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Christmas Gift Guide
Headphones

Quite possibly the best-sounding headphones in the world

The Audiophiliac previews the ultimate Hifiman model, the HE1000.

Last Sunday at the Trump SoHo New York hotel I heard a preview of a new pair of high-end headphones from Hifiman, the HE1000, and they were easily the best I've heard from that company.

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Hifiman founder and CEO Fang Bian wearing his HE1000 headphones Steve Guttenberg/CNET

The see-through clarity and lively dynamics were remarkably effortless. Which is to say, music played over the HE1000 sounded less like listening over headphones, and more like the real thing. The HE1000 was hooked up to another forthcoming Hifiman product, the EF1000 hybrid tube/solid-state headphone amplifier.

Lucky me, I get to hear "awesome" new audio products all the time, but they're rarely all that awesome. When they're from new companies they're usually nothing special; me-too designs are the norm. When the hot new product is from a company with a track record of making good stuff then chances are the new design will be decent enough, but only slightly different from what the company currently offers.

Truly exceptional products are rare, that's what makes them exceptional. The HE1000 headphones and EF1000 amp looked and sounded radically different from and better than any current Hifiman product, that's for sure.

Specifications weren't forthcoming, just that the HE1000 is a big, over-the-ear model, incorporating huge planar-magnetic drivers with super-thin "nanometer" diaphragms. The driver elements are visible through the earcups' outer grilles. The HE1000's sound is more more open and spacious than you get from Audeze, Oppo and other Hifiman planar magnetic headphones.

I did find out the HE1000 weighs 500 grams (a little over a pound), which is about average for this type of headphone, but it's heavier then more conventional headphones. Even so I found the HE1000 very comfortable to wear for the hour I listened to it, and to have a decidedly luxury feel.

The headphones and amplifier are preproduction units, and Hifiman founder and CEO Fang Bian is still fine-tuning the designs. As for prices, the HE1000 headphones and EF1000 are cutting-edge products so they're going to be expensive.

Hifiman's HE400i headphone that debuted in 2014 is the most affordable high-end planar magnetic headphone currently on the market.

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The Hifiman EF1000 headphone amplifier