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A $700 headphone masquerading as a flagship

A Review On: Beyerdynamic Tesla T1

Beyerdynamic Tesla T1

Rated # 8 in Over-Ear
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ag8908
Posted · Updated · 2483 Views · 20 Comments

Pros: Excellent detail and instrument separation, good balance between bass, mids and treble; relatively lightweight and comfortable

Cons: unacceptable distortion, erratic highs, this is not worth $1,400, not even close

Please be advised that I am only writing this review to help other buyers. I am not trying to upset any T1 owners and it's my honest opinion. If you think it's unfair please state so in the comments and I can reconsider although I have enough experience with headphones now to know what I like.

 

First, let me note for the reader that if you google the three words beyerdynamic t1 deal, you'll see that every month or so an internet retailer sells brand new T1s for $750 to $780 (and these seem to be authorized retailers, for example one deal was from Buydig which is Beach Camera if I understand correctly, which is listed as an authorized retailer on Beyer's website; that deal even included free overnight shipping and no tax). These constant deals beg the question of why these "flagships" consistently go for mid-tier prices; The answer became apparent when mine arrived.

 

The only other top tier headphones that I have ever tried were the Sennheiser HD800 and the Audeze LCD XC. I preferred the HD800's sound signature, but I could appreciate the quality of the Audeze. For example, if you play the sound of a single guitar string being picked, you'll see that it's a noise which starts somewhat low in the frequency range, and rapidly, very rapidly, goes smoothly up in frequency until it reaches a high note. It takes a fast and capable driver to reproduce that well, and the XC could do that; it would send a chill up my spine. The HD800, well, I shouldn't have to explain why it's a flagship but let's just say its spatial imaging and magic are renowned.

 

The T1, though, is not even close to being in the neighborhood of those two. The best way I could explain the sound of this headphone in a relatable way, is to say they are an upgraded Shure SRH840. The way I tested them is to spend hours listening to and re-listening to my set of favorite songs, songs which I have played dozens of times and essentially memorized. I also listened to and relistened to very specific parts of songs, such as the sound of that guitar string being picked. The headphone was powered by a JDS Labs Objective 2 amplifier and I was generous with the volume, playing it at about 65-68 db ear level.


1. The bass, while relatively strong and booming, is distorted at the very low bass frequencies, which is less than you would expect from a flagship. There is a distinct way that the HD800 and especially the Audeze hit low frequency bass notes that distinguished them from mid-tier headphones. If you've heard it you know what I'm referring to (the SE846 is another example of clean undistorted low frequency bass). The T1s have plenty of bass, they're kind of boomy actually relative to what I normally listen to, but they hit bass notes in a subtly distorted and less than satisfying way. The measurement charts from innerfidelity objectively confirm the T1's bass distortion. Very common in $500 and under headphones; unacceptable for a $1,400 flagship.


2. The treble sometimes has what I can best describe as a subtle but annoying form of that "listening to treble on a cheap pair of ear buds, or a clock radio" effect. I'm obviously not saying it sounds like a clock radio, but let me see if I can put it another way. If you were to play a tone that smoothly goes up in frequency, it would not sound smooth on the T1. The T1 produces some treble frequencies at much higher DBs than others and this is not flagship sound. Very rarely it produces a particular treble frequency at such an unexpectedly high volume level that it causes that fingernails on a chalkboard effect. Good treble should be smooth, not jarring. Listening to classical music on an HD800 will exhilarate you. The Audeze wasn't as good as the HD800 in this respect, but it was no slouch and played smooth treble. When it comes time to play those songs and parts of a song on the T1, all it does is cause you to purse your face in disappointment. Again, if you read the innerfidelity charts for the T1 it's all there in objective science. The treble response is a mess with these, and my ears confirmed it. One important note about this issue: please keep in mind that one, just one, "fingernails on a chalk board" treble note can ruin an entire song for you. That noise stays with you. Mid-tier headphones either try to be airy, and have this effect or, more commonly, they just punt and roll off the treble. That's fine at that price range, but I don't ever want to hear that uncomfortable sound out of a flagship.


3. The midrange, to its credit, is very good, maybe even slightly better than the Audeze and the HD800. I couldn't definitively say which was better, but I had no complaints about the way the T1 reproduced voices, and I was impressed by the detail of its voice reproduction at times as it did things the other two could not do, in certain spots, particularly with a mid or deeper female vocals. So I will give it that. If I were just listening to people talk, or singing acapella in a middle range octave, I might choose the T1 over the HD800 and LCD XC.

 

4. Its detail is excellent, better than even the HD800. But since the HD800 was getting close to that "maybe this is so much detail that you're taking away from the joy of the music" territory, this may have gone over that threshold. I actually really like detail, but combined with the T1's other problems the excess detail was too much. But if you need to do an auditory detail spotting test, use these.


5. Instrument separation is also excellent for the same reasons as above. The way those instruments sound, though, is another matter as described above. But they're separated well.


6. Spatial imaging is, as expected, not anywhere near as good as the HD800 but better than the closed back LCD XC.

 

7. With its somewhat punchy bass and erratic treble, the T1 is more fatiguing than the HD800 or LCD XC.

 

A few other notes. For some reason people had me expecting these to be heavy like the Aude'ze but they're not heavy at all. They're in the HD800 territory in terms of comfort; very comfortable, so don't let that be an issue. They not made of fancy material, unlike the Aude'ze. They seem to have the build quality of your average $100 headphone. The cables are also not detachable which is very unusual. The case is a beautiful and compact aluminum. Very nice case. I uploaded a picture of the case so you can see. Much smaller and lighter than the needlessly big and heavy HD800 case and much nicer than the plastic audeze case. The T1 is also not unusual looking like those other two so you won't attract attention to yourself by wearing it.

 

If I could summarize by analogy, a Mercedes E-Class is a great car in its peer group, but if it tries to compare itself to S-Class AMGs, Bentleys and so on, it's a low performer. Same with this. It would get a higher rating if its MSRP were lower, but I have to rate it like a $1,400 headphone.

 

And to settle that mystery alluded to earlier, there is a perfectly logical explanation for why Beyerdynamic allows authorized retailers to sell this for $750, it's the only way they can clear inventory when trying to sell this for $1,400.

20 Comments:

Is this a legitimate review or just a rant?
I know what a review is, but this clearly isn't one.  I should have commented "Will this be a legitimate review or just a rant?"
You can't blame your lack of research on the headphones. Giving them a low rating because you paid too much is not very fair. 
regarding retail markups, you think the authorized Senn dealers pay a stack more for their items, or perhaps they just stick to certain 'rules' and none of them drop the price, hence keeping the prices consistent.
 
diamonds are an artificial price point market.
 
Bose won't even let their resellers have speakers setup in a way that they can be A B'd against other products.
 
I have a 100k (modern equiv) hifi rig. The amp and speakers are flat line and extremely accurate.
It is best fed good sources.
 
I had a mate visit last night from the far side of the country, he's just found out about vinyl, has a friend who puts together 70k disc spinners..
 
(for the record, I don't use records, but hey, to each their own)
 
He never realized just how much was lost with compressed sound files.
 
He very quickly came to the sound realization that the more complex the origional recording the more it could be destroyed.
 
classical as a genre, no way. Afro celtsound system was got hard, but easy three piece vocal pieces we could get away with.. Certainly whilst using them as background whilst playing games a room away.
 
I think you should do your cans some justice... Feed, using an optical output from your laptop to the digital input of your old Yamaha receiver. Keep the mixer in your mac at max, use the headphone output on your amp,.. Assuming it is built right like a $1200 home theatre amp generally is, it might surprise you. (a lot of people don't find home theatre kit practical, or would rather tailor their sound with other pieces)
 
just get back to basics, use your cdplayer. Play an uncompressed/unaltered source, most definately when it comes to classical as a genre.
 
oh and mayhaps your drivers will breakin a little and smooth out, though some argue against this and say it is psycho acoustics or some such, I believe that this is true (have had it happen on many driver based parts and not so on armature based parts, so perhaps there is a level of consistency in my findings for the 'scientists' amount us - of which I see myself as one... And I DO believe that cables matter, all other things being equal!
"I have a 100k (modern equiv) hifi rig."
 
wow. you should put that in your profile. I've conversed with you on here many times and would have never guessed, although I would have never guessed anyone has a $100,000 system.
p.s. white eventually I'll probably reluctantly find myself buying expensive components and stuff like you. right now I'm finding that perfect mix of headphones.
I think you are being extremely harsh on the T1s. But again, you are driving them with an O2 and you can't tell the difference with and without on O2 and the headphone out of your Mac...
actually 98% of its sound quality (sans absurd listening levels could be had for south of 10k.
 
its not relevant to head-fi, but is a great way to test things, eg the best DAPs south of $1000 sound very poor in terms of soundstaging /' musicality', where a cheap disc spinner (ok $1000) will sound beautiful.
 
a lil while back I sat down with a conducter friend, who has golden ears, and his partner, an opera singer,.. We played a few complex genres through a range of 'transports' varying from several hundred dollar cd players to multi thousand dollar DVD players, and an sacd player etc.
 
a six hundred dollar cd player would trounce the $3000 jack of all trades devices... Have a lil faith in your cd player is all I van encourage you. Itis optimized for 650nm wavelength that is cds, and it might justread a disc quite a bit more accurately, and allow the fine details that flagship headphones will truly appreciate. Breathing space if you will.
 
I find a good system reveal the air around the instruments, and headphones are a cheap way into good sound.
Consider the source, c'mon computer headphone out and O2, you haven't even heard the T1!  Your setup is the biggest part of what you will hear from any headphone!
Amusing review :-) 
Not to flood your review thread here, but you do need to sort out your front end.
 
I understand that presently you are mid or low level analogue outputting from a windows laptop.
 
I hope I am wrong, and you are in fact line level outputting from your USB DAC into the O2 amp.
 
If you are in fact using the analogue output (read:headphone jack) you are robbing the potential performance in a few ways, a) the software mixer in windows, b) the electrical performance of the headphone jack, and c) I will leave for others to contribute, but I really hope you are using the aforementioned USB DAC out and running external amplification...
 
all the same, for critical listening to flagship headphones, please go lossless compression files you are familiar with. I am all for low bitrate internet streaming for having new stuff to listen too, but for reviews you gotta give the equipment its best chance to shine. IE critical setup for discrimination/critical listening.
 
by all means; let people know how the varying flagships handle low bitrate sound (whether they, like studio kit, make it 'unlistenable', or whether they gloss over the deficiencies of the source file, but this should only be a part of the "big picture", and you should inform the general audience your listening choices, as, this helps inform the readers of why you may come to your conclusions or had specific issues etc
 
I hope these words contribute and help in some way
c) was to state that amping after software mixing/outputting a low-mid volume, will actually amplify a 'compressed sound', that dynamics will be gone, and a few of the things you wrote about in your review will rear their ugly heads.
 
PS I don't believe that was the same method you were using when auditioning the other flagships
Disagree with most of this 'review'.
 
- An upgraded 840?  not even close.
- The bass is boomy?  no.
- Lots of talk about distortion, yet I don't see any measurements you made? 
 
This reads more like a rant.  You may legitimately dislike this headphone and its price, but this sounds like buyers remorse anger.  I understand we all hear things differently, but comparing this to an 840 and then saying "boomy bass"....you can't be serious.
It’s not good for head-fi.org’s reputation when they let someone without enough knowledge and just for ingratiates leaves this kind of ridicules review.
I love a good shot of nerd-rage asmuch as the next guy, but seriously? Something is very wrong with either the review, the reviewer or his setup.
His setup is ridiculously wrong but he must also have hearing issues based on what he wrote on his profile:
 
"I primarily use my laptop headphone jack. I also have an objective 2 amp that doesn't seem to make a difference"
just doesn't have an awareness of what to look for in terms of differences, believes its all about volume.
 
and low bitrate internet radio feeds of complex music genres, so hasn't actually heard any of the equipment 'perform' shall we say.
 
not hearing 'any difference' shows us justhow far from optimal things are.
 
not hearing the death of sound that pushing out half volume (or less) from laptop and then amplifying that... Back to the same volume,... Arrrgh!
Time line looks all wrong to me as well. Unless I'm mistaken he started griping about the sale on the T1s before a review was even mentioned. If so, this is just pointless axe grinding.
 
The spurts of angry denial also look mighty suspicious to me, frankly.
 
It's funny how the T1s seem to breed persistent haters. I suspect that they might be right, and there's a quality control issue. Otherwise, how would one explain the few guys who insist that the T1s will leave you with bleeding eardrums and a shattered soul from the horrifying brightness?
 
There's this guy at r/headphones... whose spelling is suspiciously similar to ag8908's spelling...
Yeah,....mostly incorrect. Both spelling and grammar! 
This review is a total waste of time and comes across as sour grapes to do with the pricing and not getting a good deal.
 
The T1's are stunning headphones when driven correctly.
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