Nothing could prepare me for the experience I received from listening the Sennheiser HE 1 headphone system priced at €50,000. Earlier this year, I attended the CanJam 2016 Singapore and tried the Sennheiser Opheus HE 90, which was the best headphones system, until Sennheiser created the HE 1, becoming the NEW headphones system in the world. After listening to quite a handful of premium headphones, I wonder how much better can the HE 1 offer. Can a pair of headphones deliver any clearer sounds that what I have already heard in expensive headphones?
The private listening session was held at a hotel suite in Marina Bay Sands. After spending some time taking photos, I started off with 3 mandatory listening tracks curated by Sennheiser, digitally streamed from the iMac via USB.
The first track was “Strive” by Amber Rubarth, a binaural recording, which means it was recorded with 2 microphones to mimic the human ear, resulting in a 3D audio experience. The second track was “Somewhere, Somebody” by Jennifer Warnes. The final track was “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits.
I went on to request for other tracks. I started off with “Hotel California” live by Eagles in their CD collection. I then requested to listen with my personal CD, “The Magnificent Seven” and “Also Sprach Zarathustra” from Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, brilliantly recorded and engineered by Telarc label.
The HE 1 is not all about the dynamics, details and clarity which most premium headphones already possess. That’s not what made it especially good. It’s the aural spaciousness and the unrelenting outpour of musical sounds with no physical, mechanical or electrical constraints.
I was amazed to find that there is so much aural space when I listen to tightly-layered tracks. The sound staging is not exaggerated from the original source, yet the instruments are distinct. For lightly-arranged music tracks, you can almost feel the distance between the source (vocals, instruments) and the recording microphones. For loud passages with multiple instruments, most other headphones would sound crowded and somewhat compressed by the limitations of sound pressure. Yet the HE 1 is sensitive enough to produce the dynamic range effortlessly with no apparent strain. From the soft low rumble to the sudden loud entrance in “Also Sprach”, each instrument layer has its own space to play out to my ears.
To describe in lay terms, the treble is bright without sounding brittle, with great extension upwards to deliver airiness and clarity without exaggeration. The mid-high bass is musical without too boomy, while low bass has good response for the dynamic feel. The mids are not bloated, hence there is lacking of warmth, if that’s something that you prefer.
To sum up what’s so unique about the HE 1, it is the ability to deliver every instrument, every audio layer, in exact expression, from the attack to the aftertone. These characteristics are enhanced – not exaggerated – on the HE 1 to provide added natural dimensions to quality-recorded music.
I was very pleased that the Sennheiser HE 1 is worth the €50,000 price tag. Contact Sennheiser Singapore if you are interested to order a unit. Official product website: http://www.sennheiser.com/sennheiser-he-1