Pros: Tonality, smooth grain free unforced stereo perspektive, price
Cons: heavy and low comfort
Reviewed item: Hifiman HE-500
CD: Rega Saturn
Amp: Rudistor RPX-33evo8
Kimber PBJ interconnect, diy powercables and Isotek Orion conditioner
Received the he-500 very safely packaged from Jan Sieveking as part of the European loaner-program.
And boy am I glad I signed up for that!!!
I have been living for years with my ath-w1000 because I really couldn’t find a suitable alternative. While it is a bit too harsh for my tastes and to bright a have builded a whole system around it to compensate that, because I love the comfort brought by the wing system and comfy pads, and the deeply layered soundstage I get with them. I sold the hd650 because I needed a closed back at the time and because they had to be turned up to loud the rock and gained a harsh treble when I did. My amp is more forgiving of the harsh upper mids of the w1000. Since that I have really tried to be impressed by the hd800 with absolutely no luck. The Grados, Beyers and Akg’s I have heard have all been either too harsh or to boring.
Enter the Hifiman HE-500!!!!!
It sounds very smooth with a very full sound, and yet it never sounds boring or uninvolving. In fact I find myself dusting of rock and pop records I haven’t listened to for years! The decay of notes is amazing and I finally understand what all of you mean by “eargasms”. I used to get those from live concerts when musicians or singers brought so much life to a single note that I could virtually make me cry. These last nights I have had eargasms again – and multiples that is!!!
The first couples of listening sessions left me feeling that in spite of the excellent tonality I still missed some of the details and soundstage of the w1000 and wondered if I was condemned to closed back phones forever because I missed the more intimate soundstage of the ath faced by the more diffuse one of open back.
After a couple of days that is no longer an issue and I marvel in the infinite soundstage coupled with a tonality that simply gives me little room for comments: Right now I can’t find any part of the frequency spectrum that seems recessed or to forward!!
– of course I will find one eventually – Even faced with live sound headfiers will always find some lack in sound that grant future upgrades!!
The w1000 and he-500 are simply so different in sound signature that I quickly gave up the idea of switching back and forth between them on different records and write a comparing review to you guys. Going from the w1000 to he-500 made the latter sound muffled and shut in which it definitely in NOT given time to adjust. Going the other way made the w1000 sound unbearingly bright and made me wonder how I could ever listen to a phone like that.
I could still list a couple of tunes and describe my findings but I simply think I worked wonders on everything I threw at it. That being both newly recorded and very old blues, contemporary pop, driving rock, opera and classical, jazz and the world music that forms the core of my collection.
I will just say that I have never heard reproduced hi-hat sounds being so driving without ever being harsh. Until now I also never heard hand claps from headphones sounding anything like real handclaps! Bass is deep, tight and only there when called for. Ever so slightly warm, but never too much.
So grain free that I - at very first -feared it was boring sounding – Not So!!
I realize that I sound a little to positive, but I have to stress that I have grown into being so positive from a beginning where I was amazed by the tonality but also convinced my search had to go on!
And then the down side – it’s not the sound – but ergonomics. It hurts my scull and the pressure from the pads keeps reminding me that the sounds I hear is coming from the cups tree centimeters from my ear and not from the sweet purring singer I imagine in diffuse head space.
How come only ATH have found a really comfy solution that makes you forget you are wearing phones? Ok So no wing system, but at least ad enough padding to the headband. I simply cannot understand why phone producers don’t put too much rather than to little padding. Can’t be the most expensive part of the phone and neither the heaviest.
Still sound is enough to make me forgive this fault. The pads I am beginning to get used to and it made the soundstage grow because I no longer remember the phone and the headband must call for a diy solution once I get my own pair. And that must be my conclusion – Getting my own pair!
I still haven’t heard the T1 and the edition 8, I still would dream of the ldc2 if just for cool looks, but the he-500 simply makes all the sounds I have dreamt for and is by far the cheapest in Denmark. It also seems to make a very good combination with my rudistor amp that gives no impression of being underpowered but sounds extremely assured.
So tomorrow when I send these babies to the next lucky guy on the list - it will not be “Farewell!” but
“Take care – see you soon!”
Edit: After having lived with my own pair for half a year I have edited the star-rating from 4 to 5 stars. Yes they are still heavy, and comfort is nowhere near as good as my ATH-w1000 - But I got used to it at it doesn't bother me at all, and at the same time the sound is even better than I thought at first! So at this price a phone that competes with the very best soundwise should earn 5 stars even if if the comfort could be better!