This headphone doesn’t require an introduction. Six years later and it’s still kicking ass and taking names. I’ve seen them glorified in many publications as the “Best Headphone in the World!” back in 2009 and ever since, I wanted one. The price tag was a bit prohibitive at the time but I was able to find a good price on one from a local seller a few years ago.
The HD 800 would be my first high-end headphone. In fact, it was my first over-ear headphone ever. First off, they’re surprisingly comfortable and lightweight. When I first plugged these headphones into my Pathos Aurium Hybrid headphone amplifier, I was amazed at how “out-of-my-head” the soundstage was. I’ve only used IEMs prior and it was something fresh for me. The articulation, imaging, clarity, and detail resolution was astounding. Something about having the transducer enclose the entire ear gives it a natural presentation I couldn’t get from earbuds. In particular, I found it to be a fantastic headphone for classical, jazz, and acoustic. Although the low-end response was tight and precise, it didn’t quite have enough heft for my tastes.
It didn’t take me long to realize I was getting fatigued by the headphone. Some listeners have found a bump at around 6 kHz was the cause. This gives the headphone a brighter and often times more strident and abrasive/piercing presentation. It’s also more on the cold side of neutral. I couldn’t listen to the headphones for more than a few minutes. Seriously.
Head-fiers united and through a few iterations came up with the Anaxilus Mod. With the hype revolving around the release of the Sennheiser HD 800S, I wanted to give this infamous headphone one last go and performed the mod on my personal pair. It’s unfortunate I didn’t have it for the TOTL shootout I did late last year but in a way this was a blessing as I’m able to evaluate the mod more critically and with a stronger perceptive baseline…if that makes any sense.
I’m proud to announce, the mod has eliminated the fatigue I had experienced pre-mod and as a bonus provided an improved the bass response. The harshness peeks its head out every so often but it wasn’t as problematic. It’s super easy to listen to, very musical, good slam, and overall an enjoyable headphone. It paired amazingly well with the Pathos Aurium. My only regret is not performing this mod earlier as it just sat here catching dust for a year. There are no obvious flaws with this headphone other than low-end weight and perhaps being a little analytical. I used to cringe at the thought of listening to them but now when I pick them up, I’m constantly amazed at how great they sound, surprisingly even for bass oriented genres like Hip-hop and EDM.
The modified Sennheiser HD 800 would be one of my top recommendation for headphones under $1,700, especially for those who want to get their feet wet with high-end headphone gear. How does it compare to the HD 800S? From my research, it seems to have essentially done what this mod did and more. I hope to get one in for review in the upcoming weeks.