With the fully balanced headphone amplifier HDV 820 Sennheiser has a new flagship model in the high-end segment. Does he live up to the high expectations in the test?
After Sennheiser presented the successor to the revolutionary reference headphone HD 800 with the HD 800 S at the end of 2015 , bets were soon made in hi-fi circles that soon the associated headphone amplifier HDVD 800 would soon be reworked. But still earlier this year, Sennheiser was covered on this issue. All the more surprising therefore was the more or less unannounced premiere of the HDV 820 in mid-May on the HIGH END, even though the device had officially been presented shortly before, at the end of April at the Headphone Festival in Tokyo.
Sennheiser remains true to its line: The new headphone amplifier is just like its predecessor as a preferred partner for the top headphones from the house. The HDV 820 also underlines this optically: Its high-quality aluminum housing is black anodized and thus fits perfectly with the black outer skeleton of the HD 800 S.
On the window in the housing , which allowed technically enthusiastic users a look at the carefully designed inner life of the predecessor, Sennheiser did without this time. The stable front, which is dominated by a large volume control, has remained largely the same. The purist design language is particularly modern and elegant, and at the same time radiates the HDV 820 also a certain modesty.
Simple on the outside, not inside …
The device is anything but modest in the interior. The amplifier circuit operates fully balanced, so not only has a balanced output stage, but a completely separate, symmetrical signal routing for each stereo channel from input to output. This is expensive because two amplifier branches are necessary for each channel, one for the non-inverted useful signal and one for the inverted reference signal. This offers tangible technical advantages: Symmetrically operated headphones have a higher channel separation, because the cable management, in contrast to unbalanced connections has no common ground reference on the shield.
The device has all the important connections and is also suitable for professional use with its XLR sockets. The sensitivity of the analog input (Gain) can be varied.
Sonically, the lower crosstalk can be expressed above all in a more convincing spatiality and a more exact image. In addition, headphone amplifiers provide twice the output voltage at the balanced output, which is 6 dB higher, which can help high impedance or low sensitivity headphones to jump. Fully balanced circuits are said to have a faster response because, per channel, two amplifiers ultimately work together to control the deflection of the diaphragm, improving pulse fidelity and fine resolution.
Big step forward
However, acute need for action was less in the amplifier circuit, but rather in the integrated D / A converter. In the audio industry, Moore’s law confirms that the complexity of integrated circuits regularly doubles and their performance is thus rapidly increasing. For a contemporary digital section, Sennheiser uses a state-of-the-art DAC chip that enables the HDV 820 to easily handle PCM signals up to a resolution of 32 bits / 384 kHz and DSD up to 12.3 MHz.
Forward-looking are also the two Pentaconn sockets on the front, which can be found next to the UNXLR / jack combo jack and the balanced XLR4 jack. Pentaconn is a 4-pin, 4-mm, 5-pin connector that was recently standardized by the Japan Electrical and Information Technology Industry Association (JEITA) to become the new universal universal headphone connector.
The HDV 820 convinces not only visually and technically, but also thrills with agility, passion and absolute transparency. Headphones, which can adequately realize this and do not blur, he drives to unprecedented top performance, especially with symmetrical control.
Sennheiser HDV 820 Conclusion
Universal and extremely powerful headphone amplifier, which can also be used as a compact pre-stage. On the analogue side, it scores points with a fully symmetrical circuit design, digitally with maximum HiRes and DSD compatibility and on the sound side with transparency and unrestrained dynamics. A powerhouse!
The Sennheiser HDV 820 costs around 2,400 euros.
- HiRes and DSD compatibility
- fully symmetrical circuit design
- high dynamics and transparency
Stereoplay test result: very good (88 points); Sound: absolute top class (61/62 points); Price / offer: Very good