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).
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).
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.