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Sennheiser HDV-820 USB DAC & Headphone Amp Review

Tks

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I'm not a die-hard measurements mean nothing type. But as I said earlier, I've been using this amp for months and it sounds fine to me. Without these measurements I never would have known... Maybe I have bad ears. Maybe the bad performance isn't audible. Maybe this. Maybe that.
Doesn't matter in the slightest if it sounds good to you, and you enjoy the operation and the device itself. We would never dissuade someone and tell them what they need to prefer. The thing that gets people fired up sometimes on this forum is when someone makes a statement like: "If something sounds good to me, then it is good intrinsically irrespective of what anyone, or anything else says to the contrary". Obviously they'll never say that to anyone's face, they'll just say "it sounds good to me, and it that's why it is good performing device, and anyone saying anything different has bad hearing, or doesn't know any better because they need to try it".

They have no frame of reference aside from their own ever changing power of perception. Of which could at any time shift, and placebo themselves into thinking one thing to another depending on the day, or situation. While measurement devices have only so much that could change about them that would lead them to spit out varying results. Lastly, measuring devices don't measure how much you'll enjoy something. They measure performance based on a set of metrics. They're just more tools that give people a better idea if this is something they may want out of a product. I always tell those lunatic subjectivists, to measure power output without using any machines. Lick your finger and touch a live part, and 'feel' how much power there is... literally, see how that works out since no machine could ever tell you anything.
 

Nango

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Come on son...

What is this? You would think (for any that have seen video's of Senn's factory in Germany, and their testing bench and chambers) this sort of nonsense wouldn't be something that ever comes out of these people's factory.

I don't get it, is that whole company simply inept, or do they have a different machination on what constitutes as "good engineering"? Will audio ever come up with a body that will standardize engineering principles for goodness sake? If a company like Senn can put out stuff like this (though it's not their first time with blunders, check out the HD800 and that disgusting treble peak, that is somewhat rectified in the HD800S that sacrificed some bass performance to remedy it) you can imagine why things are pretty bad with other companies (until recently when folks are starting to take performance seriously).

Oh and anyone defending this, I just want to hear the justification for that ATROCIOUS output impedance, and that horrendous channel performance over time. Everything else you can toss up to "that tube sound tho". Not these two things though, and NOT from someone the size of Sennheiser.

Can you imagine how that $50,000 headphone+amp setup performs that they sometimes like to demo? With tubes no less..
The 6khz peak (they could have chosen 7khz or 8khz) is most likely intended and necessary whenever listening at moderate levels, otherwise it sounds anemic, boring. They know their customer base for HD 800 are no Headbangers (anymore) and don't listen loud. Despite the fact the 300-400 Ohm impedance makes this near impossible.
 

Tks

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The 6khz peak (they could have chosen 7khz or 8khz) is most likely intended and necessary whenever listening at moderate levels, otherwise it sounds anemic, boring. They know their customer base for HD 800 are no Headbangers (anymore) and don't listen loud. Despite the fact the 300-400 Ohm impedance makes this near impossible.
Problem is, 7 or 8k peaks would be the same for me with all intents and purposes considered. I don't want, nor like the peak, basically AT ALL. Luckily I EQ nearly everything, so it's not too big of an issue, though Sennhieser bass rears its ugly head with very loud levels, the drivers begin to buzz. But thankfully I rarely ever listen at those levels, so it's not too big of an issue.
 

solderdude

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I understand this technical reasoning quite well, but I don't think that the problem lies here.
Rather, for me the issue is that they don't have any disclaimer like:

"This device was specifically designed and only meant to be used in combination with headphones with a huge impedance like our HD 800, HD 820 and HD 650, and not with other headphones (like our HD 598). Customers are herewith warned that this device is not suitable for use with most headphones."
It is shown on the product page that compatible products are: HD800S, HD600, HD650 and HD820. None of the lower impedance headphones are mentioned. Not even the 150 Ohm HD660S.

The absence of such a clear disclaimer looks like customer deception to me and I even wonder if that would not make them liable for a customer law suit in a country like the USA.
You can connect any headphone you like to it and it will play sound and you would be physically safe. Those connecting sensitive low impedance IEMs to it and turn up the volume will of course blow up their driver but amps like the Atom or Magni can do the same.
The amplifier, as Amir mentioned, complies to all the essential norms. I don't think anyone can file a claim that their amplifier changes the sound signature with certain headphones.

Is it true that they even don't put the (definitely abnormal and inacceptable for me) impedance of the amp in the specs?
yes, just like the vast majority of amps do not specify it. Most specs only mention the range of impedances which basically is a meaningless specification.
Of course there are manufacturers that actually DO specify this as well as power ratings at various impedances.

I don't hear people complaining Focal doesn't even specify the power rating of their headphones either.
 

solderdude

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The 6khz peak (they could have chosen 7khz or 8khz) is most likely intended and necessary whenever listening at moderate levels, otherwise it sounds anemic, boring. .
Nope.. it was a design error due to the cavity in the ring emitter. It was solved with a resonator that absorbs that energy in the HD800S.
In their own measurements (they use band noises) the 6kHz is hardly looking problematic.


where when measured with a different method the problem is clearly visible.


The HD800S shows the effectiveness of the resonator (the fix) vs the HD800:



I EQ the peaks (there is also one at 10kHz which is not seen but present in HATS measurements) out and raise the lows of the HD800 and there is nothing boring about the sound. It just isn't overly hyped detailed but exquisitely detailed.

With the right amplifier (enough output voltage swing) and properly EQ'ed bass the bass itself is not blaoted nor flabby nor distorted even at high SPL. The HD800 driver almost reaches planar levels in this regard.
 
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Nango

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A design error which held 20yrs until they fixed it? ....in Germany?? Come on........ They fixed it after 20yrs just because the crowd cried without knowing what they cried. "Give people what they want", .... and they "fixed" it.
 

solderdude

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It didn't take 20 years between the HD800 and HD800S.
The HD600 and HD650 both did not have a treble peak that needed fixing.
Perhaps you are referring to the Beyerpeak which still is a 'problem' but fixable.
 

JJB70

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Whatever disappointment we may feel at this amp/DAC I don't think many would deny the importance and merit of the HD580/600/650/660 line of headphones. Going back to the HD580 this line has consistently provided superb headphones at price points which are not silly or unattainable and which have pretty much provided the headphone performance benchmarks for the best part of 30 years (I'm not sure when the HD580 came out but mine must be over 25 years old). In fact, I honestly believe that nobody really needs to go beyond the HD650/660 if it is just about SQ (to be honest the HD800 always left me a bit cold).
 
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It is shown on the product page that compatible products are: HD800S, HD600, HD650 and HD820. None of the lower impedance headphones are mentioned. Not even the 150 Ohm HD660S.

You can connect any headphone you like to it and it will play sound and you would be physically safe. Those connecting sensitive low impedance IEMs to it and turn up the volume will of course blow up their driver but amps like the Atom or Magni can do the same.
The amplifier, as Amir mentioned, complies to all the essential norms. I don't think anyone can file a claim that their amplifier changes the sound signature with certain headphones.

yes, just like the vast majority of amps do not specify it. Most specs only mention the range of impedances which basically is a meaningless specification.
Of course there are manufacturers that actually DO specify this as well as power ratings at various impedances.

I don't hear people complaining Focal doesn't even specify the power rating of their headphones either.
It is indeed much better and good to know that it states only compatibility with these Sennheiser headphones (having a huge, abnormal impedance).

I can agree with most of what you say,
but I think it would miss the general point I was trying to make. I don't see any need to disclaim abnormal, unintended, unexpected use, like using a headphone amp for driving IEMs. But if a solid-state has much an abnormal impedance, then this will change, "equalize" the FR of most headphones, which is not the intended use (which is: it must only amplify, not "equalize") which unintended effect for me (and I am pretty sure for most consumers) is clearly unacceptable as this would affect most headphones.
Re. Focal, the FR of their headphones won't be changed by normal headphone amps, so they don't have to disclaim anything here, it is only Sennheiser which has here anomalous products.
 

solderdude

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For Focal I mentioned the lack of mentioning power ratings. It has nothing to do with its impedance. This impedance varies a lot with a higher output resistance, much more so than the 300 Ohm Sennheiser line. Sennheiser at least specifies continuous power ratings.
I don't see any disclaimers made by Focal to NOT use their headphones on higher output resistance amplifiers either.

There are many, many headphone amps out there that modify the FR on certain headphones and none of them 'report' this or say it is a feature (well... almost none).

Output resistances between 10 and 50 Ohm are not exceptional, not desirable for many low impedance headphones (in some cases it is).
Nor are 300 Ohm headphones considered to be an abnormal high impedance.

The only thing one can acuse the HDV820 of is price/performance ratio compared to say a E 500.- DAC amp combo with similar options.
Perhaps the HDV820 is the equivalent of the Grado RA1 ?
 
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I understand, I don't know if it will be true, that the HD800 model has evolved somewhat over time in the sense of minimizing the treble response. Whether it is true or not, my model is from 2015 and it is precisely the treble / media that I like most about these headphones and I do not find them annoying.
The amount of low level information, resolution and detail that i can hear at these frequencies, is spectacular and addictive for me and the amplification section of the HDVD800, the previous model analyzed here, has not been an impediment to enjoy them
On the other hand, for example, the medium / treble of the AKG K-702 I can't stand them. Each person has their tastes or limitations.
It is also true that the combination of both, was much cheaper than what now costs only the HDVD820. A little expensive yes I see it.
 
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Seeing the decapitated panther on top of the Sennheiser amp, I feel so disappointed. Almost all the headphones i bought are from Sennheiser.
As someone has stated earlier, how come a company as big as Sennheiser, with all the resources they have, doesn't even build their amp to measure better than the $99 amp. Damn-it Sennheiser ! Clean the shit out of your amp ! At least Schiit is doing something about the shit !
 

Cortes

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Seeing the decapitated panther on top of the Sennheiser amp, I feel so disappointed. Almost all the headphones i bought are from Sennheiser.
As someone has stated earlier, how come a company as big as Sennheiser, with all the resources they have, doesn't even build their amp to measure better than the $99 amp. Damn-it Sennheiser ! Clean the shit out of your amp ! At least Schiit is doing something about the shit !
it's not that bad. Globally, Senheisser is the most solid and reliable headphone maker. In general, their headphones are very good, and there is a relation between price tag and quality. Of course, there are some exceptions, but they are probably the best headphone company.

As for the amp section, the best is to forget about it. It's like google with their old smartphones, and other examples of industry leaders. They know what they know, and when they venture in other markets, they just purchase another company to rebrand products.
 

bravomail

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wow. they really did something wrong with the amp piece. 2 different engineering teams? one for DAC and another for Amp?
 

DivineCurrent

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I remember someone mentioning the older grey colored HDVD 800 also has a 45 ohm output impedance like the 820, not sure about the amp only HDVA 600, but I assume it does as well if it's the same design.

Perhaps Sennheiser let their success get to their heads? I'm starting to suspect they don't care as much as they used to. It's the things they've done recently like reusing HD 700 drivers for a "new" model HD 660S, which doesn't improve much if anything over the 600 or 650. As revolutionary as the HD800 was, it has the infamous 6 kHz peak they tried to fix with the 800S, but it didn't really fix it all that much. And now we have their overpriced amps that are catered specifically for their own 300 ohm headphones, and basically unusable with anything below that.

I don't know if there was change in management or whatever the past decade, but I think they need to go back to their roots of excellent German engineering they used to be known for.
 
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