They are an evolutionary replacement for the original and widely acclaimed HE1000 headphones, incorporating several structural and design changes that help to improve comfort and refine the overall sound quality even further.
HiFiMAN HE1000 V2 Planar Magnetic Headphone
- Same “alive” sound quality as the original HE1000. Very cohesive sounding across the entire frequency range.
- Similar extended airy high frequency reproduction as originals.
- Solid, extended bass frequencies. Bass sounds tighter than originals.
- General build quality has been refined.
- Will still cost you a mortgage payment or two. HiFiMAN has permanently extended their upgrade program for owners of the original model.
When the original HifiMAN HE1000 headphone was released, it seemed to legitimately shake up the high-end headphone market a goodly amount. Winning widespread praise for its exceptional sound quality, standout design and technical innovation, many felt (myself included) that it was the "top-of-the-heap" when it came to non-electrostatic cans. Well, nothing on this plane of existence is ever truly perfect, and HiFiMAN has indeed found some room for improvement in their venerable flagship model. Enter the HiFiMAN HE1000 V2 planar magnetic headphones. Still looking very much like the originals at first blush, HiFiMAN’s Dr. Fang Bian has seen fit to implement a number of refinements gleaned from customer feedback. These refinements while entirely structural in nature, add up to create a more comfortable user experience and modestly hone the sound signature. While I don’t have a pair of the originals for direct comparison, and "audio memory" is a fickle and mostly unreliable thing, I did have the original HE1000 headphones for the better part of a year so there are a couple of sonic differences that I feel pretty comfortable in pointing out.
Planar Magnetic Over-the-Ear-Headphones, Open Back
131.15mm X 100mm, oblong
Advanced Asymmetrical Magnet Circuit
Manufacturer Freq. Response:
8Hz – 65kHz (Driver freq. response in free-field)
420 grams (14.82 ounces)
Brushed metal with wood grain accents and brown leather headband
1.5-meter (4.9 Feet) Headphone Cable with 3.5mm plug
3.0-meter (10.0 Feet) Headphone Cable with 6.35mm plug
3.0-meter (10.0 Feet) Headphone Cable with 4 pin XLR plug
HiFiMAN, HE1000v2, Planar Magnetic, Headphones, Over-the-Ear, Open Back, Headphones Reviews 2017
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Upon first glance, one could be forgiven for wondering what exactly it is that HiFiMAN has changed about these updated cans. With closer inspection however, we begin to find a number of subtle looking but meaningful refinements to the overall structural design.
The headphones are nominally lighter (420 grams versus 480) although I never found the originals to have an uncomfortable weight to them. The bulk of the weight savings stems from the 3mm reduction in depth in each of the large ear cups. Conversely, the beveled ear pads are thicker with a more pronounced angle to the bevel. In addition, the new ear pad’s contact patches are now made of polyester instead of the original velour. The new shape of the pad is said to “improve bass response and soundstage” while the new contact patch material is described as “aiding in increased transparency for the wearer”. The headband’s range of adjustment has been notably improved allowing for a wider range of head sizes. The new cable design is the most obvious visual change as it has gone from a two-core to three-core design that is now sheathed in a translucent rubber material versus the old woven design. As before, three different cables come packaged with the headphones. One terminated with a 4-pin balanced connector, another with a ¼” single-ended phono plug and the third one ending with a 3.5mm portable sized plug. Those pretty much cover the main changes to the new HE1000 V2. The trademark “Window Shade” grilles remain the same and the general design of the originals have been closely adhered to. I do feel a certain degree of improved polish when I pick up and handle the V2. The brushed metal finish looks better, the détentes of the adjustable headband feel more solid and less likely to move around when you get to the right fit. The ear cups don’t seem to loll about loosely as I remember the originals doing. Everything seems to be generally better buttoned down this time around. HiFiMAN has confirmed that the technical design of the driver elements themselves remain unchanged.
For this review, the HE1000 V2 were connected to a variety of equipment for evaluation. These included: the OPPO HA-1 DAC/headphone amplifier, the Bryston BHA-1 headphone amplifier and an Audio GD Compass 2 DAC/ Headphone amplifier for at home listening. My iPhone 6S Plus and my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 were paired with an OPPO HA-2SE portable DAC/Amp and an Emotiva Big EGO DAC/Amp respectively for mobile environments.
So, do the HE1000 V2 sound as good to me as the originals did? Let’s just get this one out of the way right up front. Yes! Yes, they do! They sound positively magnificent in fact.
Over the course of the month that we spent getting “re-acquainted” with each other, the HE1000 V2 opened up and exhibited that same big deep soundstage, light and airy highs and the wonderful “alive” quality that struck me so much about the original model. I described the original HE1000 as sounding like listening to a pair of my favorite speakers as if they were strapped to my head. The same description continues to apply here. With whatever music, I would inevitably be listening, the sound just seemed to flow effortlessly from these cans. The entire frequency range sounded cohesive. No one part of the sound spectrum sounded pronounced or deficient over another, and yet the HE1000 V2 sounded anything but flat. They have an extremely appealing sound signature, and the big soundstage inherent to open backed headphones did not mask or detract from any of the finer details in the music. In my mind the high frequency reproduction quality of these headphones (both the original and V2) is what separates them from the (next model down) Edition X. While I haven’t heard the newest revision of the Edition X, the first versions I felt, had a more reserved top-end sound. It was almost as if the HE1000 and the HE400S had a torrid love affair and that begot the Edition X. In essence, the Edition X got the bottom half of the sound of its uptown mother while top half was donated by its downtown dad. A different breed in its own right: polished, but a little earthier sounding.
The HE1000 V2 though, is a whole separate entity. It’s not a “non-fat Grande almond latte” made by a Seattle coffee chain barista with a side-helping of “tude.” It’s a full fat cappuccino, made in a Milanese coffee bar by an older fellow with an apron, pressed shirt and bow tie, expertly pulling shots from a copper-clad, steam pump cappuccino machine. Served with a smile and a “pain du chocolate” as a chaser. It is a refined experience to listen through these cans, from first note to last.
After a time though, the one sonic character on the HE1000 V2 that did stick out to me as different from its progenitor was the bass. As I went back through my music, it became increasingly clear that bass reproduction on the V2 was noticeably tighter than the originals. There was still plenty of it and the bass notes still reach deep and hit with authority, but there didn’t seem to be as much overhang or it didn’t sound quite as big in the bottom end as I remember. I don’t regard that as a deficiency in any respect, more just a difference. A difference that is no doubt due to the various tweaks that HiHiMAN saw fit to implement on the design and structure of these cans.
The HE1000 V2 headphones are moderately efficient at 90dB and, with an impedance of 35 ohms, could be successfully driven from my phone directly, to an acceptable level (albeit with the volume maxed out). Best results are achieved with a decent headphone amp for sure and I had some interesting observations while sampling these cans with the different DAC/amps that I had in house at the time of their stay. Let me preface what comes next with an opinion. I think some people get a little too hung up on balanced versus single-ended headphone connections and which one sounds better. I think it has less to do with the connector itself and more to do with headphone amp’s design and which connector it’s been optimized for.
The Audio GD Compass 2 for example, is strictly a single-ended headphone amp, but it had more than enough juice to power the HE1000 V2 to levels louder than I cared to listen at either of the two gain levels. I preferred its single-ended performance over that of the OPPO HA-1. The solid-state Compass 2 also lent the HiFiMAN headphones a slight euphonic quality that made the combination extra enjoyable to listen to for extended sessions. Vocals, in particular, sounded lusher with this combo.
The OPPO’s balanced connection more than made up for any perceived volume deficiency over its single-ended output. With this amp driving the cans, the HE1000 V2 sounded cleaner, a bit more analytical over the Compass 2 but still enjoyable to listen to, although the imaging didn’t seem quite as big. It didn’t sound sterile per se, just more reserved.
With the Bryston BHA-1, the connection type mattered the least. Both single-ended and balanced performance sounded exceptional and, subjectively, seemed to sound close enough that it made near as no difference. This combination had the cleanest sound of the three. The finer details of cymbals and the impact of deeper bass notes really stood out with the Bryston/HiFiMAN pairing.
When I was off-site with these headphones and using my tablet or phone as my main music source, both the OPPO HA-2SE and Emotiva’s Big EGO proved to be welcome companions and both sounded great when paired with the V2. The OPPO had a more smooth and relaxed presentation with these cans while BIG EGO sounded just a little leaner in the midrange but the high frequencies really got sparkle while it was calling the shots. Either of these would be a good pairing with the HiFiMAN HE1000 V2 it’s just interesting how each has a slightly different flavor to it when scrutinized through such revealing cans.
From a comfort standpoint, the HE1000 V2 are extremely comfortable and easy to wear for several hours without fatigue. I especially appreciate the updated ear pad design as it helps create a more complete and better seal around the back of my ears.
Some of my favorite musical moments with the HE1000 V2 are:
Another in the series of excellent binaural recordings by Chesky Records. These were 24/192 FLAC files downloaded from the HDTracks website. The size and atmosphere of the church where these recordings were made immediately becomes apparent on the HE1000 V2. From the very first notes of “St. Judy’s Comet”, the soundscape seems to extend out beyond the boundaries of the ear cups.
The standup bass has a deep, and meaty sound to it here which the V2 replicate with authority. In addition, each of the string plucks has a distinctive reverberating “twang” sound that the planar drivers capture with great detail that is not overpowered by the bass notes themselves. Miss Cole’s voice is velvety smooth throughout the album and it remained perfectly anchored in space right in front of me. This was particularly apparent on the title track “Dazzling Blue.” The same track features some outstanding percussion work (tom-toms, I believe) that, while they’re sound again extended beyond the headphones, the HE1000 V2 still clearly reproduced the subtleties of skin contacting drum head. On the more intimate track “Something So Right”, the acoustic guitar sounds lush and warm and yet the V2 scavenge an almost ridiculous level of detail and nuance from the finger work on those strings. And on the final track “Quiet”, the HE1000 V2 set up a convincing, almost ethereal soundscape between the electric guitar, bass, vocals and percussion which becomes pierced with an eerily real sounding flute at various points. This album is truly a feast for the ears and the V2 serves it up expertly for your enjoyment.
The first release, back in 2001, by Canadian blues artist Paul Reddick and his band at the time. A number of the tracks have been recorded in such a way as to mimic a vintage sort of sound while others are presented fairly cleanly. Either way this is an excellent contemporary blues album that doesn’t just slavishly follow the past.
Reddick and Co. get right down to business with “Sleepy John Estes,”a hard driving track that showcases some fantastic distorted and feedback ridden guitar work. The HE1000 V2 midrange and treble response bring all the grit and grain of that guitar to the fore to be properly heard where some other cans would smooth over those details. The speed of the planar drivers also pays dividends with the harmonica solo keeping it plenty zippy in the midst of the pounding bass line. “6/19” is a tasty little 41 second harmonica solo with a good deal of reverb and echo. The HE1000 V2 made this track extend far out beyond the ear cups making it truly atmospheric. A number of the breaths taken between notes had a solid punch of weight behind them. The harmonica, for all the echo, again sounded sharp, quick and snappy. Paul Reddick’s vocals on “Smokehouse” and “Tumblin Down” were also handled deftly by the V2. Two very different tracks, “Smokehouse” was clean and lively sounding with Reddick’s voice coming across edgy, detailed and right in front of me. “Tumblin Down” is a slow burner with much more atmosphere. The vocals were processed and farther back in space, but still spread wide. The HE1000 V2 reproduced the layering of vocals, guitar, bass, drums and organ with convincing depth where many headphones (like my Beyer DT 880 Pro) tend to flatten this tune out.
Another Canadian guitarist, Ray Montford both produced and engineered this Acoustic/World music style album to an impeccably high standard. While this music sounds great on speakers, the HE1000 V2 really do it justice on a personal audio level. Starting out with opening track “One Witness”, these headphones set up a very big sonic stage anchored by a deep rumbling low bass line that is punctuated by toms, a water drum and all manner of percussion.
The bass was loud and quite encompassing and the V2 rendered it deeply and solidly. The level of bass though, did not muddy up the crispness of the toms and other percussion as they weaved in and out of the track. The cymbals of the tambourine had an especially lively sparkle to their sound that I don’t often hear quite as vividly on some other headphones. Montford’s acoustic guitar sounded very detailed and resonant on this track with a good sparkle and “quickness” to the sound. On the Latin tinged track “Celebrata”, Ray Montford’s acoustic guitar work is upfront and shines with the HE1000 V2 revealing tons of detail as his fingers pick and slide across the strings. The solo trumpet part that comes in, at a third of the way through the track, is handled smoothly by these cans. It comes across with a nice ring to the notes but with no edge or glare, even while blowing at full tilt. Bass lines are thick and easily heard while the kick drum has solid and deep impact throughout. The opening piano part on “Axis” has a wonderful richness to its presentation while the individual notes have such a nice clear ring and decay to their sound when listening through these headphones. It very much sounds “right there” with me as the simultaneous acoustic and electric guitar parts come in to flank it on either side.
Let’s see, a performance featuring an entire orchestral string section and solo trumpet? Okay, I’ll bite. I stumbled across this recording quite by accident as I have never heard of the soloist Alison Balsom before but I will most certainly be checking out some more of her work after listening to this!
The entire string section sounds quite big but the HE1000 V2 keeps it sounding very well defined even though it is definitely set back in space. Specific details of the cellos, violins and other individual instruments come through quite clearly. And then, there’s the horn. Alison Balsom’s horn arrives front and center in space with the strings wrapping around her and set a bit farther back. Her playing sounds bold and confident with plenty of power when called for. The HE1000 V2 have such a light and airy high end that seamlessly transitions to the mids, that it keeps even such a bold sounding trumpet completely free of harshness or glare. But you also don’t get the sense that you are being deprived of any detail or that the highs are being rolled off in order smooth off the edges. That, and the planar driver’s inherent speed, is just a perfect fit for this kind of music. Listen especially to the track “Trumpet Concerto in E-Flat Major: III. Rondo” and it just sounds so quick and effortless, like a hare bounding through a meadow.
So, if you are in the market for a high-end pair of cans, and $3000.00 is not too dear a sum to spare, then auditioning a pair of the HE1000 V2 should definitely be on your short list. However, what if you already own a pair of the original HE1000? Is the difference in sound worth upgrading to the latest version? That, honestly, is a harder question to answer. The new ones, to my ears, have tighter bass reproduction and a few other comfort and physical refinements but otherwise I find them just as enjoyable to listen to as first versions were. HiFiMAN offers an ongoing upgrade plan for original HE1000 owners which involves turning in your working pair of HE1000 and paying an upgrade fee of $650.00. After which, a shiny new pair of V2s will be yours. If it’s in your nature to be in possession of the “latest and greatest,” then it’s nice to have options. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth stressing about as I would be beyond happy either the V1 or V2. And while the tighter bass and comfier earpads are swell, if I already owned a pair of V1s, I doubt I would be beating down a door to upgrade them. In my mind, the HiFiMAN HE1000 were that good then, just as the V2 versions are that good now.
THE HiFiMAN HE1000 V2 Continues To Set The Standard For What A Reference Class Pair Of Headphones Should Be.
- Wonderful “alive” sound quality is still there.
- Refinements to design and comfort are based on customer feedback.
- Coherent sound from top to bottom.
- Still one of the coolest looking headphones around.
- Upgrade plan for original owners provides options.
- For the mobile cable, switch from a right angled 3.5mm connector to a straight one. The current connector is overly bulky and problematic with some devices.
The HiFiMAN HE1000 V2 Planar Magnetic Headphones are a damn fine pair of cans, full stop. Just like their forerunner, they remain one of the finest pair of non-electrostatic headsets that I have ever heard and will continue to be a reference point to judge other headphones in this class by. The HE1000 V2 remain true to the wonderful “alive” sound that’s so appealing about the originals, but bring some refined cosmetics and comfort updates along with a modestly tighter bass signature to the table. For prospective buyers who are looking for the best headphone around, your search is not complete until you listen to these. For owners of the originals, your investment has not been lost because the HE1000 V2 is not a revolution but an evolution from what you currently have. You can sleep well knowing that you still have a state of the art pair of headphones. An upgrade path is available if you wish but to me, the slight difference in sound and comfort is like a difference between cinnamon or chocolate on my cappuccino. I just happen to like them both!