Pros: Outstanding overall performance
Cons: somewhat heavy
Mini-review: HiFiMan HE-500 Planar-Magnetic Headphones
Fang from Head-Direct was kind enough to loan me a pair of HE-500 for review. The HE-500 are billed as a more efficient version of the HE-6, although there are some other differences, both in design and in sonics. They are also a little different looking, in that the casing is a very nice gun-metal grey:
Taken on its own, the HE-500 are really an exceptionally good headphone. While they still require a somewhat powerful headphone amp, I was able to drive them with no problem from the Woo WA2, WA6, Trafomatic Head One, Decware Mini-Torri, Musical Paradise MP-301 mk2, and Leben CS300XS, all without any issues.
The sound overall embodied the principle qualities I have come to love from Planar headphones - a very transparent, open, and smooth sound, that is free from the graininess that is present on even the finest of dynamic driver headphones, with the lone exception of the Sony R10. The mids especially have a transparency that is very beguiling. The HE-500 are very smooth sounding as well - in some ways they have the smoothest of all of the HiFiMan planars, especially in the treble. The treble is very smooth, clean, and unfatiguing. The mids, as mentioned, are very smooth and open, and sound very uncolored. The bass is full, and fairly tight, with just a touch of mid-upper bass warmth. Overall the sonic picture is quite neutral, with perhaps just a very small amount of warmth - not a bad place to be for many users. The soundstage has very good image specificity, and depth is excellent, although it is not as wide as the very best.
All forms of music were well served, but I especially enjoyed the new CD by Alison Krauss and Union Station, which arrived about the same time as the HE-500. Alison's delicate soprano was beautifully and accurately delivered, and the string plucking and tone were excellent. The HE-500 also had no problem keeping up with very fast metal like Symphony X's "Sea of Lies", or complex prog-rock like in King Crimson's "Red".
Versus the HE-6, assuming one is using a powerful enough amp to drive them, I find the HE-6 to be just slightly more transparent. Bass is slightly deeper, and slightly better defined. The mids were just a very small amount drier, and the treble is just slightly more pronounced and seemingly extended, without being in any way edgy (although the HE-6 treble CAN be edgy without proper amplification). If one already owns a VERY powerful amp, the HE-6 provide better absolute performance than the HE-500, IMO. However, they are $300 more expensive, and they have much more stringent amplification requirements to achieve these results.
Compared to the LCD-2, again I very slightly prefer the LCD-2, as I find them to offer a slightly more natural sound (although the HE-500 are still excellent in that regard), and very slightly more nuanced. The LCD-2 are also just slightly more efficient than the HE-500. But the fact is, I could live very happily with any of these three Planar headphones, and I prefer ALL three of them to any Dynamic headphone currently available. The HE-500 easily outperform the HD800, Beyer T1, Rudi Chroma MD-1, Denon D7000, Ultrasone Edition 10 or 8. And given the HE-500's price, they have to be considered a bargain, as far as high-end headphones go.