Pros - Excellent Bass, Amazing Sound Stage, Great Price, Comfortable
Cons - The Highs are a little to amplified, sometimes painful
These are amazing, especially when paired with the EF-5 amplifier. Would recommend to people looking at headphones under $500. The quality and soundstage is unbeatable, works wonderfully with all types of music.
Pros - Almost even tonal balance, just the right amount of bass (and decent depth)
Cons - Annoying frequency reponse peak at ~1KHz
I'll start by saying that I have not owned a great deal of various pricey headphones. These are my best cans so far, but I've listened to a couple other comparable headphones that I'll mention later. Also, I'm not aiming to write a comprehensive review - some others already did a much better job at that than I will ever be able to. What I aim to do is point out the only fatal flaw I've found in these headphones that I didn't see anyone else mention, along with some other impressions.
My background: I listen to a whole lot different styles of music (from folk to IDM to ambient to jazz to blues to rock to pop to rap, just to give an idea). Over the years I've realized that the best sound is monitor sound. The playback device should introduce as little distortion as possible. The first really good headphones I've heard were my friend's Shure SRH-840. Then I bought myself German Maestro GMP 8.35D - awesome headphones widely regarded as fit for studio work. And then I've gotten HE-400.
My system is a Windows 8 laptop -> EMU 0404 USB -> headphones. Additionally, I own the O2 headphone amp and I have tried taking the sound from EMU's linear output and putting it through the O2 instead of using the EMU's built-in headphone amp. Unsurprisingly, I could hear no difference whatsoever. Because, well, 0404 is a solid device. EMU has less power, but it wouldn't mean I would be less deaf if I listened at peak volume - both amps are perfectly capable of producing over-the-top sound pressure levels with HE-400.
Build quality: I have no complaints. One thing I've noticed is a tiny bit of play in the ear pads where they are attached to the driver housings. It's not an issue at all, but something I would reasonably expect $400 phones to be free of.
People complain about the cable connectors, but I've detached and re-attached the cable a couple times and had no problems doing so. The connectors are clearly not convenient, but not in any way problematic. And because they're screwed in you don't have to worry about sudden connection loss.
The painted white logos wear out extremely fast. So would the L/R marks, but those are cleverly placed where you hardly ever touch them so it should be fine.
Comfort: I generally don't have problems with headphones at all, but HE-400 are clearly a bit more comfortable than GMP 8.35D thanks to less clamp force. They're heavier, though. I can feel them on my head, but I've never been uncomfortable yet. The only minor complaint (and I have the same problem with many other phones) is the headband cannot be adjusted to be short enough to fit my head well. It's just a tad too long in its most retracted position, so the earpads touch the upper part of my ear due to the headphones sitting too low. I'm an average height and build person with an average head, so not sure what's wrong there. Perhaps, my ears sit higher on the head than usual? Anyway, GMPs and HD580s have the same problem. I need to almost place the headband on my forehead to compensate for the extra length.
Sound: I won't specify a list of recordings used as some other reviewers do, simply because I've had the phones for years and listened to a whole lot of music from my collection of 29K tracks.
Just one example would be the album "Roadhouses and Automobile" by Chris Jones which is widely regarded as having great recording quality.
At first HE-400 seemed slightly superior in every aspect compared to GMP 8.35D (which, I'll remind you, are very solid phones and that's not just mine opinion). The main difference was slightly wider soundstage, and generally the sound was different in a way I couldn't pinpoint. Then I've listened to Sennheiser HD580 and realized this must be what open headphones sound compared to closed ones. I clearly hear this difference (that I still cannot exactly describe nor do I understand why it even occurs). I cannot claim I hear any specific planar / orthodynamic / isodynamic sound, though - all I hear is decent open headphones.
Bass is just the right amount and very deep. I was afraid these open ortho headphones would not match closed GMPs, but they do!
These phones are slightly more detailed than GMPs as well HD580s, and they seem to have quite flat frequency response across the whole range. But here's the catch, and I only noticed it recently: I was listening to Rob Halford singing "You've Got Another Thing Coming" on the 2005 Japan remastering of the Screaming For Vengeance album, and I've noticed unpleasantly harsh sound. Then I've found some other tracks that displayed the same problem. Long story short, there's a peak somewhere close to 1KHz. I don't have the equipment to pinpoint it, but adjusting the 1KHz slider of a 20-band digital equalizer by approx. -4 dB solves the problem. I would rather use a parametric equalizer, but again - don't have the equipment to find out the right frequency, Q factor and attenuation.
Summary: solid headphones, very versatile, almost monitor sound quality with the right amount of everything except for a narrow frequency response peak at ~1 KHz that will make some tracks sound very harsh and loud (some vocals, harp, trumpet can strike this spot).
Cons - Stock pads constrict the sound, cable connectors will kill the cable in a couple of years, relatively heavy and looks could have been better
I know this is hardly the first review of these to ever be posted and I'm pretty sure everyone has covered all of the bases by now, but I've decided to throw in my two cents as well.
This is my first review here, so please don't lynch me.
I've owned these for two years and they have a special place in my heart as that one gateway drug that led me, not only to planars, but also to the higher planes of audio... Or so I like to think. Things have changed in the past two years and if you are looking for a good value, open-back planar, this is still a decent choice, but you might want to just pick up the HE-400S, since it has many improvements over the original.
Ok, so to get this understood right off the bat - the build quality is good. It is. High quality material was used, the headphones themselves are mostly metal, the headband itself is also metal with a leather exterior.
However the design is not great. So to re-iterate, we have high-quality components, which have not been put together in the most ingenious of ways.
While the headphone itself is very sturdy, it has its issues:
The metal support for the headband si connected to the metallic casing of the driver through a screw on each side of the driver's casing. Now, the problem with these screws is that they have an uncanny tendency to unscrew themselves, so you have to screw them back in, which is quite frustrating. You don't even need to move around too much for it to happen, but it does.
The cable connectors... Ah, the lovely, lovely Hifiman solution for cable connectors (thank God, they've changed these with the newer models). They're something similar to reverse coax connectors, but I'm not really sure what. Either way, as the metal headband support screws, these also unscrew all the time, which is very, very frustrating and very damaging to the cable, in the long run.
This can easily damage the cable as you need to rotate it to screw it in. Sure, you can rotate it in the other sense to compensate for it, but most of the time you're not going to get roatate in the opposite direction exactly as much as it needs to be screwed in and that will cause tension in the cable, which, in time, will damage it. For example, my Canare 3m cable died after about one year of usage and I had to replace it with the Silver-coated OCC 3m cable from Head-Direct
Stock pads constrict the sound and are not very comfortable. I'm sure that many of you are quite familiar with the "pads change the sound" phenomenon and it's true. The stock pads seem to take out some of the depth of the sound, it's like there's a very, very thin layer of plastic between your ear and the headphone.
Additionally I spoke about the comfort. I am somewhat biased towards velour pads, because I like them more, due to not having them stick to my ears after long listening session.
Another issue is the weight that so many planars have. The HE-400 weighs about 440g, that's a little more than Fostex's T20RP MK3, which weights 328g and the Oppo PM-2 which weighs 380g. Additionally, the Newer HE-400S only weighs 350g.
The headband is not self-adjustable. I know a lot of people don't have a problem with that, but I prefer those, because they usually adjust accordingly, so I don't end up moving them by mistake and then not having the proper fit on my head and wondering what's wrong for a while... I imagine not many people run into this problem, though.
Ok, now here's the most important of them all. The sound quality.
Setup: I'm currently using my desktop PC, using a Oehlbach XXL DAC Ultra connected via USB (32-bit, 192khz) into which I plug my HE-400 directly. I have also used them with a Creative Sound Blaster Zx and a Asus Xonar Essence STU, but I will just talk about how it sounds with the Oehlbach, because it is the most fresh in my mind.
I'm using Foobar2000 as my player and my files are mostly FLAC or WAV, but I've also thrown in the occasional mp3.
I listen to all types of music, so I decided that I'm going to "audition" them and present their capabilities using multiple genres. Some of the songs I used are:
Michael Jackson - Thriller Aerosmith - Dude looks like a lady Queen - Keep yourself alive Disturbed - Indestructible
Jesse Cook - Mario takes a walk Queen - Another one Bites the Dust
Nova Menco - Journey
Joe Satriani - Surfing with the Alien Steve Vai - Earthquake Sky
George Benson - This Masquerade Guns n' Roses - Nightrain
Diana Krall - Fly me to the moon
Lee Ritenour - Night Rhythms
Ola Gjeilo - Ubi Caritas Funkadelic - Maggot Brain Infected Mushroom - Heavyweight
Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb Christina Aguilera - Hurt
Frederic Chopin - Grand Valse Brilliante (Interpreted by Valentina Lisitsa)
The tracks which I found more relevant are in bold and I will provide an explanation of why I found them to be important to my listening impressions.
So, right as you start listening to these, you can hear the immense soundstage and detail retrieval, they are really great, especially if you come from a closed-back headphone. Which I did, I tried them right after work, where I use a AKG K66. Not much of a comparison, I know, but it makes the WOW factor all the more obvious.
Michael Jackson's Thriller is a big-time hit for me. I've always loved this song, ever since I was little, but hearing it on a pair of HE-400 is completely different than hearing it on... Say, my old NEI television set, on MTV. I love this song and I listen to it when I try out headphones because of the great imaging and spaciousness it provides. From the start, when the synth and bass come in, you can tell that everything has taken its rightful place, being set just where they're supposed to be, offering a beautiful, beautiful imaging. It's not just once I've found myself pausing after the howling of the wolves, wondering what my neighbor's dogs are doing and why they're going nuts... Then I just realize that it's my music.
Aerosmith's Dude looks like a lady I use due to it's intermittent stereo sequence at that start. I generally blast the volume really high and see if there is any noise coming in between the guitar segments, in the quiet passages. While I did hear some noise, I later found out that the matter lies with my Oehlbach, not with my HE-400.
Queen's Keep yourself alive is a great song to show off the nice, smooth mids and incredible detail retrieval of this headphone. As soon as the song starts, you hear the guitar. You hear the pick strumming the guitar strings. You hear the edge of the pick grinding against the edges of the thicker strings' exterior metallic wrapping. It's fantastic to hear this much detail and it is quite soothing.
Indestructible, by Disturbed is, by far, my favorite workout sound... But as you can imagine, I don't really go to the gym with my HE-400, I simply enjoy the song at home, sometimes and that truly isn't difficult to achieve, as the HE-400 brings a great bang and slam with its bass, as soon as the instruments kick in. You can feel their "raw power" and their energy right off the bat, but sometimes it gets a bit too harsh (more on that later).
Another one bites the dust, by queen, I find to be a great tool for listening to bass and sub-bass and boy, does this headphone shine here. The bass is nicely balanced and controlled, without being bloated or feeling artificial in any way. It has depth and it packs quite the punch. It's full and it's not the type of fatiguing bass I've seen with some very V-shaped response headphones. I truly enjoyed it, despite being more inclined to a more mid-centric orientation.
Earthquake Sky is on this list because you can easily hear the nice slam of the drums, which really puts the lower range of these headphones to value.
Nightrain is just on this list because it's my favorite song of all time and it proves that, even though I love Slash a lot as a guitarist, Izzy Strandlin was quite under-rated and its that specific underdog effect that makes the first solo of Nightrain my favorite guitar solo of all time... Also the highs sounded harsh and edgy. That was unfortunate, this is one of the few times in which the high quality version of the recording was a poorer experience to me than the low quality mp3.
Funkadelic's Maggot Brain is a song I got into when I was in high school, just learning guitar. This is also one of the first lengthy solos I have ever learned, so it's quite special to me. Half of it sounds as smooth as a summer lake at dawn, really showing how the mids are well-balanced within the whole sound, showing off a very detailed sound. As for the other half, the higher-end of it all, it sound abrasive, if felt like sandpaper was being rubbed somewhere close to my ears, at times.
Infected Mushroom's Heavyweight is good as it takes you through so many sound, building a complex imagery around you, showing you how well individualized this headphone makes everything, giving proper air between each instrument and having everything settle in just right.
Christina Aguilera's Hurt, now that's a song I really enjoy and its depth gives me goosebumps every time. It's about regret, it's about not saying what you were supposed to, what you wanted to, at the right time, it's about missing out on important things in life, like family and the loss of a loved one and also about the difficulty to move on after such a tragedy, it's about... Those damn high peaks that ruin everything. There are seriously some weird high spikes in the upper range of the spectrum which can be heard throughout the song. There is also some slight sibilance and just a general sense of unwanted edginess and this time the fault is not with my Oehlbach, nor was it with my Creative X-fi Xtreme Music, nor with the STU...
This, my friends, was the biggest flaw in sound quality I found with the HE-400. It can be partially resolved by equalizing the headphones somewhere between the 9-11k, but nobody really wants to do that. Nobody wants to spend a lot of money for a headphone in order to make it sound right. Of course, I'm not saying it sounds bad, but flaws like this can be quite bothersome, especially when they're so obvious in songs you really enjoy.
They're easier to drive than most planars, but I wouldn't recommend using them on your phone.
They're not portable and are not meant to be, they don't fold, they're not closed-back, they don't have a carrying case/pouch.
The HE-400 can be used as a small, mono speaker if you have a powerful enough amp.
Hifiman HE-400 are moddable, they can be modded in many different ways in order to tweak either sound or comfort. I have not tried any of these mods, all I have done is change the pads on mine and I'm happy with the result. They come in a cardboard box, with a plastic support, but I don't care since I don't want to pay a premium for the packaging anyway.
These are a beautiful way to into things, whether it is high fidelity audio, planar magnetic headphones or just another plane within the Nirvana of good music. Sure, they're a bit clunky, a bit uncomfortable, but they provide great value for the money. The sound quality is great, but it could be a bit better. They'll always provide a good experience, but most of the time they'll provide a great one.
Within the context they were released in, all those years ago, I would give them four stars, but now with the existence of the much better, many-times-over improved 400S, I give them three stars. Mounting that up to an average of three and a half stars, which I think is fair.
Apologies if I forgot to mention anything (I'm writing this while at work, don't tell my boss!), I will update if I find it necessary and may return to post some pictures of the headphones.
Thanks for reading, let me know if you have any question (though I doubt it, at this point).
The sound of these hifiman immediately like it or hate it.
They have a strong character, perfect bass, brilliant highs, medium tone mind incorrect.
A few years ago I was involved with live recordings of classical music and I used the stax lamda pro (magic but delicate) and Sennheiser HD 600 (less magical but tonally correct) as monitor of post production.
After so many years I decided to try this hifiman hoping it was a mix between strax and Sennheiser.
Ok I was wrong, hifiman has a different sound.
For two weeks I sailed between Acdc, metal, in exaggerated volumes.
Then I got the Audio Gd NFB 28 and headphones were taken off, especially in balanced.
Too bad the rest of the music I was interested less than usual, then I realized that the particular signature sound port to listen at high volume that kind of music.
Loreena McKennitt's not good! His voice changes tone is darker, the musical instruments that are riding the midrange suffer.
Il suono di queste hifiman piace subito o lo si odia.
Hanno un carattere forte, bassi perfetti, alti brillanti, medi timbrica mente scorretti.
Qualche anno fa mi occupavo di registrazioni live di musica classica e usavo delle stax lamda pro ( magiche ma delicate) e sennheiser hd 600 ( meno magiche ma timbricamente corrette ) come monitor di post produzione.
Dopo tanti anni ho deciso di provare questa hifiman sperando fosse un mix tra le strax e le Sennheiser.
Ok ho sbagliato, hifiman ha un suono diverso.
Per due settimane ho navigato tra Acdc, metallica, a volumi esagerati.
Poi mi è arrivato l'Audio Gd Nfb 28 e le cuffie hanno preso il volo, soprattutto in bilanciato.
Peccato che il resto della musica mi interessasse meno del solito, poi ho capito che la particolare firma sonora porta ad ascoltare a volumi alti quel genere di musica.
Loreena McKennit Non va bene! La sua voce cambia tono, è più cupa, gli strumenti musicali che sono a cavallo della gamma media soffrono.
Pros - Price to Performance Ratio, Tone and Imaging,
Cons - Break-in
The price to performance ratio of the HiFiMan HE-400 is truly exceptional. The clamping force of new head band is tight and requires break-in. I prefer the the plush pads over stock pads for comfort. Once HE-400 is broke in, like a pair of old boots...they become comfortable but not super comfy..due to the weight of these cans being on the heavier side.
Equipment used for this review
Decware Zen Head amp
Emmeline "The Black Bird" SR-71A amp
Schiit Valhalla 2 amp
Modifies Play Station1 CD player
iPod classic 160gb
ALO Audio 30pin line out dock cable
All tunes sourced at CD quality bitrate 1,411 kbps, iTunes, Tidal music player, CD's, WAV files
Pros - When Driven at the right way you will be impressed
Cons - none so far
This is one of my few reviews, Im not a type of person to give reviews when buying an item but this time I had too. I was looking for a good setting to have a portable hifi system and I knew to achieve this its not coming for cheap but also I had a budget. After reading many reviews I decided to go for these planar headphones the Hifiman He-400 and also bought the Fiio X3 to drive them with.I was so excited when I received them that I couldn't wait to try them on. But to tell you the truth I wasn't that satisfied! Yes its true you will hear instuments and clearness that with my other equipments I couldn't but I love to listen music load and perhaps without losing from quality thats why I spend around 400 Euros for them but with Fiio X3 at full power wasn't so impressed. I thought that these headphones were not driven hard enough so I decided to go for an Amp. My choice was between C & C BH - Fiio E12 - Cayin C5. But finally I choose the Cayin C5 and theres were the magic begins. BANG it was amazing. This great Amp was helping the Fiio X3 driving these beefy Hifiman. With the boost turned on from my amp I could still enjoy a crystal clear quality and I couldn't believe the sound was coming out from this equipment and getting the best from these headphones. Finally I spend around 500 Euros but now I can say they were well spent
Pros - Sound Quality excellent, no sibilance, aesthetics
Cons - Weight, cable connection, ergonomics
Engineer's dream, but lacks any comfort. 3 month owner.
Pros: Sound Quality excellent -
Lows - shame on you if you don't already know these are bassy.
Mids - average sound quality. limited range, but great detail.
High - slightly 'punchy'/undetailed and a bit bright, but still great. No sibilance - you get the point. Aesthetics - easy on the eyes, great look.
Cons: Weight - padding on headband wears out in a month. It will hurt your head if you don't bend the medal headband to size accordingly. It got to the point where I had to make a custom pad for the top of my head. Ear cushions - synthetic leather can get quite hot. I tend to sweat with any form of leather, so aftermarket ear cushions were a must. Cable connection - this is the biggest design flaw of the headphone. I had my 400's RMA's because the connection point between the headphone and cable broke off. The actual cable sticks out of the bottom of the ear piece and rubs against your shoulders which is annoying for some.
Bottom Line: I researched for dozens of hours on different headphones and consistently heard these were the best in their class. Basically, if you are thinking about buying for sound and would be willing to sacrifice comfort then welcome to your new headphones. If you have the money then I would recommend buying the 560's as after testing had much better mids.
Pros - Smooth, linear bass. Great detail in certain frequency ranges.
Cons - Frequency response "hole", somewhat uncomfortable, can be fatiguing, rigid cable.
Setup 1: Win7 PC -> USB -> Modi -> PYST -> Magni
Setup 2: Win7 PC -> USB -> E10k
Disclaimer: this is my first review on Head-Fi and I fully declare that I know (nearly) nothing. Please be kind.
Based on the reviews I read here and elsewhere, I chose to go with the HE400's for my quiet, at-home setup. My primary listening material is electronic house, jazz, and swing, so I figured I'd go with a headphone that everyone described as "fun" and "interesting". But as soon as I plugged them in I knew something was wrong. The detail was phenomenal, the bass lovely and linear (and gets notably better with burn-in), and treble surprisingly clear. But most men's voices, the low notes in women's voices, some cymbals, violas, and french horns all sounded like they were behind a velvet curtain. On some recordings these headphones are truly spectacular, but almost half the time I found myself recoiling at the bizarre frequency response hole with which I was presented. After some 20 hours of testing and listening I have decided that $300 headphones shouldn't make me go "ew", and have decided to return them and try some much-flatter HD-600's instead.
The packaging is simple but effective and got the 'phones to me without any kind of damage.
Instead of a rigid carrying case, like what I got with my Senny HD 380 Pro's, HiFiMan provides a simple velvet bag. While this might be good for some gentle kinds of transport, there's no way I'd put these in my backpack or anything.
Although bright blue in some photos, in real-life mine had a nice, dark blue colour. The cans themselves look quite nice, but the headband and its attachments are bargain-basement.
Out of the box the HE400’s definitely have death grip. Fortunately, the headband is somewhat bendable, so it’s quite easy to reshape it to lower clamp force. For that matter, if you had some kind of head deformity you could probably bend it to work around that, too!
The ear cups are nice and deep and didn’t touch my sticky-outy ears at all. My HE400’s came with both the pleather and velour pads, and I found that the velours were about 7mm thicker than the pleathers. The cups themselves are very large. While this might be good for some people, they were so big on my face that they touched my jawbone and forced my mouth open slightly! When I think of listening fatigue I don’t often think of a sore jaw, but there you go.
While I didn’t find the cable to be hard to manage, one strange consequence of its rigidity was that it pulled my head down. I found that the cable had such a hard time bending around things (like the arm of my listening chair) that it would pull my head towards where the cable was coiled, on the floor in my case.
Despite my whinging, the comfort isn’t that bad, say 7/10, but they’re not a forge-that-you-even-have-them-on headphone like my HD 380’s.
While it could be that there ‘phones weren’t burned in at all, I did find that my E10k DAC/Amp didn’t bring out the bass in the HE400. Once I got them home and plugged them in to my Magni I noticed that bass had much more presence, without ever being boomy or overpowering. Bass is noticeably absent without amplification, though, so don’t listen to the marketing and think that you’ll be fine driving these with an iPod.
The HE400’s do most things very well. I put on Sting’s The Last Ship and couldn’t believe how good it sounded. Sting sounded perfectly positioned in the sound stage, and the acoustical accompaniments were clear and detailed. I sat there and listened to the whole album and thought I had found acoustic bliss. Despite what most say, I found that a lot of classical music, especially Vivaldi, sounded great on these headphones, too.
But when I put on nearly anything else I thought of velvet, and too much of it. The female vocalist from The Moleskins, for example, sounded like she was singing from 5 metres behind her band. A viola, cello, or french horn soloist sound like they’re playing in a velvet-lined box, and some cymbals sound as though they’re not even on the same sound stage!
So what is causing this? The 2,000 to 6,000 Hz frequency response hole. If you bring up the FR for the HE400 on HeadRoom you’ll see it quite clearly. In retrospect I should have known better, but I was expecting it to manifest differently. Material that is recorded flat presents the hole quite clearly. It’s only material that is recorded with those frequencies over-amped that sounds truly great to me on these headphones. And that’s what was going on with the Sting and Vivaldi recordings that I liked. On my Shure E2 IEMs (my favourite reference monitors to date) Sting sounds way too forward and Vivaldi harsh. The FR hole in the HE400’s was simply flattening those out for me. Unfortunately for the HE400’s, most recordings are between flat and laid-back, and the more laid-back the worse the recording sounds on them.
The HE400’s are great headphones for some recordings. They have a velvety-smooth signature, great detail, and amazing channel separation. But when I add up the frequency response hole and the comfort issues I experienced I have decided to return these headphones and try something else.
Would I buy these again? Probably not. If I were to go for some more orthodynamics I’d go with something with flatter tuning. Still, this was a fun experiment and I get to exercise Amazon’s return policy, something I don’t do often.
Arriving next week: Sennheiser HD600’s. At least on a graph, they seem much more attuned to my tastes.