Hifiman HE560: Planar Bliss
The Hifiman HE560 has been around for a few years now, and I figure I should give a proper review to one of my favorite headphones. Oh shoot, spoiler alert, this review will be a recommended rating!
Hifiman was one of the first headphone companies to start the recent Planar Magnetic driver wave that has grown in popularity in recent years, along with Audeze, and created a market of headphones that have spectacularly low distortion levels and linear bass response, something that is very challenging to do on a normal dynamic driver in headphones.
This planar magnetic technology has been around for a very long time with audio names like Magnepan using it in their speakers for many decades now. Yamaha (Orthodynamic series) and Fostex (Regular Phase) have had several planar magnetic headphones from over 30 years ago with Fostex still in this market with their popular RP series.
So what makes the recent wave so much better? Well technology has improved and on top of that, these new headphones from Hifiman and Audeze are extremely attractive. They also cost quite a bit.
The original HE560 was introduced at $899 and still retails at that today. Through many aggressive sales, one can find it for as low as $299 brand new on sites like Adorama now. And I can say that this is a fantastic stellar deal.
|HE560 with Sundara Headband|
|HE560 with Standard Headband + Wool Cover|
The version I own is the V2 or V1.1 or something… The original version used SMC connectors. The version I have replaced those finicky connectors with 2.5mm connectors on each ear cup. There is a new version that recently came out that replaces the original headband with the Sundara headband which is an all-metal construction which improves build strength but has less freedom of movement.
Back to the one I own again – The headband is extremely comfortable. The notorious yokes swivel and and the cups can rotate, giving a very large amount of movement on your head. This allows the headphone to fit on any head comfortable.
So why do I call it notorious? Well, a recent batch of these yokes were very prone to cracking and breaking very quickly. Hifiman customer service has responded quite well and offered replacements very quickly each time though. And because of this issue, the new version using the all-metal headband was released.
|HE560 with Sundara Headband|
The pads that come with the HE560 are just okay. They are faux leather and angled with a velour pad that goes against your face. The velour helps keep you cool and sweat-free for longer listening sessions, while the faux-leather helps keep the treble in check.
Now that said, I don’t like the original pad too much. I’ve since upgraded to the Dekoni Elite Hybrid Leather pad. It’s pretty much the same idea as the original: it’s angled, with a velour pad but made with a real leather pad and soft memory foam inside. The inside of the pad has perforated leather. Essentially, it’s a hybrid of all of Dekoni’s pad types. This pad is super comfy and soft, and I have no qualms about wearing it for hours.
The cables that came with my package were a 6 foot long XLR Balanced and 6 foot long ¼ inch stereo cable. The cables are very stiff and inflexible and generally annoying. I sold the balanced cable immediately, and the other cable has been relegated to the box which is in the garage behind other boxes in a corner.
Luckily the 2.5mm cable is very common and one can find replacement cables very easily. For example, NeoMusica makes a good cheap cable for under $20 that works perfectly fine for this headphone. I elected to make my own balanced XLR cable for this headphone and it was easy and works well.
Some people say the HE560 is bright and can be harsh. Others, like me, think this headphone is nearly perfectly neutral. Yes, its neutral-bright. There is a slight peak in the lower treble that can be harsh for treble-sensitive ears, but for me, I love this sound signature. It’s a very well-balanced signature, with some very slight recessed mids that some may call dry.
The bass response on this is nearly perfectly linear down to sub-bass levels. It’s got rumble and texture and is a good example of what planar bass is. If you are coming from a dynamic, you’ll miss some of the big impact and boom, but you will be rewarded with a super clean and smooth transition into the lower mids. Muddiness will never be an issue on these.
The upper-mids, again are slightly recessed, while the lower treble does peak up a bit which gives the headphone a lot of air and detail. This effect does give some people the sense that it sounds harsh.
Due to it’s low distortion numbers and generally true with all planars, they do respond well to EQ across the board.
The soundstage width is open and imaging is very good on these as well.
Overall, I really dig these headphones. There are some general concerns with the headphone build quality (when price is considered), but I actually think it is well built now that I have a functional headband. I actually am using a 3D-Printed Yoke, but my final supplied headband from Hifiman works fine as well as the metal Sundara headband.
Tonality has some small issues in the upper mids and lower treble, but it doesn’t affect me at all. I can listen to this headphone for hours at a time (and I have).
Included accessories are pretty poor though. So I would probably look into buying additional accessories with it if that matters to you.
|HE560 Standard Headband with Millet Starving Student Tube Hybrid|
|HE560 with Onkyo DP-S1 Digital Audio Player|