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.
Pros - Euphonic and easy going sound, Price, Packaging,
Cons - Warmish sound might not suit every genre.
First, I’ll like to thank HifiMan for the HE-300 sample. For the last couple of years, Fang @ HifiMan has brought a lot of attention to the company’s line of full size headphones by releasing some of the best planar magnetic headphone there ever are. However, the HE-300 is the company’s first entry to the full size dynamic headphone – perhaps a challenge Fang sat for himself to release a (*price wise) class leading dynamic headphone. If that’s his goal, I would say HE-300 is doing very well. Note: though never announced officially, the second batch (and onward) of HE-300 (*known also as the ‘rev2’) is tuned differently to the first batch and being considered better by most who had listened to both. My impression however will be based on the first batch, which is what I have with me.
Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality
HE-300 comes in a rather big wooden box, which is akin to most of current HifiMan’s headphone packaging. While it is very well made for storing the headphone itself, the only grief I have with the box is that you can’t store the headphone with the cable attached (*the cable is designed to screw onto the headphone and comes unattached at first) – this makes the good looking box not a particularly useful choice for short term storage since cable needs to be unscrewed every times.
The cable itself is made from the Canare 4S6 star quad speaker cable, so the build quality is really good even though it is slightly on the heavier side. But that shouldn’t be too much of a problem for home use. The original headphone plug (as the one in this impression) is 3.5mm metal with a 6.5mm adapter, the later version however comes with a fully molded rubber plug to improve durability. The original batch comes with velour headphone pad, while the later also comes with pleather pad. I have both and for overall comfort and sound quality, I rather prefer the velour pad. The holding ring (the part that clips onto the headphone) of the original ear pad is a bit fragile looking and doesn’t look like they will survive for long, but the good news is HifiMan has replaced them with something much more sturdy on the later batch.
The design of the HE-300 resembles that of HifiMan’s planar magnetic headphone. It is function over form with a rustic industrial look. It might not win any beauty contest, but the simplicity in itself has a kind of attraction of its own. It is not the best build quality I have seen, but it is also far from being the worst. Overall, I’ll say it is quite a decent and comfortable full size headphone for day to day use.
The headphone has been given no less than 50 hours of bun-in, though no significant change was observed. Gears used for review: Hifiman HM801 (line-out and balanced amp module), Meier Audio Corda 3MOVE and StepDance.
Warm, smooth, with a beautiful mid – HE300 has a more musical presentation that is more toward being euphonic than it is to reference sounding. One of the first things that grab my attention on the HE300’s sound is its bass. While it is far from being a bass monster per se, it is actually quite snappy and hard hitting for an open-back design. The mid range is definitely the strong point of the headphone. While it does sound a tiny bit grainy on the upper vocal, it is overall forwarded, easy-going and highly enjoyable, particularly for most mainstream vocal centric music genres, i.e. Pop, Folk, Country, etc. Treble is smooth and well extended – not lacking in any aspect but certainly not the main the focus in the overall presentation and not the best for analytical listener.
Going by my memory of how HD600 and K701 sounds like (and please take this with a big grain of salt since I personally believe audio memory is not particularly accurate in general), I’ll say HE300 isn’t quite on the same level just yet. But when compared to headphone of the same price range, the SR-325i which I do own, I can see myself reaching for the HE300 every time as SR-325i just sounds tinny and bright in comparison. Perhaps I am just not quite a Grado fan. While not quite as neutral as my previous favorite bang of the bucks full size, the Fischer Audio FA-003, I too find HE300 sounding better in comparison - likely because HE300 is more opened, dynamic and fun that makes music really comes to live.
Since I have the balanced amp module with the HM-801 and it has a balanced cable that is designed for the HE series, I take a quick listen to both HE300 under single-end and balanced configuration. HE300, when balanced, sounds richer and fuller in tone, in exchange for a bit of air when compared to single end configuration. The lower end, especially bass note, sounds grander and almost like listening to a closed back version of the HE300.The slight graininess on the upper vocal is all but smoothed out. Unfortunately, it also takes out of some air and closes in the soundstage, which seems to be typical for how balanced amp generally sounds like to me, as far as my experience with balanced amp goes. Overall, the balanced amp module adds some detail to the lower and mid range with the expense on soundstage, so I won’t say the overall improvement is night and day.
Overall, I really enjoy the HE300. It was priced around $300 at first but now it is lower to $250 or so, and that makes it a pretty good buy when compared to other alternative on the same price range. The euphonic sound is probably not for everyone and every genre, but I think the easy-going nature of the presentation has made HE300 a great headphone for casual listening – something you can just put on just to enjoy the music. Well, isn’t that music is all about?
Let me start off with a special thanks to Fang from HifiMAN for letting me audition the HE-300's at home. Fang sent these cans to our latest chicago headphone meet "Chiunifi 5" for everyone to check out. He offered up the opportunity to take the 300's home for an extended audition if the person would write up a review. I took him up on that offer. Fang has always been a strong supporter of Head-Fi, as well as a constant figure at many local and national meets.
There must me something I like about how HifiMAN voices their gear. I am a big fan of their IEMs, a lover of the Jade, and a HUGE fan of the cans in the orthodynamic collection, although I'll probably never afford them.
With that... The review.
There are already a few reviews of these cans with some beautiful pictures and descriptions of build quality. I dont feel a huge need to repeat that. I will just echo and agree that they look just like the cans in the orthodynamic collection, but are Much lighter. They do clamp fairly tightly to your head out of the box, but this can be easily fixed by bending the headband open (ala grado). Personally, I find these cans very comfortable and have worn them for hours with no ill effect. One last comment on the way the cord attaches to the body of the cans. Its a pain. BUT, once its on, its on. So unless your switching cords often, it is pretty much a non issue.
Most importantly, the sound. Before I go into a lot of detail, let me just say that I really love these cans. They may even replace one of my others at some point, if I can bring myself to sell my own things first that is! They definitely fit into the "fun" category.
The bass response on these cans is where they are strongest. The bass is big and full, probably what really brings out the "fun" factor. I find that there is a bit of a hump in the low mid bass. This brings in a lot of bloom in the low end. It doesnt have as much "punch" as some would like, but it isnt flabby either. Its very enjoyable; a ported speaker, not a sealed one. On orchestral works, the double bass blossoms nicely. Peter Gabriels "washing of the water" on his book of love ep was stunning. On a more dance like track, you wont be disappointed. I'm a big fan of Chromeo, and that whole album sounds fantastic on these cans. I'm a sucker for 80's pop synth sounds, and this can delivers that nicely!!
Another thing worth mentioning is soundstaging. It may be because the drivers sit about an inch from your ears, but the bass has more "space" to it. When I compared this aspect to my Denons, the denons sounded a bit more closed in. Yes, they are closed back cans, and that may have been it, but I would say on many tunes, the bass on the denons and the 300's was very similar. While I would give the 300's the nod because the bass just sounds like it has more space to evolve. Who knows though. When I do the partial markl mod on the denons, getting the driver further away from the head, things might equal out.
I have read many of the reviews on these cans, and I have found that a lot of people feel that the midrange is more forward. I must say I disagree with this. My HD 650's have (to my ears) a more accurate midrange then the 300's. What I can say is that while I would not call the midrange recessed, I would most definitely call it mellow, or warm. Some might say "covered", but I'm not sure if that's the best term either, as it is too negative. I feel this warmth may be in part because of the bump in the bass. If you have ever had your subwoofer turned up too much on your stereo, you hear that besides overwhelming bass, it robs the midrange of some clarity. Now, I'm over exaggerating here in this comparison, but I think this may play a part to the warmth of sound. on most music I listened to, I found the midrange to be fairly Even, but slightly pulled back. Voices are where I really test midrange. both male and female. The 300's add a mellowness to the voice that is pretty pleasing, especially for listening for long periods of time. If you have albums where you feel like the singer is just too forward or in your face, these cans would work well there. another way of saying this would be that these cans are pretty forgiving. your worst recordings might be nice on these cans. But, if you have a muddy recording, it would not fair well here.
quick aside: I was reading a review about the more recent HE 400's, and Fang was speaking about voicing for the american market and our listening preferences. What this included was a more forward midrange, and tighter bass. He commented about how he tries to voice his product to his preference, a more "English" or European sound signature. Being a fan of vintage speakers and gear, I understand what he is talking about. The 300's are akin to something like the Dynaco A25 speaker. It has no specific character that sticks out, but it is one of the most musical and easy to listen to speakers around. Most audiophiles who have speaker systems own, have owned, or want to hear the Dynaco's. There musicality is that popular. I own them myself, and I would say that the 300's are part of that family, to a point.
The treble on the 300's was a new experience for me. It is one of the first cans I've heard that gives you upper details, that have little or no harshness at all. Even on the best cans I've heard, there are recording that have moments that are a little "hot", and super accurate detailed cans deliver that "heat" in all its glory, like it or not.. I found the 300's deliver the detail of those recordings with the same warmth that exists in the midrange. I'm not going to kid you here. These cans are not the last word in detail. you will not get the "air", or the expansive sense of upper space that you would get on something like a Grado. But the treble is there, you hear details, and it sounds good. In my listening, I found that classical instrumental recordings sound simply lush. strings, harp, guitars, etc.. sound wonderful here.
I have read that some people compare the 300's to the Sennheiser HD600 and HD650. I believe that this is an unfair comparison. I am not a fanboy of the Sennheiser family, but I do believe these two Senns to be overall superior when compared directly to the 300's. Having said that, I will add that the Sennheiser family is A LOT harder to drive than the 300's, and requires a much greater investment from the start. The 300's can indeed be driven respectfully from something as simple as an ipod. In a price(investment)/performance contest, the 300's would put up a fight, and win. You can do a lot worse
I feel a much more fair comparison would be to something like the Denon AHD2000. Yes, one can is open, and the other is closed. But, the given price point vs performance puts these two cans in the same game to me. In direct comparison, the Denon will give you a bit more treble extension, but takes away the openness and width of sound you get in the 300's. But, when I would listen to some songs back to back, the sound ended up seeming much more similar then different. it really depends on your ears. The denons are a lot less "warm", and can be fatiguing over time to some. I am speaking to the stock version of the D2000. What you find most pleasing is up to you. I can say that I can wear the 300's for hours while working on the computer. no sweat, no reaching to turn down the volume, no shock when a song comes on that is mixed a bit louder. everything is delivered sweetly.
I will make a quick comment about where these cans sit in the hifiman family. They are not orthos. They dont sound like orthos. They just live in the same house.
With the recent price drop, these cans are an amazing value. The performance you get is really really good. The fact that they can give you very respectable results from the HP jack on an ipod is just stunning. If you are a person looking for a laid back listening experience, but still want to hear that hi-hat cymbal, these may be for you.
again, special thanks to Fang and HifiMan for their continued support.
Pros - Build quality, Great bass, Smooth mids and treble, forgiving of poor quality recordings, incredible packaging, not demanding with amplification
Cons - Tight clamp for my head, somewhat stiff cable, pad locking system, lacks technicalities
Information : Hifiman / Head-Direct was kind enough to give me a review sample of the HE-300. Please take note that the fact that this was given to me for free will not affect my bias for this review.
Equipment used :
Amplifiers : Onkyo TX-SR308 / iBasso T4 / Meier Porta Corda III
Sources : iPod classic (line out) / Samsung BD-D5300 / Meier Porta Corda III (USB DAC)
Other headphones used : Grado SR325i
EDIT (1/1/2012) : I have a new amp / DAC, the Meier Porta Corda III with the USB DAC. I will put my impressions with the amp at the bottom of the "Sound" section.
Packaging & Accessories :
The packaging is simply superb. Although the box may look a little cheapish, once you open it, it really is wonderful. That silk really looks luxurious. Inside, you have another velour bag holding the cables (along with the 6.3mm adapter) , the manual and the headphone itself.
*pictures coming soon*
Fit & Finish :
The HE-300 looks like a luxurious product. Although I think the paint ruins it (it looks plasticky), and the yoke as well (it looks like it was used for a good long time), once you get them out of the equation, it feels like quality in your hands. The weight is perfect. Not too light to look flimsy, but not too heavy to make it unbearable in your head.
The clamping force is definitely on the strong side. I can't bear wearing it for more than 2 hours. But eventually, you will get used to the pressure, and it is definitely comfortable. Not as comfortable as the Sennheiser HD650, but for the price, I wouldn't complain.
Two things I also don't like is the cable locking system and the pad locking system. The cable locking system may get a little loose overtime, but it is a good thing my dad is a DIYer and fixed it for me. The pad locking system takes too much time to fit all the slots in, IMO. A more solid solution would be more welcome.
*pictures coming soon*
The Sound :
Concise Sound Signature Impressions : It definitely leans into the warm side. They pack a strong bass punch, and although it isn't as tight as some may prefer, I really like its woofer-ish quality. It's not too boomy, but it isn't tight. The midrange is incredibly smooth. They don't stand out, but they aren't recessed as well. They are very balanced. Voices and instruments sound natural, although not as natural as the Audez'e LCD-2, which it shouldn't, given the price and difference of technology. The treble slightly lacks energy, but it is smooth and forgiving. It isn't sibilant, but it is present enough to make high-tone instruments sound natural. Overall, a very balanced can with slight emphasis on the warmer side. But don't mistake warmth for lack of detail, as I think they are more detailed than the Grado SR325i. They are not picky with amplification, so a portable amp / budget desktop amp will do you well.
Bass : The bass is round, has decent impact and slightly rumbly. It is powerful and musical. Percussion is decently snappy. Most bassy instruments are well presented, and they sound natural instead of neutral. Electronic bass with these is incredible, but don't expect them to trump Ultrasones with Dubstep / Trance / EDM anytime. They are a little too slow for those genres.
Midrange : The midrange is balanced and smooth and rich. It is are slightly warm, but not laid back. It is placed nicely in the stage, front and center. Voices sound clean and natural. Guitars aren't as engaging and detailed as the Grado SR325i, but they are more life-like in tone (IMO). Male and female vocals are equally great.
Treble : The treble of the HE-300 is smooth, very slightly laid back and refined. It isn't as open and airy sounding as the Grado SR325i but it sounds more natural. Cymbals have a decent splash and decay. Female voices are never sibilant if it is not present in the recording. They are more detailed compared to the Grado SR325i. One thing I like is that they aren't as laid back with the treble as the HD650, but aren't as energetic as the SR325i. It is very balanced, much like the HD600.
Soundstage, Seperation & Imaging : This is the Achille's heel of the HE-300. They don't do soundstage very well. They don't have much width, and no front/back soundstaging, and much less, height. It is 2-dimensional. They also don't seperate the instruments very well, as they do get slightly mixed up. Imaging is okay, but not bad as well.
1/1/2012 : I have a new amp/DAC, the Meier Porta Corda III with the USB DAC function. The Hifiman HE-300 sounds more alive now, with deeper and slightly more power in the bass section, midrange is now more open and detailed, and the treble gains more presence and air. Soundstage improves a little due to the midrange being more open.
I think Hifiman did a good job with the HE-300. It brings top-class musicality in a bargain $249 product. Packaging, fit, finish and build quality is akin to its bigger brothers as well. What the HE-300 may lack in the technical side, its musicality really makes up for it. I think it would be fairer for Hifiman if it was priced at $299, but for $249, there's really nothing to complain about, and I think it's a steal. That said, it isn't a perfect product, and it definitely has its problems with the build and sound. But if you can live with those slight problems, you will not regret your purchase.
Pros - Nice warm, lush sound at an attractive price
Cons - Will for sure be too warm and bassy for some
Fang from HiFiMan asked me to review the HE-300 headphones. I have been a big fan of HiFiMan’s planar magnetic headphones. But the HE-300 are not planars – they are dynamic driver headphones. While they look similar to the other HiFiMan headphones, their similarity is really only by look – they are MUCH lighter than the planar series. They are also much more efficient – at 93 dB/1mW@ 1kHz efficiency, and 50 ohms impedance, they can be driven by just about anything (although of course a good quality amp is still going to yield the best results).
Structurally, they are identical to the other HiFiMan headphones:
I find them to be quite comfortable overall, although I have a medium sized head - I think on a larger head the clamp might be a bit strong. I do think the stock cable is too thick and stiff, but the cable is easily replaceable and there is already a fairly robust group of aftermarket cables for the HiFiMan HE series headphones. I used a Q-Audio cable aftermarket cable with them for part of the review, and I thought it improved the sound slightly, and the ergonomics MASSIVELY. Of course, it cost about as much as the headphones do…
The HE-300 have a very robust sound, with strong and powerful bass, a slightly warm and forward midrange, and a fairly clean and smooth treble. While they do not break any new ground here, the overall sound is engaging, and enjoyable. They are definitely not for the detail freak, and if you like a leaner, more treble oriented sound they probably are not the best choice. The sound worked well for me, though, as I tend to prefer a somewhat warmer, lusher sound and that is what the HE-300 provides. While they are not the most transparent headphones that I have ever heard, to be sure, they provide a good level of clarity and transparency in their price class.
The HE-300 are definitely warmer and bassier than what anyone could consider neutral. That said, they are what I think many people would call “musical”, or “fun”. And that’s not to say that they are hopelessly colored by any stretch of the imagination, but they are for sure voiced on the rich side. There seems to me to be an emphasis in the 80-120 Hz range, and the treble response sounds like it is slightly shelved down.
As such, female vocals were well served. I also greatly enjoyed some Nat King Cole I listened to on reel-to-reel from the HE-300 – in fact I plugged them right into the headphone jack of my Pioneer RT-707 reel deck, which drove the HE-300 incredibly easily and effortlessly. I also had no trouble driving them with the Meier Corda Classic, the Meier Stepdance2 portable amp, and any of my vintage amps. They sounded great with the Trafomatic Experience Head One as well, although that is a much more expensive amp that is likely to get paired with the HE-300.
Michael McDonald’s terrifically recorded “Motown” sounded great, but there was very clearly some added bass emphasis, and the lower mids were voiced rich. The impact of this is that the HE-300 never sounds harsh or strident at all. I think this will appeal to a lot of folks – I get a lot of inquiries about a headphone that’s not bright. The HE-300 fits that description quite well. On the other hand, fans of headphones like Audio Technicas should probably look elsewhere. The HE-300 is not going to be something that people who like a brighter sound will like.
A headphone that is voices warm/lush, like the HE-300, can also seem to lack treble detail at times. If you listen carefully, it doesn’t actually lack detail – they are there, they are just not being pushed at you. On the flipside, the mids on the HE-300 can be a bit too forward at times, and so on some recordings you can get a little bit too “midrangy” sound. I felt that this was the case on Peter Frampton’s “Show Me The Way” – his voice was pushed up front father than I know is what’s really on the recording. This was only occasionally the case, but this is the tradeoff you get at this price point, IMO. If you want to get a less colored but equally as musical a sound, you have to step up the ladder – to something like HiFiMan’s own HE-500.
The soundstage also is pushed out in front quite a bit, as a result of the frequency response curve. The soundstage is not very deep, but it is quite wide, and image specificity is good. Again, good performance for the money, but nothing even close to what you get from something like the HE-6/T1/HD-800/LCD-2, etc etc.
Funny how things progress – I’m not the best person to review the HE-300. My own headphones that I own are significantly upmarket from where the HE-300 plays. I no longer have any headphones that are in the same price class as the HE-300, which would be best compared to headphones like the Beyer DT880/990, or the Grado 325i, Denon D2000, or the Audio Technica ATH-A900. All of these are in the same price range as the HE-300. I have once had all of them, but I don’t anymore, unfortunately. At least from memory, the HE-300 competes well in this group, albeit with a distinct personality. It does not stand up competitively to the much more expensive group of cans I currently own, including HiFiMan’s own excellent HE-6, which is one of my references. But the HE-300 sound very good for the money, IMHO, and I liked the way it sounded as its colorations lean the way I do, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them as a good potential choice in the $250 price class, with the caveats above. For a warm, rich listen, it fits the bill well.
There are a lot of dynamic headphones around on the market, with a very small percent being shared by orthodynamic’s and electrostatics. HiFiMan’s mostly known for their orthodynamic headphones, like the HE-500 & the HE-6. But, what if HiFiMan were to make a dynamic headphone, one that could be directly compared to more popular headphones like the K702 & the HD650? Would they share the same sound signature, or would a new dynamic king arise from the shadows? Well, that’s exactly what we are here today to take a look at. The HE-300, the first headphone by HiFiMan to incorporate a dynamic driver. So, what does HiFiMan’s $300 entry level headphone sound like?
See update below.
Very little, it runs decently off the likes of the iPhone 4 and other iPods. With that being said, the HE-300’s do benefit greatly from an amplifier when it comes to power consumption. While they aren’t as inefficient as HiFiMan’s orthodynamics, I found that the everything seemed a bit more muddled with the iPhone 4 and bass wasn’t very good when it came to body and impact. If you can find yourself a cheap amplifier, like the FiiO E11 or SoundMagic A10, you’ll find that the HE-300’s will go a lot louder and sound a tad bit better. Then again, if you have something like the HiSound Audio Studio-V or the HiFiMan HM players, you shouldn’t have a problem. But, as with all open headphones, I recommend a desktop amp, since they aren’t very mobile (they’re open back headphones, they aren’t portable literally at all) and won’t necessarily find a use for a portable amp.
The Design & Durability
For a $300 headphone, the HE-300’s are built very well. The housings are made of an all metal construction and have a metallic glossy finish on the outside. Basically, they are almost identical to the other HE line, with a few different cosmetic changes and a much more lightweight design due to the dynamic driver on the inside. The leather headband is exactly the same as all of the other HE headphones, and feature the same padding on the inside, which, while being very comfortable, is not as soft as some of the other cans available on the market. Basically, if you have the HE-500, HE-5LE, HE-4, or the HE-6, you won’t find hardly any differences at all in design. If you need a more in-depth look at the design, look towards the pictures, they’ll provide a better look, after all, it’ll last longer. Lastly, I have only found one durability problem, a small one at that. The plastic ring around the outer end of the ear pads have started to peel slightly, which may become more of a issue in the long run.
Comfort & Feel
Not a huge amount to talk about here. As said before, the headband is very comfortable, and doesn’t hurt the top of your head or anything of the sort. The clamping force on the HE-300 wasn’t very strong either. They rest on the sides of my head very gently, and are very comfortable with the velour pads, albeit a bit itchy at times. Keep in mind though that I have a small head, and people with beefier sized noggins will have more of a clamping force. Now, HiFiMan recently announced that they will be selling their new leather ear pads with the HE-6 and the HE-500, although it is still unknown if they will be selling them with the HE-300, or as a side option. I’ve heard a lot of talk around the Head-Fi forums about requests for some leather pads, so here is hoping that HiFiMan answers that request.
Part 2 Sneak Peak & Final Thoughts
So hopefully next week I will be heading down to 32 Ohm Audio (ALO Audio) for some auditioning and comparisons testing the HE-300 vs. other top tiered cans in the same price range.The last time I visited and talked to Caleb, he was very enthusiastic about me trying some cans and amps, so I can’t wait to put the HE-300’s to the test. As for right now, I’m really enjoying the HE-300’s. They provide a warm, laid back, easy on the ears listening experience that is very musical but excels highly in the mids when listening to mellower music, and they don’t require an external amp to sound fantastic, unlike the HE-500 and the HE-6.
After listening to the HE-300 for well over the period of two months now, I have a few updates that I feel should be brought forth to the table about how these sound. First off, I apologize about my previous sound impressions. While I'm very well educated in judging high end IEM's (seeing as I have a vast majority of them), I wasn't at all experienced in reviewing headphones, as the HE-300 were my first pair of sub $300 headphones. I hand't listened to top tires like the HD650, the HD600, the K501 (better than the K702 IMO) and the Beyerdynamic DT900. After trying and auditioning all of those headphones, I have made some final conclusions about the HiFiMan HE-300 headphones. Please note that these updates reflect the first coming of the headphones, not the second version, which is supposed to be very similar in sound signature to something like the Sennhesier HD650.
So, where does this leave me? Well, let's do some quick comparisons. The HE-300 is literally like a step down from almost all the cans listed above. The low end is a lot more boomy and has more surge than the HD650, but lacks rumble, speed, texture, and tightness. The mids of the HE-300 are decently well delivered, but both the AKG K702 and the HD650 beat the HE-30 to the punch. The K702's mids are brighter, the HD650's more smooth, and the HE-300's more forward, but lack any sweetness (K702) or full body-ness (HD650) that's seen in those two cans. The highs are another story. Prior to burn in, they sounded quite shrill, and not the bright, detailed shrill, but the annoying sibilance. The high end rolled off a little bit after a day or two, but both the K702 and HD650 are better yet. The K702 with a lot more sparkle and extension, and the HD650 with more warmth and smoothness.
Oh, and did I mention the soundstage? Close, but no cigar. The HE-300 has a smaller overall soundstage than the HD650 and the K702. I find the HD650 to go a little bit deeper and achieve an overall more massive deal, but the HE-300 does have something that the HD650 doesn't, which is instrumental separation. It's not world class, but it's better than the HD650, albeit the HD650 has a much bigger stage representation.
Pros - very good mids, comfortable, perfect bass quantity
Cons - bass is not as tight
I have these for about two weeks now and I can hardly believe how these have changed during this time. Always when I get new headphones I listen with them and leave other headphones dusting. The only ones that didn't impress me when I got them were HD800. I know sounds odd but that's how it was. Anyway when I heard the HE-300 I said to myself these probably aren't for me as I got used to brighter sound signatures but I wanted something different, something closer to HD600 and from the past experiences I knew headphones need time to start working as they should and for my ears to get accustomed to their sound signature. I tried different amps, DACs and settled on the sightly brighter Opus dac. I am using a speaker amp's headphone outputs. I know, you must be asking what am I doing with a speaker amp if there are dedicated headphone amps (which I also own btw) which are designed to headphone's specifications and theoretically should sound better. Well this speaker amp (Azur 350A) gives me a much fuller and overall more pleasing sound than my dedicated solid state headphone amplifier. HE-300 sound really nice with it. The headphones when I got them and also the first 30 hours sounded really muffled, like some cheap headphones which sounds like they completely forgot about treble. Coming from HD800 and HE-4 the lack of treble was even more apparent. I kept saying to myself I need to give them more time, if nothing changes they could replace HD555 which I use for gaming and movies as they are both very comfortable. Bass actually reminded me of HD555, while everything else reminded me of HD600. Bass is still not as tight as the HE-4 bass but treble has really opened noticeably and they are now much more appealing than HD600 were to me. Everything is well balanced only, as I said before, bass is not tight and extended as I would like it to be but at least there are enough quantities of it so I'm not that bothered. I must point out that I have never tried these with the stick cable which is still wrapped and stored inside the box that everything came with. I am using the HE-6 cable (V1) which is much lighter. The finish quality of the headphones is a bit below HE-4 finish, most noticeably is the area around connectors on the cups. Velour pads are much softer and better made than the ones on HE-4, now the are at least the same thickness all around. The plastic ring that is keeping velour pads in place is skewed and consequently there is a gap between the pad and ear cup. I don't notice any affection to the sound regarding this matter. Most welcome change is the clamping force thanks to a less stiff headband. At first I thought these might fall off my head because I am doing so many stuff while listening with headphones but they are not loose and I was worrying for nothing. In fact after HD555 and then HD800 these are now my most comfortable headphones due to perfect clamping force, soft velour cushions and light weight. The price is exactly the same as the one I paid for HD600. I do not own HD600 any more but those really were my reference headphones. I cannot forget its sound signature. Comparing the two quickly I prefer HD600's tighter bass and even more intimate sound signature. HE-300 has more bass quantity, more open treble and fantastic mids. If I had to chose one over the other I would choose HE-300. When I was ordering this headphone I only hoped it would be different enough from HE-4, which I enjoy very much, so I could have two different sound signatures for different mods; HE-4 for aggressiveness, HE-300 for relaxation but at the same time I wanted an enjoying headphone, not something I would keep just I could say I have more headphones than the next guy. And now I can happily say I got what I wanted. Two very different headphones with two different sound presentations and approaches to music and both very enjoyable.