Pros: Great sound, Built well, Preformance<Price, Comfort, accesories.
Cons: comfort for some, Needs a good set up.
The HiFiMan HE-500, practically perfect in every way.
The HE-500 were pretty new territory for me. I have always used Dynamic headphones and was content with them. Then These seductive sirens caught my eye and well....head-fi had it's way with my better judgment and wallet; and by god I'm glad it did! DR.Fang has stuck diamonds and gold with these headphones and has certainly showed me the ways of the Planar Magnetics mystical powers. First off I would like to start by saying that these headphones are the most expensive headphone I have invested in and the set up to along with them as well. My first encounter with these headphones was very eye opening; reading reviews about them I was expecting a very well rounded headphone and a neutral presentation. What I got was a very mid oriented headphone with a and I don't mind saying this PERFECT high end, The Lyr was just the bass icing on the HiFiMan cake. The HE-500 have a very particular sound, it's a very natural sound, I would not say neutral but natural. Vocals when amped properly are just gooey and ethereal at the same time; not one song I have throw at these from Jazz to electronic, Metal to classical, absolutely nothing has not sounded like I was actually in the recording studio with the band. I would not say these give you a theater sound stage as It's much more intimate than that, it's not closed by any means it's a very open and expansive sound stage; however all of the instruments, the vocals, and pretty much every piece of sound just sounds so tangible.
This may seem like a very quick jump but just listening to all of my headphones against this one these is really nothing they do better. This is not to say they them self's are not good but they just don't stack against the HE-500 by any means and I suppose that makes perfect sense for a headphone with a $700 price tag. Saying these headphones are anything but world class contenders I feel would be an insult; no I admit my experience with other world class headphones is not as extensive as I would like but listening to the LCD-2 and HD800 I was quite blown away, then listening to these I was just in awe that a headphone for hundreds less could be on the same level. These are I feel more geared to a music lover rather than the HD800 as I feel they were very analytical where as the HE-500 are as close to actually having the (insert musician/band here) sing or play for you. No the HE-500 will not point out every glaring flaw in your source but they do have incredible resolution and can easily review details in music you have never heard.
Treble extension is something I would like to talk a bit more about with these headphones. My goodness the treble is just mesmerizing, I thought Grado did treble very well and I still do; the HE-500 just do it so much better. Grado has a tendency to peak violently where as the HiFiman's just glide gracefully into it's peaks and back down again; Hearing an electric guitar was a religious experience for me with my RS-2 and on the HE-500 it was simply biblical. Every millimeter of guitar string vibrates in your ears as you hear the calloused skin of the players fingers grind onto the strings; It really sounded as if the guitarist was in your room playing for you trying to give you as much detail in his playing. Like I had said before the sound of these headphones is tangible, it's nearly beyond tangible to my ears. Listening to one of my favorite Joan Baez songs "with god on our side" her voice is just angelic, I can almost her swaying as she sings.
Bob Dylan...not my favorite artist but his voice is so complex I just had to give him a listen. My god, it's really like he's right here. I don't want to repeat my self so much but the natural sound stage and sound of these headphones just brings so much life to all of my music, a bit of warmth due to the slight bass emphasis really just brings a mystic smoke to Dylan's voice and smooth's his gruffness. Smooth that's another thing these headphone are. All frequency's really just seem to glide into each other; not bleed mind you but finding "edges" between the treble and the lower midrange something I really notice on the D2000 is just near impossible. The midrange has such a lush gooey sound and the high end has such a detailed and well rounded sound that neither really shows dominance but in a good way. The He-500 are a very well rounded headphone, killer bass response, nearly tangible and natural midrange, with a smooth and silky perfectly peaked high end is just something I have never really heard in any headphone.
Bass seems to be a Planar magnetic's trademark it would seem. The LCD-2's have great bass, the HE-6 have reportedly great bass, as well as the HE-400/4 and 5LE. The Texture and grain of the bass running through the Lyr is just mind boggling, a standing bass really feels like a standing bass and a Cello has such rumble to it. Kick drums are very punchy and have a nice trail as they decay. Bass guitar down right makes me salivate, following a bsssline and actually being able to feel it's gentle vibrations is something that has been lost to me and now I don't think I could ever go back. The HE-500 have a nice tight taut bass but that does not mean it does not extend well; the sub bass rumble and vibration could nearly put the XB700 to shame.....nearly. The Upper bass that feeds into the lower midrange is extremely accurate and never sluggish, the over all speed of the Planar magnetic sound is something that I love as I'm a Grado fan and Grado's are all about the speed. Just saying the bass is textured when it's recorded properly on these headphones I feel is an understatement I can truly feel the detail in the bass of a guitar and drums.
All in all I would say these headphones are going to be my headphones, I have said this about the RS-2 and for a little over a year they were, but the shrill treble and nearly flat sound stage are just never going to stand against these wondrous silken sectors. The HE-500 are truly a world class headphone and are easy enough to drive with minimal amping or if you want a fantastic Synergy I would suggest the Schiit Lyr as this set up is just wonderful...no perfect.
I have been in contact with another head-fi member that is graciously allowing me to barrow his HE-400 some time soon and do a little A/B write up on them!
The comfort of these headphones having put some real time into them is pretty great. I much prefer the Leather pads and as some one mentioned in this thread they are protein leather such as cars use but still of pretty great quality. The ear cups are nice and spacious and don't squeeze to hard in any one place I find. The head band has gotten some complaints in other reviews but so far I have noticed it pressing down on my head much and is by no means uncomfortable.
Well I was excited to have a real live box come with my expensive headphones FOR ONCE!!!!! how I was crushed.....The HE-500 now come with a hard shell clam case which you can see in my un boxing video, No not bad packaging but seriously no box? Not even a cardboard outer box to house them. It was shipped in a box, in a box with the case in it. Well I suppose...wait a minuet, I paid for this; yes I a tad rustled.Why is it hi-fi company's put little thought into the actual packaging nowadays? Yes I paid $700 for your headphones, a nice fancy box to make people jelly would be nice. This being said the Cable is a nice touch, how ever I cannot comment on the cable wars as this is the first silver cable I have ever had and I think the headphone sound pretty good being underpowered as they are. Extra pads like I mentioned is a nice step up from the one spare pad this package used to come with and the extra interconnect pieces to make your own cables is a nice extra as well.
Velour Versus Leather
I put a lot more time before work on the Velour's versus the Leathers pads and I'm still sticking with my Very minuscule sound change is any at all. The Highs seem just a molecule brighter with the velour but that could just be in my imagination.
The difference in amping
The difference was a pretty clear difference, Switching back and forth rapidly between the LDMKII and the Lyr not only was the bass significantly improved but the over all lushness of sound was. With the MKII I found my self hearing odd distortions in the upper frequency's I suspect mainly due to the fact that MKII had to be cranked to about 3 o'clock for a song I dub "quiet" louder songs I had no problem with at about Noon or even 11. Bass distortion is very prominent on the MKII in quiet songs, the bass is pretty lack luster but the fact that I can hear distortion on songs like 'Stained' at Noon on the amp is pretty shocking. What I take away from this is the less you have to push them amp to power the headphone the less distortion on the HE-500.
HE-500 for gaming?
HELL YES!!!! Playing all sorts of games from unreal tournament 3 to diablo 2 HELL YEA!. For shooters they have a very accurate sound stage and you can easily hear someone sneaking up on you. For RPG's of all sorts you get a great sense of depth in voices and battle. Hooking them into my PS3 Via Bifrost they sounded amazing for Uncharted 1 and 2, easily ONE of my favorite PS3 game's....in my top five. Online Shooters with these are really great as the bass is extremely explosive and really shakes your head. Also hearing gunshots from behind you and whipping around at light speed to pop some ones cap and have them scream over there headset is pretty satisfying. When I say shooting behind you, I mean it's as if they are standing behind you shooting; you can really get a pretty dead on feel of just where people are.