HiFiMAN HE-500

Jordan Lewis

New Head-Fier
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.
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coletrain104
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. 
bagwell359
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.

bracko

Previously known as muxamed.
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.

audiophilehe400

100+ Head-Fier
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.

Aornic

Member of the Trade: Acorn Audio
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
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Background
 
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.
 
Specifications
 
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.
 
Sound
 
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.
 
Conclusion
 
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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Comparisons
 
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.
Djinnenjous
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.
Aornic
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.
bagwell359
bagwell359
X00 bsss quality? Don't confuse quantity w/ quality. TH-X00 bass is fat, slow and unmusical - IMO. HE-500 is far more natural, it also easily tops the 400i.

etherbound

New Head-Fier
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.

MrJohnny

100+ Head-Fier
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!
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Bwright

New Head-Fier
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...  :)
Mobiustereo
Mobiustereo
Hello Bwright - nice review! Did you by chance get to audition the 400i ? If so, how did they compare?
GisleFoto
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.

drgameboy

100+ Head-Fier
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
Comfort-7/10
Isolation-2/10 (my wife complains when I blast my headphones...lol)

Comparison to my d600

Bass-9.25/10
Midrange-7.5/10
Treble-8.25/10
Comfort-10/10
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!

Pirakaphile

500+ Head-Fier
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.
Setup
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!
 
Bass
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.
 
Midrange
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.
 
Treble
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.
 
Closing
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
rgwrjs
rgwrjs
Absolutely wonderful read.  Thank you.
ezvkm77
ezvkm77
A good review, I enjoyed it, thanks
senorx12562
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.

JoeDoe

Headphoneus Supremus
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
 
Source:
MacBook Pro > Fidelia > Pan Am Stack
 
Bass:
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!
 
Mids:
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.
 
Treble:
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!
 
Soundstage/Separation:
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. 
 
Issues:
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!
JoeDoe
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!
amigastar
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.
JoeDoe
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!

joespride

1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Sound quality, Build quality, Overall balanced sound
Cons: Weight, but can be mitigated with added pad on the head band
Source: all lossless AIFF Files through ITunes, connected to DAC via asynchro usb2
 
Gear used: Schiit Bifrost with Uber upgrade, Schiit Valhalla amp, and Ampsandsound Se-84
 
This is my 2nd pair of quality headphones. 1st being the Sennheiser HD-650, 2nd being The HiFi Man HE500 obviously (hereafter referred to as the 500), 
Reading various threads around HeadFi started me thinking 
confused.gif
, about ortho's 2 in particular, the 500 and the Lcd2.2 my initial thoughts were to go with the Lcd2.2
They just seemed to have more praise mainly centered around the Bass presentation. My biggest concern besides paying for either was the weight there seems to be tons
of complaints about the weight
 
Up pops Underwood HiFi on a-gon selling the 500 and an email later they are at a price I cannot refuse. They ship the same day and 2 business days later they are in my hands,
Initial thoughts are packaged very well, In a nice box with accessories (I found the packaging MUCH better than the Sennheisers)  Look and feel like a very well made product and 
damn these things are heavy
 
On with the music, some of my favorite music is Acoustic with male vocals, Acoustic with female vocals, indie and classic rock, some jazz sprinkled in.  Straight out of the box I am impressed
The bass on these monsters is outstanding and the treble extension just trounces the 650 much more open with great detail retrieval, and organic voice absolutely no grain.
First session is 3 hours on my head and no issues with thee weight
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 I cannot help my self I am all over the place choosing random albums among 1500 album library. day 2 is basically a repeat of day 1 and still no issues with the weight. Enter day 3  and after about an hour i have a pain on top of my head, turns out the padding on the bar could be better. I took a 1/2" thick
piece of high density foam I had laying around and cut it out wrapped a piece of cloth around it to hold it in place pulled the cups out and now no bar, feels great. ( I believe my job requirement that I wear a hard hat 8 hours a day helped cope with the weight)
 
Visiting songs that I know to be sibilant proved the 500 can ease that pain, The 500 as also uncovered another layer of detail the senns could not. I will admit I am not a huge Jazz fan
I like some songs but on the whole I just don't enjoy the genre and typically a song or 2 is my limit. Enter the 500 and it is just so revealing and dynamic I find myself setting through
the whole album
 
I think the fact that I can set through an entire album is the highest praise I can throw at any headphone or speaker.  If you want a headphone with super bass and great high end extension with an
overall balanced sound, that adds a level of realism to vocals. This may be your cup of tea. It certainly deserves and audition 
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N
Nikonkit
I am in the same position, LYR/HD600 looking for some air and texture
joespride
joespride
I was very hesitant to change the 650, I really liked them but the MANY glowing reviews about orthos kept me thinking.  Underwood gave me such a great deal delivered on a new pair with warranty I simply could not pass it up. His price on them new was better than used prices considering you get the warranty. I am so happy to have bought the 500. It is hard for me to say in words everything I hear
littlexsparkee
littlexsparkee
Lyr/Bifrost is great with the 500

guido

1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: The midrange!
Cons: heavy
I swapped the stock silver cable for a less microphonic and easier to manage OFC Zy-cable..
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audioops
audioops
Great. Thank you.
llcook51
llcook51
Guido, how is the OFC ZY-cable and where did you buy it?
I am getting a pair of 500s delivered today.
Thanks and happy listening.
guido
guido
ok, back to HD800 too now that I have a B.M.C. Puredac:)

JustinBieber

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Excellent bass, easy listening/no fatigue, Large soundstage width, pricing, build quality
Cons: Timbre is lacking, heavy, ringing, detail
I am currently using a loaner pair of HE-500's and thought I'd give my thoughts on the headphones and how they compare to my current pair I was planning on upgrading (Sennhesier HD 600). Keep in mind these are all subjective thoughts, what may be a con for me can be a pro for you based on your preferences. I loaned a pair from The Cable Company, http://www.thecableco.com/Product/NEW-Headphone-Lending-Library
 
The Pros.
 
Bass: The HE-500 has some of the best bass I have ever heard on any headphone and absolutely dominates the HD600. There is no mid-bass hump that I hear present in most headphones, the sub-bass has great extension and can really give you a nice rumble when the song calls for it. The bass is very dynamic and suits any genre. It is well controlled, fast, and textured when listening to rock and metal, precise and natural when listening to jazz and classical, and can deliver a nice amount of thump when listening to rap, trap, and dubstep.
 
Soundstage width: Contrary to another review I read, I found the HE-500 to have much better width than the HD600, the HD600 sounds narrow versus the HE-500, this was very evident when listening to Miles Davis. The drums and trumpets sound more outwards towards the left and right, but not so much so that I find myself losing excitement or so that the music seems distant.
 
Little Fatigue: Once I got used to the clamping force and heavy weight of the HE-500, I'm able to listen to them for hours without any fatigue. The laid back lower treble makes these very easy on the ears. The upper part of the treble has good extension, hi hats/cymbals/etc have a nice sparkle without sounding overdone and ear piercing, which was a big problem I had with the HE-400.
 
The Cons.
 
Ringing: For some reason, If a high frequency note is played for a continuous period of time, the HE-500 produces a strange ringing effect, even more so than the HD600. It's kind of annoying and hurts my ears. Listen to a opera singer holding a note for a long time, or a trumpet being held on a single high tone, you will see what I mean.
 
Timbre: I find that drums, trumpets, the piano, and guitar sound more true to life on the HD600. I originally thought this was because I wasn't used to the planar drivers on the HE-500, so I listened to them continuously for a extended period of time, then switched to the 600. I still found timbre to be much, much better when doing this and also during a/b testing.
 
Lacks detail: Due to the laid back lower treble and wide soundstage, I find the HE-500 produces less detail than the HD600. I can hear more subtle details, like recording errors, static noise, and reverberation of instruments. This is because of the brighter lower treble on the 600 and the more intimate presentation.
 
Smoothness: The HE-500 is a smooth headphone, but the HD600 is even better in this regard. I find less peaks in the HD600s frequency response, music sounds much more coherent and neutral without any extra glare/brightness being added. Everything sounds like it flows together naturally with the 600, while the 500 breaks the flow with ringing and a light glare
 
Song Tests (Done with pleather pads, Schiit Magni & Modi, FLAC/ 320kb MP3s) 
 
Bitches Brew, Miles Davis, Jazz
500: Soundstage is much larger in width, drums extend more outwards towards the left and right. Timbre sounds less realistic on the drums and trumpets, however, the bass is more present in the song. 
600: More intimate and exciting sound, drums don't extend outwards left/right as much as 500, however the drums and trumpet sound more true to life, timbre is much more accurate, the bass is lacking just slightly versus the 500. 
 
Passed Me By, Andy Stott, Electronic
500: Bass extends all the way down and has a much stronger impact, ambiance of the song surrounds my head and sounds as if it's warping/surrounding around me.
600: The very low sub-bass is almost ignored, much less impact, ambiance of the song is more intimate and lacks the "surround sound" effect I felt with the HE-500. 
 
Teardrop, Massive Attack, Trip Hop

500: Presentation is larger, drums have more of a "pop/snap" and the guitar sounds livelier vs the 600, but timbre is still stronger on the 600. Mid-bass is less excessive on the song.
600: Presentation of the song is more intimate (sounds more in my head), the guitar and drums have more accurate timbre, Vocals are smoother and have less sibilance and peaks.
 
Song Of Life (Nick Warren Remix), Leftfield, Techno/House
500: Bass is quicker and has more impact, drums/cymbals have more sparkle and shimmer. In general, this song sounds much more lively and energetic vs the 600.
600: Bass is less present and lacks the impact and speed of the 500. Drums/cymbals lack the sparkle/shimmer of the 500. In simple terms, this song sounds more smooth and is easier to listen to on the 600.  
 
Warrior Concerto, Glitch Mob, Electronic
500: Clearer and more open vs the 600. Bass has a strong rumble (1:50-2:10), much better imaging and separation.
600: Sounds congested, all of the instrumentation/soundfx sounds too close without enough separation, bass is lacking impact (1:50-2:10 in the song)
 
Both are truly great headphones, but you may favor one over another based on your tastes. I think the HE-500 and HD600 compliment each other well. I often find myself grabbing the HD600 for jazz, classical, and instrumentals for the beautiful timbre and intimacy. Then I switch over to HE-500 for dubstep, trap, rap, and rock/metal because of the bass, more shimmery upper treble, and speed. Both are driven by my Schiit gear with ease, I find both headphones can be driven to ear damaging levels with the Magni & Modi. However, the HE-500 is more dependent on amping. The HD600 sounds good out of my Nexus 4/computer, but plugging in the HE-500 to a portable source leads to dull dynamic range with little bass impact. 
 
That about sums up my thoughts, hope you enjoyed reading my review!
JustinBieber
JustinBieber
I'm looking for a pair of closed headphones or IEM's for on the go use. So maybe I can do a review on the latest Mad Dog/Alpha dog, but most likely it wont be until a very long time, I just don't have the money yet.
Hifihedgehog
Hifihedgehog
@JustinBieber: You should give the SRH 940 a try. A fellow, reliable forumer MalVeauX who owns the HE-500 also owns the SRH940 and had really good things to say about it in his review. I also the SRH 940 and have heard my fair share of top and bottom tier headphones and consider it a personal favorite.
JustinBieber
JustinBieber
Thanks for the recommendation, I'll look into the 940.

Chromako

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Excellent bass, great impact and body, surprisingly comfortable for large noggins.
Cons: Lack of treble resolution, a bit of ringing, some quality control issues, heavy, hot.
Disclaimer: My opinions are just my own. They do seem to be in contrast to some others' experiences, but we all have different preferences.
 
I heard great things about this headphone, and really wanted to like it. I can see why they are popular, and they indeed are fun. However, I'm a treble-head, and as one who was spoiled by the beyerdynamic DT880's, I hated them.
 
(TL;DR: I bought these new from Headroom. Compared to the beyerdynamic DT880's, the HiFiMan's have much, much better bass impact, a fuller body on all frequencies, and less sibilance. The DT880's crush the HE-500's when it comes to treble resolution, and a slight lead in mid and low frequency resolution.)
 
(Off topic: I have not the slightest clue why beyerdynamic insists on using all lowercase letters, but this isn't a typo.)
 
 
 
Equipment:
 
Before we start: my setup was a Benchmark DAC1, feeding into a Meier Corda Opera. Files were lossless, fed bit-perfect from iTunes to a M2Tech HiFace (with a regulated, linear power supply). Cables included double-shielded power cables, a triple-shielded USB cable, all interconnects used shielded Mogami wire and Neutrik terminations with matching impedances. Primary comparison was with a beyerdynamic DT880 (600 ohm, with a Blue Dragon cable, whose drivers were broken in with over 300 hours of pink noise- even before I began using them a year before). Power conditioning was with a medical-equipment/mission-critical-telecom grade double-conversion, fully online, UPS. (That's just how I do things!)
 
 
 
On to the listening tests:
 
I burned them in with pink noise for about 100 hours before giving them a serious listen. The first impressions was that there was fantastic bass impact. These are fun headphones! The mids had decent resolution with excellent body, and the bass was not flabby. Stock, everything was a bit veiled and the bass was a tiny bit muddy, but that was resolved by removing the foam damping sheet, as recommended by many owners. I'd highly recommend trying that modification to see if you like it. 
 
 
Compared to the DT880's, if you like bass, then there is no contest- the HE-500's win by a mile. (Then again, that isn't exactly a hard thing to do.) Additionally, the HiFiMan's had more body to the mid and low frequencies, and there was less sibilance than the beyerdynamics have. Some people find the DT880's habit of brutally reproducing sibilance and recording flaws to be fatiguing, others don't. I am in the latter group. Note that the HE-500's resolution improved dramatically with all frequencies when I removed the internal foam damping sheet. I didn't notice the "tizzyness" some people complain about. 
 
The ugly... coming from beyerdynamic DT880's and being a treble-head, I found the high frequencies seriously (in comparison to my fantastic treble-loving beyer's) lacking resolution. The HE-500's treble resolution was miles behind the beyerdynamic's, and the mids on the HE-500's were slightly less precise than the DT880's. Smooth and friendly treble, yes. Resolving- not all that much. 
 
For example, with the beyerdynamic's and violin recordings, I can easily tell which way the bow is moving, and the slight "crunch" the bow hairs can make on impact with the strings during intense sections. . With vocals, I can hear when the performers take a breath. This all makes me feel more involved and intimate with the performers, especially as a violin player. The HiFiMan's had very little of that, and I missed the intimacy and detail. 
 
There was also a slight "shouty-ness" with the HiFiMan's. Testing has shown that there is a bit of a ring in the 1kHz area, probably due to poorly designed housings. That bothered me a lot, but then again, take this with a grain of salt as I am very sensitive to it. (Fun fact: designing good housings is very difficult- just see how hard Sennheiser worked to reduce the resonance and ringing when they designed the HD800's, so it is understandable that HiFiMan, as a smaller company, might not be able to invest in exotic plastics and crazy geometric designs like Sennheiser did.)
 
 
In the end, just make sure you take my own preferences into account. These all could be good characteristics for some people who want something more forgiving or more impactful.
 
 
 
Non-sound considerations:
 
Initial impressions were that they seemed solidly built. There was no play/slackness in the pieces- fit adjustments were easy and crisp. I also really appreciated the inclusion of both a balanced and unbalanced cable, and a set of spare terminations for their RF-originated cable attachments (absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it is a bizarre design choice.) The spare part for DIY cables was a thoughtful touch which impressed me. 
 
However, most of the unboxing experience was bad. Though the box was of nice quality, the headphones had a very strong smell of volatile organic vapours (AKA, cheap plastic smell) and a week of airing out later, the smell was still strong on the headband- which showed that the packing material was not to blame. (They really need to rethink that headband material.) Given others' experiences, I suspect they have since resolved that smell issue. In the end, though, this is just not acceptable for $700 headphones. 
 
The 1/4" TRS cable was poorly made on my particular set- the 1/4 inch termination was already loose, and there were bits of plastic hanging off where the mould lines were. The XLR cable was of okay ("meh") quality. It was functional, and since it was, my tests were used the balanced cable and with a nice, not cheap, XLR to TRS adapter, given the compromised build quality on the TRS cable. This affair is not something I even see on most $30 headphones. It made me suspect that, at least on the day mine were made, there were some quality control issues with the cables. It's not a huge thing as most will probably just throw these out and use nicer aftermarket cables, but then again, this is an expensive piece of kit, and I can't forgive the lack of consideration.
 
And yes, these were purchased new from Headroom. 
 
 
Conclusion:
 
 
In the end, I didn't like them, and returned them (Headroom has fantastic customer support, by the way!) The sound wasn't bad, per say, but I couldn't take the lack of treble detail and the slight kHz level shout-y ringing/resonance problems (which were present with and without the damping foam). They wouldn't necessarily be bad as a second pair of headphones for me, and if someone gifted them to me, I'd keep them. If you want something quite fun and with a lot of very controlled kick (AKA, what my anthropomorphised beyer's would, with a haughty attitude, grumpily call "plebian" and then say "Bah, you're all Philistines!") while still having decent detail retrieval, they are fantastic.
 
Don't forget to try removing the foam damping sheet. You might like the difference.
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Mshenay
Mshenay
I love the almost blood feud between Hifiman and Beyerdynamic... I own a DT 990 hoping an HE 400 will be an upgrade, I own a fully balanced OFCC Copper Recabled Balanced Dt 880 600 ohm, and not sure if I'll go HE 5LE or Beyer T90 xD... still I do like balance... seeing as I'm a happy owner of a Hm 801 and many bright cans... I'll be excited when I get a chance to see how the HE 5XX performs again'st it's beyer C ounterparts! 
Xenophon
Xenophon
Thanks for the review, very interesting. I auditioned the HE-500 for only 45 minutes with various classical pieces (some Stravinsky, Bach...) when I was trying a number of headphones a couple of weeks back and although I couldn't really go into detail as you did within that limited timeframe, I think your review reflects my own experience. They're certainly not bad, especially for bass-lovers, but soundstage and detail resolution leave something to be desired + the sound is quite coloured. Not so suitable for acoustic classical music. I also own the DT880 (600 Ohm) and price-quality wise it's a much better deal though I have to say that to me, their treble accentuation is a bit too much and they tend to have sibilance issues there.

It's a mystery to me how some people can state that the HE-500 and the HE-6 are more or less equivalent; I ended up purchasing the HE-6 and it's a world of difference: better soundstage, a lot more resolving, more clarity, very neutral and even over the entire spectrum (small treble over accentuation) and a league above the DT-880 which is normal considering the price point. If you get a chance, give them a try, you will be pleasantly surprised (but make sure your amp has plenty of juice). The jury's still out but the HE-6 might just be my favourite headphone with classical music, surpassing the HD-800.

gevorg

1000+ Head-Fier
I've auditioned these with DACmini for about a week. The overall sound is congested and seems to be missing something. Comparing to D5000, these have no fun factor at all. Add the fact that the comfort is much worse, the HE-500s had to go. As always, YMMV.
nehcrow
nehcrow
Need more power than the DACmini to actually perform well, buddy
Austin Morrow
Austin Morrow
A DACMini will not provide adequite drive power to get the HE-500's to even a third of what they can acheive.
bracko
bracko
Why do people bother writing a three-line review about headphones they don't even own? 

thelostMIDrange

1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: versatile
Cons: fit, long term sessions
These are a cool product and worthy of an audition. Good balance and plenty of detail. Technically darn good. Plenty of top end, perhaps a bit much for some, but I like my top end sparkle. Like other orthos, these have a very 'together' and solid sound that comes across as a bit too 'weighty' for my tastes but I prefer a lighter on it's feet type of dynamic sound ala dynamic driver grado. I much prefer the high resolution, flatter response of the he500 however. Sure wish grado would make such a phone but alas it's not to be. Regarding the he500, It's a solid value even though in my world, $500 is a lot of cash to lay out for a decent headphone, especially considering you will need to add another several hundred min on the right amp to power
daerron
daerron
Have you auditioned the Grado PS500 yet? Haven't heard it myself, but from the graphs it looks like its got a flatter signature that you might be looking for.
Sweden
Sweden
More like a HP1000. The price of those are getting silly now however.
Wish there could be a good sounding planar weighing under 300 grams...

bedlam inside

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: The sound quality closely approaches the best Electrostatic Headphones
Cons: Hard to wear for more than 30 minutes, very poorly designed/assembled
Personally, they put in mind of the situation of Tantalus. I absolutely want the sound quality of these headphones, but I cannot stand to have them my head for more than a short period of time. So these are likely the most tantalising headphones out there and equally likely among the ones with the poorest comfort wearing them.

They are perfect for Audiophile Masochists and Fakirs seeking Nirvana in music. If you can detach your mind from your body so much that you do not feel the discomfort these bring with them, the music they play will take you to Nirvana. If you like Sound and Sadomasochism, you will positively lurv these headphones. If these headphones were a car, they would be an Alfa Romeo.

Read the complete review here:


http://www.head-fi.org/t/648968/a-headphone-shootout-from-a-speaker-listener-testing-eight-headphones-from-80-to-1-200#post_9114857

 

hifimanrookie

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Soundstage, warmth, velvet sound
Cons: Heavy, it moves on ur head while turning head
Am not a man of many words..but..i thought my he300 was good..but this one destoys everything in his path up until the 1000 Mark..they are that good..but pls..buy a powerfull amp..it will make u speechless of how it sounds..i am a believer now.concerning electro dynamics..ARE U? :D

Here are some amps i can advice that are under the 800 mark.

Solid states/hybrids:
yulong sabre A18
Shiit mjolnir
Shiit lyr
Hifiman EF5

Tubeys
Darkvoice 337 with the right tubes(i owe one now..see my pics/avatar)
Lafigaro 339

Latest update: i have a comfort over headband thingie on his way..hope that will make the comfort better on my he500 :p
silversurfer616
silversurfer616
Have the Audio GD Phoenix and it works well with the HE500 in balanced mode.Check out the threads "Best amp for HE500".
RushNerd
RushNerd
You paid $700 for headphones, wrote that, and you are asking if we believe...
Mshenay
Mshenay
Oh nice, I'm thinking of doing an EF-5 with me HE-500s until I can go for a better amp. And after I get my HE-5 I'll be going for balancing them along with my DT 880 600s <3

WhiteCrow

Is not fooled by rapper-endorsed products.
Pros: Great sound, Built well, Preformance<Price, Comfort, accesories.
Cons: comfort for some, Needs a good set up.
 
The HiFiMan HE-500, practically perfect in every way.
The HE-500 were pretty new territory for me. I have always used Dynamic headphones and was content with them. Then These seductive sirens caught my eye and well....head-fi had it's way with my better judgment and wallet; and by god I'm glad it did! DR.Fang has stuck diamonds and gold with these headphones and has certainly showed me the ways of the Planar Magnetics mystical powers. First off I would like to start by saying that these headphones are the most expensive headphone I have invested in and the set up to along with them as well. My first encounter with these headphones was very eye opening; reading reviews about them I was expecting a very well rounded headphone and a neutral presentation. What I got was a very mid oriented headphone with a and I don't mind saying this PERFECT high end, The Lyr was just the bass icing on the HiFiMan cake. The HE-500 have a very particular sound, it's a very natural sound, I would not say neutral but natural. Vocals when amped properly are just gooey and ethereal at the same time; not one song I have throw at these from Jazz to electronic, Metal to classical, absolutely nothing has not sounded like I was actually in the recording studio with the band. I would not say these give you a theater sound stage as It's much more intimate than that, it's not closed by any means it's a very open and expansive sound stage; however all of the instruments, the vocals, and pretty much every piece of sound just sounds so tangible.

This may seem like a very quick jump but just listening to all of my headphones against this one these is really nothing they do better. This is not to say they them self's are not good but they just don't stack against the HE-500 by any means and I suppose that makes perfect sense for a headphone with a $700 price tag. Saying these headphones are anything but world class contenders I feel would be an insult; no I admit my experience with other world class headphones is not as extensive as I would like but listening to the LCD-2 and HD800 I was quite blown away, then listening to these I was just in awe that a headphone for hundreds less could be on the same level. These are I feel more geared to a music lover rather than the HD800 as I feel they were very analytical where as the HE-500 are as close to actually having the (insert musician/band here) sing or play for you. No the HE-500 will not point out every glaring flaw in your source but they do have incredible resolution and can easily review details in music you have never heard.

Treble extension is something I would like to talk a bit more about with these headphones. My goodness the treble is just mesmerizing, I thought Grado did treble very well and I still do; the HE-500 just do it so much better. Grado has a tendency to peak violently where as the HiFiman's just glide gracefully into it's peaks and back down again; Hearing an electric guitar was a religious experience for me with my RS-2 and on the HE-500 it was simply biblical. Every millimeter of guitar string vibrates in your ears as you hear the calloused skin of the players fingers grind onto the strings; It really sounded as if the guitarist was in your room playing for you trying to give you as much detail in his playing. Like I had said before the sound of these headphones is tangible, it's nearly beyond tangible to my ears. Listening to one of my favorite Joan Baez songs "with god on our side" her voice is just angelic, I can almost her swaying as she sings.

Bob Dylan...not my favorite artist but his voice is so complex I just had to give him a listen. My god, it's really like he's right here. I don't want to repeat my self so much but the natural sound stage and sound of these headphones just brings so much life to all of my music, a bit of warmth due to the slight bass emphasis really just brings a mystic smoke to Dylan's voice and smooth's his gruffness. Smooth that's another thing these headphone are. All frequency's really just seem to glide into each other; not bleed mind you but finding "edges" between the treble and the lower midrange something I really notice on the D2000 is just near impossible. The midrange has such a lush gooey sound and the high end  has such a detailed and well rounded sound that neither really shows dominance but in a good way. The He-500 are a very well rounded headphone, killer bass response, nearly tangible and natural midrange, with a smooth and silky perfectly peaked high end is just something I have never really heard in any headphone.
 
Bass seems to be a Planar magnetic's trademark it would seem. The LCD-2's have great bass, the HE-6 have reportedly great bass, as well as the HE-400/4 and 5LE. The Texture and grain of the bass running through the Lyr is just mind boggling, a standing bass really feels like a standing bass and a Cello has such rumble to it. Kick drums are very punchy and have a nice trail as they decay. Bass guitar down right makes me salivate, following a bsssline and actually being able to feel it's gentle vibrations is something that has been lost to me and now I don't think I could ever go back. The HE-500 have a nice tight taut bass but that does not mean it does not extend well; the sub bass rumble and vibration could nearly put the XB700 to shame.....nearly. The Upper bass that feeds into the lower midrange is extremely accurate and never sluggish, the over all speed of the Planar magnetic sound is something that I love as I'm a Grado fan and Grado's are all about the speed. Just saying the bass is textured when it's recorded properly on these headphones I feel is an understatement I can truly feel the detail in the bass of a guitar and drums.

All in all I would say these headphones are going to be my headphones, I have said this about the RS-2 and for a little over a year they were, but the shrill treble and nearly flat sound stage are just never going to stand against these wondrous silken sectors. The HE-500 are truly a world class headphone and are easy enough to drive with minimal amping or  if you want a fantastic Synergy I would suggest the Schiit Lyr as this set up is just wonderful...no perfect.
 
I have been in contact with another head-fi member that is graciously allowing me to barrow his HE-400 some time soon and do a little A/B write up on them!

    
    Comfort
   The comfort of these headphones having put some real time into them is pretty great. I much prefer the Leather pads and as some one mentioned in this thread they are protein leather such as cars use but still of pretty great quality. The ear cups are nice and spacious and don't squeeze to hard in any one place I find. The head band has gotten some complaints in other reviews but so far I have noticed it pressing down on my head much and is by no means uncomfortable.

    Package contents
    Well I was excited to have a real live box come with my expensive headphones FOR ONCE!!!!! how I was crushed.....The HE-500 now come with a hard shell clam case which you can see in my un boxing video, No not bad packaging but seriously no box? Not even a cardboard outer box to house them. It was shipped in a box, in a box with the case in it. Well I suppose...wait a minuet, I paid for this; yes I a tad rustled.Why is it hi-fi company's put little thought into the actual packaging nowadays? Yes I paid $700 for your headphones, a nice fancy box to make people jelly would be nice. This being said the Cable is a nice touch, how ever I cannot comment on the cable wars as this is the first silver cable I have ever had and I think the headphone sound pretty good being underpowered as they are. Extra pads like I mentioned is a nice step up from the one spare pad this package used to come with and the extra interconnect pieces to make your own cables is a nice extra as well.

 
Velour Versus Leather
I put a lot more time before work on the Velour's versus the Leathers pads and I'm still sticking with my Very minuscule sound change is any at all. The Highs seem just a molecule brighter with the velour but that could just be in my imagination.
 
The difference in amping
The difference was a pretty clear difference, Switching back and forth rapidly between the LDMKII and the Lyr  not only was the bass significantly improved but the over all lushness of sound was. With the MKII I found my self hearing odd distortions in the upper frequency's I suspect mainly due to the fact that MKII had to be cranked to about  3 o'clock for a song I dub "quiet" louder songs I had no problem with at about Noon or even 11. Bass distortion is very prominent on the MKII in quiet songs, the bass is pretty lack luster but the fact that I can hear distortion on songs like 'Stained' at Noon on the amp is pretty shocking. What I take away from this is the less you have to push them amp to power the headphone the less distortion on the HE-500.
 
HE-500 for gaming?
HELL YES!!!! Playing all sorts of games from unreal tournament 3 to diablo 2 HELL YEA!. For shooters they have a very accurate sound stage and you can easily hear someone sneaking up on you. For RPG's of all sorts you get a great sense of depth in voices and battle. Hooking them into my PS3 Via Bifrost they sounded amazing for Uncharted 1 and 2, easily ONE of my favorite PS3 game's....in my top five. Online Shooters with these are really great as the bass is extremely explosive and really shakes your head. Also hearing gunshots from behind you and whipping around at light speed to pop some ones cap and have them scream over there headset is pretty satisfying. When I say shooting behind you, I mean it's as if they are standing behind you shooting; you can really get a pretty dead on feel of just where people are.
lightningsmerf
lightningsmerf
Firstly, great review. Secondly, if you have used any of the other hifiman products, how do they compare to these?
WhiteCrow
WhiteCrow
Well I'm late to the post on this but the he-400 are 80% the headphone the HE-500 are. They just don't reach as low in the bass and have not as good mids...and honky highs.
dbear44
dbear44
Great review. But if you loved them so much, why not give them 5 stars? I heard them at a local head-fi meet recently and actually prefered them to my LCD-2's.

Super MANSKITO

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: world class sound for less money
Cons: still a lot of money
the equal of the LCD-2 and better than the HD 800/T1 
 
And its cheaper
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GL1TCH3D
GL1TCH3D
Have you done side by side comparisons?
Are you basing this off sound preference?
What did you use as a source/amp?
How would you describe the sound?

I'm definitely interested if they're really that good.
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