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Head-Direct HE-6 Orthodynamic Headphone

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 

Several individuals, myself included, have been fortunate enough to spend a little time with the new HE-6 as it has been on a loaner program in the US and, if I understand correctly, is extending to Europe and Asia. My review will be forthcoming but I thought I would get things started with a few brief statements and encourage others to post. The original loaner program thread, along with several comments and early reviews are at the following link:




I'm comparing the HE-6 to the HD650 (balanced), Grado HP2i (Balanced), Jade, K1K and OIIMk2. Amplification includes the TTVJ 307A and KGSS with the digital front end being a CARY 306SACD and 303/300. 


My preliminary impressions are:

1) They LOVE power. I tried them on my 307A which Fang said was not adequate to drive them and he was right. Using my Aragon Palladium monoblocs (most recent version) made them really show their stuff, with the best low end I have encountered in headphones. Mids and highs were also exceptional with great detail but without being fatiguing. Soundstage was quite large compared to most other headphones save the K1K. It remained natural and served the music well without bringing attention to itself.


2) These are EXCEPTIONAL headphones and are something very special. As we all know, there is no one best headphone as many have their unique strengths. However, the HE 6 seems to take the best qualities of many of the finest headphones and blend them all into one amazing listening experience that catapults the Head-Direct HE-6 into the top tier, and perhaps the very top, of the world's finest headphones.


Simply put these are my, and I think soon to be many others, desert island headphones.


The HE-6 are planned for full release in mid September per Head-Direct.

post #2 of 38



These phones are one of the main reasons I've been cutting back on spending as much as I can. My wallet is bracing for the end of worlds! I'm on the loaner list, but it will be some time before I get them. They should be well released by the time I get my turn.


I have a feeling my vintage Pioneer stereo receiver is going to just love these to death, and in turn myself. It has electronic volume, but has an attenuator for greater control at lower volumes. At least it looks like I won't be forced into a super high end head-amp for these, however a very nice dedicated lower power speaker amp might be a possibility later on.

post #3 of 38
Thread Starter 

It will be interesting to see how it does with the Pioneer. I think you will enjoy these headphones. What is the output rating on the Pioneer?

post #4 of 38
I sure enjoyed my time with them. My week is up tomorrow - I will be sorry to see them go. I'm definitely buying a pair.
post #5 of 38
Originally Posted by Skylab View Post

I sure enjoyed my time with them. My week is up tomorrow - I will be sorry to see them go. I'm definitely buying a pair.

Are they as hard to drive as the K340s? How did they sound with the amp that shall have no name?

post #6 of 38
Originally Posted by DannyB View Post

It will be interesting to see how it does with the Pioneer. I think you will enjoy these headphones. What is the output rating on the Pioneer?

Output of the 1983 SX-9 is 125Wpc and is probably a conservative rating. They drive my Paradigm Studio 40 v.4 so nicely. I was using a cheap Harman Kardon 75wpc amp before and this amp made them sound like entirely different speakers.


We'll see how they work on my Little Dot MKVI first though. It boasts 5Wpc @120ohms and has a high gain switch intended for K1000. I've used K1000 on this amp before left at the normal gain and while I had to crank the knob a good bit It was still 12 o'clock or less. This thing has some major power in it's own right.

post #7 of 38
Thread Starter 

For what its worth, I tried a pair of Wright 2A3 monoblocs with the HE-6 and they did not perform well at all while my K1K did fine with the 2A3s.

post #8 of 38
Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post

Are they as hard to drive as the K340s? How did they sound with the amp that shall have no name?

I posted all my thoughts on them in the "HE-6 Loaner Program" thread.  Hard to drive compared to most headphones, yes, although I got good results from some unexpected places.

post #9 of 38
Thread Starter 

Yes, that was a nice review. Would you mind if I posted it on this thread to make it easier for others to find?

post #10 of 38

Certainly fine with me if you'd like, since this is your thread

post #11 of 38
Thread Starter 

Posted with Skylab's permission.


Originally Posted by Skylab View Post

Well, I spent a late night listening last night - was up well past my normal bedtime


The HE-6 are an interesting headphone, as I've said.  There are some ways in which they are spectacular.  And there are some ways in which I wish they were different. 


All my comments refer to the HE-6 via the Leben CS300X, which drives them effortlessly - and that's no easy task!  I hauled my high end digital rig - AVA tube/hybrid DAC with Assemblage jitter filter and Wadia i170 up to the Leben.


The HE-6 have an astoundingly open and transparent sound.  In the midrange, the sound is so open and transparent that it's a little startling at first.  VERY impressive  They are as grainless and pure sounding as I have ever heard a headphone sound.  And they absolutely excel at detail retrieval - it is possible to hear micro-details in the music via the HE-6 that are not as easily heard via even my other high-end cans.  Some of this is due, I think, to what is a slightly elevated treble response.  The HE-6 have such a pure, grainless, and effortless treble that the fact that there is a lot of treble energy isn't as bothersome as it would be otherwise, and it at least seems to me not to be very peaky, but rather a broadly elevated treble.  I think, though, that there is more treble energy than is really natural.  Sometimes this was thrilling, other times I found myself wishing that the response was a little warmer, and, IMO, truer to real life in that regard.  It's a paradox, because in some respects the HE-6 sound more natural than anything I have heard (due I believe to their astonishing transparency and I think dynamics/transient response), but their spectral response is upward-tilting, and to a slightly greater degree than I think is ideal, within the context of an ultra-high-end headphone.  While the Leben is a tube amp, it's not really lush or tubey sounding in and of itself, being really very neutral.  But my digital front end is if anything just slightly warm.  So it's not the case that my system was "cooling off" the HE-6.



The HE-6 have VERY deep bass, and the bass pitch and definition is truly excellent, but at lower listening levels, the bass is definitely in the camp of slightly overdamped.  I think it probably extends truly to below 20 Hz, but I wished for a little more bass weight at the levels I typically listen at (80dBA peaks).  Turning the volume up to get more bass (listening louder than I typically do) DID in fact seem to bring out the bass, to the point where it was plenty satisfying, and I didn't feel that it was overdamped. And I still was not bothered by the treble. However, I don't like to listen that loud (peaks about 90dBA). But for people who do, and have the amp to get it done, the HE-6 sound even better at louder levels.  At my typical listening levels, I preferred the Audeze LCD-2's tonal balance over the HE-6, and in general, I enjoyed listening to the LCD-2 more in some ways when comparing them directly. 


But then I would put the HE-6 on, and there was all this glorious detail and transparency, and the sound was thrilling.  In spite of their spectral balance, the HE-6 never seem bright in absolute terms, and I was never bothered by excessive sibilance.  Again, I chalk this up to the purity and the smoothness of the treble overall.  I'd love to have them retain their championship-level performance in that regard, and still have just a touch more bass weight, and just a touch of additional warmth.  While I think the HE-6 are very impressive, and enough so that I want to own a pair, I am certain that I will spend more time listening to the LCD-2, as the spectral response suites me better.  But I am equally certain that there will be lots of people who will prefer the spectral response of the HE-6, and for those people, the HE-6 will truly be the holy grail of headphones. 


Oh, and then there is the soundstaging.  Again, thrilling is what kept coming to mind.  The soundstage is huge, and exceptionally well defined, but not huge in a way that seems artificially in any way.  It's really impressive in it's imaging capabilities.


If you can afford the HE-6, I would rush to hear them any way you can IF:


1. You either found the LCD-2 to be too soft in the treble, feel the Senn HD800 has about the right basic tonal balance but wish is was smoother and had more transparency and less grain, or feel the Beyer T1 needs more treble extension and more transparency

2. You have a high-quality speaker amp you can dedicate for use with the HE-6, or a headphone amp with much, much more power than is typical


The HE-6 is the detail and transparency king.  The view into the music they provide is absolutely thrilling.  But there are some considerations in terms of partnering equipment and in terms of their tonal balance that need to be made with some care.  For me, their performance overall is so enthralling that I am buying a pair.  But given the amping requirements and the kind of sound they offer, some careful consideration is required, as it always should be when spending considerable money is part of the equation. 


As such, I'd really like to thank Fang for putting this loaner program together.  It's an invaluable service.

post #12 of 38


dear skylab,

   I don't have the leben cs300x to drive HE6 , however I love the SQ of the preceding HE5 and you mentioned that the HE6

is much better.  I will have the ZDT amplifier soon and I asked to change the previous transformer into silver transformer that

will have 4 W more power to the headphone amplifier, do you think It will be enough to drive the HE6?  Some blog said that

the ZDT (old transformer) is not bad for HE6 but using the speaker amp is better, What is your opinion on this that putting

4W more power will improve the SQ to be near the level of  Leben



post #13 of 38

Hi Kiertijai - I really can't answer your question, since I am not very familiar with the ZDT.  I think HeadphoneAddict said the ZDT was decent with the HE-6, and that was with the older transformer.  I'm not sure how changing the power transformer would lead to more output power if the tubes used are not being changed, though.  But again I am not very familiar with the ZDT, perhaps someone else can comment.

post #14 of 38

Has anyone listened to it through RSA Protector or SR-71B ?

post #15 of 38

Is there any chance that the HE-6 headband will be smaller than that of the HE-5LE?

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