HiFiMAN HE-400

Average User Rating:
4.1625/5,
  1. audiophilehe400
    5.0/5,
    "Best Headphones Owned"
    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.
  2. WonWesleyChoi
    5.0/5,
    "Best sound is EQed correctly at its price, it actually sounds better than both 400s and 400i if EQed right."
    Pros - best sound at its price for sure, annoying treble spike can be EQed, soundstage, isolation, detail, instrument separation, detail
    Cons - EQ is off but if you tweek it, lower 8k-16k range by -20db, (and possibly raise 2-4k by 5db) problem solved, not too comfortable
    Most people hate this headphone because of annoying treble spike and low mid treble but if just need to tweek EQ to see its potential.
  3. Alondite
    5.0/5,
    "As good a value as exists in the world of audio. "
    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.

    Bass

    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

    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.

    Treble

    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. 

    Soundstage/Imaging

    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. 

    Signature

    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.

    Design/Comfort

    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. 

    Overall

    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. 
    leeperry and Empty Flower like this.
  4. chrismini
    5.0/5,
    "These are outstanding headphones and one can reach Hi-End for $300"
    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..
  5. kuhchuk
    5.0/5,
    "A Fantastic First Step into the World of Hi-Fi"
    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.
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/755367/shootout-entry-to-mid-range-full-size-cans-feat-ath-m50-hd-558-and-he-400
     
    My Story
    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.
     
    Build Quality
    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.
     
    Comfort
    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. 
     
    Drivability
    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. 
     
    Sound Quality
    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.)
     

    Conclusion
    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!
    Empty Flower likes this.
  6. soundeffect
    5.0/5,
    "Couldn't be happier"
    Pros - airy, smooth, comfortable, slick looking
    Cons - None
    Wow after not being active in head-fi for a couple of years and finally being back to be able to own a good headphone like the HE400 is such an honor.  I stop searching for awhile after owning the D2000 and now I wanted to find something to compliment the D2000, I decided to search.  I finally reached the HE400 and it reminded me what I love about this hobby and why I love headphones.  The HE400 is a headphone you can truly appreciate with smooth mids, nice black background, none offensive sound, open, comfortable, and look professional to boot!  I can't say more as everything can be found here in head-fi and to me word can't explain what these headphone can give.
  7. Techno Kid
    5.0/5,
    "Coming From IEM's I'm Blown Away By The Detail, Presentation and Soundstage"
    Pros - Sound Quality, Detail, Sub-Bass, Crisp Highs, Huge Soundstage, Comfort, Build Quality
    Cons - 10ft Cable which I hate and that's really it
    Upon getting them the first thing I noticed was the build quality, its very good as you'd expect from HiFiMan and also how comfortable they are. I had other cheaper headphones but they weren't this comfortable, I can wear these for hours no problem at all.
     
    As for the SQ its just great and I'm quite hard to please when it comes to SQ.  Three things I look for in a good IEM is detail, good mids and a good soundstage so I was hoping the HE-400 could stack up. Now with the soundstage I knew they would be good being open-backed and man are they, very wide with excellent depth and good height along with great imaging and good separation. Now the mids are the meat of music so they have to be good and the HE-400 while not as forward as I like they sound great, smooth and warm with good detail just how I like it. As for detail that was my biggest worry because coming from BA based IEM's like the SM3, e-Q5 and BA200 they all have very good detail and micro detail. The HE-400 really surprised me with the level of detail, now they don't quite have the micro detail of most good BA IEM's but they're not to far behind, I don't feel like I'm missing anything in the music. The bass and highs are also very good with the highs being a bit bright but not to bad over all and the bass on planars I've heard is very good and the HE-400 is no different with nice punch and very good depth and rumble but these aren't true basshead headphones though.
     
    So over all I'm very happy with the HE-400 and honestly I haven't really been using my IEM's since I got these a little over a week ago. They have good detail and a great presentation so if your looking to get into good headphones unlike Beats or even Bose the HE-400 is a great place to start and I'm already looking into getting the HiFiMan HE-500 because planar magnetic is the way to go imo.
  8. MoreBassPlease
    5.0/5,
    "Excellent open cans for rock, jazz, acoustics and traditional music"
    Pros - everything but in cons
    Cons - a little miss mid high for female voice, too long stock cable
    This is my first puchase of "audiophile level" headphones. I was looking for cans which can play "every genre" included traditional musics (gamelan from Bali & Java).
    Purchasing done mainly based on internet review. It's a rather risky desicion for $400 for me :)
     
    But, it's really whorted the price. I've burn the cans about 40 hours now, and they're getting smoother and more transparent. Especially for the highs. I use Marantz PM5004 amp and mostly FLAC file. They sound soo beautiful.
     
    Jazz, rock, classic, acoustic, gamelan, bamboo music just so alive. I only miss a little from female voices. And suprisingly, even my rockboxed sansa clip plus can drive this cans beautifully :). Great.
     
    Overall, this's excellent price/performance cans. And sound very fun. I need a shorter cable too :)
  9. RushNerd
    5.0/5,
    "Endgame sound quality for $400"
    Pros - Price, stellar sound reproduction, fairly easy to drive, very snug
    Cons - Headband is the chokepoint in the price, it's just ok. fairly heavy cans, and they are completely open
    The title is not exaggerated either, but of course to get the HE-400s to that level you need at least a decent DAC and a tube or hybrid amp like the Schiit Lyr to even hear what they truly can do. Otherwise most amps will will work just fine with them! I have tried them with my Schiit Asgard solid state amp for weeks, but felt they need more that 1watt per channel (the Lyr has 6!). The gain in sound quality is extreme enough for most people probably, but as you get to really appreciate these cans, you will want to get everything out of them.

    Simply put (without resorting to headphone comparisons which I did against the HE-400 which can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zdHTN5ysZQ ) the 400's have Superior soundstage, detail, and balance while still being exciting. There is only one other Planar headphone on the market now (Fostex t50rp and it's mods like the mad dog) but it doesn't touch the 400, HiFiman made the pinnacle of price/performance.

    You may think $400 (or less used!) is a lot for a pair of headphones, but when you consider it's top of the line tech that headphones many times it's price use, you know you've got a smoking deal.
     
    Note: My 400's have the MUCH better than stock velour pads and a Q-Audio braided cable.
    Empty Flower likes this.
  10. Alexium
    4.5/5,
    "Great, versatile headphones for the price"
    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).