The HiFiMan HE-560 Planar Magnetic Headphone
Editors Note: This is a headphone that just didn't quite do it for me, but I also knew that it would be a dandy headphone for those whose tastes run more towards the brighter side than mine. Fortunately, ljokerl, InnerFidelity's IEM reviewer and editor at The Headphone List, has tastes that bend in that direction. When I heard that ljokerl had a pair and liked them, I asked him if he would write a review for InnerFidelity. Woot! Here's his thoughts on the HE-560!
HiFiMAN HE-560 ($899)
I bought my first HiFiMan earphones in 2009, back when the IEM market was dominated by pricy armature-powered models from the likes of Shure and Ultimate Ears. HiFiMan (Head-Direct at the time) earphones were a breath of fresh air, providing clean, well-balanced sound without the cost or complexity of their competitors courtesy of well-tuned dynamic drivers. I've covered two generations of them in my time here at InnerFidelitythe RE262/272 and the RE-400/600.
Over the years, the company's lineup expanded well beyond earphones, but I hadn't managed to get my hands on a HiFiMan headphone until the HE-560 came along. This full-size, open-back can uses Planar Magnetic drivers and costs right around $900a price tag that hardly screams value, and yet is a few hundred bucks shy of many flagship headphones (HiFiMan's own HE-6 included).
The HE-560 is a headphone for the headphone lover, billed as a lighter and more comfortable planar magnetic set. It is not a flawlessly polished retail product like the OPPO PM-1, but there is a raw, purposeful character to its design that I quite like.
It is a good-looking headphone, finished in a dark wood grain with flat black accents. You don't get much in the way of extras for $899, howeverjust the headphones, a cable, and a wood storage box with a sliding lid. The headband uses a suspended design with a metal outer band, and the forks are plastic. The dual-sided cable is detachable and utilizes coaxial connectors. The cups rotate a full 180 degrees, which is good for storage and transport as well as wearing comfort.
The main upside of the no-frills construction is that the HE-560 is quite lightweight. Like the OPPO headphones, the Audeze line, and most HiFiMan sets, it is built around Planar Magnetic drivers, not conventional moving-coil (dynamic) transducers (see the Wisdom Audio white paper here and Tyll's article here for an in-depth look at Planar Magnetic technology). Suffice it to say that PM drivers can perform on a very high level but using them can result in a heavier headphone. The weight of both my OPPO PM-1 and the LCD-series Audeze sets I've tried can be felt after some hours.
The HE-560, on the other hand, is light for its size. This, together with the suspended headband design and freely pivoting earcups, lays the foundation for a very comfortable headphone. The final element in the equation are the pads. In the case of my HE-560, they are a hybrid velour+leather design dubbed "Focus A". These breathe moderately wellnot quite up there with the Sennheiser velour pads, but better compared to the pads on the LCD-2 and PM-1. The HE-560 earpads are more heavily bolstered at the back and keep the headphone well-positioned despite its slightly higher (compared to the PM-1 and LCD-2) clamping force. The result of all this is a very comfortable headphone, equal for me to Sennheiser's HD600.
Now, on to the sound.