Yamaha is going back to its high-end headphone roots after announcing a new set of high-end headphones featuring planar magnetic technology.
The new YH-5000SE is the Japanese brand’s first canister set to feature orthodynamic drivers (Yamaha’s take on 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 world’s lightest and most sophisticated headphones” at just 320g.
As the SE in its name suggests, the YH-5000SE is being released as ‘special edition’ and comes complete with a starting price of $5,700 / £4,799 / AU$7,499,
A slightly cheaper version appears to be on the way, with Australian dealers already stocking a non-special edition variant without some of the accessories that come with the limited edition YH-5000SE, which is still a prohibitive AU$5,999.
Added extras in the box include faux leather and suede earpads, two types of silver-plated cables (3.5mm and 4.4mm), as well as a cool-looking kickstand.
Meanwhile, an optional XLR cable (the HXC-SC020) that isn’t included will set you back $900 / £749 / AU$1350.
Orthodynamic or planar magnetic headphones work similarly to the more common dynamic headphones currently dominating the market, using the interaction of two magnetic fields to cause 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 across its entire area. This reduces the effect of boost and vibrations on the diaphragm, giving the headphones more precise control of the final sound.
This setup means the can size is often larger and heavier than you’d find in a regular set of headphones, but the payoff is that distortion is reduced to almost nothing, with planar magnetic cans generally providing a crisper sound. and controlled.
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Audiophiles rejoice! While brands like Audeze and HiFiMAN have kept the flame burning for Planar magnetic headphones, there’s a growing clamor for Yamaha to get back to making their orthodynamic cans.
The Japanese manufacturer used the technology for a very brief period between 1975 and 1990, but over time they built a growing reputation in hi-fi forums thanks to their superior distortion-free sound compared to most dynamic headphones.
Where once you could buy a vintage pair of HP-1 headphones for under $20, the last decade has seen prices skyrocket with a good condition example sometimes changing hands for hundreds of dollars.
The YH-5000SE’s worrying price tag means your average audiophile on a budget will still be trawling 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 more affordable new models that 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 headphone deals guide, which we’ll be constantly updating during the period.