Hifiman Edition XS

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by atkhan, Dec 8, 2021.

  1. atkhan

    atkhan Rando

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    I don't see a thread for these here so I'm going to post some stuff. I didn't see one - if anyone can correct me if I'm duplicating, otherwise I'll just go right ahead.

    I've put down my review with some background here:

    So, a little BACKGROUND first:

    I'd heard the Hifiman Edition X a looooooong time ago (prob 2016ish) and was really like... wow. But it was out of my [wallet's] league. Couple of years down and we're graced with the presence of the Massdrop x Hifiman Edition XX. I wanted to take a bite so bad - but then the availability, shipping times, duties and the mixed reviews didn't get my anywhere.

    I was just strolling on AliExpress casually and lo and behold - saw the Hifiman Edition XS on AliExpress; just stumbled upon it. For $441ish, it really got me going and then I decided okay, I gotta get this now. Stealth magnets - thinner diaphragm - but most importantly, a price tag at less than $450!

    Finally filled my cravings and ordered one off Hifigo. Maybe I could have waited for some reviews. But I knew I had to get one of the egg-shaped Hifimans now, enough is enough. So I bit the bullet - and I'm so glad that I did when I did.

    I'm really - REALLY loving what I hear. Again, this may be quite subjective at this moment, but I'll throw in some initial impressions and details here with some photos. I don't see an Edition XS thread here so I'm going to put some info here.

    I've read that this is [at the moment], a China-only edition, and will arrive in other markets soon - not sure how true this is.

    HIFIMAN EDITION XS
    [Impressions]

    BUILD AND COMFORT:

    Build quality is fine. Cups are plastic, they look okay, probably help keep the weight or the costs down, so I can understand the choice.

    Good to see a more flexible swivel mechanism. It can be a bit flimsy, as a bit freely rotating a bit free shaking, but not too bad. Feels good to see the notched stepped cups extension slider. And this doesn't seem like the cheaper, scratchy implementation on the Sundaras.

    The newer headband is well padded, and although a bit firm, it contours nicely with the head.

    Weight distribution is good. Comfort could be just a tad bit better.

    - EARPADS: Some misses on comfort could be because of the pads as they're a bit firm, and the fabric material on the pads that touch your ears/face may interact with facial hair. It gets a bit off after sometimes, so I've also ordered sheepskin earpads for these.

    The cable is average - it's the same cable as the one with the HE-4XX. No great, but not terrible.

    The yokes and the grills are the visible metal parts.

    Drivers: dual-sided stealth magnets with yet, an even thinner diaphragm <<< (according to Hifiman).

    SOUND:

    Overall sound signature: I find them quite balanced. Passive damping is very good - can hear everything outside when not playing, which adds to a natural, speaker-like presentation to the sound. Non-fatiguing, laid back listening with nuances ever so pronounced. I'd say, a V tending towards a U curve, something like that - if that means anything.

    Soundstage: As with most Hifimans, and better than the 4X0 series cans - the soundstage is good, with the vocals often taking the center spot. The soundstage, though not being huge, is quite big and tall as well as wide.

    Mids: The mids are good - soft, relaxed sound overall with really inoffensive vocal delivery - not the best mids, but quite natural (to me) at that - I like the whole package. They're a bit laid back, but never too extreme at any point - almost never.

    Treble: the treble extended - may get a bit hot, but nothing to seriously worry about. There's always a bit of a shine up there in Hifimans, but I don't find it too bothersome.

    Bass: The bass and sub-bass regions are well textured and extended, and though not super punchy or dynamic, still present and satisfying. An owner suggests they go down to 10Hz, but I'm feeling more like 20Hz here. Still, with such large diaphragms, a wall of sound would be safe choice of words, and that translates most definitively in the lower frequencies.

    Definition: How the highs are delivered definitely makes them rich and detailed - the airiness and definition is sound is there, well textured in the upper ranges - like I mentioned, the nuances are quite there in that region. They're not crazy detailed, but enough to spot out the ambient sounds in orchestral recordings.

    Airiness: Definitely airy, and that really increases the scale of the sound - the headphones do attempt often to be forgotten and add immersion to it.

    Imaging: Imaging is one of the stronger points here - I feel quite stellar. Top, bottom and wide, imaging is definitely attempting to be precise here or at least closer, with distinction and layers there.

    Presentation: The L/R separation is quite nice and more than my other cans. This is the second of third pair of headphones that gives me the feeling of bookshelf speakers when I'm listening to them - the other two being the EMU Teak (open back modded) and the Focal Elex. I adore this kind of presentation where one can easily settle for headphones instead at those moments, and one doesn't miss their speakers as much. How I perceive this is that it requires low damping and more pronounced dynamics, both of which I can find in the Edition XS.

    Music I listen to: Electronic (Trance, Deephouse, DNB, Trap etc.), occasional Orchestral, Jazz, OSTs etc. Preferably music with good bass and sub-bass.

    WRAPPING UP:

    At the price, it's definitely a step up from the 4X0 series and a reminiscent of the Edition X sound to me (which I adore).

    It hits the final nail on my planar collection really well (400i, 4xx, Monolith M1060C) and I can say that it's the best of my bunch. I do have a Focal Elex, Senn H6XXs, EMU Teaks and other [inferior per me] cans. I can say the Edition XS sound thick and laid back (what I like about the EMU Teaks), and more open and airy than the Focal Elex, with an even better soundstage than the Focals (many know the Focals are a bit shy there).
    I don't have the Focals with me at the moment (those were my previous endgame headphones), but it seems that the Edition XS may be ahead of them in many attributes, except perhaps not in dynamics and punchiness. But these do feel like my personal end-game with the Focal Elex giving me a complimenting flavor.

    I am very happy with them, though I must state that this may or may not apply to you, as I have not heard the Ananda or the Arya or the Edition X V2 or any others up the line to compare, so I can't quite comment how this would sound for an owner of either of those previous ones. But these probably may be mid-tier endgame for some folks.

    For the price, the range of Hifiman's egg-shaped headphones cult has now been made even more accessible to the masses, and it's a welcoming move! I can finally sleep well!

    PS: I did a little disassembly for you to see the components better if it helps anyone.

    EDIT: A couple of us early buyers are giving out their impressions (you can check head-fi, ASR, hifi-guides etc.) and so far, we're all a happy little bunch - just sayin...

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  2. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    What do you mean when you say "passive damping"? Just curious.

    Is that the front of the driver or the rear in the pictures?

    Thanks for the impressions! Sounds like another side grade in the Hifiman universe of side grading orthos.
     
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  3. atkhan

    atkhan Rando

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    Lol yes a good side grade...

    Passive damping = what I mean (maybe I'm using an incorrect analogy here) is when you just put headphones on and your not playing anything through them, how much of the outside sound do they influence. Ideally - and since we're on the topic of open-back headphones, I prefer minimal to no change in the outside environment's noise - something I've become accustomed after owning the Focal Elex.

    Personally, why I like minimal to no sound change is - when after that you play something on your headphones, it will fool you into hearing some sounds coming from the headphone but mistaking it of having coming from elsewhere outside rather than the headphones. It helps headphones disappear, and present sound as if coming from 'speakers', from the outside.

    Of course a few headphones now, open back ones (maybe some closed back ones?) have this, and I think of it as a very welcoming attribute.

    As for the driver, it's the front, but the driver looks exactly the same from either end, just mirrored.
     
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  4. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Ahhh ok. Well you shouldn't use the word damping then because that specifically refers to the appication of materials to the driver of a planar magnetic headphone to restrict air pressure and change the movement of the driver. So you're not talking about damping at all here.

    It might be better to just describe this "how much does it change ambient sound when wearing the headphones". I don't think there is an actual term for this.

    But using the word damping is definitely going to lead people to misunderstand you.

    Cheers!
     
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  5. atkhan

    atkhan Rando

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    Makes sense. let me fix that.

    EDIT: Oh okay, so that's etched in stone now.

    Yes, I meant Ambient, passive sound of the headphones.
     
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  6. Philimon

    Philimon Friend

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    Isolation. External noise isolation. Passive vs active (ANC).
     
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  7. Philimon

    Philimon Friend

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    I think @atkhan 's wording was a bit confusing but I think damping could apply in terms of noise absorption. @Armaegis is an engineer. And @Lyander is a wordsmith. Do you guys know?

    You can damp any type of driver though obviously. I know non-orthos are lesser drivers but be fair! :)

    @atkhan So when you going to hook me up with some 3DP cups? I sold my TRX00 and Emu so no need. @E_Schaaf might find your work very interesting though since he is a Foster bio driver headphone scholar and does 3Dprinting headphones (including in his dayjob of co-owner and co-designer at ETA headphones). OFF TOPIC so send him a PM. He's got some really cool stuff you'd like including Foster 3DP mods in the works.
     
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  8. atkhan

    atkhan Rando

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    Yes thank you for the corrections buddy.

    And thanks for the hook up! Will surely exchange information with him! Surely would love to see what he'd like to share with me! Thanks again!
     
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  9. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    Technically, @atkhan was not incorrect. I'm also guessing that English may not be his native language.

    The word damping generally refers to the reduction of vibrations, so his original use of it works.

    In terms of reducing the amount of external noise that passes through a headphone cup and reaches the ear, this is typically referred to as passive isolation (when the reduction is based purely on the physical material properties) or active isolation/active noise cancelling (when the reduction is accomplished by the use of an active device which produces an inverted pressure wave overlapping the external waveform so that the superimposed waves that reach the ear produce a minimal summed amount). If we really want to pick at things, passive isolation could be worded as reduced sound transmission. (As an aside, sound transmission coefficients (STC) are in fact a defined and commonly used term)

    The use of the word damping for a headphone is used in multiple ways. The purpose is always to alter the sound profile in some manner, but the mechanisms are different.

    Vibration damping is a mechanism that reduces the physical vibrations in the driver/baffle/cup. When done to the driver, it theoretically provides a cleaner signal output by ensuring more of the energy goes directly into the moving diaphragm element rather than the rest of the driver. When done to the cup, it minimizes extraneous sounds produced by induced/transmitted mechanical vibration. Mass loading falls a bit into this category too, but that's a separate physics lesson. Basically some 2nd and 3rd Newton's laws stuff, but not as simple as what you learned in high school.

    Acoustic damping and air flow damping are the real interesting ones. People will apply various fibrous or porous materials either as filler in the cups or in the path to your ear (or both). Some of that will be close enough to exert an immediate pressure on the driver movement which changes its behaviour (there's an acoustic impedance there that frankly most people do not understand; hint: it's a bit like index of refraction; yet another physics lesson). "Damping material" further out will do a couple things, such as absorb energy at differing frequencies, diffuse or diffract pressure waves, or on a larger scale can also change the apparent density of air in the immediate area which in turn affects a whole ton of other things.

    Anyways I forget the point I was trying to make here and I'm just rambling.
     
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  10. Jerry

    Jerry Friend

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    Educative rambling to me.
     
  11. Philimon

    Philimon Friend

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    Flexing that knowledge. Showboating.
     
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  12. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    We call that teaching, ya hoser :p
     
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  13. atkhan

    atkhan Rando

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    Lol yeah that's a spoonful - yes, English is not my first language but like - you guys get it, yeah?

    What I mean is I prefer open back headphones that, when you put them on, the outside ambient noise changes are to a minimal, to no change at all. My Focal Elexes do this to me, and now these. That way, it's easy to be fooled if the speakers are playing instead - hence, a speaker-like presentation. Of course, speakers are different beasts altogether - but the closer the illusion, the more appreciable.

    And since you only feel, maybe, the weight of the headband and the earpads to know you're wearing headphones. Not even that if they're a pair of light and comfy cans. And then, you're listening to what the drivers can do, as in a way that their performance is quite a bit isolated from the affects of the acoustic chamber or the frame itself, that they're in. So it's up to them to really show what they're capable of. Of course, earpads may add or take away, with their application of the 'seal' that they may or may not create, but the drivers are still isolated to quite an extent - in rather an open baffle setting (or, well for some intents and purposes, an infinite baffle), which of course, open backs already are in.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 31, 2021
  14. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    It would be interesting to try some of those if you get a chance. I find timbre of Hifimans to be all over and unless we're talking about Susvara pricier doesn't always seem to mean better. I thought the cheaper Sundara and H4xx had better timbre than the stealth magnet Arya's I heard.
     
  15. atkhan

    atkhan Rando

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    Hmmm yeah I guess timbre is a bit tricky with the Hifimans - but personally, I find it much more satisfying and - natural to say the He400i and the He4XX, the only two I have besides this. I may still take the timbre of my EMU Teaks I think - those biocellulose diaphragms are yet still way more natural in their timbre - I guess paper/composite still excels most of the time in that regard over other materials.
     
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  16. atkhan

    atkhan Rando

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    Video reviews coming in -

    TL;DR: CheapAudioMan likes em. Says maybe his favs.
     
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  17. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    Who is this bozo Youtuber and why should we care? Does he fart the Harmon curve like 98.2697% of them?

    hint: linking to random Youtuber reviewers without any direct/specific context to SBAF and/or discussion here is frowned upon ;)
     
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  18. atkhan

    atkhan Rando

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    Ouch - okay. Just wanted to bring a perspective here, I mean if it helps any people on the curve of buying it and considering a purchase. Really that's it.

    I get no commission or benefit from Hifiman or any seller or reseller so - just thought it may add more opinions on these.
    No offense.
     
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  19. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    None taken, I'm just letting you know that SBAF is not a "normal" forum where anything goes . We are interested in a review process that takes into account known ears, experience, and references. Random Youtubers are just that, random.

    By the way looking at the pics I think these HP's are same (rehash?) as the Massdrop XX from a few years back. I recall those were comfortable on the head, but had a serious upper mid/lower treble spike (EQ was only partially helpful) and had a curious lack of detail/resolution across the FR spectrum. My take was that for $1kish they were overpriced, but if they have come down to <$500 they might be right.
     
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  20. atkhan

    atkhan Rando

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    Yes, I understand, will note it for future posting.

    Yes you're right, these are kind of a play on those, but with the newer band, and stealth (well, let's just call 'em rounded or smooth edged) magnets. They're more like the Hifiman Edition X Jr. if you will.

    I don't usually EQ as I evaluate gear on it's own - and I don't much EQ these, either. There's no spike in the treble area, however, the mids may feel sucked out on some occasions - the upper mids, really, so they do have a dip there. But I like laidback mids myself, so it's okay for me, personally.

    I think overall with the revised magnet structure, these should be better in all aspects than the Massdrop XX version, as I'd heard many complaints about those when I was eyeing them, but not many complaints about these - not yet anyhow. And yes - the MSRP is quite an attribute here that works in their favor.
     
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    Last edited: Jan 6, 2022

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