Earlier this year, Delaware-based high-end headphone maker Hifiman launched a new flagship planar magnetic open back headphone to much audiophile and pundit applause, with the nanometer-thick diaphragm and non-symmetrical planar driver design offering critic-silencing clarity and sonic detail. They were big. They were beautiful. And, at US$3,000, they were eye-wateringly expensive. Hifiman's president and founder Dr. Fang Bian says that he wanted to offer a model with similar features and performance, but one that was more portable and didn't need a large expensive amp to run it. This has been realized in the new Edition X.

In a nutshell, planar magnetic headphones use an array of magnets placed in front of and behind a thin-film diaphragm impregnated with a conductor. The interaction between the powerful magnet array and the magnetic field created by sending an electric current through the conductor causes movement in the diaphragm. Advantages include low distortion, powerful tight bass and fast response.

The HE1000s were claimed to sport the world's first nanometer-thick, low mass diaphragm for planar magnetic headphones. They also featured a patented "window shade" system designed to offer listeners a wide and natural soundstage, with top notch imaging and clarity. They tipped the scales at 16.9 oz (480 g), boasted a wide frequency response of 8 Hz - 65 kHz, an impedance of 35 ohms and a sensitivity of 90 dB. And industry experts and audioholics alike loved them, describing them as "transparent, spacious and dynamic" or "airy, quick, articulate" or simply "quite possibly the best-sounding headphones in the world."

"With Edition X, we reduced the weight and greatly increased the sensitivity so that it sounds very good off a smartphone," said Bian.

The new full-size, open-back, planar magnetic headphones come with much of the same technology as the company's flagship HE1000 open backs, but in a finer-tuned package. The 14.07 oz (399 g) Edition X cans sport the same funky window shade grille design as the flagships, which protects the driver while also being optimized for an open-back design, and a similar ultra-thin, double-sided, asymmetrical magnetic driver assembly. They boast a frequency response of between 8 Hz and 50 kHz and, with 103 dB sensitivity and 25 ohms impedance, they're reported capable of being driven by many mobile devices without need of a helping hand from a portable headphone amp.

The earcups and beveled ear pads follow the shape of the ears, and in the case of the latter, also the contour of the head, for long-haul comfort. There's an ergonomic metal alloy and pleather headband that's designed to accommodate a wide variety of user head sizes while also ensuring even pressure distribution, and they come with a high performance cable capable of handling a wide frequency range with lower frequency enhancement.

The Edition X headphones made their show debut at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest back in October, and are now available to buy for a suggested retail price of $1,799.

Product page: Hifiman Edition X

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