Sennheiser HD800S too expensive? These nearly identical headphones cost $600 less

The Drop + Sennheiser HD 8XX are premium headphones
(Image credit: Drop)

For more than a decade, the Sennheiser HD800 have been the gold standard in reference-grade headphones. With outstanding clarity and a massive soundstage, they’re the go-to option for producers, performers, and audiophiles looking for the absolute best headphones money can buy.

But at $1,699 (£‎1,149, AU$1,899), they’re not exactly what we consider affordable. 

The good news is, thanks to audio retailer Drop, you can practically get the same exact headphones with some minor tweaks for $1,100 instead. 

Drop sent us a pair to test to see if we could spot any difference between the two and, dozens of audio tracks later, we really can’t. 

 Why are the Sennheiser HD800 so good? 

Ask any audiophile about Sennheiser and they’ll list dozen-or-so reasons why the German audio manufacturer is so good. Mostly, however, it comes down to Sennheiser’s years of experience crafting audio products, the way the brand listens to user feedback, and its attention to detail. 

The HD800 and its more modern successor, the HD800S, represent pretty much the pinnacle of Sennheiser’s efforts. Yes, you technically can buy more expensive headphones, but the HD800 have become the gold standard and benchmark for almost all other high-end headphones. 

These open-back cans are built in such a way to allow you to critically evaluate music. They have a focus on the midrange and highs while still countering sibilance. There’s not an excruciating amount of bass - which might make them less appealing for some - but that allows the headphones to be nearly distortion-free at any volume. 

Finally, they have a wide soundstage. This term has various interpretations and meanings depending on who you ask, but most consider it to be the ability for music to sound like it’s being played live and immerse the listener in such a way that they can hear where particular instruments are in the mix. It sounds a bit hokey, but it’s something that you can actually hear with the right sound equipment. 

There’s no denying that they’re good headphones - but for their regular price, they were always just out of reach. 

The Drop + Sennheiser HD 8XX are premium headphones

(Image credit: Drop)

What’s the deal with Drop’s HD8XX model? 

Enter the Drop + Sennheiser HD 8XX, a custom-built pair of headphones based on the HD800S. It’s one of several headphones that Drop and Sennheiser have collaborated on (there’s also an HD6XX model that we’re currently testing), which promises to chop down the price while still retaining all the qualities audiophiles love.

Several of the HD800S’s specs show up in the HD8XX, including the 4 Hz – 51,000 Hz frequency response and 0.02 % total harmonic distortion. The headphones also have a 300-ohm impedance, which means that you’ll need an amp of some sort to drive them as well.

The construction of the headphones remains great, and despite their large size, they fit comfortably on our ears for hours on end.

While they’re not exactly one-to-one replicas of the Sennheiser HD800 headphones (Drop says that it has changed the tuning slightly due to community feedback), by and large, you’re buying nearly the same headphones for a lot less.

The Drop + Sennheiser HD 8XX are premium headphones

(Image credit: Drop)

Should these be your first high-end headphones? 

At just over a grand, there’s going to be a lot of temptation to make these your very first pair of high-end headphones. While they're almost certainly going to be a big jump from what you’ve been listening to, here’s what you should know about headphones like these before you buy.

For one, headphones like these require an amp to drive - your phone or motherboard on your computer simply won’t be powerful enough to make them audible. Amps and DACs are sold in many different forms but, if you don’t have one, be prepared to drop at least another $200 on one to make sure you’re set up for success.

The other issue first-timers might have with the Drop + Sennheiser HD 8XX is that they’re open-back headphones - meaning they let a lot of sound in and a lot of sound out. Audiophiles don’t mind that because we’re typically squirreled away in our listening rooms away from any distractions, but other folks might want headphones that can be used when they’re out and about either on public transportation or in an office setting. 

Finally, and this is a small caveat, these headphones don’t terminate in a standard 3.5mm cable - but rather a 6.35 mm (1/4") TRS single-ended plug. It’s the kind that you see electric guitars using and won’t fit into a standard audio jack. You can, of course, buy a cheap converter on sites like Amazon, but it won’t change the fact that you’ll still need a lot of power to drive them properly.

All that being said, we wouldn’t recommend these for your very first audiophile-grade headphones if you don’t know what you’re getting into. However, if these are your second pair and you’re ready to make the jump to some seriously high-fidelity music listening, then the Drop + Sennheiser HD 8XX is your discounted entry ticket.

Nick Pino

Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.