I received a loaner of the HE-R10P on Sunday; I did a few good hours of listening yesterday; I have some of my first impressions. 

With listening to the HE-R10, you get a type of presentation that reminds me of an instrument – the way an instrument can enhance the sound. The wood cups definitely do something magical, like how a high-end speaker design, guitar or piano can be musical. Working with the notes/tones to deliver acoustically, sounds that works with the music rather than take anything away. 

Bass is fast tight and has a slight warmth which I feel you get from the wood reverberation and acoustics. Vocal and mids are great – I can easily pick out subtle nuances, details, textures in the vocals. 

Staging is nice! I’ll break it down twice for different powered amps. 

On a standard powered desktop amp (not crazy powerful) or powerful portable – you will get a lovely soundstage and great imaging. It’s kind of in your lovely personal bubble of music (sorry I’ve got bubble on my mind recently) with the bass, separate instruments and sound in the centre in front of you, the imaging gets to if you can imagine where your ears and neck is, the width can be wide on some tracks, but most of the sound is in front. I like this for listening while doing other things like working, drawing or even typing this little write up. It feels personal. 

If I were to compare the HE6 (4 screw modded) I have all the iterations of the HE6 and they all sound slightly different. (HE6 collector in the room) This HE6 has similar staging to the HE-R10 as it’s more in front and central than my HE6 (6 screw modded) or Susvara. These open backs has a bigger soundstage as you could imagine, but they are also amped with the appropriate powered amps, not saying the HE-R10 wasn’t amped appropriately, it was. 

So how about if I drive the HE-R10 with a more powerful desktop amp? well the staging presentation is similar but it just gets bigger, not only in front and to the side of your ears. You now get the picture bigger in all directions with your bubble growing to behind your head as well. Closer to the Susvara presentation but still with the HE-R10s uniqueness with your personal bubble of music. 

Dynamics are superb the HE-R10 is capable of within an instant, rendering a soft pluck on a harp to a heavy thump of drums. The share speed of the driver movement is super fast – reminds me of the Susvara. It has a unique type of grunt which the Susvara has when delivering fast details transients. Its great with attack when the track requires it. Something the HE6 is brilliant at in its unique way, but the HE-R10 brings it to you closer to the way the Susvara brings it but with the HE-R10 warm subtle bass bloom overtone. 

One thing which is outstanding with the HE-R10 is the clarity! It’s even easier to hear subtle nuances and absolute focus than the Susvara. It highlights this if they’re both driven on a powerful desktop amplifier. The Susvara would need a more powerful amp like a high quality low wattage class A speaker amp like a First Watt or Pass Labs amp for it to shine to its full potential. With the unique way the HE-R10 renders the scene of the music, one can still possibly perceive more clarity in the imaging and staging. Yes, the whole stage is more small and intimate, but this allows you to keep track of all the elements of the music – things moving around, voices and each individual instrument. Also, something I have learn’t from my modding of the HE6’s over the years, I’ve learnt a lot recently with my latest mods that dampening is very important to clarity and pinpoint accuracy. My latest mod to the original HE6s includes removing the drivers completely and dampening the cups completely, so it’s no longer holo plastic cups. The gaps have sorbothane rubber inserted. Then the drivers go back in with more dampening with blu tack.

The results would blow your mind with the improvements to clarity – the HE6s no longer need anything to reduce resonance from the highs. Basically, because the HE6 is so visceral when driven correctly, the driver moves and vibrates, which creates distortion (the harsh highs). The dampening which I did removes this distortion and gives a much more accurate presentation in terms of highs (never harsh anymore) the bass is tighter and the staging is more front and centred, with a lot more clarity. 

The HE-R10 has this extra clarity compared to the Susvara, I feel it is to do with the dampening from the wooden cups. The highs are very neutral – not harsh, just detailed with a type of pinpoint-ness to notes if the track requires, like a note would jump out at you. It’s more of my modded HE6 tone to the highs, which I would say is dead neutral without harshness. The Susvara has a softer tone to the highs. Imagine if the highs were a shade, it’ll be slightly off white – a little warmer white. HE-R10 and my modded HE6 would be white T-shirt white, with the texture of the fabric visible (not blown out). 

Sound leakage is a lot better than the HIFIMAN open backs – you get some leakage possibly from the pads, as they are a similar design to the Susvara or DEVA. Also, there isn’t any clamping force which I like for comfort reasons.