Spoiler alert! This active, three-way, midfield monitor from HEDD is so incredible, I purchased a pair for my personal studio. I'll spare you the effort of jumping to the end of the review to see how much it costs — $3,999 each. Understandably, my decision was anything but easy. In fact, it wasn't until a couple weeks after I had sent away the demo pair to the NAMM Show, that I decided to rethink my budget so that I could have a permanent set of these in my studio. (At the time, my demo speakers were the only ones of this model in the U.S.)
Longtime readers of this magazine will recognize that for 15 years, the primary speakers in my studio have been ADAM S3-A active monitors [Tape Op #33], and the speakers at my office workstation ADAM P11-A actives [#33]. Over the years, I've mentioned both models in my reviews of various products published here. During this time, I've had plenty of opportunities to demo and hear many other fine speakers, but the HEDD Type 30 is the first monitor that has compelled me to swap out my ADAM S3-As. Let me tell you why.
HEDD, which is short for Heinz Electrodynamic Designs, was founded in 2015 by Klaus Heinz and his son Frederik Knop. Freddy holds a PhD in musicology, and he's an active musician and composer, as well as the mastering engineer at Listeners Mastering <www.listeners.berlin>. The elder Klaus is an acoustic professional with 40 years of high-end loudspeaker designs to his name. As the head of R&D for ADAM Audio, the company that he and his son cofounded previously, Klaus was arguably the first speaker designer to successfully incorporate Oskar Heil's Air Motion Transformer pleated-diaphragm ribbon transducer design in speakers for the pro audio market. So, it seems logical that my love for ADAMs would ultimately be swayed by the newer, perhaps evolutionary design of the HEDDs. With that said, let me now tell you that my initial reaction to the sound of the HEDD Type 30 had me feeling very puzzled.
After the first 15 minutes of listening to the Type 30 in my control room, I noted four points: (1) The HEDD sound was not as "exciting" as the ADAM, especially in regard to high-frequency detail, despite both speakers having folded-ribbon tweeters. (2) The lower midrange of the HEDD seemed "heavy" and "slow," even though the Type 30 has two 7'' woofers and a dedicated 4'' midrange driver, versus the S3-A's 7.3'' midwoofer and identical-looking woofer. (3) The Type 30's low-frequency extension was clearly better. (4) The Type 30's imaging was much stronger — with almost point-source precision when heard singly, similar to my three different coaxial monitors. I was happy with points 3 and 4, but concerning 1 and 2, I was disappointed. I hoped that "breaking in" the drivers would alleviate the darker, duller sound, so I ran the Type 30s all night at high volume.
The next day, I listened to the HEDDs for many hours while working on various projects, before updating my impressions of the Type 30: (1) Still not as "exciting" in the highs as my ADAMs. (2) Lower mids now seemed "tight," and I welcomed what I was hearing in lower-midrange detail and strength.
On the third day of listening, I began to suspect that what I was hearing was actually more truthful than what I'd become accustomed to hearing from my ADAMs. That's when I pulled out my Cross·Spectrum Labs calibrated mic [Tape Op #96] to take careful measurements. Here's what I learned:
The Type 30 exhibits much less harmonic distortion than the S3-A, especially in the highs, which explains why the Type 30 is not as "exciting" as the S3-A. From 3–10 kHz, the HEDD tweeter has 15 dB less THD than the first-generation ADAM tweeter in the S3-A. What I thought was extra high-frequency detail in the ADAM's sound is actually distortion. Moreover, across most of the frequency spectrum, the Type 30 suffers from significantly less third, fourth, and higher–order harmonic distortion than the S3-A. I also measured the distortion of my P11-A speaker, and this too has characteristics similar to the S3-A. All this explains why the Type 30 is less "exciting" than my ADAMs — far less harmonic distortion!
Additionally, the HEDD tweeter extends out past 30 kHz (the limit of my mic's response). The ADAM tweeter starts to drop precipitously at 20 kHz. Understandably, due to its much greater extension, the phase response of the HEDD tweeter is much more controlled from 6–30 kHz than the ADAM tweeter.
Regarding the lower-mids, the Type 30 has 1–2 dB more energy from 250–500 Hz than the S3-A. But what's also true is that the Type 30 has more accurate impulse response, especially in that same region. Settling time is half that of the S3-A, with far less overshoot. So all in all, what I'm hearing in the Type 30's lower mids is not just greater volume, it's greater detail with less time-domain smearing.
Regarding the rest of the spectrum, the Type 30's frequency response is essentially flat down to 30 Hz. The S3-A's response starts to slope at 90 Hz, and it's down by 6 dB at 30 Hz. One consequence of this is that the Type 30 exhibits greater group delay and resonance around 30 Hz, but that's to be expected with a steeper (yet deeper) curve resulting from a lower-frequency tuning of the cabinet ports (in conjunction with better woofers). Importantly, moving this resonance lower in the spectrum, where there is typically less sonic material to be reproduced, means that it will be less detrimental to the overall sound — again, less distortion, especially where it counts.
Given that both the HEDD Type 30 and the ADAM S3-A were designed by the same person, I'm actually quite surprised at how divergent these speaker models sound, and how differently they measure. To be fair, I haven't spent much time with later-generation ADAM speakers, and maybe if I did, an evolutionary connection would be clearer to me; but for now, I'm going to contend that the HEDD Type 30 is vastly different in sonic character from early-generation ADAMs. I'm going to further assert that if you were not a fan of the ADAM sound (and I know many of my friends and colleagues had a dislike for the "exciting" sound of ADAMs), that shouldn't stop you from auditioning HEDDs.
With all these testing notes and explanations aside, how does the Type 30 perform in actual recording and mixing situations? I tracked two Chris Brokaw songs for the soundtrack of La Barracuda, a film premiering at SXSW 2017, using the HEDDs as the only speakers. Recording drums, guitar, bass, and piano, I felt a newfound confidence, appreciating the true detail and neutral tone of the Type 30s. I never had the urge to switch to a second pair of speakers for comparison. Once tracking was done, I brought home the rough mixes, and I gladly discovered that things still sounded "right" on my home hi-fi systems, as well as various headphones. In short, the translation seemed extremely predictable.
Unfortunately, before Chris returned to complete real mixes, I had to send the HEDDs off to the NAMM Show, as mentioned above. Switching back to the ADAM S3-A speakers — ones that I had trusted and loved for 15 years — was the opposite of a revelation. I felt like I was stumbling through the mix. We completed the mix, but unsurprisingly, the mix came back to me a week later for revisions. By that time, I had decided to invest in my own pair of HEDDs. With credit card in hand, I made a quick call to Alto Music <www.altomusic.com>, who at the time had the only stock in the U.S.; and two days later, I was remixing the Chris Brokaw songs on the HEDDs. Needless to say, I immediately felt more comfortable, anticipating that the mix translation would be seamless — which it was.
Now that my story is complete, let me take a moment to highlight a few of the notable design details that factor across the HEDD line. None of the drivers are "off the shelf"; they're all designed by Klaus Heinz and manufactured exclusively for HEDD. The built-in Class D amps come from ICEpower. The cabinets are unibody-like in structure, and they're covered in a matte, non-slip coating. Standard inputs include balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA, but optional HEDD Bridge cards will soon be available for AES3, Dante, or AES67 connectivity. Three center-detented potentiometers adjust the levels of low and high shelves, as well as overall gain. If you want to learn more, the HEDD website is worth a visit, as it's well-designed and very informative.