Today’s market is crowded with “entry level” audiophile headphones for consumers. HIFIMANS’ newest foray into the battle ground is with the HE400S. Will it live up to what I think can be a game changer in the segment – especially at its sub $300 price point – or did they just cheap out on everything? Keep reading.
The relatively new HIFIMAN HE400S Planar Magnetic Driver headphone features an elegant, yet simple design. These open-back monitors are made from plastic with a nice silver finish and black accents. The HE400S weigh a mere 12 ounces (350 grams), which is nice, light and quite amazing if you consider the size of the headphones themselves. It also features angled velour ear pads that are very comfortable and can be worn for extended listening sessions without discomfort. Although, I can see how some people with ears that stick out further than mine might find the stock ear pads lacking in depth. The tips of my ears were just barely, barely touching the inside of the cans.
The metal and leather headband has a clamping force that is appropriate and average for the size of the HE400S. The headband was easily adjustable and these would fit most, if not all head types. That being said, some people with a big head like me (I wear a 7-¾” hat) might find them little on the tight side after an hour plus of listening. If your head is on the medium to smaller size, you should be good-to-go. I also tried verifying this with another large-headed coworker and he said they seem fine. So, it might just be me.
Complementing the HE400S is a 4 ft long non-microphonic, cloth sheathed cable that is made from OFC (Oxygen-Free Copper). It features an angled 3.5mm jack (1/4” adapter included) which terminates into dual 2.5mm TRS connectors at the headphones for left and right signal. The isolation from microphonics is excellent, but the cable is a little on the stiff side and seems like it could possibly pinch or break the wire if bent too hard. Overall their build quality is very nice.
Soundstage: The soundstage of the HE400S is immense. Thanks in part to the planar magnetic drivers and open back design. While listening to “Kingdom of Frogs,” by Yosi Horikawa, it felt like I was in a rain forest listening to music. It’s pretty awesome for sure.
Highs: The highs on the HE400S are crystal clear. Sometimes they can be a little too bright for my taste with electronic music depending on the song. “Secrets,“ by Tiesto can be painful at high volumes, while “Don’t Give Up,” by Chicane sounds amazing.
Mids: The mids sound full and rich without being forceful or unnatural. Songs that have heavy vocals, like Luther Vandross’ “Here and Now” sound like you’re at a venue listening to him live.
Lows: Bass on these headphones is spectacular. It hits the low frequencies with amazing accuracy, depth and clarity. There is nothing overpowering or artificial sounding about it (that is one of my biggest gripes with a lot of headphones like Beats by Dr. Dre). Low frequency transitions are very precise. Good job HIFIMAN for accomplishing such a nice balance.
Equipment Used for Review:
- HIFIMAN HE400S Over-ear Planar Magnetic Headphone
- Sennheiser HD 650 Over Ear Headphone (Used as Reference Headphones)
- Beyerdynamic A 20 Desktop Headphone Amplifier
- Fiio E17 Portable Headphone Amplifier
- iPad Air
- iPhone 6
There is one thing I did notice about the HE400S when using the Beyerdynamic A 20 Desktop Amplifier. It took more volume to drive HE400S than it did the Sennheiser HD650 that I used as a reference set of headphones. The HD 650s made it to about half volume before being maxed out. The HE400S however could take max volume from the A 20 with little to no distortion depending on the song you are listening to at the time. I then listened to the same songs on my iPhone 6 and it was the same deal. Almost like there is some sort of built-in protection for the drivers so they won’t distort. I know most of this has to do with the fact the drivers on the HE400S are planar magnetic and require more power than the HD650s and its dynamic drivers.
**Note: I tried using my Fiio E17 amp with my iPhone 6 and it had no problems driving the HE400S. It actually sounded pretty damn good. Thanks in part to the low impedance and the efficiency of the headphones. They definitely could be used as an everyday headphone at work depending on the noise level because they have a lot of bleed through as they are open back.
Brilliant is all you need to know about the HIFIMAN HE400S. They have excellent sound quality and for their price I can’t think of another headphone that comes close to matching the value I think HIFIMAN has brought to the table in this segment. Anyone would be proud to add these to their collection. I know I would.