This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

This review first appeared in the October 2012 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read it in its original Polish version here. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own articles, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of High Fidelity or HifiMan. - Ed

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacula
CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition
Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC
Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory Shilabe & Kansui
Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III Signature with Regenerator power supply
Power amplifier: Soulution 710
Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom
Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic + Acoustic Revive custom speaker stand
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro 600Ω vintage, HifiMan HE6
Interconnects: CD/preamp Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, preamp/power amp Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo
Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx
Power cables (all equipment): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
Power strip: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate
Stand: Base IV custom under all components
Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under CD player, Audio Revive RAF-48 platform under CD player and preamplifier, Pro Audio Bono PAB SE platform under Leben CS300 XS
Review component retail in Poland: zł 1.195

The HE-300 is the first and only full-size dynamic—i.e. not planar-magnetic—headphone model from the American company HifiMan. Founded by Fang Bian in 2007, the company has direct links to China as the country of his ancestors where his products are manufactured (and some like the headphones also designed). The person responsible for the headphones is Mr. He whose name features in each full-size headphone’s nomenclature.

The company’s founding goal was the manufacture of the best possible magnetostatic headphones for the best price. The HE-300 now becomes a design exception and the least expensive model in the line. It would however be a grave mistake to pass them by only because they lack the flat film membranes with magnetic arrays on either side of the diaphragm of the others. Their enclosures, cable and even drivers are of the highest quality. Everything safe for the latter in fact looks almost identical to the dearer models.

There are large ear cups, a metal bridge, a high-quality user-replaceable leash and velour pads. Of course there are certain differences too. The cups are of a silvery plastic (the cup color becomes distinguishing feature between the various models) and the leather-clad and padded bridge isn’t particularly refined nor is the leather genuine. Nevertheless I would have thought it a shame to not try out this second-last model from Fang Bian (I haven’t had a chance yet to listen to the newest HE-400) as the HE-500 and the HE-6 I reviewed remained with me as reference headphones.

Sound. A selection of recordings used during the review auditions: Assemblage 23, Bruise. Limited Edition, Accession Records, A 128, 2 x CD (2012); Carol Sloane, Little Girl Blue, Sinatra Society of Japan, XQAM-1036, HQCD (2010); Niemen & Akwarele, Sukces, Muza Polskie Nagrania/Polskie Nagrania, PNCD 354, "Niemen od początku - III", CD (1968/1996); Dead Can Dance, Anastasis, [PIAS] Entertainment Group, PIASR311CDX, Special Edition Hardbound Box Set, CD+USB drive 24/44,1 WAV (2012); Depeche Mode, Enjoy The Music....04, Mute, XLCDBONG34, maxi-SP (2004); Depeche Mode, John The Revelator, Mute, LCDBONG38, maxi-SP (2006); Hilary Hahn, Hilary Hann Plays Bach, Sony Classical, SK 62793, Super Bit Mapping, 2 x CD (1997)...

...J. S. Bach, Sonatas & Partitas, Henryk Szeryng, Sony Classical/Sony Music Japan, SICC 840-1, 2 x CD; Jean-Michel Jarré, Magnetic Fields, Dreyfus Disques/Epic, EPC 488138 2, CD (1981/1997); Simone Kermes, Viva!, Archiv Production, 477 9843, CD (2007-2008); Ultravox, Vienna, Chrysalis/EMI, 23436527, Remastered Definitive Edition, 2 x CD (1981/2008); Vangelis, Spiral, RCA/BMG Japan, 176 63561, K2, SHM-CD (1977/2008); Yo-Yo MA & Bobby McFerrin, Hush, Sony Music/Sony Music Hong Kong Ltd., 543282, No. 0441, K2HD Mastering, CD (1992/2012).

I compared the HE-300 primarily against my reference Sennheiser HD-800 as well as the magnetostatic HE-500. It didn’t take long to conclude that the HE-300s were much different from either. They are the first headphones from HifiMan that seem ‘warm’. I used quotation marks because it’s not fully true and thus probably an oversimplification. However that’s how they’ll initially sound. It’s also how they were described and commented upon by the editor of Headfonia and Brent Butterworth for Sound + Vision. We'll come back to it later.

The main thing to be said is that these headphones deliver strong very rhythmic bass. All sounds in the bottom range are slightly emphasized and ‘picked up’, i.e. not so much inflated as somehow noted and appreciated, which is not the same as a simple bass emphasis. Strong performance just below 100Hz and above 42Hz—the base frequency for the double bass—is very evident and confirmed by the Sound + Vision measurements as the ‘phones’ max impedance of 94Ω which occurs at 68Hz to result in a 2.4dB increase of the frequency response. That’s beyond discussion.