Hi-Fi+ has actively followed the evolution of HiFiMAN planar headphone designs, most recently taking a long and careful look at the firm’s impressive flagship model: the HE 1000, which has received recognition as our ‘Cost No Object Headphone of the Year’. But superb though the HE 1000 is, its excellence comes at a price—and in several different senses of the word ‘price’. First, at US$2999, the HE1000 is quite expensive. Second, it is so revealing that it fairly demands to be paired with equally superb (and often equally expensive) source and amplification components. Sonically speaking, the HE 1000 is a great ride, but also—undeniably—a somewhat demanding and premium-priced ride.
Considering this situation, the team at HiFiMAN felt it would be desirable to create an HE 1000-like headphone, but one that was lower-priced, a little bit lighter, that had ever-so-slight more forgiving (some might say more ‘musical’) voicing, and that was considerably easier to drive. The answer to this ambitious design brief is an all-new headphone model called the Edition X, which previewed at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest/CanJam 2015 event this past fall and a production sample of which appeared on our doorstep a bit before Christmas. And what a welcome arrival it has proven to be.
Upon unboxing, similarities between the HE 1000 and the Edition X immediately become apparent. The two headphones share the same brilliant industrial design created for HiFiMAN by Catalano Design, with asymmetrical, ear-shaped ear-cups, a light but supportive overarching frame, a clever suspended headband support strap, and HiFiMAN’s patented ‘Window Shade’ grilles to protect the drive units while preserving maximum sonic transparency. The look of the Edition X, however, is much different to the HE 1000; where the HE 1000 is all done up in warm amber wood tones and with soft brushed silver trim and a brown headband, the Edition X is done up in classy, ‘back in black’ treatment with a black frame, black headband strap, black-chrome finished ear cup treatments, and only the brushed silver ‘Window Shade’ grille to provide a just right touch of visual relief. Upon seeing and holding the Edition X in hand, guest listeners have been unanimous in their praise for its appearance.
Technically, the Edition X differs from the HE 1000 by offering the following:
· An all-new double-sided asymmetric magnetic circuit,
· A different diaphragm design created with the thought of striking an optimal balance between high sensitivity, high resolution, and high transparency,
· A specialized signal cable featuring monocrystalline silver conductors, and
· A concomitant jump up to a stonking 103dB sensitivity rating (meaning the Edition X is so easy to drive that you could, in a pinch, drive it from an iPad without any auxiliary headphone amplifier required).