Like many Stereophile readers, I read with great interest, and a certain amount of incredulity, Jason Victor Serinus's rather gushing CES report on the Sennheiser HD800 headphones. Now, I have a lot of respect for JVS's opinionswe share an appreciation of opera and other vocal music, and we're both great fans of Fritz Wunderlichbut, reading his report, part of me was intrigued and another part was thinking "Come on, Jason, these are just headphones, what's the big deal?"
SSI 2009 provided the first opportunity for me to listen to the HD800's, and now I can appreciate more clearly where Jason was coming from. These are superb headphones, very possibly the best ones out there. The source at SSI2009 was less than impeccable: a low-end Onkyo CD player and Onkyo receiver, and for some reason they used a nondescript CD of Latin music as the demo material, but listening for just a few minutes convinced me that HD800s are something quite special. I have Stax electrostatic headphones, with a dedicated tube headphone preamplifier, and I'd be reluctant to put them up against these Sennheisers. If only I could find a good excuse for buying them...
Note: keen-eyed readers will notice that the HD800 on the dummy head has the channels reversed, the headphone on the shown left side being labeled "R." Let me assure you that when the I listened to the HD800s the channels were oriented correctly.