I start equalizing my ears around 3ft down (5ft at most) … any more and I either can’t or it gets way too painful!
Be careful about blaming the fatigue on the current device or even the device. I listened to the AFC for days and days without any apparent discomfort, and then one day they become intolerable for a few days (but then fine). Maybe a lack of sleep, maybe too much use, maybe head congestion, etc. Maybe all of the above.
yeah I don’t think it is the HD820s and more my own biology that is the problem… I mention it in some of my posts about it I thought…but yeah, I definitely don’t think it is the HD820s fault more how I’m responding to it if that makes sense.
I find the HD820s to be very nice… and these issues very well could be just a random issue with me like you said with the AFCs, could be all sorts of different factors.
I really am enjoying the HD820s though…I will kick myself into gear and try and get the review out so I can get them to the next person in line for review! I’ll be sad when they are gone. But I think I’ll still have to wait on them for a much lower price point.
All kinds of things can affect music listening. Once a manager of a boutique high end eequipment gear told me how one’s day is going and events can affect how we hear our music. There was a long time aaudiophile in the store and he aagreed. Many times I sit down and listen with my same gear and it might sound different. I will ue same music to check it.
It is to me one of many things we still don’t about music
We just got a pair of HD 820s in the office. Running them with the Astell&Kern SP1000M right now and I think I have found a high-end Sennheiser that I finally enjoy. Mind you, I have only listened to three songs so far but initial impressions are much more enjoyable than my time with the HD 800 and HD 800S.
Nice to know I’m not the only one that likes them!
Looking forward to hearing the SP1000M too. I need something smaller and lighter than the Sony NW-WM1Z for more frequent use …
The finger snaps on this track with the HD820…wow…very cool. Granted they sound great with the HD800 also, and the Clear, but the fact that they sound that good with closed backs is exceptional.
Sennhieser HD820 Review
First off, I want to thank The Headphone Community, and the opportunity to review the HD820 from their Community Preview Program. I may be slightly biased, but they are a great group of people, and I learn a lot every day I visit the forum.
A little about me, I’m a Dad, husband, gamer, hobbyist, collector…. I like things, you could say. I have had a desire to own the HD820 ever since I first saw it, and when the opportunity to preview it from the Preview Program came along, I jumped on it. I am a huge fan of the HD800/HD700, and really enjoy the aesthetics of the HD820. I also work in relatively close proximity to my co-workers and closed backs are a must in that environment. At night I tend to game with my Audeze Mobius, or HD800/HD700, but the thought of having a closed back HD800 is hard to pass up (don’t want to wake the kiddo). Let’s take a journey of discovery, shall we?
What makes it tick:
Ok, so, these are essentially the HD800s, but with glass and closed back technology covering up the transducers (it really is striking, and I can’t get enough of it). Now as pretty as the glass is, it is also quite functional. It is both form and function, and I love when technology companies do this, especially right like with the HD820. Here is a quote directly from the Sennheiser page describing what the glass is doing: “Their legendary Sennheiser Ring Radiator transducers are fitted with unique glass covers. Revealing the great look of the technical component within, this visually striking feature was actually developed wholly in service to the sound: The concave glass reflects the sound waves from the rear of the transducer to an absorber, which results in minimal resonance. Thus, the sound waves are effectively “gone” like they would be in open headphones.”. This basically means they spent a whole lot of time and money on the shape of the glass in conjunction with the transducers and cup to best deflect the sound waves into dampening material or whatever they are using in the cups. I’m no scientist so I will take their word for it. I do know that these sound remarkably close to the HD800 I own.
Technical specs/data from Sennheiser:
- Impedance: 300 Ohms
- Frequency response (Headphones): 12-43800 Hz (-3 dB); 6-48000 Hz (-10 dB)
- Sound pressure level (SPL): 103 dB at 1 kHz, 1V
- Jack plug: 6.3 mm / Pentaconn / (XLR4)
- Cable length: 3m
- Weight: 360 g without cable
- Transducer principle (headphones): dynamic, closed
I find these to be one of those headphones I can’t stop looking at, they really appeal to me, and I find them rather striking. They look like something the Dark Knight would wear. Or some future technomancer/cyber samurai.
Gear used with the HD820, or in comparison.
iFi NiBL, MDxCTH, RME ADI-2DAC, Jotunheim, Monolith THX 788 balanced DAC/amp. Hiby R3 with balanced out. Comparison tackle: Focal Elegia, Campfire Andromeda, HD800 with SDR mod, and Dekoni elite hybrid pads.
I also would listen with the Focal Clears, but don’t feel like that is a good comparison to make, even though I do compare them to the HD800(SDR). Only reason I’ll compare the HD800 is to see the differences I can spot between the two as they are so similar outside of being closed vs. open.
My music selection is a mix of Spotify High Quality, and FLAC files. I am all over the place for music and tend to randomly pick tracks and when comparing between headphones I’ll listen to the same track with each headphone multiple times, before switching to another track (once again upon whim or recent find, or a track I know has a specific thing I’m trying to compare against). But if you are interested in what I tend to listen to while reviewing I created a Spotify list for Headphones forum community of tracks I listen to:
Build of a thing:
I find the build comparable to the HD800(s), with the exception of that oh so pretty glass. The cups are also enclosed in a nice feeling plastic instead of a metal mesh on the open back models. The ear-pads are thicker and have a pleather outer ring, while the interior/face is the standard Sennheiser material for their ear-pads. The cables are the same style as the HD800s model cables from my understanding, but you get three different versions (see below) and they are good enough but can be a little bit too long for my daily use, but I can see the appeal of the longer cables when I sit and relax in my listening chair away from my devices.
What’s in the box!
Direct from Sennheiser:
Headphones HD 820 (closed, dynamic headphones)
connection cable: ¼” (6.35 mm) stereo jack plug (connected ex works), unbalanced
4.4 mm Pentaconn stereo jack plug, balanced
XLR-4 connector, balanced
USB flash drive (SD-U16L version) with instruction manual (as PDF file) and individually diffuse-field frequency response curve:
I can’t really put much here that hasn’t already been said about the HD800 series, these are extremely comfortable, I have no complaints in this department. They fit over my eyeglasses and do not cause hot spots/pressure points on the head. The pads are soft and don’t cause any issues. These fall in line with the HD800/HD700 for most comfortable headphones I’ve ever put on my head.
Disclaimer, I really like the HD800(SDR mod) sound, and these are as close to that as you can get in closed back. Highs sparkle, mids are present, and Bass/lows hit with precision but don’t bleed into anything else. These are pretty phenomenal at recreating the sound signature of the HD800 series and are right there with the other two. I think if you enjoy the HD800 sound signature and are in need of closed backs, then this is for you!
Tone & Timbre:
Tone and timbre are pretty much along the lines of the HD800 line. It is accurate and represents the instruments accurately. Reference level tone and timbre, voices and instruments sound distinct, accurate, and appropriate. There is a little bit of coloration here and there but not enough to warrant comment on it.
Precise, quick. It is a little lite here but not so much that you can’t appreciate bass heavy tracks, and for me personally I enjoy the bass on these, it isn’t bloaty, nor does it bleed into the other ranges in a way that I would take umbrage with it. I wouldn’t call it fun, but it is enjoyable.
Mids sound mildly anemic, they feel a little bit distant, not crazy far away but just enough to notice, at least for me. I think they are present and enjoyable but neither here nor there as far as something that shines through. I would say normal… neither a negative or a positive, present and accountable. I can’t fault it for its mids nor give praise. If anything, it is impressive that they are separate, yet aligned with the bass and treble/highs, giving an overall presentation to the music, letting you appreciate what the artist was doing.
Airy, sparkle, with no sharpness. I really enjoy highs like this ;). I found the treble to be where the HD820 shines the most of the three(highs/mids/lows). I really love listening to acoustic live performances with it, makes for an almost magical experience. I can almost see the strings vibrating as I listen. Vocal highs are smooth and don’t get a piercing quality to them. Silky smooth, and yet sparkling. Listening to Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel, there is a lot of cymbal, and triangle Sounds, and I found it on some headphones to be fatiguing/irritating but with the HD820 I found it rather pleasing, and I think I know understood better, why they are in the track, just a little bit better.
Easily differentiates between a quiet string pluck to the slam of the same string, this is most apparent in live acoustic sessions. Very impressive. I’m not the best at describing this but, essentially from my understanding is Dynamics is the differentiation between a quiet tone, to a louder tone and being able to present that naturally/accurately. I listened to a couple of live acoustic tracks and found the HD820 to excel in these types of recordings.
Imaging and stage:
If you have heard about the HD8xx imaging and stage profile, then you already know what the HD820 does. It is more or less the same fantastic imaging and stage profile, with only a little bit less than what you would get with the open back brethren. To be completely honest it is incredibly impressive that it is this close to the HD800(s). You can easily pick out instruments and the space that they are in. This capability really shines when listening to orchestras or symphonies. I love trying to identify the different instruments, from triangles, xylophones, violins, bass, drums, reeds…etc. You put the HD820 on and listen and it is like you are the only person in a hall listening to your favorite orchestras/symphonies etc.
How introverted are they (Isolation):
I find these isolate rather well. I wouldn’t put them up against ANC, but that is not the purpose of these so, yeah not going to even go down that path. I think in an office space they will do great. Or if you need to keep your music to yourself. I asked my co-workers if they could hear my music while I turned the volume up to painful levels and they stated they couldn’t hear it until it was too loud for me personally to listen to. They were standing within 5-10’ depending. You could easily go introverted and turn the music up and be lost to the world around you….I know I did a couple times.
Andromeda and the HD820 actually share the closest similarities (not counting the HD8XX siblings) for me, I found them to be very close in all aspects except width, and imaging. Tone, treble, mids, and bass were all very close. I was actually mildly shocked at how close they were. Now mind you this is an IEM being compared to a large over ear, so things are not 1:1. But overall was pleasantly surprised at how close the Andromeda got to the HD820 signature. The HD820 is still in my opinion a more resolving/wider/and overall better sound. HD820 has a more fullness/encompassing sound (Duh lol).
This is a tough one, mostly because I really like the Elegia, but I have to say I prefer the HD820, but that is just me. The HD820 is wider and more revealing with its presentation of music. The Elegia is more of the good time listening headphone, sit back and just relax and get lost in the music. I would have to give tonal advantage to the Elegia also, it just seemed more “right”, but only so. But the Elegia also dulls a lot of the music in comparison to the HD820 which shines a light on what seems like everything, all the details are there for you to pluck out of the music.
If you can get over the bass on the Cascade, you are in for a good time. Honestly a bass heads dream headphone. It is right up there for resolution and imaging. It puts the music up as a wall of sound overwhelming. In comparison to the HD820 it is almost as good in the highs, and mids, but completely blows the HD820 out of the water with its bass. The funny thing is if you don’t listen to bass heavy music with the Cascade, it is shocking how good it is. But at the end of the day the HD820 is just all around a better headphone. It has better imaging, soundstage, and accuracy, along with reference level sound.
Fostex X Massdrop THx00 PH
Another bass junkies dream headphone, and man is it delightful. I would say it is an easier listening headphone to the Cascade, in that it doesn’t have the wall of sound hitting you. More of a V shape with its treble and bass. But the HD820 trumps it across the board with one exception…bass. That is to be expected though. Now on comfort and looks…that becomes tougher….Especially when you pad swap to some ZMF pads for the THx00 PH, and add the ZMF pilot headband. Plus those PurpleWood cups are just a delight to look at. At the end of the day though these have a specific purpose for me and the HD820 definitively trounces these. I would grab the HD820 over these for 98% of my listening time (arbitrary percentage lol).
HD800(SDR mod, Dekoni Hybrid pads)
The HD800, well it just edges ahead of the HD820. It has that extra bit of airy magical treble, soundstage, and imaging. This is just a great headphone, and rather spectacular to listen to. The HD820 for being a closed back is really remarkable in getting as close as it does to these, if I didn’t have them back to back I would be hard pressed to tell the difference. I have similar pads on my HD800 to the HD820, the Dekoni hybrid pads. Which I really enjoy but I know aren’t for everyone, so keep that in mind when reading this comparison. I would say that between these it would be like twins with different personalities, one enjoys the great wide open and loves to share with everyone. The other is more reclusive and likes to keep things to themselves, and are more intimate. So take that for what it is, if you are in the market and have the means and prefer closed backs, the HD820 won’t disappoint you if you’re looking for that HD8xx sound.
The adding up all its parts/the final weighing of a thing:
So, the thing about the HD800 line is that for me they aren’t “fun” but reference, and can be quite magical to listen to, and the HD820 is no different. They transport you to the studio/live session of a band, and don’t hide anything from you. I find them to be one of my preferred sound signatures and will always have at least one of the HD8xx in my stable of headphones.
The HD820 is a striking design with the glass, and the sound profile matches that clarity/transparency by letting you hear all the flaws, quirks, and intricacies of the music. I found them to be a rather enjoyable listening experience. I can’t find fault with them after listening to them for 4+ hours a day for the past couple weeks. If you already own the HD800(s) this might be a hard sell as it is essentially the same thing but in closed back form, but if you are a HD800 fan, and have the means, well who am I to judge. For the rest, or anyone looking for a closed back reference headphone, I think they would be hard pressed to find something better than the HD820.
Sennheiser HD820 - Review & Impressions Index
@Torq, @andrew, @taronlissimore, You guys aren’t the only ones that liked it I’ll PM you guys about getting these either back to you, or onto the next Preview Program person in line for these beauties!!
Another cracking review Tyler. You clearly put lots of work into this review, and it shows. Great pictures too. Well done. I really enjoyed it. .
Thank you! I stayed up way too late getting it done. Hopefully I don’t have too many editing mistakes lol.
I perked right up with this comment. Airy and sparkle are terms I only remember from my full living room 2 channel setup. Just to hear the terms wet my appetite for these. The only place my interest begins to wane is the bass. I am such a bass freak. Oftentime , this is at the expense of the treble being sharp and annoying as you put it. I’m beginning to not enjoy my Audeze Lcd4s because of this.
Tyler, as always your reviews are such a contribution to our community. Without continued effort and dedication from people like you, our forum would not be as rich as it is.
This is a great group of people, I enjoy being a part of the community.
The sparkle is very much so in line with the HD800 line, really a marvel that they got this so close to the HD800 and s.
And it’s nice to know we’re not the only ones that legitimately enjoy the HD820!
I see you’re taking to the photography part like a duck to water too! Very nice shots! Especially like the last one!
Thank you! I really liked that one as well. I posted it over on r/headphoneporn lol. I also posted a cool photo of Seattle in the early morning over on r/m43 I try and take my camera everywhere…but honestly 90% of my photos are of my daughter lol
You should cross-post it to /r/seattle. they love photos of downtown on there.
Oh cool will do… I must shamefully admit I didn’t know that was a thing…
Oh sweet baby Jesus (not religious)…Ugandan knuckles has taken over Reddit…
Just when I was thinking I was finally done now that I have the Elegias, you post this. Great. Thanks.