The HiFiMan HE-560 Planar Magnetic Headphone Page 2


Sound Quality
In my listening I used primarily the OPPO HA-1 and Anedio D1 DAC/amp units, as well as the "portable" HiFiMan HM-901 (with Minibox amp card). The Sennheiser HD600, Audeze LCD-2 rev.1, and OPPO PM-1 were on-hand for comparison purposes.

Planar magnetic headphones are often lauded for their speed, lack of distortion, and ability to maintain bass control while also pumping out powerful lows (i.e. providing bass quality AND quantity). The HE-560 definitely did not disappoint there—the bass is fantastic, easily among the best I've heard from a headphone. It is deep, flat, and powerful, finding the ideal balance of controlled and hard-hitting. There is no discernible mid-bass hump, and yet the HE-560 still delivers excellent impact and rumble alike.

The mids of the HE-560 are very clear, but a little dry. Compared to the Sennheiser HD600, OPPO PM-1, and Audeze LCD-2, the HE-560 is less forward and full-bodied in the midrange though the tight and natural bass helps quite a lot, preventing the low end from intruding on the midrange in any capacity.

The treble transition is smooth and the top end itself is refined, but not recessed. It has a good amount of sparkle without sounding harsh or sibilant. The HE-560 is tough to call bright in my book—I've thought other high-end sets from Beyer, AKG, and even STAX brighter, but admittedly it does have more treble energy than the HD600, PM-1, and LCD-2 (the latter two being especially polite at the top). There is enough presence to properly convey the energy of cymbal hits, for example, whereas the PM-1 tends to sound a little dull and smoothed over in that regard.

The level, tight, and clear sound of the HE-560 grants it a natural, slightly laid-back presentation and very good imaging. In short, the HE-560 is a highly capable headphone with fantastic clarity and some of the best bass I've come across, but also a slightly dry and not very forward midrange character. What follows are more in-depth comparisons to two other planar magnetic cans, the Audeze LCD-2 and OPPO PM-1, as well as to the dynamic-driver Sennheiser HD600.

Audeze LCD-2 rev. 1
I never was a huge fan of this LCD-2, preferring the less expensive Sennheiser HD600 for both sound (more balanced) and comfort. LCD-2 is more tilted towards the low end and boasts a warmer tonal character than the HE-560. However, its bass is also a touch slower and more sustained, which makes it seem a little loose in comparison. The LCD-2 also has a slight lack of energy at the top and its presentation is a little more congested, thanks to the less controlled bass.

The HE-560 has tighter, more linear bass and better clarity. The overall balance is better thanks in large part to brighter treble—to my ears, the greater treble energy of the HE-560 is more natural overall. The LCD-2, while very forgiving, sounds dull and smoothed-over in comparison.

Sennheiser HD600
The Sennheiser HD600 had been my benchmark full-size headphone for many years before the HE-560 came along. The most readily apparent difference between them is the bass. The bass of the HE-560 is not just more powerful, but also more extended and effortless, whereas the HD600 lacks the ability to really rumble on bass-heavy tracks.

On the whole, the sound signature of the HE-560 is a little more v-shaped than that of the HD600. The Sennheiser unit displays more prominent mids that are slightly thicker compared to the HE-560, but also not quite as clear, whereas the HE-560 sounds thinner and crisper. Both the HD600 and HE-560 are very spacious but the HiFiMan unit appears to have a wider soundstage thanks to its more laid-back midrange.

OPPO's Planar Magnetic PM-1 headphone follows a smooth and balanced sound that falls somewhere between the LCD-2 and Sennheiser HD600. The HE-560 seems bassier than the PM-1, but at the same time its treble is more energetic and extended, giving its presentation a more open feel. The extra treble energy is welcome, but the HE-560 also appears less full-bodied. This grants it a more "analytical" note presentation that some listeners may not find appealing over the more rich-sounding PM-1.

The OPPO, on the other hand, offers up a stronger, thicker midrange. Its bass is just a hair more boomy and it has smoother, completely fatigue-free treble that can seem a little lacking in crispness next to the HE-560—"smoothed-over" is the best term. The PM-1 also doesn't quite have the same open and well-imaged presentation.

The HiFiMan HE-560 impressed me more than I had anticipated, going so far as to replace the Sennheiser HD600 as my primary full-size headphone thanks to the outstanding bass performance and clarity, as well as the flexible, lightweight construction that results in good wearing comfort.

The only headphone I've encountered thus far in my audio journey that I would trade these for without a second thought is the $4500 STAX SR-009, and that says quite a lot. It's hard to talk about value with a set of headphones that costs nearly $1000, but the HE-560 is easy to recommend for anyone with listening preferences that, like mine, tend a bit towards the analytical.

HiFiMAN home page and HE-560 product page.
Head-Fi HE-560 impressions thread.


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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