Sennheiser HD 820

FourT6and2

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Punchy low-end
Musical mid-range, great for heavier styles of music
Highs are there but not overly bright or thin
Comes with three great cable options (4-pin XLR, 4.4mm, 1/4"
Cons: Horrible fit (for my head)
Price: Not worth $2400 for a mass-produced product. Maybe with some cooler materials like titanium or carbon fiber or carbon-reinforced plastic.
General
Now that I've descended into the rabbit hole that is high-end headphones, I picked up a pair of HD820s to A/B against my others (Sony Z7M2, Focal Elear, Focal Elegia). Sound-wise, the HD820 are clear winners. The tonality is perfect, the low-end is punchy, the mid range lets guitar breath without sounding too crunchy, and the highs don't seem harsh. The frequency response on these is great for my preferences and listening to heavier styles of music (rock, metal, prog). They also do sound great for other, softer genres. And I like the included cables—three different options, all plenty long. Most stock cables are too short, so this is great. Sound-wise, I'd give them 4 stars. That said, one glaring problem is the fit.

Fitment
Absolutely the worst fitting headphones I've tried. One star. It's just me. My head is narrow and long, so there's barely any clamping force. If I move my head at all (up, down, left, right) the headphones slosh around. If I open my mouth, swallow, or yawn the headphones move around. I have to remain perfectly still and that's no bueno.

If I put slight pressure against the ear cups with my fingertips, it's perfect. The sound is awesome. Bass hits like a sledgehammer. But just wearing them without holding them, there's less bass from the loose fit. If the ear pads/cushions were a little thicker, that would solve the problem. This would put pressure against the headband, increasing clamping force. Maybe a third-party company will come out with thicker pads at some point. I'm going to keep these headphones though just because they sound so good, and deal with the fitment somehow.

Compared to Focal Elegia
They both have a similar mid-range emphasis to my ears. Not squawky or honky. But they definitely aren't scooped or U shaped. High-gain, distorted guitar doesn't sound fizzy or buzzy or thin. Instead, these cans bring out that muscular growl that most heavier styles of music rely upon. However, the HD820 are more balanced than the Elegia since—unlike the Elegia—they have a prominent low-end thump and a bit more air in the high end. The Elegia sound almost like an AM radio in comparison. I can correct this by adding EQ. But without EQ the HD820 takes the cake. The Elegia also breaks up and distorts easier. The HD820 seems to have a bit more headroom before the low-end flubs out. Kick drums are beastly and clean.

Compared to Focal Elear
Being open back, the Elear certainly have more air and space. They are sweeter sounding. Great for more chill styles of music. They do fine for heavy stuff, but the HD820 have them beat in that department. The Elear break up even sooner than the Elegia. It's easy for bass and drums and high-gain guitar to all mush together into a farty mess with these things, even at low volumes. Elear have more bass than Elegia though. But lack the prominent mid-range bias the Elegia and HD820 have. I should also mention that the Focals fit much better. Good clamping force, thick pads, easy to get a seal around my ears.

Compared to Sony MDR-Z7M2
Fit, like the Focal, is great. lightyears better than the Sennheisers. Incredibly comfortable. Sound wise, They have a nice punchy low end, but it's not as hard-hitting as the HD820. A bit softer and lush sounding. Like a thick hot cocoa. It's deeper. But has a longer decay maybe? Mid-range is incredibly scooped and smooth. Highs are pronounced and a bit thin at times. More headroom than the Focals, but not as much as the Sennheisers. If the the Z7M2 had the Elegia's prominent mid-range, they would sound pretty close to the HD820, just not as surgical and tight.

Surgical. Tight. Punchy. Musical. That's how I would describe the HD820. They are like the Porsche GT3 of the headphone world. Purpose-built. No frills. Exciting. I just wish the fitment were better for my head. The headband could use a redesign to make the clamping force better or at least more adjustable.

depsibob

New Head-Fier
Pros: Soundstage, detail, comfort
Cons: Does not get my head nodding, too analytical and a bit cold
This will be my first review so bear with me :relaxed:

I’m currently looking for a replacement for my B&W P7. I have used them directly connected to smartphones and been happy with the sound on these. But after getting a Chord Hugo2 I can really hear the limits of the P7. They are not bad but you sense there is so much more from Hugo2 that is missing from them. So after reading lots of reviews of over ear headphones I narrowed the list down to HD800S, HD820, Focal Clear and Utopia. One of my requirements where weight, they should not be too heavy.

Visited a dealer shop in Stockholm and listened to HD800S, HD820 and Focal Clear.

So my comparison will be from these two. I’t no use comparing to P7 as these are in another league.

I’m using my smartphone (Huwaei Mate 8) with an app called USB Audio Pro, connected via USB OTG to Hugo2. Music are Flac files with different sample rates from 44.1KHz to 96KHz, 16-bit and 24-bit. No external amplifier is used, only Hugo2.

First impression of HD820 is that they have and unbelievable sound stage, though a tad bit smaller than HD800S but not by much. You can head every instrument clearly and it has it’s own spot which no other instrument intrudes in. So there is no problem following a violin or a low sounding instrument regardless of volume of more frontal instrument or singer.

Lots of reviews say HD820 (and HD800S) sounds a bit cold. I can agree here they have a coldish sound in the middle highs. It feels a bit sterile to my ears.

I was a bit worried that I would feel they lacked bass as my P7 are rather bass focused and I enjoy feeling bass on some tracks. But I was positively surprised, they are no booming headphones but the bass is clean and distinct with lots of details. So I did not miss out at all.

Comfort then, yes they are very light and they sit very relaxed around the ears. I had a 4 day stubble so the ear pads where stuck even when moving my head around Don’t know if they would do the same newly shaved…. It felt like the headphones just disappeared after having them on a while. So comfort is very good.

Summary
For me both HD820 and HD800S are fabulous headphones but they do not engage me in the music they are more for listening and analysing every detail and instrument in a track.
HD820 has a bit more bass and slight narrower sound stage than HD800S.
If you are a car enthusiast like me you could compare both HD’s as a McLaren, very precise and correct but not so envolving. While Focal Clear was more like Lamborghini, more fun and envolving, gets my head nodding with the music :L3000:
mainguy
mainguy
Man I know what you mean, I demo’d the hd800s and focal clear, and found the hd800s to be quite clinical. Took the clears home, although I’d say technically the hd800s is better. By the way, if you want an even more engaging, head nodding (and imo better) listen than the focal clears, grab some bowers and wilkins P9 :) you wont be dissapointed as a P7 fan
Top