Love at first sight
To be honest, the moment I saw a picture of the YH-5000 (YH5K for short) I pretty much fell in love and instantly knew I had to have this in my collection. Maybe it was the design that first drew me to it or the fact that a venerable company like Yamaha would re-enter the scene, but the image of a Focal Utopia infused with a Sennheiser HD 800 really got to me. In any case, while I am enthusiastic about this headphone it’s more important to me how it sounds so I’m not going to hold back just because it looks damn cool. And, no, I am not a reviewer I bought this myself and am writing this just for the heck of it.
But before that, I just want to emphasize that the YH5K did change a lot over time so, like with any piece of audio gear, give it some time!
The BIG Picture
hifiDJ’s audio chain:
Auralic Aries G2 (PSU mod) via AES —>
LinnenberG Satie DA Converter (IIR filter) —>
Crayon Audio CHA-1 (balanced in balanced out) —>
Yamaha YH-5000 (stock leather pads / Danacable Lazuli Reference via DHC adapters)
[all connected to a PS Audio Power Plant 3 outfitted with Allnic ZL technology cables (from digital to analog to power) / all components are isolated with Gingko isolation products]
Overall the YH5K, to me, goes for a very “clean analytical” approach. What do I mean by this? In a sense, its goal is to showcase clarity and resolution to the max. I don’t think this translates to being natural or true-to-life but there’s also nothing wrong with that. It gives so much insight into the music and is so faithful to the recording that it leaves no stone unturned, in addition, its accurate and no-nonsense nature is one of the many things I find attractive. Tonally, I’d classify this as a slightly u-shaped tuned headphone on this setup.
One of the standouts is its impressively textured, engaging, and accurate treble presentation. It is supremely extended, energetic, and airy coupled with a tasteful dose of delicacy and a bit of sweetness. While the treble is front and center, it’s not harsh or piercing, assuming synergy is on point. Because of this, I think the YH5K handles organic music very well giving it a great sense of energy and life. There’s almost this sense of “heightened clarity” but without sounding artificial as to cause problems and, in effect, ends up sounding hyper-accentuated, resulting in a damn engaging experience with classical and acoustic music. The timbre, energy, and bite of cymbals and stringed instruments, such as the violin, are very accurately conveyed on these headphones, sounding very distinct and clear. How they pulled off this kind of balance and refinement in the treble region while delivering so much is quite an achievement in my book.
The next standout is its traditional yet very open stage presentation. Very defined stage boundaries are placed firmly on your left and on your right, resulting in a direct line of sight toward the center stage. And within the center stage is a very open, deep, and layered view. Although it’s not a very wide stage, the depth, height, positioning, and focus more than make up for it. To use a simple analogy, it’s like looking through a set of binoculars, which leads you to look forward and into the stage rather than around you.
To briefly address its weaknesses, the YH5K lacks some impact in the fundamental notes (ie. sub-bass), which extends just fine but there’s not enough weight and impact behind it. Overall, it’s not a big issue with most music I played through it, but the upper harmonics (ie. mid-bass) is punchy, fast, and tight with some nice added warmth (ie. not lacking in quantity to me)–it’s impressively clean and textured (awesome for electronic music). Next, the stage width isn’t all that stand out, so those who prioritize that may be left wanting more (personally not an issue for me). Finally, the YH5K decays a bit too fast at times but I still find the timbre to be very spot-on (piano sounds phenomenal). This is entirely personal preference as some like it dry and some like it wet–take your pick.
What I think are standouts:
- top-notch separation and a natural sense of dynamics
- treble texture, timbre, energy, extension, and air
- very great resolving power and microdynamics
- traditional yet very open stage presentation
- super clean and extended bass
- nice handling of texture
What I think could be improved:
- stage width
- sub-bass impact
OK enough of this, this actually doesn’t mean squat without some comparisons for context, am I right? If you agree, move on to the next section!
Comparisons are Key
The following are a few select comparisons against the YH5K. These impressions are limited to what chains I’ve experienced these headphones with, so please keep in mind that they do NOT capture the nuance behind other peoples’ experiences with these cans on their chains. If you’ve dipped your toes long enough in this hobby then you most likely have come to the conclusion that your experience with a transducer is directly reflected by the entire system at hand. That being said, I think some generalities can be shared across all these cans even on different chains but, to emphasize, YMMV. Also, it’s worth mentioning that my priority is to optimize around the MYSPHERE, but that doesn’t mean the chain here doesn’t work well with the other cans (it does but it depends on what you’re after).
The YIN to my YANG (vs MYSPHERE 3.1/3.2)
So I grouped the 3.1 & 3.2 together because it’s really going to depend on what amp you drive these with. For more useful info and context, check out M0N’s article on the site (or click here).
System used: same as above (minus the headphone cable which is a Brise Audio MIKUMARI Ref.2)
Main takeaway: naturally true to life with exceptional midrange resolution/texture
Standouts: extremely natural presentation, anything midrange, realistic transient response, speaker/monitor-like staging (for a headphone), low-level listening
Meh: absence of sub-bass, can be somewhat picky on recordings but it’s not as bad as you think, not the most comfortable, very picky with placement/positioning of driver frames
Two very different approaches here, the 3.1/3.2 goes for a more natural and true-to-life presentation (comparatively laid-back), while the YH5K takes the clean analytical route (comparatively energetic). I think both can be fantastic depending on the chain and I think both complement each other very very well, so it will ultimately come down to what you value most… or just get both!
To elaborate further, I think the 3.1/3.2 represent midrange texture (or midrange in general) phenomenally well over the YH5K (though it’s not as far off as I had initially thought). The speed and transient response still go to the 3.1/3.2 and nothing I’ve personally heard so far has it beat (the YH5K is still pretty darn fast though). Resolving power between the two is very close and will depend on what you personally like to focus on as a listener and, of course, your own system. As to which one scales more, I’m not in a position where I can assess that accurately, so IDK. The 3.1/3.2 is generally more even-keeled in its resolving power, while the YH5K focuses more on the nuance of things. The overall bass is actually a toss-up and it would depend on what kind of aspects you prioritize because they both present it so differently. I would say if you wanted the cleaner more immediately impressive bass then I’d pick the YH5K, but if you wanted the more realistic one I’d choose the 3.1/3.2. In addition, if you prioritize extension you’ll get that with the YH5K, not the 3.1/3.2 (I have the frames angled out so that’s how I’m assessing it). Treble energy is all YH5K but the 3.1/3.2 is the, again, more realistic one, and tonal density (as well as timbre) would also go to the 3.1/3.2 as the YH5K leans drier in this area (3.1/3.2 sounds spot on). Touching on stage, the 3.1/3.2 excels at coherency and blackness, hence one of the reasons why it sounds so natural. If you’ve ever heard nearfield monitors properly placed on a desk, it’s a very similar experience but in headphones. Alternatively, the YH5K kind of has a no-nonsense approach to its stage presentation, meaning it doesn’t try to fool you with party tricks. Again, these are two very different approaches, and which one is better is going to naturally depend on your preference. Personally, I like the stage presentation of both headphones and I feel it’s one of the reasons why they complement each other so well.
I think the uniqueness and standout traits of the 3.1/3.2 put it over the edge for me if I had to pick just one (but really it could go either way). Its natural presentation is one that I find very compelling, as its ability to render the human voice realistically (I know some don’t care), really seals the deal for me. In terms of what I’d actually use more, the YH5K hands-down. It’s simply the more comfortable of the two by a long shot, at least for me. In the end, both are exceptional and I enjoy them very very much.
Similar Goals, Different Paths (vs Focal Utopia pre-20)
System used: same as above
Main takeaway: forward analytical yet somewhat smooth presentation that’s focused solely on the recording
Standouts: exaggerated dynamics, plenty of slam, unique holographic/spherical staging, treble refinement/energy/extension, slightly extended decay
Meh: bass quality is just “fine” (more “one-note”), can sometimes smooth over texture a bit too much on some instruments (mainly brass)
Here are two essentially “analytical reference” cans with somewhat similar goals and traits. By “analytical reference,” I mean that the aim is to spoon-feed you everything that was in the recording, giving you a more insightful and faithful approach. It’s not exactly a natural way of handling things, in my opinion, but a worthwhile experience nonetheless. To be clear, they both sound different but they also somewhat aim for the same thing.
The Utopia’s presentation goes for a more contrasty and exaggerated approach. To me, this extra contrast contributes to its engaging nature yet at the same time, manages to provide some smoothness and tonal richness for a more romantic approach (assuming synergy is on point). The YH5K, on the other hand, has this more intense and heightened presentation but pulls off being delicate at the same time. As for tonality, I think they are both fairly neutral with the YH5K leaning more neutral-bright (though it depends on the specific setup). The bass quality on the YH5K is hands-down better–extended, textured, cleaner, and tighter–although the Utopia can slam harder. Midrange texture and resolution go to the YH5K, but if you do fancy the wetter and richer one I would suggest the Utopia (YH5K for vocals though). The treble presentation on both headphones is a standout and neither will disappoint, in my opinion. But to narrow it down, if you want the more intense (in a good way) and engaging one (in terms of treble) I would pick the YH5K. Staging could not be more different between the two with the Utopia going for a more unique holographic/spherical presentation, whereas the YH5K is the more traditional but noticeably more open one. Depth-wise, I’ll give the edge to the YH5K, although both are very good in this regard. In terms of tonal richness, the Utopia is richer, wetter, and weightier than the YH5K. While I think the YH5K is leaner/drier than the Utopia, to my ears, it has a more accurate representation of timbre and texture overall. At the end of the day, some people will prefer the slightly extended decay of the Utopia and others will prefer the slightly faster decay of the YH5K, so choose wisely. The dynamics on the Utopia I feel can be more capable, but I think the YH5K presents it more naturally and accurately (both macro and micro). Resolution-wise, I think the YH5K is a step up over the Utopia as it’s able to pull more nuance and information out of a recording.
Tallying all these points individually, it seems like the YH5K mostly takes it here… BUT really it comes down to whether you want a smoother more romantic sound sprinkled with some party tricks with the Utopia, or the more cleanly focused, heightened, and open-sounding YH5K (and your chain and tastes, etc…). Both are great cans but if I had to personally pick just one (on this chain), I’d choose the YH5K for its more stellar performance.
No… they are NOT the same (vs Final D8000 Pro)
System used: same as above
Main takeaway: clean and natural with a sharp but wide stage, energetic coupled with quality bass, and somewhat u-shaped depending on the chain
Standouts: anything bass, textural prowess, great all-rounder, pretty good timbre (especially brass), relatively forgiving
Meh: lack of airiness and treble refinement, can sometimes be a bit too energetic depending on pairing, not as resolving as the other two, not as dynamically alive as the other two, have to crank up the volume a bit
I was really eager to hear how the D8KP stacks up against the YH5K, and I know many others are curious as well. What I didn’t expect was how different they are sonically from each other. Maybe because they are both Japanese headphones that made me think they might share some sonic characteristics, but I was obviously wrong. In any case, I think the YH5K is the better-performing headphone, at least on this chain.
Starting with the bass, I think the YH5K offers more resolution, grip, and texture. It is noticeably cleaner, tighter, punchier, and faster however, the D8KP offers more sub-bass impact (not really an issue for most music I listen to). It’s important to note and reiterate that bass performance could likely favor the D8KP on a different chain, but I do feel confident that the YH5K has more potential. That being said, most of the things I just explained matter little because the bass presentation of the two are so different, that the potentially better-performing headphone (for bass) isn’t necessarily a reason to choose one over the other unless that is clearly what you’re after. Anyway, what it comes down to is whether you want the more realistic bass presentation (D8KP) or the cleaner more technical one (YH5K). For midrange, the YH5K takes the cake as it offers more resolution, texture, and clarity. For treble performance, it, once again, goes to the YH5K as it’s more refined, balanced, articulate, extended, and airy. The staging on the D8KP is wider and sharper than the YH5K but it falls short when it comes to depth and openness. Moreover, separation, placement, and dynamic capability are still a strong suit of the YH5K, when compared to the D8KP.
Even though I think the YH5K is the more capable and technical headphone, the D8KP is still a solid choice if you are seeking a more realistic and forgiving presentation overall, that’s good in most genres. On this chain, however, I think it falls a bit short when compared to the other flagships that have been mentioned.
Good Artists Copy (vs Sennheiser HD 800 S)
System used: same as above
Main takeaway: super wide and open-sounding with great resolution and delicacy
Standouts: impressive wide and grand stage, resolving power, microdynamics, delicacy, speed
Meh: stage can be too diffused and lacking in focus, timbre/tone that is not-so-great, can sometimes sound a bit too lean/dry, lacking in engagement
This comparison was interesting and although all of the flagship headphones mentioned earlier are obvious upgrades to the 800 S in most aspects, the YH5K is the one that closely assimilates a few of its traits (to clarify they all sound different). To get right into it, both the 800 S and YH5K are quick on the decay, and while the YH5K has accurate timbre the 800 S, in my opinion, is not so great. Also, both are very open-sounding headphones, but the main difference is that the 800 S stage is open laterally (ie. left/right), while the YH5K stage is open medially (ie. front/forward). Overall, the 800 S is still the more open-sounding headphone, but the YH5K doesn’t suffer from a diffuse stage (ie. lacking in center focus) like it–the YH5K has excellent focus, height, and depth. In addition, both headphones are detailed-centric, are quick/fast, and are very tight in the bass. Unsurprisingly, you get a LOT more performance out of the YH5K, assuming a highly (and synergistically) resolving system is used. And that marks the end of the similarities. Moreover, I think that if you are looking to directly upgrade from the 800 S and want a headphone that shares some of its standout traits, the YH5K might be the best match (but, again, they sound different).
I ran out of energy, and I don’t have a plethora of gear to swap anyway, so if you have any of these other amps (or are interested in them)–Allnic HPA-3000GT or Modwright HA300–then just hit me up in the Sonvs forum @hifiDJ (shameless plug) and I’d be happy to share my experience or get back to you once I have (click here). And frankly, I enjoy the YH5K out of the CHA-1 amp so much that I didn’t want to stop using it 😂.
This section is for any random thoughts or observations I might have about the headphone, basically anything not worth writing a whole section for.
- The yellow accent is a nice touch, and I don’t fancy the color yellow all that much (I know, not important).
- Its comfort is as good as it looks, that is to say, it’s exceptional and hands-down the most comfortable headphone I’ve put on my head.
- Likely not the best for individuals with larger heads, the YH5K is quite smol.
- It’s not the most premium feeling, but I think that is just the nature of the materials being used (feels like a prop).
- Unboxing the origami-style box was also a nice touch, but I’d also like it if they included a fancy briefcase (really not important).
- Stellar for classical, acoustic, and electronic music.
- It can be very unrelenting and brutal if you feed it crap recordings, but when it hits it rewards (garbage in, garbage out).
- Good at lower volumes, great at moderate volumes, and just OK at higher volumes (ie. similar to a Utopia, if you know what I mean).
- I don’t usually specify specific tracks in a write-up (for many reasons) but I think the track, GLBTM (Studio Outtakes) by Daft Punk, encompasses everything the YH5K does so well.
“SE” Special Edition:
You get 2 sets of pads–one leather pair (HEP-5000LE) and one suede pair (HEP-5000SU).
This one’s really easy… skip the suede. Yes yes, if you wanted a more relaxing, more forgiving, warmer, and smoother signature then perhaps you might like the suede. It’s not as airy and the imaging seems to suffer a bit compared to the leather, that is to say, it’s on the hazy side. But my biggest criticism with the suede is the overdamped midrange as, to me, it’s not natural-sounding especially with the human voice. In general, I don’t think suede is a wise material to use acoustically, like at all. The human voice should never sound overdamped (ie. dead), and if it does then the wrong material was used. It’s my personal nitpick though, so if you like it then cool but it’s not for me. Anyway, I do think the leather pads play to the YH5K’s strengths better as you lose that sense of “heightened clarity” and openness when the suede is used. Personally, I’d skip it but they are comfy as heck!
Headphone Cable Pairings
HBC-SC020 (Stock) – In my opinion, it has pretty good synergy off the bat and is likely the best stock cable that comes in a headphone, although I do wish it was a bit more technical for the price. It’s certainly enough for most people but since this is a flagship headphone, it deserves better.
Danacable Lazuli Reference – This is a solid option if you want a warm, rich, and relaxed tilt. It has great grip in the bass, a very organic sound, and solid stage depth, although stage width is on the narrow side. It is slightly on the more colored side of what I consider neutral, but it’s still a solid match in terms of synergy and balance. And I’m sure many will enjoy the Dana “house sound.”
Brise Audio YATONO-HP Ultimate – A cable that is on the neutral, ever so slightly relaxed side. It elevates the YH5K from top to bottom, taking excellent advantage of its strengths (ie. stage openness, treble texture, resolving power), and it provides a more coherent stage with improved width and insane depth, adding even more to its openness. It is superbly balanced, controlled, and refined with awesome energy throughout. On top of that, the entirety of the bass has excellent heft, texture, and command. In my mind, this cable completes this headphone very well and there’s really nothing for me to complain about. It is a worthwhile pairing in my opinion, and absolutely worth its cheddar (assuming everything else in your chain is up to snuff).
It’s a good headphone stand (HST-5000) that’s built well and looks sleek too. No major complaints, though I wish it were adjustable.
If it wasn’t already obvious, I really like the YH5K and I think it is an exceptional performer. I told myself this would be the last headphone purchase I’d make (hopefully), and I don’t regret my choice (the D8KP Limited Edition being the other one). Out of all the headphones I own, the YH5K is by far the least compromised in terms of raw performance, regardless of personal preference. But of course, once your taste is factored in, not everyone will favor its presentation. And that’s totally fine, there are plenty of other (and great) options to choose from. The Yamaha and the MYSPHERE pretty much cover all my bases, and if I had to sell off my other headphones I would make sure to keep just these two. While comfort is totally irrelevant to pure sound quality, it’s damn nice if you can have both. Great comfort and great sound = damn appealing! And this headphone has it.
Just another random person on the internet into this very niche hobby…