The Munich High End Show turned out to be a display for the two headphone systems that are without doubt leading the way in terms of price. One was the HE-1 we looked at yesterday from Sennheiser and the other is HiFiMAN’s latest big reveal, the Shangri La! While there is no official pricing for the whole system it is often rumoured to be around $40,000 based on a statement CEO Fang Bian made saying as a system it will cost as much as a certain car. However more recently it was announced that early on you can buy just the headphones for $9,999 (unofficially), but will then obviously need an amp. So less than Sennheisers statement electrostatic but still a bloody lot! I was really hoping this would be cheaper, as the original Fang electrostat the Jade was very affordable and apparently sounded great, I was hoping HiFiMAN would do something similar, bringing a stat to the masses, instead it seems they have got carried away trying to set themselves in the same league as Sennheiser.
I also am not sure how finished everything is with these, I have a feeling the sound might be final, as may be the headphones but I think the amp may get a makeover, which is hugely needed as it looks pathetic at the rumoured price points with bad knob feel, tacky veneers, poor heat control (burnt fingers on pot) and even the odd decision to keep the 4 big 300Bs understated.
The headphones themselves also lack imagination, seemingly sharing the same housing as the much cheaper Edition X and HE-1000 and while they aren’t bad or anything, it would be nice to see these made a bit more special, you know like how the HE-1 doesn’t just use a HD800 housing. While a lot with the HE-1 is over the top, you can start to see where the prices come from, that is not the case with this system, if as a whole it is over 30 grand! Hopefully it isn’t. Oh and the cable was stupidly short?!
The sound was of course good but did no where near as much to excite me as the HE-1, which I actually listened to after. This had a warmer sound for electrostatics and while its softer tone did have a very natural and creamy timbre I did find it to not always have the last say in dynamics. It also did not have the spaciousness of other electrostatic headphones I have tried such as the Stax SR-007/9 and both of Sennheisers’s Orpheus incarnations. It did still have the effortless detail that only an electrostatic can manage. Also with me being a fan of their HE-1000, I did not find this to be a natural upgrade, just a different flavour, with both probably serving some better than the other, so the HE1k seems like a bargain in comparison at $3k!
While an obviously great sounding headphone and a flagship with a cool name, I think how well the Shangri La does is really down to what they end up doing for costs. I don’t think they need to try and compete with Sennheiser simply for the sake of it, make it as accessible as possible and with a good bundle price with the amp. If they really must go expensive, I pray to god they make that amp look and function a huge lot better! If the headphone is 10k alone, then from what I have heard it is overpriced and if its anything near 35k with the amp, then I am sad to see the road HiFiMAN have gone down.