HIFIMAN HE-R9 Closed Back Dynamic Headphones

Rhamnetin

Headphoneus Supremus
Bloated bass and no treble
Pros: Bass extension isn't bad, it isn't particularly lacking in capabilities but rather it is just poorly "tuned" in my opinion
Cons: Obnoxious mid-bass bloat, absence of treble
I saw the HE-R9 on sale and decided to pick it up directly from HiFiMan, since HiFiMan often has headphones that hit far above their price range, like the HE-500 towards the end of its life, the Sundara especially, and supposedly the latest Deva which I have yet to try. Unfortunately, that same level of excellence isn't apparent here. I've tested it only wired out of a much higher end system than it was intended for.

The HE-R9 is pretty, plasticky but lightweight as a result. Ultimately it's an extremely dark headphone with very bloated mid-bass and an absence of treble - which I suppose is better than boosted treble, but it's a deficiency nonetheless. It does at least have sub-bass, unlike cheaper bass-bloated headphones, so it's a capable headphone but in my opinion "tuned" poorly. More in the realm of some Denon headphones of past perhaps.

If you're after a bass-emphasized headphone, you can do better than this even for its $369 sale price, but especially for its normal price, although you'll be sacrificing wireless capability. Argon's modified Fostex T50rp and presumably T60 headphones are much better balanced - dark and bassy, with noticeably superior sub-bass with less obnoxious mid-bass bloat and overall better bass performance, at a slight cost of resolution perhaps. Higher end modified T50rp-based headphones like the ZMF Blackwood and perhaps something from MrSpeakers (now Dan Clark Audio) far outperform this, though they can only be found used now. Look into Dan Clark's current AEON options; I'm unsure how they compare but definitely look into them before buying the HE-R9.

rev92

Reviewer at Ear Fidelity
Hifiman HE-R9
Pros: Very lightweight, superbly comfortable
Bluemini R2R dongle
Can be used via a cable as well
Headphone stand included!
Highly subjective, but it definitely draws attention. For me, it looks cool
Fantastic bass response
Romantic midrange and smooth treble
Unreal soundstage for a closed-back in this price range
Fun, fun, fun
Easy to pair with
Works via USB-C as an external DAC/Amp/Headphone combo, sick!
If you buy them wired at $369, this is an unbelievable value
Cons: Huge, don't take them outside unless you like all eyes on you
Build quality is good, especially considering the comfort, but it's not a premium-feeling headphone
Not neutral, surely a con for some

Introduction​

Every single time I write a review of Hifiman’s product, the introduction paragraph is getting harder and harder to write. How many times can I point out that this is the nr.1 manufacturer in the world when it comes to headphones.
They do offer arguably the best value models in every price segment when it comes to open-back, planar-magnetic headphones. It’s quite recently though when they started to go into dynamic driver headphones, so this is pretty interesting.
Their first dynamic headphone was the HE-300, a budget model released back in 2012 I believe. While it was certainly a good product, it wasn’t meant to flip the audio world upside down, mainly because of the market it was targeting.
Then, after many years Hifiman announced the R-10D and R-10P, and it was one of the most controversial announcements in headphone audio well…ever. Hugely based on the legendary Sony MDR-R10 with those huge and asymmetrical earcups, Hifiman surely grabbed a lot of attention. Some time has passed, and Hifiman has launched yet another model in this line, the HE-R9, which we’re going to review today.
What’s really interesting, is that Hifiman went with wired headphones with an optional Bluemini R2R Bluetooth module, and this is a hugely functional combination. The Bluemini R2R was originally supplied with the Deva Pro, our “Best Product of 2021”. This is THE headphone that will forever change the landscape of Bluetooth over-ear headphones. The Deva Pro is an outstanding product that I use very frequently, so this is very nice to see Hifiman trying to squeeze the most out of it.

Packaging​

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The HE-R9 comes in a completely redesigned package, which Hifiman is starting to use with more of their models.
It’s a cardboard box with subtle branding, but it feels nicer than their previous offerings (apart from the Susvara, 1000se, and other high-end models of course). The good news is that you’re getting a headphone stand made of hard foam, that is used as a filler while the headphones are in transit. This is a very nice touch, as we all need headphone stands anyway, so you’ve got one more thing less to worry about.

The stand, even though it’s quite basic, does the job. It’s not tall enough to accommodate the R9 that is fully extended and has the cable plugged in, but it’s just a matter of playing around or adjusting the headband. While not the best, having a headphone stand in the box is a big pro for me, and it’s just brilliant.
Apart from the stand, you’re getting the Bluemini R2R module and a 3.5mm cable. You can use the R9 as both wired and wireless headphones, via Bluetooth, USB-C, or just a classic analog connection. The possibilities are almost endless.

The included cable is that black, soft one included with the latest Hifiman headphones, and I’m a fan of this specific cable. While not looking anywhere near-premium or luxurious, it’s super soft, doesn’t tangle, has no microphonic effect, and is just a joy to use. Ironically, this is the best cable that Hifiman has even included with their headphones in my opinion, as it just does work flawlessly and is hyper-comfortable.

Design, Build and Comfort​

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Let’s get into the design, build, and comfort of the HE-R9. As mentioned at the beginning of this review, the earcups are hugely influenced by the legendary Sony MDR-R10, widely regarded as one of the best headphones ever made.

So, speaking about the design, the R9 is basically a Deva Pro with closed-back, cherry-colored, huge earcups. While I won’t recommend wearing them in public (mainly due to the fact that you’ll look like an aircraft pilot), they do look great. The huge earcups add that layer of refinement to the overall basic design, and it’s just impossible not to draw attention while wearing them.
The build quality is good, not perfect, just like with all Hifiman headphones. The R9 feels substantial and lightweight at the same time, and it feels really solid. The whole construction does not make a single noise, so the R9 will last you a long time.

As far as comfort is regarded, the R9 is just like any other Hifiman headphones, very comfortable. The lightweight construction paired with a very good and soft headband and plush earpads all make for a very pleasant experience, even while wearing the R9 for many hours without break. I don’t have any problems with listening to the R9 for the entire day, and my head and neck don’t have any problems with that, something I cannot say about many other headphones on the market. As I said in many of our reviews, Hifiman first handles the ergonomics, and then they build the headphone around it, and this is THE way to do headphones.
The Bluemni R2R Bluetooth module is pretty lightweight and it plugs into the left earcup, not adding too much weight to the entire construction. It’s easy to use with just a single button and a USB-C connector, so using it is just as simple and pleasant as it gets. It still amazes me how was Hifiman able to squeeze such a great sounding circuit with Bluetooth in such a small unit, this is some next-level wizard action.

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Tech​

There’s certainly a fair amount of tech included in the HE-R9.
First of all, the driver is using a “Topology Diaphragm” technology by Hifiman. Here are a few words about it from the company itself:

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Hifiman has been using the “Topology Diaphragm” in their R-10D as well. It’s interesting to see a company that is focused mainly on planar-magnetic drivers engineering new and exciting technologies in dynamic drivers as well. Dr. Fang Bian is just a mastermind, to say the least.
Next up is the Bluemini R2R module. It’s built around an R2R DAC, which for the size and price of this little guy is just mind-blowing. Hifiman is releasing more and more headphones that can be used with the Bluemini R2R, and it’s just a fantastic way to increase the functionality and value of their products. Actually, they just released the Hifiman EF400 All-In-One (review soon!), which uses R2R technology as well. This is wise: create the technology, and then use it in a wide selection of different products. Spoiler alert about the EF400 – this is a “product of the year 2022” contender to say the least, and it’s only May!
Back to the Bluemini. It charges via USB-C, and the battery lasts up to 8 hours, which is a good score having in mind its impressive topology. It uses Bluetooth 5.0, a Qualcomm QCC5124 chipset and it supports LDAC, aptX HD, AAC, and SBC, with a signal-to-noise ratio of 114dB – this is mental.

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That’s not all though. You can plug the Bluemini into the R9, and use the USB-C cable to connect it to a PC or MAC, and the Bluemini will act as an external DACAmp, powering the R9. In this configuration, you don’t even need to have any DAC or AMP to use the HE-R9 with your computer with zero latency. My MacBook instantly recognizes the Bluemini as an external DAC and it works with no setup.
You can of course use the HE-R9 as a wired pair of headphones as well. The drivers are rated at 32Ω and 100dB, so the R9 is very easy to drive. Just grab any DAC and Amplifier you’ve got and use the R9 as classic, wired headphones – you’ve got that option. I’m mainly pairing the R9 with the newest EF400 and I’m getting shocking results, but more on that later.

Sound​

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When it comes to sound, the HE-R9 is definitely one of the most unique sounding headphones Hifiman has released in years. Their headphones usually sound extremely neutral, ultra-fast, and detailed, being very technical and natural sounding at the same time. The R9 is a big, bold, and warm-sounding headphone that deviates a lot from what Hifiman usually offers.

Let’s start with the bass as usual. The R9 is closed-back and it uses a dynamic driver, hence you should expect a significantly different type of experience than the Edition XS for example. The HE-R9 is a king of fun when it comes to low frequencies, resulting in a vastly different sound signature than I’m used to with the rest of their lineup, which is a great thing, as it makes Hifiman even more competitive in different market sections.
So, while I won’t call the HE-R9 a Jack Of All Trades, it definitely shines the brightest with electronic music, metal, rock, and hip-hop, which rely on a saturated and physical bass delivery. The bass of the R9 is so huge that it actually makes the earcups vibrate quite much when listening to some bass-heavy tracks on a moderately high volume. Don’t think that it’s overblown or it lacks control though, as it would have been far from the truth. The R9 has a great grasp of the low frequencies, delivering an exceptional amount of dynamics and texture, while also reaching quite low. It doesn’t extend as low as the best planars, mainly due to the limitations of the driver’s technology, but other than that, this is a fantastic, saturated, and exceptionally fun to listen to bass delivery.
A good example is the last album of Tool, the Fear Inoculum. There’s a song called “Chocolate Chip Trip” and it’s basically Danny Carey aka Octopus and his insane drum kit. The amount of body that the R9 delivers in this track is just insane, making me bang my head like crazy. These headphones are made to deliver fun, and they certainly deliver on that promise.

The midrange is pretty warm, especially considering that we’re speaking about Hifiman headphones. The entire midrange is smooth and very pleasant to listen to, so it continues that fantastic fun factor that the bass offers, giving you mids that are just a blast when it comes to long listening sessions. Yes, the bass has a tendency to slightly bleed into the lower midrange, but I think that it’s a good thing in this case, giving vocals that added richness and natural warmth. What’s interesting is that I’d call the R9 an overall intense and extreme sounding headphone, but it’s not extreme in any specific area, which might sound ironic, but I don’t know how to explain it differently. This model is targeted toward people that just like to have fun and enjoy their music, especially more dynamic genres. Hifiman already has a lot of headphones that are perfect for everything, highly universal, and superbly technical sounding, so the R9 is a great springboard from the rest of their lineup.
So, every single vocal I throw at the R9 ends up sounding melodic, rich, and natural, with added body. Everything sounds big and bold on the R9, so this is definitely a trademark of this model. This is one of the most romantic-sounding Hifiman headphones I’ve heard to date, somewhat reminding me of the original HE-500. It has that ability to put you right into the music and take you dancing, offering a very rich, smooth, and colorful presentation that is loved by many (me included). If you thought that Hifiman can only do neutral, think again, as the HE-R9 surely proves it’s far from the truth.

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The treble is the most dependent on the synergy. While it will never sound harsh or unpleasant, you can get quite different results depending on the system you’re going to use the R9 with. I will elaborate in the “pairing” paragraph.
So, the overall presentation of the treble is again, smooth and romantic, with good detail and great resolution. It has enough energy to make your electronic or metal tracks sound prominent and very dynamic, yet at the same time, it won’t bother you with unnecessary peaks or sharpness. This is mainly due to the fact, that the treble is smooth and not too forward sounding, so you’re going to have a good time even while listening to poorly mastered albums, which is a plus. You know that metal can sound unforgiving quite often, so I’m happy to report that the R9 handles it with ease. It’s not doing that in exchange for details and resolution though, as these two aspects are up there with the rest of the frequency response when it comes to technical performance. It’s just a different flavor, a more “classic” approach to treble, which has that sweet timbre and great body to the sound. What’s also worth noting, is that the treble extends quite high, not quite the Susvara or 1000se level, but it was never meant to rival these two Goliaths. The most important thing is that you’ll be able to listen to the HE-R9 for a long time, while not sacrificing any of the fine details in the recording, and this is the ultimate trait to have.

The soundstage is just mind-boggling when speaking about closed-back headphones. Just like the R7DX that I reviewed lately, the R9 doesn’t stage like a closed-back whatsoever. The soundstage is very wide, deep, and has great separation between instruments, resulting in perfect imaging and a very convincing 3D effect. I feel like most headphones I’ve reviewed in past few years got to the level where they stage incredibly well, but to see a closed-back doing things like this is impressive, to say the least. If you’re looking for closed-back headphones that stage like an open-back, look no further, the R9 is your guy.

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Comparisons​

I must confess, I haven’t tested a lot of closed-backs lately, mainly to the fact that this kind of headphones has been in retreat for years now. However, because of its immaculate soundstage, I’m going to compare the R9 to open-backs as well.


Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Closed

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The Aeon 2 Closed would definitely win a battle for a longer name, but it’s not what I’m going to do. This is a planar-magnetic, closed-back headphone priced at $899, hence being in a somewhat similar market segment as the HE-R9.
Both headphones share some similarities, but they also differ quite a lot from each other. Both are big and bold in the bass presentation, resulting in a very fun listening experience. The midrange is more romantic and rich in the R9, whereas the Aeon 2 shines in transparency and crispiness. The treble is much more pronounced in the DCA model, not being as natural and rich sounding as the R9. Both models have great soundstage capabilities, but I’d rate the R9 slightly higher, as its soundstage is broader and even so slightly more accurate.
Lastly, while I would take the Aeon 2 for a walk outside, I would not do it with the R9. The Aeon folds, it’s much smaller and won’t draw as much attention, while the R9 will make sure that all eyes are on you. If that’s your cup of tea then sure, go ahead, but it surely is not for everybody.

Hifiman Edition XS

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The battle of two incredible models from Hifiman, and it’s a very interesting one. They are a representation of a “Song of Ice and Fire”, the XS being ice, and R9 being fire (the color of the earcups are actually matching to this description!).

Okay, let’s get to the point. The Edition XS is THE best headphone in the $500 market, period. It’s hiper-detailed, fast, accurate, and neutral, resulting in a headphone that I can easily call a Jack of All Trades. It just does everything great, plays every genre well, and pairs with just about everything.
The HE-R9 however is a different story. It’s much richer, thicker, and bigger sounding with huge dynamics and that intense bass delivery. While it won’t work as great as the XS as the one-and-only pair of headphones you’ll have, this is the ultimate example of a secondary pair to complement your daily, reference one. I can definitely recommend owning both, with the XS handling your everyday stuff with authority and technical excellence, and the R9 for your intense fun times. Yes, the Edition XS is more detailed and its tuning is much more mature and neutral, but I somehow tend to grab the R9 more, mainly due to that fun bass response and romantic vocal presentation. Choose which one is for you, or get both, you can’t go wrong.

Drop + Hifiman HD8XX (unmodded)

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Two dynamic headphones, open-back vs closed-back, with the 8XX being considerably more expensive of the two.

The R9 is yet again, more powerful sounding with a richer body and a more romantic type of presentation. The 8XX has a more detailed treble and even bigger soundstage, but it is to be expected considering the fact that the HD8** lineup is known for its monstrous soundstage scale. However, when we get to the midrange then the R9 is outplaying the 8XX by a lot, offering a much more natural and pleasant timbre with a much better vocal presentation. There’s a mod of the 8XX which is supposed to change its midrange delivery significantly, but when we’re talking stock, its midrange just doesn’t compete with the R9.

Lastly, the 8XX is much more demanding when it comes to pairing. It doesn’t offer Bluetooth functionality and considering it is much harder to drive, you’ll have to spend a lot more to get these puppies run, while the R9 will sound great with just about everything.

Pairings​

Bluemini R2R Bluetooth module

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Let’s address the elephant in the room, how does the HE-R9 sound when it Bluetooth mode? Absolutely spectacular. The Bluemini R2R module sounds like a proper R2R DAC, which results in a rich, smooth, and romantic presentation, just like the R9. Pairing both devices of similar characteristics gives us a sound performance that is just exceptionally pleasant and natural.
Two days after receiving the R9, my girlfriend stole both the R9 and the Bluemini, paired it with her phone, laid down, and was going to listen to some music for an hour. Well, an hour changed into 3 hours of rushing through her entire library to see “how does THIS or THAT sound like”. She was in audio heaven, but she loves big bass, so I was not surprised. She pointed out that the amount of fun and cleanliness of the sound shocked her, especially considering that she was using Bluetooth via LDAC codec. She’s not entirely a newcomer to audio, as she tests everything that I review, including all the crazy flagship-level gear, so let that sink in. This is her favorite product that she ever tried out of everything I reviewed since we live together, so this should give you an idea of how fun it is to listen to.

Hifiman EF400

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The latest All-In-One from Hifiman, A R2R balanced DAC with a powerful headphone amplifier, capable of getting the Susvara crazy loud. My review is in the works, so definitely stay tuned if you’re interested in reading about this little champ.
I got both devices in the same package, so I plugged both in immediately and paired them together. First seconds after an hour or two of warm-up and I was sold. This setup sounds incredibly mellow, rich and bold, while offering incredible dynamics and authority of the sound. The R9 is not a power-hungry headphone, but the EF400 definitely has more than enough juice to power like 20 of those, so it handles that driver like a champ. I already gave you a spoiler that the EF400 is a “Product of the year” contender for me, and when paired with the R9 it made me very happy that I get to listen to such an incredible audio stuff on a daily basis. I’ve got the Susvara, Elite, D8000 Pro, TOTL IEMs, Dacs, Amps, and I still enjoy this sub $1500 system A LOT. Sometimes technicalities are not the most important, and for these moments, the EF400 + R9 is my nr.1 setup for the past few weeks. Ever since getting them, the R9 is my most-used pair of headphones, the EF400 my most used DAC/Amp, and together they’re the most used system that I’ve been using throughout this time. Intoxicating.

EarMen Colibri

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Let’s try something very different now. The EarMen Colibri is a very small DAC/Amp, or a really big dongle, however you want to look at it. Its tuning is rather neutral and analytical, with slightly thin sounding treble and midrange that is not too engaging. The R9 is the opposite, so it should be a good match, right?
And a good match it is indeed. These two complement each other in such a way that the sound you’re getting is just right. No more analytical or slightly thin sound out of the Colibri, now it’s thick, moist and very, very engaging. That’s why I love reviewing audio, as some products are just waiting to be re-discovered. The Colibri is a great device, don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t entirely my cup of tea when it comes to its timbre. Well, now I have found just a perfect companion to pair it with.
Also, the treble out of this combo sounds very different than with the EF400 for example, providing a more forward and crisp sound delivery. As I said in the sound paragraph, treble is highly dependant on what you’re going to pair the R9 with, and this pairing is a good example. However, you won’t find any pairing that makes the R9 sharp or unpleasant, or at least I haven’t.

SMSL DO100 + HO100

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Okay, this one is going to be quick and straight to the point. How does the HE-R9 sound when paired with a dead-neutral budget stack by SMSL? Brilliant.
These little guys are like chameleons, they don’t have a “signature”, so the timbre of your headphones is basically a type of sound you’ll be getting. The SMSL stack makes sure the R9 gets a high quality, clean and powerful signal, and the R9 handles all the fun and subjectively cool stuff. If you want to get the HE-R9 but you wonder if it’ll pair well with a budget stack like this one, the answer is yes, it will.

Summary​

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In case you’re still wondering if I’m not a Hifiman employee, the answer is still NO. Well, I ran Hifiman’s booth at the Munich show for an hour, as the crew went to listen to some cool stuff, but I did it entirely out of my sympathy towards Mark and Tomek.
Okay, jokes aside. It’s not my fault that Hifiman only launches amazing products, so as long as they’ll continue this trend, you’ll be getting highly positive reviews from me. The HE-R9 is a complete product with great value. It’s wired, it’s Bluetooth, it’s wired but digital, it can do it all. The comfort is great, so it’s easy to use the R9 for many hours with no problem, and the sound is exceptionally fun, rich, and romantic, with one of the craziest bass responses I’ve heard in over-ear headphones in my life. The HE-R9 exceeded my expectations by a mile, so it now joins the Edition XS as my recommendation for headphones under $1000. Additionally, if you don’t need Bluetooth, the wired version of the R9 is now going for as low as $369, and this is just absurd.

Wildly Recommended.



Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
  • Headphones – Hifiman Susvara, Final D8000 Pro, Audeze LCD-X 2021, Hifiman HE1000se, Drop + Sennheiser HD8XX, HEDDphone, Hifiman Edition XS
  • Sources– Bluemini R2R, SMSL DO100 + HO100, Yulong Aurora, Hifimane EF400, Burson Playmate 2, EarMen Colibri, EarMen Tradutto, SMSL SH-9, Cayin N3 Pro,
Big thanks to Hifiman for providing the HE-R9 for this review. I wasn’t paid or asked to say anything good or bad about this product, all of the above is just my personal, unbiased opinion. Hifiman hasn’t seen this review before publishing it.

Dobrescu George

Reviewer: AudiophileHeaven
HIFIMAN HE-R9 - Mystery Of Cherry Songs
Pros: + Price / Performance Ratio
+ Light and Comfortable
+ Superb design
+ Scratch resistant
+ Not extremely hard to drive
+ Can be bluetooth
+ Works as a USB DAC
+ Thicc, Warm, Full, Lush
+ Musical
+ Wide Stage
Cons: - Can be a bit too warm and dark at times
HIFIMAN HE-R9 - Mystery Of Cherry Songs

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HIFIMAN HE-R9 is the latest 599 USD headphone from the master Chinese producer, and this time we have a closed back design on our hands, with dynamic drivers, and a bluetooth receiver, that will increase the cost to 749 USD. Given the price point, I will be comparing HE-R9 to other high end headphones, including Dan Clark Aeon Flow RT (500 USD), Sennheiser HD660S (500 USD), Adam Audio Studio PRO SP-5 (550 USD), HIFIMAN Ananda (700) and Beyerdynamic Amiron (599 USD).






Introduction

There's nothing like having an entirely new product line from a manufacturer, and HIFIMAN didn't really make closed back headphones so far, so it will be fun to see them shine or give reason to bully them. HE-R9 is also based on dynamic drivers, where HIFIMAN has been a master of planar magnetic drivers so far, so HE-R9 is a first in many ways for them. This being said, Bluemini is a device we've seen when reviewing Deva PRO, and it seems to have been improving lately. I also have high expectations from HE-R9 because they have a similar design to those seen on some flagships in the past. If HIFIMAN could adapt those designs to new tech, pair them with their Bluemini well, and we might have a winner on our hands. I am also delighted to report that HIFIMAN is still in top 3 companies worldwide when it comes to warranty and fixing problems, offering superb customer service for their customers, regardless of their location, and having multiple HQs to serve local customers.

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with HIFIMAN, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. I'd like to thank HIFIMAN for providing the sample for this review. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it. The purpose of this review is to help those interested in HIFIMAN HE-R9 find their next music companion.



Packaging

First things first, let's get the packaging out of the way:

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The package of HE-R9 is really nice, and similar to that of Deva PRO, and it includes the headphones, the paperwork, a USB Charging cable, and an audio cable to use HE-R9 wired. The package doesn't have many extras, but it has all the basic necessities, for the price being fairly good.



Build Quality/Aesthetics/Fit/Comfort

Starting with the build quality, R9 is made like a tank, with superb build quality, and those deep cherry red earcups. It has the same headband as Edition XS and Deva PRO, which allows for both lateral and planar swivel, giving the R9 superb fit and comfort. The weight of R9 is surprisingly light, and at 328 grams, they are some of the lightest closed back headphones money can purchase. The overall weight is also superbly distributed, making R9 super comfortable, to the point where you really don't feel like taking them off. If you've seen the photos in my review, you know we've placed R9 in many locations headphones aren't usually supposed to be in, so we're in the best position to report that R9 is very scratch resistant. Even after being placed on stone, on metallic and wooden surfaces with sand on them, the headphones have zero signs and scratches, the coating on the earcups being adequate for a headphone that will be placed on tables and other hard surfaces.

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The earcups of R9 provide it with a ton of space, both for music to have space to play into, but also for your ears, and despite the headphones being more compact compared to Arya Stealth, Ananda, or Edition XS, I can say that HE-R9 is just as comfortable as those are for me, my ears having more than enough space enough the earpads. The erpads are also soft, covered in fabric, and provide excellent seal easily, the R9 experience being to take them out of the package and put them on your head, with no fiddling or effort necessary to get a perfect fit. The camping force is medium, at the sweet spot for me for both usage while at the computer, but also while I'm out and about.

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R9 is fairly easy to drive, needing 100 / 150 on Astell & Kern SE180, which is the same as the majority of IEMS. R9 has a rather low impedance of 32 OHMs, but an ok sensitivity of 100dB, which won't be a big issue for most sources with decent driving power. You can use either the 3.5mm cable to drive them from a portable source, or connect the Bluemini module on the left earcup, which adds 25 grams to their weight. Given that they are already in the top 10 lightest headphones ever designed, this is not a big issue.

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Using them wirelessly, the R2R module does its job really well. It seems to have a signature matched for them, although on my Bluemini it is written off as a Deva accessory. It is able to effectively improve their sound with very little effort, making R9 slightly heavier in the bass, more V-Shaped, compared to their wired sound. I noticed that using the R2R Bluemini module as a USB DAC, most of the useful volume is condensed in what windows shows as 0% ro 20%, after which it becomes too loud to be listenable. I also noticed this behavior with Aurender S5W, so it may be a problem on my windows machine, as it works perfectly on Android and on my smartphone.

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Speaking of the Bluemini DAC / AMP, it has superb battery life, of about 8 hours in HIFIMAN's tests, and about 6 in mine, using loud music, LDAC and changing the song a lot. It also has good call quality, along with superb bluetooth range. The DAC inside is HIFIMAN's HIMALAYA R2R DAC, and it uses LDAC as the main codec, with support for aptX-HD, aptX, AAC and SBC, having all grounds covered.

The default cable is the same as the one that comes with most HIFIMAN Headphones, but it tends to be slightly microphonic with HE-R9, both because the headphones are very light and because the cable is somewhat rigid / springy. No other handling noise is audible or present while wearing them, and moving your head, walking or doing any other activities results in no noise, except for the slight microphonic noise. I recommend some aftermarket cables that are soft for the best experience. Since the default cable is 3.5mm single ended only, but most popular music players sound best from their 4.4mm balanced output, I suspect most enthusiastic music lovers will be upgrading the default cable.

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HIFIMAN HE-R9 offers between 10 and 15 decibels of passive noise isolation, depending on the frequency, and they isolate the typing noise of my keyboard rather well, with quiet music playing, the typing noise being completely inaudible. They leak only very little, and although if you blast music at maximum volume, others will hear you, you can listen at very pleasing medium volumes without bothering anyone.

HE-R9 can be said to be perfectly built, really comfortable, and for a closed back headphone, it is the most comfortable one I tested to date. The build quality is superb, reminds me a lot of Deva PRO, and the ear cups are made to be sleek and scratch resistant.



Sound Quality

HIFIMAN He-R9 received about 100 hours of burn-in prior to me writing today's full written review, to keep my review technique fair towards other headphones and products reviewed on audiophile-heaven. They have been used both with their Bluemini R2R bluetooth DAC, and wired, being powered mainly from Lotoo PAW 6000, Astell & Kern SE180, iBasso DX300, Dethonray DTR1+ and Cyrus One Cast. I have used balanced cables for all the DAPs having 4.4mm outputs, and I've used the original cable for DTR1+, and Cyrus One Cast.

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The general signature of HIFIMAN HE-R9 is a really warm-natural, holographic, wide and imposing signature, with a strong lower midrange, sub-bass, and detailed presentation. They sport superb dynamics and impact, and even given the competition that's usually super popular (HD660S and Ananda), HIFIMAN He-R9 can totally stand their ground. This is the first headphone to have a lead in the lower midrange, and the experience is entirely unique, as they have a super strong sub bass as well, and the initial impression I had in my video review, that they can vibrate on your head, remains. The presentation can be quite relaxed and forgiving, with a smoother treble that hides defects from bad masters, making R9 a good companion for metalheads and those who have more trashy tastes such as yours truly.

Using He-R9 with the Blue Mini DAC seems to have a lower dynamic range, you can hear the LDAC compression algorithm, as they are super detailed, and they become warmer, thicker, more V-Shaped and more aggressive, while driven from a wired source, the sound becomes super detailed and clean. This being said, Blue Mini drives them with much better authority, control and impact than any portable DAC/AMP or Bluetooth receiver like FiiO BTR5.

The bass of the HIFIMAN He-R9 is super deep, controlled and reaches the magical 20 Hz easily. Most of the energy in the bass is in the 40-65Hz range, and the bass is quite clean, given the raw quantity it has. The total bass is uplifted, along with the lower treble, which makes the sound warm and slightly dark. R9 has a natural speed for their bass, and can keep up with super aggressive dubstep songs, but will have that magical long note decay for Jazz and Cabaret music. Songs like Vini Vici - Namaste sound punchy, deep, and have a superb impact. R9 has very low distortions, even at super high volumes, being able to play music with a lot of bass really well, and controlled. The song also has surprising instrument separation, layering and a holographic presentation.

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We have a clean, natural midrange with a wide and holographic presentation. There's a good amount of space between instruments, and although voices are usually pushed slightly more forward, music never becomes vague or dispersed through R9. The midrange of R9 tends to be better at medium and lower volumes, where the music tends to expand naturally inside the cups, and it creates a really holographic presentation. The sound gets more forward and aggressive at higher volumes. There's a really nice amount of detail and resolution, to the point where background instruments are really easy to discern, even easier than they are on Ananda and most open back headphones. R9 seems to be perfect for keeping all of the information available in a song there, and for presenting it to the listener. The ear cup design also helps greatly with the timing of the music; the shape gives music a really natural decay, a faster driver combined with the acoustics to create decay for it, resulting in a really natural and pleasing listening experience. The midrange has some coloration from the lower midrange emphasis and this is audible with most music. To get a more natural sound from R9, you need to push them towards the back of your head, and have your ear align with the shallower part of the earcup.

The shape and acoustic design of R9 follows the objective of trying to present an open back headphone, but from a closed back one, and manages to do this much better than any other attempt I heard personally. If you're looking for dynamics, R9 is super dynamic, but when used wired, the source helps a lot with this as well. It has super good instrument separation and layering, R9 being in line with most headphones priced around the same point, like Dan Clark Aeon Flow, and beating Sennheiser HD660S in both separation, layering and also soundstage size.

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The treble of R9 follows a natural presentation and generally doesn't impose, having a smoother presentation and lower presence than the bass. This means that most music will be non-fatiguing and you won't ever feel like taking R9 off your head because they became tiresome. This happens to the point where you can quite literally blast songs like Infant Annihilator - Decapitation Fornication, and you will get more impact in the lower bass, from the drums, than you get from the cymbals and the treble. R9 is surely forgiving and won't highlight defects in recordings, even old and bright recordings sounding euphonic, smooth and pleasing through them. There is a good amount of treble present in music, but it is presented in such a way that all the peaks that normally come through as fatiguing are flattened, and although you can hear the cymbals and air in music, you never feel struggling with it. Even songs that are normally extremely fatiguing like Caligvla - I, Caligvla, have most of the impact in the drums and the voices, with much less emphasis on the cymbals that are typically rather fatiguing and brightly mastered in the song.

All in all, He-R9 is a fairly enjoyable headphone, with a smoother top end, a strong bottom end, and a wide, holographic midrange. They present music with every bit of detail it has, and have a longer note decay, all leading to a fairly euphonic presentation that has an emphasis on the lower midrange, complimenting male voices, Dubstep, EDM, Rock, Metal, Deathcore, and impact in general. Songs that play unexpectedly well on R9 are Igorrr - Probleme d'emotion, the soprano voice being quite emotionally presented, but the highlight of the song being the thick bass note intertwined with the crystalline piano that gives this song a really deep and dark groove. Songs and albums that are mastered louder play really well on R9, which has enough control for them, so pick your favorite Atilla song and you'll be rocking. The headphones sound pretty much like most Space Rock songs, groovy, deep, impactful but musical and fluid.



Comparisons

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HIFIMAN He-R9 versus Beyerdynamic Amiron (599 USD vs 599 USD) - Amiron is a good start, especially as it has exactly the same price as He-R9. The overall comfort feels similar between them, Amiron having slightly harder but more dense earpads. The lateral swivel and fitting is better on HE-R9, and they are much easier to drive, being better for portable usage, and isolate better from the outside noise. The clamping force is similar between them, and both feel rather light, with R9 feeling slightly lighter than Amiron. The overall sonic presentation is much hotter on Amiron, which has an upper midrange / lower treble peak that can make it pretty fatiguing at times, while R9 has a more natural sound in the treble, smoother and with less harshness / sibilance, but also much more treble presence, more bass impact, and more bass quantity, playing bass guitars with much more life and energy, power and impact. R9 is better for most music styles, where Amiron can be fatiguing. If you listen really quiet, Amiron has a thinner presentation, where R9 is warmer, more euphonic and more musical, while if you listen really loud, R9 is more impactful, where Amiron can be pretty fatiguing and harsh.

HIFIMAN He-R9 versus Dan Calrk Aeon Flow RT (599 USD vs 500 USD) - We have two very different headphones here, Aeon Flow RT having a stronger clamping force than R9. The comfort is great on both sides, because both have good, soft earpads, and ergonomic shapes for their earpads. Both have good sealing and easy fitting. The drive factor is much harder on Flow RT, which is much much harder to drive, and needs a strong dedicated source, has proprietary cables and will be more complicated to use in the long run. The sonic presentation is strongly U-Shaped on Aeon Flow RT, which has a thinner tuning, a brighter tuning, with far more treble energy, and lower body, despite the high sub bass quantity. HE-R9 sounds more lush, warmer, has a wider sounding midrange, with more impact in the whole bass, and more emphasis in the lower midrange and the bass. The background instruments are played louder on R9, which presents more information in the background, despite both headphones having good layering and instrument separation. If you want a more analytical headphone with a brighter sound, you should go for Aeon Flow RT, while if you prefer a warmer sound, with more bass and more lows, I would say to go for R9.

HIFIMAN He-R9 versus HIFIMAN Ananda (599 USD vs 700 USD) - Ananda is open back, and you probably noticed that most competitors are open back, because HE-R9 goes for a very open presentation that should appeal to those looking for a really holographic sound. The detail levels are comparable between Ananda and HE-R9, although the way they present details is really different. The larger earpads of Ananda are slightly more comfortable than HE-R9, but the lateral swivel and adjusting mechanism is better on R9. The sonic is more natural in the midrange on Ananda, as it compliments both male and female voices more equally, and it has a more even overall tonality. R9 sounds stronger in the lower midrange, which gives all music a certain warmth and slight darkness, R9 has a ton of soundstage, and at times you can hear certain background instruments and effects louder on R9 than you do on Ananda, but the treble is far better on Ananda, and especially as I'm one who hears cymbals and air as soundstage, I get a more realistic stage from Ananda, where R9 sounds wide in the bass and midrange, but has a really relaxed and smooth treble. The bass is much stronger and more impactful on HE-R9, and it has more substance and raw energy.

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HIFIMAN He-R9 versus Sennheiser HD660S (599 USD vs 500 USD) - You'd be surprised to hear me saying this, but HE-R9 has a much better comfort compared to HD660S. The default cable is better on Hd660S, and it is slightly less microphonic, but the earpads are much softer on R9, the headband does a better job at distributing their weight, and they feel lighter than Hd660S while being worn. The sonics are more dynamic, more fluid and more impactful in the bass on R9. HD660S is brighter, sounds narrower, and has a more focused sound. The overall tonal balance is more natural on Hd660S, where R9 has a stronger lower midrange emphasis which colors the entire sound somewhat. When comparing them, the treble of the HD660S is more present and although more harsh, gives many songs more sparkle and more information in the highs, whereas the bass of R9 and larger stage tends to make music more enjoyable.

HIFIMAN He-R9 versus Adam Audio Studio PRO SP-5 (599 USD vs 550 USD) - The difference in comfort is huge here, with the R9 having a much larger earpad, much softer earpads, and much lower clamping force, and being also lighter. The overall comfort of R9 is much better than SP-5, and the build quality also feels a bit better, with higher quality to the plastics, and higher quality earpads. The overall sonic presentation is extremely different as well, R9 is groovy, dark-ish, impactful, and has a bold presentation, where SP-5 is extremely bright, with a U-shaped sound that has a strong treble, tons of energy up top, and much less energy in the bass. The overall dynamics are higher on R9, which has much more control, SP-5 sounding rather dynamically compressed in comparison. If you want a bright, strongly U-Shaped headphone, PRO SP-5 is still relevant, but if you want a more impactful, more dynamic, more comfortable experience, with a stronger lower midrange / bass emphasis and a more holographic presentation, R9 should be your answer.



Value and Conclusion

We have superb price / performance for HE-R9, and they are able to stand their ground even against most open-back, planar competitors. In fact, the overall value and price / performance ratio for R9 is so good that it deserves a place in Audiophile-Heaven's Hall Of Fame, as one of the best closed back headphones ever designed as far as comfort, sound and overall build quality goes.

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The overall comfort and build quality are superb, and when HIFIMAN decides to make a closed back headphone, they can make it wide sounding, with super good instrument separation and detailing, using the closed back design to control the amount of detail you hear, rather than closing off the sound of their typical drivers. They deserve mad respect for being able to pull it off without clamping your head with a vise, as it typically happens with closed back cans.

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At the end of the day, if you're looking for a super comfortable, wide sounding, clean and impactful headphone, with a ton of detail, resolution and which can be driven from most reasonable portable music players, HIFIMAN HE-R9 should be perfect for you, and comes at a really friendly price point, with excellent support from the company, and is currently available with and without the Bluemini DAC/AMP, so you can get the best package for your needs.
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