HiFiMAN HE-6 Planar Magnetic Headphones (Playback, for HI-Fi+)

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HiFiMAN HE-6
HiFiMAN HE-6 Planar Magnetic Headphones (Playback, for HI-Fi+)

OVERVIEW

Consider this headphone if: you want a headphone that offers five powerful benefits: ultra wide-range frequency response, accurate tonal balance, blindingly fast transient speeds, extraordinary resolution of low-level sonic details, and serious dynamic clout (provided, of course, that you’ve brought a good enough headphone amp to the party). Let me put it this way; even if you’re familiar with the sound of great, five- or even six-figure loudspeakers, there’s a good chance the HE-6 will unveil elements of familiar recordings that you’ve never heard before. It’s that good. Once you get used to these ‘phones, you may have the unnerving sense that almost all other headphones are guilty of leaving valuable musical information “on the table.”

Look further if: you favor light, compact, and relatively easy-to-drive headphones. The HE-6 is comfortable, but also large and quite heavy (about 100 grams heavier than the already hefty HE-5LE). Also look further if you require a headphone that offers good isolation from external noises; the HE-6 is an open-back design that lets room noises through, and that can faintly be heard from the outside when it is playing. Finally, look further if you’re not prepared to spring for a high-powered, high-resolution headphone amp. If you’re committed to using low-powered headphone amps, be aware that there are other good headphones that are much easier to drive.

Ratings (relative to comparably priced headphones):

•Tonal Balance: 10
•Frequency Extremes: 10
•Clarity: 10
•Dynamics: 10 (note: performance in this area is highly amplifier dependant)
•Comfort/Fit: 8.5
•Sensitivity: 2
•Value: 10 (though certainly not cheap, the HE-6 is priced below most—though not all—of its legitimate competitors)

SONIC CHARACTER

At the outset, let me say that the HE-6 basically builds upon the strengths of the already very good HE-5LE. Specifically, the HE-6 offer improved extension and definition at both frequency extremes and conveys a significantly greater sense of top-to-bottom clarity and coherency—almost as if you are listening to an HE-5LE whose power, focus, and resolution have been dialed up to “12.”

Tonal balance between the two HiFiMAN models is similar, but not identical, with the HE-6 offering slightly more prominent low bass, and somewhat more forward-sounding upper mids and highs—differences that many listeners interpret as giving the HE-6’s a greater sense of transparency and openness. Other listeners, however, tend to perceive the HE-6 as sounding slightly bright or “analytical,” so that while acknowledging the flagship’s sharply focused and finely resolved sound, they ultimately gravitate back toward the HE-5LE’s warmer, more midrange-centric and admittedly more forgiving presentation.

The HE-6 offers exceptionally wide-range frequency response, meaning that it never sounds as if it is working hard to reach the highest or lowest frequency extremes. HiFiMAN’s HE-5LE was already very good in this respect, but the HE-6 is even better. You’ll appreciate this difference especially when listening to the HE-6 navigates the very highest overtones of treble instruments (percussion, strings, etc.), as it makes even the subtlest distinctions between “overtone signatures” plain as day.

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