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REVIEW: HIFIMAN EDITION-X – GAME, SET AND MATCH

The Edition-X is a fully grown up headphone and it’s no mini HE-1000 or maxi HE-560. It combines different things of the Hifiman line-up into one new headphone. Build quality and comfort are excellent and even with a low powered source the Edition-X sounds really good.



Hifiman


Whenever Hifiman announces a new headphone I get a bit anxious as Hifiman is in the top of my favorite headphone brands together with Sennheiser, Audeze, Beyerdynamic, Philips Fidelio, and a whole lot more. My first few paragraphs from the Hifiman HE-1000 review sum it up best:


“I have been a fan of the Hifiman planar magnetic sound ever since I got the – now discontinued – Hifiman HE-500. The 500 was my favorite headphone for a very long time but headphone technology has quickly evolved and my personal preferences changed somewhat. I still own the HE-500 and think back of it with a lot of good memories but it nowadays hardly gets any playtime anymore.


Hifiman hasn’t been sitting still and over the last few years they have completely changed and completed their product line-up. Gone is the design of the HE-500 and HE-400 and the new headphones – except for the HE-6, their former TOTL headphone – now all have the same head band design. The HE-400i, HE-400S and HE-560 all are a lot more comfortable and the quality of sound went up. Hifiman’s reference headphone, the HE-1000, follows the new design strategy but at the same time Hifiman incorporated a new ear cup design“.


The new design can be found in the Edition-X as well, the difference being the choice of materials and the depth of the “pads” as the driver got even thinner (but more on that in a bit). Hifiman’s latest Edition-S doesn’t follow this new design trend and the portable Edition-S even is foldable and it features a completely new headband system. Both “Edition” headphones, beside their name, barely have anything in common with each other, except for the fact that they can easily be driven by a portable source.


The Edition-X


Hifiman describes their latest Edition-X with three statements:


“Ultra-High Performance – Ultra-High Sensitivity – Ultra-High Experience”


Fang really seems to like the word “Ultra” as their description of the new driver diaphragm is the following:


“Ultra-Thin Diaphragm for lightning fast response, uncanny detail and ultra-low distortion”


All joking aside, the Edition-x (with its high sensitivity) allows use with virtually any smartphone or portable audio device on the market. You really don’t need a (portable) amplifier but hooking one up will make the Edition-X perform at an even higher level. The new drivers should have low distortion and amazing sound quality while the window shade grill design greatly reduces sonic reflections for clearer sound.



The Edition-X comes delivered in a classy grey and black box but there is no travel bag to easily store this rather large headphone in. This new Hifiman uses the 2.5mm connectors and accessory-wise you get two cables with a 3.5mm (1.5meter) and 6.3mm (3 meters) termination. Unlike the HE-1000, it doesn’t come with a balanced 4 pin XLR termination as this headphone is supposed to be used with portable sources. There are lots of aftermarket cable options though and I’ve mostly been using PlusSound cables myself.


Frequency Response:  8Hz – 50kHz


Sensitivity: 103dB


Impedance: 25±3Ω


Weight: 14.07 Oz (399 grams)


Comfort and design / Build Quality


The Edition-X to me, just like the HE-1000, looks stunning. Where the HE-1000 had a metal and wood look, the Edition-X shows a dark deep blue and black finish. Hifiman uses the same headband system as the HE-1000 which they introduced with the HE-400i, only the materials used in comparison to its big brother now aren’t of the same standard. The Edition-X still features incredibly soft leather/velour pads but all the rest is more plastic-like, lighter and it feels “cheaper”. The build quality however is perfect, something that hasn’t always been the case with Hifiman’s first units. There are no complaints about the Edition-X though and as my Edition-S is also flawless, it seems like Hifiman has learned its lesson.


The sexy grills of the HE-1000 ear cups are still there but where they feel and sound more metal-like on the HE-1000, they are more plastic-like on the Edition-X. Size wise they’re still very similar leaving the Edition-X looking like a pretty big headphone. These asymmetrical ear cups follow the natural shade of the human ear. And the hybrid ear pads’ beveled design conforms to the shape of the human skull while velour and pleather materials provide optimum comfort. The ear pad depth, or the distance from your ear to the driver, compared to the HE-1000 is less as the driver is thinner in the new design. This might be a little more annoying for the big eared listeners among us. The cups of course can still swivel 360° and by using lighter materials, the 399gr Edition-X disappears on your head even more than the HE-1000 does.



The cups are fairly huge compared to 95% of all the headphones on the market though and the Edition-X isn’t really a headphone for the small headed. While it’s the same design as the HE-1000, the head band sits “different” on your head. To get the perfect positon I, with the HE-1000, have to click the cups down up a few notches. I have a fairly normal but smaller head and with the Edition-X, the ear cups on the smallest setting, only sit just right for me. So if you know out of experience that most headphones on the smallest setting are too big for you, then this will certainly be the case with the Edition-X. During long listening sessions the Edition-X is more comfortable than its heavier sibling but it still isn’t at the HD800 level of comfort.


For your ears


First thing I want to get out of the way is the idea that the Edition-X is a mini HE-1000. It is not, it is a unique headphone with its own characteristics and it wasn’t meant to sound like the HE-1000 does. The difference in sound between the Edition-X and the HE-1000 isn’t small either for that matter. The Edition-X was made to be easy to drive and of course to sound good, and that’s exactly what it does, even though it scales up nicely with the correct amplifier.


The Edition-X with its great comfort is easy to listen to for long periods and that sound-wise is exactly the same. No matter what type of music you throw at it (from classical to rap to country to techno), the Edition-X with its soft treble, smooth mids and entertaining bass plays everything effortless. Its sound is easy to love and that combined with its easy drivability and great comfort make it an easier to use and even more addictive headphone than the really great HE-560 and the HE-1000.



The sound signature is fairly neutral but it’s tilting to the warmer side with its smooth and lush presentation. For some the bass might be above neutral but this is very personal. Like all planar magnetic headphones the Edition-X has a very black background, good separation and the typical orthodynamic clear/clean sound. The Edition-X has a good balance but the focus is mostly on the bass and the midrange and its treble is reasonably easygoing. The 6-7k spike that can be heard/seen in the graphs doesn’t bother me at all. Treble is engaging and easy, yet dynamic and energetic, it’s just not the most extended treble.


Depending on the source and the amplifier used the Edition-X’s bass changes body wise. E.g. bass body when using the Woo Audio WA8 is a lot bigger compared to the Dragonfly RED (and Black). Bass always has good body though and its amount is never exaggerated. Bass has a good level of detail and layering but the HE-1000 goes deeper with better layering. Edition-X’s bass is always punchy, fast and goes deep when needed. Only people who really don’t like bass won’t like how the X does bass, all the rest will love it. (and even then the amp has quite the effect on its bass)


The bass perfectly flows in to the full bodied, detailed and layered mid-section of the Edition-X. Delivery is smooth with a good level of layering and depth. Voices sound realistic and precise, the mids are a bit more upfront than on the HE-1000 though. Mids are musical above all and the better your source the more detail you’ll get. At the same time the Edition-X is reasonably forgiving for lesser quality files but the better the file and the source/amp, the better your X will sound. The X doesn’t sound as spacious as say the HD800 or the HE-1000 but it certainly doesn’t sound concentrated. The amount of “air” and the separation in the mids section as a matter of fact is pretty good, it’s just not the as good as in the before mentioned models.


The family (aka comparisons)


The HE-1000 sounds more laid back and it performs even more effortless. You could also say the X is the most aggressive sounding of both, but this isn’t an aggressive sounding headphone. When coming from the HE-1000 you do notice the X’s mids aren’t as spacious and that separation, micro detail, depth and width are even better on the HE-1000. Treble on the HE-1000 is further extended while bass on the 1000 goes even deeper and it has better layering. Don’t get me wrong here, the Edition-X is a really good sounding headphone, its problem just is the HE-1000 is even better. It also is $1200 more expensive.



The HE-560 has less body in the mids sector and the bass has a bit less body as well. Bass also doesn’t go as deep as on the X. Treble more or less is on the same level as the Edition-X but the whole presentation of the HE-560 is more on the neutral side where the Edition-X is a little warmer  and smoother sounding. The HE-400i, like the Edition X has bigger bass body but the X’s is still bigger and goes deeper with better detail and layering. The 400i’s bass is a little tighter though. The mids section of the X is more spacious and has more detail but they are comparable body-wise. The 400i’s treble more or less compare to the Edition-X’s.


I still have an original LCD-2.1 and its bass body is about the same as the Edition-X’s but it is tighter. Layering and spaciousness are better on the X from low to highs and it does have more detail. I prefer the LCD’s separation, tightness and clarity though. Depending on the musical style I’m listening to I prefer the one over the other (like with rock and metal as it to me on the X sounds too soft and “loose”). The Sennheiser HD800 is in a different category and you get more detail, better separation and a wider and deeper sound stage. Detail wise I still find the dynamic HD800 to be one of the best affordable headphones out there. Of course the Hifiman has more body in bass and mids and it sounds more smooth and musical. The HD800 wasn’t tuned like that at all.


The Edition-X is kind of a mix of the HE-1000, the HE-400i and the HE-560 as the other headphones either sound rather different or are priced differently. Price wise the Edition-X  is closest to the HD800 but sound-wise these two couldn’t be further apart.


Sources & Amplifiers


Straight from the AK380 the Edition-X on low gain sounds more than loud enough and it’ll get you deaf in no-time. The AK is very detailed and clean and that shows when listening to the X. Bass body is a bit smaller but it’s tighter than on most sources. You get great detail and speed in return. In combination with the AK380 the Edition-X sounds a bit more neutral because of the bass and mids showing less body.


With the Woo Audio WA8 the Edition-X becomes a whole lot smoother and warmer. Bass and mid body gets bigger but unfortunately gets a bit looser as well. When switching to the 2-tube output you get less bass body but everything is tighter and more balanced. This is an extremely musical and engaging combination, one that used most when listening to Jazz music and female vocals. Straight out of the AudioQuest DragonFly RED, the Edition-X sounds smooth and it has the right mix of speed, detail and warmth making it a very very good combination. On the DragonFly Black the Edition-X sounds a bit more aggressive and the vocals are more to the front. I find the Black to sound more concentrated as well. To me the Edition-X and the DragonFly RED is the most excellent combination.



The Bakoon International HPA-01M always sounds best when used with orthodynamics and it’s no different with this headphone (and the AK380 as source). On the Voltage output you get a very airy and spacious yet tight sound where voices are more upfront. On the current output you get a more relaxed sound that reminds me of the LCD-2 (which absolutely rocks with this amp and current out). Bass on both outputs is about the same and for all other musical genres than those mentioned above, this combination absolutely rocks.


The Chord Electronics Hugo also makes the Edition-X sing. Like I mentioned in the WA-8 (and Hugo) review, the Hugo excels in sound stage width and depth and I find it’s layering one of the best on the market within the portable segment. Bass on the Hugo goes reasonably deep but is a bit on the looser side. The mids are slightly more in the back with the upfront vocals and the Edition-X’s treble is easygoing. The Hugo has that perfect mix of detail and musicality which I don’t find in their Mojo.


On my reference Violectric V281 in SE mode (which of course is overkill for this headphone), you also get all the detail you want with a slightly added bass body and bass is on the looser kind. The mids are as good as perfect and treble is dynamic and engaging. When switching to balanced mode the sound stage width and depth increases and it shows great detail and layering. Bass body is back to normal for what body is concerned and it’s nicely tight. The balanced output of the V281 simply is extremely good.




As you can read, the Edition-X sounds good with a whole bunch of sources and amplifiers. The great thing is that the X doesn’t really need any amplification as is sounds good by itself. By amping it however, you are able to tune its sound signature to your liking. I personally liked the Edition-X most when using an amplifier as it just performs even better.


Conclusion


The Edition-X is a fully grown up headphone and it’s no mini HE-1000 or maxi HE-560. It combines different things of the Hifiman line-up into one new headphone. Build quality and comfort are excellent and even with a low powered source the Edition-X sounds really good. Its sound strongly depends on the source and/or amplifier used though and it does scale up quite nicely.


The Edition-X price-wise is closest to the Audeze LCD-X and the Sennheiser HD800 but its sound signature is very different. If you already own the HE-1000 there is no reason to get the Edition-X as the HE-1000 has it beat for what technicalities are concerned, then again you just might prefer the Edition-X’s sound signature over that of the HE-1000. I feel the Edition-X is a great high-end headphone that keeps it musical at all times. For many headphone fans, the Edition-X will be their TOTL model as the price gap between the X and the HE-1000 still is pretty big.


The Edition-x is one of those headphones you just want to listen to the whole day long until you go to bed. Hifiman once again managed to create a very well-tuned headphone and a lot of people are going to enjoy the hell out of it. Well done.


From Headfonia
2016-07-07 00:07:31
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