Reviews by TMRaven


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Bottomless bass extension; extreme comfort
Cons: slightly recessed mids, potential build quality issues
The Denon D2000 is a result of a rather short, but extensive search spanning multiple audiophile grade headphones to find my personal ‘perfect sound’ while retaining an extremely high amount of comfort.   My journey into the hi-end headphone market ironically started with a somewhat expensive Turtle Beach headset, and if it weren’t for the extreme discomfort I found with it, I might’ve never entered the market for top dollar cans.  Since the Turtle Beach (DPX21 btw), I’ve owned, auditioned and still keep a number of cans, ranging from Audio Technica’s AD700 and M50, Beyerdynamic’s DT990 and Sennheiser’s 555, 595 and 598.  The AD700 was a direct result of wanting the ultimate in long term comfort after having bad ear aches from the supra-aural fit of the Turtle Beach.  The M50 was the direct result of wanting more bass out of the AD700 for music, and the DT990 was wanting to combine the best of both of those Audio Technica headphones.   Ultimately in the end, still my AD700 remains (my oh my is it ever comfortable), and I’m thinking of selling off Beyer soon, as the Denon seems to have replaced it.
Enter the Denon D2000, it is what I would dub the ‘audiophile’s basshead can.’  Even compared to headphones renown for their low end extension like the M50 and some ultrasones I tested, the Denons seem to be bottomless in terms of how low their bass can go, and how effortlessly it can go, it’s quite remarkable.  Before we delve into the sonic signature of the D2000, let’s talk about its fit and finish.
At the time I bought the D2000, I was already quite accustomed to the build quality of other top dollar cans, so there was never a moment of extremely high expectations.  I was afraid of the build quality the Denons would provide because there’s a lot of reports about the infamous screws on their yokes coming loose over time.  At the time of this review, I can’t say I’ve had the D2000 quite long enough to ever experience such a thing, but in the couple months that I’ve had it , I’ve had no issues with loose screws yet.  The thing that impressed me most about the Denons was their presentation, it is extremely elegant and luxurious looking headphone.  If I could compare the D2000 to my Beyerdynamic DT990, I’d say it compares favorably.  Beyerdynamic is famous for the build quality of their headphones: They’re all built in Beyer’s motherland of Germany.  The feel and solidness of the DT990 is superb, the yokes and trim of the DT990 is made of a composite it looks like,  and not a cheaply hollow plastic like you’d find on say—the Beats or Turtle Beach headphones.  Compared to the Beyers, the Denon is more of a top dollar Mercedes Benz, while the Beyers could be marketed as a Lamborghini.  The louvers and yokes of the Beyer make for an iconic and exotic appearance, while the Denons are more reserved and mannered.  The yokes and trim of the Denons are made of magnesium, and are extremely light for their strength.  The backings of the cans themselves feels like another sort of composite, and it’s from my knowledge that they have a metal reinforcement inside (they are matte finished too, which might I add is a very gorgeous look)  The yokes and headband are held together with screws to give it a very sturdy look.  Inside the headband are two polished steel band that double up as adjustment for head size (and might I add the adjustment of the D2000 is silky smooth compared to the Beyers—perhaps one chip in the Beyer’s build quality)  Coming off the Denons and Beyers, even the Audio Technica M50—very famous for its tank-like build—looks like like a cheap plastic toy.  The thing that struck me the most in the D2000’s presentation, however, was the quality of its pleather padding.   When I first touched the pleather padding on the inner cups, I could have sworn I wasn’t touching anything at all.  It felt like I was pressing down on clouds.  The pleather padding is the most supple I’ve ever seen from a headphone, and months later it’s still extremely supple.  The actual fit of the D2000’s pleather earpads is bar-none the best I’ve ever experienced as well.  The pads are uniquely contoured to fit the angel and shape of the ear.  They’re very thin at the front, but extremely gracious and well padded in the back.  The pads are concave in shape, meaning from a vertical view, they are at their thinnest on the very middle of their form, to match the natural curvature of the head.  The openings of the pads are just big enough to allow for a full cicrum-aural fit—something which is a considerably huge bonus for me (something like the M50 is marketed as circumaural, but your ears actually have to go inside the padding, the D2000s are true ‘over ear’)  The pads are also cleverly designed so that your ears hardly ever touch the driver cover too, something which a whole lot of headphones have trouble with for me and my large ears.  The Beyers are known as some of the most comfortable cans on the market, but the Denon D2000 surpasses the DT990 in short term comfort, while just barely losing out on long term comfort.  The Denons make the Beyers’ fit very sloppy feeling. (I know it’s hard to believe since the D2000 is closed and pleather)  With that said, the D2000s don’t really get hot or build up sweat at all because of their fit, so nobody should worry about the sweat issue.   So to sum it up, the build quality and especially the comfort of the D2000 is exceptional.
As for the sound of the D2000, let me say it’s pretty close to ideal for what I’ve been looking for.  For the longest time I’ve been looking for the perfect balance between the M50 and AD700—the D2000 delivers.  The DT990 was extremely close in that regards, but ultimately I ran away wanting more from the low, low end (50hz and under)  The DT990 is a great headphone, and is perhaps the most dynamic I’ve ever heard.  Compared to the DT990, the D2000 definitely extends way lower, has the same amount of detail and timbre accuracy, but loses out a tiny bit on crispness—which isn’t entirely a bad thing because almost everything out there loses out on the crispness department compared to a Beyer.  Compared to the M50, the D2000 is an upgrade in every sense possible.  The bass isn’t quite as bloated, extends lower, and definitely has more visceral impact to it (maybe because of its 50mm driver and added tightness to the bass).  Songs with super low bass like James Blake’s Limit to your Love and Trentemoller’s Evil Dub sound extremely powerful on the D2000, while headphones like the M50 and even the Studio Beats (yes I couldn’t help but compare with my friend’s) sound very weak in comparison.  The kick drum and bass guitar in Rage Against the Machine’s Take the Power Back are well defined—the kick drum giving lots of impact while the bass guitar sounding controlled and deep.   Some people might fear the Bass of the D2000 is such that it drowns out the mids, but that isn’t the case.  The bass is effortless, as in it extends super deep and with plenty of impact when it’s called for, but is always well controlled and light when called for, so bass guitars won’t sound like subwoofers, or kick drums won’t sound like a monotone 40hz tone.
The mids of the D2000 are very smooth and sweet.  They are very timbre accurate—matching the Beyer and easily surpassing the Studio beats and M50 in this aspect, and surprisingly ‘airy’ and separated for being in a closed headphone.  They are every bit as resolving as a Sennheiser, but also more recessed and laid back in the sound signature compared to the Sennheiser.  Yes, the mids are recessed, but still are very robust.  Someone coming off a Sennheiser might notice it and might not like it, but for anybody else, they probably wouldn’t notice a difference.  Although not as crisp in their mids as the Beyer DT990, the Denon’s mids are crystalline compared to the Studio Beats and M50s.  The vocals and instruments in Radiohead’s No Surprises and the Tourist are beautifully rendered.  Each string instrument in Mumford & Son’s Little Lion Man is gorgeously separated and dynamic sounding, giving the song a new life to a couple of friends I’ve had try the song out with on the Denons.  To quote them, it was ‘a whole new song.’  The soundstaging and instrument separation presented in the Denon is more along the lines of an open headphone, and it surprised me very much how much the D2000 could give these sonic qualities for being enclosed.  The ‘airy’ sound makes cans like the Studio Beats and M50 sound like tinny apple earbuds in comparison.
I won’t get into the highs too much other than to say they’re very sparkly and not too powerful, but at times they can cause for a bit of sibilance in less than ideally recorded/mastered songs, but it’s something that effects nearly every headphone, unless it’s a Sennheiser with a treble veil to help minimize sibilance.  The highs are a bit more harsh than the DT990, but the DT990’s highs are amazingly bright, which a lot of people don’t like.  I’d rate the highs of the D2000 around the same strength as the M50, but less strident.
So all in all, nobody can really go wrong with this headphone, even your typical Basshead who’s after a pair of Beats for only that midbass thump would enjoy these, and the audiophile who wants to hear every bit of detail a song has to offer could enjoy these too.  They’re not very portable and actually don’t seal very well for being close (and really want an amp to boot, but nothing overly robust like what a Beyer would require), but are easily the most enjoyable pair of headphones I’ve ever listened to so far.  They do everything close to perfect for their price, and often they can be found used-like new for only around 200usd.  They are an incredible steal, and something I’d never hesitate to recommend to any person on the market, no matter their musical taste—they are a superb headphone worthy of anyone’s ears. 
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Great review TMRaven,
I couldn't agree more, the denon ah-d2000's are magnificent. I own Senn's, Grado's, Audio Technica's, and they all have their strong points.... but the d2000's seem to do everything superbly. Not to mention watching movies!!!!


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: detailed, articulate, more balanced compared to HE-400
Cons: small soundstage, lack of last bit of taughtness and impact compared to HE-400
The 500 dollar HE-400i is the entry level headphone that is part of Hifiman's latest line of single-sided planar magnetic.  Its purpose was to replace the hugely successful HE-400, while providing a sound quality closer to that of the venerated HE-500.
Having had extensive experience with the HE-400 for over 2 years, and my current goto headphone is the HE-560.  Sadly I have no experience with the HE-500, but it seems that from popular impression, the HE-400i is very, very close to it in terms of sound quality and presentation. 
To begin with, the build of the HE-400i largely mirrors that of the 560, and is representational of Hifiman's new efforts to make their headphones lighter and offer vastly superior comfort over their previous headphones, shattering any preconceived notion of planar magnetics being hefty and unwieldy beasts.  Although the plastic cups remain unchanged over the previous HE series form-factors, and although the same screw-in cables remain unchanged to many users' tears, the new headband with its suspension strap, and the lighter weight of single-sided drive makes this headphone miles better in comfort compared to the HE-400, and I can only assume an even larger disparity with the hefty HE-500.  The square, metal band that makes up the headband juts out from your head when these headphones on your head, and it makes the HE-400i a somewhat comical looking headphone, but the exposed metal band also means that stretching the corners out to adjust clamp to your liking is as easy as it gets.  In short you'll find these to be an extremely comfortable experience.  One note about the earpads is that their inner cavity is overall smaller compared to the previous Hifiman pads: the focus-a offers a slightly smaller opening than the focus pads, but have a lip for your ears to tuck in to, overall both pads have about the same volume inside for your ears.
The sound of the HE-400i some of the good aspects of the original 400, while improving in general balance by a considerable amount, although sadly sacrificing a couple of the original 400's best strengths in the process.  Like the original 400, the 400i shares a very warm signature, with a mid-treble peak centered around 10khz that will add sparkle and depth to its sound to avoid it from being too claustrophobic sounding.  While the original 400 had a hugely depressed region centered around 5khz-- an area that is responsible for the bite of a lot of instruments, especially brass and strings, the 400i has a secondary, mild elevation of this area compared to its upper midrange (2-3khz), which prevents it from being as dark and lacking as the 400 when it comes to sounding energetic.  Just like the 400, the 400i has a mid-treble peak, only this time around it's not as elevated or as harsh as the original.  Make no mistake that it is still above neutral in the mid treble though.
Some of the best aspects of the 400 still remain with the 400i, including a very yummy and textured lower midrange, and a very balanced but strong bass that extends super deeply without excess bloat or distortion. The 400i's upfront lower midrange will make for fun listening if you value the rich fundamental tones of acoustic instruments.  The hyper-detailed HE-400 sound is still present with the 400i as well.  Instrument separation is off the charts as per usual with any planar magnetic design, and the articulate and emphasized mid-treble help bring out texture and small details out of your recordings.  Furthermore, the weird midrange distortion that made the 400 somewhat messy sounding at times is gone with the 400i, and as a whole it sounds slightly more clear overall, thanks to minimal distortion and a lack of magnets on the diaphragm's ear-facing side, meaning less acoustical resonance.
However, even though the balance and clarity is a large step up from the HE-400, you lose some impact on the 400i's bass, and its soundstage isn't as large as the original HE-400.  Those who highly value bass impact and a spacious sound still have a reason to get the original 400, and especially these days when it can be found used for around 200usd-- a very, very good value.
Compared to its older brother, the 560, the 400i is actually very similar in overall presentation.  The 560, like the 400i, has a minor elevation in the 4-5khz region, giving it plenty of bite to make it sound energetic, but unlike the 400i, the 560 has a more balanced treble region, with more energy around 6-8khz, and less of a peak in the mid-treble at 10khz.  The lower midrange of both the 400i and 560 is excellent.  Bass of the 560 is a little bit more linear than the 400i, with the 400i showing some emphasis in the upper bass of around 200hz.  Overall the 400i is very similar to the 560, but offers less soundstage, and a slightly less refined sound due to rougher transitions from bass to mids and mids to treble.  If you can get around the colorations of the 400i, it offers around 70-80% of the performance of the 560 while being near half the price-- a damn good value.
Even though you lose some aspects to the original 400's sound, you gain so much in balance and comfort, making the 400i a stupidly good proposition for its asking price.  Complete with all the planar magnetic positives, it's a headphone a lot of people should try out if they're looking for open headphones in this price bracket.  
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Nice write up Raven!! Thanks for sharing. 


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: comfort, isolation, frequency balance
Cons: lack of upper bass-lower midrange
Dan at MrSpeakers is definitely a wonderful story. He's taken a hobby of his as means to successfully grow a brand through smart business decisions and a strong, almost personal relationship, with his target audience, and he's done so in such a short amount of time to boot. My first experience with one of his products was the Mad Dog 3.2. At the time of hearing the Mad Dogs my headphone was the HE-400, and I was impressed with the Mad Dog enough to consider it the best overall package one could buy at its price point. Fast forward several years and Dan is making planar headphones from the ground up all in house, and here we have his newest creation, a headphone that actually makes sense compared to many other offerings on the market, the Aeon:


I was one of the few who decided to get the Aeon before Dan could ship it with its intended product box and carrying case, but Dan was kind enough to include the Ether carrying case, which fits the Aeon just fine. The case is almost as small as it can get while still being robust enough to comfortably fit the Aeons inside; no complaints there. The build of the Aeon is top notch: there's only one point of articulation on each side of the headphone, and it's the point where the gimbals attach into the side of the cups. The majority of the headphone is constructed with durable yet lightweight materials; the headband is comprised of two nickel titanium shape memory alloy rods that are responsible for maintaining clamping pressure and adjusting the height of the suspension strap. These nitinol rods are malleable enough to allow for enough fidgeting once the cups are on your head. The gimbals are solid pieces of what looks to be powder coated aluminum, as are the baffles which make up the structure for which the drivers are housed in. The baffles extend to the exterior of the cups and create the black ring along the side of the cups. These rings are what you normally grip when handling the headphone once it's on your head, and their rigidity makes the Aeon feel incredibly solid. The backing of the cups consist of carbon fiber, while the dark blue portions are one of the only plastic components of the Aeon, and they're finished in a high gloss metallic paint. My biggest criticism of the Aeon's build (which I guess can extend to the Ether series) is that there's no visible detents or marks to signify which position the headstrap sliders are on the nitinol rods. This can become a little annoying at times, as adjusting clamping pressure requires subtle movements of these slider along the curvature of the rods, and eyeballing both to match for optimal fit and comfort is less precise of an ordeal than actually relying on some sort of markings. This problem is also emphasized by the fact that the left slider on the headband is slightly more loose than the right, so it tends to ride up a little easier if I'm trying to adjust the fit on my head, causing imbalance. Besides the slight annoyances with the headband adjustment, the build of the Aeon expires confidence in durability, and exemplifies smart engineering and material choices. The overall look of the Aeon is one that looks futuristic, streamlined, yet organic. Its ear-shaped cups are elegantly curved and asymmetric, while its ones-sided gimbals reinforce this aesthetic. I can see this look being highly contentious though, as many might prefer much more symmetrical shapes like circles or ovals-- the sleek and organic curvature is a welcome change for me though.

Comfort is where the Aeon's choice in materials and engineering really pay off. The Aeon is the lightest planar magnetic I've experienced; its light weight combined with a suspension headband makes for a very natural fatigue free experience for the top of one's head. In its current market of high end headphones, the Aeon is the welcome bantamweight in a grouping of heavyweight behemoths, many of which I find completely unwearable. The ear-shaped cups of the Aeon are perhaps its biggest strength, as they allow the Aeon to be as light as possible while maximizing earpad space for one's ears. At roughly only 2/3 the width of most fulls-sized cups, the Aeon's pads have as much if not more space for your ears to fit into. The pads are graciously deep as well, allowing for a very spacious fit. The pads are not memory foam though, so I worry that over time the pads will eventually compress and cause for a more intimate fit, which is cause for concern, because the pads are glued on for optimal seal. With many headphones today seemingly ignoring fit and comfort for a sole priority in sound quality, it's nice to see a headphone maker seemingly build a headphone around comfort first. The Aeon however is still a closed and well isolating headphone, so your ears will get hot over time, mitigating a completely natural experience. If Dan were to ever make an open-version of the Aeon, and calibrate it to clamp slightly less as it wouldn't have to rely on a tight seal, it would be perhaps the most comfortable headphone on the market, and one that I would surely grab with no hesitation.

The sound of the Aeon is very balanced with incredible extension down low and good extension into the treble. It has a slight lower-midtreble emphasis around 8-10k, slightly exaggerating s,sh, and z sibilants in certain recordings, but it's more mild than many headphones, as the effect doesn't show on as much recordings as other headphones I've owned through the years. Upper midrange is very robust, with a healthy and smooth rise from 1khz to 3khz, without showing many colorations are aberrations that would otherwise give the Aeon a closed-cup sound. Lower treble from 4-7khz seems to be wonderfully present yet balanced. Most headphones either have too little treble in this area or just just a complete mess. Percussion on the Aeon is rendered with a good deal of depth and tangibility due to the well-balanced treble presentation, while never becoming annoying or hissy. Room ambiance cues are easy to pick out, and vocals have plenty of breath to them as well. The bass of the Aeon extends down to the lowest notes with ease, without showcasing any excess bloat or distortion. I tested the Aeon's bass to extend down to about 32hz before rolling off, which puts it in line with the audeze LCD series. The balance of the bass in the Aeon isn't as exaggerated as I thought it would be given the Harman bass boost in its frequency response graphs. Low to mid-bass is in healthy balance, but the upper bass and lower midrange transition area around 200-400hz lacks the body, heft, and sweetness that I've grown accustomed to from other high performing headphones. I can't tell whether this lack of lower midrange heft is either a tuning choice, or a side effect of the Aeon's closed back nature, as closed back headphones usually lack the inherent inner-warmth that open-backs do. Cellos tend to lose some thickness and bloom to them, while vocals lose a little bit of guttural fortitude, and pianos lose some of their warmth and resonance that usually give them a robust and romantic quality. A slight lack of warmth and weight to its lower midrange aside, the timbral balance of the Aeon remains very good, and it throws a decently sized image with open sound despite being closed back. The Aeon's sound is very focused, with one of its inherent strengths being its instrument separation and microdynamics, allowing many different instruments and elements in complex passages of songs to be followed with ease. However I think it still doesn't compete with the best open-backs for sheer clarity though. Its presentation lacks that last bit of inner warmth and airiness that gives other open-backs an edge when it comes to rendering a believable acoustic performance around you.



Compared to the Oppo PM3:



The Oppo PM3 was gifted to me from Oppo as a thank you for participating in their beta program to help sculpt the final production tuning of the PM3. I didn't want to sell it off to essentially make money, so it was gifted to my brother and I always borrow it in situations like these to compare with other headphones for reference, as I feel that its frequency balance is among the best in the market. Tyll and Bob Katz seem to mirror these impressions as well.

Compared to the Aeon, the PM3's build holds up just as well, with a bit of luxurious flair to it. Its earpads are memory foam, allowing for a more plush experience, while its headband adjustment is smooth as butter with markings that I find sorely missing on the Aeon. The PM3's headband looks more finished compared to the Aeon's suspension strap as well, while the black and silver finish is more refined looking than the Aeon's blue and carbon fiber scheme. Being more of a portable though, its earpads aren't as large as the Aeon, and its headband doesn't have a suspension strap, so over time it's not as comfortable of an experience as the Aeon. I develop a hotspot on the top of my head with the PM3 after an hour of continuous listening, while the I never develop a hotspot with the Aeon.

Comparing the two Innerfidelity measurements of the Aeon and PM3, it's surprising how different they sound. While both measure extremely close to the ideal Harman response curve for headphones, PM3 is the much warmer of the two headphones, and its upper-bass lower-midrange is upfront and robust, if not a little bloated sounding, compared to the Aeon. I tend to prefer the PM3's meatiness in this area, but there is no denying that its upper bass is bleeding into the midrange a slight amount, while the Aeon's is remarkably controlled. Coming from the PM3 directly to the Aeon, the Aeon sounds very breathy and slightly sparkly, while the PM3 is more grounded and less airy. The aforementioned bass-bleed makes the PM3 sound more like a closed back headphone, while the Aeon remains more open sounding. Despite measurements, upper midrange around 3-4khz is slightly mellower on the PM3, while less restrained on the Aeon, giving the PM3 a more laid back sound and the Aeon a slightly more crunchy sound. The PM3's bass doesn't extend down as low as the Aeon, and it definitely isn't as controlled or powerful as the Aeon when a song has lots of sub-bass information. On Trentemoller's Into The Trees, Aeon's bass extends into subterranean levels while remaining controlled enough to not haze over the rest of the sound spectrum, while PM3's bass is thicker and hazier, but not as deep. I find the PM3 to present vocals better than the Aeon, with more weight and less sibilants, but slightly less airiness. On Adele's Hometown Glory, Adele's voice is weighty and palpable on the PM3, while it lacks some foundation on the Aeon. This particular recording also brings out some sibilances in her voice as well on the Aeon. Both headphones have faults in their frequency response, but both are remarkably balanced, however I think the PM3 has the less glaring flaws, so I give it the edge in frequency response. Aeon however has more clarity to it with less bass bleed, better microdynamics, more balanced treble, and more focused sound.

Compared to the Elear:



After reading Tyll's glowing review of the Elear, as well as getting ran over by its hype train on Head-Fi, the thought of buying an Elear to own for the rest of my headfi journey was a no-brainer. This was the headphone that could do nothing wrong and did everything better than anything that ever came before it... or so I thought. Hype aside, the Elear is an extremely bombastic sounding headphone with clarity and dynamics in spades, but it also has a couple of Achilles heels as well which don't make it quite the sea-change in the world of personal audio.

The Elear's build quality is tremendous. It is definitely one of the few headphones that has the looks to match its asking price, with a sleek looking gimbal assembly and well padded headband, as well as very plush memory foam pads sporting an almost microfiber type of covering, feeling very nice on the skin. The outer grill screams look at me using polished aluminum and a slick black and silver color palette. The Aeon still holds its ground though with its unique and organic looking presence. The earpads, suspension strap, and lack of headband adjustment markings are still take aways from the Aeon. I mentioned the Elear having a couple of glaring flaws earlier, and its comfort would be one (for me, anyways). Most people find it to be relatively comfortable, but I set my bar for comfort in the heavens. Despite its robust and luxurious build, the Elear is a slobbering behemoth next to the Aeon, and its weight causes for an eventual hotspot on the top of my head after 45 minutes of sustained listening. The clamping force of the Elear is also really high in comparison to the Aeon as well. Its super plush and exceedingly roomy pads to a fantastic job of mitigating its clamp, but you will always feel like you're wearing big headphones with the Elear. Coming off the Aeon, the Elear is just annoying to wear. The comfort is the main reason why I bought the Aeon and am seriously considering selling the Elear. I want my headphone to be a completely natural experience, and the Elear just isn't it.

The Elear measures to have the least bass of the 3 headphones being compared here, but it actually might have the most. Its prominent feature when compared to the Aeon is its overall bass heft, which brings many recordings to life with such impact and grounding presence. Its tone is dark given its bountiful lower midrange and recessed upper midrange. The Aeon by comparison is rather thin sounding and colder throughout its midrange. Horned instruments in Hans Zimmer's Imagine the Fire are slightly shouty sounding on the Aeon next to the Elear, which renders them with more warmth and depth. On the other hand, the Aeon on the same recording can make Elear's soundstage sound disoriented, with a gap in the upper midrange and spotlighted treble. Coming off the Aeon and listening to the Elear, violins can lose their screeching presence, trumpets can become blunted, and percussion can lose a bit of snap. The Aeon can't compete with the Elear's clarity and dynamics though, as the powerful image the Elear throws is full bodied yet pristinely controlled with natural decay and a dead-black background. The full-bodied lower midrange of the Elear tends to give acoustic performance more tangibility with a natural feel of room gain and resonance, while on the Aeon, instruments become drier and more one-dimensional. With its extremely opened-back nature and ease of dynamic control, the Elear is hard to beat in the specific areas that it excels in, but it has a divisive frequency response that you'll either love or hate. People who love warm to dark sounding headphones like me will suck up every ounce of its baroque-esque sound that it soaks you with, while others looking for more natural and evenly-shaded renderings of instruments and vocals will gravitate toward the Aeon, whose colorations I find less troublesome than the Elear. It has a deeper extending bass, more even upper midrange and treble from 1-10khz, but its troublesome dip around 2-300hz tends to sometimes thin out certain recordings. Luckily, an abundance of bass up to 100-150hz counteracts this effect a little bit.

In conclusion, the Aeon is a damned good sounding headphone with very few glaringly obvious frequency response problems and comfort that's second to none, on top of being one of the most isolating full-sized closed headphones on the market that's built exceptionally well. With so many assets at its disposal and coming in at under 1000 dollars, it's nice to see a company put such an effort into a headphone and refuse to follow the current price-gouging trend of today's high-end market. However it's not the perfect headphone; while its treble balance and presentation is perhaps the best I've heard on a planar magnetic to date, it lacks the lower midrange-middle midrange balance that most other planars are known for, with a mild depression in the 200-400hz range that causes many sounds to lose their heft and warmth. I would ideally like to see an open version that could somehow retain the same control and balance of the bass and treble, while reworking the midrange to be more full bodied while still retaining the general smoothness yet precision of the Aeon. All things considered, this is a headphone that just makes sense, which is something that's hard to come by these days.


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: frequency balance, soundstage, comfort, bass extension
Cons: slightly muddy midrange, lacks a black background, soft attack
I was fortunate enough to be able to audition the HE-X for multiple days thanks to Hifiman's loaner program.  Having been a great fan of the HE-400 and HE-560, and with the recent success of the HE-1000, the HE-X was one of the few headphones I was interested in as a possible upgrade or sidegrade to my current HE800.  Before I get into the meat of the impressions, first let me give a quick blurb about my preferences so readers can have a better understanding of the review.  Hifiman is perhaps the house sound I favor the most when it comes to high-end headphones, followed by perhaps Foster and then Sennheiser.  What I appreciate most in sonics is effortless extension top to bottom, and a very gradual u-shaped response.  I prefer meatier than average bass and lower midrange, a slightly laid-back upper midrange, and a crisp and airy treble.  Of course, none of that matters unless the headphone is comfortable.  No pictures for this review, as I feel like I wouldn't be doing any justice to the headphones with my old point and shoot camera.  Other reviews already have those areas covered.
I was lucky enough to be the first in-line for my particular region's loaner pair, so I got to unbox the HE-X as a brand-new headphone.  Hifiman has been progressively becoming better and better in regards to their products' presentation and packaging.  The precision-cut foam inside the product box for the HE-X allows the headphone to sit snugly inside with little qualms.  The detachable cables have their own compartment within the foam as well, which is a nice touch.  The leatherette box is a nice improvement over the wooden box of the HE-560, which tended to dent around the corners.  The hinged lid is also a nice improvement over the sliding metal plate of the HE-560's box.  However, it is my understanding that the box the HE-X comes in is very similar or identical to the HE-400i's.  So while the product box is or decent quality and grandeur, it is worth mentioning that it's shared across Hifiman's lower offerings as well.  I'm not too big of a display-box type of guy, but I find the HE-X's provided packaging sufficient.  It's nowhere the level of Audeze's portable pelican cases or the Oppo PM-1's lavishly polished wooden box, but it suffices for me, and shows Hifiman's continued advancement in build and presentation.
In the short time that I had the HE-X, I couldn't really find much faults or complaints with any seemingly lack of durability or quality of construction.  The headphone has a decent feel to it, with rigid materials used for the earcups, grills, and headband.  The earpads don't seem to be actual leather, but are quite nicely finished and are soft to the touch-- they're a markable improvement over Hifiman's first foray into hybrid-material earpads.  The headband assembly is shared with Hifiman's lower offerings, and it's a shame that the gimbals aren't of the same metal as on the HE-1000.  For an 18000 dollar headphone, I would have liked them to be, but the current ones suffice.  The 2.5mm terminated detachable cables are a vast improvement over the mini-xlr screw-in plugs of the previous generation from Hifiman, but I'm not too keen on the aesthetic and quality of the actual cables themselves.  The cups of the HE-X are a very reflective and chrome-like purple color, but the provided cables are more blue in appearance, and don't really go well with the headphones.  I would have preferred black.  The cables are braided as well, but are also very stiff and tend to have a high degree of memory, so they have a knack for getting tangled if you're not careful with them.  Tangled braided cables means fraying over time.  The headband adjustment is also puzzling.  The adjustment itself is very sturdy, but I can't help but feel these headphones were wrongfully designed for giants.  I have an average to above averaged-sized head, but I find myself only using the 2nd to lowest position on the headband.  I know of plenty of people who would find even the lowest position to be too low on their head to be considered useable.  The massive earcups are nice to wear, but trying to fit a headband that was designed with the HE-560/400i cups in mind with these current cups is an oversight in design.  Overall, while the build of the HE-X is average to good, it's a shame that it shares many components with Hifiman's lower offerings.
In terms of comfort, the HE-X really excels.  Absolutely humongous ear-pad openings, soft cushioning, modest clamping force, and the suspension strap allow for unparalleled  short-term comfort.  When it comes to listening for half an hour to longer, the shallow earpads start getting a little bothersome, as your ears are always rubbing up against the magnetic array over the diaphragms.  However, it's by no means uncomfortable, and nothing like the pointed fazor elements of the Audezes.  A quick readjustment can temporarily alleviate most annoyances caused by the lack of depth on the earpads.  While I find the feeling of the HE-X to be very comfortable, I would have liked slightly deeper earpads for a completely natural experience.  The massive openings of the HD800 combined with their depth and angle allow for the most comfortable ear-side experience of any headphone I've come across thus far.  The suspension strap of the HE-X however, leaves me wishing the HD800 had something similar for extremely long term listening.  Overall though, this is one very comfortable headphone, and one I'd recommend to people who are looking for a far more comfortable alternative to the Audeze LCD line.
On the sonic side of things, the HE-X is a mixed bag, but mostly delivers with its well-balanced sound and graciously-big soundstage.  Its bass is well within the line of other open-planars, and shows very good extension down to the lower 30hz region before steadily falling off-- very aligned with the HE-560 in terms of extension.  Definition and texture of the bass is decent, but not up to the level of the HD800 or even the Audeze LCDs; it comes off as a little flabby and soft in attack.   That isn't to say the bass of the HE-X is tubby or wooly, but it's not as rock-hard of a presentation as I would have liked.  The mid-upper bass is invitingly warm and adds added thickness and bloom to the sound that's much more akin to an Audeze than the HE-560.  The midrange of the HE-X is well balanced, and while the lower midrange sounds very linear and integrated, the upper midrange-lower treble transition shares some of the same colorations to other Hifiman headphones.  There seems to be a dip around 2khz, and an emphasis on 3-4khz that isn't too dissimilar from the HE-560.  This coloration brings the harmonic energy of violins, female vocals, and electric guitars to the forefront of the sound, while at times sounding a little disjointed, because of a lack of upper treble extension and/or a lack of fullness around 2khz.  I find the HD-800's midrange, while gradually down sloping to 4khz, to be more coherent, as it doesn't sway up and down as much.  The midrange of the HE-X also suffers from a lack of clear-black background-- if you will.  It could be an issue with greater than average distortion in the midrange or a lack of speed and finesse of the headphone itself.  I'd perhaps attribute this flaw to both of those causes.  While the lack of ultimate clarity isn't too hampering on the HE-X, it's clearly apparent when comparing against the HD-800, whose lower midrange shines through with sense of resolution and speed.  The treble of the HE-X is perhaps the most well behaved of any Hifiman I've listened to.  It doesn't have the nasty 9-11khz peaks of the 400 and 400i, nor does it have as much emphasis on the 4-5khz region as the HE-560.  Sibilance in vocals is few and far between, indicating a decently behaved treble response.  If anything, I find it can be slightly hard and glaring at times, but that's highly dependent on the source material being played.  As I alluded to earlier, what I find suffering the most with the treble of the HE-X is a lack of extension, which limits the HE-X's ability to portray any ultimate sense of realism.  The treble elements aren't as well integrated into the sound as the HD800 either, making for a slightly soft sound.  I'm mostly nitpicking the HE-X here, but overall I'd say it sounds very good, with frequency balance and soundstage being its two biggest assets.  The soundstage is large enough to not leave me wanting when I transition over from the HD800, and very few headphones can actually brag about that.  
Overall this is a nice headphone, and Hifiman's safest and most well-versed entry I've heard yet.  I'd recommend it to any person wanting a more soft and warm type of sound like an Audeze, but doesn't want to contend with the horrid Audeze comfort.  Would I recommend it at full price though?  No.  At 1800 dollars, I think this is too steep of an investment.  You can get similar technicalities in sound and similar comfort out of the Hifiman HE-560, and you can EQ its sound to sound as balanced as the HE-X.  Similarly, I also prefer the HD800 over it, as the HD800 has many of the technicalities the HE-X lacks or comes up short on, and the HD800 can also be EQ'd and modded to have a nicely balanced sound.  I would have an easier time recommending this at a used price of around 1000usd, where it's much more approachable.  However, if you're not into EQ'ing much and are looking for a superbly comfortable and nicely balanced headphone, then you can still give these a shot and see if they're the right fit for you.
Source: Late 2009 iMac 27inch/ iTunes
Dac: Schiit Bifrost Uber Analog 
Amp: Schiit Asgard2
Makiah S
Makiah S
nicely done man,
Textbook informative review - thanks!