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Sineaptic SE-1 Ribbon Wireless Headphones Review

A Unique Driver in a Large Package

Christopher Coke Updated: Posted:
Hardware Reviews 0

Update 09/19/23: A representative of Sineaptic reached out to let us know that they have addressed some of the concerns expressed in this review (volume, cushion coupling, etc.) with the production model. They are sending a final model for us to see for ourselves. If this is indeed the case, we will update the review accordingly.

Sineaptic is a new brand debuting with a bang. Its first pair of headphones, the Sineaptic SE-1 is a wireless ribbon driver headphone. If you’ve never heard of ribbon drivers, you’re not alone. In the world of headphones, they’re rare, expensive, and usually require an external power source — if you can find them at all. But as the technology has advanced, Sineaptic has managed to squeeze this boutique tech into a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones for the affordable price of only $199.

They’re not perfect, but at $199, these headphones deliver a unique sound and one of the most detailed, spacious listening experiences you’ll find among Bluetooth headphones at the price. 


Current Price: $199 (Sineaptic

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Sineaptic SE-1 - What Is It?

Ribbon drivers are boutique and more than a little rare. I test headphones for a living and the SE-1 is my very first experience with them. So let’s start with the basics. What is a ribbon driver?

Unlike conical dynamic drivers, ribbon drivers have more in common with a planar magnetic or air motion transformer driver. Rather than use a combination of magnet, voice coil, and diaphragm, ribbon drivers use a thin metal ribbon that’s held in a strong magnetic field. As electricity is applied, the ribbon moves and generates sound. These drivers are very sensitive and need special power equipment in order to function. As of this writing, the biggest brand making popular ribbon headphones is RAAL and they retail for $2,250

So it’s more than a little surprising to see the SE-1 debut at only $199, but also presents a unique opportunity for more people to experience this driver type. It has a unique sound and presentation, especially in the bass, but Sineaptic’s implementation is also very crisp and spacious, so have no fear if you’ve heard about “ribbon warmth” from the microphone world. They’re bassy but that’s only one piece of their design. They also feature an open-back design, which lends them a very airy sound profile.

Given that they need a special amplification system and the drivers themselves are large, it’s not surprising that these headphones themselves are quite big and slightly heavy at 412 grams. Much of their size is due to comfort considerations, however, so they don’t wear like 400 grams headphones at all. The earcups are four inchses in diameter and are an inch thick. The attached pads double this width and are especially lush and comfy.

The headband is also very tall to make room for the suspension wing system. Rather than use a traditional headband, the SE-1 has two articulating padded wings that balance the headphones’ weight on either side of your head. This avoids the sore spot right at the center of your crown that’s all too typical of heavy headphones.  While not unique to Sineaptic, these wings are usually reserved for high-end audiophile headphones and are exceptionally comfortable.

Sineaptic also provides two sets of pads in the box. Leatherette cushions are installed by default but a second fabric set is included in the box. These can simply be snapped off but were the first sign for me that this is a particularly fragile pair of headphones. Removing them for the first time so I could take a closer look at the driver was no problem but the plastic bracket snapped the second time. My sample was an early pre-production unit, so hopefully this issue has been addressed. Still, I would advise being careful. 

The rest of the headphone’s frame is made almost entirely of plastic to keep the weight down. It doesn’t feel poorly made at all, and given the weight of the drivers and magnets, opting for plastic makes a lot of sense. Still, these are headphones you’ll want to be careful with.

One of the biggest surprises with these headphones is that they support wireless audio over Bluetooth 5.2. Oddly, it doesn’t offer support for any high-resolution codecs like LDAC or aptX and instead connects over AAC and SBC. Holding the power button swaps between wired and wireless modes, and if you happen to run its 13 hours of battery life dry, it can also be used while charging.

Since it supports Bluetooth, it also features an integrated microphone for taking calls. It works fine but as an embedded microphone, it’s not the clearest or loudest. Still, it works for calls in relatively quiet environments. 

Also included in the box is a nice hardback storage case, a charging cable, and a 3.5mm auxiliary cable to connect over wired.

With all of that out of the way, let’s get into impressions!

Sineaptic SE-1 - Listening and Daily Use Impressions

The Sineaptic SE-1 is a unique pair of headphones. The first thing that surprised me is that these really don’t seem like they’re intended to be worn out of the house. While they’re lightweight and surprisingly comfortable for their size, they’re absolutely massive. The suspension wings on the top lead to a lot of vertical space on the top of the head. Add the two-inch thick pads and you have one of the most bulky bluetooth headphones I’ve personally seen. It will attract looks, especially if you’re a mid-sized to smaller person.

But for listening at home, I was very surprised at how these sounded. I was more familiar with ribbon microphones, which are known for their dark sound signature. I expected the same here, especially after seeing the following frequency response chart published by Sineaptic. 

In actuality, these headphones are surprisingly crisp and detailed. There is a bass hump, as you can see on the yellow line above, but it flattens out in the mids before rising back up again in the upper-mids to treble range. This brings out the headphone’s best qualities: tons of details, excellent imaging, and a great sense of space. These headphones perform like great dynamic drivers and even compete with planar magnetics. 

The presentation of the bass is also unlike anything else I’ve heard. There is a reverberant quality another creator described as elastic. I find that term perfect. It has a rounded, wide, thick timbre that provides a tactility to music and games that’s very fun. It’s not overdone at all, but if you like bass, you’ll find a lot to love in this headphone.

The open-back cups add a lot of space to the listening experience but aren’t isolating at all. When I put these on, I was honestly surprised at how little my sense of hearing changed. You’ll hear everything around you… and everyone will hear what you’re listening to. These headphones bleed sound like nobody's business. It goes with the territory with any open-back headphones but these are certainly the loudest I’ve heard.

Likely due to their power demands, the maximum volume on these headphones is rather low: another point indicating that these are probably not meant to be used on the go. Their maximum volume is only about 10% higher than my preferred listening volume. With droning background noise, like an AC unit or washing machine, the maximum volume may not be loud enough.

Overall, though, I think the sound delivered by these is quite unique and surprisingly high-resolution for the price. They’re even a good fit for gaming due to their bass and soundstage when connected over a wire (just don’t use Bluetooth due to the added latency).

Final Thoughts

At $199, these headphones are priced for accessibility, especially against other ribbon driver headphones. I do wish they felt a bit more robust and had were lower profile to use on the go, and some added volume would be nice. But their rich, detailed sound is something special and punches above their price point. If you’re looking for a set unlike anything else that excels at wireless listening and can also enhance your gaming when plugged in, these are well worth a look.

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

7.0 Good
  • Big bass
  • Comfortable fit, even over long listening sessions
  • Very detailed for the price
  • Wide soundstage
  • Feels fragile
  • Low maximum volume
  • No high-res codec support
  • Very large and don’t seem made for outdoor use


Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight