REVIEW: HiFiMAN Edition X Over Ear Headphone
Sound impressions (w/ stock cable)
The HiFiMAN Edition X has all the good low-frequency traits of a planar magnetic headphone; tight, refined and responsive. Unlike the other planar models before it, HiFiMAN have instilled a greater quantity of bass in the Edition X which renders it more voluminous and extensive in the lower frequencies compared to that of the HE-400S. Although the bass appears tighter than Sennheiser’s new HD800S, the latter has better articulacy and resolvement in this side of the frequency spectrum.
Next to the Fostex TH500RP, the Edition X has a faster decay response with the former having a thicker and generally more visceral tone. One of the more impressive features of the Edition X’s bass is the sheer detail of it. This, along with its generous mid-bass hump serves to be a powerful expedient for bass-dominant tracks where the Edition X really comes to life.
What’s more is that the Edition X beautifully transitions between the low frequencies of the sub-bass to the low-end of the midrange. In Three 6 Mafia’s “Late Night Tip”, for example, the Edition X is easily able to handle the track’s underlying bass tones with depth and proficiency.
The midrange of the Edition X has a real ethereal quality where notes seem to fade in and out from a wide span of nothingness. Coupled with the gentle and organic sounding signature of the headphone, this makes for a perfect laidback and wind-down musical experience.
In contrast to the original Sennheiser HD800, the Edition X sounds more polite with greater body and tonality compared to the HD800’s thinner and more anaemic-prone midrange. Unlike the HD800, however, the Edition X loses out on the faster transients of the former which make the HD800 sound speedier with better defined separation.
Tonality-wise, the Edition X manages to achieve a linearly integrated frequency response which evades the often lacklustre signature of many ‘neutral-oriented’ headphones. Here, the body, sense of space and macro-dynamics of the Edition X aid in delivering a musical and engaging angle to tracks. In Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days”, the capabilities of this headphone become incredibly clear with the soothingly pleasant vocals, realistic workings of a saxophone and spatially wide signature. The only nit-pick in this department, is the clarity levels which although superb in their own right could have been enhanced to compete with the HD800 and HD800S’ military-precise rendition of notes.
Like the midrange, the treble of the HiFiMAN Edition X is well-behaved with no distinct peaks or shrillness in any territory. The amount of detail that the Edition X manages to portray without instilling any brightness into the mix is something of a unique selling point for HiFiMAN’s latest planar model. The somewhat darker tonality of the Edition X does not go amiss here either with the headphone being able to render subtle artefacts and auditory cues that bring it towards the higher-end of audiophilia. With that said though, the Edition X can lack a bit of sparkle in the very high frequency ranges owing to a subtle roll-off. With the use of different cables, however, this can easily be overcome as explained below. Overall, the Edition X’s treble brings to the table an easy-going yet highly resolving sound that spares the ears of harshness and glare that so many other headphones are seemingly guilty of.
Dr. Fang Bian is never too far from innovation and decidedly so with these headphones which feature trickle-down technology from its big brother, the HE1000. Unlike the HE1000, the Edition X really shines out of an iPhone, iPad or any other smartphone or gadget device. So much so, in fact, that the Edition X is one of the best headphones at the moment from a standard portable device. Owing to its very low 25 Ohm resistance and 103db sensitivity, the Edition X is even able to have enough headroom to spare without optimal volume use.
The rather odd thing, though, is that the Edition X is an open-back headphone and so cannot ideally be used out in the public domain but in and around the home. Dr. Bian also recommends against using very high powered amps to drive the Edition X. Although the headphones do scale up with dedicated amps, it is imperative to not use inappropriately high volumes or high-gain settings in any amp above 1W since the headphones will distort in sound.
Impressively and true to Dr. Bian’s strive for ultimate efficiency, the Edition X sounds outstanding from just an iPad device. It is able to retain very much of the sound quality as expected from a dedicated amp which is pretty impressive considering many other headphones are unable to close this gap.
This new technology could ultimately end the search for highly expensive DAC/Amp purchases which many quest for in order to achieve that ‘end-game’ sound.
Schiit Audio Gungnir Multibit and Mjolnir 2 Amp
This Schiit stack brings a lot of good out of the Edition X with a more holographic sound and multiple layers that arise from an orb-like soundstage presented to the listener. Though not the most detailed, there is a real sense of organic tone quality that is hard to achieve in similarly-priced DACs with the implementation of ESS Sabre chips. Combined with the Mjolnir 2’s set of tube amps, the Edition X gains a sweeter tone that makes vocals invitingly warmer. It is worth noting that some distortion does slightly blur transients with this combo owing to the Edition X’s high level of efficiency.
ALO Continental Dual Mono DAC/Amp
Although not as layered or holographic as the Schiit stack above, the Continental infuses more musicality amidst a subtle black backdrop. The soundstage is still impressive with the dimensions being greater than out of a standard portable device.
A dual balanced-armature earphone called Rock-it Sounds R50 ignited my interest for all things audio. Since then, I have been enthralled with psycho-acoustic impressions ranging from gear such as IEMs to DAPs and eventually full-sized headphones.
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