I first listened to the Hifiman Edition S at High End Munich earlier this year. Fang handed me a SuperMini with the Edition S connected to it. While meets and fairs certainly aren’t the best places to audition gear, the S immediately showed what it was made for and what it is good at. With all the noise there was you with the closed Edition S immediately got the feeling of a full bodied sound where bass would always be present. The pairing with the SuperMini was very musical as well and I hope to hear more about it very soon (the SuperMini is on its way).
The sound signature of the Edition S logically changes when you turn it in to an open headphone but in both cases the Edition S has a more musical and fun tuning than it has a “reference” one as many call it. Bass and mids have bigger body than in a neutral tuned headphone and the treble is soft and easy to listen to yet at the same time you get a good level of detail and clarity while the sound
stage is more than just ok. I would say the character of the Edition S tilts more to the warmer side but this isn’t an overly warm or colored headphone.
In closed mode you get the feeling of a more concentrated and less spacious/airy sound but that is only normal. The sound stage and depth are good and you get a clean sound on a black background. In closed mode the voices are a bit faster, refined or even a little more forward. The overall speed of the headphone is good. Bass isn’t very tight but it isn’t loose at all. Bass impact is good but bass is more compact sounding. The mids have good weight but like the bass miss a bit of spaciousness resulting in a slightly more concentrated sound. Treble is just energetic enough and it’s inoffensive to everyone. The Edition S isn’t a headphone for the bass heads, but it certainly isn’t a headphone for the treble minded either.
In open mode I find you do get a more spacious and layered sound with more emotion and timbre. Because of that I find that the Edition S lets you hear details better. The combination of this makes it sound even more musical than in closed mode. The bass might be a bit slower, looser and more airy but it has better layering, mid bass impact and to me a little more sub bass. It still is nowhere near a bass head’s dream though; it’s not that bass heavy. The mids section also gets more spacious and layered and voices are a little softer and smoother but stay a tad more to the front. The treble section doesn’t seem to change that much beside the obvious openness.
The Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro is a closed headphone and it’s a lot bigger than the Edition S. While this headphone isn’t foldable a lot of people use it on the go. The COP’s sound is very different from the S, it’s doesn’t have the full bodied sound the S has, the voices are thinner and even more forward and it is more V-shaped than the Hifiman. On top of that its clamping force is bigger and it’s less comfortable. While I do like the COP a lot, I find the SQ of the Edition S to be better, smoother, more musical. On the COP then again, you can set your preferred bass level, and that’s why most people like and buy it.
The Philips L2 has smaller ear pads but it’s about the same size the S is. The Fidelio L2’s sound also is completely different from the Edition S. It’s clearer sounding, has more detail and it sounds more spacious. It extends further too. Bass quantity is about the same but the treble section is a lot better in the L2. The L2 makes the S sound compressed and L2’s voices are more and forward. Basically the S is warm sounding compared to the L2 which has a more reference tuning. The L2 is a great headphone but a lot of people would love a little more bass and thicker mids in this headphone. A mix of both these headphone would be perfect.
The Beyerdynamic DT770/AE/32 is a great headphone and it might very well be the most recommended headphone on the site. The DT770 has a more V shaped signature than the Edition S and it does scale up quite a bit with an amplifier. Straight out of the Cayin i5 in example, I preferred the sound of the S but with the Hugo, the DT770 clearly was my favorite. Straight form the headphone out the Edition S has fuller bass and bigger mids and is more fun to listen to. Amped I do prefer the DT770.
Good amplification of the Edition S will slightly alter its sound signature and bring out more details and better layering (Like the Hugo I tried it with) but this headphone in no way really needs an amplifier. It was built not to need amps and most people will use this directly from their phone or DAP and that’s perfectly fine.
Straight from my trusted Samsung S4 the Edition S performs flawless with good bas, layered mids and a whole lot of musicality, it’s one of the first headphones I really like directly from my S4. The AK70 has a slightly warmer and more bass-like sound signature but it has more power than your ever need for the S. Bass indeed gets a little bigger with more punch and the sound is smooth and relaxed, I never went over 65 on the dial.
The iBasso DX90 is a classic and mine is Lurker rockboxed. I find it to give the Edition S a well-balanced sound with tight bass, good speed great mid clarity and especially good treble. The latest Cayin i5 is the most expensive DAP I tried the Edition S with and it has the best level of detail of the mentioned DAPs and on top of that it has a sublime Android based UI. Music is detailed and clean with good depth and width. Layering is as good as it can get and the musicality is high. A sublime combination.
The Hifiman Edition S is the cheapest headphone in Hifiman’s lineup but that doesn’t mean at all it isn’t producing good sound. For a small price ($249) you get a portable open and closed headphone that is easy to drive and that will let you enjoy your music at all times.
Even though the Edition S is mainly made out of plastic, it looks great, is very well built and it can take a beating. It doesn’t matter too much what source you use it with as it is easy to drive, an external amplifier isn’t needed but it can change the Edition S’s sound signature a little bit.
If you’re looking for a portable and affordable fun sounding headphone with good quality, you really have to put the Edition S on the list. Besides the fact that the ear pads might touch your ears, there aren’t a lot of bad things to say about it. Another great headphone made by Hifiman, that’s what it is.
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