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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.

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