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Review: Hifiman HE-6/EF-6: An Elite Headphone System, Under One Roof - Page 5

post #61 of 244

http://www.head-direct.com/Products/?act=detail&id=116

post #62 of 244
Quote:
Originally Posted by sneaglebob View Post

how much does the amp cost?


 

http://www.head-direct.com/Products/?act=detail&id=116

 

For now.....

post #63 of 244

how grand

post #64 of 244
Two and one-half grand to be precise.
post #65 of 244
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post

 

Peter, thanks for the great review!

 

HERE ARE MY INITIAL IMPRESSIONS OF THE EF6 AMP PAIRED WITH THE HE-6:

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sridhar3 View Post

Thanks for the review.  Heard the EF-6 at RMAF.  I found it to be quite good, though others disagreed.

 

It's now even better.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by singh View Post

How does the EF6 compare against good Vintage receivers (and integrated/power amps ) for driving the HE6 ? My au-999 drives them with authority , will i experience improvements if i move to EF6 ?


It seems almost as powerful as my Marantz 2240 receiver via the speaker output (using the HiFiMan speaker adapter box), but with better micro-detail, ambience and space.  I'd guess the Marantz has an extra 2-3dB headroom, but that's at levels already loud enough to damage your hearing.  I might listen to the 2240 with the volume at 10-11 o'clock and the EF6 with the volume at 12 o'clock, while my ZDT amp is at 2 o'clock.  My Marantz has pretty scratchy sounding volume pot, which makes me want to use it less and less.  If I was in the market for an amp for my HE-6 I'd be strongly considering the EF6.  If I had my 2240 refurbished and recapped I'm sure it would move up a notch, although I haven't heard a refurb to know how much it would improve in sound quality.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxvla View Post


This ^
I haven't heard the R10s, but the HE90 is the true pinnacle of headphone sound from what I've experienced. On the same source (different amp of course) I heard the LCD3 and HE-6 and both were excellent as well, but the HE90 was just the top shelf. Feel free to take cracks at Ray's amps all you like. Seems the popular thing to do these days. I walked up to his table with no expectations or bias and thought all of his gear sounded very good.
The EF6 + HE6 at the Hifiman booth was weak and boring. Had some kind of edge to it that I didn't care for either.

 

I too was not impressed with the EF6 at RMAF 2011 when driving HE-6, although with the HE-500 it was much better sounding.  I let Fang know my thoughts right then, and made several suggestions to him via Skype while I was listening to the rig at his table (he was in China but online).  Fang and the crew went back and made a few changes, and the current EF6 review sample that I have here in my house right now is hands down better than what I heard at RMAF.  

 

So, I've only gotten to listen to the EF6 for about 3 days, and only with my HE-6 and Grado HF-2 (I've got everything else up in my bedroom right now)  But I can say that it's now stronger, punchier, and more musical and exciting sounding than the earlier prototype at RMAF 2011.

 

With my HE-6 headphones this newest version of EF6 amp gives my $2500 Eddie Current ZDT a run for the money, with more power to boot.  I plan to try this amp soon with my HE-500, LCD-2, LA7000, and HD800 (all of which are re-cabled).  I'm just guessing now but I suspect my ZDT will still rule with the HD800, and the EF6 is likely to be better with my orthodynamics.  Even with the ZDT amp and Hyperion cable the HD800 can border on fatiguing, which pushes me to grab my HE-6 and HE-500 instead (or my SR-009).  So, I'm not expecting them to blossom with the EF6 either.  I do think the HF-2 were better with the ZDT, being smoother and less grainy than their usual, but with the HE-6 the EF6 amp comes into it's element and sounds fantastic. Plus, the HF-2 are a bit too efficient for the EF-6, with the volume knob at 9 o'clock for normal listening.

 

I initially set up the EF6 in my main rig with my Nuforce CDP-8 CD player, PS Audio Perfectwave DAC + Bridge and LaCie NAS as source, and fed the DAC's RCA out into the EF6.  At the same time I had the DAC's XLR output going into my Woo WES and looped the WES RCA-out into my ZDT (my WES is custom modded this way).  For some reason the EF6 didn't sound right when I was driving both amps at the same time this way, plus I was suddenly getting some strange noise out of my ZDT amp headphone jack.  I got this same noise when I changed out the EF6 for the 2240.  I swapped places on the interconnects with the ZDT and the EF6 and everything got better with both amps, which I can't explain.

 

I also put my KGSS in the loop which has XLR input and XLR buffer output which seems to boost the voltage and make the EF6 sound even stronger.  So, I'll have to do more experimenting with different sources to see how sensitive the amp is to different sources.  I'll try the RCA-out of the Nuforce CDP-8 which I think sounds better than my old Apogee Mini-DAC or my Stello DA100 Signature.  I'll also try the HM-801 like Peter did.

 

When I was switching the HE-6 back and forth between the EF6 and ZDT amps while listening, it seems that the ZDT sounds slightly more laid back and blacker between notes, while the EF6 sounds a little more lively and spacious in between notes.  The only amp I've heard in my rig that offered that over my ZDT was the Luxman P-1u that I tried out for a couple of weeks a while back.  However, the EF6 has a slightly more "raw" nature to the sound than the ZDT.  I wouldn't call it grainy or harsh, just that it doesn't have quite the liquid flow of the ZDT amp.  On the other hand, the ZDT is a little too laid back and relaxed with the HE-6, and they sound more alive and energetic with the EF6 without being bright or harsh.  The EF6 doesn't give the HE-6 a huge soundstage like the HD800/ZDT or SR-009/WES (or KGSS), but it does seem to extract more from the HE-6 than the other amps in my house, with a very respectable depth and width.  I am only using the original velour pads that came with my HE-6, although I can try the leather pads later when I'm in the mood.

 

In the past, I've used my HE-500 more often than HE-6 because they're easier to drive (and also more often than my HD800 due to less fatigue).  But with the EF6 in the house I think that the HE-6 are getting much closer to their potential.  It will play them louder than I should ever listen with the volume at 2-3 o'clock (max before distortion), and yet I find myself thinking that if it just had that last 2-3dB of headroom of the 40-watt Marantz or 55-watt Yamaha receivers then it would be perfect.  I don't know why I should think that, considering that my normal listening volumes are well below the EF6 max volume.  For what it's worth, the HE-6/EF6 combo is every bit as loud as my SR-009/WES (or KGSS) combo, and with more impact.  The Stax still has this beat in speed and transparency, but the HE-6/EF6 rig is no slouch in that arena at 1/3 the cost.

 

I plan to spend more time over the next week with the EF6 and my other headphones, and I'll report back here when I'm done (or as I go along).  Right now I'd have to put the EF6 at the top of list out of what I have on hand when it comes to driving the HE-6 (see my profile, the list is not short).

 


As promised, I tried the EF6 amp over the past few days with several other headphones for a few hours.

 

As stated above, I thought the EF6 did a better job with the HE-6 than my $2500 ZDT, with more energy, weight and fullness to the sound.  I was also pleasantly surprised that the EF6 soundstage can keep up fairly well with the ZDT.  With my HE-500, LCD-2 (r1) and HD800 I thought the two amps were fairly comparable in overall performance, although with a different character to the sound; with the EF6 being a little more energetic and the ZDT being a little more laid back and a little more refined sounding.

 

I was pretty happy with the EF6 with these additional phones, although none retain the stock headphone cable except the HE-6.  I'm using a Locus-Design Hyperion single ended cable with the HD800, a balanced Silver Dragon with the LCD-2, and an HE-6 balanced cable with the HE-500.  The EF-6 makes the HD800 sound punchier, yet no more fatiguing than with the ZDT amp; but the extra refinement of the ZDT amp might be needed if using the stock cable.  The EF6/HD800 combo reminds me a lot of the Marantz 2240/HD800 combo, but with better micro-detail, ambience and air.  It's definitely more revealing and spacious than the 2240 with HE-6 (which is not refurb'd yet).  

 

The HE-500 and LCD-2 are pretty easy for the ZDT to drive, so they don't benefit a lot from the extra power of the EF-6 vs ZDT.  With these more efficient phones there wasn't a lot of useable volume range on the EF6 volume knob for fine tuning the volume, and I often found myself listening with the volume between 9-10 o'clock maybe 11-12 o'clock at the most (about an hour higher on the volume control with HE-600 vs the LCD-2 or HD800).  

 

The biggest issue was that with the stepped attenuator the LCD-2 were sometimes louder than I wanted, but the next lower setting was then too quiet.  I solved this by using the pre-amp function of my PWD DAC to turn down the volume in finer increments instead.  Overall I prefer the HiFiMan headphones more, but I could still be happy with the re-cabled LCD-2 via EF6 or ZDT if I didn't know what I was missing.  One note - before I upgraded the ZDT transformers to partial silver ones I thought it was a bit dark with the LCD-2 no matter the tubes, but no more.

 

I also tried my stock Grado HF-2 and stock AKG K240M 600 ohm, and I didn't enjoy either of those with the EF6 amp - these phones are already slightly fatiguing and the EF-6 isn't smooth enough to work well with them.  I also don't like my SFI ortho-driver custom woody headphones much, and the EF-6 didn't make them any more enjoyable either, although they do benefit from the extra power.  I have not tried my LA7000 or ATH-A900 with the EF6 yet, and it would be overkill for my portable ATH-ESW10JPN.

 

I then tried the -10 feedback setting on the back of the EF6 amp, and it did make the amp very slightly more refined and mellower as Peter stated, but with HE-6 headphones I preferred the feedback at zero.  With the feedback on it was still not as mellow/refined as the ZDT, but there was a subtle change which I liked with the HD800.  This -10 setting also helped the HF-2 and K240 but still didn't make them sound optimal.

 

At the same time I was doing these tests I was also listening back and forth with my Stax 009/007 and Sennheiser HE-60 via balanced KGSS and WES amps (with the same source). I felt that the EF6/HE-6 combo's overall tonality, midrange vibrancy, and micro-detail was not too far behind the SR-009 or HE-60, with the HE-6 offering a bit better bass impact in trade for a little less soundstage size, transparency and speed.  

 

After all this my appreciation for the EF6 amp has been elevated even more.  While I would quickly pick my SR-009 or HE-60 over the HE-6, I was left thinking that with the EF6 amp I'd likely pick the HE-6 to listen to over my other non-electrostatic headphones.  But if the ZDT was my only amp I'd be more likely to pick the re-cabled HE-500 as my top dynamic in an almost tie with my re-cabled HD800, followed by the HE-6 and LCD-2.  Just don't ask me to pick between the HE-500/ZDT and HE-6/EF6 combos yet - I'd need a lot more time for that.

 

Most of the time I would tell someone that their source and phone selection are more important than amp, but with the HE-6 headphones the amp clearly takes priority.  Nevertheless, I'd still like to try the EF6 with a variety of lesser sources, to make sure that it plays well with them as well.  This is not as easy for me as others since it requires dismantling different rigs on different levels of my house to bring to the EF6 amp, which is harder with my disability.  So, no promises there.  

 

 

post #66 of 244
Thread Starter 

Thanks for adding the extensive notes, Larry.  What you're reporting makes perfect sense with what I'm hearing, I think we're on quite the same page there.

 

I also find myself preferring the EF-6 on zero feedback with the HE-6, as the lively nature of the sound is part of what makes it such an enjoyable system for me.

 

As far as your issue with the HF2 and K240M, wording is important.  I don't think there is anything inherently not smooth about the EF-6, but it also doesn't go out of the way to smooth over otherwise harsh recordings (or headphones for that matter).  Or to put it another way, I don't think the amp is adding any harshness.

 

I know you've always had a higher opinion than the HE60 than I.  I couldn't live with the HE60's bass, at least on any system I've heard them in.  Maybe you can try and change my mind the next time I'm in Colorado.  Of course, the 009 is a whole 'nother story :)

post #67 of 244
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iron_Dreamer View Post

Thanks for adding the extensive notes, Larry.  What you're reporting makes perfect sense with what I'm hearing, I think we're on quite the same page there.

 

I also find myself preferring the EF-6 on zero feedback with the HE-6, as the lively nature of the sound is part of what makes it such an enjoyable system for me.

 

As far as your issue with the HF2 and K240M, wording is important.  I don't think there is anything inherently not smooth about the EF-6, but it also doesn't go out of the way to smooth over otherwise harsh recordings (or headphones for that matter).  Or to put it another way, I don't think the amp is adding any harshness.

 

I know you've always had a higher opinion than the HE60 than I.  I couldn't live with the HE60's bass, at least on any system I've heard them in.  Maybe you can try and change my mind the next time I'm in Colorado.  Of course, the 009 is a whole 'nother story :)


Correct - to enjoy my HF-2 or K240M I usually have to find an amp that smoothes out the sound somewhat.  The EF6 is not rough, grainy or aggressive, otherwise I wouldn't enjoy it with my HD800 as much as I do, but it also doesn't tame the HF-2 or K240M like I'd want.  

 

As for HE-60 - I do seem to recall you saying that my HE-60 combined with my WES at RMAF 2010 was the best you'd ever heard the HE-60, although you never actually said the HE-60 sounded great. tongue_smile.gif

 

post #68 of 244
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post


Correct - to enjoy my HF-2 or K240M I usually have to find an amp that smoothes out the sound somewhat.  The EF6 is not rough, grainy or aggressive, otherwise I wouldn't enjoy it with my HD800 as much as I do, but it also doesn't tame the HF-2 or K240M like I'd want.  

 

As for HE-60 - I do seem to recall you saying that my HE-60 combined with my WES at RMAF 2010 was the best you'd ever heard the HE-60, although you never actually said the HE-60 sounded great. tongue_smile.gif

 


LOL...well, you've got a better memory than I do. 

 

post #69 of 244


Sort of way off topic, but I find the same thing with my CDP-8... when I'm listening I'm finding that I prefer to use the RCA out and skip the Stello.

 

On topic, thanks for the impressions!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post

Peter, thanks for the great review!

 

HERE ARE MY INITIAL IMPRESSIONS OF THE EF6 AMP PAIRED WITH THE HE-6:


 

I also put my KGSS in the loop which has XLR input and XLR buffer output which seems to boost the voltage and make the EF6 sound even stronger.  So, I'll have to do more experimenting with different sources to see how sensitive the amp is to different sources.  I'll try the RCA-out of the Nuforce CDP-8 which I think sounds better than my old Apogee Mini-DAC or my Stello DA100 Signature.  I'll also try the HM-801 like Peter did.

 


 

 



 

 

post #70 of 244

Quote:

Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post


As promised, I tried the EF6 amp over the past few days with several other headphones for a few hours.....
 

Snip,snip snip....

 

Most of the time I would tell someone that their source and phone selection are more important than amp, but with the HE-6 headphones the amp clearly takes priority.  Nevertheless, I'd still like to try the EF6 with a variety of lesser sources, to make sure that it plays well with them as well.  This is not as easy for me as others since it requires dismantling different rigs on different levels of my house to bring to the EF6 amp, which is harder with my disability.  So, no promises there.  

 

 


Thanks for these impressions. Wow, my interest in the EF-6 /HE-6 combo is really getting stoked.

post #71 of 244

^ +1 my interest in EF6 is at its peak .

 

I started saving for EF6 about 10 days ago.

 

Sadly, had to spend it all , on a marantz vintage integrated i just got my hands on , it seems my vintage fetish bettered my interest of EF6 :(

 

Well , Saving starts again.

 

( makes me think, with just 10 days saving i got this awesome marantz, vintages sure are VFM  \o/ \o/ )

post #72 of 244

My tube amp, specifically designed for the  HE-6 is shipping next week. Anybody with a EF-6 ready to do a comparison next month, let me know.

post #73 of 244
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post


As promised, I tried the EF6 amp over the past few days with several other headphones for a few hours.

 

As stated above, I thought the EF6 did a better job with the HE-6 than my $2500 ZDT, with more energy, weight and fullness to the sound.  I was also pleasantly surprised that the EF6 soundstage can keep up fairly well with the ZDT.  With my HE-500, LCD-2 (r1) and HD800 I thought the two amps were fairly comparable in overall performance, although with a different character to the sound; with the EF6 being a little more energetic and the ZDT being a little more laid back and a little more refined sounding.

 

I was pretty happy with the EF6 with these additional phones, although none retain the stock headphone cable except the HE-6.  I'm using a Locus-Design Hyperion single ended cable with the HD800, a balanced Silver Dragon with the LCD-2, and an HE-6 balanced cable with the HE-500.  The EF-6 makes the HD800 sound punchier, yet no more fatiguing than with the ZDT amp; but the extra refinement of the ZDT amp might be needed if using the stock cable.  The EF6/HD800 combo reminds me a lot of the Marantz 2240/HD800 combo, but with better micro-detail, ambience and air.  It's definitely more revealing and spacious than the 2240 with HE-6 (which is not refurb'd yet).  

 

The HE-500 and LCD-2 are pretty easy for the ZDT to drive, so they don't benefit a lot from the extra power of the EF-6 vs ZDT.  With these more efficient phones there wasn't a lot of useable volume range on the EF6 volume knob for fine tuning the volume, and I often found myself listening with the volume between 9-10 o'clock maybe 11-12 o'clock at the most (about an hour higher on the volume control with HE-600 vs the LCD-2 or HD800).  

 

The biggest issue was that with the stepped attenuator the LCD-2 were sometimes louder than I wanted, but the next lower setting was then too quiet.  I solved this by using the pre-amp function of my PWD DAC to turn down the volume in finer increments instead.  Overall I prefer the HiFiMan headphones more, but I could still be happy with the re-cabled LCD-2 via EF6 or ZDT if I didn't know what I was missing.  One note - before I upgraded the ZDT transformers to partial silver ones I thought it was a bit dark with the LCD-2 no matter the tubes, but no more.

 

I also tried my stock Grado HF-2 and stock AKG K240M 600 ohm, and I didn't enjoy either of those with the EF6 amp - these phones are already slightly fatiguing and the EF-6 isn't smooth enough to work well with them.  I also don't like my SFI ortho-driver custom woody headphones much, and the EF-6 didn't make them any more enjoyable either, although they do benefit from the extra power.  I have not tried my LA7000 or ATH-A900 with the EF6 yet, and it would be overkill for my portable ATH-ESW10JPN.

 

I then tried the -10 feedback setting on the back of the EF6 amp, and it did make the amp very slightly more refined and mellower as Peter stated, but with HE-6 headphones I preferred the feedback at zero.  With the feedback on it was still not as mellow/refined as the ZDT, but there was a subtle change which I liked with the HD800.  This -10 setting also helped the HF-2 and K240 but still didn't make them sound optimal.

 

At the same time I was doing these tests I was also listening back and forth with my Stax 009/007 and Sennheiser HE-60 via balanced KGSS and WES amps (with the same source). I felt that the EF6/HE-6 combo's overall tonality, midrange vibrancy, and micro-detail was not too far behind the SR-009 or HE-60, with the HE-6 offering a bit better bass impact in trade for a little less soundstage size, transparency and speed.  

 

After all this my appreciation for the EF6 amp has been elevated even more.  While I would quickly pick my SR-009 or HE-60 over the HE-6, I was left thinking that with the EF6 amp I'd likely pick the HE-6 to listen to over my other non-electrostatic headphones.  But if the ZDT was my only amp I'd be more likely to pick the re-cabled HE-500 as my top dynamic in an almost tie with my re-cabled HD800, followed by the HE-6 and LCD-2.  Just don't ask me to pick between the HE-500/ZDT and HE-6/EF6 combos yet - I'd need a lot more time for that.

 

Most of the time I would tell someone that their source and phone selection are more important than amp, but with the HE-6 headphones the amp clearly takes priority.  Nevertheless, I'd still like to try the EF6 with a variety of lesser sources, to make sure that it plays well with them as well.  This is not as easy for me as others since it requires dismantling different rigs on different levels of my house to bring to the EF6 amp, which is harder with my disability.  So, no promises there.  

 

 



As usual, great review.

post #74 of 244

HA, did you get a chance to plug a K1000 into the EF6 (or has anyone)?

post #75 of 244
Quote:
Originally Posted by grokit View Post

HA, did you get a chance to plug a K1000 into the EF6 (or has anyone)?


Thinking about it Vince?

 

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