HEDD HEDDphone

WaveTheory

100+ Head-Fier
Hedd Heddphone by WaveTheory
Pros: A pleasant and inoffensive presentation; detail retrieval; excellent for smaller scale classical music or other mellow acoustic music
Cons: physical comfort; a bit bass-lean; not very dynamic; physical comfort (yes, I said that twice)
NOTE: This review was originally published on HiFiGuides forum on 30 Jun 2021.

INTRODUCTION

It’s been some time since I was able to do a review. I moved! And moving is exhausting. But, the HiFiGuides community had my back as always and had plenty of gear stacked up for me to check out once I got settled. One piece of that gear is the Hedd Heddphone. The Heddphone is an exciting product because it brings a new driver technology to the headphone market, namely AMT drivers. Before Heddphone, AMT drivers had been mostly relegated to high-frequency reproduction in speakers. I know that as of this writing in late June 2021 the Heddphone isn’t the newest kid on the block, but it’s still one of the only AMT-based headphones out there (Goldplanar GL850 being the only other one that I know of), which makes it exciting to check out! Let’s dive in…

TL;DR

Sonically the Heddphone is an intriguing entry into the headphone world with its AMT drivers. Those drivers bring lots of detail and good timbre. Heddphone pulls off excellent detail retrieval without sounding forward or aggressive in its presentation, as well. The tuning of the Heddphone is likely best suited for mellow, acoustic music, with piano music being a real strength. It has a very pleasant, polite presentation that does little wrong, but isn’t very dynamic and does little to excite. Still, the future could be fun with AMT driver headphones. The physical comfort is poor, though, and will likely be a dealbreaker for many.

KNOW YOUR REVIEWER

My preferred genres are rock/metal and classical/orchestral music. I’m getting to know jazz more and enjoying quite a bit. I also listen to some EDM and hip-hop. My hearing quirks include a high sensitivity to midrange frequencies from just under 1KHz to around 3Khz, give or take. My ears are thus quick to perceive “shoutiness” in headphones in particular. I describe “shoutiness” as an emphasis on the ‘ou’ sound of ‘shout.’ It’s a forwardness in the neighborhood of 1KHz and/or on the first one or two harmonics above it (when I make the sound ‘ooooowwwww’ into a spectrum analyzer the dominant frequency on the vowel sound is around 930Hz, which also means harmonic spikes occur again at around 1860Hz and 2790Hz). In the extreme, it can have the tonal effect of sounding like a vocalist is speaking or singing through a toilet paper tube or cupping their hands over their mouth. It can also give instruments like piano, but especially brass instruments, an added ‘honk’ to their sound. I also get distracted by sibilance, or sharp ‘s’ and ‘t’ sounds that can make ssssingers sssssound like they’re forssssssing esssss ssssssounds aggresssssssively. Sibilance does not physically hurt my ears nearly as quickly as shout, though. It’s distracting because it’s annoying and unnatural. Finally, I’m discovering that I have a preference for more subtle detail. I like good detail retrieval and hearing what a recording has to offer, but I prefer what many would consider relaxed and subtle rather than aggressive or detail-forward. To my ear, more subtle detail-retrieval sounds more realistic and natural than aggressive, detail-forwardness. There is a balance here, though, because detail retrieval can get too relaxed and that can sound unnatural, as well, or simply leave out important aspects of the recording. Readers should keep these hearing quirks and preferences in mind as they read my descriptions of sound.

FEATURES & BUILD

I’m not going to go into much depth on the driver tech as that’s been done already in many places around the internet. Those drivers are housed in a mostly rectangular, open-back earcup. The Heddphone is big and heavy. The earcups and pads have a lot of depth to them, and they stick way out off the sides of the head. They are open-back so there isn’t much isolation. On the other hand, they are not as leaky as something like HiFiMan’s egg-shaped series of headphones. Still, don’t plan to use them in a cubicle because everyone will still hear your music.

Cable entry is dual-entry with mini 4-pin XLR connectors in the same style as ZMF or Audeze headphones. The cable entry points are flush mounted so it should be very easy to buy aftermarket cables.

I have to talk about the comfort. It’s…less than stellar. That’s a nice way of saying that for my head the comfort – specifically lack thereof – is a dealbreaker. This review was difficult because wearing the Heddphone for more than 4 or 5 songs at a time became really uncomfortable. It’s not so much the weight. Heavy headphones usually don’t bother me. It’s the clamp force, the way the pads rest on the side of the head, and how warm they get for me. Comfort is very much a YMMV type of thing. It may work for you, but it doesn’t for me and I’ve heard several other audiophiles say similarly. I advise purchasing Heddphone from somewhere where you can easily return them if the comfort is also a miss for you. I understand that there is a second revision out there (quite sure I have V1) that offers a headband extension to alleviate some of that. I don’t need to extend headphone headbands very much so I’m sot sure if that would help me. Either way, readers should know that such a thing exists too and that I was not able to evaluate it.

Finally for features and build, POWAH! The Heddphone is not an easy drive. It’s rated at 42Ω impedance and 87dB/mW sensitivity. You’ll need an amp with some juice to get it to sound its best.

SOUND

Test Gear

I mostly ran Heddphone off a chain of Singxer SU-2 DDC -> Berkeley Audio Designs Alpha Series 2 DAC -> Violectric HPA-V281 headphone amp. I also spent some time with a Cayin N6ii DAP -> Schiit Bifrost 2 DAC -> Monolith Liquid Platinum amp with Amperex PQ Gold Pin 6922 tubes.

Sound Signature

Heddphone strikes me as having an overall neutral-bright signature. To my ear the treble has just a bit of emphasis to it. It’s reminiscent of the Beyerdynamic DT880 in this regard, though not quite to that magnitude. The bass is extended but lean. The mids are smooth yet well-detailed. The overall presentation is quite inoffensive. The treble is crisp and clear but almost never introduces any sibilance beyond what’s in the recording. The mids are smooth, present, detailed, and I can’t recall a single instance where I thought it sounded shouty when it shouldn’t have. Overall, the sound just doesn’t really do anything obviously wrong, and it’s fairly forgiving of electronics and recordings once properly powered.

As mentioned, the bass has good extension and also brings with it some decent detail and texture. It is lean and lacks slam, though. The bass that is there is good. I have nothing to complain about in regards to what is there. Personally, I would like more bass presence and more slam. Bassheads should probably spend their money elsewhere.

The midrange and treble are both excellent. They are smooth while being detailed, and crisp and clear without being sharp, shrill, or shouty. Detail retrieval was excellent. Room reverb, drum ghost notes, any kind of tuning dissonance, all resolved well. Heddphone does this resolving without it ever feeling forced, too-forward, or analytical. It retains a pleasant smoothness and musicality with that high level of detail retrieval.

The timbre is also quite good. In general, voices and instruments sound much like they are supposed to sound. In the price range the timbre from Hedd is among the best I’ve heard.

Macrodynamics

This is where the Hedd doesn’t necessarily fall short, but isn’t for everyone. The sound isn’t the most dynamic or lively. There is a pleasantness and politeness to it – still detailed! – that translates to not much in the way of impact, slam, or physicality. The bass-lean-ness means there isn’t much in the way of rumble, either. For me, this meant there wasn’t much involvement with music like rock, metal, hip-hop, or EDM that benefits from some punch or slam. Heddphone also wasn’t particularly engaging to me on music that isn’t punchy but has lots of rumble – think of things like Hans Zimmer’s OSTs here. However, for piano music, or mellow acoustic music Heddphone is fantastic. There the timbre and the detail retrieval become the focus and the physical too-polite-ness fades away.

COMPARISON WITH OTHER HEADPHONES

From a comfort standpoint…there isn’t much comparison. Heddphone is the most physically uncomfortable full-size headphone I’ve used to this point. I’m having trouble coming up with a close second, to be honest.

Sonically the Heddphone feels rather appropriately priced at around $1900. Its timbre is very good – perhaps only being edged out in this price range by the ZMF line. I didn’t get quite the timbral magic out of Heddphone that I experienced with the ZMF Eikon, but it wasn’t far behind either. The detail retrieval also seems appropriate, being around, and perhaps just a hair ahead of, the HiFiMan Arya. I’m going from memory on that though as it’s been awhile since I’ve heard the Arya. Still, from memory, the two are close. I think Heddphone is more forgiving of poor recordings than Arya even though it maintains that excellent detail retrieval. Arya has a bit more punch in the low-end however. For me the tricky part with Heddphone at its new price is that the HiFiMan HE1000V2 can be found new for as low as $2200 at times, and when it’s used it’s frequently around $1500. To my ear that is a significant technical step up almost across the board for a similar price, plus its much more comfortable. The only advantage I can give to Hedd there is that it’s still more forgiving than the HE1000V2, especially in regard to sibilance. The HE1000V2 doesn’t hit very hard either, but it hits harder than Heddphone.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Heddphone is a good all-around sounding headphone if you’re ok with lean bass and not much slam. The timbre and detail are very good. Piano music and other mellow acoustic music sound excellent on the Heddphone. However, I didn’t find myself reaching for it very often. First, it’s not very comfortable and I know when I put it on that it won’t be on for long. Second, it’s not the best sonic fit for my preferred music genres. I mostly listen to music that benefits from more bass presence and more physicality than Heddphone brings to the table. Even so, there are enough good qualities here to give me hope that a future AMT-based headphone could be very intriguing for me. If Hedd can fix the comfort issues and offer a more bass-present signature with a more dynamic presentation, I’d be very interested.

Thanks for reading, all. Enjoy the music!

rev92

100+ Head-Fier
HEDD Audio HEDDphone
Pros: Built like a tank
Superb look
Innovative
Exceptional value in high-end audio
Wonderful tuning
Zero harshness
Fantastic soundstage
One of the best treble performances out there
Details
Resolution
Speed
Addicting
Cons: Very heavy
Almost no accessories
Comfort will be questionable
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HEDD Audio HEDDphone is the first pair of headphones in the world to utilize a full-range AMT driver, previously used exclusively in speakers. It’s a beast of a headphone priced at $1899.





Introduction​

HEDD Audio is not a new name in the audio industry. Originating from the well-known company Adam Audio, HEDD is oriented more toward high-end audio products.
They are famous for their AMT (Air Motion Transformer) drivers, which they now have implemented into their first headphone launch ever.
If you ask me – that’s absolutely bonkers. Launching the first headphone in Company’s portfolio and introducing a revolutionary technology at the same time, that’s what it all should be about. Of course, it takes some bravery to go this route, instead of sticking to something done in the past HEDD Audio simply called “all-in”, and well…what a great decision it was.

Packaging

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Huge.


Even though it’s their first headphone ever, you won’t have a feeling that you’re dealing with one. This pair is mature, innovative, and just simply striking, and all that starts with the packaging.

The box is actually huge, just like the headphone (or should I say heddphone) itself. Its design though is what I call “noice”, and I actually use it as a decoration on the shelf in my living room. There’s something “German” to it, combining refinement and simplicity. Inside this giant thing, we’re greeted by the headphone itself, a separate compartment that hides the cable and some paperology. Nothing more, nothing less. One could complain that with such high price they could’ve included a balanced cable or an additional bonus, but in my opinion, it’s all we really need. Don’t cut any corners and provide everything that is essential – that’s the way to go.
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Welcoming.

Cable​

The cable included in the box is quite good, but don’t expect anything extraordinary. It is 2.2m long and it terminates into two mini-xlrs on one end, and 4-pin XLR on the other in my case, which means that it’s a balanced cable.
It should be noted that the cable is quite stiff and tanky, which suits the HEDDphone perfectly, but it’s not the most comfortable cable that I’ve ever used. Well, it’s actually below average in this regard, but it ain’t that bad, don’t worry.

It’s a pure-copper construction, and it uses high-quality REAN connectors. It makes for a pretty “German” approach – it’s reliable, sturdy, and good quality, but not really an “audiophile choice”.

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Hedd Audio included cable vs Forza Audioworks Noir HPC.


Build quality and comfort​

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They look intimidating.


Okay, now into the fun part. This thing is absolutely massive, huge, gigantic…and I love it. Yes, you’re gonna look a bit stupid with them on your head (well, at least I do), you’re gonna have some neck pain due to their ridiculous weight (718g), but boy oh boy…those are one rock-solid, tanky pair of headphones.

I find it very interesting that no photo I’ve ever seen (and the ones that I took too) can really show how well these are made. Before receiving them I was sure that they’ll be quite shaky and not really that sturdy, even considering the weight. How wrong was I…

The HEDDphone is superbly well-made, the fit and finish is extraordinary, and they are my first choice to use as a weapon when the zombie apocalypse will surprise me sitting by the desk, no joke. Oh, and I really dig that “raw” polish on the aluminum parts, it looks unfinished at first glance, but the more I look at them, the more cool they appear.

As far as the design goes, they are very professional and industrial looking. While some angles could show them as uninspiring and rather plain looking, the whole construction really screams “pro” and “engineering over design” kind of vibe. I’m a sucker for minimalism and for monochromatic themes (like you couldn’t have guessed by my photos already haha) and I absolutely adore this pair. There’s just something about them that gently screams sexy into my ears.

Now let’s talk about comfort, which probably interests a lot of you. Yes, the HEDDphone is comfortable, but not for long. The clamping force, plush pads and pleasant alcantara on the headband all make for a snug yet comfortable and “right” wearing, but the weight won’t let you wear them for too long, especially early on. You will get used to it just as I did after few weeks, but they will never be HD800 or Ananda/Arya/HE1000 kind of comfortable, no way. Don’t worry though, you’ll manage…it’s not like you won’t be able to use them for more than an hour and trust me, you’ll want to.

Tech​

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Full-range AMT driver – never been done in a headphone before.


I mentioned the importance of the AMT driver used in these, so let’s specify a little bit what it’s all about.
See, AMT is not really a new technology when we speak about headphones, as oBravo has been using them as a tweeter for quite some time now. It has never been done as a full-range headphone driver though, so it’s basically the first headphone of its kind.

What’s AMT you’d ask? Let me quote Hedd Audio itself: “The Air Motion Transformer (AMT) is an electrodynamic transducer that allows moving air significantly faster than common voice coil, planar, or electrostatic systems. Their traditional piston-like movement is overcome by a folded diaphragm that squeezes out air four times faster: A breakthrough for capturing more details in a musical recording.”

What does it all mean in terms of sound performance? Well…let’s get straight into it.

Sound​

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They do sound as they look – big.


The HEDDphone has been around for a while now, so you’ve probably seen numerous reviews that rate them as one of the best headphones on the market regardless of the price. I’m happy to report that all of them are hundred percent right.

The bass is tight, extremely agile and full of detail. The tonality reminds me somehow of a combination between electrostatic and dynamic driver, not reaching the top level of any, but still having benefits of both. It is as fast, as precise and controlled as some electrostatic competitors, but at the same time, its physicality and impact is more reminiscent of a good dynamic driver in terms of the low frequencies.
While it may not be on the same level as Stax 009s in terms of speed, nor as strong and impactful as the best dynamic headphones out there, it accomplishes a performance that is simply “the best of both worlds”, while maintaining to sound neutral and natural.
Don’t expect a superbly hard-kicking bass though, as the Audeze LCD3 and the Hifiman HE1000se both have more slam. Nonetheless, the HEDDphone’s performance is closer to that of Hifiman here, as its resolution and pace outplay LCD3 quite significantly.
While the “Random Access Memories” by Daft Punk is an absolute treat to listen to with the HEDDphone in general, its bass performance shines the brightest here. Just play the song called “Giorgio by Moroder” and get lost in that fast, rich and physical bass that is simply addictive.
The bass response might not be ground-breaking or class-leading in any way, but that’s probably its biggest strength. At the end of the day, the HEDDphone has a studio heritage, and it’s supposed to sound right, neutral and correct while maintaining its fun factor. It’s one of the best low frequencies in the price range for sure, but it’s not the star of the show.
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Fun provider.



The midrange achieves something quite unusual, which I absolutely love – it’s rather dark and absolutely filled with detail at the same time. Its tonality is shifted towards the lower-mid section, which gives vocals that additional body that’s loved by many.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m a sucker for a thick, moist midrange performance and that’s what I found in the HEDDphone – lushness, warmth and body to die for.
I have some favorite male vocals that I use for testing every single device with, one of them being SYML. While his voice might not be the hardest to recreate, he can sound absolutely delightful with properly tuned gear, and he does so with the HEDDphone.
If I’d had to use one word to describe the midrange, it would be “romantic”. It’s very, very slightly veiled timbre combined with richness and sweetness make for one of the most melodic sounding headphones I’ve ever listened to.
All of the above doesn’t mean that the HEDDphone is dull or it lacks details, not even a bit. The resolution is spot-on throughout the whole mid section, with the upper-midrange being slightly recessed. It doesn’t hide any details though, as this AMT driver moves a lot of air that is filled with details. Listening to The Alan Parsons Project shows what these headphones are all about – retaining a neutral and accurate sound performance with a touch musicality added on top, which doesn’t dominate the whole image.

The treble is the most impressive aspect of the HEDDphone. While I said that the bass is a combination of electrostatic and dynamic drivers pros, I also stated that it isn’t really on the top level of either. It’s different with the high-end, as it’s as fast and detailed as the top electrostatic headphones on the market, but at the same time, it has that timbre and note weight of the best dynamic headphones out there.
I’d even go as far as calling the treble almost perfect. You’re getting details and air for life, but at the same time it would absolutely never be tiring or overexposed. Recently I’ve built a stereo setup that uses the Rockport Atria speakers and the Accuphase E-800 as the amp, and its treble performance really reminds me of the one found in the HEDDphone. The amount of details combined with such ease proves why this is genuinely a Summit-Fi pair of headphones. You’re never going to hear that they’re pushing more than they are capable of. What’s the most impressive though, as many superbly-detailed headphones tend to struggle with badly mastered albums, the HEDDphone is actually quite forgiving for those.
I recently rewatched all of the live performances of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest (yea, I know), and you probably know how bad it is in terms of audio quality. While listening to those on my HE1000se was quite unpleasant, the HEDDphone came in and saved the day.
Also, my number one track for testing the cymbals is Tool – Invincible from their latest album called Fear Inoculum. All I got was an extended, airy and razor-sharp sound with proper weight and thickness. I’m super picky when it comes to thin-sounding cymbals, and the HEDDphone proved that its treble performance is simply spectacular.

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Built like a tank.



Now onto the soundstage. Its width is good, but not even close to the HE1000se level. If you’re a fan of a very wide stage, the HEDDphone isn’t actually that impressive in this regard. Don’t worry though, as when you’ll hear their depth, you’re most probably going to be left speechless. This is easily on par with the best headphones in the world currently. But wait, it doesn’t end there. Let’s get back to the Eurovision, as after switching the HE1000se to the HEDDphone gave me something that I really wasn’t expecting, which is the ease of projecting the sounds outside of your head.

What happened was that I instantly started to hear the audience differently. Except of it being the part of the whole sound bubble, the clapping started coming from around me. The HEDDphone really shines when it comes to live performances, recreating the feeling of big venues in full swing. The imaging is also great, you’re gonna be able to easily pinpoint the location of every instrument. While the overall size of the soundstage and its accuracy is even slightly better in the HE1000se, the HEDDphone leaves the Audeze LCD3 and Hifiman Ananda behind by quite a lot.

Comparisons​

VS Hifiman HE1000se
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Hifiman HE1000se


While it might seem unfair to compare these two, as the Hifiman is almost double the price of the HEDDphone, it also proves how good the latter is.
Yes, the HE1000se is more detailed, more natural, transparent and even faster than the HEDDphone, but it’s less musical and fun. Nonetheless, it’s actually supposed to be this way. The 1000se is the second most detailed pair of headphones ever made, falling short only to the Susvara, and it’s actually a close call.
The bass is deeper and more physical in the 1000se, and its midrange is more forward and clean sounding. Overall, the tuning of the Hifiman is more neutral and uncolored, but thanks to that it’s way less forgiving to poor mastering. The HEDD on the other hand is more distorted (but mainly in a good way), it has a better sense of the sounds coming from around your head, and its treble performance is just as impressive as the one found in the 1000se. The Hifiman HE1000se is a better headphone, more detailed and its tuning is just extraordinary, but when it comes to sounding fun and enjoyable, the HEDDphone is just as good, even though the difference in price is significant.


VS Audeze LCD3


Audeze LCD3

Audeze LCD3 has been a very popular choice throughout the years now, but its age has started to show as never before recently. It’s priced on the same level to the HEDDphone, but in terms of raw sound performance, it falls short. Yes, you’re still getting that gorgeous build quality and great comfort (even though they are quite heavy as well). Also, LCD3 is one of the best looking headphones ever made period. But in terms of the staging, treble performance, detail and resolution, the HEDDphone is in its own league when comparing these two. Actually, the latter sound like a refined LCD3 with less emphasis on the bass response, but it also offers fatigue-free and enjoyable listening experience. The biggest difference is in detail retrieval and in staging capabilities, both of which are performed much better on the HEDDphone. It’s actually closer to the LCD4 when it comes to raw audio performance, which is very impressive. Audeze LCD3 has had a long, successful run in the headphone market, but the HEDDphone is a natural continuation of its philosophy but better executed.


VS Hifiman Ananda
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Hifiman Ananda


If you’ve read our review of the Ananda (here) then you already know, that we called it the (probably) best headphone in the $1000 market. Even though the HEDDphone is more than double the price, it really shows. Not only the build quality is more premium and original, its audio performance is just in a different league. While the Ananda is a very, very neutral and technically-capable pair of headphones, the HEDDphone adds that natural warmth and smoothness, as well as having a more three-dimensional soundstage, without sacrificing any of the raw technicalities. Actually, it is even so slightly more detailed and definitely more refined sounding, offering a more universal and safe listening experience. You won’t have to worry about the mastering when you’ll be choosing the album to listen to. The Ananda is way more comfortable in the long run though, but the added weight on the HEDDphone won’t stop you from using them more than the Hifiman. Simply put – you’re getting what you’re paying for. It is way more expensive and simply better, but it’s actually impressive that the Ananda stood this battle quite well. The latter actually offers better value, but high-end audio isn’t really about that, so I’d say that it’s worth paying extra for the HEDDphone. You’re not getting a 3x better-sounding headphone, but it’s better enough to justify it.

VS Unique Melody MEST
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Unique Melody MEST


Well, you probably didn’t see that coming, but there’s a reason why I included a comparison between the MEST as well. Let me put it straight – the HEDDphone actually reminds me of the MEST in many ways. It’s a Summit-Fi bargain, offering an excellent and rich tone, fantastic soundstage and it’s just a joy to listen to. The lightning-fast treble performance, natural voicing and imaging that comes way out of your head are present in both MEST and the HEDDphone. At the end of the day, both of them offer an excellent value in the High-End market and you simply can’t go wrong picking one up.

Summary​

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Stunning.


The HEDD Audio HEDDphone is a dream debut to the headphone market by this German manufacturer. Revolutionary, well-made, great-looking, and sounding way above its price range. This is the new “best value” high-end headphones in the market, and it’ll make you listen to your favorite albums with joy.

Highly recommended.



Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
  • Headphones – Hifiman HE1000se, Hifiman HE400i 2020, Hifiman Deva, AKG K501, Audeze LCD3, Focal Clear, Little Dot GYFU, Hifiman Ananda, Unique Melody MEST, Fir Audio M5 custom
  • Sources– Cayin N3Pro, JDSLabs Atom stack, SMSL SU-9 + SH-9, Feliks Audio Echo MK II, Little Dot MK III SE, Luxman 1040, Ayon HA-3 II
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gLer

Headphoneus Supremus
HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
Pros: World-class detail retrieval.
Natural, deep stage and ink-black background.
Super fast but not overly analytical.
Lifelike, immersive sound.
Cons: Heavy.
Needs powerful amplification to shine.
Heavy.
Did I mention heavy?
The HEDDphone was tested and reviewed at the premises of newly-launched South African online Head-Fi company, Lumous Audio. I was not incentivised to write this review, and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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Introduction

I’ve been wandering around the cavernous headphone rabbit hole for more than four years now, experiencing many of the fascinating creations it has to offer, to the point where there’s little that genuinely surprises me now when I listen to it.

That changed recently when I finally got to hear for myself one of the most talked about headphones in recent history, the HEDDphone. Simply named after its founding company, Berlin-based Heinz Electrodynamic Design (HEDD), the HEDDphone is the world’s first headphone to feature a full-range AMT (Air Motion Transformer) driver, an audio transducer technology invented by Oskar Heil and perfected by German physicist Klaus Heinz (yes, the self-same Heinz in HEDD).

Without getting into details that are probably better covered elsewhere, AMT technology is not new, and in fact has been used in speakers and some headphones for years. Until the HEDDphone, however, AMT was primarily used for tweeter designs, popularised by the famous ribbon tweeters in Adam Audio studio monitors.

As a tweeter technology, AMT’s claim to fame is speed and precision. Made from an ultra-thin mylar ribbon and suspended between two dipole magnets, the drivers have a surface area up to 80% larger yet significantly lighter than traditional dynamic driver speaker designs, and so can move air much quicker when activated by an electrical signal.

HEDD uses what it calls VVT (Variable Velocity Transform) technology to vary the depth and geometry of the driver, thus expanding the narrower frequency range of AMT tweeters to produce full range (10Hz – 40kHz) sound.

For every clever technology, however, there’s always a downside. In the case of HEDD’s full-range drivers, the downside is size – and weight. Each driver is hand-assembled and placed into a protective box made of (what appears to be) stainless steel, not only to protect the sensitive diaphragm, but also allow for the correct sizing needed to produce the desired sound quality in headphone format.

The driver canisters are then suspended inside the solidly-built leather-padded metal shell of the HEDDphone, resulting in what has to be one of the largest and heaviest headphones on the market today. It’s worth watching this video to get a good idea of what the process entails (trust me, it’s fascinating).

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This is not a headphone for sissies; a few gym sessions and some serious neck muscle toning is strongly advised prior to tackling this beast. Jokes aside, the HEDDphone has actually been very cleverly designed to balance most of the weight strategically around head and shoulders. The thickly-padded headband is kinked right in the middle, preventing the painful hotspots typically associated with heavier headphones like Audeze’s LCD series (although that problem has since been alleviated with Audeze’s new suspension strap design).

A suspension strap would actually be a useful add-on to the HEDDphone, and I’ve already seen photos of users retrofitting their own straps to help lighten the load. Most of the weight, however, is literally cushioned by the giant pads that not only serve to soften the clamp of the headphone against your face, but also distance your ears from the gravitational pull of the giant magnets inside each of the cups (that last part about the magnet isn’t strictly true of course, but it was fun to write anyway).

Truth be told, I had a harder time wearing an unsuspended LCD-3, and even a Focal Elear, than I did with the HEDDphone. Make no mistake, this is not a portable headphone, and I wouldn’t even suggest walking around with it. But lying back in a comfortable recliner, you’ll soon forget you’re wearing helmet-sized headgear, and just get on with the business of loving your music.

I’ll link to other reviews at the end of this article that dive deeper into the packaging and unboxing experience, in case any of that interests you. If, like me, you’re more interested in what the HEDDphone can do, and how it compares to other headphones in and around its not-unsubstantial price point, read on.

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Sound impressions

Let me not keep you in suspense through the next thousand words of flowery sound descriptions: simply put, the HEDDphone is the single best headphone experience I’ve had in all my time using, testing and reviewing headphones. It conveys music in such a powerful, immediate yet delicate and refined way, that it’s as close to a full-size high-end speaker setup I’ve heard without using actual speakers.

I tested the HEDDphone using a wide variety of tracks from my playlist, from my staple female singer-songwrites, to modern and classic pop, jazz, classical, EDM, and some light rock. If you want impressions of what it sounds like with heavier stuff than, say, Def Leppard, I’m the wrong guy to ask, but I can only assume that its mastery over just about everything else I threw at it bodes well for a clean sweep of genres.

Tonally the HEDDphone is all about clarity. The first thing I noticed is how crystal clear every nuance of sound seemed to be, emanating from an ink black background and an almost infinitely deep stage. This is probably unsurprising given that AMT drivers are best known for their ultracrisp treble quality, but even so, the clarity, air and sheer detail delivery was surprising.

As a big fan of the HD800 I’ve heard my fair share of bright-leaning treble, but here was something different. It had brightness, yes, but it was brightness without hardness, so the details, while there, were never forced on me.

Listening to Gheorghe Zamfir’s The Lonely Shepherd, I could almost hear the air moving up from his lungs into the panpipes. The subtle guitars in left channel were so clear, so perfectly separated from the pipes, I could almost see them being plucked. Delicate sounds were being played on different layers and levels, an impossible feat without impeccable lower and upper treble control and definition.

The HEDDphone’s treble response was also my first clue that, great as it can be, it very much depends on proper amplification. Whereas the piano in the intro to Daft Punk’s Within was very tight, it was also brighter and thinner in tone before I switched over from a built-in headphone amplifier to a dedicated high-powered amp. Only then did this track go from clinical and edgy to a more refined presentation.

The same can be said of HEDDphone’s bass response. Whereas I initially felt the bass was slightly lacking on some of my tracks – the kick drums in Brandi Carlile’s masterful The Story didn’t have quite the kick I know them to have – I later discovered that amplification quality is crucial if you expect the HEDDphone to perform at its peak.

Once properly amped, the bass hits hard and true, and although I wouldn’t rec the HEDDphone to bassheads, there was more than enough quantity for this reformed basshead, and the quality was nothing short of sublime. I was even greeted with impressive sub bass rumble in the intro to Dirk Elhert’s Elements, and the kick drums to Def Leppard’s Love Bites had a punch I could feel in my cheeks, not something I’ve heard too often with open-back headphones.

Compared to Meze’s Empyrean, a hybrid planar flagship headphone that retails for a solid $1000 more than the HEDDphone, the bass is more linear, digging deeper into the sub bass without any bloating in the midbass. It’s perhaps not quite as aggressive and sustained as the brilliant bass response of Audeze’s LCD-3, but is tighter and more detailed, and notably faster to my ears.

Both Empyrean and LCD-3 tend to favour a warmer tonality, the Empyrean even more so with its bloomy midbass that veils over the fundamentals of the midrange, and while the HEDDphone isn’t strictly neutral, it’s definitely closer to a reference bass tuning than its more coloured compatriots.

Speaking of midrange, this was perhaps the star of the show for me as far as tonality is concerned. Almost every other headphone I listened to alongside the HEDDphone emphasised one or other frequency over the others, to the point of distraction. The Empyrean’s midbass and slightly rolled treble, the LCD-3’s dominant sub-bass and smoothed over upper registers, and the HD800’s aggressive treble and rolled off bass come to mind.

With the HEDDphone I didn’t feel it compromised in any one area, and whereas the midrange of the three other headphones was almost an afterthought, on the HEDDphone it was front and centre, neither recessed or too forward, and perfectly balanced with the extremities.

Vocals and instrument fundamentals were particularly natural and lifelike, not quite organic – as that would suggest a warmer tilt – but far from thin or analytical. Imogen Heap’s vocals in the spritely track Between Sheets are sweet, clean, sibilance free and ultra-realistic. I could hear every inflection in her voice, while the sense of stage and separation from the instruments allowed me to almost walk around the song (yet also sit back and take it all in).

Holly Throsby’s sweet vocals in What Do You Say played off perfectly with Mark Kozelek’s warm, reassuring baritone on the same track, resulting in an incredibly palpable presentation that felt as if there was nothing between the singers and my ears. Switching pace, the vocal trance of Fragma’s You Are Alive was smooth and absolutely sibilant free, nicely separated from the effects dancing around the vocals, with echoes and reverbs creating a massive sense of space.

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Technically the HEDDphone is easily at flagship level, and I’ll go as far as say this is a new standard for headphones in this price range. Neither the LCD-3, at around the same price point, or the Empyrean costing significantly more, can compete with the HEDDphone for sheer technical acuity. The only headphone I’ve heard that goes toe-to-toe technically is the HD800, although I much prefer the HEDDphone’s tonality to the HD800 (sans SDR and EQ).

Stage in a headphone is a controversial topic, especially compared to live sound and speakers, but the HEDDphone presents one of the biggest stages I’ve heard in a headphone to date. It’s not quite as wide as the HD800, but significantly deeper and taller, and gives a better sense of size to the music.

Made in Heights’ Hors D’Oeuvre is a track I often use to test space, and indeed I heard sounds appearing out of a jet-black background that gave this track a natural sense of space, with endless decays. Lily Kershaw’s Always and Forever was more spacious yet also more cohesive than I’d heard it before, with minutae details floating around the 3D space created by the HEDDphone.

This track also exemplifies the inch-perfect imaging this headphone is capable of, so when Lily’s vocals split into three at the two-minute mark, I could almost see where each ‘voice’ was standing in the space relative to the centre image.

But of all the technical highlights, detail retrieval has to be the most impressive trait of this headphone. Every single subtle sound can be heard exactly where it’s been placed in the mix, and throughout my audition I never stopped delighting at how the details seemed to appear so vividly, as if from nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

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Considerations

Be warned, all this quality doesn’t come cheap, and doesn’t come easy. I already mentioned how heavy the monstrous frame of the HEDDphone can feel on your head, and this bears repeating. You’ll want a quiet, comfortable, well supported place to rest your body and head before embarking on a proper listening session.

You’ll also need power – and plenty of it – to drive the HEDDphone to its full potential. Voltage isn’t really an issue, and it’s not difficult to get the HEDDphone to loud enough volume levels. But without enough juice, enough current, you’re going to hear a steep dropoff in dynamic range, and wonder where all the sub bass has suddenly disappeared.

This is not a headphone you’re going to be happy connecting to a basic portable source – definitely not a phone, and not a midrange DAP either. You’ll want something with muscle, like a HiBy R8 or iBasso DX300, or better yet a powerful portable amp like Cayin’s C9, if you’re even thinking of taking this headphone off the desktop.

As for desktop power, only when I had the HEDDphone connected to an Eddie Current Black Widow did I get a proper understanding of what this headphone can do, technically and tonally (and if anyone knows the story of this rare and unique solid state amp you’ll know how special it sounds). That’s not to say you have to splash the same money on amping the HEDDphone as the headphone itself, but doing so will give you a far better return on your investment.

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Closing thoughts

Listening to HEDDphone was a wild ride for me, especially since I’ve switched my listening almost entirely away from full size desktop headphones to IEMs. It was a reacquaintance of sorts with the type of sound that set me on my head-fi journey more than four years ago, and in many ways, is a reaffirmation of just how incredibly rewarding the sound of a truly great headphone can be.

For all its wizardry and world-first technology, the HEDDphone at its core is all about recreating music exactly as it was recorded, with very little in the way of ‘gear’ in the way. It’s not a headphone that sets out to colour the music, or to wow you with unconventional staging, gratuitous bass or scalpel-like detail. It hits the highest possible level of fidelity almost from the off, and then maintains it throughout your listen, track after track.

Even though I consider the HEDDphone to be close to a so-called ‘reference’ tuning, it still maintains a sense of musicality that’s fun to listen to and is about as far from dry or clinical as you can get in this hobby. Yes, it asks for some skin (or rather, muscle) in return, and demands as much power as your wallet can muster, but it will reward you handsomely if you give it what it wants.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this: the HEDDphone is a headphone for the headphone connoisseur. It sacrifices some of the comfort of an Empyrean, the brute strength of an LCD-3, and the clinical precision of an HD800 to create a sound as close as possible to life itself. It gives you everything without forcing anything, and in doing so, allows you to lose yourself in the music in the best possible way.

Without question the HEDDphone gets my highest recommendation, and represents the best value of any high-end headphone I have personally has the pleasure of hearing.

The HEDDphone is available in South Africa from Lumous Audio. More information available here.

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Further reading

This review didn’t cover several aspects that some of you may be interested in, like packaging, accessories and comparisons to different headphones. Feel free to peruse some of the other excellent reviews of this headphone available online, including:

Headfonics
Headfonia
Headphones.com
Headphone Check
branislav
branislav
At gLer...thank you. Supposedly second version has a revised headband so possibly less clamping force. How is the comfort when not sitting but actually laying down on a pillow? Do they stay on the head? Thank you
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gLer
gLer
Can't say I tired it lying down on a pillow but sitting back in a recliner it's not really a problem. In fact if you're lying or sitting back and not moving around, it's very comfortable. I didn't find the clamp force a problem at all and the pads are like pillows.
Dixter
Dixter
For a more portable solution I tried the Hedd with the ifi Diablo and the idsd Black and they sounded very very good... I did not have a balanced cable for the Hedd but feel it would have benefited even more with double the power out from the Diablo...
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DeweyCH

500+ Head-Fier
HEDDphone - Heavy bass, heavy weight, extremely fast
Pros: Speed, bass (there's a lot of it, and it's very high quality), excellent detail retrieval, good soundstage with proper amplification, really well-built, nice cables
Cons: Freaking heavy, gets uncomfortable fast, very hard to drive
Hi all, so here's my first-ever Head-Fi review, the HEDDphone. Huge thanks to @Todd at TTVJ for the loaner program, and my review is my own opinion, not colored or influenced by anyone. A word of warning: I am not in any way, shape or form a great reviewer. I'll do my best to describe what I hear, what I like, and what I dislike, but think of me more as a Yelp reviewer rather than some of the other reviewers who really can talk the talk and walk the walk.

Anyways. I've been listening to the HEDDphone for several hours, and wanted to give my initial thoughts.

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The HEDDphone is by far and away the most expensive set of headphones I've ever listened to - at least until my Verites arrive - and it's probably worth the price ($1899). This is a difficult-to-drive, heavy set of cans that would never even consider leaving the house with you, except possibly as something to bludgeon would-be muggers to death with.

For my testing, I listened to two amps - a Monoprice Monolith THX 887 (single-ended output) and a modified Darkvoice (shunt mod, Alps 50k pot, Russian-made Tung-Sol 6SN7GTB and a 1951-ish RCA 6AS7G power tube). The amps were fed by a SMSL SU-8 DAC playing Apple Music from my PC. The songs I chose to use were:

- Dire Straits - Money for Nothing
- Eagles - Hotel California (Live)
- Gipsy Kings - Bamboleo
- Miles Davis - So What
- Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way, The Chain, You Make Loving Fun
- Sia, Miguel and Queen Latifah - Satisfied
- Leslie Odom, Jr., and Lin-Manuel Miranda - The World Was Wide Enough
- Wynton Marsalis - Variations Sur "Le Carnival de Venise"
- Yo-Yo Ma - Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major - Prelude

Packaging:

If you care about the packaging, here it is:
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Please note that I'm, I believe, the last person on the loaner program, so while this is likely indicative of the standard packaging, it's also been repacked several times by several people.

In all, the packaging is fine. Box is massive. Like, maaaaaaaaaassive. Inside you've got the headphones themselves and a 1/4" terminating cable with HEDD's proprietary connectors on the cup side.

It's a very nice cable, and the connectors are simply fantastic.

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Build:

Like a tank. This is a set of cans that has materials to back up its price point, no question. Once again, like the box, these things are maaaaaaaaaaassive. Check it out (AKG K240 Monitors for scale):

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Pads are super thick and cushy, very comfortable, and the adjustment dealie seems solidly built. Reminiscent of Sundara's adjusters (except with a nice swivel mechanism).

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Comfort:

Ugh. At first, no problem - the pads are supremely comfortable, really deep and cushy, and the headband is nicely padded. After half an hour though, the sheer weight of these and clamping force got to be too much. I developed a pain on the top of my head, where the weight was not distributed well, and my face started to feel like someone was attempting to extract juice from it.

I'm used to wearing headphones like Sundaras, E-MU Teaks and Beyerdynamic T1s so I don't really have a lot of experience with heavy headphones, but this experience did not make me regret that lack of experience whatsoever. Can wear 'em for maybe an hour, tops. Might I get used to them over time and with some finagling? Sure, maybe. But I'm not really inclined to try. I don't need a Christmas migraine. Switching from the HEDDphone to Sundaras was like Goku taking off his weighted training gear - I felt like I could fly and perhaps throw fireballs.

Listening experience:

I'm loath to try to break this into subbass/mid-bass/mids/treble etc., because I don't really know how to compile all of that, so I'll just share my listening impressions by song. Please note that this is mostly stream-of-consciousness typed as I listened.

General Listening Thoughts:

I hate whatever the little film is between the pads and drivers. I can hear it crinkle, like there's wax paper back there. Mostly noticeable if you push on the outside of the cans while wearing them, as your ears will push into the cloth at the center and crinkle the wax paper or whatever it is, but I found that it would make noise just when I moved my head around sometimes. I have to imagine this is removable, but these aren't mine and I ain't modding them.

There's no isolation, which, they're fully open-back headphones, what did you expect?

They need SERIOUS POWER to drive. They're low impedance (42 ohm) but very low sensitivity (87dB/1mW). To get to full listening volume, I had to bump the SE output on my THX 887 to the highest gain level and crank the volume to like 1 o'clock. Similarly, on the Darkvoice (I know, they're low-impedance, they're not supposed to be friendly with OTL tube amps), I had to put volume up to 100%. This is in large part because I just yesterday finished modding the Darkvoice, with a 50k Alps pot and 47k resistors between the inputs and the pot, but still... damn.

They do sound really, really nice, though. Some of the high points for me:
  • Bass bass bass
  • Speed speed speed
  • Details with a capital "D"
  • Male vocals are in-your-face and sound like the singer is right up in your grill
  • Sub-bass is holy wow
  • Acoustic instruments are nearly perfectly represented and have beautiful timbre
Song-by-song breakdown:

Dire Straits - Money for Nothing

THX:

Slow opening of low organ sounds really meaty, syrupy almost. Very clear, can hear the keyboards very well, very clearly. Drum solo seems recessed. Guitar solo as well. Bass is crunchy, very present, very clear. Vocals very forward, sounds like Knopfler is standing right in front of me. Rhythm guitar fades into the background, drum fills still seem recessed a bit. All vocals sound great and extremely present, Knopfler and backup vocals all together.

Note on the drums: snares are good and there, it’s the toms that seem muted (mid-bass).

Whole experience is very, very, very technically good. Very fast, fast decay

Darkvoice:

Takes full power (with my shunt mods). Seems to have less of the deep organ. These things want power. Toms have more life to them, better mid-bass, and the guitars are waaaaaay better. Intro solo is sickening. Bass kicks in with great clarity and amount. Vocals still great, seems like instruments are less recessed. Better overall balance. Seems to have a bit less clarity, but still extremely clear.

Eagles - Hotel California (Live)

THX:

Hear the fingers sliding on the guitar in the intro. Guitars have great timbre. Kick drum is very powerful, bongos not so much. They’re clean, but a bit recessed. The guitar solos are perfect. I can hear the different strings being used. Amazing bass. Not sure I’m getting any sort of soundstage. When the crowd breaks into applause it feels like I’m listening to them, not among them. But holy hell the bass. Seems like the acoustic guitars are significantly better represented than Knopfler’s electric guitars. Frey’s vocals are really in-your-face. Backup vocals too. Instrument separation is OK - I can hear them all distinctly and clearly, but they don’t seem to be separated in the soundstage.

Closing solo sounds like these headphones were made for it. All the harmonies, all the overlapping guitars, all of them acoustic, it’s super realistic. Feels like I’m in a small basement venue listening to these guys jam.

Darkvoice:

Seems to be missing a bit of the natural acoustic timbre, but the soundstage is opened up a ton. Drums and maracas sound very real. Intro solo is stronger, intro backing guitars less so. I feel like I’m in the crowd more than I did through the SS amp. Every guitar sounds good, but plucked has a better sound than strummed. There’s a bit more muddiness between overlapping instruments and vocals. Vocals less forward, just as natural.

Gipsy Kings - Bamboleo

THX:

This is a great match for these. All the folk instruments sound very well-defined, well-mixed. Male vocals remain really forward in a good way, the sharp strikes on the toms (higher than the tom drum fills in MFN) really cut through, and the maracas are great. I’m hearing guitar riffs I don’t think I’ve ever noticed in this song.

If I were listening to more Latin music or classical guitar, these headphones would be perfect. The castanets (clapping?) are a bit peaky and kind of hard to listen to.

Went into Djobi Djoba (next song, just from autoplay), and the guitars are again perfect, but the bass (sounds like striking of a stand-up bass) is weird and off-putting. Plenty of sub-bass, no bloom, just this particular technique seems almost to confuse the drivers here. The “Bwooooow” of the bass during the refrain sounds fabulous, and again I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that quite this way before.

Darkvoice:

Bamboleo starts off sounding a little like it’s being played on vinyl. Still sounds excellent, but not as crisp and clear and natural as through the SS. Would be interesting to roll tubes with these to see if I can get closer to the clarity of the SS with the tonality and balance of the DV. Djobi Djoba is similarly still good, but not as good. The weird bass thing in the beginning is still weird but dialed back so it’s less jarring.

Miles Davis - So What

THX:

Intimate. Really nice presentation of the bass/piano intro, and I’ve never heard a stand-up bass expressed quite so realistically.

Horns come in and I can hear the breathiness of Coltrane’s sax. It’s transcendent. The cymbal is great. And Miles sounds excellent, if a bit overshadowed by the rest of his band. Usually when I listen to this album, it’s Miles Davis and his band. With these, it’s the Miles Davis band. If that makes sense.

Darkvoice:

Bass is lacking, which is a shame because it was so good through the THX. Still clear, just less present. Not getting the natural breathiness of the saxophones, either. But, again, the soundstage is much expanded. It sounds like Miles and his band are spread out on a small-ish stage rather than being clustered together on a tiny stage.

Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way

THX:

Guitar riffs seem more forward than they were on Brothers In Arms, but the bass seems recessed and a little muddy. Vocals are amazing. The bright steel-string rhythm guitar is almost featured, and sounds good. It’s ahead of the distorted lead riffs. Bass is good, just not like it was in other songs. Not sure if it’s the mixing of the album, but during solos it seems like the lead guitar is backing up the rhythm guitar, almost like they set it up that the solos are more like Keith Richards-esque riffs that play along with the rest of the band instead of a traditional solo that grabs the attention.

Darkvoice:

OK, wow. This is synergy. Perfect balance between vocals, lead and rhythm guitars, bass is a little lacking but there and clear, and the drums sound fabulous. Definitely more separation.

Fleetwood Mac - The Chain

THX:

Intro kick drum is awesome, as is the intro guitar. Clean, good balance between the electric and acoustic. Voices sound good but maybe a little on top of each other. I’m still not really hearing any soundstage. In the bridge, these do a really great job of delivering the tension of the bass solo with the snare and guitar coming in from quiet to aggressive.

Darkvoice:

You can hear the little rustling before the song starts better, which I appreciate. Strong plucking/buzzing strings in the solo, keyboard sounds very nice. Better balanced vocals, better separated vocals. Bass comes in with a vengeance, almost overwhelming everything else, despite the bass drum being kinda lacking, but in a very good way. Like a top-tier bass cannon experience rather than a Beats bass howitzer experience.

Fleetwood Mac - You Make Loving Fun

THX:

Female vocals seem not to hold up to male vocals. Christine McVie seems to lack sparkle and maybe clarity in her lead vocals.

Darkvoice:

Man, the intro bass line is fun in this. And McVie sounds a lot better.

Sia, Miguel and Queen Latifah - Satisfied

THX:


Wanted to hear something else with a female lead. Sia sounds much more forward than McVie did, but she’s still a little… mushy. Veiled perhaps. The hip-hop effects (looping of voices) really work great here, maybe because the decay is fast and gives you that tangible break between lines. I remain disappointed in how these convey female vocals. Miguel sounds great.

The rap section with Queen Latifah is spectacular. She’s got this cadence that the HEDDphones love, and the backing bass is perfectly balanced and punchy.

Darkvoice:

There’s Sia. Much better, and the female backing vocals are really fantastic, particularly in the introduction. I think it’s missing the speed from the SS amp, but female vocals are another thing entirely with the DV. Has good bass slam. Very attacking.

Miguel still sounds really good, but either he’s a little muted vs. the THX or it’s just less stark the difference between him and Sia.

Queen Latifah sounds fantastic. Backing bass is a bit muddier; still sounds nice but it was special through the THX and it’s just nice with tubes.

Sia really does sound great with this combo.

Leslie Odom, Jr., Lin-Manuel Miranda - The World Was Wide Enough

THX:

Ticking is weirdly cool. Bass is perfect. Leslie Odom sounds like he’s speaking directly to me from a chair a few feet ahead of me. Really great hi-hat and snare, and the harmonies between Odom and Miranda are well-balanced.

“This man will not make an orphan of my daughter” conveys the heartrending emotion of Burr very well.

Miranda’s soliloquy works really well. Dead silent background until the wind. Really conveys the eeriness. The emotions in his voice are tangible. His last words to Eliza tug the heartstrings more than usual (and I’ve listened to this album a lot).

Cello and piano are amazing, and the bell strike at 4 minutes is clear and striking.

Bass is, as always, really good.

Darkvoice:

Ticking is less sharp. Hi-hat is very nice, just the right amount of attack. Odom sounds wonderful, less like he’s talking to me from right in front and more like he’s off to one side with Miranda off to the other side (right and left respectively). I feel like I’m hearing more of the backing instrumentals, specifically the bells.

Somehow Odom’s voice is more emotional. Raw emotions, all I can think is early Led Zeppelin because they always sounded like they were recording in a garage with all the unvarnished raw power rather than in a studio.

Same with Miranda. Emotional. I can hear facial expressions in his voice. Still great black background between singing and wind blowing.

To get what I’m talking about with the emotions in the vocals, just listen to Odom sing “He aims his pistol at the sky WAIT” (3:05). The kick drum in the last bit of the song really nicely keeps the time and sounds like I’d want it to - can clearly hear the striking of the mallet, but it’s not harsh or overwhelming.

Wynton Marsalis - Variations Sur "Le Carnival de Venise"

THX:

As a trumpeter, this is one of my favorite pieces ever. The whole thing sounds a little recessed, which may be the mix, but it also sounds more like you’re in a grand hall. Still lacking soundstage, like you’re in a grand hall sitting right in front of a three-person orchestra playing a dozen instruments each.

Wynton sounds good. His tone is so clear, and the HEDDphones jive with that nicely. Their speed also really contributes to this album - there’s this part where Wynton plays this crazy fast multi-octave part that should by all accounts be two trumpets (starts at about 6:45), and the HEDDphone keeps up admirably. I’ve been playing since roughly 1988 and to this day have no idea how he can play so fast, across octaves, and so clean.

Percussions sound very veiled, particularly strong cymbal crashes

Darkvoice:

Way less recessed. Really brings out the soundstage, and feels like you’re listening to the Pops in the half-shell. This is almost a perfect synergy between HEDDphone, amp and song. Can clearly hear the bells playing along with the horns, they don’t step on each other’s feet, and you get a lot more of the backing orchestra when Wynton is playing his sections.

And of course, Wynton sounds fabulous. I think there’s less of a sharp end to his notes, but rather than sounding muddy, it sounds natural, like the organic end of airflow through the mouthpiece. At times I think I can hear his lips coming off the mouthpiece at the end of a run of notes. All this without losing the clarity - it’s just, I guess, warmer without sacrificing clarity. Very, very natural sound. I imagine this is what seeing Wynton live is like.

Yo-Yo Ma - Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major - Prelude

THX:

Prelude (Yo Yo Ma) (THX) - Surprisingly recessed. I don’t know if this is simply the byproduct of different recording methods between rock/pop and classical, but I get the impression that this is being recorded on a microphone ten or so feet away from the Yo-dawg. Technical proficiency remains front and center, though.

Darkvoice:

Like Wynton, Yo-Yo Ma sounds significantly more present through the Darkvoice than he does through the THX. Rather than feeling like you’re listening to him play the cello through a microphone positioned away from him, you feel like you’re listening to him play the cello on your couch. Feels like his cello reaches deeper more richly, too. And the stretch from about 1:45-2:00 really takes you on a journey.

Comparisons:

HiFiMan Sundara

Sundara is head and shoulders more comfortable. I don’t know if I could use the HEDDphones all day, but the Sundaras, no problem. I didn’t bother doing the Sundaras with the Darkvoice - planars and OTL amps don’t mix - so all impressions are with the THX.

Sundaras sound good, don’t have the bass quantity of the HEDDphones. Everything just sounds a little bit less. Tuning is interesting; the vocals are less forward, less real. I think the Sundaras are a safer sound, but less compelling.

For pure sound, HEDDphones are really a step above. But I’d probably rather listen to the Sundaras for long periods, because they sound good and are I want to say roughly sixteen pounds lighter. The biggest difference is overall bass - sub-bass and mid-bass both - are lighter and more sterile sounding than the HEDDphone. And the clarity is dialed down just a touch.

Beyerdynamic T1.2


Using this with the Darkvoice to have an OTL to OTL hard-to-drive-off with the HEDDphone. Once again, there’s no comparison comfort-wise - I could wear my Beyers forever. And not just because of weight, but also because they are unlikely to be able to crack a watermelon with their clamping force.

There’s certainly less bass here, but to give you an idea of how hard-to-drive the HEDDphones are, remember how I said I had to max out the volume on my (modded) DV to get a full listening experience? On the Beyers - which, mind you, are 600 ohm cans - I get the same volume at about 11 o’clock (zero for me is at 7 o’clock).

Back to the bass: this is the difference between the two headphones. Both offer tremendous clarity and separation, both have beautiful, lush mids and trebles, and both have extremely clean bass. But the HEDDphone can pull off that rare gut-punch bass that hits hard, clean and satisfying.

The Beyers also have a little more recession in the mids, particularly lead guitar. Lush and nice, but not as forward as the HEDDphone. They also don’t do as well with the natural timbre of acoustic instruments (HEDDphone + SS signal + Hell Freezes Over = beauty), but they do better with the Darkvoice in a lot of ways. Less of a soundstage with tubes than HEDDphone and they can’t match HEDD’s speed.

TL:DR

I'll listen some more while I have these, and make edits as necessary, but that's-a my first headphones review. Gorgeous-sounding cans that I couldn't wear for more than an hour before needing to have my head replaced. Amazing bass, particularly in the sub-bass region, DEFINITELY needs some beefy amplification. I'd be interested to try it with a hybrid amp, since its resistance is too low to really take advantage of an OTL tube amp (at least as far as I understand). But the tubes did open up the soundstage and give me a better overall experience on the classical pieces.

If I hadn't modded the Darkvoice's pre out out of existence I'd try running it as a preamp into the THX, but c'est la vie.

5-point sound, 3-point comfort. I give it a 4.5.
ngoshawk
ngoshawk
That crinkling you hear is actually the thin material driver “flexing,” if that what I heard (and many direct driver’s do that in IEM’s, as well).

One should be somewhat careful, since the HEDD driver material is so thin, but you would be hard pressed to damage it.

Good review, and congrats on your first review!
DeweyCH
DeweyCH
Thanks! Helpful to know what it likely was.

Army-Firedawg

1000+ Head-Fier
A fierce rival to the legendary HD800 S
Pros: Astoundingly realistic and natural sound. Beautiful soundstage. Very accurate imaging. Robust construction. Simplistic Design. Detachable and well shielded, non-proprietary, cables.
Cons: Uncomfortable. Heavy. Very large and might possibly not fit smaller heads.
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This year has been a rather, dry one in terms of product reviews. Thankfully, the few that I’ve been able to participate in have all been some top notch offerings and this new one is no different. With this review specifically, I gotta give a give shoutout and praise of gratitude to @Todd for not only putting together this tour, but allowing me to take part in it. HEDD audios pulls no punches with their entry into the headphone market with their HEDDphone, well, headphone. This behemoth of a product is definitely something that you’re gonna want a comfy sitting chair when listening to. So, how about we actually dive into this meat and potatoes shall we?

A little about me
I would like to say that first and foremost I am NOT an “audiophile” but rather an audio enthusiast. I listen to music to enjoy it. Do I prefer a lossless source? Yes, of course. But I can still be very happy streaming from Pandora or even my YouTube “My Mix” playlist. I also prefer equipment that sounds the best to me personally regardless of what frequency response it has or rather or not it's “sonically accurate” and I always have and shall continue to encourage others to do the same.
I'm a firefighter for both the civilian and military sector and the cliché of wanting to do this since I was born couldn't be more present with me. I've worked hard over the last several years to earn this position and now it's time for me to work even harder to keep it.
I enjoy fishing and relaxing to audio products and then reviewing them to help others decide on what products would work for them. Few things make me as an audio enthusiast/review feel more accomplished than when someone tells me that I helped them find the type of sound they've always been looking for.
Now, the sound signature I personally favor is a relaxing, warm and sensual sound that just drifts me away in the emotional experience of the music being performed. Yes, accuracy is still important but I will happily sacrifice some of that if I'm presented with a clean, warm sound that can wisp me away into an experience that makes me yearn for more.
My ideal signature are that of respectably forward mids and upper bass range with the bass being controlled but with some slight decay. I like my treble to have nice extension and detail reveal with a smooth roll off up top as to not become harsh in the least. Examples of products that have given me chills and keep giving me the yearning for more feels are (in no particular order) Bowers & Wilkins P7, Oppo PM-1/2, Empire Ears Hermes VI & Zeus XIV, Audeze LCD-XC, Meze Headphones 99 Classics.
Equipment used at least some point during the review
-Amp.(s)
-Audio-Technica AT-HA5000
-D.A.C.(s)
-PS Audio DigitalLink 3 w/ Cullen Stage IV Upgrade
-Misc.
-Source Cleaner
-iFi Audio Nano iUSB3.0
Disclaimer
I am by no means sponsored by this company or any of its affiliates. They were kind enough to send me a product for an arranged amount of time in exchange for my honest opinion. I am making no monetary compensation for this review.
The following is my take on the product being reviewed. It is to be taken “with a grain of salt” per say and as I always tell people, it is YOUR opinion that matters. So regardless of my take or view on said product, I highly recommend you listen to it yourself and gauge your own opinion.


The Opening Experience
Why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience
Please allow me to explain why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience with a product. Maybe it’s due to my southern roots in the hills of eastern Kentucky, but I’ve always been raised under the pretense of when you introduce yourself to someone for the first time you present yourself with confidence, class, character, pride, and competence. You greet the other person with a true warm smile, eye contact and a firm handshake. Anything less or short, implies to the other person that you either don’t care about them, are too full of yourself, too busy to be bothered by the likes of them, or worse, just generally disrespectful.
As a consumer, I take this same belief to when I open a new product. Why? Because think about it this way. How else can a company introduce themselves to their customers? How do they present their products? Are they packaged with pride and presented in such a way that makes the listener eager to listen to them? Or maybe they’re just wrapped up and placed in an available space. How about the box itself? Is it bogged down with jargon that says look at this, look what I can do. I’m better than anything on the market and here’s why read this and check out that. Or, is the package clean, simplistic and classy? As if saying to the customer ‘Good day, pleasure to meet your acquaintance. Please give me a listen and allow me to show you what I can do and allow my actions to speak louder than my words.’
This is why I feel so strongly about the initial presentation of a product, and I feel it’s truly a shame more people don’t. But with all that aside, let’s discuss how this product introduced itself shall we?

HEDDphone Unboxing - YouTube


Construction

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The build quality of this monster is, well, that’s actually a pretty good description of it. Monstrous. The HEDDphone is VERY large and equally bulky and stiff. The frame is made from very strong aluminum throughout with the padding being very soft leather. The cups have very minimal up/down and left/right movement as does the adjustment have minimal extension. However, with that last part said, the way these are designed I still believe they’ll fit most people's heads. Though there’s not much adjustment present, each step is very close to the previous one so finding that sweet spot shouldn’t be too hard.
Moving down, you’ve a wonderfully well build DETACHABLE, non proprietary cable that is very well shielded and, throughout my review period, never once have my any feedback or noise from it brushing against my clothes or interference from electronic devices, such as my phone and computer sitting on it as I’m typing this.

Comfort

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When I first unboxed these and put them on my head I thought they were pretty darn comfortable; that was until I actually started wearing them for extended periods of time. The way that the HEDDphone distributes its weight isn’t enough to off put the heaviness of these monsters. At least for me personally, I was having to readjust these about every 20-30 minutes because they started hurting my head, which was the first that I could ever recall for me.I think if there was a little more weight placed on the ears instead of all of it on the head it may have helped it out some.

Sound

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Before I start this section. It should go without saying but though I link YouTube videos when I’m giving examples, this is for convenience only. If applicable, I HIGHLY encourage you to listen to the music I’m referencing on as high a quality as possible to experience the fullest sound possible.

From the second I hit play on my first track a smile immediately hit my face. I’m about to say a very controversial statement but it’s the first thing that came to mind and a statement that remained throughout the entirety of my time with them. These are a direct upgrade, in my personal opinion, to the Sennheiser HD800S. To my ears, the realism of the sound, the airyness between the artists and instruments and the sheer imaging that the HEDDphone produces is something that I feel is better than the previous king. Yes, the soundstage on the 800S is still unrivaled but the actual realistic soundstage and depth that comes from the HEDDphone is just something I really can’t portray without putting these bricks on your head and letting you experience them. Also, like the 800S, these are a very neutral and analytical headphone that prioritizes detail reproduction and retrieval over all else. Though I’ll get into more detail in the following subsections, these are what I would call a traditional/stereotypical “audiophile” headphone. And a darned pinnacle one at that.

Treble

The highs on the HEDDphone are something reminiscent of a starry sky in the plains of Africa; clean, beautiful and unhindered by fog and veil. As I’m typing this, I’m listening to “O Come, O come, Emmanuel” by The Piano Guys and, well, first the separation is incredible. Yes, it’s only 2 instruments but you can very easily discern the Cello and Piano from one another and they each have their own space on the soundstage. Additionally, even during the peak notes, nothing becomes painful. Each note is soft yet full of energy, even in pieces like “The Storm” by Yanni, the Harp, Violin, Trumpet, everything is in its own place and never extends to a painful degree. I really can’t remark any negatives about the HEDDphone’s treble. My goodness is it beautiful.

Mids

The mids, as I’m sure is no secret to anywho follows me, are my favorite area of music. To me, this is where true emotion and the “soul” of the music is found. When a headphone subdues the artist's voice in favor of other, more “fun,” aspects I believe you take away the emotion the artist is trying to convey in their piece. Earlier I mentioned that these headphones immediately put a smile on my face, and with songs like “Some Kind of Beautiful” by Tyler Ward is a perfect example. Upbeat and happy and just hits you in the happy place (especially if you watch the AMV linked). Or, if you’re in a more down mood, “Hurt” by Johnny Cash or “Muddy Water” by Trace Adkins equally showcase the ability the HEDDphone has to produce true emotion in music. There’s so much body present that, especially vocalists such as Trace Adkins, really sound like you’re being sung to. If you’re listening to songs like “S.O.B.” by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats, the clapping and hitting of the table, you can really hear that “fleshy” sound.
Now, unlike that of my beloved Oppo PM-1’s that’s where the HEDDphone ends, which objectively speaking is perfectly fine; everything sounds super real. But what differs a neutral analytical sound, such as the HEDDphone, from that of a warm musical one, such as the Oppo PM-1, is that level of warmth and extra musicality that is present in the PM-1’s that make them more enjoyable and relaxing. This is really hard for me to describe without letting you A/B the two but though yes the HEDDphone is more detailed than the PM-1, I can enjoy and just experience the music more on the PM-1 than making sure I’ve heard every fly on the wall that the HEDDphone showcases.

Bass

Here’s where the neutrality of the headphones can kind of get troublesome, but only from a subjective notion. The bass of the HEDDphone is wonderfully controlled and with tightness and speed to challenge even that or planars. However, unlike the aforementioned headphones, these don’t have much depth to them. Instead, the bass is what it objectively should be, an accent to the rest of the spectrum. Great examples of this are “Boom Lay/Diamond Eyes” by Shinedown the bass just accents the rest of the tract. As far as speed and control goes, “Oracle” by Timmy Trumpet. You’ve got your bass tightness and control, but not quite the depth or punch that I kinda want when I’m in the mood for this type of music.

Conclusion

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To sum up my thoughts of the HEDD audio HEDDphone, they’re freaking fantastic. Though, subjectively speaking, I’m not a huge fan of analytical headphones these are truly something awesome, at least during the time you can stand them being on your head. These have the detail retrieval, depth and separation in music to satisfy any audiophile. Though the soundstage is a decent size it doesn’t sound at all artificial like, IMO, the 800S did to a degree. Other than my complaint of them being uncomfortable, the HEDDphone is a true summit-fi, endgame, analytical headphone. So, if you're thinking about getting one yourself, definitely check out TTVJ's website!

Also, make sure to check out my unboxing and review videos. They’re pretty awesome AND you getta put a face to the Army-Firedawg name. If this review helped you out at all please hit that thumbs up button for it really helps me out a lot. Till next time my friends, stay safe.

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szore
szore
Bass is only an 'accent' to the rest of the spectrum? Really?

Other than that clunker it was a good review.
Another Audiophile
Another Audiophile
Tried these few weeks ago and its a good first try. Now they have to work on ergonomics, looks and comfort
knorris908
knorris908
Hey, great review! I picked up a pair myself. Love 'em. 2 things I did differently that might have made a difference for you:
1: I listen in a reclined position, so weight isn't an issue for me. AT ALL. Just me and how I listen to music. That said, I definitely agree that they are heavier than all my other headphones. (Though not the heaviest I've worn, they're CLOSE..) 2: Liked them just fine on the SE stock cable. LOVED them when I went full-balanced. It's not the amperage, it's big voltage swings that get these cans singing in my experience. (I know you've got serious amp gear, so just wondering if you noticed while playing with power values to see/hear the differences too?) Love your work. Look forward to what you've got coming next.

corgifall

500+ Head-Fier
Pros: Fantastic detail retrieval. Smooth and non sibilant through entire frequency range. Wide and deep soundstage.
Cons: Too heavy. Squeaky hinges. Cheap feeling adjustment sliders. No included balanced cable.
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Shout out to Todd from TTVJ for letting me try these out for a week!

I remember seeing the announcement for the HEDDphone and getting fairly interested in a new TOTL model using the AMT tech at $1900.... Until I saw how much these suckers weighed. I have experience with heavy audeze headphones but that’s still no excuse for these to weigh as much as they do. For anything close to $2000 I would prefer it doesn’t try and break my neck while wearing them. That being said after getting these in to try out, I’ll dismiss some of the comfort issues for how great they sound.

Onto the review of the sound! My personal preference are a dynamic hybrid iem where I get good hitting bass and have a brighter treble with decent mids. When it comes to an over ear headphone I prefer a spacious sound with a deep low end, the mids to be more further away from my ears and the highs to be a little bright with some sparkle. I listen to a lot of genres but I hover in the classic rock, blues and edm music with some rap here and there.

Build quality and comfort- Well.... I’m not overly impressed with the build quality. These have been in the hands of three people before I got them but the hinges are super squeaky and don’t smoothly rotate at all. I’m sure a few drops of oil would fix this but this isn’t my set so I dealt with it. The adjustment sliders are also showing some concerning wear and the right side when fully extended is actually wobbly and the 8th to 9th adjustment is unusable. Luckily 7 clicks on both sides works perfectly for my head. It’s also super heavy. I easily get caught up in 1-5 hour listening sessions so after the first 35-40 min I have to play the adjustment game on my head moving the headband around to new spots. Eventually the top of my head gets numb and it’s not so bad but these could use some weight loss for sure.

Gear used
Smsl sh8/su8 combo.

Lows- The lows are super fast and accurate. When a track calls for intense bass and slams you get really good results. The flip side of course is that if the music doesn’t call for thumping bass you don’t get anything fun. My personal preference is to have a fun and deep bass with good thump and rumble constantly. Even so, I really enjoy the low end this produces and it’s so clean while being fun when called for.

Mids- The mids are super smooth and fantastic! Vocals really come across well and I really enjoy the HEDDphone with female vocals. I noticed that voices have a nice echo and sound very life like as well. Vocals tend to be a little further forward from the listeners ears but it’s never recessed.

Highs- Everything is super detailed yet non sibilant. I tend to adjust my volume to the point when treble in a song attempts to kill my ears and then lower it slightly. Being somewhat treble sensitive this usually means the overall sound is slightly lower to keep the top end in check. This isn’t a problem with the HEDDphone. It takes a lot longer to reach the point of irritation for me which results in a much more balanced and louder overall sound. Drums are always a big thing I pay attention to and I was extremely satisfied by the clear and detailed sound I was getting when I heard cymbals and hi-hats being hit. These are possibly my favorite headphones when it comes to detailed top end without sibilance or any harshness.

Imaging- Imagining is fantasic! Instruments sound very separated and well placed. Sounds that move side to side are extremely accurate as well.

Soundstage- These have a very wide soundstage. Everything is spaced out really well and it never feels too close or too far out. The detail retrieval and micro details really mix well with the HEDDphone’s soundstage. Very impressed!

Sound leakage- While this leaks sound as one would expect with an open back I noticed when wearing them I didn’t hear nearly as much of the outside world. Sounds are still noticeable with no sound but I really enjoyed the slight isolation I got out of these compared to other open backs.

Cable rolling- Unfortunately I don’t have any balanced cables for mini xlr so I couldn’t do any cable rolling this time around which is usually something I really enjoy. I do think HEDD should include a set of balanced cables.

Stock cable- The cable is fine and I find it perfectly acceptable for home use. The plug end is long a really sturdy looking. There’s some micro-phonics with the cable material. It’s not terrible but something to note.

Amping- These really need some power to get going. I had no problems feeding them out of my smsl sh-8. However with quiet songs I was in the 40 out of 50 volume so I was still cutting it close. Running these balanced would of helped a bit for sure. I didn’t attempt to try these portable since I would never personally use these outside of my desktop set up.

Overall thoughts- Minus the weight and somewhat iffy build quality I have to say these are absolutely fantastic. After the top of my head goes numb from the weight and I can really listen to music I get sucked in. These sound so smooth throughout the entire frequency range. Nothing ever gets fatiguing and rough. Things sound super clear and life like. Detail retrieval is absolutely fantastic as well. I really have no complaints about the sound quality of the HEDDphone. I do believe these could be trimmed down and become less of a nightmare to wear for long periods of time. These get an extremely high recommendation. That’s of course if one can overlook the weight. Thanks for reading!

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adydula
adydula
Recently I have been using multiple amps with the HEDDS..... I have a new Schiit Jot 2 and it drives the Hedds exceptionally well.

But you dont need a mega-watt amp to use with the Hedds....I am using the old original version of the Schitt Magni 3, not the newer 3+, and the newer Schitt Heresey! Both drive the Hedds well.....With the Hersey you can drive the Hedds on low gain to very loud levels and with High gain u can even go louder into the area of possible hearing damage!

Alex
corgifall
corgifall
I actually had a second chance to use the HEDDphones for a few weeks so I plan to do a second impressions/review with the newer gear I had available.
adydula
adydula
One instrument I like to listen to solo is a piano. You get the piano right you have a real winner IMO!
Keiko Matsui's Dreamwalk CD is a stellar recording to listen to with the HEDDS....fantastic. I use my Hedds wit many amps...from a $99 Schitt Hersey to a PassLabs HPA-1. Bifrost 2 for a dac...MY goto setup for accuracy is the Hedds with the HPA1 and B2. Superb, absolutely superb.

ngoshawk

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Superb sound signature.
Bass like a planar.
Excellent vocals.
Makes you think twice about planars...
Cons: Heavy.
No case.
Heavy.
Single cable (right now).
Can get warm while wearing.
Heavy.
Somewhat expensive? Maybe?
HEDD HEDDphone ($1899): So, this Air Motion Transformer thing...how does it work?

HEDD

Air Motion Transformer

Specs:


Technical Data:

Concept:
Open over ear headphone with Air Motion Transformer
Efficiency:
87 dB SPL for 1 mW
Impedance:
42 Ω
Weight:
718 g
Connector:
Mini XLR


Comparisons/Sources:

Ifi Pro iDSD
Burson Play
XDuoo x10t ii/XDuoo TA-30
Shanling M6 Pro
Cayin N6ii
DTR1/HA-2
MBP/TR-Amp

Tidal MQA
SD card of various levels

Audeze LCD-3
Verum Audio Verum 1
ZMF Eikon


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Songs used:

Dave Matthews albums, Come Tomorrow, Away From The World
Los Lonely Boys- Heaven (en Espanol)
Los Lobos album, Disconnected In New York City
twenty one pilots-Trees
twenty one pilots-Car Radio
twenty one pilots-Heathens
twenty one pilots-Forest
Damian Marley-Everybody Wants To Be Somebody
Damian Marley-So A Child May Follow
Damian Marley-The Struggle Discontinues
Ziggy Marley-Lighthouse
Ziggy Marely-See Dem Fake Leaders
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado
twenty one pilots album, Trench
Mark Knopfler album, Down The Road Wherever

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In The Box/Unboxed:

Coming in a large sleeved case, the HEDD is well protected. Upon taking the sleeve off, you are met with a glossy box, which opens from the front on an articulated flap. The first thing you are met with is a very nice full-sized information sheet, replete with a “welcome” on one side, and the tech information on the other. In addition, the serial number is handwritten on the bottom, with necessary information above, including a note about the AMT drivers and cleaning. Nicely done and well thought out.

With hard foam shaped like the headphones, the HEDD are well protected, with a glossy cardboard box on the bottom of the case, which holds the mini-xlr to 6.35mm cable. I could find no information regarding the make-up of the cable, but it seems to be of good quality and decent sound. That said, I spent over 50% of my time using my WyWires Red 2.5mm balanced cable for the test. As Headfonia (https://www.headfonia.com/heddphone-review/) states, you really can tell a difference between single-end and balanced. I would add that this to me has one of the bigger differences between set-ups that I have heard. Both are good, one is better to me, and will be explained below.

No carrying case is included, as is common with many at this price (think Focal), but it may not be one to travel due to its size and the box itself is much larger than others I have seen (due to the protective nature).

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Fit-n-Finish:

This seems to be the biggest debate going with regard to the HEDD. Much less diversity has been said about the sound, and for good reason. But the fit is well...interesting. These are big, heavy headphones, and the largest I have tried. Topping the scales at 718g (1lb 9oz) that seems gargantuan compared to light headphones such as the Nighthawk, Aeon/Ether-C or Nightowl. Not something you would randomly dismiss. The second part of that is how the headphones fit onto your head. The headband is one long piece, with thick padding (suede-like on the bottom) split in half to help disseminate the weight. In conjunction with the very thick rectangular pads, the fit is actually pretty good, with decent distribution. Only after extended sessions do I feel the weight. Don’t try to shift around a lot though, as the HEDD will shift.

A note about the pads. They are quite tall allowing your ear to fit inside and be completely enveloped, but there is not much padding. Meant to dissipate the weight equally, the bottom does squish due to the sheer weight and pressure. I would love to try an Audeze-like vegan or leather pad, which has much more padding and excellent memory foam. The HEDD pads spring back quickly, and I garner this is due to the weight. My feeling is that a slower reacting memory pad might not return to its original shape as easily. Of course, I could just be making this up, as well. It sounds good to me.

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Putting the HEDD on requires you to adjust the minimally moving sliders to attain a “best fit.” While I was able to get comfortable both with and without a hat, another reviewer was barely able to attain fit due to the lack of adjustments. My hope is that a new headband is in the works, or longer sliders. Something to make the sliders more functional. That said, I did get good fit and seal for the listening sessions, but I did have to work a bit. Clamping force is up there as well as you would expect from a unit, which weighs so much. Not overly excessive compared to some I have had, but my hope is that some form of correcting can be had if a new headband design is in the works.

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The construction is as you would expect for something, which costs $2000. Mixes of plastic and metal work well together and do look quite nice. Construction is among the better I have seen at this level, but not the best. Slightly mismatched seams where the min-xlr jacks reside are visible, and that jack rubs up against the frame yolks when adjusting the headphone top to bottom. I also noticed a slight marring of the finish there as a result. I am not sure how far down the line I am in the tour, but I also know tour models are generally treated with less care than if one had purchased them personally. A shame really, and we should treat all units like we purchased them ourselves. I also noticed marring on the alloy sliders due to adjusting in and out. Not very bad, but at this level, I expect better. The build quality does in fact remind me that this unit is German and built for efficiency and quality. Overall the build quality is quite good, barring those few niggles.

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Air Motion Transformer:

From the website: The Air Motion Transformer (AMT) is an electrodynamic transducer that allows to move air significantly faster than common voice coil, magnetostatic (planar) or electrostatic systems. Their traditional piston-like movement is overcome by a folded diaphragm that squeezes out air four times faster: A breakthrough for capturing more details in any audio recording. In order to reproduce the complete audible frequency band (and beyond), HEDDphone® introduces VVT® technology (pat. pending), a new variable diaphragm geometry that replaces the fixed geometric structure of conventional AMT tweeters.

So, what does that mean? In the simplest terms, it means all other forms such as dynamic drivers and planar drivers are doing it wrong and are too slow in reacting to the incoming sound. The faster the unit can react, the more accurately the sound can be reproduced, and hence closer to the true artists intention and recording. The Air Motion Transformer squeezes air out of the Kapton® folds, allowing the air to move significantly faster than any traditional dynamic, planar magnetic, or electrostatic driver. And as a result, you will note a crackling when putting the headphone on or adjusting. Kind of like driver flex in an IEM, which does not hurt anything either.

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Sound:

A word about sources. Posting on the HEDD impressions thread I noticed a variety of sources somewhat. One used the HEDD for gaming as well as listening. Another for strictly music. A third for portable use within their abode. As such, and with the time to afford such choices, I varied my listening more than I normally would. Hence the longer than usual list above. Plus, I really wanted to see how the HEDD performed across many sources so that the various options could be shared. Oh shucks, I have to listen to many different items...

As luck would have it, I have the EarMen TR-Amp in for review as well. Many have already espoused its virtues as will I in an upcoming review, but since the unit is still new, I thought a listen to it would give a good first impression. Using my MacBook Pro as the source and Tidal MQA (automatically set when connected to Tidal), I pushed the in-app volume all the way up, using the TR-Amp volume for fine tuning. Much like you would with a line-out on your DAP. I will also admit that I started with the very fine XDuoo x10tii/TA-30 combination. I have long gushed over the sheer audio quality of the x10tii (and affordability), so that was the start with the included cable.

It was immediately noticeable that the tube amp was indeed warmer, especially with the Sylvania rectifier and RCA power tubes. It was a wonderful and powerful sound in which to listen and I spent the better part of two hours going between songs. I found the HEDD to be natural in its presentation, and organic, but not lush-organic of say the Empire Ears Legend X or LCD-3 (somewhat). Rather the sound was clean, clear, crisp and rich. The speed of sound became evident (even to me) upon playing Drunken Soldier from the Dave Matthews Band. Images of a high seas pirate battle make the sound complex and vibrant. One can easily imagine being on the ship during the battle. And the HEDD represented that song without fuss, lending air between notes when appropriate and giving a wide battlefield, errr sound stage. I enjoy the song and the trio at hand furthered my enjoyment.

Sorry for the digression, but first the MBP/TR-Amp combination on the same song gives a more “analytical” sound, without being antiseptic. Often when listening to less expensive equipment from a certain area, the sound is crisp and clean, but antiseptic. Not so here. Without the deep feeling of lushness though, the sound came across crisper, with a bit better separation of note. A thoroughly enjoyable sound nonetheless, but I preferred the warmer tone of the TA-30. That is more my preferred sound. But, the TR-Amp is a small marvel in itself, presenting the sound naturally without adding any tonality to it. Timbre is very, very good as a result. I could gladly listen to this set up at work, should the workstation be set for an open back headphone such as the HEDD is. Hearing Dave’ gravelly push mid-song is almost painful. But in a sympathetic way. You feel his consternating emotivism of the song and that is the point. Laid bare, you cannot separate yourself from the song. Maybe a bit less so than the TA-30, but seemingly more immersive due to the cleanliness of presentation.

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When I first posted initial impressions noting that I was currently using the Shanling M6 Pro with the HEDD and the excellent WyWires Red 2.5bal cable, many seemed taken aback that the Shanling could drive the HEDD. Well, using Turbo-gain and the dual DAC setting, the M6P came along just fine, thank you very much. Another reviewer noted in his review that the M6P was not powerful enough until he did something (and promptly forgot what it was...) to make it more powerful. I know what he did, but that is my secret and he will surely figure it out. But the trio mentioned above really brought out the best of the HEDD to me. In Lieven’s excellent review (link above), he too mentioned how the HEDD benefitted from a good balanced cable. To me, this combination was the best yet. Essentially the trio brought out the finer details and opened the sound stage even more. The songs listed above were marvelous and rich in detail. My love for the M6P grew as a result (review coming). I was able to attain quite comfortable listening levels at turbo-gain, dual DAC and 40/100 on the volume. 50 made the song simply sing. Bass was not quite as good as the other sources, but still quite good. Reach was not as deep, but the fast decay made the bass taut and energetic. A word I have not used much for bass, but apropos.

Moving to the X10tii/ifi Pro iDSD combination what became immediately obvious, was how much higher I had to push the volume pot. Even running the +18dB gain, I was at about 1100 on the volume knob. I also noted a bit more sub-bass quantity. A bit. I liken this to the push from the gain as well as the included GE tube. The sound was still crisp and full. Not quite as rich as the TA-30, but nonetheless, vibrant and worth of inclusion. Since I have picked up the TA-30, the iDSD has fallen down the pecking order, but this listen alone reminds me of why I purchased the unit. To me, the iDSD is kind of an afterthought in the high-end market. A bit older, and not the “flavor of the month” anymore, many seemingly have passed it by. But with the versatility it offers, it should still very much be on the front burner of conversations.

Using the switchable filters, I could attain my favored listening style with the iDSD. I normally run the Gibbs Transient Optimized (GTO), but for the HEDD, Apodizing was more appetizing. Giving a bit of holography to the already stellar sound, this filter allowed me to turn the volume down a bit without losing clarity or that rich, musical sound. Another superb combination.

The Burson Play is another that provides plenty of power and good sound while promoting an affordable price. Running the Play through my MBP and Tidal MQA, I ran the in-app volume and MBP volume at max. To attain a good musical sound, I had the Play at 50, the highest I have had to run any headphone on the device. But in doing so, the sound was on par with the roughly same priced TR-Amp. Giving a bit more detail retrieval than the TR-Amp, the Play sounded as good as I remember. Dave Matthew’s voice again on Drunken Solider was melodramatic and mournful. Bringing back memories of when I first heard the Play, I relished the sound. Running the V6 Classic OpAmp’s the sound was something indeed to behold. This pairing was perhaps the one in which I ran the highest dB volume-wise, and I did not care. The Play still rocks after all of these years. Burson got this one right.

Moving to the more portable Dethonray combo of the DTR1/HA-2, the HA-2 espouses itself as a powerful portable amp. The combination could fairly easily drive my LCD-3, with the DTR-1 on Lineout. A bit of a hook up mess as I had to use a 6.35 to 3.5 jack, but it worked. Running the volume out on the “insane” setting of the DTR-1, I was able to attain a listenable level at about 1130 on the HA-2. Simply running “high” on the LO, I had to go to 1230-1300ish for the same volume level. I will note that under the insane level, there were sharp tones, which made me turn the volume back down. Switching to “Extra Height” seemed to be a happy medium.

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Virginia In The Rain sounded vibrant and rich. Not quite as bright as the Burson, but that could be down to source music files as well. I have always appreciated how clean the DTR1 sounds, and the HA-2 is the perfect compliment for it. An excellent portable pairing for less than some TOTL DAP’s. Articulate in cymbal clash without the analytical sound had by some IEM’s of late, the HEDD proved yet again its versatility. I delve deeper into the understanding of the critter, appreciating the finer nuances had by the ability to switch without much fuss between sources. As Again And Again comes on, this opinion is verified. The sound is powerful, true to the music and wide. This almost brings “detail” into another definition if you can think about that. This trio makes me wish for this as a portable setup, it is that good.

There are headphones of which detail is the most prominent sound. But some of those give lesser care to the weight of that sound, or maybe better its girth/meatiness. This is rich and vibrant like few I have heard before. The HEDD is proving itself enough to be nudging into that vaunted area of play at the top of the peak. Letting itself be heard rather than speaking, the HEDD is indeed one of those “walk the walk” headphones.


Comparisons: There is an eclectic mix of headphones listed below from what I consider TOTL to simply a really fun unit. As such, I personally thought it would be fun to compare different types and prices here. Somewhat of a departure from my norm.


HEDD HEEDphone ($1899) vs Audeze LCD-3 ($1999):


I had been in the “review end” for a couple of years, and this past winter went on a “fill in the gap” binge as afforded. Looking for a TOTL open, I read, talked to peers (thank you Pinky & Wiljen) and ended up finding a used LCD-3, with two cables included. After listening, I purchased a WyWires Red 2.5bal cable as a compliment. I could not be happier. Listening to the LCD-3 with the 3.5se included wire back to back with the HEDD made me rethink that decision. Sounding a bit flat and dare I say lifeless, the HEDD sounded much more vibrant. Switching to the WyWires changed the comparison to more level terms. Both sound fabulous on the WyWires, and with the LCD-3, I remembered why I took the flyer and have been imminently happy. Audeze bass is a real thing, as is the crisp sound without being analytical. Detail of the kind that can be a bit off-putting it is so detailed, that from my readings, Audeze is somewhat of an acquired taste. And I do love the taste of that sound.

A bit brighter in the upper mids, vocals can come across a bit harsh when the volume is pushed. This is not the case with the HEDD, as it simply sings in that range. On the Again And Again song, the Audeze falls a bit behind in detail retrieval, but this is of course compared to something built around detail and precision. Germanic efficiency shows itself through this pairing, but I do love the Audeze flavor.

This comes down to whether you want the Audeze quality (some mention that it has dropped, of that I do not know), Audeze bass and voluminous detail along with superb vocals, versus the almost clinical precision and detail of the HEDD. Somehow, someway they have squeezed in detail, precision AND richness of sound into one package, and that may very well overcome its fit issues and the aforementioned Audeze flavors.


HEDD HEEDphone ($1899) vs Verum Audio Verum 1 ($349):

This was another ware, which Todd got me...auditioning the Verum on another tour of his as it seemed to be the latest flavor of the month, I quickly realized how wonderful it was. Todd emailed me when they were in stock and I quickly ordered. Literally within a minute or so, the color combination I wanted was gone. Zebrano was quite popular, so I “settled” for the Bobinga, and gold grills. I am not disappointed and can even live with the cat-ear frame. From another site, the users noted that a second coming of the frame and grill was coming. Much more “ordinary” than the first generation, I will someday order and switch, but feel a certain affinity to the first generation because it is so different (and tolerable).

The first thing I note is that the Verum 1 has a brighter, easier to drive signature. Not having to get past 0900-0930 on the HA-2 (all comparisons were done on this as that’s what was hooked up at the time). That much I already knew, as the Verum 1 is quite easy to drive. It also does not become piercing at higher volumes, such as some do. Still using Again And Again, which is a high energy song, I can indeed raise the volume to levels of which my wife does not approve. Moving to Black And Blue Bird, another song, which carries a higher note, the acoustic guitar and piano work together with a certain lift that is appreciated. Not grating, this is another tune, which highlights just how good the Verum 1 is. For the price alone, the Verum 1 makes my top recommendation list. Not quite as detailed and precise as the HEDD, but vibrant and fun enough to make one think, and go WOW! This really is a stellar headphone.


HEDD HEEDphone ($1899) vs ZMF Eikon ($1399):

Another “victim” of my want for higher-order items, the Eikon came about used as well. After auditioning Pinky’s Atticus for a couple of weeks, I appreciated how well the ZMF handled sound for a closed-back headphone. Going only upon the reviews that the Eikon was a bit more “clinical” than the Atticus, I found one in outstanding condition. I appreciate the detail-oriented sound, with to me only a smaller lack of bass than the Atticus. I do not miss that after listening to the Eikon for close to 200 hours.

With the beautiful look of Camphor Oak, the Eikon is quite a looker. While it would not have been my top choice, the understated beauty of the unit has drawn me in. Using the suede pads, which to me gives a better bass quantity I can make up for that potential “bass deficit” compared to the Atticus. The Eikon hits all of my right buttons. Good bass (I have others for sheer bass quantity) response, and decent enough speed to allow the song to proceed. Vocals that are slightly warmer and inviting in which to listen. Excellent treble response, which also keeps me interested as what roll-off there is, hits at the right spot for me. While not the most detailed of those listed here, the Eikon has that warmer inviting tonality, which draws towards my favored signature. An excellent complement to the LCD-3 for me.

If it were down to detail and precision alone, the HEDD would win. It is such a good representation of what the artist wants and provides in tune that one can only listen in marvel at the reproduction of tone coming forth. But sometimes that detail and precision can be overridden with a little soul. And here the Eikon passes the HEDD. It draws you in because of its overall tonality of that somewhat warmth. I am able to turn the volume up to my content, reaching higher listening levels than I can on the HEDD. Yes, the detail is missed, but that ZMF sound has won me over as well.

The HEDD is a fabulous unit, don’t get me wrong, but this comparison shows the merits of looking beyond sheer precision and detail more than the other two comparisons listed above.

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Balanced vs Single-end:

Some of what I read mentions how the HEDD benefitted from a balanced cable, and how HEDD should potentially include one. I would agree, and from the musings online apparently that is being taken into consideration. In my opinion, when you reach this level it is an excellent idea to include (or add if not) both as the tone emanating from the unit can change. The HEDD sounds fabulous in single-end out of the TA-30, and one could happily live with that and be happy. But here maybe more than others of late, the balanced cable option shows how the tone can change more than others. Running the WyWires 2.5bal brought out a sort of holography, which had not been heard in single-end. The air between notes became more defined and prevalent, adding to that already marvelous precision. I found that when not in test mode, the balanced cable was attached to the HEDD more than the stock cable. Nothing wrong with having options.

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Conclusion:

My time draws to a close. And as per many of TTVJ’s tour units, I have mixed emotions. When the Apex Pinnacle II left, I knew I would most likely never hear something of that ilk or price again. That made me appreciate my time with it all the more, and it is still the standard by which I judge others. If I had the means (or space!), the Pinnacle would be a worthy look. The HEDD draws many of those same feelings and emotions. It is among the best detailed representations I have heard. It is so precise, that one has to wonder if you are hearing the original recording from the mixing room. Detailed with lightning quick responses highlight the airy note along with that precision, all without being analytical. It is one thing to have detailed clarity and precision, it is another to have that without being overly dry or analytical. The AMT of HEDD has shown it can be done and done fantastically. My hope is that they come up with some work around for the headband (which really wasn’t a deterrent to me) and the sheer mass of the unit. Throw those two in and that slightly downgrades an overall wonderful unit.

That said, do not let that mass or headband dissuade you from consideration of the HEDD, for the sound more than overrides those shortcomings. This is a marvelous and intriguing unit in which to listen and that precise detail may be worth the price of admission. It really is excellent.

A HUGE thank you to Todd from TTVJ for yet another superb mini tour. I love the way he puts the wares out there and I gladly jump on most of the tours (I am thankful he lets me!). I have to applaud that and truly appreciate the faith tours such as this show. Well done yet again, Todd. Well done.

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adydula
adydula
UPDATE" WIth the new Schiit Jotenheim 2 the Hedds pair very, very well in balanced mode in HIGH gain....absolutely stunning!

Alex
ngoshawk
ngoshawk
I still think of these. Just a fabulous set of headphones.
adydula
adydula
Two thumbs for Todd, a great guy to deal with, honest!!
Highly recommend his dealership!
Alex
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