The HiFiMAN Edition X is Delightful from Portable Players Page 2


Sound Quality
Alrighty then, let's plug this $1800 headphone into my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and...holy smoke, these sound good...really good. Relaxed; not in your face; very easy listening. Quite often a headphone with those characteristics also ends up sounding boring...not so with the Edition X, they just sound gentle.

It's not often I get a headphone that just invites me to listen and not worry about the wrong all. This headphone plays right at my penchant for a slightly relaxed, laid-back sound. And, seriously, I've not heard a headphone before that played so nicely on a phone. It's a tantalizing taste of high-end listening, without all the front-end bother.

Bass on the Edition X looses a bit of umph in the lowest octave, and could use a slight boost a la Harman; it's not the tightest bass I've heard—which probably goes to the Audeze LCD cans—but it's quite good. The most prominent bass characteristic is that it transitions beautifully to the mids.

Midrange, like the bass, sounds wonderfully integrated with he whole of the music. Upper-mids are slightly laid-back giving a slightly distant character. The treble is also well integrated into the whole, but also lacks a bit of sparkle and has a very slight papery sound to it. I found a little lift centered around 8.5kHz perked up the treble nicely. Here's the EQ I ended up with.


While the nicely balanced tonality was certainly an unexpected pleasure, the biggest surprise for me was the imaging and dynamics. It's been my experience that one almost always comes at the expense of the other. A really potent dynamic headphone will often lack depth; and a headphone with superior imaging will often lack punch. The HiFiMAN Edition X has a hearty helping of each and a terrific balance between both.

Comparing the Edition X
Sennheiser HD 800 S - A contrast of opposites here: The HD 800 S is a bright headphone and the Edition X is laid-back; so quite a bit of difference in terms of tonality. The Edition X has tighter and more even bass response; the HD 800 S sounds more resolving and articulate. But I wonder how much of that is simply due to the lower treble level of the Edition X? Listening carefully it does seem as if the Edition X does resolve well despite the relaxed treble level. In fact, the most interesting observation of this pairing is that the Edition X looses surprisingly little ground to the HD 800 S in terms of imaging. The sense of space is only slightly smaller on the Edition X...but the lower level makes it seem as if the lights are turned down low, while the HD 800 S delivers a bit larger but way more brightly lit room.

Audeze LCD-X - After doing my LCD-4 review I've been revisiting the Audeze line and I find my appreciation for the LCD-X to be on the increase. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but I'm currently thinking it has to do with a bit better behaved treble region. At any rate, it doesn't have the somewhat excessively laid-back treble of the Edition X, and bass response is clearly tighter and better extended.

On the other hand, the LCD-X has fairly poor imaging and a somewhat "in-your-face" presentation, while the Edition X is more relaxed with a clearly deeper image. To me, it's as if the distance and space of the Edition X gives you a vantage point from which to hear the whole of the music, while with the LCD-X it's so close you have to move your attention around to hear all the bits.

Mr. Speakers Ether - These two cans are more similar than they are different other than a mid-treble artifact in the Ether gives it a slightly accentuated and artificial sound, where the Edition X is more natural in that area, albeit a bit too low in level. Yet again, the thing the seemed to really set them apart was the deeper image of the Edition X and a more coherent sense of the whole of the music.

HiFiMAN HE1000 - There's a family resemblance, but the HE1000 is a significantly livelier sounding headphone with a bit more bottom end umph. Both image pretty well, but the HE1000s livelier top end brings the lights back up in the room making the space more appreciable. The only downside of the HE1000 relative to the Edition X is a bit of excess energy in the 5-8kHz area giving it a bit of a bright edge. The HE1000 does sound more refined and articulate in comparison.

The HiFiMAN Edition X is a truly remarkable and delightful headphone taken purely within the context of a headphone for use with a phone or table within the home or office. It really does deliver a surprisingly satisfying listening experience, with a very pleasant laid-back tonal character, and terrific balance of dynamism and imaging—all without the need for special up-stream electronics. But I'd characterize the sonic signature of these cans as very good upper-mid-fi, rather than high-end due to its laid-back treble presentation that prevents the resolving, nuanced, and refined reproduction of a reference level headphone.

That, coupled with what I perceive as sub-par build quality and inappropriate accessorization for a headphone in this very high price range, and I find myself quite conflicted in developing a recommendation. Headphone enthusiasts of normal middle-class or less means looking for a slice of high-end heaven should probably look elsewhere. But seriously, this is a wonderfully balanced headphone, and if you've got a healthy wallet and are looking for a general purpose can for around the home or office that offers a no-fuss, no-muss solid listening experience from anything with a headphone jack, these will likely suit quite well.

Click to view on YouTube.

HiFiMAN home page and Edition X product page.
Head-Fi reviews and thread.
SBAF threads here and here.