Disclaimer: Hifiman is a Headfonia advertiser but that hasn’t stopped us to be rather critical before.
This probably is one of the, if not THE last review from my hand in 2015. Next week I’ll be looking back to 2015 but I couldn’t do so without having posted the HE-1000 review first. I reviewed a lot of portable gear this year but now it’s up to the HE-1000. My 57th article this year.
I have been a fan of the Hifiman planar magnetic sound ever since I got the – now discontinued – Hifiman HE-500. The 500 was my favorite headphone for a very long time but headphone technology has evolved quickly and my personal preferences changed. I still own the HE-500 and think back of it with a lot of good memories but it hardly gets any playtime anymore.
Hifiman hasn’t been sitting still and over the last few years they have completely changed and completed their product line up. Gone is the design of the HE-500 and HE-400 and except for the HE-6, their former TOTL headphone, the new headphones now all have the same design. The HE-400i, HE-400S and HE-560 all become a lot more comfortable and the quality of sound went up. Hifiman’s latest headphone, the HE-1000, follows the new design strategy but at the same time Hifiman incorporated a whole bunch of new technologies in their newest reference headphone. Hifiman is a brand that is always pushing to go further and that is what I love about them. Dr. Fang Bian’s strategy to keep on developing to give customers the best value for money is one I like very much. Sure it might not always be perfect right from the start but Hifiman will get that new product out to the masses as soon as they can. The HE-400S, a great headphone costing only $299USD, is a perfect example of this. But let’s get started with the Hifiman HE-1000.
Hifiman wanted the HE-1000 to be of reference level and it actually took them about 7 years of research to get the HE-1000 where it is today. It certainly is an innovative headphone and several very important technical developments have been introduced.
The HE-1000 has the world’s first diaphragm in nanometer thickness (Dr. Bian’s specialty), an advanced asymmetrical magnetic circuit and a patented window shade system (for driver protection in an open back design). Hifiman has even set up a dedicated new website of the HE-1000 to explain what exactly they did and effect it has on the headphone and its sound.
The HE-1000, as we’re used to from Hifiman, is a planar magnetic technology headphone and it has a Frequency Range of 8Hz-65KHz. It has an impedance of 35±3Ω with a sensitivity of 90dB and that on paper doesn’t make it the most difficult to drive headphone.
Comfort & Design
The HE-1000, like most of Hifiman’s headphones, comes in a pretty nice box. As this is their reference unit, the box more or less has the same look and feel as the headphone itself. Each unit comes enclosed with a manual and 3 sets of cables and that’s about it. For a TOTL reference headphone the box and its contents aren’t that spectacular (even if you get 3 cables). Not that the Audeze boxes are that spectacular but compared to the Sennheiser HD800 box in example, it does lack in presentation and style. Of course the boxes aren’t that important – unless you keep your headphone in there – but with the price you’re paying for the unit, it could have been more special.
Looks are something personal but to me the headphone looks gorgeous. Hifiman used the same headband system they introduced with the HE400i, only the materials now are beautiful aluminum and soft leather/velour. The new sexy grills give the HE-1000 an industrial look I quite like but the HE-1000 is a pretty big headphone. The cups aren’t the smallest but they can swivel 360°, their shape actually reminds me of the original Orpheus headphone I have listened to on several occasions. Even with the huge cups and the “high above your head” headband system, the HE-1000 disappears once you put it on. It is a very comfortable headphone and I’d put it in between the HD800 and the Audeze LCD2/3 comfort wise. The pads used on the HE-1000 are slightly asymmetric shaped like the Audeze pads but not as much (the 400I and 560 also are). They are very soft, feel great on your skin and they spread the pressure evenly on your jaw. The perforated leather headband that rests on your head spreads the weigh evenly. Its little brother the HE-560 only weighs 390gr while the old HE-500 and the Audeze line-up easily weigh over 500gr. My favourite closed headphone, the LCD-XC, even weighs over 600gr. and it’s the heaviest headphone in my collection. Sennheiser’s HD800 only weighs 330gr. and the HE-1000 with its 480gr falls right in between. It really is more comfortable than the Audeze and the other Hifiman headphones, but the HD800 is still the King of Comfort.
When Hifiman launched the HE-400S a couple of months ago, they finally stopped using the screw on connectors Hifiman is so famous for and they were replaced with simple 2.5mm plug-in connectors. The HE-1000 comes delivered with 3 different cable terminations: 3.5mm for use with mobile devices, 6.3mm for your regular desktop amplifier and a 4-pin XLR termination for a balanced output. I also ordered an aftermarket PlusSound cable and have used the balanced cable that Audioquest sent me when I broke my Nighthawk’s cable.
Hifiman doesn’t always have the best reputation when it comes to build quality at the launch of a new product and I myself have had issues with both the original HE-400 and the HE-560 when they were released. All of my other Hifiman headphones are flawless though and I think Hifiman just is a little enthusiastic when they’re releasing a new product. As a matter of fact, they’re not the only ones having issues and there are numerous stories about Audeze and other very well-known headphone companies having quality control issues. The HE-1000 on the other hand is a $2999USD headphone and at that level there shouldn’t be any issues at all.
The HE-1000 I received is one of the very earliest units and unfortunately the finish of the wood on the earcups isn’t perfect. My friends didn’t even notice that but I apparently have an eye for detail. All the other HE-1000s I have seen at shows – and those are quite a lot as everyone seems to have replaced their Audeze’s with Hifimans – seem to be flawless however. I’m convinced I just had one of the very early units and I’m sure Hifiman wouldn’t distribute badly finished $3000USD headphones. But just in case, check them before you buy.
For the rest I can’t complain about a single thing: the leather is very nice, the grills/aluminum is really sexy and the focus pads are perfect. The HE-1000 is beautiful and with the new connectors is is a very easy headphone to use and store.
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