Electrostatic Experience One – HIFIMAN Jade II Headphone and AMP System
HIFIMAN Jade II is an electrostatic system made by HIFIMAN, an entirely new kind of headphone and AMP we are reviewing here at Audiophile-Heaven, with about 660 Volts running through the headphones, and with a special AMP to provide that voltage. We’ll study whether they stand up to their 2500 USD price mark, and how they compare to other similarly priced Headphones in today’s review, our first official review on an Electrostatic Headphone system.
Let’s begin by saying that you are interested in purchasing Jade II, and you try to figure out whether you should order from HIFIMAN or not. In my personal experience, they are a very trustworthy company that will go one step beyond what’s typical to help you and to make sure you have a good experience. The story on why I need to mention this is quite long, but at some point, before I ever seen any of their products, it seems that they had some build quality issues with some series. This may have been restricted to a few batches or so, but it did happen, and there’s a pretty widely spread opinion that their products may have build quality issues. As a few very precise measurements of the quality of their products, I’ve seen directly about 5 pairs of Sundara headphones, and none had any issue. I had one, and I saw 4 others in Romania, all of them working really well. I have Arya, and a friend has HE6SE, and Ananda. From those, my friend experienced some slight issues with Ananda, but HIFIMAN fixed those promptly for him, he sent the unit back to HIFIMAN, but to their headquarters in Europe, so he didn’t have to pay or wait for shipping to China, and he was sent a new Ananda unit. As for their in-ears, I have RE800 Gold and Silver and RE2000 Gold and Silver. All of them working well after years of actual usage, besides a few fine wear signs on RE2000 Gold, which in all fairness are probably my fault for not using them a bit lighter, and for not storing them in their case all the time while I was not using them. HIFIMAN is also interacting with the public over Head-Fi nowadays, and it looks like any issues that existed with their headphones are a thing of the past. While my review on Sundara isn’t officially out yet, I will tell you this, I tortured Sundara to see it break, I took it out in actual rain, I dropped my Sundara multiple times, and I took it out in dust, snow, and while I had wet hair after taking a shower. For me, Sundara has been like a true workhorse, it works as it did in the first day. I do trust that some folks really had some issues at some point, what I also think is that HIFIMAN sorted those out now, at least all the units I personally seen being quite well made.
It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Hifiman, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by Hifiman or anyone else. I’d like to thank Hifiman for providing the sample for this review. The sample was provided along with Hifiman’s request for an honest and unbiased review. This review reflects my personal experience with Hifiman Jade II Electrostatic System, also named Jade II for simplicity during this review. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Hifiman Jade II find their next music companion. This review is part of a Jade II tour taking place on Head-Fi.
First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:
The thing about the package, is that they are packaged well. Lots of foam and protection, hard cardboard, and no glamour, is the way I’d talk about Jade II. Where Arya comes in a very neat package, Jade II comes in one huge cardboard box, inside which there are two smaller cardboard boxes, each of them having lots of protection, and one having the headphone, and one having the Amplifier.
There are also two little papers, one with the warranty, and one with a little guide to Jade II and other Hifiman products.
Overall, the package is practical, but there’s no glamour, no beautiful packaging, and no Peli carrying cases included. This being said, considering that you can’t really carry the AMP anywhere because of its weight, the package is very fair and I feel happy that the system is protected during transport.
What to look in when purchasing a high-end Headphone
Youtube Video Review
So, starting with the build quality of Jade II, they are made well. The headphones are made of plastic, and they have the same headband mechanism as Sundara, which was pretty good already. This being said, Jade II creaks a bit when you adjust it, which is because the screws that connect the headphone to the headband are a touch too tight.
The cable is not detachable, which is actually not unusual for electrostatic headphones, and this seems to be the norm. The cable is tangle-free, and I would have a hard time ever tangling it. You can see the actual metallic connectors inside the mesh of the cable, and I think this is a pretty practical solution, for a headphone I will never take outside, the cable is both long enough and light enough to be practical, it is flexible enough to be practical. If anything, it has a bit of microphonic noise, but again, this isn’t a big issue, you’re not going to move a lot when using Jade II.
On the other hand, this is the lightest headphone I have ever seen in my entire life, they are so light you won’t believe it when you first touch them. Also, as far as comfort goes, Jade II is at the peak level of comfort, the only other headphones that are as comfortable being HD800S from Sennheiser, Hifiman Arya, and Crosszone CZ-1.
The isolation is zero, and they are so open, everything leaks out, just like a little speaker, and indeed, those feel more like ear speakers than headphones, the way the sound is open is on a whole new level compared to most headphones, imagine that there is no headphone, just air. That’s the way they are supposed to feel and to work.
Aesthetically, I think they are beautiful, simple yet modern, beautiful smooth angles, and the with beautiful colors in the cups. The grilles are surely not enough to protect the drivers against small debris, but sitting on my desk for almost two weeks, they are still alright, and when you purchase a 2500 USD headphone system, you probably will be storing them in a support so nothing gets inside the cups. My room is pretty dusty, and I can’t notice any dust that would have gotten inside them. Jade II looks better than Stax systems for sure, when it comes to aesthetics, and also better than Koss 950, which I had to compare Jade II side-by-side with.
The Amplifier is a huge metallic AMP, and Hifiman were nice enough to post some photos of it disassembled online, so you can also have an idea of what’s inside it. The large shell is designed beautifully, a nice aesthetic piece that won’t look old nor vintage, but rather modern and smooth. The AMP is designed for best cooling, with the support keeping it off the surface it is placed on, so it never gets too hot. The AMP is extremely heavy, about 8-10 KG and it is not easy to handle around.
I asked Hifiman directly about this, and Jade II is compatible with any electrostatic AMP system, so you don’t need to use them with the Jade II Amplifier if you don’t want to. On this note, the Jade II Amp system isn’t the loudest one, and Jade II in general sounds best at low and moderate levels, loud still being clear, but given their signature not being that recommended.
Now, there’s one thing that was a concern, seemingly a user experienced what he described as an electric shock with Jade II. I can only say that I tempted fate, and sat on the floor and my fluffy carpet while wearing Jade II, I moved while wearing them, and used them in my normal usage conditions, and haven’t experienced any issue. Hifiman also checked that exact pair and explained that the electric shock scenario is impossible. The user has done a pretty spot-on review about their sound, and their build, and there’s always the chance that the culprit was some kind of fungus or otitis, since a lot of ear issues look and feel the same, and an electric shock at 660 Volts would hurt badly rather than leaving a numb feeling.
Another issue discussed before about the Jade II System is that the Amplifier is either a copy of a stax system, or that the Amplifier is not built well enough. On this note, I do feel that the AMP isn’t the loudest, but it is a 1000 USD AMP in terms of clarity, control and overall quality. I tested Stax Lambda Pro with a Stax Amplifier, and it was considerably below Jade II (as it should be given the price), but more about that in the comparison section.
Overall, I think that Jade II is a well made system overall, Looks and feels modern, and the headphones would win a place in Audiophile-Heaven’s Hall Of Fame for comfort alone, this is how comfortable and open they are.
The signature of Jade II can be described as a light, open, airy, clean, crispy, extremely detailed, midrange-forward or absolutely linear, musical, euphonic, slightly smooth and slightly soft, and wide.
The bass is very linear and flat, so this one is really not made for bassheads. The bass, though, is very clear and punchy, and although it doesn’t deliver much in terms of physical rumble, it really touches a sweet spot for me in terms of speed and resolution, I love hearing those quick notes in technical death metal. For Classical music, Jade II is a bit lighter than a normal body would be, but the extreme speed and precision really compliments busy orchestrals and complicated pieces well. Jazz and easy listening music also hits a sweet spot for me with Jade II, and the only place where I wouldn’t recommend them, and would instead grab Arya or HE6SE, is EDM or electronic, where Jade II’s flat bass doesn’t compliment those music styles quite as well.
The midrange is extremely wide and clear, and although may sound funny, they manage to sound extremely airy, wide, but also manage to bring the voices right to the listener. The phase of this headphone is so perfect, it would drop the jaw of any sound engineer or live-mixing engineer. The midrange, you may expect to be grainy and detailed, but instead all details are presented in a really natural and slightly smooth manner, but make no mistake, Jade II has so much detail, that the first day I got them, I just spent an entire day, and I mean, the entire day, just listening to them. The way they convey and reveal details is something entirely new, not only because they present new details, but they have shown to me things that I knew existed in the music I was listening to for years, but in a way that made me appreciate that same music even more. The midrange is very clean and clear, crisp, and also a touch soft towards splashy, which is a thing I appreciate with Hifiman house sound in general, they get the natural character of music really well, and even their most detailed headphones are not detailed in an aggressive way, but rather, they are extremely detailed, yet still enjoyable, the details flow to you, aren’t hammered on you or harsh.
And then, there comes the soundstage and air, Jade II feels like there’s no headphone, just air and clarity, they sound as open as a ~3000 USD Speaker system, if not even more. Compliment the stage with a perfect phase, the open and comfortable design, and the experience of listening to Jade II makes even most 10.000 USD Speaker systems feel limited, considering that you don’t need to be in a prefect position with Jade II, you can lie on your back and get that stage and clarity, detail and refinement.
The treble is also very nice, it is a smoother-texture, yet extremely well extended, clear and airy treble. I think that the strong point of their treble is the ever so slightly splashy nature, it is never harsh, but it has more detail than you can imagine. The air in the treble is also real, since I’m a younger listener, I notice the differences between a headphone that extends in the upper treble and not extremely quick, and Jade II really has got that extension you want in the upper treble.
The dynamics are another strong point of Jade II, if you bump the volume of the Jade Amplifier up to about 2 o’clock, you get a really natural dynamic, as in, the actual dynamic you’d get from real life instruments at that volume, and that, in my book, is another point where it really shines.
When you think of soundstage, you have to think of layers and open, Jade II doesn’t have a typical soundstage, because voices are closer to you, while background instruments are pushed back, yet their details are never lost, nor dispersed, rather, everything is clear in space, exactly like you’d imagine a high-end hologram to be.
Overall, the sound of Jade II is very impressive, but not by being colored, but by being absolutely linear. Absolutely in-phase, and exceptionally open.
Since you need a special Amplifier for Jade II, their own Jade II AMP, or another compatible Stax AMP, you are going to use Jade II only while at a desk, or while lying on your favorite armchair, or while lying in bed.
You kinda need a good amount of silence for Jade II, they are ope, and this goes both ways, they offer zero passive noise isolation, and a lot of surrounding noise won’t do you any good. Furthermore, you need enough space for their Amplifier, and they leak like there’s no headphone, but a mini speaker, which they pretty much are.
I have used them connected to my Brooklyn DAC+ DAC as their main DAC, but I also tried them with M2Tech Young MKIII DAC, and also with a few more DACs, including Burson Play.
Their AMP gets plenty loud, but they are so clear, you may bump the volume more than you normally would. This is actually a bit of an issue, because I found myself often going a bit too loud with them, the AMP stays perfectly clear up until about 3 o’clock, after which it struggles a bit. I wouldn’t recommend listening louder than they are at 3 o’clock for extended periods of time though. Since they are compatible with other electrostatic AMPs, you can always pair them with something else, but the Jade II AMP is sweet for sure, I found it to be clean, clear, transparent and very detailed. It surely beats whatever was powering the Stax Lamba Pro I heard a while ago.
Overall, Jade II is an awesome desktop headphone, and if you have the right DAC, so is their AMP.
I picked HIFIMAN Arya (1600 USD), Crosszone CZ-1 (2000 USD), and Audeze LCD-MX4 (3000 USD) for comparing Jade II to. All the other headphones have been driven from Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ as a DAC/AMP, while Jade II was driven from either Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ or M2Tech Young MK III DAC, combined with their own Jade II Electrostatic Amplifier.
I did side-by-side comparisons, but not exactly in-depth, with Meze Empyrean, where Jade II sounded wider, more airy, and more clear, had a tighter and a more linear bass, although the Empyrean had more impact, and more sub-bass rumble. Jade II revealed more details than Empyrean. Comparing Jade II to Stax Lambda Pro made Jade II sound much more airy, more extended, more detailed, more clear, and it made Stax Lambda Pro feel quite soft, although enjoyable in its own right.
HIFIMAN Jade II vs HIFIMAN Arya – Starting with Arya, both Jade II and Arya have a similar light and snappy tuning, both are extremely open and both are extremely comfortable. In fact, Arya is the closest non-electrostatic headphone you’re likely to find to Jade II. The sound is lighter and more crisp on both, but Arya has considerably more bass, where it counts, Arya has way more deep rumble, although Jade II is more tight and more linear. Both have perfect phase, though Jade II somehow manages to bring even more detail out of music, refines on what Arya does even more, and makes music sound even more enjoyable and easy to listen to. Overall, if you wanted something more versatile, Arya is surely that, Arya is even driveable from some portable sources, and although you’re not likely to take it outdoors, it is the simpler to use headphone, while if you wanted something that is more of a state-of-art for its price headphone, something that has even better detail and clarity, then Jade II is winking at you.
HIFIMAN Jade II vs Crosszone CZ-1 – Crosszone CZ-1 has a very different basic principle from Jade II, being a closed-back, vented headphone with 3 drivers. Overall, the comfort is similarly good on both, although CZ-1 has a different adjusting mechanism. Jade II feels more solid and more punchy, where CZ-1 feels more soft, more splashy and more gentle. CZ-1 portrays a larger and deeper soundstage, where Jade II brings voices a bit closer to the listener. Jade II tends to be more neutral, where CZ-1 is more musical and more euphonic, Jade II feeling more precise and linear, it is pretty clear that CZ-1 wasn’t created to be perfect but perfectly musical and enjoyable, where Jade II is so linear, it is scary. Jade II tends to reveal a bit more detail than the more gentle CZ-1. Both are hard to drive, but you can drive CZ-1 from most normal sources, while for Jade II you will require a dedicated Amplifier, so you should take that into account. Overall, if you’re looking for a high-end but open experience, CZ-1 is very nice, especially if you like a gentle sound, while if you want a really open experience that’s truly linear and which has a perfect phase, then Jade II is a great option.
HIFIMAN Jade II vs Audeze LCD-MX4 – Audeze is quite well-known for their high-quality headphones, and LCD-MX4 is no exception, being a real flagship through and through. The build quality feels better on MX4, as they have a lot of real leather and metal, but they also feel much heavier, and get warmer easier while in usage, although they also have a bit softer and more puffy earpads. LCD-MX4 can be driven from anything, including portable sources, and I even took LCD-MX4 on multiple walks, I tend to walk while wearing it quite often, as I don’t mind people hearing what I’m listening to, and I like the way they feel, while Jade II is an “indoors” headphone that needs a dedicated amplifier to work. The sound follows a similar tuning, but ends up being very different, Jade II is more airy and sounds more open, while LCD-MX4 tends to have a much more deep and thick sound, with less emphasis on the upper midrange. Bassy songs sound much better on MX4, where light and airy sounds end up sounding better on Jade II, especially atmospheric music. LCX-MX4 is more dry and smooth in its character, the details are a touch harder, it is a punchier headphone that shows especially bass details better. LCD-MX4 is intended for music mastering and engineering, having a slightly more forward and more aggressive sound than Jade II, but also revealing certain details better. Jade II, on the other hand, has a more dynamic sound, a lighter and more quick sound, and also can reveal certain details in the midrange better, in a wider, and slightly more separated stage. Overall, if you’re looking for one of the ultimate planar headphones, with one of the most revealing sounds, yet with a deep, and profound bass, LCD-MX4 still makes one of the best options, while if you’re looking for an electrostatic headphone, with a linear, light and snappy sound, extreme levels of detail, and with a clear, clean image, with a really engaging sound, Jade II makes an excellent offer.
I am only recommending DACs here, and for that I picked 3 pretty nice choices, Burson Play Vivid (400 USD), Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ (2000 USD), and M2Tech Young MKIII DAC (1500 USD). For the connection between Jade II and the DAC of choice, I have used high-quality cables, provided by HIFI Center Romania.
HIFIMAN Jade II + Burson Play Vivid – I was curious how would Jade II sound paired with a more entry-level DAC, like Burson Play Vivid, and for sure I was not disappointed. In fact, this is one of the most affordable options that I could easily recommend for driving Jade II, and although it doesn’t have the detail and refinement of DAC+ or Young MKIII, Burson Play vivid surely has a really wide soundstage, an amazing level of detail, and a clean, crisp sound, when powering the Jade II system.
HIFIMAN Jade II + Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ – Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ is one of my favorite DAC/AMPs for driving headphones, and takes one of the first positions, if not the first position, in my personal Headphone DAC/AMP ranking. Even when used as a DAC, it shows why you’d want a high-end DAC for powering something like Jade II, giving them a huge soundstage, a clear and crisp image, excellent dynamics, an amazing overall level of separation and detail, and giving them a refinement and musical, yet detailed, king of sound you want to get from a high-end system.
HIFIMAN Jade II + M2Tech Young MK III DAC – Young MK III from M2Tech is one interesting DAC, but it can’t drive headphones directly, and it needs an amplifier for headphones, Its sound is very similar to Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ in terms of details and refinement, but it is a bit more forward, overall Young MKIII also feels a tiny touch warmer, complimenting Jade II quite nicely, almost like giving them a bit of Tube magic, if I could put it like that. This is one of the best high-end DACs on the market, and it surely compliments and completes Jade II nicely, giving them a really crisp and clean sound.
Value and Conclusion
The value of the Jade II Electrostatic System, which is about 2500 USD for the whole system, or 1500 USD for the Jade II Headphone, and 1000 USD for the Jade II Amplifier, is very evident, as this is an electrostatic system, and those usually start much higher in terms of pricing.
The build quality is up with all flagships, although the headphone may feel a touch too light at first, you end up admiring and falling in love with how light and comfortable it is. The cable is tangle-free, but not detachable, although this is normal for electrostatic headphones. You surely feel like you’re not wearing anything while having Jade II on your head.
The AMP, on the other hand, is extremely heavy, looks beautiful in terms of aesthetics, both modern, and well build, with a good attention to detail, looking like the kind of Amplifier you would want on your desk. It can even drive two electrostatic headphones at the same time, if you’d want to listen to the same album at the same time as your loved one.
The sound is light, airy, snappy, tight, detailed, yet magically musical and smooth. The treble is extended very well, and so is the bass, although the linearity of Jade II is its strong point, they really like to be linear and clean, not overly bassy nor warm. Furthermore, the kind of open presentation they have, make most 10.000 USD Speaker systems shy and blush, while Jade II goes strong in terms of air and clarity.
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for an extremely detailed, yet musical, clean, crisp, and snappy headphone, with an euphonic sound, yet which reveals almost everything there is to reveal, if you want an affordable electrostatic system that looks modern, is comfortable and is easy to use, then you really should check out Jade II, as it is one of the best there is in this price range.
Full Playlist used for this review
While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.
Bats – Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date
Eskimo Callboy – Frances
Incubus – Summer Romance
Electric Six – Dager! High Voltage
Kishida Cult – High School Of The Dead
Dimmu Borgir – Dimmu Borgir
Breaking Benjamin – I Will Not Bow
Thousand Foot Krutch – The Flame In All Of Us
Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc.
Infected Mushroom – Song Pong
Attack Attack – Kissed A Girl
Doctor P – Bulletproof
Maximum The Hormone – Rock n Roll Chainsaw
Rob Zombie – Werewolf, Baby!
Escape The Fate – Gorgeous Nightmare
SOAD – Chop Suey
Ken Ashcorp – Absolute Territory
Machinae Supremacy – Need For Steve
Ozzy Osbourne – I Don’t Wanna Stop
Crow’sclaw – Loudness War
Eminem – Rap God
Stromae – Humain À L’eau
Sonata Arctica – My Selene
Justin Timberlake – Sexy Back
Metallica – Fuel
Veil Of Maya – Unbreakable
Masa Works – Golden Japang
REOL – Luvoratorrrrry
Dope – Addiction
Korn – Word Up!
Papa Roach – … To be Loved
Fever The Ghost – Source
Fall Out Boy – Immortals
Green Day – Know The Enemy
Mindless Self Indulgence – London Bridge
A static Lullaby – Toxic
Royal Republic – Addictive
Astronautalis – The River, The Woods
We Came As Romans – My Love
Skillet – What I Believe
Man With A Mission – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Yasuda Rei – Mirror
Mojo Juju – Must Be Desire
Falling Up – Falling In Love
Manafest – Retro Love
Rodrigo Y Grabriela – Paris
Zomboy – Lights Out
Muse – Resistance
T.A.T.U & Rammstein – Mosaku
Grey Daze – Anything, Anything
Katy Perry – Who Am I Living For
Maroon 5 – Lucky Strike
Machinae Supremacy – Killer Instinct
Pendulum – Propane Nightmares
Sirenia – Lithium And A Lover
Saving Abel – Addicted
Hollywood Undead – Levitate
The Offspring – Special Delivery
Escape The Fate – Smooth
Samsara Blues Experiment – One With The Universe
Dope – Rebel Yell
Crazy Town – Butterfly
Silverstein – My Heroine