Wahl Senior Review: #8500, 5 Star & Sterling Reflections

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I freaking love the Seniors. They’re a real workhorse of a clipper, and a worthy candidate for any barber’s main hair cutter. Easy to work with, versatile, reliable for both bulk cutting and tapering.

It’s pretty obvious why Wahl picked the Senior as their poster boy hair clipper 🙂

First of all, let’s be clear. There are many variations of the Seniors (check them out). I’ll try to cover most of them in this review.

Most commonly, people wonder what’s the difference between the classic Wahl Senior vs the 5 Star Senior. Here’s your answer, the beautiful #2191 Fade blade of my favorite 5 star Seniors:

Wahl Senior vs 5 Star Senior: Here's what the difference in #1005 vs #2191 blade means

It cuts closer (#0000) and deals with fading or tapering better than the classic #1005 blade of the Wahl 8500 Senior.

This is turning a bit confusing, right? Let’s hop onto a thorough look at the whole v9000 motor family:

  • Wahl 8500 Senior: A review

  • Wahl Senior vs 5 star Senior: A full comparison

  • Wahl Sterling Reflections: What’s different?

  • Special editions: Wahl Senior Vintage Edition & the #81919 100 Year Anniversary Seniors

I have to say…Last year I was looking forward to what Wahl will come up with, but they went beyond my expectations. The 100th anniversary clippers are a cordless beast worth its price.

They’re the only full-metal housing Senior too.

Wahl 100 Anniversary Clipper

A full-metal housing, cordless beast. Powerful rotary motor for precise cuts all day long.

Wahl 8500 Senior review:
v9000 power in one darn tough clipper

The Senior doesn’t only hit heavy in terms of quality cuts – it is heavy in terms of weight too. At 1.3lbs and a respectable 6.5″, it’s one of the bigger adjustable clippers from the Wahl family.

Why’s that?

Simple: if you want to house the newer v9000 motor, you need some space. This is no rotary motor like the cordless Magic Clip, which weighs almost half the Seniors.

The v9000 is a roaring beast that boasts torque high enough to plow through thicker hair types. I had a v5000 Super Taper several years ago, and let me tell you – it doesn’t even compare. The difference in cut speed and precision between these two electromagnetic motors is stunning.

What do you need to shield that motor and turn your clipper into a barber’s favorite?

That’s right – you need tough casing. The 8500 Seniors feature a chrome half-body that’s tougher than the impact of it falling on the ground.

On the top, you have some whitish-gray plastic. It’s not some flimsy ABS-wanna be, this is proper hard plastic manufacture.

Body design-wise, this is what differentiates the 8500 clipper from the Sterling Reflections Senior (chrome/silverish top) and the black plastic top on the 5 Star Seniors:

Wahl Senior review: Comparing the v9000 8500 Senior vs 5 Star Senior, Sterling Reflections, and the 100 year anniversary one.

The classic v9000 Senior comes with Wahl’s three-hole #1005 blade. This is the standard bulk cut and blending blade you’ll see in a lot of other models. The Designer, Sterling 4 and Super Taper II have it too, for example.

As I mentioned, the blade is exactly what makes the Wahl 8500 different from the 5 Star Seniors. Let’s see how.

Wahl Senior vs 5 Star Senior:
It’s all about mastering the fade

The 5 star version of the clipper comes with the improved #2191 adjustable blade.

Make no mistake: it’s completely different from what the standard Senior comes with. It cuts closer (size #0000) with a zero-overlap and redesigned blade teeth.

All of this enables the 5 star Senior clippers to become a go-to for any fading or serious tapering jobs.

This doesn’t dectract from them coping with bulk hair cuts either. In a way, the #2191 blade (two-hole) is a multipurpose wonder with a specific focus on fading.

You can guess why it’s the stock blade for all Wahl 5 star adjustable clippers, including the corded Magic Clip 🙂

Personally, I prefer the 5 star Seniors to the classic one. Aside from the blade, they also simply look cooler. That black is very stylish and sleek.

Speaking of stylish…

Wahl Sterling Reflections Senior #8501:
What’s up with it?

I’ve seen a lot of people mixing things up and deciding that the Reflections Senior (prices here) is completely different than the 5 star clipper.

Not really. It’s the exact same thing – v9000 motor, #2191 fade blade and all that jazz. There are only two things that are different:

  • You receive the full set of 8 Wahl guards, unlike the limited 3 you get with other Seniors.

  • The top blends with the chrome-looks of the bottom housing.

The latter is what Wahl’s Sterling product line is about. Shiny, elegant design that’s definitely make an impression.

Another prominent example of that line is the Sterling Mag trimmer, which I’ve actually reviewed.

The special editions:
Wahl Senior Vintage & The #81919 Anniversary Clipper

Sadly, Wahl decided to stop distributing the Vintage Senior Edition. Basically, it was a slightly altered Reflections model. The only cosmetic difference was that the taper lever and switch being coated in red paint.

It certainly made an impression, but it wasn’t really worth the premium price tag.

Things are different with this 100 year anniversary beast.

This heavy-duty guy right here is made of 100% metal. Imagine an Andis Master, but a Wahl Senior, if that makes sense. Full metal looks are the real deal on the Seniors, first time I saw it it swept me away.

Performance-wise, you get 70 minute runtime on the clipper. The motor isn’t v9000 here, though – it’s a rotary that goes up to 6400-6900 RPM.

That’s actually pretty darn great, considering a lot of corded clippers clock out at 7000 RPM.

While we’re talking about boss style, you have to love how this guy customized his 1919 Wahl adjustable clipper:

Is it worth it? Definitely, if you have the money.

If you’re a beginner, I’d advise you to go for the 8500 Senior or the 5 Star before, though. No need to splurge on something that expensive before learning the ropes first.

The drawbacks of the Wahl Senior family

Nothing too serious, but you can’t expect these powerful machines to be flawless.

The v9000 motor generates quite a bit of heat. If you work long with the Seniors, they will heat up. If you’re facing a tougher, more demanding haircut, I’d suggest swapping them out from time to time to give them a rest.

This varies a bit across models. From what I’ve talked with some barbers around me, the Sterling Senior heats up the most. Interestingly enough, the #81919 metal Senior keeps relatively cool considering its construction and performance.

The reason is simple: while high in RPM, its rotary motor runs a little cooler than what electromagnetic monsters operate like.

These clippers also tend to vibrate, courtesy of the v9000 motor again. Again, it’s expected.

What do you prefer, some vibrations, or a slow motor that suffocates and dies out anytime you have to plow through extra thick or coarse hair?

The choice is obvious, I think.

All in all, the benefits of using a Senior as your main clipper outweigh the downsides. If you’re serious about your art as a barber, or want to DIY like the pros do – these are your adjustable clippers.

Own them.

If you’re on a budget and looking for similar performance, consider the Wahl Legend combo. I’ve talked more about the Legend in my review here.

Also, if you’re in the market for a close-shaving tool, check my Wahl and Andis shaver comparison.

Founder of ToolingFun. Couldn't even change a lightbulb in my teenage years. Discovered the joy of DIY projects during my 2nd year in college. All about tinkering around, trying fun tools and projects, and giving my opinion on industry brands!