On Brandi Carlile’s “Caroline” [Give Up The Ghost, Columbia] the cymbals are less bright but cleaner than on HD800 (which is a bit splashy); the T1 gets more of both the “metal” ring and better “shimmer” during the decay, whereas HD800 is mostly “crash”.
On The Decembrists “The Tain” [The Tain, Kill Rock] we have a very complex mix that shows excellent instrumental separation. The bass drum is a little low on impact, but there is good snare drum impact.
The Beyerdynamic T1s sound different from most of the other high-end headphones we’ve had in the lab recently (mainly the Sennheiser HD800, the Ultrasone Edition 8, the Audio-Technica ATH-W5000, the Grado PS1000, and the AKG 702). I suspect the T1s may be something special because they seem to combine the strengths of many these very good models. The T1s seem to be quite balanced, like the Ultrasones or the Sennheisers. They seem to be low in coloration like the AKGs and the Ultrasones. They seem very transparent, like the Audio-Technicas and Grados. They seem to have wide bandwidth, almost like the Denons and the Sennheisers.
The colorations of some other high-end headphones are noticeably larger than those of the T1s by comparison. The upper midrange dip on the Sennheiser HD800s, for example is quite a bit larger than the one I hear on the T1s. The treble blip of the T1s is tiny in comparison more aggressive one you can hear on the Denon 5000s.
Similarly, the Ultrasone Edition 8s and the Shure SRH840s sound at least as balanced as (or frankly, a little more balanced than) the T1s, but neither offers up the sense of transparency that the T1s deliver. The AKG 702s also have excellent midrange, but don’t offer either the bandwidth or the transparency of the T1s.
Since there are winning musical attributes of each of these models, it is worth remembering how far we are from reproducing the absolute sound via headphones. For example, you have to remember that there is no common agreement among headphone engineers on what constitutes flat frequency response as perceived by the listener. This leads to widely varying frequency response curves among models designed by competent engineers. Such a situation doesn’t exist in, say, the field of amplifier design. But every time we write about the resulting deviations from the sound of live music, several readers write in horror that “for this price, these should be perfect!” I suppose lots of things (cars, cameras, relationships, software, etc) should be perfect, but they aren’t in practice, and that’s certainly true of headphones. And to give credit where credit is due, high-end headphones cost about what a pair of basic speakers cost. They key point is that, given inevitable deviations from perfection in any real product, the listener has to judge what combination of attributes gives the best approximation of live music at a price he/she can afford.
For this test session, I used the Esoteric DV-60 universal player as the source. Cables were Audioquest Sidewinders. AC power came from a dedicated 20-amp circuit via PS Audio Power Plant Premier and Shunyata Python CX AC cables.
The primary headphone amp was the Grace m902. Note that The Grace m902 has very low output impedance (1 ohm) for a headphone amp.
The sound did not change a lot when I switched to the Beyerdynamic A1 headphone amplifier. The A1 has a 100 ohm output impedance, which is on the high end of the spectrum of available amps. The fact that the m902 and the A1 sound broadly similar is a testimony to the benefits of the high impedance of the T1 headphones. With a high and relatively flat impedance curve, you will experience less variation in sound from amp to amp. Normally, this is a very good thing (I don’t have to put in as many “your mileage may vary” comments), but those of you who enjoy tuning your headphones with different amplifiers may be frustrated by the T1s.
While the all around comfort of the T1s isn’t bad, it isn’t their strength either. I thought the headband padding was too thin, leading to a pressure point on the top of the skull. You can shift the band to address this, but still, this seems like an unnecessary miss. The earcups are also smallish in diameter, so you may have some pressure on your outer ear. This is not a big deal in my experience, but not a perfect situation, either.