Originally Posted by jerg
I'd say HE400 is tizzy (things sound more sparkly than natural, emphasis in upper treble), but not sibilant ("ssss", emphasis in low ~ mid-treble) or harsh (usually due to uneven peaks in treble,rather than a particular band of emphasis). If you can't tolerate treble energy then HD650 will indeed be a better investment.
For the sake of not mis-leading others, I'll have to say this is something I don't 100% concur with. If one listens to female vocalists, the HE-400 really shows a weakness in this area. I was content with the HE-400s for nearly a year. That was until I started to bring in more female vocals into my music listening. It was at that point where I realized the HE-400 was not going to work for me, even though I really liked what it did in the other areas.
The reality is, HifiMAN could probably fix the tuning slightly to remove some of the edge where the sibilants are present. However, if they were to do that, they would or could potentially hurt their other higher priced offerings. People would find that the $400 HE-400 would do everything right for them, and they'd put the extra money into a better amp.
Both the HE-5LE and the HE-500, are clean in that treble region where the sibilants could be heard on all of the female vocals in my music. I'm not using an EQ setting to taper that range at this point in time. I tried 3 to 4 amps and 3 to 4 DACs with the HE-400s in my testing of amps / DACs in order to decide on one. In each test, the HE-400 just couldn't be tamed where it sizzled a bit. Even with my Sennheiser HD-600, I can hear a bit of the sibilants. Not major, but tolerable, and only about 1/5th the amount of what I heard on the HE-400s.
For someone who chooses to listen to other music where female vocals are not present, the HE-400 represents a very outstanding value. Again, a very outstanding value ... save for the female vocal issues.
Edited by wje - 3/24/13 at 1:10am