As always, these are strictly my opinions.
I try to present these products as honestly as possible and try to describe them as best as possible.
As always, YMMV.
The Hifiman RE-262
· Driver Unit 9mm
· Impedence 150 OHM
· Sensitivity 95 +/-3dB/1mW
· Rate Input 10mW
· Max Input 30mW
· Various tips included
EQUIPMENT USED ON THIS REVIEW:
- Portable set-up: Sansa Clip+ (Rockboxed) -> Fischer Audio Mini2Mini -> Fischer Audio Mystify / Grado HPA-1/ RSA Hornet
- Portable set-up: Ipod 5.5G -> ALO Cotton Dock -> Fischer Audio Mystify / RSA Hornet
- Home Rig 1: Sony D-25S -> UE Mini2Mini / Fischer Audio Mini to Mini from Line out-> Heed CanAmp / Grado HPA-1
- Home Rig 2: Denon DCD 1560 CD Player – RCA -> Heed CanAmp
- My mastering rig
BACKGROUND & FIRST IMPRESSIONS:
Lately I have been getting requests to compare all types of IEM’s to the DBA-02. One of the many, many requests I have been getting is to compare it to the Hifiman RE-252. When I get these requests, the first thing I do is ask my friends if they own a pair so I can borrow them. If this is not possible, then I usually try to demo them at a store or ask a manufacturer for a demo pair. In this case, I had to resort to contacting the manufacturer and my request was DENIED! The good news is that instead of the RE-252, Fang was kind enough to send me a newer IEM, the RE-262.
1. Paul Simon – You Can Call Me Al from the album “Graceland”
2. Paul Simon – Homeless from the album “Graceland”
3. Nat King Cole – Stardust from the DCC release of “Love Is The Thing”
4. Danny Elfman – This is Halloween from the soundtrack “Nightmare Before Christmas”
5. Absolute Silence – custom demo track made by myself.
6. Bach – Solo Cello Suites from the Mercury Living Presence release feat. Janos Starker
7. Ella Fitzgerald – Sweet & Lovely from the album “Sings Sweet Songs For Swingers”
8. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication & Scar Tissue from the album “Californication”
9. Lady Gaga – Poker Face from the album “The Fame”
10. Gnarls Barkley – Crazy
THOUGHTS ON SOUND:
You only need to read past reviews of mine to know why I use the above listed tracks for auditioning equipment. It’s not the only music I use but it’s easily available and sounds fantastic (except for the Red Hot Chili Peppers) without any further tweaking.
I didn’t really know what to expect as I am not intimately familiar with the any of the Hifiman IEM’s. I have heard them before but not to an extent where I could give a solid opinion on them. So…let’s get intimate with the RE-262….
GAIN, GAIN, AMP
I was first taken aback by the difference in volume I got with these from both my iPod and my Clip+. For example, on my Clip+ with Rockbox, I can listen to most IEM’s at a -25 volume level. To get the same from the RE-262, I have to listen at -10.
I listened for quite a bit of time without an amp. The sound was very, very nice but it failed to really impress me. Don’t get me wrong, the sound is very good, in fact, better than most, but it didn’t give me goosebumps. Then the thought hit me….this might need an amp.
I then added in the Fischer Audio Mystify and then BAM! Goosebumps!!! The air which I thought was missing was restored. The impact was all there. The texture, detail and everything else I love to hear in my music was back with a little something special too….
COLOR ME SILLY….
It’s difficult to describe but I feel these are not as neutral or natural as other IEM’s or headphones I have in my collection but they are very, very close. They do exhibit a slight bit of coloration but man…what a beautiful coloration the Hifiman RE-262 has! Vocals are simply amazing! I was truly impressed with the presentation on any vocal track.
Time and time again, every single time I played some nice vocals on the Hifiman RE-262 it was such a joy to listen in and be impressed. The sound is addicting and enveloping.
On “Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles, the piano, backing vocals and Ray sounded fabulous. “Hit The Road Jack” sounded equally impressive, especially the backing vocals by the girls.
Ella Fitzgerald, Jacintha, Peggy Lee, Marilyn Monroe as well as Diana Krall have never sounded so smooth and so darn sexy. It might not be 100% accurate, but guys, a bit more sexy and forward is never a bad thing!
A MATTER OF DEGREES
Another very interesting thing with the RE-262 is the enveloping soundstage it has. This makes it amazing for binaural and holophonic recordings. Where most IEM’s throw a normal soundstage of 180 degrees, I feel the RE-262 throws a soundstage that’s about 210 degrees. This means that if you normally hear something directly to the left or right, with the RE-262 it will sound slightly to the rear left or rear right. Is this good or bad? I think it’s great. While it’s not accurate it does make for a very pleasant presentation of music, especially with modern day music or modern mastering approaches. Binaural recordings sound even more realistic and spatial placement is actually easier to make as well.
Yet another interesting thing this wide soundstage has is that it works amazingly well with crossfeed. I am NOT a fan of crossfeed circuits but with the RE-262, my opinion has changed. Crossfeed, especially the Meier Crossfeed on my Rockboxed Clip+, works amazingly well. It doesn’t sound artificial nor strange. The lush coloration remains intact and the music becomes a bit more natural to listen to. This was a total unexpected result and one that has simply overjoyed me in terms of music listening and pleasure. I feel the RE-262 is worth owning simply because of this!
The most similar IEM I can think of to the RE-262 is the SE530 from Shure due to the lush mids. However, I know for a fact the Hifiman RE-262 wipes the floor with the SE530. The RE-262 is much more refined, more textured and not dull or veiled like the SE530 and is another league when compared to the Triple-fi. People who feel the CK10 is shrill and the DBA-02 too bright might just benefit from trying out the Hifiman RE-262 as it is colored very nicely and seasoned to perfection. The air and ambiance may not all be there but what is there is very lush sounding! If you add an amp, the air and ambiance are restored and the performance level of the RE-262 takes a gigantic leap forward to a point where you will always want to carry an amp with you.
Often times the coloration of a headphone or IEM will make it stellar in one area…say Vocals or Jazz but horrible in others like Rock or Pop. Thankfully the RE-262 is NOT one of these. The slight coloration it has is well suited for ALL types of music. Think of the RE-262 as natural headphones with really warm tubes built in. The Hifiman RE-262 is velvety smooth when it needs to be and can really rock out with the best of them when needed to. Vocals, acoustic instruments and even some difficult electronic music were all presented with ease and refinement. The HiFiMan RE-262 really hits the mark when it comes to a mixture of a natural sound signature with some coloration.
On "Prison Sex" and "Sober" by Tool, the drums are full and the impact of the drums and speed of the snare and the guitar sound as good as ever. On "Hush" from "Opiate", the vocals sound realistic and the cymbal hits sound natural with a bit of tubey roll-off goodness. The drum impacts have speed and the guitar work sounds meaty! On Frank Sinatra's "On The Road To Mandalay" from "Come Fly With Me", the brass sounds smooth and clear and the bells sound delicate and a bit airy and Frank sounds forward and very warm without sounding muffled or stuffy.
Also, let's take the intro to the album “Graceland”. There are some strong drum hits before the groove kicks in. Most IEM’s present these hits rather thin and weak and make the drums sound anemic. Others will give you the beefy hits but color the rest of the sound so much that it is a worthless experience. With the Hifiman RE-262 and an amp, the drum hits sound full and the impact is fast. The decay is fantastic. The real star of the show with the Hifiman RE-262 are the lush sounding mids. I clearly hear an emphasis in this area and it’s an emphasis that is oh so good!
Another thing I want to point out is how comfortable these IEM’s are. I find that they slip in real easily and rest in your ear very easily and naturally.
I have found no need to re-adjust them once they are in and I can even fall asleep in them without any discomfort.
My only negative comment about the RE-262 is the cable. I found it does produce some microphonics and even a slight tap on them will register in my ears. It’s a very slight quibble in an otherwise excellent product.
It’s a great thing so many options are available to us Head-fi’ers. Only a few years ago, we were all limited to only a few dozen good choices. Now…there are just so many great choices, it really boggles the mind!
So where does the RE-262 fit in? That’s a hard thing to say and ultimately a choice YOU need to make. What I can honestly say is that if you’re a fan of a natural sounding headphone but would like a little color added to your world, then these fit the bill more than any other current IEM out there. They are also very comfortable IEM’s. These do require a bit more power to shine but it’s not that much more. If you already own an amp or a DAP with a robust output, the Hifiman RE-262 should definitely be on your list to audition or purchase. They might not be the most natural or the most accurate but they are musical and excellent sounding IEM’s.
You must keep in mind that I love total accuracy and a completely natural sound signature. That is my preference and I know I am in the minority.
Would these replace my DBA-02’s? NO. But they make awesome companions! If I didn’t know of the DBA-02’s, these would be my favorite universal IEM’s as they really provide a special sound that is very addictive. I can see people who disliked the DBA’s completely falling in love with the great sound these provide.
If you own the DBA-02’s, then you should still consider these as they make a worthy addition to any headphone or IEM collection. The comfort is superb, the sound is fantastic and the price is great. For anyone looking for some natural sound with some tasteful coloration, the Hifiman RE-262 should definitely be your next purchase. Fang really has a winner with these IEM’s and I urge you all to check them out if you can. These are the epitome of what I would consider a fun and musical IEM.
As a closing note, because people are already asking…which one would I recommend more….the DBA-02 or the RE-262, I would like to say the following.:
My honest answer….I would recommend them equally as I feel they are both among the best universals I have heard…so get to listening so you can decide. They both provide different sound signatures and presentations but are equally pleasing depending on what you love.
Edited by LFF - 10/30/10 at 9:49pm