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Universal Fit item created by ostewart, Jul 5, 2017
Pros - Sonic signature, balance, imaging and separation, tonality and timbre, overall build quality
Cons - Cost (value), one sharp(ish) edge, lacking accessories for the price
Picture are default 1200 x 800 resolution - click to view larger images.
I've reviewed a couple of HifiMan's DAPs in the past (one of which included an IEM I suspect was modelled on the RE600). I've also heard the HE-6 at a meet and was very impressed with what they had achieved. But beyond that I haven't heard a lot of their line-up. So when Mark contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing some more of their gear, I jumped at the chance. He originally asked if I wanted to review the Susvara as well as the RE2000 and RE800, but to be honest, I was somewhat hesitant about the idea of reviewing the Susvara – simply because of the hefty price tag. After listening to the RE2000 this week, I'm wondering now if I should have leapt at the chance to review the Susvara as well (unfortunately an opportunity missed).
Most people will recognise by now that I do take price into account when reviewing a product, and I try to be as objective as possible. So how did the RE2000 fare, especially knowing my tendency to look for value for money? Read on as I explore HifiMan's flagship IEM.
HifiMan Audio was founded in late 2005 by Dr Fang Bian when he was resident in New York. He started Head-Direct, and in 2007 began use of the HifiMan brand. They started initially with in-ear earphones, branched out into building hi-res portable players, and this was followed by planar magnetic headphones. As the business grew, so did the need to expand, so in 2010 Dr Bian started two small factories in China, and moved the HQ to Tianjin China in 2011. They are now a well recognised brand globally – particularly in the field of portable or personal audio products.
I found most of these short facts from a couple of interviews with Dr Bian posted on line, and among the interviews were a couple of direct quotes which I found fascinating and illuminating:
I started listening to a lot of music when I was in high school. I used a Walkman and Discman all the time because I had nothing else available to me. They were designed more for convenience than great sound. I wanted both- convenience and great sound so that set the stage for my dream to build the best sounding personal audio products.
Starting with me, everyone is passionate about what we are doing at HiFiMAN. We may not always do everything perfectly from the beginning but we try hard to get it right in the end and our track record is pretty good. Most of all, I want our customers to know how much we appreciate them. Their support and feedback is invaluable.
The HifiMan RE2000 that I’m reviewing today was provided to me as a review sample. After I finish with the review, I will arrange a tour through NZ and maybe Australia. At the completion of the tour, I will either return the IEM to HifiMan, or they may allow me to hang onto it for further review comparisons. Either way – they retain ownership.
I have made it clear to HifiMan that I still regard any product they send me as their sole property and available for return any time at their request. But I thank them for the ability to review and possibly continue use of the RE2000 for follow up comparisons. I do not make any financial gain from this review – it is has been written simply as my way of providing feedback both to the Head-Fi community and also HifiMan themselves.
I have now had the HifiMan RE2000 for just under 3 weeks. The retail price at time of review is USD 2000.
PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)
Spoiler: Click here for a summary of my known preferences and bias
I'm a 50 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portables (mostly now from the FiiO X5iii, and iPhone SE) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Sennheiser HD800S, Sennheiser HD600 & HD630VB, and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2 and Adel U6. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880. I have a specific sensitivity to the 2-3 kHz frequency area (most humans do) but my sensitivity is particularly strong, and I tend to like a relatively flat mid-range with slight elevation in the upper-mids around this area.
I have extensively tested myself (ABX) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent. I do use exclusively red-book 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables (unless it was volume or impedance related), and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 50, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays). My usual listening level is around 65-75 dB.
For the purposes of this review - I used the HifiMan RE2000 from various sources at my disposal – both straight from the headphone-out socket, and also amplified. In the time I have spent with the HifiMan RE2000, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (break-in). After hearing claims of audible break-in with this IEM – I measured the RE2000 both at the beginning and toward the end of the review (with at least 50+ hours use), and that measurement is also included.
This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
Front of the retail box Rear of the retail box
When the courier box arrived – the first thing I said to my wife was “oh – they must have sent me the Susvara as well! The outer packaging was pretty big, but contained not only the RE2000 but also the RE800 and a cheaper version of their HifiMan Megamini DAP.
The RE2000 arrived in a large retail box (253 x 183 x 70mm) – which consists of a full printed sleeve over a “jewellery type” leatherette encased hinged lid box. The outer sleeve is nicely done in black with a carbon type pattern, clean white (and easy to read) text, with a picture of the RE2000 on the front (as well as a sticker stating that they are electroplated with a fine 24K gold finish). The rear has specifications and contact details.
The inner box has a textured black leatherette outer surface, with a central brushed metal plate with the HifiMan logo, the RE2000 model number, and their slogan “Innovating the Art of Listening”. The inner box is closed with a polished stainless hasp.
The inner box First look inside
Opening the box reveals two black cardboard boxes – one housing the cable and the other the tips. Nestled between these is the round storage / carry case which when opened gives us our first glimpse of the RE2000. In a compartment under the case are two further pairs of Comply tips, a pair of ear-hooks, contact and warranty cards, and a very informative full colour booklet on the RE2000.
The full packageExcellent full colour guide
The accessories include:
1 pair of black silicone triple flange tips
1 pair of black silicone dual flange tips
1 pair of grey silicone “flat” dual flange tips
1 pair of black silicone “flat” dual flange tips
1 pair of grey silicone single flange tips
1 pair of medium T400 genuine Comply tips
1 pair of large T400 genuine Comply tips
1 pair black flexi ear-guides
1 black alloy storage case
Maintenance and warranty card.
Full colour booklet/manual
1 x 3.5 mm single ended to 2 pin earphone cable
1 pair additional 2 pin connectors
Cable, guides, and spare connectorsTip selection
The storage case is moderately large, and realistically won't be used as a carry case – unless in a larger jacket pocket or carry bag. It is 80mm in diameter, 35mm in height, with a lift-off lid, and internally lined with a soft felt like padded material. It also has a moulded foam insert if just to be used for storage (without the cable). The case works well and is ideal for safe storage on a desk top, or protection when on the go.
Case and insertPerfectly sized with insert removed
All in all, the included accessories are fair (maybe on the light side considering the price) – and I would have ideally liked to see inclusion of a secondary (perhaps balanced?) cable, and maybe more tips and adaptors.
(From HifiMan’s packaging / website)
Approx price$2000 USD
TypeSingle Dynamic IEM
Driver9.2 mm Dynamic with Topology coating
Freq Range20Hz – 20kHz
Cable Type1.3m, replaceable (dual pin)
Cable MaterialsSilver coated crystalline copper
Jack3.5mm gold plated single ended, right angled
Weight13.8g (earpieces), 23g (cable), total 36.8g
Casing materialBrass with electroplated 24K gold finish
The graphs below are generated using the Vibro Veritas coupler and ARTA software. Ken Ball (ALO/Campfire) graciously provided me with measurement data which I have used to recalibrate my Veritas so that it mimics an IEC 711 measurement standard (Ken uses two separate BK ear simulators, we measured the same set of IEMs, and I built my calibration curve from shared data). I do not claim that this data is 100% accurate, but it is very consistent, and is as close as I can get to the IEC 711 standard on my budget.
I do not claim that the measurements are in any way more accurate than anyone else's, but they have been proven to be consistent and I think they should be enough to give a reasonable idea of response - especially if you've followed any of my other reviews. When measuring I always use crystal foam tips (so medium bore opening) - and the reason I use them is for very consistent seal and placement depth in the coupler. I use the same amp (E11K) for all my measurements - and output is under 1 ohm.
The graphs are provided merely as a point of discussion, and later in the review I've included comparisons to other IEMs for similar reference.
Frequency response and channel matchingMeasurements after 50+ hours “burn-in”
I have included 2 graphs – which you will see look practically identical. There had been a couple of claims of marked changes after burn-in. Anyone knowing me will understand that whilst I'm open to the possibility of change (eg changing impedance due to cable changes with BA based IEMs), I tend to take claims of burn-in with a fairly large grain of salt. When someone claims the differences are clearly audible – I tend to get my objective hat on. I made sure I measured with around 50+ hours difference in use. Claims of clearly audible changes should show in frequency response (including claims of less treble, smoother tonality etc). Often when I question it, original claimants will say the changes are subtle – and perhaps can't be measured. My answer to that is simply that if the changes are subtle – and our echoic memory is typically very bad – how can someone remember changes when they are often 10's (if not 100's) of hours apart. Quite clearly the changes are not happening on my pair. If you read a review claiming large changes (or any changes) – my personal advice is to be careful of any other claims made. Its my personal view – so please choose to ignore it if you want. Interestingly, I can find no advice or claim from HifiMan that the RE2000 improves or even changes from break in.
My sonic impressions of the RE2000 – written well before I measured:
Bass is one of the strong points of this IEM. It sounds very natural (so a good naturally shaped shallow mid-bass hump), reaches low with excellent extension but is not over-emphasised. There is audible sub-bass rumble.
Lower mid-range is slightly recessed compared to bass and upper mid-range, but at the same time male vocals are well represented.
Upper mid-range is emphasised, and it is a definite colouration (you could call the RE2000 mid-forward), but one I not only appreciate, but absolutely love. I would go so far to say it is one fo the best mid-ranges I have ever heard. Female vocals have a wonderful sense of euphony, and there is wonderful clarity without losing overall tonality
Lower treble extension is phenomenal as well, but it is done without any huge peaks. Cymbal fundamentals are very good – and the decay is very lifelike without being over-emphasised. Because the 5-7 kHz and 9-10 kHz areas have small peaks, anyone who is overly treble sensitive may have issues. Personally I love it – detailed and smooth at the same time.
Overall an extremely well balanced earphone with an upper mid-emphasis, but wonderful sense of spatial imaging (we'll delve more into that later).
Channel matching is excellent – among the best I've seen throughout the entire spectrum.
BUILD AND DESIGN
External face of the shellFront and side view
The RE2000 is very well built and finished, and definitely worthy of being called HiFiMan's top monitor. The outer shell is a two tone affair and consists of a gold coloured main shell, with a black formed plastic compound plate. The exits which house the sockets for the cables are the same compound.
The interesting thing about the actual housing itself though is some of the research which went into the material to use. HiFiMan went through a very extensive prototyping development stage, and came down to three options – bronze, copper and brass. Bronze proved too hard for forming, and copper was too soft. Brass proved to be the ideal middle ground, and also had the right tonal properties. Now we know that brass is also prone to oxidisation, and this is probably the reason for the additional use of the 24K gold electroplating to finish the shells.
Internal facingRear view of shell – note the one sharpish edge
The RE2000 is a moderately large IEM with an end to end width of 15mm, a height of 11mm (shell only) and depth of approx 15mm (excluding nozzle). The interior or internal side is somewhat rectangular, but also nicely rounded with no really sharp corners or angles. The nozzle sits out (non angled) from the front of the main body, protruding approx 5mm in length. It is 6mm in diameter, mesh covered and has an extremely good lip.
The shape is rounded rectangular, and it is ergonomically designed to fit inside the natural trench or hollow from your ear's tragus, to the antihelix.
2 pin cable socket and male connectorMale 2 pin connectors
The exterior or external side has the plastic/rubber compound black “cap”. It is nicely curved to match the IEM shell and has the HiFiMan logo on both earpieces. The front and sides are rounded but due to the natural shape of most people's ears, won't have any issues. The rear join is neither rounded or bevelled and is one of the few design errors made in my opinion (I'll go more into it when discussing comfort).
On the top of the IEM is the socket for the cable. It is angled forward at about 45 degrees, and consists of the same rubber/plastic compound, with a standard 2 pin socket recessed inside. The socket is grooved on one side to match the cable, so there is no way you can attach the cable out of phase. The connection is very solid when attached, and the male connector beautifully and seamlessly attaches with the recessed socket. On the male connector's housing is printed L or R. On the socket's outer housing is a single driver ventilation port.
Y-split and cinch3.5mm SE jack
The cable is a crystalline copper wire with a silver coating (SPC), and finished with a quite satiny black overwrap which appears to be a PVC base. The main cable appears to be quite sturdy and strong, but north of the Y-split the cable is quite a bit thinner.
There is strain relief at the cable exit, but it is quite small. At the Y-split there is no relief, but I don't really think its needed because of the design. The lower cable is strong enough, and the Y-split itself is essentially a hollow tube with a tapered base. It is made of the same material as the shells, printed with the model number, and has an excellent cinch.
The jack is 3.5mm, right angled, and has a quite heavy duty housing. The standard stereo plug is gold plated. An interesting thing about the jack is that despite its heavy duty appearance, unscrewing the cylinder shows the use of electrical tape for insulation rather than the more popular heat shrinking. Both do the same job, but the electrical tape sort of clashes with the price point / build expectation.
One of the good things about the cable socket is that it is interchangeable with other standard compatible cables. I've had success with both a Rhapsodio cable and also one from LZ's new Dipper. No noticeable sonic changes, but nice to know that for people who like to experiment with cables, those options are available.
HiFiMans jack (L) vs Dunu's (R)RE2000 with Rhapsodio cable
Internally HiFiMan uses what they call a 9.2mm Topology driver. They have invested a lot of time into researching advanced depositional technology, and the result is a driver with a nano particle coating applied to it's surface. The distribution of the coating has distinct geometrical patterns, and this allows HiFiMan to manipulate or control the wave patterns to achieve a desired audio effect. According to Dr Fang Bian, “different nano materials have differing structures and each of these materials has its own properties”. Therefore by carefully controlling the diaphragm surface structure, you can yield different results in acoustic performance to a degree previously unobtainable with conventional designs. Dr Bian also says that the Topology driver also reduces uncontrolled diaphragm distortions which occur in both BA and standard dynamic drivers.
HiFiman also claim that no other driver technology allows for such control and precision resulting in clarity, detail and nuance such that it can best the world's most complicated multi driver set-ups, but with none of the coherency and crossover issues.
I of course have neither the technological understanding, nor the experience with many other TOTL earphones at higher levels. But I can state categorically that I have not experienced any other IEM with quite the same combined tonality and imaging ability of the RE2000. But more on that later.
FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION
I'll start with the easy one (isolation), and we can then look at fit and comfort. Isolation will be dependent on tip selection, and if you get a good seal, it is actually quite good (maybe slightly above average for a vented dynamic IMO), but will not ultimately reach the high isolation of sealed BA IEMs. I would even go as far to try these in noisier environments, But perhaps not on long haul flights. Unfortunately to get a great seal (and subsequent isolation) you may have to sacrifice a little comfort …..
So lets looks at fit and comfort – and these thoughts are more subjective. As I stated earlier, for the most part HiFiman have gone with a reasonably ergonomic overall design with virtually no sharp edges – apart from one at the rear. For most people this won't be an issue – as it should sit mostly above people's ears. But I have larger and deeper ears – I'm a big guy at just on 6ft.
I'm going to quote from the manual:
“The shape of the housing is again an example of blending industrial design, comfort and a striking visual. To the sweeping outer curvature juxtaposed against the angularity of the housing body yet seamlessly fitting into the ear. It at first glance looks as though it cannot eb comfortable, its angular and striking looks surely cannot be and yet, they most certainly are. The hard and yet soft satin exterior gently nestles into the listener's ear where it provides excellent fit, comfort and isolation, all to give you the most wonderful of listening experiences.”
Now we know this is marketing speak, and my issue is primarily with two areas of design. Because of the short nozzle – the fit is shallow. This means for me, I have to seat the IEM firmly with the right tip to get a good seal. Doing so (initially) meant the rear of the IEM sitting inside my ear next to the AntiHelix. This brought the sharp edge in contact with my ear. Ouch. I've mitigated it by the use of oversized tips (large Shure Olives) and angling the housing slightly forward. Its comfortable now – but it shouldn't have required this level or adjustment in the first place. Either a longer nozzle, or a beveled rear surface would have solved the issue. IMO this is a design flaw and hopefully one to be fixed in future.
Ostry tuning tips and Spiral DotsSpinfits and Sony Isolation tips
One great point for the RE2000 though is the generous lip on the nozzle (thank you, thank you, thank you!). This means that practically any tips will fit so there are plenty of options. The included triple flanges provided a good seal and I already know I'd get a good seal also with the Comply tips. I also tried Spiral-dots, Sony Isolation tips, Ostry tuning tips and a number of others. For me the large Olives (I have to stretch the stem over the nozzle to have them fit) work incredibly well with shallow fitting IEMs, and have remained my tip of choise with the RE2000.
My preferred Shure OlivesGood fit – but adjusted to avoid the edge
The HiFiMan RE2000 sits almost flush with my outer ear, and after adjustment I can wear them for a considerable time. Initially I can lie down with them. I've slept with them occasionally, but with mixed results. If they remain seated during sleep (in their original position), I have no issues. If they compress into my outer ear – it will wake me up (the sharp edge). YMMV.
So the general build is good, but the shape could be improved a little. Overall though well thought out design on the whole.
The following is what I hear from the RE2000. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my FiiO X5iii (single ended) and A5 amp, no EQ, and Shure Olive foam tips. I used the FiiO devices simply because paired they give me a very transparent window to the music with low impedance, and more than enough power. With both, their was no DSP engaged.
My trusty FiiO X5iii + A5FiiO X5iii solo was also more than enough
For the record – on most tracks, the volume pot on the A5 (paired with X5iii) was just under one quarter (on low gain) which was giving me an average SPL around 65-75 dB. Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.17556
Sub-bass – has very good extension and even at my low listening levels is audible, but there is no boosted over emphasis and it sits extremely well within the overall frequency mix. There is enough rumble to give presence without overshadowing vocals, and I'm detecting no bleed into lower mid-range. What surprised me is how well the bass compliments the rest of the frequency, and also the degree of separation. This is sub-bass that hits low, but is truly excellent quality
Mid-bass – has a very natural mid-bass hump – not too large (does not dominate) but provides excellent impact. There is more mid-bass than sub-bass, but neither is really emphasised. This reminds me very much of my HD800S – enough to sound tonally natural, give very good overall timbre, and there when its in the mix, but absent when its not. I would not call the RE2000's bass overly warm, but neither is it thin. This is the sort of bass that is simply perfect in its presentation – one of the strengths of this earphone.
Lower mid-range – there is a recession compared to bass, and also the upper mid-range, but what has surprised me is how good male vocals are with the R2000, and also that whilst there is space in the overall imaging, vocals don't sound recessed. Its very rare in a slightly V shaped monitor to find this much body and depth of timbre and tone with both male and female vocals. I don't know how HiFiMan have done it – but it is welcome
Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range, and there is a rise from 1 kHz to a sustained first peak at 2-3 kHz. The result is an incredibly clean and clear vocal range, with wonderful overall cohesion and real euphony for female vocals to sound sweet and elevated. The RE2000 is not a flat monitor, and anyone used to the creamy mid-range of the RE600 and other HiFiMan monitors will recognise this type of tuning immediately. The RE2000 is unashamedly mid-forward – and especially for female vocal lovers, it is as close to perfection as I have heard in an IEM.
Lower treble has amazing extension, and really is quite sustained from 5-10 kHz with a slight dip around 8kHz. But it isn't over-emphasised, remaining at about the same amplitude as the upper mid-range. For me this gives an extremely detailed portrayal, but without any sign of harshness. It is smooth, but still utterly compelling.
Upper treble – rolls off slowly but naturally – but still has good extension right through the upper registers. There are not many earphones I've measured which manage this. I can't really comment on the sonic signature of the upper treble, as its rare for me to hear any nuance at these frequencies.
Resolution / Detail / Clarity
I was taken aback the more I listened to the RE2000. This is an earphone with excellent extension but no sharp peaks. Yet it is vibrant, clear and articulate. Older recordings like 10cc's “Art for Art's Sake” are simply amazing even at low volumes, and the most impressive for me was Pink Floyd's “Money”. There is so much micro detail in this track, and often the headphones that display it best are the ones with a cooler, leaner drier signature. Yet the RE2000s is clean , clear, balanced and rich – and everything is there. Every nuance, every detail. I know there is the old cliché about hearing things for the first time. Thats not true in this case – I've heard this sort of detail before. But not this sort of presentation. Unless we're starting to talk full sized headphones!
Cymbal hits have excellent clarity and overall presence, and this includes decay – there is no hint of truncation. I love it when you hear a cymbal trail off, and particularly with jazz fusion (Portico Quartet) the RE2000 was magnificent.(
Overall I feel as though I'm hearing everything in the recording – and this is even at my lower listening levels.
If there was one quality of the RE2000 which I would call simply uncanny , it is the sense of imaging and space. Right from the first listen I was amazed at the overall degree of separation – especially in the bass.
Directional queues are amazing – very precise, and presentation of stage is definitely outside the periphery of my head space with binaural tracks. They are expansive but not massively so.
Coupled with the imaging is the sense of separation of instruments, and this is a strong point of the RE2000. It really si the clear definition of each instrument which makes it so compelling.
Reasonably spherically presented sound-stage – maybe a slight L/R dominance (more width than depth), but for me a good sense of staging.
There are very few IEMs which manage to totally immerse me in the audience with the applause section of “Dante's Prayer”. The RE2000 manages it naturally and easily, I'm there in the audience, and you can't get much better than that with an IEM. Not as expansive as my U6, but sometimes realism is better than sheer size and the RE2000 delivers realism easily.
“Let it Rain” was my next track and it had a very 3D-like sense of spatial presentation – it is the way the track was miked. There was only a slight hint of sibilance with Amanda's vocal (even at higher volumes) – and I know its present in the recording – so not unexpected. What was great is that the sibilance was actually quite subdued, but the detail still shone through clearly.
Overall tonal balance and clarity – while retaining a very smooth sonic presentation
Imaging, separation and sense of space in the staging.
Both sub and mid-bass have good impact and timbre when required, but do not dominate otherwise. Some of the best bass I've ever heard on a dynamic IEM
Wonderful portrayal of both male and female vocals
Detailed at low listening levels, but not peaky or harsh for me at higher listening levels
Slightly V shaped sound with slight richness or forwardness in upper mid-range area. Transition between lower and upper mid-range is extremely good.
Very subjective – I quite like London Grammar (Hannah Reid's vocal range is quite extraordinary – even if the recording quality of her albums isn't). I checked out her latest album on Tidal, and listening with my usual earphones, wasn't overly impressed (it sounded a bit flat really). Then the RE2000 arrived, and I happened to listen to the album again. I bought the CD the next day. The RE2000 has that ability to get me lost on the music – to feel less like reviewing and more like simply listening.
Sonically I simply can't find a weakness. For my preferences this is end-game territory. I would not change a single thing.
Although I wouldn't change anything – there may be some who have sensitivity to lower treble. While its not peaky – it is present – so if you like smooth and warm possible the RE2000 is not for you.
The RE2000 is an interesting IEM with its 60ohm impedance and 103 dB sensitivity. Looking at the specs, you'd immediately think that this IEM will need extra amplification, and it does need a higher volume from most of my portable devices. To maintain my usual 65-75 dB listening level utilises around 55-60/120 on the X5iii by itself. This equates to almost 50% on my iPhone SE with the same track.
But I went back and forth (volume matching with test tones and fixed volume on the A5) comparing the X5iii both amped and unamped, and I couldn't say that there was any change in resolution or dynamics. Both sounded excellent. And I have been spending a lot of time with my iPhone SE at work during the day. Its a great portable set-up. iPhone and RE2000 – who would have thought?
Testing with the IMS HVA, iDSD and FiiO A5All the sources I had could also drive the RE2000 easily
I also with tried with the IMS Hybrid Valve amp and my iDSD but none of them seemed to be adding anything to my listening set-up other than some extra bulk. So I'd suggest that amping is not a requirement but for those who enjoy using a stack – definitely it won't hurt anything – and perhaps you'll notice improvements which were lost on me.
I also had my daughter check for hiss, but none was present on any of my sources.
EQ / BALANCED PERFORMANCE
Unfortunately I could not test balanced performance as I don't have a compatible cable. It is the one thing which puzzled me at the price point – why would HiFiMan not include one? From the issue of cost, it would not be a large expense – but it would be a welcome addition to the overall package. DUNU includes an extra on their new DK-3001. Perhaps something to think about HiFiMan?
X5iii and A5's bass boost was quite goodBut nirvana reached with -2 treble on E17K
As far as EQ goes, I didn't initially test because I couldn't see how anyone would want to EQ the default tuning. I used the bass boost on the A5 and the RE2000 responded with no signs of distortion or clipping – So I have every confidence you can EQ to your heart's content. When I was doing the comparisons (next section) to other IEMs, I actually tried for the first time EQing the upper mid-range and lower treble back a little with the tone controls on the E17K (a small -2 dB nudge). The results really surprised me, and this actually hit my personal sweet spot. I didn't see this coming – and for me personally this takes the RE2000 from superb to “must have” territory. Personal preference I know – and YMMV depending on your own needs.
COMPARISON WITH OTHER IEMS
Oh boy – what to compare the RE2000 to in order to give you the best idea of its sonic quality and comparative value. Its such a tough one because I don't actively solicit review samples – so I don't have a lot of top tier IEMs at a similar price bracket to compare with.
Well lets start with the source. I wanted something neutral, but with a finely tuned digital control, to make sure I could volume match properly, and still make sure there were no questions about power output. So in the end I chose to use my old work-horse combo – the FiiO X3ii and E17K. Neutral – check. Power output OK – check. No DSP or EQ was used. Gain was low (I didn't need any more). I volume matched using a calibrated SPL meter and fixed 1kHz test tone first. My listening level was set slightly higher than my normal 65-75dB, and I averaged most of the time at an actual listening level of around 75-80 dB depending on the recording.
I chose my comparisons carefully. First up was Dunu's new DK-3001 at ~$500, then progressively upward in price from there – including HifiMan's own ~$700 RE800, Rhapsodio's older ~$800 RTi1 single dynamic, 64Audio's ~$900 U6, Fidue's $900 A91 Sirius, LZ's new ~$860 Big Dipper, and 64Audio's ~$1400 U10. Hopefully this gives enough insight to anyone interested in this IEM. Here are my very subjective personal thoughts:
HiFiMan RE2000 (~USD 2000) vs Dunu DK-3001 (~USD 500)
HiFiMan RE2000 and Dunu DK-3001Frequency comparisons
Starting as usual with build quality – both are built very sturdily built with no real weaknesses. Both also suffer a little on overall design from a truly ergonomic point of view – though in this case I do find the RE2000 a little more comfortable for longer term listening sessions. Accessories are in favour of the Dunu – especially with both balanced and SE cables included – as well as the extra tips and other accessories. The RE2000 is also considerably harder to drive – requiring more volume input to match.
Sonically these two have very similar tonal properties. The RE2000 is a little brighter through the lower treble, while the DK-3001 is a little more mid-forward and also a little smoother as far as lower treble goes. Bass is similar in quantity – but the RE2000's bass just appears a little quicker with a bit more definition.
As far as preference goes – if price was no object – I would take the RE2000 simply because of the extra definition, better imaging and separation, and the slightly more ergonomic fit. But when you take the DK-3001 at one quarter of the price – for a quite similar overall signature, its hard to go past it. For the price point, the DK-3001 is truly one of the best monitors I've heard this year. But if price is no object, then the RE2000 is (for me) an incremental improvement (albeit one at quite a massive price jump).
HiFiMan RE2000 (~USD 2000) vs HiFiMan RE800 (~USD 700)
HiFiMan RE2000 and RE800Frequency comparisons
Build quality on both is similar in terms of materials. Obviously the two are very different sizes, and that makes quite a difference in terms of comfort – with the RE800 being an IEM I can wear without any comfort issues for hours. The RE800 has a fixed cable system, and for a $700 earphone this is a little unusual (most at this price point would be removable), and the thinner wires from y-split to earphone would concern me slightly if there were any longevity issues (unknown at this stage). Both have similar accessory packages (personally one area I find slightly weak with HiFiMan compared to other offerings). The RE2000 and RE800 have almost the same power requirements.
Sonically these two have similar bass through to upper mid-range, (the RE800 is a little thinner and cooler comparatively). The RE800 is lot brighter in the lower treble with a considerable 7 kHz peak. This peak sits more than 10 dB above the upper mid-range peaks, and 20 dB above the bass line, and for me personally is overdone. Compared to the RE2000, the RE800 tends toward glare, and also enhances sibilance. Some people will still really enjoy this presentation (there were a lot who liked RHA's CL1). For me though, the lwoer treble is simply overdone on the RE800 and I'd take the RE2000 regardless of price point. With EQ though (softening the 7kHZ area), the RE800 definitely is a beautiful sounding IEM.
HiFiMan RE2000 (~USD 2000) vs Rhapsodio RTi1(~USD 800)
HiFiMan RE2000 and Rhapsodio RTi1Frequency comparisons
Build quality again on both is similar in terms of actual materials (longevity), but there is no doubt the RE2000 has the better finishing and looks more like a higher end IEM aesthetically. The RTi1 has the better quality cable, and incidentally the cable also fits the RE2000. Both were similarly sparse on overall accessories included (considering their respective prices). Both are shallow fitting and have an ergonomic type build. Of the two, the RTi1 is a little more comfortable for long term listening. The RE2000 does require more power with its lower sensitivity and higher impedance.
Sonically these two have similar bass through to lower mid-range, but differ in the upper mid-range and lower treble. The RTi1 has less presence in the upper mid-range, and quite a peak at 6-7 kHz. The two don't sound tonally dissimilar – its just that the RE2000 sound more balanced, richer and smoother. The RTi1 is brighter, thinner, cooler, and can get a little peaky depending on the recording. Like the comparison with the RE800, I'd personally take the RE2000 over the RTi1 (and pay the difference) simply because the RE2000 sits closer to my overall preferences.
HiFiMan RE2000 (~USD 2000) vs 64 Audio U6 + G1 ADEL module (~USD 900)
HiFiMan RE2000 and 64 Audio U6Frequency comparisons
The U6 is my go-to monitor, so please take that into account during this comparison. For this comparison I chose to use the G1 module simply because it elevates the mid-range a little and I prefer a more mid-forward signature.
Build quality (materials) is firmly in the RE2000 favour. Its going to last for quite some time with the use of the alloys and has a better quality default cable. You'll note with my U6 that I'm now using the Linum Bax cable and thats because my 2nd 64Audio cable has broken at the 2 pin connector. I know 64Audio would have replaced it – but this time I wanted a longer lasting solution. Accessories are in the 64Audio camp with the U6 having the ADEL (or Apex) modules and ability to tune. Fit and comfort is in favour of the U6 – the ergonomic build with no edges is simply more comfortable for me. The RE2000 does again require more power with its lower sensitivity and higher impedance.
Sonically once again we see a similar pattern in the bass – with the U6 very closely aligned to the RE2000 through to the lower mid-range, and the main differences coming in the upper mid-range and lower treble. With the G1 module, the U6 has a bump in the immediate transition to upper-mids, but the U6 has less overall upper mid-range presence, and more of a peak (albeit narrow) at 7kHz which gives clarity and definition to cymbals in particular). Comparatively the RE2000 has a fuller, richer signature but also appears a little brighter up top. TheU6 because of the lesser upper-mid and lower treble emphasis actually sounds the warmer of the two. Both are also very open sounding IEMs with a great sense of staging, width and depth.
Both are extremely good sounding monitors – just with a little difference in overall tonality. The RE2000 conveys a little more emotion, or richness, or musicality to me (I know – horrible subjective terms – but that's what I personally hear). This is one of those (like the DK-3001) where value starts becoming a deciding factor. If money was no object – then ultimately I'd prefer the RE2000. But I am perfectly happy with my U6, and at half the price its difficult to justify the overall value difference in direct comparison.
HiFiMan RE2000 (~USD 2000) vs Fidue Sirius (~USD 900)
HiFiMan RE2000 and Fidue A91 SiriusFrequency comparisons
If there is a single IEM in this comparison series which can match the RE2000 (and to some extent pass it) in build quality, materials and aesthetics – it's Fidue's A91 Sirius. The Sirius has better overall build quality, better finishing, more accessories, better ergonomics, and better overall fit (for me personally). The Sirius, like the RE2000, has one semi-sharp edge which simply shouldn't be there – but with tip and fit management I find the Sirius can be manipulated into better comfort. Something for HiFiMan to look into is the approach from Fidue with the cables – much better quality and versatuility with the balanced and single ended options. Again the RE2000 required more power with its lower sensitivity and higher impedance.
Sonically these two are quite different. The Sirius has an internal vent which does affect bass quantity – so the bass measurement on the graph probably understates the actual worn level of sub and mid-bass. But the Sirius still sounds (in direct comparison) leaner, thinner and drier. Both have a mid-forward leaning (particularly upper-mids), but the RE2000 has better upper end extension, and for me a warmer, richer and more enjoyable total signature. I really like the Sirius – and in isolation (with a little brain burn-in) it is a signature that could be end-game for a lot of people. However when directly compared to the RE2000 its again that sense of emotion that the RE2000 conveys which would have me again disregarding price, and potentially saving for longer to achieve the much higher priced offering from HiFiMan.
HiFiMan RE2000 (~USD 2000) vs LZ Big Dipper (~USD 860)
HiFiMan RE2000 and LZ Big DipperFrequency comparisons
LZ's Big Dipper is a relatively new IEM on the scene, and its point of differentiation is the ability to tune the sound with on/off switches which tune bass, mids and treble for a variety of different tonal combinations. It can be purchased as low as $620 for no switches (set tonality) or up to $860 for three switches. It is a 7 driver BA IEM.
Whilst the RE2000 has the better specification permanent materials, the actual build quality on both IEMs is extremely good. Aesthetically the RE2000 probably has the edge in terms of looks – but for actual fit and ergonomics, LZ's Dipper is quite simply one of the most comfortable IEM's I've ever worn. I can't comment on accessories as the Dipper arrived to me without it's retail packaging. The RE2000's power requirements is again higher its lower sensitivity and higher impedance.
For the sonic comparison I used the +bass +mid -treble settings on the Dipper as thats my own preference (blue on the graph). I also graphed a slightly different setting (white) to show the versatility of the dipper. Sonically these two are somewhat similar. Both have a similar transition from sub and mid bass to lower mids and even somewhat similar in upper mid-range. The Dipper has a little more bump at 2 kHz, but it is minor. Both can have very similar treble disposition – but with the Dipper it comes at a cost of a peak at 9 kHz which I can find slightly sharp (hence I use the lower treble settings). In direct comparison, the difference is not so much in terms of tonality – but in terms of presentation. The Dipper is simply a little more clinical, reference, and cleanly defined – where the RE2000 is smoother, bass has a little more richness, and again that term musicality comes to mind.
The funny thing is that I actually really like both presentations, and preference depends on the mood I'm in. There is no doubt that the RE2000 has a more romantic, less clinical overall presentation – the sort that allows you to easily get lost in the music – but the Dipper can do the same. Its only in direct comparison that you listen to the Dipper and go – wow the RE2000 does this with a richness that I actually like a little better. Like I did with my U6, the Dipper is an IEM I could easily live with as close to end-game, as long as I'm directly comparing. Sonically I like the RE2000 more – but the question is whether the difference is worth more than double the price.
HiFiMan RE2000 (~USD 2000) vs 64 Audio U10 + G1 ADEL module (~USD 1300)
HiFiMan RE2000 and 64 Audio U10Frequency comparisons
I wanted to pit the RE2000 against the most expensive monitor I had access to – which happens to be the $1300 64 Audio U10. For this comparison I chose again to use the G1 module simply because it elevates the mid-range a little and should bring it marginally closer to the RE2000. I also want to shout out to 64Audio with my thanks. After reviewing the U10 I've asked a few times about returning it, and they seem happy for me to carry on using it for comparison – so for this they have my continued appreciation.
Build quality (materials) is again in the RE2000 favour for the same reasons I outlined with the U6. While the cable on the U10 is still in pristine condition – its more likely to be that I don't use the U10 as much (mainly for comparisons), and I expect at some stage I'll possibly need to replace it. Accessories are again in the 64Audio camp with the U10 having the ADEL (or Apex) modules and ability to tune. Fit and comfort is also in favour of the U10 – the ergonomic build with no edges is simply more comfortable for me. The RE2000 does again require more power with its lower sensitivity and higher impedance.
Like the U6, we see a similar pattern – the bass is very similar– with the U10 very closely aligned to the RE2000 through to the lower mid-range, and the main differences coming in the upper mid-range and lower treble. With the G1 module, the U10 has a bump in the immediate transition to upper-mids, but then a flattening off through the rest of the upper mid-range and lower treble. Both have excellent extension. The RE2000 has a fuller, richer signature but like the U6 also appears a little brighter up top. The U10 because of the higher bass vs lower upper-mid and lower treble emphasis sounds again the warmer of the two. Both are very open sounding IEMs with a great sense of staging, width and depth.
I'm almost reminded of the Dipper in this comparison and over the last 6 months I confess to enjoying the U10's strengths more and more each time I've spent time with it. Preference comes down to how you like your music presentation. The BA's used in the U10 give great clarity and definition, excellent overall balance, and an excellent tonality – if a little on the clinical side of the spectrum. The RE2000 is again richer, fuller and there is something about the overall timbre that just pulls you in. I can't put a finger on it – but its quite intoxicating.
Like the comparison with both the Dipper and U6 – it comes down to what you ultimately are prepared to pay for. The RE2000 has a certain je ne sais quoi which is hard to articulate but continues to draw me in. But each time I compare in one-on-one situations to other IEMs I am equally amazed by what they have to offer. A definite edge sonically to the RE2000 for me – but at the price difference, the overall value might be questionable.
Normally I comment on value in the summary, but as there is such a big difference in pricing with some of the monitors I'm comparing, I think maybe I should delve a little more into the subjective question of value. There is no doubt that the RE2000 has sonic abilities I would put at close to end-game territory, and especially if I apply that small EQ I mentioned earlier, the RE2000 (along with the HD800S) would satisfy all my needs if I had to keep just one IEM. But at $2000 its hard to justify the difference from other monitors around the 1K mark. Yes the packaging is fancier, and yes they are gold electroplated, and obviously targeted toward a specific very discerning market. But if we look at what they should have had, the sense of true value is eroded a little. There is no balanced cable, the accessories are a little sparse overall, and the shell (despite their claims) is not truly ergonomic (close though). How to increase value for an updated model? Well for starters I'd look at the materials and shape. Maybe see if something ceramic would give similar casing stability, and this time no sharp edges, and maybe a slightly longer and possible angled nozzle. Throw in some more tip choices, and at least another cable. By shedding the gold – hopefully they could get a new model (RE1800?) down in cost to around the $1500 mark. At this level with better accessories, better fit, and similar sonic abilities – I'd pick it would be (like Campfire's Andromeda) considered class leading. And if you trimmed that upper end by about 2 dB – it'd tick my boxes (just leaving it out there).
HIFIMAN RE2000 – SUMMARY
Despite having these for only 3 weeks, its surprising when you sit down for a formal review how much you will discover in a very short amount of time. I'd have hated to try and compress the review into just a week – there is so much I would have missed.
The RE2000 is a very well built and presented IEM which has very few flaws. The build quality is very sound, and is a step up from most of the other IEMs I've seen from HiFiMan. There has been a lot of thought gone into the overall design (reading the supplied manual is quite illuminating) – but they still have some minor work/tweaks to do on overall fit and ergonomics to get it perfect (IMHO anyway). For a $2000 monitor I did find the accessories “OK” but not stellar. The addition of a balanced cable would probably go a long way to fixing this.
Sonically the RE2000 is extremely well balanced with practically everything I appreciate in a TOTL monitor. Great extension (both ends), a natural sounding bass, coherent transition though the mid-range (with strengths in both male and female vocals), and detail up top without crossing into etch or graininess. But where the RE2000 absolutely shines is in its sense of timbre and tone, the richness of both vocals and bass, and above all its sense of staging, imaging, and above all separation. I have never heard an IEM quite like it, and it comes very close to ticking all my boxes (drop the upper mids and lower treble slightly and it gets there). Whatever the new topography driver is bringing to the table – I can definitely say for me it is really working!
The RRP at around the USD 2000 mark means that this is more than most people will be able to afford, and whilst its hard to put a value on something which gets you close to perfection, I wouldn't ultimately call the RE2000 a “value” proposition. For me, $2000 should buy you perfection, and HiFiMan aren't quite there yet. They are however well along the track, and I applaud their efforts. 80% ranking for me – with most critique at the minor flaws, and the high price.
I just want to close with thanking HiFiMan and Mark for arranging the review sample.
Excellent review Brooko, I would totally agree with all you have said. And it's such a pleasurable IEM to listen to, the midrange is to die for.
Pros - Natural, very impressive soundstage, detail retrieval
Cons - Lack of tips and strain relief
Firstly I would like to thank Hifiman for this sample, I always try to write honest reviews. These have had well over 100hrs of burn-in, I have heard changes and recommend you burn them in fully.
Audio Opus #2 > RE2000
Dell PC > Topping D30 > Topping A30 > RE2000
Hifiman MegaMini > RE2000
Frequency Response : 5Hz-20kHz
Impedance : 60Ω
Sensitivity : 103dB
Earphone Weight : 0.48oz (13.8g)
Cable Weight : 0.81oz (23g)
MSRP : $2000
Packaging, Build Quality and Accessories:
The RE2000 come in one hell of a luxury box, the box has an outer sleeve that says the model name, with a picture and basic specs on the back. Take the sleeve off and you have a wooden box that has a laminate coating on it, with a metal plate with the brand and model number on it. The box has a metal latch and metal hinges, once you open it you will find the accessories and the IEM’s are in the carry case. Underneath the main tray you will find additional tips and also an owner’s book which is a very elegant paperback book. The packaging is superb and the unboxing experience is first class, fitting for the price.
Build quality overall is good, there are some improvements that could be made though. Finally Hifiman have included detachable cables for their flagship IEM, it has the standard 2-pin connector and has recessed sockets for these. The housings are lightweight and made of metal, the gold may not appeal to all tastes but they are well finished and not cheap feeling. The stock cable is silver plated copper, with a sturdy right angled jack with good strain relief, a slim metal y-split and chin slider. Unfortunately the cables are lacking any strain relief on the 2-pin connector which lets them down a bit, however you can easily replace the cable. Even so for $2k I would have liked a better cable with better strain relief.
Accessory wise these come with bi-flange tips pre-fitted, and another 2 pairs, they also come with 2 pairs of triple-flange tips, and also 2 pairs of Comply foam tips. Also included are ear guides for the cable, and an extra set of 2-pin connectors if you want to make your own cable for them. The IEM’s come packed in a sturdy metal case that is padded on the inside and is the perfect size for transporting these. Overall a good amount of accessories, but a few more different types of tip would be welcome.
Comfort, Isolation, Cable Noise and Driver Flex:
The RE2000 have an odd shaped housing that is quite wide, however once fitted I did find them very comfortable for long listening sessions. With the stock tips I never got the most secure fit but the fit was good and I wasn’t worried about them falling out. All the edges are smooth on the housing, and again they are lightweight so don’t feel heavy in your ears, the cable is soft and goes over and behind the ear with ease and stays there. Maybe not perfect for sports, but for long listening and general use they are excellent.
Cable noise is not an issue, the cable is soft and goes over your ear eliminating any cable noise.
Isolation is only average on these, they have quite a large vent on them so they let some outside noise in, but do not leak badly. Fine for general use but not the best for noisy commutes.
Driver flex is not an issue, not once have I heard the drivers flex.
Split into the usual categories, with a conclusion at the end, the below is based on using the stock grey bi-flange tips.
Lows: Now this is what people want, and this is something that only a dynamic driver can deliver, smooth, dynamic and punchy lows that extend right down to 20hz, and come out to play when called for. The driver in these is extremely responsive, it can keep up with the fastest metalcore, yet put on a modern pop recording at it will pulsate and deliver exquisitely textured bass. Put on some jazz you can hear the body of the double bass reverberate and deliver such realistic tonality. The thing that is most impressive about these is how they morph depending on the track in question; they stay tight and controlled if needed yet warm and full when called for. The texture, layering and tonality cannot be matched by multi BA driver IEM's.
Midrange: The midrange is pure heaven, it is lush warm and inviting, yet at the same time it manages to be crystal clear and bring out the subtlest of detail. Again during busy tracks the layering is sublime, they sound more like a full size headphone with their layering and soundstage. I have been out and about listening to these and the mids just hit you sometimes with the way they portray the emotion in vocals (Slipknot – Vermillion Pt.2). Nothing is on top of each other, you have the vocals in the centre with the other instruments surrounding them sounding totally separate, they never sound congested.
Highs: The highs manage to be soft and non-fatiguing, but without loss of extension or air. They manage to extend effortlessly, and the definition is there, each different tap of a cymbal is easily heard, yet without peaks or harshness. They are also about right in presence, without taking a back seat, they just complete the whole sound perfectly. These are all about high definition sound in a smooth package, without sacrificing the finer details and emotion.
The soundstage is the largest in an IEM I have heard (except maybe the fully open Audeze iSine series). These offer real out of head experiences, and the soundstage has width, depth and height, very impressive.
The instrument separation is also very good with an airy soundstage and excellent layering everything is kept well separate.
Conclusion: Now these are $2000, and that is a lot of money, whether these are worth that is up to the person buying them. Looking at them you might not assume that they are worth the money, but just like the Final Piano Forte series, these offer a very unique sound for an IEM, especially one that seals and is good for on the go use. These are in all ways a TOTL IEM, the sound is dynamic, slightly warm, euphoric and emotional. I don’t recall any other IEM managing to evoke such emotional response from me whilst listening to certain tracks and the good thing is they play well with all genres.
So there you have it, I personally would never be able to afford these with my current job, but do I appreciate what these deliver, hell yes. They sheer dynamics of the sound, the tonality and realistic soundstage all come together to offer a natural sound that is not missing out in the technical aspects either.
These are not an IEM that impress upon first listen, they take time to appreciate.
Sound Perfection Rating - 9.5/10 (Tip selection could be better, and the cable needs strain relief)