Gadgets

Published on December 14th, 2016 | by Varuna Singh

0

The most expensive headphones – Sennheiser HE1 now in the Middle East [Hands On]

The last model of the Sennheiser Orpheus was about 25 years ago. Sennheiser CEO Andreas Sennheiser said ‘We didn’t purposely take over 20 years to create the Sennheiser HE1 ‘ If it was up to Sennheiser they would have released the successor earlier. According to Sennheiser, both the technology and research is ready today for a true successor.

sennheiser-he1-orpheus-hands-on-uae-middle-east-dubai-launch-price-pre-order-10

The Sennheiser HE1 is probably the most sophisticated and advanced over the ear open back headphones out there. They cost about 50,000 Euros which is about AED194,000 and they are available to pre-order in the region today.

So what makes these so good and why are they so expensive?

The original Orpheus called the HE90 was designed to be the best headphones ever made; irrespective of price. The Orpheus is their “concept car” version in headphones. It’s a proof-of-concept device; the benchmark that everything else chases.

sennheiser-he1-orpheus-hands-on-uae-middle-east-dubai-launch-price-pre-order-6

Its kind of a reboot & kind of a throwback

The latest Orpheus is the HE1. Its kind of a reboot and kind of a throwback. It has its own dedicated tube amplifiers that slide out of its ceramic base. The whole reveal is captivating to begin with.

sennheiser-he1-orpheus-hands-on-uae-middle-east-dubai-launch-price-pre-order-8

The audio output on the HE1 ranges from 8Hz to more than 100 kHz. Humans can hear between 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The audio output of the HE1 already exceeds that of human hearing capacity. Of course that’s not enough. What matters is the quality of the output. Distortion levels are at a lowest ever: 0.01% at 1kHz at 100 dB SPL.

These headphones are electrostatic headphones. That means they don’t use magnets to produce sound but rather use conductive flat layers – a more advanced principle of producing sound. The headphones also have a MOS-FET high voltage amp integrated into the ear cups. While the ear cups are comfortable, they do look really big because of this technology. The transducers are gold-vaporized on ceramic and silver plated PFC cables transfer sound to the headphones from the base.

Those tubes that you see are amplifiers and there are 8 internal DACs. Four for each channel of stereo that run parallel to each other.

How do AED200,000 headphones sound ?

The difference is really in the details. Straight out- the headphones are very comfortable and they fit over your ear and a good portion of the area around it. The wires themselves are thick and the way they are connected to the base feels as if you are jacking into the matrix.

Go ahead dim the lights even – the experience is pretty good

The base has a wireless remote that you can use to control the volume and playback controls while you just sit back and relax. You really want to experience these headphones in a quiet environment preferably in a room with the doors and windows closed. Go ahead dim the lights even, the experience is pretty good.

sennheiser-he1-orpheus-hands-on-uae-middle-east-dubai-launch-price-pre-order-16

That’s exactly how Sennheiser demonstrated the HE1 headphones. A Separate classy yet comfortable room with the HE1 on a table. Its ceramic base, black accents and Vinyl like lid for the headphones blend in as artistic furniture.

One of the engineers gestured and requested me to turn the system on. The way the Sennheiser HE1 starts up is part of the experience and while it takes its time it’s a delight to watch. The HE1 on cold boot should take about 20 seconds for it to be in use. However according to Sennheiser to reach optimal sound quality, the HE1 should be used after 20-30 minutes. That’s about the time it takes to get the tubes heated up. Yes the tubes need to be heated up for optimal performance.

sennheiser-he1-orpheus-hands-on-uae-middle-east-dubai-launch-price-pre-order-15

The tubes were already warm and the unit had already been powered before. I picked a song that I was familiar with and was mainstream at the same time. It was a song from Random Access Memories – Daft Punk’s last album. The song’s title is called “Give Life Back To Music”. I’ve probably heard this track over few hundred times on various speakers and headphones, so I really KNOW this track.

A few seconds into any track you realize that these headphones sound really good. But you need to pay attention to a few things. There is a bit about 3 minutes and 15 seconds into the track where the main bass and guitar riff is playing and in the background, you hear a bunch of people talking and dancing. That’s the bit I paid attention to.

I heard things I never heard before in the HE1. What seemed to be a background conversation that went along with the guitar riff continued and it startled me on how I even missed that previously. The Truth was I never really could hear that much detail in my $200  headphones.

I heard things I’ve never heard before. I couldn’t help but smile

That’s really where the HE1 shines – its at every single detail of a track that you love and cannot get over. I couldn’t help but smile at that realization. The next track that I played was a concert performance of “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton. Not only was the sound good and expanded, I could differentiate in space where every instrument was. I could hear the fingers moving on the guitar and the sheer horizon of sound was – for lack of a better term- spectacular.

I then turned up the volume to a harmful high and I didn’t notice any effect on the fidelity of the music. The HE1 impressed me in those areas.

The HE1 are over head headphones and by design they leak out a lot of music. The headphones aren’t portable by design too. The biggest elephant in the room is the fact that these headphones cost about the same as an entry level Land Cruiser car.

The HE1 is flexing its skills and its the best headphones I’ve ever listened to. Too bad I can’t afford it.

Sennheiser is proving a point with the HE1 and flexing its skills over here. I haven’t tried all the other flagship headphones out there but hands down these were the best headphones I have ever tried.

Cheaper Alternative?

I asked the engineer which product would come close to the HE1 from Sennheiser that doesn’t cost as much. Without hinting on future products and plans, he said your best bet would be the Sennheiser HD 800 S (which he made) that cost AED6,499 in the UAE.product_detail_x2_desktop_hd_800_black-01-sennheiser

Sennheiser was also celebrating their 70th anniversary globally. We had the pleasure to talk with Andreas Sennheiser the CEO and other members of the senior management as well as the Engineers that made and worked with Sennheiser products including the HE1.

sennheiser-he1-orpheus-hands-on-uae-middle-east-dubai-launch-price-pre-order-2

Andreas talked a little bit about the history of Sennheiser and how they started as a research company and then moved into building beautiful products that people wanted to today with their release of what could be one of the best sounding headphones out there today.

sennheiser-he1-orpheus-hands-on-uae-middle-east-dubai-launch-price-pre-order-5

Andreas Sennheiser also expressed Sennheiser’s interest in Augmented and Virtual Reality sound reproduction.

 

That is the future according to Sennheiser and with their microphone efforts, sound has become interesting again. “If you really experience that for once, then it really making an impact emotionally to the experience”

sennheiser-he1-orpheus-hands-on-uae-middle-east-dubai-launch-price-pre-order-3

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


About the Author

I work with technology in Education. I also write stuff. I love design and people. @varunasingh



Back to Top ↑