Be careful with your expectations
Posted by derbigpr on 2013-09-14
Beyerdynamic Tesla T1
Comfortable, well made, transparent, fast, detailed, clear, musical, images well.
Too big of a price jump compared to DT880, not as good audiophile headphones as the HD800
I wont spend much time talking about the good points of these headphones, they're all well known, it would just be a waste of time, so I will focus more on things that you don't read in other reviews, and I'll try to talk from a more realistic point of view.
These are great headphones when it comes to sound, comfort, build quality, looks...anything really. The sound has a very Beyer-specific signature to it. I would not call it natural. I would not call it neutral. The region from 7 to 10 khz is too spiky, and there's a dip around 5khz in the frequency response. The headphone is too bright to be neutral is what I'm saying. HD600 is neutral. T1 is not. That's why people prefer it with tube amps, because they mellow out the sound and reduce the artificial clarity of these headphones that often goes over the top.
Would I recommend these headphones? Yes and no, depending on who you are, how much money you have, and how anal you are about the sound.
If you're just a sort-of-audiophile, who likes great sound, but doesn't obsess about it, buy the DT880's (or T90's), and for the price difference compared to T1 get a good tube amp and a DAC, and forget about the T1. If you can't afford to pay 1500 dollars and not feel any difference when it comes to the weight of your wallet, be careful before you go for it. If its a stretch to pay that much, you might be disappointed by your purchase. Make sure you audition before buying them of course.
If you're a professional working in a recording studio, yes, absolutely get T1's, unless you're not ready to accept the fact that your old mixes don't sound as good as you thought.
If you're a hardcore audiophile, with lots of money on your disposal, and you're ready to pay 1000 dollars for that tiny sound improvement over the DT880, get these.
Now, let me explain why I say they're too expensive. Again, they are great headphones, excellent headphones, BUT, DT880's are as well. Out of a Musical Fidelity M1DAC + M1HPA combo, DT880's sound so good you'd easily fool a blindfolded person into thinking that he's listening to T1's. T1's sound better. But only marginally. The bass is slightly cleaner, more controlled and textured, mids are slightly more transparent, vocals are a bit more forward on the T1's, highs are a bit more sparkly so to speak, soundstage a tiny bit bigger and imaging more precise. Each of these separate categories is only slightly better on the T1's than on the DT880's. BUT, when you add them all together, it makes a clear enough difference to tell the T1 is the more expensive model in the line up. However, its not worth 1400 dollars. Yes, yes....diminishing returns, if you want the best, pay a lot, etc., it's all clear to me, but still, even out of a really high end setup, T1's are in my opinion not worth more than 700-800 dollars. Especially considering the HD800's are priced at 1400 dollars, and really....if we put the sound signature preference aside for a moment, HD800's are in a different league when it comes to ultimate sound quality and listening experience. They sound like high end headphones, T1's sound like a slightly improved DT880.
Again, a slightly improved DT880 is still an excellent headphone, just don't expect a HUGE jump in SQ over the DT880 (and HD650, K701, etc.), its only 5-10% better, and even that hugely depends on your setup, out of some setups T1's might even be inferior to the cheaper models. As long as you're aware that going from DT880 to T1 is less like going from a BMW 3 series to a BMW 7 series, and more like going from a 330i to a 335i, you're fine, go for it.
Look & Feel
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Excellent audiophile headphones
Posted by derbigpr on 2012-04-07
Ultrasone HFi 2400
Sound quality, fun sound signature, value, great bass, design and build quality, imaging.
Not the most neutral frequency response, a bit tight on the head when new.
This is my first pair of Ultrasone headphones, and I have to say, I am impressed.
Excellent pair of headphones from top to bottom, great value, some really awesome unique features, and no deal-breaking faults. I will compare them with some of my other headphones which I feel are in the same league, namely, the Sennheiser HD650 and AKG Q701.
Before I begin the review, let me just menition the equipment that I use with the headphones.
Source: Asus Xonar Essence ST
Amplifiers: Little Dot MkV, Pro-ject headbox SEII
All music files used are lossless.
Let me say that I've paid 180€ (260$) for these, which to me, is mindbogglingly cheap for the sound I got, especially considering that I've paid 450€ (650$) for HD650's and 350€ (450$) for Q701's. Both of those headphones are sort of a default recommendation for someone seeking an open back, mid-high end headphone. And I believe HFi 2400's perfectly fit into the same category, despite their much lower cost.
Build and design:
These headphones are totally worthy of a "Made in Germany" tag, even though they're made in Taiwan. :) Excellent quality plastic, very solid, covered with a layer of smooth rubber on the headband to give it a even more expensive feel. Ears cups feature aluminum circles in the middle with a Ultrasone logo, which give the headphone a luxurious look and feel. Ear pads are very soft, and covered with a velvet material pretty much identical to that on Sennheiser HD650's.
Overall, they look and feel very expensive, much more so in person than on the pictures. I wouldn't worry about durability either, these would probably only be scratched if dropped from the top of a 10-story building.
Now we hit a category in which these headphones won't get a 10/10. It's not that they're uncomfortable, but they're not the most comfortable headphone in the world. Their clamping force is quite high, especially out of the box. They're actually slightly tighter than HD650's, but with HD650's tightness is not a problem, since they go around the ear completely. HFi 2400's don't have as big ear pads, and they're circular, so they press on the bottom part of the ear a bit. Ear pad foam is softer than on Q701's, but slightly stiffer than on the HD650's.
I also wear eyeglasses, but I haven't found any difficulties regarding that.
In long terms, they're a bit less comfortable than HD650's, and much less comfortable than Q701's. They're also the heaviest of the three, but only when held in the hand. When on the head, they feel lightest, possibly because they fit so snug and they're not big, they don't stick out like AKG's or Sennheiser's.
Overall, they're comfortable, definitely among the more comfortable headphones, but they're not the best in that aspect.
Sound quality and signature:
This is a category in which I will not cut the sound into pieces, I will just comment on the general level of quality or sound resolution that these headphones produce. Also, the score that I will give is highly personal.
Even though HFi 2400's cost considerably less than both the HD650 and Q701, their sound quality is actually on the same level. They sound as clear, crisp, impactful, detailed, controlled, well defined and "expensive“.
Their sound signature is not neutral. The mid bass is slightly boosted, and highs are slightly recessed, but not in a bad way. Very often the term „recessed“ is used in a bad context, but in this case, its a positive thing. There's nothing missing in the high frequency region, it just means that the signature is on the darker side, actually remarkably similar to that of HD650's, but with some major differences that I will cover later.
HFi 2400's are very lush and full sounding headphones, but not veiled. Smooth and non-fatiguing, but unlike HD650's, they're not slow sounding. They're fast, and very dynamic. Changes in loudness and speed in music are easily audible, and very pleasant. They also play very loud with any distortion. Sound always feels under control.
Music doesn't sound flat and boring, not everything is always at the same volume, there are pieces of song that get louder, more energetic, more impactful, there are pieces that pop out and make the sound more engaging and musical. HFi 2400's are in fact one of the most fun and engaging open back headphones I've heard so far, but they achieve it without being aggressive or fatiguing. However, they are very punchy and offer lots of impact when needed. PRAT is excellent.
I like to say that there are two types of audiophiles. Those who listen to music trough their equipment, and those who listen to their equipment trough music. HFi 2400's are definitely not meant for the latter ones. They're not the headphones to be used as a reference phone in studio or to be used for testing audio equipment, they're a headphone meant for those who enjoy listening to music that is pleasantly reproduced.
As I said already, lows on Hfi2400 are slighlty boosted, and by lows I mean mostly the mid bass region. This gives the bass great impact, much greater than on the Q701's, and totally comparable with HD650's. Bass is very controlled and tight, never bleeds into other frequencies. Despite being boosted, the bass never gets overemphasized. It's another charatheristic that is often looked upon in a negative way. Just because the headphones are capable of delivering huge bass, it doesn't mean they will always deliver huge bass, with any music, even when not needed. It's not the case. When bass is needed, its delivered. Extension is pretty good as well. Not as good as on the Q701's, but still comparable to HD650's. Overall, bass is very impressive for open backed headphones, with lots of impact and weight, definitely one of the best I've heard.
I've heard some people complain that mids on these headphones are recessed. Honestly, I can't disagree more. There's nothing about the mids that could be described as recessed, there's nothing missing or lacking in volume, at least not too much. I guess if you're used to very mid-range-happy headphones, you'd notice something, but I don't notice anything, and I come from headphones with forward mids. There's nothing that would affect the sound reproduction in a negative way. Vocals are up front and sound great, especially the male ones, very similar to both Q701 and HD650's. Overall, mids are also very smooth and lush.
Now, highs ARE slightly recessed. But as I already said, that is not a bad thing. Highs are still very crisp, and crystal clear, same as on Q701's and HD650's, but they're lower in volume compared to the rest of the sound, more similar to HD650's than Q701's. Again, there's nothing missing in the sound, there's no moments during music when you think : „Boy...I wish this part was louder and more clear“. Everything is still perfectly audible and of high quality, its just not fatiguing, harsh or agressive, instead its smooth and polite. Before buying the headphones, I've seen the frequency response on Headroom, and there seem to be a lot of spikes in the highs region. That had me worried, but in fact, I don't notice any of those spikes and dips. Also, there's no sibiliance with vocals, which is present in Q701's and even HD650's sometimes. Hfi2400's are great for long listening sessions.
Soundstage and imaging:
As you might already know, Ultrasone headphones are famous for their patented S-Logic technology. I'm not gonna spend any time on that, as you can read all about it on their web site. The point is, it works, but in a different way than expected.
I expected the soundstage to be very big, instead, its not really that big, at least most of the time. Its definitely much smaller than on Q701's, and somewhat smaller than on HD650's, but where it shines is imagining. Both the Q701 and HD650 have a very „left-right“ soundstage. Sounds never seem to come from in front or from behind, always from the sides. With Hfi2400's there's a stronger central image. Sound seems to come more from the front. It still comes from the sides as well, but it's somewhat surrounding you. One of the effects that S-logic should create is actually a natural surround sound, and it does that to a certain extent. It's nothing jaw-dropping, but it does work. It's kinda like a Dolby Surround sound, but without the weird and unnatural „large hall tonality“, there's no echo or funny frequency response.
However, I still find the soundstage of both Q701 and HD650 to be as competent overall. Ultrasones come with a demo CD full of binaural recording, specifically recorded to demonstrate the ability of S-logic, and ironically, I felt that HD650 and Q701 sounded just as good, without having any fancy patented technology. However, in music, I'd have to give an edge to Hfi 2400. In terms of imaging, positioning and illusion of space, it beats both HD650 and Q701. In terms of sheer size of soundstage, it's a bit behind them, especially the Q701. It's a precise soundstage on 2400's, but its closer to your head than with the other two, at least most of the time. There were moments in certain recording when certain sounds felt like they were coming from very far away.
---- Imaging 10/10
---- Soundstage size 8.5/10
Detail and transparency:
They're very detailed headphones without being analytical. Details are not in your face like on the Q701's, instead they're delivered with care and certain level of intimacy, similar to HD650's. The overall level of detail is on the same level as on the HD650's and Q701's, in that there's absolutely nothing that I can hear on those two, and I cant hear on the HFi2400's. But as I said, same as with HD650's, you have to listen to hear all the micro-details, they won't be shoved up your ear canals whether you want to hear them or not. Great for sound engineers working in studio? No. Great for someone listening to music? Yes.
Transparency is great as well. Sound is crystal clear despite being slightly dark.
As far as fatigue goes, these get a big fat 10 out of 10. This is where S-logic comes into its own. I find that lack of fatigue and how headphones react to volume is the biggest advantage of that technology. I find it absolutely amazing how loud I can listen to these without discomfort. There's none of those uncomfortable eye-blinking impacts. Music SOUNDS impactful, but it doesn't FEEL impactful on my ears. It's quite hard to describe really, all you have to know they're much less fatiguing than any other headphone I've ever tried.
Another great thing I found is the fact that they sound great on low volumes, which is rare when it comes to headphones. Most headphones will sound either very thin and bass light, or very boomy and unclear at low volumes. HD650's and Q701's both lack impact and body when listened to at low volume, and when brought up to a volume level where they provide a proper impact, they get fatiguing and give lots of uncomfortable painful moments. There's none of that with Hfi2400's. Remember how I said that they're very similar to HD650 but with a few crucial differences? Well, these are the differences. They're the first headphones ever which actually make me reduce the volume from time to time, because there's no point of cranking them up and turning them into small speakers. They simply have impact on any volume level, they always sound full and crisp. Kinda like speakers. Imagine listening to big floorstanding speakers at low volume level. Everything sounds silent, but still, everything is there and perfectly audible. You still get a nice punch from bass and nice rumble from sub-bass.
Not that difficult to power. About the same as HD650's and Q701's. Not as picky about amps as Q701's or HD650's. Hfi2400 sound decent out of anything I've tried, although they scale nicely with better gear. Something like Little Dot MkV is perfectly fine for them in terms of power. They even sound extremelly good when used directly out of a Asus Xonar ST headphone amp.
I find they sound great with everything, but they shine at pop, rock, r'n'b, electronic, metal and hip hop. Basically, because of their bass. In those genres, I prefer them to Q701 and HD650. Anything from Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, G'n'R's, Led Zeppelin, Eagles, AC/DC, Rolling Stones, U2, to Sting, Chris Rea, Joe Cocker, Michael Jackson, etc. You name it, they sound great. They excel at older pop and disco music as well.
What about other gernes? Well they sound great with classical, jazz, acoustic, vocals, etc., they sound amazing with everything basically, but with certain genres (the ones without a lot of bass :P) they simply can't show their full potential.
I particularly like them with live recordings. For example, something like Eric Clapton-Unplugged sounds absolutely amazing.
These headphones really surprised me. I bought them as something more mid-fi, but I ended up with a proper audiophile headphone, absolutely comparable to the famous HD650's and Q701's in every way, I even prefer them to both with most music.
Are they the most natural and realistic sounding headphones? Nope. Are the a top choice for someone working in a studio? Nope. Are they for someone who loves headphones that put a smile of their face? Definitely yes. Are they worth the price? Yes! Honestly, this is by far the best value audio product I've ever bought, exceeding even the value of Asus Xonar ST sound card, which I though will never be taken off the throne. Remember,Hfi2400's come at a fraction of the price of HD650's and Q701's, but they're in the same league in absolutely every way, beating both of those in several areas. If I had auditioned these before buying them, and was asked how much I thought they cost, I'd say 400-500 dollars. They're that good.
Overall, for their price, they get a 10/10.
If they were priced at 500$, they'd get 9/10.
Look & Feel
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