CanJam at RMAF 2015: Pioneer SE Master 1 Flagship Headphones

I heard tell of these about 8 months ago, but evidently they've been available on the international market for a couple of years according to Rolf Hawkins, who was representing Pioneer at the show. He said Pioneer has been receiving good feedback on the headphones when they were shown in the USA at a few other shows, and now they've decided to make them available in the domestic market.

The SE Master 1 (~$2500) is a full-sized, around the ear, open design with the notable characteristic of using a ceramic aluminum composite driver central dome in the diaphragm.


Exploded view of the SE Master 1 driver assembly.

Another unusual feature is a removable tensioning band to adjust the caliper pressure on the head. The headphone comes with two interchangeable tensioning bands. Some really interesting additional technical information is available on this page.

I had only a quick listen at the show and thought they were good enough to request a further sample for measurements and a focussed listening session. For more info you can check out this Head-Fi thread.

zobel's picture

I wouldn't publish the frequency response curve that they have here. It shows no bass (down 13dB @ 50 Hz) a nasty spike in the highs (5 dB peak @ 4 KHz), and an out of control top end (10 dB peak at 20 KHz)!

There seems to be as many versions of frequency response charts as there people making them. It will be interesting to see how your measurements compare, Tyll. I see that Sennheiser sends out, if requested, an individually graphed frequency response chart for every one of the HD 800s it builds. Again, a totally different animal than your graphs Tyll. The companies don't have to tell you how they measure their cans.

detlev24's picture

I know, e.g., that AKG is not giving out any of their measurements, although they store them for each unit. Furthermore, regarding the K812, they claim Tyll's measurements are not meaningful for different reasons (equipment used, its calibration etc.).

In the end, it is very difficult to compare measurements if different sources do not stick to the same standard! (Well, is there any standard?)

Tyler Schrank's picture

I gave these a shot at RMAF. Don't worry about Pioneer's graph. Perhaps that is a raw driver response? Either way, the headphone itself is rather dark and somewhat bassy sounding.

detlev24's picture

I expect to see significant bass distortion on their measurements, although they might be in total better balanced than the AKG K812.

Seth195208's picture

Diamond coated beryllium diaphragms, maybe.

detlev24's picture

It does not matter if the outcome is uncontrolled.

An example, the new B&W line-up: superb choice of materials (in theory) like their diamond tweeter. However, the frequency response of these speakers is awful and certainly not close to a studio monitor's target frequency response (B&W advertises for professional use, as well...).

Seth195208's picture

I was trying to be funny. Didn't work.
Anyway, you're spot on about the response. If it's uncontrolled like the B&W tweeter, the material it is made from is pretty useless. But if it actually has baffle reinforcement of the low frequencies, like the latest Magico beryllium diamond tweeter, it can be phenomenal, but...that's a different website.

Seth195208's picture

Of course I'm referring to the lower registers of a good tweeter, around 2khz.

detlev24's picture

Don't worry, it worked - I actually was smiling.


Jazz Casual's picture

Looking forward to the review of the master's creation.

Mr.TAD91's picture

Thanks for posting this, Tyll!

I'm expecting these headphones to represent TAD. They should be completely transparent and able to showcase the uppermost amount of micro detail, while being completely neutral and organic in midrange reproduction. They should be a standard master of all genres, and be capable of reproducing transients at their intended speed; bass texture, quality and extension should ditto the very best studio monitors. Their treble and brilliance should be articulate and precise as it flows with the rest of the spectrum.

However, I'm very worried about the sources used to test these headphones. As they are made by TAD in house, these headphones should bring out all of the capabilites and/or limitations/flaws of the source components and nothing else. I have very high expectations for these headphones and believe only Tyll's best gear should be used to test them!

It should also be known that...
The very best digital audio sounds exactly as it was intended in its highest form - It sounds like analog. The trouble is, it's very costly to produce audio components that are the best representation of the upper limits of digital audio. This is why we may describe a solid-state amplifier as "cold" or a CD player as "sterile sounding." The balance between honest accuracy and technical acccuracy has been bridged by ultra-high end components, like the TAD D600. It's like your ears were the microphone and picked up all of the audio on a recording!

Good luck, Master 1!