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HIFIMAN HE-R10D Dynamic Headphone Review

R10D headphone with iBasso DX300 DAP

HIFIMAN is a big player in the game of audiophilia. Their HE1000 and Susvara planar magnetic headphones are some of the world's best cans. They were some of the first headphones that really helped convert me into an audiophile. The Ananda BT's are some of the best sounding wireless headphones on the market and a personal favorite. So, new HIFIMAN headphone box on my desk - I'm ready for you.

Opening the box however, I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little taken aback. These don't look like HIFIMAN cans...what's going on here? These are closed back....with some interestingly-shaped wooden housing on the ear cup. And light! They're so incredibly light!?!?!

Okay, stick with me here. Just like I stuck with these headphones despite first impressions. You're not going to regret it. The HE-R10D might seem like a departure from the HIFIMAN norm, but that great sound is still there.


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PROS

  • Resolute sound, large soundstage for dynamic drivers
  • Lightweight & Comfortable
  • Wireless option via BlueMini Bluetooth Adapter
  • Three cable options

CONS

  • Earcup design can be polarizing
  • Bluetooth adapter is bulky
  • More "open" sound than most closed-back headphones

Materials, Quality, & Comfort

The HIFIMAN HE-R10D is an incredibly light headphone. Despite being larger ear cups than usual, the headphone itself is extremely comfortable to wear for long listening sessions. If I am being completely honest I was worried at first with how light they felt. As I have said in previous reviews, I'm a fan of heft. I often equate heft to quality (unintentionally). This is an irrationality on my part I admit, for there is plenty of lightweight audio gear out there worthy of praise for quality. Don't let the weight fool you - the R10D is an amazing headphone that screams PREMIUM. The headphone itself feels incredibly sturdy despite the light weight and feel, and after getting used to them I have no doubt they will last a long time if you take care of them.

The headband is large - and it does a great job with distributing the weight evenly and even lifting the pressure off the ear cups. I suspect it will even get better with time as the leather and padding softens and wears in. The exterior of the headband is made of all-natural lambskin, a material famous for being both soft and luxurious. The inside is high-grade memory-foam, selected to achieve the most comfortable fit and elasticity. The headband skeleton itself is made of solid steel. The ear cups are large enough that I do not feel pressure in the cups and there is also enough room internally to reduce temperatures despite having a good seal. If there's one thing that really destroys my listening experience, it's sweating under my headphones. Luckily, it's not an issue with the R10D. HIFIMAN's "Tranquility" ear pads feature high quality leather on the outside, which uses a ring-shaped inner surface to absorb sound and prevent sound leakage through the sides of the ear pad. This forces the sound to target the listener's ear. The contact edge is constructed of highly permeable material to ensure optimal head comfort. The structure is both lightweight and strong, and designed to convey detail and musicality that is on an entirely new level of premium headphone.

So let's talk about the obvious. What is up with that ear cup design? The cup design is made of a wood shell, through a means of CNC carving. The metal components are incredibly light and milled also from aviation aluminum. The wooden ear cup's large internal space brings sufficient volume and "breathing room" to the powerful driver. It essentially helps to create a larger soundstage for an already impressive dynamic driver. It's amazingly effective too. More on that in the next section.

The grain patterns on the wooden ear cup design are striking. They almost stand out like an artistic structure on your head. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but you'll probably get a glance here and there if you wear these out in public. The shaping of the wooden design seems unnatural at first, until you realize it's curved, shaped, and angled in much the same way as your outer ear. Your ears do not lay parallel to the sides of your head, so why should your headphones? Some manufacturers solve this issue with sloping ear cup padding; thickening in the back to angle the drivers to be pointed directly down your ear canals for a more immediate presence.

Ear Cup Design of the R10D

The angles and design of the ear cup housing in much the same way creates a chamber for the sound to resonate in a way that compliments the shape of the ear. Other flatter housings design their sound to be emitted directly to the side of your head. By doing this the sound bounces off the folds of your outer ear before reaching your eardrum. HIFIMAN's design isn't just for aesthetic purposes but also for acoustic ones too.

HIFIMAN includes three different cables with the headphones - a welcome addition. Most manufacturers only include one, maybe two at most. You'll find a balanced XLR to 3.5mm, unbalanced 3.5mm to 3.5mm, and a unbalanced quarter-inch to 3.5mm. The headphones themselves are single-entry on the left ear cup. The cables themselves feel nice, covered with a cloth sheathing and gold-tipped connectors. You'll find the headphones compatible with just about every piece of gear, right out of the box.

Overall the HIFIMAN HE-R10D is a large headphone, but you won't find it any more cumbersome than other larger sized audiophile-grade headphone out there. In fact, given the light weight, it might be one of the most comfortable on the market for larger headphones. It's perfect for those wanting longer listening sessions but don't want to sacrifice on driver size or overall punch in fidelity.

The shaping of the wooden design seems unnatural at first, until you realize it's curved, shaped, and angled in much the same way as your outer ear. Your ears do not lay parallel to the sides of your head, so why should your headphones?


Sound Quality

Driver Design of the R10D

HIFIMAN has implemented what they call the "Topology Diaphragm" into the design of the HE-R10D, which refers to a special nano particle coating applied to the surface of the driver. The result is a more natural and detailed sound than what is typically achieved in True Wireless earphones. The idea behind the new Topology Diaphragm was inspired by Dr. Fang Bian's Ph.D. thesis that "different nano materials have differing structures and each of those materials has its own properties." Therefore, by carefully controlling the diaphragm surface structure you can yield different results in acoustic performance to a degree previously unobtainable.

The headphone also houses a 50mm dynamic driver. HIFIMAN also has a planar-magnetic driver variant of the HE-R10, called the HE-R10P. The dynamic driver version features the Typology Diaphragm designed for detailed high frequency response up to 30kHz, and advanced voice coil, along with high sensitivity due to the implementation of a rare earth magnet in the driver design.

Let me start by saying this: I have never been disappointed by a HIFIMAN headphone - and these are no exception.



The R10D has one of the most resolute dynamic drivers I have ever heard. Despite that, one thing to keep in mind is the fact that a headphone's sound signature isn't defined by just the driver but that of the entire architecture, circuitry, and materials of the headphone. The HE-R10D has an energetic and punchy driver, lending a warm sound to an otherwise fairly neutral headphone. The mids aren't necessarily defined at times depending on the genre, but that is a solution that is easily remedied which we'll get into later.

I let the headphones run overnight to burn them in - always a good idea if you are listening to headphones for the first time by the way. Most manufacturers should have an estimated burn in or break in time recommendation for their product. The first song for these cans is off the new Foo Fighters album Medicine at Midnight. I couldn't have asked for a better track to christen these headphones. The opening track of the album "Making A Fire" is pure fire. The Foo Fighters are known for their wall of sound and in-your-face vocals, and Making a Fire is no different. The new album itself is more fun than previous albums in my opinion, but Dave Grohl is always experimenting and working with new arrangements in his music. This track is particularly backing-vocal-heavy, which I would say is sometimes problematic with guitars, as there are usually a lot of competing frequencies. However, the chorus vocals really show off the soundstage of the HE-R10D. They are surprisingly spacious. Drums are incredibly punchy and tight. The song starts off with the drum pattern, and you can tell that the snare has tremendous weight from the get-go. It might be some of the cleanest and fattest drums I've heard on a rock album. Grohl likes to record analog too, and it sounds like a lot of the dynamics were retained for the HD digital transfer, especially as the technology gets better every day. A perfect song to set the tone for how impressive the HIFIMAN HE-R10D's are.

The next in the queue was Yo-Yo Ma's rendition of Bach's Cello Suites. I always prefer Pablo Casals' interpretation from his 1939 recordings as the gold standard, but Yo-Yo Ma's recordings have a better depth and resolution to the instrumentation to really define how well the headphone performs. I like using these recordings because of the minimalist approach in hearing the various dynamics and variations of the single voice of the cello. Some of the arrangements themselves are far from minimalist, as they are incredibly difficult to perform for a soloist, requiring a masterful dexterity and fluidity. The engineering of the HE-R10D allows the recordings to sound much larger than they actually are. The design of the ear cups allows the internal sound to have a much more expansive soundstage than a closed-back dynamic driver would normally be capable of, and I think that it's what is most impressive about these headphones to me. The reverb on the cello sounds more expressive in that it becomes easier to hear the concert hall itself in the performance. It's like the HE-R10D wants to be an open back headphone but retains the warmth and punchiness of the closed-back-dynamic-driver aspect.

The design of the ear cup allows the extra space of the dynamic driver to breathe a little more than a traditional closed-back headphone, and it does sound expressive. However, I wouldn't say it comes close to mimicking an open-back headphone either. Another note to make is that I also noticed some pretty substantial bleed through the ear cups, sounding at times as though I was listening to an open-back headphone at high volumes. Something to keep in mind if you are planning to use these headphones around others.

Foo Fighters Medicine at Midnight
Yo-Yo Ma Bach Cello Suites
David Duchovny Hell or Highwater
Miles David Kind of Blue

Bluetooth

The HE-R10D (and HE-R10P) headphone has the option to transmit audio wirelessly. HIFIMAN has developed what they call the BlueMini Bluetooth adapter. The device connects to the underside of the left ear cup, giving you the option to transmit audio via Bluetooth or via USB-C. There is a single pairing button on the BlueMini, a USB-C port, and a status LED. The device itself has enough juice to give your headphones 7-10 hours of battery life, depending on various factors like volume, codec, etc. The BlueMini uses a variety of HD Bluetooth protocols including LDAC, aptX HD, aptX, AAC, and SBC.

Audio transmission with Bluetooth 5.0 is great, especially when using on of the HD audio codecs. Understanding that there is a place and time for Bluetooth and wireless audio can go a long way to ultimately appreciating its value. Lots of times audiophiles can be quick to snap about the inferior fidelity of wireless audio, without realizing that it affords you the opportunity to listen to music untethered, or while doing other things than sitting in a chair. On top of that, HIFIMAN allows music lovers to even disconnect their favorite audiophile headphone for a stroll. In a recent review, we called the HIFIMAN Ananda BT (a Bluetooth variation of the popular Ananda headphone) one of the best sounding wireless headphones on the market. There is a value in Bluetooth which results in convenience ultimately. As long as you understand that convenience comes at the price of fidelity, then you won't be disappointed. But the fact that HIFIMAN allows you the option for what might be your new favorite audiophile-grade headphones is just icing on the cake.

The BlueMini comes in the package with the HIFIMAN HE-R10D and the HE-R10P headphones.


Dragon Cables

The HE-R10D's cables feature a newly designed, single-crystal, copper silver-plated structure. The combination of a high number of strands and ratio of the various ingredients ensure low signal loss. The new TRRS plug/socket solution allows for a direct balanced input that is routed to the appropriate drivers. The cables themselves sound good, and I appreciate the effort put in to allow the music listener various connection options out of the box.

Silver Dragon Headphone Cable

However, I was left wanting. Ultimately the articulation and definition of the driver performed tighter and more resolute when I used a Silver Dragon cable. The Silver Dragon headphone cable is going to best mimic the sound of the stock cable, albeit with tighter and more defined low-end and a more detailed presentation. The Silver Dragon is a great choice for those wanting more detail and clarity from their headphones and music. I used this pairing primarily for jazz and classical, providing a very intimate listening experience with artists like Chet Baker and Miles Davis. Hearing the breathiness, inhaling, and exhaling of the performers being accentuated in a natural way lends an entirely new performative element to the music. It's as though the experience itself is almost improvised for the first time, making you forget that it's a recording entirely. Yes, I know it sounds romantic and too good to be true, but that's what makes HIFIMAN stand out from the crowd - that attention to detail and realism that is hard to find anywhere else.

Since the HE-R10D are on the warm side, you're already going to get a lot of low end - but if you want a little extra, then the Black Dragon cable will certainly deliver. Made with UP-OCC copper, it will give you a more musical presentation to your audio that will warm the bass and mid-range tones creating an "I'm there" feeling. If you're really wanting a more neutral and uncolorized sound to your tunes, then the Blue Dragon is going to lift the veil, improving aspects such as clarity, staging, and detail.

We've created full size cables to be compatible with the HIFIMAN HE-R10D and HE-R10P give you the very best quality components so you can be sure that nothing is getting in the way of you and your music. We are also in the process of designing portable cables for those who are looking for a more flexible single-entry cable for the HE-R10 headphone series.


Verdict

The HIFIMAN HE-R10D is a superb sounding headphone. Some might consider the ear cup design or size divisive, however there is one thing to agree on: they are incredibly light and comfortable. The warmer sound signature of the headphone has some nice weight to it, even if mids can be masked at times depending on the genre of music you are listening to. However, this is not to say that some of those issues cannot be corrected with the help of a Silver Dragon headphone cable. It will tighten up the low end and help to emphasize and unveil those originally masked frequencies in the mids and highs. The ear cup design also aids in helping to create the auditory illusion that the soundstage is larger than it actually is. The sensation is achieved well enough for a dynamic driver, but it never quite comes close enough as an actual open back headphone. The addition of the BlueMini is a nice feature, and the wireless audio sounds nice enough with the LDAC and aptX HD codecs, but ultimately for a headphone of this size I see home use to be the most tangible ergonomic scenario.

Ultimately the HE-R10D headphones sound great. The verdict is still out on the planar magnetic version, the HE-R10P (which we'll be reviewing soon), but I think the price point is deserving for the R10D. It's an impactful dynamic driver that is easy to power and will deliver plenty of energy to your music.


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Specifications

Technical Features
  • Open vs. Closed: Closed
  • Frequency Response: 15Hz-35kHz
  • Impedance: 32Ω
  • Sensitivity: 103dB
  • Stock Cable: 3.5mm/ 1.5m; XLR balanced/ 3m, ¼" (6.35mm)/ 3m
  • Weight: 337g
Bluemini Features
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • AMP Output in fact: 230mw
  • AMP Output in theory: 1125mw
  • TDH: <0.1% @1W/1KHz
  • SNR: 95dB
  • Battery Life: 7-10 Hours
  • Bluetooth Codecs: LDAC, aptx-HD, aptx, AAC, SBC
  • Transmission: Bluetoon/USB Type-C
  • Weight: 25g

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