Hifiman HE1000 has come to the third iteration, we are going to review the HE1000 SE today, which is their second-highest end in the line up (Top being Hifiman Susvara, followed by HE1000 SE, Arya, Ananda, and Sundara), being a 3500 USD headphone I have high expectation with it, as contrast it is doubled the selling price of Sennheiser HD800s, and very expensive even for a flagship headphone, however, the top of Hifiman line up Susvara is selling for 6000 USD, damn, that is a lot of money.
Of course, we will not be talking about price to performance ratio with this headphone tier, when you are willing to go for 1400 USD headphone then price to performance ratio is no more relevant, it is more about spending a lot of money to get a little more, or just to find something that is your sound preference. To my ears headphones that are sold more than 800 USD all sounded good, only matters are sound preference and those characteristic that only flagship headphone has, such as transient, speed, micro details, microdynamics, depth, soundstage, imaging, timbre, etc, to find a headphone that will ultimately click with you is a journey, I am still on the journey and still finding mine. You obviously don’t need a 1500 USD to enjoy your music, but a 3500 USD like this is for those who know what they want and need an ultimate tool to listen with their music. Thanks again to Stars Picker Audio Library for loaning me this review sample.
Hifiman HE1000SE (3500 USD)
The outlook of HE1000SE is very beautiful and handsome, especially on the ‘window shade’ design and the metal construction that gives heft and assurance feel when you are holding it. Although I don’t really fond the design of using wood in between it is a nice touch there, despite I will prefer a fully wood or fully metal design. The headphone itself looks really good and even looking at it you know that this is a very expensive headphone, which it really is.
Hifiman HE1000 SE is a breakthrough in the planar world, it uses the nanometre diaphragm and stealth magnet technology from TOTL Susvara, which is technically impressive, the ultra-thin diaphragm is very easy to move and fast, which should result in a more dynamic and faster respond sound. The stealth magnet design will enable the waves to pass through the magnet without generating interference, which should help to minimize distortion and have a purer sound. The “window shade design” of the housing will gain you a greater openness of sound and keep the sound waves from second refraction to avoid unwanted vibration and distortion. Technology-wise the HE1000 SE is quite impressive for what it utilizes, which is what you pay for the technology advancement that only flagship model has.
HE1000 SE is very comfortable despite the 440 grams of weight. Mostly because of the good design headband that distributes the weight nicely which I can assure you is a very comfortable headphone to wear. The headphone is indeed big but very comfortable to wear, the asymmetry earpads are comfortable too and slightly contouring for superb comfort, in real life HE1000 SE is a remarkably comfortable headphone to wear for extended listening session, it is a perfect combination of excellent build quality and exceptional comfort level, a headphone that pays so much attention to every detail.
The cable is, of course, replaceable with a dual entry 3.5mm cable, I don’t have the original single-ended cable with me, the one I have is the Hifiman Crystalline Copper-Silver 4 Pin XLR balanced cable selling additionally for 399 USD, which doesn’t build as premium as the price tag suggests in my opinion, it didn’t tangle but the looks and touch are not premium at all, while I don’t have issue for the build quality I really wish it can be a lot cheaper or at least has a much higher-end looks on it, I really wish Hifiman provide a higher quality cable with their headphones.
I have paired Stoner Acoustics EGD (My UDXA has some problem and sent back for Stoner Acoustics to check) with M2Tech Marley II as a headphone amplifier. High-resolution music was played through Foobar2K and streaming Tidal Master.
Well, HE1000 SE is marvelous sounding. It is very transparent and clean sounding, cleaner and transparent but with a better body than even the Sennheiser HD800. HE1000SE to my ears sounded a lot like the HD800 but on steroids which I will say HE1000 SE is definitely a better headphone than the HD800, HD800 is already a transparent, detailed and fast headphone, but HE1000SE is even more transparent, detailed and faster headphone, which also a cleaner headphone out of the two.
I quite love the HE1000SE sound reproduction, to be honest, and can see how people with budget will go as high as HE1000SE to obtain high level of sound satisfaction, it is simply so effortless in the sound while still has pretty body and ‘line’ to the sound, the ‘shape’ is clearly defined, the micro detail and micro nuanced are all insanely portrayed with HE1000SE, if you want to ‘look’ the instrument clearly the HE1000SE is a very good choice, it simply imaging wonderfully and let me see how the musician play with their instrument. The speed is amazingly fast and decay is exactly when it should, the timing is perfectly precise and it is as clean as clean can get. Definitely a wonderful music presentation and played Classical music I am impressed with the accuracy when played OST such as The Dark Knight it gives me good ambiance with plenty of depth inside, precision without being boring, superb!
I will start with the bass first, the bass has excellent level of quantity and quality, the bass has texture and details, it hit with depth, tightness, and impact that I crave for, but still is perfectly clean and decay nicely without much rumbling, the bass is strong and give high level of size and impact if you crank up the volume of your headphone amplifier, of course being a top tier headphones don’t you paired it with something like computer sound card, paired it with my M2Tech Marley II and the sound and power is ample and satisfying, and remain clean, neutral and balanced with exceptional bass, layering, details and transient respond are good too. To be fair, the amount of ‘air’ in the region is a little less but it is still good and nothing I will complain about.
The midrange is highly detailed, nuanced and transparent, the vocal is cleaner, transparent and forward than even the HD800, although I still think HD800 has a slightly more natural nuance and timbre to the vocal, HE1000SE is definitely clearer and more upfront, I will say HE1000SE has a far better midrange but HD800 has a more natural timbre and ambiance feel. One thing that kept me from truly enjoying the vocal of HE1000SE though is it sibilant quite a lot at least on my system, the tendency to sibilant is actually my only complain to the HE1000SE, the vocal though, is remarkably clear and clean, with a slightly forward position that is brilliant, I enjoy it, now if it sibilant a little less.
Treble is effortless, clean, transparent, detailed and extensive, I simply love it. It is a bright headphone but a super transparent and detailed headphone, to my taste it is not super bright or anything that I can’t accept (except the sibilant issue as I said), it is just bright, that’s all, totally acceptable to my ears. In another world, the treble might be bright but controlled, so no issue here. In fact, the treble quality is so upright nice that I love it when I listen to it, it is so clean and detailed. The best performing treble that I have ever listened to.
Soundstage, imaging, and positioning are superb and natural, maintaining a good vision of center image as well. The soundstage is wide, deep and tall, the overall shape is excellent too, in fact, I will rate it higher than the Sennheiser HD800 although I think HD800 has an edge to the ambiance and ‘air’ soundstage, HE1000SE has better shape and more natural in the space. HD800 is already having a pretty sharp transient but to my ears, HE1000SE is sharper here. The comparison is not saying how bad Sennheiser HD800 is but is actually saying how wonderful is the HE1000SE, it is just cleaner and clearer, with a noticeably better bass presentation.
HE1000SE is a 3500USD headphone, for headfiers that will buy headphones in this price range definitely know what their sound preference is, that is why I compare it with Sennheiser HD800 in this review to give people a clearer impression on its sound. To me, HE1000SE definitely showing a superbly high capability planar driver here and you can feel every bit of strength of the planar driver it uses, sophisticated design and technology, ends up with such marvelous headphones as a product.
Hifiman is successful with the HE1000SE, although I can say HE1000SE is not something that Hifiman strike for performance to value kind of product, this definitely is a headphone aiming for those who are willing to spend more, maybe if you want something that has greater value should look at Sundara, Ananda and ultimately the Arya (hopefully can review one in the near future), the direction of HE1000SE is clear, it is a high-end product that not everyone will buy, only made for those who appreciate every bit of the music will save up for it. You should save up for it if Classical and Jazz is your only genre, although I will say test it before you buy, and yes, please make sure you have a good audio chain as well, then you really should consider Hifiman HE1000SE, for being an excellent sounding and super comfortable headphone to wear!