HIFIMAN HE1000se Headphone Review

Raise your hand if you’re a sucker for slick industrial design mixed with luxurious accents of leather and chrome.

I’ve got two hands up because this could mean not only headphones, but hi-fi, motorcycles, automobiles or watches – all things in which I value style, performance and most of all; the improvement to the quality of life these objects can bring when you enjoy what it is they’re built to beautifully translate (music for example with hi-fi or headphones) rather than merely coveting them for being nothing more than objects.

I’ve encountered enough people who identify as ‘audiophile’ or ‘headphone-centric’ who could care less about enjoying music in this hobby and only focus on hardware specifics, frequency-response minutiae or gear comparisons. To each their own, but there’s a lot more to music reproduction and playback that is social and spiritually enriching for me. YMMV.

Solidly built and beautifully-finished hard case for the HE1000se.

When it comes to spiritual satisfaction for listening through open-backed planar-magnetic headphones, HIFIMAN has been a favourite of mine the last couple years. They’ve been on the leading edge of upper-echelon technical/wearable over-ear designs, especially since the HE1000 hit shelves. The latest iteration of the model is the HE1000se (Special Edition, $3,499 USD) which is the subject of this review. I’ve encountered some who are not as enthusiastic about their looks as I am, but I don’t think they’d be out of place on display at MOMA in New York; they’re wearable art as far as I’m concerned. The extra-large asymmetrical ear cups offer a fulsome, relaxed clamp, over-ear seal even with my jug handles, and at 440 grams – 160g less than the Audeze LCD-4z I cherish – they sit very comfortably for long listening sessions with their wide, perforated leather headband doing a better-than-commendable job of distributing pressure evenly. If you have a tiny head, these ear cups may feel overly-large, but on me (I’m 6-foot, two-inches) they fit perfectly. Add in the fact that they are convincing almost without fault in their aural and spatial presentation and the HE1000se starts to grow on you very quickly.

Graceful and comfortable.

Build and design

The HE1000se is built almost as if it was a generational piece – meant to be passed on to one’s children – not just a statement one. The construction, like only the best of design can be, is simple, elegant, striking and exudes a bespoke nature. I love the ‘window shade’ design of the driver grilles. Despite its relatively light weight the 1000se feels substantial the way only alloy, wood and leather can; it reminds me of an aerospace component with its CNC-milled shape and hand-polished finish. It makes one pause to admire the measure that went into its chassis layout – simplicity does that in my experience. Examining the detente mechanism, one sees how straightforward, yet effective and secure it is, how it does not leave surface marks despite many repeated slides for adjustment. It is inherent details such as these which separate class leaders at any price point in my opinion.

Attention to detail.

The driver yolks have a viscous feel to their movement, not simply free – in both the pivot axis – which contributes to the overall sense of an engineered product. The base of the driver chassis holds a reinforced 3.5mm user-replaceable connector for cable swaps and has a very satisfying, heavy-duty click to let you know you’ve got a secure insertion. My HE1000se shipped with two detachable cables; a 90-degree 3.5mm single-ended termination with 6.35mm adapter and a 4.4mm balanced pentacon plug. The cables are a milky-translucent soft rubber that doesn’t bind over what appears to be heavy-duty braided or Litz copper.

Soft, non-binding and easy to fold into a pocket. The cables provided with the 1000se.

Featuring a planar-magnetic open-back configuration with a diaphragm listed as one nanometer thick, the HE1000se is equipped with HIFIMAN’s newest shaped-neodymium magnets which were developed to present a smaller surface area “dramatically reducing wave diffraction turbulence.” This, the company says, degrades the sound. The unique magnet-design implementation makes the drivers “faster and more dynamic than ever before, with even greater levels of detail and lower distortion than previous iterations. But perhaps most significantly, these powerful magnets also make the headphone much more efficient…” How much more efficient? The engineers managed to goose it from 91dB to 96dB, yet retain the same 35 Ohm impedance and 8Hz~65kHz frequency response of the award-winning HE 1000 V2 ($2,999 USD), which in the real world translates into making the 1000se reasonably mobile-friendly for those who would take it on the road.

One nanometer thick planar-magnetic drivers behind 'Window Shade' grilles..


Simply Nobody's picture

May be a comparison review with the Audeze LCD MX-4 ($3,000), if possible? :-) ..........

Sith Overlord's picture

Maybe this has been asked before, but are there plans to accompany these reviews with measurements at some point?

Rafe Arnott's picture
... the hope. But it's been delayed several times in its implementation. I can't give a firm answer yet, but believe me, as soon as I know, everyone on the site will know.
Simply Nobody's picture

May be Rafe could review the new Warwick Audio Aperio electrostatic headphone system with matching hi-res capable headphone amplifier ($24,000)? :-) .........

Skycyclepilot's picture

Took me a year to save up and buy the plain Arya headset, so this headset is financially out of the question, but the Arya owes much to the HE1000 line. They aren't made of those beautiful, exotic materials used in the HE1000se, but the drivers are very similar.

I'd love to read an article comparing all the members of the He1000 line.

allhifi's picture

Rafe: A wonderful review that keyed-in on essential elements of premium hi-fi products.

Namely that of 'tonal' accuracy and transparency. It's only sensible that premium hi-fi/SOTA hi-fi reah for that ah-so-rare combination of accuracy-transparency and natural tonal colors/hues.

Additionally, striking micro/macro dynamics with articulate, nuanced signal reproduction also contributes significantly to SOTA/Premium performance status. Add impressive layering/staging and the listener has a 'complete' surreal picture of the music event -as recorded.

These are important SQ distinctions that requires ones attention; anything but the qualities noted above suggest product 'colorations', and that can be found in abundant supply in (far) lower priced hi-fi gear.

Also correctly pointed out (yet not spoken to ever enough) is the incredibly vital contribution to SQ by amplification and cabling -not to forget AC power source/supply contributions.

The following comments you made in this review were so good -so important- it deserves another go:


" ...As a preface and without hype, the HE1000se presents what I would consider to be one of the largest sound stages ....

"...Its ability to present a realistic aural picture in critical areas of reproduction such as lifelike mass and spatial-presence projection in the X,Y and Z-axis of vocalists, musicians, back-up singers and instruments allows the listener to stray dangerously close to a suspension of disbelief during playback – especially as you climb the ladder of quality in your source."

"With a nod more to neutrality than warmth regardless of source pairing – and texture-rich timbral and tonal color – the HE1000se can be tuned to your liking by feeding it with an appropriate amp/DAC that is inline with subjective tastes." (INDEED)

" ...I like neutral, fast and transparent, but I also gravitate towards transducers that do not sacrifice warmth in a recording for transparency.

"I know from experience that the two are not mutually exclusive in two-channel hi-fi or personal audio, but they are not an easy achievement to combine on the first go."
(SO, SO TRUE, BOTH 'qualities' are possible, not easily attained, yet represent and distinguish the best from the rest.)

" ..And just like musical taste, yours is more likely to be different than mine, so YMMV listening to the HIFIMAN through the gear I chose...."

A very nicely articulated review.


Rafe Arnott's picture
I really appreciate the feedback. We do our best! Cheers
allhifi's picture

Mr. Arnott: Thank you !

The industry (readers/audiophiles specifically) would be served far better if there were more of 'you' (communicative expertise types) offering genuine insight.

peter jasz

(P.S> Do the, Hifiman HE-1000se -or Edition X V2 blow-away my beloved HFM 400i's ? Be honest -give it to me straight! lol)