Head-Fi.org › Head Gear › Headphones › HiFiMAN HE-560

HiFiMAN HE-560

100% Positive Reviews
Rated #46 in Headphones


Pros: Neutrality / Speed / Startling sense of realism / Ergonomics

Cons: Slightly aggressive / Past revisions / May be too lean to some

Without further a-do, I'll get right into it. (My HE560 thread has some preface words etc)




Build & Ergonomics




The finalized take on HE560 cups is a matte-plastic-and-veneer finish, with the body of the cup being plastic much similar to other Hifiman cans, but a Macassar ebony wood veneer wrapped around as largely a design accent.


To my knowledge, this was largely a compromising decision made so that cup reliability over the long term will stay stable. Solid teak wood used for early HE560 units suffered some visual/matching, milling, and cracking issues despite teak being one of the hardier lumbers to work with.


From a purely artistic design standpoint, I do like the new cup look better than the old, which on top of vastly improved long-term reliability makes it a no-brainer for me; but of course, solid wood does have its allure.


Earpads / headband


The new headband assembly is, let’s just say, one of the most ergonomic in the headphone market currently, which for a utilitarian user would more than trade off for its peculiar look when worn on the head. For those who may find their headband clamping a bit much, just use some gentle and firm pressure and flex/hold the two 90-degree bends of the spring steel band, and clamp is easily attenuated that way.


There are two variations of the new hybrid velour/pleather earpads that Hifiman is making available along HE560; the Focus earpads and the Focus-A earpads. Both are fully-sealing earpads, with a slight (15 degrees or so) angling, soft velour for the flat portion and pleather for the outside cylindrical portion. The core difference between these two earpad variations is the inner-facing lining material; whereas Focus pads use a perforated pleather inner ring, Focus-A pads use a sloped permeable mesh fabric. Focus pads are also sewn more neatly than Focus-A pads. By default HE560s will ship with the Focus pads, but those looking for a less energetic and more balanced sound signature may prefer the Focus-A pads. Comfort-wise both are stellar as long as you don’t mind your ears grazing the inner lining of the earpads sometimes, as the earpad openings are not exceptionally huge; the velour fabric is much less itchy than prior Hifiman velour pads’, the foam used in these pads are MUCH softer than prior Hifiman earpads, and the angling conforms more naturally to the head allowing for better pressure distribution.




The cable that comes with HE560 is a 2 metre ‘crystalline’ copper / silver composite cable with black fabric sleeving and 1/4-inch plug. Some might find it too short if they like to prance about when wearing the cans. Stationary desktop users won’t have a problem with the length. The fabric sleeving is a welcoming change in terms of looks and feel compared to rubber or plastic sleeving of most of previous stock Hifiman cables.


It’s more flexible than both the Canare cables that HE400s come with, and the white SPC cables that HE500s have; cable diametre is slightly thinner than Canare cable.




Sound Quality & Characteristics


***The “treble / midrange / bass” subsections will cover the bulk of my sonic analyses; other subsections will either reiterate or raise more miscellaneous points toward those specific traits.




While the midrange and bass have some back-and-forth in terms of their performance relative to contenders, HE560’s treble is sublime.


Treble is always tough to get right, you need the correct frequency response, extension, decay, but also resolution / detail extraction (which correlates to but isn’t exactly represented by current methods of measurement); subjectively the ideal treble needs to extend into the nether regions without tizziness, be grainless, smooth, with minimal sibilance yet never recessed, and with fast enough transients to deliver treble texture in a convincing manner.


And out of all the headphones I’ve had the pleasure of hearing, only HE560, Code-X, and well-driven HD800s fully achieve that degree of treble finesse. The test prototype HE560s came close but still had some grain to its treble that stuck out like a sore thumb; the finalized production HE560s squelched that issue.




For me, HE560’s midrange is a complex creature to describe. Right off the bat though, two traits that are very apparent are that their midrange is highly transparent, and just as open-sounding, as these are innate traits of the midrange signature that I find to be constants. Harmonic distortions in the midrange for HE560s are extraordinarily low from measurements that are posted thus far, which coincides with the subjective transparency.


The intrigue, however, lies in its tonality; HE560s can sound neutral, bright, organic, dry, thin, dynamic to different people. Frequency response-wise, HE560 has a slight recession around 2kHz and rise around 5kHz, which by definition gives them attack/edge yet still somewhat laid back, and that is what I observe in music too.


Further complexity is set in in that HE560’s midrange reacts to different earpads substantially. Hifiman’s most up-to-date earpads, the Focus hybrid velour/pleather pads, give HE560s a dynamic, slightly aggressive midrange signature with more upfront soundstaging. The alternative hybrid pads, the Focus-A pads, give it a more balanced, nuanced signature with more ‘roomy’ soundstaging. Of course, I had to try my Jergpads on production HE560s, which rendered a sound signature that was as aggressive as Focus pads, but also more forward-sounding, with a more laid-back treble (i.e. more mids-heavy balance); it’s different enough of a presentation from the hybrid pads that I may just swap between these and the Focus-A pads (which I prefer over the Focus pads).


Regardless of tonal balance, HE560’s mids are fast, really fast. There is little to no bloom, and midrange detail is rendered with startling realism. Some might call that a deficiency in musicality; I beg to differ, if it sounds strikingly realistic and convincing, to me that is musical, just in a different way than the typical “romantic, lush, etc” characteristics of sound signatures branded as being musical.


Regrilling mod done on HE560s gives it one extra nudge toward an extremely open sound signature. And here comes a surprising observation: for those who own Jergpads from ventures with older Hifiman headphones, you can make HE560s almost speaker-like in openness via backvented Jergpads with the dust screens completely removed (HE560s have internal dust screens built into the face-facing sides of the drivers). This is in contrast to the room-like open quality of the hybrid pads.




The word I would use to describe HE560’s bass is “disciplined”. It is a very technically capable bass, with excellent extension, tightness / low distortion, quickness, and lack of colouration; at the same time, it is never out of line in terms of volume relative to midrange or treble, always presenting itself in adequate quantity when the music calls for it.


That does mean that true bassheads may need to look elsewhere, because the low-end tilt simply isn’t here with HE560. But for those who seek bass with utmost finesse, and which is cohesive with the rest of the frequency band, these will not disappoint.


On the modding side of things, I have only very recently found something very interesting, that being that (surprise surprise) Jergpads seem to introduce a slight FR tilt toward bass/lower mids, which noticeably increases bassiness in the sound signature, at the expense of some bass tightness. Personally I found this quite satisfying actually, and may listen in this pad setup for some time to really decide if it’s something I’d endorse as a definitive improvement or not.




Again, these are as good as any headphones I’ve heard in the clarity/transparency front. Vocals and instruments are always in full focus with very fast and convincingly realistic decay. Separation is not just clearly defined, but each source of sound has its own appropriate projected volume in space. The ability for HE560s to render treble with tangible texture is frequently startling to me.




Medium-sized with the stock configuration; partly due to the frequency response having an upfront aggressive signature. With regrilling mod and optionally some pad swapping, one may suddenly find the soundstage expanding at will depending on the nature of the recording.




HE560’s timbre is almost, almost completely spot on. In my personal opinion, the slight emphasis around 5kHz is the only thing holding back HE560’s timbre from completely believable, especially coupled with the strong transparency. I have not yet played around with equalization, but some may find that a viable option to perfect HE560s’ timbre.






I feel that the finalized production HE560 is the real deal, reliability issues are resolved, sonically they are competent in all fields and absolutely brilliant in many, and these no longer carry the stigma with modern planar magnetic headphones being unwieldy space helmets.


There are still minor flaws in HE560’s sound which I noted in this writeup, which may be remediable in a variety of possible methods of course, and some of them are subjective to my tastes specifically.


On a personal note, I will have fun figuring out mods to try to milk out as much performance as possible in the foreseeable future too.


Pros: TOTL sound for less. Comfortable for an Ortho. Bass accuracy and quality.

Cons: Gets hot after long listening sessions. Questionable long-term build quality. Makes you question owning more expensive headphones ;)


I am not affiliated with HIFIMAN at all.

I did not receive anything from them to review, nor did they have any influence on my final impressions/review.


About me:


As opposed to some reviewers out there, I’m usually hesitant to endorse a product unless it fully impresses me in terms of performance vs. value.

Or it just sounds damned good.


I’m pretty brutally honest in regards to how I perceive a headphone’s strength and weaknesses. There’s no point in wasting your time, my time, or anyone’s time.


I think the reader should be learning something new with each review they read.
I’m not here to regurgitate information others have repeatedly said. I’ll try not use hearsay or affirmations from other reviewers. This means: I will neither confirm nor deny any opinions you might have read elsewhere regarding this headphone.


Now let’s get onto the good stuff!


Initial Impressions / Unboxing:


I’m not one of those people that like to spend a lot of time talking about how the headphone is crafted from exotic, purple wood that’s petrified and aged in Japanese lacquer (Looking at you Fostex TH900).


The headphones came in a nice wooden box with a metal faceplate. The box, unfortunately, looks prone to damage and probably shouldn’t be utilized as a carrying case.

I am told though that HIFIMAN offers a travel case that isn’t too expensive. A must, in my opinion, if you take them anywhere other than home.


Upon opening the lid,  I’m greeted by the unmistakable design of HIFIMAN’s traditional orthodynamic headphones. I’d like to note that the HE-560 did have a very pleasant and earthy smell. Pretty important when you’re about to sample the headphone itself.


Build quality seems about average upon first contact. The headphones themselves are much lighter than their predecessors, built out of sturdy plastic and wood trim.


-The stitching on the headband did seem to be kind of rough, with a little bit of stitching inching out of the edges on the headband.

-The hinges that swivel are well-oiled so that the contact points don’t scratch off against each other--a problem that the HE-400S seems to exhibit.  

-The Focus pads are amazing as ever, decently plush with plenty of room to fit even larger ears.

-Clamping force wasn’t too bad straight out of the box. Much better than its “400 series” siblings.


These HE-560s come with the screw-on copper/silver/crystalline hybrid cable. It does kink a bit, but can be persuaded to behave for the most part. Both ends screw on nicely, reminiscent of the HE-6. Cable length is ample.


Equipment Used:


Chord Mojo

Chord Hugo

Resonessence Concero HP


We can always talk about equipment synergy and amp/dac pairing for the HE-560 elsewhere. The important part is that I consider all three units relatively neutral and resolving to where I’m easily able to discern the HE-560’s character and specific attributes.


Sound Impressions / Comparisons:


The HE-560 is without a doubt a romantic headphone. Romantic in every sense. It is positively alluring in how smooth it’s able to present a landscape of music, without sounding dark in the process. If you could have a headphone sing ballads to you, this would be it.


Overall signature/tonal balance can be considered neutral. The treble does get splashy at times (bad recordings don’t help the case).


My first thought was to compare the HE-560s to the HD650s, one of my favorite reference headphones.


Boy, was I wrong. The HE-560s are nothing like the HD650s or say the Fostex TH-600s--headphones commonly known for being warm, bassy, and generally well-liked.


For one, I find the former to have much cleaner treble/mids/bass than the latter two.

It also simultaneously sounds more airy, has better layering, and possesses timbre/naturalness previously unheard of outside of TOTL headphones.


However, it did take the strengths of what the HD650 was known for. The ability to seamlessly integrate music as a collective entity. And to perform admirably for all genres of music. A headphone that can be both calming and engaging when called upon.


You can say I was pleasantly surprised. Just because the HE-560 is the midrange headphone in the HIFIMAN lineup, didn’t mean it was in the same class as similar offerings from Sennheiser, AKG, or Fostex.


As soon as I realized the caliber the HE-560s were punching at, I knew I had a serious contender.


Many people systematically state that they can differentiate between how orthodynamics sound from dynamic headphones. After listening to just about every planar on the market, I’m not sure I can tell you that there’s a particular trait all orthodynamics differ from their dynamic counterparts. If there is a orthodynamic “house” sound, however, I’m sure the HE-560 encapsulates all of its outstanding features.


This is a full-bodied headphone that’s fast, detailed, and moves enough air in the lower registers to where headphones like the HD800 or T1 can’t match it. Short of electrostats, you really can’t find better layering and texturing in the quality of the bass. And that’s saying a lot.

Of course, if you prefer the emphasis on quantity, best look towards Audeze’s line up.

The HE-560 isn’t a particularly bass-heavy headphone. It usually sounds just right


There are two things that the HE-560s does so well that I simply have to give it props.

Likewise, if we had to reward the HE-560 for two things, it would certainly be the vocals/mid-range presentation and naturalness of instruments (esp. piano).

Both of these stood out to me. I don’t think there are many headphones that can do both vocals and timbre of musical instruments right, without skewing towards a mid-centric signature with recessed treble.


So let’s talk about the vocals.


-Incredibly and painstakingly brilliant.



This is the headphone you put on when you want to hear someone sing.

Male and female vocals both possess clarity and are accurate to the recording.

Voices never sound artificial or processed at any point.

Remember when I said you needed that all-arounder headphone?

I wouldn’t mind living with just the HE-560 simply for this fact.


Note: If you like your vocals lush and “Audio Technica” -esque, this might not be your preference. The HE-560’s mid-range takes a step back in the recording and may sound lean at times.


Similarly, the tonality and presentation of musical instruments are just right.

In particular, piano and stringed instruments are hauntingly beautiful in the way they’re portrayed by the HE-560.

Delicate and soft, as if tragedy.  

Emotional and stirring, as if destiny.


Is the HE-560 worth getting?

For the Black Friday price of $699, you get a brand new HE-560. Street prices are even lower.

The answer is a resounding YES.

You get a spacious and encompassing-sounding headphone that many people should be able to agree with for the rest of their lives.


Best of all, if you’ve never tried a TOTL headphone, the HE-560 will most likely give you that “WOW” moment for the first time you’ve experienced something above and beyond what you’ve been used to.

Hopefully you’ll be telling yourself, “Maybe I’m really not crazy for spending hundreds of dollars on this hobby.”


For me, I decided to keep the HE-560 over even the HE-6 for the improved comfort, driveability, and price-to-performance ratio. Which isn’t to say the HE-6 isn’t better in many aspects. It is. But the HE-560 is infinitely less fickle and easier to drive.


It’s safe to say the HE-560 is my standard for what a planar is capable of~


Average Rating:


Bass: 8

Mids: 9

Treble: 8


Imaging: 8

Soundstage: 7

Detail Retrieval: 8


Timbre/Naturalness: 9

Transient Response (Cymbals, Snares, etc.): 8

Cohesiveness: 9


Efficiency: Fairly efficient, does need a dedicated amplifier. Not very source picky.


Overall Score: 8.5



As close as you can get to TOTL sound for less money.

This isn’t a bright headphone, nor is it a dark one. Somewhere in the middle with excellent extension both ways.

Soundstage depth is above average, while soundstage width is slightly smaller than expected.

Overall, a very enjoyable listen.


Pros: Light, extremely comfortable planar magnetic headphone, amazing sound quality, cool looks

Cons: no accessories, wishing it would have tiny bit more bass

Hifiman HE-560 Review





Many thanks to samma3a.com for providing me with a Hifiman HE-560 to review.  




Hifiman is a relatively young producer of audio gear. The company was started by Dr. Fang Bian in 2005 and started selling under the HiFiMAN brand since 2007. The company was founded in New York, USA, but moved the head quarter to Tianjin in China in 2011 where their two factories are located as well.


They design and manufacture high performance headphones, portable players and amplifiers. The HE-560 is the successor of the HE-500. HiFiMAN’s flagship headphone is the HE-6 and they offer as well the legendary earphones RE-400 and RE-600.


The headphone under review here was awarded the Audio Excellence Award (2015)  and the CES Innovations Design and Engineering Award in 2015. Hence I am pretty excited to be able to listen to it.



 Manufacture’s Specifications

  • Type: Full size - over ear
  • Drivers Size: 
  • Drivers Type: Planar-Magnetic
  • Frequency Response: 15Hz to 50KHz
  • Sensitivity: 90dB @1mW
  • Impedance:  50 Ω
  • Weight with cable: 375g  
  • Connector: 6.5mm single ended
  • MSRP:  $899




Wooden cups with pretty black accents and a black metal cover, innovative head band. Very clean and modern looking headphone. I think it has stellar looks. Makes my LCD-2 look very old-fashioned. Sturdy build, these headphones will stand the test of time.  However I am not so happy with the connectors, they are the same as on my HE-400 which is great if you have more than one Hifiman, so you can use the cables again. I prefer the plug-in cables of Audeze to these screw in ones, they also see to be a bit more fragile and fiddly. I do like their slight forward angle, helps getting the cable out of the way from your shoulders.  The cable runs on both sides into the ear cups, so upgrading to balanced cables is just a very simple cable swap.




Earcups have the classic round shape, angled leather ear pads are very comfortable and create a great seal..it’s a muted, elegant and clean style/design. You don’t look too silly with them on, the square headband…well…. but at least it’s very slim.


Build quality:

I wouldn’t call it exceptional - I think it’s pretty much what you would expect in this price range. Maybe you could call me a slight bit disappointed. EDIT: After owning this headphone for some time, I am still not yet decided if the build quality is good or just ok. It's light, comfortable and does everything it should. Nothing seems to fail and every connector etc. is study and seems to last. So in the end I would call the build quality OK to good but not outstanding.  It's probably the extreme lightness for a headphone of it's size and materials that makes me think the build quality is not that great, so beware this might be just my own desire for "heft" ;-)








Awkward looking headband is very comfortable on your head since it wraps around the shape of your head instead of creating a “hot spot” at a specific location. A very comfortable headphone I was able to wear for hours. They are also the lightest planar magnetic headphones I have ever experienced and that alone makes them amazing headphones to wear. 

Supplied accessories

A nice sliding wooden box, headphone and one cable. Not what you would expect from a $899 headphone. Pretty sparse. Slightly disappointing but the sound quality makes you forget this. How often do you unpack your headphones? I rather have a second set of ear pads or an additional cable (shorter/longer) etc. than a box. My personal preference.







The overall impression you get when putting these on the first time is: Music and details are just everywhere… the sound quality is amazing on these. I will get into the details below but they deliver. The first few minutes with these I was really very impressed. Music is all around you with these headphones. You are IN your music. the music is not in your head - you are in your music - hope you understand what I am trying to say. Amazing clarity that reminds me of the HD800 - the detail monsters. The HE-560 has some of it traits. Details galore without being clinical.





Don’t expect a boosted bass (in quantity) these are balanced headphones. Not bass-shy but also no emphasis on the bass. The bass is there, tight and perfectly layered. You won’t get the slightly emphasized bass of the LCD-2 but it’s very pleasant to listen to, even with EDM and modern pop/rock music. The bass reaches really low in best planar tradition. They are easier to drive than other Hifiman headphones but if you want them to sound their best, then use a proper powerful amp and a good DAC, these headphones deserve them. You get used to the signature of these headphones. I still would prefer the bass of the LCD-2 for pure enjoyment but could happily live with this headphone for…well forever? Just $899 hmmmm……. So it’s neutral but can reach very low, well textured and planar magnetic fast! 


Compared to the LCD-2 you have a bit more mids, the exact right amount. Vocals sound lovely female or male. Instruments come out where and when you expect them to, brilliant. String instruments are full of power and energy - brass has timbre you haven't’ heard before.


Details, details, details. Lots of detail in the treble, you hear everything but it’s not forcing it on you. It’s not a clinical headphone. It has all the detail but still giving you a musical experience that is not fatiguing. It has air around it and from wha tI can judge it’s very natural (for a lack of a better word).

Sound Stage and instruments separation:


Coming from the LCD-2 on a single ended cable I couldn’t help but saying a loud WOW. Music surrounds you. You are taking a bath in your music. While other headphones like the ATH-M50, HD-25 etc. are playing everything between your ears, this headphone just wraps around you, near and far and plays it all beautifully to give you goosebumps. The soundstage is not artificially large - it’s just right. Enough width and depth, you can pinpoint instruments in space.



Pros & Cons


  • One of the lightest planar magnetic headphone i the world
  • extremely comfortable
  • replaceable cable and ear-pads
  • high quality cable (unlike some other Hifimans)
  • high build quality


  • disappointing accessories (headphone with cable, box, that’s it)
  • with a tad more bass it would be the most amazing headphone ever



  • Comfort                       9/10
  • Sound Quality             9/10
  • Design                        8/10
  • Durability                    8/10
  • Value for Money         10/10




Is it silly to call a $899 headphone a bargain? Probably. I would still call it that. This headphone is really something you will enjoy for a very long time. Pair it with a good amp play some high-resolution content and just forget the world around you… It’s a worthy successor of the HE-500 and slots in nicely behind the HE-6. But it’s so much more accessible. While the flagship HE-6 needs an insanely powerful amplifier (and your own nuclear power plant to supply the power) to sound its best, this headphone is surprisingly easy to drive. My Gloveaudio A1 or Cayin C5 could drive it properly. Using a Violectric V200 or Gustard H10, Schiit Lyr or Asgard, Fiio E12 and you are set. Going balanced does get you a tad more soundstage but it’s not needed. I had a Plussoundaudio Dionysian Series Custom Balanced cable lying around from my HE-400 and while there is an improvement - it’s not as dramatic as with other headphones. The stock cable is very nice (and VERY well made). It has high quality connectors, the massive plug is from Neutric.


If you want to experience the pleasures of planar magnetic technology go and don’t settle for second place headphones. Go in all the way on this one. 


I am very sad that I have to return the review headphone to samma3a.com again but I am very thankful to have experienced this headphone.


I have not heard a better headphone in this price range (list price). 


You have been warned - don’t listen to this headphone - trust me, you WILL spend $899 after you do. 


EDIT: I ended up buying this headphone - it left such a great impression that I had to own it. Now a lot of other headphones have to go ;-)







Pros: Price/performance, well integrated bass-midrange-treble, excellent separation/imaging, realism/decay/timbre, airy

Cons: Only acceptable build, slightly softer bass, soundstage

HiFiMAN HE-400i and HE-560 review & comparison - w/ stock grilles and Focus pads


Disclaimer: The following review/comparison is my subjective assessment of the two headphones. The differences between the two are not night and day quantity-wise, but represent a difference I was able to hear. Both headphones are great sounding devices and this review and comparison should serve to highlight or point out the differences. If you have any questions or if you want to point something out, please do let me know. Hope you enjoy the read ^_^



- I received the HE-560 in early July and the 400i last Monday. When I wasn't doing critical listening or direct comparisons, both headphones were being burned-in using pink noise or playing music. Initially, I did not find them very different - it was with time, precise volume matching, listening to many different songs of various genres and most importantly lots and lots of swapping headphones, comparing short segments of different songs, movies or games. After this exhaustive process, the differences finally became clear. I am confident that these comparisons represent my current [and hopefully final] opinion on these two headphones. One thing I very much want to point out - at their respective retail prices, both headphones represent tremendous value. If I only owned one or the other, I would most certainly not find any of either headphone's relative shortcomings troublesome enough to not live with. Also, please do keep in mind my particular setup as well. I will first evaluate each headphone based on its own merits and only then compare it to the other, mentioning where the differences lie, to keep it organized and easy to navigate. Without further ado, here's the comparison.



Media: JRiver Media player 19, using ASIO KS direct connection output

Source: USB output of a desktop-PC

DAC: Audio-gd NFB-7 via USB input

Amplifier: Audio-gd SA-31SE via single-ended RCA input

Headphones: HiFiMAN HE-560 & HiFiMAN HE-400i via a 1/4 TRS plug

Files: FLAC, 128-320kbps MP3, 256kbps AAC, AC3/DTS [JRiver upmixing - movies], Dolby Headphone/ SBX Pro Studio [via external DSPs - gaming]

Cables: stock power cables, decent RCA/USB/TOSLINK cables





- The 400i has a very good bass response. The mid-bass has a good punch to it and is slightly emphasized, which helps with tracks where the impact is less than desired. The sub-bass is quite good too but rolls off just a bit sooner than I'd like. As far as bass definition, timbre and clarity goes, the 400i keeps a good balance of things. The slight emphasis of the mid-bass does mean that a slight portion of clarity and definition gets lost in the “punch”. It also makes certain instruments sound just a bit boomy [like a timpani or toms] at times, while also having a bit less than perfect control. The bass overall has more punch than it has extension and depth. In terms of tonality still, don't expect it to stray too far away from neutral, just a slight, enveloping bass warmth-tilt. When all's said and done, the bass is very exceptional and capable of sounding phenomenal with the flaws being pretty small.



- The 560 has likewise excellent bass. The mid-bass to sub-bass transition is perfectly linear, which means the bass stays neutral, with equal presence. That means, that it will not help with any bass deficiency in recordings but nor will it add any emphasis. The sub-bass is very impressive and goes very deep, giving bass instruments a very realistic tone. Timbre, definition and clarity is as good as I've heard. The punch might be perceived as slightly softer at times, but it is for the sake of preserving all the details in the recording - any more and you'd lose a tint of definition or texture or make that instrument a bit less natural. Nonetheless, it is something to consider. All, in all, if you seek a perfectly neutral bass response that can sound terrifyingly real, this is the one.



- The bass of the two is more similar than different. The 400i trades a slight mid-bass emphasis for a slight loss in texture and detail, while the 560 remains equal, give or take, in all of them. The sub-bass presence and extension goes to the 560 and so does the timbre and realness, more on that later. Both can hit hard, the 400i slightly more so, and sound equally impressive with the 560 just being more tonally correct overall, with better sub-bass, while the 400i bass retains more spotlight and presence in the mid-section and upper-bass.





- The 400i has a midrange that is more forward and up-front than what would be considered neutral. All instruments in the midrange always have their place, with very equal presence. Everything is very easy to distinguish, thanks to exquisite separation. This makes up for a very euphonic, bigger-than-real midrage, which ends up sounding pleasant more often than not. However, this can bring a certain shoutiness to instruments as well. For example, an instrument playing solo [say a piano or a violin], which means there's already a spotlight shining on it, and when you double that, it might just become too much, blending strikes and keys together in a slightly harsh forwardness. The upper midrange-lower treble transition is an area that is a lot less forward in comparison and can sound a bit muted in relation to the rest of the midrange, but nothing too troublesome. Overall, the midrange is more or less forward and coherent, with just a few slight dips and peaks preventing it from being completely perfect as is.



- The 560 has again a very coherent sounding midrange, not forward or laid back, with just enough presence to sound true. That does mean, that some instruments [like triangles or xylophones] can blend in just a bit at times, but the midrange is in no way recessed. The good thing is there's no harshness to be heard and instrument solos sound just lovely, be it pianos or guitars. In general, the more spotlight an instrument steals in the recording, the more it will get and even as its presence increases and disappears, the instrument always appears and decays with finesse. Much like bass, the midrange is the most realistic I've heard, bringing tears in breath-taking solos or just going with the flow among other instruments, while never sounding thin and retaining good dynamics.



- The key difference here is obviously that the 400i midrange is more forward and just brings attention to itself and every instrument there is, thus creating a more often than not, very pleasant coloration. The 560's midrange is just there and lets the recording [or the conductor] to bring the attention to a particular instrument, or not. As a result, the 560 is more natural and delicate, while the 400i presents midrange in a more euphonic and iconic fashion. Midrange, like bass, is where both headphones are competent enough, without any significantly detracting factors.





- The 400i's treble is a bit more complicated. As has been pointed out, the upper midrange-lower treble region is a bit less present, or to put it more simply, the treble is there but it is slightly overshadowed by the relative forwardness of midrange and bass, while the upper treble region is more present. The treble is smooth and well extended overall, without any major peaks but it just does not carry the airy presence I like, and what I assume is the side-effect of this - a noticeable lack of air to instruments that extend to the treble and female vocals. This negatively affects their timbre and accuracy, among other things. It is still a coloration, however, that might be desirable, especially for those people who don't want much treble energy and seek just that warm-tilt with a slight upper-treble sparkle this provides. This is thus a very subjective flaw. It does not affect other things as much, but it is definitely something to consider if you want a completely even and open treble. Other than the air issue, the treble is pretty great and smooth, and if you don't need lots of air in your music, you'll certainly like it. It also varies from genre to genre and track to track, depending on many a factors. Some tracks also add an artificial layer of air to vocals - this is not what I mean. This is natural and is present in each on to a degree.



- The 560 presents treble in an effortless and convincing manner. Much like midrange, the treble is just there. It isn't harsh or deficient but always present, contributing to an airy presentation. There's no emphasis on cymbals, like the HE-6 used to make. Female vocals sound especially lovely and energetic, with just the right presence. The treble region is an area that is said to be the hardest to do right without either artificially overdoing it or making compromises and cutting back. The treble is again the best I've heard. It is not always incredibly airy [the HE-6 is more so] but it has the power to be just as and more often than not it is and certainly to a point of sounding convincing and not artificial. It always straddles the line of being too smooth and too forward and thus ends right where it should - in the middle.



- What separates these two trebles is more than anything, the air. The 400i treble is handled in such a way that it allows very little room for air while the 560 allows for much more. This does mostly affect the decay, timbre and just the way how real and authentic things sound. Best way to demonstrate is with an example. As voices or instruments travel through the air and eventually disappear, they leave a trail around them, a faint presence of sound and movement, what is best described as air, as well as a part of timbre or decay. This air, produced by each instrument or vocal, moves with said instrument or vocal, until it eventually disappears. On the 560, this presence is more and it rises up or moves outside of the field of said instrument/vocal as it decays, almost as if it moved beyond the boundaries of the headphone and their drivers, in a natural and convincing way. If the bow of a violin is moving from left to right and disappears, so does the airy presence. The 400i has less and does not do it nearly as convincingly - you never feel the air 'leaving' the headphone, it stays inside, trapped in the cups and just stops, with a less convincing and shorter decay. This is for me subjectively the most notable deficiency in the 400i's treble, but a very subjective thing indeed. Air is obviously not limited to treble - it manifests itself in the midrange and bass as well, but is not as apparent there as it is here.







- The 400i handles male vocals beautifully. As they are part of the “Magical Midtange”, they are put more forward than female vocals and have great body and presence. The sibilance is never an issue as there's a noticeable dip in the region where major sibilance occurs. At the same time, this dip can have a negative impact, producing vocals that sound a bit muted in the 'S' region and slightly forced in the 'T' and 'F' regions. I suspect the lack of air is partially the cause for the hardness or roughness. This is a very minor issue, however, and is rarely present and hard to focus on without a direct comparison. Still a pleasantly natural vocal performance!



- The 560 does male vocals the same way it does it's midrange. No extra body or forwardness, though certainly enough to appreciate the delicacy and realistic nature, but without any extra magic. The “S” region is slightly more pronounced and as a bonus sound more natural and relaxed. The trade-off is that sibilance is more likely to show and it does - so far it was an issue with one track, which the 400i handled better. I again praise the way how vocals vanish into the air and I suspect this naturalness does take away some of the sibilance or hardness there could have been.



- Both headphones handle male vocals exceptionally well. The 400i takes the “more forward and smoother” approach, with more body and presence but an easier tonality on the ears, while the 560 picks the “natural and present” approach, with less body but more nuanced. Both approaches are very enjoyable.





- The female vocals have good presence and definition. They sound quite natural and without any sibilance. There's again slight mutedness in the sibilance region, and minor emphasis on the 'T's and 'F's at times, coupled with the lack of air, and consequently realistic timbre, does hurt it a bit. That's mostly treble vocals of course, so it is specific to singers in that range. If you listen to female singers with vocals that fall to the midrange more, then those will sound even better. There's definitely noticeably more presence to midrange bound vocals. Still, midramge, or not, the 400i does very good with female vocals too, with good body and presence, eliminating any sibilance there is, unless it is brutally present. It is still a midrange monster however, so it does best there.



- The 560 puts treble female vocals more forward, giving their voice more presence. Coupled with great timbre, air and decay, treble bound vocals sound energetic and beautiful. There's less compensation for sibilance, still enough for vocals to not highlight it, but not enough to mute their transition through that range.



- Again, air makes the most difference here, contributing to a more contoured, and realistic listen on the 560, along with slightly better resolution and finesse. Consequently, the 400i is hurt much more by it's lack of any substantial airy quality than by anything else and should we ignore the differences in air, the two are surprisingly close, with the more expensive headphone having just a more even treble response, but which is to be expected at almost twice the price.





- The 400i has absolutely no issues with sibilance. There's that slight mutedness in this range but nothing major. A great accomplishment with regards to sibilance!



- The 560 fares much the same in the sibilance range. The mute is slightly less and theoretically the susceptibility is a bit higher but not enough to be an issue, and it certainly does not take away from the beauty of the vocals.



- Both headphones deserve praise for the way they are tuned with regards to vocals as both fight sibilance equally well. The HE-6 struggled with it at times, the AKGs do too but the new HiFiMAN set an example in the way sibilance should be tackled. On my setup, obviously. Big thank you for this, team HiFiMAN!





- The 400i has a soundstage that is definitely on the smaller, intimate size. Width is just okay, while depth is quite good and so is height. As far as soundstage expansiveness goes, it is quite average. The sounds do not feel like they are coming from outside the headphone. I also believe this directly correlates and is connected with the lack of air, and consequently openness as well. However, while the soundstage is still well-integrated and feels natural. It might feel slightly claustrophobic where there are many instruments at play, but then soundstage separation always remains excellent. Detail retrieval is good too. It also does rather well with regards to imaging!



- The 560 has a moderately wide soundstage, where instruments evenly spread across believably, with good stage depth and pretty spectacular height placement, thanks to great imaging capabilities. The stage is pretty expansive, which I again believe directly correlates with the amount of air and the way it opens up the stage and gives more space and room for instruments to breathe. It still probably won't win many awards either, at least not in terms of sheer size, but it is likewise very natural feeling and well integrated. It is just big enough to allow enough room for instruments to not feel compressed and coupled with brilliant instrument separation it works pretty well. Detail retrieval is likewise great.



- The differences lie mostly in width and openness, where the 560 clearly has the upper hand. Instrument separation is excellent on both headphones. Imaging also goes to the 560, though the 400i also images well. The 560 and 400i both have well-defined and respectable soundstages in the world of planarmagnetic headphones but there's still some catching-up to do to rival those headphones that are renowned in this category.





- The HE-400i images pretty well. It might not be the most distinct, and vocalists that are close to each might blend in just a bit, but it still does it respectably and without any major hiccups - an imaging well done, where things are still not difficult to pick up and follow.



- The 560's imaging is even greater. It is very precise, with great definition and makes locating various instruments and vocals in the soundstage even easier. Very accurate!



- The 560 has a slight advantage here but the difference is not too big. Yes, sounds are a bit easier to locate and follow but the 400i is not too far behind and certainly not as far as the price difference would suggest. Both imaging capabilities are certainly above average and better.


Instrument separation



- Excellent. Separating instruments is a breeze.



- Excellent. Instrument separation is an easy-peasy task.



- A complete tie. Maybe that guitar has a bit more presence because of the 400i's forward midrange or that female vocal is a bit more distinct on the 560 because of its more uniform treble.

Both are exceptional. Both trade blows. An honest tie.


Overall Sound Openness



- In case you haven't noticed already, the 400i is not a very open-sounding headphone. It tries to be and at times it sounds quite open but it has too much going against it. The lack of air, the average soundstage size and openness, the bass/midrange X treble slight discrepancy. It is warm and it sounds the part. The 400i is a closed-in headphone. It still sounds like an 'open' headphone and covering the grills still produces the same effect as on the 560 but it is certainly one of the less open sounding cans.



- The 560, on the other hand, sounds pretty open. Instrumental pieces especially come to life. I've been listening to a certain piano and violin duet and the resulting emotion was simply phenomenal. Amazing leading edge on the violin, great delicacy and definition on each key as the piano played and the amount of air each made. Yep, this sounds pretty open to me.



- HE-400i sounds closed-in, HE-560 sounds open. I think everything that needed to be said was said.





- The 400i has little air. There's some air to male and female vocals in the midrange but vocals located in the treble and most instruments get very little air. It's all connected with the closed-in nature of the headphone. Openness, air and timbre/realism simply suffers for it and not much can be done.



- Again, the polar opposite. A lot more air to all vocals and instruments. The most impressive thing, however, is how bass instruments [NOT synthetic bass] sound. Lots of air, deep, very tight bass with perfect texture and definition. String bass is just phenomenal, but any bass produced by a real instrument is like that with these.



- Same as with openness. The 560 has it in much greater quantities. Thanks to overall openness, evenly integrated treble, etc.





- To me timbre, realism, decay, openness, air... all these have to work on a certain level to create a headphone that is truly open and transparent. If one of them fails, then the rest can't be too great either. The 400i unfortunately does not perform too well in either of them, including timbre and realism. I find the instruments to sound slightly artificial [string bass instruments have wrong impact/texture ratio] or colored [the midrange forwardness] and the lack of air does not allow for realistic decay either. That, however, just means that the headphone isn't truly open and transparent, not that it isn't good! It is! And again, all just directly compared to the 560. They sound quite good on their own in timbre/realism, just colored.



- The 560's timbre and realism is spot on and so is decay. Instruments and vocals appear and disappear realistically. Guitars, pianos, violins, tubes, horns, double basses, ... string, key, blow, percussion... male, female... The 560 is an open and transparent headphone. And it is also pretty good.



- The 560 once again wins in these categories. It is the 560's strong suit but not so much for the 400i. It gives instruments and vocals an artificial tone and/or coloration. It is still quite a pleasant sound, of course! You might even enjoy it more. It still sounds good, albeit less accurate.


Overall Cohesiveness/Balance



- The 400i certainly has a warmer tilt. Punchy bass, forward mids, smooth treble and good musicality and dynamics. Still, it is a rather coherent-sounding headphone with good detail retrieval, great instrument separation, decent imaging and an intimate soundstage and all that has been established. It is also a suitable all-rounder. Maybe not the best pick solely for instrumental or dub-step, but it does those genres likewise reasonably well, along with pop, rock, electronic, alternative and others.



- The 560 is really a neutral sounding, balanced headphone, with excellent musicality and dynamics. Great bass, midrange, treble, imaging, soundstaging, separation, detail retrieval... Well, we already know that! It wouldn't be my pick if I only listened to hip-hop, rap or dance but they also perform well with the rest. I really love it with instrumental music. An extremely cohesive performer it is.



- A warmly tilt headphone and a neutral headphone. Both extremely good for the price. I am the first to admit that the differences were initially rather hard to discern until I trained my ears. I could honestly live with either of them but at the same time, I am glad I have the opportunity to extensively compare these and appreciate the things they do or don't. And then choose one.


Low-level listening

- Both headphones perform equally well in terms of low-level listening and do not lose anything from their qualities. The quieter you listen, the more their shortcomings come out but since none of them have any that'd noticeably affect your listening experience, you can pretty much listen as loud or quiet as you want without issues. I listen at listening volumes 35 and 31/100 respectively, then 30 and 25, 25 and 20 and finally 20 and 10 and they continued to sound just the way they did when they were louder... Just quieter.


Build Quality


- Both headphones are built better than their predecessors, no doubt. Though, the 400i had an extra month of polish and it shows. It looks noticeably more refined and made to a tighter standard than my one month old 560. The adjustment mechanism, the clamp ratio, the ear-cups swivel, the baffle and the pads-attaching mechanism look and feel more Swiss and precise. As far as aesthetics go, I like both - the more muted look of the HE-560 and the more bold appearance of the HE-400i, but build quality wise, with my two particular pairs, the 400i edges ahead.





- Both get a 10/10 with the Focus pads from me! Easily the most comfy headphones I've had the pleasure to wear so far. The only difference is in clamp but that comes down to consistency and not a particular model. My 560 is a bit more clampy while the 400i is a bit looser, but ultimately nothing to detract from the ultimate experience. No itchy or sore ears. No pressure points on the top of my head. Nope. Nada. None. I am also not a fan of the Focus-A pads. Sorry ^_^



- The 400i has the slight advantage in mid-bass thump. The 560 has a better sub-bass, more precise imaging and a bigger, more natural soundstage. along with a more focused treble and a bit better detail retrieval. Neither, provide an absolutely immerssive, head-rattling experience, obviously. I'd say they both work quite well for both competitive and immersive gaming if you don't require massive amounts of bass. For me, clarity, soundstage and separation are an integral part of my gaming experience and I'd give the slight nod to the 560 for that. Also, deeper bass ^_^



- Same as with games. The better extension in the sub-bass along with extra clarity everywhere else comes in handy. Swords ring, guns fire, explosions explode, dialogues play out, all with an extra layer of resolution. Admittedly, the whole experience is a bit better for me with the 560, while the 400i still holds a pretty close second. Also, you can totally tell bad acting and fake sound effects with either... Eeeew.


And that's it. To recap, the most notable differences are by far the openness/air/timbre related ones, while the bass/midrange/treble are more subtle. That does not mean you should think of the one as a beefed-up version of the other. No! One is significantly warmer while the other is very neutral and balanced, These differences are real, just not to the point of being obvious from the very first listen. It took quite a bit more :] And I really like them both, though I have my preference, obviously.

Thanks for the read. Hope you like it! Feel free to ask, comment or point out.




Pros: very holographic sound stage, tight deep bass, well extened life like, silky smooth highs, very comfortable.

Cons: bass can sound a little "thudish" at times, mids are not as well integrated as the he6 mids, can be a little sibilant at times.

This is a very impressive can for less than 1000.00! If this was a 1300-1500.00 can, I wouldn't say it was overpriced. Especially given what some of the audeze and hd800 cost. Now I wouldn't say it's better than those, but I will say it's on the same playing field with each one having strengths and weaknesses vs the other.


But I will directly compare them to my current favorite he6. At first listen, two things surprised me. One was how hard it was to drive them. Given some of the earlier impressions, I was expecting something that could easily be driven by most typical desktop amps. But my hifi m8(1.2 wpc) had a hard time trying to drive them. I could get it fairly loud with the volume knob at the 3:00 position(max volume is around 5:30), but the sound was a little distorted. At moderate volume levels, the bass sounded a little bloated and the sound as a whole was somewhat congested. So I had to move them to my full sized rigs. It was with these rigs I did my comparison to the he6.


The second thing that surprised me was how close they sounded to my (stock at the time) he6. These two cans sound more alike than the hd600 vs hd650. But further listening would reveal quiet a few differences overall. I will say the he560 have about the same amping requirements as the original he5. If I had to guess, I would say they need around two full watts to be properly driven. So while still not as hard to dive as the monsterous he6, they still need pretty beefy amplification IMO.


So would I rank these as high as I would the he6? Well as close as they come, they don't quiet match them overall, but still sound far better than they should at their asking price. On their own, it's hard to find flaws(although they are there). But when switching back between to two I find that the bass of the he560 sounds a little thudish. It's not as well defined as the bass from the he6. The he6 overall have the best bass I've heard. Sure the 009 is a tad bit nuanced, but don't have the impact and slam of the he6 bass. And yes the lcd 2 have even more impact but can sound a bit sloppy at times. And the lcd3 have a bit more slam, but lacks the precision of the he6 bass. So what I'm saying is, the he6 bass doesn't do everything perfect, but it doesn't have anything lacking either. It just does everything excellent.

So the he560 bass falling a little short in comparison isn't a bad thing. It's still best the bass out of most cans. Though not as precise or articulate as the bass from the he6.


The mids from both cans are probably the area where I find the biggest difference between the two. The he560 mids are smooth and velvety. They are slightly warm compared to the mids of the he6, but not warm in general. They are not as warm sounding as the mids form the he500. I would say they are just slightly on the warm side of neutral. They have plenty of body and can be seductive at times. The mids of the he6 are dead neutral IMO. And they have an organic richness that the he560 doesn't have without the added warmth. It's like the mids of the he560 tries to sound natural, and the he6 mids just does. The mids of the he560 are pretty well balanced with the rest of the spectrum, but not quiet as seamless as the mids of the he6 given the added warmth.


Now to the highs. Now this should really be an unfair fight since the only highs I've heard that can match the highs of the he6 are the ones form the 009. The highs from the he6 can sound harsh, overly bright, and just flat out fatiguing if not amped properly. I'm not just taking about power. Yes they need a few watts to be properly driven, but outside of that, the quality of those watts are just as important and they are just as picky as the hd800 in that requirement. The he6 highs are soooo life like, and pure. They sound extremely natural without a hint of grain or harshness. They are very nuanced as well. They highs of the he560 surprisingly comes very close. But they also sound a little sibilant compared to the he6. There is a slight grain in the lower treble that's just not there with the he6. The highs are not harsh, and are better than most of the cans out there. But just don't sound as realistic as the highs from the he6 sounds.


Now on the sound staging. While I think it was a little overblown to say the sound stage was as wide as the hd800 as I've read previously(not even quiet as wide as the he6 sound stage). The sound stage is nice and wide and surpasses all of the audeze's I've listened to by quiet a wide margin. And even though it doesn't match the hd800 or even the he6 in width, it more than makes up for it in depth. And as a result, the sound stage does sound more spacious than the sound stage of the he6 overall. Images are just produced further out in front of you which is very impressive since I do think the he6 have a very holographic sound stage itself, but there's a sense of space with the hd560 that's just not quiet there with the he6. So this is the one area I feel it does surpass the he6 in. The other area where the he560 surpass the he6 in is comfort. And in this regard, it beats it by a mile. These are very comfortable, and I mean very. Not quiet hd800 comfortable, but the comfort is much closer to the hd800 than it is to the he6.



So overall would I recommend these over the he6? Well that depends on if you have an open mind in regards to the he6. If you're willing to build a setup around the he6 knowing most dedicated headphone amps won't get you all of the way there, then I recommend the he6 without hesitation. But if you are not willing to build a rig around the he6, and comfort is extremely important to you, then I would recommend the he560 over the he6. A properly driven he560 will easily surpass the he6 if it's not properly driven.


Pros: Lightweight, fairly easy to drive, comfortable, neutral sound, fair pricing, good customer support from Hifiman

Cons: Slightly cheap/poor build quality and Q.C, short stock cable.

The HE560 is Hifiman's attempt at making a headphone between the HE500 & HE6, as of the time posting this review, there are two known versions of the HE560: the preorder version and production (rev 1 as I call it) version. The preorder version has numerous differences in build quality, but, they sound very similar. I've listed some photos below showing the build differences between the models. Just click on them to make them larger.


Preorder one says HE560, new one doesn't and is a bit less tall but deeper, both boxes had scratches and marks when I got them.


Preorder version has thinner foam and one cutout. New one has two separate foam cutouts, one for the headphones and one for the cable. The foam is harder and stays in shape easier than before.


Molding lines on the preorder HE560



Production HE560 has no molding lines



Preorder version has the seam from one of the pads sticking out, new ones are symmetrical and the seams match. There is also plastic where the connectors are located on the new one.



From left to right: HE560 preorder, production HE560, and HE-4


Production version has a fabric coated cable vs rubber on the preorder 560, same connectors (Neutrik) on both. The production HE560 feels the same as the HE-4 cable but it weighs more





Sound wise, they are quite similar, but there are small differences: The production HE560 sounds a little thinner in the midrange and a bit brighter in the treble. This is a subtle difference. I noticed this effect when swapping pads to the preorder HE560 as well, so, it seems to be the pads that cause this difference to my ears.


Production HE560


Comfort and build: Comfort is substantially improved compared to the previous HE headphones. The new earpads literally melt into your cheeks. They're plusher than both the original velour and pleather pads that came stock with my HE400 & HE500. The velour material that covers the top of the earpad feels less grainy/rough, compared to the velours that came with my HE400/500. Clamping force is a bit on the high side. However, If you don’t find that the Sennheiser HD600/650s clamp too hard, you should be fine with the clamping force on the HE560 after a brief break in.


The cable feels solid. It's terminated by a Neutrik 6.5mm plug. The new fabric black cable has less microphonics than the original silver HE500 and tangles a lot less easier. However, the new cable is shorter and weighs a bit more. The old HE500/4/6/etc. are left in the dust in terms of comfort, but, come back in build quality. The HE560 kind of feels like a toy in comparison to my HE500. When you pick up the HE500, you're greeted with reassuring weight and metal gimbals. The HE500 just feels solid in your hands, while the HE560 is composed of plastic gimbals and is much lighter. It seems more fragile and less “serious” in your hand compared to the HE500.


Overall, the build quality is fine, but, there are a couple of small nitpicks I have. For example, the wooden box has no feet on it to prevent scratching and mine came a bit banged up (scratches and dents on the sides). My headphone also had some permanent scratches/marks on the gimbals when first opened as well.


Sound Quality.


Bass: Extends down to ~20 Hz felt, with a sharp roll off in power starting at around 30-40 Hz. Both the HE500/560 have excellent sub bass extension. A good seal with the earpads is crucial for optimal sub bass performance in both. The bass sounds quicker and has less of a mid bass hump vs the HE500. The HE560s bass has better finesse and control, when listening to fast faced metal and techno, I can tell the bass can keep up more effortlessly. The HE500 on the other hand has a tiny bit more raw impact, especially in the mid bass. However, it sounds more one noted and slower in general. 


Mids: Goodbye recessed upper mids. The midrange is a lot more even on the HE560. The depression around 2-3.5k is rectified, and the midrange is a bit less forward and sounds less thick (though IMO the HE500 was too forward/thick). Vocals are more palpable on the HE560, at least in terms of tone/realism. Same with most instruments, explained in the timbre section later.


Treble:  High notes on the HE560 are a touch airier, more extended, and in my opinion superior. The lower treble region is more forward and brighter on the HE560. However, the upper treble is less bright and flatter on the HE560. This is because there are peaks on the HE500 around 10 kHz that are absent on the HE560. I generally hear the HE560 as having a brighter treble in most recordings, however, some songs that hit the 10kHz area a lot make it seem like the HE500 is brighter but gives you the impression it's a bit grainy or tizzy because of that peak. This is especially noticeable with cymbals.


Timbre: With the help of a more even, extended treble and the absence of the recessed upper mids, the HE560 takes the edge in terms of timbre. Nearly all instrumentation sounds more lifelike on the HE560 but some can also sound dull in comparison with the HE500. The HE500 has some treble spikes and peaks, as stated before. This makes certain instruments like cymbals a bit strident and harsh. They’re over exaggerated on the HE500 but can be more engaging in some songs while the HE560 is more accurate.


Soundstage: Listening to binaural recordings gives you a larger sense of space on the HE560. The soundstage is wider, but not so much so that you begin to feel very distant or bored (Looking at you, HD800 and Stax SR-202). The larger width of the HE560 can be either an advantage or disadvantage depending on how you look at it. I actually preferred the smaller soundstage of the HE500 with rock/metal as I felt closer and more engaged with the band playing. However, for orchestral music and jazz the larger sense of space on the HE560 was welcomed, in these genres, the HE500 was less resolving and sounded almost claustrophobic in comparison.


Enough about the width, depth is also a key part in soundstage. To be honest, the HE560 is kind of the same. I can’t detect any major differences. HE560 is on par, if not better than the HE500.



Efficiency & amping: My receiver has power output meters, to reach the same value at the power meter while playing a flat tone (100hz,1000hz,etc). The HE560 needed to be turned 1 notch less on the volume pot compared to the HE500. So, pretty much the same.


The HE560 also scales fairly well with multiple sources. On Magni, it's kind of bright and forward, more akin to the HE500s sound. When I stepped it up to Lyr, it sounded less forward and more relaxed, especially with the right tubes (Matsush1ta E88cc) and was much more louder. I also felt the same when comparing HE560 on Magni to my old integrated amp (JA-S55).


I would recommend amping HE560 with a Lyr or a Vintage A/V amp (they do quite well and can be bought for cheap at garage sales or craigslist). Magni works as well but the volume had to be turned to ~70% to reach my preferred listening volume with recordings that have a extreme dynamic range. (Explorations in space and time, DSOTM 5.1 SACD, most of my old Vinyl rips). With pop music the volume was at 30-40%. EDIT: I originally had the values a lot higher here! I had an issue with sound drivers. The Magni didn't need to be as loud as I put it before.


Song Comparisons (All lossless, AMB y2 DAC, JVC JA-S55 amp, and SKW JIB interconnects)


Artist, track, album. and source.


AC/DC – TNT – Self titled album (Lossless CD rip)

HE560: Wider soundstage, the guitars (especially in the first couple seconds) extend outwards to the left more. Less raspy and sibilant on the vocals and overall the 560 has a more lifelike and palpable rendering of the vocals, guitars, and drums. You almost feel as if you were there, cliché I know, but it’s true.


HE500: Immediately more forward vs the 560. The guitar in the left at the beginning sounds right in your ears, vocals take up a larger sense of space in the center and are more in your head sounding. Vocals are also more raspy/sibilant, especially when "TNT" is screamed. The HE500 actually sounds more engaging on this song yet this may give you the impression its treble is uncontrolled and peaky in return (10khz+ bump).


Pink Floyd – Money – Dark Side of the Moon (5.1 channel 30thanniversary SACD rip)

HE560: The sounds of the cash register and coins extend outwards towards the left and right more. You can easily tell where the center channel and left/right is on this surround sound recording. Timbre on all of the instruments are improved, cymbals are less splashy and bright, and the guitars have a bit more bite due to the lack of recessed upper mids. Vocals are less sibilant and raspy as well.


HE500: In the beginning, you can again tell that the HE500 is more forward like the other song. The coins dropping and the cash register in the beginning are closer to your head and sound like they’re almost mashed up in the center in comparison to the 560. It’s a bit harder to determine the location of the center channel and left / right. Cymbals are brighter and guitars have less bite. Vocals are more sibilant and raspy.


Miles Davis – Freddie Freeloader – Kind of Blue (HDtracks 192/24)

HE560: Again, soundstage is wider. In the first 30 seconds you can easily tell that the cymbal on the right is more outwards and out of your head, same with the piano in the left. Timbre is significantly improved, simply put it it, every instrument sounds more palpable and effortless on the HE560.


HE500: More in the head. You feel closer to the sextet. Cymbals and the piano are less out of your head and closer to your ears. The piano almost has a slight glare to it which is absent on the HE560 (around 40 second mark).


Versus the Sennheiser HD80


My plan was to do song comparisons for this but I decided I just wanted to relax and listen to music, switching every couple hours or days. I hate playing 30 seconds of one song and switching back and forth 5 times to test like I did with the HE500.


In a nutshell, the HD800 is technically superior to the HE560 on a good recording except for bass impact. The HD800 has a larger soundstage in width/depth, the treble is clearer (but can be too bright for some) leading to more subtle details to flow through that were missed on the HE560. The thing is, these qualities are only exposed on few recordings. The HD800 is very picky, to the point of only a few songs from my library actually sounded superior on them vs HE560. They're very picky while HE560 is much more forgiving of modern music and poor mastering.


 The HE560, while not technically as good as the HD800 on a great recording, has a more relaxing and generally enjoyable sound. Everything on HE560 sounds more cohesive without as many spikes/peaks, especially in the treble relative to the HD800. Bass is stronger in terms of impact/extension and the sound is less diffused and thin.



Conclusion: The HE560 will not necessarily be a better headphone than the HE500 for many. The HE500 has an addicting tone to it, which is a forward, up close, and full sound On a lot of songs, especially during rock/metal, I found the HE500 to be a much more engaging headphone. I felt closer to the band due to the more forward/smaller soundstage and the emphasized 10k region was actually welcomed for me in these genres.


However, technically speaking, the HE560 is the better headphone overall. It doesn't have the tone of the HE500, but what it does have that the HE500 lacks is better technicalities. Bass is quicker, the soundstage is wider, and everything sounds more lifelike. Problems like recessed upper mids, ringing, and heavy weight in the HE500 are also resolved with the HE560.


I can also wear my HE560 all day (and yes I've done that, my weekends are that boring) without any listening fatigue. I've tried this with HE500, my ears just got tired of the 10khz peak and the weight required me to take them off every 2 hours for a break.


So, it kind of boils down to preference which is better. For me, I enjoyed HE560 and think it's a worthy successor to the HE500. If you want a neutral and lifelike sound with great timbre and balance, kind of reminiscent to the HD600, the HE560 is your can. If you want a more colored and forward sound then the HE500 is what I would recommend. Also consider you can find a HE500 for $400-500 used, which is a steal, these used to be $899 when first released.


Pros: Top-notch lifelike sound; non-fatiguing yet dynamic and greatly engaging / Performs with any music genre / Most comfortable headphone I've worn yet

Cons: Might require modding as it may develop build-related rattling (more in review) / Flimsy cable connectors / Low quality pads

A little bit of background on myself (Click to show)
This is my first review on head-fi. I had humble beginnings in the headphone world that only officially started once I got the wonderful AKG K550 and grew more conscious of the link between the importance of sound reproduction and the music that I love. Ordinarily, I started with a bunch of earphones I'd subsequently replace each time one would die after typically being squashed or walked on. All of which I cannot remember, besides Apple iPod earbuds I guess. This is until I got the Sony MDR-XD200. In retrospect, it was a terrible headphone with a gimmicky music/movie switch on one of its cups that did absolutely nothing but it was the longest I had kept a headphone this cheap (paid about 40 bucks canadian with the tax). I kept it until it died out, got the K550 and then that led to more headphone/gear buys. Here we are today with the HE-560 and I never imagined I'd have a ~US$900 headphone in my possession- got it for much less in like-new condition, mind you- but this is an exciting time This review will unsurprisingly not have comparisons with other high-end headphones but I felt the need to snapshot and condense my thoughts on the HE-560 to compare with future experiences through gear acquisitions.


Build Quality, Comfort, Accessories:

The build and design of the HE-560 is suitable for the price point but not very solid and is both gorgeous as well as understated. The mesh grill looks particularly great. I like the look of the headband too, though not so much how the metal top-part of it looks on the head, well at least my head. I've seen how great HiFiman's headphones, including the HE-560 look on their female models after all or maybe that's just me looking at the women...


The comfort is incredible, from the earpads to the headband, it feels very lightweight for a planar. It felt weightless vs my other headphones which are much lower priced with dynamic drivers. My K550, for example, are about 305g- mine are even more than that with the LCD-3 leather pads I swapped the deteriorated memory foam stock pads with. Somehow the 365-375g of the HE-560 feel lighter on my head and weightless in comparison. The weight is expertly distributed with materials chosen not to tip the scale This is a perfect headphone for prolonged listening sensations and it has the sound signature for it as well, which I will discuss next.


The clamp feels tight but in no way excessive to my head at least, so this could potentially cause concern for those with different head shapes or those annoyed by this kind of clamp. Earpad seal is therefore perfect for me.


As far as accessories, you get the HE-560 wood/metallic box and the 1/4" terminated cable. The cable ergonomics are pretty good, but it isn't very flexible and so it can be prone to kinks depending on the temperature. The connectors are a bad design, you tighten by screwing the tiny gold ring only; if you twist the cable or tighten it too much you risk breaking the wire that links the connector to the cable, and the cable will be rendered useless after enough duress. The connector design is horrendous and is the biggest drawback of this headphone by far.


Update 6/02/2015:
This is important to say, the HE-560 may or may not develop a rattling when reproducing sub-bass, in one of the drivers or maybe both because of the single-ended design. I replaced my first HE-560 when it had rattling in the right driver. This second HE-560 was performing well but alas, there's now rattling in left driver when there's quiet sub-bass notes/sounds. This appears to build related and not unit dependent. Good thing this can be remedied.
I fixed it by re-screwing the aluminium ring very tightly onto the driver housing in the left driver and also did the right driver for good measure. Another fix (haven't tested this myself at this time) or a way to fully seal the earpad to the aluminium ring is quoted by jerg:

"If you are talking about the rattling when you play very low frequency music / tones at loud volume, I described why I my HE560 mod thread. It's because the drivers are single-ended, so there is no two-way magnetic field locking the diaphragm in place, meaning at very low frequencies, the diaphragm can over-shoot which causes the rattling.


The way to fix it is to create a good seal on the ear-side, so there is back-pressure against the diaphragm when it oscillates low frequency tones. Find the earpads that fit onto your head the nicest (Focus or Focus-A), and perfect the seal (my mod guide outlines a silicone glue method; some also use electrical tape for an easier but uglier way to seal off).


Once the seal is in place, HE560 has zero rattling issues and is able to reproduce low frequencies with startling authority."


link for jerg's mod: http://www.head-fi.org/t/738912/he-560-enhancement-mod-v1-5


Update 3/11/2016:


The pads deteriorate with use, meaning that they break off the stitching and expose the blue foam inside. I bought Lawton Pads from lawtonaudio.com as a replacement, as they are better quality but quite expensive (US$109). This is true for all versions available (Focus pads, Focus pad-A).



burn-in with pink noise loop and regular listening: 150+ hours exceeded (HiFiMan's own recommendation)


Associated equipment (Edited 05/2015):

Beresford Bushmaster MKII


Gustard H10, Beresford Capella



Headphones for direct comparison: AKG K550, JVC SZ2000


Being the real meat of this headphone, as it should be, the sound is delightful. It is a unique (haven't heard a headphone tuned like this before) and addicting sound, so the most I can do is try my best to describe it. There isn't a particular part of the sonic spectrum or frequency response that is highlighted like you would hear from a dynamic headphone or other planars in general, like the reported "lush" mids of the Audeze headphones. The adjective that came to mind as I heard it for the first time was "natural", with reality / real instrument playing as reference. I'd say the sound is slightly smooth in the bass and the midrange compared to dynamic headphones, like is commonly attributed to planars -- though the smoothness is less pronounced in the HE-560 than the norm. Highly capable of attack. It's an almost perfect balance of smoothness vs attack IMHO. It's a disciplined attempt at a natural sound so as to not dampen the bass too much nor the rest of the sonic spectrum. It's as if the mix was calculated not to deviate away from the apparent goal HiFiman set out with this headphone.


As far as the measured 4kHz peak is concerned, I've got no problem with it. I tried to see if I would prefer EQ'ing it down, but preferred the little more harsher tinge from the un-eq'ed HE-560.

I'd like to add that after testing my hearing with an audiogram, I found out I'm much more sensitive to high frequencies -- 6kHz and up, but more precisely 8 kHz -- like the 9 kHz peak found on the K550 rather than frequencies below the high frequencies like the 4kHz peak found on the HE-560. But I have to say that 4 kHz (and the rest of the high mids) is still more sensitive to me than 2 kHz, 1kHz, 500 hz but not 250 hz and the bass region. It comes to my understanding that being more sensitive to the 1 kHz to 4 kHz frequencies and less sensitive to the low and high frequencies is the norm for most people. So I found out I have abnormal hearing through this hobby. My 20 Hz - 19 kHz hearing limit is pretty normal though.



Music genres to pair with:


As far as choice music for the headphone, every song, from every musical style I threw at it, fit. It's that simple. At no point was I looking for another headphone for a particular song or artist. This is an important factor for why I like the HE-560 as much as I do since I have one of the most eclectic music tastes I know of.
Sure, my SZ2000 have more impact for bass heavy tracks when I feel like it and that's exactly why I love it for that mood but for long sessions there is no substitute to the HE-560 regardless of genre in my mind. HiFiman has a reputation for making all-rounder or "genre master" headphones- to use the term @DavidMalher employs to describe them -- and this one is no exception.

Sound summary




Extends past human audibility (even below 20hz). Completely linear full bass extension.


Depth and breadth reproduction is incredible to the point of giving me deep chills (pun intended) on a regular basis.




First thing to come to mind is: they are liquid smooth and clear.


The cello notes, for example, that go from where the bass meets the low mids are spot on. 




The treble is clearly defined, textured and crisp. Very much capable of impactful or penetrating transient attack in the lower treble / high mids.




Top-notch lifelike sound; non-fatiguing yet dynamic and greatly engaging / Performs with any music genre / Most comfortable headphone I've worn yet



  • Cable connectors
  • Build quality could be better


The rating reflects what I got for the money, my relationship with the headphone so far and the rise in quality as well appreciation for the sound signature I got accustomed to going from my main (previously) mid-fi bright and clear headphone (K550) to this more high-end but relatively affordable headphone. The HE-560 is now my new main set.


Pros: Excellent tonal balance and detail retrieval

Cons: Requires significant amplification to shine (much more than generally attested)







Wow ... what a big box! I was expecting a more economically packaged box, but once I open it, it seems justified considering all the goodies that are packed inside. Along with the box containing the headphones there are also two bags containing two sets of cables, two regular TRS cables and two 4-pin XLR cables with TRS extenders. These cables are fantastic especially when compared to the fare that Hifiman has offered in the past. They are easily complementary to the value of the headphones; boutique shoppers can always find something better but this is stellar; kudos to Hifiman.





Okay, now I'm ready to get set up. I immediately toss the standard TRS cables straight back into the bag. I won't be needing or using those. The 4-pin XLR is more versatile considering how I intend to be using the HE-560 and the comparisons I will be doing. I have owned the HE-500 since 2011 (yup ... still grooving to it) and a long tortuous road of experimentation finally led me to one conclusion – these headphones are wasted when played via any standard TRS headphone out. Yes during that time I tried various headphone amps, Bellari 540, Schiit Lyr, Musical Paradise MP-301 MK2, various integrated amps, newer and older, and all basically left me uninspired when the HE-500 was played via their headphone outs. It was only when I hooked the HE-500 to speaker taps, for example, of the MP-301tube amp (with resistors in place to protect the amp's transformers) that the 500 really woke up and that I truly heard what this headphone was capable of. Previously I could hear the promise via the headphone out but it was just out of reach. After this discovery it was just a matter of finding the proper matching amp for this kind of set up – yes, there are differences to amps when playing this headphone via speaker taps, it's not simply about power, but rather how that power is translated, with finesse or simply with raw power. My favorite amp to date is the Luxman R-1050 because it combines those qualities with a presentation that never fails to impress me. This is the amp that I will be using for putting the HE-560 through its paces.


[Two sets of cable choices / TRS vs XLR]


[Luxman R-1050]


Okay, all this background to say I am not going to waste a lot of time playing the HE-560 via TRS which is why I tossed those other cables straight back into the bag. My primary interest is to see how this new Hifiman HE-560 offering stands up to a well-amplified HE-500, 'mano a mano'. I am giving the HE-560 the best platform for performance that I have found so far to see what it's truly made of, and I am comparing it with a member of the family that simply astounds with such a set up. My secondary set-up will be the Musical Paradise MP-301 MK2 via speaker taps, another set-up the 500 excels with. So that's the background scenario.



TRS or BUST? (What the Heck Does that Stand For?) (Hint: Try something else)


Okay, second thing, let's just get that standard headphone out thing out of the way shall we. I reach for the HE-560 TRS extender to connect it to the XLR cable I have already attached to the headphone – what's this? A mini 3.5mm connector, huh .. with four connectors (TRRS). What the ... who is going to be using these headphones with their iPhone, seriously. A quarter inch connector would have been more understandable. So now I have to look for an adapter to hook the headphones to my Luxman amp headphone out so I can get a comparative base. Is the adapter in the bags – I comb through the bags – no adapters, huh. Okay, let me look through my stash; no, not that screw on thing, I toss it back. Let's see, maybe this one, but it has a small protruding edge so that won't do, I'm out of luck. What to do. Wait, I have one I use for my ATH-M50 while watching movies. Let's see ... yeah that will work, it sits flush against the edge, sweet. Okay time for some aural sensations.


[Tube buffer / Feeds Luxman amp]


Jriver has already been on, and my tube buffer which feeds the Luxman has been warming up all this time. Random playlist – no special favorites or tracks – let's just see how things present themselves with my normal day to day listening. P.S. I have everything hooked up to the Luxman. There are two speaker outs (A and B). The HE-500 is on speaker out A, and on speaker out B I have a Stax SR-44, but it's adapter has a speaker out pass through, that I will connect the HE-560 to, after listening to the 560 via the headphone out first of course. Here goes ... cue music via Luxman headphone out!


Aargh ... anemic! Track is .. Erik Truffaz (Wet in Paris). Great track, but I am not getting that much volume. I raise it. I'm almost at noon, better but not very convincing, my back mind is doing a potential comparison with the HE-500 on tap (not even close). It's too loud and I'm still not hearing it. I turn it down a notch, okay the symmetry is there, but it's not quite whole. Joan Armatrading (Show Some Emotion). This track has a great deal of range (let's take a listen). I still get that feeling that something is missing. Yes I could try to drown that missing something with more volume, but eh, no, won't go down that track. It's all there – the detail, the full frequency, but it's just not fleshed out. Oh, alright Seal is playing (Future Love Paradise). I know this track inside out, and ah no, it's not happening. This track should really be grooving, but it feels like it's only 45 to 60% there. Aargh, enough, been there done that, trying to convince myself that these new crop of orthodynamics should sound dynamic out of regular headphone outs. Time to stop. Let's go the other route (yup .. to each his own .. and this ain't it for me). Let's strap the HE-560s to speaker taps and see what comes out. The first track I will re-try is Future Love Paradise. Gimme a minute to switch things ...






Okay, the HE-560 is plugged to the Stax adapter speaker out pass through. Okay, there it is, wow, voice extension, oh yeah, yes we are grooving. Man, so much was missing, unbelievable. Those left to right artifacts in the track; I was not hearing that half a minute ago. I'm grinning .. :bigsmile_face:. Okay, man. It's really good. Anecdote: why does anyone bother trying to find the mythical headphone amp that performs like this when it's so easy, so easily within reach, makes me wonder :rolleyes: ...


Wow, I am impressed. Okay, a quick comparison with the HE-500. I switch the amp to speaker out A and leave volume at same level for a quick attenuation comparison. Back to Seal. Press play .. mmm, HE-500 sounds a little warmer (maybe .. wooly .. that ain't a good characteristic believe me .. not as much detail retrieval either). The 500 is little more fuller, muscular? Yes, I think that's right. But I can hear where this might be a drawback to not being able to present the frequencies more linearly. Too much wool around the edges, mmm .. and I have totally adored this headphone for the past three years. Against the HE-560 this is only becoming apparent. Okay, let's let the next track play, Bob Marley (Natural Mystic). Bass on the 500 can be downright addictive, no difference here. Mmm ... I wonder how this will compare with the 560s. Volume is a little too loud (is the 560 less sensitive than the HE-500?). Oh yeah, that reminds me, I would like to measure the impedance of this set of 560s, let's see how close Hifiman is to specs. But first a quick Bob Marley comparison. Back to speaker B ...



No doubt .. this pair of HE-560s is less sensitive than my HE-500s which measure at 35.1/35.2ohms (right and left respectively). I'll get my multimeter in a sec. Okay Bob, what's cooking? I really like the presentation of this headphone, there is no frequency smearing here, everything has it's place, nice instrument separation. Bass is a little less convincing than the HE-500, I don't know, a little missing in action, but nonetheless quite present (does that make sense?). Erik Truffaz is playing again, this time (Miss Kaba), one of my favorite tracks from him. Mmm ... yummy .. wow beautiful blending. It's reminding me of the Stax SR-44 rig (maybe I'll do a little comp after the track is through ... hey, why not right now seeing as the two headphones are on the same rig). Okay ... turn volume down, switch Stax adapter to Earspeaker, let's see .. volume back up.


[Stax SR-44 rig]





Oh man .. so similar to the HE-560 in terms of detail presentation. Unbelievable, there is a closer affinity between the HE-560 and the Stax SR-40 than with the HE-500. I didn't see that coming. Rewind Miss Kaba ... man I might as well have been wearing the same headphones, yes there are differences, but it's so close. With a double-blind test I would place the Stax SR-40 and the Hifiman HE-560 in the same family but not with the HE-500. In retrospect it sounds as if the HE-500 was one of those headphones produced to satisfy the basshead era of headphones, and the HE-560s were produced to satisfy high fidelity audio enthusiasts, where the latter engineers (think Stax) were more interested in truer tonal and frequency presentation, than they were with popular colorations. I am hearing it right now in the Stax and I was hearing it a moment ago in the HE-560. As much as I love the HE-500, it doesn't quite achieve this level of balanced tonal presentation.





Okay ... break. I need to measure the impedance of these HE-560s. Gimme a moment ... multimeter time. Right channel 37.5ohms, left channel 38.1ohms. Hifiman specs call for an impedance of 35ohms ... so, pretty close, and closely matched.


[Digital multimeter]





Okay back to music, Cassandra Wilson (Blue Light Till Dawn). Oh by the way I went to see Cassandra Wilson this summer in Vancouver when she was here for the Coastal Jazz Festival. Her show at the Vogue Theatre was absolutely stellar (the Vogue is an acoustical gem for jazz ensembles). Okay, I need to switch headphones as much as I don't want to take these Stax earspeakers off. We'll listen to Cassandra Wilson again with the HE-560s. Switch ... mmm, nice, but a little bit slower than the Stax, I don't know, more deliberate I guess. Treble is a little bit pitchy, but detail retrieval is stellar, especially with what seems to be a wider soundstage than the SR-40. I need to compare with the HE-500 after this. Track is almost finished so I'll start afresh.


[Vogue Theatre - Vancouver downtown]


Blue Light Till Dawn with the HE-500: There is that bass presence, but I hear where it may be smearing into the mid-range. Cassandra's voice on the 500 sounds more true than on the 560, but it's competing with that bass, something that isn't apparent with the HE-560. I am torn, I am not sure which is the better phone with this track. Lol, at this stage I'd take a left-field choice and go with the Stax SR-40. The bass to mid-range frequency of the HE-500 seems a little too overpowering for this track and the HE-560 treble on it seems a little much, making Cassandra's voice a little less genuine. This track is a real test for the HE-560. Let me try it again.


This time I plug the HE-560 into the speaker A connector that the 500 was on. It shouldn't make a difference but who knows: Okay, nice balance to the bass entry. Cassandra's voice – still a little bit of sibilance, peaky treble, ummm. P.S. I don't have tonal control on (rarely if ever do I – don't like them and the same goes for EQs, I like things au naturel (as much as possible). As far as this track is concerned I am not very convinced. Excellent soundstaging though, lot's of spatial space between the various facets that make up this song. I think I'd put it down to this – the HE-560 needs a smidgen of the HE-500s warmth and the 500s need a lot less. Okay I give in ... I turn the treble tonal knob on the Luxman a little bit down. Mmmm ... still a little bit peaky in the treble. Maybe it's the track, nah... What is Stax saying, let's see. Could be the track, I do hear some peakish treble, but the Stax seems a little more accurate with a very beautiful tonal presentation. Okay let's move on ...





Tummy messengers are here ... it's 3:55pm and I haven't had lunch. Time for some left-over sushi. I'll get back to this (break).


[Yum ... left over sushi]


While my left-over sushi was steaming it occurred to me that a pad change might be in order. All this time I have been using the Focus pads with the perforated inside lip. I swapped to the older focus pads (Focus A) that came with the tour headphones. Okay – back to Cassandra Wilson's Blue Light Till Dawn. Okay, that definitely sounds better, the treble seems a little bit better tonally and I do attest there is a little more warmth to this signature, reminiscent of the HE-500 warmth that I was yearning for a moment ago. I like this signature ... it seems more right, and this track is sounding like it should sound like. Shucks, why did Hifiman change the pads (oh wait, there was all that fake brouhaha about ill-fitting pads), too bad. I feel that if the Focus A pads (1st generation) had remained the stock pads this headphone would have a lot more going for it in stock form than it is being presented now with the new Focus pads. Too bad ... get those original pads while they are still available ladies and gents, especially if you already have the HE-560.


[Focus pads to the left; Focus A pads to the right]


Man I am enjoying this, it sounds just right now. Am listening to Lizz Wright (Fire). Makes me just wanna lay back into my seat, close my eyes, and be taken away by the music. Nothing to analyze any more, it sounds right, just like music. The Focus A pads definitely add some warmth but just the right amount that offsets what I deduce to be a slightly peaky treble the HE-560 often presents. This combination really works in a synergistic manner; even the bass is grooving now, a little more like the HE-500 but without coloring the other frequencies.






I am now listening to Erykah Badu (On & On) and this track is bass heavy and the HE-560 is handling the bass absolutely beautifully without letting it take over. I wonder how this track would sound with the HE-500 and Stax SR-40. Let's find out. First up: Stax ...



The bass frequency weakness of this particular Stax headphone becomes apparent. The Stax can't quite handle bass boosted tracks. It's really not doing this track justice. It's there but the bass is supposed to be the heartbeat of this track and it's too recessed. With the right genres the Staxes are incredibly beautiful but with modern era genres like Electronica, Drum 'n Bass, Hip Hop, they fall short. It's as if the designers were not even aware such genres could ever exist. The Stax is definitely a fail here.


Okay, HE-500 (please don't let me down, eek.) Oh yeah, that's bass alright. Also excellent background detail. I'm foot tapping to the bass. Yeah this is good, everything about the sound signature says groovy track. Perhaps a little smidgen of loose bass in some passages. But vocals are still prominent and nicely blended with other details. I can live with this. Sidenote: I wonder how the HE-500 would perform with the newer pads. Time to find out ...


After some fidgeting I attach the second pair of Focus A pads (first generation) that came with the tour package. Mmm .. interesting, a bit more detail retrieval with these pads on the 500 than the stock 500 set. Nice. Lol ... time to upgrade 500 pads. I like it. Still listening to On & On for progeny's sake. Okay what about with the new stock Focus pads? Let's find out: Stop music (fidget, fidget)...Mmm comfy, more comfy than the Focus A pads. A little more detail than the Focus A pads (courtesy of the perforations perhaps?). Bass is tight (did I just say that?). Interesting, nice tonal balance, soundstage and nuances seem more extended. Lol .. conclusion to the pad saga .. Focus A pads are for the HE-560 and the newer Focus pads are for the HE-500 (irony, huh!). I am going to be picking up a set of these for my HE-500, definitely an improvement.





Fast forward ... what else is popping up in this playlist, let's see. Jacksoul (As We); rest in peace Haydain. I am hearing a little bit of a peaky treble with the 500, but nothing to make me stop, could be a symptom of the Focus pads. Next track – Damon Aaron (All I Need). Yeah, here is that feeling again, you know, where it's now simply about the music, no distractions. Time to simply close your eyes and let the music take over. I do just that ... (The detail retrieval of the HE-500 with the Focus pads really surprises me, an excellent hardware match). Upgrade your Hifiman HE-500 pads y'all.


My man ... Barry White (Playing Your Game, Baby). Nice soundstage, sounds a little wider somehow. Will compare with the HE-560s on this track. Man, it's just about the music at this stage. I really like it after you've spent time gathering all your hardware together and it comes together and becomes art – that's what it's all about. (Forgotten time elapse ... was listening to Seal (Crazy)). Oh boy, superb track starting, Metropolitan Jazz Affair (Bird of Spring). Everything has come together ... I love it! I'll listen to this track first with the HE-500 (Focus pads) and then compare with the HE-560 (Focus A pads).


Back to Barry White with the HE-560s. Pause ... nothing to say really. This is just good music. Listening to Seal (Crazy) again – it's all there and the tonal balance is symmetrical. Metropolitan Jazz Affair (Bird of Spring). Groovy bass, for a moment there I thought I was still with the HE-500. Groovy bass without it being overpowering. Vocals are frontal, just the nice full sound I would expect from a well-amplified orthodynamic. Those pad switches really made that much of a difference, huh? Interesting. I don't feel a need to change anything. Just feels like it's time to simply enjoy the music. And I away ...


[Haydain Neale of Jacksoul - d. Nov 2009]




ULTIMATE QUESTION (hang in there ...)


Now here is the question. Which of these headphones would I keep? Since I already own the HE-500, the more obvious question is, is there a need to ditch the HE-500 and upgrade (sidegrade?) to the HE-560? Stay tuned while I come up with an answer over the next few days.






What ensued was a long back and forth comparison of the two headphones listening to different tracks one headphone after the other. This was fairly easy to do having both headphones strapped to the same amplifier but with dedicated outputs (thanks engineers for speaker amplifiers with two speaker outputs - :beerchug: ).


P.S. Placing the speaker output selection on A+B also made it obvious that the HE-560 required a little bit more attenuation to match the volume output of the HE-500, perhaps underscoring the fact that this particular HE-560 may be less sensitive than the HE-500 (at least my pair). But then again what is 90db/mW (HE-560) vs 89db/mw (HE-500). That means too close to call in my book.


Some random track impressions:


Jaga Jazzist (The Stix) - very challenging Nu-Jazz/Electronica track:

With HE-500 (Focus pads). Nice full robust sound. All those crazy details are there.

With HE-560 (Focus A pads). I am having a hard time telling the headphones apart. They are equally good, albeit with a nod for more detail retrieval going to the HE-560, but musically, they are equally convincing. One could get either, amplify it well and simply get lost in the music – which really is the goal at the end of the day.



Stee Downes (Movement):

This track highlighted how similar the HE-560 and HE-500 can sound (with the pad switches I made). I have to listen very closely to pinpoint the differences if any. The HE-500 sounds a little bit fuller whereas the HE-560 sounds a little more defined.



Maxwell (Welcome):

The HE-560 definitely wins this one. There is just more happening with it, not that much more but it's noticeable after coming from the HE-500. Again, very nice frequency balance, all the nuances are there and can be easily picked out. Yeah, oh that treble, no more troubles from it and I think credit goes to the Focus A pads on this.



With some genres the HE-500 simply shines. For example well-recorded and performed R&B/Neo-Soul. For example: Jill Scott (Golden), a track I felt the HE-500 out-performed the HE-560 on. Similar impressions on Brand New Heavies (Keep Together); Mark Rae (Medicine). The HE-560 doesn't seem to quite have the groove factor that these tracks and others like them call for.



Santana (Smooth (feat. Rob Thomas):

The warmer and fuller presentation of the HE-500 sounds better here too. Makes for a more enveloping and rocking sound. In comparison the HE-560 sounds like it's trying to be more proper when it's really time to let loose and really groove.



Ali Slaight (Kiss From A Rose):

Mmm ... The HE-560 sounds like the more accurate headphone of the two here. The overall warmth of the HE-500 is working against it. This is a somewhat acoustically based track and that kind of makes sense based on my other impressions: With acoustical music the HE-560 seems more accurate and better balanced overall. The HE-500 seems to bring a little more warmth to the tracks than is necessary resulting in less clarity within and between the various facets of the tracks, vocals and instruments. Still overally good but I would take the HE-560's presentation each time with acoustic based music – so much sweeter and nuanced – excellent performances.



Plantlife (When She Smiles):

HE-560 is clearer. Mmm ... sounds like the evidence is piling up. The HE-560 reproduces music with more clarity than the HE-500. I think the mid-centric character of the HE-500 may be its Achilles heel. Don't get me wrong, it still sounds world-class but it is outclassed by the HE-560 in this regard. (From Wikipedia: An Achilles heel is a deadly weakness in spite of overall strength, which can actually or potentially lead to downfall.)



And so forth and so forth, and so forth it went .... until ...


Conclusion inside the conclusion: When musical clarity is called for the HE-560s outperform the 500s, but where full musical grooviness is called for the HE-500s seem to have an edge. So I guess it pretty much comes down to choice of the wrong that's less wrong. In this case the less significant and infrequent shortcomings of the HE-560 are easier to fix and live with than the more apparent shortcomings of the HE-500, especially if you listen to a lot of acoustically grounded music. The HE-560 is the better headphone and is definitely an upgrade rather than simply a sidegrade to the HE-500. Would I upgrade then? Yes ... absolutely, strictly based on sound-quality improvements, and especially where money is not a consideration. With the HE-500 now just over half the price of the HE-560 does that make it half as good as the HE-560? Definitely not; I would place the HE-500's abilities at about 93-96% of the HE-560's sonic reproductive ability. Is that final 4-7% worth it? My answer – a resounding yes! With the HE-560 you would have a headphone that gives you less to stop and gripe about knowing in the end there was little you could do about it.


Well done Hifiman for taking your headphones further. I didn't think you could do it, especially with single-magnet transducers but you did. The HE-560 is definitely a worthy upgrade to the HE-500!



[Grill-modded HE-500 (Focus pads) ; Stock form HE-560 (Focus A pads]



Postscript: FUZZYING THINGS UP ...


The Fuzzor mod suggested by Jerg in this thread kinda intrigued me after realizing that the major difference between the HE-560 and the HE-500 was in their clarity and detail retrieval characteristics, the HE-560 being the better of the two in that regard. But those qualities are precisely what the Fuzzor mod is supposed to improve for the HE-500. I had to find out ...


Ran out to my local Michael's store to get some felt (shucks got the wrong one ... yeah you guessed it, I went all the way to the end of the mod with that one – don't ask; we'll leave it for the trash bin. Hint: It wasn't the stiff kind). Ran back to the store this time making sure I asked for stiffened adhesive felt ... shikes ... they were out (wha ..aat!). I won't bore you with more of this yarn (they had lots of that at the store) ... I eventually had to drive to another Michael's store farther away. Ah ... but enough of that.


The mod turned out great what with me being a more experienced modder and all (snicker ..). Now to the sound. I quickly went back to those problematic tracks that the HE-500 had stumbled on and that the HE-560 had simply been brilliant with. Wow ... what do ya know ... a mod that actually works! To my ears the HE-500 was now sounding more refined, with a very beautiful tone but still a bit more energetic than the HE-560, but it was almost, almost there. I could easily take that and not miss the HE-560 (much). Percentage wise I'd say the HE-500's rendering on those tracks was now closer to 98.5% of the HE-560 (that's as precise as I can get, sorry). I still feel the HE-560 is still the more nuanced of the two headphones and really worth that additional effort if one can manage it. But then again, there are those times when the HE-500's signature is precisely what the shaman has ordered; where it's groove fun factor simply and incredibly wows. So ... is that fuzzy enough for ya ..?


Pros: Excellent musical sound quality that works well for most if not all genres, outstanding tembre

Cons: Typical planer sound stage congestion and some treble brightness perhaps from lack of burn in

Disclaimer: This unit was part of a tour held by Justin at Headamp.com. As the second in the tour to hear these headphones, it likely was not properly burnt in. I thank Justin for giving me the chance to hear them and encourage anyone considering buying them to work with Justin. He is wonderful to work with in my experience providing excellent customer service.














While I can say that the HE560 sounds awesome and is very much a TOTL HP, saying why is more of a challenge. What I can say that is unique to this TOTL HP is that it makes everything sound good and is not very particular to genre or recording quality. However, it do this it sounds best turned up and driven well. When turned up, instead of just getting louder, it sounds bigger and closer as any well-made audiophile component should.


HE 560 Listening notes:

  1. Signature: The HE560 has the typical Hifiman house sound, but better and more engaging based on memory.
    1. SQ: The HE560 sounds very refined compared to my HD700, but more laid back. It requires volume to get the intimate sound stage that I prefer, but sounds great and not fatiguing when turned up.
    2. Texture: The note is thick, but airy at the same time providing the various instruments with more character than I am used to. This is hard to explain as it is new to this headphone for me, but for example it is as if I am getting the character of wood and the hollowness of an acoustic guitar rather than just the pluck and resonance of the string. This is very different than the environmental characteristics I get from the HD700/800 where I can hear the guitar players shirt rubbing and the chair squeak. It makes for a rich, toe tapping listening experience. However, the texture is not as thick as my HD700 which gives me goose bumps as the guitar players fingers slide up the fret. The HE560 feels smoother.
    3. Detail: This is tough in that it sounds detailed at first listen but it is smoothed over a bit and with a euphoric quality that sits in front of the details making them less interesting. This headphone is about enjoying the music more than listening for new details.
    4. Sound Stage: Its biggest weakness is the smaller more congested sound stage typical of planers. It is deeper than wide, but makes good use of the stage that it has with good separation between instruments.
    5. Bass: Typical of high end planers, it has a warm rich bass note that goes deep with significant impact while not being overdone. The bass is very euphoric/euphonic and blends well with the mids.
    6. Mids: This is where it is at for me with this headphone providing a euphoric/euphonic SQ with an intimate sound stage while turned up. Euphoric mids are what would bring me back to this headphone verses my others. For example, the mids are forward with my HD700 and more detail, but lack the euphoric/euphonic qualities that make long term listening more fun.
    7. Treble: This is a second issue with the HE560 the may be related to the lack of burn in. But the treble has a very digital feeling to it not being very natural. It stands out given the euphoric qualities of the rest of the signature. The treble is a bit smoothed over and never fatiguing which is good, so this is not a serious problem unless you are looking for the last inch of detail which is not what this headphone is about for me anyways.
  2. Pairing: This headphone seems to be reasonably easy to drive and pairs well with everything.
    1. Geek Out 1000: Sounds great and very euphoric. The tube like sound that the Geek Out 1000 puts out was not too much with the HE560. What is surprising is how close the sound quality from the pairing is to the much more expensive HUGO pairing. While the HUGO is obviously more refined, spacious, and of higher sound quality, it is by inches, not miles. This is impressive when comparing a $300 device to a $2000 device at 7 times its cost. However, I would miss the versatility the HUGO provides in its ability to connect to everything and while unplugged.
    2. HUGO: The HUGO and HE560 is a match made in heaven. It sounds like it brings the best out of both. The HUGO width widens the HE560 presentation eliminating some the typical planer congestion. The HE560 adds body to the HUGO sound. Together they are easily an end game setup for those looking for the ultimate in musical.
    3. X5: While the HE560 scales higher with a desktop unit, it sounds remarkably good strait out of the X5. The X5 just has a little less control over the drivers perhaps losing some of its euphoric nature.
  3. Comparison: For this comparison, I used the DX90 > HUGO > HP.
    1. LCD2.2: The LCD2 is more forward with more feeling and emotion focused on the singer. The HE560 is set further back feeling a little more laid back and taking the performance in as a whole. They are two different styles, both sounding fantastic. They both have the euphoric tube like planer character, but I find the LCD2 to be more musically involving due to its more forward nature. You cannot go wrong with either, but I did buy the LCD2 because I liked the forward nature. The LCD2 is easier to drive as I found I had to turn down the HUGO significantly when I switch to the LCD from the HE. Both hit hard in the bass department, but with the HE560 you are set back while you are sitting on the sub with the LCD2. The treble is a little brighter with the HE560 while the LCD2 treble is a little more smoothed and easier to listen while both sound great. Both seem to have similar detail, but presented in different ways.
    2. HD700: The HD700 has a cleaner more analytic sound without sounding bright or thin as it has a warmer bottom end and rich, forward mids.  Comparatively, the HE560 has a thicker planer sound with the tube like euphoric feeling that is very pleasing. The HE560 may be slightly more refined in its balanced sound, but not as much fun sometimes for the same reason. They are both very musical, with the HE560 winning this badge given its euphonic signature. In the end, I like both presentations equally for different reasons and each better with different songs. They actually complement each other well.


HiFiMAN HE-560

Planar Magnetic, Circumaural, Open Back headphone

Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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