With the IE 800 S, Sennheiser sets a new benchmark for its portfolio when it comes to in-ear earphones. Or rather, as Sennheiser more correctly puts it: ear canal headphones. Considering we’re dealing with an asking price in the region of a thousand euros, that level of detail is important. With this in mind, we went into the test of these headphones with discerning criteria.
Sennheiser are putting a lot of weight behind the fact that, compared to the IE 800, steps have been taken to refine tuning further than before. Tried-and-tested design features such as a two-chamber absorber system (D2CA) serves to minimise masking effects, while the installation of 7mm extra-wide band converters (XWB) have both been utilised. All in all, the technical spec of these headphones reads rather well indeed. What stands out above all else is the frequency response, specified by the manufacturer as 5 Hz to 46.5 kHz. That’s right. 46,500 Hz! The maximum acoustic pressure level of 111 dB (measured) should provide sufficient reserves for each and every ear, allowing the user to enjoy music to the fullest. The 17.6 ohms (measured) should not come across any issues, even when dealt with amplifier circuits common in modern smartphone devices. Speaking of mobiles, these Sennheiser headphones dispense with any concern for telecommunications or multimedia bells and whistles. There’s no media control and no hands-free microphone. The IE 800 S is an in-ear receiver only, nothing more. It’s easy to appreciate the purism at work here, especially if you’re a fellow audiophile serious about sound. Generally speaking, every additional component heaped onto a headphone model represents another source of interference to both electrical signal path and overall music enjoyment.
This lightweight 8-gram receiver is visually discreet, with the exception of the two absorber chambers at the back. All in all, however, it’s one of the most inconspicuous models I’ve laid eyes on in a long time. Frankly, I don’t know of any other in-ear headphones around the thousand euro price mark that look so modest in appearance. A tiny red marker on the cable outlet distinguishes the right from left earpiece. This is particularly important, due to the fact the slim housings have been contoured to follow the natural shape of the ear. This means they tilt slightly inwards as they transition to the ear. The thin ceramic housing can also ‘bend’, ensuring the IE 800 S can be inserted comfortably into the ear canal. This innovative design and lightweight construction mean these headphones boast some seriously impressive levels of comfort. I’ve rarely experienced in-ear headphones that are so imperceptible in the ear. To enjoy best results when it comes to fit, you must make the right choice when selecting a pair of earmolds. These headphones come with six individual pairs in total, ranging from small to large. There’s also two choices of material included, with silicone and memory foam both on offer. The connecting cable ends just after the two ends join in a 2.5mm plug, which can be adapted to desired plug sizes (2.5mm, 3.5mm and 4.mm stereo jack) using one of the three connecting cables supplied with the headphones themselves. In addition, there is a high-quality carry case which bears the serial number of the associated handset.
As so often when it comes to such an expensive purchase, even an experienced tester has high expectations. With the IE 800 S, I wasn’t disappointed. They sound as inconspicuous as they look, with a straightforward design that is intended to play music. Expect non-agitated, wideband sound with very pleasant tonality that focuses the sound less on the highs, but more on “warmth”, i.e. the midrange and bass. This makes listening to these Sennheiser headphones a real pleasure, even when worn for hours at a time. The precise way the stereo field dissolves and the location of instruments when recorded are also revealed for maximum listening satisfaction.
It’s difficult to wrap up things with a simple conclusion because the Sennheiser IE 800 S is simply so good. Good for the discerning audiophile specifically, largely due to a very melodious and relaxed tonality. Those looking for a great deal more for their money, namely so-called “staging” of sound, will be left disappointed by the IE 800 S. They are sound converters and not devices designed with enjoyment in mind. Everything about these headphones is delightfully inconspicuous, from the appearance to the incredibly comfortable design, not to mention an ultimately relaxed and rounded sound. Music lovers who are looking for those things, in particular, should find plenty to appreciate with the IE 800 S.
Measurement ResultsMore measurement results
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)5 - 46.500 Hz
- Impedance17,6 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)111,46 dB
- Weight without cable8 g
- Cable length120 cm
What's in the box
- 3 pairs of ear-tips (Comply in S, M, L)
- 3 pairs of ear-tips (Silicone in S, M, L)
- Cable with mini jack
- Cable with balanced 2.5mm jack
- Cable with balanced 4.4mm Pentaconn jack
- Cleaning cloth
- Carrying pouch