You can buy a set of great full-size headphones for $100 from Grado or Sennheiser, but if you want to pick up one of the world's best headphones, be prepared to spend more than $1,000. Granted, no one needs a $1,000 headphone to listen to music or a $140,000 Porsche Panamera Turbo sedan to drive to work, but they're nice things to have. That's why we cover them on CNET.
Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, Grado, and Ultrasone's latest attempts to advance the state-of-the-art are really expensive, but before the introduction of the T1, Beyerdynamic's top models all carried an MSRP of less than $400. With the Tesla T1, Beyerdynamic joined the $1,000-and-greater club; it sells for $1,295.
Steep prices haven't stopped the high-end headphone market from booming, and Beyerdynamic can't keep up with the demand for the T1. It's hand-built and tested in the company's headquarters in Heilbronn, Germany.
Its padded leather headband and soft earpads provide high comfort levels, and while we were testing the T1 over some rather hot and humid late spring days, the headphone remained comfy for hours on end. The T1 comes packed in a very impressive aluminum storage case.
According to Beyerdynamic, the T1's transducer is the first to produce more than one Tesla of magnetic flux density (hence the T1 designation). A more powerful magnet better controls the diaphragm's movement, which should produce lower distortion.
Most of the T1's outer earcup is covered with a finely woven wire mesh, which allows the user to hear outside sounds. Actually, the T1 is classified as a "semi-open" design, so it partially limits how much sound the wearer would hear, compared with open Sennheiser and Grado designs. The T1's thick cable is just shy of 10 feet long (118 inches) and it's fitted with a 6.3mm connector. Beyerdynamic doesn't include a 3.5mm adapter for use with iPods or other portable devices.
I listened to the T1 with three different amplifiers: an Onkyo TX-SR805 receiver, Woo Audio WA6-SE vacuum tube amp, and Burson Audio HA-160 solid-state headphone amp ($699). Beyerdynamic's headphone amp, the A1 ($849), would likely be a serious contender, but I didn't have a chance to try it. … Read more