Hifiman HE-R9 - your Flashy Flamboyant Friend

Lets get one thing out of the way immediately, HE-R9 is a flamboyant and quirky headphone both in its looks and its sound profile but one that you might also learn to love and one that at its current price of $109 deserves to be considered for your headphone collection.


I would like to thank Mark from Hifiman for providing the HE-R9 for the purposes of review


I imagine we all have some loud flamboyant friends, the friends who always wear bright loud clothes, are a bit of a showoff but are great fun at parties and put a smile on our faces and especially because of their carefree attitude can make you good great.

So the HE-R9 is the headphone that personification of one those friends. It is both flamboyant to look at, with its vibrant colourful and large ear cups that scream ’look at me’, but also with its quirky sound signature with its loud deep bass and treble that dances on the edge of whimsy and precision. But just like those flamboyant friends sometimes spending time with a flamboyant ‘friend’ is exactly what you need to make you feel good.

But is it the right headphone to add to your collection? Or maybe it is the right one to give as a present for one your quirky friends. Read on to find out what you can expect for the HE-R9.

What in the box

The HE-R9 comes in the standard Hifiman box: HE-R9-Box.jpeg

Once opened you get a nice presentation of the headphones themselves and a box for the cable: HE-R9-openbox.jpeg

The cable is the usual hifiman cable and relatively good quality dual 3.5mm cable: IMG_9506 Medium.jpeg

Once you get them out of the box the first thing that strikes you is the bright ’lipstick’ colour of each ear: HE-r9-Front.jpeg

and then how large and angled the shape looks like from behind is where it really defies convention: HE-R9-back.jpeg

I believe the HE-R9 and the Hifiman HE-R10D are both partially a homage to a famous Sony MDR R10 from the late 1980’s: Sony MDR R10-1.jpg

When I spotted the HE-R9 design originally, I thought the dynamic drivers might be angled within the protruding ear-cups to give a sense of the music coming from the front but the way its actually designed there is a hollow space behind the drivers within each ear cup. As you will see in the sound impressions section, I believe this design has both pros and cons to the ultimate sound signature you get from the HE-R9, but it definitely helps make the HE-R9 be a distinctive headphone.

Build Quality

The construction is solid, featuring a combination of premium plastics, metal, and one of the typical hifiman headbands similar to the HE400SE or the Edition XS.

IMG_9505 Medium.jpeg

While they look great I did feel that ear cups feel a bit too ‘plasticky’ for a premium headphone so at their original retail price of $600 there was a reasonable amount of valid criticism, but at the current price I have no complaints.

There are subtle elements of the design which are nicely thought out, for example the left hand ear cup can take a TRRS cable, so you can run a balanced cable into that side on its own: IMG_9507 Medium.jpeg

The following diagram from Hifiman’s website explains this feature in detail: HE-r9-diagram Medium.jpeg

Comfort and Fit The ‘Tranquility’ ear-pads are padded with a plush material that ensures comfort, even during extended listening sessions, I found these to be incredible comfortable and lightweight. The cushions provide both comfort and a seal for improved sound isolation and bass response. IMG_9504 Medium.jpeg

Adjustability The headband offers ample adjustability, accommodating a wide range of head sizes with ease, all while maintaining its distinctive appearance. It is a very similar design to the headband on HE400SE and other hifiman headphones like the Edition XS. I do slightly prefer the Sundara style headband for ultimate adjustability but given this is similar to the Edition XS, I was very happy with the comfort once I adjusted the headband: IMG_9503 Medium.jpeg

Weight Distribution Carefully designed to balance weight, the HE-R9 feels lighter than it looks, minimizing fatigue and enhancing the overall listening experience.

Clamping Force The clamping force is good, ensuring a secure fit without exerting undue pressure but providing a good seal: HIFIMAN-HE-R9-BACK.jpeg

Ear-cups Size Large enough to encase the ears comfortably, the ear-cups contribute to the HE-R9’s standout appearance and its immersive sound.


Despite their closed-back design, the ear-cups manage to remain relatively breathable, thanks to the materials chosen, reducing heat build-up.

Sound Isolation

The HE-R9 offers good sound isolation, effectively minimizing ambient noise, I used these in a noisy shared office space for a few days, and they gave me good isolation from the noise and also provided enough isolation that I did not disturb anyone nearby.

Sound Quality

As I do with all my headphones I listened to the HE-R9 for a few days with my very long audiophile evaluation playlist. This is to get a good feel for whether a headphone is a general purpose (good for most music) or a “specialist” headphone ( amazing for specific types or genres of music ). I also play around with a bit EQ before delving deeper into the sound profile.

So with the HE-R9, the most obvious thing is the quality and richness of the bass, but as I hinted earlier, the hollow cavity in the ear-cups behind the drivers add a unique resonance quality to the headphone. These mixed with Hifiman typical excellent extended treble means this is a specialist headphone and that added resonance means there is mostly no point in using EQ ( as that won’t change that attribute of the sound signature ), but this is not necessarily a bad thing for a specialist headphone.

What this combination does is make this an amazing headphone for simulating the feel you get in a live ‘gig’, I found genres live classic blues and especially classic rock where outstanding. This is the type of music where you want to believe the band are in the room with you. Most live albums for any genres also sounded incredible, so with classic live Jazz like Keith Jarrett’s ‘Koln Concert’ you could feel the concert hall almost as he pounds the keyboard trying to get the most out that famously badly tuned piano.

But let’s get into the detail of what you should expect:


As I mentioned, the most striking aspect of the HE-r9 is it rich bass. With each beat, the HE-r9 delivers a pulsating bass response that adds depth and richness to the listening experience, inviting you to immerse yourself fully in the music but with the added ’live’ resonance.

So for example, I have never heard ‘Muddy Waters’ ‘You can’t lose what you ain’t never had’ sound so alive, with a wide soundstage and rich detailed deep bass. While it was easy to get lost in ‘Depeche mode’s ‘Enjoy the silence’ it sounded like I was just standing in front of the stage at one of their gigs.

I found the bass was over the top in lots of tracks - but once I focused my listening on specific genres - especially classic rock - Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Credence Clearwater Revival I could really appreciate this ‘specialist’ sound signature. I did find the bass was too in some already bass heavy tracks, so with ‘Portisheads’ ‘Dummy’ album the bass was a bit too much is a few of the tracks like ‘Roads’.


The bass had the tendency to overlap a little on the details you should normally expect in the midrange, this is one of the reasons I felt this headphone is not for ‘serious’ listening or mastering music. So for example with the Cranberries classic ‘Linger’ the bass guitar covered up a little of beauty of that song. But in other tracks like the Sundays “Here’s where the Story ends” the added bass weight enhanced the vocals and jangly guitar sounded great, so it will be a little dependent on the way the specific tracks were recorded.


The treble has always been a strength of Hifiman open back Planar, and they brought that knowledge to the tuning of this dynamic driver. I believe the ‘Topology Diaphragm’ greatly enhances the treble detail while it never sounded sibilant. The treble provides a nice balance to the rich bass response. Tracks like ‘Fine Time’ by ‘New Order’ had lots of electronic high hats balanced with rich bass, and it sounded great on the HE-R9.

Soundstage and Imaging

The soundstage especially on binaural tracks recorded with good bass, were exceptional wide for a closed back on this headphone, for example, I loved “Nothing as it Seems” from “Pearl Jam’s Binaural album. While it has an excellent sound stage, but it’s not quiet at the level of some of the Hifiman open back’s like the Edition XS, where you really get that super wide soundstage. Imaging was ok but not great, I think due to the bass weight covering some of the midrange detail.

Audio Quality Conclusion

The Hifiman HE-R9’s sound quality is as distinctive as its appearance, offering an engaging audio experience that’s both fun and high-fidelity. On certain genres of music it really transports you into sound of a concert, which I do appreciate and is an added dimension to have in your headphone collection.

Specifications and Measurements:

The key specification is the Sensitivity of 100Db @ 32Ω these make the HE-R9 really easy to drive, while I wouldn’t recommend it - they can even work well with the basic Apple USB-c dongle. I mainly used them with my Macbook Pro (while working) and a FiiO KA11 usb-c dongle with my smartphone.

Name Value
Frequency response range 15-35KHz
Impedance 32Ω
Sensitivity 100dB
Weight 328g
Input 3.5mm
3.5mm TRRS (left only)

Frequency Response

graph Medium.jpeg

These measurements are available on my headphone graph database (here)[https://www.pragmaticaudio.com/headphones/?share=Harman_OE_2018_Target,Hifiman_HE-R9]


The distortion is well handled which is great, so EQ could be used to adjust the tonality: HE-R9-FR-Distortion Medium.jpeg


I would not recommend EQ for the HE-R9, while it could / would change the sound signature you would lose the ‘unique’ sound characteristics of the R9, that rich resonant bass and added detail of the Hifiman treble. Enjoy it for what it is, and it is a very enjoyable headphone with the right music.


At the current price of $109 the Hifiman HE-R9 has earned a much higher pragmatic rating than it would have with its initial price. I gave it a pragmatic rating of 3, while it should not be your ‘only’ headphone it definitely has a distinctive bass rich sound signature that it deserves a place in most peoples collections. This is the headphone you reach too when you want to are stuck at home but want that feel of a going to a legendary ‘gig’.


It represents an adventurous departure from conventional designs, offering a fresh and quirky take on high-fidelity audio.

The Hifiman HE-R9 is a celebration of individuality in the headphone world, combining a quirky design with a sound signature that’s equally distinctive. It’s a headphone for those who not only seek high-fidelity audio but also wish to make a bold statement in both style and sonic preference.