HEDD Audio HEDDphone is the first pair of headphones in the world to utilize a full-range AMT driver, previously used exclusively in speakers. It’s a beast of a headphone priced at $1899.
HEDD Audio is not a new name in the audio industry. Originating from the well-known company Adam Audio, HEDD is oriented more toward high-end audio products.
They are famous for their AMT (Air Motion Transformer) drivers, which they now have implemented into their first headphone launch ever.
If you ask me – that’s absolutely bonkers. Launching the first headphone in Company’s portfolio and introducing a revolutionary technology at the same time, that’s what it all should be about. Of course, it takes some bravery to go this route, instead of sticking to something done in the past HEDD Audio simply called “all-in”, and well…what a great decision it was.
Even though it’s their first headphone ever, you won’t have a feeling that you’re dealing with one. This pair is mature, innovative, and just simply striking, and all that starts with the packaging.
The box is actually huge, just like the headphone (or should I say heddphone) itself. Its design though is what I call “noice”, and I actually use it as a decoration on the shelf in my living room. There’s something “German” to it, combining refinement and simplicity. Inside this giant thing, we’re greeted by the headphone itself, a separate compartment that hides the cable and some paperology. Nothing more, nothing less. One could complain that with such high price they could’ve included a balanced cable or an additional bonus, but in my opinion, it’s all we really need. Don’t cut any corners and provide everything that is essential – that’s the way to go.
The cable included in the box is quite good, but don’t expect anything extraordinary. It is 2.2m long and it terminates into two mini-xlrs on one end, and 4-pin XLR on the other in my case, which means that it’s a balanced cable.
It should be noted that the cable is quite stiff and tanky, which suits the HEDDphone perfectly, but it’s not the most comfortable cable that I’ve ever used. Well, it’s actually below average in this regard, but it ain’t that bad, don’t worry.
It’s a pure-copper construction, and it uses high-quality REAN connectors. It makes for a pretty “German” approach – it’s reliable, sturdy, and good quality, but not really an “audiophile choice”.
Build quality and comfort
Okay, now into the fun part. This thing is absolutely massive, huge, gigantic…and I love it. Yes, you’re gonna look a bit stupid with them on your head (well, at least I do), you’re gonna have some neck pain due to their ridiculous weight (718g), but boy oh boy…those are one rock-solid, tanky pair of headphones.
I find it very interesting that no photo I’ve ever seen (and the ones that I took too) can really show how well these are made. Before receiving them I was sure that they’ll be quite shaky and not really that sturdy, even considering the weight. How wrong was I…
The HEDDphone is superbly well-made, the fit and finish is extraordinary, and they are my first choice to use as a weapon when the zombie apocalypse will surprise me sitting by the desk, no joke. Oh, and I really dig that “raw” polish on the aluminum parts, it looks unfinished at first glance, but the more I look at them, the more cool they appear.
As far as the design goes, they are very professional and industrial looking. While some angles could show them as uninspiring and rather plain looking, the whole construction really screams “pro” and “engineering over design” kind of vibe. I’m a sucker for minimalism and for monochromatic themes (like you couldn’t have guessed by my photos already haha) and I absolutely adore this pair. There’s just something about them that gently screams sexy into my ears.
Now let’s talk about comfort, which probably interests a lot of you. Yes, the HEDDphone is comfortable, but not for long. The clamping force, plush pads and pleasant alcantara on the headband all make for a snug yet comfortable and “right” wearing, but the weight won’t let you wear them for too long, especially early on. You will get used to it just as I did after few weeks, but they will never be HD800 or Ananda/Arya/HE1000 kind of comfortable, no way. Don’t worry though, you’ll manage…it’s not like you won’t be able to use them for more than an hour and trust me, you’ll want to.
I mentioned the importance of the AMT driver used in these, so let’s specify a little bit what it’s all about.
See, AMT is not really a new technology when we speak about headphones, as oBravo has been using them as a tweeter for quite some time now. It has never been done as a full-range headphone driver though, so it’s basically the first headphone of its kind.
What’s AMT you’d ask? Let me quote Hedd Audio itself: “The Air Motion Transformer (AMT) is an electrodynamic transducer that allows moving air significantly faster than common voice coil, 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 a musical recording.”
What does it all mean in terms of sound performance? Well…let’s get straight into it.
The HEDDphone has been around for a while now, so you’ve probably seen numerous reviews that rate them as one of the best headphones on the market regardless of the price. I’m happy to report that all of them are hundred percent right.
The bass is tight, extremely agile and full of detail. The tonality reminds me somehow of a combination between electrostatic and dynamic driver, not reaching the top level of any, but still having benefits of both. It is as fast, as precise and controlled as some electrostatic competitors, but at the same time, its physicality and impact is more reminiscent of a good dynamic driver in terms of the low frequencies.
While it may not be on the same level as Stax 009s in terms of speed, nor as strong and impactful as the best dynamic headphones out there, it accomplishes a performance that is simply “the best of both worlds”, while maintaining to sound neutral and natural.
Don’t expect a superbly hard-kicking bass though, as the Audeze LCD3 and the Hifiman HE1000se both have more slam. Nonetheless, the HEDDphone’s performance is closer to that of Hifiman here, as its resolution and pace outplay LCD3 quite significantly.
While the “Random Access Memories” by Daft Punk is an absolute treat to listen to with the HEDDphone in general, its bass performance shines the brightest here. Just play the song called “Giorgio by Moroder” and get lost in that fast, rich and physical bass that is simply addictive.
The bass response might not be ground-breaking or class-leading in any way, but that’s probably its biggest strength. At the end of the day, the HEDDphone has a studio heritage, and it’s supposed to sound right, neutral and correct while maintaining its fun factor. It’s one of the best low frequencies in the price range for sure, but it’s not the star of the show.
The midrange achieves something quite unusual, which I absolutely love – it’s rather dark and absolutely filled with detail at the same time. Its tonality is shifted towards the lower-mid section, which gives vocals that additional body that’s loved by many.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m a sucker for a thick, moist midrange performance and that’s what I found in the HEDDphone – lushness, warmth and body to die for.
I have some favorite male vocals that I use for testing every single device with, one of them being SYML. While his voice might not be the hardest to recreate, he can sound absolutely delightful with properly tuned gear, and he does so with the HEDDphone.
If I’d had to use one word to describe the midrange, it would be “romantic”. It’s very, very slightly veiled timbre combined with richness and sweetness make for one of the most melodic sounding headphones I’ve ever listened to.
All of the above doesn’t mean that the HEDDphone is dull or it lacks details, not even a bit. The resolution is spot-on throughout the whole mid section, with the upper-midrange being slightly recessed. It doesn’t hide any details though, as this AMT driver moves a lot of air that is filled with details. Listening to The Alan Parsons Project shows what these headphones are all about – retaining a neutral and accurate sound performance with a touch musicality added on top, which doesn’t dominate the whole image.
The treble is the most impressive aspect of the HEDDphone. While I said that the bass is a combination of electrostatic and dynamic drivers pros, I also stated that it isn’t really on the top level of either. It’s different with the high-end, as it’s as fast and detailed as the top electrostatic headphones on the market, but at the same time, it has that timbre and note weight of the best dynamic headphones out there.
I’d even go as far as calling the treble almost perfect. You’re getting details and air for life, but at the same time it would absolutely never be tiring or overexposed. Recently I’ve built a stereo setup that uses the Rockport Atria speakers and the Accuphase E-800 as the amp, and its treble performance really reminds me of the one found in the HEDDphone. The amount of details combined with such ease proves why this is genuinely a Summit-Fi pair of headphones. You’re never going to hear that they’re pushing more than they are capable of. What’s the most impressive though, as many superbly-detailed headphones tend to struggle with badly mastered albums, the HEDDphone is actually quite forgiving for those.
I recently rewatched all of the live performances of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest (yea, I know), and you probably know how bad it is in terms of audio quality. While listening to those on my HE1000se was quite unpleasant, the HEDDphone came in and saved the day.
Also, my number one track for testing the cymbals is Tool – Invincible from their latest album called Fear Inoculum. All I got was an extended, airy and razor-sharp sound with proper weight and thickness. I’m super picky when it comes to thin-sounding cymbals, and the HEDDphone proved that its treble performance is simply spectacular.
Now onto the soundstage. Its width is good, but not even close to the HE1000se level. If you’re a fan of a very wide stage, the HEDDphone isn’t actually that impressive in this regard. Don’t worry though, as when you’ll hear their depth, you’re most probably going to be left speechless. This is easily on par with the best headphones in the world currently. But wait, it doesn’t end there. Let’s get back to the Eurovision, as after switching the HE1000se to the HEDDphone gave me something that I really wasn’t expecting, which is the ease of projecting the sounds outside of your head.
What happened was that I instantly started to hear the audience differently. Except of it being the part of the whole sound bubble, the clapping started coming from around me. The HEDDphone really shines when it comes to live performances, recreating the feeling of big venues in full swing. The imaging is also great, you’re gonna be able to easily pinpoint the location of every instrument. While the overall size of the soundstage and its accuracy is even slightly better in the HE1000se, the HEDDphone leaves the Audeze LCD3 and Hifiman Ananda behind by quite a lot.
VS Hifiman HE1000se
While it might seem unfair to compare these two, as the Hifiman is almost double the price of the HEDDphone, it also proves how good the latter is.
Yes, the HE1000se is more detailed, more natural, transparent and even faster than the HEDDphone, but it’s less musical and fun. Nonetheless, it’s actually supposed to be this way. The 1000se is the second most detailed pair of headphones ever made, falling short only to the Susvara, and it’s actually a close call.
The bass is deeper and more physical in the 1000se, and its midrange is more forward and clean sounding. Overall, the tuning of the Hifiman is more neutral and uncolored, but thanks to that it’s way less forgiving to poor mastering. The HEDD on the other hand is more distorted (but mainly in a good way), it has a better sense of the sounds coming from around your head, and its treble performance is just as impressive as the one found in the 1000se. The Hifiman HE1000se is a better headphone, more detailed and its tuning is just extraordinary, but when it comes to sounding fun and enjoyable, the HEDDphone is just as good, even though the difference in price is significant.
VS Audeze LCD3
Audeze LCD3 has been a very popular choice throughout the years now, but its age has started to show as never before recently. It’s priced on the same level to the HEDDphone, but in terms of raw sound performance, it falls short. Yes, you’re still getting that gorgeous build quality and great comfort (even though they are quite heavy as well). Also, LCD3 is one of the best looking headphones ever made period. But in terms of the staging, treble performance, detail and resolution, the HEDDphone is in its own league when comparing these two. Actually, the latter sound like a refined LCD3 with less emphasis on the bass response, but it also offers fatigue-free and enjoyable listening experience. The biggest difference is in detail retrieval and in staging capabilities, both of which are performed much better on the HEDDphone. It’s actually closer to the LCD4 when it comes to raw audio performance, which is very impressive. Audeze LCD3 has had a long, successful run in the headphone market, but the HEDDphone is a natural continuation of its philosophy but better executed.
VS Hifiman Ananda
If you’ve read our review of the Ananda (here) then you already know, that we called it the (probably) best headphone in the $1000 market. Even though the HEDDphone is more than double the price, it really shows. Not only the build quality is more premium and original, its audio performance is just in a different league. While the Ananda is a very, very neutral and technically-capable pair of headphones, the HEDDphone adds that natural warmth and smoothness, as well as having a more three-dimensional soundstage, without sacrificing any of the raw technicalities. Actually, it is even so slightly more detailed and definitely more refined sounding, offering a more universal and safe listening experience. You won’t have to worry about the mastering when you’ll be choosing the album to listen to. The Ananda is way more comfortable in the long run though, but the added weight on the HEDDphone won’t stop you from using them more than the Hifiman. Simply put – you’re getting what you’re paying for. It is way more expensive and simply better, but it’s actually impressive that the Ananda stood this battle quite well. The latter actually offers better value, but high-end audio isn’t really about that, so I’d say that it’s worth paying extra for the HEDDphone. You’re not getting a 3x better-sounding headphone, but it’s better enough to justify it.
VS Unique Melody MEST
Well, you probably didn’t see that coming, but there’s a reason why I included a comparison between the MEST as well. Let me put it straight – the HEDDphone actually reminds me of the MEST in many ways. It’s a Summit-Fi bargain, offering an excellent and rich tone, fantastic soundstage and it’s just a joy to listen to. The lightning-fast treble performance, natural voicing and imaging that comes way out of your head are present in both MEST and the HEDDphone. At the end of the day, both of them offer an excellent value in the High-End market and you simply can’t go wrong picking one up.
The HEDD Audio HEDDphone is a dream debut to the headphone market by this German manufacturer. Revolutionary, well-made, great-looking, and sounding way above its price range. This is the new “best value” high-end headphones in the market, and it’ll make you listen to your favorite albums with joy.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Hifiman HE1000se, Hifiman HE400i 2020, Hifiman Deva, AKG K501, Audeze LCD3, Focal Clear, Little Dot GYFU, Hifiman Ananda, Unique Melody MEST, Fir Audio M5 custom
- Sources– Cayin N3Pro, JDSLabs Atom stack, SMSL SU-9 + SH-9, Feliks Audio Echo MK II, Little Dot MK III SE, Luxman 1040, Ayon HA-3 II