There are a lot of dynamic headphones around on the market, with a very small percent being shared by orthodynamic’s and electrostatics. HiFiMan’s mostly known for their orthodynamic headphones, like the HE-500 & the HE-6. But, what if HiFiMan were to make a dynamic headphone, one that could be directly compared to more popular headphones like the K702 & the HD650? Would they share the same sound signature, or would a new dynamic king arise from the shadows? Well, that’s exactly what we are here today to take a look at. The HE-300, the first headphone by HiFiMan to incorporate a dynamic driver. So, what does HiFiMan’s $300 entry level headphone sound like?
Let’s start off with a little history lesson. Analytical headphones like the HD800 aren’t very fun headphones. For me, I can listen to the HD800 for about 30 minutes before putting them down. While they sound amazing, they hurt my ears after a short while, and are a tad bit too forward for my tastes when it comes to long listening sessions. Fun headphones, like the HD650, are headphones that are warm, laid back, and don’t hurt your ears even after several hours of listening. The HE-300, much like the HD650 is a very fun headphone, and with that, let’s dive into the sound to see what I mean by that. The HE-300’s are a very musical headphone. Right out of the box I wasn’t very impressed, but after countless hours (150+) of burn in sessions, they started to revive and refine themselves, and I was left with a very good, enjoyable, and easy listening experience. The overall feel is warm, laid back, and very smooth. Unlike the HiFiMan’s planar magnetic cans, which offer much better resolution, the HE-300 is great for long listening sessions, and doesn’t require a lot of power to drive it, which we will get to a little bit later.
To summarize up each part of the spectrum of the HE-300’s, here is what you will be listening to: The low end is full bodied, with average speed, and a good amount of rumble and impact. The Sennheiser HD650 has more impact, body, and rumble, but a little bit slower when it comes to notes starting up and ending. The high end is slightly rolled off at the top (despite having pretty good end to end extension) and still retains a very warm nature on the high end. The mids, which are very nice, are very sweet and excel in many types of laid back and relaxed genres like Jazz. If you take a listen to A Walk In The Woods (Halo Soundtrack) you’ll see how much the mids of the HE-300 really shine, without overpowering the low end and high end. Thankfully, due to the warmth of the HE-300, they aren’t revealing in the slightest, and you won’t have to use Lossless files. 256-320 Kbps files will suffice.
Now, the most disappointing thing, at least for me, is the soundstage of the HE-300’s. I don’t find them to be as spacious as other cans of the same price range (K702) and the warm nature of the dynamic driver in the HE-300 is to blame for that, with width and depth being subpar. Surprisingly though, when I was not listening to more speedy and treble heavy music, I found that the instrumental separation of the HE-300’s was quite good, and rivaled others in the price range. With that being said, with a decent amplifier, the soundstage of the HE-300 can be increased a little but and a tad more bit of width and depth.
Very little, it runs decently off the likes of the iPhone 4 and other iPods. With that being said, the HE-300’s do benefit greatly from an amplifier when it comes to power consumption. While they aren’t as inefficient as HiFiMan’s orthodynamics, I found that the everything seemed a bit more muddled with the iPhone 4 and bass wasn’t very good when it came to body and impact. If you can find yourself a cheap amplifier, like the FiiO E11 or SoundMagic A10, you’ll find that the HE-300’s will go a lot louder and sound a tad bit better. Then again, if you have something like the HiSound Audio Studio-V or the HiFiMan HM players, you shouldn’t have a problem. But, as with all open headphones, I recommend a desktop amp, since they aren’t very mobile (they’re open back headphones, they aren’t portable literally at all) and won’t necessarily find a use for a portable amp.
The Design & Durability
For a $300 headphone, the HE-300’s are built very well. The housings are made of an all metal construction and have a metallic glossy finish on the outside. Basically, they are almost identical to the other HE line, with a few different cosmetic changes and a much more lightweight design due to the dynamic driver on the inside. The leather headband is exactly the same as all of the other HE headphones, and feature the same padding on the inside, which, while being very comfortable, is not as soft as some of the other cans available on the market. Basically, if you have the HE-500, HE-5LE, HE-4, or the HE-6, you won’t find hardly any differences at all in design. If you need a more in-depth look at the design, look towards the pictures, they’ll provide a better look, after all, it’ll last longer. Lastly, I have only found one durability problem, a small one at that. The plastic ring around the outer end of the ear pads have started to peel slightly, which may become more of a issue in the long run.
Comfort & Feel
Not a huge amount to talk about here. As said before, the headband is very comfortable, and doesn’t hurt the top of your head or anything of the sort. The clamping force on the HE-300 wasn’t very strong either. They rest on the sides of my head very gently, and are very comfortable with the velour pads, albeit a bit itchy at times. Keep in mind though that I have a small head, and people with beefier sized noggins will have more of a clamping force. Now, HiFiMan recently announced that they will be selling their new leather ear pads with the HE-6 and the HE-500, although it is still unknown if they will be selling them with the HE-300, or as a side option. I’ve heard a lot of talk around the Head-Fi forums about requests for some leather pads, so here is hoping that HiFiMan answers that request.
Part 2 Sneak Peak & Final Thoughts
So hopefully next week I will be heading down to 32 Ohm Audio (ALO Audio) for some auditioning and comparisons testing the HE-300 vs. other top tiered cans in the same price range.The last time I visited and talked to Caleb, he was very enthusiastic about me trying some cans and amps, so I can’t wait to put the HE-300’s to the test. As for right now, I’m really enjoying the HE-300’s. They provide a warm, laid back, easy on the ears listening experience that is very musical but excels highly in the mids when listening to mellower music, and they don’t require an external amp to sound fantastic, unlike the HE-500 and the HE-6.
Edited by Austin Morrow - 12/22/11 at 8:04pm