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HIFIMAN HE1000SE – The Original Stealth-Nano Music Wonder

HIFIMAN HE1000SE – The Original Stealth-Nano Music Wonder

HIFIMAN He1000SE or HE1000 Special Edition is a $3500 USD pair of over-the-ear planar magnetic headphones, designed as the mid flagship from HIFIMAN (if you don’t include Susvara, and the more exotic options), being one of the first headphones to have introduced the Stealth Magnet and Nano Diaphragm designs in 2018. Today we will be reviewing it and comparing it to the new HIFIMAN HE1000 Stealth (1400 USD), Audeze MM-500 (1699 USD), Crosszone CZ-8a (1700 USD), Sendy Audio Peacock (1500 USD), Spirit Torino Super Leggera (2000 USD), Rosson RAD-0 (2600 USD). Since this is a headphone we’ve reviewed many times in the past under many forms, this Special Edition Review will also focus a lot on the differences between the generations of HE1000 that are available on the market. You can find HE1000SE for 1999 USD at the moment, which puts it in a whole different category of price / performance ratio compared to the original pricing, as we will explore towards the end of the review. 

 

Introduction

HIFIMAN is likely the most popular name in the audiophile headphone industry nowadays thanks to the way they managed to design and create something for everyone, from super high performance headphones, such as Sundara, which most readers have heard at least once, all the way to the flagships like Svanar, or Susvara. He1000SE is a headphone released in 2018, and some folks consider them to be HE1000 v3. I consider them to be the original HE1000 Headphone, because I heard it first shortly before any other HE1000, so I always felt it was the original. It seems like this is the most popular variant, having over 12 awards to date, and the one that seems to be crowned as the best HE1000 out there. Today we will see just how good it is. HIFIMAN is known to be excellent as a company, they make some of the most reliable headphones out there, and provide some of the best warranty out there. When purchasing HIFIMAN headphones, you get the same level of support from both Amazon and their store, both being excellent sources for your next headphone choice. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases, and using the purchase links in my reviews helps me maintain this website and youtube channel.

I’d like to thank HIFIMAN for providing the sample for this review, in exchange for my honest opinion. We are not receiving any incentive for this review and Audiophile-Heaven has no affiliation with HIFIMAN beyond this review. This review is a description of my personal experience with HIFIMAN HE1000SE Headphones. 

 

Product Link

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3Gy3yEi

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/419LPwu

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/41eTcmy

 

Build Quality/Aesthetics/Fit/Comfort

HIFIMAN Headphones can look the same, but each has its own specific fit and comfort, so the Arya series is different from the Ananda series, which is different from the HE1000 series. HE1000 always gets the crown for the best comfort, best build quality, and the best design too, and I just had the honor to review HE1000SE right next to Arya Organic, Ananda Nano and other headphones too, and I can vouch that HE1000SE is the best build, most comfortable HIFIMAN Headphone, although Arya Organic is not very far behind. 

Starting with the package, we have the headphones, a really large transport / presentation case, with three cables included in the package. This is the headphone with the most cables out there, and we have a balanced XLR cable, and two single ended ones, in 3.5mm and 6.3mm sizes. The only problem here is that what we’d need the most is a 4.4mm balanced cable, and HIFIMAN has been lately including balanced cables too with headphones, so I have to mention that I’ve been using balanced cables, either from Lavricables, with their Ultimate Silver, or ddHIFI BC150B as the main models I’ve used for this review. Getting an aftermarket cable will improve the ergonomics and comfort, but the default cables are ok sonically, just not my pick of plugs. For using EF600, I actually like the original XLR cables better than the aftermarket options for both comfort, and sound, but I have to swap a lot of sources, to do a proper review. 

With an impedance of just 35 OHMs, HE1000SE is somewhat sensitive to the source quality and noise, and with a sensitivity of 96 dB, it looks like it is much easier to drive than HE6SE, which I also notice when pairing HE1000SE with a multitude of sources, but HE1000SE is quite picky and needs a good source to shine. We have both the Stealth Magnet Design and the Nanometer Thickness Diaphragm, and HE1000SE seems to be the winner of most awards, but most of them between 2017 and 2019, so it is good to hear that it still holds up to the market even today. The acoustically invisible magnets will not reflect the sound waves they play, and the Window Shade system will optimize the sound and driver protection for HE1000SE, which is a big reason the company has such a similar design for all the HE1000 headphones. 

The cable connects to the headphones with a 3.5mm jack that we’ve seen in most HIFIMAN headphones to date, even in the Dekobni Cobalt collaboration headphone, but HE1000SE seems to have an high-end connector in place there, compared to most of the other models. The earband and earcups are made of metal, with CNC milling and hand polishing. With a weight of 440 grams, they would seem heavy on paper, but HE1000SE is one of the most comfortable headphones I had to date, the weight is evenly distributed all across my head, with no hotspots, no tightness and no discomfort. The headband feels soft, the earcups feel soft, the cables are generally comfortable. Those are full blast Open-Back headphones and they do not isolate from the outside noise at all, both the stealth magnets and super thin diaphragm allowing all sound to pass through, so while wearing them you will hear everything out there as if you were not wearing any headphones. The leakage level is quite extreme too, and people around you will hear your music at the maximum level possible out of all headphones, the stealth magnets and earcup doing their job well for keeping those acoustically transparent. 

For driving the HE1000SE I’ve been using a wide selection of sources, but those are high-end speakers that require the best to sound their best, so I would restrict the source selection to high-end amplifiers, DAC/AMPs and only the most powerful portable music players. The list of sources includes HIFIMAN’s own EF400 and EF600 DAC/AMPs, Aune S9C PRO, Aune S17 PRO Amplifier, Creative Sound Blaster X5, Drop + xDuoo TA-84 Tube DAC/AMP, FiiO K9 PRO ESS, JDS Labs Element III MK2, iBasso DX320 MAX TI, Astell & Kern Acro CA1000T, and Hiby R6 III. HE1000SE is generally hard to drive, needs a good source and even when properly powered and amplified, will be picky about the source, prefer a source that has as much bass, as much impact and which is as dynamic and detailed as possible. It is hard to master and please, and while iBasso DX320 MAX TI works incredibly well, so does it work with the Soundblaster X5 from Creative. With tube AMPs, you have to look for a design that is not OTL, so TA-84 or Feliks Echo 2 will not be a good fit for HE1000SE. Aune S17 PRO is my favoirte recent amplifier for HE1000SE, and the best part is that it has a mindful price. 

 

Sound Quality

HIFIMAN He1000SE is by far the most transparent, most detailed and most dynamic of the HE1000 Versions available on the market, this one sounds airy, open, dynamic and has a musical and pleasing midrange, combined with a bright, sharp and airy treble, and a deep, impactful bass that extends down to 20 Hz quite nicely, without trespassing much the point of neutrality. This means that the headphones sound quite open, bright, and detailed, the resolution, how well they resolve micro details and background instruments being the forte points of He1000SE. The sound is super revealing, almost with a surgical precision, but still smooth and musical where it should be, so it can sound the closest to a live performance from all the headphones I’ve heard from HIFIMAN to date. The bass stays within what I could call neutral, but it is fast, yet can deliver an overwhelming impact when the song calls for it. HIFIMAN He1000SE follows the sound of the source music faithfully, so when a song is bassy, heavy and thick sounding, you will get a lush and heavy presentation, but for lighter, brighter music, like rock and metal, you will get all the air and cymbal energy metal and rock should bear. 

While I typically start with the bass, a neutral sounding headphone might not sound interesting in the bass, but staying honest to the source is an impressive feat by itself. He1000SE is lightning fast, if there is bass, it can react to it and display it in its full glory, while if there is no bass, or a shallow bass, He1000SE shows that bass shallow and in the upper bass. This is important, because most headphones tend to have the same low-end presentation regardless of how the song has it, while HE1000SE shows it exactly how the song has it, and spectrograms finally make sense for some songs. You may find it hard to believe that some of your songs don’t have a super strong bass in the sub-end range and they were mastered and mixed to sound hollow, while other pieces are made to sound as heavy, sloppy, thick and earth-shattering as possible, HE1000SE allowing you to enjoy both worlds, to know which songs have which bass. The bass stays fairly neutral, there is special added presence or quantity at any frequency, it stays true. Here, the source can help a lot, and HE1000SE seems to react well to EQ too, for example I can add over 20 dB of bass from the integrated EQ in JDS Labs Element III MK2 Boosted, and there is no distortion, or change in phase, the drivers are fully capable of keeping up with such changes, the tuning and default weight of the sound being a deliberate choice, and not a limitation of the driver. It takes songs like 

The midrange of HE1000SE is the most pleasing aspect of them, and this is a headphone you simply cannot stop listening to once you start, voices are delightful, for both male and female singers, it shows musicality and melody in all songs, and this includes electronic, classical, but metal and rock too. It is hard to say that you found perfection after reviewing so many products, but He1000SE has the midrange that I can consider perfectly balanced, it is musical always, free of distortion even if brought to 110dB, but it also is unbelievably detailed, it reveals details the way a microscope would, shows you every little intricate part of a song, including really quiet background effects, background voices, and makes lyrics easy to understand even in songs based on screaming and explosive emotional expression. You will hear everything, you will know there was a choir of singers in the background and you will be able to count every component and singer in a complex orchestral song, you get an exact representation of the song you’re listening to and the effort that went into writing, recording, mixing and mastering it. The level of dynamics and clarity He1000SE has makes you feel like if you’re listening to music in real life, with the actual singers playing right next to you, you hear everything, you don’t even need to close your eyes, it brings background information loud and clear, it makes you understand what’s happening in every song. The magic happens when a headphone is able to have a proper internal resonance of the driver, and the driver be large and nimble enough to actually faithfully imitate the resonance inside an acoustic guitar, and allow you to hear an actual guitar playing in the same room as you, or for certain songs, place you right inside the guitar, where the microphone has been recording. 

If you know by now that HE1000SE respects the source material for bass and the midrange, it does the same for every other aspect of the sound, including the soundstage and dynamics, and you can hear some impressive stereo separation, imaging and width with them, to the point where a whole club is playing right in your head, with actual resonance, reverberation and a realistic presentation of the bass weight and slope it would have, for songs that have been recorded this way. The dynamics are also respected nicely, but with something extra, He1000SE is so dynamic and has such a low distortion that you never really hear dynamic compression, even in music that has a 0dB dynamic range and where everything is super loud, where every other headphone I tested would struggle. He1000SE is able to play every single instrument and with zero distortion. A really good song to explore the dynamics and soundstage, you can go to basics, Kesha – Cannibal being an excellent source to show just how wide, how deep and how dynamic He1000SE can get. The soundstage extends forever laterally, there is a dramatic presentation of the whole song, we get exceptional spacing between effects and Kesha’s voice, we also get a super musical and fluid / smooth presentation of textures in the midrange, all of which combined with the bold bass and the airy treble creates a lively and pleasing presentation. 

We have an open, bright, airy treble that extends better than and with more treble body than all of the other HE1000 Headphones I heard to date. Thinking about it now, the treble is actually one of the most extended when in comparison with most headphones I reviewed to date, and has one of the most natural bodies / textures / presentations, without becoming edgy and harsh. There are limit songs that I use to test headphones, including the first album from Infant Annihilator, where most inadequate headphones will show harshness and sibilance fast, but He1000Se is actually able to not just play that but even make individual quieter cymbal crashes in the loudest parts of the song stand out, this level of instrument separation is in line with what you’d expect from Audeze LCD-5, which is more than double the current price of HE1000SE. To test how capable a headphone is in reproducing proper treble, I typically return to Infant Annihilator and their song decapitation fornication, as this is an exaggerated barrage of drums played in the fastest and most aggressive sequence known to man, and most headphones will make it sound incredibly metallic and fatiguing, He1000SE actually making it not just listenable, but enjoyable. What I find more surprising is that HE 1000 SE has the ability to render all the drum barrage throughout the song, while slower cymbal crashes playing far in the left and far in the right stage are clearly audible, well defined, and have a soft, quiet character as they’re supposed to. The voices are also well defined and separated from the drums and the guitars, which makes for a detailed and clean listening experience despite the song having a literal zero dynamic range. 

It is hard to describe the level of how realistic HE1000SE can sound, but if you were to imagine that there is a headphone that has the perfect tonality for every instrument, HE1000SE can totally fit that description. This is the same headphone that can reproduce cymbal crashes, but also a shy violin playing quietly in the background, but also a strong male voice leading the song. You can notice so much more emotion, and in songs like Rammstein – Zeit, listening to He1000SE, it sends shivers down your spine, the piano playing in the background fills the entire stage, and I found myself tearing up a few times during the song, He1000SE can totally render strong emotions and make you live through it. 

 

Comparisons 

HIFIMAN He1000SE vs Sendy Audio Peacock (3500 USD vs 1500 USD) – The Peacock has a design and look to match its name, it is pretty to the ultra, the golden metallic earcups, the wood and the large earpads, all make this one of the best looking headphones, while HE1000SE is a professional, industrial and clean-cut looking headphone that feels more like a professional tool. The cables for the peacock are super custom, and based on a connector I saw only once while reviewing, but the company includes a 4.4mm balanced cable from the factory, while for HE1000SE you have to get one from an aftermarket source. The driving factor is better for the Peacock, it is easier to drive, less picky with the source and reveals source problems much less than He1000Se which shows absolutely everything, but the same happens in the sound, He1000SE is more transparent, has considerably better resolution and clarity, and more impact, an airier treble that sounds more natural, and which manages to stay smoother and less fatiguing, plus less metallic and less grainy, while Peacock can sound a bit grainy at times, it has a more intimate soundstage, a more mid centric sound, and a warmer bass, but with less transparency, applying its own signature and tuning to most songs, where HE1000SE is more transparent and has less of a signature / tuning and allows the song to live through it, akin to an open window allowing the fresh spring mist to come in and entice you with its sound. I prefer the more technical approach of HE1000SE, plus I love a wide soundstage, but Peacock will be a good choice for those who want an intimate, warm sound with a more forward voice. 

HIFIMAN He1000SE vs Audeze MM-500 (3500 USD vs 1699 USD) – You can have everything sonically with both headphones, but the comfort is clearly won by HE 1000SE, which is much lighter, feels more balanced on my head, while MM-500 is far tighter, and feels heavy. The cable selection is better from the factory with MM-500, which has a higher quality cable, but both headphones are well made. MM-500 is designed to be easy to drive, and you won’t break a sweat, being able to plug it even in smartphones and portable dongle DACs and still get an excellent sound, while with HE100 0SE you need an especially good source to get the most out of them. Sonically, He 1000 SE is the cleaner, more airy, brighter, but also more punchy sounding headphone, and MM-500 sounds a bit grainier and more compressed in comparison. This can all be attributed to the fact that MM500 is trying to bring everything as close to the listener as possible, so it sounds rather intimate, and it also compresses some of the sound to make the background more even relative to the foreground, being quite good for mixing and mastering, showing resolutions easily and showing nuance well. HE1000SE, besides being pricier, is also handling dynamics better, it can create a more thunderous bass with better control and lower distortion, it can create a much wider soundstage with better instrument separation, better imaging and more details, all while being smoother in the textures and easier to enjoy. I personally think that HE1000SE would work really great for a studio too, as it allows for much better precision when tuning the soundstage / width of a song, but it is so hard to drive that most studio equipment won’t work well with it, and it has been a long time since I’ve seen any kind of high-end DAC/AMP in a studio. 

HIFIMAN He1000SE vs HIFIMAN He1000 Stealth (3500 USD vs 1400 USD) – Those two are super interesting to compare, because we can simply say they’re equal in build, comfort and ergonomics, how much they leak and how well they isolate from the outside noise. Where things start to change is in the sound, where the Stealth version is clearly a smoother, darker sounding headphone, with more bass warmth, but also less treble energy. I would say that both have the same level of bass quantity and treble quantity, but the character of the bass and the treble is different, He1000 Stealth has a smoother, less energetic treble that makes for a much more laid back listening and presentation, while HE1000SE has a much more energetic, airier and more detailed treble that makes it sound like a step-up in resolution. The overall bass character is also different, HE1000SE has a faster, tighter bass that can provide better impact, while He1000 Stealth has a slower, warmer bass that feels and sounds more romantic, but which is slightly more prone to distortion when the song allows it to do this. The dynamics are improved on HE1000SE, and so is the overall imaging and soundstage, with HE1000 Stealth sounding a bit more intimate, and HE1000 SE extending better in both the width and the depth. 

HIFIMAN He1000SE vs Spirit Torino Super Leggera (3500 USD vs 2000 USD) – There is always something special about the Super Leggera and how musical it sounds, but the comfort is best only for those with smaller ears, as for larger ears, they will sit on-ear. The overall design is more pretty for Super Leggera, and it is much easier to drive, plus it comes with three handmade cables, but HE1000SE sits better on my head. Both headphones use a common cable connector at the headphone side, so you can get replacement cables for both rather easily. The sound is quite different, with HE1000SE sounding more faithful to the recording, while Super Leggera sounds more romantic, has a smoother midrange, with a smoother, and more happy tuned treble, and a slower, more sloppy and more romantic sounding bass. The main difference is that Super Leggera is more intimate too, while HE1000SE seems to respect every single bit of the original album, it can reproduce thunderous bass, and shy, saggy bass, it can reproduce a bright and airy sound or a smoother sound, He1000SE is more transparent and as such I’d recommend it more if you want to hear what the song is supposed to sound like, if you’re a detail addict, or if you prefer a larger, more comfortable headphone. 

HIFIMAN He1000SE vs Rosson RAD-0 (3500 USD vs 2600 USD) – The build quality is good for both, but RAD-0 feels heavier and sits tighter on my head, which can create a bit of discomfort after a while, while HE1000SE is always comfortable. The connectors on the earcups of RAD-0 are not as common as those found on HE1000SE, which can make finding and getting aftermarket cables hard, but it is easier to pair with most sources, much easier to drive, is more portable, and subjectively, more colorful in design, with a prettier design. Naturally, having a prettier design doesn’t allow for the technological advancements that HIFIMAN made with HE1000SE, and HE1000SE has a more transparent sound, with better soundstage, a wider presentation, better dynamics, and a much better resolution. RAD-0 wins in terms of bass and smoothness, since it can reproduce some amazing impact, but HE1000SE is generally considerably more detailed and more holographic sounding, while RAD-0 is the kind of headphone that sounds intimate. 

HIFIMAN He1000SE vs Crosszone CZ-8a (3500 USD vs 1700 USD) – Starting with the comfort, CZ-8a has smaller earcups, which are closed back too, so it can isolate from the outside noise and leaks much less than HE1000SE, and it is easier to drive, but needs a source which is more v-Shaped to sound good, as it has a midrange forward sound, so in terms of drivability, it is still somewhat hard to drive, or requires you to have a source that has EQ. The wearing comfort is better with HE1000SE, since it has larger, deeper earcups, the support mechanism feels more natural, the headphones sit looser on my head, which feels comfortable, and both need more than what most dongle DACs can offer in terms of driving power. It is easier to find an aftermarket cable for HE1000SE, while for CZ-8a, only the company makes cables. The sound is very different, and while both are detailed, there is much more information that HE1000SE can reveal, it has better instrument separation, better dynamics and a more impactful sound. CZ-8a, on the other sound can scatter the sound more effectively in the width, and it will make most music sound wider, adds a more poppy sound to each drum hit, and is more midrange forward, bringing the forward layer closer to the listener, while He1000SE stays more faithful to the recording and how the song is supposed to sound like. I would say that HE1000SE is better for someone who wants to hear the original and get the closest to origins sound possible, while CZ-8a has a flavor which is an acquired taste which it will apply to each song, and is a love at first audition kind of sound that won’t be for everyone, but the fans of it are super convinced by its signature. 

 

Value and Conclusion

Usually, when reviewing high-end headphones I have to always mention that the price performance ratio is lower on flagships, and tell you that if you’re looking for value, a flagship is likely not the best way to go, but with HE1000SE, especially with the current pricing, I feel like I can finally tell you it is totally worth it, this is the headphone you’ve been waiting for, it is dynamic, it is punchy, it is detailed, clean and impressive in every way possible, it is made well, comfortable to wear, and it is the best of the HE1000 line, but priced closely to the other HE1000 headphones, so when trying to find one of the best flagship headphones in the whole world, it really stands out. 

In fact, I will be adding it to the Audiophile-Heaven Hall Of Fame, and it replaces the other HE1000 variants, as it is the best sounding variant, it is the cleanest, most detailed, punchiest, and most dynamic version, all while having the most bass and the best treble extension, so this is clearly the one to go for if you’re after a sound that is as natural and transparent as possible. 

At the end of the day, I think the image is clear, if you want the best HE1000 headphone, HE1000SE from HIFIMAN it is, and this is the best you’ll get unless you’re ready to spend over 4000 USD, where HIFIMAN has other flagships playing, which we’ll hopefully review in the near future too. Until then, if your budget is capped at 2000 USD, you’ll get an experience better than speakers get you at 20.000 USD, and it is worth noting, He1000SE is currently selling for 1999 USD on the HIFIMAN Website, so it gets a full thumbs up for every aspect. 

 

Product Link

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3Gy3yEi

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/419LPwu

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/41eTcmy

 


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Full Playlist used for this review

We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature.  I recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music! The playlists are different for Spotify, Tidal and Youtube, and based on the songs I enjoy and are available on each!

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_cjBXGmwSHSdGcwuc_bKbBDGHL4QvYBu

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5J3oloz8Riy9LxEGenOjQ0?si=979ba4f082414be7

https://tidal.com/browse/playlist/330fd544-8e5b-4839-bd35-676b2edbb3d5

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