NuForce HP-800 headphones review: Impressive sound at a good price

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The Good The NuForce HP-800 headphones offer a comfortable fit and strong sound for a relatively affordable price. The model sports full-size die-cast aluminum earcups and comes with two sets of user-replaceable cables.

The Bad Portability isn't a strong suit: the HP-800 design is rather large and doesn't fold up (or fold flat). It also lacks an inline mic or phone controls.

The Bottom Line While it's less geared to mobile use, the $150 NuForce HP-800 is one of the better-sounding full-size headphone models for the money.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 9

NuForce is best known as a manufacturer of audiophile preamps, power amps, and digital-to-analog converters, but the company also offers a range of in-ear headphones and now its first full-size, "Monitor Class" headphones: the $149 HP-800 model.

With an understated matte-black finish and particularly large earcups, these headphones have sort of an anti-trendy design that seems geared toward audiophiles (maybe that makes it trendy). They're very comfortable and the sound is ideal for buyers seeking an easygoing balance that works equally well with all genres of music.

Design and features
The HP-800s have a closed-back design that offers a decent amount of noise isolation, though headphones with tighter fits do a slightly better job of sealing out the outside world (however, headphones with a tighter fit can end up being less comfortable).

The headphones feature die-cast aluminum earcups. Sarah Tew/CNET

What makes these headphones so comfortable is that they use a spring-loaded tensioner to keep the headband off the top of your head. The other neat aspect of this design is you don't have to slide the earcups up or down to optimize the fit; the headphones automatically conform to different-size heads. I found that approach more comfortable than a padded headband -- it worked perfectly on my noggin.

The build quality feels robust, and the die-cast aluminum earcups are definitely a step up from the plastic ones found on most similarly priced headphones. The inside of the earcups is bright red, and the round ear cushions are nicely padded.

The spring-loaded tensioner keeps the headband off the top of your head. Sarah Tew/CNET

The HP-800 headphones may be too large to use on the go, but they're easy to drive -- the 40mm drivers have a 32-ohm impedance -- and can play loud with an iPod or a smartphone.

The headphones come with two cables, a skinny 48-inch-long one and a thicker, cloth-covered 80-inch cable. Both cables are terminated with a 3.5mm plug at each end, and connect to the headphones' left earcup. Accessories are a screw-on 6.3mm gold-plated adapter (a phono plug) and a very basic nylon carrying bag.

To be clear, these headphones don't fold up or fold flat, so they will take up some room in your bag.

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