HIFIMAN Jade II Electrostatic Headphone and Amplifier

General Information

Manufacturer's Description:

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HiFiMAN Jade is back!

When HiFiMAN introduced its first electrostatic headphone, Jade in 2008, it quickly became a favorite of audiophiles and music lovers who fell in love with its natural, expansive soundfield.

Today, HiFiMAN introduces the Jade II, a worthy successor to the original that benefits from many years of research and development. The new Jade II builds upon the reputation of the original HiFiMAN classic with sonics that epitomize electrostatic speed and performance.

Additional product details can be found here.

Latest reviews

Pros: Stunning transparent and neutral sound, lifelike imaging, feather light, comfortable
Cons: Headphone, though sturdy, due to the materials doesn't feel as premium as price tag implies.
Headphones are HUGE (I've an above average head and I'm on the smallest setting).
Nondetachable cable.
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For as long as I’ve been into this spiraling hobby, electrostats always come up in conversation as a top tier option to strive for. Recently I was finally able to listen to the legendary Stax SR-009 (paired with equally infamous gear) and immediately understood what made them special. Sadly, that was the end of my experience, the audio meet. Until Hifiman allowed me to take part in their Jade 2 tour. Finally, after being able to experience an extended listening period, using my music and equipment, I understand what makes not only electrostats but the Jade 2 a truly special piece of equipment.

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 others 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 (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
-D.A.C.(s)
-PS Audio DigitalLink 3 w/ Cullan Stage IV Upgrade
-Sennheiser HDVD800
-Sources
-LG G8 Thin Q/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 product introduced itself shall we?


Construction

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Starting with the amp. This thing is a brick with grips. The amp boasts a very solid and impressive feel, being made of all aluminum, with the weight and looks to complete its role of a power house. Boasting a power button, 2 electrostatic inputs, a source input selector button, and a volume knob with a set max and min (doesn’t free spin )on the front, it all stays simple and straightforward. Moving to the rear, you’ve the power input with the voltage selector switch right under it (a good implementation that allows personal sales to different countries), and then both balanced and unbalanced source inputs on the back. There’s really not much negative to say about the Jade 2 amplifier. It’s built, at least IMO, very well.
Moving to the headphones. The first thing I noticed about the Jade 2 headphones was how incredibly light they are, at least from memory, they’re the lightest headphones I’ve ever felt. The headband and grille is made of lightweight (obviously) but very sturdy aluminum with the head strap sporting what feels like faux leather. The headband adjustment and driver cups are the only parts that I’m not sure about. The website doesn’t mention any plastic being used but these two pieces feel very plasticy but that’s neither here nor there. The earpads use a faux leather and cloth hybrid (my personal favorite) that, at least to me, looks and feels like it can’t be user replaced (but I didn’t push/pull very hard on anything). The driver cups are connected to the frame using 2 bolts which only gives the pads an up/down range of motion but no side/side. A negative I do have about the headphones is that these things are HUGE, as in the headphones themselves and not just the pads. I have a decent size head and I have to put the Jade 2 on their lowest adjustment setting so for those, like my wife, who’ve a smaller head, it's not very practical to listen to these headphones.
Finally, moving down to the cable. The cable is not detachable, though it looks and feels respectively durable, if something were to happen then you’re going to be out a more than likely costly expense to ship them to Hifiman (or authorized/similar repair facility), pay their fee and then ship them back.
But in conclusion, my final thoughts on the construction of the Jade 2 system is that Hifiman did a very good job at making their $2,500 system both look and feel as premium as their price implies it should.

Comfort

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The Jade 2’s comfort is, for those who can wear them, incredibile. The Jade 2 pretty much disappears on your head they’re so light plus the padding has the goldilox level of support and give. I don’t receive any microphonics from the cable when I move around in my seat and the strap doesn’t mess with my head/hair even after very long listening sessions (I do keep my hair quite short as well). I can see some having problems finding the sweet spot on their head due to the Jade 2 not having any side/side movement of the pads.

Sound

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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.

From the time one presses the play button on their track of choice you’ll immediately understand what makes this Jade 2 system special. The level of transparency rivals or beats any other headphone that I can think of, they just disappear. Soundstage feels natural and accurate with the imaging quite pinpoint. The Sennheiser HD800 S comes to my mind when listening to the Jade 2. Minus soundstage, I feel like the Jade 2 is an upgraded HD800 S in most aspects but shares a similar analytical and stale sound, as well as a small treble spike and bass dip as well.

Treble

The highs on the Jade 2 are clean, controlled and have great extension. There’s also a presence of airiness that not many other headphones can relate to. A piece I found recently thanks to an awesome anime (Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life) called “Tenkyuu,” IMO really shows off the capabilities of the Jade 2 system in relation to treble as well as the treble peak it sometimes has. And if the Koto isn’t your thing “A Moon Filled Sky” by Tenmon is another great piece but really gets high on the sharpness.

Mids

The mids really are full of body and emotion being played through the Jade 2. Despite not really having any accent to the mid range, the Jade 2 makes the artists voices sound so real and true that I find it very difficult to listen to them and not have my eyes close to take in all the sound. John Moreland’s “Hang My In The Tulsa County Stars” is just one of many of his songs that really come to mind when I talk about experiencing emotion by the artist. Female vocals are also just as, if not more, impressive. Rebecca Pidgeon’s “Spanish Harlem” also sounds as if she’s singing right to you but when listening to that song while writing this, I really got full sense of how black the background is on the Jade 2. It’s hard for me to put that phrase into words but the only thing present was just her and the instruments to accent her. I didn’t hear any background noise floor, static nothing. Sad I can’t listen to other headphones through this because the Jade 2 amp’s noise floor really impresses me.

Bass

Hmm. So, the bass on the Jade 2 is what I would call audiophile quality but not enthusiast quantity. There’s bass on the Jade 2 in respect to control, speed, and minimal to no decay but there’s is not a slam or impact to them or at least to the degree that makes enthusiasts really get into their rock, metal, or house (etc…) music. I can insert as many different examples as I can google search but my overall thoughts about the bass will basically be repeated.

Conclusion

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To summarize my thoughts on the Hifiman Jade 2 system, Hifiman, IMO, created a wonderful product that even when taking its price into consideration, performs very respectable compared to other TOTL products such as the Sennheiser HD800 S I mentioned earlier. The Jade 2 is $2500 for BOTH the headphone and amplifier. To me, when considering how well they’re built and how comfortable, though very large, the Jade 2 headphones are and, objectively, how analytically sound they are, I would not be surprised if the Jade 2 becomes a staple in many of electrostatic or rather headphones in general conversations about what a solid step towards an audiophile sounding endgame (though endgame is a rather ambiguous term that truly doesn’t exist).





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.

Attachments

ksorota
ksorota
Great review...always enjoy hearing your take on headphones. I would love to know your thoughts as a direct comparison to the PM-1 which I assume is still a favorite of yours. I sold the PM-1 a few years ago and still somewhat regret it...I found the Jade II to be a very enjoyable headphone with very few negatives if any really at all.
Army-Firedawg
Army-Firedawg
@ksorota
Thank you very kindly for you compliment, I really appreciate it. My comparison of the Jade 2 to my, yes, still beloved PM-1, is pretty much exactly like the HD800 S. The PM-1 is still, by far, one of the most musical headphones I've ever heard to date (still trying to find tower speakers that share its sound) where as the Jade 2 is incredibly analytical but also "stale" sounding. In relation to what a "traditional" audiophile would look for in a headphone I can, at the very least on a personal note, wholeheartedly recommend the Jade 2. To me, it takes what makes the HD800 S so renowned but just a little bit better; even though the soundstage isn't as big as the 800, I think it sounds more true.
rocksteady65
rocksteady65
Superb review! As for the Cable nitpick, who has ever seen and Electrostat with detached cable? I haven't. I don't think it would be feasible or Safe, for that matter...
Pros: sound stage, imaging, detail, smooth sound
Cons: requires dedicated amplifier
headphone cable can be better
Disclaimer:

This HIFIMAN Jade II electrostatic headphone is a unit in an audition tour conducted by HIFIMAN.
I am curious about an electrostatic headphone, so I really appreciate to HIFIMAN team for
this opportunity to try Jade II.
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- gear used to compare:
Sabaj D5 -> iFi iCan Pro -> HIFIMan HE-1000 V2

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- Look and feel:

. It is in a shape similar to HE-1000 V2 that I own, but lighter in weigth.

. Headband: Jade II has newer headband that has round shape. V2 has flat top.

. both are very conformtable on head, Jade II has aluminum frame without wood veneer,
so I like V2 better on this regard.

. the cable split has been stripped a little bit, which shows the thin wires, makes one
worried about the possible issue from that.

. Amplifier is big and solid design, looks handsome.
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- sound stage:
Jade II has great sound stage, it is wider than its depth, it sounds like you are in a music hall.
By comparision V2 sounds like in a smaller room.
Accompanying that incredable sound stage, music image benefited, instruments seem in their
own position and blend in together without interfering each other, on the other hand V2
sound crowded and intimated.
I also noticed Jade II is nature sounding, good layering from different instruments which
are in different volume and in different locations that provide a good sense of the stage.
Listening to Jade II, it is closer to speakers setup than any other headphones that I have
experienced.

- bass:
Jade II bass is there, it can go deep, if you tried Titanic movie sound track 1. Never An Absolution,
the bass can be heard and feel but a tad weak and no extension, it can not compete with
subwoofer speaker (no HP can I believe), comparing with HEK-V2 it is a tad less quantity,
my HEK V2 is driven by iFi iCan pro, and Jade has its own amplifier, so I cannot change gear to
find out if this can be tweaked, that is one of drawback of dedicated amplifier setup.
V2's bass is not great itself comparing with dynamic HP, but I think Jade's bass
can be enhanced a bit, maybe boost it from amplifer, just like iFi iCan pro XBass setting that I use
on my HEK v2 to tweak its bass.

Tried Adele - Rolling in the deep, it is not bad, but if it can punch harder, it would be perfect.
However, with Eagle's Hotel California the bass is still enjoyable.

- mid, high and volcals:
Jade's mid is pleasant to listen, clear and smooth, sounds sweeter than V2, I would descibe is
as a velvet sounding.

Because of its large sound stage, listening to vocal feels recess, this might take some times to
get used to since most heaphones sound closer in. But Jade sounds smooth and clear which makes
all singers, male and female, sound better, and if you are familiar with the singer's voice
chareacters, you may realize that Jade sounds truely for the singers.


Conclusion:

Listen with Jade II is relax and enjoyable. It is the best when listen to a symphony music.
The sound stage makes one feels like it is a live music.
Overall, I think Jade II does everything right, but still there are some areas
that it can be enhanced to do better, such as bass, needs more quantity and quality, and
Headphone cable can be better.
Pros: detailed yet smooth treble presentation, wide soundstage
Cons: non-existent sub-bass, anemic mid-bass, no bass texture, cold and thin midrange, weightless transients, limited soundstage depth, fuzzy imaging, poor imaging separation, fragile non-removable cable, creaky build quality
INTRODUCTION AND DISCLAIMER:
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The HiFiMAN Jade II is an over-ear electrostatic headphone with a list price of $1399. HiFiMAN’s energizer can be purchased separately for $1599 or with the headphones for a total price of $2499. I had the opportunity to listen to the Jade II in the context of a Head-Fi loaner tour. I was in possession of the Jade II for roughly a month before writing this review. In the near future, HiFiMAN will provide me with a prepaid shipping label and I will ship the Jade II to the next reviewer. I am not being compensated for writing this review, and my thoughts and conclusions are my own.

SIGNAL CHAIN:
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I used the HiFiMAN Jade II and its associated energizer in a balanced configuration with my SMSL SU-8 (v2) Digital-to-Analog Converter. I tested these headphones with local FLAC and Spotify Premium. Visit my last.fm page to get an idea of what I listen to.

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:

The HiFiMAN Jade II arrived in an enormous plain cardboard box marked with the HiFiMAN logo and illustrated with a diagram of the Jade II. The box is also marked with the Jade II’s technical specifications and HiFiMAN’s contact information. Inside the box, the Jade II is secured in heavy duty foam. The energizer was located in separate box underneath the box containing the headphones, also secured in protective foam. HiFiMAN includes a power cable for the energizer. The package I received did not contain any additional accessories or documentation, but as it is a loaner tour unit, I cannot say whether the retail package is similarly spartan.

ENERGIZER BUILD QUALITY AND DESIGN:
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The HiFiMAN energizer is a monstrous block of metal with two headphone outputs, a power button, a button to switch between inputs, and a volume knob on the front, and balanced XLR and single-ended RCA inputs on the back. The volume knob has distinct steps. When the energizer is powered on, the top of the energizer gets warm but not dangerously or even uncomfortably so.

HEADPHONE BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN:
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The Jade II is very lightweight, which does not inspire confidence in its long-term durability. The headband uses a two-part design with a thin black metal outer band and a leather suspension strap. The headband has vertically articulated hinges attached to the driver housing but does not rotate laterally. The headband adjustment is stiff and I worried that I would break the headphones when extending it. The headband can creak when putting the headphones on or taking them off. The pads have a leather side/perforated velour face hybrid construction.
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The flat paracord-wrapped cable is non removable and arrived in a frayed state. While there is strain relief where the cable connects to the driver housings and at the connector termination, there is none at the Y-split, above which the paracord had sheared free entirely on both sides.

COMFORT / FIT / ISOLATION:
The HiFiMAN Jade II has a relatively light clamping force and is exceedingly comfortable to wear for extended periods. Despite the light clamping force, I found the Jade II to sit on my head securely. There is no isolation and a significant amount of sound leakage.

SOUND:
The HiFiMAN Jade II is a bright-sounding headphone with a forward upper midrange.
The sub-bass is nonexistent and the mid-bass has limited impact, slam, and heft. The bass is monotone and there is no bass texture. There is not enough mid-bass to create any sort of bleed into the lower midrange, but the lower midrange is devoid of warmth and body. The presence region is overly emphasized. Despite the forwardness of the upper midrange, I did not perceive the Jade II to be sibilant. The timbre is very dry. The treble presentation is detailed and energetic with ample sparkle and air. It also avoids sounding harsh. Transient responses across the frequency response are immediate and effortless but have no weight. The effect of the top end emphasis in combination with the dry timbre is the total absence of dynamic contrast. The soundstage is wide but its depth is limited. Imaging is not terribly precise and instrument separation is poor considering how expensive the Jade II is.

POWER REQUIREMENTS:
I would have preferred more headroom using the HiFiMAN Jade II’s energizer in light of the necessity of EQ correction. Using oratory1990’s Harman AE/OE preset requires the energizer to be set to about 90% of its maximum output. If my DAC had a lower output I likely would not not have been able to drive the Jade II sufficiently.

CLOSING WORDS:
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I do not recommend the HiFiMAN Jade II, especially at their list price. They need extensive EQ to sound acceptable and I can’t imagine spending $2500 on a pair of headphones that sound as tonally wrong as these do out of the box.
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Comments

I'm starting to get lost in the hifiman range. There are so many models that it becomes difficult to choose, I find. For this reason thank you all for your detailed and well explained reviews.
 
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