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Metalhead's Dream

A Review On: HiFiMAN HE-400

HiFiMAN HE-400

Rated # 15 in Over-Ear
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Price paid: $299.00
Empty Flower
Posted · 2815 Views · 5 Comments

Pros: Superb sound quality; full, resounding, controlled bass; warm, rounded mids and good treble, while providing incredible separation and finesse.

Cons: Heavy, clamping force feels a bit too tight, inferior headband design does not distribute force too well. Sibilance in treble for certain instruments.

After over a year of research at Head-Fi and other sources, I finally bit the bullet when I saw the HE-400 at a measly price of $299 on Amazon. In addition to this unit, I also purchased a Schiit Vali and Modi (optical version) after some digging, and reading about people that really enjoyed the Vali/HE-400 combination. Since I'm a neophyte audiophile, take this review with a dose of skepticism; as a disclaimer, I have no experience with high-end machines into the four-five figure range. I am merely a university student who enjoys nice things in life, and quality sound is one of them.


I must say, however, I am enthralled by this budget setup. I am an avid metal and rock fan, as well as requiring my frequent forays into the world of classical music. Not too much electronic stuff these days, although I may get back into them at some point. I listen to a lot of of 'lesser known' bands, even amongst metalheads. Sometimes it's rather difficult to find things in FLAC, which is what I use almost exclusively. I'm too lazy to really bother looking for other formats and uncompressed files. I also prefer to download my music off of Bandcamp, and if the upload quality is ****ty for some reason (the source of the uploader?), I guess I, too, am screwed. But that's alright, I suppose.


My favorite aspect of the headphone is obviously the sound. The presentation and imaging is what I consider excellent, and the bass is brilliant. It is tight, articulate, and controlled. This shows itself very well in metal and rock, particularly in bass-heavy styles with large amounts of low-frequency distortions, 8-string guitars, and what have you. However, this headphones shines equally well with music of a far more elevated stature. When listening to bands such as MONO and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the totality of emotion, warmth, frigidity, and emptiness is conveyed extremely well. I would describe this headphone as musical, yet accurate; lively, yet controlled. For this price point, it is probably the most refined thing you can find (or 'one of'). I've heard people describe Audeze's midrange as 'lush', but I loathe to use that word because it seems inaccurate. What else can I call it? Something fairly close, I think. Resounding? Beautiful? Something along those lines. It's not overly silky or smooth, and has what I consider an excellent tonal balance. That is, more specifically, the balance between the upper and lower harmonics seems very evenly distributed, with a nod towards the bottom half. And back to the bass, because I'm too lazy to edit: the way the bass crashes and falls is like the rocky beach of any northern coast - smooth, heavy, organic. Listening to Cult of Luna's The Beyond is simply a pleasure in-and-of-itself now, and gone are the days where listening to metal seems more often a chore than a quest for rapture.


Still, nothing is without its faults - save for Spinoza's conceptualization of God, I suppose - and the HE-400 suffers from several of them. First and foremost, I would say the comfort on these things is really quite mediocre. That's it; what more is there to be said? The headband is too narrow (this looks rectified for the newer, HE-400i model!), the clamping force is a tad too high, the weight is extremely substantial, and the ear pads could use an upgrade to a softer, more luxurious material. And I say this as someone who lives and breathes full-contact martial arts training on a near-daily basis; neck strengthening is a rather large part of my routine. Even with my developed neck muscles, I do feel fatigue after a good 2-3 hours on this baby. I can feel it even as I type - think I just finished my fourth hour, actually, and both my years and my head/neck will need temporary relief from what is such a marvelous burden. Besides its physical flaws, this HiFiMan offering also is a tad troublesome come the treble section. It's not bad, but it's not great. Good? Mediocre? Average? Perhaps a touch above average, but I hear just a touch too much sibilance and that ever-so-annoying raspiness/sharpness of metal-on-metal action so common when it comes to the higher frequencies of a drum set. If not for this problem, I would mark the audio quality as a perfect 10/10. For this, one point down. "Leash" in the Cult of Luna album aforementioned particularly highlights this dislike of mine.


Well, this is it! I can't really be bothered to continue, at least not now. These are my general impressions, and in no way, shape, or form do I claim they are objectively verifiable. Maybe if we can share sonic qualia one day? Until then...


"For this price point, it is probably the most refined thing you can find (or 'one of')."

Really? And you've heard of most of the other full sized headphones in this price range?
I found it better than the HD600, HD650, DT770 and DT880.
To each his own, I found the HD650 to be much more euphonic and refined than the HE400.
I have heard the same, but I didn't get to listen to it with top-end amplifiers. 
I did like the Senns, but they really lacked the thickness of the planars.
Mine are in the mail. Hoping to enjoy the sound as well for rock and soundtracks.
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