Cons: Heavy, clamps too tightly...cables noisy (pick up and amplify any movement).
I bought these at less than half retail on a whim from Audio Advisor, looking to replace my aging Sennheiser HD 580's. Look at the picture...these are VERY NICELY made headphones! All aluminum components, with a steel headband, covered with leather...NICE! Replaceable headphone cables that screw into place. The literature that comes with them suggest 200 hr. break in, so I hooked them up to my Sony SACD player and put it on repeat...for a week.
Then I started to listen. To me, they were very close to my beloved HD 580's, sonically. Other folks say that these cans sound dark...well I guess the same is often said about the 580's. The difference between these and my 580's is, it sounds like there is a very broad and shallow dip in the midrange with these cans, compared to the 580's. It could be equally accurate to say that the 580's have a slight midrange emphasis. The HE's were a bit better at giving me rhythmic detail...how all the components of the music were put together. They sounded more analytic than the 580's, although I wouldn't call these cans 'analytical sounding' in absolute terms. The 580's were better at giving me the SOUL of the music...they seemed especially better with vocals in this regard. My take, your choice.
Plus, the HD 580's have better ergonomics. To wit, the oval ear cups fit the shape of my head WAY better, and they were SO much comfortable that every time I'd put them back on when comparing the two, a little voice would whisper "Why are you futzing with the other cans? Keep these..." So I did. I actually sent the HE's back. If it were not for the vise grip clamping on my head, I'd have probably kept them. But we all know that comfort counts for a LOT, with headphones. So I put about $75.00 worth of new parts into my 580's, and they look and sound new again. Not bad for a 20 year old pair of headphones. That said, I found a pair of HD 650's on Ebay that were too good to pass up, so a review on those will follow, once I'm convinced those are broken in and I'm hearing them at their best.
The HE-300s are one solid dynamic HiFi headphone , like most HiFiMANs I have tried "Treble" is the focus , very clean clinical and articulate but at the same time its not metallic or plastic sounding , Dr Biang sure has impressed me , before I get on I have to preface some things
1) The HE-300 has many revisions , according to HiFiMAN they haven't changed the drivers but that seems to be false , REV-1 and 2 were supposed to be warm and fun sounding with nice bass extension , the REV-3 or the version I have is completely different from "FUN" sounding
2) The driver has some rattling issues at low notes , got a lot of BS from a thread I made , don't want to talk about , after completely dismantling the headphone I have concluded that its a baffle defect so poor engineering on HiFiMANs part , its seems like the driver is rattling but has this weird sound which seems to be the resonance of the placement plate and not the driver , still don't quote me on that
Other than all of this , the HE-300 is a sign of the future of dynamic technology and the sound you get from a design in which some R&D went , I have heard some good systems out there ...and all I have heard with better High End headphones is grain , treble energy and clarity
The HE-300 has the best extension in the treble I have ever heard in any dynamic headphone , sure the 800s have a better detailed sound but they can be cold at times , the HE-300 - Nah , they have a extension which is free of coldness , its articulate , clean but at the same time never harsh , extremely smooth with tremendous air , extremely detailed too , never thin sounding ...always full bodied and wonderfully well extended
The Mid-Range is smooth too , but has some spikes which leads unnecessary colourations , its smooth but not having the great extension it has up top , I find the presence region to be the winner , one of the most forward yet distant sounding vocals , free of THD like some Beyerdynamics , so exquisite and from there it goes towards the magic
I find the bass to be extremely disappointing , lacks extension , lacks body , rattles at low notes , thin sounding ...all I hear is upper bass , Mid-Bass presence is good but not great and going down is a disappointing journey , its on the fast side but that might be the response giving me the impression of fast sounding bass , this is the place where the HE-300 did not excel , if it had the bass of my 650s , the HE-300s would have been one solid dynamic
The overall sense of space is great , not as good as a AKG 7XX but above the accepted standard , I find it to be a bit congested sounding when listening to some rock , on the other hand Jazz sounds wonderful , the air when listening to trumpets sounds fantastic , extremely clear and clean sounding
The HE-300 is a fine headphone for the suggested retail , they are efficient too , so they work well out of portable amps and even portable players and they should scale up well with a nice low output impedance amp , can't believe you can get so much for this money , just wish HiFiMAN had better consistency and quality control
Here is my YouTube Video (Review) -
UPDATE 1 - So I stretched the pads a bit , they seem to be a bit better now
Cons: Soundstage could be better. Clamping at first. Microphonics.
I got the HE-300 for $150 without knowing what I was really getting. I was on the verge of purchasing the HD 598 instead, but my life needed some unknowing excitement…I guess.
A cardboard box. That’s all you need to know. The first revisions came with a wooden box that looked rather sexy, but HifiMAN has chosen against it for its second and third revision, instead giving you a silver cable that will make a sound if you even think about touching it. Don’t get me wrong, the cable has been very well regarded and it sounds great, but the microphonics are terrible.
Comfort and build quality
At first, horrendously clamping. After a couple of days, amazing. The velour pads do help, but you will have to manually “expand” the headband a couple of times to make it work. While twisting the headband would be something I would be scared to do on any pair of cans, the HE-300 is so well built that you can bend it without a second thought. The headphone itself, although half plastic-half metal, provides a sense of sturdiness that brands like Sennheiser or Grado can seldom afford.
This is a hobby I only recently got into and still can’t appropriately afford, so I’ve just been testing these using Spotify at 320kbps, some FLACS, the laptop’s MB, an Onkyo receiver, and more recently a FiiO E07K.
In just a few words, these are warm and clear. For an open headphone, I was not expecting this much bass, especially at such a controlled and ‘accurate’ level. I’m not a bass head, but I’ve always thought that a more-than-neutral headphone can make music more, well…musical. While headphones like the V-Moda M100 and the modded HD 439 are extremely fun and focus on the lower end, the HE-300 will give you just enough to not overshadow the mids. It's perfect for those who do not want extra analytical sound, but don't want to focus on bass either. Sub-bass is lacking, though, so apart from some Gramatik, Lemaitre and Daft Punk, the HE-300 did just fine for me when it came to electronic music. Funk and jazz, however, work amazingly well.
Mids are amazing. I’ve had a little demo of the Audeze LCD2+Burson Conductor, the B&W P7, Momentum, Grado s80i, m50s, HD 558, and AKG K240 & K550, and other than the Audeze the HifiMAN are my favorites in this range. I think I fell in love with acoustic-y music again, getting lost within The Goat Rodeo Sessions and the solo Aoife O’Donovan, while catching new things from Don Ross’ guitar. Don’t even get me started with salsa and other latin genres: Bass and mids collaborate so well in this case that I almost forgot that I don’t really latin music that much.
Treble is one of those things that I have trouble defining. It's smooth on these cans, crisp but not harsh. Remember they are warm, so you’ll get enough clarity in the highs to not be left in auditory darkness, but that’s it. In my case, this is ideal, giving me a jump from the Sennheiser “veil” I enjoy while not giving me headaches (I’m extremely sibilance-sensitive).
Very good, but I understand there’s much better. The HD 598 would have done better, but it doesn’t really bother me since the Hifiman have the great imaging I was hoping for instead. The E07K did help with increasing the soundstage, but moderately so. A similar effect can be achieved by modding the HE-300, removing a felt piece that lies right in front of the driver (this will also make the treble and overall clarity of the headphone increase). These are perfectly enjoyable and forgiving without incorporating an amp/dac, although you do get some benefits from them.
Overall, I’m extremely happy with the HE-300. These are definitely fun cans, yet very respectable cans. Prog rock and metal are my favorite genres, along with funk and jazz, and these headphones have performed exactly to my taste in all of them. Jethro Tull, Liquid Tension Experiment, Kiev, Memoria de Peixe, Radiohead and Bill Evans have stolen my auditory heart again. Out of the aforementioned, I think these shine mostly in jazz, funk, and vocal-oriented music. No, they are not perfect, but at this price range perfect doesn't exist.