HiFiMAN HE-400i

General Information

Specifications:

Driver Type: Planar Magnetic
Impedance @ 1kHz: 35 ohms
Sensitivity: 94 dB SPL/V
THD+N:
Isolation:
Connector Type: 1/4"
Cable Length: 2 m
Cable Style: Straight Y
Weight: 12.7 oz.
Manufacturer Warranty: 1 year

Latest reviews

Pros: -Natural timbre
-Lush and smooth yet detailed
-Quick bass
-Close to neutral for planar
-Smooth and sparkly treble
-Transparent mids
-Lightweight
Cons: -Build quality, ear pads and cable
-Lacks sub bass extension
-Average sound stage
-Sound seal
Review by Mhark Jhoshua Q. Torres

The Company







HIFIMAN has been one if not the best headphone maker out there, they specialized in producing headphones with unconventional drivers, they used Planar Magnetic drivers as the owner, Dr. Fang actually has researches regarding the technology behind Planar Magnetic drivers. Up until now they are very popular in the audiophile realm with several awards and positive feedback. HIFIMAN ANANDA and SUNDARA are few of their new lineups and it is quite popular in audiophile groups. HIFIMAN continues to be one of the top brands in headphone class and it is my personal favorite.

The HIFIMAN HE400i





“Easy-to-drive Full-size Planar Magnetic Headphone” this is the claim of HIFIMAN with regards of the HE400i, it is the newer version of the HE400 which is also a hit and was one of the first planar magnetic headphone that is designed efficiently. In my experience the HE400i can be driven by phones to audible volume at max, but it sounds thin and lacks resolution.

Fit, Comfort and Build Quality


The HIFIMAN HE400i, despite being outdated still looks good, the construction of the grills is nice as you can see the drivers when there is enough light to reveal it. The build quality is a mix of plastic and metal, in my honest opinion it feels flimsy and the left and right cups aren’t aligned and it looks off when resting at headphone hanger/stand. I got my 400i as a 2nd hand unit so there are some marks of usage but overall it is definitely presentable. I don’t like the ear pads especially when I compare it with the SUNDARA, it feels itchy and warm to the skin surrounding my ears so the area under the pads becomes more sweaty.

The weight of the 400i is generally light and it doesn’t cause much pain on my neck, it feels comfortable for long hours of listening given the listening area is well ventilated and is at least 3 or 5 degree Celcius below the standard room temperature, because as I said, the coating of the pads feels warm/hot. The cable included is a sleeved type cable, it doesn’t feel premium at all, it gets tangled easily and I find it worse than the cable of SUNDARA. Overall, the build of HE400i is just mediocre, it doesn’t feel premium and the alignment of the cups aren’t great, luckily it feels light and the clamping of the headphone is pretty good too, neither tight nor loose.

Technical Specification:
1. Frequency Response: : 20Hz-35KHz
2. Sensitivity : 93dB
3. Impedance : 35 Ohms
4. Weight : 370g
5. Cable Length : 1.5m
6. Plug : 3.5mm/6.35mm

Packaging


The box of the HE400i looks premium and sophisticated, it beats the packaging of SUNDARA by a notch or two, the box is very solid and is made out of premium materials. Inside the box are the sleeved 3.5mm cable, 3.5 to 6.35 adapter, paperwork and the headphone itself. The package is just okay, I just hope that there’s a carrying cloth bag at the very least just in case you don’t have any headphone hard case and you want to carry it around from home and your workplace. The included cable is just average too I hate it because it gets tangled every time they have contact, I like it because it feels robust and sturdy enough.

Sound

I love gears with midcentric to flat sound signature as I really love listening to vocals rather than instruments. My genre ranges from heavy rock, alternative rock, pop rock, acoustic, pop, jazz and folk. Majority of my test tracks are in 16 bit – 44 khz and 24 bit – 48 khz FLAC file and here is the list of my commom test tracks.

  1. Reese Lansangan – For the Fickle (background, female vocals and upper mids)
  2. Foo Fighters – Bridge Burning (Imaging, Layering, Coherence, Sub bass and Mid bass, Mids, Treble)
  3. Jensen and the Flips – Come Closer (Mid Bass, Mids)
  4. Ed Sheeran – Dive (Mid bass, Lower Mids)
  5. Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why (Upper Mids and Instruments)
  6. Paramore – Hard Times (Imaging, Layering, Coherence, Sub bass and Mid bass, Mids, Treble)
  7. Utada Hikaru ft. Skrillex – Face My Fears (Imaging Layering, Bass, Mids, Treble, Coherence, Quickness)
  8. Passenger – Coins in a Fountain (Mid bass, Layering, Imaging, Instruments, Lower mids, Treble)
  9. Tori Kelly – Hollow (Background, Upper mids)
  10. Ariana Grande – Raindrops (Background, Upper mids)
Summary

For the Quality, higher is better as this includes resolution and dynamics while the quantity and positioning are subjective, it actually tells how close and how much the frequencies are.


Source: Shanling M3s + Jazz R7.0
Bass

Starting with the sub bass, it is well extended and has very good texture, planars are known for their bass and the 400i is not an exemption. The rumbles and riffs are deep and is resolving without being too forward, quantity despite of being a planar is not excessive at all, the sub bass are produced with enough body, great details, and in quick and agile manner. Mid bass, just like the sub bass is being rendered in quick, tight and accurate manner. Both attack and decay are just flawlessly rendered with enough body and weight. Just like the sub bass, the mid bass is placed linearly to slightly forward (maybe due to my warm source and op-amp that I equipped with my amplifier), the quantity might not be enough for bass-heads but the quality is definitely top notch. Despite the known lush sound of planars, the bass of the 400i is rendered in detailed manner, every bass notes are greatly textured and accurate.

Midrange


Lower midrange really depends on the source used and if the right power is supplied, this is the most noticeable part when plugged unamped and amped, it sounds thin and dry when unamped whilst it sounds lush and has good body when amped. It’s hard to find a good synergy too, pairing it with Shanling M3s + JDS labs O2 amp + Burson V6 vivid the details is literally smashing into my face but in return it sounds dry and thin for my liking, on the other hand when pairing it with Shanling M3s + Jazz R7.0 + Thai op-amp, it sounds lusher, smoother, and fuller without losing much details. The positioning of lower midrange is almost the same as the bass, it is just a bit forward, the timbre is natural (amped) and it sounds as natural as it can be. Upper midrange has moderate body, just enough for the female vocals not to sound shrill, it is transparent resulting to calming vocals and string instruments. As far as my journey goes, the midrange and timbre of the HE400i is definitely one of the best, it sounds natural and sweet while the fullness is just enough for it to stay away from being veiled or muddy. Positioning still the same with the lower midrange while the resolution is still great.

Treble

I made the review mainly using the Shanling M3s+Jazz R7.0 setup simply because among the setups I tried, this suits my preference well and it feels that it has better synergy with 400i than the other setups that I tried. The treble of the 400i in this pairing is smooth yet detailed and well extended, the treble isn’t airy but has good sparkle and definition, it doesn’t sound sibilant or harsh at all (except it is not well driven). Both attack and decay is quick making very agile even when playing complex tracks. Since it lacks airiness, the sense of depth, width and height isn’t that great the staging despite sounding realistic isn’t one of the most spacious cans out there, I find the closed back Beyerdynamic Dt1770 pro to be deeper and wider.

Sound Stage and Resolution

The sound stage of 400i is far from the best out there (Planars are not known for humongous stage) but I would say it sounds very real, imaging and layering is great and satisfying especially when playing tracks by Led Zeppelin, I can easily pin point the location of instruments in my mind. It sounds 3D-ish too when properly driven but still not as wide as D1770 pro maybe because the midrange of 400i is slightly forward and the treble lacks air too (Planars, duuuh). Resolution is nice too, I acquired the 400i for 7500 Php (150 USD) and it is one of the best buy that I’ve ever done in this hobby, bass region despite its quickness is very resolving, midrange is quite smooth but still resolves micro details, lastly the treble which has good sparkle packs a lot of details for the price.

Synergy and Sound Signature

Unlike other Planar Headphones, the 400i’s sound sinature ranges from warm and smooth to neutral instead of dark. Bass is a bit forward and is very quick, tight and resolving despite being smooth at the same time, the midrange is smooth and a bit forward in comparison to treble it has very natural timbre and sweet upper midrange that makes it a good gear for vocal focused tracks, lastly treble lacks air but offers good sparkle, resolution and speed to compensate. I suggest to use a neutral sounding DAP/DAC/AMP when using the 400i since the signature it has is flexible enough to tackle every genre you have in your music library.

Shanling M3s (High Gain, volume @ 90)

This is how I tried the 400i initially and it was my first headphone purchase, it sounds thin and the treble sounds metallic but still it is far better than any IEMs that I’ve tried under 30,000 Php (600 USD). Obviously it is not driven properly, the bass is still quick, mids sounds too dry but has natural timbre, the treble in this pairing is prominent and sometimes it is aggressive. Despite being efficient, planars are known to be power hungry but in comparison to SUNDARA the 400i requires a lot more power.


Adding Jazz R7.0 as amplifier and using copper IC, it sounded like a new gear. The bass extension became deeper, better texture and details and the mid bass became tighter and more controlled. Midrange gained a lot of body, it became balanced (enough lushness and transparency) the timbre became more natural due to added body, smoother yet resolving. Lastly the treble became smoother and less aggressive, sparkle and extension still remains the same.

Adding JDS Labs O2 (with burson v6 vivid) as amplifier and using copper IC, it sounded very detailed in comparison to jazz R7.0 and Shanling M3s (high gain), details on midrange and treble almost slapped me in the face but the overall tonality became thin and dry, it lacks body and I didn’t love the synergy.


Adding Periodic Audio Ni (double amping) as amplifier and using copper IC, It sits between the tonality of Jazz R7.0 and JDS Labs O2, the body is slightly reduced but it sounds more transparent than the R7.0, details are there but not as prominent as when I’m pairing it with O2. Noise floor is suprisingly low despite using it on PO and not on LO (the Ni doesn’t have volume control, same goes to the M3s when it is on LO so I have no choice but to use PO to be able to control the volume). Despite being small, the Ni was still able to power the 400i decently but among the three amplifiers, I’d pick the Jazz R7.0 because it was able to properly balance the lushness and transparency of the 400i.

Smartphone (Huawei Mate 10)

The Huawei Mate 10 has a sound signature of neutral-bright, sound quality far below the M3s, cranking the volume to 80-100 the sound of 400i is just decent compared to the SUNDARA, it sounds dry and thin to the point that male vocals doesn’t have sufficient body. I don’t recommend using it with smartphone alone cause you’ll get around 30 percent of its full capacity (soundwise).

Comparison

HIFIMAN SUNDARA


The SUNDARA is actutally the upgraded version of the HE-400 series, in terms of build quality I’d definitely pick the SUNDARA, the body is made out of metal and still maintaining it as lightweight as the HE-400i, the cable is better too it is less tangly than the 400i’s stock cable. The sound signatures of the SUNDARA and HE-400i are nearly identical except that the treble of SUNDARA is more relaxed. In terms of sound quality, the SUNDARA is definitely and upgrade, the timbre is even more natural, better tightness on the bass, wider and deeper sound stage, more transparent mids and smoother treble. Resolution is not night and day but still, SUNDARA picks more details and textures than the 400i, nonetheless for the 2nd hand price of the 400i it is still a good buy if you love the SUNDARA but can’t afford it.

Beyerdynamic DT1770 Pro

This is a dynamic driver headphone so obviously it has better staging and airyness, but lacks coherency, speed and transparency in comparison to planars surch as HE400i. Desptite being closed back headphone, the DT 1770 Pro sounds wide and airy, but for me the 400i seems to be more 3D-ish. Sub bass depth and weight easily goes to the DT 1770 pro while the tightness and speed of mid bass goes to the 400i. The midrange of the 400i and DT 1770 pro seems to be linear while the latter leans to be slightly recessed, transparency, timbre and resolution easily goes to the 400i. Lastly the treble of the DT 1770 pro wins in terms of airiness, resolution, and sparkle while the 400i snatched the speed and extension. Overall they are pretty close depending on usage, I can’t use the 400i outside of my workplace or house since it is an open back design and lacks isolation and sound seal.

Conclusion


This guy is my first love, I tried several Headphones before such as Sennheiser HD700 and AKG K712 but they never caught my attention the same way the HE-400i did. I love the timbre and how it scales very well with various amplifiers. Despite having pretty intimate sound stage for an open back headphone, it still sounds realistic since imaging and layering are top notch. Transparency is great as well while the resolution is just above average compared to other headphones that shares the price tag of the 400i. Despite being advertised as efficient planar headphone, it is not really meant to be used straight to your phone, adding some cheapo amplifier will make it sing a lot better than before. There are design flaws, bass isn’t the punchiest too, and the sound seal is far from being great but if you use it with proper source and place it is definitely a good buy.
misteral201103
misteral201103
As I've written elsewhere, I LOVED my 400i's when I got them. Then I got the InEars Prophile 8s and I couldn't go back to the 400i's - I was too aware of what I was missing. Now I have the Fiio M11 and am using the balanced output with my Hifimans and they just SING. Sometime in the future I'll upgrade to the Ananda, but I'm loving these again. Glad to see you also enjoy them so much. They are ridiculous value for money at current pricing!
Pros: clarity. low and high freq extension
Cons: cable is too short and right angled jack not ideal for desktop use
ALL REVIEWS ARE CREATED BY SOULSIKREVIEWS.COM


VIDEO REVIEW:




Hifiman He400i on the wall mounted headstand

INTRODUCTION

Headphones are made of different types of drivers. Normally, it is made of dynamic drivers. If you pick up a random headphone from your nearby Best Buy, it’s probably going to be a dynamic driver headphone. Some headphones use different drivers to produce sound. This is mainly to produce a different or unique or better sound signature. The headphone we will be going over today is the Hifiman He-400i, a famous planar magnetic headphone, arguably one of the best headphones under $500. Planar magnetic headphones usually have larger thin drivers with more magnets on either side of the drivers. You can find more explanation of the difference between drivers online and we might provide you with one in the future but for now, the planar magnetic drivers are commonly found in audiophile headphones with companies like Hifiman and Audeze designing and selling them.

ABOUT HIFIMAN

HiFiMAN Electronics is a designer and manufacturer of audio products including headphones, amplifiers, and portable audio players. Hifiman is known for its high-end audio products made under the brand Mee Audio. Its most popular products include the HE-400 which are full sized open back headphones and the RE-400 which is an IEM (In Ear Monitor). Both products are supposedly critically acclaimed for their sound quality

DISCLAIMER

This review unit was provided by audio excellence (an audio store in Canada) with the permission of Hifiman distributor. As usual, my reviews will be honest and contain no bias.

SPECS

Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 35 KHz

Sensitivity: 93dB

Impedance: 35 Ohms

Weight: 370g

Cable length: 1.5m

Plug: 3.5mm/6.35mm

THE BUILD QUALITY

Headphone: most of it is made of high quality plastic with thin metal suspension. The headphone seems durable and comes with a case that seems incredibly premium. The headphone adjustment is made with a up/down clicking mechanism which feels nice and easier to adjust because you can physically see or feel how much you are adjusting for both left & right. This was a problem in the HD6xx/HD650, where there were no ticks/levels to know if you were adjusting the headphones evenly for both sides. The mesh on the side of the headphones are very beautiful and the drivers can be seen with the right lighting, of course, this open-looking mesh means, this headphone is very open back, both in terms of sound and leakage.


HIFIMAN He400i rear view

HIFIMAN He400i mesh
Pads: the stock pads are the Focus pads, with the velour on the inner part and pleather for the rest of the pads. This hybrid pad feels very nice and is extremely comfortable but gets a bit hot with extended wearing durations. It is also glued on, so you would need to make some serious modifications to change the pads. Some suggestions out there are the alpha pads, but this was not tested by me. For me, the stock pads were just fine.


HIFIMAN He400i Focus Pads. Velour side can be seen from this angle.
Cables: Fabricated and looks like a pretty decent stock cable but is only 1.5m long, which is very short for a desktop/home use. It also terminates in right angled jack, which makes plugging into your amps rather inconvenient. The connectors are 2.5mm connectors that is differentiated “left” & “right.” Clicks in nicely and it is firm enough that it won’t yank out.





Case: hands down, it comes in the most premium packaging in the world.

SOUND QUALITY

These headphones are highly efficient and can be even driven with a phone.

Low Freq: The bass in the He-400i is well extended. By that I mean, there is some sub-base. It is comparable to the sub-base I get when I use my HD6xx with the Dark voice 336 se tube amp, which is already around $800 dollars in value. The overall bass is intimate, tight and punchy. It is rather an accurate representation of bass but at the same time, very pleasant, in my opinion. The bass does not blead into the mid frequencies as much as in other headphones, for example; in the tracks, Smooth Jazz Tribute to Sam Smith, the bass came in nicely without taking anything away from the beautiful mid frequency presentations.

Mid Freq: This is a warm-ish headphone and I say that because this headphone sounds quite like my HD6xx from the low to low-mid frequencies and then it starts to differentiate itself from the high-mid to high frequencies. The Vocals are very clear and everything exists within the boundary of “mids” but there is no emphasis in any specific areas. Everything from vocals to instruments retain that smoothness through this frequency. For example; while listening to the Small Bump by Ed Sheeran, the bass was almost euphoric while the guitars and vocals retained its beautiful harmony

High Freq: this is where the real fun begins for this headphone. The highs are rather rolled off in the HD6xx/H650 or HD600s but here, the highs are clear and much more evident. It is much more natural and lively-sounding. Now, you might associate lively-sounding to bright or even sibilant headphones, so let me make it clear, “He400i is just right, it is not sibilant.” Now, of course if you are coming from a more dark-sounding headphone or if you are all about that “warmth” then, you may FEEL like it is sibilant at first, but that is just your ears getting adjusted to all the details in the highs that you have not heard before. Some instruments are meant to sound this way, to make the overall track livelier, but some headphones take this away because not many people enjoy all the details in the highs and it is a very hard to get that perfect roll off to make it “just detailed enough but not sibilant.” But as you move up away from the Mid-fi area, you are seeking for more “detail and clarity,” therefore high end audiophile headphones are commonly criticized for being sibilant. It seems like He400i has achieved that “just right” feeling for some people. It may be still sibilant depending on your preference or previous gear but at least for me and those I have talked to during this review, this headphone seems to do just that, “perfect.”

Soundstage: the soundstage is most intimate than the HD600 or the HD6xx/HD650, but this makes the bass much more apparent. This would be a preference thing but I enjoy soundstage and this was a downside for me

Imaging: very accurate for a sub 500-dollar headphone, I would say it competes with the HD600/650s if not just a tad bit better. For example; in my symphony tracks, I could tell which instruments were coming from which positions but it was not a wide accuracy but more an intimate one.

HD600/H650 vs HE400i: Straight off the bat, there is no clear winner, it will ultimately be your preference that determine which headphone is right for you. The HD600 is commonly compared to the HE400i. Some reviewers say that the He400i is as neutral as the HD600, which I do not agree with because if anything, the He400i is more closely related to the HD650s in that it has that bass. Of course, both do not have a lot of bass but they have more than neutral headphones like the HD600s. He400i sounds livelier than both HD600 and HD650 but vocals come in much more euphorically in the HD650s because it is much more present due to the rolled off highs. Some may rather prefer the more natural sounding vocals and instrumentation in the He400i.

He400i + phone: at max volume, the He400i is at a reasonable listening level. Everything sounds great but at the same time, sound a bit lean and messy/veiled in busy tracks.

He400i + Schiit stack: sounded just right, I can see many people using this combo as it adds more warmth and clarity. Modi 2’s clarity may be overwhelming for some people and can be even called sibilant in some tracks but again, this depends on your preference and which gear you are coming from.

He400i + Oppo ha 2 se: This was by favorite combo. Sounded phenomenal, even took it out for a drive in my car and although it may not have been the best idea, I have no regrets. The bass boost in the Oppo ha 2 se with the He400i is just mouthwatering. The mids became more emphasized with the highs retaining that clarity and detail.

He400i + Darvoice 336se: I’ve noticed some higher than normal noise floor, probably due to the He400i being low impedance headphones but this combo adds more bass and vocal emphasis. Overall, I would say it makes the He400i slightly warmer without losing any detail in the highs.

He400i + Jotenheim: Rather an overkill, since these headphones are highly efficient. But a powerful amp and a good dac adds more body to the sound making everything more full and detailed. With this specific combo, it felt like everything the He400i could accomplish was accomplished. The instruments and vocals sounded much more detailed compared to the He400i + phone combo. The bass also seemed to extend more and punch more confidently.

Overall Thoughts

The He400i is a great headphone to start with if you are looking for a great headphone. If you are looking for great headphone within this price range, it is either the HD600s, 650s, or these. It all comes down to what is important for you. Do you prefer more bass & lively/detailed headphones? Then, the He400i could be for you.
Pros: Sound Quality, comfort, packaging, price
Cons: Clamping force
At 240 dollars new (price I paid) this probably one of the best price/performance ratios I can think of for cans of this class. Each song is a new listening experience and these sound far superior to any other cans or speakers I have ever heard. I am currently using a C&C BH amp Colorfly C3 combo. Sound is very addicting with very pleasant musicality with great tonal balance. Clamping force was high on initial use but they fit much more comfortably after a few days of use. I would gladly pay 400 even 500 for these headphones.
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gobin
gobin
Where did you get the he-400i for $240 though?
Jesse Oh
N
Nunavut
Now available new for $180 US on buydig.com. Use code LISTENUP

Comments

If it's between paying 500 for them and getting them pre-burned or paying 240 and having to burn them in myself, I'll take the cheaper option, thank you very much. It's the same approach that allowed Superlux to price their headphones super-competitively and I already know how to optimize the burn-in from my HD668B experiments. :)
 
ignoring price for the moment - since sales are everywhere - how would you compare the sound of the HE 400i vs the new HD 700's ? I love lots of jazz, blues, blues-rock, rock, and some pop and classical music. I'm on the fence right now between the HE 400i and HD 700.

For my everyday phones right now, I'm using AKG K550's which sound detailed (to me) but I'm looking for a step up in audio resolution, detail, soundstage, and overall HQ sound.

Any advice?... Thanks.
 
ignoring price for the moment - since sales are everywhere - how would you compare the sound of the HE 400i vs the new HD 700's ? I love lots of jazz, blues, blues-rock, rock, and some pop and classical music. I'm on the fence right now between the HE 400i and HD 700.

For my everyday phones right now, I'm using AKG K550's which sound detailed (to me) but I'm looking for a step up in audio resolution, detail, soundstage, and overall HQ sound.

Any advice?... Thanks.
The HD700s, to my ears, have a much wider soundstage, and when it comes to imaging, there's no comparison. The 700s win easily. The 700s can be harsh though at times, and somewhat analytical, so I would consider how sensitive you are to high frequencies before you buy them. The 400i is an exceptional value for the money. I just picked up a pair for $220 on Amazon, and at that price they have no equal. The 400i can also hit lower bass notes, sometimes down in the sub frequencies, and the 700s have real problems down low. As do most dynamics. My recommendation is you buy them both, spend a week with them, then return the one that falls short. Or keep them both, as they're both excellent. :wink:
 
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