It’s always interesting to see how much innovation is going on in the headphone market right now. What’s also interesting is discovering how niche a lot of headphones are. Some headphones focus on specific genres people like, while others are a more situational experience. The HEDDphone is extremely situational and wears that fact like a badge of honor. It’s a high-fidelity experience specifically meant for the more extreme detail-oriented listener. Someone who wants to analyze every fine detail of a track, and appreciate every little nuance a pair of headphones has to offer. The HEDDphones is one of the more truly high-fidelity experiences I’ve had reviewing headphones so far.
What Exactly is the HEDDphone? Typing out that name is pretty strange, and saying out loud that I’m reviewing the HEDDphones makes me sound insane. HEDDphones are made by HEDD Heinz Electromagnetic Designs (HEDD-Audio), a German company known for its state of the art studio monitors. Which makes sense because the HEDDphones seem like they’re made for the professional monitoring environment. A headphone for the engineer who wants to go all out on the perfect set of cans that best represent their mix. Are the HEDDphones really perfect? Let’s cut right to the biscuits.
What You Get
This box is enormous for a pair of headphones. It might be the biggest box a pair of headphones has ever come in. Inside you will only find three items, the HEDDphone, the cable, and a user guide laying out the specs. The cable is a mini 4 pin female XLR with a quarter-inch connector. So you’re not exactly going to use these bad boys with your mobile device, and HEDDphone makes that pretty clear. So if you don’t own a high-fidelity sound system or a digital audio interface, the HEDDphones already might not be for you. I used the Ifi micro and plugged straight into the computer. So you might also want to invest in a quality headphone amp if you’re gonna use the HEDDphone. Then there’s the main attraction: the HEDDphone itself. At first glance these cans are massive. Bulky, but kind of majestic in its presentation. With that, we should get into the feel of these cans.
A lot of the bulk of the HEDDphone has to do with the enormous cup size. They fit over my gigantic ears with ease, and a little extra space to boot. Adjusting the headband makes the HEDDphone a comfortable enough fit, and although the cups feel a tad heavy on the ear it isn’t substantial enough to be distracting. The HEDDphone itself weighs 718g, hefty but pretty astounding considering the tech this thing is packing. The headbands design has more cushiony parts on the sides, leaving the middle part more open for reduced pressure. Some headphones like to have a weightless feel, with the goal being to make you forget you’re wearing them and just immerse yourself in the sound field. However, that’s not what the HEDDphones are meant to be, they’re like studio monitors placed directly onto your outer ear. Overall comfy, but still a little weighty.
One of the major selling points of the HEDDphone is its innovative transducer technology. HEDD has developed the first full range Air Motion Transformer. Many other headphone models use planar, or electrostatic voice coils, but HEDDphone features an electrodynamic transducer with a specially folded diaphragm that squeezes air out at a much faster rate. HEDD also wants to make clear that diaphragm crackling will occur here, but only when adjusting the headphones and not during playback. When you find your ideal listening position the crackling will stop. This is awesome for getting a more detailed frequency response, which the HEDDphones can output 10Hz-40kHz of. You’re just going to hear more of a variety in the sound field with the HEDDphones.
The HEDDphones drivers will deliver 87dBSPL for 1mW of voltage, with an impedance of 42ohms. Be careful when running the HEDDphones at high amplitudes.
The best aspect of the HEDDphones in terms of sonic quality is its immaculate execution of spatial imaging. Every element feels like it’s placed with absolute precision. One of the best representations of imaging that I’ve heard from a headphone. The separation of frequency bands is what makes this headphone an absolute must for engineers. Expertly crafted to give you the cleanest, frequency response with an incredible representation of dynamic range. As I will explain in far more great detail, certain genres like classical, or Jazz are perfect for these headphones, as every element is spaced out authentically with the amount of frequency content you’re going to hear. Also seriously listen to a movie in these things, you’ll be quite impressed.
This low end takes a wonderful, natural shape. It expands in width while layering smooth bass tones with the more present low mids. But when the sub-bass frequencies kick in, you’ll feel them in your chest. This is one of the most dynamic sounding low ends I’ve experienced. Hip-Hop tracks still feel deep without feeling like the headphones are artificially closing you into the bass. Low-end string instruments like bass and cellos sound full without intrusion in other spaces. The same goes for heavy low-end synth tracks in electronic music. In fact, that’s what makes the HEDDphone so awesome for film scores (and listening to movies themselves). The timbre of the low end just sounds so much more natural here while still sounding like they have color and definition.
The clarity featured in the midrange is simply outstanding. This is a fast and crisp response that fullness takes complete advantage of its precise placement in the stereo field. Distorted electric guitars in rock music get a chance to roar, and acoustic guitars in more folky tracks feel warm and intimate with the rich tonality featured in strums and the plucking of strings. Vocals come in extremely clear and detailed. Certain characteristics of vocal performances are on display. Gerard Way’s vocals on “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” for example feature all the audible inhales and vocal strains that deliver the raw performance you want to hear on that album. This is an authentic midrange with a whopping amount of power.
A sweet, sweet high end. It feels spacious and alive, as the soft hiss of certain tracks blesses your ears with resolution. It is an extremely detailed high end that’s both rich, and ambient. The high end envelopes your ears and never feels too bright. Cymbals glisten, and tail off respectfully, while other factors you wouldn’t think of like room tone fills the space. Each element can be localized in the mix, like hiss as I mentioned, but also certain artifacts that sometimes escape the final pass of a mastered recording. As I was listening to Howard Shore’s score for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” I picked up a sharp tone around 16kHz in the track where Pippin sings “The Edge of Night.” Hearing artifacts like this might bother the more casual listener, but if you’re a mixer, you want to hear that amount of high-frequency representation.
It’s no secret by now that I had an enjoyable time listening to the HEDDphones. I think they are an absolute beast of a headphone that not only innovates in design but sounds impeccable as well. Don’t get me wrong, these headphones are an investment, as you’ll be spending $1899.99 for the HEDDphones. But as someone who records, and mixes audio, these headphones might be the most reliable pair currently available. They’re supposed to be studio monitors placed directly onto your ear, and I believe they succeed tremendously in that regard. Even if you’re an extremely detail-oriented listener looking for an authentically high-fidelity experience, the HEDDphone is a great investment. If this is only the beginning of Air Motion Transformer technology, I can’t wait to see what the future of HEDDphone looks like.
Available at Audio 46
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