Review: Hifiman RE-400 "Waterline" – The Next Step!
There's no need to introduce Hifiman to these forums or to the audio gear world.
Since Hifiman "officially" discontinued their previous IEM line, everyone knew something big was going to happen. As for why Fang decided to make this change, well, he said it himself during an interview with Jude (Head-Fi), "Because I'm crazy".
And after listening to the new RE-400 I can confirm that, he IS crazy, in the best possible way.
There are really no words to express my admiration for this masterpiece. An unique, yet simple, sound.
As you can see from the photos, the packaging is excellent. Shipping was very fast, the RE-400 arrived within a week.
The box itself is already a huge step from the previous cheap plastic case both the RE-0 and RE-Zero came with.
As the Specifications on the back are in Chinese, I copied them in English from Hifiman site:
Impedance: 32 OHM+/- 3.2
Rated power: 10mW
Maximum power: 30 mW
Frequency response: 15 ~22 KHZ
Price: $99 from Head-Direct, crazy great deal!
So, how's the sound? Right out of the box it's already TOO GOOD!
1 pair of Small single flange tips
2 pairs of Small Bi-Flanges
1 pair of Large Bi-Flanges
A rubber cable winder
10 extra filters
And that's all.
A carrying case would've been nicer or at least a small soft pouch.
[EDIT: Hifiman have added one carry pouch, four pairs of eartips, and two pairs of comply tips. - See picture below]
The eartips also seem to be an own Hifiman design. It's good there're 2 pairs of the small bi-flanges as the sound is 'best' with those. The bad thing is that those only come in ONE size. I didn't have a problem at all, but YMMV.
Design & Build Quality:
Again, just great! Another huge change from the previous line. The straight barrel earpieces are made of metal, aluminum I guess, very, very small, lightweight but very solid.
The Y-cord cable is divided into two. From the Y split up to the earpieces it is a soft very friendly plastic cable, similar to the one used on the last batches of the RE-0. The other half is a nylon-cloth covered cable, very flexible and easy to wrap.
The cable is ended in a 45º plug, almost the same as the last plug used on their previous IEMs, with the difference that close to the 3.5mm jack the strain relief is thinner (which personally I find much better as it gets through my player silicone cover – as seen on the photo).
Microphonics are a bit bothersome. A shirt clip or wearing over-the-ear helps a lot.
Comfort, Fit & Isolation:
And, again, great! As I mentioned above, the earpieces are so small and weight nothing, making this one of the most comfortable earphones I ever tried.
With the stock small bi-flanges the fit and seal were instant.
Isolation is very good. They don't go too far in the ear canal, yet they achieve to isolate a lot, even for daily commute.
The RE-400 is quite easy to drive, but not the easiest. Better than the 64ohm RE-0, but like other 32ohm phones I owned, these need some extra volume to sound better and a bit more to shine. No amping is needed, though.
The new RE-400 is not just an improvement in design, fit and isolation but especially in sound.
The overall sound is neutral with a small added amount of warmth, which gives a fuller sound and better balance through the whole frequencies. Nothing is overpowered, nothing is missing.
Starting from the low-end.
These are NOT for bassheads or for anyone looking for an explosive, earth shattering Bass. But what the new Hifiman offer is a much fuller low end from mid-bass to sub-bass that the previous models were really lacking. While they lack in impact, they still manage to give quite a rumble.
As for the bass quality, it's what you'd expect from Hifiman, SUPERB. Quick, very tight and accurate. You can hear (and feel) every beat, every punch and every kick. Just amazing. Quite fast, but still not the fastest. The ATH-CKN70, for example, showed a much higher speed (well, those aren't just a simple dynamic driver earphones).
Jumping to the high-end. Treble has a good extension with some extra brightness, but remains smooth and non-fatiguing even at a higher volume. While it may not have the 'endless' extension as the RE-0 (it may be closer to the ZERO), it is full, energetic. There's a lot of micro detail as well, not unlike as its predecessors.
And, finally, the midrange. Now, this might be the best part of the RE-400. Just BEAUTIFUL! As simple as that.
As stated before the whole sound is very neutral, but the mids are sweet and just slightly forward, but not thick enough to fall in the mid-centered group. Everything sounds very natural, detailed, transparent and open. Nothing recessed or missing, but the opposite, immersive and addictive. So effortless!
When it comes to more complex music, the RE-400 handles everything with ease, rivaling, and even beating, some good Balanced Armature IEMs.
Vocals need a special mention here as they're even a bit more forward than the rest of the sound. Also, vocals need a bit more time to 'break-in', as they can sound a bit weird (unnatural) and not well-positioned at first. After that, they sound as great as vocals can sound. Every word, every letter can be heard, be it with male or female, main singers or backgrounds.
Soundstage is not too wide, deep or high, but the whole sound has a fair 3D effect.
As I wrote above, I found the small bi-flanges to provide the best sound out of the RE-400, so everything up to now is based on that setup.
Now, I'd like to mention some differences noticed when using the Big Bi-flanges.
When switching to the larger, wider bore tips the sound change as well.
On the whole, the sound remains similar, which is open and detailed, but the presentation is a bit different. The bass has some bigger and deeper impact, but is also not as tight as before. The highs are brighter and extend even further.
But what suffers the more is the midrange, sounding less forward and less sweet, but on the whole is has a better balance.
[And for those who find the stock big tips too big, some aftermarket eartips can give a similar effect]
In either configuration the RE-400 is very versatile when it comes to music genres. They don't excel in something particular, but don't lack either.
Still, those who listen to electronic, EDM, trance/techno and similar music may want to look somewhere else.
In short, one of the best All-arounder IEM, very detailed (but not analytical), airy, well layered, immersive and engaging sound.
For the asking $99 price, the RE-400 are definitely a Winner. The sound is already too good for the price, and when adding the comfort, solid build quality, impressive isolation, and the customer service, they're one of the best deals.
On a final note, I'd like thank to Head-Direct (The HiFiMAN store) for providing me the RE-400 unit for the review.
And I can't wait for the RE-600 model to be released soon.
Edited by Zelda - 2/22/14 at 12:17pm