I was pretty settled on the order of things in my headphone universe with regard to the HE1000 being the top dog so the announcement of the similarly priced HE1000 V2 a few months ago as a direct replacement for the original 2015 award winning headphone was unsettling but in a positive way.
It is hard to let go, to be honest, so many questions came rushing to my mind and I am pretty sure these are not unique to me. Will it sound better? Will it still match? Does it look different? What the heck will I do with my devalued V1? I mean it was only 12 months ago I was celebrating a fantastic headphone, should I be celebrating all over again? Either way, the bank manager is not complaining this time around.
What Is The Pitch?
The HE1000 V2 is being pitched as containing several tweaks to the original HE1000 that encompasses a mixture of customer feedback and technological improvements to bring about a headphone that Hifiman believe improves on the original formula without breaking away from it altogether. Even Fag
It could have been so easy to call this the HE1020 and run it alongside the HE1000 ala Nikon or give it a fancy meme like “Air edition” and charge a few extra bucks but nope, the HE1000 V2 is the direct replacement and will cost the same. Hifiman is basically stating that this time around you will get more value and a better sound for the same $2999 price.
And the tweaks are plentiful. In comes a new shorter/squatter headband designed to give a better fit to a wider selection of small and large heads, new thicker polyester pad surfaced and angled for increased sound transparency, a new upgraded cable (crystalline copper and silver) in same 3 connection types as well as a thinner cup diameter bringing everything a touch closer than before. On top of that, the new V2 is lighter by up to 60g over the older V1. The pitch here is clearly on the fit, seal and overall comfort levels of the new V2 being superior to before.
Of course when I asked Fang how does this all effect the sound he smiled with an air of confidence that the new V2 would be warmly greeted by the faithful:
I believed we could further improve HE1000 V1. So, we listened to feedback and kept working on all year. We are quite happy with how it turned out. Most challenging was to solve the problem that V1 sometimes would sound lean on certain amps.
We tried our best to make it friendly to most amplifiers and sources. And we did it after modifying a lot of details. V2 has more body and detail in mid and bass without affecting the detail and sparkle on the high.
In all other areas, the HE1000 V2 remains unchanged. The nano-tech designed diaphragm is the same and the dual sided asymmetrical magnet and window shade design is as before and I think that’s important to retain confidence in those thinking of upgrading that they will get something familiar.
The Upgrade Program
If you are the proud owner of a V1 and feel uncomfortable with the fact there a V2 in the same price space pushing down the value of your pride and joy, or simply were unlucky enough to just buy one before the announcement well the good news is you can actually upgrade your existing V1 into a V2 without having to buy a new one. This is actually a separate purchase which you can do on their online store here.
Limited Time No More
This upgrade program was initially finite in terms of availability and was to expire on Nov 18th, 2016, which, by the time this article comes out, will have come and gone. The good news though is this deadline has now been replaced by indefinite meaning for as long as you have an HE1000 V1 you can avail of the program. For those that have sent them in already, the turnaround time is fast. Around 2 weeks or less depending on shipping and customs clearance on your side.
What You Get
The upgrade program in effect changes most aspects of your original V1 such as pads, cables, and headband as well as changing the cups as well as any internal tweaks required to increase the rated sensitivity and costs $650 (not including shipping).
There is some detail to note such as not including your original packaging BUT including your original cables and of course the additional cost of a tracked shipping service but otherwise, it shouldn’t come out to more than an additional $50-$100 depending on your location and closest Hifiman approved delivery address. My own experience shipping to their Hong Kong center from the Ph cost around $55. If you do not like your upgrade Hifiman will accept a complete return within 7 days of receipt for a full refund.
Out of the box, the first two things you will notice is the weight and the lighter grain of wood veneer on the cups. The V2 is now 420g compared to the 480g older v1 and with both in the hand, there is a qualitative difference in the handling as a result. The V2 feels easier to grip and manipulate, especially with the slightly shortened and squatter headband which does a better job at keeping the cups under control when off the head.
The original HE1000 cups have a darker grain of wood veneer around the cups and actually matches the accompanying composite leather headband. Sadly, the new lighter color grain of wood does not match the headband coloring which has stayed the same as the V1. It is a purely cosmetic issue though and one of personal preference but I do prefer my colors to be complementary rather than clash.
The next key change that you will encounter out of the box is the new headband dimensions on the V2. It is still the same design only this time Hifiman has flattened and widened it slightly and added a few more notches to the headband adjuster. The slightly wider and flatter structure actually creates a better level of rigidity on the entire frame.
On the old V1, even on the lowest notch, I got a feeling of the cups creating more of a downward than sideways pressure on the side of my head. It was comfortable but perhaps too relaxed. It never felt 100% steady and evenly distributed in terms of comfort. The leather strap, comfortable as it was, didn’t really seem to come into play as much as it should.
With the V2 the clamp is stronger, and the pressure better distributed. The shorter length combined with the increase in notch adjustment holes also allows the headband leather strap to take a load of the cups downward pressure which in turns allows the sideways clamping pressure to become more effective. Combined with the weight reduction and more comfortable pad material it suddenly becomes an even more comfortable and secure wearing experience than before.
There is also better resistance on the gimbal screws of the V2. With the older V1, the cups felt a bit ‘flyaway” in comparison to the more rigid and better-behaved V2 gimbal and cups. They still retain the same flexibility to fold flat but the V2 requires a conscientious effort to fold flat by the user whereas the V1 just did it of its own accord.
Hifiman has also reduced the depth of the cups on the new V2. The older V1 measured in at 14mm deep compared to the new slimline 11m of the V2.
The reduction of the depth should have two knock-on effects. The first effect is a contribution to the overall reduction in weight of the V2. The second net effect is to bring the V2 driver slightly close to your ear with a marginal offset from the slightly thicker angled pads. A closer driver can reduce the overall size of a headphone’s soundstage but it should also result in a more engaging presentation.
The original V1’s ultra pads have also been changed, both in terms of material uses and their form factor. The original pads were more premium versions of the Focus pads used on the HE400i and HE560 headphones called the Ultra Pads. Essentially, they were a mix of velour and leather and seen as offering a solid combination of the audible qualities of both materials and also reasonably comfortable. They also offered a nice balance between seal and heat dissipation.
The new Ultra Pads are now thicker than the originals with a wider angle ‘wedge type’ form factor that should follow the typical contours of most people’s heads and provide a more comfortable fit and a superior seal. They are still not as thick and luxurious as the MrSpeakers Ether or Audeze LCD series pads but they so have a more defined and noticeable wedge than before.
Gone also is the velour surface finish of the original Ultra Pads and in comes a new polyester type material. Those with a tendency to feel an itching sensation on the leather to velour transition areas should get a lot more comfort with the new polyester surface. Hifiman claims that the new polyester material does have audible improvements over the original velour with an enhanced level of transparency in the presentation. They remain detachable though so if they are not to your liking you can swap them out for older pads are modded pads depending on your preferences.
Gone is the sedated nylon clothed black 2 core construct and in comes a three core, crystalline copper with silver plated wire encased in a rubberized sheath. Honestly, they look weird and physically feel like a spare IV tube from some sort of life support system but they do have far less memory retention than the original and far less prone to tangles and hoops. When you uncurl them they just fall right out ready to hook up so in that respect they are easier to work with.
As per V1, you get three cables with specific connections for specific purposes. The first two are for primarily desktop duties with an unbalanced TRS cable terminated 3m cable and a balanced 4 pin XLR output terminated 3m cable. Both cables come with the 2.5mm stereo/mono plugs for attaching to the dual entry cups of the HE1000 V2. The last cable is a shorter 1m terminated with a gold plated 3.5mm right angle jack for plugging into portable sources should you wish to move around a bit. All cables are constructed from the new 3 core materials.
Weird as they may look there is a definite audible difference between the original cable and the new cable. The older cable has a slightly duller, less dynamic tonal quality to it compared to the more dynamic, slightly brighter and cleaner response of the new cable. In some respects, you may have to be a bit more careful with the setup matching on the new cable as its marginally less forgiving, especially on the top end but the additional clarity and vibrancy should be worth it.
Accessories and Packaging
It’s essentially the same packaging as the HE1000 and you will not find mention of a V2 on any of the branding except for the plush manual you receive on the inside of the main box. It is still pretty consistent with the rest of the 2nd Gen premium headphone packaging with its leather-trimmed hard case and foam contoured interior housing the headphone and cables. The manual is as exquisitely prepared as ever. Those with V1 headphones will be very familiar with it right down to the brown cardboard shipping box which still says HE1000.
A Small Suggestion
If there was ever a headphone that cried out for secondary carrying accessories, then it’s the HE1000 range. I wish I could bring it around with me in a carry case ala pelican style Audeze or even a protective pouch and cleaning cloth for the metal. It is simply too expensive to stuff in a bag and too wieldy to carry the entire case.
The inclusion of a small microfiber cleaning cloth in the case would be ideal also. In the older V1 review, I did mention that the metal was a slightly faded color ala ALO Audio Rx nickel type alloy which gave it a nice retro look and it is much the same here with the V2. However, after a year I do find myself just giving it a small polish for fingerprints and dust blemishes. A cleaning cloth would be ideal for times like that.