PerformanceBefore any listening tests were conducted the headphones were burned in for over 200 hours to ensure that they were performing their best. The Head-Direct HiFiMAN HE-500s were tested out of the Head-Direct EF1 amplifier and a Ray Samuels Audio Protector in both balanced and unbalanced mode. The source used for both test was the HiFiMAN HM-801 DAP.
The HE-500s carry on the legacy after the HE-6 in terms of providing a slightly warm and forward sound. Amazingly enough the HE-500s sound great out of just a micro amplifier like the Protector, where the HE-6s need a gutsy home amplifier. The difference is quite remarkable. Out of the EF1 amplifier the HE-500s sound really good, the lush midrange is brought forward to some extent and the bass is kept in check perfectly. Moving over to the balanced RSA Protector the detail level is upped once again by a fair margin. The bass definition and slam is just better with the RSA Protector and it also brings forth more midrange details.
Sound wise the jump from the HE-500s to the HE-6s is not that great, if we look besides treble control and extension. The HE-500s have the same fabulous mid and low end that makes most music sound fantastic. When compared to the HE-6s being driven from a serious amplifier it is clear that the HE-500s lack a little control throughout the range. Head-Direct's dedication to producing musical headphones definitely shines through with the HE-500s, they have a real pleasant sound without any hint of sibilance. Even the slightly more rolled off treble can be forgiven considering the mids and lows these headphones produce.
The midrange is warm and amplification wise forward like the bass. Detail wise these headphones are closer to the HE-6s than the HE-5LEs which makes them very good value for money. If you are looking to enjoy the bass and midrange clarity and control of a high end orthodynamic design the HE-500s should be considered, since the only major difference between it and the much more expensive HE-6s is the treble definition.
One performance aspect that is a bit of a letdown with all the HiFiMAN HE-series headphones is the sound stage. The HE-500s are a bit better than the HE-5LEs in terms of depth and width, but not quite able to compete with the slightly more refined HE-6s, and it is a far cry away from being able to compete with the Sennheiser HD800s.
The bass is big, powerful and it almost goes as low as that of the HE-6s. It seems that the bass rolls off a bit earlier on the HE-500s but it is marginal and not audible under normal circumstance. Amount wise it has a touch more than the HE-6s and HE-5LEs even from a modest amplifier.
These headphones produce a very natural midrange which is a little warmer than that of the Sennheiser HD800s, but it retains the same amount of details. The highly detailed musical midrange is the hallmark of the HiFiMAN headphones and the HE-500s are no exception. Technically the HE-6s are still superior headphones, but for everyday enjoyment the HE-500's highly musical, non-fatiguing sound is right on the money. Add the fact that you need a just a normal headphone amplifier to power them means that they are way better value than the other headphones in the HE-lineup.