The retail space in high end headphones has grown quite a bit over the previous years. The market right under $4K has been filled with a couple of great contenders. Two that really stuck out to me have been the Hifiman He1000se and the Abyss Diana V2. Given that the He1000se and Diana V2 retail for the same price at $3,500, I feel that this is good grounds for a fair comparison. Both compete and excel in their own way. There are appreciable differences that separate the two, but similarities are there to be found as well. Both are fantastic options and have been some of my favorite listening experiences thus far.
Packaging, presentation, and accessories:
Diana V2 packaging and presentation is special to me personally. Once you open the box, you are greeted to a travel bag that the V2 rest in. I think this is cool because Abyss markets the V2 as a mobile headphone. That makes sense given the form factor of the V2, but it is quite hard to drive so you will need a powerful mobile dap or mobile amplifier to take advantage of that. Abyss also gives you the opportunity to pick what cable you want. This is nice indeed, because you have a decent number of options to choose from depending on your needs and preferences.
He1000se packaging and presentation is more on the simple side of things. The headphones come in a nice looking case that can additionally be use as storage. While it looks great, I feel that it’s a tad cheap feeling, but sufficient, nonetheless. The headphones also come with 3 cables, which is a nice addition to cover all consumer amps. I must say though that the cables do feel cheap, and for these beautiful headphones I highly recommend buying an aftermarket cable. Viking Weave Cables and Double Helix Cables are nice options that I personally would recommend.
Build and fit:
Diana V2 is by far the best built headphone in this comparison. It’s a very light and probably the smallest form factor TOTL headphone on the market. The build quality and attention to detail on the V2 is exceptional. They are built like a tank, so you don’t have to worry about durability. I will mention that depending on head shape, it may not be the best fit for all and can cause discomfort, but for me it was fine. Abyss also offers bass ported pads, and some have reported that it aided the fit for them and helped with the discomfort. Additionally, the Diana may also give you a hotspot at the top of your head, mainly because of the lack of cushioning on the band. Thankfully, Abyss has given you a remedy for that via padding included in the box.
He1000se build is what I would consider fine. It looks great and is lightweight as well, and with this one just like any Hifiman that shares the egg-shaped symmetry it’s comfortable, but it can feel a little cheap. I am very careful with how I handle any Hifiman headphone, but that could just be me being overly cautious to a degree. They certainly don’t give you the sense you could hit them with a car and still go on like the Dianas. The clamp force on this unit is a perfect middle ground for me. They have just enough clamp to stay on but never feel like they press too much. Although it may be built a little cheaper, I personally am ok with that trade off especially if I can get this level of comfort. I have zero issues wearing these headphones for long listening sessions, and that in my book is a bonus. Now let’s get to the fun element of this review, the sound quality differences and similarities between the two.
He1000se in my opinion is the winner in this category, but that doesn’t mean V2 does a bad job here. The He1000se just has more rumble and slightly more impact, while the V2 is more reserved in bass department. The V2 needs more power to shine, and in my opinion benefits from the bass ported pads to give it more kick in bass. The He1000se bass is special to me because it is more enveloping while still offering great positional cues. The low end has the ability Diana V2 bass is more traditional in a sense and is more left, right, or center, so it’s more 2-dimensional. Bass texture is quite even for both, but I feel that he1000se is more detailed in this region and more separated from the other frequencies.
He1000se gives you a sense that a sub is present, while offering slam characteristics of an lcd x which is nice. Diana V2 is still great when it comes to bass resolution but is more bland in other nuances of bass.
This category is such a tossup between the two, and it’s really going to come down to frequency and presentation preferences. To my ears, Diana V2 has one of the most favorable midrange tunings that I have heard period. At no point do vocals ever get shouty, and female and male vocals have pretty much equal presence and articulation. I really enjoy the intimacy with which they present vocals, it’s really engaging while sounding cozy. The one thing I wish personally, is that instruments had a little more space to breathe around the vocalist in the midrange. Instruments still sound great and are balanced, but the spatial separation of them could be improved. He1000se midrange sounds great as well, maybe not as pleasing as v2, but has a more “reference” tuning overall. Male vocals can sound a tad thin, but female vocals are to die for on this headphone. Instruments are presented with excellent clarity and timbre. While V2 sounds intimate, He1000se allows you to breathe, and hear sounds and elements in a mix float around you. Everything is so well separated on he1000se and provides excellent spatial cues; it is quite special how effortless it does this. Resolution in the midrange goes to he1000se, timbre may go to V2 slightly, texture I will say he1000se, presentation goes to he1000se.
Ok in this department for frequency response hands down for most people will go to V2. He1000se has been reported to be too bright for some in the higher frequencies, and it does have some peaks that could be problematic. For me it was fine as I may not be that sensitive towards treble. V2 on the other hand is pure enjoyment and is pleasant, but I also feel that it could use a little more treble energy. I feel that at times he1000se maybe a little bright, and V2 a little dark. Furthermore, he1000se driver speed is astoundingly fast and you can hear every little nuance in the mix. Some say that it may be due to coloration because of the elevated treble but let me just clarify that this is true real deal resolution. Even when I applied eq to tame the higher frequencies, it still knocked me off my feet with how much detail and texture this headphone was able to pull out a song. Diana V2 was more on the relaxed side of things, which is going to be more favorable for most, and it excels in brighter more aggressive genres. It still has a good amount of detail but does not come close to he1000se in this area. Timbre in this area is a toss up, but tuning I will give it V2. Presentation he1000se 100 percent, it’s special what this thing does for the price.
Soundstage and imaging:
Simply put both image exceptionally well, and I love how well the V2 is able to separate elements in a track given its smaller stage. V2 almost gives you a sensory overload with what it does, but it’s addictive. The he1000se imaging is just as good as V2 but adds more of everything else. This means increased layering, depth, soundstage, and instrument separation. Diana V2 is more 2D, while he1000se is more 3D. This category is really about preference though and what genre of music you listen to because both presentations suits and favors different types of music in my experience.
Diana V2 pairs well with an amp/dac combination that is on the slightly brighter side of neutral. I think this is important to give the treble region a little more presence and definition as I feel like it’s a little too withdrawn.
He1000se is the inverse, as I feel that it pairs fantastically with an OTC amp, or an amp that is warmer but doesn’t sacrifice detail.
This drastically helped the treble brightness and made it much more of a pleasant listen. A good OTC amp made this headphones timbre marvelous I must say.
Both headphones require quality amplification, because they really do scale and are revealing. Topping stacks are a no go for both, especially on he1000se because it will sound lifeless. Diana V2 needs good power, while he1000se is extremely chain picky and requires good synergy.
Both headphones are great options in the audio world, but they are polar opposites and target different audiences and preferences. Diana V2 is an engaging midrange-oriented headphone. It is more intimate and sounds like a slightly bigger IEM. If you love vocals and timbre this is your match. He1000se is for those who value insane technical performance and presentation. Instruments are presented with their own space, while vocals can shrink and expand. It’s a very precise sounding headphone that competes with utopia, d8000, and lcd 5 in many areas. I think it’s about 95 percent of Susvara which is astonishing given that it’s $2,500 less. So which one is the winner, well that’s going to depend on what you like and prefer. For me personally I would pick he1000se, because I 100 percent think wholeheartedly that it’s the king at its price technically and can sound pleasant with the right source chain. It’s a headphone like the Susvara that will reward you if you are willing to find a great synergy between it and source gear.