If you don’t know Hifiman Electronics by now then you’ve been hiding in a cave on a deserted island. For me it’s one of my personal favourite brands and then I’m mostly looking at the Edition X V2, the good old HE-500, the HE-560, the RE-800 and of course the HE1000 series.
Some people don’t like Hifiman as they keep bringing out new revisions of existing headphones all the time and I actually can understand that from a consumer point of view. On the other hand it shows how the company is constantly occupied with improving technology and thus the sound quality of their headphones. When I posted a picture of the HE1000 series on Head-Fi earlier this week saying the new HE1000SE version for me was the best, things got nasty rather quick with comments like “It must be best cause it’s newer, more expensive, etc”. You probably know the typical head-fi posts better than me, but it does show that the consumer is not often fed up with the continuous goal for improvement. Especially once you finally got round to saving up enough money and buying that high end headphone, just to see its replacement a few weeks or months later.
This isn’t a Hifiman only “issue” though and a lot of Chinese companies follow that same strategy, it’s just something to always take into account when you’re buying new gear. Yes, the HE1000SE for me is the best of the three units, but if you like your V1 or V2 so much, stick to it, be happy and just enjoy the crap out of it.
So is it really better than the previous models then? Well yes, to me it is. I myself am a big fan of the original HE1000 V1 and when when the V2 came out I could clearly hear the differences and/or improvements but to me the V1 still was the best sounding of both. The original might not be the fastest of the series or have the best treble extension, but the V2 version for me personally was a tad too forward and even bright sounding overall. The bass was also presented differently and while the V2 clearly has a technical superiority over the original version, I just couldn’t enjoy it as much.
Now Hifiman is back with the SE-version even though you can still get the V2 series as well. Why a new SE version? The SE has an increased sensitivity of 96dB (was 90dB in the V2) and basically with the latest technology available (new Neodymium magnets), Hifiman just found they could build an even better sounding HE1000. I quote Dr. Fang Bian:
“As popular as it may be, I believe it’s important to keep pushing the envelope with revisions that present a dramatic improvement in sound while maintaining the essence of what made the original such an overwhelming success with music fans and audiophiles who invest in the best equipment for enjoying their favorite recordings.”
With these improvement the HE1000SE’s driver – according to Hifiman – is faster and more dynamic, presenting every sonic detail for a more compelling performance.
Yes the new SE-version is even easier to drive but it still scales up very nicely with a top quality headphone amplifier such as the Violectric V281, the Auris Audio Nirvana and the Chord Electronics DAVE.
To me the HE1000SE combines the best of both the previous models: the SE has the excellent speed, attack, clarity and extension of the V2 mixed up with the more impactful bass, smoother presentation and musical character of the V1. The SE version is the perfect mix of musicality and technical performance and that makes it a very addictive and engaging high end performer.
Does it make the previous models look bad? No, I don’t think so. They’re both still incredibly good sounding and performing high end headphones and I could be happy with just the V1 as my main headphone in example. So is the HE1000SE the best so far? Yes, that clearly is the case for me but your ears and amplifiers might prefer one of the other versions more, it’s all subjective in the end.
The HE1000SE is available and it’s sightly more expensive than the previous models. It goes for $3500 where the V2 is selling for $2999 from the official shop. The SE-version comes in the same luxurious box as the previous models but this time you also get a 4.4 balanced cable next to the XLR balanced cable and the regular 6.3mm terminated cable. Do note that Hifman is now using 3.5mm connectors at the headphone’s end.
If you’re in the market for a headphone of this level and budget, then you really have to put it on your list of headphones to listen to. For me it is up there with the Focal Utopia, and that means a lot.