HiFiMAN HE5XX - Official Thread

This is the place to discuss everything regarding the HE5XX. This is a collaboration between Drop and HiFiMAN.

SPECS

  • Operating principle: Open back
  • Drivers: Nano Diaphragm planar magnetic drivers
  • Magnets: Double sided
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 93.5 dB
  • Impedance: 18 ohms
  • Finish: Matte black with high-gloss black printing
  • Headband: Spring steel with adjustable sliders
  • Earpads: Hybrid Focus pads
  • Laser-etched serialization
  • Cable: 4.9 ft (1.5 m) stereo cable
  • Termination: 3.5 mm
  • Weight: 12.5 oz (355 g)

Video Review:

It’s come to the attention of the community that this headphone is remarkably similar in terms of specs, driver design, and look to the HiFiMAN Deva. At the moment I have to report that nearly all of my testing points in the direction of these two headphones being acoustically identical.

Frequency Response:

HE5XX vs Deva:

Here is the HE5XX with the Deva pads:

Perhaps the strongest evidence of this is in the driver’s behavior when adding an air gap. For those unaware, when you break the seal on a HiFiMAN headphone, the bass will elevate substantially. Here we can see that both the HE5XX and the Deva elevate and roll-off at precisely the same spot:

With regards to the driver, I can conclusively state that both the Deva and the HE5XX use a double-sided magnet array (I’ve taken them apart, pictures and video soon to come) and that in both cases this is more similar to the design ideas that were found in the HE500 and HE-6 than some of HiFiMAN’s newer single-sided magnet array headphones. Now, while they are visibly identical, at the moment we have to leave aside any of what we can’t see - like what’s going on with the diaphragm and tensioning.

Lastly, we can see some of the distortion behavior as well. I have to give a big thanks to Mad Economist for helping me make sense of this.

HE5XX distortion:

Deva L distortion:

Deva R distortion:

While there’s usually some moderate variation when it comes to distortion measurements (even with the same headphone), we can see that 2nd harmonic distortion has similar features in all the same spots.

Notably absent in these measurements is the HE5XX right channel, and there’s a reason for this. For this particular unit, there’s some channel imbalance going on. While it’s likely not significant enough to be all that noticeable while music is playing, it is noticeable in a sine sweep - and of course it looks confusing in measurements. I will post channel matching eventually, I just want to make sure it’s right and do some more testing first.

So at the moment, I’m running with the assumption that the L channel behavior in both frequency response and distortion metrics is the norm - and indeed this is nearly identical to Jude’s measurements that are listed on the Drop store page as well.

The bottom line is that unless customers are getting something different from the initial review units that were sent out (which is highly unlikely), we should expect this headphone to be acoustically identical to a wired Deva. Is that a bad thing? No, but anyone expecting this to sound like an HE500 will likely be disappointed. While the Deva/HE5XX is generally well-tuned, it simply doesn’t come remotely close to the technical performance of the HE500. So, at $220, in my mind this is appropriately priced. Would I take it over an HD6XX? Probably not, but it does do certain things better, like its overall tuning (maybe with a bit of EQ to get rid of that 5.3khz peak), and it has a much more even and filled-in soundstage.

Update. Here are photos of each side of the drivers:

As mentioned, they look nearly identical. I think there’s a bit more glue on the Deva magnets, maybe part of the manufacturing process, but this difference is unlikely to produce any meaningful difference in terms of technical performance. Remember - they measure the same.

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Interesting. I think Marv at SBAF came to the conclusion that they may not be the same drivers.

Not saying this to be argumentative or contrarian but might just be an interesting read re measurements and intrepretation. I’m neutral in all of this, I’ll never hear either can as I aint a HIfiman man.

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We got about as far as we could in this thread here (read page 4):

So, with every headphone there’s bound to be some unit variation, and in my mind this perfectly explains why the initial reports were that it’s not exactly the same as the Deva. The way I see it, there’s now enough evidence pointing to them being acoustically identical headphones (within unit variation tolerances) that the burden of proof is on the other foot.

What we know:

  • Same driver specs
  • Same magnet array design
  • Same trace
  • Same housing
  • Same pads (just different color. I know there were reports indicating otherwise… they’re the same pads in this unit)
  • Same frequency response
  • Same distortion measurements
  • Same air gap behavior (this ‘sealed’ the deal for me)
  • They sound the same (or close enough within unit variation tolerances) - with the same strengths/weaknesses
  • Both the Deva and the HE5XX are more similar in terms of their design to the HE500 than planars with single-sided arrays
  • HiFiMAN stopped selling the wired Deva ($220) at the same time the HE5XX came out
  • Drop incorrectly alleged that the Deva was single-sided, and doubled down on this even after being shown the interview with Fang Bian saying it had magnets on both sides.

What we don’t know:

  • Diaphragm tension
  • Diaphragm material/thickness (both would be ‘nano’ diaphragms, but we don’t know much beyond that)
  • If these individual review units are representative of what people would be buying
  • Whether or not Drop knew about the Deva - or any other internal conversations between Drop and HiFiMAN

So, at this point any weaknesses in the claim that the Deva and the HE5XX are acoustically identical (within unit variation tolerances) has to be anchored to the limitation of a one unit sample size. Even then, if there is any difference, it would have to be in something we can’t physically see or measure. I leave the door open to that idea, but at this point it’s up to Drop to prove it - if they want to send me a retail unit and it shows different behavior I’ll be the first to say I was wrong, and that retail units are not in fact acoustically identical to the Deva.

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Interesting. Thanks for the update. I didnt read that far in to it as I dont have a stake in this. I was just randomly browsing when I came across it.

This does raise some other questions now. Will leave it alone though as this is about the HE5XX and not business practices.

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If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck… It must be a duck.

Of course, nobody would have their panties in a twist about any of this if Drop had said “Hey! We are selling a Drop exclusive version of the Deva - a headphone that sounds extremely close to the HE500 - and we are calling it the HE5XX”… And then gone on to show in graphs how alike they sound, added typical marketing fluff, etc…

It makes me wonder if HiFi man didn’t pull one over on drop, or if they were both involved with these shenanigans. Either way, Drop is left holding the bag

That’s the limit of my curiosity about this headphone though.

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Well I can tell you that it’s nowhere near as good as the HE500 unfortunately. While it takes some design inspiration from the HE500 and HE-6, the HE5XX’s performance is much closer to that of the HE400i and HE4XX.

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I’m even less curious now.

Thanks!

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Updated the original post with photos of each side of the driver. Here they are in case anyone missed it:

And… courtesy of the one and only Netforce:

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But the wires are different colours…

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and the HE5XX is dual entry.

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Kinky!

Twenty characters.

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Kinda have an idea from the measurements and impressions in the SBAF thread but technical performance notwithstanding is the treble really much less offensive than that of the HE4XX? I’m resigned to EQ being the sole means of achieving a “perfect” FR (insofar as my ears and preferences are concerned), but that doesn’t mean I’m a fan of it, and the HE4XX was largely intolerable at my usual volumes out of a warmer upstream and with shelf-liner mods installed.

Build was also less than ideal but it’s very difficult to complain for the price… or, well, I’m somewhat cheap and am therefore whining isn’t entirely beneath me but I’ll abstain for everyone’s peace of mind :grin:

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OK, I’ve had the Deva on my Christmas list for several months now. This got me off my duff and I’ve ordered one just in case the stock goes poof. Normally I’d go with Drop & the HE5XX, but I really really prefer the cosmetics of the Deva.

So, you makes your choices and you pays your money.

Mark Gosdin

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Just updated the original post with the video review here:

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I’m sure this will be asked to the point of tedium, but has anyone listened to these and the Sundaras? I’d be very interested in a comparison between them.

While not a comparison, @Resolve from The Headphone Show youtube channel says Sundara is a clear upgrade from He5XX.