Until recently, the British company, Quad, has only been well known for producing snazzy amplifiers and monitors. But now they’ve created their first headphone, and it’s making quite a splash. At $799, what can you expect from these planar magnetic, open-back cans? Let’s find out in this QUAD ERA-1 Headphones Review.
QUAD ERA-1 Headphones Review
No problems in this department. The earpads are plush and have a felt-like material on the front of the pads that make them great for folks with sweaty ears. The outside edges of the earpads are leather, which still gives them a luxurious feel. You can also replace them with the included sheep skin pads, but they might yield a slightly different sound signature. The ERA-1 is light on the head, and the headband is generously padded. In fact, I wore them for quite a while, and they remained unobtrusive.
The ERA-1 comes with a detachable Y shaped cable with 3.5mm jack connectors. The cable is insulated with a durable material lining that also makes it very flexible and easy to work with.
At 20 Ohms and a sensitivity of 94dB, these open-back, planar magnetic cans are a breeze to drive. I used my little FiiO Q5 DAC/Amp to juice them and, on high gain, it was more than sufficient. With a frequency response of 10 – 40,000 Hz, the ERA-1 should have a juicy bass extension. But numbers have lied in the past, so let’s talk sound.
Overall Impressions: Well balanced, warm, fast and spacious
We’ve got a very giving bass here. But its no cowboy. Listening to pop, the bass had great impact without overwhelming the rest of the mix. It’s also got dry grip, and the texture of the bass came out nicely. Moving on to hip-hop, there was a good amount of sub frequency extension. But again, it didn’t weigh down the track. As for rock, the lows provided a lot of warmth, though the bass remained clean and quite well separated from the higher frequencies. Listening to acoustic double bass, there was plenty of resolve and the ERA-1 presented a natural sounding timbre.
A present and even midrange. The low mids are given fair play, making big rock songs sound meaty. And because the upper-mids aren’t favored, vocals don’t sit too forward, which is always a deal-breaker for me. Listening to tracks with heavy instrumentation, the layering could have been slightly more polished. Still, what it lacked in definition, it made up for in warmth and richness. That being said, listening to acoustic guitars in the low-mids, the strums were well separated. And guitar picks in the upper-mids were beautifully colored and crystalized. These cans are fast too, giving pop music tons of snap. Moving onto classical music, cellos had a beautiful fluidity that really brought out the romance of the piece. At the same time, the instrument maintained its substance presented a realistic tone. And playing some Coltrane, there was abundant breathiness and vibrato.
Listening to violin solos in the high frequencies, the ERA-1 found a nice balance between transparency and smoothness. Clarity might not reach the same level as something like the Beyerdynamic DT1990, but it’s certainly pleasing to the ear. And if you’re easily fatigued by high frequencies, this might be the perfect headphone; trumpets in the highest registers avoided piercing or sizzle. However, playing some pop tracks, I noticed that high-pitched percussion instruments lacked the level of sparkle that a headphone with extended high frequencies can produce. But it was sufficient for me, and again, folks with sensitive ears will gravitate towards this sound signature.
The soundstage is one of the most impressive things about this headphone. There’s a great sense of dimension with generous height and imaging that feels spot on. And, in this respect, it might even supersede other more famous models in this price range, like the Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow.
I’m a fan of QUAD’s first headphone. It’s a great all-rounder, covering all the bases is terms of transparency, speed, spaciousness and versatility. In fact, there’s not one genre it can’t handle. If the ERA-1 was 100-200 bucks cheaper, I think it would sell like crazy. But at this price point they’re competing with more established planar magnetic models from Focal and Mr. Speakers. Let’s hope these babies get the exposure they deserve.
I’d give these cans 5 yuge skulls if they were $100 cheaper.
Driver Type: Planar Magnetic
Impedance: 20 Ohms
Sensitivity: 94 dB
Frequency Response: 10 – 40,000 Hz
Weight: 420 g