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May 2018 - Sennheiser Unveils new HD 820 Closed-Back Headphones | CES 2018

By Liam Kivirist of TechSocket.net

In the world of high-end audio, there are few headphones as iconic as Sennheiser’s HD 800. With its futuristic silver and black design and highly regarded sound signature, the HD 800 has been the choice of many audiophiles seeking “endgame” headphones. While Sennheiser released a more expensive, slightly tweaked version with the HD 800 S, the HD 800 has seen very little evolution since it was released nearly 10 years ago.

Sennheiser HD820 Headphones

At CES 2018, Sennheiser caught every audiophile’s eye by unveiling the HD 820, a closed-back version of the classic open-back HD 800. The new HD 820 is designed to gain the advantages of a closed-back design like isolation from environmental noises while maintaining the acclaimed audio quality and sound signature of the open-backed HD 800.

For those unaware, closed and open back designs refer to whether the headphone’s drivers that produce the sound have direct contact with the outside air via some type of grill or vent (open) or are sealed inside the headphone (closed). Open-back designs can have some advantages when it comes to creating a more natural sound and wider sound stage, but will leak out your music and provide nominal isolation. On the other hand, closed-back designs will provide better isolation and prevent sound from leaking in or out, but can sound much less airy, natural and spacious than many open-back headphones

The HD 820 is designed to carry over the incredibly detailed sound signature of the HD 800. Sennheiser hits it out of the ballpark here. The HD 820 sounded stunningly crisp and detailed with higher frequencies that are lively and bright while not becoming harsh. The highs on the HD 820 sounded slightly more tamed than on the HD 800. The HD 820’s bass wasn’t heavy, but very detailed and deep. With Sennheiser’s classic giant D shaped ear cups, I found the HD 820 incredibly comfortable to wear.

The HD 820 also got a new coat of paint on the classic sci-fi design with a new darker monochrome color palette. The other big visual change is that the classic driver vents on each ear cup have been replaced with clear glass windows, letting you peer into the headphone’s hardware. Overall, the HD 820 is an incredibly gorgeous pair of headphones that’s built like a tank.

Sennheiser HD820 Headphones
Sennheiser HD820 Headphones

“It’s keeping the sound signature of the HD 800, but offering it in a closed-back variant,” replied David Denson, Area Sales Manager at Sennheiser, when asked about the goal of the HD 820. “A of lot people are not able to use the open-back [HD 800 / 800 S] in their specific environment. When using headphones, a lot of people don’t want that external bleed [of open-back headphones] and want a more isolated listening experience.”

With the HD 820, the downside is the price increase you’ll be paying in exchange for the new closed-back design. The HD 820 will be launching in the summer of 2018 with a MSRP of 2,399.95 USD/EUR. That’s $1,000 more than the already premium HD 800 and $700 more than the tweaked HD 800 S.

While my time with them was limited to a few tracks on the busy CES show floor, the HD 820 is easily one of, if not the best, closed-back headphones I’ve ever heard. They’re definitely worth a listen if you ever have the chance.

Liam Kivirist

is a freelance writer for national magazines and editor for TechSocket.net. Follow his work at LiamKivirist.com.
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If you like the photographs, take a look at John D. Ivanko Photography

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