Rant: Not quite, Angrygoldfish, as one artist once wrote (on a poster he gave me), "We should be angrier than we are". It is absolutely not OK for any equipment to suffer from what is either some poor construction or planned obsolescence. And especially not for a 100€ IEMs pair (if it were merely a 10-15€ IEMs pair I would not complain much, but 100€ is not just peanuts, even though some 'audiophiles' who pay 10x more for IEMs might snob such considerations.) These things should be aiming to last several years!
Customer experience: My RE-400 got the same issue as several other people, after about 7 months and a half of light/moderate (once or twice a week only on average) and careful use, i.e. the left ear went nearly silent all of a sudden while listening to them, a couple weeks ago. Good thing though, is the guarantee: The customer service from HifiMan has been perfect, very courteous and very fast feedback, same thing from the local representative in Germany Sieveking Sound (I shipped the defective unit back to the German company), very fast and very courteous, whose replacement RE-400s I just received (the less positive aspect however being that they sent me a pair with a dirty cable at one place - some kind of big dirt was on it (looked sort of like earwax, some dark yellow thing), it got wiped off easily but was weird ; and a few very small indentations on the plastic section of the cables ; and the backs of the aluminium cases look partly scratched which imo is not exactly what Sieveking Sound claimed to be a 'neuwertig' (i.e. "like new") unit, i.e. the replacement unit looks somehow older than the defective one I returned). Am just burning them in a bit now (even though I suspect they already have gotten some usage), so I will be checking in a day or two that they sound as they should - but at least I can already hear that both sides work, on this replacement unit.
Prospective: However, I now hope, and expect, that the replacement unit will be of a better quality/durability, and will last more than just one year. Or else I will have to forget Hifiman (and IEMs) and switch to something like Sennheiser full cans instead... So am crossing my fingers for the better, hoping I can enjoy these IEMs for a longer while and thus keep a high opinion of their manufacturer.
By the way: Regarding the sound quality: Am not a big expert. All I can say is I like them even with my iBasso DX50 (even though some more knowledgeable Headfiers say these 2 don't fit). And they definitely sound better than the Bose QC15 cans I more recently acquired. But the QC15 are unbeatable for peace of mind while in a plane, train or other machine-noise environment (e.g. even while driving), in which cases the IEMs are not offering enough sound isolation at all for me (whatever tips I use), so in such special cases the QC15 is still the better option.
However,neither of these nice and practical headphones (and the DAP) can compete with coming home and listening to the good old Nautilus 804 speakers in my living room, even though I use them 'only' with an AVR (Marantz SR7007) instead of a proper stereo-amp (but I did not expect it to be otherwise, i.e. HeadFi is just not as nice as real HiFi).
So, in summary:
- @ fellow users: be extra careful with your RE-400s, they are indeed ultra-fragile (at least for the units sold back in 2013) ; but do use the warranty, Hifiman is giving great customer support.
- @ HifiMan reps: Thanks for the great customer support, thumbs up, but do hear the warnings about potentially disappointing customers over build quality/durability - I hope it was just the first production batch that was of lower quality (as I read a few weeks earlier) and that the RE-400s you currently ship out to people (like hopefully the more-or-less-newish replacement unit I just received) are sturdier and made to last.
The Extra Question: Would the RE-400 benefit from a small-priced destkop tube amp (like the Bravo Audio Ocean) connected to my iBasso-DX50? Am curious about maybe getting such a nice-looking and tube-equipped little device either for the bedroom or the office...
If the product breaks within a year, HiFiMan lose out. HiFiMan do not benefit from being forced to fix a broken pair of earphones and sending out a replacement. After the year is up, yes, a non-functioning pair of IEMs would be a pain in the ass, but I still stand by my point that €100 for an excellent sounding pair of earphones every year is not a big deal. I've paid €300 for earphones that broke within two years as well, which equates to €150 per year, and there are people who have paid €1000 for a pair of monitors that broke within five years, which equates to €200 per year. These things happen. Is it right? No. Do I want it to change? Yes. Do I care enough to not buy the product? No. Why? Because they sound good and are in no way guaranteed to fail as soon as my warranty is up.
In general IEMs do not last very long. They are by their nature fragile and delicate. They are commonly thrown around and are often forced into tight pockets and pouches. Is this abuse? Absolutely not. It is simply regular usage. And even if you're like me and try to baby them as much as possible, they are still not guaranteed to work after a year of heavy use. Again, this is not good, but it's not a deal breaker either considering the little amount of money they cost. No other IEM I've tried comes as well equipped or sounds as good as the RE-400's at €100. Sacrifices were probably made in order to make this price point. They are not marketed as everlasting earphones so why should you expect that?
As a side note, "We should be angrier than we are" is an arrogant statement. Who are you to tell me what I should be angry about? Anger is a perspective, a conceptual emotion that is relevant to you and your circumstances. To compare, one person's €100 'value' IEMs is another's waste of money. If I bought these headphones for my friend, he would have scoffed at me and told me to send them back with the words "We should be more sensible with our money than we are". And I would have replied, "who are you to tell me what is valuable and what isn't?" Who is this artist to tell me what I need to be angry about? Why is anger so valuable to me? I do happen to agree with that statement, but not on a bloody Internet forum talking about earphones ffs. Ironically, that statement has angered me. I'm not attacking you—at least I am not trying to—but please respect that I do not agree with you. If my RE400's break within the next few months, I'd be pissed off. Sending products back for a repair is a ball ache and I hate doing it, but as you said, HiFiMan customer service is excellent and I'd have to accept that this is the nature of the beast. Should it be the nature of this kind of product? No, but it is and I am willing to concede because I live in hope that I will be happy with these earphones for many years to come.