Acoustic Research AR-H1 Open Planar Magnetic Headphones

This story originally appeared at

What's in a name?
And BOOM! Acoustic Research, a brand long recognised amongst audio enthusiasts, shows up with their new planar magnetic AR-H1 at CanJam at RMAF 2017. Color me surprised!

Wait a sec...didn't I see recently that Acoustic Research was making outdoor patio speakers? Yep. So, who is AR anymore? Turns out they're is one of a dizzying array of brands owned by Voxx International including (and this is only naming a few that you might recognize): Terk (antennas); RCA (now making clock radios, cables, remote controls); 808 Audio (low cost consumer headphones, BT speakers, karaoke systems); Advent (now making automotive audio and video products, back up cameras, navigation systems); and—get this—Klipsch (you know them). By the way, the Voxx name was derived from another brand you might recognize from times past: Audiovox. Wow. Talk about a grab bag of old enthusiast audio brands now making all manner of stuff.

Anyhow, the particular subsidiary that makes the AR-H1 headphone is Acoustic Research High End and Digital division, whose other products include three digital audio players (AR-M200 ($399); AR-M20 ($699); and AR-M2 ($999)) and the AR-UA1 ($374) headphone amp/DAC. I'm not sure I know what to think. On the one hand, repurposing a respected old brand's market capital for consumer products seems a little shady to me; on the other hand, if it makes a good company that's making good products stronger, it's fair game I suppose. Oh well, let's just have a look at the headphones.

Acoustic Research AR-H1 ($599)
The Acoustic Research AR-H1 is an open acoustic, over-ear, planar magnetic headphone. The magnet structure is single-sided with magnets mounted between the rectangular 86mm diaphragm and the ear.


The randomized grill pattern reminds me of Penrose tiling a bit.

I find the AR-H1 a fairly handsome headphone with a mix of black and deep bronze—maybe purple-ish—accents. Particularly interesting are the outer metal grills with a pattern of small randomized equilateral triangles and rhombi forming a quasi-crystalline pattern bringing to mind Penrose tiling—which I've got a strong attraction to. The Acoustic Research script logo is tastefully embossed atop the headband pad and AR logos are inset in the headband end pieces. All-in-all, this seems to me a rather masculine and attractive headphone.

Build quality and materials seem quite good. The headband arch is spring steel; yokes are likely black anodized aluminum; elastic suspension headband pad is leather. Synthetic materials are used in a few places: headband arm ends are molded plastic with a nice finish; driver baffle plate is unfinished black plastic with a fine matte texture on the visible edges; and headband pad sliders are plastic.

Earpads appear to be a good grade of protein leather over memory foam. Earpads are removable and snap off with a tug. Putting them back on can be a bit of a trick. If they're positioned just right they simply snap into place, but if they're off alignment the slightest bit snapping on one retainer can cause the adjacent retainer to release. It's quite possible to think you've got them on correctly only to find a loss of bass in one ear due to an ill fitting pad. With careful visual inspection for a small gap around the edge of the pad you can tell if the pad is on properly or not.

The cable is five feet long and terminates at the earpiece ends with two 2.5mm mono plugs. There is no mechanical reinforcement for the connector bodies. I'm not a fan of this simple termination. It does make it easier for DIY cable builders, but I just don't trust these small connectors. A good yank on the cable and damage may occur. The cable is terminated at the player end with a 3.5mm TRS plug with screw-on 3.5mm to 1/4" adapter. The finish on the adapter is dark gray and doesn't quite match the black of the 3.5mm plug body. The black cable insulation is medium density with a rubbery feel and tends to keep its kinks from the initial packaging.

A simple suede-like carry bag is the only included accessory. The packaging can be used as a storage case, but it's a very simple cardboard and foam with a cut-out affair. At this price I think something a little more substantial is warranted. Head-Fi member cskippy said that the AR-H1 will just fit in the Slappa Hard Body Pro headphone case.

Comfort is below average. I'm typically not a fan of self-adjusting elastic headbands. Getting it exactly right is very tricky. I found the headband pressure mildly too strong and would eventually develop a hot spot at the top on my head.

Caliper pressure is okay, but earpads should probably be somewhat thicker, and maybe angled, as my ears touched the magnet structure inside the earpad. It wasn't enough to cause discomfort or hot spots, but it was enough to decrease the overall comfort of the headphone.

All-in-all, I found the Acoustic Research AR-H1 physically makes a good first impression, but not a long lasting one. I wouldn't say this is a bad design, but unlike the MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open, the attention to the important details needed to be a really good headphone just weren't there.

Really good sound quality could tip the balance though, let's have a listen

Acoustic Research High Fidelity Audio
3502 Woodview Trace
Indianapolis, IN 46268
+1 (844) 353-1307

arthurol's picture


Thanks for the review! I have been using this headphones for several years and am very found of it. I think it sounds more natural than most headphones I had tested in that price range (Sennheiser, Focal, Grado...) before (although I have not test the one refered to in the article). That being said, I also find a small recess in the mid-range and a little harshness in the upper range as well. Since I play my music through Audirvana, I have the possibility of adjusting the sound through an EQ. As I am not an engineer and have trouble interpreting your graphs, would it be possible for someone to recommend some adjustments (like "add or remove X db on X Hz frequency")? That would be very much appreciated!