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HiFiMAN HE-500

  1. Jordan Lewis
    Great value second hand, needs some mods.
    Written by Jordan Lewis
    Published Nov 20, 2016
    Pros - Clean sound, Fast Bass, Vocals on point, Treble not sibilant
    Cons - Heavy, requires mods (near Pads + comfort strap), metal can appear to rust
    *This is my first ever review, so please understand that I am just trying to figure out how to write this stuff properly.
    I bought these headphones second hand blind (having never listened to them), but took guidance from ZReviews' great review of them.
    These are my first open over-ear headphones, and my only other 'high-end' headphones being Sennheiser IE80s.
    I have them paired with the HiFiMan EF5 headphone amp, which I was able to get together with the headphones for $700AUD shipped, which was about $530USD.
    What immediately struck me was the clarity of the headphones. They don't muddy up the sound with excessive bass, or make them difficult to listen to with very high reaching treble. They were just a pleasure to listen to.
    The HE500s also have the great Planar sound, with fast attacking bass, and overall a quick response to music, which brought out details that I have not heard of before.
    There are however, downsides.
    The stock pads are uncomfortable for longer listening periods, so I bought Alpha Pads to fix this. ($50). I think it enhances the sound stage a little bit due to the extra distance between your ears and the drivers.
    Also, the top of the headband can make your head sore a little bit over time. I fixed this by getting an eye mask and tying the two strings to the semi-circular metal bar holding the drivers.
      trellus likes this.
    1. coletrain104
      Loved these headphones when I heard them with Focuspads, maybe they would be a better solution than stock pads. Unless the alpha pads still retain the sound quality, since, they are quite comfortable. 
      coletrain104, Nov 20, 2016
    2. bagwell359
      Can be bought/modded for < $540. Stock headband pads, & cable need changing. Critical audio mod is "fuzzor" Cuts down reflections/IM/ringing in mids/highs. Dynamat on the rear inside edge where the screen anchors tightens bass. Removing screen cuts musical reflections/reverberations from 500 Hz down; It's a classic, more so after mods done.
      bagwell359, Jul 29, 2019
  2. bracko
    The legend
    Written by bracko
    Published Nov 12, 2016
    Pros - Warm, open and beautifully balanced sound with immersive midrange, fantastic value
    Cons - A bit heavy
    HE-500 have very nicely balanced sound. The treble is clean and articulate but never being hard or harsh. The bass goes really deep and has a nicely defined punch. The midrange is perfectly balanced without overemphasizing any details. The sound as a whole has very warm and natural feeling, very life-like. Great for enjoying rather than dissecting your music. The price for these nice headphones is somewhere between $350-$450 dollars (used) which makes it quite an amazing value.
  3. audiophilehe400
    High Quality and Impressive Sound
    Written by audiophilehe400
    Published Nov 10, 2016
    Pros - Excellent Soundstage, very clear, well balanced
    Cons - Extremely Heavy
    These are the best headphones I have reviewed. They are excellently balanced, the materials for the build are very nice and feels well built. The headphones feel very heavy though, a downside of planar magnetics. I would say these are some of the best priced headphones for their value on the market.
  4. Aornic
    Detail, speed and musicality if you can hold your head up
    Written by Aornic
    Published Jun 7, 2016
    Pros - Incredible mid-range, comfortably extended treble, resolution, balanced, vast soundstage, all-rounder, high quality leatherette box
    Cons - Heavy weight, stock earpads are subpar, stock cable is subpar, not much padding on the headband, discontinued, not for bassheads
    To some, it may seem pointless to do a review of the Hifiman HE-500 in June of 2016, years after it was phased out in favour of their new product line – specifically the HE-560. However, I feel that this can be a useful guide for those looking to pick up one on the used market, as I did.
    My previous experience with a Hifiman product was in January this year when I bought myself a HE-400i and it was my first set of planar magnetic headphones. I’ve since sold them and moved on to other cans, but I missed the speed that it had. With that in mind, and the hopes of finding a more neutral pair of headphones, I picked up a HE-500.
    Driver: Planar Magnetic
    Sensitivity: 87 dB
    MFR: 15 Hz – 50 kHz
    Nominal Impedance: 38 Ohms
    Leather Earpads
    Cable: 10 Feet, Silver Conductors
    Connector (to Amplifier): 1/4″ Phone Plug
    Dimensions: 3.8″ Diameter x 1.8″ Deep
    Weight: 1 Pound
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    Build, Design & Comfort
    After my time with the HE-400i, the HE-500 simply looked like a bulkier version of it in dark grey instead of black. The HE-400i used plastic materials to lend to a lightweight build, but the HE-500 utilises sturdy and thick metal in places where the newer iterations have a thin piece instead. The adjustment does not use any form of incremental markings or place holders, it smoothly adjusts and holds in place wherever you choose to stop. As far as headphones go, this is built like a tank – which has its advantages and disadvantages.
    One major disadvantage is the weight. I do not have exact measurements, but the HE-500 falls slightly north of a full pound of weight. It is even heavier than my ZMF Omni (one of the lighter wood configurations, cherry) and I have definitely found it cumbersome at times. Documented mod guides exist to alleviate this issue, but I do not want to undertake them myself. A major one involves replacing the headband with the one the HE-400i uses, which is an aluminium chassis with a light and thin headband. The HE-500 is, again, from a time before this design became preferred by the company. What you have here is a thick leather headband with metal inside and slight padding. I’m, simply put, glad that they did away with this design since.
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    It feels anachronistic now, at the time of writing, to complain about the screw-on proprietary connectors that Hifiman used to use and the ones that are present on the HE-500. They have since switched to dual 2.5mm connectors, such as the one my HE-400i used. I can see why people consistently complained about them for years, bringing about the change. At one point, one slightly unscrewed itself and the sound began skipping out on the channel – leading me to believe the wire itself might have been faulty. It’s easy to believe so because the wire is a silver cable that does not lend much to confidence in terms of build quality. I used it for amp comparisons as my Schiit Magni 2 does not have a balanced output like my Cavalli Liquid Carbon, but I avoid it otherwise in favour of a balanced cable. I took issue with the default cable on the HE-400i as well, finding it too short and rigid – prone to excessively fast wear and tear according to other owners. With both headphones, it is better to seek out sturdier third-party options.
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    The HE-500 comes with two sets of earpads, one pleather and one velour, and both are quite mediocre. This is another improvement Hifiman has made since then, introducing the FocusPads and FocusPad A’s (the one on the HE-400i) that are more comfortable. At first, I did not want to order a pair of FocusPads A’s from China and tried other options – specifically a pair of ZMF lambskin earpads that I had lying around unused as I prefer the cowskin on my Omni. Anyone familiar with Hifiman’s earpads will tell you how a ring exists inside them that must be removed and then inserted into any other earpads you want to use in order to mount them onto their products. It is quite a delicate process because the rings can indeed break if handled harshly, leading to earpads not being able to be put on. This is something that has not changed in Hifiman’s design.

    My Frankenstein HE-500 consisted of ZMF lambskin earpads with the ZMF Pilot Pad thrown on top of the headband for good measure. I reckoned that, with this much padding, comfort would be greatly increased. However, the thickness of the pads put a lot of pressure on my face when coupled with the, by default reasonable, clamp of the headphones. It was a fatiguing feeling so I switched back to the velour and ordered a pair of FocusPad A’s in the meantime. I was pleased on their arrival, they really add to the comfort while maintaining the sound signature and transients the headphones are known for. The lambskin introduced more bass into the mix, but I have other options for that, like the Omni or the Fostex TH-X00. What I wanted was what the HE-500 provided.
    You might be wondering at this point why I would bother with these headphones, given all the complaints above about its comfort and build. The answer is simple: the sound quality. I have surrounded myself with “fun” tuned headphones such as the Omni, TH-X00, Shozy Zero and the Meze 99 Classic, and really wanted something that is somewhat neutral in presentation.
    I won’t sit here and tell you that the HE-500 is truly neutral, but it is a lot more than other options I have. As an owner of the Sennheiser HD600 in the past, I would actually compare these to them. I previously thought that the HE-400i was a planar magnetic version of the HD600, but the HE-500 is closer and superior in some ways to the popular Sennheiser cans.
    The bass on the HE-500 does not sound bumped at all, as even the HE-400i did. It is very clean and articulate and does not intrude outside of where it should be. It’s a very impressive sound, but not what a basshead would want as there is a distinct lack of mid-bass. It also extends fairly low, lower than the HE-400i and definitely the HD600 – both of which had rolled off bass extension. This does not mean that the HE-500 goes into TH-X00 levels, but there is a sense of presence and control that is very pleasing for several genres. Where the TH-X00 excels with EDM and electronic music, the HE-500 does extremely well with more “organic” genres such as rock, metal, classical/orchestral music and classic rock. The bass frequencies leads to the bass guitar being clear and present in songs but never drowning out the rest of the frequencies. It is also very, very fast – something I love about both the Hifiman products I have used to this point. I don’t have the HE-400i on hand to compare, but it does seem that the HE-500 is more immediate in its bass response. It simply does not linger or overstay its welcome, the decay is really fast.
    The mids are another reason I will hold on to these headphones despite any comfort issues I may have over long periods of listening. They have a very musical tone to them and are slightly warm, but are not forwarded in any sense. They sound natural but sweet. Vocals and vocal layering shine on the HE-500 as do electric guitars. However, I found the presentation of acoustic guitars to be less realistic than the Omni, but still very clear and resonant nonetheless. The mids, and the headphone overall, have immediacy and very low decay – which is very useful for genres where analytical listening is necessary such as jazz. Even the HE-400i, comparatively, had more of a mid-bass bleed into the mids – and I thought those sounded remarkably stark and clean at the time. If anyone recommends the HE-500 to you, it will definitely be because of the mids.
    The treble is at a point where it sounds detailed but never sibilant. It is something in between the veil of the HD600 and the far extension of the HE-400i, which could at times be sibilant depending on song choice. The HE-500’s treble extension breathes life into classic rock recordings, which can easily be bogged down by roll-off due to their older production methods and large dynamic range, and thus I heavily prefer it for the genre over the Omni, TH-X00 and HE-400i. Led Zeppelin are a band whose songs have been at times problematic for several pairs of headphones I have owned because their overall warmth can dampen the bite of Jimmy Page’s guitar work. Where the TH-X00 heavily favoured the rhythm section and bumped it up in the mix where all else felt drowned out, the HE-500 eagerly displays all the colour and resolution that is necessary for listening to the band in incredible balance.
    This is the most analytical pair of headphones in my possession right now and one that my Schiit Gungnir benefits from the most due to the detail retrieval. Of course, it might pale in comparison to the likes of the Sennheiser HD800, which I have not heard at length, but it fits right into my needs. I challenge you to find anyone who would classify the sound of the HE-500 as sterile or cold. It walks the tightrope admirably between resolution and overly “fun” warmth.
    The soundstage trumps both the HD600 and the HE-400i quite a bit. I expected it to be similar to the latter, but it is far wider. Upon careful consideration, I’d actually place this second in terms of soundstage in full-sized headphones I have owned – right after the Beyerdynamic DT990. The wide soundstage complements the fast nature of the headphones as swirling instrumentation in songs travel far and wide without any sense of lag or inaccuracy.
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    Amp Pairings
    While the Schiit Magni 2 is more than enough to power these headphones, the Cavalli Liquid Carbon pairing is now my favourite of all time – with the previous favourite being the HE-400i with the Schiit Asgard 2. This is because of the amp’s slightly warm but still detailed nature, adding to the sweetness of the HE-500 quite a bit. The Magni 2, which is transparent, shows the headphone’s true sound and it is still warm and inviting, but the Liquid Carbon just goes that extra step to my ears.
    To sum up: not portable, need adequate amping as they are planar after all.
    If you have good neck strength, these could easily be on your list of cans to try out. Sadly, they are indeed discontinued. It is likely that very few people will even dare to call these a pair of beautiful cans, or even largely comfortable, but the sonic benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. What you ultimately have here is an incredibly balanced but tonally rich and lush pair of headphones that does not lack in detail – coupled with the best transient speed planar magnets can offer. I would pick it over its younger brother, the HE-400i, any day due to its balanced and natural sounding strength that is well within my comfort zone for treble extension.
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    Bass Quantity: TH-X00 > ZMF Omni > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > HE400i > DT990 > HE-500 > HD600
    Mids: HE-500 > HD600 > ZMF Omni > HE400i > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > TH-X00 > DT990
    Treble Quantity: DT990 > HE400i > TH-X00 > HE-500 > HD600 > ZMF Omni > ZMF Vibro Mk. I
    Soundstage: DT990 > HE-500 > ZMF Omni > HD600 > HE400i > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > TH-X00
    Comfort: DT990 > TH-X00 > HE400i > HD600 > ZMF Omni > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > HE-500
    Aesthetics: TH-X00 > ZMF Omni > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > HE400i > DT990 > HE-500 > HD600
    Lightness: DT990 > TH-X00 > HD600 > HE400i > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > ZMF Omni > HE-500
    Song Impressions
    Equipment used: Foobar200 WASAPI Event > Schiit Wyrd > Schiit Gungnir USB Ver. 2 > Cavalli Liquid Carbon.
    All tracks in lossless FLAC in at least 16/44.1
    Abba - Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)
    The soundstage and separation of the HE-500 is very apparent from the first notes that ring out in this song, as the melody is played on electric piano and guitars panned on the left and right. The bass guitar work is clear, with a good amount of extension into the bass region, but the vocals take the centre-stage of the song along with the amazing synth-riff that repeats. The beat is punchy but not overly bassy and the quick string sections and stabs have power behind them due to the speed of the headphones.
    Aerosmith – Dream On (2012 Remaster)
    The rock genre in general does extremely well with the HE-500 and this song showcases such strength. Steven Tyler’s vocal representation on the headphones capture the body and emotional power, flanked by the incredible dual-channel guitar work that also ring out due to the strong mids.
    a-ha – Take On Me
    80s synth and beats with speed. Beyond that, the shimmering backing synth and the vocals sound clear and present. However, the synth bass sounds a bit more rolled off compared to the likes of the TH-X00 – which made the song a more bassy affair at the sacrifice of vocal and synth pad clarity.
    Alan Parson’s Project – Sirius/Eye In The Sky (2005 SACD)
    The HE-500 does very well to capture the mystique in Sirius’ instrumentation in perfect balance. Quite often with other headphones, I’d find that some aspect would drown out another and lead to a less pleasing listen overall. That is not the case with the HE-500 at all. The soundstage lets each note breathe well and the speed lets nothing linger in the mix. The vocals sound right at home coupled with the shimmering acoustic guitar work that chimes in effortlessly through the track.
    B.B. King – The Thrill Is Gone
    For the first time to my ears, this song feels like a live recording rather than a studio effort. There is a very wholesome quality to it all. King’s guitar Lucille rings out in the mix as should be, but the backing track is clear too. The melancholy yet funky bass work is set up to ring through the song and give it a sense of pacing and body. As the song progresses, more guitar instrumentation and string instrumentation builds up but is never muddy on the HE-500. The fact that King’s hurt vocal rings out clearly over all this detail is astonishing and a superb achievement on the part of these headphones.
    Billy Idol – We Didn’t Start the Fire
    This track’s grandiose production is aided by the HE-500. The large but controlled soundstage really brings out all the musical intricacies that are going on that would seem hectic to a less resolute headphone. Very fun listen that helped me hear details I had missed before.
    Black Sabbath – Planet Caravan
    Clarity, warmth and balance are three words I’d give to this song’s representation on the HE-500. It benefits vastly from the soundstage too, as the percussion jumps from end to end and the instruments take up their places in the mix – with Tony Iommi’s melodious guitar soloing on the right channel and the piano on the left. Very impressive listen.
    Blink-182 – I Miss You
    The piano in this demure track stands out better than I have heard on my other headphones. The vast separation of the two tracks of acoustic guitars is a joy to listen to on the HE-500. The sense of space in the mix really comes through with this much room to grow that the headphones provide.
    Blue Foundation – Eyes on Fire
    The vocals sound ethereal and full-bodied simultaneously thanks to the excellent mids that the HE-500 possesses. You can also clearly hear the difference in guitar effects on the two guitar tracks while the gently shimmering synth sequencer continues to add atmosphere to the track. As the song picks up, every instrument and vocal note is presented in a balanced manner over a thundering drum track. The balance of the two vocal lines, the male and the female, are also clear and present where on some other headphones the latter would take priority.
    Childish Gambino – Heartbeat
    The kick drum in the intro moves faster than on other headphones that I’ve heard, but not necessarily as loud. The bass saw-synth riff does not sound as pleasing as it does on the TH-X00 due to its immense bass extension, but the surrounding instrumentation of the song overall is superior. Little details like extra percussion from the separate channels and the electric guitar in the second verse are picked out very well by the HE-500. Donald Glover’s higher pitched backing vocal in the chorus is also clearer than I’ve heard before.
    Chris Isaak – Wicked Game
    Gentle rock/vocal songs such as this are magnificent on the HE-500 due to its controlled resolution. The delicate and emotional guitars and vocals go hand in hand over a clear and subdued bassline and gentle, brush-tipped snare hits. The faint backing vocals singing “this world is only gonna break your heart” have more body to them than before. One of my favourite songs and I have not heard it better, to be honest.
    Clint Mansell – Lux Aeterna
    The dramatic string section creeps up to the listener with power and precision and the high notes retain the starkness they require to cut through the mix as a result of the fantastic yet comfortable treble extension on the part of the HE-500.
    Coldplay – Clocks
    This reverb-soaked track is easy to get wrong on different sound signatures because of varying frequencies being favoured over others. Thankfully, the HE-500 makes a statement with how it presents everything in a way that is both accurately balanced yet never boring with plenty of detail.
    Daichi Miura – Unlock
    The mood of this track is accentuated by the HE-500 due to how it handles the demure vocals and layering along with the impressive reverb effects in the production. The low end doesn’t sound as “club” like as on some other headphones, particularly the TH-X00, but there is clarity and body throughout the rest of the track’s mix.
    Emerson, Lake & Palmer – From the Beginning
    The acoustic guitar has a lot of body to it, but is not natural enough to go head-to-head with the ZMF Omni. However, it fits in better in the mix than the Omni because of its balanced presentation. A magical listen due to just how in sync everything is.
    Eminem – Without Me
    A more detailed listen than the TH-X00 with respectable bass, but the Fostex just synergizes better with the rap genre in general. Despite that, the separation is again excellent and the verses’ musical transitions flow far more naturally than on the Fostex. The snare is also impactful, yet not sibilant at higher volume like the TH-X00.
    Fleetwood Mac – Dreams
    A song I re-visit with every new piece of gear and one I know as well as the back of my hand. A wonderful listen due to it playing to the HE-500’s strengths. Vocal separation is incredibly clear as is the high pitched synth in the back that adds to the atmosphere – of which the soundstage adds tonnes.
    Kavinsky – Nightcall
    The kick drum falls right into the realm of possibility for the sub-bass extension of the HE-500. Not the best pairing of song overall due to its reliance on mid-bass, but the chugging electric guitar and the vocals are benefitted by the strength of the mids. The backing vocal in the verses, singing “we’ll go all night long” repeatedly, sounds clearer than on the likes of the TH-X00.
    Lana Del Ray – Summertime Sadness
    A stunning listen. Sublime vocal layering of Lana’s incredible studio voice flanked by so much instrumentation over a mournful marching funeral beat. The strings ebb and swell to their potential as the rather odd choice of samples of children shouting (and a scream in the intro) are clearer than I’ve ever heard before. Nothing is drowned out, no detail is lost - the only way you would get more detail out of this is with a more analytical audio chain at this point.
    Led Zeppelin – Achilles’ Last Stand
    As mentioned above in the review, bands like Led Zeppelin benefit a tonne from the HE-500’s balanced yet musical nature. The guitars ring out clearly along with the vocals as the rhythm section stands where it should – not drowning anything out like on some other headphones like the TH-X00. The amazing guitar work is present on both channels with detail and resolution.
    Marcin Przybyłowicz – The Fields of Ard Skellig
    The power and precision of the HE-500 brings this track to life as the vocal soars over a lushly produced backing track. The Gungnir, Liquid Carbon and HE-500 truly highlight the “air” around the violin and other instruments due to the quality of production, mixing and mastering.
    Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
    All the balance I have been praising above again brings forth this song in a new and incredible way. You just know that the vocal layering and harmonisation is something to behold on the HE-500, especially in the famous bridge section. The delicate piano flourishes never get drowned out by anything else in the mix and the bell sound effects never lose any of their nuance.
    Ramin Djawadi – Game of Thrones Theme Song
    The thunderous and cinematic percussion maintains its body and impact while the marvellously separated string sections churn ahead to present the epic title track in full glory. Another mention must be given to the track A Lannister Always Pays His Debts, also by Djawadi, for just how incredible it sounds on the HE-500 for the same reasons as the title track.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. leftside
      Great headphones. Best bang for the buck out there especially with today's prices. I also recommend the focus pads.
      leftside, Jun 10, 2016
    3. Djinnenjous
      I have added an HD600 headband pad to my HE-500s, performed the "fuzzor" mod, and replaced my default pads with Focus Pad-As. These headphones are still ludicrously heavy but they sound absolutely stellar--and the only amp I have to drive it with is my Objective 2, which is underpowered for these beasts.

      I love my HE-500s, and I absolutely think they're gorgeous. They're not as sexy as the Audeze LCD-4, but there's also not a snowball's chance in hell that the difference in sound between the two--much less the aesthetics--justifies a $3,500 price bump. I'm quite satisfied with these beauties.
      Djinnenjous, Jun 17, 2016
    4. Aornic
      @Djinnenjous If I was more confident in my tinkering ability, I'd attempt that mod myself. I agree that they are stellar sounding for certain.
      Aornic, Jun 18, 2016
  5. etherbound
    The Price Performance King
    Written by etherbound
    Published Jan 7, 2016
    Pros - Value; Excellently balanced and agreeable sound; Transparency; Imaging; Mods
    Cons - Weight; Require further investment to match the build quality and comfort to the sound quality
    I'll be frank here, the HE-500s are just about the best deal in the headphone world. They're not perfect, they're not the best, but there's no other offering which comes close to the value that the HE-500s provide. Obviously, they're not magic headphones that provide flagship sound with no compromises and it's obvious that HiFiMan cut corners in making a headphone that optimised audio quality, was relatively easy to drive and could be available at a substantially lower price point than traditional summit-fi offerings but those compromises are more than worth it, especially considering that most of the concerns can be fixed with a little additional investment and effort.
    The sound is excellent and truly balanced in every way in a way that creates not only balance but euphony. The bass really shows off the impact of the planars without being bloated or boomy and sounds wonderfully impactful and natural throughout without any boominess, bloating or roll-off. Some will prefer the LCD-2s bass but I prefer the tight and visceral impact over the spacious boom of the LCD's, which may be preferable to some but doesn't really do it for me. I probably won't be going back to dynamic cans after this because planars offer a truly different presentation of the bass that I just love.
    The mids are perhaps the headphones' selling point, and are again wholly balanced without taking out any of the sense of fun. It's the mids that create the amazing transparency of these cans and they take extremely well to any instrumentation or vocals and they do well at excelling at any genre without being a jack of all trades. The clarity of the mids was a revelation coming from DT880s and K7xxs which to my ears have a more recessed mids presentation.
    For me, the treble is what puts these headphones up there with summit-fi cans. The treble isn't heavy but it manages to fully be there and avoid harshness without taking the polite or veiled route that put me off the LCD-2s and killed the HD650s for me. The sparkle and brilliance that you want from the treble is all there and while the full extent of dynamics and detail isn't quite there, I still find that these are very detailed headphones that manage a very realistic presentation due to their excellent decay and transient response creating the overall organic sound and transparency that makes these headphones so great to listen to.
    The soundstage is quite nice but the imaging is where it truly excels. I prefer a headphone that has a closer soundstage but excellent imaging to one that sounds wide and expansive but with lackluster imaging making the width sound artificial. Also, while power hungry they're also quite easy to amp, they'll sound fantastic with just about anything that gives them enough power even if that will limit your selection of viable amps. They need a lot of juice but they're not picky with what they get it from and these actually sound somewhat decent out of a PC headphone jack or an iPhone input even if it's far from a permanent solution.
    Isolation is virtually non-existent and there's a lot of leakage, especially with the regrilling mod done, but you shouldn't really be considering flagship level open headphones if isolation and leakage are a real concern.
    The HE-500s do suffer somewhat in the quality of their stock parts (by that I mean the pads and cable, the headphones themselves are actually very sturdy and durable) with the very rough and hot pleather and velour pads leaving much to be desired and the ugly, tangle-y and hugely microphonic stock silver cable needing a replacement. They're quite easy on the eye and the gunmetal grey finish and the overall sturdy and straightforward look do make these look like a premium offering rather than cheap looking but good sleepers. They're very heavy which can cause comfort issues and have some odd screw-in cable connectors that can be a bit annoying and there's an overall lack of padding on the headband which in addition to the weight, makes them somewhat uncomfortable without any aftermarket padding. Luckily, most of these issues are fixable with some replacements and the handy among us will enjoy the fact that there's several mods available that can improve the overall sound of the headphones although some others will be annoyed at the fact that they'll have to buy new pads and cables to get a better experience and may not be keen to dig into expensive electronics. Really, comfort and design issues are plentiful as corners had to be cut, but when you see that about $120 will fix these issues and that you can get a pair of these for around $600 or less depending on where you live (I got these in Australia for about $670 including shipping and paypal fees, which is about half of what I'd pay for new HD800s or even used ones), even these issues feel like total nitpicks.
    Overall, these are a very organic set of cans that excel particularly in providing a balanced and transparent sound that just sounds beautiful and is rare even in top end cans. They embody the depth, palpability and enjoyment that I think defines high end sound. They're not harshly analytical but they're not overly laid back. They do just about everything just right. They're not too hot or harsh and they're not too mellow and dark. For me, these are the sweet spot of summit-fi and I don't think anything I could reasonably get would be a direct upgrade. I prefer these as daily drivers to my mate's HD800s (despite that soundstage) and LCD-2s and while I'd probably buy some HD800s to add to my collection if I had the money or some Stax if an eccentric millionaire handed me a cheque for $10,000, the HE-500s are a more than satisfactory end-game pair for me and even if the sound signature isn't your favourite, these can be part of any audiophile's end-game arsenal. If you don't mind replacing cables, pads and maybe adding some headband padding and doing the mods to get that extra oomph out of the sound, it's truly good enough to hang with the big boys and even surpass some of them for a fraction of the price. There is no better deal on the market, especially with used prices dropping more now that they're discontinued. If you're considering pulling the trigger on these, do it, you won't be disappointed.
      FastAndClean, ledestin and ninaphexed like this.
  6. MrJohnny
    Quite a nice detailed, fun bassy, liquid like midrange headphone
    Written by MrJohnny
    Published Apr 24, 2015
    Pros - Good Bass, good mid range, Clean detail NON sibilant highs. TEXTURED sound
    Cons - Heavy as Fark, fatigue on the head
    These cans are quite impressive. They have a very detailed and textured sound signature that is fun to listen to any kind of music with them. You can listen to just about anything them with them and enjoy it! Now this is with the cardas cable and velour pads. The silver cable might be more dry in taste and a little but more controlled in the bass sector. The cardas cable just makes the sound signature more fun and colored as well as enjoyable. Really the thing that blows my mind is the texture these head phones have. you can literately feel the sound as if you touched it with your finger!
      drbluenewmexico likes this.
  7. Bwright
    Written by Bwright
    Published Jan 20, 2015
    Pros - Great midrange, musical, warm yet detailed, won out in an audition process
    Cons - A bit more air and presence would be nice.
    I made the trip to CES and T.H.E. last year, and had the chance to review these against the HiFiMan HE-5 and HE-6, Sennheiser HD 650 and HD 800, and the Audeze LCD-2 and LCD-3. I was looking to select a single set of dedicated system headphones, and settled on the HE-500. It has an interesting presence and warmth that I found missing from the other models, and just sounded right. Following my purchase, I later found they sound wonderful with a VTL IT-85 integrated tube amp (upgraded with KT-77s).
    One disappointment was the Audeze products, given all the positive reviews. They just didn't sound as good, and were on the same system as the HE 500.  I realize this is subjective, and the fit/finish was superb, but compared to the other models it was clear that both had a lack of detail, and the bass was a bit bloated. 
    I heard a few of the latest models that arrived at this year's CES, but I still don't feel the need to upgrade. Although the HE 1000 was pretty amazing...  :)
      soundfanz and JAMEZTHEBOI like this.
    1. Mobiustereo
      Hello Bwright - nice review! Did you by chance get to audition the 400i ? If so, how did they compare?
      Mobiustereo, Feb 25, 2015
    2. GisleFoto
      You should´ve tested Sennheisers HD-700. you forget´em after three sec. on your head - if you not are born with a gigantic Conehead. Grado´ve got better options as well - in my opinion.
      GisleFoto, Sep 23, 2015
  8. drgameboy
    Best headphones I have ever owned
    Written by drgameboy
    Published Jan 18, 2015
    Pros - Excellent Bass, clarity, little to no sibilance, perfect midrange, very smooth and musical sound
    Cons - Some comfort issues, treble extension
    I first ventured into the Hifiman world about a months ago and splurged on the HE-500, Schiit Lyr 2 and Bifrost Uber. I also wanted to have a closed set of headphones, so after a lot of research, and not being able to find the denon d5000 at a reasonable price, I settled for the Denon D600. I got all my gear, set it up, and was greeted with utter disappointment. My D600 sounded way better than my he500!!!???? I couldn't believe my ears. My he500 was just dull, lacked clarity, punch and bass.

    I went on to try to fix the issue thinking that maybe the problem was the lyr 2 tubes. So once again, I went ahead and splurged on some nos tubes ( 1959 bugle boy d getters, Ediswan 6922, and Telefunken e288cc). To my disappointment, none of these made a difference for my HE-500. It still sounded dull and lifeless. I was crushed. My Denon D600 sounded really decent with the original tubes and nos tubes, but I still felt something was missing.

    Out of anger and regret, I decided to return all the gear and tubes, but kept only the D600, which I drove off my iPad air 2, because it sounded awesome off the ipad. fast forward about a month, and I kept reading reviews of how awesome the he500 are, so I decided to give it another try, figuring either my Lyr 2 or original HE-500 was defective. This time around, I decided to go modest and ordered another HE-500 from a different seller on Amazon, and a Fiio E12, and boy am I glad I decided to give the HE-500 another chance.

    My new HE-500 is way way better than my D600 now, that I hardly use the D600 anymore, except when my wife complains about noise or late at night. Terrific bass, awesome clarity, luscious midrange, it's like a night and day difference from my original HE-500, and this is all run off my Fiio E12 with no fancy DAC, just the headphone out of my laptop and analog out of my hdtv. Now I am contemplating if I should get another lyr 2 /bifrost combo or go a different direction with Violectric V200/emotive stealth dc1, but I sure can say I am in audio heaven now with my new he500/e12 combo, and can't imagine the improvements in store when I get a better amp and dac. Below are my overall rating of the he500 with fiio e12

    Bass-9.75/10 (Velour pads) 10/10 (Pleather pads)
    Midrange- 10/10
    Treble- 9/10
    Isolation-2/10 (my wife complains when I blast my headphones...lol)

    Comparison to my d600

    Isolation 6/10

    I tried the focus pads with my he500, and even though it's more comfortable, I still prefer the velour pads. The pleather are also good and provides better bass and punch. Overall I am very happy with my new he500, and I am not even using it to its full potential. I can't wait till I get the v200 and dc-1 to really see what this baby can do!
  9. Pirakaphile
    One of the best sound/price ratio in the headphone market
    Written by Pirakaphile
    Published Jan 15, 2015
    Pros - Neutral, energetic, bass texture, detailed mids and highs, promise of moddability, end-game for low price, genre master
    Cons - stock cable noise and pads
    This is going to be my first review, so note that I'm not exceptionally experienced. However, I know exactly what sound I like, and I'm a musician, and I have very high standards.
    Vox Audio Player 16/44.1 > Schiit Modi > Schiit Magni > HE-500

    Introduction (you can skip this if you want)
    I spent quite a lot of time researching this headphone, as well as a bunch of others, because I was looking to find a can that would end my headphone search. I was looking for end-game audiophile quality on a budget and I definitely found it. Let's just say that even though I found this can, I'm not done getting more of em, simply due to the fact that I'm stricken with upgraditis, so I'm going to continue looking for more unique and promising cans as I go, revising old reviews as I expand my collection, so that I can eventually compile a list of $500 end-game cans. Anyway, back on track.
    The HE-500 was promising as an all around can that could play any kind of music, which was something I needed, due to my eclectic music taste, that ranges from Billie Holiday to Bjork to Beethoven, so I needed an all around champion. This led me to the Beyerdynamic crowd, but I was unimpressed with the DT880's looks and lack of comments regarding it's bass response and texture. I then went to the HD650 and saw that it was one of the best cans in the business. However, they colour the sound, and I kept hearing 'laid back sound signature', and I like my music to have energy, because as a trumpet player, energy even in the softest notes is one of the most important parts of how you sound. Then I was stuck, because I couldn't find anything that seemed to be an all around performer. The AKG stuff all seemed bass-light, and nothing in my budget was popping up. I kept hearing about Audeze, and read a lot of those reviews, feeling angsty about how much money they cost, and the kind of sound they reproduced. I wanted that! Too bad I kept looking the name HiFiMAN over because I thought it was a dorky name and didn't deserve my attention. Then I saw a thread regarding the bass texture in the HE-400. I read 'orthodynamic', took a look at the $300 price tag, which was actually below my budget, and I thought I had found the can I had been looking for. About three weeks of research regarding the HE-400 and 500 eventually got me to the 500, which I saw was on the 'Battle of the Flagships' thread. It was competing with cans twice or more its price, and holding its own! I liked that, and eventually (thanks JoeDoe) I read a final review on the HE-500 and got it. I have to say, I am not sad to part with $440 for this kind of sound quality, even on my very flimsy budget. Fin
    Alright, onto the sound quality!
    This was one of the defining features of the HE-500 that led me to get it, was it's fantastic textured and extended bass response. It goes way down there in electronic music like a beast, but definitely doesn't go loud. If you're looking for a basshead can, this isn't going to be your choice, it can't really reproduce solid bass notes like in rap very loudly. The real magic comes to acoustic or electric bass, any kind of bass coming from an instrument is going to sound absolutely fantastic. Tubas and trombones really sound great, and you can hear that brass player really putting their whole body into getting the notes out, especially if they mess up, and I love to hear those little mishaps. Drums really can hit hard too, the bass kick is so textured and toms feel right there in front of you, I love drums on this can.
    The midrange is very very full and revealing. Guitars, brass instruments, strings, and vocals feel very natural. The amount of detail in the midrange is spectacular and I can't stop listening! The bass has really no bleed into the midrange at all, and all the notes are very separate. Everything here is very articulated and accurate, giving the midrange its rightful glory.
    The treble is one of the most important parts of music, because a lot of the energy is in the treble. The edge of the note, when a bass player hits the string so hard it rattles against the instrument, that's the treble in the bass, and if you don't have that it won't have energy. The upper range of the voice when it goes all out and reaches its limits, if the headphone has a recessed treble, then the music is going to be laid back and polite, regardless of its other aspects. Cymbal play is treble, and if you can't hear the drumsticks smacking off the crash cymbal, or dancing ecstatically over the ride, you've effectively killed the music. The HE-500 gives very immediate and powerful treble, but it's not loud or harsh or shrill at all, it's accurate and energetic.
    Soundstage, frequency response, and stuff
    The HE-500 has a fairly large soundstage, something that I really enjoy with classical music and jazz quartets, but also even in rock sometimes. They definitely give you a detailed image of the sound you're listening to, so well recorded classical music can immerse you, and still provide accurate placing. While I'm still going to revert to the Beyerdynamic DT990 PRO for watching movies, due to the accentuated bass and slightly wider soundstage, as well as the comfort factor, I'm not sure I'll ever use them for music listening again, due to the HE-500's performance.
    A little note, the HE-500 has an almost perfectly flat frequency response from 20 to 1000 Hz, so you're going to get a relatively perfectly reproduced sound with no added flavours that other cans offer, like the HD650 or any Grado. No extra bass, no extra midrange, no extra treble. You're getting the recording almost completely unedited and untainted.
    Another note, the Schiit Magni is a very powerful amp that delivers a whole watt into 32 ohms, so powering the HiFiMANs wasn't a big deal, but to properly power these things you should get a fairly powerful amp, and Schiit has some very good stuff for very low prices.
    Here is where I'll add more stuff in the future when I get more cans or remember something about the HE-500 that I left out that doesn't fit with any of the other sections.
    I'm extremely happy with the HE-500's performance as an all-around headphone, and for $440 used, this is one of the best bargains in audio/sound ratio. The HE-400 is a very good headphone as well, but isn't meant to compete with the HE-500 as a flagship, but is a good introduction into the sound of orthodynamics. With the Focuspad A+, aftermarket cables, and perhaps the fuzzor mod, and an outer grill change, these cans definitely do a good job at setting the bar very very high for a $500 headphone that performs just as good as others twice it's price. I would recommend this headphone to anyone who wants an end-game headphone that can do just about anything you throw at it. Just one note, HiFiMAN has discontinued this can, and it has been replaced by the HE-400i and 560, which I have never heard, but from reviews, I still believe this can to be the winner. 
    Comparisons to other $500 cans
    I won't have another headphone to compare for another 4 years, due to me upgrading my DAC and amp, and then getting the Audeze LCD2 afterwards, which'll take some saving up
    1. View previous replies...
    2. rgwrjs
      Absolutely wonderful read.  Thank you.
      rgwrjs, Jan 21, 2015
    3. ezvkm77
      A good review, I enjoyed it, thanks
      ezvkm77, Jan 21, 2015
    4. senorx12562
      Great review, especially as it is your first. The he500s are my most recent full-size purchase. I now have phones to fit every mood and music, and can't really imagine getting rid of any of them. My two favorites for music are the he500s and the lcd2.2s. They sound so different that i have to keep both, even though i could use some of the $ i have into them. I also have hd600s and dt880-250s. An embarrassment of riches. I might be done........nah.
      senorx12562, Jun 29, 2015
  10. JoeDoe
    An Immersive Experience
    Written by JoeDoe
    Published Nov 12, 2014
    Pros - Fantastic sound, mod-able
    Cons - Weight, cable connectors, stock cable, stock pads
    The HE500 brings one word to my mind: Immersion. I've never felt closer to the music. Period.
    It's the most organic, musical headphone I've heard to date. This implies a preference over the D2k, D5k, RS1i, GS1k, HE400i, ZMF Master, T90, HD600 and HD650. Just a home-run of an effort from Hifiman that, aside from a few aesthetic/comfort issues, makes these an end-game can.
    The Breakdown 
    Test Songs (all ALAC either 16/44 or 24/96):
    Someone Like You - Adele - Live from Royal Albert Hall
    Late in the Evening - Paul Simon - The Essential Paul Simon
    Mahler Symphony 5 - Georg Solti & CSO
    What About Me - Snarky Puppy - We Like It Here
    Hide and Seek - Imogen Heap - Speak for Yourself
    Prelude from Cello Suite #4 - Yo Yo Ma
    Hot for Teacher - 1984 - Van Halen
    MacBook Pro > Fidelia > Pan Am Stack
    Well, in a word: real. I got my first taste of planar bass early last year with the HE400 and even though it punched more and lower than my flavor of choice, the RS1i, it didn't stick with me. I've got the 500s now and they have the most realistic bass I've ever heard from a headphone. The sub-bass is present, the mid bass is dynamic, and the upper bass/lower mids are nice and clear and textured. The range of Ma's cello can be heard with ease (something not easily done!). Kick drums on the Snarky Puppy and Van Halen tunes don't sound like shapeless blobs. They sound distinct and punchy. This beats any bass I've heard from a dynamic hands down. Sorry D5000 and HD650!
    Rich! Neither forward nor recessed. I don't think I'd say that the HE500 is a mid-centric phone, but in my experience the mids are often the defining characteristic for most upper-end headphones. That's where vocals, guitars, and horns predominantly sound. Lots of guys can live with hot treble or sloppy bass, but if the mids aren't palatable, whether they say or it not, they aren't satisfied. The mids are very lifelike in they're portrayal of texture and detail. The horns in the Simon and Snarky Puppy are very clear and textured. Vocals sound excellent in "Hide and Seek." Very organic and rich. Once again, my hat is off to Hifiman. I thought I'd never find electric guitar I liked better than the RS1i. Even though I'd love to have both, the HE500 presents vocals beautifully AND I get the crunch from my favorite guitar riffs. Truly an accomplishment.
    Natural and clear. The HE500's upper end is quite special. While not unnaturally-detailed (what I think of when I hear the HD800), the treble range is still very detailed and revealing. It bests anything I've heard from Beyer and certainly Grado. Intricate cymbal work on "Hot for Teacher," violin overtones in Mahler, and air in Imogen Heap's voice all come through clearly and naturally. Probably the only time I've been able to say that about any headphone. A comparison I've often heard is that of the HE500 to the LCD2. The treble has to be the biggest difference. If you want polite, smooth treble, go with the Audeze. However, if you want real treble, go with the Hifiman!
    The soundstage is excellent. Once again, just real! Not overly huge a la Denon, or pre-shrunk like a Grado. Studio recorded tracks have excellent space and imaging. Live albums sound live! All instruments from orchestras to jazz bands to duos can be picked out with ease. To me the sound sits just in front of "midway" around the head, but once again, nothing sounds fake or doctored. 
    *Note: I have the new Focus Pads on my 500s. These are slightly angled in an effort to improve sense of space. I hate the stock velours and pleathers so much that I won't offer an A/B but I will say that the Focus Pads are much more comfortable and certainly don't take away from anything that was already happening. If there is an improvement in sound over the stock velour, it's minimal to these ears. 
    The only qualms I have with Hifiman's hit are those in the categories of comfort and accessories. First, I have gotten used to it, but when I first gave the HE500s a go, I thought the weight would be a deal-breaker. Remember, I'm a recovering Grado-holic, so I'm quite used to wearing headphones that weigh next to nothing. Luckily the headband fits my head quite well (like a Grado) and I've switched to the Focus pads, which are softer, and distribute weight more evenly. I still am reminded of the heft of these guys from time to time, but it's certainly not unbearable. Second, the stock cable and pads are well, just awful. The stock silver cable is the most microphonic cable I've ever heard. Worse than any of the 75+ IEMs I've tried. Since most of my listening is done at the desktop, this doesn't come into play too much, but for a premium headphone like the 500, this is to me, a ridiculous shortcoming. Also, the pads. Pleather: 2 thumbs down! Velour: 1.5 thumbs down! Neither are comfortable, both are hot, the pleather muddies up the sound, and the velour feels like sandpaper. Once again, silly issues to have for a headphone that is so awesome!
    Final Thoughts:
    If you couldn't tell already, I'm a huge fan of the HE500, even though for me to really love them I had to buy some new pads and switch up the cable. They offer the best sound I've ever heard. And by best, I mean most lifelike. No overly hyped-treble a la upper-end Senns or Grado. No head-shaking bass a la Audeze. Instead a presentation that is very complete, organic, and most of all fun! These are my thoughts and I'm sticking with 'em!
      amigomatt, swspiers, daerron and 3 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. JoeDoe
      To each his own. To my ears, the LCD 2's have more bass than what occurs naturally. Same for a slight treble roll-off. I do agree that they are more comfortable however. Can't have it all I suppose!
      JoeDoe, Nov 22, 2014
    3. amigastar
      Good Review man,
      I just have one question though you say: "pleather muddies up the sound, and the velour feels like sandpaper"
      Which pads are better then, i suppose the Focus one am i right?
      Anyways great review.
      amigastar, Nov 24, 2014
    4. JoeDoe
      Yessir. Focus pads are leagues better in comfort than either stock pad. Not a huge change in sound, but I'm no longer distracted by the discomfort, so I can enjoy my music more!
      JoeDoe, Nov 25, 2014