New Hifiman Cable and Pads

hifiman_new_pads_01

Finally received the new pads and cables from Hifiman, and I think they’re really nice.

First, the pads. I received two sets of new pads: the pleather (synthetic leather) pads, and the new velour pads. Pads make up for a big part of the acoustics in a headphone, and any change in the pads (even the age of the pads) would do things to the sound waves picked up by the ears. Imagine listening to a set of speakers in an empty room with bare walls. Then, keeping the speakers the same, line the entire floor, wall, and ceilings with carpet and you can imagine how the sound would be different the second time around. Well, changing the pads in headphones is the same thing, only simpler and cheaper.

Sound Impressions – Pleather Pads

I tried the pleather first, since it was very different and new. Considerable change in the sound, as everything becomes two stop darker. It was not muffled dark, as you still get the same clear background orthodynamic sound, but just a general reduction in treble and a slight boost in bass body. The resulting sound is significantly more calm and more relaxed, almost like the Omega 2 Stax in a way, dark yet linear sound. This is definitely a good change if you’ve always felt like wanting a darker sounding Hifiman headphones.

Aside from the tonal balance shift, there are also some changes to the sound which includes a more closed-in sound and a less accurate timbre. One, the sound feels less open, and I suspect that this is due to the lessening of high frequency propagation as a result of the pleather pads. The sensation of open sound is a usually a result of good top treble reproduction, and along with the tonal balance shift induced by the pleather pads, you also get a more closed-in feel (this is why guys like Grado, Beyer, and Sennehiser mainly uses velour with their open headphones). Another thing is the less accurate timbre, again the result of the pleather pads having its own acoustic “color”. It’s probably not a big deal if you listen to Pop, but if you are a die hard Jazz, Acoustic, and Classical, then you’re not going to like the changes introduced with the pleather pads — though it is so very comfortable to wear.

Sound Impressions – New Velour Pads

The new velour Pads are different not only in the mounting mechanism, but I find the material used for the velour pads are also slightly different. The cloth is smoother and has a finer grain, and likewise the driver cover material is of a different, higher quality material than the old standard velour pads. I’ve taken some close up shot of the old and new velour pads so you can compare the differences.

The sound of the new velour takes on the basics of the old velour pads and improve it further. Yes, if you’ve been enjoying your Hifiman headphone with the original velour pads and you don’t really want to change its sound signature, the new velour is the pads for you. Not only is it more comfortable, but the sound improvement is very real. The tonal balance is mostly alike to the old velour, but this time you get a slight boost in midrange body and even more body on the low frequencies which is just nice. Treble is more or less the same, retaining most of the same airy sound that the old velour has, but perhaps one percent less bright. Now those changes, along with the more comfortable material already makes this new velour a good upgrade, but what I find to be amazing is how the new velour changes the sound to be more three dimensional. Yes! You read that correctly. More 3D! I don’t know how a different cloth material makes the sound more 3D, but as I’ve said, the right pads on a headphone is like the right acoustic treatment in a room. With the new velour pads, the Hifiman headphones have a much improved layering now, whereas they are pretty flat before. Add the beefier bass and mids, and the improved comfort of the new pads, I don’t think I’ll ever be going back to the old pads.

The New Silver Cable

The silver cable is built beautifully, though finished with a pretty standard molded plastic connector at the end. The sound is clearly silver. Bright, thin, dry silver. It’s brighter and thinner than the HE-6 original cable (the braided gold color cable), and it’s much brighter than the standard HE-500 original cable (the black Canare). Silver has their fans, but I’m never a big fan of silver. In fact, in this case the black Canare of the HE-500 remains my favorite cable for the Hifiman headphones (It is my favorite cable for the LCD-2 too).

End Words

So, there it is. I’m excited about the new pleather pads since I think that will make the Hifiman plays better with mainstream recordings, but for the Jazz, Audiophile, Acoustic, Classical crowd, I suggest you look into the new velour pads for your Hifiman headphone.

 

Gear used for review:

Hifiman HE-6, HE-500, HE-4, Hifiman HM-801, HM-602, Dared MP-5 Tube Amplifier (speaker out).

Galleria

I have uploaded all the detail pictures of the pads into the gallery below. The feature is new and still rather buggy, if you can’t see them, please drop me a line in the comments section below. There is also a little “i” button on the top left of the gallery where you can see the caption for each images.

hifiman_new_pads_12 hifiman_new_pads_11 hifiman_new_pads_10 hifiman_new_pads_09 hifiman_new_pads_08 hifiman_new_pads_07 hifiman_new_pads_06 hifiman_new_pads_05 hifiman_new_pads_04 hifiman_new_pads_03 hifiman_new_pads_02 hifiman_new_pads_01

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  • Shahrose

    Hey Mike. How do I get my hands on a pair of these new velour pads? I’d like to test them out on the HE-6.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      As usual, Head-Direct? 

      • Shahrose

        Seems like Head-Direct doesn’t have a link to these new velour pads, only the pleather. I guess we’ll have to email them.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Apparently Fang doesn’t sell it separately. But I think that’s just because he doesn’t think that people will be wanting to trade their original velour into another velour pads.
          I’ve told him that yes, people would want to try out this new velour. So if you guys bug him enough, there is no reason he won’t put it up for sale.
          Also, interestingly, I’m not even sure Fang realizes the differences in sound between the two velours aside from the improved mounting mechanism. But I can be wrong on this.

  • Andy

    Pleather pads (and aftermarket ones at that) on a $700 headphone seems like an odd choice, why not just use actual leather?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Good point. 

      Yes I suppose you can have leather pads. 

  • Dave

    Aside from the new pads and cable, does the HE-500 still have reverse polarity? (And what exactly does reverse polarity mean, does mean that the left and right channels are reversed?) Also, if you order these Hifiman headphones now do they give you both the new pleather pads and new velour pads?

    I have to admit I’m a fan of silver cables – I like how they add a touchy improvement to the treble. I also listen to more mainstream music like pop and rock over classics, so I suppose I’ll prefer the pleather pads. I remember reading in your previous reviews that HE-500 is overall better than the HE-6; can the same be said now, even with the upgrades in earpads and cable?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Dave, 

      Reverse polarity is when you reverse the positive and negatives – not left and right (that’s reversed channels). 

      I don’t know who started the whole Hifiman reversed polarity issue. But I’ve tested it and the original polarity is correct. When you flip the polarity what you get is a messy soundstage image. Stuff that usually plays at the center is now split in two halves and are playing on the left and right. 

      There were also some rumors about the Unique Melody IEMs having a reversed polarity. Likewise, false. 

      As for the new pads with the new headphones, I have to ask Hifiman about that. 

      • Dave

        I see, so it was only a rumor after all. Speaking of the gears, why did you use a Dared MP-5 tube amplifier with the Hifiman? I am familiar with this product (it was somewhat popular several years ago), but given its specs it would be one of the last amps I could think of to use with Hifiman orthos. Even when using its speaker outs, did it perform solidly compared to other headphone amps around?

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Well, you know what it’s funny because it is one of the best amps that I found to use with the HE-6 and the HE-500. It has just the right amount of power, and it has a very smooth sound, warmth, mids, and I just love the combination with the HE-6 and the HE-500.

          Yes driving directly from the speaker outs.

          • Stello

            That’s quite interesting, I own a Dared MP-5 amp and though I haven’t used in
            a while, I bought it to drive small bookshelf speakers on my desktop rig. Never
            thought of using it as a headphone amp with its speaker outs. Still it’s rather
            surprising how it drives even demaning magnetostatic headphones like HE-6.

             

            Sorry if it sounds like a silly question, but how do you drive a headphone
            out of an amp’s speaker outs? All my headphone cables are 1/4″ single ended
            terminated, but there are two speaker outs for each channel. Do I need a special
            adaptor? If so where can I buy a good one?

          • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

            You know what, I don’t use the Dared anymore, other than for these Hifimans. :D

            It has just the “right” amount of power. Enough to drive the HE-6, and not too much that the sound becomes noisy.

            As for the cable, I make my own cables, as that saves a lot of money when I need to test things out. So, sorry about that. I guess you need to find someone who can build one for you?

      • Ned

        Tyll mentions the reversed polarity on http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/hifiman-he-5-he-5le-he-6-and-he500-planar-magnetic-headphones-page-2

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Yea, I read that briefly, it seems he detected the reversed polarity on the measurements. I don’t know what is up with that since the original wiring is definitely correct in polarity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rūdolfs-Putniņš/100001284307683 Rūdolfs Putniņš

    “Considerable change in the sound, as everything becomes two stop darker.”

    I hope that doesn’t lead to any lost detail in the shadows, hehe…

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Well, still in the language of photography.. it would not lose the shadow details, but it is not going to be as apparent as the two stops lighter version. ;)

      I’m talking about bass detail here, guys.

  • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

    Hifiman told me that if you buy the HE-500/HE-6 right now you’ll get the new velour and pleather. If you buy just the HE-300 you’ll get the new velour only.

  • HC

    According to what you mentioned, the new Velour pads seems too good to be true. Will definitely give them a try!

    May I know how does the he-500 cable compare to the original he-6 cable in terms of sound? Thanks a bunch Mike.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi HC, 

      Yea, even my friends think that I’m too bold to say what I said about the new Velour pads. But I guess if we look at the pads similar to how acoustic treatment in a room can maximize the potential of your speakers, then it is possible that a simple material change can contribute to these changes. 

      Original HE-500 cable is the stock black Canare. It is dark and warm and thick at the bottom. The way I like my headphones to sound. ;) 

      The HE-6 cable, I think may be a silver plated copper. It is brighter and more articulate, but still warmer than the new silver cable. It has less mid and bass body than the HE-500 cable. 

      • http://twitter.com/Lieven_V Lieven V

        I ordered a new cable to be used with the LCD2 and HE-500. Like Mike I also prefer the sound of the original HE-500 cable, but it’s just way too heavy. I’m curious of how the Norn series 4-wire Litz up-occ sounds. It sure does look good

        • HC

          Thanks for the prompt reply Mike, i’ve been holding back on the pleather pads because i knew Hifiman are coming out with new velours and wanted to read your impressions on the pads. I would be in heaven if they proved to be what you just described. :P

          Lieven, the Norn series occ cable looks gorgeous. Perhaps you could take one for the  team? :P

          • http://twitter.com/Lieven_V Lieven V

            The Norn series is on its way already ;)

          • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

            I actually had no idea they were coming out with these pads. How did you know? ;) 

          • HC

            Saw it on head-fi sometime ago. Sorry but i couldn’t find the link.  Someone made an announcement right after the pleather pads that there will be updated velours with the new mounting as well. ;)

            Congratulations on your new purchase Lieven, looking forward to your impressions. ;)

  • Didier

    I ‘ve ordered the pleather pads out of curiosity and didn’t like  at all how they mess up the sound. They are very confortable but too soft and thin. Nice to hear about the new velour but I am using DT990 pads at the moment a really enjoy the sound over the old velour.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Too bad, I actually think that the pleather is quite enjoyable, just not for me.
      In what way did the pleather mess up the sound?

  • Katun

    Just got my pleather pads today. Using them with my HE-300.

    First I’d like to say, I still don’t like the attachment mechanism that they use, but it’s still better than the old. Actually, it’s exactly the same, except a flexible material instead of thin plastic that cracks easy. Glad they fixed it none the less.

    But onto the sound. I absolutely HATE what the pleather pads do to the HE-300. Bass gets smeared all across the midrange, and overwhelms everything else in the spectrum. Comfort wise, I find them a bit thin, and not all that soft. Probably a tie between the two. Sound wise, the velour wins hands down. I had high hopes for them too. (I’m sure they’d work better for the orthos than an already bassy dynamic).

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Katun,
      I would imagine that the Pleather would make the HE-300 way too warm and do all those things to the bass like what you said. Sorry I didn’t test the pleather with the HE-300 as it’s out on a loaner.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Oh, and I think you’re right on the part that the pleather works better for the ortho models. Not because of the driver type, but just the way the frequency balance of the orthos models are.

  • Fran I

    I have a review pair in house and I can say i much prefer the new Velour pads and fang sent me this with the leather pads and a single ended HE6 cable. I am very impressed with the changes made. Outstanding value IMO.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Awesome, Fran.

      I’m really curious to when Fang would start selling the new Velour on the store.

  • HC

    Just got the new velours onto HE-6 and i’ve to say i’m very happy with the sound. 
    Less dramatic than what you described though, mike. =PMoney well spent!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      :)

  • Shahrose

    Hey Mike, just installed the new velour pads on the HE-6 last week and I agree with all of your findings. (Larger soundstage, more bass + definition, and less treble). I don’t think the differences are dramatic, but they are noticeable over the old velour pads. For the price, it’s an excellent upgrade.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      That’s awesome, Shahrose. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Sommers/100000917461293 Kevin Sommers

    Could you comment on the pleather pads and the HE-4? I think that would give us a good impression on what the HE-400 could sound like.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Kevin,
      I am sorry I didn’t have time to compare the pads on the HE-4, but the effect should be similar. Anyway I should have the HE-400 soon. If you stay tune to our Facebook (www.facebook/headfonia), I’ll probably post early impressions there as soon as I get it.

  • Lee

    Which tubes did you use in your dared mp5 when driving HE6 from the speaker out?  Have you rolled tubes? 

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Lee,
      No just the stock tubes with the Dared.

      • Lee

        Hi Mike,

        Thanks for answering my question.  I just tried a rebranded dared mp 5(fatman itube) after reading your comments here.  It is a great match with HE6 by adding to the lower mid and upper base region.  I read on head-fi that people have rolled tubes but with K1000 and other phones, some mentioned a pair EH gold 5751 gave good results.  Given how cheap that is, I may give it a try.  I have a Woo WA22 with a pre-out.  I tried that with the tube combo of TS 7236/TS 6sn7 BGRP/596.  The fatman with the WA22 pre-amp gave better details.

        I have been reading your articles and found them to be very informative and “spot on”.  Any chance to review a LCD3?  I will wait for your review before my decison to buy or not.

        Thanks again for introducing me to dared mp5 and providing the headfi community a great service. 

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Yes you can try different tubes and some will give you a better sound, while some other a different sound. I feel that the HE-6 would be best with some warm tubes particularly ones that add bass body. I didn’t have time to try the Dared with different tubes though and since it’s not an amplifier that I use a lot, I just left it with the stock tubes. 

          The LCD-3 is coming to me sometimes in February. Hopefully I can write a good review on it. 

          You’re welcome, and glad you enjoy the site. 

          • Lee

            Hi Mike,

            I tried Sovtek 5751, it increased the base but made the mid sound thiner.  The stock tubes are pretty good. 

            How do you compare dared mp5 with dark star in driving the HE6?

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              The Dared is not a particularly linear sounding amp, and so I still notice that some areas of the frequency especially treble and bass to be not so favorable. The midrange is good and also the impact is good, but the treble is still a bit too hot for me and the low bass is not so good. The Dark Star on the other hand reproduces a much cleaner sound with a much more linear frequency response top to bottom.

  • http://twitter.com/feeshychips CHS

    How much of a discernible difference is there between the new HE500 with the new velour pads and silver cables, and the HE500 with the old velour pads? Are we talking “Wow – I can immediately hear a difference improvement, or is it more subtle and subjective gut-feel that requires repeated listening?”

    And would an experienced reviewer be able to tell them apart on double blind-A/B testing?
    Finally, if cost is taken into account. If you could get an old velour pad+old cable HE500 for 3/4 price, would you still pick the newer HE500 with the new pads and cable? Or will the earlier model offer a better price/performance ratio over the new ones?

    Curious …

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I think it all depends on how familiar are you with the HE-500 in the first place. I’ve had it for many many months before, and the moment I install the new pads and cables I immediately noticed the difference — though just for the record I don’t really like the sound of the silver cable.

      As for the price, are you talking about buying used? If buying used versus new, I’d probably spend the extra 1/4 just to get a new one. But again it depends on how much money I have in the bank.

      • http://twitter.com/feeshychips CHS

        Yes. A used, 9 month old HE 500 for U$500. Mint condition. However, if i choose to replace the old velour pads with the new ones, as well as upgrade to the new cable. I wonder how much it would cost.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          I don’t remember the price of the pads and cables, may be best to check with the Head-Direct store.

          http://www.head-direct.com/

  • http://www.facebook.com/Reticuli Benjamin Goulart

    Your understanding of the effect of 180 degrees out of phase on both channels (reversed polarity) is incorrect. Sounds like you’re talking about the two channels being out of phase. That’s different. You also oddly use the term “original polarity” but give no frame of reference. And you do not state how you determined that the polarity on yours was in fact correct.

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  • Dave Ulrich

    If I’m not mistaken, the HE-400 uses the same cable as the HE-500 did originally, just terminated into a 1/8 plug instead of a 1/4 inch. Am I right?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      They changed cables a few times I think? Lost track but I think you’re right the HE-400 came with 1/8″ .

      • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

        The HE-400 came with the big plug and the HE-500 originally came with the 3.5mm plug with the adapter to 1/8. Then they started delivering the silver cable to the HE-500. When using the Hifimans I either use the original HE-400 cable, my Norse aftermarket cable or the stock LCD-2 cable with adapters

        • Dave Ulrich

          I am trying the HE-500 and I ordered the HE-400 cable along with it as I don’t want the silver cable.

          • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

            Black copper cable is my favorite