The HiFiMAN HE-500 uses a planar magnetic driver as apposed to the dynamic voice coil drivers found in most headphones. Meaning an array of magnets moves a sheet of metal at different frequencies in order to make sound. What it means in the end is that the headphone is able to recover faster from creating any sound and can therefore be clearer. At least that’s my understanding of it. The technology used in these headphones isn’t new as they had planer magnetic, then called orthodynamic, headphones in the 70s but it has just recently re-emerged in modern headphones. This is a large headphone and its heavy too but can the sound and padding make up for it?
The sound on the HE-500 is incredibly balanced with an even focus on mids, highs, and lows. They have a strong tight bass response. These also have a good balance as well of being forward enough, while maintaining a large sound stage and great spacing. Sound reproduction and separation are phenomenal. The HE-500 is detailed without being bright and doesn’t fatigue over time. I should point out that I listen to these with the velour pads although leather pads are provided. I feel the velour pads offer better sound stage while keeping the bass balanced. Of all the headphones I own or have heard these have my favorite sound signature.
These are a heavy headphone in the hand no doubt and they feel heavy when you first put them on. Once the sound starts coming out of these though it doesn’t take long for me to forget the weight and really enjoy these. They have very large around the ear cups that are heavily padded. They also have a fairly well padded leather headband. These will move around on you if you lay back when listening and its something to be aware of but again this is something that I have since worked my way around due to the sound. Part of the weight comes from the planar magnetic technology but the rest comes from a rock solid build quality.
Musically these are incredibly versatile headphones and will work for pretty much any style of music. They are large and heavy so you’re not likely to carry these around with you. The HE-500 is also open backed and leaks as much sound as any headphone I’ve ever heard. These are a quiet space, or home listening headphone. I can power them well with my portable setup, Fostex HP-P1 and an iPod Classic, and should work equally well off of a small desktop amp but it would be hard to drive these to a normal listening level with portable devices.
These are the most expensive headphones I own at $700 but I feel for the sound and construction these are really a very good value. These will compare sound wise to headphones in the $1000 range and are built incredibly well. While $200 more these are easier to drive than the Sennheiser HD-650, if only a little, and sound considerably better. These may be one of the best values in open back headphones due to their world class sound. While $700 may be a tough pill to swallow you won’t be disappointed with the HE-500 and will enter into the realm of world class headphones.
Overall this is my favorite open back headphone I’ve ever heard. They are reasonably comfortable, built like a tank and sound phenomenal. Had this been the first pair of home headphones I had bought it would have saved me time and money searching through many less expensive alternatives looking for that “perfect for me” sound. While I still like having my other headphones for their different sound signatures these are by far the headphones I listen to the most.
- Sound – Epic
- Comfort – Fantastic
- Versatility – Fantastic
- Value – Phenomenal
- Overall – Epic