Pros: Extremely comfortable and light, extra long cord is ideal for living room use, high-definition sound quality, expansive soundstage
Cons: 20-foot long cord is the only option and it is not removable, plus it is not quite sensitive enough for use with some portable devices
These headphones were an impulse purchase. I was in Best Buy to get the extended warranty for my new pair of Monster Inspire headphones, which cost $300 but sound so good I want to wear them every day. I was also returning a pair of Denon AH-D600 "Music Maniac" headphones I had purchased along with the Monster Inspire. I originally intended to keep both pairs, with the D600 serving as my "studio cans," but the Inspire outperformed them on a consistent basis. The only thing the D600 had going for it was larger earpads and an extra-long cable—I expected more from headphones that retail for $500.
At the Magnolia where I purchased the Denon, I noticed the Pioneer SE-A1000 on clearance for $60. Thinking that to be an incredible price for what were $150 headphones, I grabbed the box. Then, on a whim I looked up the A1000 on Amazon. I couldn't believe what I saw—Amazon wanted a mere $47 for these quite stunning headphones. Since Best Buy now price-matches Amazon, I took the pair I had in-hand and bought them. The extended warranty on the Monster Inspire cost almost as much as the Pioneer cans.
The SE-A1000 is amazingly light and comfortable. I have a pair of AKG K701s, which retail for $350 and look very similar. They also sound very similar, and I might even give the Pioneers the edge in terms of total SQ. Fit and finish are quite similar between the AKG and the Pioneer. I have never before found a better value in a pair of headphones, and I would have been thrilled with my purchase at the MSRP of $149—at the clearance price, it actually feels like stealing.
Pioneer's SE-A1000—on the left—is remarkably similar to the AKG K701 in terms of sound quality, fit, finish, and function
So, what's the problem with these wonderful headphones? Why are they in the bargain bin? My guess is because they are sold with a permanently attached 20-foot cable. That limits them to the living room or home theater—they are certainly not ideal for use with portable devices. But if they are used for the purpose they are most suited to, the SE-A1000 is a wonderful way to watch movies, play video games, and listen to music without disturbing sleeping kids/neighbors/significant others. At no time did the sound become fatiguing, at no time did the earpads cause discomfort—these headphones became transparent when they were on my head.
And that's why the search for my ideal home-theater headphone has ended—because the SE-A1000 is so inexpensive, I ordered a second pair from Amazon right away, so if my wife and I want to cuddle and watch a movie in the middle of the night, my next-door neighbors will have no reason to dislike me any more than they already do. It's also a thrill to hear the way the 50mm open-air drivers render mid- and high-frequency detail. As I mentioned, it is on-par with AKG's far more expensive K701. The 20-foot cable is the perfect length for relaxing on the couch and plugging into my Pioneer Elite SC-55 receiver—in fact, the combination is first-class.
Open-back headphones tend to have a more expansive soundstage as well as an overall more neutral sound versus closed-back models. The compromise with such designs is a loss of efficiency and bass performance that is usually tight but not intense. The Pioneer has the expansive yet neutral sound down pat, and its bass performance surprised me, which is why I like it better than the K701. Bass in the A1000 is no match for the Inspire or the returned Denon cans, but it is not weak, and it is definitely full-range. I'll gladly give up that extra bit of intensity for what the SE-A1000 can really offer: comfort, the most important feature of any headphone one might use to watch a movie. Simply put, giant, lightweight, open-back headphones are the way to go when it comes to marathon sessions, and the Pioneer simply disappears.
The verdict: Get 'em while they last. This is one of the greatest bargains on a pair of full-sized headphones ever; as long as the attached 20-foot cable is not an issue, the Pioneer SE-A1000 is worth grabbing.