Pros - Fast bass with good sub-bass kick and rhythm, detailed mids and highs, wide soundstage, nice box, very light and comfy for a planar.
Cons - Veneer rough in areas and hinge on one side loosens over time, inside of focus pads can touch large ears, somewhat dry mids, tizzy and hazy highs at times.
A very linear headphone that has a great price/performance ratio, but it is far from perfect.
I love my audio, and I love my headphones. I mainly listen to well produced electronic music (Skylar Spence, Oliver Nelson, Skogsra. ODESZA), though I really also enjoy jazz fusion (Dirty Loops), rock and a lot indie. I bought these HE560s on an Amazon deal in the UK recently. I am powering them with my Geek Pulse, an amp which has proven to me to be a great benchmark. Neutral, powerful, it shows you what the headphones really sound like.
My version came in a new style hifiman box which was not wood and metal, but rather a hard pleather laminate on very stiff and thick card/plastic. Its a nice box. The cable has a good cloth finish and is a convenient 2m in length. The connectors are the new 2.5mm plugs without the old screw-in mechanism. I'm glad hifiman is listening to the community on this one.
The headphones are light for a planar, The headband is a spring steel, whilst the arms and cups are plastic. The wood surrounding the cups is a veneer. It looks ok from a distance, though it does have rough patches. The hinge on my earcup has significantly loosened after just a day of use. NOT GOOD hifiman, but I've come to accept this from your build quality as of late.
The comfort is decent. The headband distributes weight fantastically do it better than heavier planars like the LCD series. The cups are a bit small for my ears, even though my ears aren't that large. The focus pads are pleather on the sides and have a velour surface that touches your face. These pads can be replaced by the Focus-A pads (a preproduction pad) that some have found to be more comfortable. I haven't tried those yet, though.
The bass, in keeping with the planar technology, is tight and fast with good slam. The upper bass is linear, with no hump as one would usually find on most dynamic drivers. The midrange is also clear, with a slight dip in the upper mids. Vocals are crisp, though they could sound thin at times as a result. Vocals still aren't as restricted as those on the Elear or the new LCD2F 2016 revision. These are not 'warm' headphones and this is only made more apparent by the dry midrange. It is not unlike the HD800 in this regard, though acoustic guitars do have a bit more body on the HE560.
The treble is extended, airy and detailed. These are very reminiscent of some of the best STAX headphones I've heard. There is one slight problem, however. There is a lot of 'tizz' and haze in this region at times. Cymbals can sound a little bit too splashy and vocals can sometimes bite a bit too hard. These are not as bright as the HD800, though whilst the HD800 peaks at around 6K, these seem to have this broad treble bump/resonance at around 8k that could get tiring quick.
Soundstage is decently wide, but not very deep or 3D. Better than the PM1 and HD650, but far behind the HD800. I'd say it is just slightly better than the LCD2 and Denon AHD7200 in terms of imaging.
Overall a good headphone that has a very natural tone for pianos and guitars. It does have build issues, but not as bad as usual hifiman standards, The treble also is a bit tizzy, though some might actually enjoy that.
Pros - Excellent integration--the mids are warm, clear and superb
Cons - If bass were a bit more pronounced, efficiency ~6 dB better from present and not so bulky, they would be more perfect.
Cannot add to what others have said vis a vis breaking down the sound.
Burson Soloist drives HE-560 nicely.The HE-560 can sound spectacular out of a tube amp, so long as the amp has good power (>10W/ch). Forget OTL amps, in my opinion.
All in all, If I had to pick one set and one set only, it would be HE-560. They just sound swell to my ear, especially for ~$550 new. A good value all in all.
HiFiman ought to be commended for being innovative and a value-leader. The owner seems to be a bit of a genius, and he has learned fast how to improve build. Frankly, the HE-500 were a joke compared to the German phones, but sounded nice. Too warm for me, though. With the new line, including HE-560, he is getting the hang of build that is a compromise between quality and value and not like a helmet, but more like headphones. Still, not quite like the Germans. Perhaps the next models will get closer to German build, yet remain affordable. My guess is the HE-1000V2 are a quantum leap up, but I will not spend that kind of dough on phones.
This is my first ever headphone review. I like the HE-560 that much.
Pros - TOTL sound for less. Comfortable for an Ortho. Bass accuracy and quality.
Cons - Gets hot after long listening sessions. Questionable long-term build quality. Makes you question owning more expensive headphones
I am not affiliated with HIFIMAN at all.
I did not receive anything from them to review, nor did they have any influence on my final impressions/review.
As opposed to some reviewers out there, I’m usually hesitant to endorse a product unless it fully impresses me in terms of performance vs. value.
Or it just sounds damned good.
I’m pretty brutally honest in regards to how I perceive a headphone’s strength and weaknesses. There’s no point in wasting your time, my time, or anyone’s time.
I think the reader should be learning something new with each review they read.
I’m not here to regurgitate information others have repeatedly said. I’ll try not use hearsay or affirmations from other reviewers. This means: I will neither confirm nor deny any opinions you might have read elsewhere regarding this headphone.
Now let’s get onto the good stuff!
Initial Impressions / Unboxing:
I’m not one of those people that like to spend a lot of time talking about how the headphone is crafted from exotic, purple wood that’s petrified and aged in Japanese lacquer (Looking at you Fostex TH900).
The headphones came in a nice wooden box with a metal faceplate. The box, unfortunately, looks prone to damage and probably shouldn’t be utilized as a carrying case.
I am told though that HIFIMAN offers a travel case that isn’t too expensive. A must, in my opinion, if you take them anywhere other than home.
Upon opening the lid, I’m greeted by the unmistakable design of HIFIMAN’s traditional orthodynamic headphones. I’d like to note that the HE-560 did have a very pleasant and earthy smell. Pretty important when you’re about to sample the headphone itself.
Build quality seems about average upon first contact. The headphones themselves are much lighter than their predecessors, built out of sturdy plastic and wood trim.
-The stitching on the headband did seem to be kind of rough, with a little bit of stitching inching out of the edges on the headband.
-The hinges that swivel are well-oiled so that the contact points don’t scratch off against each other--a problem that the HE-400S seems to exhibit.
-The Focus pads are amazing as ever, decently plush with plenty of room to fit even larger ears.
-Clamping force wasn’t too bad straight out of the box. Much better than its “400 series” siblings.
These HE-560s come with the screw-on copper/silver/crystalline hybrid cable. It does kink a bit, but can be persuaded to behave for the most part. Both ends screw on nicely, reminiscent of the HE-6. Cable length is ample.
Resonessence Concero HP
We can always talk about equipment synergy and amp/dac pairing for the HE-560 elsewhere. The important part is that I consider all three units relatively neutral and resolving to where I’m easily able to discern the HE-560’s character and specific attributes.
Sound Impressions / Comparisons:
The HE-560 is without a doubt a romantic headphone. Romantic in every sense. It is positively alluring in how smooth it’s able to present a landscape of music, without sounding dark in the process. If you could have a headphone sing ballads to you, this would be it.
Overall signature/tonal balance can be considered neutral. The treble does get splashy at times (bad recordings don’t help the case).
My first thought was to compare the HE-560s to the HD650s, one of my favorite reference headphones.
Boy, was I wrong. The HE-560s are nothing like the HD650s or say the Fostex TH-600s--headphones commonly known for being warm, bassy, and generally well-liked.
For one, I find the former to have much cleaner treble/mids/bass than the latter two.
It also simultaneously sounds more airy, has better layering, and possesses timbre/naturalness previously unheard of outside of TOTL headphones.
However, it did take the strengths of what the HD650 was known for. The ability to seamlessly integrate music as a collective entity. And to perform admirably for all genres of music. A headphone that can be both calming and engaging when called upon.
You can say I was pleasantly surprised. Just because the HE-560 is the midrange headphone in the HIFIMAN lineup, didn’t mean it was in the same class as similar offerings from Sennheiser, AKG, or Fostex.
As soon as I realized the caliber the HE-560s were punching at, I knew I had a serious contender.
Many people systematically state that they can differentiate between how orthodynamics sound from dynamic headphones. After listening to just about every planar on the market, I’m not sure I can tell you that there’s a particular trait all orthodynamics differ from their dynamic counterparts. If there is a orthodynamic “house” sound, however, I’m sure the HE-560 encapsulates all of its outstanding features.
This is a full-bodied headphone that’s fast, detailed, and moves enough air in the lower registers to where headphones like the HD800 or T1 can’t match it. Short of electrostats, you really can’t find better layering and texturing in the quality of the bass. And that’s saying a lot.
Of course, if you prefer the emphasis on quantity, best look towards Audeze’s line up.
The HE-560 isn’t a particularly bass-heavy headphone. It usually sounds just right
There are two things that the HE-560s does so well that I simply have to give it props.
Likewise, if we had to reward the HE-560 for two things, it would certainly be the vocals/mid-range presentation and naturalness of instruments (esp. piano).
Both of these stood out to me. I don’t think there are many headphones that can do both vocals and timbre of musical instruments right, without skewing towards a mid-centric signature with recessed treble.
So let’s talk about the vocals.
-Incredibly and painstakingly brilliant.
This is the headphone you put on when you want to hear someone sing.
Male and female vocals both possess clarity and are accurate to the recording.
Voices never sound artificial or processed at any point.
Remember when I said you needed that all-arounder headphone?
I wouldn’t mind living with just the HE-560 simply for this fact.
Note: If you like your vocals lush and “Audio Technica” -esque, this might not be your preference. The HE-560’s mid-range takes a step back in the recording and may sound lean at times.
Similarly, the tonality and presentation of musical instruments are just right.
In particular, piano and stringed instruments are hauntingly beautiful in the way they’re portrayed by the HE-560.
Delicate and soft, as if tragedy.
Emotional and stirring, as if destiny.
Is the HE-560 worth getting?
For the Black Friday price of $699, you get a brand new HE-560. Street prices are even lower.
The answer is a resounding YES.
You get a spacious and encompassing-sounding headphone that many people should be able to agree with for the rest of their lives.
Best of all, if you’ve never tried a TOTL headphone, the HE-560 will most likely give you that “WOW” moment for the first time you’ve experienced something above and beyond what you’ve been used to.
Hopefully you’ll be telling yourself, “Maybe I’m really not crazy for spending hundreds of dollars on this hobby.”
For me, I decided to keep the HE-560 over even the HE-6 for the improved comfort, driveability, and price-to-performance ratio. Which isn’t to say the HE-6 isn’t better in many aspects. It is. But the HE-560 is infinitely less fickle and easier to drive.
It’s safe to say the HE-560 is my standard for what a planar is capable of~
Efficiency: Fairly efficient, does need a dedicated amplifier. Not very source picky.
Overall Score: 8.5
As close as you can get to TOTL sound for less money.
This isn’t a bright headphone, nor is it a dark one. Somewhere in the middle with excellent extension both ways.
Soundstage depth is above average, while soundstage width is slightly smaller than expected.
Overall, a very enjoyable listen.
Pros - mosty neutral, detailed, angled pads, no discomfort after long listening sessions
Cons - everyone can hear your music in other rooms
This is a really nice headphone. It comes with a rigid and solid stock cable and packaged in a wooden box with a sliding wood and metal lid. The amount of foam prevents damage from shipping well.
It is quite smooth and actually quite forgiving of recording flaws, especially high frequency noise. You won't hear noise in the recording too audibly. Yet the detail and timbre for the music is excellent and loud. So there is great musicality.
Thus it has reproduces some of the most realistic woodwinds and brass I have heard.
The bass is clear, not muddy at all. Neutral headphone, that reaches high but rolls off a bit on the high end. Relatively smooth rolloff with only one hum on treble.
Some people say it's a bit analytic, but I find it a bit warm. So if you like a slightly warm sound but not too warm, with punchy base, this is for you.
While there is not a huge amount of bass (so you need to equalize it a bit to get more), since the bass is rather detailed, this doesn't hurt the sound at other frequencies.
Needs a reasonably good amplifier for maximum detail and volume. But also works well, 1/2 turn of the volume knob, from things like studio equipment (meant for recording and monitoring, not so much listening or running difficult to run headphones).
The design is solid and very comfortable, my ears don't touch the cushions. Seems to disappear when playing, very airy sound and wide soundstage.
Needs a bit of equalization for string concert music, but then works great. Works great right off for all other kinds of music.
The nice thing about this is that it is very easy on the ears. Long listening sessions won't produce discomfort. Which is quite important.
No cons at the price <900, although I like brighter headphones. With the HE560 I merely boost the volume and get the detail I demand but without fatigue. Maybe this is actually a better long run approach perhaps.
Cons - no accessories, wishing it would have tiny bit more bass
Hifiman HE-560 Review
Many thanks to samma3a.com for providing me with a Hifiman HE-560 to review.
Hifiman is a relatively young producer of audio gear. The company was started by Dr. Fang Bian in 2005 and started selling under the HiFiMAN brand since 2007. The company was founded in New York, USA, but moved the head quarter to Tianjin in China in 2011 where their two factories are located as well.
They design and manufacture high performance headphones, portable players and amplifiers. The HE-560 is the successor of the HE-500. HiFiMAN’s flagship headphone is the HE-6 and they offer as well the legendary earphones RE-400 and RE-600.
The headphone under review here was awarded the Audio Excellence Award (2015) and the CES Innovations Design and Engineering Award in 2015. Hence I am pretty excited to be able to listen to it.
Type: Full size - over ear
Drivers Type: Planar-Magnetic
Frequency Response: 15Hz to 50KHz
Sensitivity: 90dB @1mW
Impedance: 50 Ω
Weight with cable: 375g
Connector: 6.5mm single ended
Wooden cups with pretty black accents and a black metal cover, innovative head band. Very clean and modern looking headphone. I think it has stellar looks. Makes my LCD-2 look very old-fashioned. Sturdy build, these headphones will stand the test of time. However I am not so happy with the connectors, they are the same as on my HE-400 which is great if you have more than one Hifiman, so you can use the cables again. I prefer the plug-in cables of Audeze to these screw in ones, they also see to be a bit more fragile and fiddly. I do like their slight forward angle, helps getting the cable out of the way from your shoulders. The cable runs on both sides into the ear cups, so upgrading to balanced cables is just a very simple cable swap.
Earcups have the classic round shape, angled leather ear pads are very comfortable and create a great seal..it’s a muted, elegant and clean style/design. You don’t look too silly with them on, the square headband…well…. but at least it’s very slim.
I wouldn’t call it exceptional - I think it’s pretty much what you would expect in this price range. Maybe you could call me a slight bit disappointed. EDIT: After owning this headphone for some time, I am still not yet decided if the build quality is good or just ok. It's light, comfortable and does everything it should. Nothing seems to fail and every connector etc. is study and seems to last. So in the end I would call the build quality OK to good but not outstanding. It's probably the extreme lightness for a headphone of it's size and materials that makes me think the build quality is not that great, so beware this might be just my own desire for "heft"
Awkward looking headband is very comfortable on your head since it wraps around the shape of your head instead of creating a “hot spot” at a specific location. A very comfortable headphone I was able to wear for hours. They are also the lightest planar magnetic headphones I have ever experienced and that alone makes them amazing headphones to wear.
A nice sliding wooden box, headphone and one cable. Not what you would expect from a $899 headphone. Pretty sparse. Slightly disappointing but the sound quality makes you forget this. How often do you unpack your headphones? I rather have a second set of ear pads or an additional cable (shorter/longer) etc. than a box. My personal preference.
The overall impression you get when putting these on the first time is: Music and details are just everywhere… the sound quality is amazing on these. I will get into the details below but they deliver. The first few minutes with these I was really very impressed. Music is all around you with these headphones. You are IN your music. the music is not in your head - you are in your music - hope you understand what I am trying to say. Amazing clarity that reminds me of the HD800 - the detail monsters. The HE-560 has some of it traits. Details galore without being clinical.
Don’t expect a boosted bass (in quantity) these are balanced headphones. Not bass-shy but also no emphasis on the bass. The bass is there, tight and perfectly layered. You won’t get the slightly emphasized bass of the LCD-2 but it’s very pleasant to listen to, even with EDM and modern pop/rock music. The bass reaches really low in best planar tradition. They are easier to drive than other Hifiman headphones but if you want them to sound their best, then use a proper powerful amp and a good DAC, these headphones deserve them. You get used to the signature of these headphones. I still would prefer the bass of the LCD-2 for pure enjoyment but could happily live with this headphone for…well forever? Just $899 hmmmm……. So it’s neutral but can reach very low, well textured and planar magnetic fast!
Compared to the LCD-2 you have a bit more mids, the exact right amount. Vocals sound lovely female or male. Instruments come out where and when you expect them to, brilliant. String instruments are full of power and energy - brass has timbre you haven't’ heard before.
Details, details, details. Lots of detail in the treble, you hear everything but it’s not forcing it on you. It’s not a clinical headphone. It has all the detail but still giving you a musical experience that is not fatiguing. It has air around it and from wha tI can judge it’s very natural (for a lack of a better word).
Sound Stage and instruments separation:
Coming from the LCD-2 on a single ended cable I couldn’t help but saying a loud WOW. Music surrounds you. You are taking a bath in your music. While other headphones like the ATH-M50, HD-25 etc. are playing everything between your ears, this headphone just wraps around you, near and far and plays it all beautifully to give you goosebumps. The soundstage is not artificially large - it’s just right. Enough width and depth, you can pinpoint instruments in space.
Pros & Cons
One of the lightest planar magnetic headphone i the world
replaceable cable and ear-pads
high quality cable (unlike some other Hifimans)
high build quality
disappointing accessories (headphone with cable, box, that’s it)
with a tad more bass it would be the most amazing headphone ever
Sound Quality 9/10
Value for Money 10/10
Is it silly to call a $899 headphone a bargain? Probably. I would still call it that. This headphone is really something you will enjoy for a very long time. Pair it with a good amp play some high-resolution content and just forget the world around you… It’s a worthy successor of the HE-500 and slots in nicely behind the HE-6. But it’s so much more accessible. While the flagship HE-6 needs an insanely powerful amplifier (and your own nuclear power plant to supply the power) to sound its best, this headphone is surprisingly easy to drive. My Gloveaudio A1 or Cayin C5 could drive it properly. Using a Violectric V200 or Gustard H10, Schiit Lyr or Asgard, Fiio E12 and you are set. Going balanced does get you a tad more soundstage but it’s not needed. I had a Plussoundaudio Dionysian Series Custom Balanced cable lying around from my HE-400 and while there is an improvement - it’s not as dramatic as with other headphones. The stock cable is very nice (and VERY well made). It has high quality connectors, the massive plug is from Neutric.
If you want to experience the pleasures of planar magnetic technology go and don’t settle for second place headphones. Go in all the way on this one.
I am very sad that I have to return the review headphone to samma3a.com again but I am very thankful to have experienced this headphone.
I have not heard a better headphone in this price range (list price).
You have been warned - don’t listen to this headphone - trust me, you WILL spend $899 after you do.
EDIT: I ended up buying this headphone - it left such a great impression that I had to own it. Now a lot of other headphones have to go
Pros - Top-notch lifelike sound; non-fatiguing yet dynamic and greatly engaging / Performs with any music genre / Most comfortable headphone I've worn yet
Cons - Might require modding as it may develop build-related rattling (more in review) / Flimsy cable connectors / Low quality pads
This is my first review on head-fi. I had humble beginnings in the headphone world that only officially started once I got the wonderful AKG K550 and grew more conscious of the link between the importance of sound reproduction and the music that I love. Ordinarily, I started with a bunch of earphones I'd subsequently replace each time one would die after typically being squashed or walked on. All of which I cannot remember, besides Apple iPod earbuds I guess. This is until I got the Sony MDR-XD200. In retrospect, it was a terrible headphone with a gimmicky music/movie switch on one of its cups that did absolutely nothing but it was the longest I had kept a headphone this cheap (paid about 40 bucks canadian with the tax). I kept it until it died out, got the K550 and then that led to more headphone/gear buys. Here we are today with the HE-560 and I never imagined I'd have a ~US$900 headphone in my possession- got it for much less in like-new condition, mind you- but this is an exciting time This review will unsurprisingly not have comparisons with other high-end headphones but I felt the need to snapshot and condense my thoughts on the HE-560 to compare with future experiences through gear acquisitions.
Build Quality, Comfort, Accessories:
The build and design of the HE-560 is suitable for the price point but not very solid and is both gorgeous as well as understated. The mesh grill looks particularly great. I like the look of the headband too, though not so much how the metal top-part of it looks on the head, well at least my head. I've seen how great HiFiman's headphones, including the HE-560 look on their female models after all or maybe that's just me looking at the women...
The comfort is incredible, from the earpads to the headband, it feels very lightweight for a planar. It felt weightless vs my other headphones which are much lower priced with dynamic drivers. My K550, for example, are about 305g- mine are even more than that with the LCD-3 leather pads I swapped the deteriorated memory foam stock pads with. Somehow the 365-375g of the HE-560 feel lighter on my head and weightless in comparison. The weight is expertly distributed with materials chosen not to tip the scale This is a perfect headphone for prolonged listening sensations and it has the sound signature for it as well, which I will discuss next.
The clamp feels tight but in no way excessive to my head at least, so this could potentially cause concern for those with different head shapes or those annoyed by this kind of clamp. Earpad seal is therefore perfect for me.
As far as accessories, you get the HE-560 wood/metallic box and the 1/4" terminated cable. The cable ergonomics are pretty good, but it isn't very flexible and so it can be prone to kinks depending on the temperature. The connectors are a bad design, you tighten by screwing the tiny gold ring only; if you twist the cable or tighten it too much you risk breaking the wire that links the connector to the cable, and the cable will be rendered useless after enough duress. The connector design is horrendous and is the biggest drawback of this headphone by far.
This is important to say, the HE-560 may or may not develop a rattling when reproducing sub-bass, in one of the drivers or maybe both because of the single-ended design. I replaced my first HE-560 when it had rattling in the right driver. This second HE-560 was performing well but alas, there's now rattling in left driver when there's quiet sub-bass notes/sounds. This appears to build related and not unit dependent. Good thing this can be remedied.
I fixed it by re-screwing the aluminium ring very tightly onto the driver housing in the left driver and also did the right driver for good measure. Another fix (haven't tested this myself at this time) or a way to fully seal the earpad to the aluminium ring is quoted by jerg:
"If you are talking about the rattling when you play very low frequency music / tones at loud volume, I described why I my HE560 mod thread. It's because the drivers are single-ended, so there is no two-way magnetic field locking the diaphragm in place, meaning at very low frequencies, the diaphragm can over-shoot which causes the rattling. The way to fix it is to create a good seal on the ear-side, so there is back-pressure against the diaphragm when it oscillates low frequency tones. Find the earpads that fit onto your head the nicest (Focus or Focus-A), and perfect the seal (my mod guide outlines a silicone glue method; some also use electrical tape for an easier but uglier way to seal off). Once the seal is in place, HE560 has zero rattling issues and is able to reproduce low frequencies with startling authority."
link for jerg's mod: http://www.head-fi.org/t/738912/he-560-enhancement-mod-v1-5
The pads deteriorate with use, meaning that they break off the stitching and expose the blue foam inside. I bought Lawton Pads from lawtonaudio.com as a replacement, as they are better quality but quite expensive (US$109). This is true for all versions available (Focus pads, Focus pad-A).
burn-in with pink noise loop and regular listening: 150+ hours exceeded (HiFiMan's own recommendation)
Headphones for direct comparison: AKG K550, JVC SZ2000
Being the real meat of this headphone, as it should be, the sound is delightful. It is a unique (haven't heard a headphone tuned like this before) and addicting sound, so the most I can do is try my best to describe it. There isn't a particular part of the sonic spectrum or frequency response that is highlighted like you would hear from a dynamic headphone or other planars in general, like the reported "lush" mids of the Audeze headphones. The adjective that came to mind as I heard it for the first time was "natural", with reality / real instrument playing as reference. I'd say the sound is slightly smooth in the bass and the midrange compared to dynamic headphones, like is commonly attributed to planars -- though the smoothness is less pronounced in the HE-560 than the norm. Highly capable of attack. It's an almost perfect balance of smoothness vs attack IMHO. It's a disciplined attempt at a natural sound so as to not dampen the bass too much nor the rest of the sonic spectrum. It's as if the mix was calculated not to deviate away from the apparent goal HiFiman set out with this headphone.
As far as the measured 4kHz peak is concerned, I've got no problem with it. I tried to see if I would prefer EQ'ing it down, but preferred the little more harsher tinge from the un-eq'ed HE-560.
I'd like to add that after testing my hearing with an audiogram, I found out I'm much more sensitive to high frequencies -- 6kHz and up, but more precisely 8 kHz -- like the 9 kHz peak found on the K550 rather than frequencies below the high frequencies like the 4kHz peak found on the HE-560. But I have to say that 4 kHz (and the rest of the high mids) is still more sensitive to me than 2 kHz, 1kHz, 500 hz but not 250 hz and the bass region. It comes to my understanding that being more sensitive to the 1 kHz to 4 kHz frequencies and less sensitive to the low and high frequencies is the norm for most people. So I found out I have abnormal hearing through this hobby. My 20 Hz - 19 kHz hearing limit is pretty normal though.
Music genres to pair with:
As far as choice music for the headphone, every song, from every musical style I threw at it, fit. It's that simple. At no point was I looking for another headphone for a particular song or artist. This is an important factor for why I like the HE-560 as much as I do since I have one of the most eclectic music tastes I know of.
Sure, my SZ2000 have more impact for bass heavy tracks when I feel like it and that's exactly why I love it for that mood but for long sessions there is no substitute to the HE-560 regardless of genre in my mind. HiFiman has a reputation for making all-rounder or "genre master" headphones- to use the term @DavidMalher employs to describe them -- and this one is no exception.
Extends past human audibility (even below 20hz). Completely linear full bass extension.
Depth and breadth reproduction is incredible to the point of giving me deep chills (pun intended) on a regular basis.
First thing to come to mind is: they are liquid smooth and clear.
The cello notes, for example, that go from where the bass meets the low mids are spot on.
The treble is clearly defined, textured and crisp. Very much capable of impactful or penetrating transient attack in the lower treble / high mids.
Top-notch lifelike sound; non-fatiguing yet dynamic and greatly engaging / Performs with any music genre / Most comfortable headphone I've worn yet
Build quality could be better
The rating reflects what I got for the money, my relationship with the headphone so far and the rise in quality as well appreciation for the sound signature I got accustomed to going from my main (previously) mid-fi bright and clear headphone (K550) to this more high-end but relatively affordable headphone. The HE-560 is now my new main set.
Pros - Almost neutral, fantastic bass, excellent timbre, costs less than $1k
Cons - Aggressive at 4 kHz w/ stock pads, a little bright, moderate dip between 1-3 kHz, needs a semi-strong amp, price
This is a fantastic headphone for anybody who wants to hear something that approaches neutrality. This produces a resolving, highly detailed sound, that comes pretty close to sounding flat. It's a little bright and aggressive and the transition from the midrange to the upper mids is a little bit recessed, but with mods, pad swaps, equalization or any combination of the three, you can chase down an even flatter sound that is characteristic of a reference class product.
It is perhaps not the last word on resolution - I have yet to hear any other headphones on this tier of technical performance - and it is not the most neutral headphone out there (the HD600 is still the best reference I currently have for neutrality), but a few tweaks to its sound has made it the best headphone I've yet heard, by far.
$900 is more than I like to spend on headphones, but the sound has justified the price. All things considered, I can recommend this to anyone who has at least an okay amplifier on hand. If you have the money and you can justify it to yourself, try this one out.
Pros - very holographic sound stage, tight deep bass, well extened life like, silky smooth highs, very comfortable.
Cons - bass can sound a little "thudish" at times, mids are not as well integrated as the he6 mids, can be a little sibilant at times.
This is a very impressive can for less than 1000.00! If this was a 1300-1500.00 can, I wouldn't say it was overpriced. Especially given what some of the audeze and hd800 cost. Now I wouldn't say it's better than those, but I will say it's on the same playing field with each one having strengths and weaknesses vs the other.
But I will directly compare them to my current favorite he6. At first listen, two things surprised me. One was how hard it was to drive them. Given some of the earlier impressions, I was expecting something that could easily be driven by most typical desktop amps. But my hifi m8(1.2 wpc) had a hard time trying to drive them. I could get it fairly loud with the volume knob at the 3:00 position(max volume is around 5:30), but the sound was a little distorted. At moderate volume levels, the bass sounded a little bloated and the sound as a whole was somewhat congested. So I had to move them to my full sized rigs. It was with these rigs I did my comparison to the he6.
The second thing that surprised me was how close they sounded to my (stock at the time) he6. These two cans sound more alike than the hd600 vs hd650. But further listening would reveal quiet a few differences overall. I will say the he560 have about the same amping requirements as the original he5. If I had to guess, I would say they need around two full watts to be properly driven. So while still not as hard to dive as the monsterous he6, they still need pretty beefy amplification IMO.
So would I rank these as high as I would the he6? Well as close as they come, they don't quiet match them overall, but still sound far better than they should at their asking price. On their own, it's hard to find flaws(although they are there). But when switching back between to two I find that the bass of the he560 sounds a little thudish. It's not as well defined as the bass from the he6. The he6 overall have the best bass I've heard. Sure the 009 is a tad bit nuanced, but don't have the impact and slam of the he6 bass. And yes the lcd 2 have even more impact but can sound a bit sloppy at times. And the lcd3 have a bit more slam, but lacks the precision of the he6 bass. So what I'm saying is, the he6 bass doesn't do everything perfect, but it doesn't have anything lacking either. It just does everything excellent.
So the he560 bass falling a little short in comparison isn't a bad thing. It's still best the bass out of most cans. Though not as precise or articulate as the bass from the he6.
The mids from both cans are probably the area where I find the biggest difference between the two. The he560 mids are smooth and velvety. They are slightly warm compared to the mids of the he6, but not warm in general. They are not as warm sounding as the mids form the he500. I would say they are just slightly on the warm side of neutral. They have plenty of body and can be seductive at times. The mids of the he6 are dead neutral IMO. And they have an organic richness that the he560 doesn't have without the added warmth. It's like the mids of the he560 tries to sound natural, and the he6 mids just does. The mids of the he560 are pretty well balanced with the rest of the spectrum, but not quiet as seamless as the mids of the he6 given the added warmth.
Now to the highs. Now this should really be an unfair fight since the only highs I've heard that can match the highs of the he6 are the ones form the 009. The highs from the he6 can sound harsh, overly bright, and just flat out fatiguing if not amped properly. I'm not just taking about power. Yes they need a few watts to be properly driven, but outside of that, the quality of those watts are just as important and they are just as picky as the hd800 in that requirement. The he6 highs are soooo life like, and pure. They sound extremely natural without a hint of grain or harshness. They are very nuanced as well. They highs of the he560 surprisingly comes very close. But they also sound a little sibilant compared to the he6. There is a slight grain in the lower treble that's just not there with the he6. The highs are not harsh, and are better than most of the cans out there. But just don't sound as realistic as the highs from the he6 sounds.
Now on the sound staging. While I think it was a little overblown to say the sound stage was as wide as the hd800 as I've read previously(not even quiet as wide as the he6 sound stage). The sound stage is nice and wide and surpasses all of the audeze's I've listened to by quiet a wide margin. And even though it doesn't match the hd800 or even the he6 in width, it more than makes up for it in depth. And as a result, the sound stage does sound more spacious than the sound stage of the he6 overall. Images are just produced further out in front of you which is very impressive since I do think the he6 have a very holographic sound stage itself, but there's a sense of space with the hd560 that's just not quiet there with the he6. So this is the one area I feel it does surpass the he6 in. The other area where the he560 surpass the he6 in is comfort. And in this regard, it beats it by a mile. These are very comfortable, and I mean very. Not quiet hd800 comfortable, but the comfort is much closer to the hd800 than it is to the he6.
So overall would I recommend these over the he6? Well that depends on if you have an open mind in regards to the he6. If you're willing to build a setup around the he6 knowing most dedicated headphone amps won't get you all of the way there, then I recommend the he6 without hesitation. But if you are not willing to build a rig around the he6, and comfort is extremely important to you, then I would recommend the he560 over the he6. A properly driven he560 will easily surpass the he6 if it's not properly driven.
Pros - Lightweight,transparent with exceptional soundstage with air and space between instruments.
Cons - Pads improvement but ear clips similar to past designs.
Hifiman HE560 Planar Headphone.
HiFiman has been building and designing headphone solutions since 2006, and have earned a reputation for making some of the very best sounding headphones on the planet.
The company, located in China, is operated and owned by Dr. Fang Bian. Fang went to school in the United States. Over the years and by getting to know Fang personally I have come to admire his commitment to the personal audio community. His dedication and devotion to creating affordable reference level products have always been his major goals.
Fang is a music lover first and foremost., and he regularly attends live classical concerts. In all his prior designs the soundstage and tonality have always been stellar. Having personally been involved with Fang’s prototypes in the past with HE6 and now the HE560, one thing I can attest to is that he listens to the community when he develops a new model. He likes community involvement during his design process, and focuses on giving his customers his best effort, ensuring products that offer both exceptional sonic and value.
In the past some people found that the HE6 and HE500 were heavy and uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. The ear pads on these two headphones were an issue that made Fang rethink the design of the ear pad and ultimately redesign them for the HE500, HE6 and HE400 models. The new design was better but still not perfect. The clips were an improvement but the material used on the ear pads still had a scratchy feeling while being worn and were very uncomfortable for long listening sessions.
The HE6 was a notoriously difficult headphone to drive. The community and HE6 users needed either a very powerful headphone amplifier or high-watt speaker amplifiers to get the best performance out of them. The HE500 was easier to drive but lacked the soundstage or transparency of a well-driven HE6. The treble extension was much better on the HE6 and the HE500, but they were still uncomfortable during long listening sessions.
The weight would cause noticeable fatigue and the scratchy ear pads were, for me, too uncomfortable. Once again Fang sought the advice and opinion of the headphone community, and the development of his new HE560 and HE400i came as a result of input he received over months of trials with prototypes he distributed in the field.
The HE560 planar headphone has been completely redesigned from the bottom up. The new models are much lighter, the ear pads are much more comfortable, and the scratchy feeling is gone. The headphone is now made of lightweight aluminum, and the overall weight has been reduced to 13.3 ounces. The feel of the headphone is much lighter than all of the other HiFiMan designs. The new design is much more comfortable for long listening sessions.
The new design is very light and more comfortable on my large head. The ear pads are no longer uncomfortable and the lighter weight will make it more suitable for more listeners who dislike heavy headphones. Fang paid attention to the wood used on the cups in the design process. The new veneer used looks to be very stable and should provide years of trouble free use.
The HE560 has 50-ohm impedance and sensitivity is listed at 90-db/mw. The rating indicates that the HE560 is both efficient and easy to drive. The frequency response is listed at 15-50 KHZ.
The cable is a silver plated copper cable with the same familiar connectors used in past HiFiMan designs. I have not had trouble with these connectors in prior designs and actually find them easy to use. The cable does not get tangled with this and has a nice clean presentation.
The grill appears to be the same one used in prior HiFiMan designs. The headband is adjustable and has a pleather type band that has some cushioning and is much better than previous designs. The construction on the HE560 appears to be very well thought out.
The wood-sliding box that comes with the headphone is also an improvement over past designs. The company also offers an optional travel-case available that is lighter than the box and easier to pack for travel. The price for the portable case is a very reasonable $29.00.
The HiFiMan HE560 retail price is $899.00.
Prior to having the HE560 production model I had the prototype in early development, which had different wood in the design but was otherwise was very similar to the production model. The finished production model has some minor modifications made to the ear pads, and the teak wood was replaced with the darker veneer that is used currently on this model. The wood changes were made for consistency and durability and still are very attractive.
When I was auditioning the prototype model the familiar HiHiMan soundstage was apparent. The soundstage width was very noticeable. The width and air and separation found in other HiFiMan products were still all there. The focus within the soundstage was exceptional however the overall sound appeared to be thin. The HE560 production model was much different with more body and a fuller presentation. The changes were welcomed.
The SACD disc of Jerry Goldsmith’s music is a favorite recording for me to use to evaluate headphones. The opening track “Star Trek” is well known to most avid music fans and is very dynamic, and Goldsmith conducting the London Symphony orchestra makes this a must listen-to disc. “Star Trek” has terrific extension in addition to the dynamics. The HE560 had pinpoint focus playing this track. I could hear the explosive dynamics. The music also highlighted the speed of the planar driver used in the HE560. I was able to hear very deep into the soundstage. The presentation is very smooth and tonality is spot on. Easily heard were the individual sections of the orchestra. The soundstage had width and air and instrument separation was good as well. The headphone had no harsh sound.
The HE560 sound has a very different presentation. The sound is silky smooth with good transparency. Compared to the HE500 the improvement is a much better soundstage with a smoother presentation. The music seems to just float. It is very easy to get lost in listening sessions with the HE560.
Tierney Sutton’s “Something Cool” album, in addition to providing some of the best-recorded female vocal in my library, also had great bass extension - especially on the “Route 66” track. The HE560 had Sutton’s vocal coming front and center more like a first row seat in a concert hall. The band was very well defined. In the rear of the soundstage you can hear the percussionist hand hitting the bongos clearly. The piano tones coming from the left were every realistic and also very musical. The bass notes were evident and very balanced in the presentation. The textured bass made it easy to hear the strings and notes of the acoustic bass instrument, and the separation of musicians on this track was first rate using the Viva Egoista amplifier with the Oppo BD105 and WyWires Platinum interconnects. The reference system was getting the best out the HE560 and I melted away, lost in the musicality of the performance.
The emotional involvement with Tierney’s sexy and seductive performance was all there. When I switched to the Violectric V281, using it in the same single ended configuration as the Egoista, the sound was still full and transparent but gave up some of the Viva’s detail and transparency slightly. The difference in the price of the V281 is considerable. The sound was still very good considering the differences in price of the two amplifiers. The V281 had the detail and tonality that tube lovers will really enjoy, despite the fact that it is a solid state design. The V281 was using the BDP 105 in a balanced configuration with Nordost Blue Heaven interconnect. I was still very satisfied with the sound coming from the V281 and could easily live with both the sound and transparency using this less expensive combination.
Beck Morning Phase album may be Beck Hanson’s best work. The opening track “Cycle” lead into “Morning” with Beck’s opening acoustic guitar and clearly you can hear the string of the guitar and the kick drum in the rear with Beck’s vocal in the center. The bass extension on the HE560 is excellent. I could feel the presence of the kick drum and also hear the cymbals clearly. The cymbals were similar to what you hear live, missing was splashy and tinny sound that comes from lesser quality transducers. The treble has excellent extension. Also notable in the listening sessions was that the performance was always balanced and neutral. The bass is not as deep as some other competitors but more balanced in presentation. The HE560 delivers what is on the recording. The bass on the HE500 may have been harder hitting, but the comfort levels and neutrality of the HE560 makes this a better overall listening experience.
Willie Nelson’s “Band of Brothers” recording is Willie’s first new material in 14 years, and is very well recorded. The first track “Bring it ON” has Willie front and center in the recording with good band separation. The synergy of Willie with his longtime band is clearly outlined in this performance. Track 9: “Get Go” has a vocal performance by Jamey Johnson. Both vocalists had good separation and when Jamey’s deeper voice comes into the song you can clearly differentiate the two vocalists.
The real treat for me was using classical recordings with the HE560. Listening to Issac Stern’s SACD recording of “Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D major” was more than mesmerizing; it was both energetic and delicate at the same time. I could hear Fang Bian’s influence in the voicing of the HE560. The violin performance was spectacular. The strings were so real, so vibrant - and most importantly: transparent. There was no harshness in the performance and Stern’s playing was indeed very special. The musicality of this performance was astonishing. The violin reproduction on the HE560 is some of the very best heard on any headphone at any price I have experienced. Classical music lovers will love the sound and performance of the HE560 .
Many headphones will smear the sound or, worse yet, be too bright and screechy with violin reproduction. Listening to violin recordings on the HE560 made me forget about the gear. I listened to the entire recording and just relaxed. The music was so involving and Stern’s performance was as good as I had heard. The tonality was exceptional.
Fang Bian has been a designer consumed by his relentless pursuit of perfection. His goals are to create exceptional products at affordable prices for consumers. The designs he comes out with usually end up being best-sellers in the personal audio community. Fang’s commitment to our community is exemplary, and his involvement in the community is legendary.
The HE560 is another product that pushes the boundaries. The weight and comfort levels are better that any other HiFiMan product that was offered before. The HE560 weighs less than a pound, and the ear pads, which were one of the weaknesses of prior HiFiman designs, have been improved. The HE560’s sound signature is very neutral and the presentation is balanced. The design has an adjustable aluminum headband that is much more comfortable than the previous HiFiMan designs. The HE560 still has the smooth treble extension and clearly defined bass that HiFiMan is known for. The soundstage is excellent. The HE560 is a delightful headphone to listen too.
The HE560 has excellent midrange and makes vocal recordings come to life. Classical musical lovers will appreciate violin recordings and enjoy listening to the silky-smooth presentation. The HE560 never calls attention to any areas of the listening spectrum, it just delivers music. My listening experiences with the HE560 were always pleasant, and I appreciated the light weight. I could easily leave these on for long listening sessions.
Is the HE560 perfect? Well there is still some room for improvement with the ear-pad clips. The Oppo PM1 and PM2 ear-pad design is better and easier to take on or off, but the HE560 is more comfortable and never scratchy on my ears. Some listeners may miss the deeper bass slam of the HE500, but I found the bass of the HE560 to be excellent in both detail and definition. The soundstage is typical HiFiMan, excellent side-to-side definition with good depth and air, but still falls short of the HD800’s soundstage (all headphones do). The HE560, for half the price of many top tier planar and dynamic headphones, still delivers what many want in a reference headphone. It offers terrific value and transparency that is usually found in the higher priced models that are available.
Once again Dr. Fang Bian has delivered a product that, for the price, will be hard to compete with. The HE560 offers the listener a super listening experience. If you’re looking for a planar headphone that offers exceptional sound and is a pleasure to wear, the HE560 merits your consideration. I can think of no other headphone in this price range that delivers the performance and comfort the HE560 offers.
The HE560 is a well designed and thought out product and will keep many listeners happy, and for many may end the ride on the merry-go-round. This could be just the product that can deliver you into sonic bliss. Fang has hit another home run with the HE560. It delivers superior performance and, for the asking price, offers exceptional value. The HE560 merits serious consideration and is highly recommended.
Pros - Excellent tonal balance and detail retrieval
Cons - Requires significant amplification to shine (much more than generally attested)
HIFIMAN HE-560 ON TAP: A FIRST DAY REVIEW SAGA (HIFIMAN HE-560 TOUR IMPRESSIONS)
Wow ... what a big box! I was expecting a more economically packaged box, but once I open it, it seems justified considering all the goodies that are packed inside. Along with the box containing the headphones there are also two bags containing two sets of cables, two regular TRS cables and two 4-pin XLR cables with TRS extenders. These cables are fantastic especially when compared to the fare that Hifiman has offered in the past. They are easily complementary to the value of the headphones; boutique shoppers can always find something better but this is stellar; kudos to Hifiman.
CABLE CHOICE and THE (t)REASON
Okay, now I'm ready to get set up. I immediately toss the standard TRS cables straight back into the bag. I won't be needing or using those. The 4-pin XLR is more versatile considering how I intend to be using the HE-560 and the comparisons I will be doing. I have owned the HE-500 since 2011 (yup ... still grooving to it) and a long tortuous road of experimentation finally led me to one conclusion – these headphones are wasted when played via any standard TRS headphone out. Yes during that time I tried various headphone amps, Bellari 540, Schiit Lyr, Musical Paradise MP-301 MK2, various integrated amps, newer and older, and all basically left me uninspired when the HE-500 was played via their headphone outs. It was only when I hooked the HE-500 to speaker taps, for example, of the MP-301tube amp (with resistors in place to protect the amp's transformers) that the 500 really woke up and that I truly heard what this headphone was capable of. Previously I could hear the promise via the headphone out but it was just out of reach. After this discovery it was just a matter of finding the proper matching amp for this kind of set up – yes, there are differences to amps when playing this headphone via speaker taps, it's not simply about power, but rather how that power is translated, with finesse or simply with raw power. My favorite amp to date is the Luxman R-1050 because it combines those qualities with a presentation that never fails to impress me. This is the amp that I will be using for putting the HE-560 through its paces.
[Two sets of cable choices / TRS vs XLR]
Okay, all this background to say I am not going to waste a lot of time playing the HE-560 via TRS which is why I tossed those other cables straight back into the bag. My primary interest is to see how this new Hifiman HE-560 offering stands up to a well-amplified HE-500, 'mano a mano'. I am giving the HE-560 the best platform for performance that I have found so far to see what it's truly made of, and I am comparing it with a member of the family that simply astounds with such a set up. My secondary set-up will be the Musical Paradise MP-301 MK2 via speaker taps, another set-up the 500 excels with. So that's the background scenario.
TRS or BUST? (What the Heck Does that Stand For?) (Hint: Try something else)
Okay, second thing, let's just get that standard headphone out thing out of the way shall we. I reach for the HE-560 TRS extender to connect it to the XLR cable I have already attached to the headphone – what's this? A mini 3.5mm connector, huh .. with four connectors (TRRS). What the ... who is going to be using these headphones with their iPhone, seriously. A quarter inch connector would have been more understandable. So now I have to look for an adapter to hook the headphones to my Luxman amp headphone out so I can get a comparative base. Is the adapter in the bags – I comb through the bags – no adapters, huh. Okay, let me look through my stash; no, not that screw on thing, I toss it back. Let's see, maybe this one, but it has a small protruding edge so that won't do, I'm out of luck. What to do. Wait, I have one I use for my ATH-M50 while watching movies. Let's see ... yeah that will work, it sits flush against the edge, sweet. Okay time for some aural sensations.
[Tube buffer / Feeds Luxman amp]
Jriver has already been on, and my tube buffer which feeds the Luxman has been warming up all this time. Random playlist – no special favorites or tracks – let's just see how things present themselves with my normal day to day listening. P.S. I have everything hooked up to the Luxman. There are two speaker outs (A and B). The HE-500 is on speaker out A, and on speaker out B I have a Stax SR-44, but it's adapter has a speaker out pass through, that I will connect the HE-560 to, after listening to the 560 via the headphone out first of course. Here goes ... cue music via Luxman headphone out!
Aargh ... anemic! Track is .. Erik Truffaz (Wet in Paris). Great track, but I am not getting that much volume. I raise it. I'm almost at noon, better but not very convincing, my back mind is doing a potential comparison with the HE-500 on tap (not even close). It's too loud and I'm still not hearing it. I turn it down a notch, okay the symmetry is there, but it's not quite whole. Joan Armatrading (Show Some Emotion). This track has a great deal of range (let's take a listen). I still get that feeling that something is missing. Yes I could try to drown that missing something with more volume, but eh, no, won't go down that track. It's all there – the detail, the full frequency, but it's just not fleshed out. Oh, alright Seal is playing (Future Love Paradise). I know this track inside out, and ah no, it's not happening. This track should really be grooving, but it feels like it's only 45 to 60% there. Aargh, enough, been there done that, trying to convince myself that these new crop of orthodynamics should sound dynamic out of regular headphone outs. Time to stop. Let's go the other route (yup .. to each his own .. and this ain't it for me). Let's strap the HE-560s to speaker taps and see what comes out. The first track I will re-try is Future Love Paradise. Gimme a minute to switch things ...
SPEAKER TAP AWAKENINGS
Okay, the HE-560 is plugged to the Stax adapter speaker out pass through. Okay, there it is, wow, voice extension, oh yeah, yes we are grooving. Man, so much was missing, unbelievable. Those left to right artifacts in the track; I was not hearing that half a minute ago. I'm grinning .. . Okay, man. It's really good. Anecdote: why does anyone bother trying to find the mythical headphone amp that performs like this when it's so easy, so easily within reach, makes me wonder ...
Wow, I am impressed. Okay, a quick comparison with the HE-500. I switch the amp to speaker out A and leave volume at same level for a quick attenuation comparison. Back to Seal. Press play .. mmm, HE-500 sounds a little warmer (maybe .. wooly .. that ain't a good characteristic believe me .. not as much detail retrieval either). The 500 is little more fuller, muscular? Yes, I think that's right. But I can hear where this might be a drawback to not being able to present the frequencies more linearly. Too much wool around the edges, mmm .. and I have totally adored this headphone for the past three years. Against the HE-560 this is only becoming apparent. Okay, let's let the next track play, Bob Marley (Natural Mystic). Bass on the 500 can be downright addictive, no difference here. Mmm ... I wonder how this will compare with the 560s. Volume is a little too loud (is the 560 less sensitive than the HE-500?). Oh yeah, that reminds me, I would like to measure the impedance of this set of 560s, let's see how close Hifiman is to specs. But first a quick Bob Marley comparison. Back to speaker B ...
No doubt .. this pair of HE-560s is less sensitive than my HE-500s which measure at 35.1/35.2ohms (right and left respectively). I'll get my multimeter in a sec. Okay Bob, what's cooking? I really like the presentation of this headphone, there is no frequency smearing here, everything has it's place, nice instrument separation. Bass is a little less convincing than the HE-500, I don't know, a little missing in action, but nonetheless quite present (does that make sense?). Erik Truffaz is playing again, this time (Miss Kaba), one of my favorite tracks from him. Mmm ... yummy .. wow beautiful blending. It's reminding me of the Stax SR-44 rig (maybe I'll do a little comp after the track is through ... hey, why not right now seeing as the two headphones are on the same rig). Okay ... turn volume down, switch Stax adapter to Earspeaker, let's see .. volume back up.
[Stax SR-44 rig]
DREAMS OF STAX
Oh man .. so similar to the HE-560 in terms of detail presentation. Unbelievable, there is a closer affinity between the HE-560 and the Stax SR-40 than with the HE-500. I didn't see that coming. Rewind Miss Kaba ... man I might as well have been wearing the same headphones, yes there are differences, but it's so close. With a double-blind test I would place the Stax SR-40 and the Hifiman HE-560 in the same family but not with the HE-500. In retrospect it sounds as if the HE-500 was one of those headphones produced to satisfy the basshead era of headphones, and the HE-560s were produced to satisfy high fidelity audio enthusiasts, where the latter engineers (think Stax) were more interested in truer tonal and frequency presentation, than they were with popular colorations. I am hearing it right now in the Stax and I was hearing it a moment ago in the HE-560. As much as I love the HE-500, it doesn't quite achieve this level of balanced tonal presentation.
Okay ... break. I need to measure the impedance of these HE-560s. Gimme a moment ... multimeter time. Right channel 37.5ohms, left channel 38.1ohms. Hifiman specs call for an impedance of 35ohms ... so, pretty close, and closely matched.
BASS and TREBLE RESPONSE
Okay back to music, Cassandra Wilson (Blue Light Till Dawn). Oh by the way I went to see Cassandra Wilson this summer in Vancouver when she was here for the Coastal Jazz Festival. Her show at the Vogue Theatre was absolutely stellar (the Vogue is an acoustical gem for jazz ensembles). Okay, I need to switch headphones as much as I don't want to take these Stax earspeakers off. We'll listen to Cassandra Wilson again with the HE-560s. Switch ... mmm, nice, but a little bit slower than the Stax, I don't know, more deliberate I guess. Treble is a little bit pitchy, but detail retrieval is stellar, especially with what seems to be a wider soundstage than the SR-40. I need to compare with the HE-500 after this. Track is almost finished so I'll start afresh.
[Vogue Theatre - Vancouver downtown]
Blue Light Till Dawn with the HE-500: There is that bass presence, but I hear where it may be smearing into the mid-range. Cassandra's voice on the 500 sounds more true than on the 560, but it's competing with that bass, something that isn't apparent with the HE-560. I am torn, I am not sure which is the better phone with this track. Lol, at this stage I'd take a left-field choice and go with the Stax SR-40. The bass to mid-range frequency of the HE-500 seems a little too overpowering for this track and the HE-560 treble on it seems a little much, making Cassandra's voice a little less genuine. This track is a real test for the HE-560. Let me try it again.
This time I plug the HE-560 into the speaker A connector that the 500 was on. It shouldn't make a difference but who knows: Okay, nice balance to the bass entry. Cassandra's voice – still a little bit of sibilance, peaky treble, ummm. P.S. I don't have tonal control on (rarely if ever do I – don't like them and the same goes for EQs, I like things au naturel (as much as possible). As far as this track is concerned I am not very convinced. Excellent soundstaging though, lot's of spatial space between the various facets that make up this song. I think I'd put it down to this – the HE-560 needs a smidgen of the HE-500s warmth and the 500s need a lot less. Okay I give in ... I turn the treble tonal knob on the Luxman a little bit down. Mmmm ... still a little bit peaky in the treble. Maybe it's the track, nah... What is Stax saying, let's see. Could be the track, I do hear some peakish treble, but the Stax seems a little more accurate with a very beautiful tonal presentation. Okay let's move on ...
SUSHI, PADS and TREBLE TROUBLES
Tummy messengers are here ... it's 3:55pm and I haven't had lunch. Time for some left-over sushi. I'll get back to this (break).
[Yum ... left over sushi]
While my left-over sushi was steaming it occurred to me that a pad change might be in order. All this time I have been using the Focus pads with the perforated inside lip. I swapped to the older focus pads (Focus A) that came with the tour headphones. Okay – back to Cassandra Wilson's Blue Light Till Dawn. Okay, that definitely sounds better, the treble seems a little bit better tonally and I do attest there is a little more warmth to this signature, reminiscent of the HE-500 warmth that I was yearning for a moment ago. I like this signature ... it seems more right, and this track is sounding like it should sound like. Shucks, why did Hifiman change the pads (oh wait, there was all that fake brouhaha about ill-fitting pads), too bad. I feel that if the Focus A pads (1[sup]st[/sup] generation) had remained the stock pads this headphone would have a lot more going for it in stock form than it is being presented now with the new Focus pads. Too bad ... get those original pads while they are still available ladies and gents, especially if you already have the HE-560.
[Focus pads to the left; Focus A pads to the right]
Man I am enjoying this, it sounds just right now. Am listening to Lizz Wright (Fire). Makes me just wanna lay back into my seat, close my eyes, and be taken away by the music. Nothing to analyze any more, it sounds right, just like music. The Focus A pads definitely add some warmth but just the right amount that offsets what I deduce to be a slightly peaky treble the HE-560 often presents. This combination really works in a synergistic manner; even the bass is grooving now, a little more like the HE-500 but without coloring the other frequencies.
SOME BASS HEAVINESS and PAD SWITCHING CONCLUSIONS
I am now listening to Erykah Badu (On & On) and this track is bass heavy and the HE-560 is handling the bass absolutely beautifully without letting it take over. I wonder how this track would sound with the HE-500 and Stax SR-40. Let's find out. First up: Stax ...
The bass frequency weakness of this particular Stax headphone becomes apparent. The Stax can't quite handle bass boosted tracks. It's really not doing this track justice. It's there but the bass is supposed to be the heartbeat of this track and it's too recessed. With the right genres the Staxes are incredibly beautiful but with modern era genres like Electronica, Drum 'n Bass, Hip Hop, they fall short. It's as if the designers were not even aware such genres could ever exist. The Stax is definitely a fail here.
Okay, HE-500 (please don't let me down, eek.) Oh yeah, that's bass alright. Also excellent background detail. I'm foot tapping to the bass. Yeah this is good, everything about the sound signature says groovy track. Perhaps a little smidgen of loose bass in some passages. But vocals are still prominent and nicely blended with other details. I can live with this. Sidenote: I wonder how the HE-500 would perform with the newer pads. Time to find out ...
After some fidgeting I attach the second pair of Focus A pads (first generation) that came with the tour package. Mmm .. interesting, a bit more detail retrieval with these pads on the 500 than the stock 500 set. Nice. Lol ... time to upgrade 500 pads. I like it. Still listening to On & On for progeny's sake. Okay what about with the new stock Focus pads? Let's find out: Stop music (fidget, fidget)...Mmm comfy, more comfy than the Focus A pads. A little more detail than the Focus A pads (courtesy of the perforations perhaps?). Bass is tight (did I just say that?). Interesting, nice tonal balance, soundstage and nuances seem more extended. Lol .. conclusion to the pad saga .. Focus A pads are for the HE-560 and the newer Focus pads are for the HE-500 (irony, huh!). I am going to be picking up a set of these for my HE-500, definitely an improvement.
JUST MUSIC, NO DISTRACTIONS
Fast forward ... what else is popping up in this playlist, let's see. Jacksoul (As We); rest in peace Haydain. I am hearing a little bit of a peaky treble with the 500, but nothing to make me stop, could be a symptom of the Focus pads. Next track – Damon Aaron (All I Need). Yeah, here is that feeling again, you know, where it's now simply about the music, no distractions. Time to simply close your eyes and let the music take over. I do just that ... (The detail retrieval of the HE-500 with the Focus pads really surprises me, an excellent hardware match). Upgrade your Hifiman HE-500 pads y'all.
My man ... Barry White (Playing Your Game, Baby). Nice soundstage, sounds a little wider somehow. Will compare with the HE-560s on this track. Man, it's just about the music at this stage. I really like it after you've spent time gathering all your hardware together and it comes together and becomes art – that's what it's all about. (Forgotten time elapse ... was listening to Seal (Crazy)). Oh boy, superb track starting, Metropolitan Jazz Affair (Bird of Spring). Everything has come together ... I love it! I'll listen to this track first with the HE-500 (Focus pads) and then compare with the HE-560 (Focus A pads).
Back to Barry White with the HE-560s. Pause ... nothing to say really. This is just good music. Listening to Seal (Crazy) again – it's all there and the tonal balance is symmetrical. Metropolitan Jazz Affair (Bird of Spring). Groovy bass, for a moment there I thought I was still with the HE-500. Groovy bass without it being overpowering. Vocals are frontal, just the nice full sound I would expect from a well-amplified orthodynamic. Those pad switches really made that much of a difference, huh? Interesting. I don't feel a need to change anything. Just feels like it's time to simply enjoy the music. And I away ...
[Haydain Neale of Jacksoul - d. Nov 2009]
ULTIMATE QUESTION (hang in there ...)
Now here is the question. Which of these headphones would I keep? Since I already own the HE-500, the more obvious question is, is there a need to ditch the HE-500 and upgrade (sidegrade?) to the HE-560? Stay tuned while I come up with an answer over the next few days.
SUSPENDED IN-BETWEEN: FUZZY LOGIC CONCLUSION
What ensued was a long back and forth comparison of the two headphones listening to different tracks one headphone after the other. This was fairly easy to do having both headphones strapped to the same amplifier but with dedicated outputs (thanks engineers for speaker amplifiers with two speaker outputs - ).
P.S. Placing the speaker output selection on A+B also made it obvious that the HE-560 required a little bit more attenuation to match the volume output of the HE-500, perhaps underscoring the fact that this particular HE-560 may be less sensitive than the HE-500 (at least my pair). But then again what is 90db/mW (HE-560) vs 89db/mw (HE-500). That means too close to call in my book.
Some random track impressions:
Jaga Jazzist (The Stix) - very challenging Nu-Jazz/Electronica track:
With HE-500 (Focus pads). Nice full robust sound. All those crazy details are there.
With HE-560 (Focus A pads). I am having a hard time telling the headphones apart. They are equally good, albeit with a nod for more detail retrieval going to the HE-560, but musically, they are equally convincing. One could get either, amplify it well and simply get lost in the music – which really is the goal at the end of the day.
Stee Downes (Movement):
This track highlighted how similar the HE-560 and HE-500 can sound (with the pad switches I made). I have to listen very closely to pinpoint the differences if any. The HE-500 sounds a little bit fuller whereas the HE-560 sounds a little more defined.
The HE-560 definitely wins this one. There is just more happening with it, not that much more but it's noticeable after coming from the HE-500. Again, very nice frequency balance, all the nuances are there and can be easily picked out. Yeah, oh that treble, no more troubles from it and I think credit goes to the Focus A pads on this.
With some genres the HE-500 simply shines. For example well-recorded and performed R&B/Neo-Soul. For example: Jill Scott (Golden), a track I felt the HE-500 out-performed the HE-560 on. Similar impressions on Brand New Heavies (Keep Together); Mark Rae (Medicine). The HE-560 doesn't seem to quite have the groove factor that these tracks and others like them call for.
Santana (Smooth (feat. Rob Thomas):
The warmer and fuller presentation of the HE-500 sounds better here too. Makes for a more enveloping and rocking sound. In comparison the HE-560 sounds like it's trying to be more proper when it's really time to let loose and really groove.
Ali Slaight (Kiss From A Rose):
Mmm ... The HE-560 sounds like the more accurate headphone of the two here. The overall warmth of the HE-500 is working against it. This is a somewhat acoustically based track and that kind of makes sense based on my other impressions: With acoustical music the HE-560 seems more accurate and better balanced overall. The HE-500 seems to bring a little more warmth to the tracks than is necessary resulting in less clarity within and between the various facets of the tracks, vocals and instruments. Still overally good but I would take the HE-560's presentation each time with acoustic based music – so much sweeter and nuanced – excellent performances.
Plantlife (When She Smiles):
HE-560 is clearer. Mmm ... sounds like the evidence is piling up. The HE-560 reproduces music with more clarity than the HE-500. I think the mid-centric character of the HE-500 may be its Achilles heel. Don't get me wrong, it still sounds world-class but it is outclassed by the HE-560 in this regard. (From Wikipedia: An Achilles heel is a deadly weakness in spite of overall strength, which can actually or potentially lead to downfall.)
And so forth and so forth, and so forth it went .... until ...
Conclusion inside the conclusion: When musical clarity is called for the HE-560s outperform the 500s, but where full musical grooviness is called for the HE-500s seem to have an edge. So I guess it pretty much comes down to choice of the wrong that's less wrong. In this case the less significant and infrequent shortcomings of the HE-560 are easier to fix and live with than the more apparent shortcomings of the HE-500, especially if you listen to a lot of acoustically grounded music. The HE-560 is the better headphone and is definitely an upgrade rather than simply a sidegrade to the HE-500. Would I upgrade then? Yes ... absolutely, strictly based on sound-quality improvements, and especially where money is not a consideration. With the HE-500 now just over half the price of the HE-560 does that make it half as good as the HE-560? Definitely not; I would place the HE-500's abilities at about 93-96% of the HE-560's sonic reproductive ability. Is that final 4-7% worth it? My answer – a resounding yes! With the HE-560 you would have a headphone that gives you less to stop and gripe about knowing in the end there was little you could do about it.
Well done Hifiman for taking your headphones further. I didn't think you could do it, especially with single-magnet transducers but you did. The HE-560 is definitely a worthy upgrade to the HE-500!
[Grill-modded HE-500 (Focus pads) ; Stock form HE-560 (Focus A pads]
Postscript: FUZZYING THINGS UP ...
The Fuzzor mod suggested by Jerg in this thread kinda intrigued me after realizing that the major difference between the HE-560 and the HE-500 was in their clarity and detail retrieval characteristics, the HE-560 being the better of the two in that regard. But those qualities are precisely what the Fuzzor mod is supposed to improve for the HE-500. I had to find out ...
Ran out to my local Michael's store to get some felt (shucks got the wrong one ... yeah you guessed it, I went all the way to the end of the mod with that one – don't ask; we'll leave it for the trash bin. Hint: It wasn't the stiff kind). Ran back to the store this time making sure I asked for stiffened adhesive felt ... shikes ... they were out (wha ..aat!). I won't bore you with more of this yarn (they had lots of that at the store) ... I eventually had to drive to another Michael's store farther away. Ah ... but enough of that.
The mod turned out great what with me being a more experienced modder and all (snicker ..). Now to the sound. I quickly went back to those problematic tracks that the HE-500 had stumbled on and that the HE-560 had simply been brilliant with. Wow ... what do ya know ... a mod that actually works! To my ears the HE-500 was now sounding more refined, with a very beautiful tone but still a bit more energetic than the HE-560, but it was almost, almost there. I could easily take that and not miss the HE-560 (much). Percentage wise I'd say the HE-500's rendering on those tracks was now closer to 98.5% of the HE-560 (that's as precise as I can get, sorry). I still feel the HE-560 is still the more nuanced of the two headphones and really worth that additional effort if one can manage it. But then again, there are those times when the HE-500's signature is precisely what the shaman has ordered; where it's groove fun factor simply and incredibly wows. So ... is that fuzzy enough for ya ..?