Sennheiser, a brand with a significant history in audio equipment design and manufacture, recently invited me to experience their pinnacle achievement, the HE-1. A successor to Sennheiser’s original Orpheus headphones, the HE-1 is the result of years of no-compromises development led by Orpheus creator, Axel Grell, and directed by the Sennheiser family. While I’m sure you have heard of Sennheiser as a brand, you may not be aware of this headphone, DAC and amplifier combo, which is priced at the ultra-premium end of the range – at around 55,000 EUR.
While I can’t do the description and hands on feel of this product justice, you can find more information on the HE-1 here. What I can do, however, is pass on my experience with the product. Warning: This may sound very much like I am waxing lyrical as to my experience, but in all honesty, this is one of those that I feel justified in doing so, going against my usual demeanour of vocal skepticism.
Initially, the HE-1 appears to be a minimalist product, with only subtle glows emitting from the tubes and the lone LED of the volume dial. Once invited to pick up the headphones, I was struck by the build quality – this is no mass-produced item, but one that has the craftsman involved in every detail. The headphones themselves aren’t as weighty as I expected, given that a portion of the amplification is located in the surrounds. Once wearing the headphones and listening to music being played back (for those playing along at home, my music selection was Pink Floyd’s High Hopes from the “The Division Bell” album, and Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts 13 from the “Ghosts” album set), the headphones almost melted away, such is the perfect head compression pressure and weight. With headphones, I often feel that the compression level is too loose – with the constant feeling of the ‘phones about to fall off. Because of this issue I usually revert to ear buds for better feel.
Aurally, the sound signature is one I can only describe as flat. No range felt too strong or weak. The important part to me is clarity. I heard parts of songs that I’ve never heard before. David Gilmour’s lips opening as he is about to sing the first verse of “High Hopes”. Tonal resonances in Ghost 13. One of the Sennheiser representatives present mentioned that some describe the HE-1’s as the headphones that ruin all others. I tend to disagree with this – the HE-1’s open up aspects of music that one would subsequently be more aware of, and more able to pick up with other, lower priced products.
If you get the chance to experience the HE-1 system at a retailer or show, do it. You will not regret it! I recommend listening to a track that has emotional or nostalgic symbolism for you – a piece of music that you have listened to countless times.
Below are a few photos I took at the experience. Have you had an opportunity to try the HE-1’s? Love audio equipment? let us know in the forum.
Also, if you are in Auckland, New Zealand, check out Computer Lounge’s Headphone Meet and Experience on the 6th of March, for a chance to experience what I have.