We have to consider these remarks in the context of the absolute sound (the sound of live music). In that context, I’d say that the T1s are actually pretty close in overall balance to what you hear live. In this regard they seem more accurate than the lightly balanced AKG 702s or Audio-Technica 5000s, or the bass-heavy Denon 5000s. The Shure SRH840s, the Sennheiser HD 800s, Grado PS 1000s and the Ultrasone Edition 8s, while not balanced in quite the same way as the T1s, are all at a macro level trying to do something similar to what Beyerdynamic is up to.
But, and this is crucial for those who love to misread reviews, those comments are about overall bass/midrange/treble balance. We also have to consider deviations within the frequency spectrum (particularly from about 200 hz to around 8 kHz). These deviations don’t show up primarily as issues of overall balance but they do lead to colorations on many common instruments. The lack of these colorations is often more important to a realistic presentation than balance in general.
As you might expect from this preamble, the T1s also perform rather well here, in that their instrumental colorations seem quite low—lower in fact than on most headphones. I commented positively on this same evenness within the midrange when we reviewed the AKGs, Shures, and Ultrasones mentioned above and I think the T1s are fully competitive here. The big point is that the T1s don’t have big dips or peaks that constantly remind you that you’re listening to recorded music.
No headphone is perfect, including the T1s, and you can hear deviations from neutrality in a few places. First, there is a bit of upper bass emphasis that can lead to some smearing of plucked bass, for example. Second, there appears to be a very slight upper midrange depression that smoothes out vocals (especially female vocals) a little too much. Finally, the mid treble probably has a tiny peak that emphasizes some transients more than others.
There is, of course, more to life than frequency response. The magic of the T1s comes from this basically balanced and even presentation combined with a high level of transparency and vividness, which is—trust me on this one—a pretty tough order to fill.
Vividness requires good dynamics, and the T1s succeed here while retaining a sense of control. Transparency requires excellent handling of low-level signals, and again the T1s come through. And, because these concepts aren’t completely separate, the excellent micro-dynamics that come from good low level signal handling also contribute to a sense of vividness and aliveness when the music is full of subtle expression.
While I’ve praised the vividness of the T1s, I should add that the T1s don’t sound as lively as some other headphones. If that’s confusing, consider that each of these more lively headphones eventually causes you to conclude that the liveliness is in part caused by one or more colorations. What the T1s do so well is to sound vivid without sounding ragged or exaggerated.
In thinking about how the T1s combine so many good properties, I came to think that the T1s are rather low distortion devices. This sense is conveyed as an overall smooth and fine-grained character. Instruments just seem more “of a piece” and less made up of bits than they do on many other headphones.
On Mary Black’s “By The Time It Gets Dark” [By The Time It Gets Dark, Gift Horse], the vocal is slightly recessed (set back in terms of image plane) but clear. Adding to the sense of clarity is the observation that the overall sense of continuousness (or lack of graininess) is very, very good.
On Alison Krauss’ “Forget About It” [Forget About It, Rounder] the intro electric bass is deep and airy. But then on her “New Favorite” [Alison Krauss + Union Station Live, Rounder] the drum skin sound good but not great (a little thick as if there is a resonance in the mid-bass).