You’ve officially become an audiophile — this is the image portrayed by Beyerdynamic and their second generation T1 Stereoheadphones. Back when these were new, the market for personal reference hi-fi was inconceivably niche.
And still, it’s hard to believe that something considered a hobby kicked off a phenomenon. Sound quality finally mattered among the mainstream again and the T1 was an instrumental piece in the revival. Of course they weren’t exactly the harbinger but a decisive answer against the likes of the HD800 (Sennheiser), K1000 (AKG), and ATH-W1000X (Audio-Technica).
These brands weren’t completely familiar to the majority until people got excited about making traditional audio a modern luxury, and all of it them elevating to thousand-dollar MSRPs and even fierce engineering claims. Bitching and moaning about the controversial hikes has made the timeline worth discussing nonetheless, because while everyone has raised the bar exuberantly — only a handful have kept their flagships around this long and arguably relevant like the T1.
The landscape of enthusiast headphones has essentially transformed as a result. But this begs the question: does experience really come with age?
The original T1 has been available for over half a decade, nearly unchanged in its updated form and still attractive. Pieced together with silver metallic earcups and a grille that delicately glimmers in beige under natural light. The leather headband is supported by a metal frame that features machine-cut engravings of the “T1” logo, and plush velour cushions that utilize memory foam. The general appearance could be described as technical and elegant, a graciously understated nod to their heritage; but maybe I’m reaching a little here.
Exterior connectivity is moderately improved from the prior generation thanks to detachable studio cables, which greatly simplifies changing or replacement when an inevitable accident does arise. Fortunately, the included 9.8-foot (3 meter) ¼” (6.35mm) jack adapter cable is threaded with longevity in mind, but that’s the only connector in the carrying case. For variety, you’ll have to get the optional — and equally premium — 4-pin XLR cable on your own dime.
Putting on the headphones is impressive, because they barely require adjustment among different shaped heads. Comfort and weight was damn-near like a glove, enveloping the cranium snuggly without the excess or applying unnecessary pressure around sensitive ears. The T1 is debatably perfect for long afternoons of listening enjoyment, a trait that doesn’t always couple with tangible pleasure.
All of the internal specs are carried over too, so expect the same Tesla dynamic transducers, 600 Ohm (Ω) impedance, 102 dB nominal SPL, frequency response of 5-50,000 Hz, and T.H.D of <0.05%.
I’ve only worn a few stereo headphones that didn’t compromise one aspect for another — and the T1 are quite balanced to a fault. The sound characteristics lean pleasantly towards warm, with a neutral foundation that favors tonal authenticity and accurate low-end force as a whole. It’s a blend that’s grounded in treble and overall precision, if just a tad unexciting for most music with artificial intensity or heavier basslines mixed in.
The intended effect is centered on reproducing the subtleties of soundstage and imaging for contemporaries, keeping every nuance in a song untouched while trying to nullify ambient noises for a semi-open build. This is more apparent when you start comparing listening environments, if you’re in public like a coffee house or demoing these at an audio dealer you won’t be able to hear the real benefits. However, take the T1 somewhere private and they’ll promptly come to life with absolute clarity at midlevel volume. ‘Spaciousness under isolation’ best describes how the T1 should be appreciated, a solid richness that’s hypothetically akin to a good scotch.
Range and channel detail brilliantly carries plenty of weight, but delivery on the highs come off as more relaxed depending on the track. Tom Browne’s “Herbal Scent” was a song that turns an otherwise mellow flow upward by saxophone high notes, the T1 was eager but restrained until the song eventually retreated to the midranges again; probably done to minimize distortion and retain a neutral profile. I would be wrong in saying that it’s a deficient compromise, as peaks are dampened somewhat for more energetic jazz or rock music — in other words: the experience is polite and welcoming, but comparatively routine, no matter the Hi-Res receiver or amplifier you pair them up with.
After trying the T1 Stereo headphones, there are plenty of good reasons why Beyerdynamic is a revered brand, making a flagship that has gotten better with time. For myself, the T1 is a worthy precursor of what you can expect as an enthusiast, only limited by the individual preference for excellent audio.
Much of the glowing praise may settle on temperament and conceptualized ideas, split right down the middle. Many will love the sound and stick with them, while others may find the performance slightly awry lead by a leisurely presentation. Either way, the T1 remains a textbook example of refinement.