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Headphone Guide & General Audio Information

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avatar DrStrad
Level 28 : Expert Engineer


Lets start with some basic audio terms. The general range of human hearing is from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.

[size=150%]Bass -[/size] The lowest part of the spectrum and is separated into 2 parts: Sub-bass at the range of 5 Hz to 20 Hz, which you generally feel instead of hear, and Mid-bass at 20 Hz to 320 Hz, where it becomes audible. Many people regard bass as the most important part of the spectrum (Beats lovers) but fail to realize the difference between muddy bass and tight, clear bass.

[size=150%]Midrange -[/size] Ranging from 320 Hz to 5120 Hz, it is also blended into 2 parts: Basic Midrange and High Midrange/Low Treble. Basic Midrange is where most of the instruments and many male voices are centered, and at High Midrange and the next level that will be mentioned ( High Treble) is where female voices and other higher pitch instruments are situated. This range is most important in coffee house style music (not too many instruments, more focused on voice).

[size=150%]Treble (Highs) -[/size] Ranging from 5120 Hz to 20840 Hz, this is where too much is a terrible thing, and too little is not the worst thing that could happen. It really affects the "brilliance" of the music and is where most of the texture will come from. It can sometimes become too harsh and fatiguing, and at other times can be underwhelming and unexciting to the listener.

[size=175%]Headphones, IEMs, and Headsets[/size]

The Audio world is filled with greatness, and disappointments. There are so many companies and whether they're German, Japanese, Russian, or American, they all have their pros and cons.

[size=150%]Open vs. Closed[/size]
Open headphones will have a wider sound stage, giving the music more room and a more natural feel. The downside to open headphones is that they leak sound and let sound in.

Closed headphones generally have a more direct sound. Closed headphones usually isolate well, this means that tend to keep the sound between the headphones and the listener. The downside to closed, is that they sound sound as good objectively, and don't generally come with as much bang per buck.


Dynamic Headphone

Headphones can be known for different things - comfort, sound quality, and appearance. Some can have a pass with all categories, but they are generally rare/extremely expensive.

As of now, there are 3 types of headphones on the market.

[size=150%]Dynamic[/size] - Uses the traditional vibrating diaphragm to produce sound.

Dynamic Headphone and Drivers

[size=150%]Planar Magnetic (or Orthodynamic)[/size] - Uses an array of magnets and a thin film which vibrates when acted upon by the magnetic force. These generally have a tighter sound and an overall improvement over dynamic.

Planar Magnetic Headphones and Driver

[size=150%]Finally, there is the holy grail - Electrostatic.[/size] Electrostatic systems work by placing a static (non-moving) electric charge on a film that floats between two perforated metal plates. When audio voltages are applied across the plates, static cling and repulsion causes the entire film to move all by itself. This film is so thin that it weighs less than the air around it, and has no resonances or energy storage which leads to the coloration inherent in moving coil speakers.

Electrostatic Headphones and Driver

[size=150%]Manufacturers I Recommend[/size] Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, Grado, Audio-Technica, Audeze, HiFiMan, Sony, Denon, Fostex, Shure, Stax

[size=150%]Musical Preferences
[size=50%]Note - These are very general[/size]

Bright, Airy - Beyerdynamic, Grado

Great All-around - Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, Stax, HiFiMan

Great Mids - Audeze, Sony

Great Bass - Denon, Fostex, Shure

[size=175%]Headphone buying guide[/size]

I've taken most of this information from a link on Head-Fi in hopes that more will see it.

When considering a headphone it's always best to find a place to demo them and try your own music to see if they suit you. Sound is subjective and the headphone I or someone else enjoy may not be what you are looking for. Remember that price is not necessarily a factor in quality.

[size=125%]More Terms[/size]

V-Shape - Recessed Mids, Strong Lows and Highs
Treble Extension - A feeling that your ears are opened up, an airy feeling.
Fatiguing - Often harsh to the ears or uncomfortable.


(1) Denotes amp is not required and the headphone will probably not see any change with one.
(2) Denotes amp is not required, but one is recommended.
(3) Denotes amp is required. Using these without an amp will leave much to be desired.

Any headphone with a B next to the number, IE:
(2-B) indicates that it's a bass heavy headphone.

Any headphone with an m next to it denotes that a mic/remote option is available.

[size=115%]Budget Headphones - $0-$75[/size]

Open Headphones

(1) Koss KSC75, $10-$20. Mid-bass heavy, sub-bass roll-off and sparkly highs. *These are clip-ons*.
(1-B) Sony MA-300, $30. Warm, bassy, good soundstage, decent comfort.
(1) Superlux HD681 Evo, $30-$40. Leans bright without sacrificing mids or lows. Great price ratio.
(2) Samson SR850, $50. Neutral, slight emphasis on treble. Removable cable.
(1-B) Koss PortaPro, $30-$40. Strong but slightly muddy bass, recessed mids, slightly rolled off highs.

Closed Headphones

(2)Monoprice 8323, $23. Removable cable, good portability, comfort, folds up for travel, and isolation. Good sound to price ratio, good balance.
(1-B) JVC HAS400B, $24-$28. Very bassy and moddable though uncomfortable with stock pads.
(1) Tascam TH-02, $30. Slightly cheapish build. Highly moddable. Clean, extended bass, slightly elevated top octave, but is a tad recessed from 2-5kHz . No amp needed, but sounds different from high-impedance outputs.
(1) Panasonic RP-HTF600-S, $30-$45. Deep punchy lows with a good soundstage. Durability is a concern.
(1-B) Philips Downtown, $30-$40. Isolate well, great bass quality and quantity, refined for the sound. On-ear.
(1) JVC HARX700, $30-$40. "A poor mans A700." Thumpy/muddy bass, decent mids, decent highs.
(2) Koss PRODJ 100, $40-60. Solid build quality, coiled cable, and folds for portability. Natural, clean, sound.
(1) JVC HARX900, $55-$100. "A poor mans A900." Decent soundstage. Tight/deep bass, recessed mids, bright/fatiguing highs.
(1) Sony MDR-V6/7506, $60-$90. Folds for portability. Clear sound with a rather flat response.

[size=115%]Entry Level Headphones - $75-$150[/size]

Open Headphones

(1) Grado SR-60i, $79. Bright forward headphones. Bass is punchy but overshadowed by the forward mids, bright, potentially fatiguing highs. Great value headphones with good potential for modding.

(2) AKG K240, $80-$100. Good build quality, detachable cable. Tight natural highs, slightly forward mids and highs.

(1) Audio Technica ATH-AD700x, $120-$160. Great comfort and decent build quality. Weak bass though it has some impact, detailed mids and highs with no fatigue. One of the best soundstages in the price range.

(1) Alessandro MS-1, $99. Decent natural sounding bass, good warm mids, good detail in the highs with decent extension.

(1) Grado SR80i, $99. Decent lows, though the aggressively forward mids overshadow them. Shrill highs, very bright headphone. Highly regarded for the price. Comfort and fatigue are potential concerns.

(2-B) Fischer Audio FA-011, $118. Comfortable with a good sound stage. Deep tight bass, smooth clear mids, somewhat bright highs.

Closed Headphones

(1) Creative Aurvana Live!, $55-$99. Better Denon D1001. Average build quality, decent comfort. Strong bass, lively highs, and overall good balance.

(1-m) House of Marley Exodus, $70-$150. Decent isolation, easy to drive, and a nice carrying pouch. Slightly recessed highs, natural sounding mids, strong bass, warm sound.

(2) Fostex t50rp, $75-$130. Great build quality and cheap orthos, huge modding community behind it and a removable cable. Neutral sound with excellent clarity.

(2) NVX XPT100, $80. Laid-back/neutral clean sound. Soundstage is perhaps the best in this price range for closed headphones, giving a very open feel to them. Great accessory list.

(1) KRK KNS-6400, $80-$100. Accurate, detailed and comfortable. Accurate bass, good mids and smooth treble. Great soundstage for a closed headphone. Detachable cables.

(1-B) Denon D1100, $100. Good build quality, comfort, and isolation. Strong, punchy and powerful bass with decent mids and highs. #1

(1-B) Audio Technica M50(x), $100-$150. Punchy deep bass, with slightly recessed mids. Good passive isolation.

(1-B) Creative Aurvana Live 2!, $105-$130. Decent build quality, sub-optimal isolation, removable cable and comfy. Bass heavy sound with clean mids and highs.

(2) KRK KNS 8400, $115-$150. Accurate and detailed. Good lows, good mids, good highs. Detachable cable and accurate.

(1-B) Ultrasone HFI-580, $120-$190. Folds for portability, good build quality, and decent isolation. Fun, clean, V shaped sound. Deep punchy clean bass, slightly recessed mids, bright, sometimes fatiguing, highs. Some sibilance.

(2) AKG K271 MK II, $125-$180. Neutral headphones makes them good for studio monitoring. Detailed, but lacking in bass. Detachable cable.

(2) KAM HP-1, $130. Great balance, bright leaning neutral. Good isolation, detachable cable, good comfort. Excellent imaging and good soundstage.

(1) Shure SRH840, $140-$200. Isolates well, folds for portability, and good build quality. Accurate/punchy bass, great mids, highs are somewhat lacking.

[size=115%]Mid-Range Headphones - $150-$300[/size]

Open Headphones

(2) Sennheiser HD558, $130-$180. Warm bass, though not much impact, slightly recessed mids, and rolled off highs. Very relaxed sounding.

(3-B) Beyerdynamic Dt990, $150-$340. Be wary there are 4 models of the Dt990: 32ohm, 250ohm, 600ohm. Each has it's own differences but the general sound of the Dt990s are rather bass heavy with a lot of treble, most recessed mids of any of the Dt series.

(2) Sennheiser HD598, $175-$250. Looks fantastic, good comfort. Warm laid back sound signature. Decent bass impact and extension, smooth mids, slightly rolled off highs.

(1) Grado SR225i, $199. Bright headphones with great mids and highs. These are considered to be the least fatiguing of the SR line while maintaining the Grado "house" sound. Potential comfort issues.

(3) Beyerdynamic Dt880, $200-$350. Be wary there are 4 models of the Dt880: 32ohm, 250ohm, 600ohm. Each has it's own differences but the general sound of these are rather neutral with an emphasis on the treble, more so than the Dt770. *These are semi-open.*

(1) Audio Technica ATH-AD900x, $200-$300. Good clarity, lush balanced mids and highs, punchy accurate bass. Very comfortable, great soundstage.

(3) AKG Q701, $225-$250. Slightly more bass impact than the K701, very clear detailed sound. Comes in many colors.

(1-B) Philips Fidelio X1, $230-$300. Non-replaceable pads, fit may be poor. Sound is bassy and fun to listen to. Slightly loose bass and slightly artificial treble.

(2) HiFiMan HE-300, $250. Great all-rounder headphones. Warm clear sound.

(3) AKG K701/702, $250-$270. Amazing detail and clarity, bass is adequate and precise. Largely considered the most detailed headphones in the price range, though also considered the hardest to amp. The K702 offers a detachable cable.

(2) Grado SR325i, $295. Considered the brightest and most aggressive of the SR line, but also very detailed.

Closed Headphones

(1) Sennheiser HD 25-1 II, $130-$200. Durable with good isolation. Well defined lows, neutral mids, and smooth highs.

(1-B) Audio Technica ATH-Pro700MK2, $140-$180. Dual removable cables, good build quality, strong clamp. Huge bass, mostly a fun basshead headphone.

(1-B) Ultrasone HFI-780, $155-$250. Good isolation, iffy build quality, easy to drive. Strong clear bass, slightly forward mids, bright highs.

(3) Beyerdynamic Dt770, $170-$250. Bassy with a v-shape. Very comfortable.

(2) Beyerdynamic DT1350, $175-$300. Excellent build quality. Very neutral, detailed, sound. Tight accurate bass with great clarity throughout.

(1) V-Moda M-80, $179-$220. Amazing build quality. Removable Cables. Decent Isolation. Deep bass with forward mids. Highs lack sparkle but extended. Very smooth sound.

(1) Audio-Technica ATH-ESW9A, $190-$230. Very smooth, warm, sound. Good bass, slightly recessed mids, decent highs. Wooden cups.

(2) Beyerdynamic T50p, $200-$300. Excellent build quality. Balanced, accurate, and a good soundstage. Tight accurate lows, smooth mids, sparkly highs.

(1) Audio Technica A900x, $220-$250. Great lively sound, punchy bass, engaging mids, clean highs. Fit is very loose.

(2) Shure SRH940, $220-$300. Removable cable and good isolation. Warm clean sound great for all sorts of music.

(2) Ultrasone Pro 750, $240-$390. Good bass not overbearing but with plenty of slam. Good comfort. Great with trance and bass heavy music.

(1) Thinksound On1, $250-$300. Neutral, clean, and detailed. Wooden cups, removable cable. Lightweight and good isolation.

(2-B) Focal Spirit One, $280. Warm to dark leaning, but not exactly for bassheads. Suits many forms of electronic music. Great aesthetics.

[size=115%]Upper Mid-Range Headphones - $300-$500[/size]

Open Headphones

(2) Alessandro MS2, $299. Good balance throughout. Good clarity, rather congested sound. Easy to drive.

(3) Sennheiser HD600, $255-$400. Very neutral balanced, quick and clear headphones.

(3) Sony MDR-SA5000, $315-$420. Very detailed. Fantastic highs with excellent extension, clear analytical mids, light detailed bass. Fast headphones with excellent sound imaging.

(3) Sennheiser HD650, $330-$500. Well built and comfortable, but slight clamping. Warm relaxed sound signature. Great bass and lows, mids and highs can be veiled without proper amping.

(3) HiFiMan HE-400, $300-$400. Dark sound signature, clean sound, and decent level of detail.

Closed Headphones

(1-m) Bowers & Wilkins P5, $295-$300.Good build quality, removable cable, great isolation and in-line mic. Warm sounding signature with focus on mid-bass.

(2) Mr. Speakers Mad Dogs, $299. Comfortable, excellent detail retrieval, forgiving of poor recordings, neutral. DIY approach means consistency issues could occur.

(1-B) Audio Technica ATH-ES10, $380-$430. Warm balanced sound overall with decent isolation. Strong hard hitting bass, neutral mids, smooth sparkling highs.

[size=115%]Audiophile Headphones - $500[/size]

Open Headphones

(2) Audio Technica Ad2000 (or x), $450-$845. Light, well built, comfortable. Tight, punchy, fast, detailed bass, not much sub-bass though. Mids are forward and slightly aggressive though said to be one of the best for any headphone, very natural sounding detailed highs. These are said to be "fast" headphones. Some even go as far as calling these the best dynamic headphone out there with the right amp/dac.

(2) Grado RS1i, $695. Incredibly detailed and smooth. More of a neutral sound signature. The lows are textured and punchy, the mids and highs have excellent resolution.

(3) HiFi Man HE-500, $599. Comfortable and beautiful. Natural sounding slightly warm sound with well articulated bass with good impact, very neutral and natural mid-range, and excellent treble that shines. Slightly slow but great imaging. These were considered fantastic at the price of $899, they've since been reduced to $699 making them and excellent value.

(2) Alessandro MS-Pro, $699. Neutral, very detailed with great clarity. Aimed at classical music listeners.

(3) Audeze LCD2, $945-$1,145. Amazing soundstage and imaging, Balanced highs, slightly heavy, but detailed bass, very natural mid-range.

(2) Grado GS1000i, $995. Very detailed and accurate. Deep quality bass (possibly best in Grado line), rather bright sound. Great soundstage. Very analytical.

(2) Oppo PM-1, $1,099. Easy to drive, comfortable and well built. Deep extended and textured bass, slightly recessed mid-bass, forward vocals, slightly rolled off highs.

(3) Beyerdynamic Tesla T1, $1,210-$1,400. Rather neutral with amazing clarity and detail. Very natural sounding.

(3) Sennheiser HD800, $1,499. Well defined bass with amazing clarity, fantastic mid-range, slightly artificial highs with some pronounced sibilance. Excellent soundstage and imaging.

(2) Grado PS1000, $1,695. Strong quality bass, fantastic mids and highs.

(3) Stax SR-007 "Omega II", $2,199. Requires a special electrostatic amp. Open-Back Electrostatic Earspeaker.

Closed Headphones

(2) Audio Technica ATH-W1000X, $430-$600. Detailed slightly bright highs (sibilance), great mid separation and detail, smooth detailed punchy bass. Amazing soundstage. Wooden cups.

(2-B) Ultrasone Pro 900, $550. Deep bass that's slightly uncontrolled without an amp, slightly recessed mids, bright highs. Recommended to have an amp and to do the Kees Mod.

(1) Mr. Speakers Alpha Dog, $600. Slightly more bassy than neutral with great imaging. Good sound quality and comfort.

(3) Audio Technica ATH-W5000, $680-$840. Notoriously picky with amps. Fantastic clarity and balance through the mids and highs. Lows are punchy and accurate without overextending. Spacious soundstage similar to open headphones with a lot of detail. Great for classical. Wooden cups

(3) Stax 4070, $1,824. Requires a special electrostatic amp. Electrostatic headphone. Designed for monitoring, very detailed and unforgiving. A bit heavy but good comfort.

[size=175%]Gaming Headphone Buying Guide[/size]
[size=65%]Note - Most of this information was taken from this thread on Head-fi.org (all of the reviews)[/size]

Fun - Great, bassy sound
Competitive - Sound whoring, detail
Comfort - Well...

Each score is reflecting a headphone's own merits and are not compared to each other. NONE OF THESE REVIEWS WERE DONE BY ME, but by the person in the link above.

[size=115%]Budget Headphones/Sets[/size]

Koss KSC35 / Sportapro:

Fun: 7.5/10 (Very Good)

Competitive: 7/10 (Good)

Comfort: 7.5/10 (Very Good), 9.5/10 with KSC75 clips (Amazing), 7/10 w/Sportapro headband (Good)
Click to reveal

Koss KSC75:

Fun: 7/10 (Good)

Competitive: 7/10 (Good)

Comfort: 9.5/10 (Amazing)
Click to reveal

Koss UR40Fun:

4/10 (Bad)

Competitive: 4/10 (Bad)

Comfort: 4/10 (Bad)
Click to reveal

Philips SHP2500:

Fun: 6/10 (Decent)

Competitive: 6/10 (Decent)

Comfort: 7/10 (Good)
Click to reveal

Sennheiser HD201:

Fun: 6/10 (Decent)

Competitive: 6/10 (Decent)

Comfort: 4/10 (Bad)
Click to reveal

Steelseries Siberia V1 (*headset*):

Fun: 5/10 (Mediocre)

Competitive: 5/10 (Mediocre)

Comfort: 9.5/10 (Amazing)
Click to reveal

Turtle Beach Z2 (*headset*):

Fun: 3/10 (Really Bad)

Competitive: 3/10 (Really Bad)

Comfort: N/A
Click to reveal

[size=115%]Low/Midrange Headphones/Sets[/size]

Astro A30 (*headset*)

Fun: 6/10 (Decent)

Competitive: 5/10 (Mediocre)

Comfort: 7.25/10 (Good)

Overall: 5.75/10 (Okay)
Click to reveal

Audio-Technica AD700

Fun: 5.75/10 (Fair)

Competitive: 10/10 (Legendary)

Comfort: 6/10 (Decent)
Click to reveal

Audio-Technica M50

Fun: 7/10 (Good)

Competitive: 5.5/10 (Fair)

Comfort: 8.75/10 (Excellent)
Click to reveal

Creative Aurvana Live! (aka "CAL")

Fun: 8/10 (Great)

Competitive: 7.25/10 (Good)

Comfort: 8 (Great)
Click to reveal


Fun: 5/10 (Mediocre)

Competitive: 7/10 (Good)

Comfort: 6/10 (Decent)
Click to reveal

Nuforce HP-800
Fun: 7.5 (Very Good)

Competitive: 7 (Good)

Comfort: 6.75/10 (Very Decent)

Overall: 6.75 (Very Decent)
[spoiler=Click to reveal]Build Quality:

Before I get into the aspects of it's design, I'd like to address one thing: I believe the HP-800 may have been designed with portable use in mind, yet the HP-800 is not portable by any conventional means. It's large, and doesn't fold up in any shape or form. This betrays it's incredibly minimal power requirements. The design will easily place the HP-800 as a home or studio headphone, not a portable one. Quite some large head bling here. The HP-800 does fit well as a transportable headphone, like office or library use with a laptop.

The HP-800 is a fully closed-back headphone which is made up almost entirely of very sturdy and solid feeling plastic (with thinly stamped aluminum cups) in a full black matte finish. That means fingerprint resistant, which is always a good thing. I grow tired of high gloss plastic that looks good as long as you have psychic powers and never physically touch the headphones. The design of the HP-800 is quite minimalistic, which would feel at home next to typical studio headphones you can purchase from the musical instrument section of any major electronics stores like Best Buy. It is almost entirely black, with the only contrasts being the driver covers being red/orange, and a golden metallic 'NU' logo on the center of each outer ear cup.

The headband is of the auto-adjusting, tension/suspension type, similar to the popular AKG K70x line, as well as the recent Philips Fidelio X1. The headband portion that rests on your head is made up of a very rubbery material that has quite a grip. This is the first time I have seen such a material being used, and I'm not sure it was the best choice. I find that this rubbery material is prone to picking up dust and dirt from the air, and is not exactly easy to wipe off.

The top portion that holds the wires that sends audio to the right driver is all plastic, and as such, I wouldn't recommend bending it if you feel like the HP-800 doesn't have enough extension, in fear of possibly snapping the plastic. This makes the HP-800 a possible problem for bigger heads, as you can't really bend the HP-800 in any way, unlike the Fidelio X1 which has a metal band that is easily bent for more extension.

The pads are synthetic leather/pleather. They're quite large, and very soft. Personally (as you may all know by now), I have a strong aversion for pleather pads, so I'm not exactly thrilled by the abundance of it on the HP-800. The pads, while big, don't have the largest openings, and they compress quite easily, so those with larger ears may find their ears pressing up against the driver covers, and inner walls of the pads.

The HP-800's left ear cup comes with a standard 3.5mm input, no locking mechanism, so cable replacement is a breeze. Speaking of the cables, the HP-800 comes with two cables: A cloth-covered long cable that terminates into a 3.5mm plug, with an attached 6.3mm adapter which screws on/off. One of the better stock cables I've ever come across. The shorter, thinner cable doesn't inspire much confidence in it's build quality, and unlike the lengthier cable, lacks proper strain reliefs. I'd stick with the longer cable, or buy a more durable short cable for portable use.


The comfort will be a hit or miss. The HP-800 may be problematic for larger heads, in that there may not be enough clearance, due to the lack of extension. My head fits, but the strong tension causes the cups to want to ride up my ears ever so slightly. This could've been mitigated with a longer extension. As it stands, it is a bit problematic for me personally, as the feeling of the drivers want to slide upwards never ceases.

The headband portion that rests on the top of the head is covered in very rubbery material which can and will grip onto your scalp or hair, so any small adjustments will yank a bit. This is only an issue if you're constantly shifting and readjusting.

The pads are quite soft and plentiful. Being synthetic leather (which I'm not a fan of on ANY headphone), they will heat up and get a little sticky. As mentioned before, the openings aren't the largest in diameter, so larger ears may have to struggle between pressing up to the driver covers and pinching up against the inner pad walls.

The HP-800 is quite lightweight, so they shouldn't pose much of an issue for those with neck problems. All in all, the HP-800 will cater to smaller heads and ears. Everyone else should try and demo these first.

The HP-800 doesn't exude much clamping force, and the little it does have will keep the HP-800 from sliding off the head. Needless to say, the HP-800 has an ideal amount of clamp to my ears without being too loose, or too clampy.

In terms of comfort, the HP-800 is among the better pleather-padded headphones I have reviewed on this guide. That means, that if you don't have a particular distaste for pleather, you may find the HP-800 to be relatively comfortable overall, assuming you have smaller ears. Personally, I find them okay in comfort, and mostly inoffensive, my main issue being the pad material, and the diameter of the openings. If Nuforce manages to update the pads with a bigger diameter, and possibly just a bit larger/deeper, they'd have a solid headphone in terms of comfort overall.

Design Issues:

- Not particularly suited for portable use due to a very large frame, despite it's minimal amping requirements.

- Rubbery headband padding may grip onto the scalp/hair, potentially causing discomfort with every minor adjustment. Also picks up dirt/dust easily (the top side of the rubbery headband).

- Pleather pads, while soft, build up heat in a hurry, and will stick to the skin. They also do not have the biggest openings, so those with large ears, take note.

- Lack of extension for larger heads will cause the cups to pull and rise up towards the headband.


The HP-800 comes with:

- One long, durable, cloth-braided cable w/3.5mm plug with an attached screwed on 6.3mm adapter.

- One short, thin cable w/3.5mm plug

- Carrying pouch


The HP-800 as a fully closed-back headphone does incredibly well at keeping it's sound from escaping out into the world. This means that you can blast the HP-800 loudly, and very little will actually leak out, making it an ideal headphone for late night use when you're trying to keep your significant other in the same room from waking up. It's been quite some time since I've heard a headphone control noise leak as well as the HP-800, the last one being the Mad Dogs.

The HP-800 however isn't exactly great at keep external noise from leaking in, so it's not the best at passive noise-cancelling. It's not bad, but not the best.


The HP-800 is unlike anything I've ever heard upon first listen. It's quite warm/dark most of the time, yet spacious, which I usually find to be quite a contradiction. Very much so. Coming off more neutral and brighter offerings, the HP-800 will sound stuffy and muted (it even makes the well known Creative Aurvana Live! sound bright in comparison). In fact, prior to hearing the Sennheiser HD650, my perception of it's sound just based on impressions I've read online (which didn't turn out to be true), I would've thought it'd sound something like how the HP-800 actually sounds like. Dark, creamy, and smooth, if a bit veiled. The only difference being that the HD650 is known for it's stellar and intimate mids, which the HP-800 just does not have.

Quite bassy (okay, VERY bassy), with fairly distant sounding mids, and mellow treble that sounds pretty up to par with the mids. For a closed, dark, mellow sounding headphone, I feel the soundstage to be quite spacious, more than likely due to how distant the mids sound. To be quite honest, I was thrown off by it's sound signature. However, given some time, I adapted to it's tonal characteristics, and found it to have a charm I'd say is all it's own, even though it's still a bit polarizing.

It isn't the most detailed headphone by a stretch, but it is relatively enjoyable, pleasant, and fatigue free. I feel it's best suited for hip hop, and general club music with most importance in the pulse of the rhythm. For this reason, I find the HP-800 to be very genre specific.

All of that being said, the HP-800 is almost a completely different beast for virtual surround gaming use. Even though the headphone is dark and mellow, the linearity between the mids and treble makes it easy to maintain a good mix for gaming purposes. Because bass is situational in gaming and not overly dominant, you can raise volume levels to put the mids and treble into better focus (not overly so), making the HP-800 a competent, fun oriented, gaming headphone.


Huge, dominating, impressive, and ferocious bass. It will be the first thing you immediately notice when listening to the HP-800. However, what sets itself apart, is that the bass is fairly linear (though quite emphasized from the mids and treble ranges). The sub bass is actually quite decent, and the mid bass is proficient in fullness, presence, and control. The bass is on the slower side, but doesn't creep into the mids. I expected this soft, yet full bass to swallow the mids, but the HP-800's control is pretty apparent.


The mids are a paradox on it's own. The HP-800's bass doesn't swallow up the mids, and the treble isn't by any means bright or emphasized over the mids, yet the mids are a bit recessed to my ears. Almost undoubtedly so. The mids are warm and full-bodied, yet...distant. I'm at odds with the HP-800 because of this. It takes time to get used to.

I'm not entirely against recessed mids on a headphone (I do generally like a mild v-shaped sound signature), yet when a headphone is clearly NOT v-shaped, you'd expect mids to be either in tune with the rest of the sound, or up front and center. The HP-800's mids are a little off putting at first. Not a gaping void, but noticeably pushed back.


The treble range is more or less in line with the mids in emphasis, meaning that they aren't in the spotlight, and are just a tad laid back, but not more so than the mids. They are in the comfortable range of being smooth, and sibilance free. Treble in instruments isn't exactly the sharpest, nor the clearest, ultimately making the HP-800 lack just a bit detail.

A bit glossed over, but completely inoffensive to the ears. I find the treble to be a strength when you play the HP-800 at a moderately loud volume, as it never gets harsh. Comparing the treble to the Creative Aurvana Live, I found the HP-800 to sound less detailed, but smoother, and less fatiguing.


The soundstage is a surprisingly good thing in the HP-800. It's wide for a closed headphone, and thought not excelling in depth, there is decent amount of virtual space. I'll touch more on this in the next section.


Positional cues are good. Not great but good. The HP-800 has a pretty good soundstage in width, but not necessarily the best in depth. Also, positional cues in certain angles sound a bit diffused. The HP-800's positional cues take up a bit more virtual space, and aren't as precise. In the end, the HP-800 gets the job done, but there are better, and cheaper in this regard.


Clarity isn't exactly a strong suit in the HP-800. I do find it to be objectively clearer for gaming purposes in virtual surround gaming than it is for stereo/music use (or any non-virtual surround uses for that matter). Due to the fact that the HP-800 is pretty closely even in mids and treble, nothing is lost in between, so within a certain amount of volume, the HP-800 makes a pretty decent gaming headphone, and mitigates the overall darkness somewhat.

You do have to somewhat tune out the abundant amount of bass that leads the mix, though because the bass doesn't smother other details, it isn't that arduous a task. All in all, not the clearest headphone, but relatively stable.


While the HP-800 isn't the most sensitive full-sized headphone I've tested, it truly demands very little amping with a maximum input power of only 30MW. This means that practically any device you hook up the HP-800 up to will drive them loudly, and with authority. As always, clean power is the best power, so while the effect may be subtle, a decent portable amp will benefit the HP-800 especially in controlling it's dominant, and somewhat slow bass. For gaming use, I found the Mixamp alone to be just fine for the HP-800. The HP-800 is already full bodied as is, even unamped.


The MSRP of the HP-800 is $129. In it's price range, it fills it's own niche, and for that reason competes we

4 Update Logs

Update #4 : 06/06/2014 12:42:53 pmJun 6th, 2014

Added Mid/High Range for gaming headphones/sets

10/05/2014 5:34 pm
Level 17 : Journeyman Button Pusher
I have the skull candy P.L.Y.R 2 gaming headphones, would you recommend them for their price( not looking for some ultra class headphones)
10/06/2014 4:41 pm
Level 28 : Expert Engineer
No, for around the same price you can get the HD 558 and the Zalman ZM Mic-1
10/06/2014 4:43 pm
Level 17 : Journeyman Button Pusher
Thanks for your opinion 😀
06/06/2014 12:44 pm
Level 28 : Expert Engineer
It seems I've hit the character limit for a blog... If you want to read more, go to my Forum post here
05/17/2014 10:09 am
Level 10 : Journeyman Hunter
Nice blog diamond for you

p.s. BTW I'm getting a new headphone for my birthday because my old one has one of its side not producing sound unless I put it in a specific spot
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