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Sennheiser HDV 820

Digital headphone amplifier/DAC

1 Review | 1 question - 2 answers

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Item # 143HDV820

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Our take on the Sennheiser HDV 820

How do you make one of the best headphones on the market even better? If you're Sennheiser, you build the HDV 820 headphone amp to play up all the strengths of your flagship HD 800 S 'phones. The most obvious matches between the two are in the cosmetics and the connectivity — this is one of the few amps we offer that can accept a balanced XLR4 headphone cable. But this powerful desktop amp also drives the HD 800 S headphones to perform at their top potential.

Sennheiser HDV 820 headphone amp

A sophisticated metal housing protects the precious vitals inside the Sennheiser HDV 820 headphone amp.

Rich sound gets richer

How do you make one of the best headphones on the market even better? If you're Sennheiser, you build the HDV 820 headphone amp to play up all the strengths of your flagship HD 800 S 'phones. The most obvious matches between the two are in the cosmetics and the connectivity — this is one of the few amps we offer that can accept a balanced XLR4 headphone cable. But this powerful desktop amp also drives the HD 800 S headphones to perform at their top potential.

Sennheiser designed this amp to accentuate the sonic advantages of the HD 800 S. The HDV 820 spreads out the headphones' large soundstage even wider. And together, the pair delivers airy, musical highs along with taut, detailed mids and a sweet helping of bass precision.

Crystal-clear, low-distortion sound for all

Of course, you can use the HDV 820 with any set of wired headphones that would benefit from clean, controlled power. Which I think covers most of them! Sennheiser uses a symmetrical circuitry design to keep the left and right channel signals completely independent of each other. This practically eliminates interference, so your headphones will better handle large sonic peaks in your music — without distorting.

Sennheiser also includes a 5-stage gain switch to properly match up the power output with your headphones' impedance. That means this amp plays nice with all types of headphone models. 

The ins...

A headphone amp can only be as versatile as its connections — and the HDV 820 is ready for all types of music sources. You'll find balanced and unbalanced analog inputs along with optical, coaxial, XLR, and USB inputs for your digital gear. A premium ESS Sabre digital-to-analog converter effortlessly handles high-res music files up to 32-bit/384kHz.

...and outs

This amp will power up to four pairs of headphones simultaneously — a helpful feature here at Crutchfield where we often compare different headphones. There is a four-pin XLR output, along with a Neutrik combination socket standard that will accept a 3-pin XLR or a 1/4" headphone plug.

The HDV 820 also has a stereo pair of 3-pin XLR outputs on the back. So you can use it as a standalone preamp/DAC if you have compatible audio gear.

What's the deal with those new 4.4mm headphone jacks?

On the front, there are also two balanced 4.4mm headphone outputs. At first glance, I admittedly mistook them for 1/4" unbalanced headphone outputs. This heavy-duty connection is actually the new industry standard for balanced headphone operation. And it is kind of exciting to see them on a Sennheiser headphone amp.

Here's why: Sony originally developed this standard — and right now their MDR-Z1R headphones are the only model we carry that can connect without an adapter. But now that two heavy-hitters from the category have adopted this standard, we should see other headphone companies embrace it. That's good for performance, because this connection promises to be low in noise and distortion. And hopefully moving to a new standard will mean fewer proprietary cable connections for you and I to sort through!

In January 2018, Sennheiser announced their new closed-back HD 820 headphones at the CES show in Vegas. These forthcoming high-end 'phones will also take advantage of this special new 4.4mm connection.

Product Highlights:

  • high-performance desktop headphone amp
  • sophisticated metal housing protects against signal interference and vibration
    • volume and input controls machined from solid metal for long-term reliability
  • engineered and assembled at Sennheiser's headquarters in Germany
Audio Features:
  • symmetrical (balanced) circuitry throughout reduces noise and distortion for maximum sound quality
  • premium ESS Sabre32 digital-to-analog converter for detailed, dynamic sound
    • plays PCM digital audio files up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD files up to 12.3 MHz
  • rear-panel 5-stage gain switch for optimized use of low impedance headphones
  • digital audio inputs: one optical (Toslink) and one coaxial
  • USB (Type B) input for connecting a computer
  • 1 pair symmetrical (balanced 3-pin XLR) line-level inputs
  • 1 pair asymmetrical (unbalanced RCA) inputs
  • 1 symmetrical (balanced) 4-pin XLR headphone output
  • combination headphone output
    • 1 balanced 3-pin XLR output
    • 1 unbalanced 1/4" headphone jack
  • 2 balanced 4.4mm headphone outputs
  • 1 pair symmetrical (balanced 3-pin XLR) preamp outputs for connection to a compatible audio component
  • plays up to four pairs of headphone simultaneously
Other Info and Specs:
  • dedicated Sennheiser USB Windows driver required for playback on a PC (available for free on Sennheiser's website)
  • no driver required for MacOS (latest version recommended)
  • detachable AC power cord
  • THD: less than 0.001%
  • frequency response: 10Hz to 100,000 Hz
  • 8-15/16"W x 1-3/4"H x 12-1/4"D
  • weight: 5 lbs.
  • warranty: 2 years
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee

What's in the Box:

  • Headphone amplifier
  • 6' AC power cord (IEC 3-prong)
  • Instruction Manual and driver software on USB Flash Drive
  • Microfiber cleaning cloth
  • Quick Guide
  • Safety Guide

Sennheiser HDV 820 Reviews

Average Customer Review(s):

(1 Review)

World class headphone amp

Bob from Upland, CA on 2/26/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

The Sennheiser HDV 820 is a beautiful piece of audio gear. It's The finest headphone amp I have ever had the pleasure of owning. I'm using the it to drive my matching Sennheiser HD 800S headphones, and it's a powerful match. The sound is stunning. I have the amp sourced with my NAD 568 CD player Connected via coax cable to take advantage of the fantastic DAC built into the Sennheiser amp. I would highly recommend the HDV 820 to anyone who is looking to put togeather a state of the art headphone rig.

Pros: Superb sound, flexible connections and first class build quality.

Cons: None, but I wish it came with a remote control.


Hands-on research

Product Research


Overview: The HDV 820 digital headphone amplifier is the perfect complement to Sennheiser's high-end headphones. It has a sleek black anodized aluminum housing with white LEDs to match the flagship HD 800 S headphone. The amplifier lets you connect up to four pairs of dynamic headphones at one time, and includes an XLR-3/1/4" combo jack, an XLR-4 jack, and two 4.4mm Pentaconn jacks. There are both balanced and unbalanced analog input jacks for connecting source units, as well as optical and coaxial digital, and USB (Type B) inputs. The HDV 820 is engineered and handcrafted in Germany.

Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC): The HDV 820 features a high quality ESS Sabre32 digital-to-analog converter (DAC), which delivers wide dynamic range, low distortion, and crystal clear audio. The DAC is capable of 32-bit resolution with a sampling rate of up to 384 kHz. It can also play DSD256 files with a frequency of up to 12.3 MHz.

Symmetrical Signal Processing: The HDV 820's symmetrical signal processing provides exact signal transmission over the entire frequency spectrum with very low harmonic distortion. Very short signal paths are used, resulting in a wide dynamic range, wide bandwidth, and high transient response. The use of high quality components gives you the pure musical enjoyment from any source.

Input Selector: You can connect several types of audio sources to the headphone amp, and switch between them using the rotary Input Selector switch. There are 5 positions to choose from:

  • USB: This Type B USB input allows you to connect your Mac (OS X ver 10.6 and later) or PC (Windows 7, 8, 8.1 or 10, 32 or 64 bits) directly to the amplifier. You should use a USB 2.0 certified cable with Type B and Type A connections. The USB input supports:
    • PCM Audio up to 32-bit resolution with a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, 192 kHz, 352.8 kHz, or 384 kHz
    • DSD 64 (2,822,400 Hz), DSD 128 (5,644,800 Hz), or DSD 256 (11,289,600 Hz) files
  • Optical Digital: This TosLink input can receive digital audio signals in PCM format at sampling rates up to 96 kHz from an optical cable.
  • Coaxial Digital: This Coaxial digital (RCA) input will accept digital audio signals in PCM format at sampling rates of up to 192 kHz from a 75Ω coaxial cable.
  • Unbalanced: The Unbalanced input has left and right RCA jacks, and will accept unbalanced analog audio signals through a stereo RCA cable. The Unbalanced Input features an adjustable input gain control for obtaining the optimum signal level. There are 5 positions to choose from: 14dB, 22dB, 30dB, 38dB, and 46dB.
  • Balanced: The Balanced input features 2 balanced female XLR-3 jacks, and will accept balanced analog  signals. The gain of the Balanced input signal is set to 16dB, and is not adjustable.

Headphone Connections: The Sennheiser HDV 820 offers a total of 4 connections to drive dynamic headphones:

  • Combo Jack: A Neutrik combination socket that will accept XLR-3 or 1/4" (6.3mm) unbalanced plugs.
  • XLR-4: A Neutrik XLR-4 socket for balanced headphone connection.
  • Pentaconn: Two 4.4mm Pentaconn connectors, the new standard for balanced outputs, with lower contact resistance, minimal distortion, and more transparent sound.

Balanced Output: The HDV 820 has left and right male XLR balanced outputs for connecting the unit to a power amplifier or to powered speakers. The output level can be adjusted using the front panel volume control.


  • Frequency Response: <10 Hz to >100 kHz
  • Crosstalk Attenuation: min. 93dB @ 1 kHz
  • THD+N: <0.001%
  • Gain:
    • Unbalanced Input/XLR-4 Output: adjustable 14dB, 22dB, 30dB, 38dB, 46dB
    • Balanced Input/XLR-4 Output: 16dB
  • Dynamic Range: >115dB @ 600Ω load (A-weighted)
  • Dimensions: Width 8.5", Height 2.177" Depth 14.5 (including cables)
  • Weight: 4.96 pounds

Our Product Research Team

At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team. They verify what’s in the box, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

Q & A

Customer Q&A

Crutchfield asked  
Why did you buy this?

Internet Reviews [ Ray  May 05, 2018 ]

1 question already asked

Actually, you can. I connected my iPhone/iPad via the CCK and the correct USB cable and it worked fine. Even DSD (with the right iOS app, like the Onkyo Hifi Player). [ Nigel  Feb 17, 2018 ]
No. The Sennheiser HDV 820 does not support the direct connection of an iPhone. [ Ryan  Jan 18, 2018 ]  Staff