Beyerdynamic T1 'Tesla' Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Jul 4, 2014.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube review:


    Sources: iPhone5 with Portaphile Micro/PA2V2/Decware Zen Head amps using the LOD, various computers using Microstreamer/Beyer A200p/v-moda Verza DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the T1 'Tesla' headphone are based on direct comparisons to other headphones - the v-moda M80 and M100, the Beyerdynamic T90, DT1350 and T51p, the FAD Pandora IV and VI, and notes I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I describe how I relate to the T1 (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    Summary of sound: Extremely smooth from the deep bass up through the mid-treble. The upper treble (7-10 khz) is a little strong for me, and you can see the EQ adjustments I made with the Audioforge Equalizer (link above, or found at my dalethorn site under Photos and Audioforge) to smooth out the strongest frequencies. I also boost the low bass around 40 hz slightly, but that's not because it's not neutral or otherwise ideal - that boost is just a personal preference for a warmer sound. The T1 has enough reserve for such things so as long as you don't push it too far, you won't incur any distortion or muddiness from a modest boost. I hear nothing but clean clear detail in the T1 bass. The T1 midrange is phenomenal - a liquid-like sound that impresses me more than any other headphone I've had, including my 3 years with the Sennheiser HD800.

    The T1 treble may be perfect for musical genres such as classical, acoustic, jazz and so on, or for some users who know that they prefer the stronger high end that this headphone was designed for. Whether you like the sound as-is or make minor adjustments as I did, the overall result (in my opinion) probably can't be beat at the full retail price, although there are competitors for certain aspects of the sound in that price range. I've heard some planars that have a very compelling bass response, but I prefer the T1 bass since it doesn't exert dominance over any other part of the spectrum. I've heard other headphones such as the Shure SRH1840 where the treble quantity is closer to what I prefer, but none of those are balanced just right throughout the treble (never minding the rest of their sound spectrum), so the T1 holds its own there.

    The final judgement of course is in playing my most demanding music tracks, such as David Chesky and Wonjung Kim's "Girl From Guatemala", and the T1 delineates the extreme treble percussion after 3 minutes into that track perfectly. The T1 soundstage is just right, and where I might say "excellent" or "very good" for other premium headphones (as applicable), "just right" seems like the proper description when the soundstage sounds completely natural with no artificial enhancement. This is particularly interesting given that the T1's drivers are sharply angled and offset significantly from the center of the earcups. My T90 headphone (with the tweaks I applied to it) has a great soundstage, and the T1 was very similar when I compared them. But beyond that similarity, the T1 has a somewhat better depth and sense of realism, and if it turns out that that's due to the angled/offset drivers, count me as surprised and impressed.

    The T1 fit is perfect for me, with big earpads that should surround the largest ears in full comfort. The headband clamp is light, particularly so for a full-size headphone. The earpad edges may feel a little stiff on first use, but they are soft and spongy, so adjusting to the feel should take only a few seconds. The headband adjustment goes about one inch smaller on each side from where I use it to about 3/4 inch larger on each side, and that should accomodate a very wide range of sizes based on my average-size head. The dual-entry cable is fairly thick and very long (~10-12 feet), and terminated by a 6.5 mm (1/4 inch) Neutrik plug. The T1 is an open-back design, so there's almost no isolation. Leakage is such that you won't be able to play this headphone in a quiet office or public library without disturbing persons close by.

    The T1's efficiency or sensitivity is fairly low and requires power well beyond what most cellphones or pocket music players can provide. The small portable amps that I typically use have to be set to high gain to drive the T1 to adequate volume for most of my music tracks. But I don't recommend having "just enough" power for this headphone, since "soft clipping" can occur with some amps, and you could find yourself a couple of hours into a listening session just to discover that the subtle edginess you thought was in the music is actually clipping.

    The comments in the music tracks listed below can be compared to other headphone reviews I've done, to get an idea of how the T1 plays the different music tracks listed here compared to other headphones. My suggestion is instead of reading each comment below as an absolute unto itself, you could compare these notes to other reviews as they get posted, and see how the T1 compares with each individual track.
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Beyer T1 review part 2 - music tracks

    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has excellent detail and tone with a modest weight, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The T1 plays this extremely well.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled perfectly by the T1.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can feel some of the weight they carry with the T1.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The T1 plays this music smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Good sound quality - this is a great test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled extremely well by the T1.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The T1 plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track.

    Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are crisp and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The T1 reproduces the space and detail beautifully.

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the T1 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The T1 plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are very detailed but not edgy - very musical in fact.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sound is as realistic as I've heard with any other headphone since doing these detailed reviews.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The T1 reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.

    Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The T1 plays this music perfectly.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 *should* have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound and feel that indicates a good deep-bass response, but the T1 is somewhat light on bass impact here. Still, the T1 plays this music very well overall.

    Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has excellent detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The T1 plays this track perfectly.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce fairly well with the T1. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    Human League - Keep Feeling Fascination (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's bass line is very detailed, but the somewhat forward voices don't have quite the "you are there" quality of the Heaven 17 track noted above.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The T1 provides excellent detail. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for maximum detail effect. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the T1 does those very well.

    Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The T1 reproduces the fundamental tone with a light weight.

    Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2014, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the T1 is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is fairly subtle with the T1.

    Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The T1 reproduces those sound effects with a subdued "clop".

    Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The T1 provides some of that experience, but the lean low bass lessens the realism. The tympani have good impact here.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the T1 renders the tones and transients perfectly.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here aren't as strong as with most headphones, but they blend well with the horns and other instruments. The T1 delivers the impacts with fair weight and excellent detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.

    William Orbit - Optical Illusion (Billy Buttons Mix) (Electronic): This is about as close as I want to get to easy-listening music. The string tones beginning at 0:18 are fairly soft, and while the bass isn't very deep, it still adds a good underpinning to the music. The short poetic rap at 4:14, preceded by an etherial female voice, works very well with this track.

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