Author Topic: Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power  (Read 1073 times)

Offline gLer

Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
« on: May 27, 2021, 10:52:02 AM »
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.


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).


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.
 

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.


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.


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. 


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.


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
« Last Edit: May 27, 2021, 11:01:42 AM by gLer »
In Pursuit of Head-Fi Perfection
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Offline bowlOfOats

Re: Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2021, 11:36:22 AM »
Excellent review. Epic that the South African head-fi market is maturing to the point where we have access to the latest and greatest.

Offline Drifter

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Re: Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2021, 12:29:50 PM »
Great review, thanks for taking the time.

As I read the review, some points/questions that popped to mind (hopefully Lumous can provide responses to some of these):

- At R25,999 as listed on the Lumuos site per set, it certainly is not cheap. The SA pricing though seems great as the HEDD website indicates a RRP of US$1,899 which is over R26,000 at the current (below R14 to a $) exchange rate and that still excludes shipment, duties and VAT. It does compare favourably with for example the Audeze LCDX (which is probably voicing wise a more direct competitor rather than the LCD3) that retails now for R20,380 for the creator edition.
- Is this a firm price offered by Lumous?
- Does Lumous keep stock of these or is it special order only? If so, how long is the order lead time?
- I see that the HEDD Audio website indicates a 2 year warranty against manufacturing defects (extended to 3 years if you register your product). In the event of an issue during the warranty period, will you be issued with a new replacement pair or will your pair be repaired, and if so, is it done locally or shipped back to Germany?
- The weight is listed as 718g. That is considerable. My LCD2F are 518g and even with the suspension strap (which is a must have), it is a massive strain on your neck. 500g on paper does not sound like much, but try wearing a half a kilo of headphone for a few hours while working or, at least moving your head around while seated, and see how you feel by bed time. At 718g these will demand that you sit with your head against a headrest and your neck in a straight line with no strain else you will need some serious physio afterwards. So we can assume that these headphones are therefore not something you will wear for a full day while working for instance.
- I see on the HEDD Audio website: "We recommend HP amps with at least >1 Watt/32 Ohms". In-house we use the SPL Phonitor 2/X and RME ADI 2 headphone amps.. That is useful info - always good to know what the manufacturers use as ancillary equipment.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2021, 12:34:31 PM by Drifter »

Offline PillayR

Re: Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2021, 01:35:04 PM »
Hi,

Thanks for all the interest.

Our aim is to offer all our gear at the best price possible.
We currently have 2 units in stock. @ R25 999.
Lead times are between 2 - 3 weeks depending on supplier availability.

We will match the supplier warranty. If it is feasible to repair locally we will do so, if not the unit will be sent back to Germany.





Offline naughty

Re: Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2021, 01:46:22 PM »
great headphone for people wanting summit-fi equipment and who can afford the quality of amplification required for it  :thumbs:

Offline kamikazi

Re: Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2021, 01:51:49 PM »
Just for curiosity's sake @gLer will you be buying this headphone or not? Thanks for the effort for reviewing this.

Personally the 800g+ weight is a deal breaker for me. I already own one of the heavier headphones out there at 550g and you need some neck muscle to wear these for extended periods. I always need a period of re-adjustment after not wearing those for an extended period, so I can't imagine what it must be like with these. SBAF also wrote extensively about the high clamping force on these, could you elaborate on that?

The driver technology seems to have strong merits in this application, so I am eagerly waiting for a revision 2 that offers a focus on ergonomics.

The fact that you can purchase two excellent HEDD Type 07 studio monitors for the nearly same price tells me that headphone users are being taken for a ride. I hope they do something about this.

Offline Reshen

Re: Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2021, 02:04:39 PM »
Thank you @gLer for the excellent review. After spending a few days with the Heddphone I can agree with all of what Guy said. It really is a game changer in my mind and really is a flagship headphone. The AMT is a far from a novelty, but a new direction for headphones. But as @Drifter pointed out as well as Guy, the weight is significant and can't be ignored. I've had the Audeze LCD2's with and without the suspension headband and the lack of comfort made me use them less and less. Moving on to the ZMF Auteur which also as heavy as the Audeze, there is a distinct improvement in comfort because they design the headband and pads so much better. These I can wear for hours with no problem. Now the Hedd is actually remarkable in how well they have distributed the 700 odd grams. The padding on the headband and the huge ear pads do an incredible job of making this headphone comfortable. After few days of use, the headphones became very manageable for me. You always know the weight is there but I never needed to tap out for relief like I did with the Audeze. But as always, your mileage may vary.

Offline Trompie67

Re: Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2021, 02:08:44 PM »
Thank you for a most interesting & informative review. Also - your photos are stunning!  :thumbs: :thumbs:
"Trumpets are a bit more adventurous; they're drunk! Trumpeters are generally drunk. It wets their whistle."
Paul McCartney

With thanks to F_D for this pearl of wisdom!

Offline Drifter

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Re: Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2021, 02:13:20 PM »
From Gler's review they do sound quite differently voiced to the "house" Audeze sound. That said the LCD2F's are pure romance.

It is a pity you guys are in Sandton (at least that is what the Lumuos website states). I guess there is no way to demo these in Cape Town.

I am always happy to turn the Revelation Acoustics facilities into a HEDD testing site on behalf of Lumuos Audio ...........
« Last Edit: May 27, 2021, 02:17:37 PM by Drifter »

Offline Scubadude

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Re: Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2021, 02:58:46 PM »
Great review, Guy! Such an inspired design with performance to match.  I wonder how this would compare to the Raal Requisite SR1a that's been taunting me?
"We should no more let numbers define audio quality than we should let chemical analysis be the arbiter of fine wines."  Nelson Pass

Offline dingeth

Re: Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2021, 08:30:49 PM »
Wow it's really exciting to see that the head-fi scene is getting local availability of these type of epic cans. Now we just need a similar Brick and mortar store in Capetown and I'd be over the moon.

718g does sound like a big ask though, although it does come down to the weight distribution.

Great review @gLer and amazing pics as well!
Audio Noob

Offline kamikazi

Re: Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2021, 08:53:24 AM »
Just a couple of more questions about the review:

- How familiar is the reviewer with the equipment (amp + DAC) that was used to review the headphone with?
- Have you listened extensively to these equipment using another headphone that you know very well?
- I see a lot of comparisons to other headphones, is this based on memory or was this done with A/B listening during the testing?
- The photos are really great, it must have been quite an effort, were these photos taken during the demo at the listening premises?
- How much time did you spend listening to these headphones before coming up with your content for this review?

Many thanks

Offline Scubadude

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Re: Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2021, 06:19:40 PM »
Just a couple of more questions about the review:

- How familiar is the reviewer with the equipment (amp + DAC) that was used to review the headphone with?
- Have you listened extensively to these equipment using another headphone that you know very well?
- I see a lot of comparisons to other headphones, is this based on memory or was this done with A/B listening during the testing?
- The photos are really great, it must have been quite an effort, were these photos taken during the demo at the listening premises?
- How much time did you spend listening to these headphones before coming up with your content for this review?

Many thanks

If this was a commercial review those may be fair and valid questions. In the context of the AVF community, may be less so.  If you follow Guy's writing (he does a fair bit) you will know his preferences and experience.  If I was him I'd feel no compulsion to answer.
"We should no more let numbers define audio quality than we should let chemical analysis be the arbiter of fine wines."  Nelson Pass

Offline Dhiveshan

Re: Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2021, 06:33:43 PM »
More of Guy’s reviews can be found on his website :

https://theheadonist.com/

Offline gLer

Re: Review: HEDD Audio HEDDphone – Pure Pristine Power
« Reply #14 on: May 28, 2021, 06:58:01 PM »
Hey guys, great feedback on the review, and I appreciate all the comments. I'm sure the guys at Lumous can answer any questions related to sales, stock, location, delivery etc. (and I see they have already in some instances). I'll copy some of the questions below and answers them as well as I can:

1. Just for curiosity's sake @gLer will you be buying this headphone or not? Thanks for the effort for reviewing this.

No, I won't, not in the immediate future anyway. The reason is simple: I've switched over entirely from high-end desktop listening (full size headphones) to high-end IEMs. Sold all my headphones (LCD-3, Auteur, and HD800, along with my Audio-gd R-28 amp/dac which would have easily driven the HEDD too). Hypothetically speaking, if I were to get back into headphones right now, this is the first headphone I'd buy, no question. I'll give brief one-line comparisons below between the HEDD and the headphones I A/B listened to alongside it in case you're interested).

2. Personally the 800g+ weight is a deal breaker for me. I already own one of the heavier headphones out there at 550g and you need some neck muscle to wear these for extended periods.

I agree this is a heavy headphone, and the biggest criticism I can level at it, in my opinion. That said, I've used plenty of heavy headphones before (the Auteur Wenge being the heaviest, alongside the LCD-3), and it's impressive how HEDD have managed to account for some of the weight with clever design cues, like the indent in the headband (to prevent hotspots) and the super plush pads (to take all the weight and make the clamp force insignificant). Still, I'd like to see the technology adapted into a lighter frame, though expect that would likely cost more as a result.

3. The fact that you can purchase two excellent HEDD Type 07 studio monitors for the nearly same price tells me that headphone users are being taken for a ride.

Can't agree with this at all. Bills of material don't come into how headphones are priced. I use IEMs that cost twice the price of the HEDDphone and are worth every cent to me. The technology and innovation required to deliver this type of sound in a compact format takes years of R&D, and the HEDD's price point is actually extremely competitive with other headphones considering its performance.

4. From Gler's review they do sound quite differently voiced to the "house" Audeze sound. That said the LCD2F's are pure romance.

Very much so. Audeze is generally a more lush voicing, with slightly scooped mids and a warm, powerful bass response. I owned the LCD-2 and LCD-3, preferring the LCD-3 by some margin, but neither can really challenge the HEDD in terms of detail retrieval, balance and refinement. Tonality is a different matter, and some will indeed prefer the romanticism of an unfazored LCD-2. That part of the 'hobby' is entirely subjective.

5. It is a pity you guys are in Sandton (at least that is what the Lumuos website states). I guess there is no way to demo these in Cape Town.

I live in Cape Town. So does the HEDDphone. Get in touch with Lumous...

6. How familiar is the reviewer with the equipment (amp + DAC) that was used to review the headphone with?

Not intimately, but my generous host was far more familiar and answered any and all setup questions I had. Let's face it, I was listening to HEDD with a dCS Bartok DAC (and headphone amp, though I wasn't a fan of its amp), and an Eddie Current Black Widow. Pretty much as good as money can buy in this hobby. Listening with the HD800 and LCD-3 at the same time, two headphones I'm intimately familiar with, made it clear I wasn't hearing anything untoward from the source side. I did mention in the review (and it seems this is confirmed by HEDD) that the HEDDphones needs lots of POWER to drive properly, and powerful amps that can deliver the quality this headphone is capable of are not cheap (you don't need a Black Widow though, there are better value, and less rare options). But that's the cost of entry for any high-end headphone. It's part of a system, even though it's arguably the most important part of the system.

7. Have you listened extensively to these equipment using another headphone that you know very well?

Not extensively, but as I said above, I listened with two headphones I'm intimately familiar with over the course of two long listening sessions and the sources had them sounding exactly as I know them to sound.

8. I see a lot of comparisons to other headphones, is this based on memory or was this done with A/B listening during the testing?

Based strictly on A/B testing. I listened much more with the Empyrean, which I was new to, than the LCD-3 and HD800, which I was familiar with, to get a batter sense of the Empy compared to the HEDD (and the other two). My quick take on all three:

Empyrean is MUCH warmer, with a thick mid bass that would probably work better with a brighter source. It's not at all power hungry, and can be driven off a DAP, but tonally I much preferred the HEDD's more linear bass, deeper stage, better overall detail retrieval and faster transients. Empyrean is MUCH more comfortable to wear, even more so than the HD800, though I wouldn't suggest looking in the mirror while wearing it. Build quality of both is impeccable.

LCD-3 has a much deeper, more throaty bass response, but falls short in detail retrieval and refinement compared to the HEDD (still very good though). It's midrange tonality is also a bit 'off' compared to the natural sounding HEDD. Prior to hearing the HEDD the LCD-3 was probably the headphone I enjoyed most, even more than the HD800, and only sold it because I was too scared to damage its hair-thin drivers. That said, I find the HEDD much better value than the LCD-3 at its price point.

HD800 is the technical king of headphones, with the widest stage bar none. But that comes at a price. Without EQ (and the SDR mod) I find it peaky and thin, to the point where listening to it back-to-back with the HEDD made it quite unenjoyable. I know the HD800 can perform MUCH better, but it has to be tweaked and manipulated to get it anywhere near the same level as the HEDD sounds fresh out the box.
 
9. The photos are really great, it must have been quite an effort, were these photos taken during the demo at the listening premises?

These photos were taken onsite. Not to toot my own horn but they were no effort at all and took all of five minutes to capture using natural light and some basic editing. I am a photographer by profession, so there's that.

10. How much time did you spend listening to these headphones before coming up with your content for this review?

I spent a total of 6 or 7 hours over two sessions, in complete seclusion, listening to music I'm intimately familiar with, and even comparing back and forth with my DAP and IEMs to get a baseline for the sound (not mentioned in the review, this is something I use for myself to confirm what I'm hearing). Would a long-term, multi-week test be better? Sure, but I've had over four years' listening experience with dozens of headphones, I know my personal sound preferences, I know what I'm listening for in each track (which I've heard hundreds of times before), and I can tell in minutes if there's an obvious issue with a headphone's tonality or technicalities before listening further to get as deeper understanding of what it's doing. I don't claim to have golden ears, quite the opposite in fact, but I know what I like, know what to listen for, and, frankly, it's not rocket science.
In Pursuit of Head-Fi Perfection
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