CES 2015 Show Highlight: HiFiMAN HE-1000 Planar Magnetic Headphones

It's no secret to InnerFidelity readers that I've had a hard time with HiFiMAN headphones—they tend to be too bright for me personally and I just can't get excited enough to review them. On the other hand, I thought the HE-500 was an excellent value and was strongly competitive at its price. Likewise recently I had troubles with the HE-560, but many I know and respect thought they were very good cans. In fact, ljokerl likes them very much and I've asked him to review them for InnerFidelity as he is able.

The new HE-1000 is a whole 'nother kettle of fish, however. It was with much trepidation I sat down for my first listen to them. Then...


The new HE-1000 nailed it...at least as far as a headphone could on quick listen at a show. "This sounds like a reference level headphone", I though to myself. That's a rare thing; there's only very few headphones (and their upstream rigs) I'd even begin to say approach what I heard on this rig. Show impressions are unreasonably fickle, it's pretty easy to get stunned and then love something in a rush of subjective bias. So be it, I was overwhelmed at how good these cans sounded. Obviously, HiFiMAN's new EF-1000 companion amplifier with HM901S and HiFiMAN Dock as source were performing their duties handily as well.

To separate out the cans from the rest of the rig, I brought out my AK240 and CEntrance M8 rig to play the headphones on a familiar source with familiar music. I wouldn't hazard a guess as to what the differences might have been between the two source rigs—the headphones continued to sound absolutely great. Airy, quick, articulate, without harshness or glare. The sound was a bit warmer than what I've come to expect from HiFiMAN; the bass was well proportioned, and mid-range coherence and liquidity seemed right down the middle. A great showing! But why is this headphone so different?

Dr. Fang Bian, Founder and CEO of HiFiMAN, received his PhD from City University of New York in chemistry with a focus on nano-technology. He spent a bit of time with me explaining that the HE-1000 diaphragm is the first "nano-thickness" diaphragm for planar-magnetic headphones of which he's aware. The physical size of the diaphragm is quite large, and the magnetic structure is unusual, two-sided, but asymmetrical. I can't wait to learn more about these headphones, and to have a more extended experience with them.

For more impressions, see this Head-Fi thread where HiFiMAN has a mini-meet in New York after CES to give east-coasters a chance for a listen.

Click here if you can't see the video.

Magick Man's picture

Any ideas what the price might be? I've heard maybe $2500-3000.

drblank's picture

I have no idea. I will say this. I saw some extreme close up photos on another site and while some people might have a difference of opinion, they shouldn't charge that much of these headphones if they have the fit and finish like the photos. I think it's very low grade to be an expensive pari of headphones. The leather looks like low grade leather, and the metal headband looks like low grade metal. Obviously they re prototypes, but if that's what I am to expect in the finished model? Nope, they should be a LOT less than $2500 to get my attention, a LOT less.

Here's the site that I saw the close up photos. look carefully at the fit and finish of the headphone band. if they put this kind of quality out, I wouldn't pay that much for it. I would expect a lot higher grade metal, leather and polishing job.


Beagle's picture

....is going up on a daily basis, it would appear. I've given up on it being affordable.

XVampireX's picture

@drblank, This hobby is not for you... Go elsewhere.

AstralStorm's picture

Youre ruining the hobby with your fat wallets, especially by buying mediocrity at high prices.

bwright's picture

The CES HE-1000 set-up in the Venetian was excellent, but was missing a few small elements that I enjoy in an amp. Just a touch more warmth and end-to-end resonance, without losing that incredible detail and air.

It's not that the system had any true shortcomings. When the amp and source provided the sound quality in the two areas I mentioned, and with songs I'm familiar with, it simply nailed these moments, and beautifully so. But overall, given my familiarity with the recordings, the ongoing representation of those two particular areas wasn't as consistent as I'd normally prefer via my own amp/source.

I do feel it could have been the dedicated amp supplied for the test. When those particular areas were fully realized by (apparently) everything behind the headphones, it was astounding. When those moments arrived, the headphones delivered them in full.