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Hifiman he-400i Impressions and Discussion - Page 25
It won't be long now and we'll be getting some good feedback in.
Brand new it is $300 cheaper than a used LCD-2 after international shipping and it would not need the beefy 6 watts of headroom amp to boot.....plus about 1/2 the weight of LCD-2.
EDIT2: The organization is still a bit messy, so sorry about that folks. If I come up with anything else I'll post it, I hope this edit makes things more coherent and readable!
Just finished up at the Chicago meet, and I have to say the HE-400i was one of my two favorites of the show! I am always most impressed by manufacturers that can do a lot inside a reasonable price. I enjoyed the 560's but for $1K there is a LOT of competition. I think the 560 is still competitive, but the 400i is my realistic end game open can. On to the impressions (I spent a TON of time at the HiFiMan table and they happened to have music I'm very familiar with)
My first impression of the can was: "damn, these are comfy!" I own Grados so typically comfort is a whatever factor for me. If a phone has above average comfort it's nice but I usually don't pay it much mind, but these were the most comfortable phones of the entire show, from on-ears all the way up to the STAX-009. Most comfortable headphones I've experienced. They're light too, but they feel well-made, they're really a beautiful headphone in person! I will note that I felt there was plenty of space and adjustability. I have a big fat head and small ears by western standards though, so take that with a grain of salt. I think they'll fit a fair variety of sizes though.
I'll preface the sound section with a few quick comments: I am a musician, I've played shows, attended tons of live concerts both classical, jazz, rock, pop, etc. and listen to both speakers and headphones of all kinds, but I started on loudspeakers.
Alright, onto the important part - Sound!
They are thicker sounding than the 560's. They were still very clear, but they had just a slight tilt towards warmness, but I still found plenty of detail available for listening critically. Even though the sound was a little thicker the detail was on par with the perceived detail of the Audeze LCD's there, maybe a tad less than the LCD-3. The 400i was airier though, more open, a lighter presentation. By light presentation I mean that the attacks were clear, the treble spoke well, etc. the body of the sound was full but the headphone was dynamic and precise. They had that a very transparent feel to them that reminded me somewhat of the HD800.
I personally find really bloated or excessive bass tuning to be extraordinarily fatiguing. Bass heavy closed cans and the like make me a bit nauseous. I'm happy to report, these cans had clean, present bass, and more of it than the 560's, but it was never fatiguing. This brings me to my main impression of these cans; they are precise, balanced cans. I mean balanced in every sense, not just the sound - the weight feels great, the sound itself is gorgeous but neither overdone nor under-supported. Some listeners may find them thinner sounding than they're used to because of the glut of over-warm headphones on the market. These seem to take a step back from the intimate dark presentations that were the order of the day with many popular orthos present at the meet and popular today. I thought they were a lovely middle ground between too light and too dark, just right, for me at least. The tilt of the sound towards a little thicker I found more to my tastes than the 560. I heard the 560 off an Audio-gd at the meet, and the bass was much more on par with the 400i but I feel that the 400i is less fatiguing. I felt that long periods with the 560 would be just slightly fatiguing. The 560 too, while very good, was not as engaging with similar amounts and kinds of power as the 400i. I tried the 400i out of my phone (something I never really listen out of, but I tried just to see) and it still sounded great. The 560 was just boring out of a phone.
The highs were the sweetest, clearest non-sibilant highs I heard at the show, with the possible exception of the 560. I was rather alarmed by the amount of sibilance I heard in high-end cans there, and many cans that didn't have them lacked high end response, which is really not something I personally would want if I were looking for a balanced, high-end headphone. I listen at low levels too, at most I'll listen at low-medium/medium. I'll turn some cans up a bit when at meets or auditioning, but I try to retain my hearing (and it encourages critical listening) $600 for sibilant highs, though? No way. (I'm looking at you Alpha Dogs)
So no sibilant highs, but much more punch and shimmer up in the highs than the Audeze's there. The punchier dynamic triangle and cymbal hits seemed just as good as cans that had treble emphasis, but I never felt sibilance. Again, I think the very open sound, and precise presentation of the sound (compared to a lot of the popular, very dark orthos) helped with that.
Mids were gorgeous. I'm a musician, who play piano, some brass, sings, etc. Most of the sound music is in the mids. I heard cans there that were almost a quarter step sharp (meaning it was playing higher than the original note to make it sound sweeter) but this was not the case. Pitch has a lot to do with how natural something sounds, and these were spot on. The 560 sounded perhaps more precise, but pitched maybe a little flatter than the 400i's, and thus a little more analytical. Both sounded more natural than almost anything there in my opinion (again, I'm more experienced with real instruments and loudspeakers than headphones, so take that with a grain of salt)
In conclusion, the sound was not "lovely" perhaps a tad "lush" or "thick" but most of all it was just "right." I felt it had a nimbleness to its presentation (very good PRaT here) without sounding thin. The bass was perhaps a little more than neutral but not much. I would personally be comfortable using these in the studio. In fact, I would choose these over a good number of other cans. And for a can that you can use for both critical and relaxed listening these are great. My realistic end game would be these and a solid state amp like magni/modi combo.
I will say that with the caveat that they leak more sound than any of the headphones I heard there. They also let more sound in, but I don't see this as a negative.
I say well done HiFiMan, I'm going to sell my Grados and pick these up as fast as I can pinch my pennies.
Some additional thoughts and info on what I heard them played out of, music tested, etc.
I tried these out of the HiFiMan EF-2A and the HM801 player. The EF-2A was nice but I felt that the cans could have used both more, and better power. I tried them out on one of the Audio-gd (I believe it was a Compass 2?) DAC/Amp/Preamps. Much more, and much cleaner power than the HiFiMan IMO. Both the 560's and 400i's spoke a lot more on those amps with much more bass authority, treble refinement and even sweeter mids.
Music. I go to school where several of the artists who have played on Dr. Chesky's binaural albums teach. I've talked with a few of them about the experience, and gotten an inside look of sorts at the albums, songs, and recording techniques. Since those were readily available in good quality FLACs almost everywhere at the meet, I used them to test out the 400i most closely.
Tranquility (from the simply amazing binaural soundshow album): There's a tactility that good headphones can get that sends a shiver down you spin when you hear the wind chimes on this track. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the 400i did at this - my initial impressions would be that it would be a little to thick to get it to sound clear enough. But it was clear as a bell! (no pun intended) There's also a few moments throughout in which you can hear musicians walking on the floor, and it creaks. In most headphones it sounds like a rather anemic groan, but in the 400i's I got more of the wood characteristic of the noise. Sounds silly, but hey, it's in the recording!
War (same album as above): the soundstage blew up right in front of me on this one. Really excellent, and reverberations to the drum, and the waves of the cymbal crashes lasted long and faded naturally as the pitched percussion came in. Some headphones will actually not reproduce the sound of the cymbals after a couple of drum hits, but they 400i handled it marvelously.
Groove (same album): The shaker was clearly distinguished from the drum brush. They have a tendency to sound the same on some systems, but they sounded immediately distinguishable on the 400i. The big tom drums sounded just as dynamic and aggressive after the other drums entered as at the beginning, and the boomy, loosened head of the huge bass drum in the background sounded distinct and awesomely powerful. The tendency here is to sound like a weird humming rumble on cans that can't do the bass justice, or to sound terribly bloated in the low frequency. The 400i was tremendous when the impacts called for it. I never felt I was overwhelmed by the sound coming from the headphone, but I can't imagine any but the most die-hard bass lover being dissatisfied by the authoritative power of the bass on these headphones.
Equipment: the above mentioned DAP and amp at the HiFiMan booth, and a computer with USB optical drive and FLAC, and USB out to a Gungnir, as well an Audio-gd Compass 2 that I mentioned earlier. Also FLAC and computer CD drive to a little schiit stack (Magni/Modi)
The 400i sounded great from the manufacturers setup, but I felt there was more to be had from my first listen. On the Audio-gd it was everything it had been but more precise still, and yowza was it a beast! The soundstage expanded, wrapping around my head even more, and everything about the can became more dynamic. Liquid transparent and just warm enough to be really pleasant. The Gungnir DAC sounded sweet with that setup, very resolving, and it added a slightly dark edge while maintaining the neutral nature of the headphone, but my favorite was actually the little schiit stack. $200 for a little schiit stack, and $500 for a 400i and you have a setup that sounds really phenomenal for less than half the price of some the cans there. Let me tell you, I'd take that setup before an LCD-2, and the good LCD-3 setups there that sounded as good or better than it were 3 times the cost. The headphone didn't envelope me perhaps as much on the little schiit stack, but it came darn close, and there was something I found very compelling about the sound, perhaps a little less laid back than the slightly warm Audio-gd sound. The neutral-bright sound of the Magni/Modi complemented the HiFiMan perfectly, and there was no want for power. There was a tactile feeling and "pop" to the sound of the instruments with the Schiit that really drew me in.
Both are great values of course, they schiit at $200, and the Compass 2 at $300, and both really sounded exceptional. I'd be happy with either, but I'll probably end up with the Schiit just because of desk space, and I don't need the preamp or balanced functions.
Edited by ThePianoMan - 6/23/14 at 8:03pm
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I can't tell you how much it bugs me when I see "wil this work with an iphone" on amazon, it just gets to me so much.
Yeah I never use my phone for music. I'll use my portable player player occasionally, but only if I have a portable DAC/amp with it. Some people like to know though, and I figured I'd be more thorough rather than less
I made this post in the 560 thread, 400i impressions are in here too... Although they aren't in depth (conditions aren't the best for that sort of thing at a meet :p).
The HiFiMan table was the first table I saw when I entered the meet area and they had just finished setting up (from what I was told). I met Peter and Summer (both really nice people) and chatted for a bit. The HE-560 (revised model) was being used at the time, so I took a stab at the HE-400i.
Before I continue further, I should note that it was noisy at the meet (as one could assume) and the music used to test wasn't mine. Though I tried my best to find songs/artists/albums that I was familiar with (or closer to what I am familiar with).
The first thing that I did notice about the 400i was that it was smoother in the midrange with good vocal dynamics. The upper midrange clarity was actually quite strong as well. The bass was thicker and had great presence due to the larger body; it had good depth. Though the treble was more laid back in nature, it still offered good detailing and extension. It was quite a warm and easy headphone to listen to.
The 560 in contrast was more neutral as a whole (the most neutral of the 4 new planars I auditioned). The treble had a softer edge to it, compared to the Oppo models, despite having greater quantity. The treble did also have great detailing and extension up high. Something that really stood out for me with the 560 was the lower treble and snaps that provided energy. They did hold a bit of air to them as well. The 560 has a slightly larger focus on the lower-midrange in contrast to the 400i, it's quite detailed, but didn't feel analytical or clinical in any way (I felt that the PM-2 did sound somewhat clinical in the mids).
It's been over a month since I've heard the original 560s (and I do miss them, it was a treat to hear the new ones though). So take this with a second grain of salt. I feel that the new 560 is a little stronger with the detailing in the lower-midrange as the older model was quite smooth in this area. It also seemed to have a smaller bass body, but was still punchy and had good texturing down low. Though the treble quantity didn't change, the other changes (in the midrange mainly) made it seem brighter.
HE-400i vs HE-560
As you could guess, the signatures of these two headphones are quite different (they are designed to be). From what I've read, and some of what I heard, the 400i are supposed to be tailored closer to what the HE-500 originally offered. It's warmer and more relaxed in nature than the more neutral 560. The 400i has a bigger bass body though both have great depth and presence as a whole. The 560's midrange isn't as energetic as the 400i's either. As stated, treble is more up front with the 560.
In terms of the new design, I'm happy with it. The wood may not be as thick anymore, or actual hardwood, but the hard-cut lines from the Veneer work very well with the hard-cut lines of the headphone design overall. The entire design of the 560 has a matted look to it that is more mature as a whole. Overall, I actually do prefer the new look as it has more complexity to the design. The hard-cutting lines also make it look less boring. Though I was told that the wood veneer on the 560 were the same, one did seem to have more of a red-orange hue to it.
In contrast to the matted mature look of the 560, the 400i has a fun glossy design to it. The housing shape is similar and it's colored in a deep bluish-silver-slate color. It's quite attractive and actually looks more flashy than the 560, though the 560's design is much more complex.
Comfort and Fit
The fit on both headphones was great. The pads have been revised a little to have a bigger inner-diameter (from what I was told) which should help quite a few people out. They fit perfectly fine and were comfortable. For me anyway, the fit was unchanged (I have a small head and small ears). With that said, I expect them to be comfortable in the long run as well (having used the 560 extensively before returning them). A note on the weight, by hand, there wasn't much difference between them. Though the 560 measures heavier than the 400i, it didn't feel it on the head or in the hands.
Edited by tinyman392 - 6/21/14 at 6:49pm
Unfortunately, that's something that I wouldn't be able to answer :/ I forgot which Audeze model I demo'd at the meet, but the music was of different genre entirely so it'd be hard for me to gauge unfortunately :(
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I could answer the question about the bass. Non-favored LCD-2's have more impact, more slam. Orchestral tracks had a "wall of rumble" sound from the Audeze. Post Fazor the Audeze still seemed a fatter sound, the HE-400i had excellent impact, presences, felt less diffuse though, more directional and less like it came from "everywhere." I thought the Audeze could be a bit much and I felt that the sound was thick and rumbly compared to the 400. The 400 was much lighter, the Audeze was heavier. Different flavors for different folks; the Audrze was rich and powerful from the bottom up. The 400i was even and open/light with a richer bent. The 400i would suit more genres of music in my opinion, and the details of the music were easier to hear, but the LCD was the bass-mid heads delight. YMMV.
Then again that's always been the dichotomy between Hifiman and Audeze house sounds.