HiFiMAN HE6se

I did a first impressions video as well for these. Check it out here:

I’ve been spending the last couple of days testing the HiFiMAN HE6se (not the V2), and so I figured I’d post my findings here and start a new thread for it:

As you guys know, I generally like HiFiMAN tunings, but this HE6se (V1) is not my jam. It has good bass extension and lots of ear gain… lots and lots of it, as you can see by the pronounced peak in the upper mids. Mainly the distance between upper mids and the recessed 1.5khz region causes vocals to sound off - like unnaturally lean and harsh at times. Also, I get the feeling that the upper treble is a bit subdued on this, and that’s… atypical for high end planars.

Still, the detail and technical performance of this headphone are reminiscent of the older HE6 and HE500, which are near and dear to my heart. So with some EQ this is salvageable… mostly.

Here’s my EQ profile for it right now, although it’s still a bit of a work in progress:

image

And here’s how it measures after EQ:

Additional Measurements

Different pads:

Generally there doesn’t seem to be much difference on this one with different pads being put on it. I mainly did this because the default pads are quite stiff and this headphone has some unpleasant clamp force going on. Both the Sundara pads (new revision) and the HE400se pads seem to improve that ear gain region a bit, but it’s also within the ballpark still and not all that different from what you get with positional variance.

Air gap behavior (only look at bass level here, the position shifts a bit when you do this):

Okay so this is wild. The HE6se has essentially no change in the bass when introducing an air gap (green line). Only when literally holding the cup off the rig in free air does it show the bass boost, and it shows an extremely low resonance for that, possibly the lowest I’ve seen so far.

Coincidentally, the HE6se does have a good sense of punch and slam, even though the overall bass level is significantly below the target. So once again, we have a solid counterexample to the idea that measured bass response = dynamics, but perhaps how low the resonance frequency is has an influence on this, and the result here would line up with that. In my mind it’s still inconclusive, but interesting nonetheless.

And just to check that bass level agrees with the on-head response - sure enough it does. Only showing the relevant part of this measurement here so as not to confuse.

Ergonomics
While the build feels reasonable, for comfort, the HE6se is a bit of a mess. It uses the same headband design as the Sundara, which means there’s unfortunately no cup swivel. On the Sundara it was somewhat annoying but tolerable, but the HE6se’s pads aren’t as angled, and it’s also noticeably heavier (although not as heavy as I was expecting). Additionally, the pads are a bit on the stiff side, and the combination of these factors means that it has intense clamp force on my head, causing jaw pain after about an hour or so.

Swapping the pads out to the HE400se pads, which are more angled in the front helped with this, but I also recommend swapping out the headband because no cup swivel is not okay in my opinion. By default, this headphone likely won’t be very comfortable for anyone with a larger than average head - in fact I imagine it will be a major dealbreaker for some.

Conclusion
This is one that I do think needs some EQ to sound good. In some ways it seems like they went with the ‘se’ design to make the HE6 lighter and more ‘refined’, but succeeded primarily in making in significantly less comfortable than the original - at least for me - and messed up the tuning a bit.

Still, the technical performance is generally there from what I remember of those older HiFiMAN headphones. It has the same bite and intensity, which can be both desirable and fatiguing depending on the mood you’re in. So while I can’t recommend this version over the original, with some ergonomic modification and EQ you could end up with something interesting. And it will be even more interesting to compare this to the V2 that hopefully I’ll be able to get in soon.

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Nice review, when I try these headphones out I will try the EQ you posted here.

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Nice review.

What amp did you use for the HE6?

Will you be reviewing @antdroid’s modded HE6se? The mods make a pretty big difference, imo.

Looking forward to it.

Cheers!

The IHA-6 from the balanced out mostly. The he-6 is what it’s made for. Didn’t like it so much out of the Phonitor e.

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Yeah, the Phonitor probably accentuated the treble peaks.

Thank you.

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Do you have recommendations for a headband that adds swivel? I’m actually looking for one for the Sundara.

I would see what hifiman sells, I’m honestly not sure what they make right now that’s compatible.

I found on even the version 2 I really enjoyed with warmer than neutral sounding tube amps with the proper power and current the most. Phonitor, A90, Thx variants would be yucky… IMO :joy:

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Yeah, haha. Definitely something on the warmer side of neutral.

That synergy is important. :+1:t4:

I really don’t think any of those change the FR (they’re more ‘linear’ than the headphone), but maybe anything that gives it a softer presentation would help. I’d say a tube amp but that gets tough because it needs a lot of current, so it would depend on the tube amp. I think the V2 may have a more agreeable tuning, but this is one that I think needs EQ rather than just a softer source.

The mods are what change the FR (pads/grills), but you definitely want to appropriately power them to get the best results, imo.

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Yeah I do think this would be a solid modding headphone, although it’s weird to pay that much to mod it.

You gotta buy it at the “sale” price. I know many owners have purchased theirs at the reduced price. I got lucky with an open-box in excellent condition that was cheaper than the sale price.

Definitely glad I purchased it.

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Got the adorama version of he6se and modded it, never heard the he6se v1. However, for me he6se v2 is a good headphone to complement my Sr1a.

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The V2 measurements seem to indicate that they are a bit easier going in the highs than the V1’s. Combined with the open screen mod and the sick Audeze carbon fibre headband assembly, I honestly think those are probably as close to “giant slayers” in terms of pricing as you can get. I would be concerned about comfort with the stock headband though.

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Stock headband is not as comfortable(felt hard on top of my head) as the audeze headband. With these open grills, the bass response is better, less restraints. Also tried closing it and it sounded rubbish. Lol

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Oh wow where did you get that grille from?

That carbon headband looks nice. How easy was it to change and does it swivel?

Very easy, you just need a screw driver and a saw for audeze yokes.

I had them 3d printed from a carbon fibre auto parts manufacturer in Toronto.

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