- 4.50 star(s)
Pros: Superb sound signature.
Bass like a planar.
Makes you think twice about planars…
Single cable (right now).
Can get warm while wearing.
Somewhat expensive? Maybe?
HEDD HEDDphone ($1899):So, this Air Motion Transformer thing…how does it work?
Air Motion Transformer
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
Ifi Pro iDSD
XDuoo x10t ii/XDuoo TA-30
Shanling M6 Pro
SD card of various levels
Verum Audio Verum 1
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 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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.