Intro and basic sound observations
One thing I like about the Jade II is the ease of listening: they are truly a pleasure to listen to. I have been able to listen to these all day with no issues.
I feel the Jade II has a special presentation one analogy example if you are familiar with speakers, I would say the Jade II has a high end omnidirectional loudspeaker type of presentation. You know if you’ve ever been in a room with a high end omnidirectional loudspeaker – the sound is effortless and sounds good wherever you are in the room – they are not overly analytical – the aim is for them to just sound natural and good wherever you are. So there’s no stressing or having to sit in the middle of the room on your listening chair just for the sound to sound nice or have to waste your time adjusting speaker positioning in your room for them to sound good or even needing room correction.
If I was to continue this analogy, I would say the Jade II has a mix between a high end omnidirectional speaker and a high end electrostatic speaker as the imaging is in between the two. So you would kind of get a mix between the imaging of a great electrostatic headphone and an omnidirectional speaker.
It has the presentation where you would never over analyse the sound – you kind of just switch off all of that and just enjoy the music without the stresses and distractions an audiophile would get with the typical analytical headgear, where they would think and test more than listen to music.
Another thing I like about the Jade II system is there isn’t any worries with having to pair the headphones with an amplifier it comes with a nice amp and the full package is competitively priced which is a bonus.
Aesthetics & Build Ergonomics
They are comfortable in various ways, first; they are very light and fit my head really well. I am pleased that the newer headphones from HIFIMAN fit me well. Even without the swivel on the headband system like some of the other HIFIMAN of headphones. I have tried the SUNDARA, ANANDA, and the HE6se. they all fit nicely and feel comfortable. I seem to favour the bigger headphones more, meaning the style of the HE1000, ANANDA, Jade II, etc.
I have to say the Jade II is just as comfortable as the ANANDA, likely even more because they are lighter – I have almost forgotten they were on my head at times
Audio quality – Comparisons
Comparison with the HE6se
Both headphones have similarities in some build aspects, the headband system is identical if you take into consideration the headphone size differences. The pads are also similar in most of the design apart from the sizing. That being said, they are both comfortable!! The HE6se has come leaps and miles since a stock HE6 – I can now wear the HE6se for multiple hours at a time where I couldn’t do this with the stock HE6.
When you put them against each other, there will only be one winner comfort wise – the Jade II wins hands down – they have to be one of the most comfortable headphones out there!! Its feels like nothing at times, they are so light! I could easily listen to these all day long and I have done occasionally.
Infected Mushroom – Army of Mushrooms – Track 12: The Messenger 2012 (speed test) my friend (Ithilstone) showed me this track for testing the capabilities of our HE6’s – On the HE6se it was great–fast transients highly dynamic and visceral which renders a great three-dimensional presentation, punchy when it calls for it and the bass goes deep with a nice amount of sub bass. Imaging is just great! Highs are present and detailed without harshness. The amp I used for the HE6 is my beast (XA30.8)
I was wowed when testing the Jade II on how well it did, just as I mentioned earlier the Jade II has unique staging signature which is great – It was a superb listen, I put this track on specifically to do the listening comparison / test with the HE6se and the funny thing is that I kept drifting away into my world of music and forgetting that I had to analyse the music, it’s a good job it’s a 10min track so I could get back on track in time to make an assessment (not that I wasn’t able to recall the track) It’s just that I don’t think the headphones a made for that overly analytical music analysing. I find them a carefree listening experience.
On the listen I found the Jade II not only kept up to the fast and complicated sections of the track it excelled – the share speed of the Jade II is a joy; it effortlessly could render fast transients of the music with authority and elegance. The bass was fast, had the punch when it needed it but was never overlay punchy or in your face. It could make you aware of the excitement of the track all with no fatigue. The highs were airy and articulate but not over animated. The dynamics were really nice! – all presented in the Jade II’s unique sound bubble.
I would say the Jade II has the faster transient speed than the HE6se – generally you can’t compete with Electrostats in that regard, But the HE6se has the deeper sub bass and is more dynamic when it comes to bass. There is HE6se is more visceral in the presentation and for this track gets you right into the energy of the track. Some people don’t like that presentation in a headphone, the Jade II is a perfect alternative option.
With the right amplifier the HE6se renders images and soundstage more similar to the HIFIMAN Planer Dynamics Susvara or the other Electrostatic Headphones like the Shangri La Jr and Senior (of course the Shangri La Senior is in its own league). I would say the amplifier used with the HE6se has a lot to do with that – you see the HE6se scales well with gear. That being said, the Jade II still has some other similarities to the Shangri La Senior – the way it’s non fatiguing, natural and effortlessness to listen to are all traits that the Senior and the Jade II has.
The Jade II also scales nicely with gear. I have tried the Jade II Headphones with the other HIFIMAN amplifiers and you get transparency, dynamics imaging improvements with every jump.
It could be seen that the HE6se comparisons are a little unfair – they are driven by amps which cost more than both the Jade II Headphone with the Jade II Amplifier.
The Pass Labs XA30.8 and the Pass Labs XA25 are high-end low wattage speaker amplifiers that I have in-house and as an amplifier builder, I have also built the First Watt F6 and F7 you see I am a little crazy for amping the HE6’s!! (these headphones has specific amping requirements for the headphones to open up and sound their best)
High current low wattage speaker amplifiers has been the go to for driving these HIFIMAN range of harder to drive headphones: HE6, HE6se or the Susvara, you see there are headphone amps out there which can do a good job with the HE6’s or the Susvara but they truly shine with the right speaker amp.
I’d say it’s all about the effortless nature you get when listening to these headphones when they are correctly amped. You definitely hear the magic.
Now with the Jade II system there isn’t any worries – you get an amplifier which is design just for the headphones itself, that simple. Don’t be concerned with anything else just connect a nice DAC and you good to go! No need to search high and low for the perfect matching amplifier you already have it.
Can the Jade II sound better with a different amplifier? Yes, but ask yourself this question? How much with that other amplifier cost? I haven’t seen such a good Electrostatic Headphone System package deal of this sound quality.
For those camera lovers around it’s a little similar to using a good camera with the kit lens, no matter how good the kit lens is. You are still in for a treat in terms of future upgrades.
The downside is that it can get pricey for some lens upgrades. You may just prefer a simple life and find one of the few good cameras out there with a real nice kit lens, no need to upgrade the lens as you can take some stunning pictures right away! Happy Days! – no need to stress and go down a never-ending rabbit hole. The option is always there to look into other lenses later on.
So just like that the Jade II system is a superb system alone but you could always explore other amping at a later date.
For example – I recently attended The UK Hi-Fi Show Live 2019 – Ascot. HIFIMAN was there in full effect!! They had all their gear to listen to, it was a great weekend. I checked out all the electrostatic headphones and amps this is when I did my system tests.
I even checked out the ifi audio stack comprising: the Pro iDSD, Pro iCAN and the Pro iESL the (electrostatic extension) I was able to do a comparison of the Susvara and the Jade II both on the same system! That was crazy.
See Trev (Takeanidea) having a good listen 🙂
The stack system wasn’t cheap but you could mix and match to your needs. That being said both the Jade II and the Susvara sounded great on ifi audio stack.
Audio quality – Comparisons
Quick comparison with my HD800s
For this comparison, I did a track from Gregory Porter.
Album: Nat “king” Cole and Me – Track 2 – Smile
Jade II renders the music so nice, vocals are natural, textured and clean, with no artificial grain coming from the amplifier. The instruments appear natural and I can pick out each note as they come in. They render the strings with fluidity and preciseness, the plucking of the harp and the beginning of the track is just great along with the violins.
The London Studio Orchestra recorded the track with Gregory Porter. I have been lucky enough to catch Gregory Porter live at the Royal Albert Hall, and he performed the song with The London Orchestra. I definitely get a similar joyful experience listening to this track on the Jade II.
I get small glimmers of flashbacks from my experience listening to Gregory Porter and classical music on the original Sennheiser Orpheus years back (it was a great experience) This great headphone also had a slight warmth to the sound, and the vocals was the most natural vocals I heard until that point of time.
My HD800 have been slightly modded – It has the inner lining cover removed and has sheep felt over the inner metal ring section to eliminate reflections which would cause the typical HD800 6k spike.
The amplifier used is an amplifier I have built myself, and I have developed it specifically for my HD800. This is not a typical headphone amplifier driving the HD800. In my experience I have never been entirely happy with the HD800 driven with 95% of the amps which I’ve heard with them – I feel they suit other headphones better. I feel the HD800 is just as picky as my HE6 to sound their best. The amplifier I am using is a high voltage but low current amplifier which give the HD800 exactly what they need. I have brought along my HD800 to so much events and shows and my mission was to find a good amp match, which I had no luck with so I built my own. (It’s not as easy as it sounds – It took me a year to get the amp sounding this good with the HD800)
Seriously, this amp is the best I’ve ever heard the HD800’s and some of my head-fi friends who have listened to my setup have agreed. If you think the HD800 are harsh or lack bass – you have just not heard them on my amplifier – and the thing is the amplifier does not give the headphones extra warmth or is boosted in base, it is dead neutral – but just give the headphones what it needs power wise which allows the headphone to operate as they should.
With the same track and the HD800
Everything is super accurate in terms of soundstage imaging and positional cues, etc. I could hear more detail with my amp and the HD800, the dynamics where great, the vocals and instrument separation were top-notch. After doing A-B tests, I feel the HD800 lack some magic which I get from the Jade II.
I think it is all to do with the speed transients which give the Jade a life like naturalness with the rendering of the sound. Even though my amp could get more details and the HD800 could present the details – I think the effortlessness nature of the sound from the Jade II is where the magical pleasing aspects comes from.
Much like the Jade II the HD800 is extremely comfortable – I could happily listen to either headphone for hours upon end with no comfort issues or listening fatigue.
Jade II Electrostatic Headphone and Amplifier
I would say for me they are the perfect all day long headphone – I have worked in the office all day listening to the Jade II system and they fit in so well – not only is it an all in one system minus the DAC, so no need to worry about getting a separate amplifier. The system is very neat and would easily fit on my desk, or on a small cabinet below my desk.
One of the golden highlights for this system is that the sound isn’t in your face and it’s not fatiguing one bit – it has such a nice presentation it doesn’t get in the way. As a graphic design I’m sat down on the computer a lot, with some headphones It can be difficult for me to concentrate and be creative if I’m listening to music. I would get distracted and even analyse the music, which would hamper my creative work flow. With the Jade II, this isn’t the case. I would just sit back relax and work away with great concentration. I feel like quality background music helps my concentration, and it seems like the day goes by even quicker.
I would leave some of my other headphones for critical listening times: evenings or weekends. The Jade II is for anytime!