HIFIMAN Shangri-La: The New Electrostatic Headphones From HIFIMAN
Jan 6, 2016 at 7:32 PM Post #31 of 642

fjrabon

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  Unless I'm mistaken, he said it would be LESS than $45k, which still leaves a pretty big price range to play with.  I tend to think this is a jab at the Orpheus 2.


that was my interpreation as well, that it was a jab at the new orpheus
 
Jan 6, 2016 at 7:49 PM Post #33 of 642

Stillhart

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I am 100% sure he said the price will not be lower than a ~$45k SUV in his tweet. 

 
I don't spend $45k on any headphone that doesn't come with a Corinthian marble plinth.
 
Jan 6, 2016 at 8:29 PM Post #34 of 642

mulder01

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Interesting. I mean, it doesn't look great, but if it's Orpheus priced and sonically on par, I could imagine this would appeal more to people who don't want to be locked into a certain combo and want flexibility of amping options. And if you can just buy the headphone if you already have a blue hawaii or something... I don't know much about tubes but are 300B's a more appealing idea too?

I'm sure you could place it on an after market marble plinth if that's what tickles your pickle.
 
Jan 6, 2016 at 8:57 PM Post #35 of 642

Oregonian

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Interesting. I mean, it doesn't look great, but if it's Orpheus priced and sonically on par, I could imagine this would appeal more to people who don't want to be locked into a certain combo and want flexibility of amping options. And if you can just buy the headphone if you already have a blue hawaii or something... I don't know much about tubes but are 300B's a more appealing idea too?

I'm sure you could place it on an after market marble plinth if that's what tickles your pickle.

Still looks ridiculous...............
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 12:32 AM Post #36 of 642

chowmein83

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Hi all, I was extremely fortunate to be able to listen to both this new Shangri-La (from now on which I will refer to as SL because I don't want to keep typing the name out) headphone from Hifiman and the new Orpheus HE1060 from Sennheiser at CES. I will also be doing some comparisons between the two headphones and the Hifiman HE1000, which I do own and am quite familiar with.
 
I was able to get some listening time in (about half hour) at the Hifiman booth in the Venetian towers, in relatively quiet conditions. There was some chatter in the room, but most of it was fairly low volume and easily drowned out by turning the volume up.
 
The setup I listened the SL on was the HM901S on its dock hooked up to Hifiman's electrostatic tube amp, the same one that is pictured on the second page.
 
Before I get into the sound, I want to say a few words on the SL's build quality and comfort. It is very comfortable, with the same headband design and pads as the HE1000. In fact, it's more comfortable than the HE1000 mainly because of the reduced weight (14 oz as I read on Hifiman's spec sheet). Think of the SL as a lighter HE1000 or alternatively as a bit heaver Edition X. As for build quality, at this point it's a bit rough. The wood feels about as good as the HE1000, but the grill and the headphone band itself feels like some kind of plastic. Well, it doesn't really feel like the cold metal on the HE1000.
 
To spoil (almost) the entire sound story, the SL is probably the best headphone I have ever heard, alongside the new Orpheus.
 
To get into more specifics, first of all the SL adopts a tonality somewhere between something like the HD800S (which I also heard for a bit at CES) and the HE1000. That is to say, it tilts a bit toward the warmer side but it obviously somewhat less thicker sounding than the HE1000 (and HE-400i, for those wanting a lower-end reference point). The new Orpheus has a tonality more like the HD800S, but perhaps maybe slightly warmer. In comparison to the SL, the new Orpheus does sound a bit cold. But only in comparison to the SL. IMO I think the SL has the more natural tonality, so that vocals and instruments sound more true to life than in the new Orpheus.
 
Secondly, the SL has a pretty large soundstage, in terms of both width and depth. It is similar in size to the HE1000 in both of those aspects, and both are also similar in that they are both speaker-like. This is one aspect that I like better about from both the SL and the HE1000 - to me, the soundstage makes listening music more like listening to speakers than when listening to the new Orpheus, and IMO sounds more natural. That is not to say that the new Orpheus has a bad soundstage - it too, is large (but perhaps a bit smaller in width), but it sounds more like listening to headphones.
 
As for separation, the SL surpasses that of the HE1000. Instruments are separated more clearly, to the point of matching the new Orpheus and HD800. However, I believe some may actually prefer the HE1000 here, because while sounds aren't as cleanly delineated as in the SL, some may think it sounds more organic and more like a cohesive whole. I am not saying that the SL has unnaturally good separation, but I feel the way it handles this aspect is more like Sennheiser's higher-end offerings and less like the HE1000.
 
Imaging is excellent, no other way to describe it. It's just as good as the new Orpheus. However, I really feel that the HE1000 really isn't lacking at all here compared to the much more expensive headphones.
 
Bass on the SL hits hard and is extremely well-controlled. Honestly, the way the bass is presented is actually quite similar to the new Orpheus. Both have some really good punch and the bass on both never overstays its welcome. However, for my personal preferences I actually prefer the the bass of the HE1000, which to me probably hits slightly harder, is just as well-controlled, but more importantly gives me more of a sense of awe because it feels like the bass manages to permeate the entire soundstage evenly without having a identifiable central point. On the SL and the new Orpheus, the bass just hits and it seems to be in the center - doesn't give me the same sense of awe. I hope I explained that well. I don't know, maybe I just prefer planar bass.
 
Mids and highs on the SL are really life-like and not sibilant at all. However, they are definitely "sharper" than in the HE1000, which to me is a good thing (I always wanted a bit more treble out of that headphone) and probably for the people who called the HE1000 "too soft." The mids and highs on the Orpheus are also equally sharper, but they do sound a bit thinner, which is probably a consequence of the new Orpheus' overall frequency response.
 
As for detail levels, I think it's clear that the SL retrieves more detail and deals with fast-paced music even better than the HE1000. The SL really does have that quickness to it that I have also experienced with other high-end electrostats, namely the Stax SR-009 and of course the new Orpheus. Being able to discern between each strum of the guitar has never been easier. In this respect I do feel that the SL is on par with the new Orpheus, which is also excellent in fishing out the details. However, once again, I really feel that the HE1000 is not that far behind, and perhaps is a different presentation in that the details are there but it doesn't throw it more in your face like I have found with the SL and the new Orpheus.
 
Overall, I feel that the SL and the new Orpheus are on par with each other in terms of sound quality. They do some things differently (the new Orpheus adopts a more HD800S tonality and a more headphone-like soundstage, while the SL adopts a somewhat more HE1000 tonality and a a more speaker-like soundstage), but overall I feel that which is better to the listener will be a matter of preference. However, I seriously feel that headphones like the HE1000 and the Stax SR-009 are not very far behind at all in terms of sound quality either. Sure, these new electrostats from Hifiman and Sennheiser are really better than everything else that has come before IMO, but it really isn't that big of a leap. To put it another way, I feel that the leap from HE1000 to SL isn't anywhere near as large as the leap from the HE560 to the HE1000 (which IMO is quite large).
 
One last thing, the price. No, I could not coax out an exact price from Dr. Fang Bian, but I'm afraid he's actually really considering the $30000 to $45000 USD price point cited earlier in the thread. I initially thought he was joking too, but based on my conversation with him I really feel like he really wants to set the SL at that insane price. I will be very sad if he does so. By setting a price like this, not only will many audiophiles just simply not be able to afford it, but I also feel that people won't simply buy it. Because at that price, what you are buying is a statement and a luxury item - unfortunately (?), Sennheiser does this better with its new Orpheus, which simply looks and feels better plus it has that amp which looks more expensive and puts on a dramatic show when you turn it on, unlike Hifiman's amp.
 
Hopefully people found this helpful and interesting!
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 12:53 AM Post #37 of 642

paulchiu

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  The setup I listened the SL on was the HM901S on its dock hooked up to Hifiman's electrostatic tube amp, the same one that is pictured on the second page.
 

 
Tracks were played off a HM901S?  Did the 300B amp had another source into it?
Would it be fair to say that not even the Orphesus II or SL sounds like speakers but based on your observations that the SL was the most speaker-like.
I guess while these TOTL cans will out resolution 150K speakers, the spatial definition is still around our heads and not being surrounded by cubic feet worth of sound.  Is this fair to say?
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 12:54 AM Post #38 of 642

Khragon

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Thanks for the review, and thanks for putting things in perspective, the Orpheus is hyped up so much and almost thought it would even cook and clean for me.
 
It would be really sucks if Hifiman decides to follow Sennheiser crazy pricing, hopefully the 300B amp is included in that price, geez.
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 2:30 AM Post #39 of 642

obsidyen

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This smells like a cheap Chinese knockoff of Sennheiser HE1060. Both the headphone and the amp. I would rather get the German engineering marvel, if I could afford to pay 30-50K dollars for a headphone system. At least I'd know it's built to last.
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 3:11 AM Post #40 of 642

silverbox

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  This smells like a cheap Chinese knockoff of Sennheiser HE1060. Both the headphone and the amp. I would rather get the German engineering marvel, if I could afford to pay 30-50K dollars for a headphone system. At least I'd know it's built to last.

Its not 1970's anymore. This "Zee German" engineering means jack **** these days. Their cars are definitely not built to last. Maybe 30 or 40 years ago sure.
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 3:19 AM Post #41 of 642

Stillhart

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  This smells like a cheap Chinese knockoff of Sennheiser HE1060. Both the headphone and the amp. I would rather get the German engineering marvel, if I could afford to pay 30-50K dollars for a headphone system. At least I'd know it's built to last.

 
How would that even be possible?  Very few people have heard the new Orpheus so far and it's been in production for years.  And supposedly the SL has been in production since the original HFM headphone, the Jade, which was an e-stat.  There's no possible way they could have made a knockoff of the Orpheus in the few months since it's been announced.  It's pretty insulting to all the work HFM put into this to even suggest it.
 
Chowmein, thanks for the review.  Perhaps I'll see you wandering around when I get to the show on Friday.
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 3:40 AM Post #42 of 642

chowmein83

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Tracks were played off a HM901S?  Did the 300B amp had another source into it?
Would it be fair to say that not even the Orphesus II or SL sounds like speakers but based on your observations that the SL was the most speaker-like.
I guess while these TOTL cans will out resolution 150K speakers, the spatial definition is still around our heads and not being surrounded by cubic feet worth of sound.  Is this fair to say?


Yep, tracks were played off a HM901S. Unfortunately, I forgot to check if I could plug in another source in it (otherwise I would have plugged in my FiiO X7 using its line out function).
 
Yes, to me the SL sounds more speaker-like than the Orpheus II.
 
I would also agree with your third statement, except about the part that these cans will out resolution 150K speakers. That's only because I haven't heard 150K speakers though.
tongue.gif

 
  This smells like a cheap Chinese knockoff of Sennheiser HE1060. Both the headphone and the amp. I would rather get the German engineering marvel, if I could afford to pay 30-50K dollars for a headphone system. At least I'd know it's built to last.

 
I have to agree with @Stillhart here - I really think that HFM really has put some serious work into the SL and that it just so happens (whether coincidentally or intentionally) that the two headphones have been announced around the same time. I don't think I said this before, but I actually prefer the SL in sound quality, if that means anything.
 
And Stillhart - man I wish I could meet you, but unfortunately I am only staying for CES until Thursday. I will be gone by Friday. If you're going to SoCal CanJam, I hope to see you there!
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 3:50 AM Post #43 of 642

chowmein83

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Oh, couple more things before I forget.
 
I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but the SL will be compatible with Stax amps. That is to say, the cable type/connector and electrical requirements are the same as Stax headphones.
 
Similarly, the electrostatic tube amp will be compatible with Stax headphones. HFM said to me that they want to create an electrostatic amp that not only drives the SL well, but to also make Stax headphones sound better than with Stax amps.
 
According to HFM, the prototype that I heard is about 75-80% done. And apparently the electrostatic amp isn't final yet either. So they seemed to imply that it will probably sound better by release.
 
Speaking of release, it sounds like they are looking at getting at least the SL out 6 months from now, if not more.
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 3:59 AM Post #44 of 642

conquerator2

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Thank you chowmein for all these impressions :)
As a HEK owner,this puts me at ease somewhat.
It certainly seems there is only so much that can be done beyond and since the HEK and other flagships are really good, it does make sense :D
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 4:10 AM Post #45 of 642

obsidyen

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  Its not 1970's anymore. This "Zee German" engineering means jack **** these days. Their cars are definitely not built to last. Maybe 30 or 40 years ago sure.

Maybe... But Sennheiser is the most consistent headphone maker. They are above all other headphone makers when it comes to quality control, consistency in sound quality etc. Besides, just compare the look of the two systems. Orpheus amp looks so classy and cool whereas Hifiman amp looks like a wooden box with glass top. 10k? Ok, I'd get Hifiman. But 30k and above? Sennheiser, no doubt. At that price you don't pay for SQ only. You pay, because it's a form of art. And Sennheiser system does look like art. Hifiman, not at all, not even close.
 

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