Denon D2000 vs Hifiman HE-400 (Unamped HE-400 For Now)
I’ve sold my D2000s so this review is largely based on memory. But I’m not biased and I was very willing to send these new headphones back if they weren’t adequate. It certainly seems as though many of these kinds of reviews are always very lavishing of praise towards the upgrade very hastily.
I became increasingly displeased with the D2000s fatiguing sound signature and disregard for midrange. The comfort was all right but I wanted some more clamping force for a better seal. I also wanted the colored bass-heavy sound signature to be toned down and tightened up a bit. Moreover, the midrange was not only recessed, but incredibly atonal. Vocals sounded tinny, machine-like, and the lively human flavor of a lot of melodic music was just missing. Perhaps most of all, listening to music was a very transient pleasure on the D2000s. I could listen to a single song and find it very engaging, but the treble peaks meant that it was rather uncomfortable to listen to the D2000 for longer than a half hour at a time. Particularly with the electronic music (house, techno, experimental, etc.) that I frequently listen to.
First, unamped impressions (waiting for new amp to arrive). Also w/ the pleathers at first, then velours.
Sound Quality: First thing that strikes me is that the D2000s had a lot more apparent clarity than the HE-400s. But this is almost entirely attributable to the D2000s exaggerated treble, which gives the illusion of greater clarity.
Also seems to me that the HE-400s have substantially more bass impact than the D2000s. I didn’t exactly want this much bass. I’m not a fan of bass impact at all. The D2000 was never this impactful but it always had bass presence and I liked that. Ideally the HE-400s would do the same (of course, the Denons are renowned for their bass quality).
Interesting how the HE-400s totally expose when something has been ripped from vinyl. I’m listening to Four Tet’s DJ Kicks (one of the best all-around music compilations out there) and it’s clear that Showbiz and A.G.’s “Represent” was ripped from vinyl for this mix compilation.
I was expecting a fatiguing treble but this is warm as hell compared to the harsh D2000s. I listened closely and I think I can isolate that small frequency bit in the highs that shows up on all the response graphs, because there’s a sliver of treble that gets really sharp. Vocals can at times be sibilant [“Up Against the Wall” (Getaway Car Mix). This headphone makes it very easy to jack up the volume controls because the highs don’t get all piercing on higher volumes.
Now I replace to the velour pads. Still have only gotten two of the three hooks into the headphone cup, but I think it works the way it should. I wouldn’t say the mids have opened up so much as the bass has now been tamed. Much less impact and bloat and I think the bass has improved dramatically with this change. There’s a lot more treble overall with this new configuration but strangely it does not seem all that fatiguing, even at the high volumes I am playing at. I think the velour pads are an improvement because I hear a lot less of that boomy bass that reeks of low-end headphones.
Vocals are much better versus the D2000, because not only are they less recessed (still less than ideal perhaps) but I can hear the lyrics a lot better. There are many songs where prior I was not able to hear the lyrics intelligibly but now I can hear the vocal characteristics of the singer and the words much better.
Comfort: I guess it’s heavier than the D2000s but this doesn’t faze me in the slightest. I love the clamp on these. The D2000s would routinely fall off my head or shift around and I did not enjoy that. This has clamp and I don’t think it’s excessive (I’m on the lowest headband setting btw). The padding on the headband is just fine, but of course I don’t think you can really feel it unless you have a short haircut.
Build: The build of the headphone is great. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it really. The cable is thick and nice, but how god awful are the connectors? I’m fumbling around trying to screw these in, and you can’t stick your fingers in there to screw it in properly because of the cups. The D2000s cable was great in build quality but had the worst design ever. Cables would never manage to stay untangled for longer than 10 seconds. The cable tangled up on the D2000s so much I just stopped bothering trying to untangle it after the first week.
Conclusion: The HE-400 removes a lot of the weaknesses of the D2000 while providing a similar level of performance. With the velour pads, the sound strongly resembles that of the D2000. But it boosts up the midrange and doesn't seem quite as harsh and fatiguing on the high-end. However, until I pair this with an amp, I’m not going make a final judgment on this headphone.
Edited by jiggahwhat - 2/15/13 at 4:19pm