We recently flew to Germany to visit Sennheiser headquarters to hear the company's latest flagship headphones, the £1,000 HD 800s, and you've been able to read our report and see our photos for a couple of days. But we also toured the factory where these headphones are hand-built.
They're put together at Sennheiser HQ in Hanover, Germany, right next door to the farmhouse where the company was founded -- on 1 June 1945, just 23 days after Germany surrendered to the Allies. And not as Sennheiser either, but as 'Laboratium Wennebostel'.
Bits of the HD 800s, such as the steel and plastic ear cups, and the cabling, are shipped in from other specialist companies, although some metal microphone enclosures are made on-site. All electronics, however, are assembled in-house, and by hand.
It takes a team of production-line workers 45 minutes to put together one pair of HD 800s. Fifty pairs can be made per day, and a total of 5,000 will be built over 12 months. After assembly by what seemed to be a group made up entirely of women -- except for one dude, at least during our trip -- each pair is tested before being shipped to stores.
Over the next few pages, we'll give you a peek around the parts of the process you don't normally get to see. And if you missed it, check out our full hands-on report right from the Sennheiser headquarters, where we also got to meet Professor Sennheiser himself.
Each pair of headphones has a unique serial number laser-etched into its headband prior to being assembled. Frankly, we'd rather have our choice of hilarious words -- 'uvula', 'boogle' or 'mollycoddle', for example, but that wasn't an option.
Here we see a pair of hands join the voice coil to the diaphragm.
Inspecting the ring transducer. The design of this doughnut-shaped dealie is what sets the HD 800s apart from other headphones -- normally, there's no hole in the middle, and the ring itself would be smaller.
Oops, someone's halo fell down! And how inconvenient -- she's trying to inspect a ring transducer, and doesn't have a spare hand. We would've helped, but, y'know, we were busy and stuff.
These hands are assembling the baffle (for sound dampening) in the chassis.
Here you can see Herr Hands soldering the audio socket. This is the socket into which you plug the detachable headphone cable.
This machine is used to test the frequency response of a finished headphone. A sine wave is played through the headphones gradually rising from 10Hz upwards. A mechanical ear (the round silver thing in the photo) passes the sound it hears from the headphones to a computer, where results are measured for accuracy.