HiFiMAN Edition X V2 Headphones
A few years ago I reviewed the HiFiMAN HE-400 and HE-500 headphones, designed by HiFiMAN Founder Dr. Fang Bian, and found them to perform very well and beyond their price categories. I wound up buying the review samples, which is the highest compliment a reviewer can give. Still, these earlier models were not perfect (as if that were possible) and in particular, although they were comfortable they were quite heavy on the head and a little awkward to wear from an ergonomic viewpoint.
HiFiMAN’s new Edition X V2 headphones use trickle-down technology borrowed from its bigger brother, the current top of the line HE-1000 headphones. Both models use a larger and thinner diaphragm than previous models and the ear cups are now more oval rather than round. The Edition X, like the HE-1000 uses a full-range planar magnetic driver where the whole diaphragm is driven by powerful magnets more uniformly than conventional drivers, which have heavier round diaphragms that are that are driven only from the center of their cone by a traditional voice coil.
While the $3k HE-1000 is said to be slightly more detailed and perhaps more linear and extended, it is also heavier, less efficient, and considerably more expensive than the Edition X V2, which now lists for $1,299—down $500 from the original Edition X, thus making the V2 more affordable, and a much better value.
Another nice thing about the Edition X and Ed X V2, is that by virtue of its higher efficiency (HiFiMAN claims 103dB Sensitivity) they still produce very good sound at healthy volume levels even when driven by small portable mobile devices. Indeed, the Edition X had very satisfying dynamics and overall sound quality when driven directly by the headphone output on my Lenovo Laptop computer.
At just over 14 oz. the Edition X models are certainly lighter than previous HiFiMAN over-ear headphones. The ear-cups are quite large but not as heavy so the Edition X is more comfortable and not as cumbersome. That being said, I found that even with the headband adjusted as small as it goes, the V1 was still a bit of a loose fit on my head.
The V2 corrected this issue with an improved, redesigned band, but I still had to adjust the V2 to its smallest head position to get the proper fit. The other noteworthy improvement to the V2 is the greater taper/angle of the ear pads provides improved imaging. Their soundstage is more realistic dimensionally, and is more like what I hear from my speakers with better center fill. In addition, the V2 seems to have a blacker background and improved instrumental image focus. Plus, it digs very deep into recordings pulling out subtle nuances and details you’d never know or suspect were there. No speakers in my experience have been able to extract this level of sonic minutia.
In this case the setup was extremely simple because with headphones, speaker placement and room acoustics are not part of the equation that equals good sound.
I plugged my Lenovo G500 laptop into the Benchmark DAC and then the Edition X into one of Benchmark’s volume-controlled headphone outputs. Voila, I was done!
Starting out with “Duke’s Place” performed by the Alan Segal Quintet, one of my 24/192 hi-res live recordings (made by my NS Audio Society friend Izzy M with no compression or EQ processing) the double-bass runs were rendered clear and distinct, but impressed me even more was that I could clearly hear the subtle backing vocals coming from different locations within the expansive soundstage. Great stuff!
As I moved on to the next track, “Comin’ Home Baby,” the cymbals rang out the natural timbre of the fundamental strikes and shimmered with air creating a very open-sounding acoustic signature. People in the audience were clapping and the hand claps sounded authentic, rather than the static-like white noise that so often passes for applause… these hand claps had body. When the band got to the drum solo the crack of the drum heads was lifelike and the climax was truly bombastic. “Wow!” I said to myself! This bass was agile, taut and quite powerful—in stark contrast to my neighbor’s adolescent kid’s car with his three 12-inch subwoofers booming down the block to “Mo-Def Bass Balm #3”.
As I found, bass is not the only area where the Edition X excels. Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue has always been a favorite of mine and I have a good recording of it on CD (London 417 716-2) with Lorin Maazel conducting The Cleveland Orchestra. I recall one passage in particular where pianist Ivan Davis goes ballistic playing a presto passage with high intensity. The piano keys are struck very rapidly and the Edition X was able to present every single note sweetly and distinctly in a way consistent with the piano that I had never realized before on this recording. It was as if I was hearing this adroit CD performance for the first time. And the finale with the large gong chiming in from the left of the stage was mind blowing. Simply stated, it was superb. The Edition X had brought this recording to life like no other.
Truth be told, every time I got into a listening session with the Edition X they lasted far longer than I intended. I kept playing “just one more,” then another, and so on. In fact, in my last session I kept playing till my computer shut down due to low battery. And I knew it was running low, but I just had to push it for “one more tune.”
I played jazz classics from Hugh Laurie’s Didn’t it Rain CD (Warner Bros. 535893-2), “Staple it Together” and others from Jack Johnson’s En Concert (Brushfire B0012973-02), Diana Krall’s “Let’s Fall in Love,” and many more. Honestly, it was like an audiophile’s wet dream! The music was so engaging and had so much fine detail that it pulled me into the performances—and that’s what good music is all about.
Even the imagery and soundstaging was a rung up from that of any other headphones I had used or owned previously. The Edition X produced a genuine sense of depth and spaciousness on many of my recordings and especially on those 24-bit/192kHz live recordings of the Alan Segal Quintet that I mentioned earlier.
At one point in my listening I was getting such a deep soundstage along with quite powerful sounding bass and I actually removed the headphones to see if I had inadvertently had my speakers playing. Of course I did not and I should’ve realized it since I never turned on the amps to the speakers. The presentation of the Edition X is just that convincing!
Since HiFiMAN has redesigned the V2 headband and improved the yokes that hold the ear cups, increased the angle of the ear pads, and improved the back venting of the ear cups (this while reducing the price considerably), I find it difficult to find anything significant to complain about. The performance is indeed very musical and superbly precise and detailed at the same time.
In addition, the new high-purity copper cables that come with the V2 headphones are sonically superior to the grey-woven wrapped cables that came with the original V1 Edition X models.
I did find the treble spectrum to be a bit soft, and I think this may have softened some high frequency transients a bit, but on the plus side, it makes the V2 a touch easier on the ears for those extended listening sessions. Indeed many will perceive the slightly laid-back highs as more of a plus than a minus.
I can honestly say that in terms of their excellent overall tonal balance, musicality, layered imaging, and their ability to dig deep into the nuances of a given recording, the HiFiMAN Edition X V2 headphones provide the most enjoyable musical experience of any of the headphones I have owned or reviewed in the past. Accordingly, these gems will be taking their place on the top tier of my headphone stable.
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Customer service Tel: 1-201-443-4626
Address: 711 Dawson Drive, Newark, DE 19713 USA
For more information on features and specifications
HiFiMAN Edition X Specs
Frequency response: 8Hz – 50kHz
Impedance: 25 Ohms +/-3 Ohms
Weight: 399 grams/14.07 oz.
Price: MSRP: $1,299 USD
Warranty: 1 year repair or replacement