Since I read and write about headphones, one thing has remained true: the best boxes have an open back. They distribute music out to the world and leave the noise, a necessary compromise to reduce the reflections and resonances that could distort the sound. Closed headphones can be great, but they can not match the flexibility and transparency of their open brothers.
The Sennheiser's HD820 – the first one going to the luxurious closed containers – does not destroy these dogmas but gets pretty darn near. Despite the controversial decisions – that the $ 2,400 price is particularly intense – it sounds like nothing else I've heard.
A history lesson for those who do not know. The HD820 is essentially a Sennheiser sexy HD800 enclosure and its sophisticated review, the HD800S.
The HD800 was released in 2009 and remains one of the most recommended products on the market, well known for its enormous sound-like sound and remarkable transparency. You can find an HD800S for less than $ 1,000 that is used – an HD800 for even fewer – but remain competitive even when the competition runs regularly at $ 2,000 + ground. Focal Utopia, for example, costs a cool $ 4,000 at the launch, but I think it's more "side by side" than an upgrade.
Needless to say, the ad campaign was stratospheric when the HD820 was announced in January. Sennheiser promised to imitate or improve the sound of one of the world's lightest audio headphones with a closed design.
And what a great plan it is. Subjectivity was recognized, but HD820s are the finest headphones I've ever used. They look very much like a sophisticated version of the HD800S and I like the way the curved glass shows the 58mm ring shape guide, which Sennheiser is so proud of that it has not changed since 2009.
The handset, despite its size, is extremely comfortable. The headphones are more plush than their predecessors and the headphones are light enough so I had no trouble wearing them for hours. Closed design is decent when it excludes external noise, and most importantly, leaves your music a little out. I can use them late at night while my girlfriend is asleep. I can not say that for the vast majority of top headphones.
I would make them almost portable if it was not for the huge size, the huge cable and the fact that you need a powerful amplifier for decent sound.
Because the drivers remain the same, the new HD820's acoustics always have to do with its chassis. This glass is more than simple aesthetics – its curved design helps to redirect the sound emitted from the rear of the guides to a softening material, eliminating much of the harmful resonance usually associated with closed designs (eg, the design also helps the HD820 to achieve a wider audible scene than most closed back headphones – although the giant headphones do not hurt.
If the goal was to make the most open acoustic headphones – without fantastic software tricks such as Mobius of Audeze – I think Sennheiser succeeded. The HD820 sounds huge for closed type containers. Get it, it sounds bigger than the open headphones.
In particular, Sennheiser is able to create a rare sense of distance for headphones – as you sit a series or two behind in a show instead of having musicians touching a sound just right on your face. Focal Utopia ($ 4,000) and Clear ($ 1,500) have a smaller presentation despite their open design. Granted, Focal's headphones are known for having a very familiar soundstage, but it's a remarkable advantage for the HD820 nevertheless. I also think the soundtrack is a bit more three-dimensional than the new Arya of Hifiman, which I had in my last test days.
On the other hand, the HD820 is somewhat divided in audio forums because it does not sound as open as the HD800S despite the highest price, but I think it is an unfair comparison.
Sennheiser could reduce all the tones in the world, but the closed headphones can not provide the crossfeed between the ears that open the headphones. In practice, this means that the acoustic radiation to the left or right – particularly frequent in previous recordings – will sound more closed. But I find that this is fairly easy to fix with a crossfeed filter in your sound source, and it is a total of a small complaint to enforce the HD820.
Although I do not have a HD800S at home to compare it directly, it is a handset that I am very familiar with, and I did spend some quality time comparing them to The headset applet in New York.
My overall impression is that the HD800S can push the sound longer, but 90% of the time, the presentation is impressively similar. The media and the tall are both superbly transparent, and I appreciate the slightly damaged treble on the HD820. It keeps most of the high gloss but is less likely to be abrasive – although this may be a matter of preference. It will still reveal bad registrations like a hot knife with butter.
Bass, on the other hand, I think it is a clear improvement. For years, it seemed that all high-quality headphones had to target "anemic" bass to avoid bobbing at other frequencies. This is good for stereotypical speech tracks, but not everyone listens exclusively to 256-bit loss Steely Dan recordings and binaural audio folk music.
It's far from standard basshead, but the HD820 has plenty of hit when asked. Unlike the HD800S, the HD820 does not make me get a bass boost when I hear hip-hop or EDM or pop. Even for classical, this subbass immersion actually contributes to a sense of presence with orchestral percussion or church organ. And in my ears, the bass remains fast and modular, never interfering with other frequencies. I would argue that increased low power makes the HD820 a much more versatile handset than its predecessors.
That being said, you will need a source with a fair share of power to get the best bass out of them – it can sound a little limp and dry out of the weakest exits. Most of my testing was done by iFi iDD Micro BL, which has plenty of room to play loud. It is also worth noting that if you I am doing you want a bit more bass, the HD820 responds well to an equalizer.
The sound is not perfect. There is this dip in the lower ways that I think contributes to the sense of distance and transparency, but sometimes the voices sound a bit concave. The HD820 is bizarre that its bass hits hard enough and its treble is not very aggressive, but it may sound a bit cold and detailed. Some may see this slide, making the headphones less attractive.
I have some problems with the design as well. The more comfortable it is, the HD820 is more appealing for stamping than any opretty many other headphones in its class; the earcups are so big you need to complete a piece to get the best application and sound. This mainly affects the bass frequencies and can have a real impact on how your music sounds.
I also really want to include at least one shorter cable because, although it is mainly intended to be used at home, I would like to say that most people do not need a 10-foot cable. There is no 3.5 mm slot in the box, so you will need an adapter cable or after purchase if your source has no 6.3 mm input. Besides, I once I am crazy enough to walk out with the giant, $ 2,400 headphones.
But maybe you've already guessed the biggest problem with the HD820: its price.
Even if I I think it's better than the HD800S – and many online would disagree with me – I do not think it's 800 dollars better. This takes into account the usual declining performances of hi-fi audio, and is also enhanced by the fact that you can get a used HD800S or HD800 for less than $ 1000 online.
This is a visual problem and the name contributes: it's not called HD800C, it's HD820. Higher numbers and much higher values indicate "better" and I'm not sure Sennheiser has proven this definitively.
But maybe none of these matters. The HD820 is one of the relatively few closed handsets. Isolation design helps me immerse myself in music when there is noise around the environment. This means I will not bother others when they blow music. This convenience can not be underestimated as a resident of the city, because not everyone has access to a very quiet listening room.
Even among the closed headphones, nothing else I've ever tried. Two more high-end closed-ended types, the Denon D9200 and Focal Elegia, are both big – I prefer Denon's overall tuning – but the HD820 scalability is not approaching. Brief hearings of other TOTL cans tell a similar story.
Also, as much as I hate to say, the $ 2,400 is not strange for a flagship in this industry. The Sony Z1R is available for a similar price. Many open handsets sell for higher.
The point is that it pays to be different. No, it's not HD800S closed, but in my ears, it's undoubtedly better. Despite some flaws and a debatable price, the Sennheiser HD820 is the lightest open-ended headset I have tried and challenges the established doctrines on high-tech headphones.
Now if Sennheiser could start working on this HD820S ….
Post 2 November 2018 – 19:21 UTC
ProductHD820 from Sennheiser