A SUPREME FLAGSHIP
David Solomon – Headphones.com
The Beyerdynamic Tesla Series T1
was the first headphone to introduce Beyerdynamic
‘s patented Tesla driver design. As of 2012, it is still my favorite headphone to incorporate this driver design. It is without a doubt, one of the best headphones on the market today and a contender for a spot on the short lists of best headphones ever made.
THE FIT AND THE FINISH
At the time I write this review (March 2012), the T1s are a few years old. In these few years, the headphone industry has grown in ways which I don’t think anyone could have foreseen just a few years back. In this time, several flagships have been introduced and it is no longer uncommon to see a price-tag of $1,000+ on a top level pair of headphones. But flip the page three years and it seems that the T1 is almost a bargain for what it offers.
The T1 ships a wonderfully secure aluminum case featuring an open-cell foam interlay for ultimate protection. The round black velour earcups are use replaceable. I find that the texture of the earcup is just slightly less soft than the grey velour earcups that are installed on the DT880 and DT990. The T1 also features a very substantial leather headband and a metal frame design. It is noticeably heavier than the other non-Tesla Beyerdynamic models, but does not feel heavy while on the head. The cable is unfortunately not detachable, but extremely sturdy. The T1 terminates to a quarter inch plug. If you wish to plug it into a headphone mini-jack you will need to buy an adapter.
ALL ABOUT THE SOUND…
The drivers of the T1 are angled so that the sound will be coming toward you from a frontward position. Angling the drivers this way is thought to enhance the imaging and soundstage properties of a headphone as it positions the transducers as loudspeakers may be positioned. The earcups are semi-open design which means that sound can leak out, but not quite as much as fully-open cans.
- Awesome tonal balance, just slightly colored to have a hair extra bass and a hair extra treble
- Great spatial definition; Instrument placement is very good and sound is immersive
- Soundstage is wide and deep
- Transient response is very good
- Lacking a sense of absolute neutrality offered by other top price cans
- Sound is a little more closed in than other offerings
- Treble can sound slightly hot on some systems
When I personally speak of the best sound, two things matter to me most: Is the sound transparent? And is the sound revealing? I tend to prefer a neutral tonality, but if colorations are carefully implemented, I can be won over.
Listening to John McLaughlin’s “Acid Jazz” I find the bass presence to be incredible, both because of the space it takes in the mix and because of the space it leaves open. Usually bass as visceral as the T1, is looser than the T1. The guitar sits in the mix, nice and upfront with a tremendous quickness to the attack of the strings. The resonance of the hi-hat is just slightly aggressive here, but I’m not sure that I would want there to be less air in the mix so the treble presentation is a fair tradeoff here.
Listening to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” (a good test for bass against treble) I am impressed by the subwoofer qualities of the T1. There is just a hair of sibilance in the vocal which I would prefer not being there. But let me say this. WOW!!! Overall, the sound is among the best I’ve heard on this track. The vocal feels so close to me, but the band feels nicely spread out. I love the sense of space and forwardness here. I remember hearing these for the first time and thinking about how the sound was close to miraculous. I still feel that way even now, and the fact that I listened to the track 3 times while writing this review, just because I enjoyed it so much, is a testament to how capable the T1 is at moving me!
Classical Oh Classical – the one genre that most headphones can either do amazingly well while alienating other genres OR the one genre that most headphones do horribly while succeeding in other genres. The T1 is actually equipped to handle vast orchestral passages with ease. The transient response is excellent here and as such piano and percussion sounds clear and brilliant. Listening to Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 5 as performed by Stephen Hough, I felt the piano passages were finely rendered. The strings headphones however fell just slightly short of ultimate transparency with regard to the strings. I felt there was a slight etch to sound, but I hadn’t noticed it when listening to the other tracks mentioned above.
Listening to Led Zeppelin’s first album I was happy to hear that the T1s did not sound harsh or abrasive, despite the fact that it is tilted a little brightly. It is worth mentioning though that when I listen with the T1, I tend to prefer lower volume levels than I normally choose. This has to do with the colorations.
When using the T1, you definitely want to make sure that you are powering them with an amplifier which is suited for high impedance headphones. Beyerdynamic’s own A1
amplifier is highly recommended, but I also recommend the SPL Phonitor
and SPL Auditor
. If you have a dedicated tube headphone amp that is suited for high impedance headphones, this will certainly do wonderfully.
The T1 is without a doubt the best Beyerdynamic headphone I have ever encountered. Both in terms of sound and comfort, it succeeds at being worthy of the designation “flagship.” If I had any criticisms, it would simply be that at its price it costs more than three times the cost of Beyer’s own DT880. I’m not sure it will be worth that extra money for everyone. But if you want the best headphone which Beyerdynamic has to offer, these are definitely our pick!
RATING CHART AT PRICE POINT
|Design & Features
||9 out of 10