HiFiMAN HE1000 V2 and Edition X V2 planar magnetic headphones

HiFiMAN Edition X Version 2,
HiFiMAN HE1000 Version 2

Most importantly, though, the V2 beautifully captures the breathy qualities of Sara K’s voice—and in particular her uncanny ability to sound both ethereal and yet earthy at the same time—without any sort of false high frequency spotlighting or etching. As a result, then, Sara K’s voice sounds by turns self assured, inquisitive, wistful, and evocative, but is never forced or overwrought. As I listened to ‘Something More’ (and other tracks on the same album) I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Now this is how Sara K’s voice really ought to sound on all good hi-fi equipment, but rarely does in practice.”

One other noteworthy point is that the HE1000 V2 retains three of the qualities we liked best in the original HE1000—namely, its ability to tease out the overlapping layers of multi-track studio recordings with zero congestion, its killer bass (replete with exceptional depth, impact, and pitch definition), and its highly expressive dynamics. All three of these qualities are very much in evidence on Hell or High Water, often making the listening experience feel like the sonic equivalent of going on a shopping spree in Aladdin’s cave of many treasures.

The weight reduction of the HE1000 V2 is a welcome improvement that’s noticeable from the moment you first put on the headphones. Personally, the original HE1000 never seemed overly heavy to me, but the new V2 model is now such a featherweight that you can wear it for hours and hours on end without any neck strain or fatigue whatsoever. Even so, I would suggest that listeners take breaks every couple of hours, just to let their ears ‘breathe’ for a bit in the outside air. The revised ear pad’s new polyester fabric touch-surfaces, though less overtly plush than the old pad’s velour surfaces, are quite comfortable and do a good job of wicking away moisture. More to the point, they also appear, as advertised, to have helped improve the headphone’s overall sonic transparency.

In the Hi-Fi+ issue 137 review of the original Edition X we called the product “a very high resolution headphone in its own right, but one that manages to stay just to the right side of the sonic pleasure vs. pain boundary lines.” That same statement could also apply to the Edition X V2, but with one critical distinction: namely, the fact that the V2 model shows across-the-board improvements in terms of overall resolution and openness. The illusion is that there is an imaginary control knob labelled “Be Present with the Music” and that, in switching from the original Edition X to the Edition X V2, that knob has been turned up from about 9 to a solid 11 (or maybe 12).

To appreciate what I mean, try listening to a well-recorded jazz track such as ‘Walter Pigeon’ from percussionist Gene Jackson, bassist Eddie Gomez, and guitarist John Abercrombie’s Structures [Chesky, 24/96], noting carefully how each of the three instruments are brought into play. The track opens with Gomez playing a gentle arco line on his acoustic bass, accompanied by delicate and widely spaced chords softly strummed on Abercrombie’s guitar. Gomez’ lines range way up high into a register most listeners would associate with a cello rather than a bass, but subliminal low frequency details, neatly rendered the Edition X V2, convey the fact that the instrument’s wooden body is much larger than that of any cello. At the same time, Abercrombie’s guitar produces a gorgeous, honey-hued tone that can only be described as sounding ‘liquid’. But then, at about the 1:10 mark, the personality of the song shifts: Gomez begins playing more forcefully and pizzicato-style, Abercrombie moves to play more pointed individual notes, and Jackson joins in with almost indescribably delicate brushwork on his cymbals and the heads of his drums. There’s so much low-level textural and transient information at hand that many transducers turn it into a well-intended blur, but the Edition X V2, with its new-found reservoirs of transparency, instead pulls the listener into closer and more focused contact with the music.

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