HIFIMAN Edition X Over Ear Planar Magnetic Headphones

General Information

Ultra High Performance Ultra High Sensitivity Ultra High Experience Even lower weight and amazing 103dB sensitivity Edition X breaks new ground in performance, style and comfort for planar magnetic headphones. Features & Benefits Ultra Thin Diaphragm for lightning fast response, uncanny detail and ultra low distortion High Sensitivity allows use with virtually any smartphone or portable audio device. Low distortion and amazing sound quality. Window Shade Grill Design greatly reduces sonic reflections for clearer sound. Asymmetrical Ear Cups follows the natural shade of the human ear. Hybrid Ear Pads' beveled design conforms to the shape of the human skull while velour and pleather materials provide optimum comfort. Lightweight, ergonomic headband for better fit, improved sound and comfort for longer term listening High Performance Cable that is user-replaceable. Simple connectors allow easy switching or replacement to other cables. Specifications: Frequency Response: 8Hz - 50kHz Sensitivity: 103dB Impedance: 25 ± 3 ohm Weight: 14.07 Oz (399 grams)

Latest reviews

Pros: Can be driven by most, if not all devices. Fantastic Midrange. Solid bass response. Pretty.
Cons: Cheap-feeling. Flimsy. Cheap-feeling. Flimsy. PLASTIC. Somewhat warm to the ears.

Intro
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I’m a professional photographer (or something like that) and I live in an apartment. That means that I can’t work in the harmonious glow of high end speakers blasting my face off.
 
Thus, I decided to spend my money on headphones.
 
About Me
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I won’t pretend to be the truest of technical audiophiles. While we can totally get down to optical acuity or the point of having 100 megapixel sensors, I can’t tell you the most about headphones. I listen to music. Mostly Tidal, mostly hip hop, rock, and jazz, with some house and trap EDM thrown in. I can tell you what sounds good to me and why.
 
Short History
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I started my hobby when I was 14 and saved enough to buy some Shure E4c’s to go along with my White Core 2 Duo Macbook that I paid for by taking my lunch money and… not eating. This is also after selling my Ultimate Ear Super.Fi 3 and other earphones.
 
A couple of years later, I realized that the static that bothered me was coming from my headphone jack. I bought a NuForce Icon Udac.
 
From then on, I had those headphones till the cable shorted. From there it’s something like:
 
Apple Earpods -> Havi B3 Pro 1 (broken) -> Havi B3 Pro 1 (broken) -> Shure SE535
 
Sony 7506’s (for 7-8 years as a secondary work headphone) -> Alessandro MS-1 -> Sennheiser HD650 -> AKG K7XX (hated it, gave it to Dad) -> Hifiman HE-400i (possibly might sell?) -> Hifiman Edition X
 
Nuforce UDac -> Maverick Audio -> Audioquest Dragonfly v1.2 -> Grace Design x Massdrop m9xx
 
Hifiman Edition X Review
 
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What's in the box?
 
- The HEX
- Nice form-fitting padding
- 4-5 foot (ish) right angled 3.5mm terminated cable
- 9-10 foot (ish) straight 1/4 terminated cable
 
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I will always break down my reviews by the three things that matter to me. Comfort, build, sound quality, versatility, and my honest opinion to the biggest question of all: Was the damn thing worth it?
 
I bought the HEX I own with my own money. 
 
Comfort - 9/10
 
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I work a lot, so comfort is huge for me. It’s what made me stick away from the Audeze line. I tried them out at an audio store local to Los Angeles, and I couldn’t do longer than fifteen minutes. Too damn heavy.
 
The HEX’s are COMFORTABLE. Extremely. This is coming from someone who didn’t think the 650s were particularly great at comfort, even broken in.
 
The way they completely evenly distribute their weight throughout the side of my head from my temple to the top of my jaw is absolutely fantastic. It doesn’t feel weird to me personally.
 
The 400i’s cup me somewhat tightly, and I’m sure its due to the size of the cups. If the HEX’s had the same cups, I’d feel the same about them. The larger cups are somewhat warm, but absolutely fantastic.
 
 
Build – 5/10
 
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Build is super important to me, and you can ask my work gear about that. I tend not to like things I can’t beat up if they’re portable.
 
These are not leaving the house. Let’s just say that. For how much I paid for them, which was less than most, heeeeellllnaaaaaah.
 
There’s definitely noises when I use them, coming from the headband. My particular copy of the HE-400i feels much sturdier than my HEX, which is pretty sad. We’ll get to this later. I think my point here is this: the 400i build isn’t bad. If my HEX was built the same way, I’d trust it. Sort of. If it didn’t cost this much.
 
 
Sound Quality – 9.3/10
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I’ve always loved the Shure sound. It’s why until my HEX’s, Shure was the only audio company to take my money twice. Hifiman has just become the second (except I bought them used).
 
I am pretty treble sensitive. It has motivated both the way I record audio when I work, and the way I listen to music.
 
My ideal sound signature is this: Laid back treble with roll-off, forward mids, with coherent bass that’s somewhere between the adjectives bloomy and punchy. I loved that my 650s totally nailed this signature. I just didn’t like how the comfort was, and how much scaling they required.
 
Needless to say, my HEX’s NAIL this. Just listen to some high-res Norah Jones. Your mind will be blown.
 
 
Mids - 10/10
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I am a hip-hop classicist. By this I mean, I listen to vocals before beats. I think this is why I subconsciously liked my Shures. It brought vocals to the forefront above all else.
 
Mids here are fantastic. Both male and female vocals sound fantastic. You get enough detail and nuance in these headphones to notice certain parts of recordings (if it’s good enough). For Norah Jones’s Seven Years, you can hear some of the studio noise and acoustics, and the range of the mics and how close she probably came to clipping.
 
I might be completely wrong, but that’s what it sounds like to me.
 
I think the big thing for me here, is that there’s definite separation of the vocals and mid-centric instruments above the bass. That’s huge to me. The mids feel like they’re in the center of my head, the bass surrounds the stage, and the other frequencies and quieter parts of the mix stay separate. I guess I’ll say it here, soundstage for a headphone is fantastic.
 
When I’m working, I can pick apart mistakes in my recordings of vocals pretty quickly. Whether that’s good or bad, ask me when I’m frustrated. But it does help me with my work, and the HEX is the first full sized can that I can say has honestly done that for me.
 
 
Bass - 9/10
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The bass here is somewhere between bloomy and punchy/quick. Dare I say natural and loudspeaker like?
 
It’s interesting because it also seems to hit a middle-ground between my old 650s and my HE-400i’s. I got to do some A/B because I sold the 650s after I got my HEX’s. The HEX’s sound more planar’y in the low end than the 650s did. By this, I mean had quick decay before the pads played any effect on it.
 
The HEX has bass that is neither too Planar-y, nor too typical dynamic and thumpy. It strides a solid middle ground that sounds very natural to me. On some songs (Love Lockdown – Kanye West especially), the bass just reaches below the point of overwhelming.
 
I will say, that for the sake of tracks like that, I wish the bass was ever so slightly tighter. Maybe 5%.
 
 
Treble - 9/10 (for me)
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Not sibilant, and doesn’t fatigue. I can listen to this headphone for hours. I’m not a treble head, so I won’t say much here, especially since most of my music doesn’t rely on treble. It’s smooth and rolled off just the way I like it.
 
 
Soundstage, other dynamics/details - 9/10
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Fantastic in a lot of ways, as I said earlier.
 
- The only knock here is for absolute resolution which, to my ears, can’t beat my friends HD800 out of his Woo Audio WA7. Considering I didn’t buy these for absolute detail, but for enjoyment (95% of the time), it’s only losing a point for this. This doesn't mean the headphones lack detail retrieval. They're still better than most sub $1000 cans.
 
- Soundstage is great, vocals for the most part feel like they're coming from the middle of my head, or just in front of me. Bass feels multidirectional, just behind the vocals. Other instruments come from different sides of my head (depending on the mix). As far as instrument/element separation, different elements of the mix seem to fade in and out ridiculously smoothly. There is also seemingly definitive space between elements of each track. It’s worth the listen alone. 
 
- Solidly black background.
 
- Easy easy easy to drive, but you knew that already.
 
- Doesn’t scale a lot, when using my m9xx, soundstage becomes more coherent and the background becomes blacker. Enough of a difference to matter to me. Makes me think that a high end SS amp would be the way to go here, unlike tubes. YMMV. 
 
***** Hifiman representatives have said that using an amp that outs over 1W will damage these things. I'm not sure how you could do that, without it going crazy loud and blowing your ears out first. Just throwing this out there.
 
- Are these cans forgiving? Nope. Not to my ears at least. Feed it high quality files and input. Don't play 128 kbps music on these headphones. You'll regret every second of it. Lower quality mixes can’t hold up to the Norah Jones’ and the Kanye’s and the other fantastic producers of the world. I listened to Iron Maiden on these, and they sounded absolutely flat. Mind you, they were lossless but not remastered. Classic music, remastered, just popped out of the screen and felt 3D hologrammed in my head.
 
 
Versatility 10/10
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Let’s just say these are the versatility kings. Since they're open, I can be relatively aware of my surroundings when in use, and they can be driven literally out of anything. They sound marvelous out of my iPad. They literally don’t suck out of anything, which even my Shure’s can’t exactly match (due to hiss and electrical cracking).
 
These headphones can be used with, and for anything. I won’t duck points from it due to the fact it’s an open back which limits it in certain environments. Don't be that guy who blasts open-back headphones on the Metro. Please, please don't be that guy.
 
 
What do other people think?
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I have a girlfriend and an apartment mate. My girlfriend could give less of a crap about the gear, but absolutely loves music. The apartment mate is a writer for a computer and tech review site, so he’s a gearhead too. Did I tell you he has a Massdrop account?
 
Girlfriend: Couldn’t take the headphones off, but couldn’t tell me why. Her first real hifi moment was trying out the 400i’s for the first time. This was a bigger and more comfortable experience for her.
 
Apartment Mate: Mind blown, and didn’t take them off for at least two hours when he was supposed to be writing. He was excited to tell me about details in the music that he’s never heard before, particularly mistakes in his lossless Weezer recordings. 
 
 
Are you done buying headphones?
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I'm not sure if these are my end of end games. I'm thinking the only way up from here would either be a pair of Stax SR-007's or HD800S's. The latter for practicality, the former for bad-assery. My interests in sound don't really seem (from what I've heard in the past) to be worth upgrading to any other phone. Don't say Audeze, my big head will probably beg for mercy.
 
Final Notes
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Something worth mentioning was that I bought these knowing I'd be using them with an iPad, and not necessarily with a DAC/Amp. I think you have to be in this camp to fully pull the trigger on these, but I think there's more of you out there than not. These are THE BEST headphones for use without any additional hardware.
 
 
Was it worth it?
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Yes, ABSOLUTELY - for me. 
 
Would it be worth the current used Razordog semi-used price of $1389? Hm… good question. I won’t answer this, too close to call. I’d say yes to all willing to give it a shot.
 
Would it be worth at $1799? ONLY if my tastes seem to match yours, and this headphone is a close to perfect match to your musical tastes. If so, OMG YES GO FOR IT. If not, I hear Audeze, Mr. Speakers, and some company called Sennheiser might have something to say.
 
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Final Score: 8.5/10
 
Which for me, being the cheapskate that I am, on a pair of $1799 headphones that can feel, at times, flimsy, means:
 
Go buy them now! I can't recommend these enough.
 
Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions! I hope my thoughts were worth your two cents.ifiman

senorx12562
senorx12562
Nice review, thanks. Love the lunch money story; that is dedication to the cause. Respect. Cheers.
rmacaisa
rmacaisa
@senorx12562  thanks! that's how to get it done when you're 15 haha
cyberslacker
cyberslacker
nice review, i have the 400i and love em but of course i will be moving up...
Pros: weight, look, imaging, easiness, comfort, efficiency, airness
Cons: cable, soundstage, boring, details

Pros: excellent sound, great comfort, common cable connection style (easy to replace)
Cons: Questionable choice of build materials, HUGE - may not work with smaller heads
INTRODUCTION:
 
When getting into the world of Hi-Fi audio I couldn’t fathom how someone could spend more than a couple hundred dollars on a set of headphones. I had just purchased my first set of real deal headphones (Shure SE-425 for those who are wondering) and while I was happy with them, it was still an endeavor to spend as much money as I did. Seeing people talk about buying $1500.00 headphones and more would do nothing less than make my jaw hit the floor. Surely they can’t be that much better…
 
Enter modern day in my life and I have several pieces of equipment in the $500.00 range. And I can begin to understand how the next step up really makes a difference. This is when I found myself in the review tour for the Hifiman Edition X. Finally, a chance to determine if there was a reason someone should spend such an amount on headphones. So will it be worth the cash? Let’s find out!
 
DISCLAIMER:
The Hifiman Edition X unit I reviewed was provided for a sample period so that we reviewers can provide a true opinion of the device. I am in no way affiliated or obligated to write a positive review for the company. The review below reflects my complete and honest review of the product.
 
ABOUT ME:
I am a 26 year old music enthusiast, audiophile, music lover, whatever your terminology is for us with empty wallets and great tunes! In my obnoxious youth I could never understand why someone would drop the cash for headphones like ours. Over time I learned the differences in not just equipment, but in source files.
Suddenly I found myself spending some money on good gear, and over time it has developed into something more. Not only did I find myself enjoying my music more, but I found communities that share in my hobby.
I have a very extensive and eclectic musical library. I tend to avoid rap and heavy sided metal music. Otherwise, I am game. Most of my music comes from Folk, Rock (all kinds), Alternative, Singer/songwriter, and Acapella. I would say that I am a balanced listener, with perhaps a bit of a bass-head tendency. My library is comprised of mostly legally obtained Redbook 16/44.1 with a few vinyl rips done for me by a friend.
 
My DAP experience has been all across the spectrum, but has recently began the hi-fi journey. Starting with my original RCA RD2204 Lyra (the old days) and continuing to SanDisk Sansa’s, clips, Ipods, Iphones, Android phones (such as HTC one M8) and Windows Phones (Lumia 1520, 1020). Recently I have begun collecting my newer gear starting with my first Hi res dap as the X1/Q1, as well as testing the Sony A17 and FiiO X7.
 
My headphone use is primarily IEM with a few cans. My primary gear currently is my Shure SE-425’s and my Hifiman HE-400’s. I use my FiiO X1 with the Q1 DAC stacked as my daily driver currently. But enough about me!
 
 
PACKAGING AND IN THE BOX:
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One thing that always amazes me when looking at more expensive equipment is the amount of care and planning that goes in just the packaging. The Edition X is no exception, coming in a leather covered hard box with silver front. There is plenty of padding in the box to keep the headphones nice and secure. Typically, I am not one to care much about the packaging as I tend to rid myself of it within a few days of ownership. But I can see myself storing these headphones in this box when not in use.
 
In the box you will find a standard assortment of items. I have included a list of included things in my box. Please note that because this is a review unit, the included accessories could change. With that said, included were the following:
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  1. Edition X headphones (duh)
  2. 3.5mm stereo headphone cable
  3. ¼ inch stereo headphone cable
  4. Warranty card
  5. Owner’s manual
 
SPECIFICATIONS:
 
  1. Impedance: 25Ohm (±3 Ohm)
  2. Sensitivity: 103 dB @ 1kHz 
  3. Response: 8Hz - 50KHz
  4. Type: Planar Magnetic
 
BUILD QUALITY/DESIGN:
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As many others have noted, the Edition X takes many of its design elements from the Hifiman HE1000 headphones. This relies on a suspension strap to rest the phones and some rather incredibly large egg shaped cups. These are some of the more comfortable headphones I have ever owned. There is no noticeable weight, they don’t clamp too hard on your head, and my ears didn’t even touch the inside driver wall.
 
After wearing the headphones for several hours I found no fatigue. The only issue I had came when I was doing some organizing of my house while listening and my ears got rather hot. Granted, I was doing physical labor, but if your ears get warm naturally you may find some heat issues here.
 
It is worth noting that the headphones are nothing short of gigantic. At 5’11” and a solid 280 Lbs, I am not exactly a small man. In fact, sometimes I find that I cannot use certain headphones because the band is simply too small. I found that the Edition X fit me on either the tightest setting or one up from the tightest setting. I fear for the man whose head is too big for these cans. However, I will state that if you have a smaller head you may run into some issues.
 
What I was surprised to find was that the gimbals on the headphones, as well as the cups seem to be plastic. While this is no doubt to keep weight down on the headphones, coming from the all metal HE-400 I was disappointed to see this. It seemed to be questionable in terms of the longevity of the device including so much plastic. However, on the other side of that argument, I never had an issue with any of the plastic components.
 
While the plastic did not seem to be an issue, the ports for the cable may present a different issue. In my testing I did have to return the unit for service as the left cup had intermittent issues with audio cutting out. I also found that the port on that side of the cup seemed loose. I cannot say for sure if the issue is build quality, as there were several other reviewers before me and I have no idea what level of care they received before being in my care (Not to say that any one of them would abuse their equipment). But it did provide enough worry that I was skeptical of their survivability in the long term.
 
The cable ports terminate at a forward facing angle, rather than straight down, this helps avoid rubbing and microphonics, which is appreciated. As a fellow reviewer stated, I did enjoy that Hifiman has switched to a more standard cable connection to the cups, rather than sticking with the micro-coaxial connection the HE-400 uses. I enjoy the security that type of cable provided, but having to ‘assemble’ your headphones was a bit of a chore if you keep them put away.
 
THE SOUND:
For those who do not have experience with many planar magnetic headphones, they have a tendency to sound okay on low power devices, but always sound better when getting proper power from the source. What I found abnormal is that the HEX provided an impressive sound when just paring with a smart phone. The headphones provided a great soundstage, instrumentation, and clarity with just a good ol’ phone.
 
As the Smartphone was my first test (Hifiman has been touting how well the HEX works straight through the phone), I figured that the law of Planar Magnetics surely must apply. So I ventured fourth to grab my X1/Q1 stack. I was confused when the sound really did not change much when provided the extra power from the q1.
 
Next was my Onkyo TX-NR626 home theater system. I reached for the ¼ in. cable and set forth. Once again, while not at all disappointing, I was surprised that the changes when given extra power were minimal. The soundstage became wider, but only just. Overall the sound signature was about the same regardless of how it was driven. This is definitely not a bad thing and in no way a downside. It just seemed strange from my previous experiences.
 
With regards to sound, I really enjoyed the sound from the Edition X. For me the soundstage was very wide. Sound was smooth balanced. The high end may leave a small bit to be desired but for me it allowed the dark side of my music to really shine. The Bass is prominent and well placed (Although it can be a bit loose at times). Vocals were natural sounding, with virtually any sibilance gone.
I find that the wide soundstage and great instrument separation were the crowning achievements of these headphones. Being able to have so much space between the different sounds and vocals made a lot of my music really come to life and in some cases almost sound epic.
 
For fun I listened to some opening music for a few of my favorite TV shows and was in awe of how intense the music was. The Vikings theme song (Fever Ray – If I Had a Heart) had a looming pulse with powerful lyrics that felt emotional and powerful. And finally, the Theme song from Black Sails (Bear McCreary – Black Sails) just made me feel like I needed to fire a cannon and board a ship!
 
In short, I found the sound to be very pleasing. At no point was I disappointed in the way that the sound was portrayed. While I have limited experience in the world of top of the line headphones, I can definitely see the difference.
 
CONCLUSION:
 
So how did I feel about my review time with the Hifiman Edition X? I felt conflicted. On the one hand, the sound was fantastic. It is something that I really enjoyed and would love to be able to listen to at any time. But on the other hand, I was not impressed with the build quality. While everything felt solidly built, it was still just plastic. The plastic also felt too thin and flimsy for the gimbals. For $1800.00 I feel that I should be confident in the product to survive quite a long time. While it is of course an opinion, I just wasn’t confident that the Edition X provided that.
 
It is also important to note that while the Edition X is a fantastic sounding headphone, it is well past the line of diminishing returns. Being that I have not had a lot of experience in top of the line gear, It’s hard to tell just how much better these headphones are from a $1000.00 or even $800.00 headphone.
 
If you have the money to spend on these headphones, and you live in a caring environment, these headphones would be a great compliment to any collection. If you’re having a hard time justifying an $1800.00 headphone purchase, perhaps consider going for something for a lesser cost. That is my ultimate opinion.
 
 
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[size=1em]DAP – FiiO X1, Lumia 1520, Asus Zenfone 2, FiiO X7, LG G5, Onkyo TX-NR626[/size]
AMP/DAC – FiiO Q1 (Wired)
Songs – Fever Ray – If I Had A Heart, Bear McCreary – Black Sails, Pentatonix – Multiple songs, NEEDTOBREATHE – Brother, Trans Siberian Orchestra – Multiple songs.

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