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.
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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