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[REVIEW] HiFiMan HE-560

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Posted · Original PosterOP

20 November 2015 FINAL UPDATE:

Recieved my replacement HE-560 today. All is in working order. It has 2.5mm TRS connectors with metal shells. The box has been changed as well - instead of the wooden box, the HE-560 now ships with the same box as the HE-400i. This is an improvement in my opinion.
 
Service was very prompt with just a day of turnaround time and 2-day shipping. Customer service was courteous and helpful.
 
With these updates, I recommend the HE-560 at current prices. Still not quite worth the MSRP.
 
13 November 2015 UPDATE:
 
HiFiMan has updated both the HE-400i and HE-560 with the 2.5mm TRS connectors found on the HE-400S and HE-1000. The updated versions are not yet available from all distributors, so if you want one, contact HiFiMan customer service directly.
 
In addition, it appears that HiFiMan is offering to exchange/upgrade previously purchased HE-400i and HE-560 headphones for as little as $135 plus shipping and handling. Again, contact HiFiMan for confirmation and details.
 
Given this development, I'm giving the HE-560 my tentative recommendation. While 2.5mm TRS is not ideal, it resolves a lot of my concerns about the durability and usability of the min-coaxial connectors.
 

 
These are my brief impressions of the HiFiMan HE-560.

Accessories

The HE-560 comes in a wooden box with a sliding lid. There is ample foam padding inside, with dedicated cutouts for the headphone itself and the included detachable cable. A pretty sparse showing for the $900 MSRP.

It should be noted that the cable is an expensive silver-plated pure copper affair. More than likely it is a $150-200 value. This is a pain in the ass, because it means a significant portion of the cost of this headphone goes into a useless piece of metal.

Ergonomics
 
Extremely comfortable. Along with improved ergonomics over the previous HiFiMan generation of headphones, the HE-560 is very light, thanks to single-sided planar magnetic drivers. It's more comfortable than the Beyerdynamic DT880 and at least as comfortable as the Beyerdynamic T1 gen 2

The cushion surfaces are covered in fuzzy velour, and the cushions themselves are wide, gusseted and filled with soft foam. They spread the clamping force of the headphone evenly across a large surface. The pads are slightly beveled, which causes the ear cups to sit at an angle, firing back into the ears. In addition to helping sound imaging, this also allows for a more ergonomic fit for the ear. These headphones are cool and comfortable.

The headband is a hammock suspension affair. It is adequately padded and very wide, which spreads the weight of the headphone evenly. No issues with hotspots. The adjustment takes the form of two ratcheted blocks at either end of the suspension, which slot into place with a solid click. While there is no chance of them moving on their own, they are difficult to adjust while wearing the headphone.

The ear cups rotate and swivel, allowing them to align perfectly to the head. Accommodation for glasses is better than average, though not as good as the T1 gen 2.

The mini coaxial connectors are annoying, but not as difficult to put on as I expected - when they aren't defective. The right coaxial connection on my pair of the HE-560 was defective. Specifically, the threads were partially flattened, which made it impossible to attach the cable on that side. All my listening was done while holding the right connector on by hand. Fun!

Build
 
Cheap. HiFiMan is not known for sumptuous build quality. The wood veneer looks tacky and will probably crack over time, especially if the headphone is subjected to repeated changes in temperature and humidity. Aside from the harp and connectors, all hardware is plastic. Fit and finish is good, but underwhelming at the price point.

The grills are held loosely in place by flimsy plastic rings. While they don't seem to rattle with music playing, they definitely are nowhere near as solid as the grills on Beyerdynamic headphones. Again, mediocre at best for the price.

The cable is textile sleeved and terminated with an overly large Neutrik 6.35mm TRS plug. On the headphone side, the mini-coax connectors have inadequate strain relief and are unnecessarily long and bulky.

Sensitivity and Amplification
 
The HE-560 has an impedance of roughly 50 ohms and a sensitivity of 90dB/mW. This means that it is harder to drive than the majority of dynamic headphones, and only slightly easier to drive than other popular planars. Many reviews have noted that it actually requires more power to reach a similar listening volume compared to the HE-500. As such, most users will need a dedicated headphone amplifier for comfortable listening. Note that a 6.35mm jack or 6.35mm to 3.5mm adapter will be required.

Sound
 
The overall tonality of the HE-560 is balanced and un-colored. There is no boosted bass to be found; this is clearly a headphone tuned for "audiophile" listeners who favor accuracy over artificial euphony.

The bass extends deep and has decent impact. Unsurprisingly, the HE-560 has significantly more bass body and weight than the DT880. Although the T1 gen 2 has a broadband boosted low end with more overall bass, the HE-560 has tighter and cleaner bass with more depth. Given that it has no mid-bass hump, the HE-560 has no hint of boom in the bass or mud in the low mid-range. On the flip side, some may find it a bit bass-light compared to other planars and the bassier dynamics.
Low strings sound excellent - no unnatural coloration in the mid-range, and very good tonal balance. Piano also sounds fine, although I still feel that a slight, broad cut is needed in this area on any headphone, for the best tonality.
 
Upper mid-range/presence is the most problematic. Upper strings sound a bit "surfacey" and lacking in bite, probably due to an excess around 5kHz and a cut around 1-3kHz (going by available frequency response graphs). This profile also makes vocals sound smooth, yet at times a little forward. This isn't a huge coloration issue. But, I wouldn't call it completely realistic or natural, either, as a number of other online reviewers have done. It is certainly better than the T1 gen 2, which made high strings sound wirey and etched by comparison.

The treble seems fine. After going through two Beyerdynamic headphones, anything is probably going to sound like an improvement. Extension is good with no nasty peaks or grain. High frequency noise that is over-emphasized on the DT880 and T1 gen 2 is audible but not brought to the fore with the HE-560.

Soundstage and imaging is good, better than average for a planar as I understand it. Center imaging is excellent, better than the DT880, combined with a deeper soundstage. Soundstage width is similar to the DT880; overall this is a more balanced presentation compared to the DT880, which suffers from more soundstage width than depth. The T1 gen 2 has a larger overall soundstage, and does a better job creating a "wall of sound" feeling with large orchestral music. The HE-560 does a similarly good job of creating a sense of space around instruments; what some might describe as a "holographic" soundstage.

Resolution is at least as good as the DT880 without any hint of treble pain. The T1 gen 2 created the impression of more resolution, but this could have been the product of excessive treble (11kHz spike in particular). On the fast-paced, percussive tracks of Hayao Miyazaki's Kiki's Delivery Service OST, the DT880 has sharper transients and faster decay. This can be a fatiguing presentation, however, which the HE-560 consistently avoids.

Dynamics are no problem for the HE-560. It can play loud without sounding forced or distorted, yet retains low-level detail even at moderate listening levels or quiet portions of a track.
 
Recommendation
 
The HE-560 has a MSRP of $900, though currently it's possible to snag it for $750 or so on Amazon. It also has the build quality of a $100 headphone, and the sound, while very good, is far from perfect. HiFiMan backs the product with a warranty of only one year. And to top it off, the headphone I received was basically unusable due to a defective cable connection. Not only does this indicate poor quality assurance, it suggests that HiFiMan doesn't even test each headphone before it goes out the door. This is not acceptable in a TOTL headphone. Yes, I'm aware that the HE-1000 exists, but in a world of sane headphone pricing, the HE-560 would be TOTL.

These are all things to consider before buying this headphone.

So who would want to buy this headphone? For me, I wanted a balanced sound with excellent bass quality and extension, without sacrificing too much soundstage. That's about what I got. This headphone would be easy to recommend for these preferences, were it not for serious issues with quality and value.
 
Thanks for reading.

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Posted · Original PosterOP
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Posted · Original PosterOP

@KaminKevCrew Would be interested to hear your thoughts, given you just tried these as well.

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So, are you keeping the headphone or is it going to be another returned products?

 

The best build quality of any ToTL headphones is probably HD800 and I'm super stoked to listen to HD800S since the modded HD800 i tried before fixed that glaring issue while giving some warmth, but it still sounds really spacious

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You have not had good luck with headphones.

It would be so much simpler if you were as gullible to the headphone industry's tricks as someone from head fi


n0ah1897, on 05 Mar 2014 - 2:08 PM, said:  "Computers are like girls. It's whats in the inside that matters.  I don't know about you, but I like my girls like I like my cases. Just as beautiful on the inside as the outside."

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Posted · Original PosterOP

So, are you keeping the headphone or is it going to be another returned products?

 

The best build quality of any ToTL headphones is probably HD800 and I'm super stoked to listen to HD800S since the modded HD800 i tried before fixed that glaring issue while giving some warmth, but it still sounds really spacious

 

This one is going back, and although it was fulfilled by Amazon, no exchange option was given. So I don't yet know if I'm going to bother re-ordering. The HD800 does indeed shine out as a beacon of hope, or it would do if it weren't so expensive.

 

You have not had good luck with headphones.

It would be so much simpler if you were as gullible to the headphone industry's tricks as someone from head fi

 

Nope. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

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Man, you really don't have any buyers bias. Even with expensive cans like this. Also no annoying audiofile jargon, clean simple.

Nice review.

 

Would be interesting if you'd try some cheaper, yet popular, models. Like the K612 Pro. Though I've found mine to not want to play with the AudioEngine D1, onboard or FiiO X1 (barely enough volume). Seems to require some beefy amp.

 

So i really daren't judge them for fear i'm driving them poorly.

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Man, you really don't have any buyers bias. Even with expensive cans like this. Also no annoying audiofile jargon, clean simple.

Nice review.

 

Would be interesting if you'd try some cheaper, yet popular, models. Like the K612 Pro. Though I've found mine to not want to play with the AudioEngine D1, onboard or FiiO X1 (barely enough volume). Seems to require some beefy amp.

 

So i really daren't judge them for fear i'm driving them poorly.

 

Thanks. Hope the reviews are helpful to people, or at least interesting.

 

At this point I'm still determined to get a new headphone. The DT880 is nice, but trying more expensive cans has spoiled me. Not sure what I'll do yet, though.

 

As for amplification, I have a Schiit Uber stack on the way, so we'll see how that does. At least I'll be set to power any headphone I end up with.

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I'm looking at the JDS Elements for a new amp. I know the O2 amp/dac is cheaper, but not for me if I have to ship it to the Netherlands. The elements I can get from a local importer at the same price. (and it looks way nicer)

 

Edit; nevermind, they bumped the price.

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Thanks. Hope the reviews are helpful to people, or at least interesting.

At this point I'm still determined to get a new headphone. The DT880 is nice, but trying more expensive cans has spoiled me. Not sure what I'll do yet, though.

As for amplification, I have a Schiit Uber stack on the way, so we'll see how that does. At least I'll be set to power any headphone I end up with.

You should try some sort of electrostatic headphones.

And you can be sure koss won't screw up build quality or warranty

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B000056ULH/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1447186910&sr=8-1π=AC_SX110_SY165&keywords=koss+electrostatic


n0ah1897, on 05 Mar 2014 - 2:08 PM, said:  "Computers are like girls. It's whats in the inside that matters.  I don't know about you, but I like my girls like I like my cases. Just as beautiful on the inside as the outside."

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Posted · Original PosterOP

I'm looking at the JDS Elements for a new amp. I know the O2 amp/dac is cheaper, but not for me if I have to ship it to the Netherlands. The elements I can get from a local importer at the same price. (and it looks way nicer)

 

Seems like a solid choice. That volume knob is light years ahead of anything you can get in the price range from what I've seen. Definitely an overlooked feature on budget and not so budget gear.

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You should try some sort of electrostatic headphones.

And you can be sure koss won't screw up build quality or warranty

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B000056ULH/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1447186910&sr=8-1π=AC_SX110_SY165&keywords=koss+electrostatic

For the record, the square stax are incredibly comfortable, and they truly do sound amazing. @SSL, if you want to be spoiled, go for an electrostat...

Hey! New SIgnature! 

 

I'm supposedly a person on the Internet, but you'll never know if I'm human or not ;)

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Posted · Original PosterOP

For the record, the square stax are incredibly comfortable, and they truly do sound amazing. @SSL, if you want to be spoiled, go for an electrostat...

 

Yeah, so the fun thing there is I'd already ordered the Schiit stack, which has a hefty 15% restocking fee. And would be useless with an electrostat. Thanks for the recc', though, it's clearly something I should look into.

 

I'm interested to know what your thoughts are on the 560 - clearly we had a different impresssion as you thought it was worth the money. Maybe I should give it another chance?

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Yeah, so the fun thing there is I'd already ordered the Schiit stack, which has a hefty 15% restocking fee. And would be useless with an electrostat. Thanks for the recc', though, it's clearly something I should look into.

I'm interested to know what your thoughts are on the 560 - clearly we had a different impresssion as you thought it was worth the money. Maybe I should give it another chance?

Maybe. The ones I heard had a modded grill, so that may have made a difference with my impression of them. I thought they sounded good, but I was basing that on the sound alone. I didn't even pay any attention to the build or anything. So yeah... I think they would absolutely be a steal at $500

Hey! New SIgnature! 

 

I'm supposedly a person on the Internet, but you'll never know if I'm human or not ;)

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Maybe. The ones I heard had a modded grill, so that may have made a difference with my impression of them. I thought they sounded good, but I was basing that on the sound alone. I didn't even pay any attention to the build or anything. So yeah... I think they would absolutely be a steal at $500

 

I see, makes sense. There again though, I kind of take issue with the notion of modding - not that people do it, but that I should in any way need to improve a headphone at that price. Yeah, I know that HiFiMan claims it is to prevent babies sticking stuff into the driver, but MrSpeakers doesn't have a problem with that. Just seems silly to me.

 

Anyway, I agree $500 would be a more palatable price. Any thoughts on them compared to your alpha padded A2000X?

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I see, makes sense. There again though, I kind of take issue with the notion of modding - not that people do it, but that I should in any way need to improve a headphone at that price. Yeah, I know that HiFiMan claims it is to prevent babies sticking stuff into the driver, but MrSpeakers doesn't have a problem with that. Just seems silly to me.

Anyway, I agree $500 would be a more palatable price. Any thoughts on them compared to your alpha padded A2000X?

That's a good question. I think I like my ath better, personally. Only thing I would change on them is the cable (not for any possible audio improvements, mind you, but because this one doesn't feel super nice). Anyway, you're still welcome to give them a try, they're nice and sensitive, so they'll run off just about anything.

Hey! New SIgnature! 

 

I'm supposedly a person on the Internet, but you'll never know if I'm human or not ;)

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Posted · Original PosterOP

That's a good question. I think I like my ath better, personally. Only thing I would change on them is the cable (not for any possible audio improvements, mind you, but because this one doesn't feel super nice). Anyway, you're still welcome to give them a try, they're nice and sensitive, so they'll run off just about anything.

 

Sure, we'll see. Got my secret nwavguy persona to maintain, though.

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Sure, we'll see. Got my secret nwavguy persona to maintain, though.

Ha! SSL confirmed as NWAVGUY!!!

Hey! New SIgnature! 

 

I'm supposedly a person on the Internet, but you'll never know if I'm human or not ;)

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Ha! SSL confirmed as NWAVGUY!!!

 

Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

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I see, makes sense. There again though, I kind of take issue with the notion of modding - not that people do it, but that I should in any way need to improve a headphone at that price. Yeah, I know that HiFiMan claims it is to prevent babies sticking stuff into the driver, but MrSpeakers doesn't have a problem with that. Just seems silly to me.

 

Anyway, I agree $500 would be a more palatable price. Any thoughts on them compared to your alpha padded A2000X?

 

I dont think at this point you'll be really happy with any headphone above $700  :D

 

I mean the only options you have left are LCD-X, Ether and HD800

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Posted · Original PosterOP

I dont think at this point you'll be really happy with any headphone above $700  :D

 

I mean the only options you have left are LCD-X, Ether and HD800

 

Hue. I'm starting to wonder if there is a headphone currently in existence that I'll be happy with. The problem I had with the HE-560 would have been 100% avoidable if 1. HiFiMan used mini-XLR and 2. they did any QC whatsoever. I might just end up getting a HD600/650 and waiting to see where things are in 5 years. Problem is, I suspect that we're either going to see increasingly astronomically priced flagships, or else the hi-fi bubble will burst and headphone tech advancement will stall.

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Am I the only one who was thinking that Hifiman should've put something else more durable instead of the wood on the earcups?

It doesn't matter much, since the wood is only a veneer, so once it's gone, it'll be just plastic, and not affect the headphones other than looks.

Hey! New SIgnature! 

 

I'm supposedly a person on the Internet, but you'll never know if I'm human or not ;)

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