Sennheiser HD820 Headphone Review

Sennheiser HD820 headphones

Sennheisers HD series is one of the most popular headphone lines ever created. Over the years, most audiophiles can say that they have owned or considered owning one of the HD offerings, and the kings of them all was the much loved and sometimes maligned HD800. For years that stood as the companies flagship before the HD800s came along and remedied some of the original issues. It was a surprise then when Sennheiser brought out an even higher priced model that we are reviewing today, the Sennheiser HD820. 

Sennheiser HD820 Pricing and Availability

The HD820 are available from many online retailers as well as brick and mortar stores who carry high end audio equipment. Please feel free to click the link below to view current pricing and availability.

The Sennheiser HD820 Design is fantastic

Sennheiser HD820

The design and aesthetic of the HD820 is something to behold. They took the essence of the 800’s and refined it, and made it even wilder and more modern. The result is a headphone that looks futuristic and wild; it’s one of the most exciting and visually striking designs in the on-head audio world right now. 

The shape and form of the HD800 are there, but everything looks more refined and sleek. The cable connectors, for example, sit halfway up the housing exposed on a separate piece of hardware where traditional headphones have the cable enter at the bottom of the earcups. It not only looks cool but increases the distance between the cables. 

The headband has a unique and pretty butterfly adjustment system that glides over the headband’s top on a rail system. It looks cool, and its marked measurement points allow for ease of adjustment and equidistant positioning of the arms.

Finally, you cant talk about the styling of these headphones without talking about that jaw-dropping glass back through which you can see the driver. It’s a striking statement and gives you a full view of the heart of the headphones. It’s done so well that at first glance, many people mistake these for a set of open-back headphones with exposed drivers.

The Build quality isn’t quite befitting of the price.

Sennheiser HD820

I’m not going to say the build quality is terrible, it’s very good, but it’s certainly not what I would expect to see on any headphone over $1000. I was unimpressed because I was reasonably regular plastics on the headband and parts of the earcups. It feels out of place and not befitting of the flagship moniker.

That said, it the same type of plastics I have on my HD800s, so I know it will stand the test of time, and Sennheiser, with their background in professional audio, knows how to make something that will be a functional workhorse. But really, would it have been bad to get a little carbon fiber thrown in there? Probably that’s asking too much, and they wouldn’t need to do it on the grounds of weight because the HD820 comes in at a very svelte 370g on our scales despite their massive size.

Are the Sennheiser HD820 headphones comfortable?

The HD820 is a huge headphone so moving about with them is a lot more cumbersome than smaller, more portable headphones. They have generous asymmetric earpads, though, and they have good padding and plenty of room for your ears to breathe inside them. The top headband is comfortable despite being a very thing when you look at it. I never had any issue with hot spots, and I found the clamping pressure to be perfect on my medium-large head.

Something learned to appreciate over time was that I never seemed to get fatigued because of the lightweight design as I do with my Erzitech headphones, which are double the heft. 

Additionally, the design of the earpads is very creative. The earpads are a two material design with leather or protein leather on the outer circumference and velour on the inside where contact is made with your skin. It increases comfort due to the breathability of the velour being more significant than the leather. However, the outside of the earpads being leather means that when the clamping force is applied, it forms a better seal that an al velour pad would. I don’t think many people have picked up on but as a great way to balance functionality and comfort.

Does the Sennheiser HD820 isolate well?

Yes, the HD820 are closed-back headphones, and as a result, they are excellent isolators. 

Does the Sennheiser HD820 sound good?

Sennheiser HD820

The sound is neutral and balanced with an emphasis on the midrange. They displayed excellent performance in our detail retrieval tests and have a vast soundstage for a closed-back headphone.

Accuracy for monitoring purposes is excellent, with a slight exception in the artificial leaning bass, which we will talk about in a second. They are ruthlessly revealing headphones and shine the microscope on poorly mastered or low bitrate music, so make sure you are pairing your source files and components well with this headphone.

The treble – The treble is extremely clear and detailed with a fantastic extension. This is an essential part of how the HD820 can create such a massive soundstage. Good treble is the key and not bass, contrary to what many people believe. If you are coming from a more mellow and laid back tuning, the top notes may be jarring at first but give your ears a few days to burn-in, and I assure you it’s going to be hard to go back to a headphone with a less prominent performance.

The Midrange – The sound’s focus is on the midrange, and it’s a very accurate and unflavoured tuning that doesn’t add anything in terms of warmth. They sound very similar to my reference speakers in how they are noticeably forward. I would ultimately say that they are very transparent in the midrange. I like this because it gives me a lot of room to play with EQ presets to which they are incredibly responsive. Again its detail and space are the focus, but note decay from strings was also the top draw. The vocal sound open and airy with outstanding clarity and depth. Superb midrange and one of the best I have heard in a closed-back design.

The low end is right, detailed, and responsive. It impacts very hard when required, and the large drivers can move a lot of air. After having used the Focal Stelia for a couple of weeks, I come to this review, and there is a noticeable difference in how each handles distortion. The bass is perfect for a closed-back. Let me explain.

What I am about to say is less a criticism of the headphones and more a criticism of what I have heard other reviewers mention about these headphones. 

Consistently I see comparisons with the HD820 compared to open-back headphones, and you just aren’t going to get me to do that. Its fundamentals flawed to make such comparisons other than saying “for that price and if it suits your use scenario consider open back designs such as xx”. The person buying a closed-back headphone is likely aware that there are fundamental differences in how they will present the sound.

That said, I understand the fundamentals of what people are saying. The bass sounds significant, impactful, and refined, just not as clean as those open-back models. When looking in closed-back headphones, then wherever I look, there seems to be a trade-off. X has better bass, Sennheiser has better soundstage and treble, so on and on and on.

In my eyes, there is only one closed-back headphone that solves the problems and is fantastic in all areas, and that’s the Focal Stelia, which costs roughly twice the price. 

The reason I believe the Stelia handles things so well is the crazy internal structure of the foam that lines the inside of the earcup. It catches the sound before it gets bounced back and allows focal to have greater control of the sound without worrying about dealing with reverberation distortion. The Sennheiser has that glass back, and as we know from the speaker world, hard surfaces are a big no-no. 

That’s said, the sound is amazing on the HD820, and I doubt many people who are seeking a closed-back headphone will ever find a reason to complain. I would put them in my top 3 all-time favorites sounding CB headphones based on that insane huge soundstage alone.

Final Verdict: Sennheiser HD820 Review

The recommended retail price of the HD820 is around $2400. That is the price that this headphone was evaluated for this review. It’s a lot of money, so obviously, they will be out of reach for many people, but they do offer something unique in how the soundstage is so similar to an open back headphone. 

They are comfortable all-day wear headphones and are ruthless in the way they reveal details. More performance can be had for a little less money if you are willing to go for an open-back model, but then you lose the versatility of where and how you can use compact back designs.


Audiophile On
Audiophile On is a website dedicated to high-end audio products. With over 15 years as a reviewer, all articles are hand-written by one person to allow the comparison of products. Headphones, earphones, speakers, amplifiers, or DAC's we cover here.

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