Long term Hi-Fi+ readers know that we hold several of the top-tier planar magnetic headphones from the Chinese firm HiFiMAN in very high regard—most notably the flagship HE 1000 (reviewed in issue 126 and recipient of last year’s Hi-Fi+ Cost-no-Object Headphone of the Year award) and the second-from-the-top Edition X model (reviewed in issue 137). But great though both models were and are, the fact is that development never ceases in the fast-paced world of high-end headphones so that new and improved ‘V2’ models have now come along to replace the original HE1000 and Edition X headphones. Naturally, these developments raise some questions. First, how do the new V2 models differ from their well-liked original counterparts? Second, do the V2 updates have any significant impact on sound quality and if so is that impact a positive one? Third, do the V2 improvements entail any changes in pricing? We will tackle all three of those questions in this review.
The HE1000 V2 receives several changes that might individually seem small, but whose collective impact is significant. First, the HE1000 V2 features a subtly revised headband that, according to HiFiMAN, “will accommodate a wider ranges of head sizes while applying correct pressures evenly.” The HE1000’s metal headband frame is a CNC-milled, hand polished structure below which is suspended a beautiful stitched suede headband strap supported at each end by polished metal click-stop carriers. To fit the headphone, one positions the strap atop one’s head and then adjusts the carriers upwards or downwards until the headphone ear cups are perfectly positioned.
Next, the HE1000 V2 receives a signal cable upgrade featuring, says HiFIMAN, “further refined conductors (higher grade crystalline copper and crystalline silver) with improved, stronger structure.” Part of this improved structure involves the use of highly pliable, vibration-damping rubber cable jackets that not only resist tangling but also—in my experience—handily suppressed the transmission of mechanical noise through the cable jackets. Moreover, the manufacturer adds, the new cable “delivers better sound quality with wider frequency range and lower signal loss.” In keeping with the HE1000 V2’s role as a flagship model, three separate sets of signal cables are included: one terminated with a 3.55mm mini-plug, one with a 6.35mm headphone plug, and one with a 4-pin XLR balanced connector (for use with balanced output headphone amplifiers).
Third, the HE1000 V2 receives updated bevelled ear pads that have been re-designed, says HiFiMAN, “to become thicker” and to provide a more pronounced “asymmetrical shape that follows the form of the ear cups” (note: when viewed from the side, the HE1000 V2 ear cups are roughly shaped like stylised, oversized human ears). But the changes don’t end there. The original HE1000 ear pads had pleather sides with velour touch surfaces, but in the HE1000 V2 pads the velour has been changed to a polyester fabric material that, according to the manufacturer, yields an audible increase in sonic transparency.
Finally, the HE1000 V2 has gone on a bit of a diet so that its ear cup enclosures are now slimmed down from 14mm to 11mm, with an attendant 12.5% decrease in the headphone’s overall weight from 480g down to 420g. But a further change, though one not highlighted in HiFiMAN product literature, is that the new, slimmer ear cups effectively position the driver diaphragms closer to the wearer’s ears.