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AXPONA 2014: Sennheiser’s Big Guns

CT6A6196 Sennheiser has been making headphones for just about forever, and offers solutions to just about every possible market segment. You've got in-ear, on-ear, over-ear. You've got mobile. You've got pro audio and consumer audio. You've got wireless and wired. You've even got a very robust line of products targeting corporate users, including presentation systems and teleconferencing. Yeah, they're big. That's probably why you've heard of them. Sennheiser's Scott Houston was manning the booth in the Ear Gear Expo at AXPONA, walking us through the Sennheiser headphone amp and amp/DAC units that were recently announced. The $1,699 HDVA-600 is a headphone amplifier with two balanced and two single-ended outputs. It's a robust unit, with solidly made look and feel, and happily includes a fully analog Alps pot as a volume control. The $1,999 HDVD-800 head amp brings a DAC to the combo into the same form factor, but with a host of digital inputs on the rear of the unit. The HDVD-800 supports 24bit files up to 192kHz resolution. 

Also on display was a listening station feature Senn’s line of Beats knock-outs, the very colorful on-ear Momentum headphones. $200 a pair seems rather reasonable for the level of fit-and-finish, durability and overall sound quality. I’ve been loving my over-ear Momentums for the better part of a year and I’m finding them terrifically competitive in the closed-back headphone segment.

But my reference headphones are the HD800. At $1,699/pair, these headphones are a high water mark in terms of refinement, with crystalline highs and holographic mids, and showcase the highest level of detail retrieval I’ve ever heard in any high-end audio system, bar none. On the other hand, these headphones are notorious in audio circles as being “problematic” to in terms of listening fatigue, but I will offer that this hasn’t necessarily been my experience. Likewise, the recommendation to “only pair them with tube electronics” seems a bit unfair. Finding them here with the Sennheiser head amps was both instructive and pleasant, especially if violating expectations is your thing. The two amps above are natural matches to the Big Daddy Senns, and both can really pull the bass response up to a level that seems rare with these cans. Definitely worth checking out.

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About Scot Hull (979 Articles)

Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.