Hifiman HE-560


I’m replying to my own first comment, in view of some of the recent discussion here. The HE-560s and the old STAX are still very close. With the Mjolnir modified STAX SRM-T1S, I do think that the STAX headphones beat out the HE-560s overall. The electrostatics are just lighter and very fast and detailed. But the HE-560s are a very close second.

They are slightly more convenient. I can drive them with the iFi xDSD, which I did not have when I first made the comparison. I usually drive them with my Headroom Standard (2016), often using the Dragonfly Black as input to the Headroom, even though it is able to drive them - although not well.

I look forward to some time in the future when I have a more potent DAC/AMP combination, as it is clear that just like my old Rectilinear III Speakers, they like to have the authority of more power behind them than is needed to merely drive them.

When I analyze this thought, it sounds like hokum, but it is not. My guess is that having additional power - even if not actively used - adds a degree of control. I’d love to hear some of the more technical folks describe this feeling. With regard to my speakers, I heard that authority over the years with Dynaco Mark IIIs, with Tigersaurus (125 watt RMS mono amps), and with my present Wyred4Sound 1000 watt class D. I heard it slightly less with the 100 watt RMS Sansui AU-919, but it was still there.
I did not hear it with a 70 watt RMS Onkyo integrated, that was otherwise quite good, and they were always wanting when I had to drive them with 40 watt Lafayette equipment. Just seemed like there was clarity in bass drums and percussion in general.

So I get the identical feelings with the HE-560s as I go up in power, if not in volume. Perhaps it is the planar magnetic design.

My Sennheisers - next in quality - both the HD-580s and 6xx are close - but not quite in the same league.

I hope this is helpful as a longer term listen to @pukkita. With adequate power, they seem more natural. I find them very good on acoustic jazz combos, classical guitar, and chamber. They are also very revealing in live rock recordings, but can be merciless on acoustically bad venues.

It’s hard sometimes, to properly compare studio rock albums among a group of really good quality headphones as production values and choices have so much weight.


There are lots of potential reasons why having more power available than you actually need may sound better (as it invariably does …). For one, you don’t have to run the amplifier as close to its limits when you have ample power on tap. Which can mean components operating closer to their sweet spots, never running the amp up against its rails or exhausting available capacitance.

It’s also worth noting that the nominal calculations for “required power” are based on specifications that are generally expressed for a single point in the spectrum. The impedance and sensitivity numbers are usually taken at one fixed frequency (1 kHz is common), and that is not necessarily reflective of a given transducers MOST demanding (or least efficient) operating point - so things like power needed for deep bass notes may be way off the value used for the published specs.

The HE560 are 45 ohms with 90 db SPL/mW sensitivity (low compared to the HD6XX). The Dragonfly Black is voltage limited to 1.1V. That means despite having 45mw of available power (or about 40ma at max voltage), it runs out of voltage swing around 104 dB (peak) before it runs out of current. And at that level it’s on the rails which means even a hint louder and its into hard clipping.

With 100 dB peaks (so maybe a nominal 80 dB listening level) it should be around 2/3rds of it’s voltage capability and at about 1/4 of it’s current availability and will sound a lot better.

The HD6XX are higher impedance, but FAR more sensitive, so they’ll hit 110 dB peaks at 1.1V and only be drawing 1/20th the current when they do so.


From my memory, your volume settings on P20/balanced with the Elex and HE560 match what I recall using. Sometimes even more volume needed for HE560 depending on the track/source.

Some claim the v3 sound different than the older HE560s that some of us have. I have the 2.5mm/wood version and I thoroughly enjoy it. The bass is deep and extended and never bloated. The mids are smooth and the treble has some edge to it, but not enough for me to claim it’s too bright. It’s just about right for me.

For me the HE560 is great for instrumental music, and movies (because of that deep low extended bass)


Thank you. Is there anything in the planar-magnetic design that is demanding of power - even if not used? I know that power is necessary with electrostats to provide needed charge. I thought that this was done magnetically with planars.


It is.

Planar magnetic designs are a variation on a normal dynamic driver. Both employ permanent magnets (fixed) and electromagnets (that are attached to, and move, the diaphragm). They are just implemented differently … an electromagnetic coil around a permanent magnet (dynamic) vs. planar electromagnet suspended against/between permanent magnets (planar).

There are no electrostatic fields or bias voltages involved.

I realized I didn’t really fully answer your question(s) …

Planar designs can be less efficient (and therefore need more power) for a couple of reasons. For one, the number of “turns” in the planar trace is generally much lower than in the coil of a conventional dynamic driver, which makes its electromagnetic effect weaker for a given power level. And then the diaphragm in a planar design is usually relatively huge compared to dynamic drivers.

For example, the HD6XX or Focal Utopia has a 40mm diameter driver. The LCD-4 has a 106 diameter mm driver. And while the mass of the planar driver may be lower (but isn’t necessarily), it experiences greater accelerative resistance in air due to the hugely increased surface area.


Would be interesting to see how power hungry HiFIMan HE-6se would place in your volume settings.

50 ohm, sensitivity 83 db


Has anyone here heard both the HE-560 and the Sundara?


I created this method on the fly based on @pukkita’s question, but it may have value for generally summarizing the power requirements of different headphones. Two of the planar models (HE-560 and AEON Flow Closed) were the most demanding of the Loxjie and also the most demanding with my FiiO Q5 mobile balanced output. They both sound absolutely terrible on Q5 balanced…

Through some sort of mathematical transformation (must defer to others unless I research it), the Loxjie power display might have a clearer meaning.

As you suggest, one take away is that ohms are not meaningful without considering sensitivity. I was surprised that the AFC required so much power despite 13 ohm impedance, but sound reasonably good on a mobile single-ended source.


I have! What would you like to know? :slight_smile:


I’ll write up something more comprehensive in a bit, but to get the full picture of how hard a headphone is to drive means you absolutely need to understand both its impedance and it’s sensitivity (and in a perfect world, what the sensitivity is for a range of frequencies).

In general, higher impedance requires the amplifier be capable of higher voltage swing and lower impedance will put a greater demand on the current delivery capabilities of the amplifier. After which, you can use the sensitivity rating to determine how much power is required to reach a given SPL for the frequency at which the sensitivity has been measured.

The 300 ohm, 104 dB SPL/mW HD650 require 3.46V to reach 120 dB and will draw 40mW in doing so. The 14 ohm, 92 dB SPL/mW AFC require 2.97V to reach 120 dB but will draw 630mw.

At more reasonable levels, lets say 110 dB peaks, the HD650 will max out the voltage rails on a Dragonfly Black at 1.1V, but will only be drawing a 10th of it’s available current. The AFC would need less than 1V, but require 50% more current than the DFB can supply … so they’d have been clipping hard not far north of 100 dB.

And if you want to know how well it’ll be driven with a given amplifier, then you also need to know what voltage swing the amplifier can deliver, it’s current capacity and it’s output impedance.

Planar designs are relatively immune to shifts in their FR when the output impedance of an amplifier is higher than ideal, since they tend to exhibit a more consistent (often flat) impedance/frequency curve. However, they also tend to be more current-hungry, so maintaining a low output impedance on the amplifier is still important.

Feed the AFC out of a JDS Labs Atom and the headphones will get >95% of the power the amplifier produces at any given level… Feed them out of a Topping DX7s, balanced, with it’s 20 ohm output impedance, and the amplifier will use more power overcoming it’s own internal resistance than it can feed to the headphone … which is a recipe for extremely poor sound (and may cause other major issues like instability, oscillation or failure).


After reading this thread, I’m thinking of used ASL Hurricanes as my next headphone amps.


  1. Which do you like better and why?

  2. In measurements the 560 seems to have slightly less treble energy than the Sundara. Does it sound like that?

  3. Sundara measurements show it having some treble resonances and a pretty big distortion spike in the treble which seem like they could cause the treble to sound less smooth than the HE560. Is that reflected in how they actually sound?



Been burning them in since three days ago.

These cans are definitely treble-leaning, something which can be a blessing (enhances definition) and a curse (harsh, piercing, merciless with not perfect masterings)

Amplification, or more precisely lack of drive ability by the amp, or impedance mismatch will tame or worsen this, but I find that dip is always there. Burn-in has definitely tamed them a great deal.

It makes strings for example to be perceived with increased definition: fretting, fret buzz, bow friction, string vibrations sound hyper-defined, but this in turn destroys the joy on other instruments and imparts a “lean” sound signature, I miss more body overall: 30% less definition and 30% more body would be my perfect spot.

Can understand those into Classical (string ensembles) loving them, though they don’t go that deep, or “blow pressure” to “feel” lower octaves like HD6XX, so pipe organs, etc sound canned.

I miss a more “meaty”, solid, round sound.

Vocals sound good, but a notch too artifical for my liking, too much definition, again putting a photography/graphics analogy, “too much sharpening”.

Gonna try shelf lining mod, as I suspect these are driver reflections; if that dip could be tamed, it will allow for higher listening volume without those mids spoiling less than perfect material, I find mids protude too much versus bass/highs, giving HE-560 a sort of “inverted” V signature, spoiling/fuzzing imaging depth in the process.

Ouch… now you got me interested on the Verums… :star_struck: and the Atom…


Keep breaking in, they take a good while to stabilize. The leanness does tend to decline.


One thing to note: the stock pads aren’t very good. Most people upgrade to the hifiman focus A pads. I currently use Dekoni Elite Hybrid pads. It helps tame the treble a little bit and the elite hybrids have Fuller bass from my experience.


ZMF Ori/Omni pads fit as well, I used to use those with the HE-400i.


Well, I found a good deal on a new HE-560 (wood veneer edition). I had one in my position a long time ago, but only for a week or so during which I had the flu and no good amplification. It’ll be interesting to see how they sound to me now. They’re also purported to require a lot of burn in, so I’ll do a little test with pre- and post-burn-in measurements just for fun.


Here’s a really interesting thread from ASR on amplifier power requirements. It starts with an inflammatory post and then continues with some well considered counterarguments.

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ASR Overkill can lick my electrostatics


I think when I was a kid I may have tried that with a 9v battery. High voltage estats seem like a different matter entirely.