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Headphones - Hifiman HE-500

The headphones review saga continues with the HIFIMAN HE-500, a model that differs a lot from most of the other headphones in the market, as you will see later in this article. It is the 4th model of our saga.
As we did for the previous reviews, we have re-used exactly the same setup that we used for the 3 previous models: the AKG K-701, the GRADO SR-125i and the GRADO PS1000.


These headphones belong to the very restricted family of models that expect to be amongst the best available on the planet. The engineering is made in the States, whereas the building is made in China... we would have preferred it to be made in the USA or Europe, but unfortunately it becomes an axception nowdays...
The HIFIMAN HE-500 headphones a something absolutely different than the previous models reviewed on our site, and more generally than most of the headphones on the market: it use a technology similar to the one used on the ribbon speakers, such as the APOGEE for example.

Here is a figure describing this technology:

The photo herebelow shows the following elements:

  • a part of the headphone, far left
  • the mylar and the aluminium film, center
  • the magnets, far right

one of the HIFIMAN HE-500 cushions:




Type HiFi
Connectivity Cable
Frequency response 15Hz to 50kHz
Cable length 3 meters
Impedance 38 ohms
Sensitivity 89 dB
Connector Jack 6.35mm
Weigth 500 gr

The manufacturing quality of these headphones is very high. We congratulate Hifiman.

It is very confortable, a set of replacement cushions is provided: congratulations again...Even the packaging is good: a beautiful suitcase is provided, and we suggest GRADO to have a look at it because the GRADO PS1000 packaging is simply not acceptable at this price point...


This is of course the most important...
The very first thing that comes in mind when you listen to the HE-500 for the very first time : waouh, what a treble ! The high frequencies are truely excellent, with nothing particularly pointed out or under revealed.
The second thing that comes in mind is: the sound is rich, fluid, and you can listen to the music for many hours with a lot of pleasure.

These two first things being stated, we of course begin to compare this HE-500 to its competitors, amongst them the other headphones that have been recently reviewed on this site. They are probably more dynamic with more speed and detail than the HE-500. It is exactly the same difference than when you compare a truly excellent APOGEE speaker with an electrodynamic speaker.
With the HE-500, the ambiance is like an vacation in the Seychelles islands near the coconuts: peace, calm, serenity are the caracteristics. Maybe you can argue that it is not the real life, but do you really want to come back to the stress of New York, or do you prfer to continue to enjoy your vacation close to the sea and with the sun shining ?...

More seriously, we suspect thant the 89dB efficiency ratioi of the HE-500 requires a more powerful amp than the small (but excellent) NuForce µDAC 2 SE amplifier. So we decide to conduct a complementary review with another amp, the NuForce HDP, to check if we are right by assuming that the HE-500 can produce an even higher performance....
This additional review will be added as soon as it has been conducted.

Meantime, the very rare technology used on this HE-500 provides an exceptional harmony that we have quite never seen on any headphones, except a few references amongst them the electrostatic STAX (this one was so expensive and so good that it is quite impossible to find nowdays), and that is the caracteristic of rare loudspeakers like the APOGEE or MAGNEPAN.

This is of course a high recommendation, but a powerful amplifier is required to feed such an headphone.

The HIFIMAN HE-500 reaches its best only after a 100 hours burn in period; but after you reach something close to the nirvana of the headphones world. The HIFIMAN HE-500 merits to be classfied amongst the 5 bet headphones in the world like the GRADO PS1000. Its sonic presentation is a bit different than the one provided by the electrodynamic headphones, but you will say « waouh ! »....


  • The technology is reliable (similar to the Apogee or Magnepan)
  • It is one of the 5 best headphones in the world
  • The trebble is exceptional
  • Very analogic sound, like the vinyl turntables...
  • It excels on every type of music
  • Very comfortable
  • Large and perfect cushions
  • the second set of cushion maybe provides a better sound (?)
  • Long silver cable (3 m)
  • Detachable cable: upgrades should appear soon
  • Long listening sessions are possible with comfort
  • Rich sound
  • You will want to listen to it again and again
  • The voices, the violins and instruments like saxophone are truly excelent


  • The bass is a little boomy during the burn in period (> 100h) but quite perfect after
  • Amount of detail in the average
  • Does require a powerful amp, at least more powerful than the µDAC 2 SE from NuForce
  • Far from the live sound
  • Heavy

Update , 22th May, 2012.

As indicated before, we suspect the amplifier to be too « small » to reveal all the sonic qualities of the (already incredible) HE-500, and we have decided to perform a complementary review using the Nuforce HDP amplifier, that is able to deliver much more current than the µDAC SE.
By performing a lot A/B comparisons switching from an amplifier to the other, the conclusion is clear, hard and evident: the HDP amplifier has shown that the µDAC SE does not belong to the same league and is not able to point out all the qualities of the HE-500.

The improvement has not just been "clear" but enormous. It has pushed the HE-500 to an entirely different level of performance, meaning to the best level you can currently expect from an headphone. That's it.

Not only the "cons" reported in the first review have disappeared, but the level of musicality is therefore simply superb. Look herebelow the improvement that a more powerful amplifier is able to bring to the HE-500:

Cons comparison (before/after):

  • Before: The bass is a little boomy during the burn in period (> 100h) but quite perfect after
  • After: The bass is therefore really perfect...
  • Before: Amount of detail in the average
  • After: the level of detail is therefore simply excellent
  • Before: Does require a powerful amp, at least more powerful than the µDAC 2 SE from NuForce
  • After: we confirm that a more powerful amp is required, but we also confirm that with an appropriate amplifier, the HE-500 reaches an incredible level of musicality.
  • Before: Far from the live sound
  • After: it is not yet a true concert sound, but God, it is sooooo good !
  • Before: Heavy
  • After: very light ... hey reader, keep your feet on the ground: of course the weigth remains unchanged...

As you have already understood, the HE-500 performs so well with an appropriate amp that it merits our highest ranking: the "5 starts - state of the art" award.

A dedicated topic for this HE-500 is available on our forum: just follow this link.

This article has been written by Florent (provence13 on our Forum). June 2012.


Creation date : 30/04/2012 @ 21:25
Last update : 12/01/2016 @ 20:51
Category : Headphones
Page read 1138 times

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