An outstanding sound image, a vivid, thrilling stage and wearing comfort that is second to none – the follow-up to the Edition X and HE1000 has it all. The latest technology, paired with the expertise of the previous models, combines to create a high-end sound behemoth.
In 2007, music enthusiast Dr Fang Bian founded HiFiMan. Since then, an extensive portfolio of headphones and portable devices has emerged on the market. One of the company’s main focuses has been on the development of magnetostatic headphones.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Successor to the Edition X and descendant of the HE 1000 (2015), the Edition XS continues the magnetostatic concept. Edition XS is more than a revision of its predecessor, as it offers some developmental innovations. We took a closer look.
The magnetostatic operating principle is based on a very thin membrane that oscillates between permanent magnetic rods. A wafer-thin wire is vapour-deposited onto this foil membrane in the form of a spiral, and the sound flows through this in the form of electricity. The wire is attracted or repelled by the surrounding magnets, according to the impulse voltages, thus causing the membrane to vibrate.
The hallmark of this system is a fine resolution of the high frequencies, an uncoloured music reproduction as well as a differentiated dynamic presentation. In addition, due to the low membrane weight, the system converts impulses and transients quickly and accurately. As a rule, this elaborate technology is reflected in high unit prices. All the more surprising that the unit tested here is priced between 500 and 600 euros.
HiFiMan use a revised form of its magnetostatic system in the Edition XS model. The term “Stealth Magnet Design” refers to a geometric optimisation of the magnets. The idea is to guide the sound waves to the magnets without interference, minimise additional distortion and so reproduce the sound even more precisely. The drivers have also been revised. According to the manufacturer, the “Neo Supernano Diaphragm” is 75 % thinner than in older models. The reduced weight is said to lead to a faster response, a more detailed sound and also reduced distortions.
Edition XS comes in smart and sturdy packaging. The device is embedded in a form-fitting nylon taffeta fabric. In addition to the headphones, the package also contains a 1.5m connection cable with an adapter from 3.5 to 6.35mm jack. The ear cups are connected individually via a separate cable guide with 3.5mm mini jacks, which makes it possible to also use third-party cables. A characteristic feature of the model is the oval shape of the large ear cups, which are similar to some of the manufacturer’s other models. The shells are covered with fine-pored fabric that is sewn onto the padding and offers an extremely pleasant, gentle wearing comfort. The shape of the padding is designed to adapt effortlessly to the shape of your head. The thickness of the cushioning material is 2.8mm at the back of the head and 1.8mm at the front. This means that the weight is distributed evenly according to the shape of the head and does not pinch at any point.
The removable pads merge smoothly into the outer shells that are made of plastic. The outer aluminium grilles provide stability to the enclosure but are also part of the open design. At the front and back, the cups are attached with a sturdy-looking metal bracket, which in turn is inserted into the headband. The height adjustability is gridded and offers plenty of room for manoeuvre. On my head, the headphones fitted perfectly in the smallest setting. This might become problematic for people with a smaller head, as the ear cups would probably be too low.
The shape and design of the headband is taken from the HiFiMan HE400se. The padding used is comparable to those ear cups, but it is less pliable- quite reasonable as the headband supports the weight of the headphones.
The wireless MTX monitor with integrated headphone amplifier, a Cambridge Audio CXN V2, a CD player (NAD 512), a smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S7) and an iBasso DX 240 Reference DAP served as our playback devices. Models from Stax, Focal (Spirit Pro, 32 ohms) and Sennheiser (HD 25 MKII, 70 ohms) were used as comparison headphones.
To drive these headphones, a powerful headphone amplifier is needed. The Samsung Galaxy S7 was, therefore, only half enjoyable. Piano music by Marc Copland (“Time within Time”, hatOLOGY, 2005) seemed thin and distant in the quiet passages.
Only a swap to the iBasso DX240 brought the desired change of scenery. Now the sound from the headphones was full-bodied and composed. Suddenly it was possible to recognise the space in the piano recording and the trembling of the wooden frame when striking the lowest registers was perceptible as if your ears were between the sides of the piano. The finest nuances, such as the damping of the sides by hand inside the piano, were audible. In a direct comparison with the much more expensive Stax model, which requires a dedicated preamplifier to drive the headphones, the Edition XS did well. The similarities in the detailed resolution and the dynamic conversion of impulsive signals were striking. Another advantage was that the Edition XS deliver the necessary pressure in the bass range, which was lacking in the Stax. One of my favourite reference tracks, “Celestial Echo” by Boris Blank and Malia (Convergence, 2014), demonstrated this impressively. Pointed bass lines provided the foundation and tonal structure. Despite such depth of bass notes, both accentuation and pitch were rendered in a defined manner. There was not the slightest hint of booming. These headphones also reproduced the rest of the bass range in a clean, contoured and powerful way. The embedding of voices in the midrange was precise and without overemphasis. It was possible to listen to the vocal lines in a differentiated way and grasp every nuance of the sound. The lower midrange had a slight hint of warmth. Synthesizer pads in the background sounded organic, flowing and colourful in such a way that they were almost tangible in their three-dimensionality.
The high-frequency range was also full of surprises: Drum cymbals were nicely brought out without standing out from the overall picture in a disturbing manner. The richness of detail in the cymbal sound was impressive, as the woody character of the mallets merged with the metallic resonance. At the same time, it sounded open, lively and without annoying harshness. The biggest surprise was the representation of the virtual stage. The stereo panorama impressed with its width, clear localisation of the instruments and analytical spatial depth. You are literally sitting in the centre of the action and watching the musicians position themselves in front of you.
The sound experience with the HiFiMan Edition XS was thrillingly vivid, physical and emotional. I enjoyed listening to music with these headphones for many hours. I didn’t get bored, nor did I ever feel their weight.
The HiFiMan Edition XS impresses us with the use of the latest magnetostatic technology. These headphones offer an excellently balanced sound image with deep basses, precise mids and airy highs. The transmission of musical information is fast, direct and neutral. A virtual stage is created that is vivid, lively and rousing. However, a powerful preamplifier is a prerequisite to getting them going. Once this is in play, the Edition XS is unstoppable and unleashes a world of sound that rivals even higher-priced devices. The price of around 549 euros can therefore be described as an audiophile bargain and the Edition XS can be recommended without reservation.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principlemagnetostatic
- Frequency response (headphones)8 - 50.000 Hz
- Impedance18 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)92 dB
- Weight without cable405 g
- Cable length150 cm