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Review: Head-direct.com HiFiMan RE252 Earphones

post #1 of 60
Thread Starter 
I have spent a few weeks with the RE252 and wanted to report my thoughts on them, and this thread looked like a good place to post about them. I have over 350-400 hours on them right now, and put over 200 hours through them before doing any serious listening. They sounded nice with some midrange forwardness out of the box, and with burn-in they have become more refined and the bass filled in a little more. But out of the box I preferred them to my RE3, and they just improved from there.

The ones I have are much softer than the early RE3 which have a harder but still semi-soft or flexible plastic shell. These are more like the consistency of a gummi bear candy, but it's not easy to tear like the candy. I have stored them in a pants pocket without a case and have had no damage occur to them, as they just bounce back into their normal shape right after pulling them out. They do retain a little pocket lint that adheres to them more easily, so using them in a small case is a good idea. They come in a plastic box that is a lot like the case for the iPod Nano, so that is not useable as a case.

I use all my head-direct earphones with their bi-flange tips, for comfort and sound quality. The cable is a thick flexible tangle free type, with almost no microphonics when moving around in my chair, but more audible with walking. The INCLUDED shirt clip helps reduce mircrophonics. However, because of their gummi texture, despite their odd shape that fits into the pinna of the ear it is possible to wear them upside down, with cable over the ears making them have zero microphonics with walking and not requiring the shirt clip.

Initially my early listening was Macbook > iBasso D10 with TLE2141 class-A/EL8201 opamps, and some was with my iPhone 3GS. In this case the sound was a little better with the un-amped iPhone 3GS, as the sound was better balanced between bass, mids and treble. I suspect this is because the above opamps in the D10 are tuned a little more for my UE11Pro and IE8, and are sometimes a little brighter with everything else, but not excessively so. So, I grabbed my iMod > ALO LOD > P-51 rig and WOW - the sound just opened up with more space, energy and dynamics. Going to the iMod headphone out was a disappointment after hearing the LOD>P-51. They also sounded very good with my Pico, but I didn't try the 3MOVE because I was afraid the sound would be too forward (and it is still packed from the CanJam@RMAF meet). So, this does seem to be an earphone that scales up depending on your source and amp synergy. They are not the most efficient, and just like with my Phonak Audeo PFE, when listening with the iPhone the volume control was set at around 70-80% vs 50% with my Westone 3. Because of this, hiss is not a problem.

As the previous poster stated, the IE8 are a darker and thicker (or veiled) sound, and to me the IE8 mids and treble are recessed in relation to the bass, which takes away from the midrange detail and presence. If I would turn the volume up on the IE8 to hear more mids and treble, then the bass would overpower the rest of the sound spectrum (with most sources and amps). The one exception being if I used my ALO Amphora to drive the IE8, and then the bass was much better controlled and the mids and treble came forward like the should. With the Amphora amp the IE8 were fantastic, and similar to a well amped HD650. With the RE252 the mids and detail are easy to appreciate but still a little less detailed than the IE8 when properly amped, but the bass is toned down vs the IE8 so that it doesn't take over (more HD600-like).

The RE252 bass impact is less than the IE8, Image X10 or W3 but it also doesn't intrude into the lower mids like the X10 did, so piano and female vocals are improved over the X10. While the bass impact is slightly less than I would like, it is better than the RE2 or RE3 and similar to the Phonak Audeo PFE. With jazz like Fourplay "Fourplay" the song "Galaxia", or Guinea Pig "Kool Cats" song "Matjamu", the bass is tight and snappy. With the Black Eyed Peas "Boom Boom Pow" bass is present but not throbbing, and with Infected Mushroom the bass seemed to be deep and filled in nicely but not enough to tickle my ear drums. Comparing my Denon C700 to these makes the Denon feel bloated and sibilant at times.

Listening to the Esbjörn Svensson Trio "From Gagarin's Point of View" or Beck "Sea Change" (MOFI) is very enjoyable, and they demonstrate a nice "stock HD600-like" laid-back but transparent sound, as opposed to the Grado'y sound of my Livewires or Maximo iMetal, or the Ultrasone-like of sound from my Westone 3. I've talked about how my Nuforce NE-7M or Westone 1 offer a similar laid back but balanced sound for budget earphones, and the RE252 improve on both of those (more so when amped in the iMod/P-51 rig). With Jack Johnson and Chris Jones the acoustic guitars sound great with these, as do male (and female) vocals. Diana Krall "Live In Paris" the song "A Case of You" or Eva Cassidy "Life at Blues Alley" the song "Stormy Monday" the vocals are rich and involving and emotional, and there is a nice sense of reverb and space, again with clear but not intrusive bass. Treble sounds a little rolled off at the extremes but not dull, nor bright or sibilant.

Imaging is decent considering these are not a full size headphone or speaker, and with the above live performances I could perceive a well proportioned soundstage but smaller in size than with my high-end custom IEM or Westone 3. And it was more forward sounding like the UM3X or my ES3X. With David Warble London Symphony Orchestra "Symphony No. 1" I did perceive some left/right sound blobs and a small hole in the middle. However, I tried many different albums and this problem did not rear it's hear very often. Most of the time the center was filled.

I also played Bink Audio test CD with test tones from 20 Hz - 20 Khz, and they appear to have good bass down to 31.5 Hz, and seem to be about 3-4 dB down at 25Hz. I heard a slight trough with the 2500 Hz and 3150 Hz tones, and a slight peak at 8 Khz, with treble rolling off after 10 Khz but audible to 16 Khz using my 47 year old ears. The frequency response is similar to my HD600 with stock cable, which do offer more extension with an upgraded cable. It doesn't look like these would be easy to re-cable though.

Overall I think these are a nice $199 earphone, which scale up with source and amp but still sound nice even with an iPod. This is not a "fun" phone with exaggerated bass or treble, but to me seems to be one with the goal of reproducing music as it was recorded. But they also like a properly matched source/amp, and I didn't like them nearly as much with my iMod via the headphone out as I did via the LOD into P-51 amp. If you don't use a good source and amp, you might not be able to appreciate what they have to offer as much. Where I liked these most was with jazz and acoustic music, vocals and folk, country, new age electronic music, and with most of my classical. They weren't bad with hip hop and rock, but I'd prefer to listen to my Westone 3 with those as they jam out better at loud volumes.

Just as the RE3 replaced my Phonak Audeo PFE as a non-sibilant earphone for my 4G and 5G Nano, now the RE252 have replaced those and my Sennheiser IE8 as my high end dynamic earphone (I finally got rid of IE8 at RMAF last weekend). The RE3 were a nice step up from the RE2 by instilling more bass and warmer mids to the sound, and the RE252 upgrade that again with a little more bass, richer more detailed mids, and a more transparent sound than the RE3.

post #2 of 60
I thought RE252 is RE3, according to this:

It's hard to imagine a gummy-like glossy material. I wonder if they would eventually wear out or wrinkle like shoes' exterior.... Looks mighty interesting. Thanks for the review.
post #3 of 60
The RE3 is probably early prototype, RE252 is more likely the finalized product.

BTW, thanks for the review.
post #4 of 60
Nice to hear from you Larry after quite sometime.
post #5 of 60

thanks for the review.
How do you compare them to RE0 ?
post #6 of 60
Thread Starter 
I have not heard the RE0 or RE1. The RE3 may have been the early prototype that Fang sent me to evaluate after CanJam, but the sound is now improved and the comfort is better with the softer shell.
post #7 of 60
am i the only one who has heard these and the RE-0?
post #8 of 60
Originally Posted by mark2410 View Post
am i the only one who has heard these and the RE-0?
Oh, how do these two compare to each other?
post #9 of 60
well i think i still need to try more things with the 252 so i dont really want to say anything definitive

however they havent been what i was so hoping they would be so im still holding out that playing with more tips will change things
post #10 of 60

I like the cable and it's use of multi filiament nylon.

post #11 of 60
RE0 is VERY hard to beat in an IEM IMO. Even my ES3X struggle to beat them. I want to believe that ES3X is light years better, but just can't help but notice that the difference between the two is nowhere near as big as expected for the price difference. IMO RE0 is light years ahead of RE2 BTW.
post #12 of 60
Head-direct is changing the RE0 cable from fabric to PPE as an improvement.
I wonder if they'll change it for RE252 as well.
post #13 of 60
For retail version, yes.
post #14 of 60
probably will get these.
post #15 of 60
I know I will be keeping my eye on their new flagship.
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