The HiFiMAN Edition X is Delightful from Portable Players Page 2


Sound Quality
Alrighty then, let's plug this $1800 headphone into my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and...holy smoke, these sound good...really good. Relaxed; not in your face; very easy listening. Quite often a headphone with those characteristics also ends up sounding boring...not so with the Edition X, they just sound gentle.

It's not often I get a headphone that just invites me to listen and not worry about the wrong all. This headphone plays right at my penchant for a slightly relaxed, laid-back sound. And, seriously, I've not heard a headphone before that played so nicely on a phone. It's a tantalizing taste of high-end listening, without all the front-end bother.

Bass on the Edition X looses a bit of umph in the lowest octave, and could use a slight boost a la Harman; it's not the tightest bass I've heard—which probably goes to the Audeze LCD cans—but it's quite good. The most prominent bass characteristic is that it transitions beautifully to the mids.

Midrange, like the bass, sounds wonderfully integrated with he whole of the music. Upper-mids are slightly laid-back giving a slightly distant character. The treble is also well integrated into the whole, but also lacks a bit of sparkle and has a very slight papery sound to it. I found a little lift centered around 8.5kHz perked up the treble nicely. Here's the EQ I ended up with.


While the nicely balanced tonality was certainly an unexpected pleasure, the biggest surprise for me was the imaging and dynamics. It's been my experience that one almost always comes at the expense of the other. A really potent dynamic headphone will often lack depth; and a headphone with superior imaging will often lack punch. The HiFiMAN Edition X has a hearty helping of each and a terrific balance between both.

Comparing the Edition X
Sennheiser HD 800 S - A contrast of opposites here: The HD 800 S is a bright headphone and the Edition X is laid-back; so quite a bit of difference in terms of tonality. The Edition X has tighter and more even bass response; the HD 800 S sounds more resolving and articulate. But I wonder how much of that is simply due to the lower treble level of the Edition X? Listening carefully it does seem as if the Edition X does resolve well despite the relaxed treble level. In fact, the most interesting observation of this pairing is that the Edition X looses surprisingly little ground to the HD 800 S in terms of imaging. The sense of space is only slightly smaller on the Edition X...but the lower level makes it seem as if the lights are turned down low, while the HD 800 S delivers a bit larger but way more brightly lit room.

Audeze LCD-X - After doing my LCD-4 review I've been revisiting the Audeze line and I find my appreciation for the LCD-X to be on the increase. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but I'm currently thinking it has to do with a bit better behaved treble region. At any rate, it doesn't have the somewhat excessively laid-back treble of the Edition X, and bass response is clearly tighter and better extended.

On the other hand, the LCD-X has fairly poor imaging and a somewhat "in-your-face" presentation, while the Edition X is more relaxed with a clearly deeper image. To me, it's as if the distance and space of the Edition X gives you a vantage point from which to hear the whole of the music, while with the LCD-X it's so close you have to move your attention around to hear all the bits.

Mr. Speakers Ether - These two cans are more similar than they are different other than a mid-treble artifact in the Ether gives it a slightly accentuated and artificial sound, where the Edition X is more natural in that area, albeit a bit too low in level. Yet again, the thing the seemed to really set them apart was the deeper image of the Edition X and a more coherent sense of the whole of the music.

HiFiMAN HE1000 - There's a family resemblance, but the HE1000 is a significantly livelier sounding headphone with a bit more bottom end umph. Both image pretty well, but the HE1000s livelier top end brings the lights back up in the room making the space more appreciable. The only downside of the HE1000 relative to the Edition X is a bit of excess energy in the 5-8kHz area giving it a bit of a bright edge. The HE1000 does sound more refined and articulate in comparison.

The HiFiMAN Edition X is a truly remarkable and delightful headphone taken purely within the context of a headphone for use with a phone or table within the home or office. It really does deliver a surprisingly satisfying listening experience, with a very pleasant laid-back tonal character, and terrific balance of dynamism and imaging—all without the need for special up-stream electronics. But I'd characterize the sonic signature of these cans as very good upper-mid-fi, rather than high-end due to its laid-back treble presentation that prevents the resolving, nuanced, and refined reproduction of a reference level headphone.

That, coupled with what I perceive as sub-par build quality and inappropriate accessorization for a headphone in this very high price range, and I find myself quite conflicted in developing a recommendation. Headphone enthusiasts of normal middle-class or less means looking for a slice of high-end heaven should probably look elsewhere. But seriously, this is a wonderfully balanced headphone, and if you've got a healthy wallet and are looking for a general purpose can for around the home or office that offers a no-fuss, no-muss solid listening experience from anything with a headphone jack, these will likely suit quite well.

Click to view on YouTube.

HiFiMAN home page and Edition X product page.
Head-Fi reviews and thread.
SBAF threads here and here.


COMMENTS's picture

Oh wow.

A headphone that was supposed to be a spiritual clone of LCD-X (name, low source requirements, exact same pricing range) comes with a plastic build of HE-400i ($500 discounted to $300) as opposed to metal try-to-break-it build of LCD-X, lacks accessories and lacks bass extension (this is a planar for gods sake).

Really, talk about hit and miss here. It is crazy spending 1.8K on these.

What was the point besides making a headphone with low source requirements? LCD-X has an auditory at least: deep bass lovers (electronica at al), musicians and mastering engineers.

thoailong87's picture

Hi, I noticed you stated that the LCD-X has "fairly poor" imaging. Are you saying that it's poor in general, or relatively in comparison to the better imaging of the Edition X?

obsidyen's picture

I almost impulse buyed these headphones because of glowing reviews on headfi but I'm glad I resisted. Poor bass extension and impact, 8.5 khz peak, cheap materials, lol... More like a $499 headphone.

Your review sounds like "Yeah at $1899 these are terrible, but if you have money to burn, go ahead and buy them."

Octavialicious's picture

He said they were superb, but they were expensive. He did not say they were terrible in the slightest... He talks about how much he likes them during the whole review.

Octavialicious's picture

I would have to agree with Tyll they are not really worth $1800, but if you can get them for cheaper I'd definitely go for them.

Even with out an AMP I prefer them to the HD800, LCD 2.2, and T1, so they are definitely some great cans (I got them for $1.2K open box, very worth it imo)

obsidyen's picture

Sorry but the review as whole sounds very much like "Mediocre headphones." Treble peaks + sub-bass roll-off= Mediocre headphones in my opinion. Add poor build quality and high price, then it becomes terrible. He only kind of liked it because they are relaxed sounding headphones which is another trait that I absolutely hate.

Octavialicious's picture

Treble peak is much more noticeable on HD800 and T1, and just because you don't like the relaxed sound doesn't mean they're terrible headphones.. you simply don't like them

obsidyen's picture

I never said I liked HD800 or T1. In fact I auditioned them and I would never buy them (I haven't auditioned HD 800 S though). When I said terrible, I meant terrible for the price. If these were simply $799, I would even praise them. But the price is so ridiculous.

Octavialicious's picture

I said once again that I'd agree that the price is too much. If they lowered it to 1.2-1.3 I'd say they're competitive (if you like the sound sig)

detlev24's picture

...IF you are looking for an accurate working tool and natural sound reproduction.

For pure pleasure, it always depends on ones subjectivity. Since the T1 was mentioned, as follows a review aiming to the audio professional:

Notice the difference?

dripf's picture

Fire up the KGSSRE, Tyll!

barun432's picture

Great article Tyll. I appreciate the sincerity and consistency in your reviews. Everyone who has been following you for even a year now, knows your preference in overall presentation in headphone SQ and taking that into consideration the conclusions are very consistent.

I have been following your work here for almost 6 years and personally I am able to make up my mind about purchasing based on your articles because I can relatively understand where I stand, based on your preferences. But in recent weeks after a certain flagship planar review, I've been observing a lot of things going on various threads, including here and it makes me laugh that people can be so much bothered by others opinions to justify their beliefs/ purchases towards certain brands.

Let's hope people are able to understand what subjective interpretations mean in the real world. On a different note, Edition X seems like the polar opposite of HE 6.

neo's picture

Seems it has the legendary Hifiman build quality...

Beagle's picture

"The HD 800 S is a bright headphone"? I thought that problem was taken care of.

tony's picture

Geez, I gotta hand it to you, putting things in "Context" while disagreeing yet appreciating, we're not gonna see "this" every day, especially in High-End Audio reporting ( god forbid ).

This "X" seems it's for Sedentary folks, people ( like me ) that sit around and listen to Liszt on their Portables.

Too bad it doesn't have a proper travel case or a phone control and, for $1,800 bucks it better look as good as those Italian VModa things with their fancy shields.

Betcha this Can is aimed at those folks that live their lives on the "Other" side of the Velvet Rope ( the pricy side ), not the "good value for money" folks. I wonder how long it'll take Mr.Fang to sell-thru the "first" run of these? I suspect they'll have a replacement for them in 6 months.

Why aren't they hiring you to consult?

In Europe, I heard a pair of Hifiman Goldmund badged, very nice. I later learned that they require a Kohler Gen Set to power them. Phew!

Your Video came in at 720P, darn nice freeze framing, a little out of focus ( might just be the 720P, the couple of your 1080P videos seem sharper), pretty good depth of field, colors seem pretty good. Over-all your stuff is nice work ( especially considering your not making $1,000 a day from this stuff ( like the Vehicle Virgins kid that does hot-car YouTube reviews ). I don't think there's mucho dinero in consumer Audio although a B&O Car Audio system is a $6,000 Option for the Tri-Star German Buyers. ( the Velvet Rope 1%ers )

I'm looking foreword to seeing a new Post from you,

Tony in Michigan

detlev24's picture

...profit margins are generally very high. :)

castleofargh's picture

OFF topic
a few times now you've shown a screenshot of equilibrium with the clipping warning(little orange thingy on the top right).
might want to ease up on the general gain when boosting stuff on the EQ ;)
you just click on it and it goes away until the next time something clips. so if it doesn't = not good.

Darktores's picture

I have this wonderful X-Edition for 2 months now, I agree with the conclusion of Tyll on the price. However I find unfair not test it on a semi-nomadic source to get the true potential of this beautiful headphone ... I can guarantee that the record live, or any style of music is really high on my Astell & Kern AK320 !

sunnydaler's picture

How about using just one subtracting filter than using three boosting filters? for example -3.4 dB @ 200 Hz with 0.9 Q.

hypermedia's picture

WOW! what is wrong with you!! Re-do!!
I own the Ether and the HE-1000. I have listen to the Edition X for hours multiple times along with Ether, HE-1000, HD800, Adueze LCD 2 & LCD X. You think like a caveman! Everything that can increase efficiency is good. But you don't understand that. You are saying like, easy driven headphones is a bad thing. It is not, it's a great feature. But you and every other caveman don't understand evolution and how new technologies improves. You demand everything to be the like the old things and want a power plant amp for thousands of dollar that take the whole desk. I can bet that if it was not so easy to drive, you have not complained about these headphones as you do. You are complaining about that they are very efficient, are you nuts, i don't understand why it is something to complain about. The edition X is not design to be portable, it is a superb and very efficient headphone that can be play with a portable player. learn the difference. It is designed to be like a end game headphone like the he-1000 but for almost half the price. It is design to compete with all the others under $2k headphones, and I can say that Edition X is one really good competitor. maybe one of the best. It is not designed to be played with an phone, it is meant to be played with a high res DAC just as any hifi headphone but with a less power demanding amp. First you say they perform better then the Ether then you say you recommend the Ether over them. What, beacouse they are to easy to drive?
Build quality isn't the greatest but everything that can keep the weight and cost down is a win! It is like hd800(S) build quality.

My thoughts and experience:
Compared with the he-1000, The Edition X brings forward the mids, from the lack of mids that the he-1000 have, but you loose some of the he-1000 highs. HE-1000 have more detailing and soundstage.
Compared with the HD800, The Edition X gives the bass and mids that hd800 wish it had, but you loose some of the hd800 highs. HD800 have more detailing and soundstage.
Compared with the Ether, The Edition X are more imaging and the bass are punchier then Ether, but you loose some of the highs and that Ether accurate neutral sound. Edition X have more detailing and soundstage.
Compared with the Audeze's, The Edition X is cleaner sounding, are more imaging and not that colored sounding as the LCD's. Edition X have more detailing and soundstage.

The Edition X is soundwise like Audeze HE-1000 combination. A layback Hifiman headphone with great imaging and soundstage that is super efficient. The Edition X is a good example to all other manufactures that efficiency is a very important factor.

detlev24's picture

Although, I think you are absolutely right about high(er) efficiency being a huge benefit.

But there are the influential manufacturers who want to sell their expensive amplifiers, as well... ;)

tony's picture

We have "Free Speech" as a Constitutional Right! but Insults are off-putting. Maybe you are only being facetious and not quite intending an Assault on a persons integrity.

Still, I feel your posting is a "Useful" explanation and defense. Here in the States any person can state their points without limit.

But pleeeeze don't insult our Great Tyll, he's the best we have.

I hope you apologize for the insulting, we'll still value your thoughts. Besides, I'm certain you don't think of us all as Cavemen, do you?

You have important thoughts, I'd not like seeing you getting Banned.

Tony in Michigan

ps. you might simply not have the English language acuity to express humor in a humorous way. I sometimes refer to people as Neanderthals ( near Cavemen ), my old Industry Bosses referred to me as "the Patron Saint to Mediocrity". We say these things while smiling.

hypermedia's picture

As Tyll says: Negative feedback is also important and good.

I just saying he should re-think! I don't say he is stupid or he is a caveman, but I said he thinks little like a caveman, and that is an expression of he should re-think and don't be a no-sayer to new technology and new things that is developed and manufactures by smart people that think outside the box. It is these people that thinking outside the box that push the world forward, and not stay in the past. And we should encourage these people to do so!

What I don't like is that this review is so negative colored made. And he don't encourage the engineers that have worked so hard to try to make these so efficient as possible. Tyll are misleading people with this review, that a pair of efficient headphones is a bad thing. Think of the newly beginners, they will probably think that a hard driven headphone is better then a easy driven.

He have some wrong picture of these headphones. He thinks it is a portable headphone. He think it is made to be played with a phone or tablet. He thinks it is for the person that want it because they have lots of money, but then he recommends headphones that is twice as much. And as a great professional man he is, having these wrong picture and negative coloring is not professional. That is why I give him negative feedback!

Quick about the price. I think these are to expensive. As any other headphones. It is a new trend to be expensive and Hifiman have joined that trend. But what Hifiman do is that you get something good for your money. That is why Hifiman can compete with somewhat more expensive headphones. So I am totally negative to Hifiman to have high prices but it is not Hifiman's decision at most. It is the competitors that is in that high price range that decide the price.

I could strongly recommend Edition X to anyone. If you don't want to spend HE-1000, LCD 4 or Stax SR-009 money. And want a "end game" headphone that is great for listening to music with relaxation, with "wow effect" details and not so harsh sounding, The Edition X is the one. And that you play it easily is just a very positive feature. I've heard someone say that hifiman have shot them self in their foot, That many will settle down with Edition X, instead of going HE-1000.

I don't try to save Hifiman. I have issues with them that they should work with. But what i try to say is that to give this feedback, especially about the efficiency, is wrong.

If you Tyll take this as an insult, I am deeply sorry! it was not intentional.

yrodin's picture

Where does Tyll say "that a pair of efficient headphones is a bad thing"?

johnnyjazz's picture

Comparing to the size of the cups, the headphones are lightweight. Sound quality is great. It's comfortable for long wears. Way to go.
Johnny @

elinbal's picture

Dear Tyll,
Thanks for your dedication all these years. Makes good reading.
I have the impression that you are straying recently from the
essentials: How does an earphone sounds?
There is too much "political thinking" about costs, values etc.
That you were considering for a second to take the Stax 009
out from the "Wall of Fame" says it all.
The Hifiman edition x is a fantastic headphone creating
believable experience of life music. (I know something
about that.) It belongs at the top. I'm happy to have got
it as a present for my recent birthday. That it works well
without external amplifier is a HUGE advantage, adding to
its value.
I think the "Wall of Fame" loses its usfullness if you
knock out wonderful earphone to be replaced by something else.
It is too restrictiv. There are at least 15-20 Full Size Open Earphones
deserving to be on the wall; They should be chosen by the reader
on basis of their Sound-Character. We have many different tastes.

brause's picture

Great review: plastic, two cables, high efficiency, close to Sennheiser HD600. In other words, they are essentially my Senns HD598 SE, which I picked up for $110 CDN. According to Whathifi, the 598s are not only easier driven than the 600s but also more fun. You essentially told me that my $110 CDN are well spent. You also told me that German companies like Sennheiser are highly competent and pragmatic.

As to $1800 headphones of monstrous dimensions that bleed sound in public and rely on the $5 dac of my cellphone: I am better off purchasing a $600 Vitamix blender. Or some $5000 speakers for my $200 Sony amp.

Maybe we can interest insulting Mr. Hyperman above to buy a few $600 blenders as stand for his Mr. Ether. Mr. Speaker and his other overpriced headphones. Please don't take it as an insult, but we need suckers like you to keep the economy going. ATTENTION SATIRE!