A NIGHT WITH SENNHEISER’S HE-1 HEADPHONES
We're all fascinated by wealth and what would it be like to be in the position to make the decisions that fortunate wealthy folks make.
I know that when the Lotto prize ramps up to $20 mil or more, I seem to spend an unhealthy amount of time planning the big spend up when I win.
Sennheiser's HE-1 Headphone/Amplifier system is a lust-worthy audio product that only those with a significant disposable income could seriously contemplate.
So why did the queue at the Computer Lounge, Auckland, for its March 6th Headphone Meet extend way outside the building? And why on earth were ordinary folks like me (yes, I consider myself ordinary) prepared to hang around from 6 pm until midnight just to listen to a track or two on what must possibly be the last word in audio selfishness – an $88K Headphone setup?
In readiness to attend the meet, I did some reading up on Sennheiser’s HE1, the star attraction at the event. I read the reviews online and watched the YouTube clips. Practically everyone spoke of the HE1’s exquisite build quality, and how it had been hewn from the rarest of fine materials.
The reviewers also gushed about the extreme performance of the system and how it can deliver reproduction so lifelike, so natural, that it has actually been able to bring some listeners to tears.
The anticipation and excitement in the queue to listen to the HE1 was palpable. The guy in front of me turned and whispered to me that he had brought a spare set of underpants! I closed my eyes and silently hoped there would be no 8Hz tones on the playlist, less it reproduced the mythical ‘brown note’. In any other circumstances I would have quickly moved away from that guy!
During the wait, I was curious to see if I could spot a genuine buyer in the room. Was it the girl covered in tattoos, or the guy with the expensive watch? Was there even one potential owner in the place?
Daniel from Sennheiser gave us a personal introduction to the HE-1 and talked of the 10-year long, uncompromising design journey. He proudly boasted of the rare Carrara marble base, the rigorous valve selection process, its use of no less than eight individual ESS SABRE ES9018 D/A Converters, and the world-first implementation of cool Class-A Mos-Fet high voltage amplifiers built into each luxurious ear cup of the electrostatic cans.
Daniel then described the various unique elements of the product before he opened for questions.
It was a comprehensive and professional introduction, and in fact, the whole event was very well thought out and staged.
But with no disrespect to Daniel, I think everyone in the aforementioned queue had read all this before. We just wanted him to fast forward so that we could get in the room and cut loose on the HE1’s!
Each attendee was given a 15-20 minute private audience with the HE-1. We could select a couple of tracks from the prescribed list which was cued up on a laptop running Tidal. There were several tracks that appealed but rather than be completely self-indulgent I remembered I had a job to do, so I chose the usual suspects and tracks that I'm more than familiar with, including Pink Floyd's ‘Wish You Were Here’, and Dire Straits' ‘Brothers in Arms’.
I was ready. The anticipation was building. The HE-1 was here before me, and it was time to listen. But No! Daniel stopped me and said, “Steve you need to see this”. He turned the HE-1 off and then on again.
While I’d been staring at the awesomeness (OK I’m no art reviewer) that lay in front of me for a few minutes, I had been internally processing the beauty and exquisite engineering, and Sennheiser’s obvious attention to the finest details that had culminated in this most decadent example of solo-auditory splendour.
As the machine restarted, two things happened. Firstly it was simply cool to see how the system starts up - you need to look up a video to see this.
The second thing was that HE-1 took control of time. Time is the most precious thing we have (after sound of course) and the HE-1 dictates, “stop rushing and you will wait, for what I’m about to give you can’t be rushed and I’m going to ensure that you take the moment”.
How true that was. Listening to my selected tracks took me on a journey. As a music lover or an audio enthusiast, there are those times when you have heard your favourite tracks that stand out as incredible, and you will forever remember those experiences like they happened yesterday.
Sennheiser's HE-1 delivered an unforgettable listening experience for both tracks, and this listening experience is now stamped in my memory as a reference point for excellence.
So how was the sound? Well, it was not entirely what I expected. I was anticipating hyper detail, huge dynamics and transparency. No, it wasn’t just like that. The sound was very refined. Every element was there, the vocals were to die for in terms of sheer realism, but there was also a corresponding lack of edginess or sizzle that many high-end components often suffer from in an attempt to provide the last word in detail.
Without placing you in the chair and strapping you in to savour the HE-1 experience I’m only left with words.
Seriously, only the best of the best can achieve what Sennheiser’s HE-1 does with its statement, flagship headphones. It delivers detail without fatigue, scale without discomfort and presence without compromise.
It was really just sensational.
Computer Lounge also had Headphones, amps and accessories from all the brands they stock on display as well including AKG, Shure, Audio Technica, Audeze and Beyerdynamic to name but a few.
It wasn’t only about Sennheiser to be fair, but the sheer presence of the glamorous HE-1 system overshadowed just about all.
And now for the question everyone was silently asking. Was there a buyer in the room? All I can say is that you should keep an eye on your local Sennheiser stockist. Rumours are swirling that a headphone-mad retailer has been rather impressed…
Lastly, a big thank you to Computer Lounge for organising an excellent event, I’m certainly looking forward to next years meet!
For more information visit Sennheiser.
Bitten by the music bug as a young laddie, Steve Smith has lost count of how many Hi-Fi systems he’s listened to since those early days growing up in Scotland. Now firmly ensconced downunder, his passion has led to writing for magazines and newspapers, and he is a familiar ‘tyre kicker’ around closing time in Hi-Fi shops. Steve works for a leading Audio Engineering firm in Auckland and absolutely adores eating haggis.
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