I got my first taste of the Sennheiser HD 820 headphones at Can Jam New York 2018. And despite the crowded convention hall, I could tell they had a uniqueness to them. I was lucky enough to explore those qualities in more detail over the last couple of weeks. So without further ado, I’m happy to share my thoughts with this Sennheiser HD 820 headphones review.
Sennheiser HD 820 Headphones Review
In the Box – Sennheiser HD 820 Headphones Review
-Sennheiser HD 820 headphones
-Three detachable cables (6.3 mm connector cable, 4.4 mm Pentaconn connector cable, XLR 4-Pin connector cable)
Specifications – Sennheiser HD 820 Headphones Review
-Type: over-ear, closed-back
-Impedance: 300 ohms
-Frequency Response: 12 Hz-43.8 kHz (-3 dB); 6 Hz-48 kHz (-10 dB)
-SPL: 103 dB @ 1 kHz, 1V
Design – Sennheiser HD 820 Headphones Review
Upon picking up the Sennheiser HD 820 headphones, I thought the lightweight and flexible headband might be made of plastic. However, examining them further, they’re actually made of a light metal. Additionally, they have a metal extension band for adjusting their size.
The headband is attached to the yolk via a shock absorption mechanism, which adjusts its shape by the exact shape of the wearer’s head. Then, the yolk attaches to the back of the earcup, but curls around the front of it. As a result, it balances and avoids tension evenly using gravity.
The headband is made of a comfortable, light foam which is coated in what Sennheiser calls, “microfiber”. In reality, it reminds me a lot of Alcantara. This foam feels firmer than the earpads to me, and as a result, it maintains its shape to keep the headband balanced. It is light on the head and hugs the ears lightly, yet securely.
We audiophiles in the room were mesmerized by the earcups of the Sennheiser HD 820 at Can Jam. This is due to their innovative design: a concave wall of glass reflecting resonant frequencies back up into the earcup’s sound absorbers. As a result, the headphones have a cool, industrial sort of look.
The glass looks through to the driver inside, making it super eye-grabbing. Additionally, the smooth texture of the frame contrasts with the ridged texture surrounding it.
Beyond its looks, the earcups have a functional size, mirroring in many ways the shape and size of the ever popular HD 800 and HD 800 S. They rock modestly in their yolks and feel strong and durable (although be sure handle them with care because they do have a glass panel).
Like the pads of the headband, the Sennheiser HD 820 contributes greatly to the comfort of the headphones. The earpads are made of a cushiony foam. Their outside edge is coated in soft leather and the inside edge, the part that touches around the ear, is coated in the same microfiber material as the headband pad.
Additionally, the earpads have a large hole so that they fit completely around the ears. As a result, the ear is suspended in the middle of them and the driver, creating a natural and comfortable fit.
I was excited and happy to see that the Sennheiser HD 820 comes with three cables in total. There are two balanced cables (a 4.4 mm cable and a 4-pin XLR cable) and one unbalanced cable (6.3 mm). They are silver clad OFC cables with gold-plated plugs, so clearly Sennheiser made them with quality in mind. However, they’re a bit bulky for my taste and are an indication that these closed-back headphones should be used at home, in a stationary use only.
Sound – Sennheiser HD 820 Headphones Review
The low frequencies of the Sennheiser HD 820 headphones are even and neutral, although they have a sense of punchiness. There seems to be a small bass boost which gives impact to genres that need the boost, but evenness to genres that need precision and balance. The sub frequencies are quiet in general but in mixes that give them space, they come through with full sustain. For example, in the song Gift of Faith by Toto, the kick drum has great energy and creates a solid foundation for the rest of the instruments. Because there is so much separation in that mix between the lows and low mids, you can hear the full kick drum, sub frequencies and all. Additionally, the headphones respond well to equalization, so for those wanting extra low end, you’ll find the lows don’t become cloudy when it is added.
The middle frequencies of the Sennheiser HD 820 have lots of spaciousness, concluding with an emphasis in the high-mids. As a result, vocals sit higher in the mix than normal and acoustic instruments have a clear attack in that frequency region. The emphasis is obvious with vocal music in particular, and as result might throw off those looking for a more even and natural vocal sound. But for those listening to instrumental music like classical, jazz, or even EDM, you’ll find an enlightening sense of clarity because of the boost.
I was really able to hear subtleties in string sweeps, pizz parts, and distinct melody even in complex and thick arrangements. For example, when I was listening to Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op 68: IV, the little pizzicato sections were light and delicate, yet clear and detailed. Then, during the more thick string parts, the melody sat more forward and ahead, without throwing off the balanced of the rest of the section.
Additionally, when I was listening to Amos Lee’s song Highways and Clouds, his voice sat more on top than normal. However, there was also a much more detailed sense of depth there in the high mids. As a result, the snare drum was able to sit back in space while revealing light ghost notes clearly too.
The Sennheiser HD 820 has high frequencies that are emphasized, yet feel even. As a result, they have a sense of airy height, while still feeling realistic and natural. For example, in the song Carolina in My Mind by James Taylor, the guitar and drums have a real sense of air around them. As a result, they sit higher in the soundstage. Additionally, they have more separation around them from the vocal.
Additionally, because of the evenness in the high-highs, there is a sense of harmonic richness from cymbals and strings. For example, in the song Giant Steps by Buddy Rich, the cymbals have a natural sense of attack, sit high in the soundstage with their airiness, but still take up the amount of space they need in order to thickly surround the rest of the band.
The soundstage of the Sennheiser HD 820 is superb! It has a tall sense of height, expansive sense of width, and realistic sense of depth. So much spaciousness is actually reconciled by the high-mid boost because it seems to bring things, especially panned in the middle, into a more forward and intimate space. For example, in the song Miles Runs the Voodoo Down, the wide drums, bass, guitars, and organ feel far out. However, they maintain depth in relation to each other, and thus feel realistic. For example when the guitar solos, you can hear it come closer to the ear, whereas the cymbal panned out to the right pretty much always feels and stays far away. This contrasts beautifully with Miles, who is panned up the middle and feels close to the listener.
Overview – Sennheiser HD 820 Headphones Review
The Sennheiser HD 820 is a unique headphone. It is both serious and fun. It marries a realistic soundstage with a frequency response with gems of character. Because of the attention to detail and variety of cables and listening options, they’re versatile. My favorite way to listen was with the balanced 4-pin XLR which provided even quicker transients, more high and low frequency extension, and a tighter bass. Additionally, listening with a tube amp was delightful, and brought pleasantness and softness to the high-mid frequency boost.
The Sennheiser HD 820 is available for the best price here: