I managed to book myself a seat with the new Sennheiser HE1 at the HK AV Show this year. Unlike the rather awful Focal listening room, this one was properly soundproofed from the din of the event and the MrSpeakers sheeple a few feet away. Before getting into impressions proper, I will disclose the testing conditions to make sure everyone is aware of the caveats and limitations of this post. The primary limitation was that I was only permitted 10 minutes with the headphones. Furthermore, I was restricted to using the rig provided by Senn, which I will detail below. Rig: Marantz CD Transport -> HE1 built-in DAC -> HE1 Amp (Crossfeed setting: none) -> HE1 Headphones Test Tracks: - Track 1: Artist: Emilie-Claire Barlow Record: Live in Tokyo Track: Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head Well recorded CD with only barely perceptible compression artifacts and a terrific mixing job. Opening bass notes are well-rendered with the correct decay and a sense of body that often isn't apparent on a lot of Stax rigs. As the rest of the track progresses, its clear the tonal balance leans slightly bright (not face-tweeter level), and the level of clarity is exceptional. One notable issue was not-subtle sibilance with female vocals, especially prominent with the "s" noises in this track (HD800-esque problem spot or the Sabre DAC?). I have half a mind to say it is a bit thin, but that's not always apparent. Staging is kind of narrow compared to a HD800, more HD600-like (a positive for me, I find HD800 staging overly wide and diffuse with many kinds of music), but the stage is notably taller than with either of the two above-mentioned cans. Rendition of spatial cues is good but notably inferior to a modded HD800 on my home system. Low-level information extraction is sublime (aided by the sense of clarity and speed). - Track 2: Artist: R.E.M. Record: Murmur - MFSL Gold Disc UDCD 642 Track: Laughing An outstanding CD mixed on the old GAIN system, a fair bit bassier than the original version. The bass notes to start this track are one of my test references, and here they are presented with astonishing speed and extension, notably superior to the original Orpheus on that front. What shines on this track is the dynamism of the Neue-Orpheus, which I would say compares favorably to Sennheiser's dynamic offerings, a high bar. - Track 3: Artist: Martha Argerich/Alexandre Rabinovitch Record: Rachmaninov: Suites No.1 and 2: Symphonic Dances Track: No.5 - Suite No.2 for 2 Pianos in C Major, Op 17 - Introduction in C Major A challenging piece, especially for headphones, with two pianos being involved in the mix. Here the tonal balance of the HE1 works favorably, elevating the liveliness and realism of the track. Note separation is absolutely outstanding on this track, an area where I've heard most other headphone systems and some speaker systems falter. Instrument timbre is accurately conveyed and the pianos remain positionally distinct throughout. Overall: All in its an incredibly capable headphone, but definitely shows its leaning to Sennheiser's contemporary voicing preferences compared to the original Orpheus, which was the original super HD650. In terms of open-window sensation clarity it easily bests its predecessor and the modern estats, while retaining most of the sense of body I particularly enjoyed in the original Orpheus. Its only technical shortfall which might be solved with a comparably good source is the rendition of spatial cues in comparison to the HD800. The sibilance is an unfortunate bugbear, but without me having my Yggdrasil or another known non-sibilant DAC (or vinyl, but I lack the persuasive talent to convince Matt Weisfield downstairs to lend me one of his items) in the room to compare with the built-in DAC I cannot confirm the source of the issue. With only 3 tracks to listen to I cannot conclusively say it is better than the original Orpheus (the previous best headphone experience personally), but even with the better source with the original I would prefer the new iteration. As an addendum, the knob is quite easily one of the worst I have ever experienced. Sticky in places, unstable around its rotational axis causing the knob to grind against the fancy marble as I turn it. I hope it was damaged or in development as this was distressingly poor compared to the rest of the experience. My delighted mug during this rarefied experience.