HiFiMAN HE-560


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Neutrality / Speed / Startling sense of realism / Ergonomics
Cons: Slightly aggressive / Past revisions / May be too lean to some
Without further a-do, I'll get right into it. (My HE560 thread has some preface words etc)
Build & Ergonomics
The finalized take on HE560 cups is a matte-plastic-and-veneer finish, with the body of the cup being plastic much similar to other Hifiman cans, but a Macassar ebony wood veneer wrapped around as largely a design accent.
To my knowledge, this was largely a compromising decision made so that cup reliability over the long term will stay stable. Solid teak wood used for early HE560 units suffered some visual/matching, milling, and cracking issues despite teak being one of the hardier lumbers to work with.
From a purely artistic design standpoint, I do like the new cup look better than the old, which on top of vastly improved long-term reliability makes it a no-brainer for me; but of course, solid wood does have its allure.
Earpads / headband
The new headband assembly is, let’s just say, one of the most ergonomic in the headphone market currently, which for a utilitarian user would more than trade off for its peculiar look when worn on the head. For those who may find their headband clamping a bit much, just use some gentle and firm pressure and flex/hold the two 90-degree bends of the spring steel band, and clamp is easily attenuated that way.
There are two variations of the new hybrid velour/pleather earpads that Hifiman is making available along HE560; the Focus earpads and the Focus-A earpads. Both are fully-sealing earpads, with a slight (15 degrees or so) angling, soft velour for the flat portion and pleather for the outside cylindrical portion. The core difference between these two earpad variations is the inner-facing lining material; whereas Focus pads use a perforated pleather inner ring, Focus-A pads use a sloped permeable mesh fabric. Focus pads are also sewn more neatly than Focus-A pads. By default HE560s will ship with the Focus pads, but those looking for a less energetic and more balanced sound signature may prefer the Focus-A pads. Comfort-wise both are stellar as long as you don’t mind your ears grazing the inner lining of the earpads sometimes, as the earpad openings are not exceptionally huge; the velour fabric is much less itchy than prior Hifiman velour pads’, the foam used in these pads are MUCH softer than prior Hifiman earpads, and the angling conforms more naturally to the head allowing for better pressure distribution.
The cable that comes with HE560 is a 2 metre ‘crystalline’ copper / silver composite cable with black fabric sleeving and 1/4-inch plug. Some might find it too short if they like to prance about when wearing the cans. Stationary desktop users won’t have a problem with the length. The fabric sleeving is a welcoming change in terms of looks and feel compared to rubber or plastic sleeving of most of previous stock Hifiman cables.
It’s more flexible than both the Canare cables that HE400s come with, and the white SPC cables that HE500s have; cable diametre is slightly thinner than Canare cable.
Sound Quality & Characteristics
***The “treble / midrange / bass” subsections will cover the bulk of my sonic analyses; other subsections will either reiterate or raise more miscellaneous points toward those specific traits.
While the midrange and bass have some back-and-forth in terms of their performance relative to contenders, HE560’s treble is sublime.
Treble is always tough to get right, you need the correct frequency response, extension, decay, but also resolution / detail extraction (which correlates to but isn’t exactly represented by current methods of measurement); subjectively the ideal treble needs to extend into the nether regions without tizziness, be grainless, smooth, with minimal sibilance yet never recessed, and with fast enough transients to deliver treble texture in a convincing manner.
And out of all the headphones I’ve had the pleasure of hearing, only HE560, Code-X, and well-driven HD800s fully achieve that degree of treble finesse. The test prototype HE560s came close but still had some grain to its treble that stuck out like a sore thumb; the finalized production HE560s squelched that issue.
For me, HE560’s midrange is a complex creature to describe. Right off the bat though, two traits that are very apparent are that their midrange is highly transparent, and just as open-sounding, as these are innate traits of the midrange signature that I find to be constants. Harmonic distortions in the midrange for HE560s are extraordinarily low from measurements that are posted thus far, which coincides with the subjective transparency.
The intrigue, however, lies in its tonality; HE560s can sound neutral, bright, organic, dry, thin, dynamic to different people. Frequency response-wise, HE560 has a slight recession around 2kHz and rise around 5kHz, which by definition gives them attack/edge yet still somewhat laid back, and that is what I observe in music too.
Further complexity is set in in that HE560’s midrange reacts to different earpads substantially. Hifiman’s most up-to-date earpads, the Focus hybrid velour/pleather pads, give HE560s a dynamic, slightly aggressive midrange signature with more upfront soundstaging. The alternative hybrid pads, the Focus-A pads, give it a more balanced, nuanced signature with more ‘roomy’ soundstaging. Of course, I had to try my Jergpads on production HE560s, which rendered a sound signature that was as aggressive as Focus pads, but also more forward-sounding, with a more laid-back treble (i.e. more mids-heavy balance); it’s different enough of a presentation from the hybrid pads that I may just swap between these and the Focus-A pads (which I prefer over the Focus pads).
Regardless of tonal balance, HE560’s mids are fast, really fast. There is little to no bloom, and midrange detail is rendered with startling realism. Some might call that a deficiency in musicality; I beg to differ, if it sounds strikingly realistic and convincing, to me that is musical, just in a different way than the typical “romantic, lush, etc” characteristics of sound signatures branded as being musical.
Regrilling mod done on HE560s gives it one extra nudge toward an extremely open sound signature. And here comes a surprising observation: for those who own Jergpads from ventures with older Hifiman headphones, you can make HE560s almost speaker-like in openness via backvented Jergpads with the dust screens completely removed (HE560s have internal dust screens built into the face-facing sides of the drivers). This is in contrast to the room-like open quality of the hybrid pads.
The word I would use to describe HE560’s bass is “disciplined”. It is a very technically capable bass, with excellent extension, tightness / low distortion, quickness, and lack of colouration; at the same time, it is never out of line in terms of volume relative to midrange or treble, always presenting itself in adequate quantity when the music calls for it.
That does mean that true bassheads may need to look elsewhere, because the low-end tilt simply isn’t here with HE560. But for those who seek bass with utmost finesse, and which is cohesive with the rest of the frequency band, these will not disappoint.
On the modding side of things, I have only very recently found something very interesting, that being that (surprise surprise) Jergpads seem to introduce a slight FR tilt toward bass/lower mids, which noticeably increases bassiness in the sound signature, at the expense of some bass tightness. Personally I found this quite satisfying actually, and may listen in this pad setup for some time to really decide if it’s something I’d endorse as a definitive improvement or not.
Again, these are as good as any headphones I’ve heard in the clarity/transparency front. Vocals and instruments are always in full focus with very fast and convincingly realistic decay. Separation is not just clearly defined, but each source of sound has its own appropriate projected volume in space. The ability for HE560s to render treble with tangible texture is frequently startling to me.
Medium-sized with the stock configuration; partly due to the frequency response having an upfront aggressive signature. With regrilling mod and optionally some pad swapping, one may suddenly find the soundstage expanding at will depending on the nature of the recording.
HE560’s timbre is almost, almost completely spot on. In my personal opinion, the slight emphasis around 5kHz is the only thing holding back HE560’s timbre from completely believable, especially coupled with the strong transparency. I have not yet played around with equalization, but some may find that a viable option to perfect HE560s’ timbre.
I feel that the finalized production HE560 is the real deal, reliability issues are resolved, sonically they are competent in all fields and absolutely brilliant in many, and these no longer carry the stigma with modern planar magnetic headphones being unwieldy space helmets.
There are still minor flaws in HE560’s sound which I noted in this writeup, which may be remediable in a variety of possible methods of course, and some of them are subjective to my tastes specifically.
On a personal note, I will have fun figuring out mods to try to milk out as much performance as possible in the foreseeable future too.
@Sweden I can't really comment on that for this review, as the only time I got to compare HE560 vs HD800 was when I only had the test prototype version of HE560, which sounds very different from finalized production HE560s. I'm sure there are those who own both HD800s and HE560s in the HE560 thread who could offer you insight though.
Jerg... you are spot on about the re-grilling. I got a pair that Matt Poe made for me... very professional looking... Fang and his boys couldn't do any better. The openness of the new grills really do the trick. And of course with the grill cloth going with the old grills... into my drawer. I haven't tried removing the inner dust cloth. But, before I do, I want to be sure I'm removing the right cloth. This is the cloth that is closest to my ears... right?
Thanks again for your observations. I have found these headphones can take me right into the music... completely absorbs me if I'm sitting in the dark with good music playing.
Jerg, in your view, how would you compare the soundstage of the HE-560 and the HE-400?


100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Well-balanced sound, light, comfortable
Cons: Feel rather cheap for the price, HiFiMAN connectors, finicky headband adjustment
* Obligatory warning that I am not a professional and am not the best at describing sound qualities of headphones. I don't like to use words like liquid or chocolate because descriptions like those leave me puzzled and hungry. So take this review with a grain of salt on the rim of a nice cold drink.
I have only had these for two days now, but I feel I can give some initial impressions. I own both the HD800 and LCD-X and used both of those headphones to compare the HE-560 against. My setup goes as:
Foobar with only lossless files 16/44.1 through DSD fed via USB to my Fiio X3 as an external DAC. This is passed via line out to the RCA inputs on my Bryston BHA-1 amp and then single ended output to my HD800 and HE-560 and balanced 4-pin to my LCD-X.
The tracks I used to compare these headphones include numerous genres: classical (Rimsky-Korsakov, Saint-Saens, Bruckner), Jazz (Magnus Lindgren, John Coltrane, Vince Guaraldi), Rap (Lil Wayne, Jay Z, Eminem), Folk (Fleet Foxes, Alela Diane, Iron & Wine), Ambient/Chill (The Album Leaf, Motohiro Nakashima, Brian Eno), Rock (Muse, Green Day, Coheed & Cambria), Acoustic (Paco De Lucia, Ottmar Liebert, Andy McKee), and many, many more (some specific examples included below).
Unboxing/Physical Impressions:
Upon opening the box the HE-560 were shipped in I found a very nice wooden storage box with the headphones packed neatly inside. I was rather impressed with the improvement of this box over that of the HE-500 (which I previously owned). After taking the headphones out of the box, though, my first impression was that they don't really feel like $900 headphones. Yes, they are significantly lighter than my LCD-X, but the build quality doesn't feel the same. I was disappointed to feel that some of the parts (yolk, cups, and headband adjuster) just felt a bit cheap. I have owned the HE-400 and HE-500 and demo'd the HE-6 a few times and the build quality of those models was better than that of the HE-560. I already knew this, but I'll point it out here that HiFiMAN went with the same connectors as used in previous models. I guess this is a minor issue, but I dislike having to screw the connectors in and out as this twists the cable (nit-picky, I know). I noticed that the cable is a bit shorter than I'd like as well (6 1/2 feet from end to end), but I have my amp a bit farther away from my desk chair than most, so this probably is a positive thing for many people. My last gripe with these headphones is inconsistency with the headband adjusters; the adjuster on the right side feels snug and holds its position well whereas the adjuster on the left feels very loose and moves with even a slight tug. I'm wondering if I could tighten up whatever mechanism is inside, but I'd rather not disassemble the headphones after only two days. Putting on the HE-560 for the first time helped relieve some of my initial disappointment. The headphones are very comfortable and a very reasonable clamp force - not too tight to cause unnecessary pressure yet not too loose to let them slide around with excessive head movement. The HE-560 weighs considerably less than the LCD-X and does not leave my neck tired after several hours of listening. The wide headband seems to distribute pressure well (an improvement over the LCD-X). Comfort-wise, I'd place these toward the HD800 side of the spectrum. With slightly larger earcups the HE-560 might compete with the HD800 in comfort.  
My first impression of the HE-560 is that they would be a very good pair of headphones for someone looking for a one headphone setup as they seem to do everything well. I wouldn't say they are the best in any given category, but they are very well-rounded. They take the neutral, detailed sound of the HD800, smooth out some of the harshness, add some of the bass characteristics of the LCD-X and end up as a rather fun, balanced headphone.
To date, my LCD-X have the best bass I've heard out of headphones. The LCD-X have wonderful, enveloping and detailed bass that extends very deep. It is rich and punchy but not overly emphasized in my opinion. The HE-560 do not hit as hard as the LCD-X and don't give me goosebumps either. The HE-560 does, however, seem to extend just as deep and is just as punchy. The bass of the HE-560 just doesn't seem to have the power that the LCD-X does. I love listening to large orchestral pieces (1812 overture with canons specifically) or soundtracks with the LCD-X because they portray the bass as I would expect it to sound in real life. The HE-560 match the quickness of the LCD-X, but not quite the power. That being said, they still sound very good and are in no way weak in the bass region.
When it comes to mids, I prefer my HD800 as they are very clear and detailed in the midrange. The mids of the HD800 are a bit forward which I tend to prefer because it they tend to separate voices from the accompaniment. Listening to Frank Sinatra on the HD800 I get the feeling that he is right in front of me with the band farther back on stage. The HE-560 are not quite as forward in the mids. They are, however, still clear and detailed and sound very natural. This is surely a matter of preference and I could see people preferring the HE-560 over the HD800 here as the mids are a bit more smooth (and perhaps more natural) on the HE-560. Given that I have only had the HE-560 for two days, I might have to come back to this and see how my preferences change after I get more time on them.
The HD800 are rather infamous for being picky with amps. I've listened to my HD800 through a few different amps and with a bad pairing the highs can be piercing and fatiguing. I think they pair well with my BHA-1 and have fast highs that extend, well, seemingly indefinitely. The highs of the HE-560 are a bit more smooth and not quite as prominent. They lack the extreme detail and quicness of the HD800, which might be why I don't have any fatigue with the HE-560 after my long listening sessions so far. After listening to some Paganini caprices, the difference was a bit more apparent to me. With the HD800, it seemed as though the headphones were faster than the musician and hit every note with quickness and ease. With the HE-560, it seemed as though the headphones were trying to keep up with the music.
The HD800 are generally believed to have one of the largest (if not the largest) soundstage of any headphone. Comparing my HD800 to all other headphones I've experienced, I agree with this statement. The HE-560 fall short of the HD800 in terms of soundstage (as I expected). Listening to acoustic and classical music I do get a sense of an open soundstage left to right, but I don't hear a lot of depth to it. Comparing the HE-560 to the LCD-X, the soundstage is pretty large. When I owned the HE-500, I tried some grill mods to open up the soundstage and I'm guessing the same can be done with the HE-560. I'm guessing removing the grills completely would open these up even further, but I haven't had enough time to try that yet. That all being said, the soundstage is big without feeling unnaturally expansive, but could still benefit from being a bit more open. The imaging of the HE-560 is very good as well. Again, I would say that the HD800 has the edge, though. I used the following CDs to focus on imaging: Audio Stax The Space Sound CD and Dr. Chesky's Dr. Chesky's Sensational, Fantastic, and Simply Amazing Binaural Sound Show. I could close my eyes and get a very clear sense of the environment. The directional cues were pretty much spot on. 
Final Thoughts:
I thought the HE-560 would be a good balance between my favorite qualities of the LCD-X and HD800 and I think they pretty much met my expectations. I love the full, rich sound of LCD-X and the impact of its bass. The LCD-X is a very fun headphone for me and I love getting lost in music while listening to them. The HD800 are the king of open, airy, and detailed sound. I love acoustic and classical music through these because I can feel a great sense of space. The HE-560 fall short of both of these headphones in a head-to-head comparison, but do both aspects well. While the bass is not as ample as compared to the LCD-X, it is still tight and punchy. The mids of the HE-560 are clear, detailed, and natural. The highs are smooth and non-fatiguing. The soundstage is nowhere near as large as that of the HD800 but is still fairly open and could probably be easily improved with a grill mod. The detail again is not as great as that of the HD800 but in no way poor. I forgot to mention this earlier, but the HE-560 are not the most efficient headphones. I found myself switching my Bryston BHA-1 to high gain to match the volume of the HD800 when A/B-ing the two.
These are very good headphones and some people might be satisfied with them as an end-game pair, but I'm not quite sold. I am very happy with both my HD800 and LCD-X as they are extremely good headphones for their particular uses. If I could only have one headphone, though, I might pick the HE-560 as a very well-rounded pair that doesn't do anything perfectly, but does everything pretty well. From a build quality standpoint, they don't quite feel like $900 headphones, though. In my opinion, they feel more like $400-$500 headphones, which is a bit disappointing. I know the selling point of these headphones is that they're considerably lighter than previous models, but the HD800 are able to use lightweight materials while still maintaining a solid build quality.
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Thank you for writing this very well considered and informative review. I will investigate the HE-560 further. 
Thank you, I own HE-560 for about a year and thinking about buying HD800, so your impressions on getting both these cans were very helpful!
Blasting of the cannons!!


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Comfort, Realism, Efficiency
Cons: Slightly bright, Connectors
Okay, these are my thoughts after a few hours. I recognize that's it's only been a few hours, but my opinion rarely changes with additional time. 
Initial Impressions:
As has been mentioned almost ad nauseam, the comfort is supreme with the new design.  What HFM has done with regard to the design and improved comfort is impressive. This is all day comfort folks. It's not just about being lighter in weight, they are. It's also about "balanced" weight. That being said, this is what I have issues with:
*For goodness sake, please get the pad design issues resolved. For me personally, my left ear touches the dust fabric over the driver. Drives me nuts…yes, even more than my usual nutty.  After learning that the pads were supposed to be locked in at 6:00, I noticed my pair were not oriented to the right position. After adjusting them, I no longer have an issues with my ear touching the driver.
*I still don’t like the connectors.  I would have opted for mini xlr...but I will not beat that dead horse anymore (although I’d like to).
*There are some very slight inconsistencies with the veneer cups.  Most people would likely not notice…I’m not most people.
*The overall design and execution is good but not on par with say, Oppo or Sennheiser and others. Take that for what it’s worth.
*The first thing that strikes me about the signature was that these sound like a mixture of the he500 and he6…somewhere in between, leaning a little more towards the he6.
*The mids are very nice. Coming from the he400 you’d be floored by the improvement in the mids (even MLE would probably like these mids. Vocals are natural but just a touch thin from my favorite (hd650). I listen to a lot of vocal centered music and I could be happy with these as my daily driver with the likes of Dianna Krall, K.D. Lang and Eva Cassidy.
*The treble is more resolving than the he500 but not harsh like the he4 can be.  Highs are closer to the he6 on a good amp. Very resolving and extended, but remain confidently in control with everything from hi-hat cymbals to the upper register of the violin. Still, if you prefer a darker treble response, you would likely have issues here as the treble here is pretty well extended and holds nothing back.
*The transition from the mids to the bass is very coherent and I could not detect any bleed from the bass into the mids.  The bass presents itself in a very linear fashion, meaning that I didn’t find the 560 to color bass into a recording where it wasn’t there in the first place.  On jazz tracks, the acoustic upright bass plucks are satisfying and with appreciable texture (this is important to me, as I don’t like hp’s that make that “one note” bass response).  Becoming Insane by Infected Mushroom is a good EDM test track for me. The 560 images the acoustic guitar nicely as the track opens. The track builds quickly and drops a seriously hard bass line. This track gives a lot of hp’s trouble with the heavy electronic sub bass. The 560 carries the bass out with aplomb…never out of control. While the quality, texture and speed of the bass is certainly there, there were some tracks where I would have appreciated more quantity and weight. While this is not a “bass light” hp by any means, it does not match the sub bass ability of the he400 or lcd-2.2 (pre-fazor).
Overall and would I buy it…
*Mids: 9.0
*Treble: 8.5
*Bass: 8.0
Does the 560 get the MattTCG seal of approval? 
Hm…this is an enjoyable hp and I don’t question that in the least.  Will I run out and purchase it? Well, no…not yet.  My gut feeling is to let the dust settle and see if there are any furthers changes or revisions. Plus, I’m very curious as to how the 400i fits into the puzzle. Does it warrant the sticker price? Honestly, it’s a tough call. I’d have to admit that I’d be more comfortable at the $800 mark.  In the end, I come away with an appreciation for what Hifiman has done and applaud their ability to produce a better product…well done Fang!!
*These are my observations based on my personal preferences and nothing more than that. YMMV . All testing done with uberfrost>lyr (telefunkens)
IMO nothing does "audiophile" sub bass like the lcd2.2 pre fazor. 
Nice review Matt :)
Sub bas is perfect in TH900, but s little bit bright with some music


100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Lightweight, fairly easy to drive, comfortable, neutral sound, fair pricing, good customer support from Hifiman
Cons: Slightly cheap/poor build quality and Q.C, short stock cable.
The HE560 is Hifiman's attempt at making a headphone between the HE500 & HE6, as of the time posting this review, there are two known versions of the HE560: the preorder version and production (rev 1 as I call it) version. The preorder version has numerous differences in build quality, but, they sound very similar. I've listed some photos below showing the build differences between the models. Just click on them to make them larger.
Preorder one says HE560, new one doesn't and is a bit less tall but deeper, both boxes had scratches and marks when I got them.

Preorder version has thinner foam and one cutout. New one has two separate foam cutouts, one for the headphones and one for the cable. The foam is harder and stays in shape easier than before.

Molding lines on the preorder HE560

Production HE560 has no molding lines

Preorder version has the seam from one of the pads sticking out, new ones are symmetrical and the seams match. There is also plastic where the connectors are located on the new one.

From left to right: HE560 preorder, production HE560, and HE-4
Production version has a fabric coated cable vs rubber on the preorder 560, same connectors (Neutrik) on both. The production HE560 feels the same as the HE-4 cable but it weighs more

Sound wise, they are quite similar, but there are small differences: The production HE560 sounds a little thinner in the midrange and a bit brighter in the treble. This is a subtle difference. I noticed this effect when swapping pads to the preorder HE560 as well, so, it seems to be the pads that cause this difference to my ears.
Production HE560
Comfort and build: Comfort is substantially improved compared to the previous HE headphones. The new earpads literally melt into your cheeks. They're plusher than both the original velour and pleather pads that came stock with my HE400 & HE500. The velour material that covers the top of the earpad feels less grainy/rough, compared to the velours that came with my HE400/500. Clamping force is a bit on the high side. However, If you don’t find that the Sennheiser HD600/650s clamp too hard, you should be fine with the clamping force on the HE560 after a brief break in.
The cable feels solid. It's terminated by a Neutrik 6.5mm plug. The new fabric black cable has less microphonics than the original silver HE500 and tangles a lot less easier. However, the new cable is shorter and weighs a bit more. The old HE500/4/6/etc. are left in the dust in terms of comfort, but, come back in build quality. The HE560 kind of feels like a toy in comparison to my HE500. When you pick up the HE500, you're greeted with reassuring weight and metal gimbals. The HE500 just feels solid in your hands, while the HE560 is composed of plastic gimbals and is much lighter. It seems more fragile and less “serious” in your hand compared to the HE500.
Overall, the build quality is fine, but, there are a couple of small nitpicks I have. For example, the wooden box has no feet on it to prevent scratching and mine came a bit banged up (scratches and dents on the sides). My headphone also had some permanent scratches/marks on the gimbals when first opened as well.
Sound Quality.
Bass: Extends down to ~20 Hz felt, with a sharp roll off in power starting at around 30-40 Hz. Both the HE500/560 have excellent sub bass extension. A good seal with the earpads is crucial for optimal sub bass performance in both. The bass sounds quicker and has less of a mid bass hump vs the HE500. The HE560s bass has better finesse and control, when listening to fast faced metal and techno, I can tell the bass can keep up more effortlessly. The HE500 on the other hand has a tiny bit more raw impact, especially in the mid bass. However, it sounds more one noted and slower in general. 
Mids: Goodbye recessed upper mids. The midrange is a lot more even on the HE560. The depression around 2-3.5k is rectified, and the midrange is a bit less forward and sounds less thick (though IMO the HE500 was too forward/thick). Vocals are more palpable on the HE560, at least in terms of tone/realism. Same with most instruments, explained in the timbre section later.
Treble:  High notes on the HE560 are a touch airier, more extended, and in my opinion superior. The lower treble region is more forward and brighter on the HE560. However, the upper treble is less bright and flatter on the HE560. This is because there are peaks on the HE500 around 10 kHz that are absent on the HE560. I generally hear the HE560 as having a brighter treble in most recordings, however, some songs that hit the 10kHz area a lot make it seem like the HE500 is brighter but gives you the impression it's a bit grainy or tizzy because of that peak. This is especially noticeable with cymbals.
Timbre: With the help of a more even, extended treble and the absence of the recessed upper mids, the HE560 takes the edge in terms of timbre. Nearly all instrumentation sounds more lifelike on the HE560 but some can also sound dull in comparison with the HE500. The HE500 has some treble spikes and peaks, as stated before. This makes certain instruments like cymbals a bit strident and harsh. They’re over exaggerated on the HE500 but can be more engaging in some songs while the HE560 is more accurate.
Soundstage: Listening to binaural recordings gives you a larger sense of space on the HE560. The soundstage is wider, but not so much so that you begin to feel very distant or bored (Looking at you, HD800 and Stax SR-202). The larger width of the HE560 can be either an advantage or disadvantage depending on how you look at it. I actually preferred the smaller soundstage of the HE500 with rock/metal as I felt closer and more engaged with the band playing. However, for orchestral music and jazz the larger sense of space on the HE560 was welcomed, in these genres, the HE500 was less resolving and sounded almost claustrophobic in comparison.
Enough about the width, depth is also a key part in soundstage. To be honest, the HE560 is kind of the same. I can’t detect any major differences. HE560 is on par, if not better than the HE500.
Efficiency & amping: ​
My receiver has power output meters, to reach the same value at the power meter while playing a flat tone (100hz,1000hz,etc). The HE560 needed to be turned 1 notch less on the volume pot compared to the HE500. So, pretty much the same.
The HE560 also scales fairly well with multiple sources. On Magni, it's kind of bright and forward, more akin to the HE500s sound. When I stepped it up to Lyr, it sounded less forward and more relaxed, especially with the right tubes (Matsush1ta E88cc) and was much more louder. I also felt the same when comparing HE560 on Magni to my old integrated amp (JA-S55).
I would recommend amping HE560 with a Lyr or a Vintage A/V amp (they do quite well and can be bought for cheap at garage sales or craigslist). Magni works as well but the volume had to be turned to ~70% to reach my preferred listening volume with recordings that have a extreme dynamic range. (Explorations in space and time, DSOTM 5.1 SACD, most of my old Vinyl rips). With pop music the volume was at 30-40%. EDIT: I originally had the values a lot higher here! I had an issue with sound drivers. The Magni didn't need to be as loud as I put it before.
Song Comparisons (All lossless, AMB y2 DAC, JVC JA-S55 amp, and SKW JIB interconnects)
Artist, track, album. and source.
AC/DC – TNT – Self titled album (Lossless CD rip)
HE560: Wider soundstage, the guitars (especially in the first couple seconds) extend outwards to the left more. Less raspy and sibilant on the vocals and overall the 560 has a more lifelike and palpable rendering of the vocals, guitars, and drums. You almost feel as if you were there, cliché I know, but it’s true.
HE500: Immediately more forward vs the 560. The guitar in the left at the beginning sounds right in your ears, vocals take up a larger sense of space in the center and are more in your head sounding. Vocals are also more raspy/sibilant, especially when "TNT" is screamed. The HE500 actually sounds more engaging on this song yet this may give you the impression its treble is uncontrolled and peaky in return (10khz+ bump).
Pink Floyd – Money – Dark Side of the Moon (5.1 channel 30th anniversary SACD rip)
HE560: The sounds of the cash register and coins extend outwards towards the left and right more. You can easily tell where the center channel and left/right is on this surround sound recording. Timbre on all of the instruments are improved, cymbals are less splashy and bright, and the guitars have a bit more bite due to the lack of recessed upper mids. Vocals are less sibilant and raspy as well.
HE500: In the beginning, you can again tell that the HE500 is more forward like the other song. The coins dropping and the cash register in the beginning are closer to your head and sound like they’re almost mashed up in the center in comparison to the 560. It’s a bit harder to determine the location of the center channel and left / right. Cymbals are brighter and guitars have less bite. Vocals are more sibilant and raspy.
Miles Davis – Freddie Freeloader – Kind of Blue (HDtracks 192/24)
HE560: Again, soundstage is wider. In the first 30 seconds you can easily tell that the cymbal on the right is more outwards and out of your head, same with the piano in the left. Timbre is significantly improved, simply put it it, every instrument sounds more palpable and effortless on the HE560.
HE500: More in the head. You feel closer to the sextet. Cymbals and the piano are less out of your head and closer to your ears. The piano almost has a slight glare to it which is absent on the HE560 (around 40 second mark).
Versus the Sennheiser HD80
My plan was to do song comparisons for this but I decided I just wanted to relax and listen to music, switching every couple hours or days. I hate playing 30 seconds of one song and switching back and forth 5 times to test like I did with the HE500.
In a nutshell, the HD800 is technically superior to the HE560 on a good recording except for bass impact. The HD800 has a larger soundstage in width/depth, the treble is clearer (but can be too bright for some) leading to more subtle details to flow through that were missed on the HE560. The thing is, these qualities are only exposed on few recordings. The HD800 is very picky, to the point of only a few songs from my library actually sounded superior on them vs HE560. They're very picky while HE560 is much more forgiving of modern music and poor mastering.
 The HE560, while not technically as good as the HD800 on a great recording, has a more relaxing and generally enjoyable sound. Everything on HE560 sounds more cohesive without as many spikes/peaks, especially in the treble relative to the HD800. Bass is stronger in terms of impact/extension and the sound is less diffused and thin.
Conclusion: The HE560 will not necessarily be a better headphone than the HE500 for many. The HE500 has an addicting tone to it, which is a forward, up close, and full sound On a lot of songs, especially during rock/metal, I found the HE500 to be a much more engaging headphone. I felt closer to the band due to the more forward/smaller soundstage and the emphasized 10k region was actually welcomed for me in these genres.
However, technically speaking, the HE560 is the better headphone overall. It doesn't have the tone of the HE500, but what it does have that the HE500 lacks is better technicalities. Bass is quicker, the soundstage is wider, and everything sounds more lifelike. Problems like recessed upper mids, ringing, and heavy weight in the HE500 are also resolved with the HE560.
I can also wear my HE560 all day (and yes I've done that, my weekends are that boring) without any listening fatigue. I've tried this with HE500, my ears just got tired of the 10khz peak and the weight required me to take them off every 2 hours for a break.
So, it kind of boils down to preference which is better. For me, I enjoyed HE560 and think it's a worthy successor to the HE500. If you want a neutral and lifelike sound with great timbre and balance, kind of reminiscent to the HD600, the HE560 is your can. If you want a more colored and forward sound then the HE500 is what I would recommend. Also consider you can find a HE500 for $400-500 used, which is a steal, these used to be $899 when first released.
Good review. I suspect Hifiman getting a boatload of sales from teenage girls now that the one and only Justin Bieber has endorsed them.
Hey, is there gonna be Justin Bieber edition? I could wait for these if there will be.
Love your music btw... awesome