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I've had my HE-500s for about 5 months now and have had the opportunity to listen to almost everything else on the market worth comparing it to as well(the only thing I haven't heard yet is the Stax SR-009 + Blue Hawaii/Liquid Lightning combos). This is definitely the right choice if you're looking at buying into the end-game. I do consider the HD-800s to be superior paired with the right equipment, but not by much (primarily the HD-800s have better sound staging, probably due to the way they position the drivers farther away from the ears, they also have slightly better bass tones when paired with the proper tubes).
At this price point, these absolutely cannot be beat. There's nothing on the market under $1000 that matches or exceeds the HE-500s, and the bonus to these is they pair very well with fairly inexpensive amplifiers (Schiit Lyr). You don't necessarily need to spend $2k on an amp to do these justice. After listening to headphones quite a bit more expensive than these in comparison, I consider the HE-500 a steal of a deal even at full price. Paying less than $600 for them is a real bargain.
Tristor, you make me sad.
Have you compared to the HE-5LE? I owned both and easily prefer the HE-5LE. But in general I would not make such definitive statements; people have have varying opinions, hearing and taste, you cannot simply say nothing is better than them.
You're correct of course, all of my statements are my own opinions. I assumed that was implied in the fact I'm making the statement at all.
I have not had a chance to listen to the HE-5LE, so I can't comment in regards to that. It's also no longer made by HiFiMan. I have heard from several other folks that they do also prefer the HE-5LE to the HE-500. Since the HE-5LE is no longer made though, it's a bit difficult to put that in as a fair comparison for somebody who doesn't currently own either.
I'm hoping I'll get an opportunity to listen to the HE-5LE and the SR-009 with a Blue Hawaii or Liquid Lightning at the Austin Head-Fi meetup in January since a much larger group of folks usually attend. I'm not sure what gear will be present, but I may revise some of my opinions afterwards. Currently though, I've listened to a pretty wide array of gear and stand by my statements, although I certainly acknowledge they are merely my own personal opinions.