reflect the source material cleanly. Vocals are equally defined with plenty of natural life.

The lows however are the weakest element. Don’t be mistaken they are very clear and offer plenty in the mid-bass realm. Kicks are satisfying. Bass guitars are impressive. But once you move into the lower bass regions you’ll notice the lack of warmth.

For bass-heavy music, this isn’t ideal. I come from a bass-heavy electronic music background so I am always quite critical in the area. Your mileage will vary based on your preferred music styles. Lo-Fi and Chillout for example is amazing but deep Tech House leaves me wanting more.

Imaging and soundstage are the other highlights of this premium pair of headphones. Accuracy is high and the balance between drivers is precise. Spatial definition and placement are superb. Total harmonic distortion is at just 0.02% highlighting how accurate these are.

Even after all these years, the HD 800 S still offers one of the most pleasing listening experiences you can have at this price point.

Comfort 

At first glance, these headphones won’t strike you as the most comfortable. The exceptionally large earcups are one of the most recognizable elements of these headphones. But don’t let those initial impressions fool you. These headphones are very comfortable.

Let’s start with those earcups. They are large and unique in shape. But they do feature excellent microfiber padding. The dual-axis articulation hugs your ears and adapts to your head shape. But if you happen to have a smaller head the contact points may extend further than you might like.

Front view of the Sennheiser HD 800 S headphones.

The HD 800 S features comfortable microfiber padding.

The headband features the same soft microfiber padding. It doesn’t dig into your head. Combined with the intelligent use of lightweight components the downward force is more than reasonable. At 0.73 lbs. (331 grams) these are not the lightest headphones but you never feel undue pressure. 

Clamping force is also on the lighter side adding to the comfort level. But I certainly wouldn’t recommend too much movement while wearing these. They can slide off. Not good for exercise or aggressive head bopping.

Finally, the open-back design offers plenty of breathability. Heat build-up is near non-existent allowing you to comfortably use these for long sessions in the studio.

If comfort is high on your list of priorities the Sennheiser HD 800 S is an excellent choice.

Design 

Aesthetically these are not the most attractive headphones. They are not ugly but any means but there is a distinct focus on performance over appearance.

The use of both metal and plastic does give them a sleek and modern appearance. More than suitable for a studio environment where looks don’t matter.

Sennheiser HD 800 S Details.

The HD 800 S features advanced drivers and high-quality components.

And to be fair that is where these headphones belong. At home or in a studio. These don’t collapse and there is no bag provided. I wouldn’t recommend these for travel.

Leaving appearances behind, the impedance rating of 300 ohms highlights the focus on the professional space. You’ll want to run these via a good headphone amplifier or DAC.

The 56mm Ring Radiator dynamic transducer system is also an excellent design decision. It delivers exceptional performance. It’s also a clear indication of the attention to detail Sennheiser has placed on these headphones.

An additional acoustic absorber system also helps to deliver clean and precise sound. A vibration damping chassis complements the other components to offer ultra-clear delivery. 

As you would expect there is no isolation present due to the open-back design. Sound leaks out and sound leaks in. If you don’t want people around you hearing what you are listening to these are not for you. Likewise, if you don’t want to hear what is going on around you.

While these won’t win any beauty contests the level of engineering excellence more than makes up for it.

Durability 

If you are spending this much money on a pair of headphones you expect them to last. Thankfully the Sennheiser HD 800 S doesn’t disappoint in this category.

The metal is dependable and integrates cleanly with the plastic components. Normally I’m a bit wary of so much plastic on a pair of headphones. But the plastic here is not flimsy and offers plenty of structural integrity.

As expected the component quality is also exceptional. High-quality transducers and precision engineering. 

Bottom view of the Sennheiser HD 800 S headphones.

The HD 800 S has a good balance between metal and solid plastic components.

The microfiber padding isn’t cheap and offers both durability and comfort. A must-have inclusion for headphones in this price range.

The excellent quality extends to the included cables. These long 9.8 ft. (3 meters) fabric-coated cables resist tangling and are perfectly matched to the headphones. The connection points are secure and the choice between 6.3mm and 4.4mm will have you covered for most devices.

Despite the increased use of plastic, these are exceptional headphones. Seeing as how these have been around for so long there is plenty of real-life evidence to highlight that these last the distance.

Value 

Serious audiophile headphones cost serious money. And the Sennheiser HD 800 S is no exception. These are expensive and likely beyond the reach of most. But you do get what you pay for. These are high-end headphones that deliver on their promise.

Sennheiser HD 800 S Product Showcase.

The included pouch is just for the cables. It cannot fit the headphones.

There are alternatives if the price point of these is excessive for your budget. But when it comes to similar headphones in this price bracket it is hard not to love these. They stand toe to toe with other audiophile headphones. And in most cases surpass them.

If you have the money to spend and want premium quality the Sennheiser HD 800 S is worth the high price of entry. A worthy investment for the serious audiophile or working professional.

Customer Reviews

Since their release in 2016, these headphones have frequently topped best-of-charts. But putting experts aside the consensus from the public is resoundingly positive. Plenty of 5-star reviews illustrates that these are among the very best audiophile and professional headphones available today.

For The Love Of Music

Music has been a core of human society since the earliest of days. Music motivates and inspires. The very thought of a world without music is difficult to comprehend.

I’m not the only one that thinks so. The amount of money people are willing to spend on audio equipment highlights the passion and deep love people have for music.

Sennheiser HD 800 S headphones with a headphone amplifier in the background.

Premium audiophile headphones offer an exceptional listening experience.

For some, the high price tags of audiophile-grade equipment can be jaw-dropping. And while I don’t consider myself an audiophile I have a deep connection with music. So it doesn’t surprise me that there is a market for these types of products.

And for people that have the means, there is no reason why you can’t spoil yourself with the very best. Much like any hobby, things can get expensive. But if it is within your means the upper-end tends to be worth the extra money.

These pieces of high-end gear offer exceptional performance. Years upon years of research and development have led us to an age of unprecedented quality.

If you have a deep burning passion for music there has never been a better time. Top-tier products like the Sennheiser HD 800 S are expensive. But the experience of listening to your favorite music like never before is priceless.

Other Options

There are plenty of high-end options available when it comes to open-back headphones. Below is one worthy alternative. Plus a couple of options that are more affordable if the price point of the HD 800 S is too high for your liking.

AKG K812 Review

The AKG K812 is another high-end pair of audiophile headphones. It sits at a relatively similar price point to the HD 800 S and offers great sound quality.

  • Large frequency range to deliver excellent audio quality at the fringes.
  • Comfortable fit with excellent slow retention foam earpads.
  • Much like the HD 800 S, these are expensive headphones.
Three quarter view of the AKG K812 headphones.

AKG K812

4.6/5

Sennheiser HD 650 Review

Switching to some more budget-conscious yet still great headphones the HD 650 from Sennheiser is worth considering. 

  • Rich imaging and a high level of neutrality for analytical listening.
  • Comfortable padding and light clamping force. Good for long studio sessions.
  • Suffers from the same sub-bass problems. Not very punchy.

Read our full Sennheiser HD 650 review for more detailed information.

Three quarter view of the Sennheiser HD 650 headphones.

Sennheiser HD 650

4.5/5

Shure SRH1840 Review

Another reasonably priced alternative is the Shure SRH1840. Shure has a great reputation for high-quality audio gear from headphones to microphones.

  • Natural and spacious sound profile that offers plenty of clarity and precision.
  • Good construction with durable components. Also offers replaceable parts.
  • The top-end may be a bit too bright for some people.

Read our full Shure SRH1840 review for more detailed information.

Three quarter view of the Shure SRH1840 headphones.

Shure SRH1840

4.7/5

Should You Buy?

Sennheiser is a clear leader in the headphone space. Every pair I’d had the chance to try has impressed me. And the HD 800 S continues the tradition.

These high-end open-backed headphones offer everything an audiophile or working professional desires. Ultra-clear delivery with no distortion. Precise frequency response. And a durable and comfortable fit for long sessions.

These are expensive headphones but the quality is unrivaled. Their longevity is impressive. Even after all these years and a range of compelling competitor alternatives they are still among the very best. If you have the money available these are a fantastic investment.

Three quarter view of the Sennheiser HD 800 S headphones.

Sennheiser HD 800 S

4.8/5

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Patryk Biernacki

Patryk Biernacki

For over 20 years I've been involved in the world of DJing. Now I want to share my experience so that DJing is more accessible for anyone with a passion for music.

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