Hifiman HE-500 First Impression


It really doesn’t take lot of listening time to see that the HE-500 is, in most cases, a better headphone than the HE-6.

Perhaps the biggest improvement factor with the HE-500 is the sensitivity factor. Yes, you still need a fairly potent headphone amplifier, but at least you don’t need to hook it up to some 50 watts speaker amplifier or anything like that. This alone will make a huge different to people’s experience with the headphone, as a bigger range of amplifier are available to drive the HE-500 sufficiently with. In my case, I’m using the HE-500 with the Burson HA-160D as well as Earfonia’s Pseudo Balanced Amplifier (an article on that next week), and both amps were able to drive the HE-500 with plenty of headroom.

Tonality wise, the Hifiman HE-500 is warmer and slightly less bright than the HE-6. Though treble lovers would start hunting for a good silver cable, most people would find the tonal balance of the HE-500 to be more balanced than the HE-6. Sometimes, on loud passages, the brilliantly clear HE-6 treble does get a little piercing. Not anymore with the HE-500. The brilliantly clear and harsh-free treble is still there, just toned down perhaps around 2dB. And for you HE-6 fans worrying that it’ll turn into an LCD-2 clone, don’t worry, it’s far from it. The tonality change also gives the HE-500 a warmer and slightly fuller mids than the HE-6, while still retaining most of its clarity. Likewise, bass body is also slightly increased, making things more well balanced. Overall, it’s like the same headphone as the HE-6, but you seem to be getting a better pairing with the amplifier this time.

Guys, it is REALLY hard not to get impressed with this headphone. Even as I just finished another round of comparison between the Omega 2, HD800, T1, HE-6, and the LCD-2 last week.

Slight finishing differences include black headband on the HE-500 (brown on the HE-6), a metallic gray gloss finish, and black painted metal holder.


Additional impressions reveals that the HE-500 is somewhat less uptight, less dry than the HE-6. It’s funny because I’ve never felt the HE-6 to be dry before, and yet the warmer HE-500 is now giving me exactly that impression. The speed factor still feels faster on the HE-6, and the bass better articulated (the HE-500 feels looser next to the HE-6’s bass), but overall, I think the HE-500 with its slightly slower pace is the more musical sounding of the two. Despite the slightly looser bass, the added body in the bass makes it feel more planted and secure on the low frequencies. It still hasn’t mastered bass the way the LCD-2 does, but for people who can’t live with the sound of the LCD-2, the HE-500 is probably the best alternative in the market today in terms of musicality (easy to appreciate and enjoy) and practicality (doesn’t demand crazy-priced amps). The HE-500 is sure to be a crowd pleaser at your local headphone meet.

Ergonomics is also far improved. One reason is the lighter weight of the HE-500, significantly lighter than the HE-6. But it seems that Hifiman has also introduced new pads with the HE-500, though looking very similar to the HE-6. The pads are softer and much more comfortable on the ears. Additionally, the stock cable now comes with a Canare speaker cable, similar to the cable that comes on the early batches of the LCD-2. Comparing the cable to the HE-6 cable, the Canare is warmer and bassier, while the the HE-6 cable is more treble centric and is dryer. You can probably ask Hifiman if they’ll sell you the Canare cable to use with the HE-6, as I personally like the Canare better than the stock HE-6 cable. Using the HE-6 stock cable on the HE-500 will also bring it closer to the tonality of the HE-6. But of course the two headphones can’t be made to sound identical, due to the differences in the driver.
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  • Shilelis

    What amp and DAC you can suggest for HE-500? budget 200-300$(for both or just for amp, DAC isn’t very important now).

    • L.

      In that price range I can’t think of anything, sorry

      • Shilelis

        Hmm, maybe in 300-400$ price range you can advice?

        • L.

          We usually suggest the V800; V200 combo in balanced

          • Shilelis

            Thank god I have spare 1700 euro.

            • L.

              hahaha. for a headphone like this you should have an amp & dac budget much bigger to get the very best result. That said, there always is cheaper and good

              • Shilelis

                There’s O2+ODAC Combo or NFB-15.32 – audio-gd priced very well and that can work well with he-500 I think. It’s not must to buy a 1700euro amp with dac 😀 ( I guess)

                • L.

                  Please don’t go O2/ODac for your HE500

                  • Shilelis

                    And what about Magni Modi combo? In the future I could buy better ones like Lyr and bitfrost.

                    • L.

                      O2 and Schiit, you really know how to pick my least favorite products man :). You better ask someone else like Dave or Dale about those, sorry but I can’t help you

  • Tom


    Why haven`t you tested Lehmann Rhinelander? It has had very good reviews. And the price is very attractive @ 350€. I think people would want to see more of cheaper amplifiers/headphones etc and really hear the thruth is it worth it to pay more. Can normal guy here it or is it just goldears review talk.

    Also would like to know these:

    200€ headphone plus 100€ amp (o2/Schiit) VS 500€ amp (A20) (How much the sound is better, can normal guy hear it easily?)

    500€ headphone plus 100€ amp / ~200-350€ amp (what you gain in sound by better amp, is it necessary to buy expensive amp, everyone says put more money to headphones, is it possible to get nice sound when amp costing much less than heaphones etc)

    It would be nice if you do tests for normal people, everone doesn`t have the money or don`t want to buy 1000€ amps etc. Approach the test little differently, maybe take some normal guy who listen music often in the test and blind test him etc. You guys have heard so many dirty costing systems that when you hear these cheapos you say bad words from them.

    • L.

      Cause Lehman didn’t even bother to reply to my sample request. In audio there is something like diminishing return ($$$)

      • dalethorn

        Some things just take care of themselves – that works for me.

    • Dave Ulrich

      Hmmm, I am pretty sure there are some very positive reviews of cheaper sound gear on headfonia, having written a few of them myself.

      • L.

        Exactly Dave. I didn’t really appreciate this comment either. That being said, maybe audio prices are going up constantly and maybe this isn’t a site where we review every cheap bit of gear that is released.

        But I’m curious, what “cheaper” gear would you want to see reviewed then, @disqus_duGlvEUTq7:disqus

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  • L.

    The HE-500 has been officially discontinued. I advise everyone to buy one of the last ones around. Now!

    • Yaroslav

      Does the comparison (TL;DR “if you’re poor or just starting, go with 500”) stand with 400i/560?

  • Anon

    Hi guys,

    Would the Fiio X5 be able to drive these?

    • not at all

      • Anon

        Hmm thanks.
        Sorry its a bit off topic but I’m considering upgrading my headphones to something better, I currently have fidelio L1’s. Whats the best pair of headphones i could get away with, paired with the X5? I like hip hop and also a lot of country/folky music.

  • Mark

    Thank you for this review. This one and others helped me deciding to buy a HE-500. I’ve read numerous reviews mentioning the slight sparkly treble on this can. I plan to swap the stock silver cable for the copper one, but I’d also like to know which budget amps are mild in treble, in case the cable doesn’t tame it enough. I heard the Burson Conductor or Violectric offerings have the sound I’m looking for, but they are far out of my price range for now. I realize a €300 amp doesn’t do my new headphone justice, but that amount will have to do for now. I currently use a Schiit Magni with my HD600, but that amp is too hot in the treble for my liking and will soon go. Are there any other budget amps that provide 1W + like the magni, but have more forgiving highs?

    • Maybe a tube amp?

      • Mark

        That would help out with the highs, but power would then be an issue. Hybrids could be an option, but a second hand Schiit Lyr is also not warm enough for my taste.

        • I’m not sure on the power issue – I thought most of the decent tube amps had lots of power. I have a $110 or so tube amp that I think would drive anything. Bravo Ocean.

  • Jonathan Hwang

    If my amp is the violectric v200, would you say the he500 or the hd 650 is the way to go?

    • Dave Ulrich

      Honestly, most anything is the way to go with that amp. What is your source? What kind of music do you enjoy?

    • They both are excellent on the V200

    • Jonathan Hwang

      I mostly listen to instrumental/classical with a bit of jazz rock and electronic. My source is the Geek pulse Sfi