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Over-Ear item created by LarsHP, Jan 22, 2012
Pros - Great bass impact for an open-back planar. Unique sound signature.
Cons - It's strengths are a conditional double-edged sword.
As of September 2014, the HE-400 has been discontinued, and it's successor, the HE-400i is being sold in its place. So why publish, or even read, a review now? First, there are many used HE-400s in the market and are being considered for purchase. Second, many retailers still have new stock of the now heavily discounted HE-400, and these are the latest versions with no risk of future revisions. Third, based on 3 days of listening to the HE-400i, I've concluded that the new 'i' version is not an upgrade to the HE-400. It's a different sound signature. Asides from the considerable cost savings, I can see how someone could prefer the sound of the original HE-400 over the HE-400i.
Source: PC -> Teac UD-H01 USB DAC -> -or- FiiO X5->
-> Objective 2 Amplifier -> Hifiman HE-400 (Pleather Pads)
Hifiman HE-400 The Hifiman HE-400 is an open-back, over-the-ear headphone with an orthodynamic / planar magnetic driver. It's a break-through in the sense, in that Hifiman achieved it's relatively affordable pricing through advances made in automating the production of the traditionally handmade planar magnetic drivers. Most recent models with this type and size of driver are sold closer to the $900-1000 mark or higher when introduced (the prices come down of course). The HE-400s MSRP is $400, and (as of Sept. 2014) the fact that it's successor, the HE-400i (MSRP: $500) has hit the market, has a street price of significantly way below that.
With a rated sensitivity of 92.5 dB/mW at 35 Ohm impedance, it falls into the category of high-efficiency planars - headphones with planar magnetic drivers that don't need a powerful desktop amplifier to sound their best. In comparison, the HE-500 and HE-6 models up the line have sensitivity ratings of 89 dB/mW and 83.5 dB/mW respectively. Since dB is a logarithmic unit, an 83.5 or 89 dB/mW sensitivity rating means a headphone will need a lot more power than one rated at 92.5 dB/mW to reach a given loudness level, despite what the small difference in number would suggest. To reach the volume of a typical live concert (115 dB SPL), the HE-400 will need ~177.93 milliwatts while the HE-500 and HE-6 will need ~398.34 and ~1413.29 milliwatts respectively. Big difference.
(Note: these numbers are approximate as there is some disparity between manufacturer spec sheet numbers and actual measurements.)
Because of this, high-efficiency planars are in a practically different league from their desktop bound siblings, as they can be used in a portable rig. Ideally, a powerful portable rig, as it still needs a fair amount of power to reach really loud levels. While the popular FiiO X3 and X5 players using their internal amplifiers (which are quite powerful relative to other portable players) can drive the HE-400 to fairly loud levels on their respective high gain settings, it still doesn't sound as dynamic, most noticeably in terms of bass extension and impact, as when being driven by a separate portable amplifier. Think along the lines of the better portable amplifiers, such as the Objective 2 or FiiO E12. The sound impressions written here are based on the HE-400 being amplified by the Objective 2.
Sound Impressions Have a look at the =3651&graphID=3241&graphID=353&scale=30]HE-400's frequency response curve, against the curves of the Hifiman HE-500 and Grado SR80i. Notice that there is a dip at the 2000-6000 hz frequencies, but then goes back up at around 7000 hz to a peak at 9000 hz. This is what gives the HE-400 it's somewhat unique sound signature. Vocals, guitar, piano - anything that falls between the 2000-6000 hz range is attenuated or sounds further away, with the details being masked by the other more prominent frequencies, while the peak at the 8-9 Khz range imparts some brightness to the resulting sound. Translated visually, its sound is like a dark rolling cloud with rich tonal variations from black to middle shades of grey, punctuated with bright (but not blinding) streaks of lightning which can actually be very satisfying, depending on the type of music being listened to.
Hifiman themselves have stated that it is tuned for a more 'American' (I take it this means emphasized bass) sound signature, as opposed to the more polite and neutral 'British' sound of the HE-500 next up in the line. The HE-400's bass does have a satisfying amount of slam while still retaining texture and clarity - its massive planar magnetic drivers characteristically being able to render and stop the sound very precisely (transient response). This, combined with the 8-9 Khz treble peak, gives the HE-400 sound signature a satisfying sense of dynamic contrast with a combination of hard-hitting bass on the low-end and some treble 'air' on the high-end, albeit with (or in a sense, because of) a recessed upper mid-range and lower treble.
If you like live recordings of rock bands like Soundgarden, Guns N' Roses or Evanescence, with the thunderous and deep rumbling combinations of drums and guitar bass, and like to listen loud but without any shrillness in the treble from shrieking/shouty vocals, snare drums, cymbals, or lead guitars, you will appreciate the HE-400. In comparison, the Grado SR80i, which is also considered great for rock music, would start sounding harsh or piercing due to emphasized treble frequencies, and have less bass impact at the same loudness level. Between them, it comes down to a choice between the HE-400's bass slam with good transient response vs. the SR80i's mid-range presence and detailed treble emphasis.
On the other hand, when listening to some acoustic or 'unplugged' recordings which have so much vocal or instrumental richness and subtlety in the 2000-6000 Khz range, I would prefer either the STAX SR-207 or, to a lesser degree, the Grado SR80i, which will bring those elements forward. While the HE-400 by no means sounds bad with this type of music (it's still better than most 'default' headphones), I would prefer a more intimate vocal presentation - it's a subtle difference that can nonetheless change the way a song is appreciated.
I emphasized the word 'some' earlier because it really depends on how the music was mastered. I have high-resolution 24-bit/96Khz recordings of acoustic jazz with female vocals purchased from E-Onkyo Music, which sound impressively life-like with this headphone. Granted, these are audiophile recordings meant for playback in more technically capable systems, and it goes to show that the way the music is recorded and mastered plays just as significant a role as its genre. For typical recordings of electronic dance music and live rock (not acoustic) sets, the HE-400 generally works well.
Conclusion Sometimes it pays to be late in the game. Due to a combination of technological developments and price drops due to newer models being introduced, the Hifiman HE-400 scores very high in the price/performance scale. This assumes that the HE-400’s sound signature works with the listener’s music and preferences. The newer model HE-400i has a completely different sound signature that does not build on the original’s strengths, so calling it a direct upgrade would be somewhat misleading. I would consider the HE-400i as more of a sidegrade – a different headphone with a sound signature that appeals for different reasons.
While the older HE-400s sound signature may not be ideal for all musical genres or recordings, when the stars of sound signature, music , and listener preference line-up, it’s brilliant. Combined with the Objective 2, it is still very much worth considering for high-end sound, in a transportable package
Pros - Amazing mids | Excellent Bass | Details | Lovely Treble | Panorama Soundstage | Comfortable |
Cons - Cable too long 10ft | Headband too thin |
Before I own this HiFiMAN HE-400, I owned a pair of Alessandro MS2i Headphones (Dynamic driver, Open) and I thought this was the best headphones. I was wrong until I try this HiFiMAN HE-400 (Orthodynamic aka Planar Magnetic Headphone, Full size). This is an amazing headphones with panorama soundstage, amazing mids, excellent bass, crisp at high, lovely treble is there and this headphones is so comfy. Some people commented it is heavy, quite true, when I first wore it and I felt the weight but after I wear it for couple of times....It just so comfy and comfy is the word that appears in my mind. I listened to this headphones before I went to sleep and it is dark in my bedroom and I closed my eyes.....the panorama soundstage is so big for live music....it just so wide and lovely. I don't really have many negative review for this pair of headphones. I simply just can't find it now. After 50 hrs of break-in I started to get goosebumps and the instructions recommend 150 hours of break-in. I can't wait to reach that hours and see what I feel at that time. If you love musical instrument music, this is definitely the one I will recommend to you. Whenever I bought a new pair of headphones or earphones, I always tested them with my Audiophile Reference IV album. The things that annoyed me is the cable is too long...10ft, it just too long for me. The headband is just too thin. I am looking for addition headband to wrap around it.
Pros - Spectacular bass, rich, engaging mids, great soundstage depth, and excellent detail retrieval.
Cons - A bit hot in the upper-most treble, and some upper-mid coloration
After using IEMs almost exclusively, I decided that it was about time to step into the realm of full-sized cans. I wasn't about to spend $1000, but I still wanted better than mid-fi sound. My options were pretty limited, and it came down to either the HD600 or the HE-400. In the end I decided that, despite the HD600's more refined sound, that the HE-400 had what I was looking for (tight, linear bass, excellent detail, and a 3D image). So I pulled the plug on the HE-400 (and a pair of velour pads), and never looked back.
My first impression was a good one, and they sounded exactly as I expected them to based on measurements and first-hand accounts.
I'm not at all a bass-head. I find bass to be the must unimportant and non-essential part of the frequency spectrum because it provides little musical information and serves little purpose other than adding body to the music. That said, the quality of the bass is very important to me. I cannot stand liquid, texture-less bass, and I'm not a fan of elevated mid-bass either. Thankfully, the bass on the HE-400 is as far from that as possible. The response is almost perfectly linear, it's extraordinarily tight, articulate, and well-textured. It hits hard, goes low, and does everything that bass is supposed to do without ever getting in the way or disappearing. It's as close to perfect as I can imagine a headphone being in that regard.
Mids are very important to me. Nothing will ever sound right if there's trouble in the mids, and they're absolutely essential to the reproduction of the human voice. The mid-range presentation on the HE-400 is interesting. The lower mids are very full and somewhat forward, whereas the upper mids are more recessed. They're certainly colored, but it's not a coloration I'd call "offensive." The mids here are very rich and organic without ever sounding thick or syrupy. I think that's partially due to the elevated treble and excellent extension that gives vocals great air and a "breathy" sound. On some recordings the mids can sound a bit distant, but that's not an issue that I've run into very often.
The treble is the trouble spot with these cans. The treble isn't poor by any means, but it is significantly elevated in the highest octave (10kHz+). The treble can be very hot on some recordings. Some people may like the extra air that comes with this kind of treble presentation, but it's a bit much for me. I find that it obscures detail a bit, and can dominate the signature at times. However, the treble responds very well to EQ and sounds excellent with just a few dB decrease. Extension is great and the the headphones definitely do not want for air.
I've never heard a headphone at this price that presents the audio image anywhere near as well as the HE-400s do. The soundstage is open with great height and depth with excellent layering, and width that is neither unrealistically large, nor cramped. Imaging is excellent, making it easy to pin-point audio cues and effectively sorting the various layers of the soundstage.
The HE-400 signature is interesting. It doesn't really emphasize any region, but it somehow manages to be both dark and bright. It's not prefectly neutral, but it's not highly colored. It's just neutral enough and just "fun" enough to appeal to a wide range of tastes. It also responds very well to EQ (particularly in the bass, likely due to the very low distortion and linearity), though I'd avoid messing with the mids too much, as there is a bit of distortion there that can be exacerbated with EQ. However, you can tame the treble and crank up the bass as much as you want with little to no ill effect.
I've never had any comfort issues with them, and though the design seems a bit "cheap," I've not had any issues there either. They are a bit heavy, though, so keep that in mind. The stock cable isn't the greatest; it's thick, heavy, and a bit stiff. Don't be too rough with it, because there are reports of it shorting, or the sheath splitting.
I've not heard a better headphone in the $300-$400 range (including the HD600). It does just about everything right, and very little wrong (and what little it does wrong is easily fixed). For the HD600 owners out there, they make a perfect compliment to the HE-400. I've not come across a better value in the entire world of audio.
Pros - Detail, Speed, Bass, Overall Sound Quality
Cons - None Really, Comfort at first
This is my second mid to high end headphone. And it so far has really wowed me. Im just gonna start with the bass, its amazing. Its very deep and detailed with good impact and texture and its fast, im a bit of a basshead and these will bring the thunder without interfering with anything else. They dig just as deep as my dt770s with almost as much impact and they dont muddle up the mids. The highs have tonnes of detail and are sparkly, but i dont find them fatiguing at all. Mids sound very good on them as well, i really enjoy female vocals on them. Most of the music i listen to is electronic where bass and speed really matter, im running them through my schiit modi and magni, this is a very good combo. The magni gives these lots of juice which planars love. A lot of people say that the leather earpads need to be replaced with the velours. So when i purchased them i got the velours as well, and i found that the velours made the highs way to splashy and the bass slightly anemic. I also find the leathers are quite comfortable after being worn a while. Ive worn them for over 6 hours and havent had any discomfort. They are a bit heavy but i got used to it. Overall this is a wonderful headphone, and its bass can satisfy a basshead without a problem
Pros - great bass, great price, good construction,
Cons - cable can be a little stiff, cable connectors don't impress, needs jerg pad to bring the headphones full potential out
Full video review below
Pros - Natural Sound, Build Quality, Easy to Drive
Cons - Heavy
The HE400 from Hifiman is a great value. For someone looking to a.) try a planar magnetic headphone or b.) find a pair of cans that will offer excellent, natural sound at a solid price, then this is one you need to consider.
They're built like tanks! Although the amount of visible plastic is scary at first, its very obvious once you pick them up that they're going to take a few knocks before you have to worry. From the headband (very comfortable) to the metal gimbals to the shielded cable to the plush earpads, the HE400 won't make you feel timid in handling them. Also, since it comes up all the time, I've had no problems with the cable connectors. I can't say why or why not, but they don't seem problematic to me.
It also bears mentioning that the housings are very large. Like huge. Largest I've seen. But they don't touch the ear at all, obviously an intentional design to create a room for the ear (or because of the massive planar magnets required).
Now for the sound.
First word that comes to mind: natural. Nothing sounds "enhanced" to these ears.
The bass is solid and reaches quite low without making me feel like I've got a subwoofer on my head. One of the best ratios of quality to quantity I've heard.
The mids are very clear and neither forward nor recessed. Upper mids are a touch more present than their lower counterparts, but neither sounds unnatural. I can hear all vocals, guitars, and midrange instruments very clearly.
The treble is nicely extended but never fatiguing or harsh. I've read a few reviews claiming the 400s were too bright and I'm very glad to say that I disagree. I could see that they wouldn't play too nice with low quality source material, but as they are, the treble is once again, very natural and clear.
The depth of stage definitely bests the width although both are still very good. I assume that the room in which my ears are sitting is a direct contributor to this. Once again a very natural sound, no depth so great that I'm left feeling that I'm 30 rows back, but also not so forward that I feel like I'm squished between the bass and drums.
The separation is good, not great. My Grados best it, but that's not to say that its non-existent. Its just not studio recording quality.
All in all, I'm glad I've gotten my hands on a pair of HE400s. Although they're a little on the heavy side, they are still rather comfortable and have a great sound. Very organic and natural. They certainly sound best after amplification, but they don't beg for it. Just remember if you're looking at planars, some meaty amplification is gonna get the best out of them for you.
Pros - Bass, Details, Tons of fun with a nice sound signature, Build quality (These are tanks!), comfort (with velour replacement pads)
Cons - Treble spike (You get used to it), Weight, comfort (With stock pleather pads)
There really arent much to say.
Everything is good with these headphones except the treble spike.
Pros - After 100 hours of break-in time they rival the big buck 'phones
Cons - Leather ear pads need to be replaced with velour pads available for $10
First off my gear is HeadRoom Micro DAC and Amp.(I don't see how people get by without the crossfeed circuit on older rock recordings) Out of the rather cheap box the high-end was brittle and harsh and the bass boomed. The midrange was just OK. I have a Ayre Acoustics system burn-in disc and after 100 hours of brown, pink, and white noise along with Zappa's G-Spot Tornado from The Yellow Shark these headphones transformed into something wonderful. The highs were tight and accurate, the bass had a lot of power, but was also accurate, and midrange vocals were something to behold. I've always been a Sennheiser/AKG man and had never listened to planars before. For $299 (plus $10 for the velour pads) I don't know if their sound is for everyone, but do yourself a favor and audition these headphones before you make your final decision. I don't think these headphones are going to be powered by iPods or most MP3 players. They are not that efficient and I don't know where the iPod friendly deal started, but if HiFiMAN did they are going to disappoint a lot of people. These are NOT appropriate for mobile use. They leak sound back in the room more than most open backed 'phones do and a dedicated headphone amp with decent gain is required to drive them. I wonder how well the Audioquest Dragonfly would drive them. I'll bet not too well. They may be efficient for planars, but they're still planars. My last pair was AKG K702s and the AKG's were quite a bit louder. I'm curious how the HE-400i's will compare. For 500 bucks they better be an improvement. I spent $150(ProCable Panorama) as I found the stock cable lacking. I know that's a lot of money for $299 headphones, but it was worth it. Plus this cable is well built and should,last for years so when I upgrade I already got the right cable. If I get an amp with 1/4in. jacks, I'll have to send it back to cablePro for a new plug.
I know there are better sounding amps out there than the HeadRoom Micro, but none that have a crossfeed circuit. Maybe HeadRoom will start building amps again someday. I just sent it in to replace all the 3.5mm jacks. Getting it back today! Been using the headphone jack on a pair of powered computer speakers with the volume 3/4 of the way up and with the bars on the graphic eq on Foobar maxed out to get more gain. There's just no way any player is gonna be hot enough for these..
Pros - Incredibly smooth mids, stunning detail, CLEAN bass, and wonderful highs
Cons - Weight, somewhat lackluster headband, pain in the ass cable that I'll be replacing soon
EDIT: My opinions and views on this set of cans has changed a fair bit after more extensive listening. Please see the link below for my updated opinions on these headphones.
First of all - WOW. This is my first set of proper Hi-fi/Mid-fi cans. It's also easily the best sounding anything I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. However, since I'm new to the head-fi game, take this with a grain of salt.
So where do I begin with these headphones? I guess I should give some background on my listening history. I wouldn't quite consider myself poor, but I'm definitely far from affluent. This means that my listening experience has been severely limited. Until I purchased the HE-400's, the nicest cans I've had the chance to listen to were a pair of my friend's ATH-M50's. While quite nice, they didn't particularly blow me away. The nicest pair of headphones I've personally owned were a pair of Sony MDR-MA 300's. They're semi-open, have a LOT of fairly clean bass, recessed mids like you wouldn't believe, and decent highs considering the $50 MSRP. I definitely got used to the very dark sound signature of those Sony's.
When I put the HE-400's on for the first time, I was immediately very concerned that I might have wasted $300 of my hard earned dollars. They were a WORLD of difference from those Sony's, and I just didn't care for the sound signature out of the gate. However, I decided to stick with them for a week or so and see if my opinion on the topic would change. That was without a doubt one of the single greatest decisions I've ever made.
Although it took a while for it to sink in, I had a eureka moment a few nights ago as I was laying in bed, listening to a new album I'd been recommended (Dead Horse by Charts and Maps for anyone interested in a fantastic, FREE Jazz Fusion/Math Rock album). While listening to the second track, I finally realized just what I'd been missing in all my music. The mids were so clear and smooth. The instrument separation was unparalleled to anything I'd ever heard. The drums sounded realistic. And then there was that saxophone. It sounded like it was right in front of me. I've never had such a positive visceral reaction to music before. I found myself smiling uncontrollably (as an aside, I'm listening to the same album while writing this review and can't help myself from grinning like a madman). I was hooked.
I've listened to more music in the past few days than I have in quite a long time, and I'm finding it hard to stop. If you're new to the world of headphones and any of this sounds like it might be up your alley, I highly recommend you just bite the bullet and cough up the $300 (while the sale lasts). While I can't guarantee that you'll love them, the potential is definitely high with these cans.
Now, for the more technical stuff.
Overall, there's not a whole lot to complain about with the build quality. The only real issue I've faced is this cable. I hate it. It's thick, it's stiff, and when I go to lay down in my bed, sometimes the audio will just cut out. Others have pointed out this issue, and I've never had this problem with other phones, so I know the cable is to blame. I'm also not a huge fan of the connectors, but at least I can live with those. I'm definitely going to replace the cable soon. If anyone has recommendations on an inexpensive set of aftermarket cables (preferably under 100 USD), please, PLEASE shoot me a PM.
It should also be noted that these are HEAVY CANS. They weigh in at nearly 1 lb. The flip side to this is that they also feel quite sturdy.
Headband could also use a bit more padding, but that's part of the next segment.
Overall, they're pretty good. I would prefer some extra padding on the headband (which I'll definitely be adding to these). I don't have any problems with the stock cushions, other than a TINY bit of sweating, but I may try out the velour pads just for the hell of it.
I read one review where someone said his amp (I believe it was a Schiit Magni?) was having trouble driving these headphones. My experience is the exact opposite. I can drive these perfectly well from my ipod nano, and my stock gain (2.5x / 6x) O2/ODAC combo can absolutely CRANK these things. On low gain I never have to turn the knob past maybe 20% of it's travel. I shudder to think of the damage I could do to my hearing with these cans cranked on the high gain mode. Since these cans have an impedance of ~50 ohms, pretty much any source with under 5 ohms of output impedance should have no issues with damping.
I've pretty much covered it all in my story above, but I'll reiterate here in case some of you skipped it.
- MIND MELTING MIDS
- Clear, present bass with a bit of a punch. Wouldn't call this a bass-heavy can by any means, but it's certainly not lacking in quantity or quality. (EDIT: After further listening on some of my favorite albums (that I feel also happen to be poorly mastered (see most The Fall of Troy albums) I've found that the HE-400's bass response just isn't up to par in terms of presence. My previous pair of cans did just fine with TFOT, and you could actually hear Tim's bass through the mix, but with the HE-400's I have to use a fair bit of EQ to get it to shine through at HALF the volume of my old pair. Bit more presence would be appreciated, but the clarity is definitely a stellar upgrade.)
- Fantastic treble. While others have most definitely complained about treble issues with these cans, I can't say that I've experienced the same. Your mileage may vary, but that's my two cents.
- The best clarity and instrument separation of anything I've ever had the chance to listen to (bear in mind that I am EXTREMELY new to this, so my experience is very limited.)
For my first entry into the world of Hi-Fi, I think I've made an excellent choice. Although I didn't care for them out of the gate, I think these cans may very well be the best investment I've ever made (aside from my gaming rig. It's pretty much my child.) I may just save myself the time, money and trouble and just call this my end game, but at the same time it's making me wonder what lies just beyond the horizon. Wish me luck on this crazy adventure that we call audiophilia, and don't forget to enjoy the music!
Pros - Makes all dynamic headphones sound small by comparison
Cons - Anything above 1Khz is missing
Recently i received a new set of HE-400s and took them for a spin.
I never made it past the first lap, so its time for the review.
I found their sound to be a combination of overly flat mids and spiky distant trebles awash in a sea of syrupy bloated
bass response with a touch of darkness throne in to hide any hint of presence or clarity.
I use a Woo Audio Fireflies and a ResonEssence Concero HP and a Maxxed out version of the discontinued Headroom Max as my sources, so, im not under-powering the HE-400s.
If you prefer overly flat mids and thick bass, then these are your best buy.
On a positive note, as i define the HE-400s sound as bassy with muddy mids, , they can also be described
as lush, rich, incredibly thick and wide, and very very warm......like a bear hug of low mids around your ears.
Sound-stage is impressive.
One thing is for certain, after you use the HE-400s for a while then change to any other headphones you own, your other headphones will ALL sound smaller.
So, consider that as the other impressive caveat that the HE-400s can truly offer you along with the very nice sound-staging.
Do they sound bad?......No, not at all.......they just sound thick, flat, and wide.
Another way to think of their sound is if tubes in a headphone amp are very old and worn out and soft sounding..., that would be a way of describing the sound of the HE-400s...... very soft, very smooth, very round, very old analog.
You keep thinking, "wow, these could be so great if i could just add some upper mids and some treble".
And somehow the HE-400s are able to make their flatish - thickish- soft and round type of EQ tonality work, ,,,but that does not mean you have to like it.
I suspect that as these phones need power to make them speak, that many of the reviews you read whereby they are described as "bright" or "shrill" can be explained by the user trying to power these with an Iphone or some similar type device
which is starving the HE-400s and in that state they are going to sound brittle, especially at the top end.
However, if you give them the power they need and crave so that they can produce as they should, then you are will discover that they sound quite buttery smooth and very warm and thick and dark.
I like them, and i appreciate their sound, but my particular need is for more clarity in the mids and upper mids so that the music does not sound laid back and creamy smooth.
The HE-400s are nice cans, and worth the money, but be certain you are looking for their sound, which is nothing at all like a set of good dynamic open back headphones like the wonderful Sony MDR -MA900s.