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
-PS Audio DigitalLink 3 w/ Cullan Stage IV Upgrade
-LG G8 Thin Q/HP Pavilion
-Playing Pandora, YouTube, and various format personal music
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.