Well-known amongst the crowd of audiophilia, HiFiMAN have quickly climbed the ranks to produce some of the best headphones amongst the planet. Their game-changer was the originally introduced HiFiMAN HE1000 headphones which featured the world’s first in nanometer-thickness diaphragm technologies and had garnered many awards. Later released was the V2 model which adopted much of its predecessor profile but with improved ergonomics and matchability. Keen to nail perfection in third iteration, the HE1000SE incorporates elements of the HE1000 V2 and HE1000 before it while also featuring trickle-down technology from their flagship planar – the Susvara with new neodymium magnets to produce more powerful dynamics while still retaining that analytical sound.
The advanced ‘stealth’ magnet system aims to be as acoustically transparent as possible, propagating sound without reflection and diffraction caused by conventional magnet designs. This, coupled with the nanometer-thick diaphragm allows for lower moving mass to produce sonics with rapid transient responses and lower distortion. The end result being detailed sound production with the ethereal quality which HiFiMAN have come to be known for.
At a price of $3499, the HiFiMAN HE1000SE are certainly an expensive offering and not for those without deep wallets. Having said that, the headphones represent the culmination of many years of research and development and Fang Bian’s passion for continuous improvement.
HiFiMAN have utilised the same packaging as the HiFiMAN HE1000 V2 headphones. Included is a brown leather-trimmed case with a felt interior which houses the 1000SE. Perhaps, a black leather outer box would have not gone amiss to match the headphone’s head-support. Also included is an owner manual with high-quality print with pictures from various opera houses as well as the information about the technology. HiFiMAN have incorporated three sets of cables as part of the accessories with XLR, 6.35 mm and 3.5 mm terminations. The cables feature three-core crystalline copper with silver plated wire topology which synergises well with the headphones. As with the Susvara set of headphones, it would have been nice to have included a pelican case to allow for easy transport of the headphones.
The Design & Build
Aesthetically, the HE1000SE looks like a cross between the HE-1000 V2 and the Susvara model. With a black headband and ebony wood trimmings, the HE1000SE is visually striking and conveys a luxury appeal. Perhaps most characteristic of HiFiMAN’s house look is the window shade grill design which along with the metal housings are CNC milled and hand polished. The headband combines a special metal alloy and the head-support features soft-grade calf-skin material.
The HE1000 series offer a distinct and exotic look which would not look out of place in room of modern décor. The shade of the wood trimming along with black head-support align more with my personal preferences and look classier than its predecessors before it.
Build wise, the HE1000SE is very well constructed. Each piece has a vigorous in-house quality check along each part of production. The nanometer thick diaphragm is also said to be very challenging to work with and is often the rate-limiting step for overall assembly times. As with the previous model, the cable connectors are angled away from the user which has the dual purpose of aiding ergonomics as well as reducing microphonics.
The 5 dB increase in efficiency from the neodymium magnets allow the HE1000se to be driven easily by portables such as DAPs, tablets and computers. This allows a more attainable high-end listening experience compared to the Susvara’s which require more powerful amplifiers to fully drive it.
Comfort has always been a strong suit of HiFiMAN’s. The HE1000SE is no exception with its delightful use of lightweight material and even distribution support. Although it weighs only 20g more than the HiFiMAN HE1000 V2 at 440g, the headphone is built for hours of fatigue-free listening.
The design of the headband yolks allows for pivotal rotation of the housings which helps in achieving a perfect fit for all head types.
The HE1000SE adopts a neutral presentation of sound which is remarkably detailed and fast in response. Note size is overall large and strikes a good balance between perceived musicality from macro-dynamics and analytical precision. To get the best in sound, it is recommended to burn-in these headphones for at least 100 hours to get the diaphragm to ‘settle’.
While some may acquaint HiFiMAN’s HE1000 series as having a ‘soft’ presentation, the HE1000SE decisively packs a punch in its lower frequency ranges. Owing to the neodymium magnets, dynamism levels are fantastic with bass which not only extends low but is visceral in character. What is equally compelling is that lower frequencies do not compromise articulacy for this dynamism. Each bass note has outstanding texture, cleanliness and detail which makes for a truly enchanting listen. An example of this is in ‘Blueberry Faygo’ by Lil Mosey, where the bass frequencies are punchy but decay rapidly to provide an intelligibility like no other. The HE1000SE also has that rare ability to translate bass which can not only be heard but also felt, rather like a subwoofer in the very low frequencies. Compared to the HE1000V2, the SE leans towards the Susvara in its bass presentation with notes which sound more vivid and which evade the mid-bass bloom of the former headphones.
The midrange of the HE1000SE pays an homage to the HiFiMAN house sound with vocals which sound nuanced, transparent and foremost neutral. While not as diffuse sounding as the HE1000 V2 before it, the mid frequencies are more tactile and dynamic sounding. In that respect, the SE conveys the best of the original HE1000’s musicality while also capturing the V2’s resolve with added micro- and macro-dynamics. Akin to the Susvara, the HE1000SE portrays vocals as hyper-detailed with fantastic texturing without ever sounding sibilant or grating. Particularly impressive is the scale of vocals amidst instruments which contributes to the immersive listening experience. Notes seem to emanate from the soundscape expanse with blistering speed and decay swiftly in the next instance. Perhaps the IEM equivalent would be 64 Audio’s Tia Fourte which shares the HE1000SE’s hyper-resolve and affinity for instrument separation. To this extent, the HE1000SE laps up orchestral tracks as well as multi-instrumental songs. For listeners with a strong preference for vocal-orientated music, the ZMF Verité and Meze Empyrean should top their list for consideration. However, users should note that they would be sacrificing the top-tier level of resolution, texture and the soundstage that the HE1000SE capably offers.
Tonality wise, the treble remains very much in line with the rest of the frequency spectrum; detailed and responsive. Though the HE1000SE can pull out great amounts of micro-details from tracks, the treble region never strays towards sibilance though it tends towards a neutral-bright affair. Compared to the original HE1000, the HE1000SE has a more disciplined treble which is more refined and extensive in its delivery. The quality of treble is amongst the best in headphones I have listened to and certainly outstanding in the arena of planars. This is aided by the soundstage height that the HE1000SE outputs which along with the treble characteristics provide a very compelling listen.
Owing to improved efficiency of the HE1000SE’s new model, HiFiMAN claim easier drivability with the headphones capably being driven out of DAPs and laptops.
Schiit Audio Gungnir Multibit and Mjolnir 2 Amp
Schiit Audio’s Gungnir Multibit and Mjolnir 2 combination has served me well over the years with its versatility and organic tone. For one, it pairs very well the HE1000SE and crafts a multi-layered delineation of sound while also adding a touch of euphonic timbre which work well with the decisively clean HE1000SE sound. Balanced input would be the most recommended input here as soundstage opens up with better instrument separation and overall dynamics.
Schiit Audio Yggdrasil 2 and Ragnarok Amp
While the Yggdrasil 2 is nothing short of magnificent in its detail retrieval and overall sound, paired with the Ragnarok the overall combination does lean more towards an analytical sound. For that reason, the cheaper Gumby and Mjolnir 2 combination offers a more musical sound without compromising on transparency that the HE1000SE revels on.
Schiit Audio Yggdrasil and MicroZOTL 2.0 Amp
The liquid tonality of the MicroZOTL 2.0 amp offers a unique approach to tube solutions. Paired with the HE1000SE, the HE1000SE’s speed coupled with the slightly softened leading edge transients of the MicroZOTL’s tubes make for an addictive sound.
Lotoo PAW 6000 Digital Audio Player
True to its word, the HE1000SE is sufficiently driven out of this compact audio player. Though the soundstage is not as large as from a desktop offering, it offers a capable listen by retaining the HE1000SE’s passion for details, speed and dynamics.
DethonRay Prelude DTR1 Digital Audio Player
Even more compact then the Lotoo PAW 6000, the Prelude outputs more power than its former Chinese competitor. Paired with the HE-1000SE, macro-dynamics are heightened with more sense of immediacy and pace. However, the Prelude conveys a more intimate sense of stage compared to both the Lotoo PAW 6000 and desktop companions.
The Soundstage & Imaging
As with all HE1000 series of headphones, the soundstage is demonstrably expansive. Relatively speaking, the HE-1000 V2 offers the largest width while the HE1000SE offers a middle ground between the original HE1000’s and the V2’s staging. Owing to the ear-cup design, the HE1000 series of headphones offer a remarkable height which contribute to the unique soundscape.
As expected, instrument separation is nothing short of world-class and is even better with the new HE1000SE headphones. While the HE1000 V2’s staging was slightly airier and more diffuse, the HE1000SE offers better pinpoint localisation of vocals and instruments likely owing to its better resolution and vividness.
Just when the HE1000 V2 edition came along, it seemed like nothing could top its illustrious sound. However, Fang Bian’s approach of pushing boundaries and seeking perfection has culminated in the next-gen HE1000SE model which captures the essence of the flagship Susvara sound while retaining elements of HEK approach. Marrying outstanding looks with fantastic sound, it is no wonder that the high-end planar model is priced at a dear $3499. Having said that, it is unlikely that the target demographic would place value at the forefront of decision making. Hence, for those that seek the very best in sound should consider the HE1000SE as a likely companion to challenge conventional audio reproduction. While the HE1000SE capitalises on soundstage, instrument separation and technicalities, those that gravitate towards a cosy more vocal-centric tuning should consider ZMF’s Verité Open and Closed-back editions. However, the HE1000SE’s more grandiose and detailed characteristics aligns itself towards those who listen to orchestral, classical and multi-instrumental pop genres. Combined with the build, design and technical prowess, this is a highly recommended purchase …
HE1000se Planar Headphones