HiFiMan has been making a lot of waves lately in audiophile circles for its extremely versatile range of, well, hi-fi headphones — man. The collection expanded once again this year with an impressive new pair of dynamic-driver on-ear headphones for the masses in the HiFiMan Edition S. While we were at the company’s Venetian suite we also got a chance to check out the brilliant new pair of planar magnetic cans in the Edition X (released earlier this year). Finally, the company brought a new prototype pair of electrostatic cans, which just might make the company the only brand working in all three standard driver types in the medium.
While the company’s luxury cans grab all the headlines, most listeners may be more excited by the Edition S which, at a $250 price point, are very attainable. That’s made all the more enticing by the fact that these headphones can easily switch between open or closed back thanks to magnetic plates on the sides — though users will have to be careful not to knock them off in tight situations. The 50mm dynamic drivers offer an impressive 97dB sensitivity, set in ergonomically designed ear cups. At 8.5 ounces, these headphones are extremely light, and they were pretty comfy in our quick demo.
As for the sound, these are a detailed and well-balanced pair of headphones. That’s what you get when an audiophile brand goes for the middle rung — there’s no fashionably bloated bass here, just a smooth and clear sound, with plenty of enjoyable moments from blushing brass to nuanced vocals. We’ll have to spend more time with them for a clear decision, but we won’t be surprised if these stand on par (or outperform) some of the best headphones available in their price class this year.
Unfortunately, these mysterious cans had a malfunction when we got in the room. We know, we were as disappointed as you are, but it seems one of the tubes on the massive amplifier went out during the show, rendering the left channel nearly defunct. And since they have a proprietary multi-pin connection, no amplifier means no music. We’re excited to see what happens with them in the future, but for now they’re still a question mark.
Although these cans came out earlier this year, we couldn’t help but spend some quality time with them, and even in a short demo, these headphones look to be a serious contender in the upper echelon of planar magnetics. The design is stunning inside and out: The funky ear cups are ergonomically designed to conform to your ears, striped by a sleek veneer along the edge that changes colors from purple to midnight blue, depending on the light. The open-back exterior is striped with the familiar horizontal bars, a common trait for planar magnetic cans, which use a thin membrane excited by a magnet to reproduce sound.
However, while most planar cans are extremely heavy, these are some of the lightest we’ve seen. And taking another step away from most planar cans, HiFiMan also claims they’re drivable by a normal smartphone, making them easy to take on the road — size notwithstanding. That said, they’ll do their best work when driven by more suitable amplification, and even in our small demo, the sound coming from the company’s hi-res portable audio player was immaculate. The headphones raised the sound signature into a virtual canyon of sonic space, unveiling subtle dynamics, rich and ruddy textures, and gorgeous details. That’s a good thing, because these babies will run you around $1,800.
We’ll learn more about these cans soon, as we’ll be bringing them in for review so stay tuned.