Drop + HIFIMAN HE5XX

rev92

Reviewer at Ear Fidelity
Drop x Hifiman HE5XX
Pros: Striking value
Very comfortable
Soundstage is outstanding
Detail
Resolution
Universal
Great looking
Matte black everything vibe
Cons: Not the best unboxing experience
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Drop x Hifiman HE5XX is a planar headphone made in collaboration between those two companies. It costs 220USD.


Introduction​

I think that Drop is a company that every single audiophile should know. They’ve sold over 125k units of Sennheiser HD6XX, which is a crazy number in the audio world. HE5XX is the third kid of Drop and Hifiman cooperation, after the awesome HE4XX and HE35X.

If this is your first time seeing the Drop co-made product, let me explain a little. Drop is cooperating with some big companies (like Meze, Sennheiser, and, of course, Hifiman) to make a Drop exclusive model. There are some changes in the look and sound. How does it change? Well, usually, the sound signature is slightly changed compared to the original product, it’s warmer and darker, same as the design that’s going into dark colors. The last change is the fact that the price can be lower. How did things change this time? You’ll know soon.


About Drop​

Drop (or Massdrop, if you’re old-fashioned) was founded in 2012, and 9 years later, it’s a really big player. They’re known so well not only because of audio stuff, but also mechanical keyboards and watches. Right now, on their site, you can even buy some knives, wallets, and… socks.
Of course, many of those things are cheaper compared to regular prices. Others are made in collaboration with original producers, as the product that’s being described in this review.
Drop is one of the best things to have happened to audio in the past few years in our opinion. Not only it provides great products for the price, but it’s also one of the biggest communities nowadays with thousands and thousands of fans and customers.

Build quality and comfort​

Drop is a big thing in the audio world.

When I held HE5XX for the first time, I was like, wow, that’s so light. Then, I put them on my head, and instantly forgot that I’m wearing them. Some may think that they’re unsolid, but I wouldn’t say so. Definitely not. They’re just simply made, with the same headband that was used in HE4XX before, covered in leather, with spring steel inside and some type of pillow in the lower part, where it touches the head. It’s great and lets me use HE5XX for a very long time.
Earpads are hybrid ones, with leather around and soft material in a pentagonal pattern on the inner part.
Those features matched together provide a really high level of comfort. That’s this type of headphone you forget about when it’s on the head, perfect for the most prolonged sessions you can imagine. No matter if I’m working, studying, playing games, or enjoying some TV series (Chicago PD right now, if you’re interested, but you can recommend something new for me in the comments, thanks!). Every time it’s excellent and causes no pain like the Kennerton Odin’s that were trying to crush my jaw. But that’s because I’m a big-headed person (unfortunately, it doesn’t combine with IQ), so when the Kennerton provided a headphone for people with smaller heads, the HE5XX is just flexible thanks to the spring steel used in the headband, so everyone should be satisfied with the comfort.
There’s also one important thing for everyone who loves to use the balanced output in their amplifiers. In each cup of 5XX, you’ll find a 3pin 3,5mm jack input, so changing the cable is an effortless operation. If you don’t care about that, the stock cable maybe looks basic, but it’s really soft and provides a decent sound quality.

Tech​

Old-School-ish planar magnetic driver with magnets on both sides – lovely.

HE5XX uses a planar-magnetic driver with magnets on both sides. This is a reference to the past, when Hifiman was producing their legendary line-up, including the HE-6, HE-500, etc.
But the drivers have changed a lot since that time. They’re about 30% lighter compared to the old ones.
The impedance is rated at 18 oHms, with the sensitivity of 93 dB.

Sound​

Industrial.

So, if I’ve said this magic phrase, the “sound quality,” let’s talk about that. I’ve plugged HE5XX into the EarMen Eagle initially, just for a short check, and it sounded like a solid V signature. It has changed after a few hours of burning in, and after ~20 to 80 hours, the differences were really slight. As a result, we receive a pretty musical headphone that has an excellent value.
The bass is quite deep, and it’s not a dry slam but a vivid punch, with stepped back subbass, which plays further away, making a great background, without being the main theme. For few weeks, the music has been rather dull for me, and I’m skipping tracks after 30 seconds because it doesn’t keep me listening. HE5XX is a gamechanger because I went back to the tracks that I wasn’t listening for a while. It means I’m again in love with all songs that have a bass guitar at the front, like the “Cold Cold Cold” by Cage the Elephant. The beginning of the song is sooo satisfying. HE5XX provides truly thick drums and bass guitar. All of that is completed with a firm texture and a kick that materializes from nowhere to hit my ears and disappear.

Black and red.

The midrange feels a little withdrawn at the beginning, especially on sources with less power (like EarMen Eagle, built-in laptop DAC). Still, with any stationary or strong mobile amp, that feeling disappears. Even using 99$ JDSLabs Atom, the HE5XX shows its best side (there’s even no lousy side, lmao). Male vocals are transparent and robust. Finally, Dave Gahan sounds so authoritative. Kendrick Lamar’s voice is placed deeper, a lot deeper. The second voice in the song is more significant in the presentation, which doesn’t satisfy me, but some sources like SMSLs SU-9 and SH-9 change that and places Kendrick in the first place.
Female vocals are shown differently, delicately pushed to the front, with a more vivid playstyle. An excellent example is “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa; it forces you to sing at the beginning of the song.
The texture is decent, not overloaded, but it’s not an entirely smooth sound. It depends on the source but still keeps around the golden mean.
Some say that the treble is too sharp in HE5XX, but I don’t see it this way. It’s just greatly accented, but not sharpened, nor smoothed. With proper amplification, it’s correct, and provides many sparkles, that can’t start the fire. I think that’s the best way to describe the treble.
I discovered my favorite thing in that part of the sound when I listened to the “Nightcall” by Kavinsky (yes, that song from the “Drive” soundtrack). At 3:45, there are some “splashes” after the rataplan strike, and usually, they sound like one splash, like the brush in the Paint. Using HE5XX provides it as more the airbrush, same shape, but not fulfilled, each part is the separate one. That also shows how many details you can hear at this point. And it’s definitely the best treble I’ve heard in this price range.

The Inner part of the pads is the only one that isn’t black. Except for the sound of course, it’s colorful.

The soundstage is the icing on the cake. It’s just crazy. There’s no way for two different sounds to stick into one. They’re always separate, with incredibly correct and marked positions, all around.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the music video of “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar, but at 1:55, they used a special machine that was moving like an industrial robot used to cut the shapes in metal or something. That’s how the soundstage work in there. Exact, with strong, marked pinpoints, and the sound can come from every direction. The final feeling is different from many headphones I’ve used. 5XX provides a more natural presentation. Combined with their comfort and lightness, I can easily forget that I’m wearing headphones and start enjoying music on another level.
It’s also one of the best headphones I’ve used for gaming. I can easily define what floor the opponent is on and pinpoint him when he runs, so I can prefire whenever he picks, so they think I’m hacking or something. If decent audio is hacking, then yes, I do cheat. And yet again, I trust 5XX’s way more than my teammates. Those cans can’t be wrong about positioning (unless the game isn’t trolling, which sometimes happens in Escape From Tarkov, for example).


Comparisons​

Drop x Hifiman HE5XX vs. Hifiman HE400i 2020.VS Hifiman HE400i 2020
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Hifiman HE400i 2020

5XX is more fun-to-listen when the 400i is more correct in overall feeling. The higher model is an upgrade in terms of details, but the signature change might not be the favorite for everyone. I’m a huge fan of fun in headphones, so I like HE5XX more, but that’s, of course, not everyone’s opinion at this point. Also, the soundstage in Drop signed headphones is broader, deeper, and crazier.
Drop x Hifiman HE5XX vs. AKG K702
At first, HE5XX is way easier to drive. You don’t need the whole power station to have a good sound. In terms of sound, the K702 has much less springy bass, when the one in Hifimans is more universal, so they are more flexible in terms of everyone’s taste. The biggest difference is in the midrange. 5XX provides way more life and vividness in vocals. 5XX’s treble is more delicate, and the soundstage is way deeper. It’s similar in width and pinpointing but way higher and more profound.

Pairing​

Pairing is a straightforward part. HE5XX sounds good with any sound source I’ve used (as always, you can find them at the bottom of the review) if they have enough power. Of course, some will cut the soundstage, but even xDuoo XD-05 Plus provides a decent size and correctness. The rest stays on the sound signature, and 5XX is not the most source-dependent at this part. All changes are only cosmetical.

Summary​

Do we need anything else?

Drop x Hifiman HE5XX is another wonderful kid of those two companies. For only 220USD and free shipping in the USA, you get a vivid sound, the most extensive soundstage at this price range, and one of the most comfortable headphones. If I’d have to select one headphone under 500$ as my daily driver, I’d buy HE5XX and a balanced cable. I’d spend the rest of the money on beer, and that combo would make me really satisfied.
Highly recommended.


THE DROP X HIFIMAN HE5XX WAS SENT TO US IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST OPINION.
THANKS DROP FOR SENDING US THIS DEVICE. YOU CAN CHECK OUT ALL OTHER PRODUCTS THEY HAVE!


YOU CAN BUY IT HERE.


Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
  • Headphones – Audeze LCD3, Hifiman HE1000se, HEDDphone, Hifiman Ananda, Hifiman HE 400i 2020, Meze 99 Classics, Dekoni Blue, AKG K702, Philips Fidelio X2HR
  • Sources– JDSLabs Atom DAC + Atom AMP, iFi iDAC2, EarMen Eagle, EarMen TR-Amp, xDuoo XD-05 Plus, SMSL SH9 + SU9 stack
rprodrigues
rprodrigues
That is a very well written review.
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DallaPo

New Head-Fier
Great overall package and that at a very appealing price
Pros: open and detailed
great bass
lively, but relaxed
"lightweight"
Cons: not quite neutral
sometimes a bit thin in the mids
there is not much more considering the price
Rating: 8.6
Sound: 8.6

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Intro
The HE5XX is another collaboration between DROP and HIFIMAN and is supposed to be more similar in sound and appearance to the DEVA than to the HE500, or other models in the HE5 series, but I can't judge that because I don't have a comparison. What I can compare the HE5XX with, however, is the DROP X SENNHEISER HD6XX, which I currently rate as one of the best value for money and which thrills me with its neutral, detailed, unagitated and relaxed sound. At the same price tag, the HE5XX is a successful counterpart to the HD6XX, as it plays more openly and freshly, but has its strengths less in emotionality and does not bring the stoic composure of the HD6XX.

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Handling
When I read the weight of the HE5XX, I had to look twice as it seems much lighter on my head.
The headband is basically identical to the HE4XX, but the ear cups including the pads are lighter. Somehow, this also makes them seem a bit cheaper, but that's just a subjective observation based on the feel. The contact pressure is almost non-existent and yet the HE5XX sits very stably and thus also extremely comfortably. The pads could still be a bit softer and fluffier, I prefer those of the HE4XX, but they have the better space in comparison.

The scope of delivery is similar to that of the HE4XX and is limited to a robust cable (3.5mm jack) with an adapter to 6.3mm.
There are certainly headphones that leave a more valuable impression, but in the processing I can not reproach the HE5XX, even if you notice here the attempt to save costs of DROP in the material and design. I found this a bit less obvious in the HE4XX. In return, the HE5XX has the headband's ratchet back, which I like.

All in all, the HE5XX is a very comfortable, open headphone with enough space for everyone, which is hardly noticeable on the head. The isolation is quite modest due to the construction.

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Sound
Bass

In the end, you get a very good planar bass with the HE5XX, just like with the HE4XX, with a great resolution and homogeneity. However, the HE5Xx adds a little more depth and sounds somewhat fuller in the bass range. Suits him well and is for me as an upgrade to the already great bass of the HE4XX to evaluate.

I appreciate more and more the bass characteristics of a planar driver, as I hear the low frequencies all detailed out, but these are presented to me with a wonderful lightness, even if I would give priority to good dynamics in total, as I also like it a bit more physical. In return, I am impressed by the speed of the bass, but this is also slightly at the expense of dynamics.
For me, the HE5XX still has fantastic bass performance and offers a new experience.

Mids
Unlike the HE4XX, the HE5XX sounds more lively in the mids and voices seem more open and not quite as intimate. However, it also loses some of the emotion and the HE5XX may sound a bit like a robot, working through the music with absolute precision and matter-of-factness. However, it does so in outstanding quality and the mids excel in detail and transparency. Sometimes voices lack a bit of body, but tonally I'm very satisfied, as everything also sounds like it's all of a piece. Electric guitars are particularly fun for me and even if I repeat myself, the HE5XX has a very pleasant lightness in its sound reproduction. Robotic might not be the right word in sum either, as the mids exude playing joy, but are perhaps a bit dry here and there. In addition, they move a bit more to the foreground compared to the HE4XX.

Trebles
An extremely discreet artificiality in the treble has remained, but the HE5XX seems more homogeneous and also more natural compared to the HE4XX, since the mids are on eye level with the treble.

The treble is not additionally emphasized and is more on par with the HD6XX with its relaxed nature, even though the latter appeals to me even more and sounds more natural.
Slight sibilants can be detected here and there, but that is negligible and not annoying for me, although I am very sensitive there.

Stage
In contrast to the HE4XX, one immediately has the feeling of listening to an open headphone. The stage clearly increases in width and the HE5XX also has the better arguments in the Y, as well as Z-axis.

Imaging
The ample space is translated very well into a multi-layered 3D image, which also takes place outside the head, even if this is mostly only the case on the X-axis, i.e. in the stereo image. Nevertheless, the separation is more airy, which means we have more space between the individual instruments than with the HE4XX. I would make slight criticisms about the location of the bass, as it is sometimes hard to pick up. This is not different in a hi-fi system and even desired or normal that the bass has no real locatability, but in IEMs and headphones it is usually centered behind the voices. At least there the "kick" is always well locatable, the HE5XX is here somewhat more diffuse and thus, if you will, more speaker-like.

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Outro
In the end, the HE5XX does almost everything better than the HE4XX, which I sometimes find quite exhausting due to the treble emphasis and which also does not necessarily act like an open planar driver in terms of technical performance. In direct comparison, the 30 - 40 € more for the HE5XX, depending on the dollar rate, are well invested.
I find the musical and transparent playing style with a lush stage and very good separation particularly appealing. With its lively nature, it can be a fitting counterpart to the DROP X SENNHEISER HD6XX, depending on your preferences. Tonally, it is similarly authentic and has the last word in the bass in comparison, however, I find mids and treble of the HD6XX more appealing, even if this is the more "boring" of the two in total and does not seem quite as open and unstrained, but can generate emotions more easily.

The HE5XX is a great overall package and that at a very appealing price. If you prefer something more intimate and emotional, you can take a look at the HE4XX as a planar entry.

I think, with the HD6XX and HE5XX you have two headphone weapons in hand and for both together not yet spent 400 €.

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DROP
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More reviews: CHI-FIEAR
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cel4145
cel4145
Appreciated your review. While I have not heard the HE4XX, I am experienced with the Sundara, HE400i, and HE560. I prefer the HE5XX to all of them because of the lively mids, yet not too much treble.
rprodrigues
rprodrigues
Great review.

Would the he5xx be an effective upgrade from the he4xx?
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billqs
billqs
Yes, I believe it would.

Ichos

Reviewer at hxosplus
The Giant Killer
Pros: - Reference natural tuning
- Musical presentation
- Well extended bass
- Full sounding
- Comfortable
- Dual entry detectable cable
- Price
Cons: - A touch lean at the highs
- Minor quality issues
The HE5XX was kindly provided by Drop and is still under their ownership.
This is my honest and subjective evaluation of it.

Note

After further listening tests and further research we have edited the section HE5XX vs Deva.
Kindly read again.

Introduction

The Drop/Hifiman HE5XX is a brand new open back planar magnetic headphone that is selling for $220 and can be bought exclusively from Drop.
This is not the first time that Drop and Hifiman join forces together but rather the sixth with various models available such as their great success HE4XX ($180) with more than 40k units sold and the dynamic driver HE35X ($70).
The HE5XX is positioned between the now out of stock Edition XX and the HE4XX.

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Technology

Quoting from Drop website we read:

"Inspired by HIFIMAN’s iconic HE500 Series headphones, the open-back HE5XX pairs powerful, speaker-like audio with new ultra-light components to maximize both fidelity and comfort".
"Thanks to stronger double-sided magnets, 2-micron-thick Nano Diaphragm membranes, and other careful design adjustments, the HE5XX is 30-percent lighter than the Legacy HE500. What’s more, these same components (plus a newly designed conductor layer) greatly increase the efficiency of the HE5XX, making it easier to drive. For those that want to push to performance even further, the HE-5XX is also wired to work with a balanced cable".
The HE5XX has a nominal impedance of 18Ω with a sensitivity of 93.5dB so it is not power hungry.
The cable entries are separate for each ear cup featuring a 3.5mm plug that is used for all the new generation headphones of Hifiman so finding aftermarket cables should be an easy task.

IMG_20201215_222952.jpg


Inside the box there is only the 1.5m cable of typical quality plus an extra 6.35mm adapter.

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Physical

Weight is 355gr and it can be considered very light weight for a planar headphone.
The design of the HE5XX resembles very much that one of the Deva with the same ear cups and gimbals this time finished with a black matt color that better suits our aesthetics.

The ear cups are made of good quality plastic with a metallic black mesh at the outside which covers the drivers and looks very beautiful while the gimbals are made from metal.
The difference is in the headband design and in the way that the ear cups are attached to it.
In the Deva we find the brand new extra thick headband of Hifiman while in the 5XX is that classic older style design that was also used by Drop in their previous Hifiman products.

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The headband is very lightweight and made of a metal band covered with synthetic leather and reinforced with extra padding.

The Achilles heel of the headphone seems to be the plastic rounded clip that attaches the ear cup gimbal to the headband.
To be honest we haven't experienced any problems at all but it looks a bit flimsy leaving us wondering how future proof it is.

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The headband length is easily adjusted with ten clicks and the whole system allows for a small swivel of the ear.

A minor issue that we have encountered is that in the lower position of the available length the headband edge is depressing the ear pad in a way that restricts movement and might damage it.

IMG_20201230_183300.jpg


The ear pads are the hybrid type design that we find in a lot of Hifiman headphones with the outside and inside made of soft synthetic leather while the outer part that touches the face is made from a breathable velour mesh.
The pads are internally filled with good quality memory foam of medium hardness.

Comfort

Wearing comfort is good thanks to the even distribution of the weight and the medium clamping force.
The ear pads are very roomy and can accommodate the whole ear without depressing it but depth is medium so some ears may touch the inside mesh.
We used it for hours long without feeling a hint of discomfort and we also found it very breathable and stable to the head.
Our overall impression is that build quality and feeling is good and the headphone seems to be durable and able to withstand the test of time at least if we treat it with care.

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Listening tests

We have spent a lot of time with the HE5XX so we were able to test it with various devices at our disposal like the iFi zen can and NEO idsd , FiiO M11 pro and Q5s Type-C , Vali 2+ , EarMen TR amp just to name a few.

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The HE5XX is portable friendly but still needs an amplifier able to provide enough current and above all quality due to its great transparency.
With a revealing and unforced nature it is going to do justice to upstream gear but on the other hand it's not forgiving at all to mediocre quality.

Regarding overall tonality it is evenly tuned with a natural and lifelike presentation.
It's not perfect as we are going to discover later but hey what is and the HE5XX ticks most of the right boxes.
Bass extends well without any serious roll off and is realised with a linear and a neutral approach without a hint of extra boost or midbass bleed.
The low notes are rendered tight and layered with detail and insight even in the most complex passages.
This is the well known Hifiman bass that is clear and accurate but this time surprisingly well bodied and dynamic.
Having tested all the current models up to the Ananda we can declare the HE5XX as the most full sounding of the bunch or if you prefer the least lean sounding with great overall dynamics.

Transition up to the mid range is almost linear with a slight progressive emphasis to make the region sound full and slightly forward.
Voices and the rest of the instruments are very accurate and well rounded with the right amount of projection and timbre.
This is not a mid centric headphone but rather a headphone with a balanced and yet engaging mid range.

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Then there is smooth rise up to the presence area and treble without any severe peaks to ruin the overall performance.
As that we are served with a crystal clear detail with very good integration of all the small nuances that add greatly to a lifelike character.
This headphone is an excellent performer with technicalities that reach well above the price point in a manner that is truly surprising.
Air among the notes is great and higher pitched instruments are almost tonally correct.
And we say almost because we can hear a slight peak that slightly ruins the whole picture adding a somewhat fake texture to some instruments.
Some instruments or notes if you prefer decay a little faster than the ideal so they sound a bit thin and rushed.
Still the overall tuning and timbre are natural and very satisfying with a highly musical factor.

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Headstage as is the case with it's sibling the Deva is magnificent and without rivals until we reach several times more expensive offerings.
Wide and deep is full of air with a laser like precision and very believable proportions.
It will communicate the recording venue with great success offering the listener the chance to open a window and lean inside the performance.

Selected comparisons

Now let us discuss some brief subjective comparisons between the HE5XX and the rest mid priced members of the Hifiman family.
We are going to analyze sound performance only as the fit and build quality between the various models is more or less the same except the Sundara.

Vs the HE400i 2020 edition ($169)

(https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/hifiman-he400i-ver-2020.24702/review/24488/)

The HE400i 2020 is maybe the best bargain when we are talking about a branded high quality planar magnetic headphone.
Compared to the HE5XX it lacks a little in bass extension and is flatter regarding the mids with a more emphasis at the higher registers.
Another key difference is the leaner sound signature which combined with the overall frequency response makes for a monitor type presentation whether the 5XX is fuller sounding with a more musical manner and better instrumental timbre.
The 5XX is clearly a better technical performer regarding overall clarity and separation with a more natural decay and much better soundstage.
So in our opinion the extra $50 are well spent but still the 400i is a great bargain very well suited to restrained budgets or when a more monitor like and analytical character is desired.

Vs the Sundara ($349)

(https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/hifiman-sundara.23041/review/24766/)

This is the only rival that clearly bests the HE5XX in build quality by a fair margin.
With metal ear cups - but without significantly added weight - and the classic style self adjusting leather - metal headband is made like a tank and can withstand any kind of abuse while still being elegant and visually appealing.
Moving on to the sound we have a more lean and slightly brighter character against the more bassy and fuller sounding HE5XX.
With both headphones equally performing in the technical department the choice comes down between the fast , analytical and detailed approach of the Sundara vs the more relaxed and natural voicing of the HE5XX.
Sound preference is purely subjective but if you are looking for the best build quality and the maximum durability then be prepared to pay the extra $139 without remorse.

Vs the Deva ($299 with the BlueMini included)

(https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/hifiman-deva.24334/review/23957/)

And now it's time for the million dollar question.
Is the HE5XX the Deva rebranded with Drop and Hifiman trying to fool us?
Hell - definitely NO!
This question has been addressed officially by Drop but there are two web resources with measurements that lead to different conclusions.
The one claims that there are very similar but different headphones and the other that they are exactly the same.
Well we don't know and maybe there has been some kind of misunderstanding between Drop and Hifiman and that explains the Drop statements.

IMG_20201230_184004.jpg


Since we don't have the tools to perform our own measurements we are going to provide our subjective listening experience.
We have opened both headphones to have a look at the drivers and they seem identical.

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It is definitely true that they sound very similar.
Maybe the HE5XX offers a slightly better bass extension that additionally is more controlled and detailed but it might be a placebo effect.
Since we had to unplug the headphones every time we cannot guarantee 100% about the different since it is very very difficult to tell them apart.
But we think that actually it doesn't matter as long as both sound excellent.
There are other differences to determine which headphone is the best offer and we think that both can have it's own place.
By now it seems that the HE5XX with it's lower price is the obvious choice and this is partially true at least when we need a cabled headphone with 3.5mm dual entry plugs.
But the Deva has an ace up sleeve and it is the BlueMini with it's great diversity.
The Deva is one of the best designed bluetooth headphones in the market as it is a headphone that can become instantly wireless by just plugging the BlueMini.
So for an extra $99 we get the extra BlueMini that is not just a wireless dongle but it is an excellent performer and can substitute as a separate usb dac of high quality.
And let's not forget the headband and aesthetics differences that for some people do make a difference.
As always judging between budget and our needs will call the final winner.

At the end - A Clear Winner

During our time with the Drop HE5XX we have been constantly wondering how it came that Hifiman authorized this release greatly risking to compromise the rest of their mid priced line.
Don't let the asking price of $220 fool you as the HE5XX is one of the best headphones we have ever heard no matter the type or value.
With an excellent natural and musical tuning plus technical performance rising well above the HE5XX is a remarkable achievement.
It is a reference planar magnetic headphone that should definitely be a part of every collection even without considering the friendly price.


The test playlist - http://open.qobuz.com/playlist/5669033


Copyright - Laskis Petros 2020
Last edited:

billqs

100+ Head-Fier
Drop + Hifiman HE5XX Amazing Best Bang for the Buck Planar
Pros: Low Price
Quality Full Range Sound
Comfortable to Wear
Cons: Old Hifiman Headband Design
Tends to run a little sharp in treble
Naming scheme makes it seem it's a recreation of the HE500 but it's not
Review of Hifiman 5XX

Since these are so new, I wanted to get out as soon as possible impressions of the new Drop + Hifman 5XX. It is the latest joint project between Drop (formerly Massdrop) and Hifiman who produce (mostly) magnetic planar headphones across all price ranges from $125 to $6000 (even much higher for the TOTL Shangri La and Shangri La Jr. electrostatic phones and special amps known as energizers). I bought these myself the first day they hit the drop so I got no remuneration for this review.

It’s also important to know the gear used in a review. I listened to the HE5XX through a SMSL 300MKII Dac, a McIntosh MHA 100 amp, and used Hart Audio cables (though I’m not a cable makes a phone sound different kind of guy.)

First lets confront the naming controversy. Is this a reissue of the renowned HE500? I used to own the HE500 and it was a wonderful headphone that could be improved greatly by making DIY mods to the original phones. Personally, I don’t see any relationship between the HE5XX and the 500. I think it’s best to treat them as 2 different headphones. If you want a pair of HE500’s they often come up used. Occasionally, Hifiman has a few pair of them lying around they will sell open box to you (you have to call the store to get information on these and the HE6 they may have.)

Some people also say it’s a redesigned Deva. I don’t own the Deva so I can’t answer that. If it’s true then Deva owners have a great sounding phone, because the HE5XX sound better than any sub $300 planar headphone should.

Being a new product, the passage of time benefits the HE5XX. Much like the reworked HE4XX (2020), the 5XX benefit from changes in the implementation of magnet structure and a much thinner diaphragm that have trickled down from the Susvara and HEK series. These allow the newer drivers to catch much better nuance in recordings.

The HE5XX have some great things they bring to the table. You get the lower distortion of the planar design which like electostats can give you an uncanny “you are there” esperience. Further, the 5XX have a great sense of dynamics that remind me of the dynamics in the Focal Elex or Clear. The HE5XX are tuned mostly neutral with a smidge of extra bass. This tuning is one that Hifiman uses on a lot of their phones even their most expensive. There is good separation, instrument location and a decent stereo image.

Where the more expensive Hifiman phones and the Focal Clears exceed the 5XX is in detail retrieval. The 5XX aren’t the detail monsters that the HE1000SE and Susvara (or even the Arya) are. But since these other phones run from $1599 to $6000 MSRP it’s not a fair comparison. What you get in the 5XX is a solid musical image which is coherent and keeps, nay demands your attention.

Frequency Response:

Bass: The bass is present and there and is proportional to the song you’re listening to. A listen to “Better Things” by Massive Attack has bass and excellent female vocals, even if these aren’t phones that give you the extra heavy bass EDM, and Triphop users crave. (Usually to achieve the preferred sound for listening to these types of music the bass is boosted either through headphone choice of EQ.)

That’s not to say the bass is lacking. A listen to Patricia Barber’s cover of the iconic Doors song “Light My Fire” has excellent bass and the natural sound of the acoustic bass and the warm alto of Ms. Barber’s voice come through clearly. It’s like being in a smoky jazz club, and there is no shortage of the required bass to bring this warm performance to life.

Midrange: Midrange sounds distinctive and there is no bleed-through from the bass. The Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band” is a great test of vocals and the 5XX display it wonderfully.

Treble: Treble is fully present mostly without sibilance. There are a couple of “torture tracks” I play to see how the top end sounds. One is Thomas Dolby’s “Hyperactive”. There is lots of treble in this song which is excellently recorded and the 5XX come through with no sibilance or sharpness.

The second track is the Yes song, “Roundabout”. (It’s important you listen to the right version of this song. The remix from 2008 has too much top energy to the detriment of other parts of the song.) Listening to the much superior 2003 Remix of Yes’ album Fragile shows a full frequency response where the top end holds its own, although there was top end sharpness I didn't notice with the Thomas Dolby song above..

Final thoughts:

The HE5XX are surprisingly addictive to wear with a great overall tuning that makes you want to continue to listen to them. They are very musical sounding headphones. As I listen to them while writing this they are giving me much aural pleasure. Talking Heads “Psychokiller” and the Stone’s “Sympathy for the Devil” sound wonderful on the 5XX.

The 5XX are priced well for what you get. Personally, I prefer this phone to the Drop+Sennheiser 6XX. Although the 6XX is a very seminal reference level phone, I find myself drawn to the lively presentation as the 5XX.

If you are a basshead, then in this price point I have to recommend the Drop/Meze Classic Noir, which are exceptional in an unapologetically bassy and warm sound signature. I think the Meze Classic is a great phone to pair with the more neutral 5XX.

Overall, I think the HE5XX is a great buy, especially if you judge it only on what it brings to the table. It’s not an HE500, but it is exceptional in its own way.
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trellus
trellus
I sold my HE-4XX about a year ago because they were boring. The HE-5XX are not that.
Philimon
Philimon
5XX is more Grado 225e indeed. Do not want as main headphone - same goes for 4XX. 6XX is quintessential all-rounder. 4XX/6XX both sound sleepy from a cellphone, where 5XX does not. 4XX is the budget planar sampler. 5XX is a sidegrade. 6XX is safer bet with potential for greatness.
rprodrigues
rprodrigues
@Philimon Could you share the link for the mod?
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