Review: Sennheiser HD 820


Mis à jour le 26 February 2019.

This week we reviewed the Sennheiser HD 820 headphones, the closed version of the famous HD800S, fitted with the legendary Sennheiser Ring Radiator transducers.

Test Sennheiser hd820

Sennheiser HD 820: who is it for?

The Sennheiser HD820 headphones are for listeners looking for a neutral and analytical sound, with a vast soundstage. In short, headphones with a linear frequency response which can be easily adjusted via an equalizer.

Sennheiser HD 820: closed-back design

This is a first since the launch of the HD8xx series: the Sennheiser HD 820 doesn’t have an open-back design. Very similar to the HD800S, it is differentiated by the presence of two glass covers and its closed-back structure. As a reminder, closed-back headphones benefit from effective isolation from outside noise and reinforced lows which, on the other hand, result in a narrower and more compressed soundstage. Logically, Sennheiser has therefore modified the HD800S’ transducers.

Test Sennheiser hd820
Behind the glass cover and soundwave absorber is the cone of the Sennheiser HD 820 headphones’ transducer.

Sennheiser HD 820: high impedance

The Sennheiser HD 820 has a nominal impedance of 300 Ohms (at 1kHz). This is a very high rating, which calls for a headphone amplifier or a powerful digital audio player. That said, the transducer’s high sensitivity, rated at 103 dB for 1 mW, should allow high volume to be attained with just about any source.

Sennheiser HD 820: which amps or DAPs can be associated?

The Sennheiser HD 820’s 300 Ohm impedance calls for powerful amplifiers, capable of delivering at least 2×50 mW with this load impedance. Most high end DAPs meet this criterion. However, the ideal solution is to pair the HD 820 with a larger headphone amp, with an output impedance superior to 100 Ohms. By ideal we mean that an amplifier will color the signal a lot less than a portable player would, as a DAP’s lower impedance (a couple of ohms) often results in an emphasis on the highs.

Test Sennheiser hd820
The Sennheiser HD 820 headphones come with three 3 m long cables (6.35 mm jack, XLR, 4.4 mm Pentaconn).

Sennheiser HD 820: three detachable cables

The Sennheiser HD 820 comes with three different cables. An unbalanced cable fitted with a 6.35 mm stereo jack connector, a balanced cable with a 4.4 mm Pentaconn connector and a balanced XLR cable. Each cable is made of silver-plated copper and is optimized to ensure extremely low impedance and inductance.

Sennheiser HD 820: ergonomics and comfort

The Sennheiser HD 820 is extremely comfortable. These large headphones cover the ears without touching them and don’t exert any uncomfortable pressure on the listener’s head. The feel of the velvet earpads is pleasant. The noise of the cable rubbing on the listener’s clothes is expertly filtered. Totally faultless.

Test Sennheiser hd820
The Sennheiser HD 820’s earpads are large and comfortable.

Sennheiser HD 820: test conditions and listening impressions

We listened to the Sennheiser HD 82 with the superb Cayin N8 DAP, via its 4.4 mm balanced Pentaconn output.

For those expecting an immediately enchanting sound, listening to the Sennheiser HD 820 is – at first – a disappointment. The lows don’t benefit from the headphones’ closed structure, compared to the Sennheiser HD800S, and the distance that separates the ears from the transducers doesn’t help immersion at all. Clearly, the sound signature is an acquired taste. Therefore, we gave the Cayin N8 plenty of time to warm up, and tried using flawlessly mixed FLAC HD files. We came to the conclusion that the HD 820 aren’t very expressive headphones, but that instead, they are formidably neutral and analytical.

Essentially, separation is very good: the lows are deep, intense, agile – albeit rather subdued – the mids are precise – with an increase in presence from 500 Hz to 1 kHz – the highs are bright with a peak at around 8 kHz. The whole frequency range is restituted with the same amount of energy.

The soundstage is considerable, and is precisely and pleasantly layered. It is difficult to criticize such a sound signature. After a few hours of listening, our DAP is red hot, but unfortunately we aren’t. Out of frustration, we turn to classical music and jazz and sure enough, it finally livens up. The timbres are accurate, and the dynamics are appreciable. But there’s still no spark.

Test Sennheiser hd820
The Sennheiser HD 820 headphones and its balanced Pentaconn connector cable.

Sennheiser HD 820: compared to…

Sennheiser HD-800S:  the sound signature is the same, but the soundstage is wider. The HD-800S has the upper hand when used in a quiet environment, and when it comes to price.

HiFiMAN HE-1000: Planar Magnetic technology for the HE-1000, which offers an organic, more attractive mid range.

Sony MDR-Z1R: not as neutral in the mids as the HD820, the flagship model of Sony’s range is very easy to drive, is more lively and has more authority in the lows.

Sennheiser HD 820: conclusion

Sennheiser, who knows how to produce entertaining headphones (PX, Momentum), strives, iteration after iteration, to never offend the listener’s ears with its flagship model. If a neutral and balanced listening experience is what you’re looking for, the Sennheiser HD 820 can’t be beaten by anything currently on the market. It can be paired with its dedicated headphone amplifier, the Sennheiser HDV 820.

What we liked:

  • The comfort
  • The softness of the restitution
  • The width and precision of the soundstage
  • The adequate isolation

What we would have liked:

  • To have been blown away…

Casques et écouteurs Sennheiser Momentum

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