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HiFiMAN HE1000 V2 and Edition X V2 planar magnetic headphones

HiFiMAN HE1000 V2 and Edition X V2 planar magnetic headphones

Long term Hi-Fi+ readers know that we hold several of the top-tier planar magnetic headphones from the Chinese firm HiFiMAN in very high regard—most notably the flagship HE 1000 (reviewed in issue 126 and recipient of last year’s Hi-Fi+ Cost-no-Object Headphone of the Year award) and the second-from-the-top Edition X model (reviewed in issue 137). But great though both models were and are, the fact is that development never ceases in the fast-paced world of high-end headphones so that new and improved ‘V2’ models have now come along to replace the original HE1000 and Edition X headphones. Naturally, these developments raise some questions. First, how do the new V2 models differ from their well-liked original counterparts? Second, do the V2 updates have any significant impact on sound quality and if so is that impact a positive one? Third, do the V2 improvements entail any changes in pricing? We will tackle all three of those questions in this review.

The HE1000 V2 receives several changes that might individually seem small, but whose collective impact is significant. First, the HE1000 V2 features a subtly revised headband that, according to HiFiMAN, “will accommodate a wider ranges of head sizes while applying correct pressures evenly.” The HE1000’s metal headband frame is a CNC-milled, hand polished structure below which is suspended a beautiful stitched suede headband strap supported at each end by polished metal click-stop carriers. To fit the headphone, one positions the strap atop one’s head and then adjusts the carriers upwards or downwards until the headphone ear cups are perfectly positioned.

Next, the HE1000 V2 receives a signal cable upgrade featuring, says HiFIMAN, “further refined conductors (higher grade crystalline copper and crystalline silver) with improved, stronger structure.” Part of this improved structure involves the use of highly pliable, vibration-damping rubber cable jackets that not only resist tangling but also—in my experience—handily suppressed the transmission of mechanical noise through the cable jackets. Moreover, the manufacturer adds, the new cable “delivers better sound quality with wider frequency range and lower signal loss.” In keeping with the HE1000 V2’s role as a flagship model, three separate sets of signal cables are included: one terminated with a 3.55mm mini-plug, one with a 6.35mm headphone plug, and one with a 4-pin XLR balanced connector (for use with balanced output headphone amplifiers).

Third, the HE1000 V2 receives updated bevelled ear pads that have been re-designed, says HiFiMAN, “to become thicker” and to provide a more pronounced “asymmetrical shape that follows the form of the ear cups” (note: when viewed from the side, the HE1000 V2 ear cups are roughly shaped like stylised, oversized human ears). But the changes don’t end there. The original HE1000 ear pads had pleather sides with velour touch surfaces, but in the HE1000 V2 pads the velour has been changed to a polyester fabric material that, according to the manufacturer, yields an audible increase in sonic transparency.

Finally, the HE1000 V2 has gone on a bit of a diet so that its ear cup enclosures are now slimmed down from 14mm to 11mm, with an attendant 12.5% decrease in the headphone’s overall weight from 480g down to 420g. But a further change, though one not highlighted in HiFiMAN product literature, is that the new, slimmer ear cups effectively position the driver diaphragms closer to the wearer’s ears.

 

Now, let’s take a look at the V2 changes made to the Edition X model.  Like the HE1000 V2, the Edition X V2 also receives an upgrade to its headband frame, one that again promises to accommodate a wider range of head sizes while applying appropriate, just-right clamping forces. In the case of the Edition X V2, though, the frame updates are even more extensive than in the HE1000 V2, as the ear cup support yokes are now upgraded from the previous moulded plastic parts to use new black anodised metal yokes (much like the metal yokes that were always used on the HE1000 model).

Next, the Edition X receives new bevelled ear pads that appear to be identical to those now found on the HE1000 V2. Apart from the changed bevel angle and somewhat revised shapes, the big news once again is that the velour touch surfaces found on the first-generation pads have been changed to incorporate a polyester fabric said to increase sonic transparency.

Finally, the Edition X V2 gets upgraded signals that, while not identical to the HE1000 V2 cables (because the latter feature more complex conductor arrays), nevertheless do look like they use high purity copper and silver conductors and incorporate versions of the flexible rubber vibration-resistant jackets we noted on the HE1000 V2. The Edition X V2 comes with two cables: a 1.5m cable fitted with a 3.5mm mini-plug and a 3m cable fitted with a 6.35mm Neutrik headphone plug. A 3.5mm-to-6.35mm adapter is also included.

Unlike the HE1000 V2, the ear cups of the Edition X V2 have not been modified for weight reduction purposes as the original model, which weighed just 399g, was already very light. One other thing that has not changed is the headphone’s extraordinarily high 103dB sensitivity rating, which is essential to maintaining the Edition X V2’s identity as a true high-end headphone that can be driven from a smartphone or tablet. The only externally visible change is to the finish of the ear cups; the original Edition X’s were done up in a gloss ‘black chrome’ treatment, while the new V2 versions are treated to a subtle, satin-texture metallic black finish that is very handsome indeed.

Now let’s look at how the V2-series changes have influenced the feel and sound of the HE1000 V2 and the Edition X V2.

In the Hi-Fi+ issue 126 review of the original HE1000, we praised the headphone’s “terrific openness, transparency, and very high levels of resolution,” and the HE1000 V2 continues in much the same vein, while demonstrating even greater resolving powers than its predecessor. But here’s the part you might not see coming: even as the resolution of the HE1000 V2 increases, so too does the perceived smoothness of its overall presentation—a rare combination of virtues. Thus, the amount of musical information on offer goes up significantly, but without any attendant increase in brightness, edginess, or stridency; on the contrary, the V2 sounds noticeably more relaxed and so is easier to enjoy for longer periods of time. These sonic improvements are certainly worthwhile, but they are more incremental than transformative in nature, which should come as no surprise given how good the original HE1000 was in the first place.

For a good example of the V2’s new qualities in action listen to the track ‘Something More’ from Sara K’s Hell or High Water [Stockfisch, SACD], carefully noting the textures of both Sara K’s voice and of each of the accompanying instruments. What is striking is the way the HE1000 V2 deftly captures all the transient information from plucked or percussion instruments while also perfectly rendering their upper partials and high harmonics. The original HE1000 always did a great job of conveying a vivid, up-close-and-personal view of the textures and timbres of individual instruments and the HE1000 V2 does an even more convincing job in these respects.

 

Most importantly, though, the V2 beautifully captures the breathy qualities of Sara K’s voice—and in particular her uncanny ability to sound both ethereal and yet earthy at the same time—without any sort of false high frequency spotlighting or etching. As a result, then, Sara K’s voice sounds by turns self assured, inquisitive, wistful, and evocative, but is never forced or overwrought. As I listened to ‘Something More’ (and other tracks on the same album) I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Now this is how Sara K’s voice really ought to sound on all good hi-fi equipment, but rarely does in practice.”

One other noteworthy point is that the HE1000 V2 retains three of the qualities we liked best in the original HE1000—namely, its ability to tease out the overlapping layers of multi-track studio recordings with zero congestion, its killer bass (replete with exceptional depth, impact, and pitch definition), and its highly expressive dynamics. All three of these qualities are very much in evidence on Hell or High Water, often making the listening experience feel like the sonic equivalent of going on a shopping spree in Aladdin’s cave of many treasures.

The weight reduction of the HE1000 V2 is a welcome improvement that’s noticeable from the moment you first put on the headphones. Personally, the original HE1000 never seemed overly heavy to me, but the new V2 model is now such a featherweight that you can wear it for hours and hours on end without any neck strain or fatigue whatsoever. Even so, I would suggest that listeners take breaks every couple of hours, just to let their ears ‘breathe’ for a bit in the outside air. The revised ear pad’s new polyester fabric touch-surfaces, though less overtly plush than the old pad’s velour surfaces, are quite comfortable and do a good job of wicking away moisture. More to the point, they also appear, as advertised, to have helped improve the headphone’s overall sonic transparency.

In the Hi-Fi+ issue 137 review of the original Edition X we called the product “a very high resolution headphone in its own right, but one that manages to stay just to the right side of the sonic pleasure vs. pain boundary lines.” That same statement could also apply to the Edition X V2, but with one critical distinction: namely, the fact that the V2 model shows across-the-board improvements in terms of overall resolution and openness. The illusion is that there is an imaginary control knob labelled “Be Present with the Music” and that, in switching from the original Edition X to the Edition X V2, that knob has been turned up from about 9 to a solid 11 (or maybe 12).

To appreciate what I mean, try listening to a well-recorded jazz track such as ‘Walter Pigeon’ from percussionist Gene Jackson, bassist Eddie Gomez, and guitarist John Abercrombie’s Structures [Chesky, 24/96], noting carefully how each of the three instruments are brought into play. The track opens with Gomez playing a gentle arco line on his acoustic bass, accompanied by delicate and widely spaced chords softly strummed on Abercrombie’s guitar. Gomez’ lines range way up high into a register most listeners would associate with a cello rather than a bass, but subliminal low frequency details, neatly rendered the Edition X V2, convey the fact that the instrument’s wooden body is much larger than that of any cello. At the same time, Abercrombie’s guitar produces a gorgeous, honey-hued tone that can only be described as sounding ‘liquid’. But then, at about the 1:10 mark, the personality of the song shifts: Gomez begins playing more forcefully and pizzicato-style, Abercrombie moves to play more pointed individual notes, and Jackson joins in with almost indescribably delicate brushwork on his cymbals and the heads of his drums. There’s so much low-level textural and transient information at hand that many transducers turn it into a well-intended blur, but the Edition X V2, with its new-found reservoirs of transparency, instead pulls the listener into closer and more focused contact with the music.

 

But now let me mention that I’ve saved some of the best news for last—news involving the pricing of the V2 models.

The HE1000 V2 sells at the same price its predecessor did (£2,599 in the UK, or $2,999 in the US); you get a better headphone, but you won’t pay more! Better still, HiFIMAN offers US customers a special HE1000 V1-to-V2 upgrade programme where present owners can trade the original model for the new one for just $650. Meanwhile, the Edition X V2 sells—wait for it—at a significantly lower price than the original Edition X (down from £1,299 to £1,099 in the UK, and from $1,799 to $1,299 in the US); again, listeners get better headphones, while paying less for them!

In both cases, HiFiMAN’s new V2 models take what were already very fine headphones and make them better. Both models benefit from increased transparency, but the HE1000 V2 delivers more information with a newfound sense of relaxed smoothness, while the Edition X V2 leverages its heightened transparency to convey a sense of deeper intimacy and sharper musical focus. Either way, the listener wins.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

HiFiMAN HE1000 V2

Type: Full-size, circumaural planar magnetic headphone

Driver complement: One planar magnetic driver with nanometre-thickness diaphragm, advanced asymmetrical magnetic circuit, and patented ‘Window Shade’ protective grille.

Frequency response: 8Hz – 65kHz

Sensitivity: 90dB

Impedance: 35 ohms

Accessories: Padded faux leather-clad presentation case; three sets of 3m signal cables: 3.5mm mini-jack; 6.35mm jack, 4-pin XLR.

Weight: 420g

Price: £2,599 (UK), or $2,999 (US).
In the US market, present owners of HE1000 V1 can upgrade to the HE1000 V2 for $650.

HiFiMAN Edition X V2

Type: Full-size, circumaural planar magnetic headphone

Driver complement: One planar magnetic driver with patented ‘Window Shade’ protective grille.

Frequency response: 8Hz – 50kHz

Sensitivity: 103dB

Impedance: 35 ohms

Accessories: Padded flip-open presentation case; two sets of signal cables—1.5m cable terminated with a 3.5mm mini‑plug, and 3M cable terminated with a 6.35mm headphone plug, and 4-pin XLR plug; one 3.5mm-to-6.35mm adapter plug.

Weight: 399g

Price: £1,099 (UK), or $1,299 (US)

Manufacturer: HiFiMAN

URL: www.hifiman.com

Tel: +1-201-443-4626

Tags: FEATURED

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