February 03, 2010 6 min read
The Beyerdynamic Tesla T1 Look, feel, and sound world class! Whoa!!! Stop the presses! Here's a late entry in the race from Beyerdynamic to be a "World's Best Headphone:" The T1. Even though we haven't had time to measure it yet (I will soon, and will post results) there's no doubt that this new headphone is not only the best that Beyer has ever produced, but that it firmly finds a position in the small family of headphones that are truly world class. The "T" in T1 stands for Nikola Tesla. Any geek worth his salt will be familiar with Tesla as the prolific genius now credited with the invention of the radio, brushless AC motors, radar, x-ray and very high voltage generators, and all manner of electronic devices including some he thought were picking up signals from extraterrestrials on Venus. Famous, and very popularly known as a "mad scientist," he both revolutionized alternating current (AC) power distribution in the USA and was a vice-president of the precursor to the IEEE, and he was the founding member of the "tin foil hat" brigade building antennae to energize the earth at 8Hz and designing anti-gravity machines. Personally, he's a hero
"The annular driver magnet delivers a 1 Tesla field at the voice coil. How is that relevant to headphones? Well, Tesla also has a scientific unit of measure named after him: The Tesla, a measure of magnetic flux density. Beyerdynamic claims to have achieved a record-breaking 1.2 Tesla of field density from its permanent magnet at the voice coil of the driver in the new T1 headphone. Quite an interesting accomplishment. For reference: 1 Tesla = 10,000 Gauss A particle passing through a magnetic field of 1 Tesla at 1 meter per second carrying a charge of 1-coulomb experiences a force of 1 newton To put that into perspective,
The advantage of a stronger permanent magnet in a headphone driver assembly is that (all else being equal) you can use fewer voice coil windings for the same motive force, and with fewer coil windings you can lighten the coil/diaphragm and it will accelerate and change direction faster. In other words, with a stronger magnet, you can make a more responsive driver. This can also be expressed in terms of driver efficiency, and Beyer claims the new T1 driver is about twice as efficient as similar driver elements in headphones today.
The T1 driver is off-center in front of the ear and tilted back to propagate sound toward the ear. Though not spelled out in detail, a Beyer press release indicates that the magnet configuration around the voice coil is different than found traditionally in headphones. The magnet apparently occupies more space to the sides, leaving a large hole directly behind the center of the driver (can be seen at the middle of the driver in the photos), which permits a design with less acoustic resonance problems behind the driver. (I wonder if they used a Halbach array?) Beyer didn't stop with the magnet and voice coil either. Like Sennheiser with the "Doufol" drivers, and AKG with their "Varimotion" driver, Beyer has also developed and very light, stiff, two-layer diaphragm material that they claim does an excellent job of damping cone break-up, and contributes to the lightweight and therefore rapid acceleration of the driver. (More about dual layer driver diaphragms in the HD650 article.) The T1 is also a 600 Ohm headphone, so while it is very efficient, it will still take a significant voltage swing to drive it --- it's just that the current required will be significantly lower than usual. This is not a headphone, due to the higher voltage required, that will achieve solid listening levels with your iPod or other digital audio players--- an amp is pretty much required if you're going to use it portably. However, because it is very efficient and not a particularly hard load to drive, it will sound pretty good on just about anything that has enough voltage to drive it. Beyer has also jumped onto the angled driver bandwagon with the T1. Many manufacturers have placed the driver element of the headphone forward of the ear canal and angled back toward the ear in an effort to more closely mimic the way natural sound waves from speakers approach your ears. These efforts have had mixed success: minor improvements can be heard in the Sennheiser HD 595 and Ultrasone brand headphones; really stunning improvements in audio imaging can be heard in the AKG K100, Stax Sigma Pro, and most recently in the spectacular imaging of the Sennheiser HD 800. I find the T1 provides very good imaging, easily better than most, but not nearly as good as the amazing imaging of the HD 800. The outward appearance and construction of the T1 is well executed, sharing a very similar outward look to the DT770, DT880, and DT990 family from which it came. This is a full-size, open back, circumaural (around the ear) headphone with perfectly round and moderately roomy earcups. Soft and comfy velour earpads encircle your ears, and a real leather headband deftly secures the cans over the top of your head. The aluminum bails hold each earpiece, and detents click firmly for precise adjustment of the cans on your head. An acoustically transparent and very finely woven stainless steel mesh covers the outer side of each earpiece, and the headphones are nicely finished in a handsome pewter and dark gray anodize and paint color scheme. Now the good part: How do they sound? I've already mentioned that the T1 has superb imaging, bested only in currently produced dynamic headphones by the Sennheiser HD 800, but while it falls short in the imaging department, the T1 meets or exceeds HD 800 performance (depending on taste, primarily) in a number of areas. The high frequencies response of the T1 out of the box is a bit laid back and unremarkable, but once broken in for about 100 hours they really open up with a sense of ease and coherence I've rarely experienced. Surely all that work on the driver has paid off in spades here. Grain-free, liquid highs are neither too forward or too recessed. The highs on this headphone are spot on, to very slightly laid back. While the bass of the HD800 seems more natural sounding with better extension and control, the T1 seems to offer more punch and visceral intimacy. If you're at all a fan of a thumpin' bass, and/or listen to lots of contemporary electronic music (as opposed to acoustic ensembles) you will likely prefer the bouncier impact of the T1. Just to be sure I don't mislead here: the T1 is nota bass heavy headphone, but it is well fleshed out and warmer sounding than the HD 800. Possibly due to the support of the liquid highs and solid bass, the midrange of the T1 is simply stunning. While the HD 800 delivers a sense of the space in and around the vocals, the T1s deliver a sense of body and heft behind the vocals; well controlled, without a hint of hollow, honky, or nasal tones. I think Skylab said it very well in this Head-Fi post: " For someone who finds the HD800 just a touch too analytical, I think the T1 will be a good choice, as it will be for someone who thinks the HD800 could use a little more punch in the bass. For someone who values detail retrieval overall, or that thinks soundstaging is the most important performance criteria for a headphone, the HD800 is the better choice." All-in-all, the T1 is a world class headphone. Beyerdynamic has outdone themselves, and I'm completely blown away. It used to be that Beyer was the number three entry in a two horse race between AKG and Sennheiser. At this point, I think AKG has got some catching up to do, and I'm hoping Sony and a few others join the fray , 'cuz this latest generation of highly engineered, technologically sophisticated headphones appearing of late is delivering seriously good listening. So, call me a mad scientist too, I highly recommend the Beyerdynamic Tesla T1. On-line professional reviews are non-existent as these headphones are brand new at this writing. Fortunately, the best ears in the business are the headphone geeks at Head-Fi, and quite a few have now reported their experience with the T1 in this thread. However, since it's well over 100 pages long now, I recommend Currawong's " Beyer T1 impressions and pictures list." as an index for your further investigation. Please visit HeadRoom’s website to purchase your Beyerdynamic Tesla T1 with our Best Price Guarantee.
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