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The real eye-opener of the day was the HD800 with the V2 Double Helix (balanced) fed by the ZDT. The synergy was simply amazing. I haven’t compared them side by side to my mod’d HP1000/HP1 SAA combo but I think I could easily say the HD800/WA cable outperforms the HP1/SAA with the ZDT. Further, I preferred the HD800/WA/ZDT combo to anything Larry plugged into the WES. Not by a far margin but I felt the HD800 were just so immersive and engaging relative to the incredible reproduction of the O2MK1, or the HE60. 

I have only gone back to the stock cable once since RMAF and that was to compare cables after switching to a brighter sounding Sylvania 5751 gold pin tube in the ZDT. I found that when I switch the PS Audio Digital Link III to 96Khz up-sampling to compensate for the brighter Sylvania tube, that I enjoy the HD800 better with the Warren Audio (aka Fidelity Audio) cable than the stock cable. I also found the Apogee mini-DAC compensates fairly well for the brighter Sylvania tube, allowing me to still use the Warren Audio cable which is not as rolled off in the highs as the stock cable.

The V2 cable and the HD800 combo changed that, first off the price came down significantly, but more importantly the little issues I still had with the re-cabled HD800 are resolved: the HD800 grew some bass – with nice, tight impact unlike the stock version’s hint at the lower registers. The soundstage always was huge but now it also sounds natural unlike the stock version – maybe the best sound staging / imaging I’ve heard besides an HE90 and it retains all the great qualities in a more tonally balanced and accurate (to my ears) presentation. 

HD800 Double-Helix cable: 01/11/10: I received an updated HD800 Double Helix cable to replace the one that I broke when I twisted the HD800 connectors tighter (and had to repair before RMAF), even though the first cable has been working fine for the past 3.5 months. Rick’s new build process cuts the cost to $299 for 2 meters and $100 for each additional meter, making it half the cost of the previous cable, despite a proprietary new insulative material. And at the same time it balances out the sound a little more so that I don’t have to swap DACs, sources or tubes when I switch between my HD800 and K1000 on the ZDT amp. With the ZDT set up for the K1000, when I switch to the HD800 the sound is a little fuller or warmer with less treble emphasis than the original Double Helix, but at the same time still warmer and more detailed and transparent than the stock HD800 cable. So, now if I wanted to I could use my PS Audio DAC in 192K mode for the wider soundstage again, as it allows more flexibility in my setup.

Overall, I have listed impressions with different recordings but it all seem to revolve around the same point: there’s a feeling of smearing of highs with the stock cable which at first gives the impression of detailed sound but soon turns into lack of spacialization and increased sibilance / graininess of high pitch sounds. The Warren Audio cable makes a very noticeable improvement to the presentation with a smoother sound, better layering and placement of instruments, no sign of sibilances / graininess. The Blue Dragon also does a very good job at reducing the treble emphasis of the stock cable but sacrifices some resolution in the process. The Warren Audio cable is very detailed while significantly improving transient response / decay.

The HD800 connector has a longer grip so it’s easier to handle plugs and insert them without taking the phones off your head (if doing a swap while listening and comparing), but just one time I got a partial or intermittent connection when I didn’t take the phones off to change cables properly and securely. When connecting the cable with the phones in my lap, I have NOT been able repeat the issue to make the sound cut out with twisting, turning or pulling on the cable or connectors while listening, and it seems solidly made (thanks to Rick’s new digital soldering station). Unlike the V1 Double Helix cable, I cannot unscrew the HD800 plug barrel on the V2 or make the wires spin and come loose inside. The new plugs may have slightly more wiggle in the HD800 socket than the stock connector, but it doesn’t affect the sound at all when when played with. I was relieved to find that the longer connector on the HD800 end does NOT cause the cable to poke into my shoulder like the APS V3 cable on my HD600 does.

The thing is though, apart from nasty recordings, the stock HD800 sounds really good. It’s just when one starts to compare against other cable. I really have a hard time believing how the cable can have such noticeable impact on the response. But I can hear it with each and every one of my CDs, so it just can’t be all placebo. 

Right out of the gate i noticed a clarity  with a smooth natural sound. The clarity and detail took be by surprise. The bass was tighter and clear. I am not used to that. The mids smooth, yet dynamic. . The highs were clean, detailed yet with absolutely no irritation. The flute did not have a trace of harshness  as I had heard before. I said how can this sound  be clean and natural and how can i hear instruments or tones that I never heard before.

One thing holding him back was the high price for the HD800 cable. He did not want the HD800 without the upgraded cable, and $799 for a 3-meter cable just pushed the total price too high in this economy. This time, with the latest Double Helix cable, Scott was thrilled because he said it sounded even better – fuller, stronger and that it “just sounded right”. He was asking me if I changed tubes, or what did I do to make it this good. He was surprised that the only change was the updated cable, and he feels the sound is even better balanced now. He went as far as to say that while he really did like my Woo WES with Stax O2 Mk1 today, he felt that the HD800/Double Helix combo on the ZDT was superior. He agreed that my HE60 on the WES amp now have the best bass he’s ever heard from them, and that they sound similar to the HD800/Double Helix; but he felt that the Warren-Audio cabled HD800′s soundstage and dynamics were still superior, and that it was like being there vs listening to a really good reproduction on the HE60.

So if looking for the ultimate improvement for your HD800 headphones, or any headphones for that matter, be sure to check out Warren Audio for all of your Headphone Cable needs.

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This entry was posted on Friday, April 16th, 2010 at 3:18 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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