HiFiMAN RE-400 Review
HiFiMAN are a company most noticeably known for its full sized planar magnetic headphones and then for there high end DAPs but the IEM range that HiFiMAN offer, although perhaps overshadowed by the full sized headphones, have always been very well reviewed and I have personally had a good impression made from a audition I had with the RE-262 a few months back. A little while back a few suggestion were made that HiFiMAN would be bringing out some new IEM and this was then announce a bit more officially at canjam. There would be two new models completely replacing the last range. A RE-400 and RE-600. The RE-400 will be the new more entry based IEM retailing at $100. Since the official release of this a few days ago this is the first of the two new IEMs to come to the market
I used all sorts of devices in the reviewing of this. I have ranged from a stock iPhone and iPod Classic to pairing them with numerous amplifiers like the Tube Amp BL-2, Hippo CriCri and Digizoid ZO, used USB DACs with my iMac like the Audioengine D1, MySt PortaDAC 1866 and GoVibe VestAmp+ and also used my high end DAP, the HiFi ET MA9.
Files used are mainly CD ripped FLAC files but there a few WAV files I have used as well as the odd album in MP3, mostly 320 KBPS if MP3 of course.
The design of these is not going to turn heads or captivate your attention for hours on ends looking at them but they are designed well, sophisticated and certainly inoffensive. They actually rather remind me of the NOC NS800 in design with the very small housings and metal housing. The black cable compliments the silver housing and the silver cable cinch is a real nice touch in terms of how the earphones look and I have zero quarrels in this department.
The cable starts off with a jack used in previous HiFiMAN IEMs that is a well though out and very functional 45-degree angle jack. It is gold plated and the housing is made of a solid plastic that feeds onto a nice strain relief. The bottom half of the cable is sheathed in a fabric material that offers extra protection and feels strong but I do not thinks that it helps in terms of flexibility. However it does let the bottom cable coil very well. Past the y-split we lose the fabric sheath for the cable and have a usual rubber cable. It is extremely subtle and as a very rubbery effect do it but at times it as felt a bit thin and weak. The cable cinch is great; combining the fact it works well and looks awesome although I cannot quite work out if it is plastic (which I am leaning towards) or metal because it is so small. Microphonics of the cable are present in the slightest when over the ear and a bit more noticeable cable worn down. They may the slightest little tap/thud when hit but it is far from enough to put you off the music.
The cables enter the housings in a fairly solid plastic strain relief. However to how fixed in they are I am not sure because on the left ear piece it seems like it has popped out a little bit already but I have had no further problems since then. The housings are flawless in construction being made of metal and just being generally well finished.
Although mine is a full production unit i did not get the packaging as they are currently working on it to make sure that it is up to the companies standards, I think I did get the full accessory kit. Now it includes some tips and a cable winder. The cable winder is a big white rubber ‘log’ and you can wrap the cable round it to keep it nice and neat. Now I would have found it handy if they had included a case to then pt the wrapped up earphones in and just too keep them safe when not worn on the go.
You then get the tip selection and I must say it is a rather odd one. Now I would first like to say that in this situation odd is good. Although it is okay to get the standard single flange silicone tips in small medium and large, I much prefer what seems like a conscious effort to provide a range of tips that have been made for the RE-400 and can offer you a slight tuning kit if playing around with them. In total you get three different types of tips. I would not worry for the fact they all just come in one size that you wont get one to fit as they are all different in sizes. The first type of tip you get reminds me of the flanged Sennheiser IE8 tips and it has two flanges on top each other and both are the same width. These are my favourite because I get a real tight seal with the and also they get a nice depth. You then get a rather typical cone like dual flange that I find a bit too big for me but if you have bigger ears I am sure it will be perfect. Lastly you get an oval like single flange that has a bore split in the middle. Now I am sure that the idea of this tips so you can add filters at a later date because (because a similar tip comes with the Heir IEMs) so maybe this is something that could happen in the future for the RE-400 but the tip is also ideal for those of you with smaller ears or maybe do not like a dual flange. Overall the tips are of the up most quality and I am glad they have not stuck to the conventional tip range.
I did try tip rolling these with a few different over tips I had, noticeably the Sony Hybrid, Jaben Foam Tip and a Fischer Audio Single Flange and after trying them all, in terms of neutrality, clearness and overall sound quality I always ended up using the stock tips that I like.
Getting a fit with these was no problem what so ever. A quick little tip roll and a little push into the ear canal and you should be sealed and ready to go. I did find for an ideal seal that these need to be worn over the ear other wise the strain relief can cause intrusion and you can only get a rather shallow fit.
These are very comfortable. They are tiny, maybe the smallest dynamic IEM earphone I have yet to own, even rivaling the microscopic single armature NOCs NS800 and the twin armature UE700 in size. There size allows a rather deep insertion that I like with these mainly for the better isolation it allows. Even though they are made of metal, they weigh hardly anything and your ear supports the little weight they have by wearing the over your ear so this also leads to no problems. I did try these with some foam tips (Jaben foam tips) and the comfort levels were maxed, I know longer had anything in my ear but I feel they did have a slight negative on the sound.
These are dynamic and vented and I really do not think that it matters. You can get these deep enough into your ear that you get lost into the music with the outside world blocked out. They do not get as deep as an Etymotic and also do not isolate quite as good as them but I do not have a single problem with the amount of ambient noise that is reduced. I did not have a problem in town or on public transport in the slightest.
By what I am about to write I do not want to cause any upsets or arguments as this topic can be seen as a sour subject. These have had roughly 100 hours now of use and burn in combined. As burn in is not scientifically proven this all could be mental and happening in my head but in the case that it does happen I recommend burning them in as in my personal experience I have noted improvements which have a massive impact on my enjoyment factor, so don’t make any irrational decisions after listening to them out the box.
The sound signature of these is a neutral one. Of course not dead flat as this is something that would be hard to do and I am nor sure it would sound to great anyway because of the natural resonances in our ears. This as the slightest boost in the bass section and the rest I all rather linear extending well into the high treble frequencies. The whole presentation is very detailed and ever so clear. Calling it analytical however is something I am not sure I will do, it does no quite have the boosted treble to liken it to Etymotic or TWFK based earphones that are
Soundstage and instrument separation:
The soundstage is admittedly not huge. Not that any IEMs really have anything amazing in terms of soundstage I have heard bigger than this and certainly more 3D. Imaging is no slouch but it lacks a real sense of depth that would make the imaging all the better, especially with live performances. Width is out of your head and the height is actually very nice but I would enjoy it being rather bigger.
Instrument separation is amazing. It makes me reminisce many properties of a top balanced armature earphone with the space that each instrument has and how clear and not congested the sound is.
The bass is as I have already said slightly boosted but it is far from usual bass boosted IEM. The bass boost would be in between what the Etymotic HF5 and the Heir Audio 4.Ai has so as you can imagine it is not a big one at all. It is a dry bass however and I would not say these have much warmth at all; I only detect the slightest amount on warmer sources. The mid-bass is rather gentle, small impact body, fairly good speed and a short decay. The small impact body could easily not quite be enough for some people, even those who would not consider them selves’ bass heads and this is something worth noting. However, I see the slight boost and the lack of a huge impact to be quite honest and that runs very close to how like my earphones to sound and I know a lot of you will enjoy the mid-bass like me, it is very well presented.
The sub-bass starts its roll of probably around 100hz so rather early and it gets quite steep as well and I do not feel like I am getting some of the deeper frequencies that other IEMs like my Sony MDR-EX1000 and Audio Technica CKW1000ANV can offer. I also found a distinct lack of rumble and the texturing is also heavily lacking. Sub-bass is existent but just in a small quantity, just enough so we have a full sounding IEM.
Midrange is where I find my self getting lost in these earphones. It has a very good position in the frequency range. Not forward like the RE262 or the original revision Aurisonics ASG-1 and just a notch under the Etymotic HF5. It does however have more than the Sony MDR-EX1000 that was one of my biggest niggles with that earphone. Not only do we always have the midrange in great presence but it also has an amazing midrange balance. I am finding it hard to find any major tilt in it and this makes male and female vocals but sound very natural. Detail retrieval is just great and there is plenty on micro details on offer. Guitars sound lush and sweet and that applies for brass instruments as well. There is just the odd time that I would like a bit more power but that is really my only niggle here.
Treble is a very pleasant experience. It is not over done, sitting well in line with the midrange, rather smooth with not noticeable dip or peaks that can sound unpleasant or sibilant. In regards to sibilance I have seen some reports of some but personally I do not hard any, we definitely do not have a boost in the range that caused the Fischer Audio DBA-02 to be sibilant but you maybe sensitive to a different bracket of treble to me. That all being said I still do not think that sibilance is something to worry about. Sparkle is just about right, giving you the ability to clearly hear cymbal crashes without the being over bearing. Extension goes very far and does get to the point where you get a slight sense of airiness that is nice.
These do hardly anything to put a foot out of place. In their price category they are the child who does hardly anything wrong, but also excels at a few things. HiFiMAN have built an ergonomic earphone that does well on all the physical categories but packed it with a dynamic driver that offers a neutral sound signature that does impress. For £60 this is going to be one of the best IEMs you can get with out a doubt. Maybe the best but maybe not because that will come down to preference but I can confidently say, HiFiMAN have done a good job here!
This review was pasted from my website:
Edited by Swimsonny - 1/19/13 at 1:53pm