Thanks Aaron! I've got business travel likely scheduled around the same time in that area....I am trying to finagle things to make it work.
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Thanks Aaron! I've got business travel likely scheduled around the same time in that area....I am trying to finagle things to make it work.
Well, today I received the HE-6! I am currently powering it with a Red Wine Audio Signature 30.2 LFP-V Edition. Zero volume is at about 7 o'clock and I am currently listening between 8:30 o'clock to 9 o'clock. The source is an Isabella with an Isabellina DAC fed from an iMac using Apple Lossless files via USB. I do not find the HE-6 to be difficult to drive at all and it may be because I listen at low volumes. For the record I pulled out a Radio Shack Model 30-2055 dB-Meter and I got 68-70 dB's with the volume pot set at 8:30 o'clock.
I will listen for a couple of days before I post a more in depth impressions, for now I feel this headphone demands your full attention. It grabs you and does not want to let go. I find this a bit too much since I listen to music to relax and tune out the daily demands placed by work. Perhaps with other music my opinion will change but so it was with Candy Dulfer's Right In My Soul album.
^ Good question, it is about the same position. I have continued to listen and the sound is very intense, almost aggressive in the way it presents the music. I will try a different amp to see if the intensity can be toned down a bit.
Here's what I wrote about the HE6. It wound up getting a bit long, but it was fun to write. I tried to make comparisons that would be useful to people, and write things in a way that would give people a good idea of whether they are for you. But they've changed, so it's not totally relevant.
EQUIPMENT (amps used)
Bryston speaker amp, 120W 8 ohms per channel (it also says 675W, not sure what that means as that doesn't add up)
Denon Speaker amp- 80W
I love how they look first of all, they're simple, the features are useful and elegant. The leather wrap is subtle and is not overly luxurious, but adds a nice depth and feel to them. They're really comfortable in my opinion. I love how the headband is snug around the head, instead of just resting completely on one spot on top, it spreads the weight around- across the top and around, down onto the sides, so the weight is spread over a big area. It makes the headband completely disappear as soon as you put them on as the leather conforms to the top of the head. I have a big head and find them to fit perfectly. There's plenty more room to lower them more. I imagine if you have a tiny dome, they might not get small enough but that's just a wild guess. The HE6 also have a very nice weight to them that feels balanced and substantial in your hands, but not too much so they don't feel heavy on the head.
My only complaint about the build is the cable. It's really one of the worst cables I've seen on a headphone. I don't know what's inside, but the casing is really cheap flimsy plastic that looks like it's from a toy headphone. It would not last the test of time. If it got caught under a chair leg or something, I think it might break or at least be kinked permanently. Not ok for a headphone this expensive, but I'm sure it will be upgraded in the sale version. So I wouldn't worry.
Also worth noting that these phones are affected by objects touching the grills and obstructing airflow more than any other phone I can remember noticing. If your hand is even a couple inches away, you can hear it. They also don't stay on the head when lying down (most phones don't) so this made it difficult for me to listen lying down with them. My usual pillow for support seemed to obstruct airflow, so I had to listen with my hands behind my head. Only a problem for laying down completely horizontally though.
I would describe the sound as very transparent, fast, clean, detailed, extended and smooth with a treble emphasis. They keep up easily with even the most complex music, and everything keeps it's own space. Bass is perfect- think HD600 with more extension, detail and punch. Mids are maybe back just a tad in the mix, probably just because they have an emphasized treble. I think it's probably the most well done treble emphasis I've ever heard. It's not peaky, it's evenly elevated to heighten perceived detail and it's not as extreme as grados or other very aggressive phones, it's more subtle. Not the least bit harsh. Ever. And I'm very sensitive to harsh treble. It's hard to break down things into bass-mids-treble with these because one of their strengths in my experience is a very coherent sound, everything integrates very nicely. When I go from the HE6 to the HD600 or K340, the 2 things that stick out the most is I notice bass-mids-treble separated from one another, whereas with the HE6 everything transitions very smoothly from bass to upper treble and you're only left with notes. The other thing I notice going from the HE6 to the hd600 and K340 is they sound grainy and congested in comparison. Dynamic phones just don't have the same speed, even with the K340's help from the electrostatic driver.
One of my favorite things about this phone is that the bass has amazing separation from the rest of the music. It keeps it's own place, and never mixes in with the rest of the sounds but it is also well integrated as- there's no subwoofer affect. . In Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, there was this amazing low end presence that had it's own place. It was almost as if there was a speaker playing everything above the bass, and then another playing the bass notes making it totally clear. Except totally seamless and integrated. I think it's because the driver is fast enough that it can reproduce bass notes with ease without affecting any of the other notes. Makes me think that with most headphones, when the driver is taxed to produce a bass note, it isn't fast enough to also convey every detail of other sounds on top of it. I wouldn't say the HE6 have the most detailed bass I've ever heard, but it's very good and very extended. Like I said above, quantity wise it's like the Hd600, but with more extension detail and punch of course.
I think they're great, but not really better than my other phones, and in some ways, not as good. I don't think mids are these phones' biggest strength, but they're better than most phones out there. Very good. Transparent, clean and airy. But a bit back in the mix because of the treble emphasis, and cleaner/colder than I would like. They remove a bit of the richness that should be in voices. Tom Waits is not as throaty as it should be. I noticed this with all vocals I listened to with the HE6. I wouldn't go so far as to call this a flaw, I would call it a flavor. To some it will be a good thing, others like me, will peter more warmth. If you are used to the kind of mids you find in AKG's older phones (before the K701) or the HD600 etc, you will notice these mids sounding colder. Whether that is a good thing or not will be up to you.
Perfect. Very smooth and 0 grain. I notice grain I never heard before in my HD600 and K340 coming from these, and the HD600/K340 don't have grainy treble, especially the K340. The HE6's treble is elevated from neutral, as I've said above, but very even, and smooth, never harsh.
Not great by any means, but big enough to be very enjoyable. Bigger than grados for sure. Smaller than most full size dynamic headphones like HD600, DT880, K701. I would have to do direct comparisons to compare the HE6 soundstage to closed headphones like the Denons, but regardless of size, the HE6 certainly has a MUCH more open sound than any closed phone. And most importantly, they have great separation. Notes don't blend into each other at all. However, there isn't a ton of space between notes.
I think this headphone's strength is in it's clarity and clean, transparent sound. It has one of the loveliest upper mid/ lower treble regions of any phone I've heard. Super fast, delicate, clean, resolving. For this reason, I think the music that sounds the best with the HE6 is instrumentals where the focus is on details. Pantha Du Prince sounds incredible with these phones.
There's this magical experience where I really feel like the sounds are being created in a tiny world around my head- like there is a guitar in my head playing just for me, instead of a headphone reproducing a guitar. In pantha du prince it was a synth type sound and delicate bells, with Low's Great Destroyer it was the distorted electric guitar. It sounds very real. With Miles Davis, it was- duh. Every nuance portrayed. Completely controlled, but extended and fast and detailed. The times when I was most "wowed" by this headphone was with these kinds of instruments that are at least partly in the upper mids/treble.
The HE6 seems to be able to reproduce subtleties that reveal a lot of information in notes. They are great for listening analytically, but with no harshness or fatigue to speak of. That's very rare in the headphone world. Most phones with a detail/analytical sound find a sense of clarity by removing bass and peaking the treble- I honestly can't think of a single other analytical sounding heapdhone that does not sound very unbalanced and harsh with weak bass response. I think the HE6 would destroy phones like the SA5000 (haven't heard them in a while), K701, etc in terms of detail and transparency, while at the same time having great, balanced bass. I might compare the HE6 to a very refined DT880. Though I haven't heard the DT880 in a while, that's the closest one from memory just in terms of tonal balance/ presentation/ color.
One thing that came to mind for me, was the different parts of the spectrum that people focus most on. I have noticed that I focus most on the midrange to lower midrange. I think a lot of people focus most on the treble/ lower treble/ upper mids. for someone like this, I think these phones would be perfect.
I think if you like the clinical and detailed sound of the HD800, but would like a bit less treble as well as smoother treble, and more bass presence, and you're willing to sacrifice soundstage, the HE6 would be a great choice. Also a great choice if you love your DT880 but want it better in every way (except soundstage) (I haven't heard the DT880 in a while)
My 2 only complaints with the HE6:
One is that it sounds too clean for my taste- a bit cold or clinical as I have said above. When I go back to the HD600 and K340 I like the added warmth that those phones bring to organic sounds like vocals. That's one of the only places where they beat the HE6, but it is important nonetheless. The HE6 reminds me of the DT880 and HD800 in this way. It's as if the music is being laid out completely naked on a metal doctor's table to be examined and all the subtle details analyzed. But I wouldn't call it neutral, because I think voices have more warmth in real life. Again, this is not a fault, but something people are either going to love or not. Just like how it is with the HD800. But I don't think these are going to be as polarizing as the HD800, they strike more of a middle ground because the treble is smoother and more integrated into the rest of the spectrum.
My second complaint if you want to call it that, would be that music from the HE6 doesn't jump out of the drivers as much as other phones. Sometimes I wanted to describe this as small, or 2D. But that's not quite accurate. It's hard for me to completely put my finger on this one so I won't say more. It totally goes away when I pay more attention to them. So it adds to their analytical nature for me. I think they're best for someone who dissects the music, and listens to each note and the way it sounds. Because then their gorgeous clean, pure transparent sound comes through in all its glory. But they don't shine as much when I'm just listening for the feeling in the music, or the big picture and I just want the whole piece of music to wash over me at once.
I think IMMTbiker agreed with me that they were a bit clinical, and I think he said the prod. version improved on this. They don't sound like a K701 at all. Much more natural and more bass. I think that's the beauty of these phones is that they have a clinical nature to them, while being true to the tone and timbre of instruments. I never thought that anything sounded off specifically, but just that the whole spectrum was a bit on the cold side.
Then that reinforces my opinion that I will love them. Definitely ordering a pair as soon as they come out (or pre-order). I want a HD600 that's cleaner, and with more, clean, bass. Perhaps a touch more treble, but not much.
I think a really good gauge is whether you're an analytical listener or not. I am not, so while I think they are technically great in many ways, I ultimately prefer the phones I have now in my sig. I could also put it this way- The production HE6 are technically superior to any of my current phones, but kind of boring in the end, I enjoyed the sound of my music more when I switched back to the HD600 (though it took a few minutes to get used to the less refined sound)
edit- I updated my impressions with the amps I used. They sounded better the bigger the amp, but the basic tonal signature stayed the same. The things that improved were detail, dynamics, seperation, bass quality.
When I've listened to Stax O2, 404 and 202 I was intrigued by the sound, mostly how effortless it was, but the signature wasn't balanced right for me, especially the 404. I had the least time with the O2 so I might not be remembering those right. I am an analytical listener because I really don't listen to music all that much, but when I do I tend to pick it apart unless it's something I'm very familiar with. I do this all the time with orchestral music because it has so many layers and as a trained orchestral musician I'm used to following multiple melodic and harmonic lines at the same time, but separately, if that makes any sense.
I've never heard an orthodynamic, but what I'm getting from all my reading is that orthos are almost a perfect blend between the effortless detail of stats and the visceral soul of dynamics, sacrificing a slight amount on both sides. Am I right? I have to admit when I saw the LCD-2 come out I wasn't at all interested and I can't really put my finger on it. In hindsight I know now that I wouldn't like them because they would be just too dark, so perhaps someone was watching out for my wallet!