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Yamaha YH-5000SE Orthodynamic Open-Back Flagship Headphones, do they surpass other current flagship Planar Magnetic Headphones?


Today is a very special headphone day; we will look at the Yamaha YH-5000SE Orthodynamic Open-Back flagship headphones. This article will primarily discuss my impressions of the headphones regarding build quality, design, and sound quality.  For those of you that like to consume content via video format you can click the photo above, and you will be magically transported to our YouTube video featuring the YH-5000SE headphones.
 Towards the end of this article, I will also compare the YH-5000SE headphones and two other flagship Planar Magnetic headphones I have in-house, the Meze Elite and the Audeze LCD-5.
 Produced and handmade at the Yamaha Kakegawa factory in Japan, which is the same factory that handles all flagship models of grand pianos and audio components, the YH-5000SE headphones are an example of magnificent Japanese design, engineering, and manufacturing.
Skilled artisans carefully assemble subject to strict quality control measures, each set of headphones, and after rigorous inspections, only the highest quality headphones are allowed to be shipped.
Many people may find it surprising that Yamaha is making a flagship headphone. However, it was Yamaha in 1976 that created their Orthodynamic driver, which is similar to what we call planar magnetic drivers with some key differences. 
Planar magnetic drivers drive the entire diaphragm making them more responsive than dynamic drivers with ultra-low distortion. Each manufacturer employs different solutions and technics for their planar magnetic headphones' diaphragm and voice coils.
Yamaha’s Orthodynamic driver adopts a true circular shape for the diaphragm, and the coil pattern also has a circular spiral shape.  Yamaha’s new driver took over six years to develop, overcoming many obstacles along the way to bring what I am just going to come out and say right now is one of the best headphones I have ever heard. 
The YH-5000SE’s drivers are ultra-responsive, fast, and dynamic, and Yamaha has effectively put the entire headphone world on notice that they are back and in a magnificent way. 

The new 50mm Orthodynamic drivers encompass a thin film diaphragm with metal coil patterning. By etching the voice coil with a unique pattern on both sides of the film and applying minute corrugation, Yamaha significantly reduced the drivers' weight compared to conventional dynamic drivers.

 Eliminating the fixed central structure of conventional headphone drivers, ensuring shape retention using concentric circle corrugation and pattern reinforcement, and taking great care to avoid magnetic substances in the vicinity help create the authentic sound the team at Yamaha was going for with no compromises.

In addition, the rounded shape without any fixed points other than the outer circumference maintains uninhibited movement of the entire film, enabling low-frequency expression that is both fast, clear, and full sounding. 

 Using a large housing that easily fits my medium-sized ears, the YH-5000SE’s open-back design allows excellent airflow and prevents sound reflections inside the rear cavity, helping to eliminate undesirable resonance.  This large housing incorporates triaxial mesh material on the outer grills of the cups for proper airflow and ultra-low resonance.

Yamaha adopted a newly developed Japanese-made, rolled plain Dutch weave stainless steel filter to control internal pressure in the housing. According to Yamaha, an arch-shaped protrusion arranged inside the housing, which functions as a reflector, allows the headphones to reproduce both instruments and vocals with superb initial attack and decay on the headphone's fantastic soundstage.

Yamaha YH-5000SE Headphones Ear PadsYamaha YH-5000SE Headphones Filter 

Both sets of included ear pads are incredibly comfortable, even for longer listening sessions.  The perforated synthetic leather pads with ventilated mesh on the inner circumference of the pads provide the most precise sound with the ultimate clarity, imaging, and immersive sound stage reproduction.

The Toray Ultrasuede pads provide a soft luxurious feel with a bit warmer quality of sound.  I love it when headphone manufacturers offer two sets of pads allowing for two different listening experiences.

To achieve the greatest level of sonic purity, Yamaha has opted for braided silver-coated OFC cables that are of fantastic quality both from a sound perspective and a look and feel perspective.

 The YH-5000SE includes a premium 79” unbalanced 3.5mm cable with ¼” adapter and a premium 79” 4.4 mm balanced cable terminated in 3.5mm for their attachment to the headphones. 

 Yamaha YH-5000SE Headphones Accessories

Also included is an aluminum and copper alloy headphone stand that feels very well built and also proudly displays made in Japan on it. The FR of the headphones is 5 Hz-70kHz with an impedance of 34 Ohms and a sensitivity of 98 dB.

Yamaha YH-5000SE Headphones

The headphones have an excellent clamping force for my medium-sized head, not too tight and not too loose.  Paired with their superb headband system, soft ear pads, and exceptionally low weight of about 320 grams or 11.3 oz, the YH-5000SE is one of the most comfortable, if not the most comfortable, headphones I have ever worn. 

The headphones use magnesium for the frame, which has the highest vibration-damping rate among practical metals, and a stainless-steel headband arm that attaches to a soft synthetic leather pad that rests gently on the head.  This head strap attaches to a stepless slider system which feels like it’s made from rigid plastic, allowing for fine adjustment of the cups for ultimate comfort.

Yamaha YH-5000SE Headphones SwivelYamaha YH-5000SE Headphones Cables

The cups have swivel mechanisms allowing for a better seal, with a snug yet highly comfortable fit, which is essential for optimal low-end performance.

The headphones look modern, industrial, with a cyberpunk futuristic vibe.  They would look right at home in Tron Legacy and sound equally as impressive when listening to the Tron Legacy soundtrack.

So, the YH-5000SE headphones possess a superb build, look, and feel and are incredibly comfortable with two premium cables and two sets of pads and include a high-quality headphone stand making their $4,999.95 price very attractive when compared to other similarly priced headphones from Focal, Final Audio, Meze, Dan Clark Audio, Audeze or even more expensive flagship headphones like the HiFiman Susvara.

So, let’s talk about YH-5000SE headphones' quality of sound!  I will go out on a limb and say that these headphones have one of the best and most well-balanced sound signatures I have ever heard for my preferences when paired with an amplifier capable of delivering the proper current needed for the drivers.

To formulate my impressions, I utilized several headphone amplifiers, both solid-state and tube, along with a couple of different DACs.  I used the McIntosh MHA200 headphone tube amplifier in my main listening room, fed by my Chord Hugo TT2 on filter two as the DAC. 

Of course, I listened to the internal headphone amplifier of the Chord Hugo TT2 and the Woo Audio WA22 headphone tube amplifierfed by the Chord Hugo TT2.  I also listened to the ampsandsound pendent headphone tube amplifier and iFi-Pro iCan fed by my Hugo 2 as the DAC on filter two along with the internal headphone amplifier of the Hugo 2 in my office streaming via Tidal and Qobuz with Roon or listening to local Flac and DSD files on my Roon Network.

From an amplification standpoint, one of the best things about these headphones is that they sound equally impressive with all the high-quality amplifiers I listened to, whether solid state or tube amplification, with the tube amplifiers still being my favorite pairings with the YH-5000SE. 

Amplifiers with less than 2-3 Watts power output may present issues with not delivering the proper amount of current to control the low-end bass performance as well as the top-end treble delivery, so while they are not as challenging to drive as a Susvara, they like DCA Headphones do require some current to sound their best.

The headphones are transparent and will allow you to hear the differences between source components and amplifiers. Hence, quality component pairing and system matching are important, however, without the issues of some other flagship headphones that need high levels of power or current to sound good.  While they are not quite as sensitive as the Meze Elite, they are still reasonably easy to drive and more efficient than the LCD-5, DCA Expanse, and the Susvara.

Detail reproduction is superbly expressed when listening to the YH-5000SE, whether it is the breaths in between Melody Gardot’s intoxicating vocals or the subtle sounds of John Mayer’s fingers traveling up and down the strings of his guitar; intent listeners will be delighted with how resolving these Yamaha headphones sound. 

Yamaha YH-5000SE Headphones

Details that don’t separate or reveal themselves as well on other flagship headphones I have in-house are displayed beautifully but naturally from the Yamaha YH-5000SE, never sounding artificial, fatiguing, or overdone.

The timbre of the headphones faithfully reproduces instruments and vocals without over-coloring or editorializing while sounding a touch warmer than what I consider entirely neutral.  The sound of the piano was of particular note when listening to many of my favorite Lang-Lang Chopin tracks. 

The dynamics or speed at which the Yamaha headphones display the contrast between quiet passages of songs and the explosive sound of instruments and their motion on my favorite recordings is spectacular.

The ever-so-important sound stage reproduction of the YH-5000SE is highly immersive while staying faithful to the recording allowing for both concert halls, intimate listening venues, or studio productions to be well represented while not sounding overly exaggerated like the HD800s

The headphones sound very open, and the stage has superb air, allowing it to rival any other planar magnetic headphones I have heard and some Electrostatic headphones.  Imaging, image definition, and the clarity of the soundstage are remarkable, with a sense of realism that expresses every subtle sound and detail in a way that never sounds forced or overdone.

The sub-bass extends pretty well when the track calls for it, and the mid-bass sounds punchy and dynamic, but neither area is overly emphasized. Most listeners will be pleased with the bass performance of the YH-5000SE, having enough bass for most music without going overboard and alienating listeners who like a close-to-neutral bass signature.

Overall, the texture of the bass is very impressive and fast sounding, sounding tight and clean, never sounding loose or muddy. Bass heads who like a more emphasized bass region will likely want to pair the headphones with a synergistic tube amplifier such as the Woo WA22 or use EQ or tone control.

The midrange of the headphones sounds open, with superb clarity with a reasonably neutral presentation, not expressing recessed or too forward. Strings and vocals sound well-defined and mostly accurate. The upper mid-range has some focus and clarity but doesn’t sound fatiguing or too energetic.

The treble sounds well extended and airy with plenty of sparkle. Treble lovers will appreciate these headphones. At the same time, listeners like me who struggle with bright-sounding treble will also be pleased as the treble, while emphasized on these headphones the treble doesn’t present in a bright fatiguing way, at least not with the amplifiers I listened to the headphones with which I believe is due to the overall balance of their sound signature.

These headphones nail it from a tuning perspective for a listener that listens to a diverse mix of music and doesn’t want bright, overly analytical, v-shaped, fun, or dark-sounding headphones. I would categorize them as a very balanced set of headphones that focus on accurately reproducing the recording in a natural way. 

Listeners that prefer a bit more or less bass, mids, or treble can very easily apply moderate amounts of tone control or EQ to dial the headphones in for their exact preferences; however, I didn’t feel the headphones needed this in any one area, especially if accuracy is what a listener is going for. 

Listeners like me who prefer not to use EQ can also alter the sound of the headphones with the included Ultra-Suede pads bringing a bit more warmth and emphasis to the mid-range with additional mid-bass focus to the headphone's sound while keeping the fantastic resolution and sound stage layering performance the YH-5000SE is capable of. 

While the leather pads presented a tighter bass signature, a more neutral mid-range, and a faster sound quality, I enjoyed both pads. I chose the pads for my listening sessions based on my mood and the type of music I was listening to.

Comparing the YH-5000SE with the two-flagship planar magnetic headphones I have in-house, the Meze Elite and Audeze LCD-5 starting first with the Meze Elite, one of my favorite headphones for just kicking back and listening to music.

I compared these two headphones with the leather pads on each headphone.  Some of the key differences I hear between the Yamaha and the Meze Elite headphones are the increased mid-bass and warmer overall tuning of the Meze Elite compared to the YH-5000SE. 

Meze Elite vs. Yamaha YH-5000SE vs. Audeze LCD-5 Flagship Headphones

The sub-bass region also sounds more emphasized from the Meze Elite when compared with the Yamaha’s more neutral-sounding sub-bass.  However, the texture, speed, and quality of the YH-5000SE’s bass are superior sounding.

Vocals on the Elite have a less defined quality with a warmer overall tone, along with instruments that fall into the mid-range.  The image separation and soundstage layering of the Yamaha headphones are a step ahead of the Elite when comparing the two headphones.  

The soundstage of the Yamaha headphones also sounds more comprehensive, open, cohesive, and crisp in presentation. Image localization and definition are also a step ahead.  The treble of the YH-5000SE sounds like it is further extended with more air and sparkle than the Elite.

The Yamaha headphones have a more neutral presentation with more resolution and better technical performance while still not sounding overly analytical. While the Meze Elite has a warmer, more bass-emphasized sound that gives them a bit more punch and easy-going character.

 Both are terrific headphones, and it will come down to what you value from a sound perspective, the types of music you listen to most, and your preferences regarding look and feel. 

The YH-5000SE is the more comfortable of the two headphones, which is saying a lot, as the Meze Elite is a highly comfortable headphone. Both headphones have tremendous build quality and design, with the Meze Elite having the more durable and luxurious build.  I am a big fan of both of these headphones.

Yamaha YH-5000SE vs. Audeze LCD-5 Headphones

Comparing the Yamaha headphones with the Audeze LCD-5, the YH-5000SE presents more sub and mid-bass emphasis and treble extension.  Both headphones spotlight strings and vocals exceptionally well; however, the Yamaha headphones have even more clarity and definition around vocals with a bit warmer intimate tone to vocals.

 The overall sound of the Yamaha headphones sounds better balanced with better bass extension and treble extension, whereas the LCD-5 is very focused on the mid-range.  The YH5000se sounds more dynamic, faster and presents more punch than the LCD-5. 

Both headphones are highly resolving, but I would give the edge in terms of total resolution to the Yamaha flagship headphones.  The YH-5000SE also presents more micro details, which is impressive as the LCD-5 does this exceptionally well. 

The soundstage sounds more open, better layered, and slightly more cohesive when listening to the Yamaha flagship headphones.  The Audeze LCD-5 communicates more intimately, with both headphones presenting superb imaging and image definition.

Both headphones are exceptionally well built; however, the lighter weight, more comfortable clamping force, and Orthodynamic drivers of the Yamaha headphones edge out the LCD-5 for my preferences.

So, if I could only own one set of these headphones, which would I choose?  It’s a tough call, as I genuinely enjoy all these headphones for different reasons.  The Yamaha YH-5000SE is the most expensive of the three headphones; however, they justify their higher price for my preferences based on their comfort, included accessories, and ultimately the most balanced sound of all three headphones.

The treble of the Yamaha YH-5000SE is a bit spicier than the other two headphones; however, I still wouldn’t consider it a bright or peaky sounding treble, at least not with my audio rigs. 

Yamaha YH-5000SE Orthodynamic Headphones for sale

My ultimate preference is running the YH-5000SE with the McIntosh MHA-200, Woo Audio WA22, ampsandsound Pendant, and iFi Pro iCan headphone tube amplifiers, as those tube amplifiers compliment the Yamaha headphones very well.

I highly recommend you listen to and consider the Yamaha YH-5000SE if you are in the market for a new flagship headphone or have been considering trading in a current flagship headphone to acquire a new one.  At the time of writing this article, we have a very limited number of these headphones in stock. Yamaha is not importing these headphones in any significant quantities, making them harder to come by.

Of course, we all hear a bit differently and have different source equipment and amplifiers, so if you can give them a listen before buying with your audio rigs, that will ultimately be the best way to tell if they are the right fit for you.

If you are interested in trading up your old headphones, amplifiers, or other gently used audio gear for a new set of headphones or a new amplifier, check out our trade-up program, and don’t forget we will price match other authorized dealers! 

We have some cool videos coming this year with new product announcements, so please consider subscribing to our YouTube channel today!  From $150 earphones to multi-million-dollar home audio, cinema, and automation systems, TSAV is a HiFi enthusiast's paradise for building the system of your dreams.

So, let’s start the conversations in article comments on what you think of the latest flagship headphone contender from Yamaha. 

Until next time friends, remember, let the music be your guide! 

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