Recommended Reference ComponentIn November 2015, we added the HiFiMan HE1000 headphones to our list of Recommended Reference Components, based on Brent Butterworth’s extremely positive review in SoundStage! Xperience, published in October 2016. A month later, we further recognized the HE1000s with a 2015 Products of the Year award. At $2999 USD, the HE1000s cost far more than many audiophiles can spend on headphones, but Brent stated in the closing sentences of his review why they’re something special: “I don’t know if the HE1000s are the ultimate headphones. But considering their impeccable sound quality and above-average comfort, I think they’re the closest thing I’ve found.”

HiFiMan Edition X

Since then, HiFiMan has released the Edition X headphones ($1799), which Brent reviewed for SoundStage! Xperience last month. There, he said that while the HE1000s were “extremely comfortable,” the Edition Xes “are even more so.” He continued: “Except for color and materials, the Edition Xes look almost identical to the HE1000s, but they’re intended as a more practical product. Not only do they cost $1200 less, they’re touted as being sensitive enough that any smartphone can drive them.”

HiFiMan Edition X

Brent then tested HiFiMan’s claims for smartphone use:

While the HE1000s just barely work when driven by a typical smartphone, the Edition Xes worked pretty well. With music produced with a great deal of dynamic-range compression, the Edition Xes played more than loud enough when powered by my Samsung Galaxy S6 phone. “A City in Florida,” from Deadmau5’s 4x4=12 (256kbps MP3, Ultra), sounded 4 or 5dB too loud through the Edition Xes when I cranked it up full blast -- and I usually listen to this tune at pretty high levels. However, classic rock tunes, which were typically mastered with much less compression than more modern mixes, didn’t sound so powerful through this rig. “Houses of the Holy,” from Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti (256kbps MP3, Atlantic), played just loud enough with the Samsung’s volume at max.

When it came to sound quality, Brent commended the Edition Xes’ treble detail, ability to properly convey the space captured in his recordings, and adeptness at presenting the music’s subtlest nuances -- qualities he’d also admired in the HE1000s. But, he pointed out, these two headphone models certainly didn’t sound exactly the same:

To my ears, the obvious difference between the Edition Xes and the HE1000s was in the treble. So I put on “Airpower,” from Larry Coryell and Philip Catherine’s Twin House (16[-bit]/44.1[kHz] WAV, Wounded Bird), an album of acoustic-guitar duets that’s especially revealing of treble quality. The HE1000s got “Airpower” pretty much right, with extremely clear but not overemphasized sounds of picks on strings, and fingers sliding up and down fretboards. The guitars’ bass notes also sounded wonderfully resonant through the HE1000s; I got a real sense of the instruments’ soundboards vibrating. “It might be just a tad bright, but it still kicks ass,” I wrote in my notes. The Edition Xes had a similar tonal balance and spatial presentation, but their treble didn’t sound quite as clear or detailed.

HiFiMan Edition X

At the end of his review, Brent acknowledged that even though the HE1000s sound better than the Edition Xes in some ways, the Edition Xes are definitely competitors because they offer similar sound for a much lower price. He offered buyers this advice: “If you demand the best, the HE1000s are the wiser choice. If spending $3000 on headphones is a stretch for you, the Edition Xes are the better pick, especially considering that you don’t need to buy or carry a separate amplifier or a high-priced portable music player to use with them.”

HiFiMan’s Edition X headphones: a more affordable, easier-to-drive version of the HE1000s, and our newest Recommended Reference Component.

Manufacturer contact information:

Phone: (201) 443-4626