Pros: Wonderful planar mag bass, good mids with nice imaging and balance
Cons: cable is a little short, performance improved with simple mod
Build Quality and Comfort
No matter how good the sound of a headphone, if you have a model that is poorly constructed or prone to break it will be difficult to enjoy and appreciate them in the long run. Despite some problems with build quality on earlier hifiman models, there are simply no problems to report here. I’m very appreciative of the crew at hifiman who’ve listened to the community and redesigned the 400i, making the quality, fit, and finish leagues above most offerings. I just love the design choices here. The paint is beautiful and some of the best looking painted cups in the business. The color is difficult to photograph, but looks much like the he4. I call it black chrome. The suspension pad is without a fault in choice of material and fit. The adjustment of the headband comes with solid clicks and feels very secure.
Comfort, while previously questionable on older models, now leads the way with some of the most comfortable headphones I’ve had the pleasure to wear. The clamp, reduced weight, and pad construction are exceptional and offer a headphone that can be worn easily for hours with no fatigue.
My only real complaint with the design of the headphone is the connectors. I just don’t like them, period. I know that many of you have never had problems but please appreciate that many have. There are just too many very nice single click and forget it connectors to be using these screw on type. The cable is improved this time and with a nice insulated jacket and is more flexible. But mine is only about six feet and I’d prefer a slightly longer cable.
So now that I’ve proclaimed the 400i wonderfully redesigned and supremely comfortable, how do they sound? I’m happy to say this this is a great sounding headphone. There is good balance across the spectrum with that signature warm tilt of the sub bass. The bass blends well into the mids without bleeding into the vocals in any perceivable way.
And just what about that bass? Does it retain the wonderful extension and weight of the original he400? Well, almost. Previously the only bass that I’ve found to surpass he400 bass was the LCD 2.2 (pre-fazor). For extension, weight and texture it just doesn’t get any better than the lcd 2.2. I’ll give them a 10/10 for bass presentation in my book. The original he400 for me would rank a 9.0, while the 400i comes in at 8.0. Overall, across different genres of music, the he400 seems to go down a little deeper and with better weight than the 400i. I’d call it a difference of about 15%. Disappointed? Don’t be. I’m certainly not. Let me explain why.
Other than the slight difference in sub bass, there is nothing that the 400i doesn’t trump the 400 on. The mids on the 400 are rich and tonally accurate. In fact, the only headphone that I’ve found to improve on the mids, in this price category, is the hd6x00. And the difference is surprisingly small. No tizzy, peaky treble here either. Just smooth and extended. The 400i is just a joy to listen to and does most every genre of music well. For me personally, the weak mids and peaky treble made the original 400 relegated that headphone to EDM, Dub and Chillstep. The 400i does those genres well also but now also does vocal centric music just as enjoyably. There’s a little sparkle to the treble but nothing harsh. Guitar plucks have a nice leading edge. Hi hat cymbals and drum brushwork come across clearly and naturally without getting muddy or unrefined. It’s a very good balance of sound.
I'll admit that I’m a poor judge of sound stage. I suppose it’s in the anatomy of my ear canals. I’ll leave this category to be judged by others who have a better appreciation for the subtle differences in this category.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the results with the 400i. There is enough sub bass to offer plenty of a fun factor and enough good natural tone to the mids to be taken seriously with vocally centered music. The goal stated by Hifiman was to voice the 400i similarly to he500. I’ll go on record and say that they accomplished that goal. Those two headphones are very similar in their voicing and overall sound signature. This is a compelling headphone and should make a lot of waves in its price bracket against the likes of the venerable Sennheiser hd6x00 and soon the Oppo PM-2 to name just a few. My hat is off to Fang and everyone on the Hifiman Team for an excellent product.
*all testing was done through the Oppo HA-1/Normal Gain/Single ended
*Focus A-Pads came on this unit
*Grill Mod-if you put your hands over the cups while the music is playing you'll notice that the sound becomes muffled and deteriorates. Remove the grills and you'll get a nice improvement across the spectrum with this hp. Improved mids and sound stage with better air.