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Sennheiser HE-1

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Time for some impressions of this rare beast.  :)  The Icelandic distributor has a set on loan and they carved an entire afternoon out of the schedule for me to try it and do some comparisons.  I showed up with the HE90 I built from spare parts, Aristaeus, Carbon amp and a port modded SR-007Mk2.  Since they were using the built in dac on the HE-1, I just plugged both amps into as well to equalize the comparison. 

Over all, I like the build quality of the headphones.  Imagine a HD800 built properly and you are pretty much there.  The leather earpads are super nice and the headband has nice extension to even fit my large melon.  I don't think they are super comfy though as they are fucking heavy (550gr) and all of the pressure is on the top of the head.  The Stax 4070 is just about as heavy but far more comfy due to the suspended headband design.  The earcups get a bit warm due to the internal amps but only about 5-7°C above ambient.  The cable is also pretty nice and not microphonic at all but more on the amps etc. later.  

Amp itself...well it is just fucked up.  I get that they were trying to cater to some nouveau-riche people who just want something expensive but the wank factor is off the charts.  I also have serious doubts about what's hiding in that nice marble shell... 

As for the headphones them selves... well the drivers look pretty much identical to the HE90 units and the few pictures of them that exist, point to that.  I wanted to rip off the earpads to check further but people get antsy with something this expensive...  ;)  One worrying thing I noticed though is that both sides of the drivers have porous dust covers.  They look identical to the woven nylon found on the HE90 and well...I would expect solid covers. 

Now for some actual impressions.  As I said above the HE-1 dac was the source for all the amps.  To that you have to turn off the headphones so no direct comparisons were possible but I know how both systems should sound so not a big problem there.  The source feeding the HE-1 was a Macbook Pro running itunes but I bypassed that with my own FLAC files and player. 

There are some major changes compared to the older system, this one can do bass and isn't as horribly colored either but over all...I was not impressed and the system never made me really interested in the music.  It doesn't engage like a good 007 system can, where I sometimes just sit in awe even after owning a set for all these years.  Here, it just doesn't pull me in.  This is clearly a midrange issue as there just isn't enough presence there. 

First off the major issues are the bass, treble and the soundstage.  Let's start with the bass, it has this annoying hump to it sort of like the old Lambdas.  I'm not sure if this is the mosfet driver (could be, the Cavalli crap boxes have similar issues) or the headphones but it is a clear coloration and once you notice it, just annoys the fuck out of me.  Now on some tracks it wasn't as noticeable but always lurking in the background none the less. 

Next up is the treble...which is both subdued and bright at the same time.  I know plenty of people complain the 007's lack sparkle and with the Mk1 this was mostly true but they could be bright if the source called for it.  The HE-1 manages something different, the treble is just flat and boring but then it suddenly bites hard.  Now I was listening at higher levels but still nothing super loud, only about 12 o'clock on the dial.  This also wasn't like the upper midrange bite of the 009's, more lower treble fizz but the source material didn't call for this.  I'm so used to listening to SR-X Mk3 Pro drivers now (which are pretty much the gold standard for treble) as they are in my DIY headphones and nope, nothing like this.  I suspect the amp is a huge influence here too but no way to verify that... 

Last major issue, the soundstage.  Many will know my stance on the old HE90 where it sounds like you are listening to some people playing in dense fog and you can't quite make out where they are.  This time around it is much improved but the lack of pin point accuracy is still apparent.  The soundstage is also a bit too far away for my liking and it just doesn't throw the same huge headspace the 007's can.  This also affects the midrange and the whole "disconnected" feeling I got from the whole system.  I once reached for my phone as I was just a bit bored listening to it.  :huh:

Over all I like that Sennheiser built this but they really should have spent more time on the electronics.  I don't think there are any improvements to moving the amps to the cups over something like the Carbon where I can burn 50+W as heat and overcome the small capacitance in the cable.  Next post will discuss the tech specs of the system but I'll end with another picture of it all... It was really dark in there and I suck at taking pictures... 

DSC_0085-2.thumb.jpg.fe55ee3c30bdd5aa061d38ff7557db66.jpg

Now for some technical discussion.  I found the specs in the back of the manual and it turns out the bias is 650VDC and the amps run at +780VDC.  This makes this more than compatible with Stax so I see no issue with removing the internal amps and rewiring one of these for Stax use.  I have been asked to that before but I'm really hesitant to mess with something this expensive. 

That said, moving to proper amps which are not just the HEV70 rehashed can only be an improvement.  I've never found any mosfet device with sufficiently low Cob to work in this role so I truly don't get what Senn were thinking. 

Some other info, the entire amp only consumes 40W per the user manual which doesn't leave a lot for the actual amps.  So we have 8 tubes running with heaters plus all the motors in there.  HV supply for the tubes, another for the output stage and well...not a whole lot of power to spare here.  Compare that to the BHSE, Carbon or even the T2.  All of them use far more power and it is just for one goal, to power the headphones. 

I also played around with the amp and I could swear that the volume control feels like a RK27.  No way to know but how it felt when moving to the extremes...it was just like a RK27.  Now as a proper volume control aficionado... ;)... they all feel a bit different.  TKD feels nothing like a P+G or a RK50...  Until somebody opens one of these up, take it how you will.  It is also clearly a volume pot and not a chip or some other setup. 

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They didn't have a lot of time to compare as damn customers were annoying them.  ;)  They did spend some time with it and did manage to overload the HE90...they needed a time out after that.  I seriously need to modify those drivers. 

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DSC_0097-2.thumb.jpg.2891d1d5f5f3e5928d095d10e350c374.jpg
Time for some impressions of this rare beast.    The Icelandic distributor has a set on loan and they carved an entire afternoon out of the schedule for me to try it and do some comparisons.  I showed up with the HE90 I built from spare parts, Aristaeus, Carbon amp and a port modded SR-007Mk2.  Since they were using the built in dac on the HE-1, I just plugged both amps into as well to equalize the comparison. 
Over all, I like the build quality of the headphones.  Imagine a HD800 built properly and you are pretty much there.  The leather earpads are super nice and the headband has nice extension to even fit my large melon.  I don't think they are super comfy though as they are fucking heavy (550gr) and all of the pressure is on the top of the head.  The Stax 4070 is just about as heavy but far more comfy due to the suspended headband design.  The earcups get a bit warm due to the internal amps but only about 5-7°C above ambient.  The cable is also pretty nice and not microphonic at all but more on the amps etc. later.  
Amp itself...well it is just fucked up.  I get that they were trying to cater to some nouveau-riche people who just want something expensive but the wank factor is off the charts.  I also have serious doubts about what's hiding in that nice marble shell... 
As for the headphones them selves... well the drivers look pretty much identical to the HE90 units and the few pictures of them that exist, point to that.  I wanted to rip off the earpads to check further but people get antsy with something this expensive...    One worrying thing I noticed though is that both sides of the drivers have porous dust covers.  They look identical to the woven nylon found on the HE90 and well...I would expect solid covers. 
Now for some actual impressions.  As I said above the HE-1 dac was the source for all the amps.  To that you have to turn off the headphones so no direct comparisons were possible but I know how both systems should sound so not a big problem there.  The source feeding the HE-1 was a Macbook Pro running itunes but I bypassed that with my own FLAC files and player. 
There are some major changes compared to the older system, this one can do bass and isn't as horribly colored either but over all...I was not impressed and the system never made me really interested in the music.  It doesn't engage like a good 007 system can, where I sometimes just sit in awe even after owning a set for all these years.  Here, it just doesn't pull me in.  This is clearly a midrange issue as there just isn't enough presence there. 
First off the major issues are the bass, treble and the soundstage.  Let's start with the bass, it has this annoying hump to it sort of like the old Lambdas.  I'm not sure if this is the mosfet driver (could be, the Cavalli crap boxes have similar issues) or the headphones but it is a clear coloration and once you notice it, just annoys the fuck out of me.  Now on some tracks it wasn't as noticeable but always lurking in the background none the less. 
Next up is the treble...which is both subdued and bright at the same time.  I know plenty of people complain the 007's lack sparkle and with the Mk1 this was mostly true but they could be bright if the source called for it.  The HE-1 manages something different, the treble is just flat and boring but then it suddenly bites hard.  Now I was listening at higher levels but still nothing super loud, only about 12 o'clock on the dial.  This also wasn't like the upper midrange bite of the 009's, more lower treble fizz but the source material didn't call for this.  I'm so used to listening to SR-X Mk3 Pro drivers now (which are pretty much the gold standard for treble) as they are in my DIY headphones and nope, nothing like this.  I suspect the amp is a huge influence here too but no way to verify that... 
Last major issue, the soundstage.  Many will know my stance on the old HE90 where it sounds like you are listening to some people playing in dense fog and you can't quite make out where they are.  This time around it is much improved but the lack of pin point accuracy is still apparent.  The soundstage is also a bit too far away for my liking and it just doesn't throw the same huge headspace the 007's can.  This also affects the midrange and the whole "disconnected" feeling I got from the whole system.  I once reached for my phone as I was just a bit bored listening to it.  :huh:
Over all I like that Sennheiser built this but they really should have spent more time on the electronics.  I don't think there are any improvements to moving the amps to the cups over something like the Carbon where I can burn 50+W as heat and overcome the small capacitance in the cable.  Next post will discuss the tech specs of the system but I'll end with another picture of it all... It was really dark in there and I suck at taking pictures... 
DSC_0085-2.thumb.jpg.fe55ee3c30bdd5aa061d38ff7557db66.jpg
Now for some technical discussion.  I found the specs in the back of the manual and it turns out the bias is 650VDC and the amps run at +780VDC.  This makes this more than compatible with Stax so I see no issue with removing the internal amps and rewiring one of these for Stax use.  I have been asked to that before but I'm really hesitant to mess with something this expensive. 
That said, moving to proper amps which are not just the HEV70 rehashed can only be an improvement.  I've never found any mosfet device with sufficiently low Cob to work in this role so I truly don't get what Senn were thinking. 
Some other info, the entire amp only consumes 40W per the user manual which doesn't leave a lot for the actual amps.  So we have 8 tubes running with heaters plus all the motors in there.  HV supply for the tubes, another for the output stage and well...not a whole lot of power to spare here.  Compare that to the BHSE, Carbon or even the T2.  All of them use far more power and it is just for one goal, to power the headphones. 
I also played around with the amp and I could swear that the volume control feels like a RK27.  No way to know but how it felt when moving to the extremes...it was just like a RK27.  Now as a proper volume control aficionado... ... they all feel a bit different.  TKD feels nothing like a P+G or a RK50...  Until somebody opens one of these up, take it how you will.  It is also clearly a volume pot and not a chip or some other setup. 
Would you mind nami g some of the tracks you listened to on the HE-1? Just curious. I find myself listening almost exclusively to music with non vocals, and always keeping an eye out for anything exceptionally well recorded. Jazz Pistols, Chad Wackerman, Aluk Todolo, Zu. These are so.e of the sounds I wish I could hear on the HE-1 and Stax models. Thanks for your impressions.

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On 10/21/2017 at 3:52 AM, rfan8312 said:

Would you mind nami g some of the tracks you listened to on the HE-1? Just curious. I find myself listening almost exclusively to music with non vocals, and always keeping an eye out for anything exceptionally well recorded. Jazz Pistols, Chad Wackerman, Aluk Todolo, Zu. These are so.e of the sounds I wish I could hear on the HE-1 and Stax models. Thanks for your impressions.
 

A lot of the tracks you will never have heard of as they are Icelandic and I got close to the studio masters.  There was some common stuff in there too, Steely Dan, Tom Petty etc. just because of their recent passing and they match certain aspects I want to test for.  I don't go for the typical audiophile stuff though, can't stand most of it really as any system should be able to reproduce both the well recorded stuff and the awful as well.  When you go to an audio show, you can often spot when they are trying to hide certain issues with the systems by what music is playing. 

The Sennheiser guys also had some tracks one electronic track made the HE90 crap out.  They were way too high in volume and the sheer amount of bass made them loose charge. 

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It was my pleasure.  I did have a lot of fun with it and would want nothing more than to get just the headphones to play with. 

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So, when are you getting yours...? You know you want to.......  Even just for archival purposes........    :D

 

I can just see Birgir trolling ebay and the other sales sites for a pristine second-hand job. Just for his collection, you understand.........   :P

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12 hours ago, spritzer said:

It was my pleasure.  I did have a lot of fun with it and would want nothing more than to get just the headphones to play with. 

that's exact my feeling with the he-1. i had 2 1/2 h nice hours with the system but wasn't overly impressed, could get more time because no other appointments this afternoon but was fine for me. was a nice afternoon because the system was 1 week in zurich, 15 minutes walk from home at a store i know the owner since 20 years, could do with the system what i want.

sounded nice, detailed and smooth with a little tubby touch. i would buy the headphone allone asap but due the closed system it's nothing for me. and i don't like the idea of moving parts (rising tubes), looks nice but it's also durable?...  as whole system i like my sr-009 or sr-007 tuned via a avalon ad2055 and out of my bhse better. it's a nice "to-go" system for audiophile high-net-worth individuals. service around this product is top, nice responsive concierge service. i uploaded the brochure i get from them up to dropbox, have fun with it:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/74tewziqkroheao/HE1_Imagebroschüre_570759_0716_Customization_EN (003).pdf?dl=0

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I love the upgrades...this sure as hell is not meant for normal users.  :) 

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Yep, 50,000 for the basic set.

Extra 24,000 for all the options not including the 3 different marble bases.

Cost of one of the 3 optional marbles subject to a quote........   B).

Could possibly double the price of the basic unit.

 

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thats not all, you can choose every stone you want and bring them a sample. then they decide if the stone don't effect the sound quality. they made one he-1 out of jade for a chinese customer. so noble sirs and ladies, it's now time for some creativity and a short call to your banker. of course they are open for your ideas (other knobs?), the conversation i had with my conciergie was nice, friendly and sometimes out of this world ;-). they made a real special services arount the he-1, was a nice experience.

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2 hours ago, Hopstretch said:

Extension cord -- 1000 euro a meter. Paint job -- 5000 euro. Senn really testing what the market will bear ...

post the build sheet for your 911 :lol:

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2 hours ago, Hopstretch said:

Extension cord -- 1000 euro a meter.

Hey, it's a German extension cord - gotta keep those unruly electrons in line!

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Ugh! Hopefully they dont go under the same direction with their hd800 successor in the future 

Edited by Whitigir

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... and, don't forget the free snake oil......

 

snake oil.jpg

Snake Oil.jpeg

Edited by wink

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This might just be an art piece/commentary on our vapid, capitalistic society, poking fun at the veneer of the proverbial pissing contest of life in a violently vulgar vicissitude from the vernacular. Like Manzoni with his Merda d'artista.

 

Where's @scrypt? We need his much more eloquent thoughts on the matter. 

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The exquisite excellence existing in extreme erudition of exemplary execution of engineering excels eminently to the eye and is executed evidently exponentially and is elevated entirely upon the exercising of ones' ears and essentially entertaining ones' emotions after energizing the equipment and enjoying the effusive energy exuding so eloquently in extreme eargasms.

But, this excellent eruption of elementary energising emotic entertainment is essentially elsewhere to be found.

The HE-1 only approximates the above assertion in an ablative attempt of authorative assuidity of attainment for the admirable accomplishment and aural achhievement of absolute auditory ascendency.

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Bump in the low mids, like old Lambdas (I think about my Lambda Signature), check. Lacking some excitment compared to Staxens, kinda german coldness in the mids, check. Sometimes biting in the highs in spite of flat high mids (Sennheiser tone for me), check. All around I pretty liked them, but there's indeed something a tiny bit too cold / distant compared to what may be a coloration from Staxens.

Don't completely agree with your assessment on soundstage though, but looks like you're a man of deep layered soundstages more than volumic ones.

Eager to see you daring tear them apart and hardcore modify them :ph34r:

Ali

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I very much prefer a layered and deep soundstage over a bloated one.  :)  I also wouldn't call the Stax sets the colored ones as well...I could hear the big far imprint of the amp all over.  Mosfets sound like shit basically...think Cavalli and you know what I mean. 

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I agree on many of your impressions on this. I also had a lengthy listen recently in a quiet environment. Took some eye-candy photos as well. 

The build quality, fit and finish of it all is top notch naturally. The marble case really is nice. Tried lifting it, succeeded just barely. This fucker is 25 kilos! Nice hefty metal remote included in the set. 

No issues with comfort here, the headphones felt light to me and the headband is HD 800 style but with more padding so no stress on the top of my head. 

The sound is very articulate but definitely felt a little stiff and sterile to me. I much prefer the warmer, more I guess “euphonic” tone of the SR007 which just makes vocals sound more alive and present. The bass surprised me though, the HE1 has tremendous bass impact and extension. It just begs to be turned up as the large drivers almost vibrate your skull but without a single trace of resonance.

 

68F65424-7E11-4DF9-A3B7-58537CBB777A.jpeg

Edited by Bjorn
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