In studio circles, the American company Avantone Pro has been known (and loved) for years for reissuing legendary studio monitors such as Yamaha’s NS-10 or Auratone’s Soundcube, as well as a whole range of classic microphones of outstanding quality. But more and more often Avantone also release their own creations, which are often much more exciting than the replicas. One of these new developments is the Planar – an open studio headphone that uses the somewhat exotic magnetostatic driver principle.
Of course, the magnetostatic principle is not fundamentally new, as it has long been a proven design feature of ribbon or foil tweeters. The biggest advantage is the lower mass. While a classic loudspeaker has its own diaphragm as well as a tightly wound voice coil, the magnetostat has only a thin coating of fine dust (21 μm) on the diaphragm foil that is sufficient for the driver. And there are even more advantages: Due to the permanent magnets (stators) attached on both sides, the movement of the diaphragm (push-pull construction) is – at least in theory – more balanced than with the classic voice coil loudspeaker. And because the entire membrane surface is simultaneously stimulated to oscillate, it is less distorted. So now we’ve covered the theory, let’s turn to the object of our test.
Just removing this 480-gram meteor out of its packaging gives you a tingling feeling so you know that you’re dealing with something special. This is confirmed when you hold the full-size Planar in your hands: With its mighty square speaker gondolas made of perforated metal, which are fastened with thick screws to a headband that is also punched out of metal, it looks incredibly chunky and therefore absolutely cool. What makes it so appealing is the fact that the retro look, which is reminiscent of the early days of radio technology, is not a useless decoration, but is directly based on the technical and functional design of the headphones. There is also a version available called “Red”, in which the perforated rear panel is painted red – it’s all a matter of taste.
The connection of the headphone is also special: the supplied connection cable, which looks quite chic and robust with its fabric coating, can be plugged into one of the two parallel stereo sockets on the bottom of the ear cups. The fact that Avantone included another cable with Y-distribution is rather confusing, because you might think that it is used to connect the left and right earcups. The manufacturer, however, says that he was thinking of couples who both want to listen to music from a single headphone at the same time with their Planars. And I personally find the imaginative picture of a couple in love, both cuddling together with the fat magnetostats on their heads and listening to Billie Eilish, extremely amusing.
Astonishingly, Avantone have managed to give the Planar a typical impedance of 32 ohms, which means that they do not need a preamplifier and can be used with just about any player. The maximum load limit of up to 5 watts is also astonishing – making Avantone’s ideal operating voltage 250 milliwatts.
Any doubts as to whether it is possible to carry almost half a kilo of headphones comfortably on your skull disappear when you put the Planar on. “Whoosh” and you feel at one with this piece of tech – it’s how I imagine wearing an exoskeleton from “Avatar”, “Edge of Tomorrow” or “District 5” might feel. That this is the case is due on the one hand to the very wide headband, which measures a full seven centimetres at its apex, and on the other hand to the huge ear pads, which distribute the pressure on the head over a total area of around 77 square centimetres (per side). Of course, I don’t mean that you could forget that you are wearing them; on the contrary – you notice very distinctly that when you put them on, you have entered the sound space of the headphones. However, they are extremely comfortable and snug, which makes you want to keep them on, and they remain pleasantly airy thanks to their open design.
It rarely happens, but sometimes you come across headphones where from the first beat you think: “Yes, everything is right here”. The Planar belong to this rare breed. They master a tonal somersault, providing a fully comprehensive image of the entire frequency spectrum and at the same time sounding completely unobtrusive, so that they can be used for hours of fatigue-free listening and working. This trick succeeds because they provide a very balanced and natural reproduction over the entire listening spectrum. If you have previously had very high-frequency headphones on your ears, you may find this reproduction a little muffled at first. After a while though you will notice that the Planar reproduce everything, but in a relaxed manner and without making an unfavourable impression. The same applies to the bass range, although it should be mentioned that with open headphones it is physically impossible to develop the same dynamic pressure as with closed headphones. If you are looking for a spectacular bass beast to feed your passion for bass-heavy trap or hip-hop that effectively emphasises this area, you will probably not be happy with the Planar. But that’s not what the angular electrostat does. It aims to sound accurate, natural and honest, and it succeeds perfectly. Accordingly, the stereo stage is almost dissolved in three-dimensional plasticity, so that with first-class miked recordings you can almost determine distances between the musicians to the metre. There is no genre that does not benefit from this sonic precision: In Manu Katché’s “Neighbourhood” you discover even the smallest ghost note brushed with a broom, in Stefan Bethke’s (Pole) “Fading” no short, finely structured synthesizer attack remains hidden – pretty impressive.
I was not just convinced by the Avantone Planar, I was really quite impressed by them. They are excellent sounding and at the same time quite spectacular looking headphones, and I would recommend them to music producers for studio work as well as to audiophile music lovers who are looking for a very precise and well-balanced sound image that can be listened to for a long time without tiring. You should not be intimidated by the magnetostat’s bulky exterior – they are much more comfortable to wear than they look.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principleplanar magnetic
- Frequency response (headphones)30 - 30.000 Hz
- Impedance32 ohms
- Weight without cable480 g
- Cable length150 cm
What's in the box
- 1.5 m connecting cable with 3.5 mm stereo jack
- 6.35 mm stereo jack
- Carrying pouch
- also available in red