Drop + Sennheiser HD 8XX

Drop + Sennheiser HD 8XX Review



The HD 8XX plays way better with way more choices of rigs out there at 300Ω. Interestingly enough, my xDuoo X3 portable DAP is more than sufficient to work nicely with the HD 8XX.

Now, of course, you need way more power than what a portable can offer, but this is a case where the stock HD800 was inverted and re-tuned with a higher volume of low-end. With more power typically comes to a smoother bass experience and more tamed treble.

Yet, this HD 8XX removed that entirely and gives you more bass to start out with. Beyond that, the treble is less severe on the HD 8XX than the HD800 and HD800s, so do you really need much higher power to achieve good things? No, not really.

The HD 8XX meshes fairly well with most amplifiers out there in terms of power needs and it simply doesn’t scale up very well compared to its sibling, the original HD800.

xDuoo TA-26

Tube Amplifiers

Typically, tube amps were something that I would not be using the HD800 with, but since this HD 8XX has less to offer on the top side, I can finally tune out with some tube amplifiers, such as the xDuoo TA-26 that I have recently reviewed, which shells out 500mW into 300Ω.

Is this enough for the HD 8XX?  Yes and no. Yes, because there is nothing you can do to squeeze more treble and bass out of this model, no amount of voltage beyond 1w will matter. No, because again, the HD 8XX is stripped of that gorgeous treble and it also has added bass quantity.

So, you do not need high power output to achieve more bass, smoother bass, or tamed treble…because the headphone isn’t capable of it anymore.  Typically, at least in the past, high output tube amps were privy to some hiss in the background. These days, that isn’t so much of an issue with the more expensive amplifiers.

Drop + Sennheiser HD 8XX

Solid State

Even with that newfound freedom of voltage requirements, I prefer to use the Burson series amplifiers due to their exceptional imaging experiences that pair immensely well with the HD800 variants.

Typically, they start out at 1W output, to begin with. Solid State amps like the 2-4w output of the Airist Audio Heron 5 are where you should be looking.

Anything over 1w output will be a great starting point. But, if you really want to maximize the smoothness factor, high output is needed and most portable amplifiers and DAPs cannot offer you that.

CEntrance HiFi-M8 V2


You don’t need to go big on this one as you do with the HD800 original. You can obtain a smoother and more tame treble experience with the HD 8XX than you can on the HD800 without buying supremely expensive gear.

 I suggest the old Airist Audio Heron 5 amplifier, it is the best raw amp I’ve ever heard with the HD800, and if you can even find one for sale, buy it.

You can also buy a hoard of warmer and musical-sounding portable amps that will be more than enough for this HD 8XX that mesh great. I recommend the XRK model, I do not recommend the Ultrasone Panther type amps that are very clinical sounding.

If you route the HD800 variant, then I would recommend that and the HiFi-M8 V2 from CEntrance. If you route the HD 8XX, grab something less clinical so you can tone match with more efficiency because the HD 8XX is not as icy as the HD800 is.

As mentioned above though, I will likely just stick with a Burson solid-state amplifier, due to their offerings being one that is a great meshing with wide-sounding headphones.

beyerdynamic T5 3rd Generation

Select Comparisons

Stax SR-007MK2

You can get a good sound out of the HD 8XX and a decent portable player. You cannot get a good sound out of the Stax 007 with just a good source…because it requires a special electrostatic amp. Thank the audio gods for the Stax D10 portable amp, we are saved.

The 007 is much smaller sounding than the HD 8XX, but it is also clearer than the HD 8XX through the D10 + just a lowly xDuoo X3 DAP. Whereas the HD800 out of a great amplifier and DAC still sounds audibly inferior.

The tone of the HD 8XX is not that far off of my Stax 007 MKII, it is a bit warm, a bit bassy, tame on the treble, and a joy to use. But don’t let that fool you, the HD 8XX is still a monster of a great headphone for that price.

Beyerdynamic T5 3rd Gen

Beyerdynamic’s T5 3rd Gen is also in the $999 tier and as highly as I regard the T5, it is a step or two down in quality across the board from the HD 8XX. Even after all this time, the new-gen T5 is still not as clear as the 2009 driver set up of the HD800 series headphones.

The T5 is much softer, more forward, and gets warm on my ears. The HD 8XX is more physically impacting and harsh but sounds absolutely titanic in imaging size over the T5.

xDuoo TA-26

Swan Song Audio Headphones

Tony Crocker made a good headphone here with this open-back model, it sells for a pretty penny though vs the cost of the HD 8XX. However, it is capable of 5x the bass of the HD 8XX.

The Swan Song model is much smaller in imaging but has much more fun and musical tones across the board. The HD 8XX is more natural sounding than warm and musical but has hints of warmth on the low end.

There are tracks and settings where I like the Swansong model more than the HD 8XX, but there are also times where I feel the reverse of that.

Drop + Sennheiser HD 8XX

Our Verdict

The HD 8XX is very good at this price. The comfiest and now also slightly fun and musical? Hell yes!

I’ve wanted an HD800 with a new and darker paint job and a warmer tone since 2009. This is a win for me, and a headphone I will keep for a long time. I have no urge to rid myself of it.

But the old HD800? That headphone can be stored and kept safe for future comparisons; I’ll never use it again for personal usage. I am not into the clinical sound and never was and now that I have a more ear-friendly HD 8XX, I am happy.

I love everything about these headphones but I understand why others dislike them. I like the added bass, others think it muddies the experience, but I don’t detect mud, I detect one-note bass that is boosted, not mud.

Some others hate the tamer treble and don’t like that it won’t scale as high as the HD800 original, but I’m sitting here like who cares, it’s so much cheaper. I can buy a new HD 8XX for the same price as a used HD800 these days. That’s a win in my book.

Drop + Sennheiser HD 8XX Specifications

  • Headphone type: Open-back
  • Ear coupling: Over-ear
  • Drivers: 56 mm ring radiator dynamic drivers
  • Impedance: 300 ohms
  • Frequency response: 4 Hz – 51,000 Hz (-10 dB)
  • THD: 0.02 % (1 kHz, 1 Vrms)
  • Contact pressure: ~ 3,4 N (± 0,3 N)
  • Weight (without cable): 11.6 oz (330 g)


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