Sennheiser recently unveiled a gaggle of new products and introduced its 12 Sennheiser Sound Heroes at the Manila House Private Members Club.
The legendary German audio specialist giant presented new cutting-edge hardware that encompass modern applications–from professional audio needs to gaming to mobile journalism– and include headphones, gaming headsets, microphones for GoPros and iPhones, wireless systems, and amplifiers.
For example, there’s the AMBEO VR mic which is a 3D audio recording microphone that is designed for use with VR (virtual reality) videos and 360 camera setups:
The 12 audio apostles–singer/actors Khalil Ramos and Jay Gonzaga; radio DJs Dannie Farmer and Jazmin Reyes; influencers/bloggers Cha Ocampo, Rhea Bue, Issa Pressman, Deegee Razon, and Ira Denise Oyco; vlogger Maqui Castelo; party emcee Marga Bermudez; and photographer Magic Liwanag– reflect the range of usage that the current Sennheiser product line offers. The Sound Heroes campaign also exists in Korea and Singapore and according to the company, “The project will follow 12 creative personalities on a journey to discover new audio experiences with Sennheiser… culminating with a trip to Sennheiser’s headquarters and flagship stores in Germany.”
But if there is a piece de resistance that defines the audio alchemy of Sennheiser, it is the HE 1 reference headphone system:
And yep, you read the headline correctly: it costs 3.4 million pesos. Before you start gagging or scoffing though (a normal reaction, really), consider its features. To begin with, the body is made from carrara marble, the same material used by Michelangelo for the Pieta. It is not just for looks–and the HE 1 is gorgeous with its Zen-like facade– as the marble provides an extremely stable vibration-free chassis which guarantees absolute protection for the 6,000 components which include the 8 proprietary tubes that provide power; each tube is encased in protective glass to eliminate EMF interference.
On power up, the tubes rise from their silos after a thirty second warm-up period (as shown above) and retract when the power is switched off. The soft-leather padded headphones themselves are designed for minimal heat built-up and feature gold-vaporised ceramic transducers and platinum-vaporised diaphragms. The frequency response it can handle ranges from 8 Hz to 100 kHz; the average human ear can detect 20 Hz to 20 kHz and most commercial products directly address the human range.
Sennheiser Asia Managing director Martin Low says, half-jokingly, that to hear the HE 1’s available frequency range “you have to be an elephant to hear 8 Hz, and a bat for the 100 kHz.” The astounding extended range, while useless to our hearing actually means in practical terms, the lowest THD (total harmonic distortion) possible and the result is accurate audio. (You probably would have to hook the HE 1 directly to a nuclear bomb for its sound to distort.)
So, what does 3.4 Million Pesos sound like?
Well, you can’t describe it without being accused of hyperbolic abuses so here’s one anyway because there is no other way: you are not hearing a musical performance, but feel as if you are inside it. Of course to begin with, the audio examples are likely lossless hi-quality files and not lo-res mp3s. (One can imagine the actual cacophony of crap mp3s through the hyper-precision circuitry of the HE 1.)
The first example, played without warning, was eerie: you hear a percussion instrument positioned slightly to your left. Open your eyes, and there is only an empty couch where the percussionist should be. You had to look around the room; it seemed like the band quickly walked in, magically set up their gear in five seconds, and played around you. In fact, the effect is so natural that you actually forget that you are wearing headphones mere seconds into listening to the recording.
Next, a beautifully recorded live version of the jazz classic “Take Five” was chosen by this writer, and it actually sounded like the band were inside the holding area where the HE 1 was. Then you realise, Paul Desmond died in 1977, Dave Brubeck in 2012, and the recording was made in 1972. You were, in a manner of speaking, in the company of ghosts, the HE 1 their portable marble mausoleum (with none of the morbidity).
Sound Heroes Issa Pressman and Marga Bermudez were also gobsmacked with the latter saying, “I could hear the handclaps right next to me!” Singer/songwriter Gio Levy allowed, “Dude, I felt like I was crouched in the middle of the band. Yeah, I know it’s gonna look like BS when you describe it or write it down, but that’s exactly what it felt like!”
The HE 1 is obviously not mass-produced; there has been one local customer who, also obviously, will remain unnamed and anonymous.
In the interview below, Martin Low explains some of the HE 1’s main features as well as other more affordable alternatives in the Sennheiser product line. Assistant Marketing Manager Ada Yen offered the use of the Sennheiser Handmic Digital which is designed to interface directly with an iOS phone. We simply plugged in, and was ready to go.
There is a raffle that will allow a Sennheiser customer to join the Sound Heroes trip to Germany. A purchase of a Sennheiser product from participating authorised dealers from November 1 2017 until February 28 2018 is required for eligibility. For more details, visit http://en-sg.sennheiser.com/sennheisersoundheroes2107