Hifiman HE-500

The HE500 is a planar headphone made by Hifiman that got discontinued a few years ago. It was meant as a baby HE6, their power-hungry flagship at that time, and even named HE6-P (for portable) before they rename it to HE500. It’s part of the old line of Hifiman headphones : HE5, HE5LE, HE6, HE4, HE400.
It’s quite heavy (over 500g) and a bit clunky, with stiff velour pads, but weirdly, comfort never really bothered me. Needs an amplifier to work because of rather low sensitivity.

○ Release : 2011
○ Current status : Discontinued
○ Type : Over-ear / Open-back
○ Measured weight : 542g
○ Impedance : 50 Ohms
○ Sensitivity : ~86.9 dB/mW
○ Average used price : $300-400

Sound Impression

When I first heard the HE500, i was really impressed for the price -used- and liked them a lot over the months. They were my favorite sub-$500 headphone. They sound very balanced, though definitely on the warmer side of “neutral”. But after some time, I started to notice minor things that annoyed me more and more.

Bass is solid with excellent extension, easily below 30hz, with pleasing amont of slam, without overpowering the lower-mids. It’s just a bit too loose sometimes, not having the tightness of some great dynamic or planar headphones (or even electrostatic). Midrange is linear, maybe a small recession around 1-3 khz but not too distracting ; mids still sound full with good tone.

Treble is not up to the bass and mids. To be honest, I find the treble a bit too unrefined, sometimes veiled, still with correct extension and sparkle. Pad-rolling help for tonal balance and treble, I am ok with stock velour pads, but not with pleather or focus pads, for example. Some pads from other brands (ZMF, Mrspeakers, Dekoni) are good alternatives.

Soundstage is wide enough but feeling of clarity and openness definitely not so great, because of the unrefined treble. Sound presentation has some punch and good dynamics but far from the HE6, and decay is rather quick as it’s often the case with others Hifiman and planars.

I easily recommend the HE500 for the price they go today. Doing some pad swapping or modding them to make them sound even better and you get one of the best headphones I’ve heard for less than $500. Average build quality and heavy weight might annoy some people though. The Verum One is my other favorite planar in the sub-500$ segment, with superior build, comfort, easier to drive but slightly worse tonality than the HE500 (personal tastes).

Measurements & Resources

Dead flat from 30hz to 1khz, as it should be expected with a planar. Upper-mids and low-treble are a bit recessed, but not as much as an Audeze LCD. The 9-10 khz peak is partially emphasized by Tyll’s measurement rig. I was never bothered by any treble peak with the HE500.


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