Yamaha is returning to its high-end headphone roots after announcing a new set of top-of-the-line headphones featuring planar magnetic technology.
The new YH-5000SE are the first set of cans from the Japanese brand to feature orthodynamic drivers (Yamaha’s version of planar magnetic technology) for over 30 years.
The premium headphones also feature a magnesium body, with Yamaha claiming the YH-5000SE to be “one of the lightest high-end headphones in the world” at just 320g.
As the SE in its name suggests, the YH-5000SE will launch as a “special edition” and will come complete with a surprising starting price of $5,700 / £4,799 / AU$7,499.
A slightly cheaper version looks set to follow, with Australian dealers already stocking a non-special edition variant without some of the accessories that come with the limited edition YH-5000SE, still priced at a prohibitive A$5,999.
Those added extras in the box include leatherette and suede ear cushions, two types of silver-coated cables (3.5mm and 4.4mm) plus a nifty-looking stand.
Meanwhile, an optional XLR cable (the HXC-SC020) that doesn’t come included will set you back $900 / £749 / AU$1350.
Orthodynamic or planar magnetic headphones work similarly to the more common dynamic driver headphones that currently dominate the market by using the interaction of two magnetic fields to generate movement.
Where they differ is that instead of having drivers that are “driven” by a voice coil connected to a shaped diaphragm, the diaphragm is driven over its entire area. This reduces the effect of impulse and vibrations on the diaphragm, giving headphones tighter control of the final sound.
This setup means the can size is typically larger and heavier than you’d find in a normal pair of headphones, but the payoff is that distortion is reduced to next to nothing, with flat magnetic cans generally giving a louder sound. sharp and controlled.
Analysis: A welcome return for distortion-free headphone technology
Audiophiles rejoice! While brands like Audeze and HiFiMAN have kept the flame burning for Planar magnetic driver headphones, there’s been a growing clamor for Yamaha to make their orthodynamic cans again.
The Japanese manufacturer used the technology for an all-too-brief period between 1975 and 1990, but over time it has earned a growing reputation in hi-fi forums for superior distortion-free sound compared to most dynamic headphones. .
Where once you could buy a pair of vintage HP-1 headphones for less than $20, in the last decade prices have skyrocketed with a good-condition example sometimes changing hands for hundreds of dollars.
The concerning bench-top price of the YH-5000SE means your average audiophile on a budget will still have to search eBay for more examples of vintage orthodynamic headphones, but its release nonetheless gives hope that we’ll start to see Yamaha employ the technology into new, more affordable models, which could be serious contenders for our list of the best headphones.
In the market for some more affordable new cans? Check out our Black Friday headset deals guide, which we’ll be updating constantly throughout the period.