Yamaha YH-5000SE Review

Yamaha YH-5000SE Review

Yamaha YH-5000SE Review

Yamaha needs no introduction. Go to a professional studio or concert hall, and you’ll more than likely come across an impressive piece of gear with the Yamaha name on its surface. Despite their ubiquity in all things audio, this is my first time trying a pair of headphones from the company – no less, a $5000 flagship pair. The YH-5000SE is a brand new release, and sports Yamaha’s signature orthodynamic driver – something they’ve been including in their headphones since the 70’s. $5000 though? Can it really walk the walk? As usual, let’s go over some basics before we jump into what the Yamaha YH-5000SE sounds like (and why it won my heart).

What’s In The Box?

Yamaha, earpads, sheepskin, ultrasuede

  • Yamaha YH-5000SE Open-Back Orthodynamic Flagship Headphones
  • 2 Meter Braided Cable with 4.4mm Balanced Jack
  • 2 Meter Braided Cable with 3.5mm Unbalanced Jack
  • 3.5mm to 6.35mm Adapter
  • Headphone Stand (Assembly Required)
  • Alternate Ear Pads (Velour)

Look and Feel

Yamaha, orthodynamic driver

It took me all of a few seconds to determine that the Yamaha YH-5000SE earns itself the highest marks possible in fit and comfort. At 320 grams with a durable magnesium frame, it’s on the lighter side for headphones in general, and a featherweight for the ultra-audiophile class in which it finds itself. The clamp pressure strikes an ideal balance of being both relaxed and secure.

The cans’ chambers are deep and cavernous, and it feels safe to say that no one is going to have issues with their pinnae or earlobes pressing against the driver. A soft, non-intrusive mesh on the earpads rested lightly against my ears, but this seems intentional by design: it’s perfectly comfortable, and didn’t take any getting used to. I was at first a little alarmed when I saw the YH-5000SE features a suspension headband with manual adjustment, giving me flashbacks to the obnoxious Dan Clark Aeon line of headbands (which are nonetheless pretty solid headphones). However, the sliders that control the headband calibration were firm and highly resistant, which made getting my preferred fit exceptionally easy and exact.

The YH-5000SE comes with two types of earpads: the default pads are leather with sheepskin details (analytical) while the extra pads are Ultrasuede (dampening, comfort). Both pads were soft and complimented the comfort that was present in every component of the physical design. What’s more, the pads are very fast and easy to remove and install, and allowed me to forgo the usual tedious struggles of swapping pads.

Yamaha YH-5000SE, flagship, open back, headphones

Technical Design and Specs

Let’s address the question you might have after a cursory overview of the YH-5000SE: what is an orthodynamic driver? It’s a pretty simple answer. Back when these terms were a little more open to interpretation, Yamaha used the term “orthodynamic” to define how their drivers had both dynamic and electrostatic characteristics; today, we usually just call this driver type a planar, but Yamaha sticks with its historic terminology.

This orthodynamic, or planar, driver, has seen some upgrades and refinement for the YH-5000SE. According to Yamaha, “these include eliminating the fixed central structure of conventional headphone drivers, ensuring shape retention by use of concentric circle corrugation and pattern reinforcement, and avoiding magnetic substances in the vicinity .” The result, according to Yamaha, is heightened driver sensitivity.

For me, the real fun is found the housing details. The deep, cavernous cans provide natural acoustic volume, even with their open-back design. A dutch weave stainless steel filter controls internal pressure, and features an arch-shaped protrusion that serves as a reflector. A lot of high end headphones try their best to make the housing a non-factor in their sound reproduction, but including acoustic details in the housing that work in synergy with the driver is simply a chef’s kiss in technical design.

Spec Yamaha YH-5000SE
Driver/Operating Principle Orthodynamic, Open-Back
Weight 325 Grams
Frequency Response 5 Hz – 70 kHz
Impedance 34 Ohms
Sensitivity 98 dB

orthodynamic driver


The Yamaha YH-5000SE doesn’t have a particularly large stage, but it has so much going for it in it fluidity, separation, and accuracy that it nonetheless produced an abundance of spatial qualities. The stage’s close proximity to my face felt like it worked as an analytical characteristic, that in conjunction with the YH-5000SE’s exceptional clarity and balance, threw even the smallest details under a microscope. Though I think the YH-5000SE’s balance plays the biggest role in making it one of the most articulate headphones I’ve ever listened with, this is perfectly complimented by extra precise imaging and spatial placement that never had parts competing for space. So while the stage stays close, it’s never cluttered: everything is elegantly organized and waiting to be unfolded like a clever piece of origami.


I want to start by saying that I had to take the Yamaha YH-5000SE off of my head to coherently organize my sound impressions – listening with it was distractingly euphoric. So, let me begin by talking about the low end. A low end boost finds its peak in the subs, rolls through the mid bass, and uses high bass to slowly return to more base-line levels. Despite the intense rumble and partial coloration this low end produces, it handles itself with the accuracy and discipline of reference-grade low ends. It brings exciting vibration and energy that can be felt as well as heard without sacrificing detail and clarity. The psychotically bass-dense track “Come Up and Get Me” by Death Grips kept tight form and definition rather than losing itself in an obscure boomy texture, while still maintaining a deeply satisfying vibratory quality in the air around the outer ridges of my ears. The key behind this emotive yet accurate low end seems to be in the incredible speed at which the YH-5000SE’s orthodynamic driver can stop and start producing its lowest frequencies. This speed was noticeable all throughout the balance, but was exemplified in the lows with the tightly controlled slams and rumbles that peppered listens.


Though mids present very naturally, I found a high-mid emphasis to become more apparent over the course of my listens. Supporting synths, distorted guitars, and vocals were tilted a little more towards their driving overtones than they were their softer fundamentals. This seems like a perfectly logical tuning, as a low mids-oriented balance would likely throw off the pristine definition and separation found in the low end. Though favoritism is shown towards the high mids, it’s something I had to listen for rather than having it immediately jump out at me. All in all, it’s a Goldilocks center frequency tuning that presents itself with a great sense of separation and clarity. In a way, it anchors the YH-5000SE’s overall balance, keeping things grounded while the lows and highs taken on more colorful flourishes.


The YH-5000SE’s high frequency abilities are what sealed the deal for me. Bold but not shrill, smooth but not muted. In fact, it’s an obviously boosted high end that dodges treble-overload in favor of pure detail. There’s something special and elusive to a high end that can move the air around your ears and retain a physically-felt nature, even as it competes with boosted subs and bass. The YH-5000SE finds its peak in mid and low treble, but also seems to include a fair amount of high treble extension that imparted an extra pointy quality to hi hats and exposed granular details in vocal rasp and reverb decays. Highlights of my listens came from synth-heavy tracks, where distorted synth basses buzzed in the highs nearly as much as they rumbled in their sub and mid bass, seamlessly fusing a contrasting emphasis in the headphones’ highest tips to its darkest lows. Fantastic sensitivity was also shown to subtle idiosyncrasies on players’ neck-hands in string performances, and breathy, buzzy details in reed instruments.


YH-5000SE, headphone, review

To state the obvious, I try a lot of headphones, and I’ve gotten to try a good deal of headphones with $5000 price tags. Usually when I’m reviewing units in this part of the price tag stratosphere, it’s hard for me to say whether a headphone is truly worth its particular price (should it be $4000? $5000? $6000?) A lot of the times, I come away impressed, but have the concept of diminishing returns stewing in the back of my mind. That’s not what I’m thinking about with the Yamaha YH-5000SE: instead, I am thinking about how this is one of the most jaw-dropping headphones I’ve ever gotten to try. I spent a lot of this review just shaking my head at the relentless detail and clarity I was hearing, even in the midst of the extra impact and sophisticated color it was throwing into the mix. Now that I’m wrapping this review up, I can finally get it back on my ears and get back to giving it the attention that it ruthlessly demands at the expense of my other responsibilities.

From its fit to its sound, the YH-5000SE is currently my favorite open back headphone, full-stop. You can hold me to that; I’ll let you know when, or if, something dethrones it.

The Yamaha YH-5000SE can be purchased here from Audio46.

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