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HiFiMAN HE-6 + HE-560 + HE-400i + RE-400 In-depth Reviews and more! - Page 7

post #91 of 103

Wawooooo!!!

Super review, conquerator2!

Thank you!

I have to read it again, more focused.

(Give Bart my regards...!):cool:

post #92 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by polaron View Post
 

Wawooooo!!!

Super review, conquerator2!

Thank you!

I have to read it again, more focused.

(Give Bart my regards...!):cool:

Thanks.

I will :D [not that he has any contribution on this review :rolleyes:]

post #93 of 103

very detailed. did not get through it but plan on coming back

 

thanks for taking the time 

post #94 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by snapple10 View Post

very detailed. did not get through it but plan on coming back

thanks for taking the time 

You're welcome -_^
There's more to come. K612 and HE560 to name some.
My writing prowess will hopefully keep improving as well wink.gif
post #95 of 103
Well done! Impressive write-up! I was also going for the he6 until i almost stumbled upon something even more special and unique.... But i know how high the he6 scales with the right components..

Well done mate! wink.gif

Damn, now i think of it..ur review is even larger then mine about my new amp, and i thought mine was huge. biggrin.gif
.but it was my first review, so next time i will make sure it will be monumental huge biggrin.gif

Hope to do a write-up soon about my code-x specifically when the PaG has its 1month 24-7 continious burn-in time tongue.gif
Edited by hifimanrookie - 4/8/14 at 2:14pm
post #96 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hifimanrookie View Post

Well done! Impressive write-up! I was also going for the he6 until i almost stumbled upon something even more special and unique.... But i know how high the he6 scales with the right components..

Well done mate! wink.gif

Damn, now i think of it..ur review is even larger then mine about my new amp, and i thought mine was huge. biggrin.gif
.but it was my first review, so next time i will make sure it will be monumental huge biggrin.gif

Hope to do a write-up soon about my code-x specifically when the PaG has its 1month 24-7 continious burn-in time tongue.gif

Yo thanks mate wink.gif
I am sure you will!
I should start working on the K612 soon probably... Or maybe I'll do the 560 first.
post #97 of 103
Thread Starter 
ok with the release of the 560 approaching, I am getting ready wink.gif
I'll be putting the K612 in eventually too.
Though my health is brittle as of late, everything should fix itself in the upcoming months. I'll do all I can obviously.
post #98 of 103
Thread Starter 

HiFiMAN HE-400i and HiFiMAN HE-560 review & comparison - w/ stock + open grilles Mod and Focus pads

 

Disclaimer: The following review/comparison is my subjective assessment of the two headphones and I am in no way affiliated with HiFiMAN. The differences between the two are not night and day quantity-wise, but represent a difference I was able to hear. Both headphones are great sounding devices and this review and comparison should serve to highlight or point out the differences. If you have any questions or if you want to point something out, please do let me know. Hope you enjoy the read ^_^

 

 

 

Introduction

- I received the HE-560 in early July and the 400i last Monday. When I wasn't doing critical listening or direct comparisons, both headphones were being burned-in using pink noise or playing music. Initially, I did not find them very different - it was with time, precise volume matching, listening to many different songs of various genres and most importantly lots and lots of swapping headphones, comparing short segments of different songs, movies or games. After this exhaustive process, the differences finally became clear. I am confident that these comparisons represent my current [and hopefully final] opinion on these two headphones. One thing I very much want to point out - at their respective retail prices, both headphones represent tremendous value. If I only owned one or the other, I would most certainly not find any of either headphone's relative shortcomings troublesome enough to not live with. Also, please do keep in mind my particular setup as well. I will first evaluate each headphone based on its own merits and only then compare it to the other, mentioning where the differences lie, to keep it organized and easy to navigate. Without further ado, here's the comparison.

 

Specifications:

 

HiFiMAN HE-400i

 

 

Type: Planar-magnetic driver, full-size and open-back design

Frequency Response: 20Hz - 35KHz

Impedance: 35Ω

Efficiency: 93dB/mW

Weight: 370g

 

HiFiMAN HE-560

 

 

Type: Planar-magnetic driver, full-size and open-back design

Frequency Response: 15Hz - 50KHz

Impedance: 50Ω +/- 8Ω

Efficiency: 90dB/mW

Weight: 375g

 

Equipment:

 

Media: JRiver Media player 19, using ASIO KS direct connection output

Source: USB output of a desktop-PC

DAC: Audio-gd NFB-7 via USB input

Amplifier: Audio-gd SA-31SE via single-ended RCA input

Headphones: HiFiMAN HE-560 & HiFiMAN HE-400i via a 1/4 TRS plug

Files: FLAC, 128-320kbps MP3, 256kbps AAC, AC3/DTS [JRiver upmixing - movies], Dolby Headphone/ SBX Pro Studio [via external DSPs - gaming]

Cables: stock power cables, decent RCA/USB/TOSLINK cables

 

Bass

 

HE-400i

- The 400i has a very good bass response. The mid-bass has a good punch to it and is slightly emphasized, which helps with tracks where the impact is less than desired. The sub-bass is quite good too but rolls off just a bit sooner than I'd like. As far as bass definition, timbre and clarity goes, the 400i keeps a good balance of things. The slight emphasis of the mid-bass does mean that a slight portion of clarity and definition gets lost in the “punch”. It also makes certain instruments sound just a bit boomy [like a timpani or toms] at times, while also having a bit less than perfect control. The bass overall has more punch than it has extension and depth. In terms of tonality still, don't expect it to stray too far away from neutral, just a slight, enveloping bass warmth-tilt. When all's said and done, the bass is very exceptional and capable of sounding phenomenal with the flaws being pretty small.

 

8.5/10

 

HE-560

- The 560 has likewise excellent bass. The mid-bass to sub-bass transition is perfectly linear, which means the bass stays neutral, with equal presence. That means, that it will not help with any bass deficiency in recordings but nor will it add any emphasis. The sub-bass is very impressive and goes very deep, giving bass instruments a very realistic tone. Timbre, definition and clarity is as good as I've heard. The punch might be perceived as slightly softer at times, but it is for the sake of preserving all the details in the recording - any more and you'd lose a tint of definition or texture or make that instrument a bit less natural. Nonetheless, it is something to consider. All, in all, if you seek a perfectly neutral bass response that can sound terrifyingly real, this is the one.

 

9/10

 

Differences

- The bass of the two is more similar than different. The 400i trades a slight mid-bass emphasis for a slight loss in texture and detail, while the 560 remains equal, give or take, in all of them. The sub-bass presence and extension goes to the 560 and so does the timbre and realness, more on that later. Both can hit hard, the 400i slightly more so, and sound equally impressive with the 560 just being more tonally correct overall, with better sub-bass, while the 400i bass retains more spotlight and presence in the mid-section and upper-bass.

 

Grill mod - improves mid-bass & sub-bass punch, some minute texture detail might be lost where delicate texture/impact ratio was achieved with original grilles - string bass, ....

 

Midrange

 

HE-400i

- The 400i has a midrange that is more forward and up-front than what would be considered neutral. All instruments in the midrange always have their place, with very equal presence. Everything is very easy to distinguish, thanks to exquisite separation. This makes up for a very euphonic, bigger-than-real midrage, which ends up sounding pleasant more often than not. However, this can bring a certain shoutiness to instruments as well. For example, an instrument playing solo [say a piano or a violin], which means there's already a spotlight shining on it, and when you double that, it might just become too much, blending strikes and keys together in a slightly harsh forwardness. The upper midrange-lower treble transition is an area that is a lot less forward in comparison and can sound a bit muted in relation to the rest of the midrange, but nothing too troublesome. Overall, the midrange is more or less forward and coherent, with just a few slight dips and peaks preventing it from being completely perfect as is.

 

9/10

 

HE-560

- The 560 has again a very coherent sounding midrange, not forward or laid back, with just enough presence to sound true. That does mean, that some instruments [like triangles or xylophones] can blend in just a bit at times, but the midrange is in no way recessed. The good thing is there's no harshness to be heard and instrument solos sound just lovely, be it pianos or guitars. In general, the more spotlight an instrument steals in the recording, the more it will get and even as its presence increases and disappears, the instrument always appears and decays with finesse. Much like bass, the midrange is the most realistic I've heard, bringing tears in breath-taking solos or just going with the flow among other instruments, while never sounding thin and retaining good dynamics.

 

9/10

 

Differences

- The key difference here is obviously that the 400i midrange is more forward and just brings attention to itself and every instrument there is, thus creating a more often than not, very pleasant coloration. The 560's midrange is just there and lets the recording [or the conductor] to bring the attention to a particular instrument, or not. As a result, the 560 is more natural and delicate, while the 400i presents midrange in a more euphonic and iconic fashion. Midrange, like bass, is where both headphones are competent enough, without any significantly detracting factors.

 

Grill mod - opens up the midrange a bit more, evens some peaks and dips slightly. Reduces reflections and subsequently takes a way a bit of aggression or edge [a subjective con]

 

Treble

 

HE-400i

- The 400i's treble is a bit more complicated. As has been pointed out, the upper midrange-lower treble region is a bit less present, or to put it more simply, the treble is there but it is slightly overshadowed by the relative forwardness of midrange and bass, while the upper treble region is more present. The treble is smooth and well extended overall, without any major peaks but it just does not carry the airy presence I like, and what I assume is the side-effect of this - a noticeable lack of air to instruments that extend to the treble and female vocals. This negatively affects their timbre and accuracy, among other things. It is still a coloration, however, that might be desirable, especially for those people who don't want much treble energy and seek just that warm-tilt with a slight upper-treble sparkle this provides. This is thus a very subjective flaw. It does not affect other things as much, but it is definitely something to consider if you want a completely even and open treble. Other than the air issue, the treble is pretty great and smooth, and if you don't need lots of air in your music, you'll certainly like it. It also varies from genre to genre and track to track, depending on many a factors. Some tracks also add an artificial layer of air to vocals - this is not what I mean. This is natural and is present in each on to a degree.

 

8/10

 

HE-560:

- The 560 presents treble in an effortless and convincing manner. Much like midrange, the treble is just there. It isn't harsh or deficient but always present, contributing to an airy presentation. There's no emphasis on cymbals, like the HE-6 used to make. Female vocals sound especially lovely and energetic, with just the right presence. The treble region is an area that is said to be the hardest to do right without either artificially overdoing it or making compromises and cutting back. The treble is again the best I've heard. It is not always incredibly airy [the HE-6 is more so] but it has the power to be just as and more often than not it is and certainly to a point of sounding convincing and not artificial. It always straddles the line of being too smooth and too forward and thus ends right where it should - in the middle.

 

9/10

 

Differences

- What separates these two trebles is more than anything, the air. The 400i treble is handled in such a way that it allows very little room for air while the 560 allows for much more. This does mostly affect the decay, timbre and just the way how real and authentic things sound. Best way to demonstrate is with an example. As voices or instruments travel through the air and eventually disappear, they leave a trail around them, a faint presence of sound and movement, what is best described as air, as well as a part of timbre or decay. This air, produced by each instrument or vocal, moves with said instrument or vocal, until it eventually disappears. On the 560, this presence is more and it rises up or moves outside of the field of said instrument/vocal as it decays, almost as if it moved beyond the boundaries of the headphone and their drivers, in a natural and convincing way. If the bow of a violin is moving from left to right and disappears, so does the airy presence. The 400i has less and does not do it nearly as convincingly - you never feel the air 'leaving' the headphone, it stays inside, trapped in the cups and just stops, with a less convincing and shorter decay. This is for me subjectively the most notable deficiency in the 400i's treble, but a very subjective thing indeed. Air is obviously not limited to treble - it manifests itself in the midrange and bass as well, but is not as apparent there as it is here.

 

Grill mod - more air to the treble, more natural and real, better 'palpability'. Again, takes away a slight edge [welcome for vocals, subjectively less welcome for electric guitars, ...]

 

Vocals

 

a]Male

 

HE-400i

- The 400i handles male vocals beautifully. As they are part of the “Magical Midtange”, they are put more forward than female vocals and have great body and presence. The sibilance is never an issue as there's a noticeable dip in the region where major sibilance occurs. At the same time, this dip can have a negative impact, producing vocals that sound a bit muted in the 'S' region and slightly forced in the 'T' and 'F' regions. I suspect the lack of air is partially the cause for the hardness or roughness. This is a very minor issue, however, and is rarely present and hard to focus on without a direct comparison. Still a pleasantly natural vocal performance!

 

9/10

 

HE-560

- The 560 does male vocals the same way it does it's midrange. No extra body or forwardness, though certainly enough to appreciate the delicacy and realistic nature, but without any extra magic. The “S” region is slightly more pronounced and as a bonus sound more natural and relaxed. The trade-off is that sibilance is more likely to show and it does - so far it was an issue with one track, which the 400i handled better. I again praise the way how vocals vanish into the air and I suspect this naturalness does take away some of the sibilance or hardness there could have been.

 

9/10

 

Differences

- Both headphones handle male vocals exceptionally well. The 400i takes the “more forward and smoother” approach, with more body and presence but an easier tonality on the ears, while the 560 picks the “natural and present” approach, with less body but more nuanced. Both approaches are very enjoyable.

 

Grill mod - slightly more air to male vocals

 

b]Female

 

HE-400i

- The female vocals have good presence and definition. They sound quite natural and without any sibilance. There's again slight mutedness in the sibilance region, and minor emphasis on the 'T's and 'F's at times, coupled with the lack of air, and consequently realistic timbre, does hurt it a bit. That's mostly treble vocals of course, so it is specific to singers in that range. If you listen to female singers with vocals that fall to the midrange more, then those will sound even better. There's definitely noticeably more presence to midrange bound vocals. Still, midramge, or not, the 400i does very good with female vocals too, with good body and presence, eliminating any sibilance there is, unless it is brutally present. It is still a midrange monster however, so it does best there.

 

8/10

 

HE-560

- The 560 puts treble female vocals more forward, giving their voice more presence. Coupled with great timbre, air and decay, treble bound vocals sound energetic and beautiful. There's less compensation for sibilance, still enough for vocals to not highlight it, but not enough to mute their transition through that range.

 

9/10

 

Differences

- Again, air makes the most difference here, contributing to a more contoured, and realistic listen on the 560, along with slightly better resolution and finesse. Consequently, the 400i is hurt much more by it's lack of any substantial airy quality than by anything else and should we ignore the differences in air, the two are surprisingly close, with the more expensive headphone having just a more even treble response, but which is to be expected at almost twice the price.

 

Grill mod - boosts treble a bit, more airy and better natural extension

 

Sibilance

 

HE-400i

- The 400i has absolutely no issues with sibilance. There's that slight mutedness in this range but nothing major. A great accomplishment with regards to sibilance!

 

9/10

 

HE-560

- The 560 fares much the same in the sibilance range. The mute is slightly less and theoretically the susceptibility is a bit higher but not enough to be an issue, and it certainly does not take away from the beauty of the vocals.

 

9/10

 

Differences

- Both headphones deserve praise for the way they are tuned with regards to vocals as both fight sibilance equally well. The HE-6 struggled with it at times, the AKGs do too but the new HiFiMAN set an example in the way sibilance should be tackled. On my setup, obviously. Big thank you for this, team HiFiMAN!

 

Grill mod - vocals sound less contrained and extend better, reducing the little sibilance there is even more.

 

Soundstage

 

HE-400i

- The 400i has a soundstage that is definitely on the smaller, intimate size. Width is just okay, while depth is quite good and so is height. As far as soundstage expansiveness goes, it is quite average. The sounds do not feel like they are coming from outside the headphone. I also believe this directly correlates and is connected with the lack of air, and consequently openness as well. However, while the soundstage is still well-integrated and feels natural. It might feel slightly claustrophobic where there are many instruments at play, but then soundstage separation always remains excellent. Detail retrieval is good too. It also does rather well with regards to imaging!

 

7/10

 

HE-560

- The 560 has a moderately wide soundstage, where instruments evenly spread across believably, with good stage depth and pretty spectacular height placement, thanks to great imaging capabilities. The stage is pretty expansive, which I again believe directly correlates with the amount of air and the way it opens up the stage and gives more space and room for instruments to breathe. It still probably won't win many awards either, at least not in terms of sheer size, but it is likewise very natural feeling and well integrated. It is just big enough to allow enough room for instruments to not feel compressed and coupled with brilliant instrument separation it works pretty well. Detail retrieval is likewise great.

 

8.5/10

 

Differences

- The differences lie mostly in width and openness, where the 560 clearly has the upper hand. Instrument separation is excellent on both headphones. Imaging also goes to the 560, though the 400i also images well. The 560 and 400i both have well-defined and respectable soundstages in the world of planarmagnetic headphones but there's still some catching-up to do to rival those headphones that are renowned in this category.

 

Grill mod - improves soundstage width. Instruments have slightly more space to breath and expand.

 

Imaging

 

HE-400i

- The HE-400i images pretty well. It might not be the most distinct, and vocalists that are close to each might blend in just a bit, but it still does it respectably and without any major hiccups - an imaging well done, where things are still not difficult to pick up and follow.

 

9/10

 

HE-560

- The 560's imaging is even greater. It is very precise, with great definition and makes locating various instruments and vocals in the soundstage even easier. Very accurate!

 

9/10

 

Differences

- The 560 has a slight advantage here but the difference is not too big. Yes, sounds are a bit easier to locate and follow but the 400i is not too far behind and certainly not as far as the price difference would suggest. Both imaging capabilities are certainly above average and better.

 

Grill mod - makes imaging ever-so-slightly clearer and easier to identify. Does not affect separation itself, however.

 

Instrument separation

 

HE-400i

- Excellent. Separating instruments is a breeze.

 

9.5/10

 

HE-560

- Excellent. Instrument separation is an easy-peasy task.

 

9.5/10

 

Differences

- A complete tie. Maybe that guitar has a bit more presence because of the 400i's forward midrange or that female vocal is a bit more distinct on the 560 because of its more uniform treble. Both are exceptional. Both trade blows. An honest tie.

 

Grill mod - instrument separation does not benefit from this mod. See imaging above.

 

Overall Sound Openness

 

HE-400i

- In case you haven't noticed already, the 400i is not a very open-sounding headphone. It tries to be and at times it sounds quite open but it has too much going against it. The lack of air, the average soundstage size and openness, the bass/midrange X treble slight discrepancy. It is warm and it sounds the part. The 400i is a closed-in headphone. It still sounds like an 'open' headphone and covering the grills still produces the same effect as on the 560 but it is certainly one of the less open sounding cans.

 

6/10

 

HE-560

- The 560, on the other hand, sounds pretty open. Instrumental pieces especially come to life. I've been listening to a certain piano and violin duet and the resulting emotion was simply phenomenal. Amazing leading edge on the violin, great delicacy and definition on each key as the piano played and the amount of air each made. Yep, this sounds pretty open to me.

 

9/10

 

Differences

- HE-400i sounds closed-in, HE-560 sounds open. I think everything that needed to be said was said.

 

Grill mod - both headphones sounds more open. The 400i might benefit a bit more from this mod because the 560 does not really need it, but the difference is there too.

 

Air

 

HE-400i

- The 400i has little air. There's some air to male and female vocals in the midrange but vocals located in the treble and most instruments get very little air. It's all connected with the closed-in nature of the headphone. Openness, air and timbre/realism simply suffers for it and not much can be done.

 

6/10

 

HE-560

- Again, the polar opposite. A lot more air to all vocals and instruments. The most impressive thing, however, is how bass instruments [NOT synthetic bass] sound. Lots of air, deep, very tight bass with perfect texture and definition. String bass is just phenomenal, but any bass produced by a real instrument is like that with these.

 

9/10

 

Differences

- Same as with openness. The 560 has it in much greater quantities. Thanks to overall openness, evenly integrated treble, etc.

 

Grill mod - openness and air do correlate here somewhat. Not that they always to, but the difference here is the same. 400i benefits slightly more.

 

Timbre/Realism/Decay

 

HE-400i

- To me timbre, realism, decay, openness, air... all these have to work on a certain level to create a headphone that is truly open and transparent. If one of them fails, then the rest can't be too great either. The 400i unfortunately does not perform too well in either of them, including timbre and realism. I find the instruments to sound slightly artificial [string bass instruments have wrong impact/texture ratio] or colored [the midrange forwardness] and the lack of air does not allow for realistic decay either. That, however, just means that the headphone isn't truly open and transparent, not that it isn't good! It is! And again, all just directly compared to the 560. They sound quite good on their own in timbre/realism, just colored.

 

7/10

 

HE-560

- The 560's timbre and realism is spot on and so is decay. Instruments and vocals appear and disappear realistically. Guitars, pianos, violins, tubes, horns, double basses, ... string, key, blow, percussion... male, female... The 560 is an open and transparent headphone. And it is also pretty good.

 

9.5/10

 

Differences

- The 560 once again wins in these categories. It is the 560's strong suit but not so much for the 400i. It gives instruments and vocals an artificial tone and/or coloration. It is still quite a pleasant sound, of course! You might even enjoy it more. It still sounds good, albeit less accurate.

 

Grill mod - Same as with two above categories. The 400i timbre gets a bit more realistic. 560's timbre sound realistic from the get go and thereby the benefit is a bit less again. The timbre the stock grill produce [for the 560] is still very pleasing and as the gain is less, I happen to like them about equally, though the modded grills definitely do sound a bit more real.

 

Overall Cohesiveness/Balance

 

HE-400i

- The 400i certainly has a warmer tilt. Punchy bass, forward mids, smooth treble and good musicality and dynamics. Still, it is a rather coherent-sounding headphone with good detail retrieval, great instrument separation, decent imaging and an intimate soundstage and all that has been established. It is also a suitable all-rounder. Maybe not the best pick solely for instrumental or dub-step, but it does those genres likewise reasonably well, along with pop, rock, electronic, alternative and others.

 

8.5/10

 

HE-560

- The 560 is really a neutral sounding, balanced headphone, with excellent musicality and dynamics. Great bass, midrange, treble, imaging, soundstaging, separation, detail retrieval... Well, we already know that! It wouldn't be my pick if I only listened to hip-hop, rap or dance but they also perform well with the rest. I really love it with instrumental music. An extremely cohesive performer it is.

 

9.5/10

 

Differences

- A warmly tilt headphone and a neutral headphone. Both extremely good for the price. I am the first to admit that the differences were initially rather hard to discern until I trained my ears. I could honestly live with either of them but at the same time, I am glad I have the opportunity to extensively compare these and appreciate the things they do or don't. And then choose one.

 

Grill mod - this mod amounts to about a 5% of incremental improvement [somewhere more, somewhere less]. It evens out the slight upper midrange/lower treble peaks [created by stock grilles' reverberation] and evens out mid-subbass transition a bit. It makes the 400i ever so slightly warmer but more rounded, same for the 560. The stock grilles' reverberation might add a layer of coloration, that might be pleasing at times but as an overall and cohesive experience, the modded and more open grilles bring about a slight improvement.

 

Low-Level Listening

 

- Both headphones perform equally well in terms of low-level listening and do not lose anything from their qualities. The quieter you listen, the more their shortcomings come out but since none of them have any that'd noticeably affect your listening experience, you can pretty much listen as loud or quiet as you want without issues. I listen at listening volumes of 35/100 for 560 and 31/100 for 400i respectively, so then I lowered to 30 and 25, 25 and 20 and finally 20 and 10 and they continued to sound just the way they did when they were louder... Just quieter.

 

9/10

 

Gaming

 

Differences

- The 400i has the slight advantage in mid-bass thump. The 560 has a better sub-bass, more precise imaging and a bigger, more natural soundstage. along with a more focused treble and a bit better detail retrieval. Neither, provide an absolutely immerssive, head-rattling experience, obviously. I'd say they both work quite well for both competitive and immersive gaming if you don't require massive amounts of bass. For me, clarity, soundstage and separation are an integral part of my gaming experience and I'd give the slight nod to the 560 for that. Also, deeper bass ^_^

 

HE-400i - 8/10

HE-560 - 9/10

 

Movies/Series

 

Differences

- Same as with games. The better extension in the sub-bass along with extra clarity everywhere else comes in handy. Swords ring, guns fire, explosions explode, dialogues play out, all with an extra layer of resolution. Admittedly, the whole experience is a bit better for me with the 560, while the 400i still holds a pretty close second. Also, you can totally tell bad acting and fake sound effects with either... Eeeew.


 

HE-400i - 8/10

HE-560 - 9/10

 

Build Quality

 

Differences

- Both headphones are built better than their predecessors, no doubt. Though, the 400i had an extra month of polish and it shows. It looks noticeably more refined and made to a tighter standard than my one month old 560. The adjustment mechanism, the clamp ratio, the ear-cups swivel, the baffle and the pads-attaching mechanism look and feel more Swiss and precise. As far as aesthetics go, I like both - the more muted look of the HE-560 and the more bold appearance of the HE-400i, but build quality wise, with my two particular pairs, the 400i edges ahead.

 

8/10 [but can vary between 5 - 9, depending on pair]

 

Comfort

 

Differences

- Both get a 10/10 with the Focus pads from me! Easily the most comfy headphones I've had the pleasure to wear so far. The only difference is in clamp but that comes down to consistency and not a particular model. My 560 is a bit more clampy while the 400i is a bit looser, but ultimately nothing to detract from the ultimate experience. No itchy or sore ears. No pressure points on the top of my head. Nope. Nada. None. I am also not a fan of the Focus-A pads. Sorry ^_^

 

9/10 [again might vary due to different clamping force and variation in manufacture]


 

Subjective value for one's money

 

HE-400i - 9/10 [at 499$]

HE-560 - 9/10 [at 899$]


 

Differences

Both headphones represent tremendous value for your money. The 560 is the better headphone but not by as much as the price difference would suggest. On sound alone, they'd be both approaching the highest marks. The build quality and finish imperfections associated with QC tolerances & issues, the packaging mishaps there were, the longevity, which still has to prove itself - these factors prevent these headphones from matching build quality wise what they can do sonically.

This is a bit more excusable with a 500$ headphone but less so with a 900$ one. My own 400i pair even feels more tight and better made than my 560 pair... Yes, that is sadly correct.


 

Grill mod - addendum & description

- Both headphones benefit equally from this reversible modification. A slight improvement in air quantity [midrange + treble], bass punch [mid + sub-bass], soundstage width + expansiveness and delicate, pin-point imaging. A slight edge is taken away from aggressive instruments, like electric guitars or violins - this is a con for me but considered a positive by most as it adds up to the natural presentation of these headphones. The bass quantity rise is certainly a plus, though it does mask some slight finesse with instruments where the punch/texture ratio was already perfect before - like string bass.

Overall, I think this mod does bring mostly sonic merits, with just a few slight subjective kinks. It might not be preferred by everyone but I agree that the good things it introduces outweighs the bad, even for me. Certainly recommended to anyone, if just to try - as it is fully reversible.

In conclusion, the grill mod brings anywhere from 2 - 10% of improvement and the 400i benefits slightly more from it, while it enables the 560 to squeeze that bit of extra realism to make an already excellent dish even better.

I like the headphone with both the stock grill and a more open grill for different reasons [above] though using a more permeable mesh along with a more open grille is something I encourage HiFiMAN to look into for further headphones, if possible.

 

More Pictures

 

HE-400i

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HE-560

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Edited by conquerator2 - 10/17/14 at 9:07am
post #99 of 103
Thread Starter 

HE-560/400i review + comparison added. RE400 review edited and updated, an X1 short review was added within the RE-400 review section. Pro 900 moved to the review section only though I've linked it there from where the whole review originally was. Every non-HiFiMAN product that I review will be posted in the review section or elsewhere, though I will always link to it directly, of course.

There's more reviews coming in the near future for more HiFiMAN products, so stay tuned :)

post #100 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by conquerator2 View Post
 

HE-560/400i review + comparison added. RE400 review edited and updated, an X1 short review was added within the RE-400 review section. Pro 900 moved to the review section only though I've linked it there from where the whole review originally was. Every non-HiFiMAN product that I review will be posted in the review section or elsewhere, though I will always link to it directly, of course.

There's more reviews coming in the near future for more HiFiMAN products, so stay tuned :)


Thank you very much for the super reviews. YGPM !

post #101 of 103
Thread Starter 

HiFiMAN HM-601LE+RE-400 combo review + Fiio X1 and RE-600 comparison

 

First off, I’d like to thank HiFiMAN for giving me the opportunity to review the HM-601LE and RE-600 Songbird. 

 

Disclaimer: The following review/comparison is my subjective assessment of the two DAPs and IEMs. I am in no way affiliated with HiFiMAN. The differences between the two are subjective, but represent a difference I was able to hear and consistently verify. Both players and headphones are great sounding devices and this review and comparison should merely serve as a highlight to point out the differences. If you have any questions or inquiries, please feel free to ask! Hope you enjoy the read ^_^

 

Introduction

 

- I received the HM601LE a few weeks ago, along with HiFiMAN’s own RE-600, to compare against my long running budget favorite, the RE-400 [Which I’ve reviewed previously here - http://www.head-fi.org/t/650912/hifiman-he-6-he-560-he-400i-re-400-in-depth-reviews-and-more/75#post_10159229]. Meanwhile the HM601LE was being compared to the Fiio’s X1 entry level DAP due to numerous reasons, one of them being that the HM6XX is HiFiMAN’s entry line of DAPs [digital audio players], just like the X1 is FiiO’s.

Note that the Line Out function of both players was not utilized in this comparison. I wanted to compare the two DAPs as they were and how they sound, without adding any additional components to the chain.

 

Specifications:

 

HiFiMAN HM-601LE

 

 

Type: Portable Digital Audio Player

Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20KHz

D/A Chip: Phillips TDA1543

Amplification: Burr-Brown OPA2107

Filters: OP275, OPA2107

Power output: 30mW @32Ω, 26mW @150Ω

Battery time: ~9 – 10 hours

Storage: 4GB on-board, expandable via SD card slot [up to 64GB]

Dimensions: 10x6.2x2cm/3.9x2.4x0.8”

Weight: 159g/5.6oz

OS: Developed by 3rd party for HiFiMAN

Other features: Line out, data exchange via USB [card reader required for SD data exchange], wall-wart charging [charger and adapter included], mute, hold and power buttons, low/high gain, volume pot, sleep timer, menu customization, 5-band -10/+10 EQ, screen timer, repeat, shuffle, favorites, folder mode, all tracks, recently played, CUE lists, album, artists, play/pause, next/previous, fast-forward/rewind, now playing, track info, supports most audio formats [no AAC/ALAC/M4A support].

MSRP: 219$ *

 

* - Much less as part of the upcoming 601LE-RE-400 combo deal.

 

FiiO X1

 

  

Type: Portable Digital Audio Player

Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20KHz

D/A Chip: Texas Instruments PCM5142

Amplification: Burr-Brown OPA2322

Buffer: Intersil ISL28291

Power output: 100mW @16Ω, 65mW @32Ω, 8mW @300Ω

Battery time: ~11 hours

Storage: on-board N/A, micro-SD card slot [up to 128GB]

Dimensions: 9.5x5.5 x1.2cm/3.74x2.2x0.47”

Weight: 109g/3.84oz

Other features: Line out, data exchange via USB [SD card inserted], USB/wall-wart charging [wall-wart charger not included], power button, 100 step up/down volume, sleep timer, idle power off, theme customization, brightness, screen timer, gapless playback, repeat, shuffle, favorites, folder mode, all tracks, recently played, CUE lists + proper track dividing, 7-band -6/+6 EQ, max/default/fixed volume, screen off button operation + customization, balance L/R, album, artists, genre, playlists, play/pause, in-line headphone controls, next/previous, fast-forward/rewind, resume mode song/time, now playing, album/track art, track info, storage formatting, supports all audio formats.

OS: In-house developed by FiiO

MSRP: 99$

 

HiFiMAN RE-600

 

 

Type: Sealed In-Ear Dynamic Driver Monitor

Frequency response: 15Hz – 22KHz

Impedance: 16 Ω 

Efficiency: 102 dB/mW

Weight: 16 g (with cable)

 

 

Equipment:

 

Media: HiFiMAN HM-601LE, FiiO X1

Source: identical SanDisk Ultra 64GB micro-SD [one with SD adapter]

DAC: 601LE/X1 built-in

Amplifier: 601LE/X1 built-in [headphone out]

Headphones: HiFiMAN RE-400 & HiFiMAN RE-600 via a 1/8 TRS plug [RE-600 with adapter cable], briefly Philips Fidelio L2

Files: FLAC, 128-320kbps MP3, 256kbps AAC [converted to MP3 for HM-601LE]

Cables: stock headphone cables

 

Packaging and accessories

 

601LE

- The 601LE comes in a very exquisite and rich packaging, full of accessories. Upon opening the shipping box, I was greeted with a luxurious looking, rigid and textured cardboard box, with gold, engraved ‘HiFiMAN’ letters on top. This can easily be a storage box as well and feels much better than conventional ‘cheap’ retail packaging, which is usually just good for transport. In the right portion, it contained the player, manual and a warranty card. Next to it, in the left compartment, stored inside a paper enclosure were the rather plentiful accessories – a HiFiMAN carrying pouch, a cleaning cloth, a US socket charger, an adapter for EU power sockets as well as a mini-USB connection cable. The only thing possibly missing is a protective rubber/silicone skin, but that’s all, really. The whole package presentation felt very professional and complete, containing everything you could possibly need to get you set and ready for listening. I think there’s nothing to fault here – if every product I buy came with this complete a set of accessories, I think I’d hardly ever complain about packaging. At any price point, this certainly deserves basically a perfect score for including everything, while being well packaged.

 

9.5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X1

- The X1 is no slouch either and comes with nice accessories too, but it feels nowhere near as luxurious. The cardboard box is pretty and bright, but is not very rigid and tears rather easily. It is not a storage box like the 601LE’s is and does not feel too fancy. Not that it is necessary of course, but it certainly is a comparatively cheaper package, albeit functional for its purpose. It, too, holds some nice goodies – the player itself, a short USB charging cable in a compartment on the left, three different skins that you can apply to change the appearance of the X1 and three screen protectors underneath, as well as owner’s guide and a warranty card. The X1 already comes installed with a protective rubber skin and a screen protector, which I think is pretty neat. There’s no storage pouch or wall charger and the packaging is a bit basic and the cardboard itself somewhat fragile, but it is still nicely packaged, leaving little to complain about, especially for the price.

 

8.5/10

 

 

 

 

\

 

RE-600

- If you have read my RE-400 review, you will know that the RE-400’s packaging was a bit bare-bone and Spartan. It was later upgraded and lots of tips were added as well as a hard-shell case, which is great, but the box for the earphones remained the same, which is not so great. It basically broke apart the second I removed the cover and piecing it back together proved impossible. I am glad to report that this has been completely remedied with the RE-600’s packaging – it is beautiful. It has two compartments, which are separately opened – the right side holds the different tips and filters, while the left side houses and showcases the RE-600. The package/storage box has a gorgeous layer of protein leather all around it and a shiny aluminum plate with the ‘RE-600’ lettering in the middle. A real looker and a more than substantial improvement! There’s also an owner’s manual, a warranty card and an adapter for single-ended use [it comes standard with a balanced TRRS plug and a single-ended TRS adapter, but there’s also a single-ended only version available for purchase – the RE-600S]

 

9.5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Build quality/Design/Features

 

601LE

- The 601LE is an all plastic build. It is not cheap plastic by any means, however, as there’s a very tactile feel to it. No creaking or any visible weaknesses that I could detect. The unit belongs in the bigger category, being taller, wider but most importantly thicker and heavier than the FiiO. With the thickness being the most noticeable difference, with the FiiO measuring at ~1.2cm/0.47”, while the HiFiMAN measures at ~2cm/0.8”, being almost twice as thick, resulting in extra bulkiness. The buttons seem to be made of aluminum – there’s a sliding power button, a mute button, a hold button, four direction buttons and a play button in the middle. The screen is a bit disappointing - it is rather washed out, with very narrow viewing angles, so basically any tilting results in crushed colors. It is functional and does its job, but nothing else. There’s also a low/high gain switch, with the standard SD card slot occupying the same side of the unit. Then we also have a volume wheel at the top, next to the separate headphone and line outputs. Lastly on the right, there’s a ‘data exchange’ mini-USB input and a charging input. There’re no removable or serviceable parts. Overall, the build quality is decent, though I’d lite it to be aluminum at this retail price. It won’t win many awards for its thick, bulky design or retro looks, but there do not seem to be any build quality issues, and that’s the most important thing. The unit should also easily fit most pockets, unless you wear really skinny jeans. The screen is then just a small disappointment but it is sufficient for browsing and reading track info. Hopefully, the whole product will hold well overtime.

 

8.5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

X1

- The build quality of the X1 is exceptional. It sports a one piece aluminum frame and body, with four very tactile brushed aluminum face buttons, a rotary wheel and a play button in the middle of the wheel, giving the whole unit a very sturdy and attractive coat. There’re power, volume + and – buttons on one side and the micro-SD slot on the other. Lastly there’s the HP/Line out port at the top and a micro-USB port on the bottom. The unit has a very modern and sleek, ipod-y feel to it. It is also very small, light and stylish. The screen is quite vibrant with colors and sports pretty good viewing angles. For a TNT panel on a hundred dollar device, I am very impressed with it. It might be ever so slightly washed out and definitely less accurate in comparison to more expensive devices, but it is still much, much better than the 601LE’s ‘screen’ and lots better than I’d expect at this price point. The rotary wheel might be a bit loose and the middle button a bit wobbly, but it is still accurate and selecting artists, albums or tracks is still a breezy click. The build quality and design of the FiiO X1, a 100$ device, is simply spectacular. I honestly struggle to understand how FiiO managed this. My hats are certainly off to them for the build quality alone.

 

9.5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

RE-600

- Little separates the RE-400 and RE-600 in terms of build quality. Both sport non-detachable cables and both use aluminum housings with shiny plates on the back. The RE-400’s housings are silver, while RE-600’s are glossy black, which I find a bit more attractive. Both seemingly have the same ‘L’ and ‘R’ white markings, which completely disappeared on the RE-400 over time. The part of the cable that goes from the Y-split to the headphone jack also seems the same but the part that leads from the housings to the Y-split has been improved – it is slightly thicker and it no longer exhibits microphonics, like the RE-400 does to a larger degree, when worn straight down. The cable is a bit less tangle prone thanks to this, but it is still quite a bit tangly. I expect it to hopefully eliminate the cable related issues some RE-400s had. At four times the price, I would expect a bit more than a sleeker paint and slightly improved cable. Detachable cables would be nice to have and a bit more to differentiate the two would also be great. Either way, we’ll see whether all the remaining resources went into improving the sound.

 

7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

User Interface [UI]

 

601LE

- The interface is very basic and simplistic. It was made by a 3rd party company back in 2010 and was last updated in 2012. HiFiMAN’s own ‘TAICHI’ interface is much improved from what I’ve seen and read, so this is only limited to the HM-6XX series. Moving on, let’s see – it is functional, relatively fast and smooth and easy to use, and it plays music. Well, most. It does not support Apple formats, so you’ll have to convert these to MP3/FLAC, etc. It does partially support CUE sheets, meaning it will give you the name of the song that’s currently playing but it won’t divide them into individual tracks, leaving just one long FLAC track. It supports favorites but it does not support playlists. Most of the time, I use either folder mode or all track mode. Shuffle/repeat is also supported, so that’s good. Next, there’s no gapless playback support. Then, there’s a soft pop every time you manually switch a track. It also sorts my folders and some albums and tracks in a haphazard manner, not alphabetically, which is a nuisance. There’s no album/cover/track art support either, but I consider that a good thing, since the ‘screen’ is not very good. It does provide all track information, like  name, format, bitrate and length. There’s a decent 5-band [60Hz, 300Hz, 1KHz, 3KHz and 6KHz] – 10 to +10 EQ but it feels a bit rough and the steps seem bigger than I’d like. Anything that’s tweakable is basically rather limited. When you power off the player, it forgets the song it was playing, so if you want to continue listening to it the next time, you’ll have to find it again. With the screen off, you can only fast-forward or rewind a track, but to skip to the next one or pause, you must first turn the display on by pressing a button. The volume wheel is a bit awkward to handle – I find it a bit too sensitive to movement and there’s surprisingly little volume play with higher sensitivity headphones [even on low gain]. There’s no volume level indicator anywhere to be found, so you ought to be careful when adjusting loudness. You press the down or up arrows to skip to the next or previous track, or you hold them to fast-forward or rewind. The left arrow serves as ‘back’ and the right one adds tracks to the ‘favorites’ folder. The button in the middle is for play/pause, obviously. The battery life seemed similar to the advertised 9 – 10 hours, maybe slightly less, but not by much and I’ve been going through a lot of on/off switching, which probably had an impact. I was able to charge the device via the included wall-wart easily but had some trouble charging from USB. There’s regular SD card support only [not micro] and to transfer any data to it, you’ll need a card reader. Via mini-USB, it seems the 601LE can only transfer data to the 4GB of built-in memory as the card was not recognized when inserted. I suppose that’s all the major points I wanted to bring up. The UI did hang up on me once but that’s normal. The key point, is that next to the X1’s very refined UI, this simply feels very archaic and bare. I’d certainly classify it as passable and functional but there’s little else. I understand that there’re some hardware limitations in place, but sophisticated UIs like Rockbox can run on lesser devices, so the 3rd party company should have simply tried harder to implement more features. There’s in fact Rockbox in the works, but in its current state, it is a bit of a shot in the dark. The stock UI is stable at least, and it mostly does what it is supposed to. Bottom line is, if you’re willing to put up with a slightly cumbersome UI, this unit is a very, very competent little performer, so read on. If UI is very important to you, then all the sound quality gains may not be enough to convince you.

 

6/10

 

X1

- The X1’s UI, developed by FiiO for all their portable players, is excellent. It does everything the HM6XX UI does but better and it also does gapless, properly sorts CUE sheets, alphabetically orders tracks, supports all formats I’ve tried, supports cover/track/album art, playlists and is pretty and colorful to look at. It is also pretty smooth, very well organized and really intuitive. You use the rotary wheel to browse and the middle button to select, play or pause. Then there’s also a back button and a pop-up menu button, which allows you to select shuffle or repeat at any time, or to add a track to favorites. There are also two dedicated button for previous/rewind and next/fast-forward and a power button on the top left side. There’s no wall-wart charger included, but the device charges easily from anything via micro-USB. The X1 can also hold a long charge, easily in the quoted 10 – 11+ hours, even with intermittent power on and off. The micro-SD card is immediately recognized when the X1 is connected to a PC. It can resume a song after power off and you can even select whether it should start from the beginning or at the exact same place where you left off. There’s also a robust 7-band [62Hz, 160Hz, 400Hz, 1KHz, 3KHz, 8KHz and 16KHz] -6 to +6 EQ built in, with presets and customizable profiles. The interface is overall very vibrant, you can choose from 5 colors for the theme and track’s info is likewise always displayed very well. My only nitpick is that you cannot fast-forward or rewind when the display’s off, forcing you to press the power button first [ironically a thing the HM6XX UI can do] and that the player won’t jump to the next folder when it’d finished playing the previous one – at least yet – this feature is going to be implemented in the upcoming FW updates! Which is something the HM6XX won’t be getting either, as the last FW update is from 12/2012. I was honestly not expecting this great an interface and it paints a really strong contrast compared with the HM6XX UI side by side.

 

9.5/10

 

 

Sound quality

 

Tonality/Balance

 

601LE

- The 601LE has a beautiful, analogue quality to it. It is a bit warmer than neutral, but there’s no loss of details in the treble. Everything is laid out to the listener, easy to separate but not forced. Instruments are presented very naturally and with very good timbre. There’s no harshness or stridency and the tonality has a slightly laid-back and spacious character. Neutral with a slight pleasant tinge, it sounds very mature, refined, forgiving and is a joy to listen to.

 

 

X1

- In comparison the X1 has a quality that is more aggressive, punchy and forward and very slightly U-shaped. Comparatively, the treble is harsher, rather unforgiving but also has a bit more presence, while not necessarily conveying more detail. Due to the forwardness, details can feel a bit pushed and things get a bit blurred and hazy during busy passages. Timbral accuracy is slightly unnatural and cymbals have a slightly splashy character. Very energetic with a slight bass and treble tilt, it is more often than not an enjoyable listen nonetheless, but not always.

 

 

RE-600

- The RE-600 has quite a different tonality than the RE-400. It is warmer, with a slight bass – lower/mid midrange tilt. The upper midrange is quite neutral but the treble is very smooth and rolled-off, taking away the airy and lighter nature of the RE-400 and replacing it with a thicker and weightier presentation. The separation is excellent and soundstage is plenty wide with instruments having a slightly colored timbre due to its tilt. This makes for a relaxing and dynamic experience with surprisingly good amounts of detail, considering the signature.

 

a] Bass

 

601LE

- The 601LE has a very good and even bass response. It is not emphasized anywhere, extends linearly through to the sub-bass and is pretty tight and punchy, especially when a track has some heavy bass notes. This is largely my preferred bass response. Neutral and mostly influenced only by the headphone of choice or the recording. On its own, it is neither deficient nor boosted, just right and ready. As a result, this DAP can work really well with most headphones and recordings. For instance, it works really well with warmer headphones, like the Fidelio L2, where its bass has a bit of an added presence but the 601LE keeps it reasonably tight and controlled,

 

9.5/10

 

X1

- The X1 has a definite sub-bass boost, which makes every bass note sound more epic and enveloping. But as a result, the resulting bass is not completely tight and slightly loose and boomy. This is welcome for EDM and such but not so much for instrumental and orchestral pieces as there’s perceivable texture and detail loss. As another consequence, there’s a slight midrange bleed as well, which gives the X1 a slight U-shape to its overall sound. The rest of the low frequencies is even in presence. The sub-bass is not terribly accentuated then, but if you want a completely tight and controlled bass response, the X1 does not deliver that. The Fidelio L2 gets a bit boomy and overpowering in the bass for example, where the 601LE can keep it tight.

 

8.5/10

 

RE-600

- The RE-600 has a slight bass emphasis but it is not to the point of being distracting. In general, it is a bit punchier than the RE-400, which I find neutral. There’s a bit more body and it certainly digs deeper to the sub-bass. If one considers the RE-400’s bass neutral, like I do, then the RE-600 certainly has a one that is warmer and more tuneful. I don’t think there’s any emphasis to any part of the low frequencies, so it sounds quite even throughout and there’s very little loss of texture or definition. Overall, the bass tilt is well implemented and gives the RE-600 more musicality and a tonality that’s more enveloping and fun on the X1 and more punchy and tight on the 601LE.

 

9/10

 

b] Midrange

 

601LE

- The 601LE has a very lovely and slightly forward, almost euphonic midrange, with very good definition and great smoothness. Violins, guitars and pianos have good presence and are equally present through the whole range, with very lush and natural qualities and a rather realistic timbre. Instruments pop up clear and without any apparent peaks or dips. They carry great vigor and dynamics too, when the song calls for it. Other times it is laid back and just there. Overall, it has an enveloping quality to it, without sounding overdone or overwhelming, and a unique experience – transparent but also forgiving enough to make different headphones, like the RE-400, RE-600 or L2 all sound good, without highlighting their flaws much.

 

9.5/10

 

X1

- The X1 has a mostly neutral midrange, which too is without any harsh peaks or steep dips. However, the sub-bass boost the X1 has can make the mids sound a bit distant and tiny, a stark contrast to the 601LE’s slightly forward and ever present midrange. This should not be a serious issue with headphones that are neutral or slightly softer in bass punch and those should, in fact, sound best. But an already warm headphone will have its midrange a bit recessed and the bass further pronounced when listened to through the X1. It does not have that natural, flowing quality the 601LE has either due to its forwardness, so it can sound a bit tiny but also harsh at times, but this is again, with warmer sounding headphones.

 

8.5/10

 

RE-600

- The RE-600 I found has a mostly forward midrange in general, with a bit more presence in the lower midrange than the upper midrange. This gives instruments, like distorted guitars, great grunt and overall makes for a fun and enjoyable listen. Coupled with the slight bass emphasis, this certainly gives the RE-600 a warm and enjoyable tonality, compared to the RE-400’s lighter and more delicate one. The overall midrange can sound a bit too forward and overwhelming at times then, especially compared to the treble, which I am not a big fan of, but this comes down to personal preference and there’s still a lot the RE-600 offers. The RE-400 sounds better balanced and more neutral to me but without any low-midrange emphasis to sound more involving or fun, like its more costly sibling.

 

8.5/10

 

c] Treble

 

601LE

- The 601LE has an effortless treble with a slight mellowness to it. It is smooth without any significant roll-off or added presence. It is certainly forgiving, without any emphasis in the sibilance region but it still conveys details very well and with a very natural feeling. Having an analogue treble – without any harshness, hardness or stridency, it might not be the very best at hyper detailing or utmost treble extension, but it pleasantly conveys everything I feel it should, without feeling any dissatisfaction, or observing any deficiencies. This is a treble that’s very well done and being the very first device using a NOS DAC chip that I’ve heard, I think it offers a very unique experience and a fine compromise between smooth and detailed. Especially for the price. 

 

9/10

 

X1

- The X1 treble in comparison simply sounds a bit harsh. There’s a bit more presence and slightly more perceived detail, but there’s also a slight, unnatural layer of splash and harshness, giving cymbals, female vocals and such a teeny bit unnatural or tizzy voicing and a slightly off timbre, which can prove quite fatiguing. As someone who’s sensitive to sibilance and treble peaks in general, this is something I’ve immediately noticed when comparing the two devices. The 601LE has a very inviting and smooth treble and it just sounds so good in general. The X1 has this ‘digital’ tinge to it that can fatigue one rather quickly. Don’t get me wrong, the X1’s treble is still good and I wouldn’t call it bright, harsh or edgy by any means, but the 601LE just sounds so effortlessly refined, with a better bass-mid-treble integration, there’s no competition. There’s less air too.  

 

8/10

 

RE-600

- The RE-600 treble is a strange case, especially compared to the RE-400. There’s good presence in the low treble, but then there’s a steep roll-off, taking away the airy quality I like about the RE-400. This does not impact instruments or vocalists directly, but it impairs their timbre. Meaning there’s good energy from the bass to the lower-mid midrange, then there’s a slight decrease in energy from the upper midrange to the lower treble and then there’s a drop and it never comes back. Personally, I think this has an overall negative effect on sound quality due to the lack of air that this causes. Not only does air help with sibilance or harshness by letting the note/voice fade away naturally but it simply is, at least for me, a part of the whole sonic experience. I understand the RE-400 and RE-600 had to be differentiated somehow and they certainly are – RE-600 has more bass and more lower-midrange, upper midrange and lower treble remaining relatively within similar levels. The rest of the treble should have remained the same, in my opinion. The increased lower frequencies certainly have a part in it as well, but there’s definitely some deliberate roll-off, which I would prefer not to be there. This is obviously a highly subjective opinion and this tuning does make the RE-600 quite a unique product in the HiFiMAN line-up, quite reminiscent of the HE-400, which is also differently tuned than the rest. So subjectively I don’t like it, but other people might.  

 

7/10

 

d] Vocals

 

601LE

- The 601LE’s vocals carry great presence. They’re smooth, extended and well presented. There’s hardly ever any sibilance and they’re quite airy as well.  Male and female vocals alike have plenty of room and have an enveloping and inviting tonality to them. There’s not a hint of nasality or the sort as they remain clean and well extended but never approaching the point of being shouty. There’s a bit more presence to the male vocals with a slightly higher susceptibility to sibilance, compared to the X1, where they may sound a bit tinier and with a smaller susceptibility. The female vocals have comparable presence with sibilance noticeably reduced on the 601LE, if there’s any in the recording. Vocals overall sound more natural and have more air on the 601LE for sure. 

 

9/10

 

X1

- The X1 performs similarly as I’ve mentioned above. The male vocals have a bit less presence and are less prone to sibilance. The female vocals sound similarly, but the ‘S’ is highlighted more and the overall extension is more ‘digital’ and harsher, which might give the illusion of giving more details, while in reality it just sometimes induces more headaches. It is not a big deal though and the vocals still sound nice, if a bit less natural and inviting. This harshness is also partly caused by the slight U-shape tonality of the X1, where male vocals, as they occupy the midrange, have less presence and where female vocals, taking up upper regions of midrange and treble, have more and where they carry that slight hardness present in the X1’s highs.

 

8.5/10

 

RE-600

- The RE-600’s male vocals carry good presence, but there can be some hardness or too much overall forwardness due to the tilted and not completely linear midrange. Male vocals sound better off the 601LE as it is more forgiving and smoother and simply does not accentuate any possible dips or peaks. On the X1, male vocals tend to sound more shouty and sibilant due to the more forward and aggressive nature of the X1. Female vocals likewise sound very good off the 601LE, albeit they lack the air that the RE-400 posses. Off the X1 it is the same story as with male’s vocals – at times excessively forward, shouty and with some sibilance. The overall vocal presentation will simply be affected to a great deal by the player you choose to use.

 

8.5/10

  

e] Imaging/Soundsage/Separation

 

601LE

- The 601LE has outstanding imaging capabilities. Every instrument is clearly put into its place and it is very easy to make out where that exactly is. The soundstage capabilities are likewise excellent, creating a natural and believable sound scape, just like the FiiO X1 can. However, the FiiO is clearly outclassed when it comes to separating the instruments. Where the X1 fails to keep up with the music in busy passages and starts to choke a bit, the 601LE keeps up brilliant separation with all the minute details in place, still precisely keeping the imaging right, coupled with great tonal balance.

 

9.5/10

 

X1

- The X1 images well. Almost as well as the HM601LE, but not quite. As expected the overly splashy cymbals, a bit screechy electric guitars and somewhat tiny violins, all thrown into the mix with the enhanced rumbly sub-bass, do make it harder to make out precise placements of instruments. It is not that they’re not there or that the X1 images noticeably worse, they’re just harder to focus on due to the overall imbalance of certain instruments at different frequencies - some being slightly laid-back, others forward. Soundstage size is about equal on both devices but the 601LE again wins in separation where again the overall balance, better finesse and refined precision helps, especially during busy passages.

 

8.5/10

 

RE-600

- This is the area where the RE-600 clearly beats the RE-400. It images better, has a slightly larger overall stage and portrays instruments more believably in their own space and it also separates them a bit better. All this shows that the RE-600 is a very capable headphone and if it were tuned more like the RE-400, I’d absolutely love it. Then again, that would mean two similar products so I suppose the RE-600 is better as it is now, different enough to clearly differentiate itself from the RE-400. Perhaps there’s still hope for a RE-400i, or RE-500. I’d certainly encourage it.

 

9.5/10

 

f] Timbre/Openness/Realism

 

601LE

- The 601LE has a fairly open sound, with good timbral accuracy and great realistic reproduction. Granted, I am fairly sure there are more expensive portable units and desktop rigs that can outperform the 601LE in any given category but I’d be surprised if they were the same price or size. With its smooth yet still dynamic tonality, instruments pop and decay realistically into space and sound very convincing, if maybe a bit more pleasing than their real world counterparts would.

 

9/10

 

X1

- I feel the X1 does not do exceptionally well in these categories. It does not sound completely off but the harsh tinge paired with the in-your-face tonality does impact its performance by making the timbre a bit unnatural and subdued, slightly limiting it’s openness qualities and taking away the illusion of realism. With the L2 headphone for instance, violins sound really good on the 601LE but on the X1 they seem tinier and harsher, which then gives them an inappropriate timbre and takes away from the realism there might have been.

 

6/10

 

RE-600

- I feel the RE-600 is outclassed mostly by the RE-400 in this category. While the RE-600 has a physically bigger and more cohesive stage, the RE-400 just sounds more open. Thanks to the RE-400’s airy qualities there is also better and longer timbre than the RE-600 has. Finally, the RE-600 might produce a more meaty response, with a distortion guitar or electric guitars in general, while the RE-400’s lighter nature does better with delicate or high extending instruments, like cymbals. I think realism can easily go either way and is a tie, depending on your preference.

Again, this is my personal opinion and the RE-600 certainly works well with the same instruments the RE-400 does, but I prefer the way the RE-400 reproduces them. You might like them with more weight, so the other way around.

 

8/10

  

Value

 

601LE

- As a standalone product at 219$ MSRP, the 601LE is still an outstandingly sounding product, let down by its somewhat primal and lackluster UI. It gets the job done, however, and I’ve come to terms with it. This is easily the superior sounding DAP, beating the X1 in all aspects, save for the UI and build quality. What should propel this product even further however, is the upcoming HiFiMAN Holiday Sale, which will bundle it together with the RE-400 for a phenomenal price of 149$, pushing it basically to equal grounds with the X1-RE-400. Since these are the same combos that I’ve just reviewed here, I absolutely recommend grabbing it while you still can. Of course that’s assuming you value sound quality above all. If you equally appreciate UI and build quality, then the choice is a bit more difficult as the X1 is certainly not that far behind.

 

8.5/10, 9.5/10 as part of Holiday Sale

 

X1

- At the MSRP of 99$, the FiiO means tremendous value. It offers stellar UI, exquisite build quality and has great sound quality to back it all up, if a bit inferior compared to its pricier competitor. It’s also smaller and more sleek, which might be just as important to some. As with most comparisons, the difference is not huge and if I hadn’t had both at hand, I would enjoy either immensely. But having the choice, I think it is best to sum it up this way: The FiiO X1 is for those who value convenience and functionality above all. You just put it into your pocket and go, while enjoying good sound quality. The HiFiMAN HM-601LE is for those who are willing to sacrifice a bit of said functionality and convenience and as audiophile purists are willing to go the extra mile and put up with the things it does not do well or at all, having the superior listening experience as their reward.

 

9/10

 

RE-600

- The RE-600 is a great sounding headphone. Many people who like the RE-400 say the RE-600 is a worthwhile upgrade. In certain aspects, like technicality, it is but overall I think it has too much of a different sound signature to be considered an upgrade. At 399$, it also is quite a bit more expensive than the $99 RE-400, positioning itself quite a bit higher. Is it worth the price? Well, for someone, who likes a warm, punchy signature it certainly has the potential to be! As an airy sound lover, I can appreciate what the RE-600 does right but it simply deviates too much from what I consider important and as such it cannot be my daily driver, simply because I value different things and hence prefer a different signature. However, as part of the upcoming HiFiMAN Holiday Sale, the RE-600 will be just $199, which makes me question whether I shouldn’t purchase it myself, if only for the sake of it, because that is a very, very good price, all else being equal.

 

8/10, 9/10 as part of Holiday Sale

 

The RE-400 is 79$ right now as part of the same Sale. For anyone who just wants to try a pocket sized HiFiMAN headphone for their first time, this is as good as a chance as any!

 

Conclusion

- I love them both, but I like the HM-601LE slightly more for what it does better and personally, even though the X1 is an absolutely amazing little device and I do find the better UI and build quality to be a significant benefit, I’ll be making the sacrifices and use the 601LE as my default DAP from now on. Granted, I’ll be certainly keeping the X1 for back-up. That, and it is good to have choices. :]

As for the RE-600, I probably will not keep it because it simply does not suit my signature taste. However, I would still recommend it to someone who is looking for a fun, relaxing and punchy headphone, that can still do a lot of things right. Especially at the current price, it is a worthy consideration for any warmth lover!

 

Comparison Pictures

 

HM-601LE/X1

 

 

 

 

Thank you for reading, hope you enjoyed my comparisons and reviews!

Sincerely

Luke, the reviewer. 

post #102 of 103

That was very detailed and informative, thanks. I lost interest in the RE-600 even with the discount, the build quality just seems too bad for the price.

 

So originally you had the RE-400 with the straight plug which died and then you have the one with the angled plug. Does it seem stronger to you? I also wonder if it's worth getting the balanced version of the RE-400. I've read it combines well with the HM-700 in balanced mode, providing a better soundstage.

post #103 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Head1 View Post

That was very detailed and informative, thanks. I lost interest in the RE-600 even with the discount, the build quality just seems too bad for the price.

So originally you had the RE-400 with the straight plug which died and then you have the one with the angled plug. Does it seem stronger to you? I also wonder if it's worth getting the balanced version of the RE-400. I've read it combines well with the HM-700 in balanced mode, providing a better soundstage.

Actually the angled plug died, so I had it replaced for a straight one... I am not a fan of angled plugs.
As for balanced vs unbalanced, I am not too much of a believer. Once I have a proper chance to compare, I will comment further.
Maybe others can help.
The build quality is just ok, yeah. Its not too bad but at that price, its just a bit underwhelming.
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