You can now try the world’s most expensive headphones in Singapore – here’s what it’s like to use the S$86,000 HE1

Daniel Sennheiser, CEO of audio company Sennheiser, graced the official opening of the Experience Centre in ConnectIT, which houses the world’s most expensive headphones.
Sean Lim / Business Insider

How much would you spend on headphones that supposedly produce top-notch tunes, crystal clear sounds and all that jazz? S$500, S$1,000, or even S$5,000 perhaps?

Well, brace yourself for the world’s most expensive headphones – the Sennheiser HE1, which costs a staggering S$85,870 (US$62,641) – and that’s before tax.

But even if you don’t have that extra cash to burn, it’s okay. Now, you can experience the HE1 right here in Singapore – and it won’t cost you any money.

The Sennheiser HE1 costs S$85,870 before tax.
Sean Lim / Business Insider

I paid a visit to the headphones’ new home at Sennheiser’s first Experience Centre in Singapore, which was launched on Nov 28.

Sennheiser’s Experience Centre.
Sean Lim / Business Insider

Situated within audio product shop ConnectIT at 313@Somerset, the Sennheiser HE1 is housed in a cosy little enclosed room that supposedly simulates a living room setting, allowing for a fuller experience of the headphones, according to Sennheiser.

For a hands-on experience of the headphones, listeners must first make an appointment with ConnectIT. Each session lasts for 30mins and is facilitated by trained Sennheiser representatives.

The headphones are attached to a dock.
Sean Lim / Business Insider

To be precise, the Sennheiser HE1 is not just a pair of headphones. Rather, it’s more accurately described as a headphone system.

The headphones sit on a solid block of Carrara marble – the same kind that Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo used for his sculptures – alongside eight glass tubes. The whole set-up, with its in-built systems, weighs a whopping 25kg. Naturally, unless you’re Superman, you wouldn’t be moving the set from your living room too often.

As such, the headphones, which only work if they’re connected to the system, aren’t meant to be brought out of or around the house.

The headphones must be plugged into the system.
Sean Lim / Business Insider

The glass tubes atop the marble slab are amplifiers. Over time, as sound quality decreases, these tubes should be replaced for optimum performance.

There are a total of eight tube amplifiers on the marble slab.
Sean Lim / Business Insider

These are the replacement pieces for the tube amplifiers.
Sean Lim / Business Insider

The vacuum tubes are connected to the spring-loaded, damped marble housing to prevent structure-borne noise – such as unnecessary vibrations. Likewise, the quartz bulbs protect against air-borne noise. As a result, distortion on the HE1 is decreased.

Business Insider was one of the first few invited to have a go at the Sennheiser HE1. Here’s what I thought of the experience.

Sean Lim / Business Insider

If I were to spend tens of thousands on a set of headphones, I’d prefer if they were a little more stylish, elegant or cool-looking.

But I’m sure that true audiophiles wouldn’t mind the HE1 at all. Plus, the HE1 isn’t designed as a fashion piece since it isn’t meant to be portable and worn on the streets.

Even though the headphones look ordinary, the sleek marble slab does a good job at adding an element of beauty.

The moment I put the headphones on, I could feel their weight bearing down on me. I faced difficulty turning my head around.

It seemed like the headphones didn’t leave a good first impression, but the moment music started playing, I was transported to an ethereal world.

The headphones made the singer’s voice sound perfectly crisp, breathy, echoey even. I was deeply impressed by how clean and distortion-free it was. In fact, I dare say that what I was hearing could even be better than if I were to hear her sing in person.

The bass sounds insanely full, impactful and sharp – perfect for electronic and pop music.

But unfortunately, my experience was frequently interrupted by external noises at the centre. Despite my ears being fully covered, I couldn’t fully get into the zone.

So here’s a tip: If you’re making a trip to the centre to try the HE1, you might want to attend the session alone, and make sure that no one interrupts the session by opening the door.

You’d think such ultra-high-end headphones can completely block out external sounds, but that’s not the case at all. Although distortion level is decreased, the headphones aren’t noise-cancelling, I was told.

There really needs to be peace and quiet to fully immerse yourself in the experience.

It’s understandable though, since these aren’t designed to be worn in public buses or the MRT. I could totally see myself using the HE1 while chilling on a sofa at home on a quiet, serene night.

The headphones also come with 99.9 per cent silver-plated oxygen-free copper cables, used for “optimal conductivity”.

Sean Lim / Business Insider

The diaphragm within is just 2.4 micrometers thick – seven times finer than a human hair – and the cable length is 3m (though custom 5m cables are available upon request).

But I must add that they’re pretty heavy and bulky as well. For those who’ve hopped onto the bandwagon of using wireless audio pieces, you might need some time to adapt to this cable.

The cushion pads – which Sennheiser says are handmade with “the finest” leather and a soft, allergen-free velour/microfibre – are unbelievably soft and made the weight of the headphones more bearable.

Sean Lim / Business Insider

Within each ear cup is a Class A MOS-FET high voltage amplifier. This is to eliminate the capacitive reactance of the cable, delivering an ultra-high impulse fidelity that is 200 per cent more efficient than any other solution currently available, Sennheiser said.

But for those with sensitive skin (such as myself), the headphones can feel stifling despite the cushioning. And after just 15 minutes of wearing them, my ears were red and hot. But then again, that’s something I’ve experienced with other headphones in the market as well.

Overall, the music quality produced by the Sennheiser HE1 was phenomenal, but I would probably have an empty bank account for the rest of my life if I ever got myself a set. So thanks, but I think I’ll have to stick to my regular Apple earphones for now.