HiFiMAN RE-262 Review
First impressions: Instantly the first thing i see is that these have a much more sensible shape than their siblings the 262. Zeus be praised these are effortless in comparison to get in your ear, an extremely wise move if you ask me as i really never saw any good reason why the 252 had their uber weird back end on them. I have to say I’ve been pretty excitedly waiting for these to come and given how I’ve reacted to previous IEM’s from HiFiMAN (namely the 252) and I didn’t want to redo that moment of woeful disappointment. HiFiMAN stuff needs a burn in to come alive and their non dramatic sound signature also doesn’t lend themselves well to first impressions. Of course I couldn’t not have a tiny listen before sending them to burn in, I assumed they would be meh and I was largely right, sound sig wise they are very much on the thick side for a HiFiMAN. I might even say its SE530 like, no bones about it I’m sure someone sat one day at HiFiMAN HQ with a pair of SE530’s and said “hmm, I kinda like this, let’s have go at making something that sound like these.”
It’s now several weeks later and I think my first thoughts on the sound were right, these have so been aimed at the 530 it’s not funny and if your Shure it has got to be pretty scary.
Source 5G iPod Video line out through a Practical Devices XM5 with LM6171 opp amps
Lows: If there is anywhere I can have a little wine about its here. The lows are a little boring and if I could have just the tiniest bit more please. That’s pretty much all I can say bad about them as all other aspects of them are stunning. Make no mistake whatsoever these are stunningly, blindingly astounding IEM’s. The bass is so super effortlessly controlled and smooth, if anything it’s too smooth and controlled hence my boring comment. Still if you want to fix that little quibble and sometimes I can’t resist, oh praise be to the XM5 and its boosting buttons. A little flick of that bass boost and kapow they rise to the occasion and can roar out at you. Sure it’s not gargantuan like the IE8 can do but it’s stupidly tight and precise. So much so it’s a little creepy and hand on heart I’d prefer a tiny bit more 530 like with its better emotive transmission rather than sheer technical perfection. If you were only looking for that on paper technical perfection then things would have stopped with the 252. This takes that technically faultless low end and breathes some life into it, the 262 has a bit of life and soul.
Mids: If there is a single outstanding reason you’re going to buy the 262 it’s the mids. The first thing is that these are very mid centric IEM’s and that they are rather Shure like in their prominence so you had better want forward mids. The other reason would be because the mids on these are just stunning, STUNNING!!! Yes, that’s right they are stunning. I really could leave it at that for a description but I suspect some may wish to throw things at me if I do. Put simply of all the things I’ve heard (and let’s be honest its rather a lot of stuff) these are the only ones that I’d say really are the equals of the SE530. Nothing else ever has done that. These are times when I have been A/Bing back and forth and think I like one better. I feel a lot of this can be put down to impedance and sensitivity, the 262 is 150ohms and 95db the Shure is 26 ohms and 119db. Many will no doubt be aware of the 530’s reputation from being super easy to drive and super sensitive which is nothing that can be said about the 262. The mids can sometimes feel almost the tiniest little bit thick and rich, even more so than the 530 which itself is very liquid and rich in its presentation. So if you really really, really love dry breathy singers then maybe the 262 isn’t totally the best option for you (probably the 252 is.) I have been sat listening to Beverly Cravens “Hope” over and over swapping back and forth between these, the 530 and the 252. On the 252 she sounds too cold and dry, the 262 just that hint more liquid and the 530 which in comparison sounds almost grainy and I cannot call it between them. These are just excellent.
There once was a time when if someone said they were after the best mids out there, there was no question it was the Shure. Those days are over, the mid’s here really are every bit as good as the 530.
Highs: They like everything else here are just excellent. Now I know they won’t have the abundance that HiFiMAN was famed for having on its once former flagship, the RE-0. I can’t say the 262 even has the treble of the 252, its still as extended but it does roll away in quantity not unlike the 530 too. The difference is that the 262 doesn’t have the grainy brittle quality that Balanced Armature stuff has in the highs. Yes I know it’s me being hyper picky and most people think things like the ER4 are superb in the high end but in comparison to a truly great dynamic they just don’t have the extension on them. Maybe it’s just because my ears seem to have an unusually high frequency response but I always find even the best BA stuff to be a little hard in the highs. Sometimes that hard crispiness works extremely well like in the UE Triple.Fi 10 but they can never get that high end cymbal shimmer that the best dynamic drivers can. The 262 does do the treble very, very well but it’s clearly tuned to be soft and inoffensive which won’t be loved by all. However it’s not like HiFiMAN don’t have an option available to you if you do want a bright shimmering treble in your face. So I think they have pretty much got the tuning spot on, offering that Shure like rolled off treble that is ever so soft and gentle on the ear. What it does clearly do differently from the 530 is that the 262 is more refined and had far greater delicacy to it, the 530 like all BA stuff can at times come across as all edge and impact and little in the way of treble decay that naturally happens. That’s what can sometimes make things feel a little deadpan and the 262 reaches a really nice balance point between the two positions. It has all the detail of the best, decays well and manages to not ever be in your face or offensive. It’s almost the best out there and I can only think of its siblings and the IE8 that do it as well or better.
Soundstage: If this is the be all and end all for you then you will be disappointed as it’s not great. However I can’t say a care and it’s not what the presentation requires. The 262 is 530 like and far more about the smaller, more intimate listening experience. I want that vocalist up close not all around me, that said it can project great distance laterally.
Comfort: Absolutely fine. The shape of these is a great improvement over the 252 and I had no trouble just putting them in and not having to deal with bits sticking out.
Fit: Like the comfort it was fine, I can’t deny I would rather these were a much deeper sitting IEM it never gave me any problems. I did get a little air pressure trouble but nothing major and it went a away quickly enough.
Cable: It’s a good, nice but nothing spectacular cable. So while nothing to write home about I can’t see anyone actually having a problem with it.
Microphonics: Erm none. You do get some of course if you wear these down but I hate that so I never do and I can’t see why anyone would want to anyway.
Amped/Unamped: Here you might expect me to insist these demand and amp and could not possibly be used without. Don’t get me wrong these are the least sensitive IEM’s I have ever come across and take the dial going higher than anything else but it’s not as bad a you’d think. Naturally I tried them with the 1G shuffle and it could power them to stupidly loud with ease so I thought id plug them into the 5G ipod head phone out. Shock horror! So of course there were no highs out of the hp out because it never outputs any but everything else was fair. It did take further dial turning to make them loud but even it could drive the 262 to louder than I would want. Even still if you want stupid loud and you have one of those stupid crippled by the idiot French law about limiting output DAP’s then the 262 is not for you. The 1G shuffle with its famed powerful amp easily sound wonderful and powers these beautifully.
While I’m going to say these don’t “need” an amp, they will still sound great out of any old rubbish but quiet. Oh and they really do deserve to be amped.
Isolation: Very good for a dynamic but it’s still a dynamic so don’t expect to be up to up to Shure or Ety standards. Enough to get you hit by a bus but not what I’d be wanting if I spent my life on a plane or tube.
Build Quality: Very nice. Not that I’m saying the build on the 252 was bad but it’s weird rubbery finish felt a bit cheap this does not. However don’t expect these to scream I’m expensive like the SE530 or the e-Q7.
Accessories: Well you get a bunch of tips and shirt clip. I might like a nice little case but the case / container they come in is perfectly useable for such things. If you want something else there is always ebay.
Value: RE-262 US$250, SE535 £360. If you want to get yourself a top tier IEM there is no cheaper way to get there than HiFiMAN. I’m not going to argue the merits of spending US$250 on a set of IEM’s over paying for Oxfam to go dig a well in Bongo Bongo Land, clearly humanity has its priorities and they are the pleasing of oneself. So if you want to please yourself and you want this kind of sound quality then like other HiFiMAN products, these are outstandingly good value. You will not find sound this good elsewhere for this much.
Conclusion: This is where it all gets pulled together and the words just flow out. Thing is what else is there to say other than to state the blisteringly obvious, these are awesomely brilliant. Not really, they are better than you and you should buy them just so you know you own something that that is truly a masterpiece of engineering. That is before Shure masterminds a military Coup d'état in the US and promptly launches and full scale nuclear assault on HiFiMAN’s production facilities (SoundMAGIC too while they are at it.) I have no doubts someone at Shure has at least considered the idea.
What I should probably point out is that at this level of excellence what really is key is your preferred sound signature and what particular songs work best with. For example while the 262 can do fast trebly rock far better than almost everything if you stick it head to head with something like the IE8 or TF10 it just won’t be as good or as fun. That sort of music doesn’t want smooth lush mids, it want thumping bass and sizzling treble. The same thing holds true if you spend your days listening to Jack Johnson or Susan Wong, then those V shaped monsters are just all wrong (of course they likewise wipe the floor with most things.)
You have probably noticed I really very much like the 262, and I find myself desperately wanting to steal a phase from ClieOS so I will and really hope he doesn’t mind. “Hifiman RE252, the company’s previous flagship. I think the major difference between the two is: while RE252 is trying to do-nothing-wrong, RE262 is trying to do-something-right. In another words, RE252 is technically strong but trying to have some musicality, while RE262 is musically beautiful but trying not to be technically lacking. Depends on what is more desired, the interpretation of what is right can be very from person to person. To me however, RE262 is just a sound too sweet to give up.” He is spot on, the 252 was all technical brilliance but soulless. The 262 that same brilliance but has a little flavour to it and its just beautiful
As I described the 252 in my review of it, the 252 is like a glass of pure distilled water, in the 262 HiFIMAN have managed to take that same purity and add a splash of Ribena (can you get Ribena in the US? If not you have my sympathies.) They have taken the best of what they had, given it flavour and by gum its mighty good.
Edited by mark2410 - 1/9/11 at 7:29am