Today I rolled into the review offices stinking of currywurst and chocolate, fresh from IFA in Berlin. But now it’s time to buckle down and give a listen to the new Hifiman HE6se. Retailing for a cool $1799, the HE6se follows on the heals of the Hifiman Ananda. But how does this new addition stack up? And is the sound worth the cheddar?
Hifiman HE6se Review
The HE6se sits inside a stately leather-covered case. You’ll find a manual and a warranty card, in addition to the balanced headphone cable and a 1/4” stereo adapter. But as far as accessories go, that’s it – the HE6se is all about the music, not copious extras.
Design-wise, the HE6se remains unabashedly Hifiman-esque. From the comfortable suspension-style headband to the round, hybrid earpads, this headphone bears the same appearance as the HE560 and the Sundara.
The headphone cable marks a new development for this headphone, though. Featuring a dual 3.5 mm connection at the earcups, the 6 ft (2 m) cable terminates in a 4-pin XLR connection. The included adapter allows this cable to be used with a 1/4” output.
Frequency Range: 8-65,000 ohms
Nominal Impedance: 50 ohms
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 83.5 dB
On paper, the HE6se sports an impressively wide frequency range with added emphasis in the lows and highs. The nominal impedance of just 50 ohms seems a bit off – at least from practical listening tests. Despite this low value, I highly recommend using a decent amp to drive this headphone. For my review, I ran ALAC files through the more-than-capable IFI iDSD Micro Black Label. Lastly, sound pressure comes off a bit low, but that is to be expected with an open-back planar like the HE6se. Here again, using a decent amplifier should help you achieve an optimum volume.
The HE6se delivers powerful, driving lows characterized as relatively clean and articulate. Minor bleeding at first seemed present, but seemed to dissipate with burn-in. Acecnting the lows is a powerful, emotive bass response with a deliciously meaty sense of impact. All in all, this part of the frequency range remains hard not to love – especially for a recovering a basshead.
Here you have some decidedly clean, articulate mids, exhibiting an impressive level of detail and a great sense of clarity. Contrasting with excellent fidelity, these rich mids remain on-point with tricky instrumentation, but sound downright breathtaking with vocals.
Where the high end is concerned, the HE6se delivers fine, nuanced detail with an almost transparent presence. And yet, despite this overflowing detail, the sound never seems too bright or uncomfortable. Overall, the highs come across as very detailed with little fault, easily lending this headphone to any tracks where higher frequencies need decent attention.
This Hifiman headphone oozes depth and space, offering a truly impressive soundstage. Not just immersive, but comprehensive, there isn’t a single whisper that escapes the HE6se. Adding a sense of depth and space to any track, these cans really excel anywhere that multiple instruments or densely layered sounds come together. The result is an impressive auditory odyssey rife with an exacting level of precision.
Despite Hifiman listing a relatively low impedance of just 50 ohms, the HE6se still seems pretty power-hungry. As such, you need a decent amp to give this baby some juice. For my review, I found my usual FiiO Q5 II just too weak, opting instead for the IFI iDSD Micro Black Label. I would recommend this amp, or perhaps the Chord Mojo – or something of similar power, at least.
A comfortable fit for me required minor adjustments to the headband, but the giant earcups go a long way in helping with that. Once properly situated, the headphones seem to take a backseat to the music.
The emphasis on highs and lows result in a very v-shaped sound signature. For rock and hip hop, this sound kicks serious tail. Yet, surprisingly, for classical and pop, the overall sound still seems to deliver a good sense of fidelity and emotion for any track. While the HE6se would not be my first choice for these last two genres, it can still work as an all-in-one headphone.
For those who prefer a relatively flat and analytical sound, I would recommend the Hifiman Ananda. At a comparatively-low $999, this model offers less emphasis on bass and treble – though it does so at the expense of the HE6se’s powerfully emotive listening experience.
If you need the absolute best from HifiMan, I would tell you to skip this model and aim instead for the the HE1000 (at $2999) or the super high-end Susvara (at $6000). Both of these higher-tier options offer an overall similar v-shaped sound signature, but offer more detail and depth on par with their higher price tags.
But when it comes to a rich, emotive sound with ample headroom and clinical precision, the HE6se reigns supreme at its price point. No other headphone under $2000 can offer this level of quality and comfort, let alone the pinpointed soundstage that seems to simply drip with resolution.
The $1799 Hifiman HE6se delivers a mind-numbing tour-de-force of deep, surging lows and glistening, soaring highs. Perfect for an emotive and immersive listening experience, a wealth of soundstage and detail add weight to any source. While it may remain out of reach for most casual consumers, this high-end headphone gives any audiophile one more impressive option to consider.
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