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Hifiman HE6se Review (Headphone)

Blorg

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I have to run some errands but next will hook them up to my RMA ADI-2 for more power.
The RME ADI-2 will be underpowered relative to Hifiman's recommendation of 2W, it does 1.5W @32Ω and is probably half that at 64Ω. It does depend on how loud you listen though. I don't think they need stupid power like some do but they might benefit from more than that. Subjective test might be to play a 0dB 50Hz bass tone and then turn it up to a bit over your highest regular listening volume. If it doesn't distort you are probably good.
 

Jimbob54

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The RME ADI-2 will be underpowered relative to Hifiman's recommendation of 2W, it does 1.5W @32Ω and is probably half that at 64Ω. It does depend on how loud you listen though. I don't think they need stupid power like some do but they might benefit from more than that. Subjective test might be to play a 0dB 50Hz bass tone and then turn it up to a bit over your highest regular listening volume. If it doesn't distort you are probably good.
I can max my rme with the he6se v2. It's loud but not deafening. If one look likes to be blasted and add a decent bass shelf most would probably want more. The rme into a drop 789 is a different story.
 

Oldson

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Alright, time for the final update on my journey with the HE6se.
For those who didn't follow my past posts closely, I'll write a short but mostly complete summary:

-bought HE6se, but the pair I got had very bad channel matching (5dB wide-Q difference between left and right at around 1.5khz)
this was very noticable with voices, as it felt like all vocals were panned to the left
-contacted HifiMan, returned my pair and received a new one
-new pair had a narrow-Q issue near 4khz in the left channel, adding a constant "sizzle" to stuff like distorted guitars
-returned that pair too, but this time requested Hifiman to test and validate the new pair at the factory, so history doesn't repeat itself
-Hifiman assured me the 3rd sample was tested and sent that to me
-3rd sample arrived with a stuck left driver (physical defect) and the channel was all over the place (wierd response, high distortion)
-Sent that back and got all my money back (including import tax and shipping, which totaled at around 250€)

I want to note that Hifiman refused to send me a 4th pair, which I initially requested.
The first unit I had sounded fantastic, when all the issues were corrected in dsp, so I was hoping to get that perfect unit, but it shan't be.
If I knew I could get a good pair with my next order I'd order right this moment. But this whole endeavour left a bitter taste in my mouth...
i was considering the he6se but after reading the negative comments like this maybe i will think again.
have heard rumours before about hifiman quality (or lack of!)
are there general issues across the range of planar headphones or is it just this model?
 

Bow_Wazoo

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I have bought a lot of Hifiman headphones over the past few years. I only had problems with quality once. When I think about the stress with the Utopia 2022, which had to be sent back to France, because of an unsecured spring...
 

Blorg

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i was considering the he6se but after reading the negative comments like this maybe i will think again.
have heard rumours before about hifiman quality (or lack of!)
are there general issues across the range of planar headphones or is it just this model?
I feel this model has much more reports of issues than other models, it seems more likely to have issues. Some of this is how they come from the factory (see Crinacle's measurements which have terrible channel imbalance). Some of them, I think stems from nuts hooking them up to speaker amps, like I know one person who swears these need 45W out of a speaker amp, another guy who had a 30dB bass boost on them. Is it a coincidence that both these people experienced failures?

I have 9 Hifimans (10 with the Arya Stealth I sold) and they have all been fine, including the HE6SEV2.

I agree with @Bow_Wazoo that Focal has far worse quality than Hifiman, I have the Bathys, Clear and Utopia and the only one out of those I'd say has good build quality is the Bathys.
 

peniku8

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I know one person who swears these need 45W out of a speaker amp
45 actual watts into the 64 Ohm that the HE6se are? Or a 45W amp? The latter, which could be 45W into two channels at 4 Ohm would send ~1,5W per channel into the HE6se. Not much more than a Topping EX5 for example. I maxed out my EX5 on the HE6se (with a 30dB bass shelf for this test or I wouldn't have been able to bear the treble) and they still sounded undistorted and like they'd be able to tolerate quite a bit more. Why you would listen like this, I don't know. 45W actual watts would then be another ~14dB louder. I'd be interested to see distortions at that level. Listening? No thanks.
 
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Blorg

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45 actual watts into the 64 Ohm that the HE6se are? Or a 45W amp? The latter, which could be 45W into two channels at 4 Ohm would send ~1,5W per channel into the HE6se. Not much more than a Topping EX5 for example. I maxed out my EX5 on the HE6se (with a 30dB bass shelf for this test or I wouldn't have been able to bear the treble) and they still sounded undistorted and like they'd be able to tolerate quite a bit more. Why you would listen like this, I don't know. 45W actual watts would then be another ~14dB louder. I'd be interested to see distortions at that level. Listening? No thanks.
I think many of the people who say this sort of stuff about power don't even know, they don't even understand the relation. Very common you'll hear people saying you need X watts for the HD650 or HD800S as well, and they're quoting 32Ω power numbers for amps. This is the thing, there's no way they are actually listening at these insane levels because they'd be deaf. People saying you need 2W into a HD800S (~134dB). Or the whole thing with "scaling" on the HD600/HD650.

One of the issues I believe with running these too loud is the diaphragms can stick to the magnets, that's a common failure mode. You may be able to unstick them if this happens.

This was the 27dB guy, I misremembered, it was "only" +18dB on the HE6SE, he had +27dB on the Sundara.
I'm very disappointed right now. I've been enjoying a pair of 6se v1 for the past couple weeks or so at moderate volume. Sounded exactly how I like with my THX 789; dry, clinical, super detailed, dynamic, lightning fast, and with excellent pin-point imaging. When my power amplifier came in (Crown XLS 1502), I was eager to test how much subbass the 6se could output. So I switched on my subbass boost EQ, and after a few heavy bass drops, I was floored!

However, a few drops more at the same volume, and the left driver died! I ran a sine generator at 40hz on the right driver to see how much it can output. It didn't even get as loud as my Sundara can output before the right driver also died. Now I have a 6se v1 that has both drivers dead. This was purchased secondhand, and it didn't come with the original invoice or box. Either this is a one-off, or the 6se v1 gets fried by high-wattage into subbass really easily. Edit: When I say "died" I don't mean the diaphragms got stuck to the magnets. I heard a POP and then silence.

My first Sundara also had one of its drivers cutting in and out depending on the volume of music played. Now I feel like even if I buy a new pair, it might just suffer the exact same result. How should I proceed from here?

Edit: I sent Hifiman CS an email. It's surprising how it wasn't just one driver, but both died at outputs that wasn't even that loud. I'm currently testing my Sundara out of the XLS 1502 with the same bass boost, except I added another 8dB to the bass for a total of +27dB at 10hz, and +13db at 30hz. Originally on the 6se, I had it at +18db at 10hz. I'm getting way more rumble from the Sundara than I got from the 6se before the left driver popped. A mere 18dB bass boost killed a driver at moderately loud listening level. It wasn't even loud enough to cause hearing loss, other than the bass boost. I don't think this is normal. At least, it shouldn't be. I'm guessing that the circuitry inside the 6se just couldn't handle the high wattage. I don't think I even got to pump more than 5W worth of subbass into those drivers. I could only feel a small rumble before the left driver popped from a bass drop.

This is the amp, spec is 300W @8Ω, 525W at 4Ω. Amir measured at 336-388W @4Ω:


My point just being, that there really seems to be a correlation between people who insist you need to run this headphone out of a high power speaker amp, and it breaking. I don't think it's a coincidence.
 

Oldson

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do you all agree that the HE6SEv2 needs the 2W recommended by Hifiman?
if so i may have to look at alternatives anyway.
cant find the spec on my spl phonitor into 50 ohm, but judging by what i can find, i doubt it will get near 2W into 50ohm.
"Output power (1 kHz, 1% THD, 250 Ω)
2 x 5 W
Output power (1 kHz, 1% THD, 32 Ω)
2 x 1 W"
 

Blorg

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@Oldson if it's the Phonitor X (which I think it is from those specs) when Amir measured it it had very poor power into lower impedances, like below dongle levels of power at lowest distortion, so I'd think probably not a good pairing. It seems designed really to work with high impedances where it does very high power levels. The HE6SEV2 might not need the full 2W depending on your listening level but it is genuinely demanding and I do think that would be a good number to aim for. Not difficult to find an amp that will do that these days, even for $100-200.

index.php


This is volts, ~1.5V @50Ω = 45mW. If we look at 1% THD+N (-40dB) it looks to be around 8V which would be 1.28W. I don't think it would be a good pairing.

index.php


 

staticV3

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do you all agree that the HE6SEv2 needs the 2W recommended by Hifiman?
if so i may have to look at alternatives anyway.
cant find the spec on my spl phonitor into 50 ohm, but judging by what i can find, i doubt it will get near 2W into 50ohm.
"Output power (1 kHz, 1% THD, 250 Ω)
2 x 5 W
Output power (1 kHz, 1% THD, 32 Ω)
2 x 1 W"
The HE6se is 64Ω, not 50Ω as Hifiman claim.

2W will drive them to 112dB SPL Peak, or about 95-97dB SPL AVG with regular music. That's impressively loud.

For reference, I usually listen at about 80dB SPL Peak, so for me about 10mW would be more than enough.

It all depends on what kind of music you listen to and how loud you like to listen.
 

spede

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do you all agree that the HE6SEv2 needs the 2W recommended by Hifiman?
if so i may have to look at alternatives anyway.
cant find the spec on my spl phonitor into 50 ohm, but judging by what i can find, i doubt it will get near 2W into 50ohm.
"Output power (1 kHz, 1% THD, 250 Ω)
2 x 5 W
Output power (1 kHz, 1% THD, 32 Ω)
2 x 1 W"
I can get them too loud to listen even with -4 dB in Peace EQ using Magni Piety which outputs 50Ω: 0.8W RMS per channel 1.6w total.

But one might want bit more headroom than that.
 
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Leiker535

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do you all agree that the HE6SEv2 needs the 2W recommended by Hifiman?

Only if you really wants to go loud or use EQ with a substantial bass shelf. I have the V2s and I can say that most 200ish amplifiers recommended in this forum can drive it plenty. I've had them driven through an A30 pro, a Topping L30, a FOsi BT30 pro speaker amp and now a Schiit Magni+.

The only one that was kind of lackluster in terms of volume was the Topping L30 (I think the L30 II fares better, but spending a little extra on the L50 wouldn't hurt), specially if I was using EQ, which the V2s do need in the 1900khz region (and in bass, to taste). I did not notice any improvement regarding quality by using a A30 Pro, which can supply it more than 3W at that impedance, or the Fosi speaker amp, which can get close to 5W if I remember my calculations at the time correctly. On the contrary, using the Fosi was detrimental to quality because of the rising distortion in the high frequencies, which made the headphones sound noticeably brighter (might be placebo, I doubt it though).

TL;DR, don't go overboard with amplification if you don't need it. There's no intangible/magical performance gain if the current supply is already right for the bass not to poop or other artifacts like that. Get the cheapest amplifier you can get that is proven to supply enough energy and be done with it. My recommendation would be an L50 on the budget, or a L70 if you really want to dial in a +10dB bass shelf without clipping. There are plenty of other options even inside the US, like the Schiit Magnius or the current Midgard.
 

Leiker535

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I never thought I would see the “you need a lot of reserve power for headphones to sound good” myth die during my lifetime.

Nice.
Well, it's a hard myth and with some backing to it.

Being very hard to drive, you do loose authority on bass without enough current, but it's not difficult to remedy that in today's world. Also, using dedicated speaker amps or ancient robust powerhouses amps often did have an impact on the sound, but not for the reasons audiophiles expected: not by magic, rather it's the amp not being transparent or being a bad pairing.

Common amps I've seen paired with the he6's are speaker amps, which most often than not (specially the vintage/old ones) have poor distortion figures compared to their headphone counterparts - see what I've said about the Class D fosi probably introducing frequency distortion; or "powerhouses" like the Burson soloist, which in itself introduces copious amount of distortion:

I've also seen people complaining that the SOTA negative feedback amps of today are too "clinical" and "glary" with the he6s, a remark I immediately associate with the Headphone itself having an agressive tonal balance that, in this case, is not being marred by higher distortion.
 

Blorg

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I mean you can technically run them off a Qudelix, I have, they make noise. And that would actually give you more power for the same distortion level than the Phonitor X... I'm still not going to say "oh just get a Qudelix" if someone asks about this headphone. Really if you look at the power chart for it, the Phonitor X is about the worst possible headphone amp choice for this headphone and I don't think people should be saying it will be fine. If he wants to use that, I'd get another headphone, it seems to be designed for high impedance dynamics so if he is wedded to that amp, he would be better looking at stuff like the HD800S.

HE6SEV2 benefits from EQ more than most Hifiman headphones IMO and that requires a negative pre-amp, which requires more power. Oratory's Harman EQ is -5.6dB, 6dB would be 4x the power. It's a little off in the upper mids that needs correction and then it really benefits from a bass shelf, it has extremely low bass distortion and will really do Harman bass very well if you add it. But that means EQ and pushing down your starting level even further, so people saying an amp that does in the 18-45mW range at low distortion (this is not much more than an Apple dongle) is stretching a bit.

For this headphone, Topping L30II is $129 now on sale, spec is 2W@64Ω, measurements suggest that is accurate, and it does its lowest distortion right at the max power/clipping point. Would be a far better pick than the Phonitor which can only do literally a few mW at low distortion into low impedances. I haven't tried that, but it also sounded fine to me off the $150 (less on sale at the moment) Fiio K7 which has been measured at >2W@68Ω.
 

peniku8

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Being very hard to drive, you do loose authority on bass without enough current, but it's not difficult to remedy that in today's world.
"Authority" is nothing you can measure. "Without enough current" means the amp is either hard clipping (odd order distortion+compression) or it's just compressing (with little distortion) if it's a well behaved amp. The remedy is buying a new amp. How difficult that is, is probably up to the income of the individual, but when you have a HE6se you probably also have enough money to buy a more powerful amp :D
 
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