Sennheiser he


The Sennheiser HE 1 is the most expensive headphone setup in the world, except from a few offerings that includes gold và diamonds. It is Sennheiser’s ultimate statement sản phẩm, priced in the league of a quite nice oto. It is the new “Orpheus”, inspired by the legendary HE 90 which was launched in 1991.

For reasons unknown, Sennheiser never sent a Đánh Giá unit lớn the headquarters. However, I got the chance lớn sit down with the Sennheiser HE 1 system in peace và quiet somewhere else. Five hours of effective listening time, spread over three sessions over five sầu days. Conditions were great: The rig was in a quiet và dedicated room, I was alone, using my own carefully selected music và the electronics connected were first class. Even the chair was comfortable. Before và after the sessions I listened to lớn other top range headphones in the neighbouring room with the same music, và of course, I spent time at trang chính between sessions with my own flagship headphones and amplifiers, still with the same music. However, review wise this was still not igiảm giá. I am a big tín đồ of A/B, side-by-side comparisons. I prefer getting to lớn know a hàng hóa for a longer period of time, then comparing it lớn relevant products in my collection. But this time it wasn’t possible. However, I think I spent enough time with the HE 1 in good enough conditions lớn write something sensible about it, more than just the usual “Wow! It’s expensive” và “Wow! Great sound!” Hence I dare hotline this a “review”.


The Build

The HE 1 is both an amplifier và a tai nghe, only to lớn be used with one another. It also has a built in DAC. HE 1 is Sennheisers only electrostatic headphone, và the amp is their only product that uses vacuum tubes. It is also the only amplifier made by a block of marble. I’ll leave sầu it khổng lồ other writers and Sennheiser lớn elaborate on the fancy interior details, I’ll focus on the stuff that matters in the end: How it feels và how it sounds. The HE 1 is a luxury hàng hóa & it looks like one, it feels like one and of course is priced as one. But it also looks & feels lượt thích a very well engineered and thought-through hàng hóa. The fancy rising tubes & withdrawing knobs sure adds some moving parts, but it also makes the amplifier less vulnerable to being damaged when not in use. But my favorite thiết kế feature is the built in tai nghe storage box with an internal tai nghe connector. I have sầu thought about this for years – why cannot tai nghe manufacturers actually ship their flagship headphones in boxes that you can use for everyday convenience? Where there is room for the headphone, the cable, và there is a hole for the cable that makes it possible khổng lồ keep it connected while still in the box? Well, seems like someone finally did this, và it is great. To bad it costs the same as a nice car.

The cable is similar to lớn the HD800’s, but thicker. The shape and feel of the headphones themselves is great. They are not very light, but ergonomics và clamping force is just perfect. I wore them for more than two hours, with no need to lớn take them off or move sầu them around (I usually vì that). They are very comfortable. Only strange thing about them is that they actually get a bit warm. This is because Sennheiser moved some of the amplification inlớn the headphones themselves. It wasn’t anything I thought about when wearing them, but it felt a bit unusual to lớn the touch. But hey: Headphones with heatsinks, how badass is that! 


The Sound

It is with some awe that you sit down and listen to the HE 1 for the first time. I’ve heard enough high kết thúc stuff by now not khổng lồ easily get blown away. I didn’t expect khổng lồ be this time either. I expected it to lớn be great, but I also expected it lớn be a tai nghe. And I wasn’t let down: It sounds like a headphone. But what a headphone!

What greeted me was a very warm & organic sound. Actually my first thought was “This sounds nothing like the HD800….” First, there was nothing potentially overly bright, cold or clinical sounding about it in any way. It felt extremely detailed, but in a subtle, almost understated, way. There was loads of texture and timbre lớn each tone from every instrument. Second, It didn’t sound as wide open as the HD800. But it still had superb separation, in a softer and more natural and intimate feeling way.  


Traông chồng by track

As I already mentioned, I was not able lớn vì any immediate side by side comparisons of the HE 1 with other headphones. But still, I chose to write down my listening impressions trachồng by trachồng, as I like to vày in all đánh giá. Most of these notes were taken at my second, và longest session with the HE 1.

Molvær – Merciful: The female vocals are warm, intimate và rich. No sibilance. Her breath is something lớn be subtly sensed in between phrases. Piano is warm & rich. Soundstage is intimate.

Molvær – Dead Indeed: The trumpet is warm, full và rich sounding. No dryness. The onmix of the “full orchestra” at 1:58 with various percussion, bass, other small bits of sampling, is astonishingly great. It all has a tactile feel. And it sounds warm and intimate. The bass that sets in at 3:12 is very deep và powerful.

Ensemble Mobởi vì Antiquo – The Young Vivaldi (track 1 and 2): The sound of the strings is airy yet full bodied, textured, full of timbre. Great sense of attachồng, very dynamic. Tonality feels perfect. The strings really has this fabulous engaging playfulness lớn them. Separation is great, but not khổng lồ the extent that it feels artificial. The soundstage is intimate, which suits this chamber music piece greatly. I notice stuff I never heard before, plucking noises from the musicians etc. But not in a bothering way, just right, just like you experience in a live sầu performance.

EST – Viaticum: The opening bass is so tight, solid & full that I get a bit mix off. Piano is warm, clear & crisp but not too bright. Percussion is detailed & snappy, but not unpleasantly hard or bright in any way. Again the soundstage is intimate.

H-Altrộn – Red Sphere: The bass drum really has this tactile feel only the best planar magnetic headphones can match. The shrieking, moo-ing saxophone sounds are just strangely pleasant. Smooth but still offensive sầu, or vice versa, it is an experimental piece. All the rattle in the background comes through in this lovely balanced way. The bass drum hits hard và with full body, yet greatly textured. This is not the stereotype of tight bass. It’s tactile & fun.

Hahn / Higdon – Fly Forward: Great. The trumpets in the opening are so wonderfully textured. All the small subtle nuances are beautifully presented. Not up front in your face, but as a part of a whole, just lượt thích with live music, it’s all there in its own right, for you khổng lồ discover. Nothing exaggerated or artificial.

M83 – Midnight City: The bass that sets in from about đôi mươi seconds is thunderous and digs incredibly deep. This is a complex traông xã with lots of stuff going on. The HE 1 handles it with an elegant ease I never heard before. It also in a remarkable way manages to avoid any sharp edges to… anything.

Molvær – Solid Ether: The trumpet is so pleasant, so soothing. When the bass “rumbles in” at 3:đôi mươi min, I am again struck by the HE 1’s tactile and deep reaching fundament. There are lots of small samples, elements và noises in the background here, they are all easy lớn separate, but still very easy on the ear. It strikes me that the soundstage is very, very natural. Like in a real concert in a well dampened và intimate concert space.

Radiohead – Sit down: There is this fabulous organic warmth to lớn the electronic sounds in the beginning, Thom Yorke’s voice is beautifully rendered. The bells have sầu this superb round chiming sound. As the trachồng builds up, the complexity is handled with authority, ease and control without ever being harsh. Even the 3 min. crescendo is handled with all its grandiosity with the same ease as everything else. Without sounding harsh nor muffled. This is a real feat!

Tomaz Stanko – Terminal 7: The opening music from the “Homeland”-series never sounded this organic, warm and alive sầu. All the instruments have the right amount of attaông xã, timbre và warmth. Cymbals shimmer without overly brightness, the overtones và artifacts from Stanko’s trumpet is rendered in a balanced way, never too bright. Never distorted.

Tom Waits – Georgia Lee: I get a bit offmix by just how smooth Tom Waits voice comes through here. Wow. It’s lượt thích melted butter. Relatively speaking, of course – it is still Tom Waits. The many creaking & squeaking noises from the piano và accordion are very audible, in a pleasantly present way. Other ultra detailed audio systems can make such background sounds too obviously there. But not here. It’s just some extra spice.

Tord Gustavsen – Graceful Touch: I keep getting these experiences in the opening of familiar songs, like with Tom Waits’ voice. This time it’s Tord Gustavsen’s piano. The title “Graceful Touch” never was more appropriate. This is truly smooth, silky, silky buttery smooth with no sharp edges, but all the nuance. The organic flow of the piano is breathtaking. It’s pure lượt thích water. Even the harder piano tones around 2:30 is just shy of being unpleasant. They have the right amount of attaông chồng, but never cross the line.

Lamb – Lusty: Oh, the bass. Tight & round, full & textured. Deep. The female vocals is so delicious. All the percussion is precise but not hard or harsh. Nothing sticks out that isn’t supposed to. The hammering samples at 2:49 minutes are delivered with attaông xã, body và a tactility I never heard before.

Lamb – God Bless: All the tinkling sounds in the opening has this great beautifully balanced tonality, as with the female vocals. The bass setting in again reveals this delicious bloom that just makes me smile.

Lamb – Zero: Nice quiet piece with a few strings và female vocals. The flow of the vocals is stunning. Strings are crisp và textured in a warm natural way. The vocalist’s voice is lượt thích honey. Strings are lượt thích you can reach out & touch them, feel their vibration. But it’s not smoothed down all the time, when called for at the 2:45 mark it bites, strings become really crisp, full of attaông chồng. But as always without becoming too much, no annoying harshness, just almost touching it.



Let me make it clear first of all: I had nothing in the price range of the HE 1 lớn compare it to lớn. But I had access to lớn what normally is considered great headphone setups in the “not-insane” price range. Hopefully my comparisons will give the reader a feeling of how the HE 1 sounds like.

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After the first session, I immediately listened lớn the HE-1000 on the very neutral amplifier Moon 430HA. The soundstage felt much more open, but at the cost of intimacy, warmth & that special tactility I felt with the HE 1, especially in the lower regions. I tried out several other high kết thúc cans, & the impression remained. There was this tactile feeling the HE 1 has that no other headphones gave sầu me. The headphone available that gave sầu me the most similar soundstage lớn that of the HE 1 was the LCD-X.

After the second session, I went home page & did a full round with my Stax SR-009/SRM-007tII setup. Keep in mind, however, that this comparison is made based on my memory, something I normally avoid. My ears were still tuned inlớn the signature of the HE 1. Going from a tai nghe to another can always result in this kind of acclimatization effect. Further, the second session was really when I “fell in love” with the HE 1. So, coming trang chính to my Stax rig, I was not really in the mood for anything else than the Sennheiser. But for the dedicated reader, here is what I noted while listening to some of the same tracks with the SR-009 as I heard on the HE 1 the earlier on the same day:

EST – Viaticum: The bass is nothing like I remember the HE 1. Especially in quantity, but also in quality. It is much more in the background, which makes the experience very different. Soundstage is similar, however, but a bit more open with the Stax, probably because it is notably brighter sounding.

H-Alpha – Red Sphere: The bass drum isn’t anything cchiến bại to how I remember the HE 1. However, there is lots of detail, great separation. Everything feels very precise. But it feels a bit too bright, too thin. Especially since the bottom over is lacking in comparison to lớn the Sennheiser. The tactile feel just isn’t there in the same way. The music has a great detail cấp độ but not with the body it should have. It sounds more distant and thin.

Hahn – Fly Forward: The strings are textured, fast and detailed. Yet, the toàn thân they had with the HE 1 isn’t there. But strings aren’t where the SR-009 diverges the most.

M83 – Midnight City: The SR-009 really does a nice job. But the bass quantity and shear “push” just is not there. Otherwise, separation is good, image depth quite equal.

Molvær – Solid Ether: The trumpet is a bit thinner sounding. The bass is remarkably less present khổng lồ how I remember the HE 1. Everything feels brighter, less real. Less of that natural flow.

Basically, the most important difference is that the SR-009 doesn’t have sầu the same amount of bass as the HE 1, & it is brighter. Thus it sounds thinner & more distant. It also sounds less organic and intimate. I must say, however, that I generally like the SR-009 a lot, & just because the HE 1 made me look at the SR-009’s weaknesses with a magnifier glass, doesn’t mean the SR-009 is a bad tai nghe. It is still world class, & a cherished part of my collection. Another important point is that Stax just released its long awaited new flagship amplifier in the size of the STAX SRM-T8000, that will hopefully make the SR-009 perkhung better in the areas where I found it a bit lacking.

There are also third tiệc ngọt amplifiers made for Stax headphones. Enthusiasts persistently claim that many of these will bring the SR-009, and also the SR-007, khổng lồ significantly a higher cấp độ than the current line of Stax amps. I vày not have sầu the experience with these amplifiers to phản hồi on that, but amuốn them are offerings from Woo Audio, Cavalli Audio và Ray Samuels, as well as HeadAmp và Mjolnir Audio. The last two producers offer amplifiers based on designs made by Kevin Gilmore, who has been inspired by the highly regarded vintage Stax T2 amplifier. Hopefully the new SRM-T8000 will be in the same league. *

I kept thinking while listening khổng lồ the HE 1 that it most of all reminded me of a well amplified Sennheiser HD650. On steroids. With a very much more elaborate bass that doesn’t roll off at all. Like a hyper-detailed version of the HD650 with the detail cấp độ of the 009 và the bass grip and depth of the LCD-2 or 3. So what’s left then from the HD650? The midrange smoothness và the intimate soundstage. And sure enough. When I plugged the HD650 inlớn the best amp I have sầu, the lovely EAR HP4, I get a sound signature way closer lớn the HE 1 than I got with the SR-009.

Plugging in my beloved LCD-2 rev.1, I start to lớn find some of the deep bass performance I remember from the HE 1. But the HE 1 has more midrange bloom as I remember it. The tactility still isn’t the same, obvious amongst others with the M83’s “Midnight City”.

Then I try the LCD-X. It gives me the closest bass experience to lớn my HE 1 memory. Deep, extended, with some mid-bass slam that gives you that tactile feeling. The soundstage also is intimate in a similar way lớn the HE 1. Moving on to the LCD-3, I really start khổng lồ feel I am getting somewhere. There are similarities in bass performance, midrange smoothness & soundstage intimacy. A soundstage that gives you more depth than height & with.

I ended my evening session with the HD800. It has indeed much less bass presence & it is way brighter than the HE 1. The HD800 has more in common with the SR-009, sound signature-wise. But the HD800 has its legendary wide open soundstage. No-one can take that away from the HD800. Not even the HE 1.

I want to lớn finish this section of comparisons by going baông xã khổng lồ the Sennheiser HD650. I kept returning khổng lồ it in my thoughts when I tried lớn figure out how lớn best describe the Sennheiser flagship. And weeks after, when played relatively loud, the HD650 still was the headphone that was the most similar lớn my memory the HE 1, of course ignoring the obvious laông xã of extreme refinement and deep bass presence.

Now, the reason that the Sennheiser HD650 has gotten so much love from so many headphone enthusiasts is because of its smooth, warm sound signature & slight mid bass emphasis, a sound signature often referred to as “musical”. As a HD650 lover, I am delighted to say that in my ears the HE 1 is a perfect HD650. It is the HD650 of my dreams, bringing absurd clarity and all the deep bass you can handle in the same type of warm, smooth và delicious presentation.

My fellow HD650 lovers will know what I am talking about. But the HD650 is also a polarizing headphone amongst enthusiasts, some call it “laid back” or “veiled”. These people probably think I am far off now. So just to be clear: What I am saying is that HE 1 takes what is good from the HD650’s presentation & makes it even better at the same time as it removes absolutely all of its shortcomings.

To me the HD650 first of all is a musical, smooth & non-fatiguing headphone. It’s about the music. And thus, it is very encouraging that when Sennheiser sought to make the best headphone possible without thinking about cost, it’s still all about the music, not about showing off. Because that’s what true hifi should be all about.


Final Session

After a weekover of listening khổng lồ a variety of headphones from my own collection, I return lớn the HE 1. Maybe I am tired of my test music, maybe the wow effect is wearing off. Or maybe it is because I an hour earlier had a brief “wow-experience” with the Focal Utopia & an amplifier I hadn’t heard before (but hope soon to lớn review).

The HE 1 still sounds great, of course. It is as I remember it, but I am neither floored, nor brought almost lớn tears as I was in my second session. I sneak out và listen to the SR-009/SRM-007tII rig that’s on display in the adjoining room, & it is actually quite nice today in direct comparison. I am probably just having a “bright day”, preferring brighter more open sounding headphones. I begin khổng lồ realize that one of the main differences between most headphones & the HE1 is that I simply can play louder without fatigue, hence the massive perceived difference in bass impact và tactility. I assume the low distortion and ear friendly sound signature of the HE1 simply just is easier on the ear.

I finish my last date with the Sennheiser HE 1 with Nils Petter Molvær’s gentle “Kakonita”. This brings me baông xã in mood khổng lồ appreciate the true greatness of Sennheisers marble palace of a tai nghe system. So much deliciousness in a single trumpet. I am almost shedding a tear again. But I have sầu lớn go khổng lồ pick my kid up from kindergarten. I catch myself in a brief daydream – imagining a future in which he ends up inheriting my HE 1.

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The Sennheiser HE 1 is delicious. It is warm and inviting, it is rochồng solid và tactile, it is nuanced & hyper-resolving. It has an extremely ear friendly sound signature, and a fabulous bass experience. It is the best headphone I have sầu heard. If you have the means and wish to spover this amount of money on a hi-fi rig, but is better suited with a tai nghe setup than with speakers, I see no reason you shouldn’t get it. You can get very cchiến bại for a lot less, but for some that just doesn’t matter.

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For the rest of us, not able or ready to spend this quite extreme amount of money on a tai nghe rig, we just have lớn live sầu with the second best, and hope that Sennheiser will make use of the technology from HE 1 in more affordable offerings. 


Final thoughts

It took me some days, or maybe weeks, khổng lồ get over the HE 1. But sooner than I expected I went baông xã lớn fully enjoying my own stuff, both the high kết thúc & not so high kết thúc. I have sầu no problem imagining a happy and fulfilling life as a tai nghe enthusiast without ever listening khổng lồ the HE 1 again. It was a great experience, và anyone who gets to lớn own it is a lucky person. But the alternatives, that most people can actually buy, are so good. Not all the way up there, but what matters is enjoying great music.

A couple of weeks after my sessions with the HE 1, I went khổng lồ this great jazz concert, an all acoustic event with Helge Lien Trio. While sitting there in the front row, tapping my foot, I couldn’t stop thinking about the HE 1. This was how listening khổng lồ Sennheiser HE 1 felt. Alive & cchiến bại. I also reflected about its soundstage, which is not as immediately impressive and hyper realistic as some other headphones can be. To me, this has khổng lồ vì with the following: Instruments recorded in mono and mixed in stereo will always sound more pinpointed in a good stereo system than in a real life performance. Treble intensive sầu headphones can further exaggerate this effect. But the HE 1 is not aý muốn those. The sound signature of Sennheiser’s flagship, with its full bass, warm mids and sweet highs, really makes for a “true khổng lồ life” experience. Like the one I had on the first row in that jazz club.


Associated Equipment

Burmeister 089 CD player (analog output)

Nordost Frey 2 XLR and power cables

ISOTEK EVO power conditioner with Isotek Syncro. 


I want to lớn thank Oslo Hi-Fi Center for letting me spover time with the Sennheiser HE 1.

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