Power To The Headphone
Easy to drive? No, I’m afraid not. If that had been the case it would have been an almost perfect headphone. At 90dB it isn’t that easy to drive and it shows.
Take the latest AK120ii & 240 DAPs in example: volume goes up all the way to 50 just to get to a normal listening level. I normally listen between 20 and 30 on the AKs and they top out at 75. I strongly suggest using an external amp with these players to get the power to the HE-560 and to make it sound like it should. Without external amp, the HE-560 doesn’t sound dynamic and correct and it sounds pushed.
The brand new tiny Fiio E11K has more power than you can believe and you won’t even need high gain to drive the HE-560. The E11K however isn’t the ideal portable amp for orthos. You get less clarity, dynamics and detail. Sound even starts to deform at higher listening levels and the bass boost doesn’t work with the HE-560, the results is just bad actually.
The Cypherlabs Theorem is one of my favorite portable amps with the orthodynamics. Using medium gain on the Theorem, the pairing isn’t as magical as with the Audeze’s but the HE-560 still sounds very good. I just miss the sparkle the Audeze – Theorem combo has. That sparkle shows up when I add the Picollo (review next week) in the mix. Great(!) bass, smooth mids and musical treble. What a lovely sounding combination. The Duet is even better than the Piccolo, showing more detail and a less centered sound but with the same great bass. This keeps getting better. On to the full sized desktop amps.
The Meridian Prime really matches up with the HE-560. They share the same characteristics (detail, clarity and air) and match very well. Bass just has a tad less body but keeps the detail. The famous Violectric V200 (soon to be replaced), with +6db gain, also sounds really good. You get thicker mids and bass with more overall body, treble here is least extended and detailed. It is the warmest sounding setup, but not warm as in tube warm.
Surprise of the last few weeks was the nice match with the Bottlehead Crack. Usually that one doesn’t work with orthodynamic headphones at all. Here however you get tube smoothness and warmth with a slower sound but it just works for me. Good bass, smooth mids and soft treble. Love it. Volume goes almost all the way up but I quite like the result. Who would have guessed?
The HE-560 sounded pretty darn good on my 300b amp which was made for my ortho collection. I quite like the sound from the Lafigaro OTL amp as well, the HE-500 sounds gorgeous on both of those amplifiers so that didn’t come as a surprise.
As an amping conclusion, I can only say the HE-560 needs an amp to sound its best but it isn’t too picky about the amp used at all. It just needs the extra power. It actually sounds good out of my Samsung S4 (maxxed out volume). Even better than out of the AK120ii/240. Impressive stuff.
The HE-560 comes with a sleeved crystalline copper/silver cable. Not that I am completely unhappy with the stock cable but the treble often got too hot for my taste. I tried a whole bunch of cables before settling with the Forza Audioworks Noir Hybrid HPC: more body in the mids and bass with a slightly softer treble on top. This of course is very personal and I’m sure there are dozens of other cables out there that suit your taste.
What Hifiman has created is extraordinary. Sure they got off to a wrong start but all that is forgiven after having listened to the rev 2. For only $899 they have come up with a very high level headphone. Fans of orthos and lovers of a linear, neutral but musical and slightly smooth sound just need to add this headphone to their collection. Seriously, you have no choice.
Yes, you will need an amplifier to make it sound this good but you don’t need to invest thousands on a power monster like the HE-6 needs. Of course a quality source is needed too but even the $350 Resonessence Labs Herus will do the trick.
It is a superb headphone with a very correct price and I can only congratulate Hifiman for making this. You can buy it directly from Hifiman or through one of their dealers as usual. Now I can’t wait to listen to their improved HE-400i…