Review HE6 Planar Headphone
When I reviewed the LCD2 I concluded Audeze had designed a product that was a game changer that broke all the rules in headphone design and competed with the majors as the new benchmark for the majors to follow. Could I strike the same lightning with the HE6. Is it possible? Well folks I can honestly say the Fang and Head Direct have produced a headphone that will compete with any headphone at any price and in many cases surpass them. Yes it is possible to create another masterpiece and as you will see this design is another headphone that once again breaks all the rules and is yet another benchmark for headphone production. I have been listening to the HE6 and can honestly say this headphone also is an amazing achievement in sound reproduction and another game changer.
The loaner program I had participated in allowed me to get a glimpse of what was originally being designed as a speaker phone that needed gobs of power to perform its best and in my recommendations to Fang I was very critical in that it needed a amplifier that would require me to use the HE6 and also that would have to be hooked up to my 2 channel system and it also would require a 20Ft cable for me to sit and listen to it in my room. I found the prototype lacking focus and a step below both the T1 and LCD2. Fang went back to the drawing board with the HE6 and made it slightly more efficient and created a headphone that is completely different than the prototype. The completed product is easier to drive and sounds like a brand new design from what I had heard in the loaner program. It still need power and yet is now focused and more musical with greater transparency than I remember the prototype being.
The HE6 still requires an amplifier with power. The CSP-2 and Decware Taboo 6W amplifier I had custom designed to handle planar headphones drive the HE6 without effort and is able to produce SPL I could never listen at. The amplifier is effortless in providing a clean and powerful signal to realize the potential of the HE6 and is a good match for the headphone. The beauty of the HE6 it can handle as much power as anyone would want to use it with and others are getting great results with powerful speaker amps. Using the Taboo allows me to use the HE6 as any other headphone as it has a headphone jack and does not require me to hook up the headphone to the speaker terminals. The source I prefer is both the Marantz DV6001 for SACD and the Onkyo DX7555 statement product for Redbook CD. All my interconnects are Audioquest Diamondback and Black Mamba. Music used in my audition included jazz, vocal, rock and classical music. Most recordings are well recorded albums from my collection.
Fang had been over my house for the mini meet and had brought the HE6 and some other prototypes he is working on and also here was the prototype Ari had brought with him and when trying the prototype The Taboo could not properly drive them and get any volume. Fang gave me the HE6 production product and it was like wow. It was being driven very easily and Fang was so impressed he offered to send me a pair for evaluation and I accepted the invitation. The product arrived and I was immediately impressed on how balanced the HE6 sounded. The midrange is very transparent and a step up in presenting a clear window over both the T1 and HD800. Vocals’ are crystal clear on a soundstage that is both wide and deep. You can hear every instrument in its own space and with air around the instrument. There is no congestion in any of the presentation. The soundstage on the HD800 is wider and deeper but the HE6 is no slouch in this area. The detail is amazing. You can hear the lowest register of the piano and brushes are very clearly presented on drums. The midrange is to die for. The window created into the music by the hE6 is very clear. I can hear every minute detail in the recordings. Guitar strings being plucked and the guitarist fingers moving up and down is also special. Every instrument has its own sound and the hE6 recreates the sound of each instrument as if you listening to live music.
The treble on the HE6 is very extended and sparkly. There is no hint of any harshness or peaks that I can hear. Very extended and clean with the best presentation of any headphone I own. It is a pleasure listening to the realistic sound and shimmer of drum cymbals. The space between high hats and the glimmer of all percussion instruments is so much fun to listen too. I am not sure how this headphone would measure but I would venture to say the frequency range is pretty flat across the board. Bob Marley Redemption Song showcases the strength of the acoustic guitar with his incredible vocals. The hE6 does not favor female or male vocalist. It presents both equally. The character of the HE6 is neither bright nor warm in my system. It plays the music as recorded and if the recording is good you will hear every detail in the recording with a very realistic live presentation.
Bass is as good as it gets. It is very tight and controlled and extends in to the lower region. It will reproduce an Acoustic Bass with all the character of the instrument intact. The pipe organ the most difficult is also reproduced on the hE6. Bass is very similar to what you would hear reproduced live. For people who want accurate and detailed bass the HE6 will not disappoint. Percussion with detail is an accomplishment for any transducer to reproduce in a real and timely fashion and the HE6 does not disappoint. Reproduction with speed and accuracy is another strong point of this transducer.
Comparison to other headphones is always a hard thing to do as there are so many subjective variables involved. The HE6 stacks up well and exceed some of the other headphones in some critical areas. The LCD2 is richer in tone with a smaller soundstage and slightly recessed treble while the hE6 has none of these shortcomings. The bass is almost equal but the LCD2 may be a little deeper. In contrast to the other contenders it is better in bass has more transparency than both the HD800 and T1 and the best treble of the lot. One thing to note both planar in my opinion are a step up in transparency from the T1 and HD800, The soundstage is similar to the T1 with better transparency and more bass and better treble. It is smaller than the HD800 but just as fast as and more transparent than both. Does this mean the other two are bad? Absolutely in my opinion all of these headphones are leagues above everything that I have heard. They will all please people in different ways. They all sound different and all are excellent cans. It will all come down to your choices in music and the gear you have to reproduce it.
Head Direct and our astute HeadFi friend Fang have created what I believe is another benchmark to follow in the industry. Head Direct has managed to bring to market a product that will astonish most any avid music lover. If you have the proper amp to drive the hE6 it is well worth what Fang is asking for them. The handmade headphone with the gold driver is expensive to develop. The asking price is more than the LCD2 but less than the HD800 and the T1. It performs above both the T1 and HD800 and excels in areas where the LCD2 fall short. Is it the best headphone on the planet? Only you can decide if it is. I purchased the hE6 and that is the highest recommendation I could give. This is a top flight headphone and comes with the rock solid backing of Head Direct with a three year warranty. The headphone is well made and a testament to commitment. Fang has brought to market an incredible headphone that will reside in my stable permanently. If you have never heard one I suggest you do and you may come to the conclusion I did. I was not in the market for another headphone the more I listened to it the more I wanted it. Hopefully you will find it as musical as I do. For me in my system the HE6 has surpassed my expectations. A remarkable product that will provide me with years of long term satisfaction and alongside my LCD2 and HD800 is a permanent resident. Kudos to Fang for listening to the concerns we had in the loaner program and for producing the world’s finest transducer. The Doctor delivered big time. Highly recommended.