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HIFIMAN HE6se

Rating:
4/5,
  1. ufospls2
    Hifiman HE6se, A Classic Refreshed!
    Written by ufospls2
    Published Feb 21, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Great sound
    Can be found used for great price
    Slams hard!
    Cons - Super hard to power
    Build quality relative to other models
    Weight
    Hi All,

    I have also published this review on my website, which I have linked below.

    www.headphonesnstuff.blog

    Thanks for checking it out if you get the chance!

    Today we are talking about a very interesting piece of gear. The Hifiman HE6se!

    [​IMG]
    Paired with my favourite DAC, the Chord DAVE!


    This is Hifimans refreshed take on their venerable old classic headphone, the HE6. The HE6 was an incredible sounding headphone, riddled with flaws, but incredible sounding nonetheless. The original HE6 was incredibly hard to drive, needed modding to bring out their true potential, and lacked severely in terms of build quality. Hifiman has improved on the build quality with the HE6se, but they do remain incredibly hard to drive, and supposedly do need modding to reach their full potential. With that being said, I did not modify my pair whatsoever for this review. I don’t think it is fair to review the HE6se modified, as everyones modifications will sound a bit different. Going forward, everything I say about the HE6se is referring to a completely stock, unmodified pair. Right, with that out the way…

    The build quality of the HE6se has been improved significantly. They sport the latest style of Hifiman headband, the same used on the Sundara. Whilst this headband doesn’t have gimbals to allow the ear cups to rotate and fit to your head, they do bend enough for the vast majority of users to obtain a comfortable fit. Some will struggle to, so as with every headphone, best to try before you buy! The headband is an improvement over the original Hifiman headband, and due to the suspension mechanism, is much more comfortable. The next change that Hifiman has brought to the HE6se vs. The original is the inclusion of 3.5mm connectors instead of the original SMC screw on type. The SMC connectors were notorious for signal drop outs, and were just fiddly in general. Although there are a pair of Velour ear pads included with the HE6se, they come out the box with a pair of Hifimans “Pali Pads” installed. These are the same pads that come with the Sundara. I really enjoyed these pads in terms of comfort and breathability. They also sound better than the velour pads, to my ears. You may differ, so if you purchase a pair of these headphones, give both a try. The headphones are very comfortable, but are a bit on the heavy side. The weight is well distributed, but the Susvara is definitely a more comfortable headphone than the HE6se.

    [​IMG]
    Whats in the box!!!???


    The other piece of kit that is included with HE6se is the Hifiman HE-Adapter. This little piece of gear, shown below, is designed to allow you to run the HE6se from a speaker amplifier. This shows that even the manufacturer understands that these headphones are epically hard to drive. They are perhaps a smidgen easier to drive than the original HE6, but they remain the hardest to drive headphones I have ever tried. There are other harder to drive headphones out there, but they are very rare. If you don’t supply the HE6se with ample power, you will notice the bass become weaker, and flabby sounding. The highs will be brittle and overbearing. If you supply them with lots of power, these issues fade away. The treble can still be a little bit overbearing, but the HE6se is a fairly bright headphone, and you would need to get into serious hardware modifications to change that. Many people report that the HE Adapter from Hifiman degrades sound quality, due to adding the resistors and other things into the signal path. I decided, due to these reports, that I would try driving the HE6se directly from the speaker taps of the amplifier I was using. As long as your speaker amplifier is solid state, this is completely safe to do, you just have to be careful with the volume control! You can buy adapters to do this fairly easily, from any custom cable maker, or on eBay.

    [​IMG]
    The HE Adapter

    [​IMG]
    Functional, and simple packaging.


    So with all that being said, lets get into the sound of the HE6se

    These sound absolutely great.

    Bass

    The bass is punchy and slams hard. Not as hard as the Abyss AB-1266, but closer than anything else I have personally heard, including the Susvara. It is similar to the Susvara in terms of quantity - not too much, but far from too little. I really enjoy the HE6se’s bass. It works especially well with electronica, and music with a lot of information in the bass line. It is not a “one note” bass experience, and is superbly dynamic.

    Mids

    The mid range on the HE6se is a bit less present than the Susvara, and reminds me more of the Abyss AB-1266 in terms of mids, rather than the Audeze LCD-2 or similar. I wouldn’t call the mid range lush, or romantic. It certainly isn’t overbearing in terms of quantity. The lower mids are a bit pulled back, and the upper mids are a bit more present to my ears. I wouldn’t say these are a V shaped sounding headphone, but they are closer to that than a headphone with a lot of mid range presence.

    Treble

    Bright. There is no way to get around this without getting into special hardware modifications. There is a lot of treble in terms of quantity. However, it doesn’t have any hardcore spikes that drill into your ears. I noticed a bit sibilance at times with female vocals, but apart from that it was alright. The treble doesn’t have the detail levels of the Susvara, but for the price these headphones are available at, it is impressive.

    [​IMG]
    Looks great!

    Overall the HE6se is an exceptionally pleasing headphone to listen to. If you enjoy the music I tend to listen to, electronica, jazz, metal, and rock, these headphones make and argument for being the best choice I have heard for the price. I definitely prefer the HE6se to the Audeze LCD-3 I used to own, and they cost less! I just had a look at the used market, and these seem to be going for just over $1000USD. If you are in the market for a pair of headphones in that price range, please give these consideration. Yes, there are cons. They are hard to drive (very hard actually) and can be a bit bright. Apart from that, they are just a superb headphone.

    Comparisons

    [​IMG]
    The Hifiman Sundara

    Hifiman Sundara:
    The Hifiman Sundara is currently available for $350USD, on sale from Hifiman directly. Again, these make an argument for being the best I have heard for the price. However, they don’t have the detail retrieval, dynamics capability, and enveloping sound that the HE6se possess. If you happen to be a Sundara owner, and are thinking to yourself “I’d sure like to upgrade, but not spend Susvara levels of money” then you should definitely consider the HE6se. It is like a Sundara on steroids. The bass on the Sundara is a bit of a one note experience, but there is none of that with the HE6se.

    [​IMG]
    The Hifiman Susvara


    Hifiman Susvara:
    The Susvara does improve on the HE6se in terms of treble response, detail retrieval, and smoothness. However, the HE6se does slam harder. The HE6se is the brighter headphone of the two, and has a much more forward nature. The fact I can recommend the HE6se as an alternative to the $6000USD Susvara speaks volumes to how capable it is, especially for the price. If you like a very forward sound signature, that is bright, go for the HE6se. If you can’t afford the Susvara, consider the HE6se.

    Conclusion

    All in all, the HE6se has a few flaws. It is overly hard to drive, and requires careful consideration with regards to choosing source equipment. It is a bit bright at times, and does display some sibilance, especially with female vocals. It does however improve on the original in terms of materials and build quality, and it provides the best sound for your money that I have heard yet. It looks great, sound great, and is a real “all or nothing” headphone. If you can get your ears on a pair of HE6se, don’t miss your chance. I think that if people consider that a decent speaker amp for driving the HE6se can be had for much cheaper than many underpowered headphone amps, and can get over that mental hurdle, the HE6se quickly becomes one of the best “bargain” options on the market.

    HE6se? =Lots of sound for your money. Highly recommended listen!
      Monsterzero, thecrow, xtr4 and 6 others like this.
  2. Army-Firedawg
    A speaker disguised as a headphone
    Written by Army-Firedawg
    Published Apr 17, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Fantastic imaging & transparency, strong bass, comfortable, detachable cable
    Cons - Upper-mid dip followed by lower-treble spike can make listening at times rather rough, no side-side adjustments, requires a ton of power to bring out best performance.
    To start off with a disclaim, I have never been able to hold or see in person the original HE-6 so I am unable to provide any comparisons to the original and updated version both in terms of construction and sound.



    It’s not often that you come across a headphone that openly advertises how absurdly difficult it is to drive. Traditionally, headphones strive to me easier and easier to power, and in some cases, can be driven quite efficiently through a cellular device. But that is certainly not the case with the Hifiman HE-6 and it’s newest revision, the HE-6se which is what I’ll be talking about today. This speaker wearing, headphone disguise only has 50 ohm’s of resistance but this headphone is a perfect example as to why only looking at that number is a bad thing. The HE-6se’s sensitivity is only 83dB and Hifiman themselves even state “The HE6se is hungry for power, so it’s important to pair it with an amplifier that feeds it substantial output, 2 watts per channel or more.”

    God certainly smiles fortune on me because I was lucky enough to fall first in the tour which happened at the same time as our local Carolina CanFest 7 audio meet in which Schiit was kind enough to send me their Ragnarok/Yggdrasil and Mjolnir 2/Gungnir MB to showcase, so I was able to provide the HE-6se with all the fuel it desired. So after 2 weeks and over easily 40+ hours of listening, I’d like to finally share my thoughts and impressions on this legendary headphone’s successor.


    A little about me

    I would like to say that first and foremost I am NOT an “audiophile” but rather an audio enthusiast. I listen to music to enjoy it. Do I prefer a lossless source? Yes, of course. But I can still be very happy streaming from Pandora or even my YouTube “My Mix” playlist. I also prefer equipment that sounds the best to me personally regardless of what frequency response it has or rather or not it's “sonically accurate” and I always have and shall continue to encourage others to do the same.

    I'm a firefighter for both the civilian and military sector and the cliché of wanting to do this since I was born couldn't be more present with me. I've worked hard over the last several years to earn this position and now it's time for me to work even harder to keep it.

    I enjoy fishing and relaxing to audio products and then reviewing them to help other decide on what products would work for them. Few things make me as an audio enthusiast/review feel more accomplished than when someone tells me that I helped them find the type of sound they've always been looking for.

    Now, the sound signature I personally favor is a relaxing, warm and sensual sound that just drifts me away in the emotional experience of the music being performed. Yes, accuracy is still important but I will happily sacrifice some of that if I'm presented with a clean, warm sound that can wisp me away into an experience that makes me yearn for more.

    My ideal signature are that of respectably forward mids and upper bass range with the bass being controlled but with some slight decay. I like my treble to have nice extension and detail reveal with a smooth roll off up top as to not become harsh in the least. Examples of products that have given me chills and keep giving me the yearning for more feels are the (in no particular order) Bowers & Wilkins P7, Oppo PM-1/2, Empire Ears Hermes VI & Zeus XIV, Audeze LCD-XC, Meze Headphones 99 Classics.

    Equipment used at least some point during the review

    -Amp.(s)
    -Schiit
    -Ragnarok
    -Mjolnir 2
    -Various other amps and setups at the audio meet

    -D.A.C.(s)
    -Schiit
    -Yggdrasil
    -Mjolnir MB

    -Sources
    -LG V20/HP Pavilion
    -Playing Pandora, YouTube, and various format personal music

    Disclaimer

    I am by no means sponsored by this company or any of its affiliates. They were kind enough to send me a product for an arranged amount of time in exchange for my honest opinion. I am making no monetary compensation for this review.

    The following is my take on the product being reviewed. It is to be taken “with a grain of salt” per say and as I always tell people, it is YOUR opinion that matters. So regardless of my take or view on said product, I highly recommend you listen to it yourself and gauge your own opinion.



    The Opening Experience


    Why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience

    Please allow me to explain why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience with a product. Maybe it’s due to my southern roots in the hills of eastern Kentucky, but I’ve always been raised under the pretense of when you introduce yourself to someone for the first time you present yourself with confidence, class, character, pride, and competence. You greet the other person with a true warm smile, eye contact and a firm handshake. Anything less or short implies to other person that you either don’t care about them, are too full of yourself, too busy to be bothered by the likes of them, or worse, just generally disrespectful.

    As a consumer, I take this same belief to when I open a new product. Why? Because think about it this way. How else can a company introduce themselves to their customers? How do they present their products? Are they packaged with pride and presented in such a way that makes the listener eager to listen to them? Or maybe they’re just wrapped up and placed in an available space. How about the box itself? Is it bogged down with jargon that says look at this, look what I can do. I’m better than anything on the market and here’s why read this and check out that. Or, is the package clean, simplistic and classy? As if saying to the customer ‘Good day, pleasure to meet your acquaintance. Please give me a listen and allow me to show you what I can do and allow my actions to speak louder than my words.’

    This is why I feel so strongly about the initial presentation of a product, and I feel it’s truly a shame more people don’t. But with all that aside, let’s discuss how this products introduced itself shall we?



    20190413_132617.jpg 20190413_132641.jpg 20190413_132702.jpg 20190413_132720.jpg 20190413_132729.jpg

    Hifiman, from my experience with their products, has always taken care to ensure that the owners of their products are made aware that they’ve just purchased a premium product and the HE-6se is of no exception. Hifiman presents you with a beautifully simplified cardboard showcase that, on the front, only shows an outline of the headphone as its centerpiece, the company name and logo, and the product name. As you rotate to the back, Hifiman continues this with only showcasing the base specifications that the HE-6se has so the user can understand what’s required for it to perform it’s best.

    As you slip off the cardboard slip you’re presented with a very luxurious faux leather box that opens up on a hinge with only the product and company name printed on the front in a soft, cloth like, material. Upon opening the lid, you’re greeted with that very distinct new leather headphone smell and the warranty and instruction manual laid on top of a foam protector (on a side, THIS is what I love seeing. Let the product speak for itself, if a box is bogged down with “lookatme’s”, to me, that says that the company needs to boast instead of letting its actions [sonic performance] speak for itself. So very well done putting everything inside a pamphlet that I can inspect if I so choose.) and then under that is the HE6-se comfortably placed inside a form fitting, silk covered, cut out. In the middle of the HE-6se is where Hifiman placed the medium length, balanced, cable and a balanced-¼” jack adaptor.

    A great many of people truthfully couldn’t care less about how a product is packaged and presented to them; so long as the headphone sounds great, it’s all good. But I for one appreciate it when a company takes the time and effort to put some pride in their appearance, and IMO, Hifiman is dressed to impress.


    Construction

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    The build quality of the Hifiman HE-6se is certainly something to be impressed with. They definitely took the effort to source premium materials throughout it’s build and it not only looks the part of an $1,800 headphone but it feels it as well. The frame/headband of the HE-6se is an aluminum or metal material and is very lightweight while providing, IMO, a goldilox level of clamping force. The adjustments for size I will say is VERY stiff. I’ll leave that as a neutral opinion because if you’re the only one using the headphone then once you find the adjustment that works for you I doubt you’ll want it moving any more, which it will NOT, but on the other hand you’re gonna need to give it a, surprising, amount of force to start adjusting it.

    Moving down, the open back cans themselves are made of what I believe to be a very premium plastic material and the cups are a hybrid between leather and cloth, which is a personal favorite of mine, and a 3.5mm termination on each cup. The cable itself is an interesting tubular style that I’m personally indifferent about (but personally prefer a cloth shielded look).

    As I conclude this section I want to take a specific look at the framework and cups lack of side-side adjustment. Though, to my honest surprise, this didn’t affect comfort, it did make it impossible to get a complete seal on the pads, there was always a small cap right at the front of each ear. Though the overall construction of the HE-6se I believe to be very top notch, and each user's experience may very, but I do wish I was able to have it touch my entire ear, so a side-side adjustment would’ve been an appreciated addition.


    Comfort

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    As I said above in the construction section, I was quite surprised to find that the lack of side-side adjustment for the cans didn’t affect the comfort of the HE-6se’s whatsoever. I believe the longest session I had with these headphones was a little over 6 hours, with an average of 3-4 at a time, and not once did I ever need to readjust these at all. Not once did my ears become fatigued. Not once did my head become uncomfortable. Despite the size of these, the HE-6se, from my experience, kinda just disappears on your head when you’re really listening to and enjoying your music.

    The hybrid leather/cloth pads provide a super nice experience that keeps the pads firm yet just enough give while allowing them to breath. The leather head strap, even though it doesn’t have any padding, never bothered my, fairly short, hair. Heck, even my big ole ears can fit nicely inside the pads without any issue and during the CanFest 7 meet, I didn’t hear anyone complain about the comfort either.

    So to conclude, I find that Hifiman did a great job at the design of their new HE-6se headphone in terms of comfort. Though I still wish there was some side-side adjustment available, for the vast majority, these are super comfortable without any crippling complaints.


    Sound

    Before I start this section. It should go without saying but though I link YouTube videos when I’m giving examples, this is for convenience only. If applicable, I HIGHLY encourage you to listen to the music I’m referencing on as high a quality as possible to experience the fullest sound possible.


    [​IMG]
    *Graph credit: Butterworth B. (2019), HiFiMan HE6se Headphones, soundstagenetwork.com*


    From an objective standpoint, the Hifiman HE-6se is definitely a headphone that I can see why so many people rave so much about it. WHEN PROPERLY POWERED the level of detail, imaging, soundstage positioning, dynamics, and impact is amazing. Nandemonaiya (Kimi No Na Wa/Your Name) by RADWIMPS and the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, shows transparency and explicit imaging and background detail that I’ve rarely heard on other headphones (sadly, I’ve only found this version on YouTube for you Tidal, etc… users). If there’s one takeaway I want to emphasize with the HE-6se to you is that the transparency and imaging of these will all but force you to close your eyes and experience whatever you’re listening to as if you’re there personally. The control and impact the HE-6se possesses over its bass make these terrific to listen to metal and hard rock tracks but also large orchestral music as well, Sanctuary - Anime Mix AMV does a fine job at showcasing the HE-6se’s ability to control rapid change in dynamics while never losing the slight subtle details present in a track. I know it’s not orchestral but you get the idea.

    With all the above being said, I must say that the HE-6se does have a weakness that, at least for me, made me not too impressed with them for my personal tastes in music, and it’s the reason I attached a frequency graph at the top (which is something I rarely do). The HE-6se had a steep and notable dip in the upper mid range then an immediate spike in the lower treble. When I listen to these, especially with female artists such as Utada Hikaru and Adele, the vocals sound very distant from the rest of the track and then if the vocals are paired with highed toned instruments or beats then that leaves for a rough sounding transition that quite often catches you off guard. But allow me to talk about the individual aspects of the sound so that hopefully I can better describe what I’m referencing.


    Treble


    Believe it or not, many of Five Finger Death Punch’s music showcases the upper mid dip into lower treble spike I was referencing above quite well take “My Nemesis” for example. I know this is counterintuitive for what I just said about the HE-6se being wonderful for metal and hard rock music but with this band in particular, they just don’t mesh well. Listen to the powerful music video When the Seasons Change and I think you’ll get what I mean. It’s just not a smooth transition for the instruments. Also, Believer- RMX by Imagine Dragons/ PSY-TRANCE is another great example of this.

    Now, when you’re actually into the mid-treble and higher, the HE-6se sound so darned beautiful and detailed. The piece A Moon Filled Sky by Tenmon, as I’m sure those of you who keep up with my reviews know, is one of my all time favorite treble pieces because it is just so emotional to listen to (and watching the anime sure doesn’t help). The violin especially is a key instrument I pay attention to because it, like the cello, has a special resonance to it that really puts my hair on end and when listening through the HE-6se, every fibre was at full attention. There’s a certain sparkle when listening to this headphone that is really something to experience. There’s no sharpness (again from the mid-highs up) and no painful peak. Though Hifiman claims the HE-6se can extend to 65kHz, there is absolutely no harshness, just complete mastery and pieces like Elements by Lindsey Stirling or “Until The Last Moment” by Yanni was so completely filled with energy and and excitement that I was mesmerized.

    Despite having a lower treble sharpness (made worse by coming off an upper mid dip) the Hifiman HE-6se bestows some of the most beautiful and detail filled treble of any headphone I’ve heard.




    Mids


    The area that I pay the closest attention to. The mids are where the singers emotions are portrayed and we as a listener get a glimpse into what the song/piece is about. If you’ve any doubt, listen to the song by the late Chris Jones “Roadhouses and Automobiles” or “No Sanctuary Here.” Both tracks you can very easily and almost physically feel Jones’ breath on your skin as he sings. This level of body in the music is extremely rare, even rivaling my beloved Oppo PM-1’s, and really gives “texture” to the music, brings it alive. So long as you’re listening to the mid-mids and lower, the HE-6se is one amazing experience to behold. It tethers on that line between being a musical headphone and an analytical one. Now, as I’ve said above, the HE-6se is an unprecedented experience so long as you’re listening from the mid-mids and lower. If you listen to primarily female vocals, I fear you may not get the full enjoyment of the HE-6se because there’s a very notable dip in the upper mid range. Listen to Sanctuary (Opening) by Utada Hikaru is a great song to showcase what I’m talking about when I mention the upper mid dip. Utada is one of my personal favorite female artists but through the HE-6se the magic of her voice can’t be showcased like I know it can. Another great example of this is Love In The Dark by Adele.

    To sum my thoughts on the Hifiman HE-6se’s mid range. There’s so much body that, so long as you’re listening to music in the mid-mid and lower range, you can almost physically feel the artists breath. The headphones just disappear into your music and all you’re left with is an experience. However, if you listen to female vocals or music that plays around a lot in the upper-mid and into the lower-treble, think you’ll find the HE-6se’s rather unimpressive.



    Bass


    Though I wouldn’t recommend the HE-6se to bass heads, they most certainly have a level of bass quality that is hard to match. There’s a very impressive level of speed and control with almost no decay and the track “Oracle” by Timmy Trumpet, is not only SUPER fun to listen to but shows the levels of speed and depth that the HE-6se has. For those of you metal heads the song “Jekyll and Hyde” by Five Finger Death Punch (FFDP I know what I said earlier but you’ve a few songs that work with this headphone [and I really love their work]). I can list several more EDM, trap etc… music but the bottom line is that the HE-6se has both quality and depth in the bass that not once, regardless of the music I was listening to or the mood I was in, did I wish for deeper bass. No, I’m no bass head and actually get turned off by bass that’s too deep but I’m quite confident that the vast majority of listeners will be quite satisfied with the rumblies that the HE-6se provides.




    Conclusion

    20190413_133508.jpg


    My final thoughts on the Hifiman HE-6se is that it’s, overall, an outstanding headphone that is one impressive experience. You MUST be aware that you NEED to have a LOT of power to bring out my results I’ve experienced because the difference in sub 2-3W amps is quite substantial, so please be aware of this if you intend to buy one please ensure you’ve the correct power. Additionally, even if you do have the power, the large dip in the upper mids followed by a steep spike in the lower treble can really catch you off guard and make certain tracks quite enjoyable and rough sounding. But, other than those 2 setbacks, the Hifiman HE-6se is a headphone that gives the listener an experience that justifies its legendary status for all these years and likely many more years to come.






    Also, make sure to check out my unboxing and review videos. They’re pretty awesome AND you getta put a face to the Army-Firedawg name. If this review helped you out at all please hit that thumbs up button for it really helps me out a lot. Till next time my friends, stay safe.

    images

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    3. he6 graph.png
    4. headband.jpg
      Wildcatsare1, iano, volly and 2 others like this.
    1. Mad Lust Envy
      Fantastic review from a fantastic guy. I've always to try one of the hard to drive planars. Well, I mean, I did have the HE-4 which was the baby HE-6 back in the early days and was hard to drive but not on this level. I would've loved to compare with the flagship back then.
      Mad Lust Envy, Apr 17, 2019
      Army-Firedawg and volly like this.
  3. betula
    HiFiMan HE6SE - Who is it for in 2019?
    Written by betula
    Published May 5, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - good, solid sound quality
    Cons - on 2019's headphone market $1000-1200 would reflect their value better
    needs a powerful amplifier
    not the best build for the money
    HiFiMan have decided to send a good number of their headphones on a global review tour. I am lucky enough to have the HE6SE with me for two weeks in exchange of my honest opinion. I really appreciate when a manufacturer takes the risk and asks for opinions by sending out their products for free. In the long term this is beneficial for everyone, even if not all the reviews are purely positive. Thank you for this opportunity HiFiMan!

    The original HE6 was launched in 2010 and it was quite a big hit back then. The last nine years however the headphone market has exploded and the competition has never been tougher. Each year we can spend our money on better sounding headphones delivering the same performance at more affordable prices.

    IMG_20190505_114519343.jpg

    The HE6SE (second edition) has the exact same transducers as the original HE6, but some things like the headband have changed. The HE6SE retails for $1799.
    Just a few other prices to compare: Focal Clear $1499, Sennheiser HD800S $1699, Audeze LCD2 $995 HiFiMan Arya $1599.

    I was very much looking forward to hearing the HE6SE, it is quite a legend after all. We all know how hard it is to drive them, even the manufacturer does not make a secret of it.

    IMG_20190505_113513509.jpg

    I run them out of my Auralic Taurus MKII amplifier which has an output power of 4.5Watts on 120 ohms in balanced mode. HiFiMan officially suggests 2-6W for the HE6SE, emphasizing how much synergy matters. They also claim: the more power the better, mentioning their own amp they made for the Susvara with an output power of 20W. When I sent a doubtful message to HiFiMan whether my Taurus is enough for the HE6SE, they said it should do a ‘decent job’. Therefore I am judging these cans doing a decent job, but it doesn’t mean they can’t scale any higher. They probably can, however I am sure I got a good enough taste of them to decide whether I would want to buy them or not.

    A bit of myself:

    I am definitely a planar guy, I need that well-extended, clean, clear and impactful bass only planars can offer. I listen to a lot of electronica and ambient but I am looking for an all-rounder headphone to cover other genres too. In this review I will mostly compare the HE6SE to the Audeze LCD2C and the HiFiMan Edition X V2.

    Presentation, build quality:

    IMG_20190505_113858077.jpg

    The HE6SE comes in the exact same box as HiFiMan’s other headphones between $500-2000. It is a nice box but nothing exceptional.

    HifiMan has become somewhat infamous about build-quality issues but I know they are listening and make extra effort to fix these problems. I can confirm, they are definitely on the right track but also not quite there yet, at least not with the HE6SE.

    IMG_20190505_113935656.jpg

    While the HE6SE has no big faults in build quality or design, it doesn’t feel like $1799 in your hands. In fact, the LCD2C has a more quality feel and cost only $799 which is a fraction of the HE6SE price. I could also mention Focal or Beyerdynamic headphones too around $1000 which convey a more premium feel than the HE6SE.

    Apart from the strong metal yoke and the suspension style headband which I like, I struggle to find anything else I particularly like in the build of these headphones. The cable is not handy at all; it feels like some medical equipment which other reviewers have also mentioned. The cable does not bend nicely; instead it is jumping around when it moves. The HEXV2 has the same rather unfortunate cables.

    IMG_20190505_114235427.jpg

    Between the metal yokes and metal headband you find a plastic adjusting system. This system is stiff to begin with and very hard to find the right strength to adjust it to your liking. As you increase the force you are most likely to over-slide it.
    Also, the higher setting you want to reach the more force you will need.
    This is just not a quality feel. On the top of this, just like on the HEXV2, the paint in the middle of the metal will come off after just a few slides. I don’t find this acceptable if you spend this much on a headphone, especially when the competition has more elegant solutions.

    IMG_20190505_114133288.jpg

    The earpads and the covering grills also don’t enhance the feel of quality. The grills can slightly move around and the earpads feel cheap.

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    The earpads are swappable, but it is not an easy task. The plastic rings and the pads themselves feel fragile. I only tried to swap them twice as I was afraid I am going to destroy the little plastic hooks on the ring.

    IMG_20190505_114357743.jpg

    When a brand new DIY manufacturer like the Ukrainian Verum can manage to use a fantastically easy magnetic system to change their earcups, why can’t the big brands like HiFiMan or Audeze come up with something more user friendly?

    Comfort:

    I wouldn’t say the HE6SE is uncomfortable, but it is also not particularly comfortable. To me the weight is alright, although it is relatively heavy with its 480g. It is slightly lighter than Audeze headphones and slightly heavier than Focal headphones or HiFiMan’s own new line like the Ananda/Arya/HEXV2/HE1000.

    IMG_20190505_114708594.jpg

    I would say the earpads are mid-sized. Definitely less spacious than Audeze’s huge leather pads, but they also do not feel claustrophobic like Mr Speaker’s Aeon headphone pads. The fabric is not the most skin-friendly; I was never able to forget that I am wearing headphones. The LCD2C’s full pleather pads offer a much better feel.

    Looking at HiFiMan’s new line of headphones and the competition between $800-2000 to me it is a real mystery which customers the HE6SE is aimed at.
    Let’s try to find it out in the sound section.

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    Sound:

    While it is hard to find real faults in the HE6SE’s sound, it is also difficult to highlight any strengths. It does many things right, without being exceptional in anything. Most headphones above $1000 will sound good but customers will be looking for something specific in their sound presentation.
    Are you after details and clarity? Go for Focal. Laid back treble and good bass? Audeze. Classic Hi-Fi sound? HD800S.
    I could not put the HE6SE into any categories. It is ‘just’ a good sounding headphone. $1799 good? No, I do not think so, but definitely a strong competitor around $1000-1200 even after 9 years of ‘hard-to-drive’ history behind its back.

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    Using one word to describe the overall sound presentation I would say it is ‘solid’. It has a solid, firm sound, very confident and competent. It is definitely a neutral sounding headphone with a hint of warmth in the low-end, and interestingly with a relatively bright treble: quite an unusual combination.

    The soundstage, airiness, instrument separation, details and resolution all bring what one would expect for the price. None of these qualities are exceptional, but they are definitely on par with other headphones around $800-1500.

    The sound is nicely balanced, however it is not the midrange that takes the show. Between the solid and confident low-end and the slightly bright and detailed treble, vocal presentation somehow takes the second row.

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    Bass:

    As I have just mentioned, the bass is solid. It is firm, well extended and linear. It is also never, ever overpowering and never bleeds. I prefer the HE6SE bass presentation to the HEXV2. While the HEXV2 sounds much more spacious and softer, the HE6SE is more focused and has more bass impact. This is the sort of bass I am looking for in a planar. That said, the bass body and impact is still a little bit behind of Audeze headphones but to me it is a relatively close second with the HEXV2 being third. Dynamic driver headphones can’t touch the ball in this game.

    Midrange:

    I do not think midrange is the strength of the HE6SE. While again it does a decent job, it is not difficult to find headphones with better midrange for this money. Vocals are slightly recessed on the HE6SE, even on my LCD2C I have got fuller, sweeter and slightly more lifelike vocals. If you are into vocal centric music you can do better than this. ZMF comes to my mind or even HiFiMan’s other offerings like the HEXV2. The HEXV2 has a much more spacious and much more lifelike midrange.

    Treble:

    Treble is where the HE6SE beats the LCD2, at least for the average listener. HE6SE treble is clear and airy, definitely much brighter than any Audeze. I never found it harsh or piercing, but have to admit I heard some sibilance every now and then with female vocals. Audeze offers a darker and smoother treble with less detail. In HE6SE treble there is definitely more space to breathe. I would however recommend HiFiMan’s other headphones instead, like the HEXV2.
    HEXV2 treble is even more airy and more natural and I imagine Ananda and Arya would be the same, both for considerably less money than the HE6SE.

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    In my opinion HiFiMan with their new line (HEX, HE1000, Ananda, Arya) has jumped a sound quality level. What once was their TOTL headphone, after nine years struggles to keep up with their present mid-range offerings, as well as keeping up with the competition from other manufacturers. That said, the HE6SE is still a good headphone, but not for the current retail price, more so around $1000-1200. I simply couldn’t recommend the HE6SE versus the HEXV2 or Arya or any of the new line.

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    Comparisons:

    I have already touched on these, so this section will be brief. I had the HEXV2 and the LCD2C around with the HE6SE, so I can only compare to these headphones with confidence.
    While the volume on my Taurus MKII is enough around 9 o’clock for both the HEXV2 and LCD2C, the HE6SE needed it at 12 o’clock for the same loudness.

    HEXV2:

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    The HEXV2 sounds very spacious, very natural and lifelike: almost like speakers. The HE6SE has a more focused sound with a much smaller head stage. The HEXV2 can sound too smooth sometimes, almost diffuse. This is great for the airy midrange, treble and lifelike vocals but not that great for bass when it comes to electronic music. I prefer the bass on the HE6SE because it is more focused and has better impact offering a more solid feel. That said in my opinion the HEXV2 is a better headphone in everything else.

    LCD2C:

    IMG_20190424_124854854.jpg

    It is not a secret, I like Audeze sound a lot. I prefer a more laid back treble with the perfect bass. The HE6SE is technically a little bit better. It is definitely more neutral with a brighter treble. The HE6SE brings out slightly more details.

    While the HE6SE bass is very good, to my ears the LCD2C bass is even better. Slightly more in quantity and has even more impact. Mids on the 2C are sweeter, fuller and more lifelike to my ears.

    Treble is objectively better on the HE6SE. It is brighter, airier, more detailed. The LCD2C sounds dark and warm in comparison and loosing details on top. That said I did find the HE6SE treble slightly sibilant at times. Still, I think treble is a win for HiFiMan.

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    Conclusions:

    Back to our original question; who is the HE6SE for in 2019 when HiFiMan has an entirely new line up and the competition has also moved forward a lot?

    If I am honest, the more I think about it the less sure I am. The HE6SE is definitely a strong and competitive neutral headphone around $1000 even on today’s market. I can see two problems though. One; the HE6SE is not $1000, it is $1799. Two; I can’t see where the HE6SE stands out from the ever increasing crowd: maybe in history or heritage? That is true for sure, but who buys headphones for those reasons?

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    In my opinion there are better sounding headphones even in HiFiMan’s own stable for less money. The current price/performance ratio leaves me a bit puzzled and in a difficult situation to recommend these headphones to anyone. Sure, if you need a solid, neutral planar all-rounder near $1000, by all means look around for a HE6SE on the second-hand market. I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed as long as you have a beefy amplifier at hand.

    However if you are after HiFiMan headphones, I would encourage you to audition any of their new(er) offerings like the Edition XV2, HE1000 variants, Arya or Ananda. In my opinion they all sound more advanced than the HE6 and won’t need a powerhouse to run.
      hakuzen and omniweltall like this.
    1. omniweltall
      Keep 'em coming, Betula :)
      omniweltall, May 6, 2019
      betula likes this.
    2. betula
      Jade II or Arya will be next. :)
      You can also find links to my previous reviews on my profile page. :wink:
      betula, May 6, 2019
      omniweltall likes this.