In a word, clarity. That’s what the D8000 Pro brings to the table more than any other single aspect of its tuning. You can certainly tell right away that the revised tuning has teased out a more delicate and articulate sound from top to bottom compared to its predecessor, the D8000.
However, whilst the responsiveness and resolution of the driver are excellent, there have also been some tuning adjustments to allow you to zero in on that perceived clarity.
For a start, the bass quantity is more neutral to slightly warm with a minor mid-bass bump. There is also some lower-mids emphasis around 500Hz-1k to flesh out the instruments and keep them to the fore.
The sub-bass has a minor roll-off below 100HZ, however, the definition is excellent, as also the speed and layering, so it becomes more of a trade-off, swapping grunt for complexity. It’s a type of bass response that you can easily analyze, ‘observe’ almost but not get lost in it.
Beyond, the mids are relatively neutral with some increasing forwardness into the upper mids which is just perfect for ethereal style head voice and falsetto mixes as well as percussion presence.
The treble also gets a bit of a lift up to around 7-8k but it stays quite coherent to the mids for me. You get some quality headroom but it stops short of sounding over-extended and upsetting the balance of the mids voicing.
This is a delicate balancing act for me because the treble tuning plays a major role in giving the harmonics a gentle lift on the D8000 Pro to achieve that excellent perception of clarity. However, at the same time, it stops short of introducing sibilance, splashiness, or a general bias to being bright. It’s clean sounding for sure, but not bright.
The level of transparency is such that sources and amps will have some nuanced effects on the timbre of the D8000 Pro’s performance. Not to the extent, you will get an entirely different sound signature but enough to detect the differences in each setup.
The common timbral trait here is a neutral to slightly sweet-sounding timbre rather than overly dry or wet. You can push the D8000 Pro to a drier tone when matching to something like the Chord TT2 compared to the denser and warmer sounding dCS Bartok but it still retains a wonderfully precise level of control and excellent speed.
The technical traits are still there so instrumental timbre and spatial cues feel light and clean rather than weighty and soft. There is a little more warmth in that elevated lower-mids tuning and slight bias to odd-harmonics the further up you go with those energized upper-mids and lower-treble.
The lack of outright sub-bass quantity will strip the D8000 Pro a little in terms of a heavy bass fundamental so it’s quite different from the original D8000’s sense of power and PRaT in lower-pitching instruments.
Also, you do not get that rounded richness present in the likes of the Meze Empyrean and it is not quite as fleet of foot as the Abyss Headphones Diana Phi. I would say closer to the Diana V2 in terms of weight and warmth and with a superb mid-bass response.
Here, I would also suggest studying your amp pairing because some amps do better at fleshing out the low end of the D800 Pro compared to others. From our testing, the Violectric V281 and the dCS Bartok offered the most density and low-end power with the TT2 and the Formula S pulling back a bit more in comparison.
Beautiful staging quality from the D8000 Pro. Despite the lack of absolute low-end power not for one second did I perceive the staging to be shallow or two-dimensional.
It offers a superb level of headroom, sounding airy and clean without the treble being forced on you. This in turn allows the mids right down to the bass to sound airy with top-notch levels of instrumental separation.
The neutral note body combined with a fast attack and decay control delivers a very precise staging presentation. In some ways, I am reminded a little of the Susvara imaging performance though perhaps not as lighting like in its delivery and a bit more mids-forwardness, especially with higher pitching vocal performance that positively shines without ever being shouty.
One final note is the instrumental presence through the lower-mids, the presence is just where I like it to be with a nice rise in the curve from 500Hz to 1K. Combined with a distinct lack of bleed from the mid-bass it comes across as crystal clear rather than bloated yet relatively natural at the same time.
The D8000 Pro is rated at 60Ω and 98dB SPL which actually is not that inefficient for full-size planar headphones. Technically, it is the same driver as the original D8000 so if you are thinking of upgrading or side-grading depending on how you view it, then the performance of the Pro version is going to be the exact same.
In terms of fine details, both competing headphones are just marginally more efficient in terms of volume matching and a lower impedance rating but you have to remember that Final has tuned the D8000 Pro specifically to ‘tease you’ into bumping up the volume.
Portable sources did ok for current but not spectacular for dynamic range and in some sources under 500mW the treble started to sounds a bit ragged. While fairly efficient the D8000 Pro is more optimal on a good desktop solution with those stock SE terminated cables.
Better to go with portable amps with more SE power such as the Cayin C9, or the excellent but sadly discontinued Bakoon HPA-01M current mode amp which is built for planar headphones.
Desktop Pairing Flexibility
The D8000 Pro is a fairly transparent sounding headphone. It does not have a ton of coloration except maybe for a slight treble lift that gives you that perception of incredible clarity. That does mean that with the exception of an ultra-dry or bright source/amp pairing the D8000 Pro will pair well with any amplifier with at least 1W and higher into a 32-50Ω load.
Our main test amps and sources included the dCS Bartok Ring DAC and Chord’s TT2 DAC with both outputting to their own Class A integrated amplifiers and with the addition of Xi Audio Formula S being pre-amped by the dCS Bartok on a single-ended output. We also tested the Violectric V590 DAC and Amp with an additional V281 being pre-amped by the V590.
In all of them, the D8000 Pro was easily able to tease out their individual sonic traits so each listening experience was relatively unique. With the Bartok, it sounded a bit denser, smooth, and slightly warm with a natural treble tone.
The Bartok tends to deliver a very robust low-end to midrange experience and that is exactly what I got with the D8000 Pro sounded a bit firmer than with the TT2 or the Formula S.
The Formula S/D8000 pairing had a sweeter timbre and a lighter note with an airier soundstage and slightly more treble extension. Here the D8000 Pro sounded more expansive and cleaner but with slightly less bass weight.
Both the Violectric models put a fair bit of weight back into the low-end of the D8000 Pro. The V281 in particular offered the darkest sound signature with the D8000 Pro and a low-end with the most planted response.
My only caveat was the D8000 Pro treble sounded a bit rougher or not as refined as either the Formula S or Bartok pairing. The V590 is better equipped than the V281 for a refined D8000 Pro treble performance.
The TT2 was perhaps the most mid-friendly of the amps tested. The D8000 Pro mids, especially, the upper mids, came to the fore with an absolute barrage of detail when used in conjunction with the Chord Hugo M Scaler. With an emphasis on clarity, the TT2 is very much a source and amplifier equipped to bring out that strength.
The D8000 was our Writer’s Choice for 2018 with its rambunctious dynamic performance, a sound signature that gelled beautifully with a lot of my own musical preferences.
Internally, the driver is the same 50mm AFDS as the D8000 Pro with the major difference being the stiffening of the air film as part of their re-tuning.
Give the driver is the same it is no surprise also that both headphones have the same impedance and SPL ratings at 60Ω and 98dB SPL. Neither needs humongous power to be driven but they can scale with a great amp in terms of dynamic range and control.
The D8000 is a bit picker about amplification coloration, at least for me with a preference for warmer sources and output signals. The D8000 Pro’s general sound signature and in particular its more refined treble is more flexible for amplification and source matching.
Neither headphone has balanced cable options which is a shame but the new silver 3m cable of the D8000 Pro does offer a little bit more clarity than the original OFC version with the D8000 Pro.
Externally, the ‘retro’ form factor and the 523g weight are the same. You also get the same black and silver color-coding options, dual-entry 3.5mm connection system, and single headband system. However, you will find a few important material changes as outlined in more detail on page 1.
The most critical are the pads and foam padding under the headband with the D8000 Pro using a new Toray Ultrasuede outer material and a deeper memory foam on the inner. The resulting fit is now firmer on the head with better scalp hotspot protection and a little more ‘small head’ friendly.
The D8000 Pro and D8000 are much easier to A/B than I thought they might be. The D8000 Pro is more linear, less musical, and reference-like in its tuning with a very coherent performance from top to bottom.
However, that does mean a shade less PRaT and power that the D8000 had by the bucket load. It also means a slightly more neutral vocal positioning on the D8000 Pro whereas the D8000 sounds dipped or further forward depending on the pitching.
The Pro tuning is thus more controlled sounding than the original. Your ear is not being tugged to the vocal or low-end as much which, for me, means I am freer to hear other aspects of the presentation. On the flip side, the treble sounds super sweet on the Pro and perfectly tuned with an almost airy but liquid-like overtone.
The transition from mids to treble is so much smoother also. In fact, the treble body is better on the Pro and makes the original D8000 top-end seem edgy and brittle by comparison.
Given this is the same driver and comparing the two I doubt the peaks and troughs in its mids to treble performance have hugely changed. Rather, it seems the dB of elevation is a little smoothed out now, hence that coherent performance.
Like the D8000, the Empyrean was also one of our award winners, this time Best Headphones for 2019 and rightly so.
The Empyrean uses a slightly larger Rinaro 75mm isodynamic hybrid array driver which uses a continuous trace but with two unique shapes. At the top, is a curved line switchback trace that focuses on the low-end delivery (bass) and the circular pattern at the bottom, is designed to focus on the mids and highs.
To further enhance the performance of the driver, Rinaro and Meze have tweaked the detachable earpads with an isodynamic magnetic alignment system to increase efficiency as well as produce two unique sound signatures from the different pad materials.
In terms of efficiency, these two headphones are easier to drive than most. The Empyrean is rated at 36.6Ω and 100dB SPL, whilst the D8000 Pro runs a little higher at 60Ω and 98dB SPL.
Running from the dCS Bartok and XI Audio’s Formula S I could tell those ratings were pretty much on the money with the Empyrean sounding slightly more dynamic and louder at similar volume levels.
Both of these headphones are within the realms of powerful portable sources such as the Cayin C9, (PRE-mode), and the HiBy R8 stand out but I do suggest you try to get a balanced cable option for the D8000 Pro to maximize its potential.
Very different design approaches and if you want a quick decision I would say the Empyrean has the edge, not just in terms of comfort but in flexibility with those swappable pads. The arched headband strap and lighter weight make for a very comfortable fit with just the right amount of lateral and vertical pressure to make for a very balanced fitting.
In contrast, the D8000 Pro has made some important strides over the large and loose D8000 fit but still feels a little on the large side for my head and you do feel the additional weight and some vertical downward pressure bias.
The designs have very distinct philosophies with the Empyrean’s pseudo-Persian ovular dark chic and the D8000 Pro’s retro Yamaha design. You can tell though the D8000 Pro is more consistent with studio use in terms of its more subdued looks and possibly durability. The Empyrean feels more adept to a comfy audiophile’s Eames chair and a little more careful handling.
The Empyrean uses a standard mini-XLR dual entry compared to the D8000 Pro’s 3.5m terminated sockets and whilst both are fairly common use connectors, the D8000 Pro’s insert and lock system make it more challenging to roll. You can order a specific balanced one with the Empyrean using a 2.5mm TRRS at no extra charge but you will need an adapter for 4.4mm and XLR.
Two very different presentations that will appeal to different audiences or those looking for one to compliment the other. The Empyrean is noticeably more intimate, darker and richer sounding. The D8000 Pro casts a more neutral tone, with an airier top-end and a more neutral level of tonal body throughout.
Notice I have not said the D8000 Pro is bright, rather it is brighter. The reason for that is the Empyrean’s tuning has more of a distinct mid to upper mids range focus and a bit more bass weight also. Its curve from around 4-5k starts to fade in terms of amplitude when moving into the lower treble and continues that merry path to 10k and beyond.
The D8000 Pro rises from the same point and only starts its fade around 7-8k and that fade prevents it from being a bright headphone per se but combined with a more neutral bass response the timbre takes on a brighter harmonic balance.
The Empyreans harmonic balance is very much even-harmonic, smooth with a broad sustain and plenty of texture. You could argue it sounds slightly rounded and with that forward vocal and intimate staging quality you get plenty of that smooth tone right up and personal.
It also means peripheral spatial cues are downplayed slightly and it will comparatively lack a little air. Not that the cues are absent, the detail is excellent but rather the focus of the detail is in the note texture of the main instruments and vocals.
The D8000 Pro’s staging is grandiose in comparison though not huge in its own right. The airier top-end and cleaner lighter note allows a bit more separation in the mids. Combined with a more neutral midrange staging positioning it will sound wider and taller though not as deep.
Rosson Audio Design RAD-0
Our final comparison is yet another award winner, the 2019 Writer’s Choice Rosson Audio Design RAD-0. For those not in the know, Alex Rosson was one of the original founders of Audeze so the pedigree is there in terms of headphone design and tuning.
The RAD-0 is an open back circumaural planar headphone and one with a slightly diminutive 66mm planar magnetic driver design though slightly bigger compared to the 50mm version inside the D8000 Pro.
The RAD-0 also uses a proprietary array of 11 N52 magnets in a dual-sided configuration whereas the D8000 Pro has more of a focus on the diaphragm with its AFDS or the Air Film Damping System.
The D8000 Pro is rated at 60Ω and 98dB compared to the RAD-0’s 29Ω and a matching SPL of 98dB. Both are relatively easy to drive on amps around 1W per channel into 32Ω loads and reasonably fine for current demand.
The gap between these two is negligible on current with very little pot adjustment on most amps. With the Monoprice Liquid Platinum tube amp on unbalanced powered by a fixed-line out from Cayin’s iDAC-MK 2, there was no adjustment required. It has a healthy 1.13W into 32Ω for the RAD-0 and just a tiny bit less than 1.13W, (56Ω load) for the D8000.
The form factor of the D8000 Pro is closer to the RAD-0 than the Empyrean with a single headband design using memory foam. It is also lighter a 523g compared to the RAD-0 at 650g.
I do love the punk art aesthetic on the RAD-0’s tie-died cups and Fibonacci-type pattern grills and find it a little more engaging than the retro tone of the D8000 Pro cup finish.
However, the D8000 Pro design is not as articulated as the RAD-0 with far less pivoting on the gimbal. There is just enough so it is not rigid like the new Hifiman designs.
With the new improved pads on the D8000 Pro, it does feel lighter on your head than the RAD-0. When I compared it to the original D8000 I gave the nod to the RAD-0’s better fit and more secure clamp.
This time around the RAD-0 clamp feels a lot tighter compared to the Pro version and over time with those thick protein-leather pads, you can feel the heat build up a bit more than the D8000 Pro’s more porous Toray Ultrasuede materials. The RAD-0 still feels a neater fit and more secure but the D8000 Pro breathes better and can sit on your head a bit longer.
A few tuning differences here with the RAD-0 aiming for a more colored listening experience and less of reference or studio monitoring sound signature.
The RAD-0 is a little more weighted on the low-end but more in the mid-to-upper bass with a linear rise from around 100Hz up to 1k to give it some solid instrumental presence and a bit of warmth in the lower-mids also.
The D8000 Pro is more neutral with a flatter bass response though not a shallow one by any means. The instrumental body is consequently more neutral with slightly less warmth and not quite as dense sounding.
The Pro’s better treble extension and more open midrange will create a more spacious perception for the bass low-end. So, whilst not as weighty, the D8000 Pro low-end to lower-mids does sound a bit more open or controlled.
Mids, save for a slight narrow-band peak around 4-5k, are more relaxed on the RAD-0 compared to the more forward sounding D8000 Pro presentation. Vocals pop out a bit more on the D8000 Pro with its better 1-3 elevation. The RAD-0 actually dips a little from 1-3k in comparison but not something I would call recessed.
The RAD-0 mids timbre is creamier and sweeter sounding in my opinion, with a nicely balanced treble and bass response responsible for that slight even-harmonic bias.
The D8000 Pro timbre is not so dry but definitely more neutral to clean with more treble energy and more of a reference tone with an even harmonic balance and a stronger emphasis on clarity. That does not surprise me given Final’s intention for the tuning. S
Staging on the D8000 Pro is more width and height with a nice airy wide presentation compared to the more intimate but powerful low-end staging quality of the RAD-o.
The D8000 Pro is a world-class performer and an excellent way to kick off the year in terms of headphone benchmarking.
It has a slightly sweet, clean, and airy tone with excellent separation that makes it an absolute joy for hardcore detail fans but just enough of a natural timbre to make it an enjoyable listen. More in the reference camp than musical but not a dry analytical experience.
Final has certainly upped the comfort and fitting experience compared to the awkward design of the original D8000 but I still feel this is something they can work on. Just slightly too much vertical pull leaves it a shade unsteady on my head. Kudos though on the new pads, they are very much comfier than the originals pads.
The D8000 Pro is every bit a high-end headphone offering and a very smart complement to the original powerhouse tuning of the D8000. If the Susvara or Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC is a price too far then the D8000 Pro is definitely worth a demo, especially if you have a big head.