I’m a little late to the Hifiman RE series party but I thought it was time to get this party started and I did with the RE262. Wow! This level of musicality and refinement was not expected.
The RE262 is an odd shaped phone. It is made to wear down or up. The housings are plastic with rubber end pieces on the strange elbow shape and metal around the nozzles. The cable is pretty supple and pretty thick. It is also a modular cable and Hifiman supplies 3 different extensions. One is a balanced extension and for wearing the IEM down. The second is the standard mini connection and for wearing down and the third is also a standard mini connection but reverses the channels for wearing over the ear. Due to the shape of the housings, wearing them up is really designed to put the left housing in the right ear and vice versa. I’m not a big fan of modular cables, as the connectors add bulk and weight but the options HIfiman is giving you are very nice.
The RE262 comes with a very nice, large storage box but sadly no small carrying case. Also supplied are a standard set of single flange silicone tips, plus two pair of Hifiman’s great bi-flange tips, replacement paper filters and a shirt clip.
One thing to note is that they are rated at 150 ohm with a sensitivity of 95 db, so they are not the most efficient of phones. An amp is recommended. My iPhone and Nano 6g will drive them loud enough but punch and authority are missing without the extra power. I used both the Fiio E6 and the Digizoid ZO with the RE262 and I’ll offer some differences between the two later in the review. Since these require the use of an amp and do not come with a case, I’ve picked up a nice Klipsch case that’s big enough for the phones, amp, cables and extra tips while still remaining portable.
ClieOS defines the sound signature best as warm and sweet. I’ve read from plenty that burn-in is required (particularly for treble expansion) with these but I have to say I’ve been amazed since I first turned them on. I don’t know how many hours I have and frankly don’t care. The RE262’s are lush, liquid, silky smooth, very rich and superbly textured.
Timbre is excellent. Instrument realism is something the RE262 excel with and vocals sound simply amazing, intimate and effortless. Soundstage is surprisingly expansive and deep, with excellent layering, considering the focus on the midrange, and dynamic range is very good as well. Distortion guitars do not quite have the crisp bite of the GR07 or FXT90 but still sound very realistic. Piano sounds believable and involving. Acoustic guitars are full and resonate. Transparency is on par with my memory of the EX1000 but doesn’t have the Sony’s magical air.
The midrange is where it’s at; it’s sophisticated and beautiful. Vocals carry amazing intimacy that are very addicting, engrossing and full of emotion. The entire midrange is velvety smooth with excellent clarity and detail. Every little detail of the midrange is easily discovered. Singer’s lips parting, the inhaling of breath, inflections from the throat are beautifully rendered. Radney Foster never sounded so good.
Treble is extended and detailed but entirely non-fatiguing. While not sounding the same as the treble in the Westone 4, it is reminiscent of the W4 in its ability to retrieve details in a most inoffensive way. I have no problem picking out rides, cymbal crashes and other high end details.
Bass is very extended (with more power) and completely satisfying even though it is taking a backseat to the liquid midrange. There is no midrange hump to overcome and sub bass is nicely textured with a tasteful, subdued rumble. Every part of the drum kit is easily discernable and separated.
Both the Fiio E6 and Digizoid ZO work very well amping the RE262. Due to the E6 size, it is perfect for mobility, especially being the same size as the 6th gen and current gen Nano. The Fiio amp is pretty transparent to my ears and doesn’t change the sound from the headphone out of my iPhone 4 (I tested from HO since that’s how the ZO v1 must be used). EQ2 on the E6 sounds the best of its settings, adding just a small amount of bass punch and richness, without affecting the midrange and treble of the RE262. The ZO on the other hand is just a very small amount less transparent in comparison; midrange is unaffected but treble doesn’t seem quite a bright, however the bass sculpting with the RE262 is fabulous. The ZO has excellent synergy and is able to extract copious amounts of sub bass texture and rumble by a much larger margin over the E6. The extra bass settings on these amps really bring life the bottom end extension the RE262 is capable of.
As you can tell, the RE262 is neither neutral nor analytical; rather it is tastefully colored and very musical. Those looking for a departure from the standard approach to earphone tuning should look no further than the RE262.