Pros: Incredibly smooth mids, stunning detail, CLEAN bass, and wonderful highs
Cons: Weight, somewhat lackluster headband, pain in the ass cable that I'll be replacing soon
First of all - WOW. This is my first set of proper Hi-fi/Mid-fi cans. It's also easily the best sounding anything I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. However, since I'm new to the head-fi game, take this with a grain of salt.
So where do I begin with these headphones? I guess I should give some background on my listening history. I wouldn't quite consider myself poor, but I'm definitely far from affluent. This means that my listening experience has been severely limited. Until I purchased the HE-400's, the nicest cans I've had the chance to listen to were a pair of my friend's ATH-M50's. While quite nice, they didn't particularly blow me away. The nicest pair of headphones I've personally owned were a pair of Sony MDR-MA 300's. They're semi-open, have a LOT of fairly clean bass, recessed mids like you wouldn't believe, and decent highs considering the $50 MSRP. I definitely got used to the very dark sound signature of those Sony's.
When I put the HE-400's on for the first time, I was immediately very concerned that I might have wasted $300 of my hard earned dollars. They were a WORLD of difference from those Sony's, and I just didn't care for the sound signature out of the gate. However, I decided to stick with them for a week or so and see if my opinion on the topic would change. That was without a doubt one of the single greatest decisions I've ever made.
Although it took a while for it to sink in, I had a eureka moment a few nights ago as I was laying in bed, listening to a new album I'd been recommended (Dead Horse by Charts and Maps for anyone interested in a fantastic, FREE Jazz Fusion/Math Rock album). While listening to the second track, I finally realized just what I'd been missing in all my music. The mids were so clear and smooth. The instrument separation was unparalleled to anything I'd ever heard. The drums sounded realistic. And then there was that saxophone. It sounded like it was right in front of me. I've never had such a positive visceral reaction to music before. I found myself smiling uncontrollably (as an aside, I'm listening to the same album while writing this review and can't help myself from grinning like a madman). I was hooked.
I've listened to more music in the past few days than I have in quite a long time, and I'm finding it hard to stop. If you're new to the world of headphones and any of this sounds like it might be up your alley, I highly recommend you just bite the bullet and cough up the $300 (while the sale lasts). While I can't guarantee that you'll love them, the potential is definitely high with these cans.
Now, for the more technical stuff.
Overall, there's not a whole lot to complain about with the build quality. The only real issue I've faced is this cable. I hate it. It's thick, it's stiff, and when I go to lay down in my bed, sometimes the audio will just cut out. Others have pointed out this issue, and I've never had this problem with other phones, so I know the cable is to blame. I'm also not a huge fan of the connectors, but at least I can live with those. I'm definitely going to replace the cable soon. If anyone has recommendations on an inexpensive set of aftermarket cables (preferably under 100 USD), please, PLEASE shoot me a PM.
It should also be noted that these are HEAVY CANS. They weigh in at nearly 1 lb. The flip side to this is that they also feel quite sturdy.
Headband could also use a bit more padding, but that's part of the next segment.
Overall, they're pretty good. I would prefer some extra padding on the headband (which I'll definitely be adding to these). I don't have any problems with the stock cushions, other than a TINY bit of sweating, but I may try out the velour pads just for the hell of it.
I read one review where someone said his amp (I believe it was a Schiit Magni?) was having trouble driving these headphones. My experience is the exact opposite. I can drive these perfectly well from my ipod nano, and my stock gain (2.5x / 6x) O2/ODAC combo can absolutely CRANK these things. On low gain I never have to turn the knob past maybe 20% of it's travel. I shudder to think of the damage I could do to my hearing with these cans cranked on the high gain mode. Since these cans have an impedance of ~50 ohms, pretty much any source with under 5 ohms of output impedance should have no issues with damping.
I've pretty much covered it all in my story above, but I'll reiterate here in case some of you skipped it.
- MIND MELTING MIDS
- Clear, present bass with a bit of a punch. Wouldn't call this a bass-heavy can by any means, but it's certainly not lacking in quantity or quality. (EDIT: After further listening on some of my favorite albums (that I feel also happen to be poorly mastered (see most The Fall of Troy albums) I've found that the HE-400's bass response just isn't up to par in terms of presence. My previous pair of cans did just fine with TFOT, and you could actually hear Tim's bass through the mix, but with the HE-400's I have to use a fair bit of EQ to get it to shine through at HALF the volume of my old pair. Bit more presence would be appreciated, but the clarity is definitely a stellar upgrade.)
- Fantastic treble. While others have most definitely complained about treble issues with these cans, I can't say that I've experienced the same. Your mileage may vary, but that's my two cents.
- The best clarity and instrument separation of anything I've ever had the chance to listen to (bear in mind that I am EXTREMELY new to this, so my experience is very limited.)
For my first entry into the world of Hi-Fi, I think I've made an excellent choice. Although I didn't care for them out of the gate, I think these cans may very well be the best investment I've ever made (aside from my gaming rig. It's pretty much my child.) I may just save myself the time, money and trouble and just call this my end game, but at the same time it's making me wonder what lies just beyond the horizon. Wish me luck on this crazy adventure that we call audiophilia, and don't forget to enjoy the music!