HifiMAN HE6SE measurements and short review

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by Vtory, Nov 14, 2019.

  1. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    I happened to have HE6SE in the house from a kind loan from my pal.

    Indeed I auditioned HE6 long ago, but I preferred HE500 (which I owned those days) by a big margin. HE6 had great technicalities but too off tonal balances from the memory -- I believe it was not modded at all.

    HE6SE is a lot different from what I remember for HE6, also different from any other contemporary oval ear cup hifimans. Right out of the box, it's already very enjoyable. They don't have any hassles of non-se he6s. And 10 second modding (literally) does the wonder.

    Anyway after a few hours of listening, I can't help placing an order for a pair for myself. $700 new? How crazy..

    I will report back more about subjective impressions later when I get my pair and collect enough thoughts.

    For now, just posting measurement results. In short, they not only sound good but also measure good.

    Measurement highlights
    • HFM does a solid job in controlling manufacturing consistency.
    • Mids and highs are a lot smoother than oval hifimans, although there is some hint of bad thing at 500hz.
    • Extremely low distortion (lower than Arya I measured before). Ignore 4.5k peak (due to EARS) and small peaks in sub-bass (prol environmental things)
    • Ortho wall observed at 3.5k (in both step response and waterfall). I am not sure I can hear it though.
    • Removing grills (easily reversible) are very simple but does a great job in (1) smoothing 4-7k response, (2) lowering 10k peak, and (3) improving top end extensions beyond 10k.

    PS. I'm amping them with Vidar and DIY Accuphase-ish. They're more manageable with DSHA-3F than expected, too. Measurements taken with Vidar though.

    [​IMG]
    Fig 1. Left and right channels (average taken over multiple measurements)

    [​IMG]
    Fig 2. Harmonic distortions

    [​IMG]
    Fig 3. Step response

    [​IMG]
    Fig 4. Waterfall plot

    [​IMG]
    Fig 5. Grill placed vs removed (average taken over multiple measurements)
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2019
  2. dubharmonic

    dubharmonic Friend

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    I'm ashamed to admit this, but I haven't figured out how to get the grills off. Any tips or pictures? I'd appreciate it!
     
  3. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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  4. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Some comparative graphs (vs other planars measured before)

    [​IMG]
    Fig 6. vs Arya

    [​IMG]
    Fig 7. vs Ether 2

    [​IMG]
    Fig 8. vs LCD-3F

    [​IMG]
    Fig 9. vs LCD-GX

    [​IMG]
    Fig 10. vs Verum 1
     
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  5. Garuspik

    Garuspik Tovarisch Ukrainian Terminator MOT - Verum

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    @Vtory -what pads you were using with Verum 1? Looks like perforated because of roll-of in sub-bass region.
     
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  6. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    I remember so. Not 100% sure though. It's a loan from @Phantaminum (and already returned months ago).
     
  7. randytsuch

    randytsuch Almost "Made"

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    I keep waffling on this deal. I was ready to pull the trigger, but I just finished a type 45 dht amp that doesn't look like a good fit for these. So its pull my twisted pear audio sympatico out of the garage, buy an old amp (adcom?), or build a first watt clone.
    Current main is a modded hd800 with my dht amp.

    Randy
     
  8. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    Are you absolutely sure about the described effect of grills to the headphone's frequency response? The displayed delta can easily just be the result of two separate measurement sessions since you just averaged results based on multiple takes.

    I would rather suggest to position the headphone on EARS, measure with grills, remove the grills (keeping the headphone on EARS in its exact position) and then measure without grills.
     
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  9. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    I believe averaging over multiple takes could reduce positioning bias. Also I heard those changes more or less by myself, thus didn't bother too much. But good point anyway. Thanks.

    I re-measured as suggested, and here are what I got.

    upload_2019-11-15_10-31-40.png
    Fig 11. Grill vs no grill (position fixed)

    upload_2019-11-15_10-31-54.png
    Fig 12. Comparison of (log) differences between the two approaches (differences taken as ['no grill' - 'grill'])

    The results vary a little, but I think the tendency largely remains.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2019
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  10. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    As long as you really managed to keep the headphone fixed in its exact position, the result is interesting. Even though the delta is very small, it is still larger than I would have expected.

    Any notable difference visible in CSD graphs?
     
  11. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: Upscale Audio (Thread Judge Code-6 District)

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    Thanks for the measurements @Vtory .

    Happy to see the mild 1k push seems to have been fixed on the 6SE vs the original HE6. In modding these, I'll probably try to bring down that octave from 2.5-6k, diminish 10k peak, and maybe alter pads for a touch of extra midbass, with some vibration control to tighten things up a bit (sounds a bit loose in the bottom two octaves stock)

    The hot presence region of the stock tends to compress the stage forward (vocals and guitars kind of thrown in your face) and prevent turning up the headphones as much, which will nerf the sense of dynamics and scale. Bringing that more in-line will diminish the sense of leanness and compression, allowing the volume to come up more, which will bring out more slam and tactility (which the HE6 is really known for).

    Got a busy weekend ahead of me but I'll have measurements from my rig soon - before and after modding. This has definitely helped though!
     
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  12. Elmer Danilovich

    Elmer Danilovich MShenay trying to pretend to be an old man

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    I'm genuinely excited to see what you can do! As after hearing HE 6se I felt the same way as yourself, it's a bit loose in the bottom octaves and the staging does feel a bit compressed as do dynamics. I mean I enjoyed the sheer SLAM of the driver at times but improvements were needed overall I felt,

    Given the base price of the unit and it's in-stock/in-production status I'm quite confident I may seek out one of your modded HE 6se's should you list them up for sale or offer a modding service to/for them! Thank you as well to @Vtory for the additional confirmation on the grill mod changes,

    An god speed @E_Schaaf
     
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  13. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Decay seems a little longer (by a few ms at -30db from the peak) around 10k after grills removed. Suspecting some kind of trade off due to lowered damping, but hard to tell something for now.

    HFM's newer generations (for higher models) -- HE1k HEX Ananda Ayra Susvara etc -- have completely different grill structure (much larger opening), which I believe came from their lessons from previous products and feedback.
     
  14. Garuspik

    Garuspik Tovarisch Ukrainian Terminator MOT - Verum

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    Their grill structure = magnetic structure. Simple and efficient solution.
     
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  15. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    A few notes.

    1. I thought I almost disliked Sundara's wearing comfort last year. Ananda, while having the same head band structure, worked better. This time around, I think he6se rather good. What happened to my skull?

    2. HE6SE weighs 463g (wo grills). Even lighter than HE500 (502g I remember) I had before.For a ZMF (hard wood) guy myself, 6se isn't heavy at all.

    3. While 6se and 6 have very different sound profiles, but 6se also seems open to various mods in that it doesn't have any tricky peaks or dips. Reading old threads, I tried to apply some (reversible) mods -- pads, tps, etc. Unfortunately zmf pads I'm having around do not work for my taste. After hours of experiments (they're fun btw), I managed to get a non-negative result with the combination of tps and loki. Sounds like susvara souped with verum 1 (the most tonally right planar imo). Will also play with blutack and/or dynamat when I get mine early next week. Anyway, a quick measurement taken just before..

    upload_2019-11-15_20-30-4.png

    I am still not sure which one I like better (stock ungrilled vs mod v0.1). Both have own likes and neither was perfect enough. May need more listens (and trials).
     
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  16. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    HE6SE Short Review

    [​IMG]

    I’ve had these around for nearly a week. The loaner returned to its owner but my pair also arrived today lol.

    Because I have another pair of new headphones (the Sash Deaux) to evaluate in the house, I’d write down collected thoughts about HE6SE so far, as these would be my reference control from now on -- once lightly modded and eqed, the tonality and timbre are the closest to what I expect from “neutral sounding headphones”, if not necessarily preferred over Verite or SR1a.

    (Aside: neutral in this context is mechanically defined as having flat-line response after sbaf-compensation with EARS)

    For convenience, HE6SE will be abbreviated as 6SE and HE6 original as 6OG.


    Associated Gears

    Source: Bifrost 2 (via unison usb)
    Head amps: ECP DSHA-3F, Apex Teton
    Power amps: DIY Accuphase-ish (Weiliang A60+), Schiit Vidar, DIY JLH
    Headphones: Raal SR1a, ZMF Verite Open (Ziricote)


    Design and comfort

    While the looks of 6SE are generally sleek with its matte black colors and sturdier feelings than 6OG, the removal of swivel pivots could be controversial. When I had Sundara in the house, I couldn’t be a fan of such headband design. But later models (Ananda and 6SE) feel better on my head. Strong clamping force (nearly death grip) of 6SE is still a problem though. Hope it would improve over time.

    Cable also changed in terms of connectors (to 3.5mm) and rubbery tubing jacket. I like the former but not the latter.

    Two sets of ear pads are provided: angled FocusPads (memory foam surrounded by pleather and soft velour outer layers) and flat velour pads. All my assessments come from the former. Note that I don’t like flat pads in general. I didn’t like them at all even in the HE500-era for discomfort.

    Due to its changed design, 6SE (463g as measured) is 8% lighter than 6OG (502g as claimed).


    Sound

    As I posted before, I never think stock unmodded 6OG enjoyable. Don’t know whether the unit I tested had 4 screws. Both lower and higher trebles were too off for my taste. 6SE significantly improves in tonal balance. Even without any mods, they are already good enough to justify the current asking price. But it’s a little bright, lean, and maybe too forwarding occasionally. It’s great for a specialist but not as a generalist.

    Removing grills transform 6SE into almost all rounder. Not 100% but pretty much 90% or so done. This adjusts overall brightness and treble responses a bit. Small changes but I feel those bits really matter in my perception. Still edged and too forwarding presence leave something to be desired though.

    Putting a sheet of thin TP and eqing a bit further neutralize around 3-6k (see the above post). With this mod, 6SE really reminds me of the happy moment with Susvara, which I think one of the best sounding planars money can buy now. I’m never an expert modder and feel resistative against irreversible mods (and these are the loaner lol). For extra bass improvements, might consider vibration mass coupling mods such as putting blutack later but I am not particularly interested for now because with the right amp, my checklist items are all double circled. Maybe I’ll work on some micro adjustments of eq and tp but that’s it. I’m not that demanding.

    So, how do they sound after all? Well, I’d describe it as normal -- the sound is what I wanted to hear from HFMs, from planars in general, and from neutral sounding headphones.

    Not to say much about the bass. It’s HFM classic. Greatly extended to the lowest octave without any roll off. With my favorite choice of amp, I can hear articulate, clear, and well textured bass in any tracks. Reminded me of the good days with HE500, with a bonus of better delineation and delicate microdynamics (not sure where they came from -- either transducer, amp, or dac). Compared to SR1a, 6SE has a little more warmth and quantity in the lowest octave. Verite could outdo in pitch differential but slightly veiled by comparison. Ether 2 also did a fantastic bass when I had them but the current rig definitely slam harder.

    6SE don’t have a somewhat rough mids and grainy highs that HE1k and Arya had (still there but to much less extent). Clear and smooth midrange continues until mild dip of upper midrange (around 2k hz), which I generally prefer to have. Slight forwarding nature still remains with my mods and main instruments have more presence.

    Transient and attack are all top notch among top headphones. Only bested by SR1a as long as I experienced. Double sided strong magnets surely do their duties.

    While staging is really good, unfortunately it’s the weakest part of 6SE among my collections (SR1a, Verite, 6SE). 6SE have a little compressed front to back depth, and less spacious by comparison. Instead 6SE render sharper images compared to slightly diffused Verite. Honestly I don’t have any problem in staging and imaging with 6SE. Preference rather depends on mood, recording, and genres.

    Overall, 6SE, while (currently) costs only a fraction of Verite or SR1a, is no slouch in technicalities and tonalities. It’s normal enough to think of “full stop” and want little.


    Amp pairing

    From what I’ve heard and witnessed for 6OG, I strongly believed that 6SE couldn’t be driven with head amps. However, it turns out that 6SE isn’t as current dependent as SR1a. Rejecting head amps for 6SE unconditionally might be a huge opportunity loss. I enjoyed 3 speaker power amps (JLH, Vidar, DIY Accuphase) and two head amps (DSHA-3F, Teton). While some head amps failed to activate 6SE enough (DX3 Pro hp out, Fulla 2, SW51), neither of the listed has any driving power problem. Just different presentations and flavors.

    DIY Accuphase (Weiliang A60+) is my favorite among the bunch, which is also my favorite for SR1a. Unlike the SR1a case, this amp had as great bass authority as Vidar (With SR1a, Vidar tightens and hits meaningfully harder). On top of that, A60+ does way more elegant -- shimmering and mellow-ish in a good sense -- highs which improve every timbre a bit better as well as more open and holographic staging. Definitely more ‘sin’ of submissions but I feel it rather good to my taste.

    DSHA-3F and Teton, while both supposedly don’t have as much power as speaker amps, drive 6SE surprisingly well, which I didn't expect at all. I honestly prefer 6SE’s mids with 3F over with all other amps. It’s as effortless, clean, smooth, and very natural as I heard with ZMF+3F. Teton doesn’t have as black background as A60+ and 3F, but it stimulates and excites myself. Super fun with the top level refinements. Teton also controls bass and do macrodynamics a little better than 3F (but smoked by A60+ and Vidar in this respect).

    Both JLH and Vidar do a solid job for 6SE, but also have clear drawbacks to me. JLH at low octaves (loose and less controlled) and Vidar at highs (rough and borderline unnatural).

    Extrapolating from my SR1a pairing experience, I bet 6SE may sound even better with authentic Accuphases (as they sound great with SR1a; older models only). Also curious how zero NFB power amps such as Dartzeel drive 6SE, too. However, I won’t like 6SE driven by extremely low distortion amps (i.e., favored in ASR: recent class Ds, Benchmark, THX, etc etc) -- some may like them though.


    Tentative verdict

    At the end of the day, I think HE6se is HFM’s own take of their classic HE6 from a very modern perspective: tonal balances much more normal but technicalities mostly maintained. It’s a shame that HFM discontinues to manufacture these any more. I hardly say buy it now in any reviews. But this could be a rare exception. $700 new is an insane value (steal!) you can never expect for full-ranged top level sounding transducers. I dare to suggest SBAF get one for the loaner program when stocks are available.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2019
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  17. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    I wonder if the HE6SE is more efficient than the original HE6.

    I believe I heard the HE6SE briefly throught an Euphoria amp, and thought they were not too bad. The original HE6 was very inneficient. That together with it's ~50 ohms of impedance would likely demand a lot of current out of a headamp, let alone a tube amp, which is not easy to do cleanly. I believe many used speaker amps for that reason.

    If I remembr correctly, efficiency numbers published by HiFiMan tend to be a quite a bit off.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2019
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  18. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    HE-6 (prol 4 screw) = 77.1 db/mw (measured by [email protected] in 2013)
    HE6SE = 79.2 db/mw (measured by Brent [email protected] Stage in 2018)

    I bet efficiency barely changed.

    Funny enough, HFM claimed both as having 83.5 db/mw sensitivity. haha

    EDIT: Brent measured Susvara with the same rig and got 80.6 db/mw sensitivity.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2019
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  19. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    Well, 79.2 dB/mW is pretty low.

    Doing some quick math stuffs, it means that the cans will give you 79 dBSPL with 230 mV and 4.3 mA.

    Who knows, I was also expecting crap, and I was surpised the amp produced somewhat pleasant sound. Maybe the songs were not high in dynamic range.
     
  20. RobS

    RobS The Friend formerly known as treboR

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    Supposedly the prototype HE-6 is even more inefficient.

    @Vtory curious, do you find the Vidar not as engaging as other amps? What are your thoughts regarding the midrange with Vidar? I agree somewhat regarding the highs on a single Vidar, but with a second one it does round off some of the harshness in the highs (although not completely).

    Interesting you found the soundstage compressed even with the open grill mod. That seems to match the 6-screw versions.
     

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