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HE-500 Mini-Review from a newbie

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Hey all,

 

I've had the HE-500 for about a week now, my only previous audiophile headphone being the HD650.  My previous chain was iMac (Spotify/iTunes/Fidelia) -> HRT Music Streamer ii+  -> Fii0 E9 -> HD650.  Everything is the same for this review except that the HE-500 are taking the place of the HD650.

 

Build and Design Factors:

 

Let's start with build quality and comfort.  These are obviously boutique cans, albeit well-crafted ones.  The headband is thin with thin-yet-utilitarian foam and the metal cup holders are solid and look like something I'd buy from a third party for my motorcycle (rear luggage rack, etc).  What I mean by that is that it is a simple, reliable, uncomplicated design.  There's a lack of cost-cutting in the materials whereby cheap materials can be seen to be expensive.  The few cheap-looking/feeling areas of the headphone are not hidden by lines that downplay such decisions.  The headband foam is entirely too thin for how heavy these cans are.  The cable-entry design is less than elegant.  Those are really the only obvious downfalls to the design.  I should also note that I bought these open-box return from Amazon Warehouse, and so there are some very small scratches on the front of the metal cup-hanger-holders - it was insignificant enough that I had to really look to find the scratches.

 

These cans are heavy!  I'm sure that there's a way to design planar headphones that reduces the impact of their weight, but a straightforward design such as that employed by HiFiMan doesn't do it.  You won't be headbanging with these headphones on.  This wouldn't even be noticeable except that they sound so good, you will likely be wearing them for long periods of time.

 

Lastly, I have a small head, and in order to keep the cans from sinking down too low, I have wrapped a small towel around the headband in order to bolster the nearly-nonexistant foam of the headband.

 

 

Sound:  Compare and Contrast:

 

I didn't realize how drastically different the planar magnetic or orthodynamic drivers would sound from dynamic drivers.  It's really quite different.  Some highlights:

 

Bass:  At first, I thought the HE-500 sounded bass-thin - I'd really gotten used to the gooey goodness of the HD650 mid-bass hump. Nonetheless, when listening to truly bass-heavy music, I noticed that all the bass was still there, with excellent extension and control.  Most shocking was the instrument separation!  Even with very dirty, heavily distorted guitars over the bass-line, the bass was clearly defined and didn't bleed into the mids and vice-versa.  Listening to the HD650 again, I realized that it was emphasizing bass in songs where it wasn't actually there in such quantities.  The bass of the HD650 is also much sloppier and it can sometimes bleed into the mids or vice-versa.  This was most noticed with an album I like in spite of its poorly recorded samples and dirty-as-hell production:  Stunt Rock 'This is Stunt Rock Volume III'.  There are tracks on this album that are just noisy and distorted on dynamic headphones - the HE-500 had very clear instrument separation - such that a dirty and distorted guitar noise sample in the mids didn't obscure what remained a very clear and tight bass track 'beneath' the guitar noise.  

 

Mids:  Oh, what can I say here?  The mids are the best aspect of these cans!  Voices are eerily intimate if they're recorded that way.  I was disappointed to hear new sibilance in the Allo Darlin' album 'Europe' - more than likely some bad recording that isn't hidden by the veil of the HD650s anymore.  I deduct that because I have other female vocal tracks where there's no sibilance whatsoever.  The truly interesting thing about the HE-500 is the way there's energy injected (or perhaps just not sucked away like in the HD650s) in the mids that is nonetheless non-fatiguing.  They aren't like the Grado Sr80i that I had before the HD650s...the Grado left my ears feeling the way my hands might feel after a long motorcycle ride with unweighted handlebars - just numbish and 'zingy'.  

 

Treble:  Wow.  There's a big difference from the HD650 here!  The energy is back in my music!  The HD650 sounded like I was listening to music through a painkiller buzz - the music was all there, but honey-like and somewhat distant.  Not with the highs of the HE-500.  Hi-hats hit and shimmer and there's very little sibilance unless the track was recorded poorly.  Albums like 'Criminal Art Lovers' by Northern Portrait can be murder with bright cans.  Somehow the highs on this album are neither fatiguing nor rolled off at all.  It's a hard album to like a bright set of cans...but it loses energy with the HD650.  That doesn't happen with the HE-500.

 

Summary:

 

The HD650s were my first real jump up from crap-phones and I thought they were amazeballs - but I've never heard instrument separation like I do with the HE-500.

 

This is the first headphone experience that I can truly say is 'Hi-Fi'.  Even my audiophile-agnostic friend can hear the difference with these headphones.  I expected poorer sources to be noticeable with the HE-500 and they definitely are.  I made a huge order of CDs of artists I'd already like on Spotify.  Spotify is not unlistenable, but running an ALAC through Fidelia (or even iTunes) is much preferred.  I couldn't tell a difference on the HD650s.

 

I wish I had more experience and could compare them to other heavy hitters in the world of headphones, but I'm very happy with the resolution and overall sound.  I DO miss the more expansive soundstage of the HD650s, but not enough to downgrade from the amazing clarity and instrument separation of the HE-500.

post #2 of 19

Nice review, pleased you're enjoying them. I'm still new to them too, but they must be good because I've already sold my 650's...  my K702's are next to go.. have no need for them now either!

post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LugBug1 View Post

Nice review, pleased you're enjoying them. I'm still new to them too, but they must be good because I've already sold my 650's...  my K702's are next to go.. have no need for them now either!
I'm not sure I'm ready to get rid of my HD650 yet - I'm still hoping to hook up with an audiophile-able girlfriend who might appreciate them. Dual headphone music share geek date FTW!
Edited by disastermouse - 7/26/12 at 2:06am
post #4 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by disastermouse View Post

I'm not sure I'm ready to get rid of my HD650 yet - I'm still hoping to hook up with an audiophile-able girlfriend who might appreciate them. Dual headphone music share geek date FTW!

The HD650 sound shockingly good with suitable amping.  Gone is the veil.  They begin to sound effortless, more balanced and extended.  The first time I felt I REALLY heard the HD650 was with the Darkvoice 337.  Until then, I had formerly and consistently maintained a preference for the HD600.

 

Nice review of the HE-500, too!  : )  

 

The HE-500 need a fair amount run-in time (~200+ hours) before coming into their own.  The midrange opens up and the tone gets sweeter, the bass flatter and the soundstage more expansive, IMHE.


Edited by pataburd - 7/26/12 at 7:44pm
post #5 of 19

Amazeballs review! You got me interested in the HE-500. :) 

post #6 of 19

Got to love the towel mod!!!  Great idea actually....at home!

 

I have had mine burning on for over 300 hours now.  Out of the box I was hearing precious little bass and some real fuzziness on the highs.  After a couple of listening, I hooked them up (in their case to stop leakage!) to my stereo two weeks ago and tomorrow will be the day I listen to them again.

 

Thanks for the review.

post #7 of 19

Hey very good review D-Mouse!! The headband on the he400 seems too insubstantial, but I got used to it and now find it very comfortable. The added weight on the he500 might show the weakness in that headband though. Time to use the towel mod!!

post #8 of 19

I was recommended this headband cushion for use with the 8323's. Supposedly it works well. Might be a better solution for your comfort issue:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Replacement-Leatherette-Universal-Sennheiser-Beyerdynamic/dp/B00862522A/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343410958&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=grado+hadbqnd

post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by devhen View Post

I was recommended this headband cushion for use with the 8323's. Supposedly it works well. Might be a better solution for your comfort issue:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Replacement-Leatherette-Universal-Sennheiser-Beyerdynamic/dp/B00862522A/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343410958&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=grado+hadbqnd

I tried it on the HE-500. 
Didn't work, too narrow. (Perfect for Grado phones however)

post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 

So.....I actually went back to the Sennheiser HD650 while on a date (so she could see why I'm geeking out so much about the HE-500) and .....  I'm REALLY missing the sound of the HE-500.  The mid-bass hump I used to like sounds intrusive, the soundscape is larger, but the instrument separation just isn't there.  Snares don't 'pop', vocals aren't as arresting.  Some of my favorite songs have subtle backing vocals that I never realized were there before.

 

The HD650 are, however, much more comfortable.

post #11 of 19

Hi, nice review. Your impressions are similar to how I experienced the HE-6 after listening to the HD650 for years.

 

About comfort - I've bend the headband outward quite a bit so there's only minimal clamping force - I think the headphone is more comfortable that way. Enjoy your new cans. :)


Edited by ZorgDK - 7/29/12 at 9:45am
post #12 of 19

Great review, DM. 

post #13 of 19

You might get a slightly improved sound from the HE-500s with a different headphone amplifier.

The Fiio E9 has a impedance of 10-Ohms, which is fine for headphones that are 80-Ohms or higher, the Senn HD650 are 300-Ohms.

But an amplifier with an impedance for 4-Ohms or less might be better suited for the 38-Ohm HE-500.

The O2 (Objective 2) headphone amplifier has a low impedance.

Portable headphone amplifiers in general come with low impedance.

Matrix M-Stage seems to be a well like desktop amp.

 

Just an idea if your thinking about changing your headphone amplifier sometime in the future.

post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

You might get a slightly improved sound from the HE-500s with a different headphone amplifier.

The Fiio E9 has a impedance of 10-Ohms, which is fine for headphones that are 80-Ohms or higher, the Senn HD650 are 300-Ohms.

But an amplifier with an impedance for 4-Ohms or less might be better suited for the 38-Ohm HE-500.

The O2 (Objective 2) headphone amplifier has a low impedance.

Portable headphone amplifiers in general come with low impedance.

Matrix M-Stage seems to be a well like desktop amp.

 

Just an idea if your thinking about changing your headphone amplifier sometime in the future.

Funny you should mention that - I just got an O2 from JDS Labs....but I can't listen to two cans at the same time without a splitter - so while sharing, I gotta use the E9.  I'm loving the O2, actually.

 

I should update my sig.

post #15 of 19

If I recall correctly, a splitter does put more stress and drain on your headphone amplifier, as you are driving two headphones at once.

Quote:
Originally Posted by disastermouse View Post

Funny you should mention that - I just got an O2 from JDS Labs....but I can't listen to two cans at the same time without a splitter - so while sharing, I gotta use the E9.  I'm loving the O2, actually.

 

I should update my sig.

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