Sennheiser Unveils Improved HD 800 S Headphone

Sennheiser advises that the new and improved version of its HD 800 is “one step closer to perfection.” It’s dangerous for marketing people to throw around the “p-word” but in the case of the HD 800, the claim isn’t entirely specious. The HD 800 is very highly regarded and the new HD 800 S is said to be even better.

In particular, the new model is said to improve imaging in the mid and low-frequency ranges. Also, a symmetrical XLR4 cable is now provided. On the non-sound-quality side, color has been changed slightly; the new model has a matte-black finish. What hasn’t changed, apparently, are the designs of the 56mm transducer and the earcup

The improvement lies in absorbent material that was first introduced in the IE 800. According to Sennheiser, this absorber neutralizes a masking effect that arises when the ear is simultaneously presented with low-volume, high-pitched sounds, and louder-volume, low-pitched sounds; the former can be masked. According to Sennheiser, the absorber reduces energy of resonances and thus reduces unwanted response peaks that presumably can cause masking. Frankly, if another company made such a claim, I would be skeptical, but since it is coming from Sennheiser, I take it as a simplistic explanation for a more complex phenomena that may indeed have sonic merit. When review samples are available, it would be interesting to A/B the new model with the old model to explore that aspect.

Two more things that audiophiles can appreciate: the transducers are embedded in a specially manufactured stainless steel gauze and the headband has layers of sound-attenuating plastic and stainless steel. MSRP is $1,700 and the headphone will ship in early January.