HiFiMAN
HiFiMAN
HiFiMAN

HiFiMAN

The Hifiman brand belongs to the Chinese company Head-Direct, which produces various audio equipment. Its product range includes in-ear and full-size headphones, amplifiers for them, as well as portable players with high sound quality. Despite the fact that the Head-Direct company was founded not so long ago, in terms of the number of achievements in the world of audio, it will give odds to many old-timers in the market. Unlike eminent competing companies, which have long established themselves in the industry and prefer conservatism and loyalty to traditions, Head-Direct is not afraid of innovation and experimentation. The company is constantly looking for new ways to achieve the highest possible sound quality and always strives to bring something special, previously unseen, and at the same time useful, to the audio field. Its products may seem very ordinary at first glance, but when you get to know them directly, you can feel the company’s special approach to the development and creation of devices for listening to music.

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In 2005, Dr. Fang Bian created the online trading company Head-Direct in the USA and at the same time began developing headphones, first in-ear headphones (IEM), and a little later full-size ones, as well as audio players. Radio electronics has been his hobby since childhood; he has been repairing radio equipment, mainly portable, and has thoroughly studied the advantages and disadvantages of serial equipment from leading brands. He came to the States to study inorganic chemistry, first in Boston, then in New York, where he specialized in nanomaterials and eventually received a doctorate. Two years later, that is, in 2007, he created the HiFiMAN brand and moved the company’s headquarters to his homeland, Tianjin. In just a few years, the company has acquired international status.

The development center and its own production base are located in China, and marketing and sales divisions are located in the USA, Europe and Japan. One of the first products released under the HiFiMAN brand and attracting the attention of adherents of high-quality sound to it were the stationary open isodynamic (planar-magnetic) headphones HE-5. The model was not free from some “childhood diseases”, but nevertheless it turned out to be successful, since it was able to show the advantages of an old, essentially forgotten technology. In the last century, isodynamic headphones were produced by many Japanese companies, and several such models were produced in the USSR (TDS-5, TDS-7, etc.). However, over time, there was only one company left in the world that still continued to make them – Fostex, but these were exclusively studio models. The most popular of them, T50PR, although it occupied the top position, was very unpresentable in appearance, not comfortable enough, and in terms of sound it could not satisfy demanding music lovers. Few people know that these headphones are most widely used as studio monitors for vocalists. They perfectly conveyed the vocal part of the spectrum, but at the edges of the range they were not linear enough. Although they have become very popular due to their relatively low price.

The decline of isodynamic headphones into the shadows was natural, mainly due to the high cost of drivers and low sensitivity. However, here we should digress a little from history and explain their operating principle. Dynamic headphone drivers have the same design as speakers installed in speakers. The membrane (or diffuser) is driven by a ring voice coil, which is placed in a constant magnetic field. A planar driver has a flat coil, it is deposited on a thin polymer film and has the shape of a meander (isodynamic emitter) or a spiral (orthodynamic). A magnet with a complex design is essentially a whole system of magnets with alternating polarity, installed on two grids, between which a flat coil is placed. Or on one, located only on the outside of the film (this is exactly the design HiFiMAN drivers have).

A flat coil diaphragm has significantly less mass than a moving dynamic driver system, has less inertia, and responds more quickly to changes in the input signal. It deforms less, since the driving force is distributed over the entire area of ​​the film, and not concentrated in the central part of the diffuser. Therefore, planar drivers have higher resolution, especially at HF, and lower nonlinear distortion. The large coil area provides it with effective cooling, so planar drivers can easily withstand high power input, which partly compensates for the main drawback of the technology – low sensitivity and the need for a serious amplifier. However, the complex design of the grating with magnets not only makes it more expensive, but also makes it difficult to obtain an even frequency response due to reflections and local resonances. Which inevitably affects the price.

However, people who once got hooked on planar headphones remember this experience all their lives and try to return to it. Fortunately, their range is constantly expanding and even relatively inexpensive models appear. Technological progress allows us to gradually overcome the “childhood diseases” of planar technology. The older model HiFiMAN HE-1000, released in 2015, uses a diaphragm made of the thinnest nano-film developed by Dr. Fang himself. And internal reflections of sound waves are eliminated using proprietary WindowShade technology. The frequency range extends from 8 Hz to 65 kHz. As for the relatively low sensitivity (for the HE-1000 it is 90 dB), this feature is easily overcome with the help of headphone amplifiers and HiFiMAN audio players. Not long ago we published a review of the HM-802 model, which allows the replacement of amplifier modules. One of them, Balanced, will easily drive even more demanding headphones than the HE-1000.

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