The HiFiMan HE-560 Planar Magnetic Headphone

Editors Note: This is a headphone that just didn't quite do it for me, but I also knew that it would be a dandy headphone for those whose tastes run more towards the brighter side than mine. Fortunately, ljokerl, InnerFidelity's IEM reviewer and editor at The Headphone List, has tastes that bend in that direction. When I heard that ljokerl had a pair and liked them, I asked him if he would write a review for InnerFidelity. Woot! Here's his thoughts on the HE-560!

HiFiMAN HE-560 ($899)
I bought my first HiFiMan earphones in 2009, back when the IEM market was dominated by pricy armature-powered models from the likes of Shure and Ultimate Ears. HiFiMan (Head-Direct at the time) earphones were a breath of fresh air, providing clean, well-balanced sound without the cost or complexity of their competitors courtesy of well-tuned dynamic drivers. I've covered two generations of them in my time here at InnerFidelity—the RE262/272 and the RE-400/600.

Over the years, the company's lineup expanded well beyond earphones, but I hadn't managed to get my hands on a HiFiMan headphone until the HE-560 came along. This full-size, open-back can uses Planar Magnetic drivers and costs right around $900—a price tag that hardly screams value, and yet is a few hundred bucks shy of many flagship headphones (HiFiMan's own HE-6 included).

The HE-560 is a headphone for the headphone lover, billed as a lighter and more comfortable planar magnetic set. It is not a flawlessly polished retail product like the OPPO PM-1, but there is a raw, purposeful character to its design that I quite like.

It is a good-looking headphone, finished in a dark wood grain with flat black accents. You don't get much in the way of extras for $899, however—just the headphones, a cable, and a wood storage box with a sliding lid. The headband uses a suspended design with a metal outer band, and the forks are plastic. The dual-sided cable is detachable and utilizes coaxial connectors. The cups rotate a full 180 degrees, which is good for storage and transport as well as wearing comfort.

The main upside of the no-frills construction is that the HE-560 is quite lightweight. Like the OPPO headphones, the Audeze line, and most HiFiMan sets, it is built around Planar Magnetic drivers, not conventional moving-coil (dynamic) transducers (see the Wisdom Audio white paper here and Tyll's article here for an in-depth look at Planar Magnetic technology). Suffice it to say that PM drivers can perform on a very high level but using them can result in a heavier headphone. The weight of both my OPPO PM-1 and the LCD-series Audeze sets I've tried can be felt after some hours.

The HE-560, on the other hand, is light for its size. This, together with the suspended headband design and freely pivoting earcups, lays the foundation for a very comfortable headphone. The final element in the equation are the pads. In the case of my HE-560, they are a hybrid velour+leather design dubbed "Focus A". These breathe moderately well—not quite up there with the Sennheiser velour pads, but better compared to the pads on the LCD-2 and PM-1. The HE-560 earpads are more heavily bolstered at the back and keep the headphone well-positioned despite its slightly higher (compared to the PM-1 and LCD-2) clamping force. The result of all this is a very comfortable headphone, equal for me to Sennheiser's HD600.

Now, on to the sound.


Three Toes of Fury's picture

Ive been very very interested in innerfidelity's thoughts on HiFimans for a while. I love that you do a comparison with HD600, which are my current open headphones of choice. I really want to try planars but only if its worth the investment.

To that point, does any innerfidelity fans have thoughts on the HE-400 vs HE-500? Ive heard alot of good about the 500 series but they are still a bit pricey. I dont want to settle on 400's if the difference is worth saving up for.

Peace & Living in Stereo


roguegeek's picture

Thanks for the review. Very well written and definitely worth the time.

I'm someone who shares your tastes in sound signatures, for sure. I do find it difficult that you mention this is a good analytical can, but choose to compare the HE-560 to, arguably, very not analytical cans. The obvious choice would have been a comparison to the HD 800, the king of transparency, but I do understand why people stay away from that comparison here and on headfi. IMO, the HD 800 just runs circles around the HE-560 in every single category you can think of with the exception of the picky amplification nature.

What I really love about this review is how well the HD 600 is presented. We have a $300 headphone, arguably the most important can ever created and yard stick by which all else is measured, keeping up with a $1000 headphone in some aspects. If anything, I think this article speaks volumes about the HD 600 more than the HE-560. Thumbs up, for sure.

tony's picture

I just heard the 600s on a Bottlehead Crack at the Ann Arbor, Michigan headphone meet.
It was a standout , a wonderful system.
I own the HD580s already.
Other people that heard the 600/Crack system were more blown away than I.
This meet was loaded with super expensive stuff, everything was superb yet still the HD600 soared .
The HD600 should be a "Gold" Standard for us.

Tony in MIchigan

NZtechfreak's picture

Fantastic phone the HD800, but I wouldn't rate it the king of transparency. Stax and the HE-6 I'd rate ahead of the HD800 in the transparency stakes.

ljokerl's picture
In this case it was a matter of availability - the only two headphones I own (and have extensive experience with) in the same price range are the LCD-2 and the OPPO, and they just happen to use PM drivers as well. The HD600 made sense to include just because it's been a benchmark of mine for so long and is probably more familiar to many readers than either of the planars.
tony's picture

Misters: ljokerl, Tyll, and Steve G. are, god-sends for all of us!

I don't think we could make sense out of any of this headphone world without the careful, real-world descriptions that these gentlemen reveal in their detailed articulations .

I just participated in the Ann Arbor, Michigan Overature Audio headphone meet. I sampled nearly every headphone. Rather quickly on I came to realize the Audeze 3s are heavy, in fact they were too heavy for me to consider owning.
I think that I'm suggesting weight is a valid factor in headphone selection and that weight should be part of headphone reviews.

Heavy headphones become a drudgery, the low mass headphones seem delightful to wear

Still, considering the thousands of reviews and reviewers I've had to review over these last 5 decades I must congratulate these above three for their work. If there were awards given out for Reviewers I'd be voting for these lads, first rate stuff here, the highest level! If you lads were reviewing "our" cars I'd be making sure you were properly taken care-of. ( only Alex Dykes reviews cars to your high standards ).

Congratulations and thanks for all your work, probably every headphone purchase I've made was the result of your efforts and considerations.

Tony in Michigan

ps. those Audeze EL8 "Open" were delightful, love to read about them but I may just buy them from what I heard at this last show.

ljokerl's picture
I am fortunate to be in such storied company :) Weight is very important to the comfort of a headphone, which itself is perhaps as important as sound in long-term ownership. However, some headphones just plain handle their weight better than others - better distribution, less pressure points, and so on. This goes both ways - tried a gaming headphone from one of the big players in that space recently and while it was lightweight, it felt much heavier on the head thanks to weirdly shaped padding.
tony's picture

Thank you for writing back,

I think that I understand your points.

I suspect the manufacturers in pursuit of sonic performance use mass and heft to create a stable platform to project their differential sound pressures into our ears. ( kind-of the 6,000 lb. Rolls Royce effect ) , mass reduces harshness, lots of mass eliminates harshness. ( maybe )

Well, any way, after trying out all those headphones at the Ann Arbor meet I've come to feel that I have a strong preference for the lower mass headphones, I'll even accept the sonic performance of the lessors.

A curious thing is that of those "heavy" headphones, I auditioned, none had quoted wt. in their Manufacturers Web sites, the lower mass headphones all seemed to have mass quoted by their manufactures. As a manufacture, I understand this, we only tout our positives.

My Sennheisers seem to weigh-in around the 8 to 9 ounce range, which feels cumfortable, I'm willing to set aside the heavier ones, which may explain why many have extensive collections of seldom used "Big" headphones.

Here again functional ergonomics rule the day, just like they do in every human endeavor .

I admire your works,

Thank you,

Tony in Michigan

tony's picture

Hello Tyll,

I just went back to Inner Fidelty's review of initial Hifiman products,

Some guy, maybe your younger brother, much skinnier, did the review for us, video in 360p. He seemed to feel good things about the 2009-2010 Hifiman product line, even the power hungry HE6 that Steve G. has dancing up a storm from the Schiit Lyr2 horsepower.

How many times have we seen that Yellow Hawaiian ? , it's kinda a trademark of your's, it seems.

Steve G is still using the HE6 for product evaluations, hmm, what does that mean?

Tony in Michigan

bernardperu's picture

I have the HE-500 and I love it. I believe power-hungry headphones have a way of being very musical if properly fed.

Assuming I use a powerful amp, which one would you prefer: the HE-560 or the HE-500?

Is the HE-560 an attempt to make the HE-500 lighter, prettier, and more sensitive?

By the way, I have powerful amps, but the HiFi-M8 via balanced is powerful enough to fully drive the HE-500.


achristilaw's picture

The 500 has an innate hardness upper-midband, low treble. The 560 doesn't however, the commonality shared by orthos? The ability to find shortcoming in amplification, with a good an above amp pairing, the 560 is one of two of my favorite headphones to date.

sandramichael03's picture
michab's picture

You Compar the he_560 with the LCD-2 first version. but what is more to your taste with the current version LCD-2?

makemyessay's picture

HiFiMAN is using an unused balanced headdress design, made of wood cups, and diagonal pleat her/velour pads. Read more:

jimmykimmeel's picture

Over the years, the company expanded beyond the range of the headset, but HE-560 until I could get my hands on a helmet Hifiman repair vancouver samsung

Shirley Marx's picture

This makes real sense for the people, who're concerned with it.

ultimofashions's picture

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ultimofashions's picture

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fastguitars's picture

Ive owned all the HIfiMan headphones until the $1000 mark begins, and i find the HE-560 to be the least mid-lovely of them all.
Its a thin sound, etched in the trebles, and highly analytical.
Needs a lot of power to shine brightest.
It is the Anti-Audeze El8o, so if you've heard this headphone and like it, you will not like the HE-560.
I think of this headphone as the one to use to check the details but not the one to use to just listen and relax.

Brad331's picture

A lot of people remove the cloth on the cover grill of HiFiMans to improve soundstage/air. Doing so also raises the treble. I have used your raw measurements, compensated to target response, to create a neutral EQ profile for my HE400i. However, after taking the cloth cover off, I noticed that it now sounds brighter, and much more sibilant when combined with my original EQ. Nobody knows quantitatively how much the sound changes after this simple mod. Would you be interested in measuring the frequency response difference?

peteralan's picture

Ive owned all the HIfiMan headphones until the $1000 mark begins, and i find the HE-560 to be the least mid-lovely of them all.
Its a thin sound, etched in the trebles, and highly analytical.
Needs a lot of power to shine brightest.
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Cara Santiago's picture

To author write it in the simple and make it easy to understand

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pete111's picture

"But I'll also steer buyers towards the HD 600—or Massdrop HD 6XX if it becomes available again—as the better sounding alternative."
Letting people know that the 6xx are indeed available on Massdrop now, yes with a delay, but still... a 650 for 200 bucks...

jack514's picture

You Compar the he_560 with the LCD-2 first version. but what is more to your taste with the current version LCD-2?

Jack G.
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movistar's picture

We have the HE-500 and I love it. I believe power-hungry headphones have a way of being very musical if properly fed.
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