Many loyal listeners know HiFiMAN for their planar-diaphragm, open-back headphones. While dynamic closed-back headphones are not typically produced by HiFi Man, the HE-R9s are an exception. I recently came to recognize HiFi MAN for its unique designs, clear/balanced sound, and present low end. After listening to HiFi MAN’s newest release, I came to realize that the HE-R9 draws elements from its predecessors despite its new design.
Look and Feel
I would describe the HE-R9s as having an elegant appearance. The leather headband, steel framing, and red earcups give them a sharp, classic look. They are lightweight and easy to put on, yet still quite sturdy and don’t feel cheap. They could be described as simple in design yet still robust. I was surprised by the flexibility of the headband and soft fabric material in the earcups when I put them on initially. Their secure over-the-ear design blocks ambient noise effectively as well. Overall they are quite comfortable due to their soft material and lightweight design. I personally felt the cups begin to tighten a bit while listening for an extended period of time, as they aren’t a perfect fit for my ears. This was not detrimental to the listening experience overall, yet it's worth noting for those planning on wearing the R9’s for a specific number of hours.
Design and Functionality
The HE-R9 makes use of rare earth magnets in order to achieve both high sensitivity, and a high-frequency response range of 35kHz. The R9’s are also equipped with HiFi Man’s own Topology Diaphragm technology, which is created when nano-scale particles are applied to a driver diaphragm in various patterns or layers. According to HiFi MAN this results in a more natural and detailed sound when compared with other True Wireless headphones. While these are closed headphones, the R9’s earcups are large and have a lot of internal space within. This gives the R9’s powerful driver some “breathing room”. I have found that this, in addition to other elements, ultimately allows for more spatial elements to shine through in the audio.
There are a few ways to connect these headphones. The dual 3.5mm TRS connection allows for two unbalanced input connectors to plug into both sides of the headphones (one on either side). Also, the single 3.5mm TRS connection allows for a single balanced input cable to be plugged into the left side. In addition to wired headphone jacks, the R9 can also become a high-resolution wireless headphone when connected to HiFiMAN’s Bluemini R2R dongle which is included with purchase.
Frequency Response: 15Hz-35kHz
Impedance: 32 Ohms
The extra space in the earcups seemed to help bring out spatial elements. I was able to discern more ambiance (reverb and delays), distance, and panning in music than usual. I found the panning and sense of distance to be striking overall, sounding more exaggerated than I’m used to and really immersing me in the music. When looking at the entire frequency spectrum, I noticed that some instruments/frequencies would overlap occasionally, creating a little bit of muddiness in certain songs. However, it isn’t too much cause for concern as the sound on the R-9’s is quite clear and precise overall, which also helps with the spatial aspects.
The HE-R9s feature a nice low-end character in my opinion. While listening I found that instruments such as drums (notably toms) and bass guitar sounded punchy yet full in all the right frequencies. It could be argued that this is due to the low-mids being quite prominent. The low end overall still sounded good to me though, and I found that the lowest frequencies handled well with minimal clipping in sub-bass material (hip hop). I personally think that the low-end is good overall on these headphones for most applications.
I would say that the mid-range has the most presence on these headphones. The middle frequencies sounded balanced and not too overbearing (boxy or honky). This frequency range also seemed to blend well with the punchy/rich lows and bright/crisp highs, with all frequencies sounding rather balanced together. I would say that the mids account for the R9’s overall warm tone.
The high frequency seemed to accentuate the soundstage by bringing out reverb tails and delays. I found the high end to be the clearest in vocals, with these headphones having just the right amount of brightness with a little bit of crispness/sizzle to bring out the singer. Overall, the high end sounded nice and clear to me.
Even while sitting at a lower price point than others in the line-up ($599), I believe that the HE-R9s still deliver the quality that HiFi MAN has to offer. Spending a bit more might open your options up to a typical HiFi MAN staple, yet buying the R9’s still ensures you a quality product. As a recent release, they also deserve a listen from longtime HiFi MAN listeners to compare. They stand on their own and are a unique product from a unique manufacturer.The HiFiMAN HE-R9 is available here.