Most people can’t imagine a headset that costs several thousand dollars to be worth the money, but in actuality, quite a few boutique cans are. Sennheiser’s HD 820 is widely recognized as one of the most complete, remarkably versatile sets of Hi-Fi headphones that excels in pretty much every field of performance aside from affordability.
Now, this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Sennheiser has been dominating the audio equipment market for more than half a century, boasting top-tier studio headphones, outstanding noise cancellation, unique drivers, and designs that will invariably outlast their makers.
The HD 820 is one of the freshest additions to their catalog, which was introduced to the market on the 16th of May, 2018. Aside from exceptional impedance rating, a sturdy metal headband, and exquisite glass covers on the transducers, aside from remarkably comfortable pads made of microfiber, they also boast a tremendous frequency response range.
Their durability, comfort, and sound quality are in a league of their own, but what makes these headphones incomparable to the vast majority of models in the closed-back category is the thundering speakers and drivers built into the cups.
If you’re on the market searching for the ultimate headphones but can’t expend a small fortune of cash, it may be worth your while to stick around as we review affordable alternatives to Sennheiser’s HD 820.
Sennheiser HD820 Affordable Alternatives
Truth be told, most consumer-grade headphones can’t come close to HD 820, but the fact is that most people don’t really have thousands of dollars for a pair of headphones. That’s why we’ve scoured the market for valid, and obviously less expensive alternatives that would give you a relatively similar experience.
Let’s start off with Cowin’s E7, which is representing the rock-bottom price point category. This headset is similar to HD 820 only in terms of design – both cans are closed-back, and both are perfect for casual listening to music at home, gaming, and such.
First and foremost, the E7 offers the benefits of wireless connectivity, whereas Sennheiser’s HD 820 is wired and, in more ways than one, limited in terms of flexibility.
Given that one of the most notable drawbacks of Bluetooth-based cans is their battery, the prime reason why Cowin’s E7 can contest HD 820’s value is the fact that it sports a long-lasting bat, which can endure roughly 30 hours of use per charge.
As far as sound quality goes, Cowin’s E7 is further from HD 820 than any other model on this list. These headphones aren’t Hi-Fi and don’t offer the same level of sonic clarity, but they come pretty close in terms of loudness with a sensitivity rating of 85 decibels.
Further at that point, the frequency range of E7 spans from 20 Hz to 30 kHz, which is remarkably rare for a set of cans in the entry-level price range. Additionally, these headphones are outfitted with a built-in microphone and excellent quality active ambient noise reduction.
Comfort-wise, E7 features a bare plastic headband with relatively stiff earmuffs whereas HD 820 rocks a thoroughly padded design.
Overall, these cans fail to come close to Sennheiser’s sturdiness and comfort, and even though they don’t sound too similar to HD 820, they offer great sound cancellation, wireless convenience, a variety of cool features, and most importantly, a very approachable price tag.
Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR
Next up is Philips Audio’s Fidelio X2HR – a set of over-ear closed-back headphones that offer Hi-Fi sonic performance, excellent audio quality, a high level of comfort, and remarkable customizability.
The most notable feature of Fidelio X2HR HD 820 is the pair of 50mm large-aperture drivers that are fully responsible for its massive, audiophile-worthy sound quality. These neodymium-made drivers feature LMC diaphragms and handle marginal frequency sounds with great ease.
Furthermore, the fully enclosed open-back design is vastly similar to that of HD 820, with the most obvious difference being that the muffs of the latter are strikingly larger.
In terms of comfort, Fidelio X2HR features memory foam pads that are complemented with a highly breathable velour finish. These pads are removable and easy to clean, but they also generate more heat and can’t be worn for extended periods, unlike HD 820.
Another important similarity between the two headphone sets is their frequency range. While HD 820 sports a range that spans from 6 Hz to 48,000 Hz, the frequency range of Fidelio lies between 5 Hz and 40,000 Hz.
Additionally, both can be considered professional studio headphones due to their neutral sound signature and virtually distortion-less performance.
When all things are taken into consideration, Fidelio X2HR’s sound is not tremendously far from that of HD 820; these headphones are obviously built from different materials, so you shouldn’t expect Fidelio to last as long as HD 820. On the brighter side, their frequency range is almost identical; their sensitivity is pretty close, and their drivers aren’t worlds apart.
AKG Pro Audio K371
It’s important to note that AKG’s K371 is merely a few bucks more expensive than Fidelio, and the main reason why we’ve added it to the list in spite of being in the same price range is the fact that it offers a drastically different set of benefits.
The first similarity between K371 and HD 820 is their design – both are open-back studio headphones, and both sport a massive frequency response range, optimal sensitivity, and volume. We can safely say that everything else between them is different.
AKG Pro Audio’s K371 headphones are designed with simplicity in mind. They feature a foldable, unpadded plastic headband, a pair of oversized (and gentle) leather muffs, and a robust cable.
These headphones sound differently than E7 or Fidelio, but they’re much closer to the level where HD 820 is at. Namely, they are supplied with titanium-coated 50 mm drivers with OFC coils, which are both strong and clear-sounding.
Their neutral sonic signature makes them absolutely perfect for critical listening, just like Sennheiser’s HD 820. Furthermore, their frequency range spans from 5-40,000 Hz, which is essentially just a tad different than what Philips’s Fidelio offers.
In terms of sonic performance, what separates K371 from HD 820 is the 32-ohm impedance rating. Namely, Sennheiser’s HD 820 offers an incomparably higher level of sensitivity, which draws ten times more power, but at the same time it offers ten times more as far as stability is at stake.
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro
Beyerdynamic is one of the few brands of mid-range headphones that have been recognized (and more or less approved) by audiophiles worldwide.
The DT 770 Pro has been their flagship for quite a while, only to be succeeded by DT 880 and 990 models from the same series.
They’re considerably more comfortable than E7, Fidelio, and arguably even K371, which brings them closer to HD 820 than virtually half of the models on the list. That’s mainly true because they’re lightweight and thoroughly padded; both the headband and the muffs feature sturdy leather pads that generate less heat than average over-ear headphones.
Durability-wise, they boast a sturdy, rugged construction, and they would actually be in the same field as Sennheiser’s HD 820 if not for their flimsy connector joints made of thin plastic.
DT 770 Pro is the first set of headphones whose impedance rating is a few Ohms away from that of HD 820. Beyerdynamic’s cans can offer 250 Ohms worth of electrical resistance while Sennheiser’s HD 820 offers 300.
The sound quality of these headphones is remarkable for the price, and the numerous benefits they provide while excelling at eliminating performance-oriented shortcomings make them a legitimate alternative to the boutique HD 820.
Sony is arguably even more famous than Sennheiser, and their MDR1AM2 is a pair of headphones that surpasses their flagship HD 820 in a couple of performance fields. They sport a superior frequency response range, a variety of built-in features, and they are compatible with most smartphones while excelling in delivering Hi-Fi sound worthy of the sternest, strictest audiophiles.
The highlight feature of MDR1AM2 is the liquid-crystal polymer large-aperture driver, which provides phenomenal clarity and excellent scaling as far as volume is of concern.
Sony’s MDR1AM2 headphones are remarkably comfortable; their cups are padded with lightweight, but sturdy leather, and the same can be said about the headband. They’re durable through and through, more so than most of their closed-back counterparts.
As we mentioned a second ago, MDR1AM2 offers a frequency range that is twice as broad in comparison to Sennheiser’s HD 820. Namely, these cans sport the range of 3 Hz to 100 kHz, which surpasses HD 820’s range of 6 Hz to 48 kHz.
The only drawback of these headphones is that they are a bit heavy on the bass. Their lows-intensive sonic signature makes them better for casual listening while HD 820 is better utilized in a studio setting.
Even though these headphones are twice as expensive in comparison to the currently priciest model on the list, they’re still several times cheaper than Sennheiser’s HD 820.
Senior editor for Ultimate-Guitar, passionate about good music and quality gear. Bassist. King Crimson fan. Travel enthusiast. Compulsive buyer of Bose headphones and old Fender amps.