I started a new impressions thread for the stock headphones (with original or replacement cables) because the thread that jerg started has become more technical and focuses on modified headphones.
This is a review in progress. I will update this post or the second post in this thread as I have more information, and will add links to other reviews as I am able.
NOTE - I own the original HE-5, HE-5LE, HE-500 and HE-6 plus a HiFiMan EF-5 and EF-6 amplifier. But I do not have the HE-400 or HE-4 to use for comparisons.
I have an extra stock HE-6 balanced cable, and a Moon-Audio Silver Dragon balanced cable for my HE-500. I only use the stock HE-5 cable on the HE-5LE, and the HE-5LE cable sounds better on the original HE-5.
Initial press release information about HE-560:
The HiFiMAN HE-560 is a premium quality, full-size planar magnetic headphone designed for reference quality use in the home or studio.
HE-560 is 30% lighter than comparable planar magnetic headphones allowing the listener to comfortably enjoy music for hours on end. In addition, a newly-designed headband and beveled ear pads provide added comfort as well as improved sound quality.
Using single-ended drivers, HE-560 delivers a lifelike soundstage and spatial imaging. Its increased efficiency allows it to be driven with a modest size amplifier. A premium cable is included comprised of Crystalline metal with Oxygen-free copper and silver.
HE-560 features Teak wood ear cups for a rich classic look.
The HiFiMAN HE-560 will be available in April 2014 with an MSRP of $899.
- Single-ended planar magnetic driver provides superior soundstage and spatial imaging
- 30% lighter than other full-size planar magnetic designs for increased comfort
- Increased efficiency so it is easier to drive
- Beveled ear pads for increased comfort
- Newly-designed cable of Crystalline metal featuring Oxygen-free copper and Oxygen-free silver
Sensitivity - 90db
Impredance - 35 ohm
Weight - 380gm
HE-560 INITIAL IMPRESSIONS FROM DAY 1 (before my full review):
I probably won't post much more after this about them until I've had several intensive listening sessions with the HE-560 for my review, which will include these comments below.
I received the HE-560 4 days ago, and plugged them into my Nuforce CDP-8 > PWD Mk2 coax > ZDT amp right away. I was impressed right away in the first 5 minutes. Again, the following was with just a 60 second listen with 5 or 6 songs off the CD player before heading out the door tonight. I'll need to spend many days with them to get a more accurate idea of how they perform.
My initial thoughts about them when I put on the HE-560 to listen were (1) spacious (2) detailed and crisp (3) fast. I'd say that my 1st thought was actually on the soundstage, where the HE-560 reminded me a little of my HE-60 - the sound seemed to come from everywhere except the ear cups. I need to listen more to see if they have a somewhat more vague & wide imaging and/or placement of instruments, there just wasn't time tonight. The HE-5 had that issue with imaging which was improved with the HE-5LE and then HE-500, but the others never had this large of a head-stage. Their soundstage may very well belong in the elite group with HD800, SR-009, and HE-60.
I can say that they are not as forward sounding as the HE-500, and they sound more light and airy or delicate than my HE-500 which sound a little more rich and organic at times. Maybe the description would be, they have more finesse and speed (like a stat) than the HE-500. This probably brings them closer to the HE-6 (which I did not compare to yet tonight). PRAT is excellent.
From this brief exposure I'd say they are fairly well balanced sounding, as far as frequency response goes. Bass is tight and fast, mids are crisp and clear, and treble for me was sparkly or plucky. You could almost believe the guitar was in the room with you. With my 52 year old ears I won't know if they are more or less extended in the treble than the HE-500 or HE-6 though, even when I compare them side by side later with test tones and music. They may still turn out to be a little more dry and analytical than my HE-6 when I compare them later, but they were just as smooth and grain free during my brief listen.
The 560's disappear pretty quickly, physically and audibly, due to excellent transparency, out of head projection, and light weight. Comfort is improved with the ear pads being more like the HE-60 pads, and due to the big drop in weight vs all of my other orthodynamics (although I think these are planar dynamic not ortho, right?). Compared to the HE-500 these things could float away.
I was heading out the door and couldn't listen much till tomorrow, but I did try them briefly with my iPad Air and I felt that it could drive them fairly well, although the volume was set at 75-95% most of the time. Lack of power didn't result in a lack of bass, and with the iPad at 100% there was no distortion - it was louder than I like for casual listening but not close to concert levels. They definitely benefit from an amp, but they are not unusable at all un-amped.
Most of the time I know immediately after putting on a headphone if I would enjoy owning them or not. Occasionally a headphone sounds nice when listened to by itself at first, but over time when you compare them to others then their flaws become quite apparent when you switch back (Edition 9 for example). This is not one of those - it's a headphone I would absolutely want to own, and it doesn't fall down in comparison to the HE-500. I'm positive that it will stand up to my other phones as well.
UPDATE March 30, 2014:
These headphones are great with classic rock recordings from the 60's - 80's, unlike many other audiophile headphones.
Maybe it's the way the old classic rock was mastered for the 30-40 year old bass heavy Cerwin Vega speakers and Koss headphones, which often makes the music lack any significant impact on many audiophile headphones (pink floyd, credence clearwater, jethro tull, boston, led zeppelin, rolling stones, neil young, steely dan, jackson brown, etc). Sometimes I feel like much of that music has nothing below 50-60hz (sure there are exceptions).
I usually have to whip out my Lawton Audio Denon D7000 or V-MODA M-100 or Westone 3 and UE11Pro IEM for classic rock, if I want to listen without EQ'ing it. I can't listen to those recordings with my HD800 or SR-009, so my "high-end classic rock phones" became my SR-007, HE-6, and then LA7000 or HF-2. The original HE-5 were better with classic rock than the HE-5LE and HE-500, but these are even better because the sound opens up too.
I can't explain why I like the HE-560 more with those old recordings, since they don't have an overblown or boosted bass - they have a very well balanced bass with good impact, but never in a million years is it over-done like a D5000.
Also, I previously found that the HE-6 are a very good low volume headphone, where detail retrieval and bass notes are not lost to the low volume with decreased dynamics. Well, the HE-560 are just as good at low volume listening - I don't need to crank them up to hear the deep bass notes or the midrange and treble detail like I do with the HD600 and others. They don't need to be cranked up to open up, yet they tolerate high volumes just as easily as they do low volumes. If I turn the volume to very low levels with my HD800 or HE-500 I feel like I want to use some EQ with the bass, but with phones like the HE-6 and HE-560 everything seems present and accounted for at volumes than one might fall asleep to. Yet, I would not say either one of those has a V-shaped frequency response - there is no hole in the mids.
UPDATE March 31, 2014:
So far I am finding the HE-560 to be a very neutral and extended sounding headphone, which is quite detailed and very fast, with a continued impression of a huge out-of-head soundstage. These are closer to the HE-6 than the HE-500 in my eyes (or should I say ears).
The bass is nice and strong or punchy without being overblown, so a string bass still sounds very organic and plucky, even when dubsteb as the next song is rattling your ears. Vocals are slightly less present than with the HE-500 or LCD-2 rev2, but you can still imagine the singer in the room with you.
The HE-560 are slightly drier sounding than the HE-500 but I would not call these analytical sounding. The HE-500 may be what we tend to call more "organic" sounding due to their slightly rounded edges of transients vs the HE-6 or HE-560. But even then the HE-500 are somewhat like an electrostatic headphone. In fact, the HE-500 out of my DACmini sound almost identical to my Stax Lambda Nova Signature out of my KGSS amplifier, but with the HE-500 having more stable and clear imaging of instruments within the soundstage while the LNS have a more nebulous and vague image placement. Also the bass of the LNS is not as tight or solid as the HE-500, so the LNS can sometimes have a little more one-note bass in fast musical passages.
While it reveals all the flaws in a recording, it doesn't make low bit-rate recordings unlistenable. The HE-6, HE-500 and LCD-2 rev2 are slightly more forgiving, while something like the HD600 are the most forgiving of mastering flaws. Nothing makes a brick walled recording sound better though, except maybe a wet cotton ball.
But these are like having an electrostatic headphone in speed and detail, with the impact of a dynamic headphone. I'm very surprised so far. I've had them burning in for 100 hours and the sound hasn't changed since I got them - there is very little need for improvement anyway. I'm still trying to pinpoint any real flaws.
Note, during the 100 hour burn-in I only listened once a day for 30 minutes, so if there was a change with burn-in I may have missed it. I saved my most critical listening for today and from this point forward.
UPDATE APRIL 1st 2014:
So far the micro-detail is very good - possibly on par with my HD800 and high-end electrostatics. Certainly they project great air and ambience with recordings made in an open or a larger venue.
They are great with any kind of plucked, blown, or struck instrument. The transient response with pianos is fantastic, and that's a make it or break it area with many headphones. As I mentioned before somewhere, I almost thought a guitar was in the room with me once.
UPDATE APRIL 3, 2014:
I have two HE-6 cables because I liked them so much - I used one with HE-500 and one with the HE-6. It was a big upgrade with the HE-500. Lately, with my HE-500 I have been quite happy with my Moon-Audio Silver Dragon balanced cable that I got so I could use it with my portable gear more easily. I didn't like the Blue Dragon with the HE-500.
With the HE-5 and HE-5LE I found that they were best when I swapped cabled between the two, and I still have them that way - with the silver plated copper HE-5 cable on the HE-5LE, and the more mellow sounding HE-5LE cable on the brighter HE-5.
However, I think the stock cable with the HE-560 is pretty good. I'm not ready to try out other cables yet.
UPDATE April 3rd, 2014 continued:
In response to a question about which I prefer, I love both the HE-500 and the 560. They are somewhat different sounding but at this point I think that I'd have to have both right now.
I do tend to prefer the HE-560, for their more spacious presentation and improved treble detail, but I couldn't part with the HE-500 that I already have because of their warm and organic midrange. Based on comfort alone I'd pick the HE-560 in a heart-beat. If I didn't own either headphone and was starting from scratch I guess that I'd have to pick the HE-560. But I already own the HE-500 and I could never sell them, just like I still have the original HE-5 and the HE-5LE.
UPDATE April 5th, 2014:
Yes, the midrange of the HE-560 and HE-6 is not as forward as the midrange on the HE-500 or HE-5LE. But their mids are not recessed either. They strike a great balance in the midrange presentation. It's more like the LCD-2 rev2 midrange, but with a larger sense of space, air and ambience than the LCD-2 rev2.
While treble was greatly improved with the rev2 vs my original rev1, the LCD-2 don't sparkle as much, and don't seem as airy and open as the HE-560. Treble sparkle of the HE-560 is better, and closer to the HE-6. I tend to put the HE-500 more on the same level as the LCD-2 rev2.
My original HE-5 has a little bit of recessed midrange, or a V-shaped curve, and the treble is not as smooth as the others. The HE-560 fill out the mids better than my HE-5 did, without having the slightly fatiguing treble of the HE-5. I thought the HE-5LE made a big step up in refinement over the HE-5, while the HE-500 gave a more solid image placement with improved speed and efficiency. The HE-560 add to that with a much more open and expansive soundstage, improved low volume listening, better speed and micro-detail, and more fun factor.
UPDATE APRIL 8th 2014:
Unfortunately I haven't had time to do longer than a 1 hour at a time listening session, so not long enough for fatigue to set in. However, with my HD800 and a DACmini I'll start to feel fatigued within 3-4 songs. So, this is actually still a good sign that 1 hour is safe so far. I'll have more time this weekend to go longer, but I will usually still take a break at least every 2 hours. I don't have the endurance that I did when I was younger.
For listening to music I mean
Okay, I listened to these for about 3 hours yesterday evening, with NO fatigue. I was using my iPhone with CEntrance HiFi-M8, and I listened to a wide variety of MP3 and ALAC music, ranging from Blake Shelton to Led Zeppelin, and From Diana Krall to Infected Mushroom.
I want to remind everyone that the reviews on a headphone will be wildly influenced by the source and amp that is being used. The headphones will have better synergy with some gear than others, and the source and amp choice can make or break a headphone review. Previously I have been using a PS Audio Perfectwave Mk2 DAC into an Eddie Current ZDT amp, a Nuforce DAC-100 into an EF6 amp, and a DACmini into an EF5 amp. This most recent listening session with the iPhone > M8 was while I was just relaxing in my lazy boy recliner (yes, a real lazy boy) without the high-end gear.
I did find that the HiFi-M8 has it's best synergy with the HE-560 when the amp's output impedance switch is set for 2-ohms. It improves the warmth and fullness of the mids, and improves the presence and weight of the instruments vs the 1 ohm setting. This is an issue with the amp synergy, and NOT a description of the headphones with all 1 ohm amps. For instance, they have plenty of weight, body, and warmth with my Eddie Current ZDT amp which has a very low output impedance.
So, the HE-560 are fine with a low output impedance, but the HiFi-M8 is a very neutral amp that in general would not be described as warm sounding, and so the higher output impedance helps make up for that quality in the amp when used with a very neutral headphone. I had forgotten about the switches on the rear, and so I really need to revisit this amp with my HD800 with it set for 10 ohm. With it set for 10 ohm while using the HE-560 the sound gets even warmer and thicker, sounding more lush and punchy at the same time. I think the speed decreases slightly with the 10 ohm setting, yet I don't find it to slow down with the DACmini which has a 10 ohm output impedance. Some people would say 10 ohm on the M8 takes things too far, but it certainly can be enjoyable to flavor the sound a little to get a little more emotion out of this amp. To this day I still don't use the bass or treble boost with the amp - I don't like to EQ headphones to get the best sound.
If I switch the output impedance on the M8 to 1 ohm the HE-560 are still very enjoyable with the amp, sounding more neutral with slightly more distance between the listener and the vocalists or instruments, so the circular soundstage got a little more oval with the 2-ohm setting (still wide but not quite as deep). It's just that the slight tweak in sound with the 2 ohm output impedance is a bit more enjoyable sounding, that I'm willing to give up a tiny bit of depth in return.
UPDATE APRIL 8th 2014:
Not at all. They seem to do well with modestly powered amps like 650-750mw HiFi-M8 which I would call the bare minimum for optimal enjoyment, but the F-35's extra power in balanced mode is very useful - it's like BAM! They really thrive on a 2-watt EF5, or a 3-watt Eddie Current ZDT, or a 5 to 6-watt EF6, like all orthos do.
I would say the treble (and speed) is very stat-like but without the etch or glare of some of the vintage Stax like the SR-Lambda Pro and SR-Lambda Pro Signature (which was much better). The air, ambience and transparency is wonderful with the HE-560. Note - the HE-6 also have a very stat-like presentation, and they competed well with my HE-60 and SR-007 in past listening sessions.
in term of sound quality, does He560 sound better or just sound different compare to He500 ?
Well, I wanted to say they are both on the same level, with just different sound. But while I still love the HE-500, if I had to pick just one it would be the HE-560, for it's improved speed, detail, sparkle, and soundstage. Note - both phones here are stock, not modded. The HE-500 still have a warm and inviting sound with good detail at the same time, as opposed to a dark and veiled HD650 for instance, and with having both here together I would not want to give up either one.
I thought the original HE-5 were great (with the EF5 amp, or Square Wave XL amp, or ZDT), but the HE-5LE were an upgrade with less recessed mids and a more refined sound, while the HE-500 improved upon that by adding more stable imaging and improved treble. However, I NEVER considered selling the old ones as I upgraded, because I still like the older ones too much. Same goes with the HE-560, they won't get me to sell my older HiFiMan headphones.
UPDATE APRIL 13th 2014:
I spent today listening to the HE-560 with my iPad Air headphone out at 80% and they were actually fairly good, although they sound less energetic and impact is a bit less than with a small portable amp.
I've been telling people that they need about 1-2 watts of power to get the most out of them, but they really aren't bad at all when used unamped or with <500mw portable amps. However they won't be nearly as impressive sounding as they are with even a little more powerful amp. I told one person that my CEntrance HiFi-M8 with about 650mw at 35 ohms (estimate by another forum member) would be enough to keep me happy at a bare minimum. But others could likely be happy with less, based on my experience today.
Fang is having a a new production HE-560 shipped to me this week, and he tells me that the bass is even better now with jerg's baffle mod. I do have to ship my HE-560 back tomorrow, but the new set will be here soon. I'll have more to post after that, but I will certainly miss them for the few days they'll be gone.
UPDATE April 14th 2014:
With me it [power and volume needed] depends on my mood and on the type of music I listen to. I like lower listening volumes to best appreciate complex passages or large symphonic pieces else I just switch to overload when high dynamic range kicks in. For an aria, bring it on though.
Yes, there are times I want to kick back and relax, and other times I want to jam out. I mentioned before that the HE-560 are great low volume headphones like my HE-6.
When I'm kicking back and relaxing at low volumes, I don't feel like anything is missing, and they don't need EQ for that. And yet I can crank them up with the ZDT to frightening levels and they will decimate my eardrums without taking damage themselves, without overdoing anything.
I absolutely love live performances with the HE-560, but you DO NEED a couple of watts of power to recreate the performance properly, i.e. as if you were there.
UPDATE April 15th 2014:
The Schiit Magni is pretty good with the HE-560. It's probably one of the best sounding $99 amps that I've heard (the Millett Starving Student being a little better). I gave a Magni to my son for his birthday last year, with the matching Modi which works with his iPad and camera connection kit. The Modi DAC that goes with it is less impressive, and adding a better DAC to the Magni is definitely a step up in both detail and soundstage. A DAC like the NuForce uDAC-2 SE feeding the Magni is a definite step up when auditioned side by side, and the Magni makes a good amp upgrade to most portable DACs. My son's V-MODA Verza Vamp iPod digital dock sounds better when the output is fed into his Magni, so he isn't using the Modi anymore.
I have not heard the Emotiva Mini-X a100 amp, but my Emotiva BDP-1 75-watt amp is pretty good. I've tried it with the HE-adapter and both HE-500 & HE-6 and it paired well, but I haven't tried it with HE-560. I see no reason why it shouldn't be a good match.
Take a look at my profile for the link to my HE-5LE review first. The HE-5LE was more refined sounding than my original HE-5, being less bright with fuller midrange. Sometimes the HE-5LE felt a little dark, until I removed the fabric disc between the grill and the driver. But that left the bass less-damped and slightly less controlled. So I replaced the fabric disc and changed the cable to the SPC cable from the HE-5, which also opened up the HE-5LE treble and soundstage without losing any bass control.
From memory I'm certain that the HE-560 would have more treble than the HE-5LE, and the mids are slightly less forward in the HE-560 although not as laid back as the HE-5 mids. The HE-5LE soundstage is a little nebulous and it can be difficult to place instruments in space sometimes, while the HE-560 has a wider soundstage and better imaging or instrument placement. As for bass, I can't compare them from memory as well as the other areas that changed more between models, but I didn't have a big problem with the HE-5LE bass and both phones have good bass. If anything, I think that the HE-560 bass is a little faster than the HE-5LE and HE-500 bass.
* The HE-560 has a much wider and more out of head soundstage, while the LCD-2 rev2 has a deeper but slightly more narrow soundstage - so both with oval sound stages, but at 90 degree angles to each other. The difference is not huge, but it's noticeable right away.
* Part of that is due to the angle of the LCD-2 ear pads and the slightly different midrange character - the LCD-2 mids are a little thicker and fluid but they hide a little behind the bass levels which gives them a little more distance to the stage.
* The LCD-2 rev2 isn't as good as the HE-560 for listening at very low volumes, despite their strong bass, and with LCD-2 rev2 I usually find myself wanting to turn up the bass if I'm listening at low volumes at night. The LCD-2 bass just seems to fall off more as the volumes go down.
* The LCD-2 rev2 at high volumes is maybe a little more forgiving of highly compressed music (like the HE-500) and therefore slightly easier on the ears with poor recordings.
* The HE-560 treble is more airy and etherial and "out there" than the LCD-2 rev2, although the LCD-2 rev2 treble is much more open and present than my old Rev1 were.
* In general, the overall sound of the LCD-2 rev2 is closer to the HE-500 now. With the "LCD-2 rev1 vs HE-500" comparisons I used to say it was like comparing the "HD-650 vs the HD600". Now the differences are less between those two models. However, the HE-560 steps ahead in the direction of the LCD-3 (more air and detail and speed). I don't have the LCD-3 here to compare now, but I am recalling my thoughts of LCD-2 vs LCD-3 at RMAF last October, where the LCD-X has s similar "out of head soundstage", if I recall correctly, to what the HE-560 has now.
UPDATE APRIL 15th 2014: (10:45PM)
Thanks for the detailed explanations.
I was wondering about the soundstage a bit.
I know inaging is excellent and so is SS width.
However, do you take any issues with its depth and do you think it can pose problems with music/movies or gaming?
I love to use my cans with all three. Mostly split between music and gaming but I could certainly enjoy a movie as well
I am certainly not a soundstage junkie but some degree of depth is needed...
Well, I've never implied that the HE-560's lack depth of stage just because I described the soundstage as "oval and wide". Most of my descriptions have been relative to other headphones that people can use as a point of reference; and so while it may be more oval and wide than the HE-500 it doesn't mean the depth of stage is less than the HE-500. It just means it's wider than HE-500.
Another example, I've said before that the HE-560 have a huge all-encompasing soundstage that is airy, etherial, open, and often out-of-head (recording dependent of course). And then I added the fact that the soundstage is wider than it is deep (oval) vs the LCD-2 soundstage which is deeper than it is wide (still oval). But that doesn't mean that I thought the soundstage depth was too shallow vs the LCD-2, otherwise I'd post that. Right?
So, last weekend I watched Star Trek Into Darkness with the HE-560, the HE-500, and LCD-2. I thought that with the HE-560 the image placement was good just like with the HE-500, but some of the movie sound effects had a little bigger binaural-like effect when watching with the HE-560. I heard things that seemed to come from farther behind me or higher above me at times. The LCD-2 didn't have a disconnect with the dialog, as some might assume if the depth of stage was described as deeper; but the slightly narrower soundstage actually helped focus the dialog just as well as the HE-500.
The HE-560 and the LCD-2 sometimes made it feel more like I was in a larger theater rather than in a home theater (HE-500), but on the other hand the LCD-2 didn't give me that feeling of being there like the HE-560 did.
Now, with Ottmar Liebert's "Up Close" binaural album, I didn't think that the binaural effect was that much bigger with HE-560 (like it's maxed out for all phones equally, because even IEM have a great binaural effect), but it was something I experienced more with movies and normal stereo recordings. The HE-560 just seem to trick the ears more often into hearing auditory cues that other phones don't project. This is similar to what the Sennheiser HD800 & HE-60, or Stax SR-009 seems to do for me - the HE-6 is close, but not quite there although still one of the best sound stages in headphones (better than HE-500 and LCD-2 rev2).
UPDATE April 19th 2014:
I think it's nice having both, but if I didn't already have an HE-500 I'd probably just buy the HE-560. I own the HE-500 already and the HE-560 is different enough that I won't sell the HE-500, especially if they go out of production and are in high demand.
The HE-560 is much more efficient so they don't sound too soft in their impact and dynamics when they're not given enough power. HE-6 has both a wide and deep soundstage, but the HE-560 might be a little wider. I wIll need to do more comparisons when the new HE-560 with jerg's baffle mods arrives.
UPDATE MAY 8TH 2014 - REVISED BAFFLE DESIGN:
I have received a newer set of HE-560 yesterday and so far they are as good as I remember the first pair being.
I am told that these have the modified sealed production baffle. With test tones the bass extends very deep, and 16Hz tones are felt. I didn't feel the 16Hz tones as well with the first pair, but I could hear 20Hz. Without the first pair I can't say if the 20Hz is stronger now, but it's pretty strong.
These have a 1/4" plug now, but the cable sheath is not the same as with the HE-500 cable, so it's not the same as the old cables.
Now I resume doing more comparisons with the HE-6, using the HE-6 via XLR and the HE-560 via 1/4", on Eddie Current ZDT and EF6 amps which have both jacks.
Edited by HeadphoneAddict - 5/8/14 at 10:23pm