This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below
The Fostex drawing of their ortho diaphragm shows the basic principle. An aluminum, copper or other voice coil is etched onto a stretched polyester, polyamide or mylar film to which is then applied an array of magnets to drive the film. The HE-6's optimized array adds strategic Neodymium magnets to the edge of the diaphragm to linearize magnets which sit over it.
• The HE5 uses much heavier aluminum traces which increase moving mass and lower the impedance.
• Its wiring is OFC while the HE-6 uses single-crystal copper.
• The magnet assembly of the HE-6 is specifically focused to increase the magnetic field strength and raise the driver's sensitivity. The actual diaphragms are the same.
• The fit & finish of the HE-6 are improved.

"Re: the impedance matching box, our work on raising the field strength in the HE-6 motor makes it less of a requirement than with the prototype. Rather than include it with the headphone which would penalize those folks who own suitable headphone amps already, we'll make it an option. Re: history, I've known Mr. He with whom I started to collaborate in 2005 for 10 years now*. By the Millennium he had begun working on an electrostatic DIY headphone in China and on a planar magnetic design three years later. Our electrostatic Jade project was our first joint attempt to move from one-up DIY into more regular production and offer an affordable alternative to the Stax Omega II and Sennheiser Orpheus.

"Our eventual issue with the Jade was reliability due to humidity and a rougher appearance due to less than fully formalized production processes. At the time we simply didn't have the hi-tech know-how to perfect its coating for fail-safe operation in all climates but we're working on that now. Today I operate two Chinese factories to build our various Hifi Man products and we've fully transitioned into a professional operation."


* The designer's name He is reflected in the nomenclature of this and the other Hifi Man planar-magnetic models.


Because traveling in style has become highly competitive—each statement can these days arrives in an even fancier box than the last one—the HE-6 gets a hefty black dress box with deeply carved hard foam liner and embossed HifiMan logo. Included is one spare set of harness terminations. Those are for new owners who wish to roll their own cabling. The stock leash ships disconnected. As with the HE5-LE before, it consists of two halves. The first terminates in the company's chosen screw sockets on the pig-tail ends to the headphone. The other end is a Yongsheng-made male 4-pin XLR. The second half terminates in a standard 6.3mm jack and connects to the first with a female XLR.

Removing the second 'ordinary' half can connect the HE-6 to amps with a balanced XLR output where each channel carries its own ground. This was common for AKG K-1000 amps. Because they were tailor made for a headphone of even lower sensitivity, they make ideal yeoman drivers for the HE-6. The quite skinny braided stock leash won't win over macho men or ALO Audio chain-mail users like yours truly but that—apparently—is why the aftermarket cable scene exists in the first place. Leave those guys something to do.

As promised, the HE-6's shinier slicker appearance is an upgrade over the original HE5-LE. Still, the essential design platform remains unchanged. Particularly with the dust-magnet black Velour pads some may be a bit disappointed. What's more, all future HE-Series HifiMans will share this same super structure. They'll differ only in diaphragm and motor details, cable quality and performance specifications. That's similar to the Living Voice Avatar speakers. Numerous identical-looking models span wildly disparate price points. HifiMan HE-Series customers are expected to shop with their ears. Your more expensive model won't look any different from the neighbor's entry-level version. Especially for lower volume products, that's sensible for manufacturing and reduces parts inventory burdens. From a marketing perspective it's a nightmare. As a seller, would you want to rely on buyer maturity and sophistication alone to upsell to a dearer model that performs even better but looks identical ($449 HE-4 at left)? For a bit of fashionista heat, the $945 American-made Audez'e LCD-2 sports Caribbean Rosewood bodies, lamb-skin ear pads and sturdier spring-locked XLR connectors at the cups. While the visual design cues of the Audez'e add up to more of a steam-punk retro-laboratory look, the ingredients of their recipe feel more luxurious than the HE-6. They also weigh more. On my big skull the Audez'e exerts less clamp pressure and feels bigger. The HE-6 is tighter and smaller. I find both comfortable but most would give the HifiMan the nod on long-term wear.