As you may have guessed from the name, the HEDDphone TWO is the second ear-worn monitoring system from Berlin based manufacturers HEDD. It’s been three years in the making and is a major improvement over what was already an extremely accomplished headphone monitor.
The original HEDDphone – which is still available – attracted much critical acclaim for its superb sound, yet its enormous proportions left many wishing for similar sound quality with reduced size and weight. That wish has been realised with the release of the TWO.
The company’s tag-line for the HEDDphone TWO is “Lighter, better, faster, stronger” and that’s exactly what it is. There’s no minor tweaking of an existing design, however. Rather, it’s a ground-up reworking that addresses all the criticism of the original model, while also improving on sound quality.
Apart from the shallower earcups, the most obvious change visually is the new headband assembly, designed to accommodate every head size. It’s an ingenious design incorporating HEDD’s smart strap system, which replaces the earlier model’s basic clamp arrangement. Now, you get an eminently adjustable mechanism that allows you to precisely tailor fit, not only in terms of height and width, but also curvature and clamping pressure.
Despite being 25% lighter than the original, the TWO is still a large circumaural (over-ear) design, aimed squarely at the pro-audio market, so it won’t double as a headset you can use while jogging or using public transport, as there is considerable sound leakage from the transducers. This also means that in a recording studio environment, they’re better used for mixing and monitoring rather than tracking, where bleed from the cans might spill into nearby microphones.
As a mixing tool though, the TWO’s performance is nothing short of superb. Like its predecessor, the new model features HEDD’s Air Motion Transformer drivers, however these too have been completely redesigned, according to the company, to improve sound quality.
These drivers perform differently from conventional dynamic types, which use a piston-like motion to move air with a 1:1 ratio. Instead, AMTs have a folded diaphragm that squeezes air in and sucks it out, like an accordion and at a ratio of 4:1; this makes them four times faster than other transducers.
The full-range AMT is a result of HEDD’s proprietary VVT (Variable Velocity Transform) technology, which allows the AMT principle to be used as a full-range headphone speaker by way of variable diaphragm geometry. Instead of the diaphragm’s folds being equal, as they are in regular AMT tweeters, the folds are irregular, allowing full-range frequency response in a more compact design. Be aware though, that when adjusting the headphones, the drivers emit a crackling sound. This is quite normal and does not harm them in any way.
While AMTs comprehensively outperform ordinary dynamic drivers in the treble region – hence their popularity as tweeters in modern studio monitors – they are not renowned for delivering deep bass. Within HEDD’s designs though, they possess ample low-end quantity, within reason, but more importantly, astonishingly accurate low-end quality.
HEDDphone TWO being assembled. Image: Felix Zimmermann
Vast comfort improvement
Comfort wise, the HEDDphone TWO is a vast improvement on the earlier design, being lighter with excellent weight distribution. With the straps slackened it’s easy to adjust the carbon-fibre HEDDband and earcups to fit as snugly as you wish, then once fastened the ‘phones will remain set to your personalised requirements. The cloth-covered head pad is lovely and soft, without the bulkiness of the older model.
Faux leather covers the memory foam earpads, so they are vegan-friendly and again, the reduced size makes for a less claustrophobic listening experience. High-quality audio cables attach to each earcup, with the option of either standard jack connection or a balanced mini XLR. And the set comes housed in a smart and sturdy hard case.
Sound wise, the TWO has a more laid-back character than many professional monitoring headphones, which sometimes come across as overly forward in the midrange. This isn’t to say it lacks midband clarity though, rather that it doesn’t force information onto the listener in a shouty way. One reason for this is that unlike the lean nature of some ‘phones, the TWO has a decidedly warm character with a full and lush low-end. It never comes across as bloated however, as the ultra-fast response of the AMT drivers ensures that bass notes are impactful without appearing slow or soggy. Bass guitars, for example, are presented with superb accuracy, with no artificial mid-bass bump to mislead you. Transient attack and the heart of each note is presented in perfect proportion, while the tail of each note decays convincingly.
In the midrange, where most of the audio action takes place, the TWO does a brilliant job in keeping sounds distinct and well placed within the stereo picture. The soundstage itself isn’t as cavernous as some though; even hard-panned instruments remain head bound rather than creating the illusion of a panoramic soundscape. In many ways this improves focus, allowing you to hear filigree detail without the distraction of a larger-than-life presentation.
While we wouldn’t go as far as saying the mid-frequencies are scooped, emphasis is placed in the upper treble region, which can add a touch of sparkle that you might not hear on other monitoring systems. It’s a pleasant balance that rewards lengthy listening sessions without fatigue and has the added advantage of making ambient cues, such as reverb and echo repeats, easy to hear and work with.
HEDDphone TWO is a wonderful, if pricey, personal monitoring system. Unlike the majority of headphones, especially more budget-friendly ones, it richly deserves its description as an ‘ear speaker’. Criticism of the original, mammoth model has been addressed and improvements made to every aspect of the design. If you desire full-range sound, with an unforced yet trustworthy timbre alongside ultimate adjustability to fit your head, then look no further.
Once you are used to this style of headphone monitoring, it can make more ruthless, brutally honest designs an uncomfortable listen. The HEDDphone TWO is diligently designed for comfort in every sense.
Newly designed AMT drivers
PU leather covered earpads
Jack or mini-XLR connection
Sturdy moulded carrying case
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