Uniquely, Quad’s first-ever headphones deliver their sound using not a moving coil as in ‘dynamic’ heaphones, but a ultra-thin, electrically active diaphragm, of the type also found in the British hi-fi stalwart’s acclaimed electrostatic loudspeakers. That alone marks them out as special, but the hard clamshell carrying case, leather-encased metal headband, metal-grille earcups and sheepskin ear cushions also scream quality the minute you look at them.
Quad claims its technology gives the ERA-1 headphones a more “natural and accurate” sound. It’s certainly a warmer, smoother sound than their rivals here: you’ll never experience ear-strain, although they are quite heavy. There’s no faulting their definition right across the sound spectrum: high notes are bright without ever being shrill or piercing, mids are lovely and crisp, but perhaps the biggest surprise was in the bass department. These are open-backed cans, and by Quad’s own admission, really optimised for vocal and acoustic recordings – yet for sheer bottom-end welly, we simply couldn’t fault them. Bass tones did perhaps lack a little ‘bite’ at times, both on the drum & bass and the Chic albums, but then we were testing a factory-fresh pair and Quad recommends running the ERA-1 headphones in for a little while, so that would almost certainly improve over time. All told, this is one very classy set of cans indeed. 9/10
Type Circumaural, open back, planar magnetic Frequency response 10Hz-40kHz Weight420gPrice£599.00 Details quad-hifi.co.uk