On the Decemberists’ “The Crane Wife 3” from The Crane Wife [Capitol] the HE-500s put in a virtuoso performance. How ‘bout delivering a stunningly natural top to bottom balance along with the best instrumental separation I’ve ever heard on this track (a track that often sounds muddled)? Then add bass power and definition that makes the track come alive. And if that’s not enough, then notice the tonal delicacy and detail on the acoustic guitar.
After being impressed with the bass on the discs above, I checked the bass definition on the all-bass album Dos Y Dos [Clenched Wrench] by the band Dos. The HE-500 is impressive because you hear so much of what is going on here, with minimal blurring, bloat or dropouts. The only thing that may be missing is the full sense of air around the instruments.
It is also good to know that the HE-500 can deliver a sense of delicacy when that’s called for. On Gillian Welch’s The Harrow and The Harvest [Acony], the track “Down Along The Dixie Line” shows off acoustic guitar and vocals in a spare, raw form that makes you feel like you are there. A little more sense of the acoustic environment wouldn’t hurt, but you might not miss it if I didn’t point it out.
To give readers some idea of where the HE-500 fits within the broader price/performance spectrum, I compare it below to two competing modes at or near its price: the HiFiMAN HE-5LE and the Sennheiser HD800.
HiFiMAN HE-500 vs. HiFiMAN HE-5LE ($699)
HiFiMAN HE-500 vs. Sennheiser HD-800 ($1595)
The HE-500 is basically comfortable, though it is a relatively heavy headphone, with noticeable clamping force, which some may find problematic. The ear cups are well padded and have comfortable surfaces, but they don’t conform to the shape of your head as comfortably as some other headphones do. Fortunately, I don’t think the sound of the HE-500 relies on an exact coupling between the pads and your head.
The HE-500 ships in a padded presentation case. Included in the case is a detachable signal-cable harness featuring very high-quality signal wires terminated with a phone plug.
HiFiMAN’s HE-500 is a world-class headphone that provides almost all of the benefits high-end headphone listeners focused on accuracy could want. This is particularly true for listeners looking for a headphone that delivers much of what you would hear on an audiophile-grade stereo system. Listeners who want a headphone experience that differs from in-room audio by delivering maximum resolving power, however, may prefer headphones like HiFiMAN’s HE-6.
HiFiMAN HE-500 Planar Magnetic Headphones
Accessories: Hard-sided storage case
Frequency response: 15Hz – 50kHz
Weight: 502 grams (without cables)
Sensitivity: 89 dB (1 mW input)
Impedance: 38 ohms