The award for the most buzzed-about product of the show should probably go to HiFiMAN’s yet-to-be-released HE-1000. Head-fi’s forums were inundated with requests for impressions even before the show began. The forum’s faithful followers scurried to get their take on the new beast of a flagship up on the site to oblige their fellow enthusiasts curiosities (that where unable to attend the show in person). Traffic was heavy in the large interior room that housed both the MAN, Auralic and Schiit audio. Most of what remained on the table was also included in our [CES coverage from this year], just scroll down to the end to find the latest on the EF100o amplifier and updated HM-901 DAP.
If you are interested in learning more about HiFiMAN’s founder Fang Bian, check out [our interview with the man himself].
As for the HE-1000, more than a few changes had been made to the display model. The most notable of which was the cosmetic change from the vertical grill lines we saw at CES to horizontal ones. The three updated prototypes at CanJam also featured a more refined finish and build but still retained the large oval Sennheiser-ish shape that deviates from the circular aesthetics of the rest of the headphone line. The headband suspension system is still fairly similar to the HE-560, but with more a more exotic headband design.
I have recently become more aquatinted with the HE-560 ($899), you can find my full video review of the current flagship planar magnetic headphone [here]. In terms of sound I still maintain that show impressions of prototypes are unstable at best. Some attendees even claimed to hear noticeable differences between the three prototypes available at the show. But given the opportunity to compare the 1000 to a headphone I am familiar with, I couldn’t help but give a quick A/B to the 560 that was also lying around on the table. The result was actually more than I expected. The 560’s soundstage is perhaps one of its best features. The out-of-head experience from the headphone is good, for any price. And that was also my takeaway from the 1000 but to an even greater degree. I’m not sure if it was the oversized ear space or even larger driver, but the staging from the prototype I heard was downright impressive. Detail retrieval, tone and texture will all have to wait for a later date, but from what I was able to discern, things are heading in a very positive direction. But again it is just a prototype evaluation from a show floor, so open your hand – here is your grain of salt.
Fang is continually looking for ways to improve his products, when I asked him which of the headphones he had created was his favorite sound his reply was simply “The next model”.
Things are looking good for audio’s next top model contender, no reality show needed. Fang is continuing to work on the HE-1000 so what you are looking at here should be close to the final product, but could still change some before the it hits the streets. Expect pricing to be somewhere in the $3k range. Launch date is still TBD as Fang resumes his tinkering, but hopefully we will see something close to final before summer is over.