The Sennheiser comes boxed beautifully with all that is required to get you up and running, that is the manual, software disc with the required drivers for Windows/Mac and of course the HDVD 800 itself, the all aluminium casing looks quite the part and solid in build quality with a window on top showing off its electronics which also glows nicely when powered up letting you know that the fully balanced design is in there, built in Germany as is all Sennheiser equipment you just know you are getting a quality item.Features
It is something that all designs these days are capable of and ones costing 1500 is a given, so 24bit 192Khz Sampling rates is taken care of by Burr Brown DAC's, Digital sources can be connected to the HDVD 800 via Toslink optical, coaxial S/PDIF, USB 2.0 or high-end digital AES3/EBU cables.You can also connect any analogue device like a SACD/CD Player to its RCA connections which also has balanced ones too should you opt for this option, and you can build a very good system around this headphone amp due to its flexibility, you can also have 4 pairs of headphones connected at the same time should you wish, 2 via Balanced connections, and 2 via standard headphone cables that comes with the unit as balanced connections are a special order but apparently well worth it. Performance
I have used a variety of the connections throughout my listening sessions with this amp and all the connections have proved to be very positive in its audio delivery with an exemplary performance whether it be digital or analogue, SACD or CD or HD Audio fed from my PC which is loaded from my NAS server where I have a huge collection of music to test with.
I'll start with a piece of music from Janis Ian which I heard recently at HiFi Show being demoed on some very high end speakers and electronics so I knew what this album sounded like on a good HiFi system and looked forward to what it could do with the Sennheiser combination, the album is called Breaking Silence and is a beautifully laid out album which has everything you could ask for, terrific vocals from Janis Ian and some lovely melodic tunes, I was not disappointed with how the presentation of the Sennheiser combination presented this music, the soundstage was very airy and vast as if outside the headphones and instruments and vocals being placed naturally in a stereo image just as you would if you were sitting front row listening to her live, this is just 16bit 44Khz Audio not high resolution but it was clear that this Headphone Amp and DAC has a very high end feel to its sound and you cannot help yourself but just sit back enjoy the luxury of what good HiFi can sound like as the Sennheiser has it in spades, dynamics are just so good through the HD800 headphones and you can just keep turning that volume up on the Amp and it just gets louder and louder without distortion, but beware not to over do it because you can get carried away and well it may not be too good for your hearing in the long run over long periods of time at high levels, but it is just shows how much drive this amp has and easily drives the HD800's.
Switching to some High Resolution music 24bit 96khz Amber Rubarth "Session from the 17th Ward" takes the listening up a notch or two and the noise floor drops completely when silent and it is clear that the tempo and rhythm has been stepped up, LoL, joking aside it certainly makes you feel like it has been and if you did not have the headphones connected I would of probably jumped up and started to dance a long to this music as it was mesmerising and Amber Rubarth's voice is crystal clear and the dynamics have been shifted up a gear too, Tundra is a great track as the drums sound so precise on the Sennheisers and each pluck of the guitar and Violin have there own place in the song and soundstage it is that good, really taking you into the songs rhythm and melody, just the same with "Good Mystery" it is certainly clear that the higher resolution music stands out and is more enjoyable as it is like adding more dynamics and volume although you have not, if you get what I mean, the music is clearly mastered better and the higher that resolution the HDVD800 laps it up and delivers all the sonic bliss that even though it is a costly Headphone amp you can understand why and appreciate where that money has been spent as you get such good quality in return.Conclusion
I will not beat around the bush with this one but this pairing of the Sennheiser HDVD800 & HD800 Headphones is a quality system if you are looking for one of the best Headphone Amps and Headphone combination around, it offers so much flexibility that you can build a whole system around this pair and have some great HiFi with minimal space cost, I am told that its performance is increased once you get the balanced headphone leads so this maybe a worthy upgrade once you have had this system a little while but also due to the fact that you can have up to 4 Headphones connected you can go for something even more exotic seeing as other manufacturers have finally caught up with Sennheisers HD800 cans now, and there is much more choice at this price point.
But if you want an all in one unit then the Sennheiser ticks all the right boxes, and is highly recommended!!!Thanks to Musical Images who made this review possible.