AKG K1000 Headphones
High performance headphones have a special role in the history of high fidelity. The first brand that sold on the basis of its sound quality was Koss with models the Pro 4AA, a head cruncher with oil foiled ear cushions and an insipid sound quality which boasted, as I recall, of being capable of covering 'all ten audible octaves'. It took a much cheaper model from an upstart European microphone manufacturer - Sennheiser - to show how it should be done when they strung two open-back microphone capsules together with a hoop of plastic, and sat them on the ear with cushioning discs of reticulated foam. The headband was near indestructible, and the cables could be plugged out and replaced when the connectors broke, which they did reliably and often. But it was not their serviceability that attracted buyers in previously unprecedented numbers, nor was it just the low price. It was their previously unmatched sound quality, which was open, detailed and transparent.
Binaural microphone recording techniques were developed soon after, first demonstrated as I recall by Sennheiser themselves with a specially recorded 7 inch EP which when played back through open back phones like the HD414s opened a window on an unmistakably real acoustic space. I remember hearing this disc at some hi-fi show, and practically jumping out of my skin when I heard the announcer's voice just behind my right ear.
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