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Sennheiser HD820

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by Dulalala, Apr 29, 2017.
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  1. up late
    sound advice
  2. BruceStax
    Thanks to all for highlighting the arrival of the 820HD on the scene. As a bit of background as context for this contribution my Hi Fi history began with Stax headphones in 1974 and on the speaker side of things Quad ESLs, BBC monitors, Quad 63s and currently Martin Logan Spire with Velodyne DD12+ eq’d from 200Hz down. Amplification and Streamer DAC Simaudio Moon 780D and Arcam rHead H-amp, and Linn LP12. I enjoy a diverse range of listening and also play various acoustic guitars!
    Okay .... unfortunately my wife finds it increasingly wearying to block out the sound bleeding from my Stax 009s and after making do with KEF M500 on ear ‘phones to obviate this, the 820 announcement motivated me to try harder on the isolating hp front.... so thank you guys!
    My first step was to have a listen at a local shop, taking my M500s with me. I found the difference in quality a bit disappointing with the Senns unsurprisingly having a more sophisticated presentation, less distorted (‘squeaky”) treble and improved bass and overall detail but would they be worth the £1800 extra? I then arranged to try them at home and compare with Audeze XC, and also AKG 872 reference. The AKG was guickly eliminated on grounds of poorer bass definition despite a revealing and fairly neutral presentation and a generally open sound, they were also very comfortable, light and with a good seal. The 820s upped the overall quality with again an open slightly dry presentation with much improved bass definition and in particular excellent production of the bass harmony line (think Linn “tune dem”)
    The overall sound was surprisingly neutral (despite some concerns voiced here re frequency response) with excellent detail across all frequencies. They were light and comfortable but the ear pads seemed slightly too hard in that the seal could be poor as others have observed and it felt as if an edge of the padding was in contact with your head rather than it’s full width.
    By contrast the pads on the Audeze were much softer and more forgiving and allowed the headphones to feel part of your head (!) even though your head (okay, my head...) had become significantly heavier.
    At last.... the sound. These were a revelation to me. Gone was the more academic presentation of the the other two, replaced by a joyful sound full of emotion and with each element represented by a richness of tone and timbre that was quite beguiling. (I later read the John Darko review and found it very similar to my experience, so I’d recommend that if you’ve not seen it).
    Listening to Michel Petrucciani Trio live in Tokyo for example, was so involving because of the peerless and melodic mid range coupled with fabulous underpinning of the bass line - which extends particularly low in this recording and is at times rather quiet within the mix.
    I repeatedly went back to the Sennheiser to check because I would have preferred something lighter !! But on each occasion I enjoyed the music less, even when strings were presented more prominently by the Senns. Vocal harmonies, woodwinds, all types of piano, kora, balafon or electric guitars were produced with stunning realism timbal character and subtlety, by the XC. I did not find there to be any impairment in reproduction of the trailing edge of notes either. The Creator edition also happens to be £800 cheaper, but I would have bought the Audeze even if priced the same as the Sennheiser.
    So there we are, my individual findings on a home trial. Hope it’s of some interest and thanks for the inspiration.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2018
    raypin, SeanS, Bern2 and 2 others like this.
  3. raypin
    Mm...just arrived, after 2 months of waiting:


    Initial impressions: good, specially with the Chord Dave pairing. My Sennheiser family is complete: 800, 800S, HE 1 and now the 820.

    Do I get a loyalty medal from Senn?
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2018
  4. BruceStax
    Are you going to warm them up on the hob?
    up late likes this.
  5. raypin
    Mm..yeah. Bass is not warm enough. Medium high ought to do it.
    Dobrescu George and up late like this.
  6. perhapss
    Yes it's nothing new and not at all a bad thing but why should I pay SO MUCH MORE for this new Senn. DT770 is still a decent headphone FWIW. I've always had great respect and admiration for Senn's products but please ANYONE give me a clear reason why I should pay twice as much for this new headphone than an hd800? Closed format alone does not explain this price discrepancy.

    I remember when I first got into headphones I was a bit startled by the hd800's price but after listening and comparing I found the price and performance fair. Better than fair after trying STAX products.

    While I would welcome a nice closed headphone similar to an hd800 AT A REASONABLE PRICE (comparable to hd800) but IMO much of the Senn. charms reside in the frequency range MISSING form this product. I'd love to hear the marketing/design vision explained frankly and clearly on this one.
  7. QueueCumber
    Not sure which Stax product you’re referring to here. The Stax SR-009S blows all the Sennheiser HPs out of the water to my ears, except maybe the HE1, which I haven’t heard as of yet to draw a comparison.
  8. raypin
    Mm..more initial impression: the brighter HD 820 outresolves (detail retrieval) the darker Sony Z1R. Compared using the Nordost Heimdall 2 and Chord Dave.

    ot: While getting the HD820 at the dealer, I got to quickly audition Mr. Speakers La Voce. Impressive e-stat. Reminds me of my SR 009. Also, I plugged it on Kann/Stax Portable estat amp: no go. Underpowered.

    Yesterday was the first time I laid eyes on the Kann. I was repelled by it. UGLY in appearance and ugly to use. It is not an Astell & Kern product.
    Dobrescu George likes this.
  9. GREQ
    Headphone market value has boomed in the past 10 years. That's reason enough for any company.
  10. Beagle
    The higher end Stax are in a class of their own IMO.

    I think there is always going to be a trade-off in effect with regards to headphones sound signature. The 820 keeps a good amount of the spaciousness of the 800 in the midrange/treble but in the lower ranges it is filled in by the bass coloration. However, I think the over-presence in this area has a positive side effect of warming up some of the bright/sharper areas of the 800/800s and enhancing natural tone in the mid. If you are sensitive to bass humps, you may not be able to live with it regardless. It comes down to taste and preferences as always.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 4, 2018
    QueueCumber and raypin like this.
  11. perhapss
    My point was not to flame STAX or anything, I just was saying that I feel the hd800 was fairly priced.
  12. perhapss
    Yeah sure. More questionable performance for more money makes tons of sense for many companies but I have higher expectations from Sennheiser.
  13. GREQ
    I'm not sure why you expect so much from them.
    When you consider the numbers, there are other companies who consistently produce a higher volume of well-loved headphones.
    Sennheiser consistently produces polarizing headphones, and sometimes some real stinkers.
  14. up late
    folks have likened the hd800's presentation to estats so i can see where you're coming from
  15. Beagle
    Consistently produces polarizing headphones? I think most folk like their Sennheisers. They do cover a wide range of price points and I would say they provide good value for the buck. I do think the HD820 is overpriced. Not so much for the overall sonic virtues but for the build and plasticky construction.
    raypin likes this.
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