I soon found out the source and amplification have quite a big impact on the sound of this headphone. Here are some combinations I tried:
Fiio X3 directly: Without using the EQ from the X3 I do not find this to be a superbly matching combination as the bass impact and overall body to the sound is missing. When increasing bass with the EQ tool, the combination becomes more enjoyable but I’m missing something in the mids especially as the mid-range in this headphone already is lighter. The sound stage isn’t too wide in this combo either.
X3 Line Out (LO) + SMSL portable amp: First time listening to this amplifier as well and it’s clear it’s very neutrally tuned. Mids still sound lighter and bass is fairly neutral but tight while the treble is getting to the hot side. This combination is not making the H6 a happy headphone. Using the X3 headphone out to the SMSL, sound got warmer and a lot more enjoyable. Bass was still tight and the overall sound is very clear but the mid section is still missing too much for my taste.
X3 + E11 amp: This combination is fairly better, with the E11 on low gain, sound is more musical and a lot more dynamic. Plus the huge advantage is the E11 has two EQ settings which boost the bass and especially the mids more. Using the LO of the X3 I’m still not fully convinced about the mids and voicing however. Big change again when switching to the Headphone Out instead of the X3’s LO. Everything “improves” and you get a nicer, warm sound with good bass. Of course sound stage isn’t widest but especially the mid section gets that bit extra body it needed. A very nice combination!
Laptop + E10: The dark E10 tonality makes for a good combination with the H6. Bass is superb (BB on) Mids are thicker and treble is just right. Of course you lose a bit in sound stage, treble extension and detail (E10 characteristics) but this is the most enjoyable combination so far, just a bit better than as the E11.
X3 + C5 amp: The C5 is known for its Bass Boost and the smooth warm mids so my hopes for this combination were highest. Especially with bass boost on you can hear this amplifier is in a different league as the other ones I just talked about. It’s clear by now I am not a fan of Fiio’s X3 line out so let’s switch back to the headphone out: Smooth, warm sound. Big bass and the best mids so far. The H6 is sounding at its best (like with the E10 but everything is better) and while you of course can’t fully change the character of the H6 (lighter mids and thinner voicing) this combination makes it sound best I have heard. Warm, smooth, good bass and very enjoyable treble. A full bodies, complete sound.
Ipod Nano latest Gen Directly: Volume goes quite a bit up to easily 80%. The character of the H6 is very well audible. Bass is good and fast, treble is fairly extended and mids and voicing are as we’ve described the H6 to be, however with the ipod Nano this doesn’t bother me too much especially not when using the internal iPod EQ. A good combination!
Ipod + Clas + C5: Of course it is the most expensive combination but it also is the best. Soundstage and balance are widest and best, most details (huge difference), sound is clearest, treble most extended, bass tightest and has most body, mids aren’t that light anymore and while the voicing is still thinner they blend in perfectly in this setup. With this portable setup the H6 might be the best closed portable headphone I have listened to so far, together with Sennheiser’s momentum. (I don’t count the DT770 AE and COP as portable headphones in this case).
It’s really a shame I couldn’t test it with a big desktop amp like the V200 but this headphone was clearly made for on the go and I hope I covered that part more than adequately.
First thing this headphone reminds me of is the Sennheiser Momentum. I don’t know why that is because the Momentum clearly has a different tuning: upper bass, bigger mids and softer treble, more open sounding. Thing is that his headphone has a special kind of tuning that makes it different from the others. The COP’s soundstage is smaller and it has less detail but it’s an easier match with sources and amps (just like the Momentum) and it has bass ports. The wonderful Beyer DT770AE is also different. Bass on the H6 goes deeper and I even think there is more detail retrieval, the AE however is a more complete headphone (compared to the H6 that is). I surely can’t compare it to the Soundmagic HP100 as that is one of the kings of neutrality
Where does that leave us?
Is the H6 a superb or bad headphone? It is neither. Like I said this could be one of the best closed portable headphones you will listen to but you need to find the correct amp or source to match it with, something that’s often easier with other headphones. The sound signature is special and can be changed depending on the source and amp but I’m not sure most buyers will be able to or want to do that. The H6 puts you back $399, the same of amount you would pay for the Sennheiser Momentum and quite a bit more as the Beyer COP and DT770AE. Does that make the H6 overpriced? Maybe so, but you’re not buying just a headphone, you’re buying a piece of design as well.