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Hifiman HE6se Review (Headphone)

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Hifiman HE6se planar magnetic headphone. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $1,800. I had previously reviewed the now discontinued Hifiman HE6 so great to see how the replacement performs.

The HE6se distinguishes itself with new headband, cups, etc.:

Hifiman HE6Se review planar magnetic headphone.jpg


Very unusual ultralight "tube like" cable comes with the headphone:
Hifiman HE6Se review planar balanced magnetic headphone.jpg


It has a clear silicone like outer jacket and possible Litz wiring inside. It crackles unfortunately right by the connectors but otherwise works well.

I had to extend the headband to max to get it to fit on my measurement fixture and my head. So if you have larger head, be sure you can try it out and return if you don't get good fit. This also caused a bit of undue pressure on my ears/head. It is not bad but it is not as comfortable as I remember the HE6 being.

The H6se is the second heaviest headphone I have tested so far (since I started to keep track):
Lightest Headphone Weight Review.png


Cup dimensions are 57x57x22 mm (height x width x depth). Note that the cup depth is asymmetrical so that is approximate.

The measurements you are about to see are made using a standardized Gras 45C. I searched for any and all measurements I could find online. Alas while a number of them are close to mine, none are using the exact fixture down to coupler and pinna. As you will see, I have confirmed the approximate accuracy of the measurements using Equalization and listening tests. Ultimately headphone measurements are less exact than speakers specially in bass and above a few kilohertz so keep that in mind as you read these tests.

Hifiman HE6se Measurements
As usual we start with our frequency response:

Hifiman HE6Se Frequency Response measurements.png


The overall signature is very close to the He6 with its dead flat bass and mid-range response and shortfall after that. There is a bit less peaking around 4 kHz. From then on, there is similarity but measurement accuracy drops off especially with new pad and such.

Relative frequency response to target guides us in developing equalization curve:
Hifiman HE6Se Target Frequency Response measurements.png


The HE6 had very low distortion. The HE6se bests that yet again:

Hifiman HE6Se Distortion measurements.png


Other than a couple of peaks at 114 dBSPL, this headphone doesn't seem to know the meaning of distortion!

We have a bit exceeding our 40 dB threshold but we have a bit of peaking there so we can pull that down and lower its impact:
Hifiman HE6Se THD Distortion measurements.png


Group delay shows good response in bass and usually fuzziness in midrange in this class of headphone:

Hifiman HE6Se Group Delay measurements.png


This is very different than HE6 as it would be due to different cup configuration.

What was a puzzler was headphone impedance:

Hifiman HE6Se impedance measurements.png


Company spec is 50 ohm which matches that of HE6. They say the same driver is used so we should be getting the same impedance but I am seeing 64 ohm. This is an automated test so not sure how there can be this much error. Wonder if newer drivers are a bit different.

Sensitivity is a bit lower but that could be sample to sample variation:
Most Efficient Planar Headphone review.png


Then again it could be due to higher impedance of the driver.

Hifiman HE6se Listening Tests and Equalization
I listened for a few seconds and then selected my HE6 preset in Roon. The positive transformation was unmistakable. Everything improved across the board. However, the sound had a bit of brightness that surprised me. I made one slight adjustment to 4 kHz region but did not make much of a difference. The biggest improvement came from optimizing the bass EQ:

Hifiman HE6Se Equalization EQ Planar Headphone.png


With HE6, I just threw a shelving EQ at it and it made such a positive difference that I did not try to optimize it further. I did that now and boy did it balance the sound nicely and gave me that gorgeous sub-bass with incredible resolution and fidelity.

To give you an idea how good it now sounded, I could not wait to take a picture of the HE6se so that I could wear it again and listen to the rest of my playlist! :) This is one of my reference tracks that sounds so gorgeous on this headphone:


Conclusions
Many movie sequels are terrible. It is good to see that Hifiman has more or less resurrected the HE6 in the HE6se. Overall characteristics remains and with some EQ, it sounds incredibly good with its great bass capability and near absence of distortion. For me personally, it doesn't fit as well so it wouldn't be something I would purchase but you may think otherwise.

Overall I am going to happily recommend the Hifiman HE6Se with equalization. Even without EQ, it can be a fine choice. But why settle for that???

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Appreciate any donations using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

Attachments

  • Hifiman HE6Se frequency response.zip
    23.6 KB · Views: 571

sweetchaos

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To import this PEQ profile into 'Equalizer APO', use:
Preamp: -7.7 dB
Filter 1: ON LS Fc 80 Hz Gain 7.0 dB Q 1.0
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 120 Hz Gain 1.0 dB Q 1.0
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 2000 Hz Gain 4.0 dB Q 1.5
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 4303 Hz Gain -3.0 dB Q 3.0
Filter 5: ON HS Fc 10000 Hz Gain -3.0 dB Q 1.0
Otherwise, see my PEQ guide.
..................................................................................................................
For those who don't have PEQ-capable app, and want to use GEQs instead.

Preamp: -7.7db
32 6.8
64 3.4
125 0.8
250 -0.6
500 -0.5
1000 -0.6
2000 3.9
4000 -2.7
8000 -1.6
16000 -4.8

Preamp: -7.4db
20 4.0
25 5.1
32 4.5
40 3.9
50 3.8
63 3.4
80 2.3
100 1.6
125 1.0
160 0.4
200 -0.0
250 -0.2
315 -0.4
400 -0.4
500 -0.4
630 -0.4
800 -0.3
1000 -0.1
1250 0.3
1600 1.6
2000 3.1
2500 1.5
3150 0.2
4000 -2.8
5000 -1.9
6300 -0.8
8000 -1.4
10000 -2.1
12500 -3.6
16000 -5.3
20000 -7.0
If you want to import into "Wavelet" (Android App):
GraphicEQ: 20 -0.2; 21 -0.2; 22 -0.2; 23 -0.2; 24 -0.2; 26 -0.2; 27 -0.2; 29 -0.2; 30 -0.2; 32 -0.2; 34 -0.2; 36 -0.2; 38 -0.3; 40 -0.3; 43 -0.5; 45 -0.6; 48 -0.7; 50 -0.8; 53 -1.0; 56 -1.2; 59 -1.4; 63 -1.7; 66 -1.9; 70 -2.1; 74 -2.4; 78 -2.7; 83 -2.9; 87 -3.2; 92 -3.4; 97 -3.6; 103 -3.9; 109 -4.1; 115 -4.3; 121 -4.5; 128 -4.7; 136 -4.9; 143 -5.1; 151 -5.3; 160 -5.5; 169 -5.7; 178 -5.8; 188 -5.9; 199 -6.1; 210 -6.2; 222 -6.2; 235 -6.3; 248 -6.4; 262 -6.4; 277 -6.5; 292 -6.5; 309 -6.6; 326 -6.6; 345 -6.6; 364 -6.6; 385 -6.6; 406 -6.7; 429 -6.7; 453 -6.7; 479 -6.7; 506 -6.7; 534 -6.7; 565 -6.6; 596 -6.6; 630 -6.6; 665 -6.6; 703 -6.6; 743 -6.5; 784 -6.5; 829 -6.4; 875 -6.4; 924 -6.3; 977 -6.2; 1032 -6.1; 1090 -6.0; 1151 -5.9; 1216 -5.7; 1284 -5.5; 1357 -5.3; 1433 -5.0; 1514 -4.6; 1599 -4.2; 1689 -3.8; 1784 -3.4; 1885 -3.1; 1991 -3.0; 2103 -3.1; 2221 -3.4; 2347 -3.9; 2479 -4.3; 2618 -4.8; 2766 -5.3; 2921 -5.7; 3086 -6.1; 3260 -6.5; 3443 -7.0; 3637 -7.6; 3842 -8.3; 4058 -9.0; 4287 -9.5; 4528 -9.3; 4783 -8.8; 5052 -8.3; 5337 -7.9; 5637 -7.7; 5955 -7.6; 6290 -7.6; 6644 -7.6; 7018 -7.6; 7414 -7.7; 7831 -7.8; 8272 -7.9; 8738 -8.0; 9230 -8.2; 9749 -8.3; 10298 -8.5; 10878 -8.6; 11490 -8.8; 12137 -8.9; 12821 -9.1; 13543 -9.2; 14305 -9.3; 15110 -9.4; 15961 -9.5; 16860 -9.6; 17809 -9.6; 18812 -9.8; 19871 -10.1
Otherwise, see my GEQ guide.
 
Last edited:

KiyPhi

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Thanks for the review Amir!

I might have to listen to them more now that I know they are this good. lol
 

faheem

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Thank you for the review Amir. Impedance and sensitivity seems closer to Susvara with SE.
 

KiyPhi

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Thank you for the review Amir. Impedance and sensitivity seems closer to Susvara with SE.
There may be more than one. Mine came from the first round with the speaker amp adapter and the second pair of pads. Oratory measured on and he said sensitivity was 96dB/V for that pair and they didn't come with the amp adapter and pads.
 

faheem

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There may be more than one. Mine came from the first round with the speaker amp adapter and the second pair of pads. Oratory measured on and he said sensitivity was 96dB/V for that pair and they didn't come with the amp adapter and pads.

Hifiman have a habit of doing stealthy revisions. I know Arya , Ananda and Susvara have all been updated. So ya, I think you're right.
 

fordiebianco

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I'm sorry, I have to ask: if a headphone (or a speaker, for that matter) only sounds great with EQ, is it really a great product? Question has been eating at me for some time.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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It is in my book since I consider EQ mandatory for every audio system. Now, if someone handed me a perfect headphone without it, I would be sure to note it. As it is, there would be almost none recommended if we can't use EQ.
 

abdo123

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I'm sorry, I have to ask: if a headphone (or a speaker, for that matter) only sounds great with EQ, is it really a great product? Question has been eating at me for some time.

trust me when I say that this headphone would sound great even without EQ.

incredible left and right matching and unbelievably low distortion.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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Wow it is finally here! :D How is the sound stage compare to HD800 and other headphones?
It is good but it is not as "magical" as the 800s from my vague memory.
 

B4ICU

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Thanks for the weight graph. It helps.
For some reason, the two last HDs you tested were on the expensive side of the market. A lot of money for that kind of performance on your bench.
($8,000 and $1,800). If that would be a HD for up to $200, I could understand your say about the recommendation. But for this kind of mpney,
I would accept better performance. VFM wish, the high price kind of dwarf the performance...
 

bigjacko

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Thanks for the weight graph. It helps.
For some reason, the two last HDs you tested were on the expensive side of the market. A lot of money for that kind of performance on your bench.
($8,000 and $1,800). If that would be a HD for up to $200, I could understand your say about the recommendation. But for this kind of mpney,
I would accept better performance. VFM wish, the high price kind of dwarf the performance...
It was once selling for $800, for that price it is buy of century. There is also diminishing return as headphone get better and better.
 

DanTheMan

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That looks like a good time! Functionally Limitless. I’m impressed at any price.
 

dasherzx

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a seemingly pointless subjective question, but is it worth it to double down for a focal utopia instead of this, since they are both recommended to highly recommended here. nearest place to demo is like a couple hundred miles and not possible with the pandemic around. looking at some cans to get through the lockdown >_<
 

bigjacko

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a seemingly pointless subjective question, but is it worth it to double down for a focal utopia instead of this, since they are both recommended to highly recommended here. nearest place to demo is like a couple hundred miles and not possible with the pandemic around. looking at some cans to get through the lockdown >_<
Focal utopia also has a review on ASR, you can check that before you decide. What is your view on money? Do you want to get the best of best or more towards high cost to performance ratio? Focal utopia has lots of good subjective reviews but I would not trust every word from those reviews. I have heard Focal headphones all have less sound stage compare to other headphones, but do research on this one because I am not very sure. From objective measurement He6se is nearly perfect if you have eq, personally I will get He6se and use the money to get amp if current amp is not powerful enough.
 

Maiky76

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Hifiman HE6se planar magnetic headphone. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $1,800. I had previously reviewed the now discontinued Hifiman HE6 so great to see how the replacement performs.

The HE6se distinguishes itself with new headband, cups, etc.:

View attachment 131031

Very unusual ultralight "tube like" cable comes with the headphone:
View attachment 131032

It has a clear silicone like outer jacket and possible Litz wiring inside. It crackles unfortunately right by the connectors but otherwise works well.

I had to extend the headband to max to get it to fit on my measurement fixture and my head. So if you have larger head, be sure you can try it out and return if you don't get good fit. This also caused a bit of undue pressure on my ears/head. It is not bad but it is not as comfortable as I remember the HE6 being.

The H6se is the second heaviest headphone I have tested so far (since I started to keep track):
View attachment 131035

Cup dimensions are 57x57x22 mm (height x width x depth). Note that the cup depth is asymmetrical so that is approximate.

The measurements you are about to see are made using a standardized Gras 45C. I searched for any and all measurements I could find online. Alas while a number of them are close to mine, none are using the exact fixture down to coupler and pinna. As you will see, I have confirmed the approximate accuracy of the measurements using Equalization and listening tests. Ultimately headphone measurements are less exact than speakers specially in bass and above a few kilohertz so keep that in mind as you read these tests.

Hifiman HE6se Measurements
As usual we start with our frequency response:

View attachment 131036

The overall signature is very close to the He6 with its dead flat bass and mid-range response and shortfall after that. There is a bit less peaking around 4 kHz. From then on, there is similarity but measurement accuracy drops off especially with new pad and such.

Relative frequency response to target guides us in developing equalization curve:
View attachment 131037

The HE6 had very low distortion. The HE6se bests that yet again:

View attachment 131038

Other than a couple of peaks at 114 dBSPL, this headphone doesn't seem to know the meaning of distortion!

We have a bit exceeding our 40 dB threshold but we have a bit of peaking there so we can pull that down and lower its impact:
View attachment 131039

Group delay shows good response in bass and usually fuzziness in midrange in this class of headphone:

View attachment 131042

This is very different than HE6 as it would be due to different cup configuration.

What was a puzzler was headphone impedance:

View attachment 131043

Company spec is 50 ohm which matches that of HE6. They say the same driver is used so we should be getting the same impedance but I am seeing 64 ohm. This is an automated test so not sure how there can be this much error. Wonder if newer drivers are a bit different.

Sensitivity is a bit lower but that could be sample to sample variation:
View attachment 131046

Then again it could be due to higher impedance of the driver.

Hifiman HE6se Listening Tests and Equalization
I listened for a few seconds and then selected my HE6 preset in Roon. The positive transformation was unmistakable. Everything improved across the board. However, the sound had a bit of brightness that surprised me. I made one slight adjustment to 4 kHz region but did not make much of a difference. The biggest improvement came from optimizing the bass EQ:

View attachment 131048

With HE6, I just threw a shelving EQ at it and it made such a positive difference that I did not try to optimize it further. I did that now and boy did it balance the sound nicely and gave me that gorgeous sub-bass with incredible resolution and fidelity.

To give you an idea how good it now sounded, I could not weight to take a picture of the HE6se so that I could wear it again and listen to the rest of my playlist! :) This is one of my reference tracks that sounds so gorgeous on this headphone:


Conclusions
Many movie sequels are terrible. It is good to see that Hifiman has more or less resurrected the HE6 in the HE6se. Overall characteristics remains and with some EQ, it sounds incredibly good with its great bass capability and near absence of distortion. For me personally, it doesn't fit as well so it wouldn't be something I would purchase but you may think otherwise.

Overall I am going to happily recommend the Hifiman HE6Se with equalization. Even without EQ, it can be a fine choice. But why settle for that???

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Appreciate any donations using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/

Hi,

Here are some thoughts about the EQ.

Notes about the EQ design:
  • The average L/R is used to calculate the score.
  • The resolution is 12 points per octave interpolated from the raw data (provided by @amirm)
  • A Genetic Algorithm is used to optimize the EQ.
  • The EQ Score is designed to MAXIMIZE the Score WHILE fitting the Harman target curve with a fixed complexity.
    This will avoid weird results if one only optimizes for the Score.
    It will probably flatten the Error regression doing so, the tonal balance should be more neutral.
  • The EQs are starting point and may require tuning (certainly at LF).
  • The range above 10kHz is usually not EQed unless smooth enough to do so.
  • I am using PEQ (PK) as from my experience the definition is more consistent across different DSP/platform implementations than shelves.
  • With some HP/amp combo the boosts and preamp gain need to be carefully considered to avoid issues

Excellent L/R match.
I have generated one EQ, the APO config file is attached.

Score no EQ: 81.2
Score Armirm: 88.4
Score with EQ: 96.2

Code:
Hifiman HE6Se APO EQ Score -1.5dB@HF 96000Hz
May212021-160023

Preamp: -6.2 dB

Filter 1: ON PK Fc 45 Hz Gain 6.2 dB Q 0.65
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 1816 Hz Gain 5.93 dB Q 1.21
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 3514 Hz Gain -2.63 dB Q 2.4
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 5703 Hz Gain -2.36 dB Q 0.11
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 6541 Hz Gain 4.31 dB Q 1.68

Hifiman HE6Se Dashboard.png
 

Attachments

  • Hifiman HE6Se APO EQ Score -1.5dB@HF 96000Hz.txt
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Jimbob54

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Good review. Its stopped me looking for second hand HE6. Unfortunately it has me looking harder at new and second hand HE6 SE. Dammit!

Anyone want to sell?
 

ErFero

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And now we have a clear proof that isn't just a "special edition" he-6! Imho the comfort with new pads ( also called "valipad" ) is way better compared to old "velour".
 
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