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Quad ERA-1

Over-ear planar magnetic headphones

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Item # 306ERA1HP

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Expected: 1/29/2019 Reserve risk-free

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Overview

Our take on the Quad ERA-1

I first auditioned the Quad ERA-1 headphones with the recently released 50th Anniversary re-master of the Beatles' White Album. It just seemed appropriate. These headphones could also be seen as a "reissue" of a longtime British audio favorite. They are tuned to emulate the classic sound of Quad's vintage ESL 57 electrostatic floor-standing speakers. And like The White Album, these ERA-1 'phones reward repeat listening.

Exploded view of the drivers

This exploded view of the Quad ERA-1 shows the intricate design of the planar magnetic drivers.

Debut headphones from a classic UK audio company

I first auditioned the Quad ERA-1 headphones with the recently released 50th Anniversary re-master of the Beatles' White Album. It just seemed appropriate. These headphones could also be seen as a "reissue" of a longtime British audio favorite. They are tuned to emulate the classic sound of Quad's vintage ESL 57 electrostatic floor-standing speakers. And like The White Album, these ERA-1 'phones reward repeat listening.

This the very first set of headphones in Quad's illustrious 80-year-plus history. They use planar-magnetic drivers to deliver a spacious, mids-forward sound with deep, authoritative bass. Brand-new details leapt from familiar tracks, drawing me deeper into "Dear Prudence," "Blackbird," and "Don't Pass Me By." I heard hidden bits of percussion and musical artifacts that made each song even more enjoyable.

Named InnerFidelity's "Product of the Year" by audio expert Rafe Arnott


"The Quad ERA-1 headphones get my nod as InnerFidelity Product of The Year 2018…Incredibly comfortable, non-fatiguing, huge-sounding, tonally and timbrally pleasing set of headphones with outstanding resolution that breaks the sub-$1,000 barrier.”

— Read the full article on InnerFidelity

A solid build and a secure, comfortable fit

The industrial-styled ERA-1 headphones felt sturdy and rugged as I pulled them from the box. They fit snugly on my head and felt light and well-cushioned. Generously padded leather lines the headband, and you have a choice between two different pairs of included ear pads.

Thinner, cloth-covered pads come attached. They offer a nice soft grip, but I preferred the fit of the thicker sheepskin ear pads that came in the box. Those pads are also perforated and lend a slightly different sound signature that I found even more pleasing.

How the planar magnetic drivers work

Unlike the dynamic drivers found in most headphones, planar drivers use thin, flexible diaphragms with voice coils etched onto their surface. They move rapidly back and forth within a magnetic field. Faster movement means more accurate sound, so the thinner the diaphragm the better.

The lightweight diaphragms used inside the ERA-1's drivers are thinner than human hair. They can start and stop incredibly precisely, so you get clean, natural transients and tight bass. Quad uses a patented "nonlinear vibration suppression technology" to help reduce magnetic distortion and keep the sound waves uncorrupted.

Pictured with QUAD PA-One

The Quad ERA-1 headphones driven by the PA-One headphone amp (sold separately).

A beautiful headphone and amp combination

These headphones perform their best when powered by a serious headphone amp, and specifically pair well with QUAD's PA-One vacuum tube headphone amp/DAC. Both the headphones and amp benefit from some break-in, but I would especially recommend warming up the amp before use. When those tubes really start glowing, they lend an organic smoothness that plays to the strengths of ERA-1 headphones.

Digital sources come through with a musical warmth like you might expect from spinning vinyl. This headphone-and-amp combo delivered a spacious, but not overly spread-out soundstage. I got a nice halo of sound just outside the head.

The mixing on Stevie Wonder's "Evil" helped underscore the spot-on imaging. Stevie played all the instruments on the track, but they came at me from such precise angles, it gave the illusion that I was surrounded by a full band of Stevies. His vocals jumped out in front of the keys, synth, bass and drums. All the sounds melded together and slowly built to the final, powerful crescendo.

Product Highlights:

  • open-back design offers spacious sound
  • planar magnetic drivers offer low distortion, enhanced dynamics, and detailed sound
    • tuned to emulate Quad's classic ESL-57 loudspeakers
    • deep, authoritative bass response
  • we recommend a separate headphone amplifier like the well-matched Quad PA-One Valve Series vacuum tube amp/DAC for optimum sound quality
  • rugged industrial design with metal and hard-plastic earcups
  • includes two pairs of ear pads
    • fabric-covered pads with soft-grip lining
    • perforated sheepskin pads with thick cushioning
  • 54-inch cable with a 3.5mm plug
  • 1/4" adapter included
  • frequency response: 10-40,000 Hz
  • impedance: 20 ohms
  • weight: 14.2 oz.
  • warranty: 1 year
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee

What's in the Box:

  • Over-ear headphones
  • 7' Audio cable (3.5mm plug)
  • Screw-on 3.5mm-to-1/4" plug adapter (installed on cable)
  • Pair of replacement ear pads
  • Zippered storage case
  • User Manual
  • Warranty & Registration Card
Reviews
Details

Hands-on research

Features and Specs

General
Earcup Type Open
Earcup Width x Height 3.663" x 4.079"
Noise-canceling No
Bluetooth No
Mic For Taking Calls No
iPhone Control No
Lightning Connector No
Android Control No
Frequency Response 10-40k Hz
Sensitivity 100 dB
Impedance 20 Ohms
Weight 16.6 ounces
Cord Length 84"
1/4-inch Adapter Included Yes
Volume Control No
Parts Warranty 1 Year (2Yrs diaphragms)
Labor Warranty 1 Year (2Yrs diaphragms)

Product Research

Features

Overview: The ERA-1 is Quad's first-ever headphones. The ERA-1 features a planar magnetic driver which delivers an open and transparent sound that is true to the original audio source. The over-ear headphones come with an extra set of ear cushions, a 7' cable with a 3.5mm plug, a 1/4" adapter, and a zippered storage case.

Planar Magnetic Diaphragms: The engineers at Quad drew upon its expertise with electrostatic loudspeakers (ESL) when developing the planar magnetic drivers in the ERA-1. The result is a high fidelity performance with an open and transparent sound, similar to that of Quad's famous electrostatic speakers.

Note: It is recommended that you play the headphones for a few hours to warm up the circuits. This "break-in" period is necessary to achieve the full potential of the headphones' performance.

Ear Cushions: The ERA-1 headphones feature interchangeable ear cushions. Installed on the headphones is a pair of latex ear cushions with a fleece liner on the outside where it touches your head. The inside circumference of the pad is ventilated to keep your ears cool as you listen for long periods of time. A second pair of ear cushions, covered in soft leather, is included. These pads are ventilated on the inside and outside rims.

Cable: The headphones come with a 7' fabric-covered audio cable with a 3.5mm plug. A screw-on 3.5mm-to-1/4" plug adapter is included for listening to your home or pro audio components. The Y-style cable splits into separate 3.5mm connections for the left and right ear cups. The fabric cover protects the cable, and reduces contact noise that can cause unwanted distortion. The cable does not include an in-line remote.

Specifications:

  • Frequency Response: 10Hz to 40kHz
  • Impedance: 20Ω
  • Sensitivity: 94dB/mW
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): < 0.2% (1kHz, 100dB)
  • Rated Input Power: 100mW
  • Dimensions: Ear Cups: 3.633"W x 4.079"H x 1.766"D
  • Weight: 16.6 ounces (with cable)

Our Product Research Team

At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team. They verify what’s in the box, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

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