Edited by fishski13 - 9/8/10 at 7:27pm
|All sorting has been completed at the delivery unit for today's deliveries at 8:29 am on September 10, 2010 in SAN JOSE, CA 95132.
| Detailed Results:
Confirm receipt of the East-Coast review unit. I'll conduct some serious listening over the weekend, post my impressions and most likely will send this to the next person on the list sometime early next week.
Great warp. We still have two guys on the East Coast that didn't post their impression El Doug and Peli Kan would be nice to know what you guys thought of the cans and impressions. Thatwas the agreement when the headphones were taken on the loaner program. Right Doug still waiting on the lengthy review you promised.
Maxxed out Cary SLI80 preamp mode from speaker terminals only. Nothing else I have does it justice. Still working on the write up but the pictures I have made 2am this morning are here. Didn't want to use flash and my room is awash with earth-tone colored paint.
Very small impression.. Was pretty much wowed by the black blackground.. My NAGRAS offer a more 'grey' blackground in comparison.. Instruments do a better job of appearing & disapearing with better decay & extension. Mid range is the most natural I have heard.. More neutral & transparent then expected.. (I can now see the complaints warranted against the DT48. They are valid.) vocals are rich but not excessivly so like the 650 IMO.. with a hint of warmth... Vocals are very very smooth, & gloss over unwanted minor audio flaws. So you just focus on the beautiful mid range..Effortless.. Only negative is, they sound a bit recssed compared to my NAGRA's but every headphone I heard/ owned do..
The Box is build like a tank. Much props to the designer.. If I had a power amp I'd probably buy them just off my 1/2 hr impressions.. More to come..
Please send the HE-6 to Frank I next. I will move down below Natural Music and receive the HE-6 on its way back down south.
After reviewing previous impressions and lessons learned from other participants, I have decided that the best way to get the HE6 to shine would be to attach it directly to the speaker terminals using the supplied banana plugs of my Cary SLI80 to channel maximum power.
The Cary has been placed in Triode output mode instead of UL for optimum performance, as recommended in the Cary User Manual.
Cary 303T Pro SACD Transport in Solid State Output mode connected to Cary SLI80 via Whiplash Elite Reference RCA IC
Cary 303T Pro SACD Transport in Solid State Output mode connected to RSA A-10 Thunderbolt II via Whiplash Elite Reference XLR IC (balanced). This particular A-10 has served as his demo unit sporting Ray’s own maxxed out tubes until our fateful encounter at Can Fest, where—driven by entirely altruistic motives, of course—I have decided to ease his burden of packaging and shipping all his gear back home and gratefully packed it up and brought it back to my home instead.
I do not have, nor do I plan to acquire a HE-5 or LCD-2, so I cannot comment on how the HE6 performs on this equipment from that perspective. I decided not to compare it with neither Qualia or R10s because of the different design philosophy behind these two out of production headphones and the fact that they offer a markedly different listening experience to that of the HE6 and I wanted to keep the focus on the HE6 as a baseline.
Some may be surprised by the inclusion of the HD600 and HD650 headphones, but before you rightfully claim that the HE6 belongs to a higher category, I would kindly remind you that these aren’t your grandmother’s HD600s. As I noted in my “Duel of the Xes” review, the $425 Whiplash Elite Reference X replacement cable, especially in balanced mode elevates the performance of these lesser models to close to top tier. In fact, I routinely use the recabled HD600s as a baseline prior to listening to a new pair of headphones I haven’t auditioned before, which is what I’ve done in this evaluation.
I am well aware that the HE6 sample reviewed here is a prototype and I’m assuming further tuning and refinement is taking place partially based on feedback received here. Clearly, the HE5 design and manufacturing process served as a baseline and that shows in external appearance and the materials used with the exception of the drivers themselves. While the final Bill of Materials and aesthetics and pricing remains a matter of speculation at this point, from my perspective, the overall level of comfort and presentation of the HE6 prototype had not yet on par with its competitors in the $1,000+ segment, perhaps with the exception of the LCD-2 (based on what I’ve been able to determine from several photos and impressions of other Head-Fiers). As several other reviewers noted, the weight of the HE6 is considerable and it lacks an adjustable headband to partially offset its distribution in a way the Stax O2 does.
I am not familiar with the type of connector the HE6 uses to attach its cable, but I wished it had the readily available HD600 or HD800-style connector instead so that those of us already invested in replacement cables could leverage them when the final version is released instead of having to invest in yet another differently terminated cable to accommodate the HE6. The stock cable seems to be on par with most of its competitors, meaning there should be plenty of room for improvement just on that front. I would have loved to have been able to try one of my TWag X cables to see what it can do to the HE6’s already impressive sonic performance.
Yes, it is impressive on this system, without the doubt. Far more impressive than what I’ve heard during my brief chance to audition it during the Charlotte, NC Can Fest when it was hooked up to a rather compact DAC/Amp Drew Baird had on his desk there. Once the EAT-powered Cary SLI80 properly warmed up in Class-A mode and I got accustomed to the heft of the HE6, these “ear speakers” have began to truly sing. Tierney Sutton’s “Something Cool” album on TELARC SACD is a challenging album to render and I played each track over and over again switching to different headphones and amps, as outlined above to see where the limitations of the HE6 were.
There were, as it turns out, precious few to point out. Bass rendering was smooth and precise enough with a bit on the warm side for an ortho. Slams have had just the right impact without being overbearing. Imaging and sound staging was impressive enough, although I would not quite put it at the same level as the TWag X recabled HD800 or as consistent as the A-10 powered Stax O2Mk1. On some tracks, interestingly, Sutton’s vocals seemed to float some in mid-air over the HE6 while remaining stationary on both the O2 and the rest of the Sennheisers. This is an interesting phenomenon I have not yet encountered. Plenty of mids and abundance of treble completed the spectrum of the HE6’s presentation, but instrument separation and transparency was a tad below to the O2 and roughly on par with the HD800s. It’s worth mentioning, though, that the A-10 had been connected to the Cary 303T via balanced XLR, while the SLI80 by necessity via RCA ICs, of the same make and grade and that may have played into the fact that while the HE6 presented a wide enough sound stage, it was not as well-defined to my ears as the O2’s. Not a huge difference, but noticeable, nevertheless.
This was perhaps the closest sonic match despite being paired with different amps by necessity. The HE6 had a bit more forward and dynamic presentation of the two, but in smooth, vocal tracks the edge belonged to the O2Mk1. Treble rolloff was hardly noticeable and essentially on par for the most part, very impressive overall. Based on my previous encounters with the O2Mk2, the HE6 would have come out ahead in this comparison category, especially when paired with the A-10. Neither of these headphones have become fatiguing over extended listening periods, but overall, I would prefer the O2Mk1 as my number 1 choice out of these headphones.
In order to accommodate the O2, I had to disconnect the Apache, which was configured to power the HD800 in pure balanced mode. So most of the later comparisons were made between the HE6 and the HD800 connected to the Cary (an XLR to ¼” adapter was used for the HD800). Essentially, the TWag recabled HD800 is far superior in comfort, presents better spatial imaging, standing second only to that of the Qualia. What even the TWag-supercharged HD800 cannot match is the superior bass and lower-midrange rendering of the HE6. There is no comparison in that regard and it is a big enough differentiator to rank the HD800 below the HE6 in overall sonic performance.
The bass and midrange presentation that is so lacking in the HD800 flows in abundance out of the recabled HD600. Ray Samuels once mentioned to me that he uses these cans to tune his amps but until I got Craig’s Reference X cable I shuddered at the thought of reaching for the HD6xx cans. That is no longer the case, however, I’m not saying that the TWag recabled HD600 is superior to the HE6 sonically. I am saying, however, that in this comparison, on this system, to my ears, it finished 3rd, just below the HE6. Why? Believe it or not, it has nearly the same breadth of sound stage out of the Cary (s/e) and earlier treble rolloff than the HE6 while lacking none of the traits that makes the HE6 so compelling. This isn’t as far fetched of a claim when you consider the typical street price of the HD650s around $400, when paired with a $425 cable, it does approach that magic $1,000 cutoff level established earlier. When paired with the Apache, the sound stage is even wider, roughly on par with the HE6 and the HD600 is remarkably neutral, neither forward, nor laid back. At any rate, the HE6 still provides a superior overall sound quality primarily of its extended treble performance.
Move along, nothing to see here. Although the recabled HD650 is decidedly better than the stock version, it’s forward mids, recessed highs make it a nonstarter in this particular comparison so it drops to the bottom of the pile.
R&D in almost all fields and knowledge areas is based on an iterative approach due to a variety of reasons. As I have stated earlier, while I lack the necessary perspective to judge the level of progress made since the HE5 first appeared in the marketplace, I could only review how this prototype performs on its own and against some of my other full-sized headphones. There is a lot to be excited about the HE6 and this program alone is proof positive enough that Fang Bian is not only serious about executing his vision to gain global acceptance in the discerning audiophile marketplace by delivering truly world-class audiophile equipment that is designed and made in China, but well on his way to reach his ambitious goal.
Perhaps Sennheiser, Sony, Ultrasone and other manufacturers should institute similar initiatives to leverage this community to solicit useful feedback during the product-testing phase to influence their development in a positive way and create better products.
Very nice review Warp.
The North Carolina State Police are still looking for you for harassing the Hooter Girls at CanFEST. I think they have a warrant out for your arrest so be careful if you cross the state line.
Nah, it's just a classic case of mistaken identity, Danny. It was Ray all along but it's always the little guy who gets the shaft....LOL
warp08 - Many many thanks for posting such a thorough, well-written, thoughtful, and visually rich set of impressions! I think Audez'e and Fang have proven that, sound-wise, they can absolutely play in the big leagues! The next step will be putting serious thought into aesthetics and design, and having their products not only sound better than more expensive counterparts, but also look and feel comparably luxurious.
I look forwards to hearing these headphones sometime!
Edit - where in NoVa do you live? I'm in Falls Church, out by Tysons