I have not, but I did try it with the Schiit Saga. Since there seems to be an issue with my A-100 I removed it from my desk for now. I might try to run directly from the speak taps but I’ll need to order a cable first.
The Hifiman He6se Mk2 Adorama Limited Edition
The He6se V2 is available at two prices, the normal $1799.00 and the sometimes available $649 super duper special. This dramatic difference makes it a challenge to review the headphone. It’s nice to have a baseline of relatable headphones close in price to compare something to, as it makes for a clearer set of expectations and tradeoffs common in that market segment. In this case, I have decided to review it twice.
The He6se MK2 bargain is a handsome headphone, with dark blue cups, and a simple yoke and headband set up. It weighs in at 450g, and is fairly comfortable to wear. The build quality is much like the similarly priced Hifiman Ananda, but with circular cups. Like the Ananda, the cups do not swivel, which can cause problems for fit on some. I struggled with the Ananda fit and did not with the He6Se V2. The frame is not extremely robust, and it is not unusual to hear it creak as you put it on.
I love a planar driver for bass and enjoyed torturing the drivers with stuff off Hans Zimmer soundtracks, some terrible house music, and a couple of ancient Dj Digweed sets. Although it did not deliver the last degree of detail and “it’s right in front of you” experience on really well recorded upright bass (Mingus Big Band, Haitian Fight Song) I can’t think of a headphone in this price class I’d rather listen to for the low end.
The mid-range is capable, but not rich. This would be a tough recommendation for a 6xx fan looking to move up the ladder, and the Ananda would probably be my choice here and in treble presentation. It’s a little thin, sometimes closer to nasal than throaty. The treble is mostly good, with a few peaks that could trouble the sensitive.
The standout here isn’t tone or timber though, it’s the staging and imaging. The stage is superb, and can be enhanced with some simple mods, such as popping off the rear side of the grills. There has been a lot of interest in modding these bargains, and it’s easy to see why. There is a lot of potential here.
The one very serious caveat about the bargain price is that it does not match well with bargain amplification. It is a very difficult load to drive, and the lowest price amp I’d recommend would be a Jot2. It also likes a good bit of volume to sound it’s best, so if you habitually listen at less than 75db, it could be an issue.
The He6se MK2 bargain is a cheaply built headphone, with dark blue cups, and a simple flimsy yoke and headband set up. It weights in at 450g, and is fairly comfortable to wear. The build quality is much like the 1/3 as expensive Hifiman Ananda, but with circular cups. Like the Ananda, the cups do not swivel, which can cause problems for fit on some. I struggled with the Ananda fit and did not with the He6Se V2. The frame might as well be made from a pile of soggy pasta, and you hear every money saving choice groan, creak, and threaten to break simply by flexing it enough to put on your head.
As bad as the build it is the sound where this headphone really comes apart. The treble has some deeply weird tunings going on. On certain tracks, a cymbal hit or bell ringing will pop so far out of the mix that you’ll flinch. One easy example of this is the Aimee Mann tune “Goose Snow Cone”. If that bell doesn’t make you want to throw these headphones in a blender, then you’re a calmer man than me.
The midrange isn’t just thin, it’s like someone took some of the best instrumental range in the world and made everything be translated by kazoo. It’s hot garbage. It takes a special headphone to make Mark Lanegan into Lyle Lovett, but the He6se V2 manages to move him in that direction. Hyperbole aside, it really is just paper thin in the all-important mids.
Bass is fine. Good extension, ok slam good resolution. If you listen to lots of doof doof, this might be your can.
Soundstage is excellent, competing with the very best for size. Popping the rear grills off helps open it more, but also made some treble issues even more prominent. Listening on speaker amps vs high power headphone amps made no difference whatsoever when level matched. The only difference was that some of my options had different characteristics, and those came through, with the Krell being the most detailed, which didn’t do this pile of stray beaming frequencies any good. What did make a difference was turning the volume up. This headphone sounds best loud. Louder then I want to listen to that peaky treble smacking my eyeballs from the inside.
You’ll note that the majority of the songs I have mentioned here are similar, smaller ensembles. It’s because the He6se V2 can’t seem to translate large group, wall of sound type complexity into music. It’s like it just can’t figure out what to do with that many frequencies, and it gives up. Listening to a Bruckner symphony, the horns, violas and cellos all just kind of collapsed in on each other.
We really have two stories here, one of a tempting bargain, and one of a headphone that absolutely should never sell to anyone for full price. At $649, it’s interesting, and may be a fun choice for people that want to experiment with some mild modding, keep multiple headphones around, and already have good amplification available. At $1799, I’d rather smoke burning hair than buy this headphone. It’s a headphone that robs instruments and voices of their resonance, and that makes waiting for the drum fill not a wait of anticipation but dread.
Associated Equipment: Roon/Qobux → Pi2AES, Chord TT2, HeadAmp GSX-Mini, Krell KAV-300i, Peachtree Nova, Cables by World’s Best & Blue Jeans, coffee by Stumptown.
Excellent review! I enjoyed the colorful metaphors and your honesty.
That review made me smile
You should split it into two posts, then when someone asks what you think of the HE6se, ask how much they paid and then link them to the relevant post
Another very good review @mfadio. It’s becoming a habbit. .
Great review(s). We now know what to get you for Cake Day. Only the best for you.
Well done, well done indeed !
I’m confused you are talking about the very same headphones at different prices which vary in performance? Lol
I got mine for 649 and even though I lack knowledge on variety of sound from different headphones, my only thing to compare to is my Elegia and it’s way better than that. Even though comparing the two and having both with different drivers isn’t fair, or the fact one is closed and the other open.
But it’s way better than the Elegia in mid and treble. Bass wise it’s no competition.
What was some of the accompanying equipment you used?
I love this review!
And this is just solid gold!
I needed a good laugh today! Thank you.
It’s not a description of absolute, but relative performance. The performance differs relative to the respective price points.
Sold mine last Sat. Just couldn’t handle the headband and the comfort.
Well damn. I am curious about the setup @mfadio used to test the HE6SE V2 as well.
I’m waiting on mine to show up tomorrow and I’ve got a Gungnir MB and Mjolnir V1 combo arriving today to use with them. I was excited…
It sure seems like this is a polarizing headphone. I’m not sure if I should be as excited as I was or if I need to start tempering expectation now.
Was the headband the only deal breaker for you? It seems like if you really liked the sound there are a variety of trivial modifications to improve comfort.
IMO HiFiMan polarizes because of often ridiculously poor build quality paired with ridiculously high prices. Some other models have extremely optimistic MSRPs too. It’s hard to determine whether the price justifies relative quality versus revealing an effort to create a fantasy premium image.
It’s a lot easier to justify a premium for something that’s physically durable and not prone to rapid driver failures.
I use a folded terry washcloth as padding, the only issue I get is on the top of the head and I mean it’s completely gone once you distribute the weight. A bit unconventional and ghetto, I know there are headband pads out there. But this was a quick fix
I usually listen for, even this evening now for 10 hours, 6-10 hours on an average session.
Yea they’re great for the price, just make sure to feed them plenty of juice. That 2 watts per channel is total nonsense. It sounds so bad at 2 watts it’s not even funny.
I do not know all of his gear, but I know he has some speaker amps, the Burson Soloist 3XP, I believe a TT2, GSX Mini. Anyways I know he has powerful/higher end source components powering the HE6SE so I would not disregard his review based on the assumption his source gear isn’t up to snuff (not saying you are, just speaking in generalities for others).
Oh I definitely wouldn’t doubt it, it’s just merely curiosity. I am sure he has enough experience with headphones and has it all figured out, it’s not like he was using a dongle to make his review on I believe officially the hardest to drive, or definitely the upper echelon, headphone out there
I did plug it into a very low cost Schiit Hel2 just for giggles. I did not review it that way.
I’ll update my review with gear used, sorry I over-looked that.
Oh tried a few things, but I just had enough of the fiddling for comfort and let them go.
Welcome to the forum @Justinus!
It is exciting! It’s like a blind date and you haven’t met him/her yet.
It’s like a blind date with someone who has been described to you as an extremely beautiful but high maintenance supermodel who has a reputation for liking powerful, assertive partners. That amount of hype is not fair to him/her and may lead to initial disappointment, before you’ve had a chance to build up a relationship.
I’m not sure how much longer I can carry on this terrible analogy, so I’ll just say that there are so many factors involved, and first and foremost is your listening preference. You and I might have the exact same gear, listening to exactly the same music, and you might love it and I might hate it. Who cares what I think, your opinion is what counts.
One of the factors that has been mentioned a lot with the HE6SE is the power requirement. Bear in mind that I am not a technical person, and probably mix up watts and volts, but my own feeling on this is that some people seem to focus on the number of watts and not necessarily the quality of those watts. And I’m referring to quality both objectively (e,g, does it have a low noise floor, does it have a good power supply that can handle dynamic power swings?) and subjectively (does it sound good to your ears?).
FYI, I bought an HE6SE in the most recent sale and will be returning it. I have 4 amps that can power it (Jot 2, Burson Soloist 3XP, Pendant, Nautilus) and I generally liked it. I also found that my listening satisfaction wasn’t always tied to the power of each amp. But I didn’t love it as much as my current headphones (Verite, Stellia, Aeolus) so there’s no reason for me to keep it. I do wonder if my expectations were too high, given how god-like the HE6SE has been described, and perhaps I’d be keeping it had my expectations been tempered.
I’ll write up my impressions later in the week, because how could I follow something as good as @mfadio’s review.