What do the world’s best headphones sound like? At a recent visit to the Sennheiser Store in Sydney’s CBD I got a chance to find out when I slipped on the HE1 headphones and powered on the jaw-dropping system.
Back in 1991, Sennheiser decided to demonstrate its audio superiority by creating Orpheus – the best headphones in the world.
Sennheiser thought they would do that all over again using the latest cutting edge technology.
The result is the Sennheiser HE1.
And they’ll only set you back a cool $89,000.
But the HE1 is not just a pair of superb headphones but an entire listening solution.
Built-into the headphones is a Cool Class A MOS-FET high voltage amplifier and gold vaporised ceramic transducers with 99.9 per cent silver-plated OFC cables for enhanced conductivity.
The ear pads are hand made from the finest leather.
The Sennheiser HE1 also includes a tube and transistor amplifier that rests inside a stunning Carrara marble housing.
It’s actually the same marble Michelangelo used to carve the iconic David statue which is on display in Florence.
Sennheiser actually owns part of the mountain in Italy where the marble is quarried.
Naturally a product like the Sennheiser HE1 isn’t mass produced – it is custom made to order.
Each unit is milled from a single block of marble that is inspected to ensure no imperfections. It also means no two HE1 units are alike.
The dials on the front are precision milled from a single piece of brass before being chrome plated and there are also eight vacuum tubes which have hand-picked components.
The marble housing also serves as a dampener to prevent structure-borne noise to deliver ultra-high fidelity sound at an ultra-low distortion level.
The system can receive digital inputs via optical and coaxial SPDIF or via USB. It also accepts PCM and DSD data.
Now that all sounds great right? It is!
But one of the most amazing things about the system (apart from the incredible sound) is what it does when you turn it on.
First the front dials elegantly emerge from the marble housing before the glowing vacuum tubes rise majestically into view.
Lastly the lid to the headphones box glides open and you’re ready to experience the richest and most remarkable listening experience money can buy.
We listened to several tracks including Diana Krall and a live performance of John Farnham singing the swing version of You’re The Voice with an orchestra.
It sounded like they were in the same room playing just for me. Every detail, every note, every breath and every vocal was absolutely perfect.
So who’s going to buy this?
Sennheiser says Sennheiser HE1 customers are not all high rollers – but passionate audiophiles who save for a product like the HE1 and see the same value as a car fan would see in a luxury car.
Sennheiser assistant store manager Peter Yu told me the quality of the Sennheiser HE1 certainly draws an emotional response.
He said one customer was brought to tears when he heard a song from the first concert he attended with his now deceased father. It was reproduced in such high quality it was like he was in the audience with his Dad again.
The good news is you can take a listen to the Sennheiser HE1 for yourself – and you can even bring your own music whether it’s vinyl or hi-res digital audio.
All you need to do is call in to the store to set up an appointment.
And don’t worry – there is no expectation to buy.
The Sennheiser Store is located at Shop 4/120 Pitt St, Sydney.
* Stephen Fenech visited the Sennheiser Store as part of a sponsored partnership to record a podcast episode of Two Blokes Talking Tech with EFTM’s Trevor Long. This story was not part of that agreement – I just needed to share the experience.