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Sounds like the depth would be similar to the ZMF Verite.
The drivers of the ZMF Vérité or the Empyrean are much more conventional than the AMT drivers of the HEDDphone so any comparison in soundstaging or imaging might be misleading. You have to hear them for yourself to get the full picture. The imaging of the HEDDphone felt so natural to me that I didn't even think about it in the beginning. I really had to remind me that the description of the imaging capabilities was one of the top priorities on my list.
Personal preferences vary a lot when it comes to soundstaging and imaging. All I can say is that the Empyrean's soundstage is narrower and also changes with the kind of pads that are used. I never had the chance to hear the Vérité as ZMF headphones are very very rare in Germany.
The AMT drivers used in loudspeakers go back to the 70ies and seem to be quite durable. It's mainly a matter of the material of the diaphragm used. HEDD audio (and ADAM audio) have used AMT drivers for many years, so I believe that they are quite reliable.
I asked the product manager at HEDDaudio about further weight reductions and the answer was that there are limits for this because of the strong magnets that are necessary for the drivers. Future generations of the HEEDphone might use even more expensive and exotic materials for the magnets but for now that's the best they can do in this price range.
Anyway, two new headphones out now using similar technology. I see this technology (especially for the AMT driver) as a major future trend because by and large, these are literally above all other headphones I've tried and believe me, I've tried around 3-400 headphones around the world. These are a true chamelion able to accurately replicate any sound signaure according to the source chain, and getting probably the closest to the truth I've ever experienced, aside from the Orpheus II I heard before, which these may be more preferrable perhaps. And from my brief testing of the "HEDDphone"s on several chains anyway, I hadn't noticed any sub-bass roll off. Either that was already resolved before the show, or it's very minimal. Even so I would have no problem buying them from what I heard.
Good points, Gr8soundz. I recommend someone reaching out to the folks at Hedd.Audio on these concerns especially if the folded diaphragm drivers need to be replaced, of which they would hopefully give us affordable replacements.
I also got a chance to hear this a few times at canjam this past weekend. I agree with @DecentLevi that it was one of the best headphones at the show. It had fantastic staging, dynamics, and detail, but its tonal balance was not very natural to me. The bass was lean with no hint of warmth, a bit recessed in the mid range, and slightly boosted in the treble, giving it an overall metallic timbre.
The HEDD representative joked about it being the "Audeze killer" and I would agree. It surpassed the LCD-4 in every way while being tuned somewhat similarly to the Audeze house sound. I have never liked any Audeze headphone but I did enjoy listening to the HEDDphone.
The current prototype weighs around 800-900 grams which is very heavy. However, I did not find it uncomfortable. He told me they are looking to cut the weight down to around 600 grams. Their target price is "$2000 or less", and hope to start sales before the end of this year, though I don't know how realistic that time frame is considering they are still in R&D for the final chassis and headband design, and currently they only have two prototypes built.
Wow you echo my sentiment exactly. I put the Empyrean's through the paces pretty well last weekend as SoCal CanJam on a variety of mid-fi to summit-fi systems and also think there's some sort of a mid-bass bloom. The comfort and build design are outstanding, though on a medium size head like mine it looks akin to large black baloons disproportionately sticking out on both sides of your head. Compared to the new planar headphones Rad-0 from Rosson Audio, the ladder was preferred for a more coherent and robust / controlled, even less fatiguing sound. I also own a HD-650 and sure enough, the Empryeans would seem like an update sonically yet of a similar signature. But by far and large, the HEDDphone struck these both out of the ballpark with stunning mastery in basically every aspect.
No idea about this headphone's AMT driver, but I've got a ESS headphone that could be from 1978 to early 80s that's using an AMT folded driver. It's still working 40ish years later... so not sure if there's need for too much concern necessary, still that's a sample 1 so, I might just be lucky. I'll follow the developments on this new AMT based one I'd expect with computer modelling and improved measurements the technology could be pushed.
Which rig were you trying it with? I really do think they are a chemelion. They will sound bright on a bright system / song, and dark on a dark system / dark song which is what I experienced.
I think this tech has a bit more promise in widespread use than the ribbon tech. I am sitting in front of a couple of Adams speakers with AMT tech. Their main issues are they are more directional and can be a bit bright on axis. You are right though, this tech is already in widespread use and just has to be refined further for headphone use. I always wondered when either Hedd or Adams would incorporate these into HP's.
Though I didn't get to spend enough time for a thorough assessment, here is a copy of my review of this from the Socal CanJam 2019 impressions thread.
INTRODUCING THE HEDDphone One from Heinz Electrodynamic Designs (Hedd.Audio)
To me this is the breakthrough I didn't know I needed, and a lightyear jump in sonic reproduction capabilities. The giant killer and certain to be an industry changer with its' new technology.
Newly conceptualized Air Motion Transfer (AMT) driver using a folded (not ribbon) diaphragm. The HEDDphone is the first to use "full range" AMT, based on a tweeter created by Hedd Audio for speakers 30 years ago, now tweaked to reproduce the full frequency bandwidth (10Hz-40Khz).
from their 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 a musical recording.
Super extended frequency response high to low, to me akin to the best hybrid of the planar and electrostatic sound. Humongous soundstage, phenomenal dynamics, sounding as lifelike as possibly imaginable. Uncanny handling of dynamics with drivers so fast that nothing seems to be added or removed from the transient response. Drums sound taut and snappy with good weight that hit like a real drum and decay exactly when it should. Has an amazing ability to reproduce a holographic soundstgage where 3D objects seem to magically whiz at you, and yet fit coherently into the sound. Ability to handle seemingly infinite complexity of layering and instrument separation. The sound is sweet, liquid smooth, non fatiguing and a TOTAL chameleon. It sounds bright with bright gear or recordings, dark with dark gear or recordings, all while maintaining it's wonderful sense of cohesion, detail and super realistic presentation that is smooth, not harsh or edgy, or under/over-done in any way.
Selected headphone comparisons
- Meze Empyrean: this comparison was super brief but all I can remember is that it was like putting a great electrostatic headphone up against a good dynamic one. Much more detail, instrument separation, cohesion, etc.
- ZMF Auteur. One word, WOW! The story goes like this: I gave another listen to the Auteur, my favorite ZMF headphone on the Prima Luna Evo 200 tube amp, one of the best at the show. I was quite impressed at the ZMF pairing, super robust, hard hitting, detailed and pleasing sound. Plugging in in the HEDDphone was entering a whole new window of the recording. Totally unrecognizable from before. Detail and instrument separation are increased drastically, and overall resolution is second to none, with great FR to boot. Super pleasing sound with the HEDDphone.
- Rosson Audio Rad-0: This was also an indirect comparison but I can attest to the HEDDphone outdoing the resolution / speed and soundstage of this one as well. Though I still adore the Rad-0 for all it's amazing prowess and to me better than every other dynamic and planar headphone I've heard. If you prefer a somewhat darker or laid back signature then I would actually recommend the Rad-0.
Over the years I have tried hundreds of models dynamic to planar to e-stat from nearly all known hi-fi audiophile brands, and to me this has them all beat and to me this is even more preferable than the HE1 / Orpheus 2 I tried due to portability and ability to scale with amps... and hey sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Though an indirect comparison, I also liked this better than the new RR1 Conquest e-stats and the Raal SR1A for better tonal balance and dynamics.
While yielding highly versatile sounds depending on equipment used, if I had to compare it to another headphone I would say it's close to the HD-600 headphone and the QDC Anole VX IEM in terms of sound signature, yet still better in quite a few ways.
Selected source chain pairings
- unknown amp at left end of Hifiman table: amazing overall fidelity, enough to jumpstart my interest
- Euforia amp from Feliks Audio: great sound, but volume was too quiet; not enough power
- Prima Luna Evo 200: Sensational, endgame material. Effortless everything
- Quad PA One+ amp: Absolutely Fantastic sound! Made me jump up and interrupt people to have them try it. Juicy, liquid, dynamic, detailed, meaty... tasty! This tube amp drove it very well on high gain with headroom to spare, and happens to be much more affordable than many.
I also saw people hogging it with the amps on the left tables upon entering the Woo Audio room which I didn't get to hear. And disappointingly I think no one ever tried it with the Woo Audio WA 33 amp that I believe was their larger tube amp.
This headphone managed to give me a feeling I could not soon forget. Surrounded by the newest best technology from IEMs to new planar headphones, electrostats such as the newly revised Stax Lambda L300 limited edition, having tried headphones from all major suppliers new and old to me, this stood out like an elephant in the room. At first listen at the end of my session at the Hifiman table I saw a unique looking headphone so I plugged it in, not expecting much. I knew something was special straight away and asked the owner if I could try it on a few other systems. This headphone gave pure sonic delight and fidelity I could not have expected, sounding mouth wateringly detailed, airy, spacious, intrinsically refined - a sound that is crisp, pure, totally engulfing with seemingly limitless ability to reproduce any and everything you throw at it in the best way possible - ohhh, so close to 'the truth' of not only the recording, but also the source chain, revealing the sound of your amp / DAC, etc. I just can't forget about this HEDDphone: One way or another, I'm gonna get ya!!
While giving fantastic sound on all amps I tried it with, this headphone is moderately hard to drive and scales well with gear, so it's recommended to use this with more powerful amps (see above for a general example)
Thanks to user Monsterzero for checking with them, Hedd.Audio is planning a North American Head-Fi tour of the HEDDphone. Details on how many loaners will be sent, when, etc. are expected to be posted (here) in the future as they come.
This headphone is expected to roll out in Quarter Three of 2019. But they are handcrafted so expect them to come out slowly.
Good things come to those who wait.
Great review Levi.
The Heddphone is definitely on my radar as an endgame upgrade beyond my T1.2. Hopefully, they meet that Q3 window meaning release is just a few months away.
I know pricing has been mentioned at under (or much less than) $2K but I can't tell if that'll be closer to say $1500 or the usual $1999.
Damn, color me interested, looking forward to learning more about the tour, thanks @DecentLevi!
thank you @DecentLevi. Great review. It is certainly a very interesting HP. I heard it once at the HE Munich and I am definitely interested.
Hmm, all of these sound great but I’m suspicious when I hear so RAVE reviews... If I understood Hedd headphone kills anything for so little money (compared to high end prices) : it should be priced at something like Abyss or Susvara, orherwise it is going to kill all the audio industry! We´ll see at the end
Well I can say that I have no affiliation with Hedd Audio and no incentive to promote this other than to share the love of the hobby, encouraging these type of advancements. Heck, I honestly don't even remember the name of the guy who brought the headphones but he was a nice guy from this British company.
Also one of the things I have learned in this hobby is that price does NOT always dictate performance. Far too many more times than I can count, I have come across tubes, headphones, IEMs, etc. that perform beyond others that literally and actually cost up to 10x more.