headphones

Beyerdynamic Tesla T1 Review

The new Tesla line has a long way to go, but it does have its bright spots.

December 15, 2011
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Introduction

Well, here it is: Beyerdynamic’s entry into the super high-end headphone market, its magnum opus: the Tesla T1 (MSRP $1,495). It’s quite a bit different than what we're used to, but the lightened drivers make for an interestingly clear listening experience. That being said, there are some peculiar shortcomings of the T1s that give us pause, and might give you some too.

Comfort Design & Features

These opulent cans are supremely comfortable—with the caveat that you can't take that opulence out of the house.

We’re fans of the simple, clean, industrial look of the Beyerdynamic Tesla T1s. Not only are they easy on the eyes, but they also have a more or less classic look to them that doesn’t scream: “Hey, look at me! I’m valued at well over $1,000!” These cans are also durable, there’s no question about it. Though they are open-backed (and therefore their electronics are less well-protected against the elements), their extremely robust cable and their metal casing make these cans more resemble a tank than a pair of sensitive electronics.

We’re fans of the simple, clean, industrial look of the Beyerdynamic Tesla T1s. Tweet It

Though a bit cumbersome, the 9.6 foot cable of the Beyerdynamic Tesla T1 is extremely robust, as the cable itself is very thick, and the wire is enormous. This monstrous cable of the Beyerdynamic Tesla T1 ends in a straight, 1/4th inch plug, which should be fine, given that you’re going to need an amp to properly drive these monsters

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Audio Quality

For an MSRP of almost $1,500 you'd expect some very high-quality audio from these high-end music muffs, and Beyerdynamic delivers the goods.

The Tesla T1s tested with solid sound quality, showing off a commendable—though slightly odd—frequency response, super-clear analytical sound, and some imperfect, but imperceptible, channel favoring. The Tesla line makes use of some new audio technology, and it seems to under- and over-emphasize in a particular pattern.

We didn’t expect to see when testing the Beyerdynamic Tesla T1s is the level of distortion we recorded over repeated tests. Tweet It

One thing we didn’t expect to see when testing the Beyerdynamic Tesla T1s is the level of distortion we recorded over repeated tests. There’s a general distortion level that hovers just under the 1% mark; while you won’t hear it, it's very atypical of high-end, or even mid-range headphones, which have next to none.

The tracking was a bit wonky for the Beyerdynamic Tesla T1s, but nothing that ever reaches an audible preference in one channel or another. We typically don’t see this kind of tracking issue from the high-end flagship headphones, so this is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Due to the fact that these cans were made with a semi-open back design, it’s not surprising that they simply do not isolate you from the outside world. It’s quite alright though: this is intentional, as the semi-open backs give you an open soundstage, without any teeny tiny echoes that some closed-back headphones have the habit of giving you.

Conclusion

Such is the misfortune of the pioneer—that they are often not the ones to perfect their contributions.

While the Beyerdynamic Tesla T1s (MSRP $1,495) are certainly impressive in many regards, their distortion level, tracking issues, and price tag are a bit hard to swallow. Though the new type of dynamic driver brought to the table by Beyerdynamic is quite interesting (and certainly seems to live up to the hype that it enables the drivers to move quicker, and therefore produce clearer sound), it is very new and apparently not as polished as it should be at its price point.

The poor marks for distortion is fairly mystifying, as Beyerdynamic typically does not field models with much distortion at all. That’s not to say that it’s quite at the level of being audible, but it’s definitely not how a pair of $1200 headphones should sound.

Don’t take this review to mean that these are bad headphones (they’re not; their frequency response is great), but what we’ve seen from the Tesla line so far is that they perform well for the most part, but have several oddities in their audio performance that might give audiophiles pause in buying them. For the T70s, it was a strange underemphasis in the high end, and for the T1s, it was a somewhat higher than normal distortion level. Keep in mind that it will be very hard to hear these blemishes as a human, but having recording equipment allows one to see things like this.

Performance issues notwithstanding, it’s very easy to be harsh on headphones with a $1000+ pricetag, so we’ll leave our final conclusion at this: much like a huge number of other headphones on the market, you may want to shop around to see if you can get a better deal if you’re looking to buy these cans. It’s just the smart thing to do. Still, if you’re looking for a pair of mixing headphones, there are other headphones out there that are far more polished and durable than the Beyerdynamic Tesla T1s for only a few hundred more.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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