Hello guys, I am going to start putting the links for the impressions of the HE-6 loaner program in the OP. Larry's thoughts are t he first ones.
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HifiMAN HE-6 Planar Magnetic Headphone - Page 15post #211 of 108797/13/10 at 5:22pmThread Starter
Gear mentioned in this thread:post #212 of 108797/13/10 at 10:32pm
Thanks. My HE-6 impressions are posted in the loaner program thread #151 but I was asked to post them here as well.Quote:
Summary of my findings placed in one post together:Quote:Quote:Quote:
7/13/10 - Final Impressions:
As I promised above, I had try the HE-6 with a powerful speaker amp. HOLY COW! I've been listening to the HE-6 plugged into the back of my Yamaha HTR5560 home theater receiver for an hour now, set for 2 channel stereo and flat EQ, and the sound is very good - dare I say fantastic!
I'm using a DVD player for CD's via Coax digital, and an Apple TV with some lossless and 24/96 music, feeding the Yamaha which is driving the HE-6 and my Polk SDA CRS speakers (aka Stereo Dimensional Array Compact Reference System). I'd have to say this combination beats using ALL the other amps in dynamics and impact, while still offering very good detail and ambience. The ZDT is a little more refined sounding, but a bit softer sounding on the transients and noticeably less powerful. If the ZDT was as powerful as the Yamaha I'd be in heaven, but as it is this combo still sounds quite good.
Out of curiosity I compared the HE-6 to my reference speaker system. These Polk SDA CRS were the speakers that replaced my Quad electrostatics back in 1986, because I thought they were a little better sounding and easier to drive (before Polk went mass market). Going back and forth between the HE-6 and my Polk SDA CRS speakers (about 12 feet away and 6 feet apart) the timbre and tone is very similar, but the HE-6 seem to play both higher and deeper (and I've measured the Polk to be about -3dB down at 32Hz and 18Khz before). As I switch between them with the volume set at -30 dB, I find the HE-6 also play a little louder than the Polk at the same volume knob setting, unless I cut my distance to the speakers to about 5-6 feet. Switching my Velodyne subwoofer on and off makes little difference in the quality of the music with the HE-6, while it makes a bigger improvement with my speakers. I put on a movie with the subwoofer on and increased the sub volume, and it did improve the immersion in the experience through the HE-6; but I still prefer speakers for movies (unless I get the Smyth SVS for 5.1 headphone listening).
Now, there's a caveat. The Polk speakers have noticeably better soundstage size, while the HE-6 sound more forward and intimate in comparison, which is expected when comparing headphones to speakers, especially to the SDA CRS. The Polk soundstage, because of the "SDA" configuration, stretches from wall to wall and anywhere from the plane of the speakers to many feet back and forward. Often with the Polk I even get a surround sound effect (must be using the SDA interconnect cable), and for a long time I didn't use rear speakers when listening to movies with them. The HE-6 keeps the instrument placement of the speakers, but compresses it down to a smaller stage surrounding me from all directions, with some of the stage inside my head (like with other headphones). With the HE-6 I am sitting among the instruments and musicians, while speakers offer a stage in front of me. No surprise there.
Anyway, back to headphones - it seems to me that there really is something to driving these with a powerful speaker amplifier. Since many people love driving the K1000 with a Firstwatt F1 and RWA 30.2, I suspect that those amps might be just the ticket for the HE-6. As for me, I'd be happy just listening through my Yamaha for a while, and with the long pigtail speaker cable I can still sit in my favorite listening chair (which puts my head about 11 feet away from the front of the receiver).
AS A FINAL NOTE: Before I resorted to the 55 wpc Yamaha Receiver, I also tried the HiFiMan EF5 which has a slightly more laid back sound than the SAC amp, and plays a little less loudly with the HE-6. I'd say the EF5 can reach volume levels between that of the ZDT and those of the SAC amp, and it drives them a little louder than the HDP can. It's not a bad match for the HE-6 at all, but with the slightly laid back sound it may seem a little less detailed with the EF5.
I also tried the Qinpu A-3 8-watt per channel tube hybrid speaker amp with the HE-6 and it drives them at least as well as the SAC amp, in the brief time I spent with it, and I think it did a better job than the EF5 by a small degree.
PS: I have the stock RCA clear-top back in the EF5, and a set of GE 5670 tubes in the A-3 amp mentioned above. Both of these are a tube hybrid with SS output stages.
ADDENDUM 10PM 7/13/10:
I am really liking the HE-6 on the Yamaha receiver, a lot. I am enjoying these as much as my best headphones on any of my headphone amps, despite the fact that the Yamaha is not really a high end amp at all. I can't even begin to imagine how good these will sound with a proper speaker amp, out of my best source like my PS Audio PWD.
The more I listen to them, the more I feel their sound signature is more natural than even my Polk speakers. And, with all the extra power they are more dynamic and fun to listen to than they were with my typical headphone amps. I can enjoy listening with the Yamaha volume as low as -40, but can crank it up to -15 and play louder than I can stand to listen, all with no distortion or any signs of distress at all. The power on tap seems to be an important factor, and even though the SAC KH1000 amp or Qinpu A-3 are not top tier headphone amps, these amp's have extra power to drive these which makes up for the amps failings in refinement or detail, etc. The SAC amp is a little more forward and aggressive, and the EF5 is a little more laid back, while the A-3 seems to fall in between the two. But like with Goldilocks and the three bears, the Yamaha is just right.
In other words, I can still enjoy these HE-6 on lesser quality amps, as long as they have the power to drive the HE-6. If the HE-6 were mine, I'd either find a way to move my Apogee mini-DAC over to my Yamaha speaker rig, to feed my CD5001 or Macbook Pro into the Yamaha amp, or I'd look at getting a strong speaker amp to connect to my PS Audio PWD in my main rig. I think that a better quality speaker amp could drive these to their full potential, and I'm getting a taste of what that could be like now. If I had maybe bought those Dared mono blocks from Blutarsky a while back I could have tried them with these, and if these were mine I'd maybe I'd try to talk mrarroyo out of his GFA 555 amp.
I should note that all my top tier headphones all sound a little different from each other, each with pluses and minuses - like the O2 Mk1 sounding a little dark and a little boomy with the WES but having great midrange and treble transparency, or the HE60 and re-cabled HD800 sounding a little fatiguing at high volumes but having the biggest soundstages, or the Jade having great bass/mids/highs but could use a deeper soundstage to match the width, or the LA7000 sounding less open than those listed above, or the HE-5 LE having the lovely mids of the HE-6 but needing just a tiny bit more weight in the bass or a little more treble sparkle, or the HF-2 having an upper mids/lower treble coloration and peak but great bass/mids presence and impact, and blah blah blah... Once I had enough power to drive the HE-6, I can't think of anything I would change in the HE-6 sound signature, except for to have a more speaker-like soundstage which most headphones really aren't known for anyways.
And I'm not saying the soundstage is small, as it's as good as many other top-tier headphones that I've heard or own. I'm just saying that the HD800 and HE60 tend to have a much larger soundstage than most other conventional headphones, only surpassed by the K1000 and Sigma/404. I imagine that a powerful balanced amp like the Beta 22 or EHHA would be able to not only give them the power they need, but could also give them a bigger soundstage and bigger channel separation. Just switching on the DSP on my Yamaha receiver opens up the soundstage considerably, but I prefer to listen to the music unaltered.
Now, if head-direct can create a new amp (let's call it the EF6) that is balanced and drives the HE-6 to their full potential, then I think they would have a great option for those who don't want to invest in a high end or bulky speaker amp. In the meantime, one can still use an every-day headphone amp or AV receiver to drive these to great sound, knowing that they can be even more dynamic and impressive with a high end speaker amp. Basically, I think that anything that can drive a K1000 should do a good job with the HE-6.post #213 of 108797/13/10 at 10:48pm
So, Larry, after a week, are these on your 'must buy' list? I know you have lots of other phones and maybe not money to go into another $1k+ phone, but if they are as good as you say, would you be considering selling some current gear to fund the HE-6?post #214 of 108797/13/10 at 11:30pm
Enjoyed reading your impressions as well. I was wondering if I should get into these orthodynamic headphones, and your comparison with the HD800 gives me some sort of reference point. Thanks again.post #215 of 108797/13/10 at 11:31pmQuote:
I do plan to get an HE-6 of my own later, when I can afford it. I've already sold off the K1000 and re-cabled RS-1, and don't want to sell off any other high-end headphones or amps just yet. I'd maybe give up the HE-5 and HE-5 LE for an HE-6, but I'd like to keep these easier to drive phones for when I need to use a smaller amp.
I'd be happy to use the HE-6 daily with my Yamaha receiver in my bedroom rig, and then my other phones would not get much use. And, I'm still very happy with the HE-6 driven by the ZDT, SAC or A-3 amps (followed by the HDP and EF5, but not the WA6 or Amphora). I should note that my Yamaha amp is 5 feet off the ground on a shelf across the room, and so the XLR connector barely touches the ground on it's path from my listening chair to the back of my amp. So I'd probably request a 2-3 foot longer speaker pigtail, even though this one reaches my listening chair, but just barely. I'd still use my closed LA7000 with WA6 in the bedroom when I need a closed headphone and don't want to disturb my wife at night.
I'd probably keep my HD800/ZDT in my main rig, and my HE60/Jade/O2 with WES in the basement rig, because I'm attached to them and also want them for comparisons. I might consider selling the ZDT and getting a WA22 plus a separate speaker amp for the HE-6, or maybe a Beta 22. I don't want to sell my HF-2 or Smegma Pro headphones which I consider collectable, even though they don't get much use right now.
But most of my listening is already upstairs in the bedroom rig anyways. Currently that means I'm often using the CD5001 and Macbook Pro > Apogee mini-DAC > SAC or EF5 amp > HE-5 or HE-5 LE the most. With the HE-6 around my HE-5 and LE would be kept mostly as backups. I enjoy the HE-5 and HE-5 LE more than my HF-2 and HD600, or long gone K1000 and RS-1, and they're easier to drive than HE-6 and could come in handy at times. After getting the HE-5 and HE-5 LE my Grado HF-2 just sit in a box unused, and I gave the HD600 with APS V3 cable to my son. I still use my ESW10 or JH13Pro/ES3X for portable, so those aren't going anywhere either.post #216 of 108797/14/10 at 12:26am
Thanks for the comments, Larry. Looking forward to my week with them.
I do have a question, since you brought it up. You were using them with a normal speaker amp, I believe 50W or so. This intrigued me as I use a vintage mint Pioneer high end stereo receiver for my speakers, but I'm worried it might be too powerful to try with these headphones. It is rated (probably conservatively, think 1983) at 125W per channel. Would I be safe to try this combination even at lowest volume level (obviously starting at 0 and going up 1 notch at a time, it uses electronic volume control)? I typically listen with this receiver at volume of 11, sometimes 12 for room filling sound with a pair of mid range ($2k pair) Paradigm speakers. This receiver also has attenuation so that I could further finesse the power increase per 'tick'.post #217 of 108797/14/10 at 12:40amQuote:Originally Posted by Maxvla
Thanks for the comments, Larry. Looking forward to my week with them.
I do have a question, since you brought it up. You were using them with a normal speaker amp, I believe 50W or so. This intrigued me as I use a vintage mint Pioneer high end stereo receiver for my speakers, but I'm worried it might be too powerful to try with these headphones. It is rated (probably conservatively, think 1983) at 125W per channel. Would I be safe to try this combination even at lowest volume level (obviously starting at 0 and going up 1 notch at a time, it uses electronic volume control)? I typically listen with this receiver at volume of 11, sometimes 12 for room filling sound with a pair of mid range ($2k pair) Paradigm speakers. This receiver also has attenuation so that I could further finesse the power increase per 'tick'.
I believe you would be fine as long as you didn't play them loud enough to cause discomfort.
I never went past -15 on this 55 watt/ch amp, where 0 volume level is max, because it was extremely loud. This doesn't mean the phones would ever see 55 watts at level 0, because their impedance is higher than 8 ohms and the amp would output less power into higher impedance. I don't know if the speaker pigtail includes any resistors in parallel to lower the over-all resistance. I do know that if I run the HE-6 and Polk in parallel with each other at the same time, that the volume of either is not affected at all vs just playing one or the other.
Note - the lowest the Yamaha goes before displaying "mute" is -96, while max volume is 0. Typically I would listen to the HE-6 with the volume between -35 and -25, and with my speakers between -30 and -20.post #218 of 108797/14/10 at 1:11am
Alright. Should be fun putting these headphones through this receiver I've come to love. Was using a cheap Harmon Kardon AVR til I came across this and it was like I'd never heard my speakers before.
By the way, the stereo receiver in question is the Pioneer SX-9 Japan only model from 1983, in case you or anyone was wondering.
Pictures here: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1141090
Edited by Maxvla - 7/14/10 at 1:15ampost #219 of 108797/14/10 at 3:19ampost #220 of 108798/2/10 at 1:28ampost #221 of 108798/2/10 at 2:30amThread Starter
No final release yet, the two prototypes are being reviewed in a loaner program right now. The price is still between $1300 and $1600.
Edit: you can check the impressions so far in the OP.post #222 of 108798/2/10 at 3:17ampost #223 of 108798/2/10 at 8:49pmpost #224 of 108798/9/10 at 10:22pm
Ouch, that's a bit steep
There would be a discount for HE-5LE owners, right?post #225 of 108798/15/10 at 5:54amQuote:
In one of the threads, Fang mentioned a discount would be available but until they set the price, I don't recall it being finalized.
- HifiMAN HE-6 Planar Magnetic Headphone
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