Prior to testing, the transducers were heated for about 80 hours. The music came from SACD, CD and uncompressed (FLAC) or uncompressed (WAVE) files. I did not play any compressed compressed files (like MP3s) because they did not properly evaluate the quality of the headphones.
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In addition to these songs, I also listened to many other genres and artists on a daily basis through TIDAL (HI-FI, FLAC). On the computer, I played music using foobar2000 1.3.12. On smartphones I also used foobar2000.
I am convinced that the majority of people who are considering buying these handsets are perfectly aware of the choices they make. However, there is a good chance you are tempted to do this because you have confidence in the HiFiMAN brand, and you know that there is a small chance that the headphones will be weak. Rightly. But if you love HiFiMAN because of its planar earphones, it’s not so obvious that the Dynamic Edition S will also appeal to you.
The differences in tone compared to even the HE-400S are large. This may sound like obvious, but it’s worth having the back of your head when making a purchase decision. Edition S even in open mode does not offer as much space as planar models (which does not mean that there is no space for them). They are also tuned to reproduce stronger bass and treble.
Absolutely not a drawback. On the contrary. The classic, fleshy and powerful sound of dynamic headphones like in my opinion a larger group of people than the lighter, more analytical sound of open planar earphones.
Besides, the HiFiMAN S Edition is very easy to drive. You can expect to play loud, fast and dynamically, even from a smartphone or other portable player. Of course, the peak of their capabilities are achieved only after connecting to a good headphone amplifier, but I still recognize them as extremely mobile-friendly.
HiFiMAN does not target these handsets in the niche. This is a product that will hit the tastes of most typical listeners. The quality is so high that even audiofiles will not complain about it (in this price class) and the handset is so versatile and pleasant that a typical Kowalski loves to listen to music on the way to work or school. And that’s it!
So how do these handsets actually perform? In which genres of music do they manage?
Nils Petter Molvær – Hover
I start with Nu Jazz, because in this song HiFiMAN Edition S headphones are very impressive. We start with a delicate, almost ethereal trumpet, add small percussion elements, in less than 2 minutes to add a deep, clean, smooth bass line.
Headphones simply delight in the entire frequency spectrum, and even across the entire volume range. On the Musical Fidelity V90-HPA, I reached a maximum of half the scale, because later my ears expressed dissatisfaction with the excess of decibels, but even when it was loud, the sound was clean, the bass was nice and not deformed.
However, I must say that the bass line was more pleasing in open mode (with the side panels removed). The quality of the tones is very high – they do not rumble, they do not tend to distort and do not change too strongly the character at higher volumes.
The diameter was cool, compact and quite interesting contrasting with the long, warm bass. But it was perfectly connected with equally cool, strong and quite detailed sopranos. The top of the strip was also nicer in open mode. After inserting the side plates, the soprano at a higher volume could be a bit too sharp.
Dynamics is much larger than in open planar constructions. In this song, Edition S offered a lot of air. At no time did I feel claustrophobic. Impressions similar to the above were also found in many other jazz works. In my opinion, the HiFiMAN Edition S is perfect for listening to jazz, both classical and modern.
Perturbator – She Is Young, She Is Beautiful, She Is Next
The rough, saturated electronic effects of the Perturbator sound are a very difficult test for most handsets. Especially those with dynamic transducers. Here the low tones actually end up somewhere down the bottom. They do not go down. In addition, they are short, torn, fairly flat and plastic. Across the midrange range, the volume of sounds can be dizzying. In turn, high tones are relatively uncomplicated and clean.
How do they deal with Edition S headsets? Basses exist somewhere on the border with the middle tones. They are reproduced properly and purely but overwhelmed by the forward diameter. To the soprano I have no objections – they are well controlled and not pricked in the ears.
The space in this song is modest in both open and closed modes. In such overwhelming detail, in my opinion, planar earphones are much better. Perturbator on Edition S sounds quite nice, but the earlier described jazz sounded a lot, much better.
Frequency & Soulcircuit feat. Diia – Lost
So let’s move on to the quieter electronics. In the song Frequency & Soulcircuit feat. Diia – Lost situation looks very different from the above mentioned Perturbator. First and foremost, we have here a much deeper, longer-lasting and smoother bass line.
The very interesting feature of the HiFiMAN Edition S headphones is how to distribute the power on each band. The low tones are soft, smooth and pleasing to the ear, and (most importantly) they do not deform themselves at higher volumes. They are strong from the beginning, but they never get tired. Their power can be further raised by closing the side panels.
Much more powerful increase with volume can be heard for mid and high tones. When the sound is silent, the diameter can be retracted, but after the potentiometer is turned up, it gets a good kick and can go to the fore. Tony’s behave similarly. They are detailed and cool enough from the beginning. The difference is that when the headphones are open, the sopranos are usually kept in check. Close the sides and turn up the volume may be a bit too sharp. The sound in this song is quite large. Only the bass play near the ear.
Bovska – Cactus
Very interestingly reproduced song in which most of the sounds are quite strongly separated from each other. On the one hand, medium, high and vocal tones make a great impression. They are clean, spacious, detailed and well controlled. They do not poke in the ears even when I turn up the volume. Tony’s low is a bit different story. They mix and get a little rattling (especially when we close the sides of the headphones). I note, however, that it may be a mastering of a song, not a headset.
Ingrid – Double Pedigree
Rap and again strong, soft bass. It does not achieve the head-banging power desired by “bassheads”, but the low tones stand out in excellent quality. Pleasantly vibrate in the ears, are smooth and cultured. Just like in earlier songs do not deform after volume increase. However, when the potentiometer is turned up, however, the power of mid and high tones is rising. The latter can be a little too sharp when I exceed 40% of the volume on the test amplifier, but then the number of decibels is already big enough that long-term listening may cause hearing damage. In my opinion, HiFiMAN Edition S is very well suited for listening to rap and related genres. Sound dynamics is great.
Megadeth – The Threat Is Real
High-tempo guitar drummers such as Megadeth – The Threat Is Real and Judas Priest – Painkiller is a hard test for many dynamic headphones. The metal in the low tones should be resilient and sound rather short. It is also important to properly control the soprano – they can not be too sharp, sparking, or hissing.
The tested headphones perform well, but the bass characteristics (soft, vibrating) do not always match those types of tracks. The situation is certainly not bad. HiFiMAN has tweaked the headphones so that the midrange tones are not far behind, and the soprana are almost always detailed, so the guitars and vocals sound right. It is a bit worse with the bottom of the band. In my opinion, the S Editions are definitely better at performing in genres like electronics (all ointments), jazz, rap, dance than guitar.
An example of a microphone recording can be downloaded here. The quality of the voice is certainly not outstanding, but it is sufficient for telephone conversations or for recording voice memos. However, the microphone catches all the sounds from the environment, so it is better not to talk in a very busy place, because the interlocutor may have trouble understanding what we are saying.
HiFiMAN Edition S is a handset that will satisfy even very picky users. Their dynamic, powerful and detailed sound should appeal to a wide group of people. They are amazingly cultural reproductions of low tones, but the diameter and the highs are not far from them. On the contrary. HiFiMAN has tweaked the headphones so that the midrange also played a significant role in the music being played.
I would not describe them as reference, but that’s probably good. They play so that the next hours of listening pass unnoticed. The sound is lively, intriguing, especially in the open configuration that most appeals to my taste (perhaps because I like the HE-400). In my opinion, they perform best in such genres as jazz, electronics, rap and related.
Very good quality and interesting sound characteristics is not all. The headphones look great, they are well made, lightweight, they have a folding headband, detachable microphone wire and control and mentioned detached side panels. They are also easy to drive – they play perfectly even from a smartphone. I doubt anyone would be disappointed with how they play.