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Sennheiser HDV 820 Review: High-end headphone amplifier

The Sennheiser HDV 820 Black continues the line of its successful predecessor, the HDVD 800, and belongs to the next generation of high-end digital amplifiers designed for high-end headphones.

Sennheiser emphasizes that in the process of creating this device, the development team was in constant search and used the most advanced technical solutions. The design uses high-end components and innovative technologies.

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The device boasts fully symmetrical circuit topology and negligible distortion. As a digital-to-analog converter, a chip from the ESS SABER32 line (32 bit / 384 kHz), which is well known to every audiophile, is used here. DSD256 (12.3 MHz) signal reception is available via the asynchronous USB port. The Sennheiser HDV 820 Black circuitry provides the shortest possible signal paths to ensure minimum losses. The amplifier provides a wide dynamic and frequency range, and also exhibits excellent transient response.

The case has an attractive design and features a black aluminum front panel with white LED input selection indicators and stylish LED backlit power button. Four pairs of headphones can be connected to the Sennheiser HDV 820 Black.

For this purpose, two balanced connectors for 4.4 mm Pentaconn plugs, a balanced XLR4 and a combo jack, to which a regular jack or XLR3 connector is connected, are brought out to the front. The back panel is completely busy with commutation. There is a conventional RCA input with a selectable gain using an adjacent knob and a balanced XLR input. There is a set of digital connectors, incl. asynchronous USB (requires driver installation for Windows PC). The model can be used as a preamplifier. For this there is a corresponding regulated balanced output,

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The company points out that the Sennheiser HDV 820 Black is able to accurately convey the characteristics and musical nuances of any recording, including the individual timbre of each instrument. The amplifier can unleash the potential of any top-end stereo phones, however, this model feels most comfortable with native headphones from the High End segment – HD 820 , HD 800 S , HD 700, HD 660 S , HD 650, etc.

The HDV 820 amplifier was designed precisely so that the 820 headphones could unleash their quality potential and demonstrate the declared High Definition. And this is not as easy as it might seem – the higher the resolution of the headphones, the more transparent the amplifier should be. With all the advantages of individual listening to music, there is also a downside – all the shortcomings of the source and amplification are revealed as if under a microscope, therefore, the acquisition of cool headphones, as a rule, is followed by the replacement of all components of the stereo system. To minimize such problems, an ESS Saber ES9018 D / A converter with PCM support up to 32 bit / 384 kHz and DSD256 was built into the HDV 820 amplifier. This chip is known to be 8-channel, which made it possible to obtain a balanced analog signal at the output with minimal distortion. The subsequent amplifier path is also balanced, with outputs to the Pentaconn 4.4 mm and XLR4 jacks. In addition, the ES9018 includes several digital filtering algorithms that are automatically enabled depending on the selected input – optical, coaxial or USB. The higher the signal resolution, the steeper the cutoff of the RF spectrum. The analog signal is output to XLR connectors.

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The HDV 820 can also be used as a linear preamplifier with XLR and RCA sources, and in the latter case, the gain of the path can be set with a switch on the rear panel in the range of 14/22/30/38/46 dB. And this is the right decision, allowing you to get the best signal-to-noise ratio at any input voltage and, as a result, the declared dynamic range of 115 dB. By the way, even a close value is unrealistic for a system with traditional acoustics due to the high level of ambient noise and compression of peak levels. The HDV 820 delivers 2.5 watts into 50 ohms and 960 mW into 300’s at 0.001% distortion, more than enough for the full scale of a symphony orchestra.

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