Skip to main content

Pioneer’s SE-Master1 headphones scare me

Pioneer’s SE-Master1 headphones scare me

/

These headphones have no chill

Share this story

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Pioneer SE-Master1
Pioneer SE-Master1
Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge

I consider it my very pleasant duty to venture out into the world of extreme audiophile gear, the stuff that costs thousands of dollars, and report back on my findings. Not because I expect you to whip out your wallet and buy the latest thing I recommend, but because it’s fun to explore what money-is-no-object technology looks and sounds like. In most cases, it’s a thrilling ride, but sometimes it can actually get a bit scary. The Pioneer SE-Master1 headphones are an example of the latter.

Costing a princely $2,500, these are Pioneer’s very best headphones and they’re assembled by hand in Japan with all the obsessive care that the country’s craftsmen are famous for. I’ve got zero complaints about how these are built or how they fit. The Master1s are huge enough for their pads to never touch my ears, but they’re also light enough to be worn for many hours at a time. Even the memory foam in the pads is of a variable thickness so as to maximize comfort.

But as much as I enjoy wearing these headphones, I’ve come to dread listening to music through them, because they have no chill. The SE-Master1s are like that friend of yours who’s really lovely and caring but has a painfully shrill voice. You don’t spend too much time hanging out with that friend, do you? When I pick up this pair of cans, I have to grit my teeth, take a deep breath, and then press play with the volume turned down.

Pioneer SE-Master 1 frequency response
See those spikes on the right? Don’t do that.
Pioneer SE-Master 1 frequency response

This frequency response graph, provided by Pioneer itself, lays out the cause of my distress. Pardon me for still having my hearing faculties intact, Pioneer, but those high-frequency spikes on the right are not fit for human consumption. Their effect with music is to turn the usually desirable sparkly high details into sharp little treble daggers that stab at my ears unexpectedly. I absolutely believe that a pair of headphones needs a prominent high end in order to feel exciting and dynamic, but Pioneer has put its emphasis on the least pleasant highs. The Master1s invert the order of priority in a lot of my favorite electronic productions, taking the background fizz and tinkles and putting them in the foreground where the big and meaningful bass drops are supposed to be.

With the Master1s, I find myself wanting to turn the music up to enjoy a richer, bassier sound, but when I do it, I get assaulted by the overzealous treble. The most annoying thing about listening to them, though, is that it’s not always terrible. These headphones are clean of distortion and provide a stalactite-sharp recreation of my music. I think they’re technically wonderful, but their tuning is just plain evil. They’ll give me a few minutes of cool tunes, and then just as I’m relaxing, they’ll drop a spike of harsh vocals on my head, with the singer seemingly screaming at me for trusting them.

Pioneer SE-Master1
Photo: Pioneer

In the smartphone world, we’ve known many a phone that is like the SE-Master1s: awesome hardware engineering and performance characteristics, but awful software that undermines the whole exercise. The trouble for Pioneer is that the Master1s aren’t going to be subject to any life-saving software patches in the near future, and at a price of $2,500 they shouldn’t be serving up such a compromised sound to begin with.

Photography by Vlad Savov

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 26 minutes ago Not just you

E
Twitter
Emma Roth26 minutes ago
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.


E
Twitter
Emma RothAn hour ago
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.


E
External Link
Emma Roth5:52 PM UTC
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
A
Youtube
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.