Earlier this year, an HE 1 was sold on the black market after being stolen from a showroom. Learn more about how our tight community of passionate audiophiles helped track it down, and turn the ordeal into one of the most successful bits of content created this year.... one of the resulting videos just hit 1MM views!
Nearly everyone has had something stolen from them at some point in their lives. A wallet, gadget, beach chair - even a car - and it can feel downright rotten. Similarly, most adults know the feeling of losing out on the deal of a lifetime; especially when it is too good to be true. Sometimes, these things happen all at once.
The short story you are about to read about our HE 1 might seem too crazy for reality, but it really happened - and we brought the receipts. And while the HE 1 is known to stir up all kinds of emotions, the roller coaster journey of one Sennheiser super fan and an elusive set of our flagship headphones nearly brought him to the brink of his sanity without ever playing a single song.
It’s a big, small world.
On a chilly March day in Texas, while taking a break at the annual South by Southwest conference, I received an excited phone call from a normally-stoic audiophile reviewer, DMS. He asked if we had heard about a stolen HE 1 (yes!) and that he believed he knew its whereabouts thanks to an audiophile group chat he belongs to. He would go on to send some hard evidence of the HE 1 via SMS, and share the contact information of an fan named Dan who tried to purchase it.
Let us start at the beginning of it all. In the wee hours of the morning in August 2022, an HE 1 belonging to Sonova was stolen from a Sennheiser dealer showroom located in the Seattle Washington area. A police report was filed but neither the suspect nor the hardware ever turned up. While a few other audio components were also stolen, none of them came close to the value of the flagship electrostatic headphones.
Skip ahead to February 2023 at the CanJam audiophile event in New York City, and a group of audiophiles have now decided to scour the internet for a secondhand HE 1—the fastest path to owning one after experiencing a demonstration from Lachlan Brennan in the private Sennheiser suite. An eBay search returned a peculiar auction, with a sale price around $6,000 US dollars, or less than 10% of a new unit. The ultimate buyer, Dan, was wondering why his dream headphones were being offered at a dreamy discount. Although it seemed too good to be true, Dan decided to leverage the framework of eBay’s buyer protection rules, which would offer him a refund should the listing be a scam.
Dan entered his bid and won the auction. Moments after sending payment he was refunded his $6,000 payment, along with a message exchange from the seller who was now asking for $20,000 to complete the transaction through a private sale (which would avoid the seller paying a large sum of fees to eBay).
Although it was a significant price jump, it was still only 1/3 of the cost of a new HE 1. The buyer obliged and sent $20,000 to the seller using PayPal, after which the seller would arrange shipping from the Seattle Washington area down to San Francisco, California to the buyer’s residence. The seller then arranged for the HE 1 to be delivered via UPS.
When the big day arrived, the buyer was ready with a camera to film the excitement. Right away he knew something was wrong when the UPS truck driver unloaded a cardboard box sealed only with blue painter’s tape—not the robust shipping crate that comes with every HE 1 order.
The driver could sense the disappointment and told the receiver he could refuse the shipment. The buyer filmed a brief “unboxing” to confirm his fears: inside was a broken HE1 accompanied by loose shards of marble, scratches, and untold damage. The buyer sent the driver away with his purchase and immediately began contacting the seller, PayPal, and his close group of audiophile friends to update them on what had just unfolded.
Within that group of friends was DMS, who put me in touch with Dan, so we could try and intercept the stolen HE 1 on its way back to Seattle. We had only a few hours to update the local police department and convince them to apprehend the headphones, and possibly the suspect. The original detective working the case closely followed the tracking progress and intercepted the shipment. The culprit, however, did not offer up enough evidence to warrant an arrest. The HE 1 was returned it to the retailer who then sent it to Connecticut. I drove two HE 1 to him for some filming—one broken and the other good as new—so that we could tell this story through DMS and his YouTube channel. The injured HE 1 was down but not out, becoming a prop for a series of pranks DMS would pull on some of his creator colleagues.
The resulting videos told the above story while showcasing the magic that a “traditional” HE 1 experience brings. Videos from this project have reached over 1 million views in total in a little over 2 months. As of this writing, one of the videos is being viewed over 10,000 time per day. Want to see how passionate the audiophile community is about the HE 1, and get an up-close look at the unlucky headphones? You can watch the epic from DMS here and see how we turned one man’s trash into another man’s treasure. Oh, and yes, Dan got his money back 😊