Man, I’m not going to lie… they really f*cked me up.
Blown away would be an understatement.
Over the years I’ve made a few playlists of songs I think sound particularly good on headphones. Also songs that have been particularly meaningful to me.
And when rolling through those tracks, I was simply overcome with emotion.
If I had to describe the sound in one word it would be “overwhelmingly beautiful.”
Honestly, beautiful to the point that I couldn’t comprehend that something could sound so good, so sweet, so earnest, so real.
And over the course of the first ~20-30 songs…
*I WAS NOT EXPECTING THIS NEXT PART* I felt a tear forming. And then tears forming. And before I knew it I was just outright sobbing. Sobbing at the beauty of the music. The pureness and earnestness of the sound. The sweetness of it. All wrapped in this feeling of nostalgia, past memories, and a deeper sense of humanity.
Frankly speaking, it’s the hardest I’ve cried in nearly a decade. I rarely cry.
So for me, this was a very touching and probably once-in-a-lifetime experience (the first time is always the sweetest right?).
I spent the next 8 straight hours going through all the songs I could think of that ever meant anything to me. It was like experiencing some of them for the first time again. That’s priceless tbh.
Did not move, just stayed in bed for 8 straight hours. No breaks. Melting away in audiophile nirvana.
Before I knew it it was 6am and I had to pry myself off the headphones to get to bed.
It’s now a new day, and here I am writing this.
So how do these compare?
How do they compare to the LCD-4s I know so intimately and the other TOTL cans I auditioned? To my ears, none of them come anywhere close. Nothing has moved me to tears before — so I would say that’s something special.
The HE-1s break the wall of audio fidelity to the point it sounds like you’re in the studio with the singer or instrument. That’s seriously impressive.
Using Schindler’s list as an example…
I’ve heard this song hundreds of times.
But through the lens of the HE-1, I was suddenly brought back to the music wing of my high school hearing real violins playing. Real live string instruments have such a distinct sound and it’s something the HE-1 is able to capture and miraculously reproduce.
Hearing that for something as iconic as say Schindler’s list is quite the experience.
Everything from techno, trance, pop, ballads, orchestras, soundtracks, etc. all sound stellar.
So imho, the HE-1 is orders of magnitude better than the LCD-4 (which I adore) and the other headphones in that range.
But is it worth $59k?
Here’s how I see it… a mid-tier Rolex or entry/mid-tier Audemar Piguet is roughly in the same ballpark cost. So if you’re in a position to buy one of those AND you have a history of deep enjoyment of audiophile headphone sound, then it’s something worth considering.
That being said… I randomly fell down the headphone rabbit hole when I was young and took to it. I still don’t know a single person in my network and extended network that share the same interest. In contrast, I know countless people that would enjoy a Rolex or whatever. So I guess it’s a pretty niche market to begin with.