HIFIMAN EDITION X V2 HEADPHONES
The original Edition X V1 won a ‘Headphone of the Year’ award and this new V2 looks to do the same, but in a different price category…
They’re back—HiFI Man’s award-winning Edition X headphones been revamped in a ‘Version 2’, with the delightful side-effect of the Version 2 model being rather lower in price than the original. We had initially been told the changes were primarily aesthetic, but in fact they’re also ergonomic, with a more versatile headband for a better fit, thicker earpads with a much more pronounced angle front to back, a switch to polyester from velour (still with pleather) for the part which touches your head, and entirely new cables—where these were previously braided, the new cables seem almost medical in their translucent white (see accompanying photographs), so that you half expect a stethoscope to be on the end, instead of the 2.5mm microjack plugs that connect into each headshell. The first cable is 1.5-metres long and terminates in a magnificently solid right-angled stereo minijack, ideal for those portable purposes… though lacking in-line controls. For home use, a separate cable with a properly bonded quarter-inch (6.35mm) plug is also in the box, with a full three-metre-long cable.
The headphones themselves remain beautifully and pleasingly personally presented, in high-quality packaging with plush internals and a series of cards with stamped serial numbers and a friendly invitation to stay in touch with Hi-FiMan in Tianjin.
These are sizeable headphones, with 130mm-high headshells that are asymmetric in being shaped like ears—which always strikes us as sensible design. Build quality is high; they swivel on internally invisible hinges and have an unusually high and wide but very light headband; they weigh 399-grams but once on your head they are among the most comfortable headwear we’ve had the pleasure of donning, their earcups not so much coddling as cuddling your head. With the adjustable headstrap tilted to the very top of our skull, there was almost no sense of wearing these headphones at all. Wonderful.
These are not conventional cone headphones, but rather planar magnetic drivers—far lighter diaphragms, with conductors distributed through the surface rather than driving from behind. This more-uniform driving of a lighter diaphragm is credited with lower distortion and improved high frequency resolution, something entirely borne out in their sound. Sometimes a revised model of a well-reviewed headphone can disappoint—but not the HiFiMan Edition X V2. They again proved simply riveting in their resolving power; it’s like having super-vision through your ears. Every track is a thrill, with even old favourites rendered fresh and shiny. Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson sounded spectacularly tight and sharp-edged—the emphasis of the centre-channel guitar in
the opening bars here, or the fizzy electric piano centre-stage of Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely, we’ve simply never noticed them, or focused upon them, before. Our favourite recording of Holst’s Jupiter had the orchestra so microscopically delineated, the dynamics so effective, that while we’re normally humming its tunes and banging fists on the big bits, with the Edition X V2 we were simply spellbound by the fine details of instrument after instrument as they chased the soaring planets and Gods through our galactic headspace.
They even managed to resolve crazy Phil’s walls of sound in George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass— the uncountable and often indivisible layers of the Dylan-cowritten Isn’t It A Pity were clarified within a vast depth of production, hard-left to hard-right, front to back, the washes of reverb working on each element rather than mushing up the whole. Delight.
Sharp-edged modern production gains hyper-clarity; The Flaming Lips’ extreme production was almost frightening when their version of Floyd’s Money sawbladed its way into our ears through the Edition X V2. We loaded their new album ‘Oczy Mlody’ on Tidal, and if you want a demonstration of their delivery of genuine and deep bass, jump straight to track 2, How?? (or track 3… or most of them, actually). While the Edition X may not fully satisfy anyone in love with street-style bass emphasis, they are in no sense whatsoever ‘light’. It’s all there, and it’s all so very real, revealed, impossible to ignore.
The other big bonus of planar magnetics is their sensitivity—here it is 103dBSPL, with impedance of 25-ohms. That makes them happy playing from a mobile device, whereas many high-end headphones need the current of a home headphone amp to drive them. Mind you, the Edition X V2 will be no good on a commute because they shed almost as much sound outwards as they do inwards… the same trait disqualifies them from an office environment, unless perhaps everyone else is under headphones, too, but what kind of life is that?
In any case they’re so completely involving that you’d never get any work done. It was hard for us even to make reviewing notes while playing these headphones, because at the rare moments we came back to earth long enough to open the Chromebook and write something, we’d start recording our recent experience only to be transported by a new one. We find them trance-inducing, in the best possible way.
The usual caveat—revealing headphones reveal everything, and they are not the headphones for listening to, say, internet pop radio, where every low-res treble defect is revealed, every back-beat pumped down with compression. But they’re great for speech and podcasts—we happened on some nicely recorded radio drama and the Edition X V2s delivered it with all the realism it achieved with music.
An interesting example was ZZ Top’s Legs— revealed as a seriously compromised shit of an MP3, and yet the HiFiMan’s reveal of the mix layers made it fascinating… again, we’d never noticed (or at least focused on) the track’s BB-esque minilicks punctuating the vocal lines. Despite the source quality, we haven’t enjoyed this track so much in years.
Certainly they delight in being given extra drive from a good headphone amp, but there’s no problem wandering your home with phone in pocket and the Edition X V2 lifting your life in general or distracting you from a good book. We sat on a sunny balcony for hours, transported by the tunes, wiggling with semi-dance, and raising our hands in the air.
‘Why are you jerking around like an idiot out there?’ asked the missus. ‘Can’t help it—awesome headphones’, we replied (having heard her because the open design lets sound in as well as spilling it outwards).
Are they a little heavy? As noted, we didn’t think so when wearing them, but when we switched straight to a pair of Final Sonorous IIIs for a comparison, the Finals seemed amazingly light, when previously we might have considered them quite chunky themselves. But when you’re floating like a cloud through the Edition X V2’s musical transportation, they seem effectively weightless.
Every moment was magical with the HiFiMan Edition X V2. No wonder they became our ‘headphone to beat’ in the lead-up to Sound+Image Magazine’s awards in 2016, and no wonder nothing did beat them, so that the HiFi Man Edition X V1 won ‘Headphone of the Year over $2,000’. But don’t be thinking the V2 will win that award next time around—it just ain’t going to happen. Because it’s no longer over $2,000.
Whatever changes HiFiMan has made for the new version, the sound quality has been maintained while achieving a new price in Australia of $1,899. A double whammy, then—still stunning, and less money. If you’re looking for headphones anywhere near this price, make sure you hear them, and particularly what they can do from a standard portable source. Jez Ford
Version 2 brings new translucent cables with rock-solid Neutrik connectors, new more-angled earpads, a metal yoke, and additional adjustment room.