Sennheiser HE1 (New Orpheus) @ Hong Kong AV Show 2016 Impressions

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by HitmanFluffy, Aug 6, 2016.

  1. HitmanFluffy

    HitmanFluffy Hoping to see real genitals someday!

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    I managed to book myself a seat with the new Sennheiser HE1 at the HK AV Show this year. Unlike the rather awful Focal listening room, this one was properly soundproofed from the din of the event and the MrSpeakers sheeple a few feet away. Before getting into impressions proper, I will disclose the testing conditions to make sure everyone is aware of the caveats and limitations of this post. The primary limitation was that I was only permitted 10 minutes with the headphones. Furthermore, I was restricted to using the rig provided by Senn, which I will detail below.

    Rig:
    Marantz CD Transport -> HE1 built-in DAC -> HE1 Amp (Crossfeed setting: none) -> HE1 Headphones

    Test Tracks:

    - Track 1:
    Artist: Emilie-Claire Barlow
    Record: Live in Tokyo
    Track: Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head

    Well recorded CD with only barely perceptible compression artifacts and a terrific mixing job. Opening bass notes are well-rendered with the correct decay and a sense of body that often isn't apparent on a lot of Stax rigs. As the rest of the track progresses, its clear the tonal balance leans slightly bright (not face-tweeter level), and the level of clarity is exceptional. One notable issue was not-subtle sibilance with female vocals, especially prominent with the "s" noises in this track (HD800-esque problem spot or the Sabre DAC?). I have half a mind to say it is a bit thin, but that's not always apparent. Staging is kind of narrow compared to a HD800, more HD600-like (a positive for me, I find HD800 staging overly wide and diffuse with many kinds of music), but the stage is notably taller than with either of the two above-mentioned cans. Rendition of spatial cues is good but notably inferior to a modded HD800 on my home system. Low-level information extraction is sublime (aided by the sense of clarity and speed).

    - Track 2:
    Artist: R.E.M.
    Record: Murmur - MFSL Gold Disc UDCD 642
    Track: Laughing

    An outstanding CD mixed on the old GAIN system, a fair bit bassier than the original version. The bass notes to start this track are one of my test references, and here they are presented with astonishing speed and extension, notably superior to the original Orpheus on that front. What shines on this track is the dynamism of the Neue-Orpheus, which I would say compares favorably to Sennheiser's dynamic offerings, a high bar.

    - Track 3:
    Artist: Martha Argerich/Alexandre Rabinovitch
    Record: Rachmaninov: Suites No.1 and 2: Symphonic Dances
    Track: No.5 - Suite No.2 for 2 Pianos in C Major, Op 17 - Introduction in C Major

    A challenging piece, especially for headphones, with two pianos being involved in the mix. Here the tonal balance of the HE1 works favorably, elevating the liveliness and realism of the track. Note separation is absolutely outstanding on this track, an area where I've heard most other headphone systems and some speaker systems falter. Instrument timbre is accurately conveyed and the pianos remain positionally distinct throughout.

    Overall:

    All in its an incredibly capable headphone, but definitely shows its leaning to Sennheiser's contemporary voicing preferences compared to the original Orpheus, which was the original super HD650. In terms of open-window sensation clarity it easily bests its predecessor and the modern estats, while retaining most of the sense of body I particularly enjoyed in the original Orpheus. Its only technical shortfall which might be solved with a comparably good source is the rendition of spatial cues in comparison to the HD800.

    The sibilance is an unfortunate bugbear, but without me having my Yggdrasil or another known non-sibilant DAC (or vinyl, but I lack the persuasive talent to convince Matt Weisfield downstairs to lend me one of his items) in the room to compare with the built-in DAC I cannot confirm the source of the issue.

    With only 3 tracks to listen to I cannot conclusively say it is better than the original Orpheus (the previous best headphone experience personally), but even with the better source with the original I would prefer the new iteration.

    13902007_10207034091316094_260741239_o.jpg

    As an addendum, the knob is quite easily one of the worst I have ever experienced. Sticky in places, unstable around its rotational axis causing the knob to grind against the fancy marble as I turn it. I hope it was damaged or in development as this was distressingly poor compared to the rest of the experience.

    13932077_10207034090956085_924939080_o.jpg

    My delighted mug during this rarefied experience.
     
  2. potkettleblack

    potkettleblack Acquaintance

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    Thanks for the impressions.

    You look like John Candy.
     
  3. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    Great writeup, thanks for posting!

    It sounds like you're hearing good things overall and it's Senn's mediocre amp/dac that will be a major bottleneck.

    Stepping back, would you judge that the tone is closer to an HD6xx or a (well modded and non-borked) HD800? Technical ability not with standing. Use a scale of 1 (HD6xx) to 10 (HD800) if you have to.
     
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  4. HitmanFluffy

    HitmanFluffy Hoping to see real genitals someday!

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    Comparing relative presence of bass vs treble, its definitely closer to the HD800. An easy 7. Another addendum: the tubes inside are labelled Made in Germany and don't look like any Siemens/Telefunken construction I've seen!
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2016
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  5. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    Don't make me regret not listening to the new Orpheus at High End this year, lol.

    You said instrument timbre is accurately conveyed, so how does the midrange compare to the HD600 and stock HD800? I'm guessing tone is closer to HD600 (or original Orpheus), just shifted to a generally brighter balance? That's the impression I'm getting from what you wrote.

    @OJneg Well modded and non-borked HD800 is already fairly close to HD600, don't you think? But yours most likely sounds different from mine, so I can't really say how yours sounds.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2016
  6. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    Closer certainly, but I'm under no illusions to even a modded HD800's tonal perfection. These things are all relatively anyway. If I were to map the tonal tilt spectrum I might say:

    1.............2................3....4..........5..........6...............7...............8

    1. Cardas IEM (warmfag approaches infinity)
    2. Oppo playnar mush
    3. HD650
    4. HD600
    5. HD800 (modded)
    6. HD800 (stock)
    7. Beyer cold hard sound of metal
    8. Lowther DX3 un-EQ'd (facetweeter approaches infinity)
    Elear is probably in between 3 and 4, while Utopia I'd judge to be in that ultimate sweet spot of 4 and 5, as it sounds like the HE1 is as well.
     
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  7. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    @HitmanFluffy so price notwithstanding, are you more excited for the Utopia or the HE1?
     
  8. zickson

    zickson Rando

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    congratulate this hk guy who moves to DC. Bravo, OP:p
     
  9. HitmanFluffy

    HitmanFluffy Hoping to see real genitals someday!

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    The HE1 is brighter(more treble emphasis) than the Utopia, which I also liked a lot. Also @Serious the HD600 has this steely upper mid elevation that takes away from instrument timbre accuracy in a way the HD800 does not, so thats not a simple metric to compare the two. Likewise the HD800 has that 4k problem spot that can bork female vocals sometimes.
     
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  10. Koth Ganesh

    Koth Ganesh Friend

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    OJ, thanks for "quantifying" what I could never put into words with such succinctness. I have spent a great deal of this weekend just with the HD 600 (unmodded) and asking myself 'Do I need anything more?". Of course the ZDS and Yggdrasil help. My modded HD 800 consists of the SBAF cork mod, the resonator and the rug liners. I kept thinking this was still slightly brighter than I would like (the flip side is the ruthless reveal of some lousy recordings). The 600 really hits the spot.

    Lastly, as I am typing this, I am using the SBAF modded 650 and let me tell you, the narrow gap between 600 and 650 makes more sense.

    Add: I guess I would love the Utopia then but I would need to rob a bank:(
     
  11. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    Koth if you visited the UK and took advantage of the 20% VAT Refund as a tourist:

    Elear = 640 GBP

    Utopia = 2600 GBP

    Ok....the Utopia is still crazy money for a headphone but the Elear seems ''reasonable'' by today's standards.
     
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  12. mrweirdude

    mrweirdude Asshole lowballer - acquaintance

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    840 USD for Elear? Dang, if my impressions of the Elear from the HKAV (under crap conditions) hold any water, that is damn nice value...
     
  13. Koth Ganesh

    Koth Ganesh Friend

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    That is tempting. Using the OJ tonal tilt scale, I prefer to be between 3 and 4 just from a value basis.
     
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  14. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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  15. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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  16. FlySweep

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    The auto-open lid & motorized headphone release is the most "obscenely rich guy" feature ever. It's mad chincy.. but you know if it wasn't there, russian oligarchs & Midd. E. sheiks would be like, "hmm, this is missing.. something..."

    Senn: "sorry we couldn't include a butler, this will have to do."
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2016
  17. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Friend

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    Am I the only on that finds it gaudy & tacky that an all marble amp has two glossy black boxes glued on to it?
     
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  19. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    Finally got to listen to Sennheiser HE 1 today.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Surprisingly, this listening session happened completely out of the blue. I found it on display for auditioning at a local audio shop, only 10 minutes away from where I live. I didn't even know they had one. I was on my way home after having lunch at a diner in the neighborhood, decided to drop by on a whim to see if they had some new gears... and boom. What's more insane was that there were several other customers in the shop, listening to speakers or other Sennheiser headphones, but no one bat an eye to HE 1, let alone standing in line to listen to this unobtanium. The shop owner told me it has been there for about a month. I knocked myself out with it for nearly an hour, until I felt I grasped its overall sound.

    So how did it sound? Excellent for an e-stat, but as I expected, not really mind-blowing. There's a caveat: I'm not really much of a stat guy. The original Orpheus didn't impress me that much, and neither did SR-007 nor SR-009 driven out of a BHSE. Not even the best of e-stats have the toe-tapping factor that the best of traditional dynamics offer. For my tastes, I would pick up a well-driven K1000, modded HD650 or modded HD800 over any e-stat any day.

    Another caveat: the HE 1 was directly hooked to a computer with a USB cable. Not only is USB a severe bottleneck in the digital chain, but also I was using the HE 1's built-in Sabre DAC. I can't say how good or bad the built-in DAC was, but I think I would've gotten better results if I had the Lynx AES16e feeding a TOTL multibit DAC by Schiit or Sonic Frontiers.

    Bottom line, sound-wise I wouldn't buy it even if it were $5000, not $55000.
    The marble chassis was kinda sick, though. This is audio jewelry for sure.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2017
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  20. anetode

    anetode Moderator

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    Did they let you rub your dick on the earpads (aka the German phonejob)?
     
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