The HIFIMAN Edition S is a unique supra-aural or on-ear dynamic driver headphone with both an open-back and closed-back design. It is priced at $249.
Disclaimer: The HIFIMAN Edition S was sent to us as a sample in exchange for our honest opinion in this review. We thank the team at Hifiman for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about the HIFIMAN products we have reviewed on Headfonics click here.
Note, this 2-page review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2021 which you can read up on here.
The release of dynamic headphones from a planar specialist. It has been done before but to a different standard and in a different period of growth for Hifiman.
Back in 2011, it was the HE300, which was crafted in the likeness of their first-generation design such as the HE4 and HE5-LE. At the time, the HE300 seemed a moderate and interesting sideline to the main planar business with its mid-centric signature, fullish quick bass, and slightly rolled high-end.
It didn’t take off quite in the same way as say the planars but I am not sure if that was ever the intention. I enjoyed it for what it was and I called it an “almost mobile headphone” back in the day when Hifiman was rocking out nuclear-powered inefficient headphones.
Things change, yes they do. Now you have efficient planar cans to take the place of the HE300 in terms of the full circumaural experience and the HE400S does a pretty fine job at $299.
Where to go? The one gap left that the likes of Audeze and Oppo have been fast to target is now the on-ear experience and this is where Hifiman have come up with a new headphone, the Edition S and yes, once again we go back to the dynamic experience for $249, their cheapest headphone yet.
What Is The Pitch?
Dynamic? Check. Unusual? No. Open or closed? Now, what about having both at the same time? Well now, that is the big pitch. The Edition S sits in Hifiman’s new Premium range of audio gear and is both an open and closed back-on-ear headphone design through the clever use of detachable logo caps on the outside of each cup.
With the caps attached the Edition S is in closed mode and with the caps off, it becomes an open on-ear headphone. In effect, this is two headphone signatures for the price of one.
Now whether or not the caps will produce a “true” closed headphone sound in terms of combating reflections and resonance quirks we shall see but the idea is admirable and at the very least you do have options and a degree of isolation should you need it.
Further to this unique pitch Hifiman has kept the Edition S incredibly efficient for portable use with an 18-ohm rating and 113dB sensitivity.
They have also built in a foldable design making it the most aggressive attempt yet by Hifiman to really go for the ‘pick up and play’ audiophiles who want something on the go that can play well with portable devices. Throw in an inline mic and playback control and you get the gist pretty quick about who the Edition S might appeal to.
The Edition S is a portable-sized large on-ear foldable design headphone with a single entry cable setup.
Materials are mostly matte-finished solid plastics with some inner metal joints at the gimbal/foldaway areas and synthetic leather padding in the central part of the headband for comfort. Pressure points are to the top of the head and to the side around your ears and feel well balanced with good clamping pressure.
The cup design is more attuned to the contours of a typical ear shape, so instead of being round like a DT1350 or rectangular like the HP-50 from Nad, it has a cutaway towards the bottom of an otherwise rounded rectangular shape.
This is intended to follow the contours of your outer ear for a better fit and for my money it does exactly that with my regular-sized ears. So whilst they are technically classed as on-ear they do in fact go over my ears making them a very well-designed and snug circumaural. Now your ears may not fit as well as mine but credit to Hifiman for coming up with this clever arrangement.
Comfort & Isolation
Pads are a new Focus pad designed to follow the same contours as the cups and they feel more or less the same as the original focus pads on the HE400i and HE560 in terms of weight and comfort.
Note they are a semi-porous design so even in closed mode there is a touch of leakage from them, they do not isolate as completely as some pure closed units such as the HP-50 or the PM-3 from Oppo.
The depth of the new pads is not quite as deep as the Oppo pads so the odd time I can feel my ears touching in the plastic grill protecting the dynamic driver.
The pads are detachable though and whilst I have yet to see any alternative pad designs for sale I would hope to see more closed leather pad options just as an isolating alternative in the near future. There could be a case for a nice piece of modding here depending on your tastes with some damping materials on the back of that grill in the meantime.
Open and Closed
The cup covers are held together by a magnetic backplate so it’s a pretty straightforward lift and pull back motion to remove the plates and convert the Edition S into an open design headphone.
Once done isolation is near zero with only the leather parts of the Focus pads adding a degree of wind noise protection. Putting the plates back on is a no-brainer with the magnetic plates to convert it into a closed headphone, takes about 1 second on each side and they simply snap back in.
It is not the most isolating of experiences though in its closed format. Yes, it’s not as wide open when the plates are off but it is not as isolating as its competitors.
It does a fair job but there is still considerable leakage in part due to the slightly porous nature of the pad materials and I would presume also the lack of depth and deadening in behind the detachable plates to absorb and reflect external sounds. It is a compromise of sorts, almost semi-open and not completely closed.
The OFC cable is 1.2m in length and constructed of a fairly memory retentive free rubber coating and possessing excellent strain relief at both ends. This primarily portable cable is terminated with 3.5mm jacks at both ends with a straight gold plated 3.5mm jack for inserting into the Edition S and a right-angled jack for use with your player of choice.
Hifiman has also included a gold-plated quarter jack convertor for desktop use. It also comes complete with a collar clip and an in-line remote control and mic for use with most smartphone platforms.
Kudos to Hifiman for not sticking the Edition S with double entry or proprietary connectors. This leaves you free to try out any cable you want with a 3.5mm termination and there are quite a few out there.
Hifiman has also included an airline port adaptor with the Edition S as well as a rather nice portable semi-hard round zippered case. The Edition S fits perfectly into this case when folded.
The case also has a metal clip on the top allowing you to tag it onto a backpack or case of some description to keep it secure if space is a premium inside your case. It is the first time I have seen Hifiman build a specific carry case for their headphones of this nature so thankfully no more 3rd Party cases good as they are.
Click on page 2 below for sound impressions and select comparisons