YAMAHA YH-5000SE Headphone Review
In musical instruments and professional audio, Yamaha has always maintained a consistent output of high-quality products with a wide range of offerings. However, in consumer audio, particularly in the HIFI realm, Yamaha has become known for its “evergreen” models that have stood the test of time.
While headphones have not always been the primary focus of Yamaha’s audio development, there have been significant milestones, such as the HP-1.
The HP-1 was first introduced by Yamaha in the 1970s and was equipped with the first generation of ORTHODYNAMIC™ technology. Its unique design featured a voice coil directly printed on the diaphragm and sandwiched between sound-permeable, fine-perforated magnets. This structure allowed the driving source to be turned directly into a sound source, a significant breakthrough at the time, and still holds up as such today.
As we entered the new millennium, Yamaha’s classic products, such as the “White Basin” monitor speaker and GT-2000 vinyl turntable, continued to serve the homes of many enthusiasts. In recent years, Yamaha has launched the “5000 Series” HiFi system, representing the latest and greatest technology.
The 5000 series comprises the new NS-5000 speaker, GT-5000 vinyl turntable, and the C-5000&M-5000 front and rear amplifiers. The market considers the launch of this series to be a symbol of Yamaha’s return to the Hi-End audio market.
However, the surprises of the YAMAHA 5000 series don’t stop there. In response to the recent surge of high-end audiophile headphones, Yamaha announced that it would be launching a new flat-panel unit headset in 2022 – the YH-5000SE. As the model number indicates, this is the flagship product in Yamaha’s current headphone line.
The YAMAHA YH-5000SE headphones come in a large packaging box designed to serve as a sufficient buffer protection structure for the headphones. YAMAHA primarily equips the YH-5000SE with two pairs of headphone cables featuring 3.5mm single-ended and 4.4mm balanced interfaces. The headphones also come with a sheepskin contact surface and Toray Ultrasuede® suede-covered ear pads.
The two standard earphone cables are made of multi-strand braided silver-plated OFC material. The cable replacement socket on the earphone is a more typical 3.5mm bipolar form, and many upgrade cables are available on the market. The official manufacturer also provides a standard 4Pin XLR plug wire with the model number HXC-SC020 as an optional accessory.
Those familiar with headphones know that ear pads play a crucial role in the comfort of wearing and tuning the sound. Similar to spatial acoustics in audio listening, ear pads can significantly impact the sound quality of headphones.
According to Yamaha’s official introduction, the sheepskin contact surface ear pads are excellent at presenting beautifully contoured sound images and high-quality sound effects. In contrast, the suede ear pads are characterized by their softness, comfort, and fullness of sound. After conducting several AB comparisons, our team preferred the leather ear pads as the primary match for evaluating the YH-5000SE.
Unlike other high-priced headphones from different brands that tend to have a sense of noble and luxurious design, the YH-5000SE has a higher mechanical precision appearance, giving off a unique vibe.
The YAMAHA YH-5000SE headphone stands out among the flat-panel unit headphones I’ve tried thanks to its outstanding comfort. The earphone’s outer cavity frame is made of magnesium alloy, which provides excellent rigidity and vibration suppression performance and has advantages in weight compared to standard aluminum alloy and wood materials. Weighing only 320 grams, the YH-5000SE allows long listening sessions without discomfort.
Besides its lightweight design, the YAMAHA YH-5000SE has also been optimized for ergonomics. The earphone headband’s support arm is made of stainless steel. Adjusting the lateral pressure design and the shape of the ear pads ensures a balanced and evenly distributed ear pressure. Moreover, the headset features a hinge design, a double-layer headband, and an adaptive head beam adjustment design, allowing users with different head shapes to find a comfortable fit.
The attention to detail in the YAMAHA YH-5000SE’s design extends to its sound-permeable features. The Japanese special three-axis weave chemical fiber net on the cavity’s outer edge is lightweight and serves as an effective back wave treatment. Removing the ear pads reveals a special rolled plain stainless steel filter on the outer edge of the cavity.
The filter is produced under strict air pressure environment control to ensure smooth air circulation. It serves as an essential means of adjusting and maintaining the earphones’ sound by controlling the proper air pressure in the enclosure. These features demonstrate the YH-5000SE’s commitment to achieving high sound quality and clarity.
Yes, that’s correct. The design of the YH-5000SE takes into consideration the importance of ear pads in tuning the sound, as well as the internal volume and air-damping design for low-frequency performance and sound field extension.
The Toe-in unit placement angle is also a deliberate design choice to align the unit’s sound with the ear’s listening direction, creating a more immersive and speaker-like listening experience. Overall, Yamaha has put a lot of effort into the design and engineering of the YH-5000SE to ensure optimal performance and comfort for the user.
The ORTHODYNAMIC™ unit of the YH-5000SE is a flat-panel diaphragm drive unit that directly prints the voice coil onto the diaphragm, which is then sandwiched between thin, perforated magnets to become the sound source.
This differs from the traditional flat-panel unit design, typically using a printed or etched diaphragm with a sandwich-type magnetic array structure. The ORTHODYNAMIC™ technology originated from Yamaha’s famous HP-1 headphones in the 1970s and has been dramatically improved and optimized for the YH-5000SE.
The new generation ORTHODYNAMIC™ unit of the YH-5000SE has undergone significant changes from the traditional flat-panel units. The voice coil and diaphragm have been redesigned with concentric circular grooves and pattern reinforcement to maintain a rigid shape and prevent diaphragm split distortion.
The new ultra-light unit diaphragm is engraved with unique textured voice coils and tiny ripples on both sides, providing excellent dynamic response and revealing subtle differences and atmospheric details in the music. The high-permeability micro-perforated air dampers on both sides control the vibration of the diaphragm, ensuring precise sound control without reducing the vitality of the music.
In addition, the circular shape with no fixed points replaces the outer ring structure, allowing for maximum movement of the entire diaphragm and ensuring complete and clear low-frequency performance. All these innovations make the ORTHODYNAMIC™ unit a crucial component of the YH-5000SE, contributing to its excellent sound quality.
The important mystery lies in its non-planar shape design, which differs from ordinary flat-panel diaphragms. This design helps suppress resonance and optimizes the control of the low-frequency resonance point (the position of F0), making the low-frequency performance more comprehensive.
The official parameters of YH-5000SE are impedance 34 ohms and sensitivity 98db, which is considered to be the type with lower impedance and higher sensitivity among headphones. Manufacturers hope to lower the threshold for users to enjoy as much as possible. Still, according to experience, this type of earphone is usually easy to drive on the one hand, but it also tests the rationality of matching.
The YH-5000SE was tested with the Astell&Kern (AK) portable player during the matching test. The CA1000T, which is a highly regarded portable player with quasi-desktop features, was used in the trial. The CA1000T uses the ESS9039M PRO DAC from ESS as the D/A converter, and the amplifier end adopts a design that can independently adjust the mixing ratio of gallstones.
For the best results, the recommended settings with the CA1000T are medium gain and Hybrid mode. The YH-5000SE shows a lively and bright sound signature with good dynamics and soundstage when driven by the CA1000T. It doesn’t require a powerful thrust, a notable difference from traditional large-area diaphragm flat-panel headphones.
Regarding desktop model matching, I first tested the suit matching of the iFi Pro iDSD Signature decoder + Pro iCAN Signature amp. Coincidentally, the same as the CA1000T above, it uses 4 DACs and adjustable gallstone hybrid amplifiers, and this suit is mainly equipped with four classic chips BB1793 from TI and two NOS GE6570 tubes. The design of each detail also adopts the flagship design of the iFi brand.
The iFi Pro series signature suit is the audio source with the most significant output in the YH-5000SE evaluation. According to official data, the balanced output is >14,000mW under a 16-ohm load. For the YH-5000SE, the output enough to drive some small bookshelf boxes is exceptionally abundant, so there is almost no need to consider adjusting additional gain in actual matching.
The reviewer tested the iFi Pro iDSD Signature decoder and Pro iCAN Signature amp as a desktop model for matching with the YH-5000SE. The iFi Pro series signature suit is the audio source with the most considerable output in the YH-5000SE evaluation. The iFi Pro iCAN Signature amp has three driving modes: pure tube, transistor, and hybrid amplifier.
In the test, the reviewer preferred to use the pure tube mode. Playing back vocal tracks is the strength of this set, with the electronic tube amplification adding a sweet and smooth voice texture to the tone. This combination maintains the same sense of power and excellent transparency of the earphones. The warm mid-frequency and soft and bright mid-high frequency extension make it easy to listen to and be fascinated.
Listening to music on headphones and stereo speakers provides very different experiences. With headphones, the left and right signals are directly delivered to our ears without the involvement of the head-related transfer function (HRTF). This results in an incomplete sound field and image compared to listening on stereo speakers.
To address this issue, there have been attempts to change the sound field feedback of headphones, such as through head recording and the Crossfeed function of sound source systems. Acoustic designs can also influence the sound field creation of headphones.
Yamaha’s YH-5000SE unit is designed to be further away from the ear and has a slight Toe-in placement angle. This creates an “Ellipse” sound field state, with extended sound on both ends. Pairing the YH-5000SE with Pro iCAN Signature and turning on the “3D Holographic Correction and Restoration System” at a 60° adjustment enhances the interaction of the front sound field during live recordings.
However, users should switch settings according to their earphone’s characteristics, personal preferences, and music type. There is no one-button solution to this issue.
The YH-5000SE headphones have been paired with the Boulder 812, the latest streaming DAC/preamp/amp integrated machine from the well-known Hi-End audio brand, to significant effect. The 812 was developed in-house, from the DAC structure to the analogue circuit. It proves that investing in high-quality sound sources and amplifiers is worth it, rather than simply focusing on the driving force.
Despite the 812 having low output power, it can drive the YH-5000SE with low gain, enough to match the colour. The result is an extraordinarily vivid and active sound that easily handles the music with large arrangements or complex elements. The YH-5000SE, driven by the 812, can sort out transparent layers and levels, showing a comprehensive extension and providing a high-end headphone system with a sense of quality.
The proportional relationship in the scene, the purpose of cohesion and separation of the sound image of each part, and the balanced connection of different frequency band distributions are all presented in an orderly manner, reflecting the high quality of the YH-5000SE headphones.
The first album we’ll discuss is Alice Sara Ott’s 2021 release, Echoes of Life. This album reflects Ott’s struggles with illness over the years. Ott’s piano is exquisite, ranging from gentle strokes to powerful playing. The piano’s sound is crystal clear and extremely dense, with a comfortable and natural mid-range and gorgeous overtones when the music soars to the high keys.
The YH-5000SE provides brilliant texture and resolution when playing back such close-range recordings of musical instruments, making for a lovely listening experience.
Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax are considered by many to be the best chamber music partners of half a century. Their album won the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance Award at the 64th Grammy Awards. The YH-5000SE’s playback of this album is full of appeal, with a seamless expression of emotion through rhythm and melody.
Each part of the music has a transparent and direct sound image construction, providing clear feedback on the strength of the bowstrings and keys. The cello has a total thickness, and the bright piano complements it perfectly. Under the YH-5000SE’s powerful restoration of weak details, the atmosphere of the recording scene is genuinely remarkable.
When it comes to vocal tracks, the YH-5000SE truly shines. Take Norah Jones’ album ‘TIL WE MEET AGAIN as an example. This live album by the jazz queen is a collection of her concert selections in different places, making it a challenging album to play. If the equipment is strong enough or matched correctly, annoying frizz and congestion will quickly appear, and you won’t be able to hear everything you should.
However, the YH-5000SE handles this album with ease, showcasing its strength in human voice interpretation. Each track has a different arrangement style and lively atmosphere, and Norah Jones’ voice is portrayed in other states across various songs and occasions, always full of flesh and blood.
It’s a remarkable display of the headphone’s tuning design focused on bringing out the best in vocal performances. With the YH-5000SE, you can hear every detail without sounding mechanical or blunt.
This album is an exciting collection of live recordings from different locations around the globe, including Detroit, Perpignan, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Milan, and Buenos Aires. The YH-5000SE was put to the test with this album, and it delivered an outstanding performance.
The bass section of the YH-5000SE showcases a strong sense of dive and refreshing power, a distinguishing characteristic of the ORTHODYNAMIC™ planar unit. This quality is especially noticeable in the influential segments of bass instruments.
As a well-known manufacturer of musical instruments and audio equipment, Yamaha undoubtedly has a unique understanding of sound. Listening to the YAMAHA YH-5000SE headphone, you can feel its full tuning concept. This headphone, which symbolizes the highest level of Yamaha, is similar to the Yamaha high-end audio enthusiasts are familiar with. It expresses sound with the artist’s intention, shows the beauty of dynamics, and conveys the movements of different elements in the music.
Despite the large size of the Yamaha Group, the share of high-end Hi-Fi products has always been quite limited. However, the latest generation of the flagship 5000 series model, the YH-5000SE, symbolizes Yamaha’s determination and muscular strength in advanced HiFi, building on the concept of its predecessor, the HP-1.
Produced at the Yamaha Kakegawa factory in Japan, where Yamaha’s flagship grand pianos and audio products are also delivered, this headphone will be another iconic work favored by Yamaha fans and music enthusiasts alike.