Playback has long regarded Beyerdynamic’s T1 Tesla as one of the finest, if not the finest, dynamic driver-equipped headphones on the planet, but there’s just one catch. The T1 Tesla is quite expensive and thus priced beyond reach for some music lovers. Enter the new T70p headphone, which is a full-size headphone that makes Tesla-technology available at a much lower/more accessible price point.
Based on a brief listen at the Beyerdynamic table at Can Jam, I was struck by how open and clear sounding the T70p, despite the fact that it is a closed-back headphone. The cool part is that you get the desirable noise isolation characteristics for which closed-back designs are known, yet also enjoy a headphone that seems able to “breathe” with the music in much the same way that today’s better open-back designs do.
• Crack—Entry-level, kit-built, tube-powered, OTL, headphone amplifier, optimized for high-impedance headphones. ($219, or add $99 for Speedball upgrades.
• S.E.X 2.1—Kit-built, high-output (2Wpc) speaker or headphone amp. ($539)
• Smack—Kit-built, high-performance tube-powered headphone amplifier with switchable output impedance and balanced outputs. ($549)
• Paramount—Kit-built, monoblock. 300B tube-powered headphone amplifiers. ($1549/pair)
• Also on display and demonstration, the Bottlehead-modified Nagra reel-to-reel tape deck
For enthusiasts who know their way around hand tools and soldering irons, there is an awful lot to like about Bottlehead’s very reasonably priced headphone amplifier kits. There’s real value in each of these creative designs, though a personal favorite is the entry-level Crack, which sounds much better than it has any right to for just $219. My friend Steve Guttenberg of Audiophiliac/CNET fame tells me that the Crack works spectacularly well with potentially tricky headphones such as Sennheiser’s HD-800, giving them a desirable touch of warmth, harmonic richness, and all-around “life.”
About the only thing not to like here are Bottlehead’s humorous but—let’s face its—also potentially offensive, R-rated product names. But if you find Bottlehead’s bizarro “sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll”-oriented names a bit hard to swallow, just put some painter’s tape over the nameplates, then kick back, relax, and revel in their sound.
• HA-160D—desktop headphone amplifier/DAC. ($1250)
We at Playback are great admirers of the desktop audio products created by the Australian firm Burson Audio, the first two of which were the HA-160 headphone amplifier and the excellent (though admittedly somewhat controversial) AB-160 audio buffer stage.
The HA-160D, though, represents an attempt to answer the question, “What comes after the HA-160?” The answer, as it happens, is to combine a mildly enhanced version of the HA-160 amp with a really well-done 24-bit/192kHz DAC in a single chassis, and then to price the product at a very fair, though by no means cheap, $1250. Given how much we like the original HA-160, we can’t wait to here the HA-160D.