Review: The Sennheiser HD820
The newly released HD820 do an awful lot right, so come on down and demo them now!
Aesthetics, Build Quality and Accessories:
The HD820 are a really good-looking pair of headphones, you can easily tell they belong in the HD8xx series due to their space age, angular design. Where they differ is the fact they are now closed back, with a concave Gorilla Glass plate. The black and silver colour scheme screams luxury, not in a bling way but in a sophisticated and technological way. Overall the HD820 definitely looks the part.
Build quality is much the same as the other HD8xx headphones, with a mainly plastic build to keep the weight down, but without sacrificing durability. If the HD800 in our demo room are anything to go by, these will last a long time and all parts are quite easily replaceable if they wear out or break. The earpads are now half velour for comfort, with leatherette on the outer part to minimise leakage. The cable is much the same as you get with the rest of the range, which uses high purity OCC copper. The Gorilla glass should be relatively scratch proof too, so overall the design is solid and well throughout whilst remaining lightweight.
Accessory wise you get a nice display box that the headphones come in, 3 cables (6.3mm 3m, 4.4mm balanced 3m, 4-pin XLR balanced 3m), manual, microfibre cleaning cloth and a USB stick with the frequency graph for that particular pair. Sennheiser really pay attention to detail with the accessories here, and you will find everything you need, and you can tell from the cable choices that these are still geared more towards home listening.
Comfort and Isolation:
The HD820 are light, with good weight distribution, this means you can comfortably wear them for a long time. The cups are spacious and your ears don’t ever touch the driver, the pads are soft as is the headband. Even though they are closed back, I do not fine my ears heating up as quickly as other closed headphones. I think this is due to the earpads being able to breathe a little along with the amount of space there is around your ears in the cups.
Just a quick note, these are very dependent on the fit and seal, so getting them to sit right on your head is really important otherwise they may sound thin and lacking bass.
Isolation is actually very average, these are closed back but they do not block out a lot of outside noise. They also leak at moderate to loud volumes, but they leak a lot less than the HD800s. Again, these are not designed for portable use, but would be fine in an office environment or at home when you don’t want to disturb people around you with fully open headphones.
Bass: The HD8xx series are never going to be known for their thunderous bass response, but what they do have is accuracy. And the HD820 are still fuller sounding than the HD800s, with a bit more body and warmth to the sound. They are still extremely well controlled down low, but the mid-bass has a little extra presence and fullness to make them sound less analytical. They decay is still well controlled, and extension is never an issue. There is a slight mid-bass hump on these, but it is carefully executed to not interfere with the lower midrange. The bass is not the hardest hitting, but there is excellent layering and separation., not for bass heads but it should satisfy most listeners.
Midrange: The midrange is where I find the HD820 to really stand out, they are incredible clean and articulate. But they are also very accurate in tonality, the bass doesn’t affect the lower midrange leaving vocals to come across in a neutral and natural way. The separation between layers and the overall resolution is really impressive in the midrange. They handle all genres here with ease, they have the delicacy to bring out the finer detail in acoustic and jazz, yet have the power to render distorted guitars in metal pitch perfectly. The transient response is excellent meaning they never sound congested.
Treble: The treble response is very linear on the HD820, it does not have any sharp peaks like the original HD800, and is never overbearing or fatiguing. The transition from the midrange to the treble is quite smooth, and sibilance is only a problem if the recording has it. Overall resolution up top does not quite match that of the HD800s, but the overall tonality is much more pleasing to my ears. The HD820 are not a bright headphone, but they do bring out plenty of detail up top and have plenty of extension and sparkle. I don’t think anyone would ever find the HD820 lacking in treble response, the main standout quality up top really is the tonality.
Sennheiser have done an amazing job at creating a closed headphone that sounds open, the imaging is pinpoint accurate and the soundstage is wide and deep. They sound much more like an open headphone, so colour me impressed here.
When I first tested the HD820, I wasn’t that impressed, they sounded a bit dull and lifeless. I then spent some time with them, swapping between a couple of amps and found myself really enjoying what they had to offer. I wanted to find some design flaws somewhere, I didn’t want to like them as much as I do. The HD820 really nail the balanced sound signature with convincing tonality and outstanding resolution. They truly are the best closed headphones I have had the pleasure of spending some time with. Curse you Sennheiser for doing such a great job of making a closed headphone without the typical drawbacks of this design.