At HighEnd Munich 2015, HifiMan's two HE-1000 on hand were in such constant demand, it took Fang Bian's unceremonious intercept [far right in photo] to deposit one of them on my noggin for a bit of skull candy. This proved sufficient to think them my top headphone find of the event, the two follow-uppers being EngimAcoustics' Dharma and AudioQuest's Nighthawk. Early pre-production sightings of Fang's new flagship cans had indicated flashier cosmetics. And the orientation of their metallic grill ribs had been vertical to, like dress shirt stripes, emphasize length not girth [see below]. Being very large headphones to begin with, final struts flipped 90° to shrink apparent size by optical illusion; whilst colour detailing shrunk to three-tone for matte not chromed silver, black and that pale wood colour shared between veneered cup rims and perforated head band.


The photos make clear how this is an open-backed design, hence not ideal to cloak our questionable musical choices in pure privacy. There is natural sound leakage from the backs of very sizeable membranes. Nominal impedance is 35Ω. A more relevant spec is its ±3Ω window. That's an ideally narrow 10% margin off perfect straight-line behaviour. It's something dynamic headphones and speakers really would kill for. 90dB sensitivity remains middle of the field whereas 8Hz to 65kHz bandwidth rather explodes. 480g of wearer mass are relatively low for such a big thing. The $2'990 sticker obviously goes the other way  

This points at top-tier status and technical novelties. Whilst it is steep—perhaps 3 years ago, ±$1'000 was that segment's ceiling; two years later, it had doubled already—finding loudspeakers of anywhere near equivalent bandwidth and linearity without room pain remains impossible. And the HE-1000 isn't positioned to replace ear buds. For that, consider the new HifiMan HE-400S. At 99dB, 22Ω, 350g and $299, they're the most entry-level planarmagnetic option currently to market where a sealed Oppo PM-3 still wants $399. So Fang butters our planar sandwich from both sides. Plus, he's got plenty of stuffing across many price points wedged between these two extremes. This segues into the most likely competitors which the HE-1000 probably aims at: the 101dB Stax SR009 with an even steeper $4'450 sticker which too is a planar but of the electrostatic variety (biased at 580V, it relies on a dedicated driver amp). And then there's the Abyss AB-1266, a single-sided planarmagnetic selling for an astonishing $5'495. Fang's 8wpc class A 6922-hybrid EF1000 amp with 24 transistors—shown below with a German 'prototype' sticker from the Munich show—is his insurance that an HE-1000 listener will have a proper amplifier to explore his can's full potential with. My designated drivers would be Nagai-San's 15wpc Bakoon AMP-12R; or dual-mono Questyle CMA-800R for fully balanced drive. Now we get at technical novelties for the HE-1000. Starting with cosmetics, "the industrial design took more than two years and was a complete collaboration between a well-known Boston design firm and our engineering team from China. Every piece of the HE-1000 was designed from scratch. A lot of tools and machines were made or purchased to manufacture it. A good example is the nano-tech diaphragm. Many technologies and manufacturing processes we use have never been applied to headphones before."


For those never yet fond of HifiMan's original connectors, "the 2.5mm mono plugs from the HE-1000 carry over to the HE400s and will most likely be present on all future models." The perhaps biggest nay tiniest new tech is the 0.000001mm or 1 nanometer thin diaphragm.


This creates such low moving mass as to be invisible to the naked eye when viewed from the side; and—in a video of Fang demonstrating it—takes 20 seconds to float down to the ground because it's lighter than the proverbial feather. The other major tech intro is a novel asymmetry for the HE-1000's double-sided magnet array which leverages seven years of internal R&D. It opens up the ear-facing side with far narrower magnets as shown in the drawing. That shrinks the usual physical barrier between membrane and ear and causes fewer reflections. Entirely invisible to consumer eyes and thus beyond the usual scope of consideration are the special manufacturing processes developed which could actually build a flawless headphone using such extremely thin film; and do so repetitively in formal production.

The HM-901s ships in the familiar HE560 wooden presentation box, the HE-1000 in a faux leather-wrapped one.

Relative to Chinese luxury items, this from a BBC article gets us current: "To satisfy the cravings of the new upper class in the Middle Kingdom, top-shelf brands made in China that cater to Chinese tastes have begun to emerge as real contenders. Their market share remains too small to measure, but some experts say it’s the start of a lasting trend. While you’re still more likely to find a Louis Vuitton or Gucci gown hanging in a Chinese wardrobe than an Uma Wang or Masha Ma dress, home-grown brands are taking advantage of a three-fold change. First, a shift in tastes of wealthy Chinese consumers from big bling to classier, more niche offerings. Second, quality improvements have helped nascent brands shed the stigma of 'made in China' and put them more on par with global competitors. Finally, a general patriotic sentiment has been brought on by a resurgence of the 'Chinese dream' launched by the President Xi Jinping. "Chinese brands are now coming out into their own," said Jean-Baptiste Andriani, academic director for the Shanghai branch of IFA, the Paris fashion and design school. Some of the Chinese luxury brands and products showing finding appeal with native consumers (as well as showing up on shelves worldwide) include The Herborist, Ye Mingzi, Bao Bao Wan and farmed caviar. "Before, people were embarrassed about anything coming out of China. This is no longer the case," said Shaun Rein, author of The End of Copycat China and founder of consulting firm China Market Research Group. "Overall it’s an exciting time for Chinese brands. People are looking for a Chinese lifestyle they can aspire to."