Hifiman excels in creating high-performance sound at a relatively affordable price. In fact, to get the same quality from other brands, you often have to spend a lot more. So, I was very curious to see what Hifiman could give us for under 700 bucks. Could the updated HE5se be the greatest deal of the year? Or are we setting ourselves up for disappointment? Let’s find out in this Hifiman HE5se Headphones Review.
Hifiman did well here. Light and secure without feeling tight, the HE5se can be worn for long periods of time without any fatigue. The earpads have memory foam that is cool to the ear. And the outside edges are made from very leathery looking pleather. The yolk is a little rigid when you try to adjust it, but once you get the right size, there’s no need to think about it.
The planar magnetic HE5se is not particularly hard to drive. The impedance is at 40 Ohms, which is low, but the HE5se might need a little more juice than the specs suggest. A safe bet is to go with a portable amp that has some power behind it. I used the ol’ Chord Mojo for this review. But I’d also suggest the iFi Black Label Micro if you want something more neutral.
In the box, you’ll find a detachable cable with 3.5mm connectors. The cable is insulated with a material coating, giving it a sturdy and flexible feel. You won’t get a balanced cable in the box. But I’ve only seen the fancy XLR cables included in much pricier models, like the HE6.
In terms of aesthetics, Hifiman has dropped the classic wooden ear cups from the original model for what seems to be plastic, and the grill is the usual aluminum.
Conservative and controlled, the low end excels at presenting a tight and detailed bass that works well for acoustic instruments. Double bass had a natural timbre and cellos in the very low registers showed a nice amount of texture. That being said, pop music sounded a bit lackluster, not giving nearly enough power or punch to do justice to the genre.
For those who love their mids, this range is what the HE5se does best. Very present in the mix, the mids sound almost completely even. Vocals seem to lean a touch forward sometimes, but for the most part, they comfortably sit within the instrumentation. The equally distributed mids give rock choruses an expansive sound, conveying the entire spectrum of this range. Listening to acoustic guitars, the separation could have been a little better in the low mids. But in general, the profile was clean with enough detail and resolve to warrant the price tag.
The high frequencies show great transparency when listening to strings, skillfully displaying nuance and subtleties in vibrato. But at the highest peaks, the HE5se sometimes gets a bit tough on the ears. Even when listening to pop, percussion in this range is, at times, a bit sharp. But if you’re ears aren’t too sensitive and you appreciate a lively feel in this range, you might actually dig it.
The HE5se displays a nice sense of space, especially in terms of height. Instrument placement feels precise, and overall, it’s a colorful listening experience for those who appreciate a multidimensional soundstage.
The HE5se delivers high performance sound for the price. And the soundstage is lots of fun. But the sharpness in the high frequencies might be something you want to consider. That being said, you’d be hard pressed to find a better sounding planar magnetic headphone for under 700 bucks.
Impedance: 40 Ohms
Sensitivity: 92 dB
Frequence Range 20Hz – 35 kHz