Introducing Version 3 of HiFiMan’s HE1000
And in they come with stealth magnets for the 1000s. HiFiMan are interfering with a truly cherished headphone! First of all, let me justify this lofty comment. The HE1000 – this is the one – this is the striking design, the mega hyped teardrop Planar that offered to knock the HD800 off it’s pedestal, the one that we all wanted, before it came to market, because we KNEW that Fang (CEO and Genius behind HiFiMan) was on to something. I cannot begin to tell you how much I wanted to get hold of one of these headphones! The unveiling happened at CanJam London in 2015. I was part of the volunteer staff, a job I have been doing for many years now. I was placed on the front table for Saturday afternoon by Ethan, which meant I would be able to take a look around for the start of the show. Needless to say, I got up early…. I was at the start of the queue and got to HiFiMan before anyone else. I am not ashamed to say that I was shaking when I saw that the stand had several HE1000 V1s. This was the scoop of the show – have no doubt about it. I was about to hear for myself what the fuss was all about. Even back then, I was the owner of several pretty posh headphones; an early HD800 and an Audeze LCD2.2 were among them. Despite this, the anticipation was high, the tension electric. The HE1000 did not disappoint. I was enthralled, envious and wistful – 3 powerful emotional reactions in almost as many seconds. Believe me when I say that THIS was THE headphone that every headfier wanted. I set my heart on a draw that Headfi did – the top prize was an HE1000. It was a hopeless dream. I convinced myself that I could win this. If I did succeed, of course, no question, I would sacrifice my soul at whatever crossroads the devil ordered me to head to, or never do a bad thing again, or ANYTHING in fact that it took to put a pair of those in my hands. I’m not proud! Or at least, not back then.
My journey has brought me many incredible experiences in the Audio World. I have heard them all; the Shangri La Snr – the finest headphone system ever made, and a headphone that was in my comany for 4 unforgettable months; a morning at Harrods with the Sennheiser HE1 – the 3rd finest headphone system ever made, and several other listens to said heapdhone and amp. The Sennheiser Orpheus, serial number 001, before that particular headphone was cruelly stolen from the back of a vehicle at an audio show. I have listened to the Orpheus and it’s exquisite effortlessness for a grand total of 60 minutes, over a course of 3 listens, and I know that I am extremely fortunate to have done all these things. Let me tell you; that listen to the HE1000 ranks with those moments. If you share this hobby with the passion I have, then I know that you can relate.
So what was/is so special about the HE1000? The sound – the most important part of an audio product always being whether what comes out is digestible after all, is world class. The HE1000 has a character to it’s sound. The personality is that of a smooth operator. A rich, tonal sound that has enough width to awe and enough presence to ground you, without the edginess or artificiality of some of it’s competitors. A striking teardrop design that dared to rest the earpad against the cheekbone was/is a strange sensation that takes some getting used to. To add to the uncompromising appearance of this bright new star was a 2 part headband. With 1 part leather resting against the head, the metal piece that holds this in place makes the HE1000 look like a curious crown. Obviously far nicer than a crown, but there it is. For the non believers you could be accused of looking rather eccentric. For you and I, we know beyond a shadow of doubt that every millimetre of the HE1000 cannot be compromised. Therefore, we don’t care what they all think. We wear it loud (cos it’s incredibly open) and proud.
I have been so lucky to have HiFiMan products sent to me over the years. Not all have been a success, not all have made me wowed. But….in the main, the HiFiMan sound, for me, as a discerning reviewer, is the signature that will deliver music in a way that can be enjoyed in pretty much every area of the market, and for full size Planar Headphones, they boss it. The HE1000, as much as I adored them, have been bettered. The HE1000SE, owned by myself, and the Susvara, of which I have a pair, have pushed Planar tech even further. And that’s not forgetting what they can do with Electrostats, particularly the Shangri La Jnr and Snr. The HE1000 is the one that started it all. Let us not forget that. I am lucky to have acquired 1 of the HE1000 V1’s. Would you expect any less, dear reader? Let us now take a look at the 3 different versions.
V1 – the start of it all. V1 needs 2.5mm terminations and is not particularly sensitive. It has the teardrop shape, a nanometer thick diaphragm and a veneer covered earcup. The pads are not thick. The earcup width and the earpads combined put the driver mesh very close to the ear when worn. There were a few murmurs about this which led to the V2 – a version which added thicker earpads made with better materials and a thinner earcup design, which attempts to marry the same sound stage with a less claustraphobic feel. Not that I have a problem with my V1s, but yes, the V2s were worth doing and do improve on the issues raised by the one that started it all. And now, 8 years on, we have arrived at a V3, and this one IS different.
From 2015 to 2023. This is how long is has taken for HiFiMan to dare to radically change the HE1000. I can only speculate as to why it has taken so long, other than for the obvious, commercial reasons, but the HE1000 has been given the Stealth Magnet treatment. Given that this trickle down tech, first introduced with the Susvara Flagship, I have been expecting this for some time now. I have been sent a set of HE1000 V3 by HiFiMan – no palms have been greased, no platitudes demanded, simply my opinion to be brought to you through this medium and in the spirit of honesty and integrity.
What does a stealth magnet do to a HiFiMan headphone? I have a few, as is evident in my reviews of Susvara, HE400, Sundara Closed, and Arya. There are 3 differences I have found in every Stealth Version when compared to the original. The bass changes it’s shape. The bass has more presence. It forces the listener to sit up and take notice; it is no longer a passenger – it is the vehicle. Expect more sub bass and more bass slam with a stealth magnet. The second is that sounds are closer to the ear. The width is pushed slightly in, creating a less airy sound. The 3rd is that, in each case the sound appears louder at the same volume than it’s older sibling. Whether this is an inevitable consequence of the stealth magnet is somthing I am not 100% sure about, and I will leave that to discussions from people that have thrown their hats into the ring and are willing to fight it out in engineering terms. Does the V3 have the same characteristics? More importantly – is the V3 an improvement on the non Stealth? If you’re expecting a V2 to arrive in the post, what should you do if you get a V3 Stealth Edition? Fear not, dear reader. I shall provide you with all the answers in this next paragraph.
This is a radical change for the HE1000. The Stealth Magnets did things to the sound in exactly the way I have alluded to in the previous revisions of the Arya, Sundara and HE400 Headphones. The HE1000 V3 IS different from the 1 and 2 version. It is still an HE1000. The wide sound is still there, just slightly less. The forgiving nature of the signature, which allows lo fi and older to be heard in a lovingly nostalgic way is still there, albeit with just a smidgeon less compromise. The V3 needs plenty of power, but perhaps not so much as it’s predecessors. The Stealth Magnets have given a less airy feel to the HE1000. They are still smooth. There is a tonal richness that still remains, but there are elements of being closer to the micro effects, there are more edges to the sound brought about by the magnets, that were previously smoothed off and polished. The boldness of the low end response is, of course, the 1st thing that anyone coming from an original HE1K will notice. One could be forgiven for thinking that the overall sound has been compromised at the expense of producing bass slam when listening to the 2 side by side for a few seconds. In reality, the balance of producing bass without destroying the qualities of the HE1000 can be evidenced – it just needs a little time and reflection for it all to sink in. The Stealth Magnet does make for a technically better sound, retaining some of the character that gave the HE1K it’s reputation but adding an easier to drive, more linear signature. It is not an easy thing to mess with a tried and tested design. The bass on a non stealth magnet HiFiMan never really seemed like it was missing much, did it? However, Planars are renowned for the mids and highs and are often thought of as lacking the slam of a dynamic driver, so why shouldn’t you be able to have all 3? Think of the new HE1K as being the old one, but with more bass, and, give or take some minor points, you have, in summary, my description of the Stealth HE1000. If you ordered the old one and, knowing nothing about this new one, end up with the Stealth version, and come across this article in a desperate search for the truth, or you are sat on the fence and wondering which one to get, here is my advice. No one likes change. Like the passing of the seasons and turning of the tide, everything changes, and everything has to change. It takes time to come to terms with change. Live with them for a while. You will love them.