Headphones - Senn HD 800 or Grado RS1i.......

Anybody here had the chance to compare the two. I see that this site leans more towards Grado while the general outside population leans towards the 800s as far as "best" goes.
Anyway, I am looking for soundstage and good bass too and will probably opt for one of these two models if they have these qualities.
Whoops, my hyperlink must have got corrupted. =243&graphID
I highly recommend you listen to both of them and judge for yourself. They are different in several ways, and the only way to tell what will work for you is to spend time listening.

I prefer the Grados. The Grados tend to be more "musical" and "engaging" to me. They have a character that is warm and lush, while being exciting and fun at the same time. The Senn HD800 seem dryer and flatter to me. Headphone amps can also make a difference. The Grados seem to work and sound better with mediocre outputs (computers and iPods), and sound wonderful with Grado's own RA-1 amplifier. The Senn 800s require a good amp to get the performance out of them.

What do those terms mean, I don't know how to explain it? Most audiophile terms confuse me, especially when I use them. :D

In the past I have used HeadRoom to try different sets and they have been very good about returns and trail periods. They can be reached at www.Headphone.com

Remember to have fun and keep listening.... ;)
I'll give you a contrasting opinion to the good information HelloFidelity provided: I prefer the Senn's for their far superior soundstaging and general sense of dimension (which is difficult to attain in a headphone in my experience). They are great overall performers suiting all kinds of music. Grado RS1's occur to me as better suited towards rock. They are certainly easier to drive, and definitely sound quite different. Grado is known for a warmer sound with most of their cans. The RS1's certainly did occur to me as fun and engaging as stated above, but for the music I listen to, which does not include much rock at all, I prefer the HD800's. I would say in the bass department the RS1 would occur to have the slight edge, occurring perhaps as more full sounding, while I feel the HD800 is probably more accurate. The RS1 is usually not the Grado can someoone who is considering the HD800's would be considering. The more traditionally compared Grado would be their PS1000's, which would definitely give the HD800's a run for their money, at a slightly higher price.
Thanks guys - some good info there. Great to know I can ALWAYS rely on this site for some guaranteed feedback. I have been beating my head off the wall for the last couple of days trying to sort out some audio problems (studio) and posted on a main forum for the equipment eight times and although I had many views I had no responses. Still, I don't feel bad for myself as I noticed one guy on there with 32,000 views to his question and EIGHT responses!!!

Hey, I have been considering a Headroom Ultra Desktop amp to go with the headphones - any yeas or nays on this amp ?

Thanks Guys
Thomastrouble, the HeadRoom Ultra Desktop is an excellent amp.

I also recommend looking into the Grado GS1000 and PS1000 if you are considering the Senn HD800. Like Jax2 states, the Grado PS1000 cans are a good comparison for the 800s. It really comes down to personal preference.

What kind of speakers, headphones and systems do you currently like? Do you prefer a "solid state" or "tube" sound? What is the rest of your system and front end? Analog or digital....or both? The answers to these questions won't solve everything, but it might help us direct you in the right direction. Nothing compares to listening for yourself, but I'll do anything I can to help.
I also recommend looking into the Grado GS1000 and PS1000 if you are considering the Senn HD800.

I wouldn't go for GS1000's - I've had two different pairs. Soundstage they have in spades. Great bass? Not really, but OK. They also have a slightly recessed midrange which seems to work well for classical, but not as well for anything really mainstream (rock, pop, vocals, etc.). They are not like anything else in the Grado line, and they are rather distinctive headphones. They are completely not like the RS1's you are considering. They are outstanding cans for low-level listening (probably the best I've heard). I actually like them, but I much prefer the more versatile HD800's. For both bass and sounstage in the Grado line listen to the PS1000's. I'd try to buy your amp according to he heaphones you get and the music you like and how you like to listen to it. Headfi.org is a good resource for all things headphones if you can wade through the noise. No experience with the Headroom amp to make a comment.
Jax2, can you tell us if the sound staging of the Grado PS1000 comes close to that of the HD800. I currently
have the HD600's. Can anyone tell me how much better
both of these are compared to the HD600's?

I use them on my Cary 300b SEI tube gear, my home theater
and I plan on getting a Naim Headline2.
Thanks a million guys ~


I have been doing a bit of digging around reviews etc today and while I have never owned headphones, very high end ones at least, I am reading that the Senn HD 800s are incredible for soundstaging - this is what everybody seems to be raving about and that is what got me interested. The RS1s - I got interested in these based on their reputation and popularity.


I own a variety of speakers - Totem The Ones, Paradigm, and a few other pairs but my favorites are the Maggies. I am pretty new to the whole hifi thing, got hooked last year and went on a spending binge. Parasound amps and preamps, Pass Labs, Naim and more amps but I have spent so much time out of the country since and haven't had all the time I need to experiment more, narrow it all down and then unload the stuff I am not so keen on and end up keeping the stuff I love. When I am home it is very hard for me to get out and test things in the store, so I rely on guys like you for pointers, buy off Audiogon and give myself some nice audition time at home with no pressure from sales people etc. Whatever way the headphones go I am sure I will be happy with what I end up with, soundstage is my biggest priority here.
Oh, I use CDs and the computer for my music as I am too lazy. As far as tube gear goes, I haven't dabbled with that yet but am very curious all the while trying to keep myself in check as I have made a pact with myself not to go crazy on the spending this year until I decide to sell off some of the gear I don't care too much for.
Having said I have no experience with tubes I would imagine headphones with that warm tuby sound sounds like they would float my boat. Now you have me thinking about tube gear dammit....... and I am on Audiogon - better get off here before I get myself into trouble.
Jax2, can you tell us if the sound staging of the Grado PS1000 comes close to that of the HD800. I currently
have the HD600's. Can anyone tell me how much better
both of these are compared to the HD600's?

I use them on my Cary 300b SEI tube gear, my home theater
and I plan on getting a Naim Headline2.

The staging on the HD800's and the GS1000 are the best I've heard coming from headphones with the Senns being my favorites because it doesn't have the same midrange dip the Grado does and suits a wider variety of music. I had a pair of HD600's for a short while and didn't listen to them much because they just didn't excite me. The 800's do not sound like them or the 650's and are unique in that regard. To me they were a headphone revelation, and are much better than there other offerings. Soundstaging in headphones is NOT the same as the illusion with great speakers because it's stuck in your head in a sense...I'll take the speakers every time. But relative to other headphones the really good ones do create an illusion of their own. There's a company that makes a rather unique device that is getting some great comments - if you are into the illusion of soundstaging there is nothing quite like this out there. Haven't heard that myself. The idea is to get the illusion out of your head and into your perception of space around you in a way. Headphones are a whole other world of listening. There are other cult classic cans from Stax to K1000's to Sony R1's...the list goes one. Again, Headfi.org is a good resource, sans noise. Though I strongly prefer speakers, I also find the need to listen with headphones to keep the house quiet occasionally for my wife.

The Cary SEI is supposed to have an excellent headphone output.
Thomastrouble, the Grados sound excellent with the Naim Headline. That's one of my favorite setups. I noticed that you have Totems and Naim gear, and that is also a great combo. Jax2 seems more experienced with headphones and I fully respect his opinions, so like I said in my first post, try your best to listen for yourself. There is no right or wrong to your choices.

Now I have the itch to get a pair of PS1000s.... ;)
Well Guys, I played Russian Roulette today with my credit card and shot for the Senn HD800s and based in part to your recommendation of the Headroom Ultra Desktop Hellofidelity I ordered that too. They will be here on Friday so I will report back over the weekend and let you all know what I think.

Thanks again for all your input.
Thanks Jax2. The PS1000 is reported to have all the
sound staging of the GS1000 but instead of a recessed
mid range they are said to be much more lush.

I like a lot of vocals so if the PS1000's are even
close to the HD800's in sound staging but with a more
musical and lush presentation, then I think that is
the what I am looking for.

As for the Smyth, I am really curious. I wonder
if you can buy one with out the stax phones.
ThomasTrouble - I'd find it very hard to conceive that anyone would be disappointed with HD800's. If you were you could just return them. If you go past the return period you can very easily sell them for only a few hundred less than you bought them if that - they will sell very fast on headfi.org. No experience with that amp though. Let us know what you think.

Scottmac - I've only heard the PS1000 once before and was very impressed in that brief exposure. I had not heard the GS1000 at that time nor the HD800's, so I resisted making any comparisons. If memory serves they were a bit more punchy and rich, while the HD800's could be slightly more 'airly' and occur to me as effortless in their presentations of various types of music. Again, that is from memory. No doubt the PS1000's are fine cans. The HD800's presented a sound I loved at first listen and had to have it. That did not happen with the PS1000, but I think that could be entirely a case of personal preference. Another more economical can (around $600) worth looking into are HE5LE's. I tried a pair of their predecessors and was mighty impressed, especially by staging. Ultimately I found them a bit too aggressive and sent them back within the 30-day trial period. The LE supposedly does away with certain stridencies in the original. An HE6 is in beta currently. These cans require a powerful amp to work well. Their own tube amp supposedly is a good match, but not the only way to go. Just don't try them with any headphone amp - these need at least 2 watts - check user reviews for appropriate amps to use.
Hi Guys,

Just got the Senn HD800s along with the Headroom amp (very necessary with these). Anyway, while I was on the phone with HeadFi I asked them what other headphones they would also recommend for good bass response and they suggested the Denon A-HD 2000 (a couple of hundred bucks) and I told them to send me these also. Well, as it turns out these have got waaaaay more low-end slam than the Senns and they sound great, no, make that fantastic - a nice "big" sound!!!!
I have been listening to light rock, and electronica that I always use for reference. If I had done a blind test and someone had told me the Denon's were the ones that cost five times the price would have believed it. At this point (only an hour of A/B ing) I am loving the Denon's much more. On both sets I am hearing stuff my speaker system never revealed to me in my music. Anyway, an hour isn't going to be enough time to to make a black and white decision, but at this point I would be surprised if I end up preferring the Senns. I know the issue is me loving my low-end a lot, but I can say for sure these Denon's are great all-rounders - great sound quality and great bass......and all for a couple of hundred bucks!!!
Bottom line is if you like your low-end the Senns are probably not for you. I am keeping an open-mind here since so many people really see the Senns as "the" headphone.
This is my first exploration with headphones but at this point for two hundred odd bucks I would HIGHLY recommend the Denons. Anybody else out there familiar with these?
Anyway, I will report back in about a week after a lot more listening.
Cheers Guys
What headroom amp did you get? Also - good lesson learned as to the Denons higher price and a lot of hype does not necessarily mean 'better'
That's great that you prefer a MUCH less expensive headphone. Give it a bit of time and continue to compare as long as you can return them, but if they are that close to you at this point, I wonder if there are any changes in break-in that would be significant enough to warrant the extra $1000+ investment?

Well, as it turns out these have got waaaaay more low-end slam than the Senns and they sound great, no, make that fantastic - a nice "big" sound!!!!

=243&graphID[1]=863&graphID[2]=&graphID[3]=&graphType=0&buttonSelection=Compare+Headphones]As you can see here the bass response of the two headphones directly compared is not quite what you seem to be describing. It's not all about the numbers though. Regardless, if you like what you're hearing that's all that matters. Keep the cheaper cans and be happy! That said, my HD800's put out ample bass that is not in any way bloated, or lacking in detail. If you are a bass-head you may really like the HE5LE that I mentioned before. But again, if you like the Denon's as much as you do, I say, go no further - enjoy your music.

I am keeping an open-mind here since so many people really see the Senns as "the" headphone.

There are too many "the headphones" - choose your own, don't listen to what others say. HD800's are just one of many cost-no-object attempts at getting it right. As you may have guessed, just like with speakers, opinions will vary widely and all this stuff is subjective. BTW I had a pair of Denon D5000's for a few months. I liked those pretty well too, but moved on looking for better staging. What I've found in moving up the chain in headphones has been that gains have been mostly in refinement and capturing subtle nuances and occurring to flow without any strain or effort. Bass doesn't come as such an expensive part of the package as it does with speakers. Most of the decent headphones can reproduce pretty low bass, though the better ones reveal much more within that low bass.

Hi Guys - some wrong info on last post.....the Denons were actually $349 and not two hundred odds, still well worth it at two or three times the price though. A real shame that certain gear including headphones can lose all that low end, the stuff that gives me goose-pimples. I sometimes wonder why a lot of audiophiles don't seem to care too much for low-end, I know I can't listen to my speakers at all without a sub - it really makes a world of difference and not just for electronic music.
Musicnoise -
I got the Headroom Ultra Desktop and although I have never compared it with anything else it sounds fantastic. Re. comparing the two headphones there might be a tiny bit of extra resolution with the Senns but the Denons make the music sound powerful as opposed to the very "delicate" sound of the Senns. I guess the type of music you listen to might have a bearing on things but as I said, I like a sub on everything and these Denons sound like they have a subwoofer inside. Obviously many people like a delicate sound but to me it sounds like you are losing a huge chunk of the recording by not having a sub or phones with a great bass response. This has got me curious about audiophiles and bass and it might be interesting for me to start a thread on the subject to see what others like and don't like about subs.

Anyway this whole hobby is ultimately about trial and error and that is part of the fun for me.
Jax2 - Hi,

Didn't check out that link yet. If it is very technical I will probably be lost. Anyway, don't know how they would come up with numbers that would suggest different to what I am hearing - it really is a massive difference. Pity you didn't have a pair to compare as I am sure you would be shocked. Oh, one thing I just thought of that might affect the numbers - since the Denons are closed headphones could this account for more bass sensation? The Denons are far from top of the line but apparently have the best bass response, as mentioned in my last post, you would think there is a subwoofer in there. Not sure what your listening tastes are but if you like a bit of thump you might want to audition the Denons if you have the opportunity.
As I said before, this hobby is a lot about trial and error and I would be surprised if anybody half serious about the hobby got it right first time - all part of the fun if you ask me and yes, you are right, there are horses for courses or whatever that saying is.
Funny thing has happened today - I have been listening for about twelve hours on the phones (yes, I know) and I was hoping the Senns would grow on me but as each hour of listening passes I am moving further away from them. I love drums and the Denons do a killler job on picking them out. Even on vocal acoustic music the sound is much bigger on the Denons. I am sure a lot of you guys are much more critical listeners than me and many would never trade a grain of resolution for more bass but for me losing the bass is losing resolution and I would be happier trading in this direction.
Not giving up on the Senns yet though since a huge amount of serious audiophiles heap praise on them I am open to the possibility that I (as a novice) am missing something.
Thanks for all the input guys !
Thomastrouble, I see that your adventure has started. Like I said in my first reply, you really must listen for yourself. That's what this is all about. What is "heaven" for someone, is "hell" for someone else.

After designing and building music systems professionally for over 20 years, I have come to the conclusion that the price has nothing to do with quality. My favorite things have been, and still are the simplest. Finding what works for you is the key.

The important thing is the music (you mentioned that you have been listening to "light rock and electronica")....what are you listening to exactly. Bands, artist, albums???? I'm a "progressive listener" and always open to new things.....

Keep listening and having fun.... ;)
Okay, I have to admit I am still undecided.
I do listen to a wide range of music, but
when I want to relax and have an audiophile
moment I listen to a lot of female vocals and electronic chill. So I need rich vocals and combined with good sound stage layering. I do have a low tolerance for tipped up brightness. I feel that my Senn 600 HD600 cans are not warm enough for vocals even with my tubed Cary 300b sei. Does anyone have any advise choosing between the grado or the Senns 800?
Scottmac - do you live near Portland, OR. If so you can listen to those and various other headphones at 32 Ohm. There are probably other resources in major cities. Or try doing what ThomasTrouble did and buy both and return whichever you do not prefer before the trial period ends. As you can see from Thomas responses, there are no hard and fast rules that say everyone is going to necessarily prefer one over the other, and $ don't necessarily buy "better" in some cases. To me the ultimate cans have been the 800's, and nothing I've heard comes close as far as staging. They do not sound like 600's at all to me. I'm using a tube amp too - a Woo WA6SEM. I'd bet the Cary would do a fine job with either choice. I'm way into female vocals though not much into electronic chill (honestly don't know what that is). To get some info on the PS1000, go over to headfi.org - here's some reading for you - again, bag of salt applies, just like it would here or anywhere. Plenty of useful info that can be distilled there though. Let us know what you do.
Thanks for the link Jax2. I live in Seattle and will have
to see if anyone carries these two cans.

I am curious what you are using for a headphone amp and
if you have had the chance to listen to the Cary or
the Naim Headline. I already have Naim gear and like
different perspectives in music. So, I guess I need a
set that is compatible with both the Cary and Naim.
Scottmac - If you are in Seattle, as am I, I'm pretty sure Definitive carries a Grado and Senns....not positive though...I haven't been to Stereo Row in a long time. 32 Ohm has it all and great amps as well. Here's a feature on them.

I use a Woo Audio WA6SE maxxed-out. It's a very good pairing with the HD800's but I'd be willing to bet the Cary would be great too. Do you know how much power output the headphone jack has on that? The downside of the HD800's is that they really demand a good amp (again - though I have no direct experience to say for sure, I'd bet the Cary would be up to the task). I'm not sure that the Grado would be as demanding - It is certainly easier to drive. I've never heard the Naim headline and don't know anything about it. I assume it is SS since it is Naim. In general I've tended to prefer tube amps, but not as a rule. With the kind of investment you'd be making in one of those cans, I'd definitely take the time to compare them directly with the kind of music you like listening to and see which one floats your boat (or if either do). Being in this region, you have no excuse not to. There is a headphone meet coming up very soon put on by Headfi.org members. I've been to one before, just a few months ago. They are a nice group of folks - very diverse, ... more so than the range of folks I've met via Audiogon. It may be worth your time to go check it out - you may hear some things you've never heard and really like. You can tell Gil I sent you. It's only about two weeks away. You don't have to bring anything at all with you - some folks come to listen and socialize. Most bring their headphone rigs, and there's all kinds of systems there. I'm sure there will be at least one HD800...probably a Beyer T1 too (another good candidate for fans of Rock who want the refinement and detail of a really good headphone). I did not see any Grados PS1000's at the last meet though. If you really want to listen to one find a dealer that has both like 32 Ohm.
Your Woo Audio looks interesting. Are you using the
Sophia tubes? I used to have the Sophia mesh 300b's
in my Cary and it was the most glorious mid range
I have ever heard coming from my Cary. However, this
faded after about 50 hours. Possibly too much juice for
the mesh plates.

Unfortunately, I do not make it up to Portland very often.
Looks like 32 Ohm would be the place to go.

Thanks again for the useful information.
Your Woo Audio looks interesting. Are you using the
Sophia tubes? I used to have the Sophia mesh 300b's
in my Cary and it was the most glorious mid range
I have ever heard coming from my Cary. However, this
faded after about 50 hours. Possibly too much juice for
the mesh plates.

Unfortunately, I do not make it up to Portland very often.
Looks like 32 Ohm would be the place to go.

Thanks again for the useful information.

I did try the Sophia for a few weeks...maybe a month. I did not like it, but I was using Grado GS1000's at the time (very different from my current HD800's). I found it tended to soften the dynamics...not sure if that's a good description. It seemed to slow things down to some degree.

I'm currently using an EML 5U4G mesh in the Woo and that works very well for me.

I used to have 300B SET amps in my speaker system which I used for around six years - loved them. Nothing could beat WE 300B's in those amps. The newer Svets were pretty good too, but the WE's were king. I tried the Sophias there and really didn't like them at all, but this was in entirely different amps than yours.
Jax2, you may want to give the Shuguang black bottle treasure
tubes out.
I like them way better than the GE's. Huge sound stage
very musical and addictive. However, they take about 300 hours to fully break in, but they still sound addictive in
this break in period. I am wondering if it is possible that
I got a bad pair of GE's because they just did not have that
mid range magic everyone speaks of.
I use a pair of Black Treasures (from Ian) in my Modwright Transporter. I agree, they are excellent tubes (in that application at least). Sorry, I don't know what you are using them for though - which tube type are you using? The only competitor in the Transporter that I have are Tung Sol rounds, which are also excellent, but mighty expensive and getting more and more difficult to find.
I am using the Shuguang black bottle 300b's in my Cary.
Not sure if they make any tubes you would need for your
Woo amp. It would be worth trying out if they do.
I only have about 150 hours on them and they have been
a joy to listen to. They say that 300 hours are required
to brake them in so I am not sure how much better they will
be at the 300 mark.

I will have to do some research to see who carries these
cans here in Seattle. Unfortunately, this month is extremely
busy for me so it may take me a while.
Just an update on the Grado PS1000's. I spoke to a dealer
here in Seattle and they are on back order due to QC problems.
Sounds like it will be at least several weeks before they come
in. I am curious as what the QC problem is all about.

As for the Senns HD 800s, has anyone tried different cables
to tip down the treble and maybe add some musical warmth?
The Sennheisers have possibly the best soundstage of any headphone I have ever heard. As far as a cable, there are a few main brands to check out -- ALO Audio, Apuresound, Stefanaudioart, and (my personal favorite - especially with their complement cable) doublehelix. As far as warmth you'd want a copper cable instead of silver. The whole subject of headphone recables is a sore subject to many, with half the people proving theres no difference through blind tests, the other side proving the opposite with the same methodology. The truth is, if theres warmth issues even with your cary, I don't think these are the cans for you. The Audeze LCD-2 are currently as close to a consensus as the head-fi world can get at best all arounders in production, and are specifically noted for having more warmth and slightly rolled off treble compared to the hd800. At $950, they're also cheaper.
My recent search for headphones ended with a short list of two - the Senn HD800 and the Beyerdynamic T1. Both are outstanding headphones in their own right, but to me the difference between them came down to their musicality.

I found the HD800 to be more analytical - I found myself listening to recordings and being impressed with how good a recording sounded. With the T1's I found myself getting drawn into the musiccal experience and lost in the music. I have not regretted buying the T1.

If you are looking at high-end Senns or Grado, you owe it to yourself to compare them to the Beyerdynamic T1 as well.
I agree regarding the T1s. I went to 32 Ohm Audio in Portland and listened to all the flagship models from Sennheiser (800s sounded to forward/bright/analytical); Grados (hard to ignore but too much going on with the sound/imaging), Denons (great bass), etc. The ones that were most musical to my ears, with speed and fluidity, were the Beyer T1s. Matching Beyerdynamic A1 headphone amp pairs nicely too.
Same here, had Sennheiser 800 which sound more impressive at first listen than Beyerdynamic T1, but ultimately I didn't find them musical enough and now I'm quite pleased with T1. Can't wait to get the cord upgraded :-)
I'd like to also mention that even though I seemed to like what Grado PS1000 had to offer, the fact that I do a lot of listening while laying down on my bed didn't help, because these otherwise very good headphones, will NOT stay on your head the way they should and they will fall. Nobody mentioned this fact anywhere and in case I'm not the only one listening to cans while being in a horizontal position, I just wanted to be the potential buyers aware of this fact.
The T1's and the HD800's both have aspects i love.

T1's = Bass impact
HD800's = Soundstage
Anybody listened to the Beyerdynamic T1 with Naim Headline?