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:
- Signature: The HE560 has the typical Hifiman house sound, but better and more engaging based on memory.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pairing: This headphone seems to be reasonably easy to drive and pairs well with everything.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Comparison: For this comparison, I used the DX90 > HUGO > HP.
- 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.
- 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.