HiFiMAN has been building and designing headphone solutions since 2006, and have earned a reputation for making some of the very best sounding headphones on the planet.
The company, located in China, is operated and owned by Dr. Fang Bian. Fang went to school in the United States. Over the years and by getting to know Fang personally I have come to admire his commitment to the personal audio community. His dedication and devotion to creating affordable reference level products have always been his major goals.
Fang is a music lover first and foremost, and he regularly attends live classical concerts. In all his prior designs the soundstage and tonality have always been stellar. Having personally been involved with Fang’s prototypes in the past with HE6 and now the HE560, one thing I can attest to is that he listens to the community when he develops a new model. He likes community involvement during his design process, and focuses on giving his customers his best effort, ensuring products that offer both exceptional sonics and value.
In the past some people found that the HE6 and HE500 were heavy and uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. The ear pads on these two headphones were an issue that made Fang rethink the design of the ear-pad and ultimately redesign them for the HE500, HE6 and HE400 models. The new design was better but still not perfect. The clips were an improvement but the material used on the ear-pads still had a scratchy feeling while being worn and were very uncomfortable for long listening sessions.
The HE6 was a notoriously difficult headphone to drive. The community and HE6 users needed either a very powerful headphone amplifier or low-watt speaker amplifiers to get the best performance out of them. The HE500 was easier to drive but lacked the soundstage or transparency of a well-driven HE6. The treble extension was much better on the HE6 and the HE500, but they were still uncomfortable during long listening sessions.
The weight would cause noticeable fatigue and the scratchy ear-pads were, for me, too uncomfortable. Once again Fang sought the advice and opinion of the headphone community, and the development of his new HE560 and HE400i came as a result of input he received over months of trials with prototypes he distributed in the field.
The HE560 planar headphone has been completely redesigned from the bottom up. The new models are much lighter, the ear-pads are much more comfortable, and the scratchy feeling is gone. The headphone is now made of lightweight aluminum, and the overall weight has been reduced to 13.3 ounces. The feel of the headphone is much lighter than all of the other HiFiMAN designs. The new design is much more comfortable for long listening sessions.
The new design is very light and more comfortable on my large head. The ear-pads are no longer uncomfortable and the lighter weight will make it more suitable for more listeners who dislike heavy headphones. Fang paid attention to the wood used on the cups in the design process. The new veneer used looks to be very stable and should provide years of trouble free use.
The HE560 has 50-ohm impedance and sensitivity is listed at 90-db/mw. The rating indicates that the HE560 is both efficient and easy to drive. The frequency response is listed at 15-50 KHZ.
The cable is a silver plated copper cable with the same familiar connectors used in past HiHiMAN designs. I have not had trouble with these connectors in prior designs and actually find them easy to use. The cable does not get tangled with this and has a nice clean presentation.
The grill appears to be the same one used in prior HiFiMAN designs. The headband is adjustable and has a pleather type band that has some cushioning and is much better than previous designs. The construction on the HE560 appears to be very well thought out.
The wood-sliding box that comes with the headphone is also an improvement over past designs. The company also offers an optional travel-case available that is lighter than the box and easier to pack for travel. The price for the portable case is a very reasonable $29.
The HiFiMAN HE560 retail price is $899.
Prior to having the HE560 production model I had the prototype in early development, which had different wood in the design but was otherwise was very similar to the production model. The finished production model has some minor modifications made to the ear pads, and the teak wood was replaced with the darker veneer that is used currently on this model. The wood changes were made for consistency and durability and still are very attractive.
When I was auditioning the prototype model the familiar HiFiMAN soundstage was apparent. The soundstage width was very noticeable. The width and air and separation found in other HiFiMAN products were still all there. The focus within the soundstage was exceptional however the overall sound appeared to be thin. The HE560 production model was much different with more body and a fuller presentation. The changes were welcomed.
The SACD disc of Jerry Goldsmith’s music is a favorite recording for me to use to evaluate headphones. The opening track “Star Trek” is well known to most avid music fans and is very dynamic, and Goldsmith conducting the London Symphony orchestra makes this a must listen-to disc. “Star Trek” has terrific extension in addition to the dynamics. The HE560 had pinpoint focus playing this track. I could hear the explosive dynamics. The music also highlighted the speed of the planar driver used in the HE560. I was able to hear very deep into the soundstage. The presentation is very smooth and tonality is spot on. Easily heard were the individual sections of the orchestra. The soundstage had width and air and instrument separation was good. The headphone had no evidence of harsh sound.
The HE560 sound has a very different presentation. The sound is silky smooth with good transparency. Compared to the HE500 the improvement is a much better soundstage with a smoother presentation. The music seems to just float. It is very easy to get lost in listening sessions with the HE560.
Tierney Sutton’s Something Cool album, in addition to providing some of the best-recorded female vocal in my library, also had great bass extension – especially on the “Route 66” track. The HE560 had Sutton’s vocal coming front and center more like a first row seat in a concert hall. The band was very well defined. In the rear of the soundstage you can hear the percussionist hand hitting the bongos clearly. The piano tones coming from the left were every realistic and also very musical. The bass notes were evident and very balanced in the presentation. The textured bass made it easy to hear the strings and notes of the acoustic bass instrument, and the separation of musicians on this track was first rate using the Viva Egoista amplifier with the Oppo BD105 and WyWires Platinum interconnects. The reference system was getting the best out the HE560 and I melted away, lost in the musicality of the performance.
The emotional involvement with Tierney’s sexy and seductive performance was all there. When I switched to the Violectric V281, using it in the same single ended configuration as the Egoista, the sound was still full and transparent but gave up some of the Viva’s detail and transparency slightly. The difference in the price of the V281 is considerable. The sound was still very good considering the differences in price of the two amplifiers. The V281 had the detail and tonality that tube lovers will really enjoy, despite the fact that it is a solid state design. The V281 was using the BDP 105 in a balanced configuration with Nordost Blue Heaven interconnect. I was still very satisfied with the sound coming from the V281 and could easily live with both the sound and transparency using this less expensive combination.
Beck’s Morning Phase album may be his best work. The opening track “Cycle” lead into “Morning” with Beck’s opening acoustic guitar and clearly you can hear the string of the guitar and the kick drum in the rear with Beck’s vocal in the center. The bass extension on the HE560 is excellent. I could feel the presence of the kick drum and also hear the cymbals clearly. The cymbals were similar to what you hear live, missing was splashy and tinny sound that comes from lesser quality transducers. The treble has excellent extension. Also notable in the listening sessions was that the performance was always balanced and neutral. The bass is not as deep as some other competitors but more balanced in presentation. The HE560 delivers what is on the recording. The bass on the HE500 may have been harder hitting, but the comfort levels and neutrality of the HE560 makes this a better overall listening experience.
Willie Nelson’s “Band of Brothers” recording is Willie’s first new material in 14 years, and is very well recorded. The first track “Bring it ON” has Willie front and center in the recording with good band separation. The synergy of Willie with his longtime band is clearly outlined in this performance. Track 9: “Get Go” has a vocal performance by Jamey Johnson. Both vocalists had good separation and when Jamey’s deeper voice comes into the song you can clearly differentiate the two vocalists.
The real treat for me was using classical recordings with the HE560. Listening to Issac Stern’s SACD recording of “Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D major” was more than mesmerizing; it was both energetic and delicate at the same time. I could hear Fang Bian’s influence in the voicing of the HE560. The violin performance was spectacular. The strings were so real, so vibrant – and most importantly: transparent. There was no harshness in the performance and Stern’s playing was indeed very special. The musicality of this performance was astonishing. The violin reproduction on the HE560 is some of the very best heard on any headphone at any price I have experienced. Classical music lovers will love the sound and performance of the HE560 .
Many headphones will smear the sound or, worse yet, be too bright and screechy with violin reproduction. Listening to violin recordings on the HE560 made me forget about the gear. I listened to the entire recording and just relaxed. The music was so involving and Stern’s performance was as good as I had heard. The tonality was exceptional.
Fang Bian has been a designer consumed by his relentless pursuit of perfection. His goals are to create exceptional products at affordable prices for consumers. The designs he comes out with usually end up being best-sellers in the personal audio community. Fang’s commitment to our community is exemplary, and his involvement in the community is legendary.
The HE560 is another product that pushes the boundaries. The weight and comfort levels are better that any other HiFiMAN product that was offered before. The HE560 weighs less than a pound, and the ear pads, which were one of the weaknesses of prior HiFiMAN designs, have been improved. The HE560’s sound signature is very neutral and the presentation is balanced. The design has an adjustable aluminum headband that is much more comfortable than the previous HiFiMAN designs. The HE560 still has the smooth treble extension and clearly defined bass that HiFiMAN is known for. The soundstage is excellent. The HE560 is a delightful headphone to listen too.
The HE560 has excellent midrange and makes vocal recordings come to life. Classical musical lovers will appreciate violin recordings and enjoy listening to the silky-smooth presentation. The HE560 never calls attention to any areas of the listening spectrum – it just delivers music. My listening experiences with the HE560 were always pleasant, and I appreciated the lighter weight. I could easily leave these on for long listening sessions.
Is the HE560 perfect? Well there is still some room for improvement with the ear-pad clips. The Oppo PM1 and PM2 ear-pad design is better and easier to take on or off, but the HE560 is more comfortable and never scratchy on my ears. Some listeners may miss the deeper bass slam of the HE500, but I found the bass of the HE560 to be excellent in both detail and definition. The soundstage is typical HiFiMan, excellent side-to-side definition with good depth and air, but still falls short of the HD800’s soundstage (all headphones do). The HE560, for half the price of many top tier planar and dynamic headphones, still delivers what many want in a reference headphone. It offers terrific value and transparency that is usually found in the higher priced models that are available.
Once again Dr. Bian Fang has delivered a product that, for the price, will be hard to compete with. The HE560 offers the listener a super listening experience. If you’re looking for a planar headphone that offers exceptional sound and is a pleasure to wear, the HE560 merits your consideration. I can think of no other headphone in this price range that delivers the performance and comfort the HE560 offers.
The HE560 is a well designed and thought out product and will keep many listeners happy, and for many may end the ride on the merry-go-round. This could be just the product that can deliver you into sonic bliss. Fang has hit another home run with the HE560. It delivers superior performance and, for the asking price, offers exceptional value. The HE560 merits serious consideration and is highly recommended.
Frank started his journey in high-end audio in 1978 and was quickly hooked. Frank’s passion for music and great sound reproduction is stronger than ever. His main focus is with high-end headphones and portable related gear. He is a regular Head-Fi.org contributor and is a co-founder of Headphone.Guru.