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Comparison between Hifiman HE-400 & Beyerdynamic DT-990 250Ω (w/ pics)

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 

I wanted to do this comparison because despite these two headphones aren’t in the same price range, I do think they might appeal to the same audience. When I was on the hunt for alternatives to the DT-990 I found that this question had been asked before, DT-990 vs. HE-400. So that’s something I want to give my perspective on, since I own both at the moment.

 

Two things before I go on, my native language isn’t English, so my apologies for grammar mistakes etc. Second, I wouldn’t consider myself very well acquainted in the head-fi world, so please bear that in mind when you read on.

 

Let's get started, Hifiman HE-400 vs. Beyerdynamic DT-990 Edition 250Ω, tested with an Audioengine D1 DAC/AMP.

 

First the obvious differences like packaging etc.

 

Package of HE-400:

 

 

Which contains the following:

 

 

Package and contents of the DT-990 Edition:

 

 

So the DT-990 comes with a nice carrying bag made of synthetic leather-ish material, and a little booklet about Beyerdynamic. HE-400 comes with a pouch and the cable obviously since it’s detachable. Score for the DT-990 if you’re going to carry them around much.

 

The cable on the HE-400 is a lot thicker:

 

 

 

A few more comparison pictures before moving on:

 

 

 

 

A few more obvious differences. The HE-400 is a lot heavier, with a weight around 440 gram, while DT-990 is 290 gram.

 

Material wise the DT-990’s grills are made of aluminium, earpads are velour, and the headband is leather. The HE-400 grills are some kind of fine meshed metal, pads are soft leather (velour is available separately), and the headband is leather.

 

The HE-400’s cable is detachable and it connects to both sides of the headphones. DT-990’s is not detachable and only connects to one side (left).

 

 

Comfort

 

The Beyerdynamics gets a lot of praise for being comfortable, and these definitely are. They’re light, have very comfy stock pads, and the headband is soft and nice. Now I honestly thought that the DT-990 is going to wipe the floor comfort-wise with the HE-400, but I was wrong. The HE-400 is heavy like previously stated, there’s no way around that. But the wide headband distributes the weight very well, and the cups are so big nothing is touching the ears (at least noticeably). I don’t feel any pressure on my head even after long (+3 hours) use. The DT-990 is by no means causing pain, but I do start to feel the headband after long use due to the narrow area the headband is distributing its weight on. The earpads are simply better on the DT-990, but I’m probably going to get the velour pads for the HE-400 and then that advantage is gone too.

 

So comfort wise, if you try them for a short time the DT-990 is going to feel a lot better. But extend the use and you might find that the HE-400 is better, like I do. Either way, none of them are uncomfortable on my head.

 

 

Sound

 

I’ve listened to a lot of music where I do a ~30 second session on one headphone, pause and switch headphones, and listen to the same 30 seconds again. I figured the easiest way for me to describe what I think is to pick out a few songs and go by them to begin with. I’m not going to make it very detailed, I don’t feel like I can describe sound well enough. I'll link the songs too so you can check what is what if you want. I have listened to everything through Spotify Premium (320 kbps).

 

 

First a metal track, The Unguided – Collapse My Dream

This is very easy, it sounds a lot better on the HE-400, the drums are tight and punchy, the whole range of sounds is very well balanced and the singer sounds good. On the DT-990 the highs are too intrusive and the singer sounds a bit sibilant.

 

A different kind of metal, Within Temptation – Our Solemn Hour

This isn’t as obvious, as the more airy sound of the DT-990 does help them in the fight, but the singer becomes a bit too much on higher volume, and the song just sounds more grand on the HE-400, it gets a bit… thin on the DT-990. Sibilance present here too on the DT-990.

 

Rap time, Ludacris – How Low

This is very good song for testing bass. And the HE-400 walks right over the DT-990, there’s no contest here. The song really goes very low, and the HE-400 has a nicer sounding “boom” while also having a bigger impact.

 

Electronic, Black Sun Empire – Wasteland

A different kind of bass, but very powerful. I actually thought the DT-990 might have a chance here, and they did better than with Ludacris, but the HE-400 still wins, the pounding simply sounds more juicy. I don’t consider myself a basshead, but I do like bass, and with songs like this the HE-400 really proves that it can provide a nice punch. The DT-990 does so too, but it doesn’t sound as good.

 

Alt rock, Madina Lake – Here I stand

A quite “normal” rock song. This is maybe the most even one. In a way the DT-990 makes the song sound more fun with the sparkly treble, but as a whole the HE-400 does a better job, I think one big reason is how nice drums sound it.

 

One last metal song, Fear Factory – Powershifter

I’m not really bringing anything new to the table here, I just wanted to mention this because it’s a good example of what I think HE-400 does the best, drums. The bass drums sound amazing, and also shows the quickness of the headphones. The DT-990 is not cutting it here, again it sounds thin compared to the HE-400.

 

At this point I stop with the individual songs, because I’d just start repeating myself. The HE-400 pretty much does everything better. Metal sounds a lot better on it, again probably thanks to the amazing drums and overall balance in the sound. But I also think they are clearly better with bass heavy music which was a surprise, considering the DT-990’s are regarded high in that area. In some songs it also feels like the DT-990 only plays the highs and lows – there’s something missing in between, recessed mids. Pop and such is better on the HE-400 thanks to the overall warmer sound.

 

When you listen to these headphones side by side you definitely understand what people mean when they talk about bright and dark headphones. It’s actually very describing, the DT-990's are bright, even a bit thin with some music, and sibilant at least to my ears. They do have lots of bass, but it doesn’t go as deep as the HE-400. Two words for describing the HE-400 are juicy and warm. They do everything well without becoming too much. The sibilance that occurs on the DT-990 is also something that bothers me personally, although I know not everyone is affected.

Like I mentioned the DT-990 has a more open sound, the HE-400 sounds closer to your head. I’m not sure if this is even a problem for me, more like an observation really.

 

If you are searching for a pair of sweet all-around headphones and can afford the HE-400, I’d get them any day over the DT-990. I know all I have written above makes the DT-990 sound bad, but I’m simply comparing a good headphone against a better one. The HE-400 is easy to drive too, it plays loud enough straight out of my Nokia N8 cellphone, although the sound becomes slightly flatter, don’t know if it’s because of the missing amplifying or because of the DAC. I personally feel like I can stop looking for headphones for now.

post #2 of 31

Hey a junior headfier jumping in with a nice review...I like it!! Seems like you may have a pair of beyer for sale soon. wink.gif

post #3 of 31
Great comparison. Nice job.
post #4 of 31
Thread Starter 

Thanks! And yes Matt the Beyers are going for sale, I don't see myself using them with the HE-400 around :)

post #5 of 31

Thank you for the comparison, and all the nice pics...I was considering the two, while heavily leaning towards the HE-400's.

post #6 of 31

Thanks for the writeup OP.

 

The best part about HE400 in my opinion, is that they can be pushed to a whole new level simply by popping on some velour pads and switching out for some more open grills. The end product is one of the most open sounds with one of the most satisfying bass at the same time.

post #7 of 31

Great! My thoughts exactly, but I was a little surprised when you found Metal on the HE-400's more enjoyable. I would've thought the general consensus would like the Beyers for Metal more, but I was wrong! With that said, I'm not that general consensus. I don't like the DT990 at all myself so I have a huge negative bias towards them.

post #8 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by planx View Post

Great! My thoughts exactly, but I was a little surprised when you found Metal on the HE-400's more enjoyable. I would've thought the general consensus would like the Beyers for Metal more, but I was wrong! With that said, I'm not that general consensus. I don't like the DT990 at all myself so I have a huge negative bias towards them.

 

Nah the HE-400 definitely takes the cake with all the metal I listen to, like I said it's probably what it does best in my ears when comparing the two smily_headphones1.gif I can see some people prefer the DT-990 for the brighter sound with some songs, but I think it's lacking in mids compared to the HE-400.

post #9 of 31

interesting read, thanks!

 

still eager to try out the hifiman line of headphones, i've heard nothing but good things from all of them (though i hear some have problems with quality control)

post #10 of 31

Great review! Having had both headphones I agree with lots of what you've written.

post #11 of 31
30 second intervals makes no sense to me, as your ears don't have enough time adjusting to the change in sound signature, but okay.

I appreciate and love both these headphones. The HE-400 is in a league above, but the DT990's sound signature is quite different from the HE-400, and so A/B comparisons are pretty hard to do with such a change.

The 990 (especially the 250ohm) is more fun oriented with more immediate bass wow factor, while the HE-400 has the fuller bass that isn't as immediately in your face in comparison. I find the treble to be easier to handle on the 990/250 because it's already a bright headphone. The HE-400 being dark with highly emphasized treble is a little more jarring due to the jump from darkness to strong treble.

The mids are HE-400 all the way. Soundstage is all 990. Imaging is all HE-400.

I find them both to be amazing cans, and I do say the HE-400 is worth it over, due to sounding more natural and pleasant overall.
Edited by Mad Lust Envy - 1/10/13 at 1:51pm
post #12 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dubstep Girl View Post

interesting read, thanks!

 

still eager to try out the hifiman line of headphones, i've heard nothing but good things from all of them (though i hear some have problems with quality control)

Well, you could try to extrapolate the Hifiman house sound from your LCD2. They are all planar magnetic with large diaphragms, so you'll get a similar presentation (thick full-bodied lower end with great control and extension, fairly resolving but not overly so upper end), but a very polar opposite departure in terms of openness/airiness (not the sound signature airiness, but rather how "open" the headphone sounds...kinda hard to explain) because Hifiman cans are minimally damped unlike Audezes which are heavily damped. Hifimans also have more treble in general.

post #13 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:Mad Lust Envy
30 second intervals makes no sense to me, as your ears don't have enough time adjusting to the change in sound signature, but okay.

 

I don't find the fast switching to be a problem, I did longer sessions with each of them too before doing the write up and both gave me the same conclusions. But perhaps a large part of my impressions already came from the previous longer uses.

 

 

Quote:Mad Lust Envy
The 990 (especially the 250ohm) is more fun oriented with more immediate bass wow factor, while the HE-400 has the fuller bass that isn't as immediately in your face in comparison.

 

Spot on. The HE-400 gets better the more you listen.

 

 

Quote:Mad Lust Envy
I find the treble to be easier to handle on the 990/250 because it's already a bright headphone. The HE-400 being dark with highly emphasized treble is a little more jarring due to the jump from darkness to strong treble.

 

With this I slightly disagree although I understand what you mean - but the DT-990's treble was pure assault on my ears with some music (sibilant). I find the HE-400 to be far more "polite".

post #14 of 31

Thanks for this comparison. Although I wasn't even considering the beyerdynamics, I did order some HE-400's and its nice to hear what people are saying about them. I can't wait until they come in (hopefully tomorrow!).

post #15 of 31
No mistake, the 990's treble is VERY pronounced. What I mean, is that the 990 lives in it's brightness, so the treble is already expected, and your ears adjust to that brightness. The HE-400's treble is unlike it's overall dark signature, so it's more shocking to the ears, IMHO.
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