This review covers the new Drop + HIFIMAN HE-R7DX full-sized closed-back 50mm dynamic driver headphones. It is currently priced at just $99 with an SRP of $149.
Disclaimer: This was sent to us as a sample for our honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or services. We thank Drop and HIFIMAN for this opportunity.
To learn more about Drop products previously featured on Headfonics you can click here.
Note, that this article follows our latest scoring guidelines which you can read up on here.
The budget-tier headphone world is essentially a death pit of endless options, each brutally trying to end the existence of the other and achieve status as the go-to model to dominate the sub-$150 tier. And with that in mind, Drop and HIFIMAN have collaborated once more to offer us a new taste of what they feel to be a budget champion.
Meet the Drop+ HIFIMAN HE-R7DX, the new closed-back kid on the block. The HE-R7DX is a bit of a conundrum and has polarized opinions floating around the headphone universe. I thought I’d toss my opinion into the mix with this review of Drop’s latest attempt to seize control of those who are looking for great budget headphones.
The HE-R7DX offers up a 50mm dynamic driver set. Each driver is equipped with a special type of coating that the owner of HIFIMAN calls Topology Diaphragms.
This substance is apparently very malleable and easily manipulated in a physical sense. This material has a specialized geometric pattern that is uniquely suited to forcing sound waves to form in a specific manner, which allows for the headphone’s tonality to be more precisely tuned by the company.
Previously, HIFIMAN used this same material in the RE800 set of IEMs, which you can read more about here. This special type of coating is intended to reduce harmonic distortion and also allow for sound waves to form in a coherent and precise manner, dispersive patterns are a thing of the past.
HIFIMAN has yet to make a truly portable (small) headphone that is not an IEM, so it was no surprise to me that this model would be aiming at replacing the older HE4XX series, which itself took over for the HE560 series, which then took over for the original HE-500 and HE400 series.
As much as I like these designs aesthetically, I am beginning to want some innovation and change in this. All of the HE-series models seem to have the same general design. And that is a good thing if you are a HIFIMAN fanboy.
However, the design doesn’t come without some drawbacks. I am on board with the others who hold a viewpoint that this headphone has some design issues. While they are not purchase-breaking in any manner, I do consider them a bit of a problem when it comes to physical comfort and fit.
The large round earcup design is quite basic and lacks any real defining personality. As something aimed at the budget tier, I would have preferred something that looked a bit different and that offered something more in the way of physical fit and styling.
Comfort & Isolation
This headphone simply doesn’t fit my head, not even on the smallest adjustment setting. I am not the tallest or girthiest skull of a man in the world, I am quite short. I cannot see any younger person or child even remotely being able to wear these headphones without it slacking right off their noggin’.
This headphone has extremely light caliper pressure, meaning it doesn’t clamp much if at all. And not having enough clamp is actually a thing that is important.
If I sneeze, this is flung right off my head and there isn’t anything I can do about it. The headband is just too large, it needs to be a bit more rigid and unforgiving in that regard so that it actually will stay on my head.
Due to the large size of the HE-R7DX, their earcups are massive too and so is the thickness of the headband itself. While plenty soft, both the earpads and the selection of the material for the headband make this headphone the most loosely fitting headphone I’ve worn in years.
And that makes me sad because if I sit still and don’t angle my head at all, the headphone is very comfortable and soft. The earpads are super plush hybrid pleather and velour-type material in nature, so the tactility of the earpad experience is actually excellent.
HIFIMAN should maybe reduce the size of the connector ports on the bottom of their earcups. I cannot turn my head to either side without crushing and bunching up the cable for the entry ports into each cup. If they were a smaller size, or the sockets were much more recessive so that the jacks were plugged in much deeper, then this would not be a problem for me.
The HE-R7DX stock cable is wildly large and thick. Excessive girth is really odd feeling when you are sitting down and this headphone forces the cable to bunch up on your chest or stomach because it weighs so much and because it is so physically hefty.
I would have preferred a nicer, fabric laced, and thinner cable. We are getting back to that garden hose type of cable from the early Audeze and HIFIMAN era and I am hoping that HIFIMAN revises this in the next model release.
The cable exterior is that classic rubberish-like material, with a 3.5mm head adapter and two 3.5mm port entry-side cable leads that go into the earcups. I’d rate the cable as average in quality and typical of a $149 or so headphone that is well regarded. It neither lacks any quality traits nor offers anything special or interesting.
Packaging & Accessories
Drop is pretty decent about their packaging experience, but in this case, the HE-R7DX boxing experience is quite bare. And that is just fine and acceptable for a $149 headphone, of course.
In fact, I think I prefer it to not include a ton of extras. I would like the cost to be as low as possible, so this makes sense that the box and included accessories bin are not a thing with this model. You get a basic box, the headphone cable, and the headphone. And for this price, that is all you need and that is all I want.
Most of us have some previously owned headphones that came with boxes and carrying cases anyway, so, if need be, I’d be using one of those other cases I have that I never used before with this model. Should I have the need to go portable with it, I’d be tossing this right into my bag anyway.
The stock bass experience is what I call bass-light. The HE-R7DX offers very thin and lacks bass depth, but the advertisement claims it has a lot of bass punch. And that is true, you can get punchy bass despite being relatively bass light and lacking depth and thickness.
I feel like they’ve under-tuned the low end in terms of physicality and quantity factor, as the upper mids and treble are much more plentiful. Even with a hell of a bass boost, and I am talking +10db (which is crazy loads of extra bass), this HE-R7DX is still bass light and not responsive to that additional EQ’ed low end.
The kick factor, or that physical tactility, so to speak, is somewhere between moderate and high on this headphone for the entire bass region. But again, the quantity factor is low. So, think classic AKG K701 series and how that bass was portrayed back in the day and you’ll get a good idea of how HIFIMAN tuned this HE-R7DX down yonder.
As far as clarity goes, I feel the HE-R7DX performs admirably but is generally not up to par with a few other models out there in this price range these days.
For example, I reviewed the SIVGA Robin last October, another closed-back headphone that sells for the exact same price tag as this HE-R7DX. The comparison there between these two models’ low ends is like night and day.
The HIFIMAN is bass light and punchy, thin, and lacking EQ responsiveness. The SIVGA is warmer, thicker, softer in strike factor, and responds much better to boost the low end if you want more from the stock experience.
The HE-R7DX midrange is where I feel 90% of these headphones actually exist. The entire midrange is a large and bloomed feeling. By the word bloomed, I mean it sounds physically large and exaggerated in the physical vastness.
A lot of that has to do with the imaging, but more on that in a bit. For now, just know that some headphones have a vocal and midrange experience that can feel small and meek, while others sound larger and very rounded.
In this case, the HE-R7DX’s central area is very large sounding for a closed back. In fact, I will call this the largest vocal sound I’ve heard in years for a closed back in this price range. Off the top of my head, I can’t really tell you any other headphone sub $150 that feels this large with vocals.
Having said that, the experience is slightly recessed, so I am quite shocked that this headphone isn’t forward sounding…but instead…quite relaxed in the physical placement of the midrange.
How would this headphone sound if it were tuned to be more forward and engaging? Whoa. We could have gotten the go-to best-ever budget midrange headphones.
Of course, very forward is not enjoyed by everyone. Plenty of users like slightly mellow and relaxed physical placement that sounds a bit distant. I am just shocked at how large it sounds still while being a bit relaxed in the physical location. That is impressive.
The entire upper midrange and onward into the treble regions are hostile and fatiguing. Overall literal fidelity factor is noticeably inferior to that SIVGA I mentioned for the same price.
Interestingly, the older FiiO EH3 closed-back Bluetooth model from a few years ago that I reviewed, which is now the same price at roughly $149 as well, sounds significantly better in the raw fidelity factor.
Ignore that FiiO’s current price on Amazon, people are scalping and gouging that headphone into a price tag of nearly $400USD, and that’s insanity. That headphone went for $199 a few years ago and there are other places that sell it for $150 now, so the HE-R7DX and the FiiO EH3 are pretty much the same prices these days.
Now, the HIFIMAN has a less clean approach, that is true, but the FiiO has a much darker and wooly appearance from top to bottom. So, take that as you will depending on your preference. I simply feel the rawer quality in the FiiO and SIVGA than the HE-R7DX.
This is the real star of the show, no doubt. The HE-R7DX has a massive imaging experience for the price. That SIVGA and the FiiO sound 2x smaller and far, far less expansive and aired out.
In fact, I call them claustrophobic in comparison to the HIFIMAN. Somehow, HIFIMAN managed to obtain the most spacious headphone in their entire inventory on the lower end. This headphone sounds more spacious than the HE-560 and the older HE-4xx series.
The depth of field factor is good, and the width and height factor are also very good, but the airiness and fluff factor, and the effortlessness of the imaging and stage are sublime.
This headphone is great for the classical genre. And I would regard it now, despite the treble and bass issues, as a headphone that meshes immensely well with anything that is recorded live on stage or in a hall of some type.
John Williams OST works such as The Empire Strikes Back, and The Imperial Audiophile Edition are crazy good and lush in the imaging department. Color me wildly impressed with this model and how vast it sounds for the price and the style. Now, let’s see this imaging experience vastly improved in the more expensive models in the future, please!
The HE-R7DX doesn’t require any amplification at all, it is very easy to drive and sounds no different from my xDuoo X3 portable players, to using a more expensive xDuoo TA-26, which I reviewed here not long ago.
It doesn’t require amplification in the slightest and it won’t really matter what you use. The headphone is also immensely stubborn and won’t change in tone with anything that I currently was able to test with. No level of gain or voltage seemed to alter what I could hear or feel.
My favorite portable amplifier, the XRK, remains the warmest and lush sounding amplifier I currently have that is pocket friendly. Tossing warmth in the mix did nothing for this HIFIMAN headphone.
Going sterile into the CEntrance HiFi-M8 V2 did nothing for it either. I can’t get the headphone to sound very different unless I highly exaggerate the low end with +10dB of EQ and then also drop the top end off a little, and then inject a very warm amplifier into the mix. When I did that, it slightly altered its generally colorless midrange and bass experience.
Drop + HIFIMAN HE5XX
I’d like to touch briefly on the comparison between the last Drop + HIFIMAN model I have reviewed, which was the HE5XX, and this newer HE-R7DX.
The HE5XX sells for roughly $200 these days and it is true that it is an open-back model, vs the HE-R7DX being a closed back. But the comparisons drawn are still fun to witness and I am sure a bunch of buyers want to know the difference between them.
The HE5XX is far less spacious and has significantly less imaging prowess in every direction, while the HE-R7DX has much better sizing in every imaging category from the width, to height, to the depth of field.
Typically, open backs have better imaging than closed backs, but in this case, the closed HIFIMAN sounds noticeably larger and much more vast sounding.
Also, the tonality of the HE5XX is much darker, much smoother, and noticeably of a higher fidelity across the board. The purer sounding and refined of the two is the HE5XX, which is more comfortable on my head and never left any marks on my skin.
SIVGA Robin SV021
The SIVGA Robin is much smaller and has a higher clamping pressure than the HE-R7DX, which makes the Robin more stable on my head when I am moving around. I do like to go for short walks with my headphones. Proper caliper pressure is a bit of a requirement for me so that headphones do not jostle around while moving.
The Robin also has a much darker sounding and forward feeling in the midrange. The HE-R7DX is massively larger sounding in the imaging department. Significant sizing stature between the two, the HIFIMAN is extremely open, but a bit mellow and relaxed in midrange placement location. The Robin is forward and engaging.
The HE-R7DX offers a more physical kick factor, or snap rather might be a better word to use. It hits harder than the softer appeal of the SIVGA Robin. Where the SIVGA is more of a generalist for tonality needs, the HIFIMAN feels like a specialized headphone just for Classical or live recordings, due to that amazing sound staging experience it offers.
The Drop + HIFIMAN HE-R7DX is a solid offering for anyone seeking a budget-friendly Classical specialist headphone. To me, this exceptional imaging prowess of this headphone is kind of difficult to not reach for when it is around on my desk.
If you enjoy YouTube and watching live concerts or performances, this might be a good option for you if your wallet is seeking something around $150.
The Drop + HIFIMAN HE-R7DX is a bit large, but otherwise, I would consider it a solid performer overall. It offers a relaxed placement in the midrange vocal experience and it doesn’t require a powerful amplifier to get the best out of it.
Drop + HIFIMAN HE-R7DX Specifications
- Drivers: 50 mm dynamic drivers with HIFIMAN’s Topology Diaphragm
- Sensitivity: 101 dB
- Impedance: 16 ohms
- Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
- Cable: 60in. (1.5 m), detachable
- Plug: ¼ in (3.5 mm)
- Weight: 11.9 oz (338 g)