Beyerdynamic recently introduced a new pair of top-of-the-line headphones, called the T1 Teslas. These showed great promise when we heard them at CES 2010, so naturally we phoned the people at Beyerdynamic and asked for a review set. We’ve had our test T1s for about a month, and have engaged in extensive listening.
Priced at $1295, the T1 is a semi-open back design. The T1 involves several departures from Beyerdynamic's standard practice. The driver is an entirely new design, with a multi-layer diaphragm, machined metal structure, and new magnetic geometry. The drivers are also placed at an angle to the ear, a strategy we've also seen with the Ultrasone Edition 8 and the Sennheiser HD800. The idea there is to capture some of the outer ear reflections that one experiences with live music and loudspeaker. But in the case of the T1, interestingly, Beyerdynamic’s engineers say their objective in the offset driver placement was to avoid creating reflections from the outer ear—the opposite of the objectives of other offset designs, it would seem. The earpads have been designed to reduce reflections as well.
Beyerdynamic says the new transducer in the T1 is the first model to break through the one-tesla level of magnetic flux density (hence the T1 designation for this model). Measured in tesla (T), magnetic induction is an indicator of the strength of the magnetic system in headphones (or other dynamic drivers). Beyerdynamic claims this system generates currently unequalled impulse performance. While they don’t go into much detail, a stronger magnetic structure could allow a somewhat heavier and therefore stiffer driver design.
At our request, Beyerdynamic also loaned us the new A1 headphone amplifier, which is said to be ideal for the T1s. While we used other headphone amps during our testing, we did make ample use of the A1 and you’ll find comments on this combination below as well.
Consider this headphone if: you are frustrated by the obvious imbalances of lively sounding headphones and are equally frustrated by the tepidness of headphones whose balance sounds neutral but whose overall presentation sounds strangely dull and lifeless. The T1s offer the best combination of midrange neutrality, vividness and transparency we’ve heard.
Look further if: maximum low bass extension or the ultimate in bass definition are paramount among your needs. At the other end of the audio spectrum, note that while the T1’s treble balance is generally accurate the headphones can sometimes emphasize (or overemphasize) certain treble transients—a quality that some listeners won’t mind, but that others will.
Ratings (compared to similarly-priced headphones)
Over time, I came to view the Beyerdynamic T1s as the most satisfying headphones we’ve had in the lab to date, at least with the amplifiers we normally use. However, the T1s take a while to appreciate so it is worth understanding this conclusion. Even more important, since my satisfaction isn’t really relevant to you, it is worth understanding what the T1s do well do see if that might be your cup of tea/coffee/wine/water.
My experience is that the frequency response variations of even top-of-the-line headphones are generally significant. These become obvious over time (it takes many recordings to show off the entire range), and form a basic aspect of a headphone’s character.
Overall, the T1s sound very slightly warm, in part because they have ample but not excessive bass output, but also because vocalists seem a little farther back on the stage than they do with many other top-flight headphones. Along with this goes the observation that the T1s do not emphasize treble in a way that would make you call them bright; if anything you hear less low-mid treble energy than on other top headphones. Less low treble contributes to the sense of a somewhat warm sound.