Part 1- Familiarization and purchase.
My first visit to San Francisco’s Audio Vision SF came at the beginning of March 2015. Having joined a containership, I had just arrived in San Francisco. Alas, the American stevedores had been on strike for almost a month and the vessel’s schedule lay in ruins. I spent five nights in a hotel and had enough time to find a few interesting audio places. I found Audio Vision via the Internet. How did we live in the 1990s without this time-eating monster?
I wasn’t to be lucky that day. A burglar truck had smashed the shop’s windows the previous night. Five repair guys with various tools could be found on the sidewalk creating one helluva noise. A wall of headphones was located just a few meters from the madness but I had zero chance of auditioning them. The owner of the store suggested that I return in two days but by then I’d be required to rejoin my vessel.
Another chance to visit the store arrived three months later; I was much luckier. How lucky? You will see in the last photo at the end of this review. I could foresee the hand of providence. If I had arrived during the first day of the vessel’s port in Oakland I’d have had not any chance to keep the headphones in my hands! But God had blessed me – I had free time, I arrived on the second day, the weather was beautiful, my mood was elevated and I was even well equipped for a photo session. I’d just bought a new camera in the Sony DCS RX-100 III. By the way – being a Tuesday, Audio Vision was open. Lucky again!
Take one step inside and you realize it’s Heaven for headfiers! “Horn of Plenty” was my first thought when I spied this Wall of ‘Phones.
Not only cans – you have everything in one place. An abundance of options!
And – cherry on the cake – very professional and friendly staff. Owner Randolph Johnson (below) welcomed me warmly. He also remembered my first mis-timed visit.
I grew up on hard and heavy music. Yeah, I am listening to much more jazz and classic music now but sometimes my soul requires a firm step on the gas. You know what I mean!? Fortunately my home system permits experiments with most genres of music but I still have one problem – headphones for heavier fare. Probably why I’m still fighting with recabling the Audeze LCD-X – which I think are some of the best headphones for all sorts of heavy music.
But I won’t put my hands down until I will find the Holy Grail of headphones for metalheadfiers. So my first enquiry was rather predictable:
“Randolph, can you give me something for heavy music?”
The host pointed his finger to something red, glamorous and wired by Nordost cable.
“What the hell is it?” (I really had no idea)
“MrSpeakers Alpha Prime,” came the reply.
Yeah, I am sad to say it – that’s result of living in the backyard of civilization. But time runs fast and a few weeks ago I got news that the Ukraine will soon have an official dealer for Mr Speakers.
And then my eyes fell on the HiFiMAN HE1000. Sand color leather and shiny stainless steel. Yeah, these cans will surely become a favorite piece for steam-punkers! Umm, I could smell the steam.
The HE1000 were connected to the next hero of the day, the Moon Neo 430HA. I liked this unit – tidy construction read for accommodation of a headphone jack.
The real difficulties started with musical content: a USB-Flash memory stick with my testing compilation was absolutely useless and we decided to burn-out this material to CD-R. Compromise? Definitely yes, as well as time consuming. “I don’t like to spend my time in vain” – a phrase I’d paint this on my armour if I were to live in the time of King Arthur.
Instead, I dug into the store’s collection of CDs trying to find something to test. Archaeological excavations produced a result – I found the double CD of OST Matrix Reloaded. The second disc is really useful for the pioneering audiophile.
I filed Randolph’s disks using a bundle from Woo Audio: CDT with humorous a name WTF-1…and DAC WDS-1.
Despite a very positive impression from the Alpha Prime I decided to concentrate on auditioning the HE1000. I had only two plastic travel cases for my belongings for four months of employment at sea and still have only two hands. Purchasing two pairs of headphones simultaneously would be overkill. I could come back to auditioning the Alpha Primes – these cans will arrive to my home one day I believe.
Meanwhile, a fresh musical blend had brewed and I was ready to dive deep into the notes. After a few tracks I had to confess that no matter what I did, these amazing cans would find their way to a cabin on my ship.
And then it happened! Randolph carefully looked at my face and splashed a few drops of oil to bring it full fire:
“These were delivered to the store only yesterday!” he said.
Oh, my Holy Headphilic Godness. I’d committed one of the most serious audiocrimes! Shoot me somebody! I had just auditioned unbroken-in headphones! 150+ hours of recommended breaking-in was called out in black and white in the manual! Prospects of changes in sound upon properly finished breaking-in forced me to feel a little vertigo.
But even ten hours maximum of breaking-in I could perceive. When I purchased the HE1000 I made a small comparison between my pairs of cans: 1) from the box and 2) the demo pair – some kind of “haze” was audible on my fresh pair.
P.S. I’ve been so impressed by the sound of the HE1000 that I forgot to compare them to the Abyss AB-1266 despite it being in store.
Part 2 – Used materials, technologies and construction.
Our manufacturer here, HiFiMAN, took the bull by the horns in insisting that these were the first magneplanar diaphragm in the world to be made from a thin film with nanometer thickness. This film creates a super-‘popper’ sound, breakthrough technologies, bla-bla-bla. The film is so thin that seen side on it can’t been seen by the naked eye. It’s a stealth-like technology.
I imagine this in Dr. Fang’s lab:
“Can you see this film?”
“No, but I can hear it!”
And indeed it’s the cornerstone of the HE1000’s technology angle. Damn straight.
Fang Bian throws up the film. It is almost weightless, almost like the voice of Freddie Mercury in the immortal “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Cunning doctor – nothing left to say!
Here’s a videoclip showing the unboxing of the HE1000:
I may see only one distinction from my box – I couldn’t find the velour pouch for cable storage.
Here’s a cute introduction by two of Fang’s American staffers:
Comfort and Convenience
The nearest comparison might be the Sennheiser HD800. As I feel it, the HE1000 is even more comfortable. I guess it will pose few problems to big heads. The HE1000 will likely hug any bonce just nicely.
The earcups revolve like a circus acrobats. Nothing restricts their ability to perform somersaults toward any sides or direction. Patented “Window Shade” technology was created to optimize the open-back design as well as protect the diaphragm. HiFiMAN have thus reached absolute recognizability with such a hi-tech face.
Advanced asymmetrical magnetic circuit (seven years in the making) + Planar Magnetic Technology = Planar Magic. After 3 months with the HE1000 I can confirm – yeah, real potent magic. But you might need an equally astonishing headphone amp.
The hand polished headband consists of a bent metal plate manufactured by CNC milling. Perforated suede lambskin keeps cans from sliding atop the head. Whilst finding good positioning, it moves with funky clatters and some (spoiling) traces of grease. Seven holes – six slider positions. Eyeing channel markings is ever so simple, even for unexperienced headfiers:
I’ve been really disappointed by the quality of the ear pads. The color and finishing fabric is different:
The ear pads are not quite of equal size:
For such a high price tag I expected closer to a perfect product.
All this stuff is packed in an internal box finished by leatherette that echoes a basketball’s look/feel.
Three stock cables cover all requirements:
- 2.5mm submini-jacks– 3.5 mm mini-jack (for portable devices) with length 155 cm
- 2.5mm submini-jacks – ¼ inch stereo maxi-jack with length 3m
- 2.5mm submini-jacks – male 4-Pin XLR with length 3m
Such good cable lengths permit one’s comfortable movement in most rooms.
Papers inside the box are the owner’s guide and two smaller pieces with service information and serial number data.
- Style: Open Back
- Driver type: Planar Magnetic
- Impedance: 35 +/- 3 Ω
- Sensivity: 90 dB/1mW @ 1000 Hz
- Frequence response: 8Hz – 65 kHz
- Weight: 480 g (16.9oz).
Part 3 – Sound
I’d like to break mind cliché – probably my main task during in this review role. That’s why I am not going to spread out across the shelves each component part of the HE1000’s sound. If somebody likes to read about “transparency”, “transients”, “clarity” and other such star-rated bullshit, he may move along to another site where reviewers will hang out plain audiophilic spaghetti sauced with sweet promotional poison.
And I may confess with an open heart that the main reason for writing this piece was fundamentally pragmatic: I want you pick up your ass from the couch and go listen to these cans somewhere: in a shop, at a friend’s home or at an audio show. Because it’s time well spent. Why is it worth it? The answer will arrive in plain sight at the end of this mindflight.
The HE1000 are masters of drawing musical information from back stage. Just imagine – whole layers of music lie around dusty baseboard, hitherto unseen. The HE1000 sharp shooter will hunt it down, bringing carefully the daylight and – if required – oxygen for breathing (such is the know-how of Dr. Fang Bian!). You the listener ride in a boat atop a musical lake.
You sit in the stifling summer night and listen to CDs of Queen and slap–bang (!), Freddie Mercury jumps out of nowhere and strike your head with a mallet. Or there’s the sound of Brian May suddenly starting to bud on third space speed. I am keeping silent about John Beacon. When you listen to Queen on a less-than-transparent system you may conclude that their bass is a freeloader, a lazy dog who sometimes plays, but mostly just sits rocking in a chair with a post-meal toothpick. These one thousand hifi men will easily show you that Beacon is a rare workaholic, so much so that a Japanese fella might consider seppuku.
I have one exceptionally treacherous record: Arvo Part’s Miserere (ECM New Series 1 430). It arrives with crazy dynamic splashes. Via HE1000, I finally hear this record without the associated mental jerkings that produce a startled state. I could also estimate the grandeur of the composer’s conception, the virtuosity of performers and even describe the paintings of the stained-glass window of St.Jude-on-the-Hill, such is the high resolving power of the HE1000.
Oops, what is it? My vintage turntable decided to come back to the life? Well-well, sure – there are restrictions. Restrictions in many parameters of sound – dynamic range, separation of channels, noise, clicks. But after five minutes inside the vinyl listening portal, the wicket opens up and a subtle astral shell of your soul flies away to the poky hole of Dreamland. You can only bring it back with another tasty vinyl plate – a lure for stray dog.
One problem that I don’t like whilst listening to vinyl – every 25 minutes I have to pick my ass up from the couch and turn the plate. I need to relocate my coach closer to the hifi rack. Damn – and fridge too.
When you listen to any digital disc or hi-res file, your brain stubbornly tries to analyse the frequencies, notes, bands and the rest of the audiophile quirks. The HE1000 opens old records to an absolutely new level. You may hear even on modern vinyl that Jim Morrison sings as if already dead from drugs. Mark Knopfler’s guitar may evince flashbacks from the deepest levels of your memory.
New meanings and rethinking of old records – that is what HE1000 will give you. Emotions! You are again free to feel alive! Is it worth the three, bloody thousand bucks? Rhetorical question.
Further information: HiFiMAN