Let’s get this out of the way quickly: it’s a bit of a challenge to write about headphones called the HEDDphone produced by a company named HEDD which actually is known for making speakers, not headphones. The HEDDphone headphones by HEDD (hereafter just known as “HEDDphone”) are the first set of consumer headphones to use Air Motion Transformer (AMT) technology. AMT is a relatively new driver technology with incredible fast response time that has primarily been used in speakers so far. I took some time with them this past week to find out if the AMT powered HEDDphone has the potential to be the start of the next big headphone technology.
Build and Design
The HEDDphone comes in premium packaging with minimum frills. The box includes just the HEDDphone itself and 6.3mm unbalanced cable that connects to the headphones with mini-XLR. Looking at them straight on, the HEDDphone’s black leather cups and silver trim are fairly nondescript. However, when you turn them to the side, the AMT grills have a distinct retro-futuristic look.
The HEDDphone is large and on the heavy side. It’s not significantly larger than many flagship planar magnetic headphones, but it’s a bit heavier than your average set of cans, weighing in a few grams less than the Audeze LCD-4. The headband might also be a sticking point for some. Many found the headband in the initial run of HEDDphones to be too small, so HEDD updated the headband to be more accommodating after the first batch of HEDDphones, but the improved headband still may not be accommodating enough if you have a larger head.
The HEDDphone has an open back design, so you can expect a fair amount of noise bleeding in and out while you’re listening. There was less bleed in general compared to many other open-back headphones, but this won’t be a top pick for traveling or commuting. I should also add (and HEDD mentions this in the product info) that there’s a crinkling sound that you hear as you’re getting the headphones adjusted. This is because the AMT transducers are flexible and they make a little bit of noise as they move around. This won’t damage your headphones at all, and it doesn’t interfere with the music once you get it going.
While there might be some minor bumps in the road when it comes to getting the headphones comfortable on your head, once you get them on, it’s totally worth it. The HEDDphone has an incredibly natural speaker-like response. This, coupled with its massive soundstage creates a large, very lifelike presentation. While the tuning isn’t entirely neutral – there is some elevation in the bass to low mids, and then again in the high mids to the low treble range, with a rolloff at the top – the end result is a feeling that the music is happening right there in front of you.
The HEDDphone is incredibly detailed. Whether it’s a bit of ring in the cymbals, a tremble of the vocals, or the fret noise of the guitar, every aspect of the recording is faithfully delivered. I’m not a big classical listener, but I was impressed at the nuance that came across in the Wiener Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (when I listen to classical, I always pick something melodically familiar). The detailed nature of the HEDDphone helps the listener to notice things like the trills in the woodwinds, or the distinct way in which each layer of strings builds the climax of the all too familiar DUN-DUN-DUN-DUNNNN!
I found that the HEDDphone really brought out the beauty in many older recordings, or anything using predominantly acoustic instruments. The spatial and positioning ability of the HEDDphone with genres like classic jazz are astounding. On Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Dream,” I’m two rows back in an empty auditorium. The drum kit is on the left side of the stage, with the bass offset slightly from the drums towards the center, Monk is on the right, and the tenor saxophone is right in the middle of the stage. The cymbals and brushed drum work is clear and precise. The bass and piano feel natural, and the tenor saxophone never feels sharp or harsh.
Many old recordings create this amazing sense of space and positioning. While things like stereo panning have largely fallen out of favor on modern pop recordings. Bands like the Beatles who made heavy use of them are particularly engaging to listen to on the HEDDphone. With most good headphones, you can place each Beatle on the stage for “Sgt. Pepper’s Club Band.” The HEDDphone’s holographic nature provides incredibly clear positioning and clear attachment of each player to their respective instrument. It’s not just that I hear George’s voice and a guitar from the right side, it’s that George’s voice is clearly connected to George’s electric guitar.
That’s not to say that these are only good for music written before 1970, they’re revealing and detailed nature make them a great choice for many forms of pop, electronic, ambient, and industrial music. While the bass isn’t as prominent as some listeners might be looking for, on something like “Head Like a Hole” by Nine Inch Nails there’s a solid bass presence, and the HEDDphone expertly unpacks layers of live and electronic instruments. On Coldplay’s “Something Just Like This,” the bass hits are thick and powerful, and the vocals are clear and bright. After a few hours of primarily jazz and classic rock tracks, I was frankly surprised by how physical and powerful the bass could get. Given the level of detail and clarity, and its overall balanced performance, I had underestimated how much bass the HEDDphone was really capable of pumping out.
The Bottom Line
The HEDDphone’s AMT drivers provide a uniquely natural, speaker-like presentation with incredible detail and transparency. The detail, combined with the massive soundstage and holographic imaging create both an enjoyable listening experience and an excellent tool for focused listening. The cherry on top is the price point. The HEDDphone provides Endgame level performance, with a promising, innovative technology all for $1899. With performance like this at a price like this, the HEDDphone headphones by HEDD are headphones that you need on your head.