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HE-560 Impressions

A Review On: HiFiMAN HE-560

HiFiMAN HE-560

Rated # 110 in Headphones
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Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $899.00
DVass13
Posted · 2154 Views · 1 Comment

Pros: Well-balanced sound, light, comfortable

Cons: Feel rather cheap for the price, HiFiMAN connectors, finicky headband adjustment

* Obligatory warning that I am not a professional and am not the best at describing sound qualities of headphones. I don't like to use words like liquid or chocolate because descriptions like those leave me puzzled and hungry. So take this review with a grain of salt on the rim of a nice cold drink.

 

Background/Setup:

 

I have only had these for two days now, but I feel I can give some initial impressions. I own both the HD800 and LCD-X and used both of those headphones to compare the HE-560 against. My setup goes as:

 

Foobar with only lossless files 16/44.1 through DSD fed via USB to my Fiio X3 as an external DAC. This is passed via line out to the RCA inputs on my Bryston BHA-1 amp and then single ended output to my HD800 and HE-560 and balanced 4-pin to my LCD-X.

 

The tracks I used to compare these headphones include numerous genres: classical (Rimsky-Korsakov, Saint-Saens, Bruckner), Jazz (Magnus Lindgren, John Coltrane, Vince Guaraldi), Rap (Lil Wayne, Jay Z, Eminem), Folk (Fleet Foxes, Alela Diane, Iron & Wine), Ambient/Chill (The Album Leaf, Motohiro Nakashima, Brian Eno), Rock (Muse, Green Day, Coheed & Cambria), Acoustic (Paco De Lucia, Ottmar Liebert, Andy McKee), and many, many more (some specific examples included below).

 

Unboxing/Physical Impressions:

 

Upon opening the box the HE-560 were shipped in I found a very nice wooden storage box with the headphones packed neatly inside. I was rather impressed with the improvement of this box over that of the HE-500 (which I previously owned). After taking the headphones out of the box, though, my first impression was that they don't really feel like $900 headphones. Yes, they are significantly lighter than my LCD-X, but the build quality doesn't feel the same. I was disappointed to feel that some of the parts (yolk, cups, and headband adjuster) just felt a bit cheap. I have owned the HE-400 and HE-500 and demo'd the HE-6 a few times and the build quality of those models was better than that of the HE-560. I already knew this, but I'll point it out here that HiFiMAN went with the same connectors as used in previous models. I guess this is a minor issue, but I dislike having to screw the connectors in and out as this twists the cable (nit-picky, I know). I noticed that the cable is a bit shorter than I'd like as well (6 1/2 feet from end to end), but I have my amp a bit farther away from my desk chair than most, so this probably is a positive thing for many people. My last gripe with these headphones is inconsistency with the headband adjusters; the adjuster on the right side feels snug and holds its position well whereas the adjuster on the left feels very loose and moves with even a slight tug. I'm wondering if I could tighten up whatever mechanism is inside, but I'd rather not disassemble the headphones after only two days. Putting on the HE-560 for the first time helped relieve some of my initial disappointment. The headphones are very comfortable and a very reasonable clamp force - not too tight to cause unnecessary pressure yet not too loose to let them slide around with excessive head movement. The HE-560 weighs considerably less than the LCD-X and does not leave my neck tired after several hours of listening. The wide headband seems to distribute pressure well (an improvement over the LCD-X). Comfort-wise, I'd place these toward the HD800 side of the spectrum. With slightly larger earcups the HE-560 might compete with the HD800 in comfort.  

 

Sound:

 

My first impression of the HE-560 is that they would be a very good pair of headphones for someone looking for a one headphone setup as they seem to do everything well. I wouldn't say they are the best in any given category, but they are very well-rounded. They take the neutral, detailed sound of the HD800, smooth out some of the harshness, add some of the bass characteristics of the LCD-X and end up as a rather fun, balanced headphone.

 

Bass:

 

To date, my LCD-X have the best bass I've heard out of headphones. The LCD-X have wonderful, enveloping and detailed bass that extends very deep. It is rich and punchy but not overly emphasized in my opinion. The HE-560 do not hit as hard as the LCD-X and don't give me goosebumps either. The HE-560 does, however, seem to extend just as deep and is just as punchy. The bass of the HE-560 just doesn't seem to have the power that the LCD-X does. I love listening to large orchestral pieces (1812 overture with canons specifically) or soundtracks with the LCD-X because they portray the bass as I would expect it to sound in real life. The HE-560 match the quickness of the LCD-X, but not quite the power. That being said, they still sound very good and are in no way weak in the bass region.

 

Mids:

 

When it comes to mids, I prefer my HD800 as they are very clear and detailed in the midrange. The mids of the HD800 are a bit forward which I tend to prefer because it they tend to separate voices from the accompaniment. Listening to Frank Sinatra on the HD800 I get the feeling that he is right in front of me with the band farther back on stage. The HE-560 are not quite as forward in the mids. They are, however, still clear and detailed and sound very natural. This is surely a matter of preference and I could see people preferring the HE-560 over the HD800 here as the mids are a bit more smooth (and perhaps more natural) on the HE-560. Given that I have only had the HE-560 for two days, I might have to come back to this and see how my preferences change after I get more time on them.

 

Highs:

 

The HD800 are rather infamous for being picky with amps. I've listened to my HD800 through a few different amps and with a bad pairing the highs can be piercing and fatiguing. I think they pair well with my BHA-1 and have fast highs that extend, well, seemingly indefinitely. The highs of the HE-560 are a bit more smooth and not quite as prominent. They lack the extreme detail and quicness of the HD800, which might be why I don't have any fatigue with the HE-560 after my long listening sessions so far. After listening to some Paganini caprices, the difference was a bit more apparent to me. With the HD800, it seemed as though the headphones were faster than the musician and hit every note with quickness and ease. With the HE-560, it seemed as though the headphones were trying to keep up with the music.

 

Soundstage/Imaging:

 

The HD800 are generally believed to have one of the largest (if not the largest) soundstage of any headphone. Comparing my HD800 to all other headphones I've experienced, I agree with this statement. The HE-560 fall short of the HD800 in terms of soundstage (as I expected). Listening to acoustic and classical music I do get a sense of an open soundstage left to right, but I don't hear a lot of depth to it. Comparing the HE-560 to the LCD-X, the soundstage is pretty large. When I owned the HE-500, I tried some grill mods to open up the soundstage and I'm guessing the same can be done with the HE-560. I'm guessing removing the grills completely would open these up even further, but I haven't had enough time to try that yet. That all being said, the soundstage is big without feeling unnaturally expansive, but could still benefit from being a bit more open. The imaging of the HE-560 is very good as well. Again, I would say that the HD800 has the edge, though. I used the following CDs to focus on imaging: Audio Stax The Space Sound CD and Dr. Chesky's Dr. Chesky's Sensational, Fantastic, and Simply Amazing Binaural Sound Show. I could close my eyes and get a very clear sense of the environment. The directional cues were pretty much spot on. 

 

Final Thoughts:

 

I thought the HE-560 would be a good balance between my favorite qualities of the LCD-X and HD800 and I think they pretty much met my expectations. I love the full, rich sound of LCD-X and the impact of its bass. The LCD-X is a very fun headphone for me and I love getting lost in music while listening to them. The HD800 are the king of open, airy, and detailed sound. I love acoustic and classical music through these because I can feel a great sense of space. The HE-560 fall short of both of these headphones in a head-to-head comparison, but do both aspects well. While the bass is not as ample as compared to the LCD-X, it is still tight and punchy. The mids of the HE-560 are clear, detailed, and natural. The highs are smooth and non-fatiguing. The soundstage is nowhere near as large as that of the HD800 but is still fairly open and could probably be easily improved with a grill mod. The detail again is not as great as that of the HD800 but in no way poor. I forgot to mention this earlier, but the HE-560 are not the most efficient headphones. I found myself switching my Bryston BHA-1 to high gain to match the volume of the HD800 when A/B-ing the two.

 

These are very good headphones and some people might be satisfied with them as an end-game pair, but I'm not quite sold. I am very happy with both my HD800 and LCD-X as they are extremely good headphones for their particular uses. If I could only have one headphone, though, I might pick the HE-560 as a very well-rounded pair that doesn't do anything perfectly, but does everything pretty well. From a build quality standpoint, they don't quite feel like $900 headphones, though. In my opinion, they feel more like $400-$500 headphones, which is a bit disappointing. I know the selling point of these headphones is that they're considerably lighter than previous models, but the HD800 are able to use lightweight materials while still maintaining a solid build quality.

1 Comment:

Thank you for writing this very well considered and informative review. I will investigate the HE-560 further. 
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