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Headphones item created by HeretixAevum, Apr 25, 2014
Pros - Fantastic bass and clarity; lightweight and comfortable for a headphone of this type
Cons - Higher clamp force; not the most solid-feeling high-end headphone
When it comes to HiFiMan products, I am what you might call a die-hard fan. I purchased my first decent earphone, a Yuin PK3, from the company back when it was primarily a Hi-Fi distributor under the name Head-Direct, in 2007 or 2008. About a year later, I bought one of HiFiMan’s own developments, the RE0 in-ear earphone, and fell in love. The RE0 was nothing short of a revelation, providing clean, well-balanced sound that contemporary competition couldn't touch. Over the years Dr. Fang Bian & co expanded the lineup to much more than just earphones, but full-size HiFiMan headphones have always eluded me - the HE-560 the first one I've had a chance to hear at length.
Form & Function
The HE-560 is a headphone for the headphone lover, billed as a lighter and more comfortable planar magnetic set - with great sound, of course. It is not a flawlessly polished retail product like the OPPO PM-1 and doesn't share the rock-solid machined metal structure of the OPPO, but there is a raw, purposeful character to its design that I quite like.
One thing to be said for the no-frills construction is that it is quite lightweight. The headband uses a suspended design with a metal outer band, and the forks are plastic. The dual-sided cable is detachable and utilizes coaxial connectors. The cups rotate a full 180 degrees, which is good for storage and transport, but better still for wearing comfort. With a dual-sided cable design like this one, there is no reason why the cups shouldn’t rotate a good amount even if the headphones are not meant to be compact.
The HE-560 is a good-looking headphone, finished in a dark wood grain with flat black accents. For $899 you get the headphones, a cable, and a wood storage box with a sliding lid. That’s not a lot in the way of extras, but it’s what’s inside that counts - namely, the Planar Magnetic drivers. As usual, I defer to the more experienced to explain PM drivers in detail – see the Wisdom Audio white paper here and as well as Tyll’s article over at InnerFidelity for an in-depth look at Planar Magnetic technology.
Suffice it to say that PM drivers can make for a great-sounding headphone, but one of the common downsides is physical weight. Both my OPPO PM-1 and LCD-2 are hefty, if not downright heavy, and their weight on the head can be felt after some hours. The HE-560 is very light for its size – it feels noticeably lighter on the head than the PM-1 and LCD-2. This, together with the suspended headband design and freely pivoting earcups, makes it a very comfortable headphone. The final element of the comfort equation, the pads, are a hybrid velour+leather design. They breathe moderately well – not quite up there with the Sennheiser velour pads, but better compared to the leather pads on the LCD-2 and PM-1. The HE-560 earpads are more heavily bolstered at the back and keep the headphone comfortable despite its slightly higher (compared to the PM-1 and LCD-2) clamping force.
The result of all this is a very comfortable Planar Magnetic headphone, equal for me to Sennheiser’s dynamic-driver HD600. The heavier LCD-2 and OPPO PM-1 are more fatiguing after a couple of hours.
Tianyun Zero DAC/amp (2008 version)
HiFiMan HM-901 (with Minibox amp card)
Headphones used for comparisons
Audeze LCD-2 (original model)
Sennheiser HD580 w/HD600 grilles, headband, and pads, and HD650 cable. This HD580 uses the “new” driver revision and to the best of my hearing ability is identical in sound to a current HD600. I will refer to it as “HD600” throughout.
Planar magnetic headphones are often lauded for their speed, lack of distortion, and ability to maintain bass control while also pumping out powerful lows (i.e. providing bass quality AND quantity). The HE-560 definitely does not disappoint, especially when it comes to the low end. The bass is fantastic, the best I’ve heard from a headphone. It is deep, flat, and powerful, finding the ideal balance of controlled and hard-hitting. There is no discernible mid-bass hump but HE-560 is capable of moving a lot of air, which allows it to deliver excellent impact and sub-bass rumble alike.
Compared to the Sennheiser HD600, OPPO PM-1, and Audeze LCD-2, the HE-560 is less forward and full-bodied in the midrange. The mids are very clear, but a little dry. The bass being tight and natural helps quite a lot, preventing the low end from intruding on the midrange in any capacity.
The treble transition is quite smooth and the top end itself is refined, but not recessed. It has a good amount of sparkle without sounding harsh or sibilant. The HE-560 can’t be called bright, but it does have more treble energy than the HD600, PM-1, and LCD-2 (the latter two being espeically polite at the top). There is enough presence with the HE-560 to properly convey the energy of cymbal hits, for example, whereas the OPPO PM-1 tends to sound a little dull and smoothed over in that regard.
The level, tight, and clear sound of the HE-560 grants it very good imaging with a natural, slightly laid-back presentation, beating the LCD-2 and PM-1 when it comes to imaging. In short, the HiFiMan HE-560 is a highly capable headphone with the best bass I’ve come across and fantastic clarity, but with a slightly dry midrange character.
What follows are more in-depth comparisons to two other planar magnetic cans, the Audeze LCD-2 and OPPO PM-1, as well as to the dynamic-driver Sennheiser HD580/600.
I never was a huge fan of this revision of the LCD-2, preferring the less expensive HD600 for both sound (more balanced) and comfort (lighter and more unobtrusive). That said, the even this original LCD-2, with its Planar Magnetic drivers, powerful bass, and $1000 price tag, is more of an HE-560 competitor.
The LCD-2 is heavier on the low end compared to the HE-560 and boasts a warmer tonal character. However, its bass is also touch slower and more sustained, which makes it appear a bit muffled next to the HiFiMan. The top end of the LCD-2 has a slight lack of energy in comparison to the HE-560 and its presentation is a little more congested thanks to the less controlled bass.
The HE-560 has tighter, more linear bass and sounds clearer. Its overall balance is better thanks in large part to brighter treble. To my ears, the greater treble energy of the HE-560 is more natural overall and gives the HiFiMan set a more airy presentation. The LCD-2, while very forgiving, sounds dull and smoothed-over in comparison.
The Sennheiser HD600 has been my benchmark full-size headphone for many years, but with the introduction of the HE-560 into the mix I think it will soon be retired. When it comes to bass especially, the HE-560 is simply better. It’s not just more powerful at the low end, but also more extended and more effortless. In comparison, the HD600 lacks the ability to really rumble on bass-heavy tracks; the HE-560, on the other hand, can crank up the low end when necessary, and sounds more natural doing it.
On the whole, the sound signature of the HE-560 is a little more v-shaped than that of the HD600. The Sennheiser unit displays more prominent mids that are slightly thicker compared to the HE-560, but also a bit less clear. The extra treble presence of the HE-560 helps further with the clarity without making the headphones sound harsh or sibilant - a good thing in my book.
The HE-560 sounds a little thinner and more crisp; a little more dry as well, but on the whole more natural. Both the HD600 and HE-560 are very spacious, and have excellent imaging but the HiFiMan unit appears to have a wider soundstage thanks to its less forward midrange.
OPPO’s Planar Magnetic PM-1 headphone follows a smooth and balanced sound that falls somewhere between the LCD-2 and Sennheiser HD600. The HE-560 is bassier than the PM-1, but at the same time its treble is more energetic and extended, giving its presentation a more open feel. The extra treble energy sounds more natural to me, but the HE-560 also appears less full-bodied (i.e. thinner) through the midrange. This grants it a more “analytical” note presentation that some listeners may not find appealing over the more full-bodied PM-1. Om the whole, however, the upper midrange and treble of the HE-560 are more well-defined and nuanced.
The more mid-centric PM-1, on the other hand, sounds extremely coherent with its stronger, thicker midrange. Its bass is just a hair more boomy and it has smoother, completely fatigue-free treble that can make it sound a little vague and lacking in crispness next to the HE-560 – smoothed-over is the best term I could come up with. The PM-1 also doesn’t quite have the same open and well-imaged presentation, but is more efficient.
Not having tried any of HiFiMan’s previous full-size cans, the HE-560 impressed me more than I had anticipated, going so far as to replace the Sennheiser HD600 as my full-size reference headphone thanks to the outstanding bass performance and clarity. The only headphones I’ve heard that could be better all-rounders are the STAX SR-007MK2 and SR-009.
In addition to great sound, the light weight and very flexible construction of the HE-560 result in good wearing comfort for me, and it’s far from unattractive with the wood grain and black accents. It’s hard to talk about value with a set of headphones that costs $900, but the HE-560 is easy to recommend .
Pros - very clean sound, improved headband
Cons - higher clamp, picky with amps
That's a lovely box it comes in. I'm not being snarky at all; it really is nice. Totally for presentation though, not for transport/portability.
The headband of the new Hifiman models is a great improvement over the old ones. The suspension design is more comfortable, and the gimbals feel more solid. The headband adjustment has more of a reassuring feel to it, unlike the old headbands which had a tendency to become loose over time. Gripes: there's a higher clamp force though (for me it pressed under the ear, around the jawline), and the headband adjustment snags my hair sometimes.
The overall weight of the 560 is much lighter than the HE-6, which is a welcome change especially after a recent car accident which has left me with whiplash making it difficult to support my HE-6 on my head without aggravating my neck
That plastic wood veneer on the cups though... what is this, the 80's? I would have preferred they stuck with the glossy plastic. Or how about some real wood? A resin-reinforced wood cup wouldn't be that great of an expenditure on a nearly $1k headphone.
Sound and Stuff
A lot of the sound changes with the pads, so bear that in mind as I present my notes. Overall, I considered the sound to slot quite comfortably between the HE-500 and HE-6. It's a noticeable improvement from the 500, and I could see personal preferences pulling it ahead of the 6 for some although I feel the 6 still leads on technical capability.
I felt the sound was rather sensitive to placement on my head, moreso than the HE-6. It really needs to be forward ahead of the ears to sound right. Even then, at times I felt the soundstage had an exaggerated width and was behind me.
There's an overall brightness to the tone of the 560, which gives it a strong sense of “detail”, but can start to feel slightly plasticky and artificial after a while. The upper vocal range comes forward a bit and is slightly pushy* on some recordings (reminds me of a bad Audeze). I feel as though there's a very slight emphasis in the midbass which gives it a bit of punch, but it doesn't carry that impact elsewhere except the uppermid region as just mentioned. These two components together give the 560 this sort of very very mildly V-shaped sound to my ears, though it really isn't, but that's where the energy feels most prominent and gives it an overall “fun” sound which I think a lot of people will like.
*The best way I can describe these upper mids is that they are slightly “angry” sounding. There's a bit of an aggressive bite to them that I can't attribute purely to frequency response. This property changes depending on pads, which I'll get to later.
Compared against the HE-500 (from memory), the 560 has overall better clarity and bass. Really just take all the good points about the 500, and bump up a notch. The treble timbre is somewhat similar, but feels a bit stronger on the 560. Like perhaps the peaks and energy are mostly the same, but moved to a different spot which may or may not agree with a person's ears.
Compared against the HE-6, the 6 still carries a better sense of technical prowess and the bass is noticeably more defined. The midbass on the 560 punches a bit harder, but that's about it and comparitively mushes into the lower mids. The subbass is an easy win for the HE-6, which is much stronger compared to the 560 which feels loose in comparison. Across the treble region, the 6 is still sizzly but across a broader range, while the 560 is narrower and feels more like an “edge”. Again, individual tastes will determine preferences here. As a rather compulsive modder, I found it easier to work with the 6 than the 560 since dealing with broad areas is easier than trying to pick out narrow spikes. Midrange across the 6 is cleaner than the 560, but only by the faintest of margins. With mods, I might just prefer the 560 for light acoustics and vocals over the 6. Well, not really, but it's really close.
In terms of amping, the 560 is not nearly the gluttonous beast that the HE-6 is, so it will be easier to reach full “potential”. However, the 560 seems to be really picky, moreso than my experience with other Hifiman cans. So a bit of experimentation is in order as the sound does change from amp to amp. For the record, my primary amps are a set of Nuforce HA-200 serving as monoblocks and I thought the pairing was very good. For fun, I tried running the 560 from a FiiO X1 and was surprised that I could get quite serviceable volume levels from it.
Notes on pads...
- very open sounding, but slight unnaturalness to it
- something “angry” in the upper mids, on some songs it's unlistenable for me
... interestingly, I prefer focus pad on my (modded) HE-6 vs focuspad-A
- slightly better, doesn't have that angry tinge anymore but still a bit sharp, has a bit of that stock HE-6 feeling which to me was bright-ish
- upon further listening, I feel like maybe it just moves that peak somewhere else less bothersome
- with a crisscross of felt, ok that's pretty close to where I like it
with J$ leather pads and damping
- better, some more naturalness and bass, damped a tad too much though
- I think the thicker spacing helps a lot with comfort and staging
- pads are discontinued though, so this is moot for most people
I mentioned earlier that I am a compulsive modder, so looking at what I wind up modding does give a sense of how I feel about the headphone. Most of my efforts went into reducing that bright edge in the uppermids/treble, but then I seemed to lose that sense of detail which I feel is one of the main appeals of the 560. With the HE-6 that peak is broader, so damping down the entire uppermid area brought it down to where I liked. On the 560 though, this bright region is narrower and trying to tame it down usually brings down too much of the surrounding area making it feel muted. I'm sure more experimentation can yield a better result, but I only had a short time with it so could only run through a couple modding iterations.
Re-grilling (more open backed)
- almost an unnoticeable change, unlike the HE-6 where the change is immediately noticeable with more air and better staging
- with the 560 it's just barely more open sounding, and really verging on placebo.
- as mentioned above, changing pads alters the sound quite a bit
- I would encourage experimentation here
- I wish I had a chance to try some Audeze pads on here
- dependent on the pads used
- I felt a crisscross of soft felt with the Focuspads-A were the best
Pretty darned good, mild V shaped fun emphasis, doesn't need that much power but can be picky with amps. Quick mods that I use to get it where I want: Focuspad-A, two strips of felt arranged as X on ear-side, regrill optional. Doesn't dethrone the HE-6 but comes really close.
Spoiler: My damping/felt arrangement
Just a simple cross of felt.
Later on I put this underneath the pad.
Pros - Price/performance, well integrated bass-midrange-treble, excellent separation/imaging, realism/decay/timbre, airy
Cons - Only acceptable build, slightly softer bass, soundstage
HiFiMAN HE-400i and HE-560 review & comparison - w/ stock grilles and Focus pads
Disclaimer: The following review/comparison is my subjective assessment of the two headphones. The differences between the two are not night and day quantity-wise, but represent a difference I was able to hear. Both headphones are great sounding devices and this review and comparison should serve to highlight or point out the differences. If you have any questions or if you want to point something out, please do let me know. Hope you enjoy the read ^_^
- I received the HE-560 in early July and the 400i last Monday. When I wasn't doing critical listening or direct comparisons, both headphones were being burned-in using pink noise or playing music. Initially, I did not find them very different - it was with time, precise volume matching, listening to many different songs of various genres and most importantly lots and lots of swapping headphones, comparing short segments of different songs, movies or games. After this exhaustive process, the differences finally became clear. I am confident that these comparisons represent my current [and hopefully final] opinion on these two headphones. One thing I very much want to point out - at their respective retail prices, both headphones represent tremendous value. If I only owned one or the other, I would most certainly not find any of either headphone's relative shortcomings troublesome enough to not live with. Also, please do keep in mind my particular setup as well. I will first evaluate each headphone based on its own merits and only then compare it to the other, mentioning where the differences lie, to keep it organized and easy to navigate. Without further ado, here's the comparison.
Media: JRiver Media player 19, using ASIO KS direct connection output
Source: USB output of a desktop-PC
DAC: Audio-gd NFB-7 via USB input
Amplifier: Audio-gd SA-31SE via single-ended RCA input
Headphones: HiFiMAN HE-560 & HiFiMAN HE-400i via a 1/4 TRS plug
Files: FLAC, 128-320kbps MP3, 256kbps AAC, AC3/DTS [JRiver upmixing - movies], Dolby Headphone/ SBX Pro Studio [via external DSPs - gaming]
Cables: stock power cables, decent RCA/USB/TOSLINK cables
- The 400i has a very good bass response. The mid-bass has a good punch to it and is slightly emphasized, which helps with tracks where the impact is less than desired. The sub-bass is quite good too but rolls off just a bit sooner than I'd like. As far as bass definition, timbre and clarity goes, the 400i keeps a good balance of things. The slight emphasis of the mid-bass does mean that a slight portion of clarity and definition gets lost in the “punch”. It also makes certain instruments sound just a bit boomy [like a timpani or toms] at times, while also having a bit less than perfect control. The bass overall has more punch than it has extension and depth. In terms of tonality still, don't expect it to stray too far away from neutral, just a slight, enveloping bass warmth-tilt. When all's said and done, the bass is very exceptional and capable of sounding phenomenal with the flaws being pretty small.
- The 560 has likewise excellent bass. The mid-bass to sub-bass transition is perfectly linear, which means the bass stays neutral, with equal presence. That means, that it will not help with any bass deficiency in recordings but nor will it add any emphasis. The sub-bass is very impressive and goes very deep, giving bass instruments a very realistic tone. Timbre, definition and clarity is as good as I've heard. The punch might be perceived as slightly softer at times, but it is for the sake of preserving all the details in the recording - any more and you'd lose a tint of definition or texture or make that instrument a bit less natural. Nonetheless, it is something to consider. All, in all, if you seek a perfectly neutral bass response that can sound terrifyingly real, this is the one.
- The bass of the two is more similar than different. The 400i trades a slight mid-bass emphasis for a slight loss in texture and detail, while the 560 remains equal, give or take, in all of them. The sub-bass presence and extension goes to the 560 and so does the timbre and realness, more on that later. Both can hit hard, the 400i slightly more so, and sound equally impressive with the 560 just being more tonally correct overall, with better sub-bass, while the 400i bass retains more spotlight and presence in the mid-section and upper-bass.
- The 400i has a midrange that is more forward and up-front than what would be considered neutral. All instruments in the midrange always have their place, with very equal presence. Everything is very easy to distinguish, thanks to exquisite separation. This makes up for a very euphonic, bigger-than-real midrage, which ends up sounding pleasant more often than not. However, this can bring a certain shoutiness to instruments as well. For example, an instrument playing solo [say a piano or a violin], which means there's already a spotlight shining on it, and when you double that, it might just become too much, blending strikes and keys together in a slightly harsh forwardness. The upper midrange-lower treble transition is an area that is a lot less forward in comparison and can sound a bit muted in relation to the rest of the midrange, but nothing too troublesome. Overall, the midrange is more or less forward and coherent, with just a few slight dips and peaks preventing it from being completely perfect as is.
- The 560 has again a very coherent sounding midrange, not forward or laid back, with just enough presence to sound true. That does mean, that some instruments [like triangles or xylophones] can blend in just a bit at times, but the midrange is in no way recessed. The good thing is there's no harshness to be heard and instrument solos sound just lovely, be it pianos or guitars. In general, the more spotlight an instrument steals in the recording, the more it will get and even as its presence increases and disappears, the instrument always appears and decays with finesse. Much like bass, the midrange is the most realistic I've heard, bringing tears in breath-taking solos or just going with the flow among other instruments, while never sounding thin and retaining good dynamics.
- The key difference here is obviously that the 400i midrange is more forward and just brings attention to itself and every instrument there is, thus creating a more often than not, very pleasant coloration. The 560's midrange is just there and lets the recording [or the conductor] to bring the attention to a particular instrument, or not. As a result, the 560 is more natural and delicate, while the 400i presents midrange in a more euphonic and iconic fashion. Midrange, like bass, is where both headphones are competent enough, without any significantly detracting factors.
- The 400i's treble is a bit more complicated. As has been pointed out, the upper midrange-lower treble region is a bit less present, or to put it more simply, the treble is there but it is slightly overshadowed by the relative forwardness of midrange and bass, while the upper treble region is more present. The treble is smooth and well extended overall, without any major peaks but it just does not carry the airy presence I like, and what I assume is the side-effect of this - a noticeable lack of air to instruments that extend to the treble and female vocals. This negatively affects their timbre and accuracy, among other things. It is still a coloration, however, that might be desirable, especially for those people who don't want much treble energy and seek just that warm-tilt with a slight upper-treble sparkle this provides. This is thus a very subjective flaw. It does not affect other things as much, but it is definitely something to consider if you want a completely even and open treble. Other than the air issue, the treble is pretty great and smooth, and if you don't need lots of air in your music, you'll certainly like it. It also varies from genre to genre and track to track, depending on many a factors. Some tracks also add an artificial layer of air to vocals - this is not what I mean. This is natural and is present in each on to a degree.
- The 560 presents treble in an effortless and convincing manner. Much like midrange, the treble is just there. It isn't harsh or deficient but always present, contributing to an airy presentation. There's no emphasis on cymbals, like the HE-6 used to make. Female vocals sound especially lovely and energetic, with just the right presence. The treble region is an area that is said to be the hardest to do right without either artificially overdoing it or making compromises and cutting back. The treble is again the best I've heard. It is not always incredibly airy [the HE-6 is more so] but it has the power to be just as and more often than not it is and certainly to a point of sounding convincing and not artificial. It always straddles the line of being too smooth and too forward and thus ends right where it should - in the middle.
- What separates these two trebles is more than anything, the air. The 400i treble is handled in such a way that it allows very little room for air while the 560 allows for much more. This does mostly affect the decay, timbre and just the way how real and authentic things sound. Best way to demonstrate is with an example. As voices or instruments travel through the air and eventually disappear, they leave a trail around them, a faint presence of sound and movement, what is best described as air, as well as a part of timbre or decay. This air, produced by each instrument or vocal, moves with said instrument or vocal, until it eventually disappears. On the 560, this presence is more and it rises up or moves outside of the field of said instrument/vocal as it decays, almost as if it moved beyond the boundaries of the headphone and their drivers, in a natural and convincing way. If the bow of a violin is moving from left to right and disappears, so does the airy presence. The 400i has less and does not do it nearly as convincingly - you never feel the air 'leaving' the headphone, it stays inside, trapped in the cups and just stops, with a less convincing and shorter decay. This is for me subjectively the most notable deficiency in the 400i's treble, but a very subjective thing indeed. Air is obviously not limited to treble - it manifests itself in the midrange and bass as well, but is not as apparent there as it is here.
- The 400i handles male vocals beautifully. As they are part of the “Magical Midtange”, they are put more forward than female vocals and have great body and presence. The sibilance is never an issue as there's a noticeable dip in the region where major sibilance occurs. At the same time, this dip can have a negative impact, producing vocals that sound a bit muted in the 'S' region and slightly forced in the 'T' and 'F' regions. I suspect the lack of air is partially the cause for the hardness or roughness. This is a very minor issue, however, and is rarely present and hard to focus on without a direct comparison. Still a pleasantly natural vocal performance!
- The 560 does male vocals the same way it does it's midrange. No extra body or forwardness, though certainly enough to appreciate the delicacy and realistic nature, but without any extra magic. The “S” region is slightly more pronounced and as a bonus sound more natural and relaxed. The trade-off is that sibilance is more likely to show and it does - so far it was an issue with one track, which the 400i handled better. I again praise the way how vocals vanish into the air and I suspect this naturalness does take away some of the sibilance or hardness there could have been.
- Both headphones handle male vocals exceptionally well. The 400i takes the “more forward and smoother” approach, with more body and presence but an easier tonality on the ears, while the 560 picks the “natural and present” approach, with less body but more nuanced. Both approaches are very enjoyable.
- The female vocals have good presence and definition. They sound quite natural and without any sibilance. There's again slight mutedness in the sibilance region, and minor emphasis on the 'T's and 'F's at times, coupled with the lack of air, and consequently realistic timbre, does hurt it a bit. That's mostly treble vocals of course, so it is specific to singers in that range. If you listen to female singers with vocals that fall to the midrange more, then those will sound even better. There's definitely noticeably more presence to midrange bound vocals. Still, midramge, or not, the 400i does very good with female vocals too, with good body and presence, eliminating any sibilance there is, unless it is brutally present. It is still a midrange monster however, so it does best there.
- The 560 puts treble female vocals more forward, giving their voice more presence. Coupled with great timbre, air and decay, treble bound vocals sound energetic and beautiful. There's less compensation for sibilance, still enough for vocals to not highlight it, but not enough to mute their transition through that range.
- Again, air makes the most difference here, contributing to a more contoured, and realistic listen on the 560, along with slightly better resolution and finesse. Consequently, the 400i is hurt much more by it's lack of any substantial airy quality than by anything else and should we ignore the differences in air, the two are surprisingly close, with the more expensive headphone having just a more even treble response, but which is to be expected at almost twice the price.
- The 400i has absolutely no issues with sibilance. There's that slight mutedness in this range but nothing major. A great accomplishment with regards to sibilance!
- The 560 fares much the same in the sibilance range. The mute is slightly less and theoretically the susceptibility is a bit higher but not enough to be an issue, and it certainly does not take away from the beauty of the vocals.
- Both headphones deserve praise for the way they are tuned with regards to vocals as both fight sibilance equally well. The HE-6 struggled with it at times, the AKGs do too but the new HiFiMAN set an example in the way sibilance should be tackled. On my setup, obviously. Big thank you for this, team HiFiMAN!
- The 400i has a soundstage that is definitely on the smaller, intimate size. Width is just okay, while depth is quite good and so is height. As far as soundstage expansiveness goes, it is quite average. The sounds do not feel like they are coming from outside the headphone. I also believe this directly correlates and is connected with the lack of air, and consequently openness as well. However, while the soundstage is still well-integrated and feels natural. It might feel slightly claustrophobic where there are many instruments at play, but then soundstage separation always remains excellent. Detail retrieval is good too. It also does rather well with regards to imaging!
- The 560 has a moderately wide soundstage, where instruments evenly spread across believably, with good stage depth and pretty spectacular height placement, thanks to great imaging capabilities. The stage is pretty expansive, which I again believe directly correlates with the amount of air and the way it opens up the stage and gives more space and room for instruments to breathe. It still probably won't win many awards either, at least not in terms of sheer size, but it is likewise very natural feeling and well integrated. It is just big enough to allow enough room for instruments to not feel compressed and coupled with brilliant instrument separation it works pretty well. Detail retrieval is likewise great.
- The differences lie mostly in width and openness, where the 560 clearly has the upper hand. Instrument separation is excellent on both headphones. Imaging also goes to the 560, though the 400i also images well. The 560 and 400i both have well-defined and respectable soundstages in the world of planarmagnetic headphones but there's still some catching-up to do to rival those headphones that are renowned in this category.
- The HE-400i images pretty well. It might not be the most distinct, and vocalists that are close to each might blend in just a bit, but it still does it respectably and without any major hiccups - an imaging well done, where things are still not difficult to pick up and follow.
- The 560's imaging is even greater. It is very precise, with great definition and makes locating various instruments and vocals in the soundstage even easier. Very accurate!
- The 560 has a slight advantage here but the difference is not too big. Yes, sounds are a bit easier to locate and follow but the 400i is not too far behind and certainly not as far as the price difference would suggest. Both imaging capabilities are certainly above average and better.
- Excellent. Separating instruments is a breeze.
- Excellent. Instrument separation is an easy-peasy task.
- A complete tie. Maybe that guitar has a bit more presence because of the 400i's forward midrange or that female vocal is a bit more distinct on the 560 because of its more uniform treble.
Both are exceptional. Both trade blows. An honest tie.
Overall Sound Openness
- In case you haven't noticed already, the 400i is not a very open-sounding headphone. It tries to be and at times it sounds quite open but it has too much going against it. The lack of air, the average soundstage size and openness, the bass/midrange X treble slight discrepancy. It is warm and it sounds the part. The 400i is a closed-in headphone. It still sounds like an 'open' headphone and covering the grills still produces the same effect as on the 560 but it is certainly one of the less open sounding cans.
- The 560, on the other hand, sounds pretty open. Instrumental pieces especially come to life. I've been listening to a certain piano and violin duet and the resulting emotion was simply phenomenal. Amazing leading edge on the violin, great delicacy and definition on each key as the piano played and the amount of air each made. Yep, this sounds pretty open to me.
- HE-400i sounds closed-in, HE-560 sounds open. I think everything that needed to be said was said.
- The 400i has little air. There's some air to male and female vocals in the midrange but vocals located in the treble and most instruments get very little air. It's all connected with the closed-in nature of the headphone. Openness, air and timbre/realism simply suffers for it and not much can be done.
- Again, the polar opposite. A lot more air to all vocals and instruments. The most impressive thing, however, is how bass instruments [NOT synthetic bass] sound. Lots of air, deep, very tight bass with perfect texture and definition. String bass is just phenomenal, but any bass produced by a real instrument is like that with these.
- Same as with openness. The 560 has it in much greater quantities. Thanks to overall openness, evenly integrated treble, etc.
- To me timbre, realism, decay, openness, air... all these have to work on a certain level to create a headphone that is truly open and transparent. If one of them fails, then the rest can't be too great either. The 400i unfortunately does not perform too well in either of them, including timbre and realism. I find the instruments to sound slightly artificial [string bass instruments have wrong impact/texture ratio] or colored [the midrange forwardness] and the lack of air does not allow for realistic decay either. That, however, just means that the headphone isn't truly open and transparent, not that it isn't good! It is! And again, all just directly compared to the 560. They sound quite good on their own in timbre/realism, just colored.
- The 560's timbre and realism is spot on and so is decay. Instruments and vocals appear and disappear realistically. Guitars, pianos, violins, tubes, horns, double basses, ... string, key, blow, percussion... male, female... The 560 is an open and transparent headphone. And it is also pretty good.
- The 560 once again wins in these categories. It is the 560's strong suit but not so much for the 400i. It gives instruments and vocals an artificial tone and/or coloration. It is still quite a pleasant sound, of course! You might even enjoy it more. It still sounds good, albeit less accurate.
- The 400i certainly has a warmer tilt. Punchy bass, forward mids, smooth treble and good musicality and dynamics. Still, it is a rather coherent-sounding headphone with good detail retrieval, great instrument separation, decent imaging and an intimate soundstage and all that has been established. It is also a suitable all-rounder. Maybe not the best pick solely for instrumental or dub-step, but it does those genres likewise reasonably well, along with pop, rock, electronic, alternative and others.
- The 560 is really a neutral sounding, balanced headphone, with excellent musicality and dynamics. Great bass, midrange, treble, imaging, soundstaging, separation, detail retrieval... Well, we already know that! It wouldn't be my pick if I only listened to hip-hop, rap or dance but they also perform well with the rest. I really love it with instrumental music. An extremely cohesive performer it is.
- A warmly tilt headphone and a neutral headphone. Both extremely good for the price. I am the first to admit that the differences were initially rather hard to discern until I trained my ears. I could honestly live with either of them but at the same time, I am glad I have the opportunity to extensively compare these and appreciate the things they do or don't. And then choose one.
- Both headphones perform equally well in terms of low-level listening and do not lose anything from their qualities. The quieter you listen, the more their shortcomings come out but since none of them have any that'd noticeably affect your listening experience, you can pretty much listen as loud or quiet as you want without issues. I listen at listening volumes 35 and 31/100 respectively, then 30 and 25, 25 and 20 and finally 20 and 10 and they continued to sound just the way they did when they were louder... Just quieter.
- Both headphones are built better than their predecessors, no doubt. Though, the 400i had an extra month of polish and it shows. It looks noticeably more refined and made to a tighter standard than my one month old 560. The adjustment mechanism, the clamp ratio, the ear-cups swivel, the baffle and the pads-attaching mechanism look and feel more Swiss and precise. As far as aesthetics go, I like both - the more muted look of the HE-560 and the more bold appearance of the HE-400i, but build quality wise, with my two particular pairs, the 400i edges ahead.
- Both get a 10/10 with the Focus pads from me! Easily the most comfy headphones I've had the pleasure to wear so far. The only difference is in clamp but that comes down to consistency and not a particular model. My 560 is a bit more clampy while the 400i is a bit looser, but ultimately nothing to detract from the ultimate experience. No itchy or sore ears. No pressure points on the top of my head. Nope. Nada. None. I am also not a fan of the Focus-A pads. Sorry ^_^
- The 400i has the slight advantage in mid-bass thump. The 560 has a better sub-bass, more precise imaging and a bigger, more natural soundstage. along with a more focused treble and a bit better detail retrieval. Neither, provide an absolutely immerssive, head-rattling experience, obviously. I'd say they both work quite well for both competitive and immersive gaming if you don't require massive amounts of bass. For me, clarity, soundstage and separation are an integral part of my gaming experience and I'd give the slight nod to the 560 for that. Also, deeper bass ^_^
- Same as with games. The better extension in the sub-bass along with extra clarity everywhere else comes in handy. Swords ring, guns fire, explosions explode, dialogues play out, all with an extra layer of resolution. Admittedly, the whole experience is a bit better for me with the 560, while the 400i still holds a pretty close second. Also, you can totally tell bad acting and fake sound effects with either... Eeeew.
And that's it. To recap, the most notable differences are by far the openness/air/timbre related ones, while the bass/midrange/treble are more subtle. That does not mean you should think of the one as a beefed-up version of the other. No! One is significantly warmer while the other is very neutral and balanced, These differences are real, just not to the point of being obvious from the very first listen. It took quite a bit more :] And I really like them both, though I have my preference, obviously.
Thanks for the read. Hope you like it! Feel free to ask, comment or point out.
Pros - Excellent musical sound quality that works well for most if not all genres, outstanding tembre
Cons - Typical planer sound stage congestion and some treble brightness perhaps from lack of burn in
Disclaimer: This unit was part of a tour held by Justin at Headamp.com. As the second in the tour to hear these headphones, it likely was not properly burnt in. I thank Justin for giving me the chance to hear them and encourage anyone considering buying them to work with Justin. He is wonderful to work with in my experience providing excellent customer service.
While I can say that the HE560 sounds awesome and is very much a TOTL HP, saying why is more of a challenge. What I can say that is unique to this TOTL HP is that it makes everything sound good and is not very particular to genre or recording quality. However, it do this it sounds best turned up and driven well. When turned up, instead of just getting louder, it sounds bigger and closer as any well-made audiophile component should.
HE 560 Listening notes:
Signature: The HE560 has the typical Hifiman house sound, but better and more engaging based on memory.
SQ: The HE560 sounds very refined compared to my HD700, but more laid back. It requires volume to get the intimate sound stage that I prefer, but sounds great and not fatiguing when turned up.
Texture: The note is thick, but airy at the same time providing the various instruments with more character than I am used to. This is hard to explain as it is new to this headphone for me, but for example it is as if I am getting the character of wood and the hollowness of an acoustic guitar rather than just the pluck and resonance of the string. This is very different than the environmental characteristics I get from the HD700/800 where I can hear the guitar players shirt rubbing and the chair squeak. It makes for a rich, toe tapping listening experience. However, the texture is not as thick as my HD700 which gives me goose bumps as the guitar players fingers slide up the fret. The HE560 feels smoother.
Detail: This is tough in that it sounds detailed at first listen but it is smoothed over a bit and with a euphoric quality that sits in front of the details making them less interesting. This headphone is about enjoying the music more than listening for new details.
Sound Stage: Its biggest weakness is the smaller more congested sound stage typical of planers. It is deeper than wide, but makes good use of the stage that it has with good separation between instruments.
Bass: Typical of high end planers, it has a warm rich bass note that goes deep with significant impact while not being overdone. The bass is very euphoric/euphonic and blends well with the mids.
Mids: This is where it is at for me with this headphone providing a euphoric/euphonic SQ with an intimate sound stage while turned up. Euphoric mids are what would bring me back to this headphone verses my others. For example, the mids are forward with my HD700 and more detail, but lack the euphoric/euphonic qualities that make long term listening more fun.
Treble: This is a second issue with the HE560 the may be related to the lack of burn in. But the treble has a very digital feeling to it not being very natural. It stands out given the euphoric qualities of the rest of the signature. The treble is a bit smoothed over and never fatiguing which is good, so this is not a serious problem unless you are looking for the last inch of detail which is not what this headphone is about for me anyways.
Pairing: This headphone seems to be reasonably easy to drive and pairs well with everything.
Geek Out 1000: Sounds great and very euphoric. The tube like sound that the Geek Out 1000 puts out was not too much with the HE560. What is surprising is how close the sound quality from the pairing is to the much more expensive HUGO pairing. While the HUGO is obviously more refined, spacious, and of higher sound quality, it is by inches, not miles. This is impressive when comparing a $300 device to a $2000 device at 7 times its cost. However, I would miss the versatility the HUGO provides in its ability to connect to everything and while unplugged.
HUGO: The HUGO and HE560 is a match made in heaven. It sounds like it brings the best out of both. The HUGO width widens the HE560 presentation eliminating some the typical planer congestion. The HE560 adds body to the HUGO sound. Together they are easily an end game setup for those looking for the ultimate in musical.
X5: While the HE560 scales higher with a desktop unit, it sounds remarkably good strait out of the X5. The X5 just has a little less control over the drivers perhaps losing some of its euphoric nature.
Comparison: For this comparison, I used the DX90 > HUGO > HP.
LCD2.2: The LCD2 is more forward with more feeling and emotion focused on the singer. The HE560 is set further back feeling a little more laid back and taking the performance in as a whole. They are two different styles, both sounding fantastic. They both have the euphoric tube like planer character, but I find the LCD2 to be more musically involving due to its more forward nature. You cannot go wrong with either, but I did buy the LCD2 because I liked the forward nature. The LCD2 is easier to drive as I found I had to turn down the HUGO significantly when I switch to the LCD from the HE. Both hit hard in the bass department, but with the HE560 you are set back while you are sitting on the sub with the LCD2. The treble is a little brighter with the HE560 while the LCD2 treble is a little more smoothed and easier to listen while both sound great. Both seem to have similar detail, but presented in different ways.
HD700: The HD700 has a cleaner more analytic sound without sounding bright or thin as it has a warmer bottom end and rich, forward mids. Comparatively, the HE560 has a thicker planer sound with the tube like euphoric feeling that is very pleasing. The HE560 may be slightly more refined in its balanced sound, but not as much fun sometimes for the same reason. They are both very musical, with the HE560 winning this badge given its euphonic signature. In the end, I like both presentations equally for different reasons and each better with different songs. They actually complement each other well.
Pros - Good looking, excellent sound (very clear), EXCELLENT comfort, good presentation.
Cons - Open-back (lol-just kidding), a bit bass-shy, a bit bright, short-ish cable and NEEDS power!
If you've read a couple of my reviews, you'll see that most of them are for closed-back headphones. I prefer closed-backs because I mostly listen to music at work and I don't like to bother anyone. Anyway, I haven't had an open-back since the Shure SRH1840s/Senns HD600s and had never tried a HifiMan headphone and I figured this would be the time I got to try one. Had a great deal on them and decided to order. Mostly, I bought these expecting an underwhelming experience after reading so much about the HE400/500 and I'm glad to say that these headphones truly rock.
Driver Type: Planar Magnetic
Impedance @ 1kHz: 35 ohms
Sensitivity: 90 dB SPL/V
Connector Type: 1/4"
Cable Length: 2 m
Cable Style: Straight Y
Weight: 13.3 oz.
Big Ass Wooden Box (very good looking)
Design, Comfort and Build:
Design-wise, nothing ground-breaking. Similar to their past headphones but more "plasticky". They seem well done and the cups are definitely tasty. Overall, they look very good but I think they couldn't withdstand any kind of abuse so it's best to treat them well.
Comfort with the HE560 is simply phenomenal! Very light, fit quite well and the earpads are excellent.
My first impression was... "WHERE IS THE BASS?!?!?!" It sounded far-off to my ears... then I discovered that my media player settings were messed up on my PC! After that was fixed, I was good to go and enjoy the cans.
Non ear-piercing highs and very clean, clear and resolving but a bit bumped. Sibilance on bad recordings was not "enhanced" (i.e. like happens on some of my "Studio" headphones), excellent vocals reproduction, guitar crunch was excellent and overall very natural sounding with lots of air and space. I went through my usual playlist consisting of:
Thrice - Under a Killing Moon
Miguel Bose - Este Mundo Va
Kaskade - Fire in your Shoes
Blink 182 - Kaleidoscope
Jon Cleary - When you Get back
Mima - Oigo Voces
Esperanza Spalding - What a Friend
Sara Bareilles - Vegas
Killswitch Engage - Fixation on the Darkness
Juancho - Pillala
Boston - More than a Feeling
J-King y Maximan - Ella me Pide Something
Calvin Harris - Feel so Close
Three Six Mafia - Late Night Tip
Orquesta Macabeo - Me Repito
Does it have the slamming bass that I like and crave most times (errmm... I have Ultrasone Sig DJs, modded Denon D5000s, Dido's D901s, JVC SZ1000s, etc)? No! Of course not. They are not voiced to be "bass-head" or bass tilted headphones. Sub-bass doesn't seem elevated at all BUT it has great presence and most of all great speed (i.e. fast decay)! This is probably the cleanest most balanced headphones I have ever heard. Like most have mentioned on the boards though, a slight bump in the treble region is noticeable, even more so with these being so airy... bump seems to give it a certain crispness that I like though and it doesn't mess up vocals from my fave ladies. Of course, I used to have an SRH940 and have Spider Moonlight Studios so comparing treble energy to those is downright laughable (yeah those two can be shrill sometimes/most times...).
Like I mentioned earlier, these are really "balanced" (neutral-ish) with just a tiny bit of warmth on the mids (but not LCD nor Alpha Dogs warmth). Mids are lovely as well and I can't believe the imaging of these. Soundtracks sound excellent, live songs are really involving. I have to say that I've been definitely surprised!
Frankly, I don't have as much experience as some other guys here, but I can definitely say that this is one of the best headphones (closed/open doesn't matter) I've heard with regards to overall sound, imaging and performance! It's like they were made up for the genres I listen to. Overall, HE560s >> all headphones in my profile in overall sound reproduction and experience (including Alpha Dogs, LFF Enigmas, D5000s, etc, etc, etc -- I don't have the T5p's to compare here but... I don't think I'd pick the Beyers anyway).
Does this mean that I prefer them over the ones in my profile? Ermmm... no.
Even though these are the best sounding headphones I've tried and probably one of the most comfortable ones, I still love the closed-back "sound" (i.e. a bit more intimate, bass a bit slower and with more impact/thump, etc.)
But I wouldn't have a problem recommending these to anyone looking for GREAT sounding cans.
Now, my main "con", these puppies LOVE POWER!!!
Right now I'm driving them as: PC --> NuForce Icon HDP --> Burson Soloist SL (High Gain)
I'm pretty sure that with better gear, these might even be end game material for some! Really, can't imagine these on better gear! (they probably give more expensive headphones a run for their money...)
Other "misses": Good quality cable BUT a bit short. Box looks lovely but... well, not really usable. It becomes difficult getting the headphones in and out every time due to the way the foam cut-out is.
And that's it about cons! Not many really.
Here's the part where I list a bunch of headphones and try to "rank" them... so let's say that the HE-560s only lose in Bass Quantity... yeah... that's it.
Bass quantity: HE-560s losses to most my closed backs and even my previous open-backs
Bass quality: HE-560s better than all my hp's.
Mids presentation: HE-560s better than all my hp's.
Soundstage/imaging: HE-560s better than all my hp's.
Highs: HE-560s better than all my hp's.
Sound Isolation/Leakage: Open-back... well... you know...
Fun Factor: Middle of the pack.
So, if I were to choose a favorite from all my headphones and/or the headphones I have tried, I would definitely pick these HifiMan's. They are just, almost perfect. I had said something similar about the Alpha Dogs, and I still feel the same in the closed-back cans category, but I feel that HifiMan just created an almost perfect experience whether open-back/closed-back. Yes, to my ears, they are just that good.
Props to HifiMan for making a kick-ass set of headphones. I'm definitely a fan!
If you like a bit of a bass-tilt, then be aware that these might not be for you. Just be sure of what you really want and make your selection based on your tastes and gear.
But like I mentioned on the title/Summary, The HE-560s are one of the best listening experience I've had with a headphone (open/closed-back)
Now... where is the HE-XC?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!? (a closed-back sounding like these... I'd probably sell most of my gear...) LOL
A couple of extra pics...
Pros - Details, clarity, instrument separation, bass extension, accuracy, controlled highs, pure sound, great fidelity
Cons - a tad bright, mids are somewhat reserved, bass is a little timid sometimes, clamp, pad warmth.
HiFiMan HE 560 - CoNtRoL FrEaK
Since I have these here and they are very much earning their keep in my limited stable of headphones, I figured I would add my perspective of this headphone to the many already existing impressions. It has been very well described by others already and these cans have a ton of hype around them. I personally was leaning towards selling them to go for something else but every time I consider it I look around at its competition I know I will lose something that the he560 has for only incremental improvements in other areas.
Spoiler: DAY ONE IMPRESSIONS PRE BRAIN BURN IN
Tight bass but a bit reserved
Too fast, thin, and sterile
Mids even balanced but reserved
Wide soundstage with no height or depth(especially the no height part)
Good dynamics but light toned(not heavy or bold like the he6)
Not as transparent as the he6
LASTING IMPRESSIONSThough I have personal preferences, I understand that they are not ideal for a headphone that needs to be universally appealing to the average audiophile. So below are my preferences along with what I believe to be an honest description of this headphone.
HA HA don't we all like to talk about or read about the bass!!! This bass is very unique to me and of exceptional quality. On the right song it will punch like a nail gun with dead on targeted precision. The songs that it will reveal to you as having a strong amount of bass in the mix will make you want to try the he560 on them again and again. It will shock you on the right song and then hide away like a shy second date that kissed you and then took her hand away from yours as the night continued. I admittedly listen to a lot of atmospheric, chill, and complex hip hop instrumentals like Flying Lotus, Submerse, 14KT, Kaellin Ellis and tons of others that won't ring many bells around here. There have been few but definite times where the gritty textured bass lines sound pleasantly deep, full, pungent, and visceral. It however is not consistently strong and is a rather flat sounding bass that is almost too controlled for me to call it anything close to natural. It is however consistently fast, detailed, textured, deep, controlled, and TIGHT..... Never overpowering but ever honest of the mix. I do personally prefer a bit more of a bass boost than this hp has to offer as well as a smidgen more of the the lingering decay that would make it a bit more of an immersive experience for me.
I very much recommend this bass for the professional producer and engineer. I am not saying that it will translate to the monitors very well but that it will reveal to you your bass shy mixes. This headphone will reward you when you mix the music right to slam and punch. It would be pleasurable for me to hear a slight boost around 70-120 hz.
I would like to go into comparisons but my memory is failing me of the lcd2 and others in its price bracket so take this with as many grains of salt as you need. This bass is a lot tighter and a little deeper than my ZMF x Vibro but with a little less quantity. However on specific songs it hits harder. The bass here is faster than the he500 and also a cleaner and more controlled. I am having a tough time recalling the he6 but I would say that this is tighter with the he6 being a little slower, heavier, and almost as tight.
Verdict: Where else would I find bass this tight, deep, fast, and textured at a price I can afford because after this to me Its throwing money away for little improvements. It's quality is the best I have heard yet even if its a little shy for me.
Hmmm. Look, let me just say right up front that I am would very much hesitate to list this headphone among the others of the "Midrangehead" list. I haven't quite gotten this part fully figured out yet and maybe I should have waited until I did to post this. Here is the thing: I can't tell if it is the lower mids that I am hearing as a little recessed or what... but that is what I am leaning towards. EDIT: Nothing is recessed just kinda flat for me but pure none the less and for that they may be able to qualify the midrange list. They DO sound even to me without being too distant but like others have mentioned this will have less mids in qty compared to the he500, hd650 and others. The lcd2 is similar but seems fuller because its dark and actually is a more lush sounding headphone in the midrange. The balance is not bad in the mids and the dynamics of this headphone help the instruments in the midrange thrust properly but I keep gravitating towards the word thin or dry while feeling really uncomfortable the moment I want to deem them dry or thin. I can expect to read different perspectives here. My reference of a dry sounding midrange for me is the th600 and the he560 has a midrange more robust,transparent, and true to life than that, but less full than my ZMF x Vibro without even being a whole level more transparent. I do prefer these mids to the Beyer t1 that I briefly heard and would say that the he560 is more transparent. Also I prefer these mids to the he6 but would say the he6 is more transparent. It is again controlled and slightly reserved but not so much so that I cant escape in the mids. They have a touch of sweetness to them but not much extra. These mids are very clear though as well as everything else in this headphone. The more I listen to them the further away I get from calling them undesirable in any way.
This is the area that made me have a hard time during my brain burn in period and I am not sure I'm fully accustomed to the sound. This presentation makes the highs seem even more pronounced then they really are. Props are due in the midrange though, and I believe they are smooth and very well mannered.
Verdict: exceptional quality but like the bass not my ideal quantity.
Uh oh... this is the place of controversy for me and an issue of a tiny debate. Even though the graphs I see posted show this headphone being downward tilted I maintain the opinion that this headphone IS north of neutral. The highs have a lot of commendable qualities. They are very detailed with enough sparkle to please the treble head and steer far away from any hint of veiling. They are also not extremely boosted, shrilly, or abrasive with good extension of the treble. I will say that I hear the area of the essiness only a little boosted and the cymbals on busy passages a tad hard but nothing out of the ordinary.
After my brain burned in a bit I didn't find it way brighter than other headphones I remember. It's prob darker than the he6 for sure. I think my initial impressions of it being really bright was because of the the more even midrange and bass. I used to love dark headphones a ton. I then found myself boosting the treble to get a more lively sound than what I was used to, going back and forth depending on my mood. I do reach for the Vibro on some songs because of the highs but that is only because of the balance. Thats a bit of a shame because the he560 satisfy's that open sound desire, and to put a closed one on just to properly enjoy a song is somewhat of a sacrifice (even though overall I get my target balance so its a sacrifice in terms of technicalities not overall satisfaction)These highs are of cleaner and more controlled display than any headphone I have had. This is an occasional sacrifice though. To its credit the he560 has really smooth highs that I find only a bit more than ideal in quantity, while not a far stretch form ideal either.
Verdict: Again amazing quality but slightly distracting depending on the song. Some will fault improperly mixed songs and I'd say its a close call either way.
I could be wrong but I believe that if a headphone measured a perfectly flat line on a FR graph then it would sound weak in the bass, full in the mids, and very bright in the highs due to what frequencies the average ears are most sensitive to. Though it may have a downwards tilt on a graph (like most headphones anyway) its still a tad bright with everything else pretty much either even/flat to the ears or borderline shy. I'm not saying this headphone is way off but that its not quite there to perfectly flat but almost. Tilt the bass up only a db or so, push the mids up just a little in qty, and bring down the highs a smidgen and I would call it perfect for a target balance and little more musical but this headphone is flat with a little emphasis in the treble.
Verdict: IMO even/flat balanced except for in the highs which are only a little north of nuetral.
The soundstage is the widest I have yet to hear from any planar simple and plain. Planars usually don't have a very wide soundstage to begin with so this would put it at a good size but not super large. This part doesn't take much effort from memory to declare. It is very enjoyable for all sorts of genres with a very strong center image. I will mention that when first listening I thought it was very short with little to no positioning of the instruments above my head. It reminded me immediately of the AKG q701 I had here for a short time, though less wide. I think that initial impressions are a bit exaggerated as we expect so much from a pair of 3"speakers that we strap to our heads. I am more firm in my impressions now of it being really good in soundstage and imaging even though it has little depth and height. It takes no effort to separate the instruments from each other. I would desire the instruments to be a little more bold and heavy against each other but the speed of this headphone prevents such juicy imagery and I am now happy with it being fast to draw me a clear picture of position from left, right, and center without getting much from top to bottom, and in front. The overall result is a fast, clear, and open soundstage with some out of the headphone experiences left to right.
Verdict: fairly wide, exceptional imaging, not much height or depth but definitely satisfying with a very open sound.
These tones I am getting from this hp are pretty much gorgeous. Before I said that I would prefer the tones to be bold on top of each other but that is only because I was spoiled by the he6 with its heavy, pure, and bold tones. This headphone is fast but its not brittle or too thin, and has some really pure tones that seem unhindered and like a very real rendition of what the actual tone would sound like live. There is not much wanting here and its better than the he500 IMO for sure. The decay is fast but still very lifelike and accurate.
Verdict: second to one
I never feel like this headphone is hindering or not revealing anything to me. Rather that I am hindering it. I am eagerly waiting to now spend more time to improve my chain to see what It can do. It is a very detailed headphone that has made me hear things I was missing in any other headphone before it(can't say for sure on the he6). I have had some of those "oh my what was that noise, let me rewind that" moments with the he560. It goes and retrieves for me all of the information of my music and for that I am very grateful.
Verdict: Unless you listen to mainly classical music where nothing is detailed, or resolving enough, then this is TOTL and fast.
This part is definitely making it an exciting headphone. It is a little bit aggressive, yet not overpowering. It can punch and shout with clarity and force, yet chill when its time to. Again I get surprised at times and there is a huge difference here for me than the he500. One of my gripes with the he500 is that a lot of things sounded a bit meshed and it didn't communicate to me the different levels of sound with as much vindication as I'd like. This is not the case here and I have no complaints.
Verdict: Dope dynamics
Even though the headphone feels light and demanding of a headphone stand, I am actually growing to understand the build of this headphone and have yet expose or worry about any weak spots on it. It seems okay in durability. My cups match color and I have no complaints here. I will admit that the heavier something is for me the more expensive it feels. This is the lightest open back I have had and the design makes a lot of sense.
Verdict: Its aiight, but pretty good ergonomics/comfort-design.
Nother power hungry HP. Skip what ya heard my Yulong A28 balanced gets em loud but the headroom is only a bit above ideal. These things need some power. Def harder to power than my Vibros or any T50 mod yet not far from it. They sound good at lower volumes though so there will be some debate here.
ind the headphone to be fairly good. Because I don't mind weight I find the x1 to be more comfortable but other than that headphone I can't think of many other headphones to be more comfortable. I have to get used to the warmth of the pads but other than that and a little tightness of clamp I have no complaints.
Verdict: Pretty Good
CONCLUSIONHonestly I am nitpicking a lot but I confess this to be an AMAZING HP. I was just spoiled by the he6 on certain areas but this does other things to make up for it. I prefer its balance to the he6 but prefer the abilities of the he6. I think the reason for it only gelling with me 90% is the balance which is not far off. I would agree with someone that called it a respectively balanced headphone. I just have my preferences of fuller mids and more bass quantity. For a while my favorite closed back was the ZMF v.1 and I wanted more bass from it as well. That is the same case here where I totally understand its tuning but desire more of the things that make me happy, all the while knowing it would sacrifice some of its overall fidelity.
For some reason the he500 and he400 hurt my hears when I listened to music for a while but these don't. They can be used for a variety of music genres and have a very controlled, tight, clean, and even sound signature. I look to the left and the right from my He560's and know I will come up short if I sell them for something else. If I do it will be for some new monitors not new headphones. The thing I would like to mention about these headphones is that they are close enough to balanced that the supporting gear can make or break them. You can definitely build a rig around them to make them get close to what your ideal is. Add what I just mentioned and all of its speed, dynamics, genre bandwidth, extension, details, resolution and comfort and you have got your self a winner. I do recommend these headphones for a wide variety of applications over the competition that I have heard so far. The above impressions is me being myself... honest of its shortcomings and achievements from my opinion.
-The bass is amazingly tight and controlled
-The mids are slightly reserved and far from shouty
-The highs yet a little north of neutral don't sound all peaky and abrasive and are exceptionally well mannered
-The imaging is not sloppy, but well defined(though missing some height its not blurry)
-The dynamics are very good yet fast and punchy
The balance is kinda flat yet still musical and these hp's sound like they are in control, whereas a lot of other headphones kinda let loose a little too much in other areas (I like that sometimes though)
Pros - Neutrality / Speed / Startling sense of realism / Ergonomics
Cons - Slightly aggressive / Past revisions / May be too lean to some
Without further a-do, I'll get right into it. (My HE560 thread has some preface words etc)
Build & Ergonomics
The finalized take on HE560 cups is a matte-plastic-and-veneer finish, with the body of the cup being plastic much similar to other Hifiman cans, but a Macassar ebony wood veneer wrapped around as largely a design accent.
To my knowledge, this was largely a compromising decision made so that cup reliability over the long term will stay stable. Solid teak wood used for early HE560 units suffered some visual/matching, milling, and cracking issues despite teak being one of the hardier lumbers to work with.
From a purely artistic design standpoint, I do like the new cup look better than the old, which on top of vastly improved long-term reliability makes it a no-brainer for me; but of course, solid wood does have its allure.
Earpads / headband
The new headband assembly is, let’s just say, one of the most ergonomic in the headphone market currently, which for a utilitarian user would more than trade off for its peculiar look when worn on the head. For those who may find their headband clamping a bit much, just use some gentle and firm pressure and flex/hold the two 90-degree bends of the spring steel band, and clamp is easily attenuated that way.
There are two variations of the new hybrid velour/pleather earpads that Hifiman is making available along HE560; the Focus earpads and the Focus-A earpads. Both are fully-sealing earpads, with a slight (15 degrees or so) angling, soft velour for the flat portion and pleather for the outside cylindrical portion. The core difference between these two earpad variations is the inner-facing lining material; whereas Focus pads use a perforated pleather inner ring, Focus-A pads use a sloped permeable mesh fabric. Focus pads are also sewn more neatly than Focus-A pads. By default HE560s will ship with the Focus pads, but those looking for a less energetic and more balanced sound signature may prefer the Focus-A pads. Comfort-wise both are stellar as long as you don’t mind your ears grazing the inner lining of the earpads sometimes, as the earpad openings are not exceptionally huge; the velour fabric is much less itchy than prior Hifiman velour pads’, the foam used in these pads are MUCH softer than prior Hifiman earpads, and the angling conforms more naturally to the head allowing for better pressure distribution.
The cable that comes with HE560 is a 2 metre ‘crystalline’ copper / silver composite cable with black fabric sleeving and 1/4-inch plug. Some might find it too short if they like to prance about when wearing the cans. Stationary desktop users won’t have a problem with the length. The fabric sleeving is a welcoming change in terms of looks and feel compared to rubber or plastic sleeving of most of previous stock Hifiman cables.
It’s more flexible than both the Canare cables that HE400s come with, and the white SPC cables that HE500s have; cable diametre is slightly thinner than Canare cable.
Sound Quality & Characteristics
***The “treble / midrange / bass” subsections will cover the bulk of my sonic analyses; other subsections will either reiterate or raise more miscellaneous points toward those specific traits.
While the midrange and bass have some back-and-forth in terms of their performance relative to contenders, HE560’s treble is sublime.
Treble is always tough to get right, you need the correct frequency response, extension, decay, but also resolution / detail extraction (which correlates to but isn’t exactly represented by current methods of measurement); subjectively the ideal treble needs to extend into the nether regions without tizziness, be grainless, smooth, with minimal sibilance yet never recessed, and with fast enough transients to deliver treble texture in a convincing manner.
And out of all the headphones I’ve had the pleasure of hearing, only HE560, Code-X, and well-driven HD800s fully achieve that degree of treble finesse. The test prototype HE560s came close but still had some grain to its treble that stuck out like a sore thumb; the finalized production HE560s squelched that issue.
For me, HE560’s midrange is a complex creature to describe. Right off the bat though, two traits that are very apparent are that their midrange is highly transparent, and just as open-sounding, as these are innate traits of the midrange signature that I find to be constants. Harmonic distortions in the midrange for HE560s are extraordinarily low from measurements that are posted thus far, which coincides with the subjective transparency.
The intrigue, however, lies in its tonality; HE560s can sound neutral, bright, organic, dry, thin, dynamic to different people. Frequency response-wise, HE560 has a slight recession around 2kHz and rise around 5kHz, which by definition gives them attack/edge yet still somewhat laid back, and that is what I observe in music too.
Further complexity is set in in that HE560’s midrange reacts to different earpads substantially. Hifiman’s most up-to-date earpads, the Focus hybrid velour/pleather pads, give HE560s a dynamic, slightly aggressive midrange signature with more upfront soundstaging. The alternative hybrid pads, the Focus-A pads, give it a more balanced, nuanced signature with more ‘roomy’ soundstaging. Of course, I had to try my Jergpads on production HE560s, which rendered a sound signature that was as aggressive as Focus pads, but also more forward-sounding, with a more laid-back treble (i.e. more mids-heavy balance); it’s different enough of a presentation from the hybrid pads that I may just swap between these and the Focus-A pads (which I prefer over the Focus pads).
Regardless of tonal balance, HE560’s mids are fast, really fast. There is little to no bloom, and midrange detail is rendered with startling realism. Some might call that a deficiency in musicality; I beg to differ, if it sounds strikingly realistic and convincing, to me that is musical, just in a different way than the typical “romantic, lush, etc” characteristics of sound signatures branded as being musical.
Regrilling mod done on HE560s gives it one extra nudge toward an extremely open sound signature. And here comes a surprising observation: for those who own Jergpads from ventures with older Hifiman headphones, you can make HE560s almost speaker-like in openness via backvented Jergpads with the dust screens completely removed (HE560s have internal dust screens built into the face-facing sides of the drivers). This is in contrast to the room-like open quality of the hybrid pads.
The word I would use to describe HE560’s bass is “disciplined”. It is a very technically capable bass, with excellent extension, tightness / low distortion, quickness, and lack of colouration; at the same time, it is never out of line in terms of volume relative to midrange or treble, always presenting itself in adequate quantity when the music calls for it.
That does mean that true bassheads may need to look elsewhere, because the low-end tilt simply isn’t here with HE560. But for those who seek bass with utmost finesse, and which is cohesive with the rest of the frequency band, these will not disappoint.
On the modding side of things, I have only very recently found something very interesting, that being that (surprise surprise) Jergpads seem to introduce a slight FR tilt toward bass/lower mids, which noticeably increases bassiness in the sound signature, at the expense of some bass tightness. Personally I found this quite satisfying actually, and may listen in this pad setup for some time to really decide if it’s something I’d endorse as a definitive improvement or not.
Again, these are as good as any headphones I’ve heard in the clarity/transparency front. Vocals and instruments are always in full focus with very fast and convincingly realistic decay. Separation is not just clearly defined, but each source of sound has its own appropriate projected volume in space. The ability for HE560s to render treble with tangible texture is frequently startling to me.
Medium-sized with the stock configuration; partly due to the frequency response having an upfront aggressive signature. With regrilling mod and optionally some pad swapping, one may suddenly find the soundstage expanding at will depending on the nature of the recording.
HE560’s timbre is almost, almost completely spot on. In my personal opinion, the slight emphasis around 5kHz is the only thing holding back HE560’s timbre from completely believable, especially coupled with the strong transparency. I have not yet played around with equalization, but some may find that a viable option to perfect HE560s’ timbre.
I feel that the finalized production HE560 is the real deal, reliability issues are resolved, sonically they are competent in all fields and absolutely brilliant in many, and these no longer carry the stigma with modern planar magnetic headphones being unwieldy space helmets.
There are still minor flaws in HE560’s sound which I noted in this writeup, which may be remediable in a variety of possible methods of course, and some of them are subjective to my tastes specifically.
On a personal note, I will have fun figuring out mods to try to milk out as much performance as possible in the foreseeable future too.
Pros - Well-balanced sound, light, comfortable
Cons - Feel rather cheap for the price, HiFiMAN connectors, finicky headband adjustment
* Obligatory warning that I am not a professional and am not the best at describing sound qualities of headphones. I don't like to use words like liquid or chocolate because descriptions like those leave me puzzled and hungry. So take this review with a grain of salt on the rim of a nice cold drink.
I have only had these for two days now, but I feel I can give some initial impressions. I own both the HD800 and LCD-X and used both of those headphones to compare the HE-560 against. My setup goes as:
Foobar with only lossless files 16/44.1 through DSD fed via USB to my Fiio X3 as an external DAC. This is passed via line out to the RCA inputs on my Bryston BHA-1 amp and then single ended output to my HD800 and HE-560 and balanced 4-pin to my LCD-X.
The tracks I used to compare these headphones include numerous genres: classical (Rimsky-Korsakov, Saint-Saens, Bruckner), Jazz (Magnus Lindgren, John Coltrane, Vince Guaraldi), Rap (Lil Wayne, Jay Z, Eminem), Folk (Fleet Foxes, Alela Diane, Iron & Wine), Ambient/Chill (The Album Leaf, Motohiro Nakashima, Brian Eno), Rock (Muse, Green Day, Coheed & Cambria), Acoustic (Paco De Lucia, Ottmar Liebert, Andy McKee), and many, many more (some specific examples included below).
Upon opening the box the HE-560 were shipped in I found a very nice wooden storage box with the headphones packed neatly inside. I was rather impressed with the improvement of this box over that of the HE-500 (which I previously owned). After taking the headphones out of the box, though, my first impression was that they don't really feel like $900 headphones. Yes, they are significantly lighter than my LCD-X, but the build quality doesn't feel the same. I was disappointed to feel that some of the parts (yolk, cups, and headband adjuster) just felt a bit cheap. I have owned the HE-400 and HE-500 and demo'd the HE-6 a few times and the build quality of those models was better than that of the HE-560. I already knew this, but I'll point it out here that HiFiMAN went with the same connectors as used in previous models. I guess this is a minor issue, but I dislike having to screw the connectors in and out as this twists the cable (nit-picky, I know). I noticed that the cable is a bit shorter than I'd like as well (6 1/2 feet from end to end), but I have my amp a bit farther away from my desk chair than most, so this probably is a positive thing for many people. My last gripe with these headphones is inconsistency with the headband adjusters; the adjuster on the right side feels snug and holds its position well whereas the adjuster on the left feels very loose and moves with even a slight tug. I'm wondering if I could tighten up whatever mechanism is inside, but I'd rather not disassemble the headphones after only two days. Putting on the HE-560 for the first time helped relieve some of my initial disappointment. The headphones are very comfortable and a very reasonable clamp force - not too tight to cause unnecessary pressure yet not too loose to let them slide around with excessive head movement. The HE-560 weighs considerably less than the LCD-X and does not leave my neck tired after several hours of listening. The wide headband seems to distribute pressure well (an improvement over the LCD-X). Comfort-wise, I'd place these toward the HD800 side of the spectrum. With slightly larger earcups the HE-560 might compete with the HD800 in comfort.
My first impression of the HE-560 is that they would be a very good pair of headphones for someone looking for a one headphone setup as they seem to do everything well. I wouldn't say they are the best in any given category, but they are very well-rounded. They take the neutral, detailed sound of the HD800, smooth out some of the harshness, add some of the bass characteristics of the LCD-X and end up as a rather fun, balanced headphone.
To date, my LCD-X have the best bass I've heard out of headphones. The LCD-X have wonderful, enveloping and detailed bass that extends very deep. It is rich and punchy but not overly emphasized in my opinion. The HE-560 do not hit as hard as the LCD-X and don't give me goosebumps either. The HE-560 does, however, seem to extend just as deep and is just as punchy. The bass of the HE-560 just doesn't seem to have the power that the LCD-X does. I love listening to large orchestral pieces (1812 overture with canons specifically) or soundtracks with the LCD-X because they portray the bass as I would expect it to sound in real life. The HE-560 match the quickness of the LCD-X, but not quite the power. That being said, they still sound very good and are in no way weak in the bass region.
When it comes to mids, I prefer my HD800 as they are very clear and detailed in the midrange. The mids of the HD800 are a bit forward which I tend to prefer because it they tend to separate voices from the accompaniment. Listening to Frank Sinatra on the HD800 I get the feeling that he is right in front of me with the band farther back on stage. The HE-560 are not quite as forward in the mids. They are, however, still clear and detailed and sound very natural. This is surely a matter of preference and I could see people preferring the HE-560 over the HD800 here as the mids are a bit more smooth (and perhaps more natural) on the HE-560. Given that I have only had the HE-560 for two days, I might have to come back to this and see how my preferences change after I get more time on them.
The HD800 are rather infamous for being picky with amps. I've listened to my HD800 through a few different amps and with a bad pairing the highs can be piercing and fatiguing. I think they pair well with my BHA-1 and have fast highs that extend, well, seemingly indefinitely. The highs of the HE-560 are a bit more smooth and not quite as prominent. They lack the extreme detail and quicness of the HD800, which might be why I don't have any fatigue with the HE-560 after my long listening sessions so far. After listening to some Paganini caprices, the difference was a bit more apparent to me. With the HD800, it seemed as though the headphones were faster than the musician and hit every note with quickness and ease. With the HE-560, it seemed as though the headphones were trying to keep up with the music.
The HD800 are generally believed to have one of the largest (if not the largest) soundstage of any headphone. Comparing my HD800 to all other headphones I've experienced, I agree with this statement. The HE-560 fall short of the HD800 in terms of soundstage (as I expected). Listening to acoustic and classical music I do get a sense of an open soundstage left to right, but I don't hear a lot of depth to it. Comparing the HE-560 to the LCD-X, the soundstage is pretty large. When I owned the HE-500, I tried some grill mods to open up the soundstage and I'm guessing the same can be done with the HE-560. I'm guessing removing the grills completely would open these up even further, but I haven't had enough time to try that yet. That all being said, the soundstage is big without feeling unnaturally expansive, but could still benefit from being a bit more open. The imaging of the HE-560 is very good as well. Again, I would say that the HD800 has the edge, though. I used the following CDs to focus on imaging: Audio Stax The Space Sound CD and Dr. Chesky's Dr. Chesky's Sensational, Fantastic, and Simply Amazing Binaural Sound Show. I could close my eyes and get a very clear sense of the environment. The directional cues were pretty much spot on.
I thought the HE-560 would be a good balance between my favorite qualities of the LCD-X and HD800 and I think they pretty much met my expectations. I love the full, rich sound of LCD-X and the impact of its bass. The LCD-X is a very fun headphone for me and I love getting lost in music while listening to them. The HD800 are the king of open, airy, and detailed sound. I love acoustic and classical music through these because I can feel a great sense of space. The HE-560 fall short of both of these headphones in a head-to-head comparison, but do both aspects well. While the bass is not as ample as compared to the LCD-X, it is still tight and punchy. The mids of the HE-560 are clear, detailed, and natural. The highs are smooth and non-fatiguing. The soundstage is nowhere near as large as that of the HD800 but is still fairly open and could probably be easily improved with a grill mod. The detail again is not as great as that of the HD800 but in no way poor. I forgot to mention this earlier, but the HE-560 are not the most efficient headphones. I found myself switching my Bryston BHA-1 to high gain to match the volume of the HD800 when A/B-ing the two.
These are very good headphones and some people might be satisfied with them as an end-game pair, but I'm not quite sold. I am very happy with both my HD800 and LCD-X as they are extremely good headphones for their particular uses. If I could only have one headphone, though, I might pick the HE-560 as a very well-rounded pair that doesn't do anything perfectly, but does everything pretty well. From a build quality standpoint, they don't quite feel like $900 headphones, though. In my opinion, they feel more like $400-$500 headphones, which is a bit disappointing. I know the selling point of these headphones is that they're considerably lighter than previous models, but the HD800 are able to use lightweight materials while still maintaining a solid build quality.
Pros - Comfort, Realism, Efficiency
Cons - Slightly bright, Connectors
Okay, these are my thoughts after a few hours. I recognize that's it's only been a few hours, but my opinion rarely changes with additional time.
As has been mentioned almost ad nauseam, the comfort is supreme with the new design. What HFM has done with regard to the design and improved comfort is impressive. This is all day comfort folks. It's not just about being lighter in weight, they are. It's also about "balanced" weight. That being said, this is what I have issues with:
*For goodness sake, please get the pad design issues resolved. For me personally, my left ear touches the dust fabric over the driver. Drives me nuts…yes, even more than my usual nutty. After learning that the pads were supposed to be locked in at 6:00, I noticed my pair were not oriented to the right position. After adjusting them, I no longer have an issues with my ear touching the driver.
*I still don’t like the connectors. I would have opted for mini xlr...but I will not beat that dead horse anymore (although I’d like to).
*There are some very slight inconsistencies with the veneer cups. Most people would likely not notice…I’m not most people.
*The overall design and execution is good but not on par with say, Oppo or Sennheiser and others. Take that for what it’s worth.
*The first thing that strikes me about the signature was that these sound like a mixture of the he500 and he6…somewhere in between, leaning a little more towards the he6.
*The mids are very nice. Coming from the he400 you’d be floored by the improvement in the mids (even MLE would probably like these mids. Vocals are natural but just a touch thin from my favorite (hd650). I listen to a lot of vocal centered music and I could be happy with these as my daily driver with the likes of Dianna Krall, K.D. Lang and Eva Cassidy.
*The treble is more resolving than the he500 but not harsh like the he4 can be. Highs are closer to the he6 on a good amp. Very resolving and extended, but remain confidently in control with everything from hi-hat cymbals to the upper register of the violin. Still, if you prefer a darker treble response, you would likely have issues here as the treble here is pretty well extended and holds nothing back.
*The transition from the mids to the bass is very coherent and I could not detect any bleed from the bass into the mids. The bass presents itself in a very linear fashion, meaning that I didn’t find the 560 to color bass into a recording where it wasn’t there in the first place. On jazz tracks, the acoustic upright bass plucks are satisfying and with appreciable texture (this is important to me, as I don’t like hp’s that make that “one note” bass response). Becoming Insane by Infected Mushroom is a good EDM test track for me. The 560 images the acoustic guitar nicely as the track opens. The track builds quickly and drops a seriously hard bass line. This track gives a lot of hp’s trouble with the heavy electronic sub bass. The 560 carries the bass out with aplomb…never out of control. While the quality, texture and speed of the bass is certainly there, there were some tracks where I would have appreciated more quantity and weight. While this is not a “bass light” hp by any means, it does not match the sub bass ability of the he400 or lcd-2.2 (pre-fazor).
Overall and would I buy it…
Does the 560 get the MattTCG seal of approval?
Hm…this is an enjoyable hp and I don’t question that in the least. Will I run out and purchase it? Well, no…not yet. My gut feeling is to let the dust settle and see if there are any furthers changes or revisions. Plus, I’m very curious as to how the 400i fits into the puzzle. Does it warrant the sticker price? Honestly, it’s a tough call. I’d have to admit that I’d be more comfortable at the $800 mark. In the end, I come away with an appreciation for what Hifiman has done and applaud their ability to produce a better product…well done Fang!!
*These are my observations based on my personal preferences and nothing more than that. YMMV . All testing done with uberfrost>lyr (telefunkens)
Pros - Lightweight, fairly easy to drive, comfortable, neutral sound, fair pricing, good customer support from Hifiman
Cons - Slightly cheap/poor build quality and Q.C, short stock cable.
The HE560 is Hifiman's attempt at making a headphone between the HE500 & HE6, as of the time posting this review, there are two known versions of the HE560: the preorder version and production (rev 1 as I call it) version. The preorder version has numerous differences in build quality, but, they sound very similar. I've listed some photos below showing the build differences between the models. Just click on them to make them larger.
Preorder one says HE560, new one doesn't and is a bit less tall but deeper, both boxes had scratches and marks when I got them.
Preorder version has thinner foam and one cutout. New one has two separate foam cutouts, one for the headphones and one for the cable. The foam is harder and stays in shape easier than before.
Molding lines on the preorder HE560
Production HE560 has no molding lines
Preorder version has the seam from one of the pads sticking out, new ones are symmetrical and the seams match. There is also plastic where the connectors are located on the new one.
From left to right: HE560 preorder, production HE560, and HE-4
Production version has a fabric coated cable vs rubber on the preorder 560, same connectors (Neutrik) on both. The production HE560 feels the same as the HE-4 cable but it weighs more
Sound wise, they are quite similar, but there are small differences: The production HE560 sounds a little thinner in the midrange and a bit brighter in the treble. This is a subtle difference. I noticed this effect when swapping pads to the preorder HE560 as well, so, it seems to be the pads that cause this difference to my ears.
Comfort and build: Comfort is substantially improved compared to the previous HE headphones. The new earpads literally melt into your cheeks. They're plusher than both the original velour and pleather pads that came stock with my HE400 & HE500. The velour material that covers the top of the earpad feels less grainy/rough, compared to the velours that came with my HE400/500. Clamping force is a bit on the high side. However, If you don’t find that the Sennheiser HD600/650s clamp too hard, you should be fine with the clamping force on the HE560 after a brief break in.
The cable feels solid. It's terminated by a Neutrik 6.5mm plug. The new fabric black cable has less microphonics than the original silver HE500 and tangles a lot less easier. However, the new cable is shorter and weighs a bit more. The old HE500/4/6/etc. are left in the dust in terms of comfort, but, come back in build quality. The HE560 kind of feels like a toy in comparison to my HE500. When you pick up the HE500, you're greeted with reassuring weight and metal gimbals. The HE500 just feels solid in your hands, while the HE560 is composed of plastic gimbals and is much lighter. It seems more fragile and less “serious” in your hand compared to the HE500.
Overall, the build quality is fine, but, there are a couple of small nitpicks I have. For example, the wooden box has no feet on it to prevent scratching and mine came a bit banged up (scratches and dents on the sides). My headphone also had some permanent scratches/marks on the gimbals when first opened as well.
Bass: Extends down to ~20 Hz felt, with a sharp roll off in power starting at around 30-40 Hz. Both the HE500/560 have excellent sub bass extension. A good seal with the earpads is crucial for optimal sub bass performance in both. The bass sounds quicker and has less of a mid bass hump vs the HE500. The HE560s bass has better finesse and control, when listening to fast faced metal and techno, I can tell the bass can keep up more effortlessly. The HE500 on the other hand has a tiny bit more raw impact, especially in the mid bass. However, it sounds more one noted and slower in general.
Mids: Goodbye recessed upper mids. The midrange is a lot more even on the HE560. The depression around 2-3.5k is rectified, and the midrange is a bit less forward and sounds less thick (though IMO the HE500 was too forward/thick). Vocals are more palpable on the HE560, at least in terms of tone/realism. Same with most instruments, explained in the timbre section later.
Treble: High notes on the HE560 are a touch airier, more extended, and in my opinion superior. The lower treble region is more forward and brighter on the HE560. However, the upper treble is less bright and flatter on the HE560. This is because there are peaks on the HE500 around 10 kHz that are absent on the HE560. I generally hear the HE560 as having a brighter treble in most recordings, however, some songs that hit the 10kHz area a lot make it seem like the HE500 is brighter but gives you the impression it's a bit grainy or tizzy because of that peak. This is especially noticeable with cymbals.
Timbre: With the help of a more even, extended treble and the absence of the recessed upper mids, the HE560 takes the edge in terms of timbre. Nearly all instrumentation sounds more lifelike on the HE560 but some can also sound dull in comparison with the HE500. The HE500 has some treble spikes and peaks, as stated before. This makes certain instruments like cymbals a bit strident and harsh. They’re over exaggerated on the HE500 but can be more engaging in some songs while the HE560 is more accurate.
Soundstage: Listening to binaural recordings gives you a larger sense of space on the HE560. The soundstage is wider, but not so much so that you begin to feel very distant or bored (Looking at you, HD800 and Stax SR-202). The larger width of the HE560 can be either an advantage or disadvantage depending on how you look at it. I actually preferred the smaller soundstage of the HE500 with rock/metal as I felt closer and more engaged with the band playing. However, for orchestral music and jazz the larger sense of space on the HE560 was welcomed, in these genres, the HE500 was less resolving and sounded almost claustrophobic in comparison.
Enough about the width, depth is also a key part in soundstage. To be honest, the HE560 is kind of the same. I can’t detect any major differences. HE560 is on par, if not better than the HE500.
Efficiency & amping: My receiver has power output meters, to reach the same value at the power meter while playing a flat tone (100hz,1000hz,etc). The HE560 needed to be turned 1 notch less on the volume pot compared to the HE500. So, pretty much the same.
The HE560 also scales fairly well with multiple sources. On Magni, it's kind of bright and forward, more akin to the HE500s sound. When I stepped it up to Lyr, it sounded less forward and more relaxed, especially with the right tubes (Matsush1ta E88cc) and was much more louder. I also felt the same when comparing HE560 on Magni to my old integrated amp (JA-S55).
I would recommend amping HE560 with a Lyr or a Vintage A/V amp (they do quite well and can be bought for cheap at garage sales or craigslist). Magni works as well but the volume had to be turned to ~70% to reach my preferred listening volume with recordings that have a extreme dynamic range. (Explorations in space and time, DSOTM 5.1 SACD, most of my old Vinyl rips). With pop music the volume was at 30-40%. EDIT: I originally had the values a lot higher here! I had an issue with sound drivers. The Magni didn't need to be as loud as I put it before.
Song Comparisons (All lossless, AMB y2 DAC, JVC JA-S55 amp, and SKW JIB interconnects)
Artist, track, album. and source.
AC/DC – TNT – Self titled album (Lossless CD rip)
HE560: Wider soundstage, the guitars (especially in the first couple seconds) extend outwards to the left more. Less raspy and sibilant on the vocals and overall the 560 has a more lifelike and palpable rendering of the vocals, guitars, and drums. You almost feel as if you were there, cliché I know, but it’s true.
HE500: Immediately more forward vs the 560. The guitar in the left at the beginning sounds right in your ears, vocals take up a larger sense of space in the center and are more in your head sounding. Vocals are also more raspy/sibilant, especially when "TNT" is screamed. The HE500 actually sounds more engaging on this song yet this may give you the impression its treble is uncontrolled and peaky in return (10khz+ bump).
Pink Floyd – Money – Dark Side of the Moon (5.1 channel 30[sup]th[/sup] anniversary SACD rip)
HE560: The sounds of the cash register and coins extend outwards towards the left and right more. You can easily tell where the center channel and left/right is on this surround sound recording. Timbre on all of the instruments are improved, cymbals are less splashy and bright, and the guitars have a bit more bite due to the lack of recessed upper mids. Vocals are less sibilant and raspy as well.
HE500: In the beginning, you can again tell that the HE500 is more forward like the other song. The coins dropping and the cash register in the beginning are closer to your head and sound like they’re almost mashed up in the center in comparison to the 560. It’s a bit harder to determine the location of the center channel and left / right. Cymbals are brighter and guitars have less bite. Vocals are more sibilant and raspy.
Miles Davis – Freddie Freeloader – Kind of Blue (HDtracks 192/24)
HE560: Again, soundstage is wider. In the first 30 seconds you can easily tell that the cymbal on the right is more outwards and out of your head, same with the piano in the left. Timbre is significantly improved, simply put it it, every instrument sounds more palpable and effortless on the HE560.
HE500: More in the head. You feel closer to the sextet. Cymbals and the piano are less out of your head and closer to your ears. The piano almost has a slight glare to it which is absent on the HE560 (around 40 second mark).
Versus the Sennheiser HD80 My plan was to do song comparisons for this but I decided I just wanted to relax and listen to music, switching every couple hours or days. I hate playing 30 seconds of one song and switching back and forth 5 times to test like I did with the HE500.
In a nutshell, the HD800 is technically superior to the HE560 on a good recording except for bass impact. The HD800 has a larger soundstage in width/depth, the treble is clearer (but can be too bright for some) leading to more subtle details to flow through that were missed on the HE560. The thing is, these qualities are only exposed on few recordings. The HD800 is very picky, to the point of only a few songs from my library actually sounded superior on them vs HE560. They're very picky while HE560 is much more forgiving of modern music and poor mastering.
The HE560, while not technically as good as the HD800 on a great recording, has a more relaxing and generally enjoyable sound. Everything on HE560 sounds more cohesive without as many spikes/peaks, especially in the treble relative to the HD800. Bass is stronger in terms of impact/extension and the sound is less diffused and thin.
Conclusion: The HE560 will not necessarily be a better headphone than the HE500 for many. The HE500 has an addicting tone to it, which is a forward, up close, and full sound On a lot of songs, especially during rock/metal, I found the HE500 to be a much more engaging headphone. I felt closer to the band due to the more forward/smaller soundstage and the emphasized 10k region was actually welcomed for me in these genres.
However, technically speaking, the HE560 is the better headphone overall. It doesn't have the tone of the HE500, but what it does have that the HE500 lacks is better technicalities. Bass is quicker, the soundstage is wider, and everything sounds more lifelike. Problems like recessed upper mids, ringing, and heavy weight in the HE500 are also resolved with the HE560.
I can also wear my HE560 all day (and yes I've done that, my weekends are that boring) without any listening fatigue. I've tried this with HE500, my ears just got tired of the 10khz peak and the weight required me to take them off every 2 hours for a break.
So, it kind of boils down to preference which is better. For me, I enjoyed HE560 and think it's a worthy successor to the HE500. If you want a neutral and lifelike sound with great timbre and balance, kind of reminiscent to the HD600, the HE560 is your can. If you want a more colored and forward sound then the HE500 is what I would recommend. Also consider you can find a HE500 for $400-500 used, which is a steal, these used to be $899 when first released.