Sennheiser HD820 preview

In early 2009 German über headphone giant Sennheiser came out with its long-awaited flagship design the HD800 – an open-back, dynamic-driver model featuring “ring radiator” technology – which was viewed by many as an incredibly accurate headphone with an disarming honesty to its sonic presentation, but one that many listeners found could be fatiguing.

Fast-forward to 2016 and the company launched their upgrade to the 800 in the guise of the 800S which was aimed at making the 800 a kinder, gentler beast, with a nod to warming-up the sonic signature and taming what was perceived in the press and by consumers as an overly-accurate sound.

It’s now 2018 and this summer Sennheiser has come out with their latest take on the 800-series – the HD820 – but have shifted from an open-back design to a closed-back one (using smartphone-grade glass as part of the driver’s backing enclosure), making the HD820 a very different proposal from its older siblings.

Why different? Comparing open-back designs to closed-back designs is difficult at best because of the contrasting approaches to dealing with the way drivers fire their rearward energy radiation. A headphone drive unit (or any transducer) sends as much of its energy backward as it does forward, so a closed-back design has to deal with that energy and the inherent resonances that come with it, whereas in an open-back design that energy dissipates out into the ether away from the listening point. Completely changing the technical-design specifications of the unit and the materials chosen for inclusion in its manufacture to have to deal with that energy.

A few years ago, the HD800 was one of the first “high-end” headphones I ever heard and its transparency to source resonated with me and I found it to be incredibly comfortable for extended listening sessions. So I was excited when the company offered to send me the $2,399 USD 820 for review.

Having just arrived a short time ago, I’ve only been able to briefly listen to them and do some quick back-to-back sessions, but initial listening shows the 820 to be just as comfortable to wear, featuring the same outstanding build quality as the original 800. Sound-wise, they are warmer, output noticeably more bass and maintain the same smooth across-the-frequency-range response (12Hz~43.8kHz -3dB) that got me hooked on the Sennheiser sound. At 360 grams they are only 30 grams heavier than the 800, maintain the same 300-Ohm impedance and have a one dB edge in sensitivity at 103 dB/1kHz/1V compared to the 800’s 102dB/1kHz/1V.

The 820 comes in a beautiful black-stained wood case with a choice of three cables: a standard 6.3mm termination, a Pentacon (balanced) connector and an XLR4. I’ve been using the 6.3mmmm cable with a Naim DAC-V1 so far and if I get a balanced headphone amp to use for the full review, I’ll try that as well.

Thanks for stopping by and look for a full review of the 820 in the near future as our new measurement system is almost in place.

Sennheiser Electronic GmbH & Co
Am Labor 1, 30900 Wedemark, Germany

Simply Nobody's picture

May be you could also review HD820 with the new Chord Hugo TT2? :-) .................

MattTCG's picture

The original hd800 weighs 380 grams. Just checked on my trusty kitchen scale (not including cable).