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HiFiMAN HE400S

Rating:
4.42857/5,
  1. WonWesleyChoi
    excellent sound quality at this price, and confortable
    Written by WonWesleyChoi
    Published Nov 6, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - sound quality, very flat EQ, very good headphone at this price point. no weakness at all except leaking sound (it is open headphone so duh)
    Cons - cheap cable but can be replaced by better cables with $20-$50 on ebay
    best EQ from 400 series
  2. serman005
    Orthodynamic for the Masses
    Written by serman005
    Published Jun 4, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Lightweight/comfort, pricing, largely balanced signature, rhythm and pacing, versatility. ease of driving
    Cons - Bass somewhat rolled off, inexpensive construction materials.
    Introduction: The HE-400S is a planar magnetic headphone designed and manufactured by HiFiMAN. Since its introduction in 2015, the HE-400S has won numerous awards and received a large number of accolades, drawing much attention to the newest member of the HiFiMAN family. The HE-400S becomes the third in the HE-400x series, following the HE-400 (discontinued) and the HE-400i (still in production). The HE-400S becomes HiFiMAN's least expensive headphone, a full two hundred dollars cheaper than the well-reviewed HE-400i at $299.00 MSRP. When listeners heard that HiFiMAN was releasing a planar magnetic at the three hundred-dollar price point, the question many observers had was "Yes, but will it be worth anything?' I am here to report that the answer to that query is a resounding 'Yes.' Let's take a look at the HE-400S from HiFiMAN.
     
    Technical Specifications
     
    Driver Type: planar magnetic
    Frequency Response: 20 hz-35,000 hz
    Impedance:  22 ohms
    Weight: 350 gm
    Cable Length: 1.5 m
    Connector Type: 2.5 mm x 2 (cups) and 3.5 mm right angle (termination)--also includes a 3.5mm to 1/4 inch adapter.
    Design Type: Open-back
     
    Gear: iPhone 6S, iPod shuffle 2G, FiiO E17K
     
     
    Construction: The cups are primarily constructed of some sort of plastic-ish material. The headband is a synthetic leather that is quite comfortable. There are a number of settings for the adjustable band and I had no difficulty finding a setting that worked well for me. One very cool aspect of the design is that the drivers can be clearly seen when looking at the side of the cup housing. It's kind of neat to see, given how different it looks from a dynamic driver.
     
     
    Comfort: I'll come right out and say it--these headphones are extremely comfortable. Partly due to weight, partly due to cup design and pads, the comfort factor with these headphones is high. I find myself wearing them for hours with no problems of ear discomfort. Stock pads are velour, but Focus pads are available for those who prefer pleather (more on this later).
     
     
    Music: The music in this review was all simply standard iTunes files--nothing fancy.
     
     
    Sound: The first word I would use to describe the sound of the HE-400S is engaging. The headphone draws you in. It grabs onto you and before long, you find you've been listening for an hour or more. That's how this headphone goes. It makes me keep putting song after song after song on. Oh, Mettallica sounds excellent--how about The Dixie Chicks? On and on it goes. These are if nothing else supremely musical headphones. They make me want to listen to music on them. And I have been doing an awful lot of that of late. The second word I would use to describe the HE-400S is easy-to-drive (Is that a word? It is now.). I had absolutely no issues driving the HE-400S to high sound levels using a shuffle or phone. Does it sound better with an amp? Yes, in my opinion it does. But it is by no means a requirement. These cans are just easy to drive, period.
     
    The soundstage is wide and precise, with vocals and instruments placed in specific points in space. The individual parts are well delineated and spacious. There is no sense of crowding--there is plenty of room for everything and everyone. On Britney's "Everytime" her voice is front and center surrounded by a capacious piano and keyboards, the outro of which just seems to go on forever in a slow decay that is quite remarkable for its ethereal vibe. On Verdi's Requiem (Karajan, Price, Pavarotti, La Scala), the chorus's power is communicated perfectly by the HE-400S, with multiple layers of singers extending within the soundstage. Imaging is beautifully precise and at the same time, complex, with the natural echo of the La Scala theater suffusing the recording. This is a wide and detailed soundstage.
     
    Detail is excellent in my view. A good example of this being the percussive parts on Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On." Bonham's lines during the verses sound literally like they are in the room with me. The guitar parts are well-etched and distinct from one another. On "Jesus Take The Wheel," the rich harmonic complexity of Carrie Underwood's beautiful voice is rendered perfectly. It sounds like I'm in the studio with her. Just beautiful. Rhythm and pacing are also terrific with this headphone. The music has drive. It has go-juice. It has gitty-up.
     
    Treble is very good, if slightly laid back. On "Perfect Day" by Lady Antebellum, the ride cymbals are just slightly recessed, as is the high hat. On Journey's "Ask the Lonely," on the other hand, Steve Smith's cymbals and Steve Perry's voice have just the right amount of treble energy or bite. It's just about perfect. Overall, I would describe the HE-400S treble as being a bit on the warmish side, though it does vary from recording to recording. Some people have described the treble as smooth, and I suppose I could get behind that, too.
     
    Mids are where these cans really shine brightest in my view. Going back to Verdi's Requiem, the richness of the vocals and massed strings is positively intoxicating. There is so much harmonic information here that it is almost overwhelming. Acoustic music (Alison Krauss, eg) is similarly inviting. Female vocals in general (Krauss/Sugarland/Heart/Dixie Chicks/Underwood) are rendered with such beauty that I find myself playing songs over and over again. This headphone really gets the midrange right. It's breathtaking.
     
    Bass is somewhat rolled off on these cans. According to numerous HE-400S users, however, that bass lightness can be largely ameliorated by going with the Focus pads rather than the stock velour HiFiMANs. I personally have not done that yet, so I cannot comment personally other than to say that it seems a good number of folks have found the pad change useful.  Other than that, I do wish the stock pads provided a bit more sub bass energy. On Bonnie Raitt's "Something to Talk About," the bass line, normally quite strong and driving, is just a tad anemic. Even my Superlux HD 681 Evo at fifty bucks provide substantially more bass energy. Don't get me wrong, the bass is there. It just isn't as powerful as I would like it to be. What bass is there is quite detailed, though. It is what I would term high-quality bass, just not high quantity.
     
    Comparisons: I don't at the moment have an HD600 on hand, unfortunately, so I have chosen to compare the HE-400S to the HD598 instead. On Pat Metheny's "First Circle," Lyle Mays's piano is definitely more forward on the 598 than it is on the HE-400S. The treble of Paul Wertico's drums and cymbals is also more present. The vocals are clearer and there is much, much more detail, whether it is Lyle Mays's synthesizers or Metheny's guitar--on the 400S. It is simply the more detailed can. As for which evokes more emotion in me, I would say that is probably also the 400S, though the 598 is no slouch. But the 400S just over overwhelms with information. On the whole, what is the better can of the two? Better is a subjective term, clearly. I would say that for me, the HE-400S is the more detailed and nuanced can and I enjoy that added level of detail. If I could just have one, I would probably go with the HE-400S, but the 598 is a very good can, no doubt about it.
     
    Conclusion: The HiFiMAN HE-400S is a remarkable headphone. It is lightweight and comfortable for long sessions. It performs at a level that exceeds its price, in some respects, by a lot. It competes effectively with cans costing two hundred dollars more. It is detailed and nuanced and has a spacious soundstage. Its midrange is world-class, its treble, excellent. Its bass can be augmented by using the Focus pads to strengthen the low end. At its price of $299, the HE-400S is a world-beater. Run out and get one. You will be listening to a lot of music, I can promise you that.
      saftpirat likes this.
    1. zeissiez
      These are excellent sounding headphones. I much prefer them over the PM3. They kept me listening for hours and hours, even if I have the HD800 and He1000 just next to me. They are very very musical. One of the best bang-for-buck out there.
      zeissiez, Jun 6, 2016
      fishda30 likes this.
    2. serman005
      Very interesting remark about the PM-3, which I admit I have heard very little of. I agree about the musicality, which is one of their most endearing traits. I just keep coming back for more and more listening, despite the presence of other terrific cans nearby (as you identify as well). Glad you are enjoying them! I consider the 400S to be one of the great values in headphones at the moment.
      serman005, Jun 8, 2016
    3. fishda30
      Same here. I really find the he400s very musical. I can wear them for several hours without feeling fatigued. Excellent pairing with my fiio x7.
      fishda30, Nov 18, 2018
      serman005 likes this.
  3. TravAndAlex
    Redefining Bang-For-The-Buck Excellence
    Written by TravAndAlex
    Published May 24, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Clarity, efficiency, cost, light weight and comfort.
    Cons - Low bass extension and slam, stiff cable, on-head looks.

    COMPANY:  HiFiMan
    MODEL:  HE400S
    COST:  $399 (CAD – Amazon.ca)  $299 USD
    TYPE:  Open, Planar Magnetic, Over-Ear
    DRIVER SIZE:  Diameter 80 mm
    FREQUENCY RESPONSE:  20 Hz – 35 kHz
    EFFICIENCY:  98 dB
    NOMINAL IMPEDANCE:  22 Ohms
    WEIGHT: 350 Grams
    COLOURS:  Silver/Black
     
    INCLUDES:
     
    Headphone Adapter - 3.5 mm to 6.35 mm
    Headphone Cable - 1.5 meter, 3.5mm 90-degree angle plug
    Cardboard box with foam padding on the inside
     
    IMG_3992.jpg  
    Build Quality, Aesthetics and Comfort
     
    While there have been reports of earlier model HiFiMan headphones having less than desired build quality, thankfully this is not the case with the 400S.  Overall the quality, fit and finish of the materials is very decent.  The headband pad is pleather and other than the headband arch and side grills, all visible materials are plastic.  The 400S has the new HiFiMan style headband and angled ear pads, which are covered in a very comfortable black velour material. 
     
    Especially welcome is the use of removable 2.5mm female mini-jacks on the ear cup connectors (like the HiFiMan HE-1000, or Sennheiser HD 700), rather than the older screw-on type.  Use of plastic for much of the construction and the newly redesigned drivers (half the magnets of other models), means that the 400S weighs about 20-25 grams less than other HiFiMan headphones.  The planar drivers can be seen in direct light through the exterior grills of the ear cups.
     
    Overall this is a very comfortable headphone.  The circular ear pads are large enough to accommodate most ears.  The relatively low weight and headband pad design combine to rest easily upon the head, and the clamping force of the headband is not too strong for extended use.  The headband, pad and cups offer a good range of movement to accommodate a variety of head sizes.
     
    I only have 2 complaints.  The included cable is wrapped in a paracord material and is quite stiff, making it unforgiving and at times frustrating to use.  Due to its detachable design, this can fairly easily be replaced.  I’m also not in love with how the 400S looks when wearing.  The squared off metal band with the pleather hammock headband is, as noted above, absolutely functional and comfortable.  However, coupled with the large circular ear cups, it is a bizarre contraption for your head.   To best describe the headband look, is to picture one of those large black paperclips with the fold-back silver arms, clamped solidly on a GI Joe action figure’s head (right over both ears).  This is the very silhouette that the headband on the 400S achieves.
     
    IMG_3994.jpg
     
    Sound Signature and Quality
     
    The 400S is a superb sounding headphone.  It has been described as being entry level, of not delivering the same visceral experience as other (more expensive) planar headphones, of sounding more like a traditional headphone than a planar, and of (most likely) not meeting other expectations of other reviewers.  However, for sound quality (and especially at this price point) it is an extraordinary sounding headphone.  I will compare it to the previously similarly priced Sennheiser HD598, an excellent bang-for-the-buck dynamic headphone, as I am intimately acquainted with this model.
     
    Clarity and coherency is very good.  It is smooth and musical with a slightly warmer than neutral sound signature.  The midrange shines with excellent imaging, and noteworthy realism and transparency.  The 400S is extremely easy to listen to and non-fatiguing, with a natural sense of space and vocal presentation.  Compared to the Sennheiser HD598 the 400S has a better presence and sense of engagement.
     
    Midrange in the 400S is very enjoyable and smooth. It has good body and detail, and maintains clarity and musicality.  Voices are engaging and intelligible, as they should be.
     
    Treble is on the softer side but clarity and detail are maintained.  While not sounding greatly extended, it's never harsh, nor dark.  Compared to the Sennheiser HD598, the treble extension of the 400S does not sound as bright. 
     
    Bass has too much body to be classified as neutral (note: which I find appealing) and sounds more like the bass expected from good dynamic headphones.  It is worth mentioning that changing the ear pads to Hifiman Focus noticeably improves bass response.  With the included pads, the 400S lacks low bass extension (or slam) but does remain fast, tight and without distortion.  It also achieves greater low bass extension than the HD598.
     
    IMG_3993.jpg
     
    Conclusion
     
    I believe strongly in the concepts of bang-for-the-buck and the law of diminishing returns with music playback equipment.   Although the HiFiMan 400S is one of the least expensive planar headphones ever available, they provide much of the clarity that is inherent in planar type headphones (while admittedly sacrificing some of the bass slam) and they uniquely bring the ability to be driven well from a portable player or inexpensive amplifier, while also combining light weight and remarkable comfort.  While this entry-level for audiophiles price point stretches my own tight budget, the 400S certainly delivers with excellent sound, comparable to much more expensive models and to some of the most respected dynamic headphones available.
     
    IMG_3991.jpg
     
     

    1. LazyListener
      Agree with most of your review.  However, I found the stock pads itchy, and the headband a bit itchy at times.  Regarding the sound, bass output was too lacking for me, and the treble a bit incoherent (not so smooth and natural at times).  The midrange and vocals are fantastic, very natural and full sounding.  Overall, the HD 598 give me a warmer, bassier sound, with more accurate and consistent treble.  But of all the 10 or so cans I compared, the HE400S would be the one I'd want to listen to again.
      LazyListener, May 25, 2016
    2. serman005
      Nice review. A few differences for me. I actually find the treble to be the best quality of the 400S. To me, it is crisp, clean, and detailed without being harsh or sibilant--a hard feat to achieve. Overall, I find the 400S to be much more detailed and less distorted than my 598, which I still do adore, There really is no comparison, for me, I must say. Lastly, I actually decided to forego the Focus A pads and stay with the stock. I like the tonal balance on these cans just the way they are. I don't listen to the 400S for bass slam. I listen to them to hear music. And musical they are.
      serman005, May 25, 2016
    3. snafu1
      Good review. I agree completely with the exception of the 3rd paragraph. Out of the box, I found these to be very uncomfortable headphones. I couldn't wear them for more than 15 minutes. The internal open space with the stock earpads is very small and circular. Who has round ears? The Focus A pads where a huge improvement not only in sound, but also comfort (larger opening and slightly oval). In addition I found the clamping pressure to be much too tight (I do wear eyeglasses). Though that was easily remedied by just bending them back a bit. Once I had those two issues corrected, I really was able to enjoy these headphones.
      snafu1, May 31, 2016
  4. fleasbaby
    Going ortho is easy to do....
    Written by fleasbaby
    Published Mar 15, 2016
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Representative of good ortho sound. low impedance, sturdy.
    Cons - Sounds restrained
    After my experience with the HiFiMan Edition X I wasn’t too sure I wanted to listen to the HE400s. I wasn’t a big fan of the responses to criticisms levelled at the Edition X, and I wasn’t too excited at the prospect of listening to another great-sounding headphone with a mediocre build that no one would step up and take constructive criticism on.
     
    This review was written using a sample pair of HE400s, provided by HiFiMan. I received no financial compensation for this review, and will be mailing them back in the next few days.
     
    So it was with a little trepidation that I saw the box on my doorstep, clearly branded for the HE400s, and picked it up. Return to sender? Ignore? Write a slavishly worshipping review and avoid any controversy at all costs? I contemplated a while, and then my gonads engaged, I mentally slapped myself about a little, and I seized the box, marched into the house and opened it with a manly flourish of a convenient blade.
     
    Inside I found a pleasant surprise. A normal box, pictures printed on it in an unobtrusive, but pretty way. No leather-clad, lockboxes, sealed with velvet ribbons and accompanied by choirs of angels. Just a nice box. In it was a very nicely constructed pair of headphones, with a detachable cable. The cable was sturdy, a little annoying in its stiffness, but nicely made. The headphones weren’t an exercise in excess or pretension. They were made of nicely machined heavy plastic parts that fit together well. No rattling, no odd bulges in the grill, no mucking about. A solid pair of cans.
     
    My spirits lifted a little.
     
    I paired them with my FiiO X5 (1st gen.) and E12, slipped them on, and settled in for a nice listening session. And I was treated to one. The HE400s is not excessive in any way. Bass is polite, acceptable and as present as it should be. The mids were clean, in their place, and quite loveable. The highs were exactly as they should be. Everything worked.
     
    The HE400s excels at being a good, solid, entry to orthos. It won’t break easily (except for those teeny little spindly connectors on the detachable cables possibly). It will sound good out of almost any source. It’s in a fair price range.
     
    I can only hope that those who do pick it up though, realize that this is just the beginning of what an ortho can sound like. It doesn’t fully convey the sense of slinky lustfulness a nicely tuned ortho can give a bass note. It doesn’t completely turn the highs into a sultry whisper in your ear, and it won’t make the mids reach out and spirit you off for an illicit night on the town. These are things for the DIYer to experience though….the HE400s is squarely aimed at the entry-level audiophile looking to try orthos for the first time. I can’t help but suspect that the HE400s was created to replace the one dynamic-driver headphone in HiFiMan’s lineup: the HE300.
     
    They play well with any source (iPhone 5s, Sansa Clip+, iPod Video, iPod Touch, MacBook Air etc, etc…), scale up a little with better sources, and can stomach being bunged into a messenger bag and hauled off to work quite merrily (despite their size, the cups rotate flat, and neatly park themselves on top of each other to make a neat little package you can fit in a decent space).
     
    For those just venturing into ortho-land, and not wanting to spend weeks buggerring about with a pair of T50rp, cotton balls, newplast and acoustic foam, I strongly recommend trying a pair of the HE400s.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. emester
      I didn't like the build on these at all, but the sound was pretty darn solid overall. Much prefer the neutrality of my 400i's I replaced these with. The fact some of the black paint smudged on the hinges only after a couple of uses disappointed me greatly for a 300 dollar purchase.
      emester, Mar 15, 2016
    3. swannie007
      Unfortunately HiFiMan have a reputation for spotty quality control and I, for one, have been a recipient of bad QC on a HiFiMan product and thus will never buy another of their products even though I love my 400i's and use them often. Their QC needs to catch up with their good sound quality.
      swannie007, Mar 16, 2016
    4. fishda30
      Yours might open up if you modify the grills.make them more open so they can breathe. Mine did change a lot when i changed the grills.
      fishda30, Nov 18, 2018
  5. Netforce
    A delightful planar headphone that hits all the right notes
    Written by Netforce
    Published Dec 24, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Overall rock solid sound, clear sound, inoffensive sound, comfort
    Cons - Could be a tad bass light with stock pads
    Introduction

    First and foremost I would like to thank HifiMan for providing me with a review sample!

     

    The original Hifiman He-400 for me were a rather special pair of headphones for me. They were a gateway headphone for me that really got me where I am now. Now that I have been in the headphone hobby for a few years Hifiman offered me a chance to give the He-400s a listen for a review which I am gladly willing to write!

     

    The He-400s are the latest headphone in the He-400 line which started a few years ago with the original He-400. After the He-400 we got the He-400i and now we have the He-400s. For those who do not know about a planar magnetic headphone, the Hifiman site for the He-400s page provides a little information about the difference and why to get a planar over the standard dynamic headphone.

     

     

    Something to also consider for those new to the hobby. Keep in mind the He-400s are open headphones and do leak a bit of sound. A noisy environment will also be heard through the He-400s as you will get no isolation.

     

    In this review I am going to cover what you will get with the He-400s, the specs of the headphone, the cable, the comfort, the build, the sound, compare the original He-400 to the He-400s and give my views about using the He-400s. I am a 23 year old college student that works part time for a book publisher. I am not being paid for this review and I am writing what I think about the Hifiman He-400s.

     

    What's In The Box?

    First off, the box is a rather solid feeling cardboard box. Definitely will keep the headphones nice and secure when shipping

     

    20151224_160154.jpg

     
     

    Inside the box we got:

    1. ·  The He-400s
    2. ·  Velour Pads
    3. ·  Cable
    4. ·  Little 6.35mm to 3.5mm adapter
    5. ·  Warranty Card
    6. ·  Hifiman Card
    7. ·  Owner’s Guide
    8. ·  Foam
    20151224_160250.jpg

     
     

    The He-400s sat nicely in the middle, the little foam bit rested between the headband, and the cable and adapter were located in a little box.

     

    The paperwork is nice and simple. The Warranty Card was in Chinese so I wasn’t able to make it out. The little Hifiman Card has a bunch of info about Hifiman like social media. And finally the Owners Guide comes in English on one side and when you flip it is Chinese on the other. It is in my opinion quite nice with promotional pictures and information about taking care of your headphones!

     

    For me I quite like the simple packaging and think the box feels quite hefty and secure. The accessories I could describe as being simple and the bare necessities to listen. For me it quite an improvement from the original He-400 packaging which I could describe as a very thin cardboard box.

     

    Specs

    ·         Planar Magnetic Drivers

    ·         Frequency: 20Hz-35kHz

    ·         22 Ohm Impedance

    ·         12.35 oz (350g)

    ·         Sensitivity: 98dB

     

    Besides the drivers and the impedance, the He-400s specs are rather close to standard dynamic driver headphones. Maybe the weight leans a tad on the heavier side. The specs for a planar headphone are quite unique with a sensitivity of 98dB this makes the He-400s one of the easier if not the easiest to drive planar driver headphones.

     

    The Cable

    The cables in the past for Hifiman headphones I really wouldn’t call myself the biggest can. They were in the case of the original He-400 very long (10 feet), quite thick with a rather bulky y-split and a rather large straight angle plug. The original he-400 cable was certainly one of my least favorite aspects about the headphone and the weight led to some build issues for me. The connectors on the older Hifiman cables were also a rather annoying screw on connector which were rather unique in special though quite annoying at times.

     

    20151224_160442.jpg

     
    The new stock Hifiman cable this time around is short, 1.5m or 4.9 feet. It is fabric wrapped and terminates in a right angle plug. To me what is truly fantastic is Hifiman has finally ditched the screw on connectors found on the older Hifiman line in favor of a 2.5mm plug for the right and left channel! If by some accident the cable gets tugged the plugs will simply slip right out with damage! The 2.5mm plug connectors has been adopted in the flagship Hifiman He-1000 and it is nice to see the plug trickle down to the He-400s. Starting recently the previous headphone in the Hifiman He-400 line, the He-400i has also received the 2.5mm plugs on all the latest models which I applaud Hifiman. The Edition X also has the new 2.5mm plug connectors.

     

    The cable being fabric I found could rub on clothing and that would result in some microphonics (cable noise) but I don’t especially move around with the He-400s in my house being an open headphones and all. The Y-split is a tad larger than most and as I tend to have a personal preference for a smaller y-split. A few times I got caught by the y-split in those rare times I did move around but at most it would yank out the cable from the headphone. I certainly would not recommend constantly removing the cable from the y-split!

     

    The cable thickness has as well decreased so there is a lot less stiffness in comparison to the original He-400 cable. Below the y-split the cable has the most thickness and above the y-split are thinner individual cables which lead to each side of the headphone. The cable side below the y-split is a tad thicker than other cables for headphones at the $300 price point. I found the thick cable sturdy and don’t doubt the build myself.

     

    The right-angled plug at the end of the cable is a standard 3.5mm plug and Hifiman has provided a little adapter to 6.35mm. The right angle plug is a thicker plastic bit but had no issue going into so my phone case or dap. The right angle may present some issues for plugging directly into an amp but a simple cable extension may help. Right angle plugs in my opinion pairs best with portable setups but is only a minor inconvenience for a desktop setup.

     

    How comfortable are the He-400s?

    Comfort levels on many different headphones can vary widely and many factors may be at play when getting a feel for the best comfort. The older Hifiman planar headphones tended to not to be comfortable headphones. The large planar drivers were heavier than a dynamic driver, the Hifiman headband did not have much padding and was a rather thin bar. Pads on nearly all headphones as well are quite and important factor to comfort. Clamping force (how tight a headphone will clamp your head) because of the weight did not help the comfort for my old He-400. The higher clamping force did as well not play too terribly well when I wore glasses. Eventually through enough use the original He-400 clamping force did loosen up but my neck and head by then had adapted to the weight of the headphone.

     

    Comfort now on the He-400s through many changes from Hifiman has made the He-400s very comfortable! Starting with the weight that I had mentioned previously. The original He-400 has a weight of 440 grams as listed online whereas the He-400s clocks in a weight at 350 grams. This reduction of weight is rather significant to me. The 350 gram weight on the He-400s is a much less drag on the neck and allows me to effortlessly listen to the He-400s for hours and hours at a time without any neck strain. This reduction of weight was likely made possible through a change in the planar drivers to use a lighter magnet. The design of the He-400s has also changed with the times and the use of more plastics I would believe is also to help reduce weight on the He-400s.

     

    The next aspect to comfort, the headband, has also undergone major changes. Gone is the old Hifiman headband with possibly a foam or cotton padding. Now the headband on the He-400s is a suspension headband with possibly a leatherette strap. The headband now works superbly to help distribute weight of the headphone. I never encountered a possible “hot spot” on my head from the headband.

     

    The pads that came included with the He-400s are a rather new type of headphone pads from Hifiman that incorporates a few aspects of their older pads. The original He-400 for pads came with pleather (plastic leather) and velour (fabric) pads. The original He-400 pads left me a lot to be desired to the point where I modded my old pads. The old velour pads on the He-400 were comfortable on the around my ears but the foam inside was very tough and did me no favors for comfort. The old pleather pads on the original He-400 had a softer foam but the pleather wasn’t very breathable and irritated my skin. The Jergpads was devised by a Head-fier named Jerg who combined the fabric of the velours and the comfort of the pleather’s foam. Hifiman did take note of these pads and when they released the He-560 the FocusPad and FocusPad-A were born.

     

    Now with the He-400s, the newest pads from Hifiman are the VelPads. The VelPads I believe use a different velour fabric than any of the other Hifiman headphones with maybe the exception of the He-1000/Edition X. The fabric is extremely comfortable on my head and does not irritate my skin. The velour is breathable and on hot days did not get sweaty and nasty for me. The foam has as well undergone changes and is likely the newest type of foam for Hifiman headphones. The foam is not a memory foam or anything super special but is very soft. The foam is a softer foam than my old modded He-400 pleather foam. The foam is very comfortable and works well for when I use glasses with the He-400s. Possibly the only gripe about the foam is that it may be a touch too soft. I would describe myself as having a larger ear and they can slightly touch the inside of the headphone/harder bits. This touching of the ears can lead to discomfort but after my first listening session it did not bother my ears.

     

    Finally for comfort, the clamping force. The clamping force upon my first listen was not overly strong at all but strong enough that the headphones would not fall off my head. The only issue for the clamp of the He-400s that I ran into was in the beginning. The left hinge was a touch too stiff but did loosen with time and a drop of WD40 (I took much caution to make sure none would get into any mechanical bits!). The clamp of my original after over a year of use lost a lot of its clamping force but even then still was a bit tight of a clamp. The He-400s I feel has among the best comfort or is possibly the most comfortable planar headphone I have listened to!

     

    How is the build?

    Possibly while I covered a lot of the build already with the cable and the headphone parts already, I feel like there is still parts of the build that I can cover. For the original He-400 the connection between the headphone cup and headband rested with a few metal bars and led to a plastic connector. This part also served to adjust headband height.

     

    20151224_164056.jpg

     
     

    The older Hifiman build in my experience at this point did not inspire much confidence. I had received a He-500 in the past that had failed at point where the plastic bit met the headband.

     

    The He-400s on the other hand through the introduction of a new headband has replaced this! The suspension headband’s adjustment mechanism now rests on a single solid piece of metal. This metal bit while it can stick out a bit when being worn I find is much superior to the old Hifiman build. The metal piece besides being for headband adjustment holds the He-400s together and leads to the headphone clamping. The metal piece is tough and slightly flexible to adjust for all heads in my opinion.

     

    Besides the metal piece of the headband most of the external parts of the He-400s are made of lightweight plastic of silver color. I have read and heard some complaints that a headphone at $300 shouldn’t use as much plastic or should be built differently to which I would disagree with these complaints. The plastic used was likely an intentional choice in reducing the weight of the He-400s and a change in material would have led to either a heavier weight or higher price.

     

    20151224_160546.jpg

     
     

    A signature of the Hifiman line to me is the grills found on the outside of each cup. The grills have tons of little holes that make the He-400s open and covering them when listening will drastically change the sound. The grills can be modded with possibly another piece of metal with larger holes but requires just a bit of work to do so. The grills are held in place with little plastic rings and behind the grills is a piece of fabric to prevent dust from entering the driver. Another complaint or criticism I have read is how the grills can move a bit and that does not inspire confidence in the build to which I would disagree again. My unit has grills that would move slightly but I cannot see how that will affect me or the sound the He-400s produces.

     

    20151224_160525.jpg

     
     

    The other major observations from the build about the He-400s is how the VelPads were a magnet for small particles like lint and hair.

     

    The original He-400 pads I had as well accumulated the small particles like all velour pads. For me taking a simple lint roller I was able to clean off a bunch of the accumulated lint and hair.

     

    Other aspects about the He-400s?

    The He-400s as mentioned earlier are quite easy to drive for a planar headphone. My devices doesn’t take much to get the He-400s to loud levels, Smartphones or an inexpensive dap can power them but they really will benefit in sound quality from a good dac/amp. An amp isn’t necessarily needed to drive the He-400s to loud levels in my experience but I would recommend getting at least a small amp.

     

    How does the He-400s sound?

    The sound in a nutshell when used completely stock and unmodified: neutral.

     

    For my listening I listen through a variety of sources, tracks, and genres of music. A complete listen of equipment that I own can be found in my profile. Tracks I listened range from mp3 to flac, 192kbps all the way to 24 bit lossless vinyl rips. I as well listen to various genres such as metal, classical, and a lot of Japanese doujin circles.

     

    How is the Bass?

    Starting from the bottom to top, the bass. Bass on planar magnetic headphones are probably the most referred to aspect for a planar next to possibly weight.

     

    Bass on the original He-400 was in my opinion the strongest part about the headphone that made me overlook a number of negatives of the He-400. The bass on the He-400s is unlike the original He-400 and closer to the He-400i. The He-400s is certainly not recessed and is fully present to an extent.

     

    Sub bass on the He-400s at stock listening has roll off. The He-400s does not extend to the very deep depths of rumbling sub bass that other planars are characteristically known for. With some bass boost or eq it is possible to bring out more sub bass on the He-400s. The original He-400 for sub bass was among the deepest and detailed sub bass sounds for an open planar at $400. The sub bass to the original He-400 was one of my favorite aspects about it. The He-400s for tracks with plenty of sub bass certainly is gone but they certainly sound a tad lacking without a strong slam or rumble. I think it may come off as a tad harsh for railing on the He-400s as not having the same sub bass but if the intent was to have a neutral sound signature then a sub bass roll off is not a big deal.

     

    The mid bass of the He-400s is hardy and solid sounding. Tracks with bass sound great on the He-400s and especially for an open headphone. In my opinion the mid bass is just right to fall into a neutral description. The mid bass does not bleed into the mids at any point is just on point. The mid bass is solid sounding and has the sound of a planar that I love so much. Mid bass isn’t the most detailed of headphones out there but at the $300 price point the He-400s shines well to be enjoyed with most musical genres. As the mid bass is not elevated I certainly would not call the He-400s a basshead headphone and a bass heavy track shines with a headphone with boosted bass.

     

    How are the mids?

    Mids on the He-400s are in one word, excellent! The mids on the He-400s sound absolutely fantastic and is a strong suit of the headphone. The mids are very fully represented and have a very even sound to them. I do not hear any parts that are recessed and at the same time I do not hear any parts that I would describe as forward. The mids are not thick or at the same time thin but meets somewhere in the middle.

     

    The original He-400 when I was new to the hobby I enjoyed the mids but did come to hear issues with it. The upper mids on the original He-400 were recessed and as a result did not notice or care much about it. As I progressed more into audio the recessed upper mids did bother me a bit as it did feel like there was some parts of my music that was lacking. The recessed upper mids though may have brought out the bass and treble a touch.

     

    When testing through multiple tracks I thought the He-400s had great detail in the mids and male vocals sound great in the mids. The He-400s I wouldn’t call colored in the slightest as the mids just sound so unaltered and natural to my ears. Instrument separation is fantastic as well and it is quite clear and easy to tell the differences in instruments. Overall the He-400s performs very well in the mids and I really can’t find a complaint to make. The mids will certainly make the He-400s an easy headphone to listen to for most genres.

     

    How is the treble?

    The treble is fairly smooth and even to my ears. Cymbals and female vocals when well mastered sounds absolutely fine and fantastic but a track with some mastering issues can run into some sibilance. The treble on the He-400s for these well mastered tracks never felt or sounded fatiguing for me and I could listen all day as a result. The treble for the He-400s doesn’t extend to the highest frequencies/has a treble rolloff so tracks with a larger emphasis on treble may not sound as detailed as they could. The treble rolloff I wouldn’t call that big of a deal as like the sub bass a neutral sound signature to me doesn’t need the highest and lowest extension. The treble rolloff does not severely hinder the He-400s when I it comes to treble for me as it doesn’t happen super early to make the treble recessed. The rolloff occurs to me may just cause the He-400s to lack a little in soundstage and hear all the treble detail.

     

    The original He-400 had a rather large trouble spot in the treble. The original He-400 had a rather nasty treble spike that made a number of treble heavy or poorly mastered tracks of mine to come off as sibilant. The recessed upper mids certainly did not help the treble spike or sibilance. When I first used the original He-400 being young into the hobby of headphones I did not particularly mind the treble spike but going back and listening to the original He-400 again the treble spike is a rather large annoyance and made the original He-400 rather fatiguing to listen to.

     

    The He-400s I felt does a very good job in addressing the issues found in the original He-400 and fixing them. The He-400s are definitely a fantastic sounding headphone and a great planar headphone to start with.

     

    How is the soundstage?

    The soundstage of the He-400s is exceptional! In my opinion the headphones with the largest soundstages are dynamic driver headphones but the He-400s is certainly not a slouch. The original He-400 blew my mind with how wide a soundstage could be but comparing the He-400s to the original I find the He-400s has improved in depth the original He-400. The original He-400 I found had in its soundstage had some more air in the higher frequencies possibly as a result of its treble spike.

     

    How are the He-400s for gaming?

    For me I actively play plenty of video games and find gaming on the He-400s lots of fun. The wide soundstage of the He-400s is very helpful when trying to hear the location of approaching enemies in a FPS or in an open world environment. The He-400s I found were detailed enough and had enough bass to truly make me feel part of a game. Recently I played through Metal Gear Solid 5 and used the He-400s nearly the whole time. The game sounded fantastic and sound cues played a rather important part for my play through.

     

    The He-400s by having a 2.5mm plug for each cup will mean a plug in mic such as the V-Moda Broompro mic will not work. I personally used a stationary microphone and even though the openness of the He-400s meant I leaked sound others in the same conversation did not hear my headphones. In a noisy environment, the open back He-400s will not work well for gaming and a closed back will likely work better!

     

    How do they compare to the original He-400?

    The original He-400 packaging was small, had thin cardboard, and did not come with much besides the bare necessities. The He-400s had a nicer thicker cardboard box but did also came with just the bare necessities. The original He-400 cable had a screw-on connector for each channel, was very long and it was quite thick. The He-400s has a 2.5mm connector for each channel, is a shorter cable and a thinner cable. The comfort on the original He-400 wasn’t great as it was heavy, the headband wasn’t comfortable, the pads had issues, and it had a tough clamping force. The He-400s is a lighter headphone, with a redesigned headband, improved pads, and a looser clamping force. The build on the original He-400 had a weak point on the headband but the He-400s has redesigned the headband.

     

    The sound differences between the two headphones I found were largely improvements in the newer He-400s. The He-400s has a neutral sound signature where the original He-400 had a rather unique sound that isn’t simple to define in one word. The original He-400 had a strong punchy bass, recessed upper mids and a treble spike. The He-400s has a rolloff in the sub bass but solid mid bass, the mids are fully present and clear, and treble is clear for well mastered tracks but has a rolloff in the upper frequencies.

     

    For me after owning the original He-400 its issues has made me seldom listen to the headphones now. The He-400s isn’t the first successor to the original He-400, which was the He-400i, but the He-400s continued to improve. While it is mostly a successor in name I believe the He-400s has made significant improvements to build and in sound. The original has been long discontinued but is available through second hand means like the For Sale forums. The only reason I would say to get the original He-400 over the He-400s is if you are seeking a deeper and punchier bass.

     

    Mods

    As with lots of headphones that gathers a decent following, there is usually someone looking to mod their headphone in hopes it can improve or change the sound of the headphones. Hifiman headphones are no stranger to mods and I have tried my hand at modding my Hifimans in the past. Not all mods results in positive improvements as I learned.
     

    Grill Mod

    One common mod for Hifiman headphones is replacing the included grills on each cup with another metal mesh. This mod is done for aesthetics and some claim the sound stage or quality improves after replacing the grill. I tried the grill mod but taking out the plastic rings that keep the metal grills in place then listened for a time. I left the drivers unobstructed to basically emulate how the He-400s would sound without a grill.

     

    I in all honesty did not hear the slightest difference with or without the grill. Soundstage for me remained basically the same and didn’t detect any change in the sound. The grill of the He-400s allows for the benefits of an open back headphone by allowing for a wide and natural soundstage. The grill also has a fabric on one side to prevent dust or other small particles from affecting the driver. I wasn’t comfortable leaving off the fabric so I returned the grills and the fabric.

     

    Headphone Pads

    Headphone pads can be easily modded and at the same time they can be swapped out with different pads. I tried a few pads out to see if they could positively benefit the sound. To swap the headphone pads on the He-400s requires an additional part, the plastic rings from the older Hifiman pads. The stock pads of the He-400s are glued onto the pad and would definitely not recommend removing them. The velour ear pads from Hifiman comes with the plastic rings you need for $10 before shipping/tax.

     


     

    Alpha Pads

    The first pads I tried, after spending a few minutes squeezing the plastic rings onto the pads and lining up the clips, were the Alpha Pads from MrSpeakers. The Alpha Pads are very large angled leather pads. After a few minutes listening I came to a few conclusions.

     

    The large nature of the pads was certainly not what Hifiman had in mind and made comfort rather awful. Clamping force was intense and I could not wear my glasses as it was painful to do so. The sound did in fact change by swapping pads. The bass was suddenly boosted to the point where they had a decent amount of sub bass. The mid bass increased as well but was now bleed in the mids. The overall sound signature of the headphone became a dark sound signature because of the boosted bass. The soundstage as well narrowed quite considerably. Because the comfort got a lot worse I could not listen for a long time.

    20151008_164557.jpg

     
     

    Old Hifiman Velour Pads (Non-removeable rings)

    Next up was the Hifiman velour pads that I got with the He-500. These pads had a plastic back and clips that was glued to the pads. These pads were an older version of the velour pads and I could not find a link to order replacements.

     

    The foam was relatively soft but my ears were touching the inside of the cups. The most apparent change was I noticed the He-400s had become a lot brighter and this increased sibilance. The mids sounded rather grainy as well and the bass had less of a rolloff in the sub bass. Overall I was not impressed and found the changes in the sound quite negative.

    20151008_165837.jpg

     
     ​

    Old Hifiman Velour Pads (Removeable rings)

    The velour pads I linked earlier are up next. These pads were the same velour pads that came with the original He-400.

     

    These pads were right off the bat too stiff and the clamp was unbearable. The change in sounds was that bass was improved like the previous velours. The mids didn’t sound grainy but the treble had a rather annoying spike which increased sibilance. I couldn’t take listen to these pads for more than a few minutes before becoming tired of them.

    20151008_171400.jpg

     
     

    Angled HM5 Pads

    These pads for me were by far a winner. They took a bit of a struggle to get on the rings also but sounded great. These pads are a pleather variety.

     

    The comfort isn’t as great as the stock VelPads and I can only wear my glasses for a short time. The comfort is though better than any of the other pads I tried. These pads are in essence a smaller pair of Alpha Pads. They increased the sub bass and gave a thick bassy hit now. The mid bass also got a boost too and didn’t bleed into the mids. The treble was rather similar but I notice on recordings that I would describe slightly sibilant suddenly had some of their sibilance reduced. Soundstage did narrow a little as well. For me the Angled HM5 Pads were certainly my favorite of all the pads I tried. I sometimes found myself swapping between the stock and these pads depending on a track.
     

    Conclusion

    So in summary the Hifiman He-400s at $300 are well worth the price! The price for the He-400s finds itself in a rather competitive market between dynamic and other planar headphones but the sound quality is a definite winner. It has a rather neutral sound signature along fantastic comfort that allows for easy all day listening!

     

    While it is not spiritual successor to the original He-400 and its monstrous bass, the He-400s for excels at everything else. The 2.5mm plugs are super handy over the older screw on connectors and the cable is probably the best cable Hifiman has offered yet. If you are looking to get into planar magnetic headphones or looking to find a fantastic $300 headphone then the He-400s is certainly the headphone for you!

      volly and moedawg140 like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. moedawg140
      Nice review, @Netforce!  Looking forward to reading more, keep it up (if you have time, of course)!
      moedawg140, Dec 25, 2015
    3. Netforce
      Thanks moe! I'll certainly keep up with more reviews in the future!
      Netforce, Dec 25, 2015
    4. wpiaz
      I just got an open box deal on ebay for $210. Base is an issue...I ordered the Focus Pads which are reported to improved the based quality.Have you tried the Focus Pads?
      wpiaz, Jan 28, 2016
  6. shotgunshane
    Budget Brilliance
    Written by shotgunshane
    Published Oct 31, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Price & Value; Sounds superb from a smartphone
    Cons - Scalability; Sub bass extension; Slight treble roughness
    Big thanks to Hifiman, as I was able to audition the HE400S in my house for a couple of weeks!
     
    The stock cable is covered with a nylon braided sleeve. While attractive in its black and silver patter, its one of the stiffest, more stubborn and annoying cable I've ever used. It tends to want to stay in a coiled, snake like shape most of the time. The right angled plug is a nice touch for use with a mobile phone in the pocket. The cable plugs into both the left and the right cups with 2.5mm connectors and Y-split is very low on the cable. I would have preferred just a single exit cable to assist in the overall mobility of the package, along with an Android and/or iOS inline remote option. 
     
    The suspension headband and large cups are very comfortable, especially against my sealed portable headphones I own (which I don't really have a problem with in the comfort arena to begin with). The squared off metal band above the suspension headband looks pretty goofy when in use on the head. I didn't think it got much goofier than the HP50 but surprisingly I was wrong. Cups swivel in either direction, as well as tilt up and down. Between the full rotation of the cups and suspension headband, only the largest of heads would have problems obtaining a seal. The opening is very large, so plenty of room for Dumbo sized ears. It may take a little bit of fiddling to get things just right but the comfort achieved is well worth the extra minute or two. Clamp is light and easy to forget. Add to that the light weight of the entire headphone and they virtually disappear. The velour pads are thick and soft, providing an easy, if occasionally somewhat itchy seal. Otherwise long session usage is pretty easy on my ears and head.
     
    Minor aesthetic quibbles aside, the 400S sounds great. Having only sealed dynamics on hand at the moment, that's all I've got to compare against. I'd say the 400S sounds relatively more neutral than the HP50, albeit a little U shaped next to the warmer, more upfront HP50, which has a downward sloping, warm frequency response.
     
    The 400S sounds bigger and more open compared to the sealed HP50. It puts more space and depth between the listener and performance. It's simply just much more spacious than the most spacious of closed cans. I also notice the graininess or roughness of the 400S treble next to the smoother presentation of the HP50. While I really appreciate the greater sparkle and treble resolution of the 400S, the tone and timbre of the HP50 treble sounds more realistic, albeit much more subdued.
     
    The HP50 bass extends deeper and is has more presence and rumble but isn't as tight and as fast as the 400S bass. The HP50 can sound downright boomy in direct comparison. For my preferences I prefer the more upfront and aggressive midrange of the HP50; distortion guitars and aggressive rock music are loads of fun. In contrast the 400S sounds a more relaxed in the middle/upper midrange and a little softer overall, but still sounds fun and engaging in it's own right. It's definitely more resolving and nuanced overall and none of my closed headphones are any competition when it comes to resolution, agility and dynamics.
     
    While there are bits and pieces of the HP50 that I prefer, it’s really no competition for the HE400S as a whole package. The Hifiman is infinitely more effortless with better technical performance overall. Music is a joy to listen to without any of the long session comfort issues associated with portable headphones. Movies are probably the only thing I’d reach for the HP50 over the 400S, as it’s extra sub bass presence and warmth can make the explosions and other theatrical special effects more exciting.
     
    I also tried the grill mod that’s popular in the dedicated thread. While it sounded a hair more open and airy perhaps, it seemed a tinge hotter in the lower treble area. Really the difference wasn’t much and considering the lack of protection with the grills removed, I ended up preferring the sound and peace of mind with the grills in place.
     
    I no longer own the Sennheiser HD600 but I imagine there will be much talk about how these compare to it and its sibling the HD650. Based on my memory of the HD600, I’d have to say it scales more and can get closer to TOTL sound quality but the Senn’s require separate and often bulky and somewhat expensive amps/dacs to not just sound their best but to just sound good, due to their inefficient nature. For instance, I do not think the HD600 sounds ‘good’ from a smartphone. It’s rather thin and lifeless. I used the HD600 with a Violectric DAC and amplifier, as well as the Bottlehead Crack tube amplifier. Whereas the HD400S requires non of this extra bulk to sound its best. I suppose this is a blessing and a curse, as some will bemoan the Hifiman’s lack of scalability. Life is all about choices and compromise.
     
    For me, I love that the 400S can be powered by a smartphone and sound really damn good while doing it. Plus the price of admission is very affordable. What's not to like love? Simplicity at its finest. This definitely puts Hifiman on my radar for a future headphone purchase.
      tomscy2000 and Sorrodje like this.
    1. Kyyul
      After a long and exhausting process I've gone from HE560's to HD650's constantly trying to find something that is worth spending my money on. And I think I've arrived at the HE400S. I just want something light and comfortable that won't wear me out. Even though I like more bass heavy electronic music, at this point I'm convinced that anything will be an upgrade over my AKG553.
      Kyyul, Oct 31, 2015
    2. shotgunshane
      I'm not familiar with the AKG553. I also didn't try the HE400S with bass heavy electronic music but did with a lot of different rock music, along with some acoustic, country and bit of classical. It did great with all of those. The 400S is definitely light and comfortable to me. 
      shotgunshane, Oct 31, 2015
    3. Schmavies
      This is one of the cheapest planar magnet headphone on the market, but I can't afford it. D:
      Schmavies, Nov 1, 2015
  7. money4me247
    Swift & Smooth: Well-balanced HE-400S sets a Historic Performance:Price Standard
    Written by money4me247
    Published Oct 20, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - price point, comfort, well-balanced tuning, very smooth presentation, stellar speed and note spacing, tight bass notes, easy to drive
    Cons - softer presentation style, thinner presentation, dynamic driver-like tuning for a planar magnetic
    HE-400S Review
     
    2015-10-2005.44.47.jpg
     
    1. I received a review loaner unit of the HE-400S from Hifiman.
    2. Extensively tested the HE-400S over more than one month.
    3. Primary source files consists of Spotify Premium, Tidal Hi-Fi, FLAC files
    4. My main external component set-up has upgraded during this time from the Schiit Bifrost Uber > Schiit Lyr 2 to the Schiit Gungnir Multibit > Schiit Mjolnir
    5. My full gear profile and musical tastes can be found HERE.
    6. These are my personal sonic impressions. I am NOT a professional reviewer. I am not associated with Hifiman and I have no financial stake in the HE-400S. As always, YMMV & I hope you enjoy my review!! :)
    Intro: Founded in 2007 by Dr. Fang, Hifiman is a Chinese audio company with products ranging from headphones, IEMs, dedicated audio players, amplifiers, and dacs. Particularly renowned for their planar magnetic headphones, Hifiman was responsible for the planar magnetic revival with their HE-5 release in 2009 jump-starting a renewed interest in this technology. They have quite a lot of expertise with planar magnetic transducers with their discontinued planar magnetic models (HE-5, HE-5LE, HE-4, HE-400, and HE-500) still drawing many fans. Their current planar magnetic headphone line-up includes the HE-400S ($299), HE-400i ($499), HE-560 ($899), HE-6 ($1299), and HE-1000 ($2999). Upcoming models gathering great interest in the community include the HE-X (open summit-fi estimated at $1,799) and HE-S (convertible open/closed on-ear dynamic, price point not determined, but estimated $199)
     
    One of their most recent release is the HE-400S, which is among the most affordable open planar magnetic headphones currently on the market.
     
    Double-sided magnets are found on the HE-5 (2009), HE-5LE (2010), HE-6 (2010), HE-500 (2011), and HE-400 (2012) contributing to their higher weight and higher power requirements. HE-4 (2010) was the first Hifiman headphone to use a driver with single-sided magnets (based on the HE-5LE’s driver). The HE-400i (2014) uses single-sided magnets based on the old HE-400, but tuned the driver to sound more akin to the HE-500. The HE-560 (2014) used the single-sided magnets on the HE-500 driver, tuned towards the performance of the HE-6. The HE-1000 (2015) is Hifiman’s current flagship with new asymmetrical double-sided magnets. The HE-400S (2015) uses the same driver as the HE-400i but stripped-down to be able to achieve a lower price point. In 2011, Hifiman also released a dynamic-driver budget headphone called the HE-300 at $299.
     
    Tech: Released in 2015, the HE-400S is an open-back planar magnetic pair of headphones priced at $299 MSRP. It uses a stripped-down set of drivers from HE-400i with single-sided magnets. The idea was to offer high quality sound at a reduced price point and a high emphasis on efficiency and ease to drive. No revolutionary technology found in these headphones, but emphasis on improving performance achievable at lower price points. Incorporates many of the recent updates in the Hifiman line-up including the suspension design and updated its earcup connectors from the “screw-on” SMC design to 2.5mm ports. Its frequency response range is quoted at 20Hz – 35KHz.
     
    2015-10-2005.30.06.jpg       2015-10-2005.38.36.jpg
     
    Design: The HE-400S features the new suspension style design of Hifiman headphones that was introduced with the HE-400i and HE-560. This makes the light-weight of their headphones feel even more comfortable due to better weight distribution. Plastic is used in earcup construction and headband is comprised of synthetic leather. There are six size settings on the adjustable headband.

     
    2015-10-2005.43.13.jpg       2015-10-2005.43.39.jpg
     
    The HE-400S also followed in the footsteps of the HE-1000 by utilizing 2.5mm mini-jack headphone connectors at the earcups rather than the old Hifiman SMC “screw-on” type connectors that many people complained about. The last Hifiman headphones that used the old-school connectors are the HE-400i and HE-560, and newer versions of those headphones will reportedly be made available with the new 2.5mm mini jack plugs at the earcups.
     
    2015-10-2005.40.33.jpg       2015-10-2006.14.21.jpg
     
    The cable of the HE-400S terminates in a right-angled 3.5mm jack as it is intended to be able to play straight out of a source device without additional amplification. A standard 3.5mm to quarter-inch adapter is included.
     
    2015-10-2005.53.08.jpg       2015-10-2005.51.22.jpg
     
    Comfort: The new suspension design that Hifiman has adopted is extremely comfortable. Earpads are angled velour with inner dimensions measuring ~2 ¼ inches diameter with ~0.5 inch depth in the front and ~0.75 inch depth in the back.
     
    2015-10-2005.45.42.jpg       2015-10-2005.46.53.jpg
     
    Total weight of the headphones is extremely light-weight and in-line with the offerings by competitors.
    Sennheiser HD650: 259 grams
    AKG K7xx: 290 grams (suspension design)
    Beyerdynamic DT880: 293 grams
    Oppo PM-3: 331 grams
    Hifiman HE-400S: 357 grams (suspension design); official weight of 350g*
    Hifiman HE-400i: 360 grams* (suspension design)
    MrSpeakers Ether: 361 grams (suspension design)
    Phillips X2: 380 grams* (suspension design)
    HE-560 = 383 grams (suspension design)
    MrSpeakers Alpha Prime = 451 grams (suspension design)
    HE-1000 = 486 grams (suspension design)
    Audeze EL-8C = 504 grams
    Audeze LCD-X = 682 grams
      2015-10-2005.48.11.jpg       2015-10-2005.48.47.jpg
     
    Accessories:
     
    1packaging2015-10-2005.36.23.jpg
    1. (x1) Headphone Cable (1.5 meter or 4.9 Feet; 3.5mm plug)
    2. (x1) ¼” (6.35 mm) headphone adapter
    3. (x1) pair of removable angled velour earpads (attached to headphones)
     
    2packaging2015-10-2005.35.07.jpg       2015-10-2005.49.37.jpg       2015-10-2005.54.50.jpg
     
    Portable Usage:
    The HE-400S has an open-back design, which results in noise leakage. This makes it less suitable for portable usage. However, it is quite easy to drive and does not require an amplifier. Sound quality will still shine when paired with smartphones, laptops, portable dac/amps, and dedicated audio devices.
     
    2015-10-2006.37.54.jpg       2015-10-2006.40.46.jpg
     
    Sound Quality:
    For more information on audiophile terminology, use the guide HERE.
     
    Treble Tuning: I would characterize the treble region of the HE-400S to have a very smooth presentation without being overly bright while maintaining competitive detail resolution. Will not get any additional sparkling effects or crispiness to notes, but also will not get excessive edginess or piericingness to notes. Relatively linear with minimal peakiness for a very enjoyable listening experience. Solid overall performance for a mid-tier offering.
     
    There is a slight bump in the 4 kHz region which adds a nice bite to cymbal crashes and helps with the kick of the bass drums and the snappiness of snares. This is very subtle tuning change that does not detract from the smooth presentation of the HE-400S and does not add that extra crispy or sparkly sensation to the treble tuning. There can sometimes be a bit of subtle low-level coarseness to the texture in this region dependent on source material.
     
    There is an extremely good sense of definition to notes for a very clear and clean treble presentation. The HE-400S can display lively treble energy and a vividness to notes without leaning into the overly bright or sharp territory. These headphones will never spit out sibilance or crispiness as there is a gentle valley in 5-7kHz region. This tuning helps with the smooth presentation of the HE-400S and gives it a more forgiving nature. Upper edge of guitars, drums, and organs are relaxed and smooth here without any additional crispy ring. Will not get that additional shimmering effect with cymbals either with this type of tuning, but I did find that cymbals would sometimes appear in the foreground on the HE-400S with its 9-10 kHz emphasis. It is possible to detect some track-dependent roughness at times due to the 9-10 kHz emphasis, but overall very minimal graininess to the treble presentation of the HE-400S.
     
    The HE-400S does have adequate treble extension going up to 18kHz (which is the upper limit of my treble hearing). The 12kHz to 18kHz region is not strongly emphasized. This is helpful for preventing any brittleness to its sound, which can often to an issue with headphones with an overall thinner presentation (meaning no additional emphasis on the lower midrange). The upper registers will also not display any piercingness. While the HE-400S has good treble extension, there is no emphasis on the upper treble, so the HE-400S will not provide the airiest sound. Low-level hiss and noise will be hard to hear on these headphones and it will miss out a bit on some of the subtle micro-details as well as the low-level textural shifts in breath and wind sounds that flagship-level headphones will resolve more prominently. There is no extra upper register sparkle to certain notes and the HE-400S also will not display any stridency on well-recorded tracks.
     
    From my high frequency response sweeps, I could hear the treble response up to 18kHz (which is the limit of my hearing) with a subtle bump at 1kHz, a hill starting at 3kHz that peaks at 4kHz and tapers into gentle valley at 5-7kHz, a peak at 9-10kHz, a small bump at 12-13kHz, and relatively small dip at 15-16kHz.
     
    Mid-range Tuning: The midrange of the HE-400S is its strongest suit. Immaculately articulate while maintaining a fluid sense of smoothness for very well-done linear midrange presentation.
     
    The lower midrange smoothly transitions from the mid-bass maintaining an ample sensation of body to notes without sounding overtly warm or muddy. The HE-400S does have a thinner and cleaner presentation relative to the thicker rich sound provided by headphones that emphasis the lower midrange. It maintains a smooth liquid flow to its texture while displaying clean and clear transient attacks with generous note spacing and well-trimmed note edges. There is only the most subtle sense of coloration that can appear at times due to the slight emphasis at approximately 1kHz. This can appear to be a bit of thwacking emphasis to certain vocal intonations, but also allows for a bit more weight and emphasis to the vocal presentation. This type of tuning does help bring vocals more into the forefront of the sound. I would estimate a touch more emphasis towards the upper midrange over the lower midrange to my ears.
     
    To my ears, there is a subtle an emphasis to the lower presence range (spanning from 2-5 kHz or 4-6 kHz depending on instruments) and I would say the HE-400S does have a faint sense of intimacy to its presentation with a bit more closeness to the presence of instruments. Very well-defined sense of clarity throughout the midrange.
     
    Bass Tuning: The bass of the HE-400S is tuned very similar to typical mid-tier audiophile-oriented dynamic headphones with a roll-off on the lower sub-bass relative to the mid-bass. Overall sound signature is extremely similar to the HD600/HD650, but the HE-400S provides a relatively thinner overall presentation with a faster sensation to notes and tighter bass response while the Sennheiser headphones have a lusher, slower, and more relaxed presentation. The HE-400S has a mid-bass emphasis over the sub-bass, providing a punchy sensation to its bass response. Not bass light, but can be less full-sounding without that underlying sensation of warmth/darkness when compared to other planar magnetic options that may present more sub-bass presence. There will be no chesty rumbling sensation on the HE-400S, but the HE-400S will present very clean and tight bass notes with adequate weight. The thumping lower end of the bass will not be emphasized and there will be no excess fullness or muddiness in the upper bass notes. These are not a pair of headphones for bassheads, but rather for folks looking for a more well-balanced sound signature.
     
    The HE-400S is not the hardest-hitting pair of headphone and does not have that extra kick or low-end reverb traditionally found in planar magnetic headphones. However, the tapering sub-bass tuning prior to 100Hz does provide the perception of improved overall clarity. There is enough emphasis at the 100-200Hz region to provide a solid sense of clout to the bass response. While there is no underlying ripping sense of power to behind notes, but there adequate weight and impact that gives the bass notes a realistic sense of heft.
     
    The tightest of bass notes on the HE-400S is one of its exemplary strengths. Displaying extremely fast-sounding bass with very clean edges, the HE-400S will handle to most complex percussion tracks with effortless ease. Planar magnetic fans who enjoy a high quality fast bass response with clean attack and decay transients should be quite happy with the HE-400S in this department.
     
    From my lower frequency response sweeps, I could hear the bass response starting at 20-30 kHz, rises rapidly to about 70-80 kHz to peak 100kHz before subtly tapering down to 200 kHz.
     
    Other Sonic Attributes: It is difficult to talk about these technical performance attributes without direct comparisons. I will be speaking in broad relative terms against the current mid-tier audiophile market. For more detailed analysis against specific headphones, refer to the direct comparison section.
     
    Overall, the strongest technical performance strength of the HE-400S is its speed and note spacing. Among the best in the mid-tier category, HE-400S will only be surpassed by other planar magnetic headphones such as the HE-400i in the speed and note spacing. The HE-400S beats out the Oppo PM-3 and Alpha Prime in this aspect to my ears with their underlying hint of organic warmth subtly prolonging the sense of perceived decay. Among planar magnetics, relative performance in this aspect will overall be close as the HE-400S already reaches quite a high level of performance in this area. Will need to jump to the flagship level to really get a find headphones with a noticeably better speed and note spacing, but the HE-400S will likely to still beat out some flagships-priced headphones in this area. Options like the HD800 and HE-560 are the flagship options will provide a noticeable improvement with relatively faster with larger note spacing.
     
    Soundstage is above average for the mid-tier category. About on par with the HD600 and HD650, but will lose out against some of the AKG offerings which are well-known for their spaciousness. Imaging of the HE-400S is highly competitive and on par with the best of the mid-tier category.
     
    Very solid clarity and detail resolution for a mid-tier competitor. I do think that it is possible to find some more highly resolving headphones in the mid-tier and flagship categories, but the HE-400S is quite competitive among mid-tier offerings and well above average in this department. Detail resolution shockingly good for its price point and can compete against many pricier options. Many more expensive options will lack the linear and well-balanced tuning of the HE-400S, though it is important to keep in mind the subject nature of personal preferences in sound signature.
     
    For its overall presentation, the HE-400S has nice smooth softness to its sonic character. Attack transients still have adequate impact and decay transients are extremely tight. There is a good sense of hard-hitting attack that is very competitive or excels against other mid-tier dynamic headphone headphones. The HE-400S will sound a bit softer than the old HE-400 and is likely a touch on the softer side overall when compared to other mid-tier planar magnetics. The HE-400S’s bass extension will not be as linear as pricier other planar magnetic options, but bass extension and impact will be quite competitive against the current mid-tier dynamic headphones offerings.
     
    Overall, the HE-400S technical prowess is unmatched at its price point and will be extremely competitive against the majority of sub-$1,000 mid-tier offerings. My direct comparisons will highlight comparative performance in more depth.
     
    2015-10-2005.39.32.jpg       2015-10-2006.01.22.jpg      
     
    Measurements:
    *******Disclaimer*******
    1. Sonic impressions written prior to measurements/frequency response sweeps.
    2. I am NOT a professional, so my personal measurements may not be as accurate as other sources. Any feedback or suggestions for improvement appreciated.
    3. Measurement chain: PC with Windows 10 > ARTA Generates Sine Sweeps > Steinberg UR-22 USB Interface with Yamaha ASIO > Line Out > Oppo HA-2 Amplifier > headphones placed upon my own head (left ear being measured) > Pannasonic WM61-A Microphone > Steinberg UR-22 > Laptop > ARTA analysis
    4. I used a Panasonic WM61-A microphone in my measurement set-up. The WM61-A does actually measure very flat until the upper treble range when calibrated. Its unequalized response should be flat within +/- 1.5 dB to 20 kHz. Frequency response curves are smoothed to 1/24 octave.
    5. Do NOT directly compare my personal measurements to FR curves made by others!!! There will be inherent discrepancies due to differences in measurement set-up, so comparing measurements from different sources is not reliable!!
    6. For frequency response curve comparisons, I would recommend Tyll’s extensive database. Full list of his measurements found HERE. (credit: Tyll Hertsens at Innerfidelity)
    7. Reference HERE for frequency response correlations to instruments and audiophile terms. (credit: Independent Recording Network)
    ***********************************
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0504.27.48-HE-400SQQNOTEPADBEST.png
    ***Important Note: The dip in the 6kHz region is a measurement artifact from the interaction from the mic placement with the shape of the ear folds. This artifact appears in all my measured frequency response curves via my current personal measurement set-up and is not audible.***
    Screenshot2015-09-0403.16.43-HE-400svelourpadslowgainFR.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0403.17.46-HE-400svelourpadslowgainFRt2.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0403.27.17-HE-400ShighgainFR.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0403.53.34-HE-400svelourpadshighgainFR.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0403.55.21-HE-400svelourpadshighgainFR.png
    Screenshot2015-09-0504.05.29-HE-400SQQNOTEPAD.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0504.07.11-HE-400SQQ.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0504.10.31-HE-400SQQ.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0504.12.25-HE-400SQQNOTEPAD.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0504.13.17-HE-400SQQNOTEPAD.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0504.15.08-HE-400SQQNOTEPAD.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0504.22.40-HE-400SQQNOTEPAD.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0504.23.13-HE-400SQQNOTEPAD.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0504.24.37-HE-400SQQNOTEPAD.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0504.25.46-HE-400SQQNOTEPAD.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0504.26.41-HE-400SQQNOTEPAD.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0504.29.43-HE-400SQQNOTEPAD.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0504.30.18-HE-400SQQNOTEPADimprovedbassrollof.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-0504.31.11-HE400SQQNOTEPADimprovedbass.png
    Screenshot2015-09-2018.12.08-HE-400SFRt1.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-2018.12.42HifimanHE-400SFRt2.png
     
    Screenshot2015-09-2018.14.38-HifimanHE-400SFRt3.png
    I was able to get some varying FR measurements based on how well I had the headphones sealing. The swiveling hinge on the gimbals is a bit stiff, so some measurements did not have the ideal seal. You can see the variations that different positioning and different seals can give you on this pair of headphones. Note this range of variation can be quite typical when measuring headphones without certified professional equipment.
     
    Exhaustive Comprehensive Comparisons:
    Comparisons were too long to include in the review. Wrote on exhaustive comparisons against other mid-tier offerings and many planar magnetic headphones. Please follow the link HERE.
     
    2015-10-2005.38.08.jpg
     
    Value Judgement:
     
    The HE-400S is extremely competitive compared to all other mid-tier offerings currently on the market. One of the best price:performance values currently out there. Compounding its overall value for those on a limited budget, the HE-400S is able to achieve high performance without an amplifier. With its easy-to-drive nature, the HE-400S excels even directly plugged into the source audio device or with just an entry-level amplifier.
     
    Alternatives I would consider would include HE-400i for a subtly darker sound signature with more of that linear planar bass extension and/or Sennheiser HD600/HD650 for an overall very similar sound signature but greater scaling potential with external components. The HD600/HD650 would require a more expensive amplifier to really hit their stride (at least something like the $300 Bottlehead Crack or $350 Schiit Valhalla 2), but does have a greater scaling potential in terms of sound quality.
     
    I have personally found that mid-tier options above $500 are typically overpriced for the sonic differences achieved. I feel that it would be wiser to jump directly into flagship options if considering spending more than $500 on your headphones (unless there is a specific headphone’s sound signature that really captures your attention). To really get any further significant sonic improvements, will likely have to consider making the jump over to a flagship pair of headphones with at least a mid-tier amplifier. Will be looking at spending at least $900-$1700 on headphones and $200-$1000 on external components). Do note I do personally think some flagship-priced headphones are overvalued and will not offer too significant improvement in technical proficiency, but may have a more enjoyable sound signature depending on user preference.
     
    For those with higher budget restrictions, I would consider the AKG K7xx or the new budget offerings from Fostex (their T20RP, T40RP, T50RP mk3 line-up at approximately $159). I’ve briefly heard them at RMAF 2015 and I was quite impressed with their performance for their price point. Will likely want to consider a nice entry-level amplifier for both these alternatives as well, so will be looking at spending at least an additional $99 for something like the Schiit Magni 2 or JDS O2.
     
    At the end of the day, everyone will have different criteria and values when judging headphones. While it is hard to say exactly which mid-tier option will be the best fit for individual sonic priorities and budget restrictions, the HE-400S does offer extremely competitive performance and a very well-done balanced tuning at almost unheard price points for a planar magnetic pair of headphones. Barely one year ago, the idea of a new sub-$500 planar magnetic headphone was almost out of the question with current headphone pricing in general trending upwards with few real sonic improvements or innovations against classic staples. With the recent trends of some more budget-friendly offerings (such as the Oppo’s PM-3, Hifiman’s HE-400i and HE-400S, and Fostex’s new MK3 line-up), the planar magnetic enthusiasts again have a reason to celebrate and many newcomers to this hobby will be welcomed with quite a few affordable high-quality choices.
     
    Only a few years ago, the most affordable current-production audiophile-geared planar magnetic, the old HE-400, was at the $400 price point with notable coloration and comfort issues and Hifiman’s most affordable entry was a budget dynamic at $300. The landscape for affordable gear has historically changed for the better with the new release of the HE-400S. As a planar magnetic headphone with competitive performance against some of my favorite mid-tier performers on the market (which includes the HE-400i, HD600, and HD650) at a fraction of their cost, the HE-400S is one of the most exciting new releases in the headphone market, shaking up some of the recent pricing trends and preconceived notions on the amount of money required to achieve excellent sound.
     
    Amplification: With an officially quoted sensitivity of 98dB/V and impedance of 22 Ohms, these headphones are very easy to drive without requiring an amplifier from a technical standpoint.
    1. Requires 23 mW to reach 95 dB (typical upper range of normal listening volumes and the volume level where long-term exposure will result in gradual hearing loss)
    2. Requires 2.278 W to reach 115 dB (volume of a loud concert)
    Link HERE for a great resource for calculating power requirements.
     
    I’ve had the opportunity to use the HE-400S on the Lyr 2 + Bifrost set-up and my new main Mjolnir 2 + Gungnir set-up with balanced cables. There is scaling potential with the HE-400S but will not be as dramatic as some of the other headphones that are pickier with external component matching or have more demanding power requirements. For me personally, I would say that it would be wiser to save the money for a true flagship headphone upgrade rather than fiddling around too much with external components swaps on the HE-400S. Amplifier not essential from my experience and portable gear like the Aune B1 or Oppo HA-2 will be more than adequate to drive the HE-400S to achieve stellar sound quality.
     
    With the first generation T50RP and many of the Hifiman headphones, the modding community have been quite actively involved in trying to find ways to improve sonic performance. Some of the most comprehensive modding guides are provided by @jerg and @bluemonkeyflyer. They have some great resources and information for anyone interested in this endeavour. Hifiman has adopted some of jerg’s earpad findings with their Focuspad release and Fostex’s new mk3 series actually has incorporated many of the findings of the modding community.
     
    In-Depth Guide on How to Started into mods & measuring changes: credit @bluemonkeyflyer
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/618659/fostex-t50rp-incremental-mods-and-measurements
     
    Outline of Some of Jerg’s Mod Recommendations: credit @jerg
    Reportedly possible to improve bass presentation, add a punchier mid-bass response, increased sub-bass extension, improve treble cohesion, increase airiness of treble extension, more precise imaging, increased spaciousness.
    1. Add trimmed shelf liner disc underneath baffles onto the driver
    2. Add foam to earpads for a larger earpad angle or replace with Focuspads
    3. Sealing the earpads permanently to the earcups
    4. Regrilling mod
    Link for detailed outlining of some of his modifications: http://www.head-fi.org/t/738912/he-560-enhancement-mod-v1-5
     
    Sorbothane Mods
    Some members in the old HE-400 thread have been exploring Sorbothane-based modifications for the old HE-400. I haven’t seen any measurements for their work yet, but this seems like a very interesting avenue to explore for those who like to tinker with their headphones. May be interesting to try on the HE-400S.
    Sporadic discussion on starting from this first post: Link HERE.
    Original post on sorbothane modifications for Stax headphones: Link HERE.
     
    I did not attempt the more labor intensive options, but two easy modifications that can be attempted with minimal effort and complete reversibility include swapping the stock velour earpads for the Focuspad or Focuspad A as well as the regrilling mod.
     
    I didn’t personally measure or hear too significant of a difference in the FR and CSD graph from those two modifications in my experiences, but some other people have. If interested, I think these are fun avenues to explore for those enthusiastic in this hobby.
     
    With the HE-400S, I personally would even go as far to say modifications are not really required as there is no glaring flaws on the headphones stock that need to be specifically addressed. The bass extension of the HE-400S measures in-line with the well-regarded performance of the HD600/HD650. From my own critical listening impressions, I don’t see its bass performance to be significantly lacking for most tastes. For the old school HE-400 and the HE-560, I can see where modding has great appeal as there were one or two areas on those headphones that had great potential for improvement in terms of overall frequency response measurements and hotspots in the sound signature that certain people could find to be very problematic based on personal preferences. The HE-400S’s smooth and easy-going overall well-balanced sound signature does not really present any noticeable glaring areas to my ears that require fixing.
     
    As always, EQ is an option for those interested increasing the amount of sub-bass. Will not be able to go above 5dB. I played with the parametric equalizer add-on Equalify.Me for Spotify (http://www.equalify.me/) and the built-in EQ for Foobar2000, and found quite a few fun and interesting settings, but ended up primarily just using the HE-400S unequalized.
    3innerdriver2015-10-2006.04.19.jpg       3driver2015-09-0403.52.08.jpg
     
    My Scoring: (the green bar ratings on the side seem to be an average of all review scores, this is my personal scoring)
    Note: I do not typically give out full scores unless the product achieves a new ground-breaking high standard for its price bracket
    Audio Quality: 9/10 (extremely competitive sound quality among mid-tier offerings)
    Comfort: 10/10
    Design: 9/10
    Value: 10/10 (at time of release, new price point standard for planar magnetics)
    Overall Rating: 4.5/5; Highly competitive entry in the mid-tier market that greatly outperforms its price point. Stellar value for those who emphasize performance:price ratio.
     
    Conclusion:
     
    As one of the most inexpensive modern-day planar magnetic headphones, the HE-400S is a phenomenal value for anyone interested in trying out planar magnetic technology. Displaying a smooth well-defined treble, an extremely articulate midrange, and tight punchy bass, the HE-400S has stellar overall sound signature balance with a technical proficiency that greatly outperforms its price point. With the HE-400S delivering a superb sense of agile fluidity, the “S” in its moniker may very well stand for Speed and Smoothness.
     
    The sonic strength of the HE-400S is definitely its mid-range tuning to my ears, displaying an agile smooth clarity throughout its well-balanced presentation. Bass is extremely tight and treble is enjoyably detailed without being overtly sharp. The HE-400S is extremely proficient with its technical attributes, providing an extremely fast transient response and exceptionally precise imaging. Soundstage and detail resolution is solid for its product category. Weakness will be that some low-level treble detail may not be as well-resolved compared against some other options, but it does help with the forgiving and enjoyable listening experience as this avoids picking up excessive hiss or distortion noises of source tracks. Considerations will include a softer and thinner overall presentation style. Also, the HE-400S has a more dynamic-driver type tuning rather than that really linear sub-bass extension typical of planar magnetic headphones. While its lowest frequencies will not be as present when compared to some of the high-end planars currently on the market, the HE-400S will not lack any sub-bass compared to the majority of dynamic drivers. The leaner more upper-bass focused tuning of the HE-400S does not negatively affect the overall sound signature balance, providing a nimble sense of agility and pop to the undertones of notes.
     
    Another consideration is that many mid-tier options require expensive external component upgrades to really maximize their performance capabilities. One of the key selling points of the HE-400S in my mind is its ability to sound excellent without any expensive or specific component matching to achieve its full potential. This makes the HE-400S a very appealing option for those who are more limited in budget or do not want to overspend on external components.
     
    The mid-tier audiophile headphone market has become extremely competitive with tons of extremely solid options. I generally consider the mid-tier options to span from $200-$800. However, the sweet spot for performance:price is definitely in the $300-$400 price range and the HE-400S delivers among the best performance:price values I have seen in recent memory.
     
    For those looking for a first pair of audiophile quality headphones or long-term audiophiles looking to add a relatively inexpensive but highly performing and well-balanced headphone to their collection, I would highly recommend the HE-400S and I do personally view it as one of the best value-orientated options currently on the market.
     
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    Official Product Link: http://hifiman.com/products/detail/238
      volly, Dabore84, TimPrice and 10 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. toysub
      Thanks for a great in depth, informative review!!
      toysub, Jan 14, 2016
    3. ReelDeal
      Great review. I am looking for a mid-fi open back headphone to compliment my ZMF Blackwoods. (Most of my time is spent in an environment where I need closed phones, so I spent more on those than I can currently afford for an open set) I have been looking at the: Hifiman 400S, Sennheiser 650 or 600 and Beyerdynamic 880. My main sonic priorities are midrange (male & female vocals) and dynamics. Also, I already have very nice equipment (Decware Taboo MKIII amp and Schiit multistream Bifrost dac). I know you said that might incline you toward the 650/600. I'm wondering how my specific sonic priorities impact your thoughts. Also, do you have much experience on the Senn 600 vs. 650? ... Thanks for any input.
      ReelDeal, Jun 9, 2016
    4. jesuguru
      I've heard many times and places that upgrading to the Focal pads significantly improves bass extension and impact. Any experience with that?
      jesuguru, Dec 26, 2016
  8. reddog
    a superb budget Orthodynamic Headphone
    Written by reddog
    Published Oct 9, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - light weight, the cups breath very nice. the overall sound signature a balanced and transparent. the headphone plugs are great
    Cons - these cans are not as sexy as the HE-400i. the cable thatches with these cans is a bit short.
    Hi my name is Andrew Reddog Jones, I have been into this fantastic hobby for almost two years.  I mostly take care of my mother and sometimes fix vcrs. Today I plan on doing a review oh HIFIMAN's HE400s.  I used the following gear :   Media gear: MacBook Pro: Tidal
                                                                 DAC's used:  Schiit Audio's Gungnir Multibit, and the Yggdrasil
                                                                  Amps used:  Ragnarok,  Mjolnir 2,  lyr 2, Asgard 2.
    I first used the HE400s with my GMB and MJ2, in SE, with both the Se cable that came with the unit and the long SE cable that came with the HE1000.   The SE out of the MJ2 (Ediswan tubes)  sounds very nice indeed.  The bass is impactful, without impacting upon the mids.  The mids are sweet, and balanced to my ears.  The mids were really engaging, especially with rock and jazz.  the highs sounded just right, never sibilant or fatiguing. Frank Zappa and Dave Bruebeck sound very nice through the HE400s.  the vocals, both male and female were engaging and had me thumping my foot to the music.
         The he400s seem to like tubular sound out of the MJ2, especially with my ediswan tubes.  Moreover, when i switched out my SE cable for my XLR,  the HE400s just sounded sublime. The bass and mids open upped, and the sound became more detailed and transparent.  I was very impressed by the sound  and these cans are a great introduction for those starting out in this hobby.
         I next switched the He400s to my main Rig, the Ragnarock and the Yggdrasil, using the XLR cable and the 400s just sang like a muse of old.  The bass was spot on without mudding up the mids. The mids sound so sweet and detailed.  And the highs were never fatiguing or  sibilant but just added to the overall texture of the sound.   The HE400s never sounded better out of this combo.  The Yggy made the HE400s sound detailed and musical and the Rag controlled these cans with total control and made sure the HE400s remained transparent and natural sounding.
         I also connected the HE400s to my Asgard 2 and the Lyr 2 and these cans were easily driven by these two amps.   The lyr 2 with the LISST really make he HE400s sing like amuse of fire.  I was surprised how well the LISST sounded through the lyr 2  The bass has good impact, wthout impacting upon the mids.  The mids are sweet without becoming to lush.  And thus the HE400s, through the LISST tubes sound very transparent and not to warm.   The highs, through the LISST tubes sounds just right, not to bright or analytical.   I feel the LISST tubes , through the Lyr 2 sound better than through the MJ2.
         The Asgard 2 easily drives the HE400s and these cans  sounds very nice, especially when connected to GMB or the Yggy.  Both of these dacs  ad texture, detail and transparency to the overall sound signature of the HE400s.   I highly recommend the HE400s for those who are a budget and want to hear a Orthodynamic headphone. I have listened both the HE-400i and the HE400s, and I feel the HE-400i has a nice v shape sound to it that can be very enjoyable.  I really liked the chromed He-400i but I feel the HE400s is better, because the sound signature is far more balanced and transparent to my humble ears.
      swspiers, warrenpchi and kidgafanhoto like this.
  9. nmatheis
    HiFiMan HE-400S: A solid entry-level planar at a reasonable price.
    Written by nmatheis
    Published Oct 6, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Good, smooth, reasonably balanced sound with many ergonomic improvements over HE-400.
    Cons - Lacks low end weight, top end sparkle, holographic soundstage, and scalability compared to HE400.

    23-50-01742-cc84baf451043d312eaf789977d8eeb0.jpg


    Image courtesy of HiFiMan

     

    INTRODUCTION

    The HE400S is HiFiMan's latest offering in the HE400 series of open-back over-ear planar headphones. I first read about them in a teaser email HiFiMan sent out and was intrigued. I'd already read about the HE400i but didn't think it was what I was looking for. The HE400S however looked pretty interesting as an entry-level, easy to drive planar. The concept isn't new. Oppo's planars are also easy to drive. I've tested out the PM-2, but it wasn't what I was looking for, either. So what am I looking for? Well, I'm looking for something along the lines of my HE400 but with improved ergonomics and more even top end. Those two things (improved ergonomics + more even top end) would sell me a new HiFiMan HE400 series headphone. Is HE400S that headphone? Nope, it's not. It's a much more conventional sound signature than the HE400. Does that make the HE400S untenable for me? Perhaps, but I'd like to take some time to explain to you, as a dedicated HE400 fan, what I liked and what could be improved about the HE-400S. I hope it's useful for those of you looking to purchase a new headphone and are considering the HE400S.
     
    Before I get started with the review, I'd like to provide a few links and encourage you to read over the other HE400S reviews on Head-Fi for alternative points of view.
     
    HiFiMan HE400S page: LINK.
     
    Headfonia review: LINK.
     
    Dedicated HE400S thread: LINK.
     
     

    DISCLAIMER

    There is no financial incentive from HiFiMan for writing this review.  I am in no way affiliated with HiFiMan, and this is my honest opinion of the HE400S.  I would like to thank HiFiMan for giving me a chance to test drive the HE400S, and I hope my feedback proves useful for my fellow Head-Fi members as well as for HiFiMan.
     
     

    ABOUT ME

    I'm a 43 year old music lover who listens to a wide variety of genres and artists (but mostly electronic, metal, and modern composition these days). As with a lot of people my age, I've got some hearing issues - some upper frequency loss and mild tinnitus. My portable music journey started with the venerable Sony Cassette Walkman and then progressed to portable CD players, minidisc recorders, and finally on to DAPs like the Rio Karma, iRiver IHP-120, iPod, iPhone, and the newer crop of DAPs from Fiio and iBasso. My headphone journey started with Sony MDR e888 and Eggos back in my minidisc days.  I moved on to full-size Beyerdynamic and Ultrasone cans and Shure E2 and E3 IEM. Those all served me well for quite some time.  Then I rediscovered Head-Fi, and my poor wallet...

     
     

    SPECS

    1. Frequency Response : 20Hz – 35KHz  
    2. Sensitivity : 98dB  
    3. Impedance : 22 Ohms  
    4. Weight : 350g  
    5. Cable Length : 1.5 m  
    6. Plug : 3.5mm L-type plug


     
     

    PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES



    I'll let the packaging speak for itself. Let's just say that compared to when I purchased my HE-400, HiFiMan has stepped up their game considerably!
    IMG_0011.jpg
    IMG_0012.jpg
     
    Open the box, and you see the HE400S looking up at you.
    IMG_0014.jpg
     
    Open up the small black paper box at the bottom of the package, and you'll find the cable and a 1/4" adapter (not pictured). Since HiFiMan is marketing this as an easy to drive, portable headphone, the plug is L-shaped and small enough to fit into the rather small headphone jack opening in my iPhone's case.
    IMG_0004.jpg
     
    Ok, that was pretty simple. As mentioned above, compared to the HiFiMan packaging for the original HE400, this is miles ahead. HiFiMan really stepped up their game here.
     
    Accessories are sparse, but what more do you really need? A case, maybe? Not at this price point. HiFiMan will sell you one at a reasonable price, though.
     
     

    BUILD & ERGONOMICS

    Here, I'm going to present some pics comparing the original HE400 to the HE400S and point out my likes and dislikes.
    IMG_0005.jpg
     
    First off, I find the HE400S to be a very attractive headphone in general but especially in comparison to the HE400.
     
    I'm not using the stock HiFiMan cable, because it came in an ungodly length, so I got an aftermarket OFC cable that is a much more reasonable length. It's basically the same length as the HE400S cable, so for me HiFiMan nailed it with HE400S cable length.
     
    The coaxial-type connectors used on the HE400 are a pain to attach. I much prefer the standard headphone jack type connector used on the HE400S. Also, please notice that the connectors on the HE400 come straight down out of the cup, whereas the HE400S connectors come out at an angle. I prefer the HE400S's implementation, which allows the cables to fall away from shoulders instead of straight down onto them as with my HE400.
     
    Final thing to point out in the picture above is that there are defined headband adjustments in the HE400S, whereas the HE400's headband slides freely. I prefer the HE400's implementation, as I constantly find myself needing to adjust to 3 clicks on one side and 4 clicks on the other with the HE400S. That makes it feel just slightly off-balance to me. Nothing egregious - just a slight bit off.
     
     
    IMG_0003.jpg
    IMG_0007.jpg
     
    Let's drill down a bit further into the headband and cups. The HE400's headband was never that comfortable for me. As you can see, I modded it with a Sennheiser headband pad. This makes HE400 more comfortable but dramatically limits how much I can adjust the headband. In fact, as you can see I need the headband adjusted to almost full height vs. under half the usable height with the HE400S. The HE400S's suspension headband on the other hand, is much more comfortable. It was a breath of fresh air coming from the HE400.
     
    The HE400's metal cups and double-sided drivers make them quite heavy, whereas the HE400S's plastic cups and single-sided drivers make them feel feather light in comparison. Again, this adds tremendously to the HE400S's increased comfort over his older brother.
     
    The HE400's velour pads are much stiffer than the HE400S's. The HE400S's pads are also angled, which allows them to better fit the contour of your head. Anther ergonomic win for the HE400S.
     
    Last thing is that you might notice is that the L/R markings are completely worn off my HE400. I slapped on a couple pieces of lab tape with the L/R markings on them.
     
    To sum up this section, there are many ergonomic improvements implemented in the HE400S that make it an easy win with respect to comfort over the older HE400. I joked in the HE400S thread that I was glad HiFiMan modernized the HE400 series, because the HE400 was starting to feel like a Cold War relic.
     
    As mentioned above, I've also tried out the Oppo PM-2 open planars. I found the HE400S to have superior ergonomics, much preferring the HE400S's suspension headband and spacious cups. In comparison, the PM-2 feel crowded. I've got a relatively small head, so I can't imagine how people with larger heads squeeze into the PM-2 without serious comfort and heat issues during long-term listening sessions. No such problems with the HE400S. Of course, YMMV.
     
     

    SOUND

    I'm going to keep this section simple. Other reviewers have done a superb job describing the sound, so if you need further clarification or prefer a deep dive please refer to their reviews.
     
    I mainly listen to experimental electronic and metal and use those genres to evaluate HP & IEM. During my time with the HE400S, I used them with my iPhone, as well as various DAPs and amps. I didn't find these scaled as well as my HE400, so while you're better off with a DAP or amp it's not necessary like it is with my HE400. With that out of the way, how do the HE400S sound?
     

     
    I'm not going to say anything that reinvents the wheel here. If you've read some of the other reviews or been on the HE400S thread, you've probably gathered that they're a pretty conventional mid-centric sound that lacks a bit in extension on either side. It's a nice, smooth listening experience that won't easily offend anyone. So, if you're looking for a more conventional sound signature in a planar, then these might be right up your alley.
     
    IMG_0015.jpg My 2yo son rocking' some Music Together with the HE400S [​IMG]

     
    In comparison with the Oppo PM-2, with the gear I used the HE400S sound fairly similar but with an improved soundstage and at a lower price point. This is from memory, so add a grain of salt, please.
     
    In comparison with my HE400, the HE400S just can't match the HE400's full, rich, warm and impactful low end, the HE400's sparkle up top, or the HE400's holographic soundstage. However, the HE400S makes up for it with a much more prominent midrange and a distinct lack of treble spikes.
     
    Still rocking' the Music Together but now with HE400. Doesn't look quite as happy this time, does he? Might be those Cold War ergonomics coming into play [​IMG]

     
     

    SUMMARY

    So what do I think of the HE400S? If I didn't have the original HE400, I think I'd be tempted to purchase a pair of HE400S. They've got a nice conventional sound, are very comfortable, and look great. However, being intimately familiar with the HE400, I'm left wanting more of that unique character that makes the original HE400 a special, if controversial, pair of headphones. In this reviewer's opinion, it would behoove HiFiMan to consider bringing a headphone to market with HE400's basic sound signature but with a more even top end and the modernized design and ergonomics of the HE400S. That's a headphone I'm ready to buy! Now!!! Please!!!!!
     
    Again, I'd like to thank HiFiMan for providing a pair of HE400S for review. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them and look forward to future offerings from HiFiMan and hope to try their mid and upper tier planars at some point.
      Arthur Li, volly, bolmeteus and 5 others like this.
    1. MrMateoHead
      Great review - I think I would agree than an HE-400 2.0 would be an awesome headphone!
      MrMateoHead, Oct 7, 2015
      Light - Man likes this.
  10. Cotnijoe
    HIFIMAN HE400S: Making Planar Magnetic Headphones Accessible
    Written by Cotnijoe
    Published Aug 30, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Comfort, Improved Connectors, Easy to Enjoy Sound
    Cons - Minor Build Imperfections, Top and Bottom End Extension
    Introduction:
    There seems to be quite a bit of discussion and disagreements regarding HIFIMAN’s (HFM) newest headphone, the HE400S. Some have praised the HE400S as being a giant slayer while other have said that it’s fine for its price, but certainly nothing special. I hope to take some time to put forth my own personal opinion regarding the HE400S. HFM sent me this particular unit of the HE400S for the sake of this review, and I have since returned them to HFM after the 1 month review period that I’ve spent with the HE400S. Big thank you to Jeff and HFM for securing me a review unit.
     
    Packaging and Accessories:
    I really liked HFM’s overall packaging for their new line of headphones. The wooden box of the HE560 and leather box of the HE1000 certainly makes the presentation of the respective headphones feel very premium. The HE400S, being price significantly lower, has a much more standard looking packaging – but nice nonetheless. The HE400S comes with a well-padded brown box, like all other HFM headphones, with a picture of the HE400S. Rather than a box made from some fancy material, you find a sturdy and somewhat simple box inside with the HFM logo and a picture of the HE400S. What’s inside the box is very familiar, and very similar to the way other HFM headphones are presented in the box. The box is incredibly well padded and has a little compartment where the cable is stored.
     
    While overall not as premium as the packaging of the higher end HFM products, the packaging is still much better than the packaging of the HE400S’ competitors, in my opinion. The packaging from the likes of the AKG K702, Fidelio X2, Sennheiser  HD600, for example, don’t really match up to the overall unboxing experience of the HE400S. There are, of course, more important things to consider than the packaging of the headphones!
     
    The HE400S comes with a cable and a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adaptor. That’s it. The cable has the length of a portable cable (1.5m) and the ergonomics of a desktop cable. This kind of tells me that the HE400S is mean to be sort of a transportable indoor headphone. The length of the cable is very manageable and easy to plug into anything and roll with it, while the cable is built to be quite sturdy and certainly a bit stiff to really be used when walking out about. Considering the fact that the HE400S is a relatively easy-to-drive but open headphone, the cable makes sense to me. While the cable is a little stiff, I do like it quite a bit because it doesn’t retain too much memory and is pretty easy to straighten out. Not recommended for portable use though.
     
    FullSizeRender4.jpg FullSizeRender5.jpg
    Outside and Inside of the HFM HE400S Box
     
    Build, Design, and Comfort:
    HFM has gotten quite a bit of complaint when it comes to the build of their headphones. I think I may be the few people out there that honestly really like the way the new generation of HFM headphones are designed, so I guess I’ll try to explain myself the best I can here.
     
    With the exception of the headband being metal, the majority of the HE400S is made of plastic. The reason why I don’t complain about that too much is because the plastic is fairly sturdy and you don’t see too much of the imperfection where the plastic was injected into its mold. A lot of the plastic also has a matte finish to it, and I honestly find it to be pretty attractive. Yes, metal would have made the HE400S sturdier and more attractive, but the plastic housing is also one of the reasons that HFM is able to produce some of the lightest planar headphones on the market.
     
    On the topic of weight, the HE400S is also one of the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever put on my head. I’m not sure why, but I find them to be slightly more comfortable than my HE560. While the focus pads of the HE560 and velour pads of the HE400S are supposedly the same dimensions, the velour pads seem to have a little more depth and are overall a little softer. In addition to its pads, the thick click-adjustable headband assures a good fit as well as a good distribution of the HE400S’ weight across the top of the head. Put that all together with the 350 grams of the HE400S and you get a really comfortable and well-designed headphone. I also think the new HFM headphones are pretty attractive despite being fairly bulky, but that’s just one man’s opinion.
     
    The other big complaint that has sort of marred HFM’s reputation is their quality control. I have never had an issue with HFM’s headphones, but the stories of a headphone cracking or what nots do seem pretty scary. While I’ve never had a legitimate issue with the quality of HFM’s headphones, there are things that have come up that kind of makes me think “eh… it’s not the end of the world but it would have been nice if this didn’t happen.” I’m very happy that my HE560 has no issues of any sort. Everything is in place, nothing is loose, and everything functions well as it should. The connectors are a bit of a pain, but with the HE400S and HE1000, HFM has changed the connectors to a 2.5mm mono plug that’s much more manageable. Unfortunately, the connectors aren’t really cleanly put together. You can see some remains of glue and both of the 2.5mm jacks are a bit crooked. Not the end of the world… but… arghhhh!! In addition, the grill of the left earcup is a little loose and can rotate. Again, not the end of the world… but argh! While I haven’t run into any big issues with the QC of HFM, these little things are certainly bothersome, especially for those spending big money for some of HFM’s TOTL models.
     
    I think HFM should take some steps to tighten up their QC. Making the consumer feel safe with purchasing a product is incredibly important. HFM has a great reputation when it comes to the sound of their products, but their QC seems to hold them back a bit.
     
    FullSizeRender3.jpg
    The Different Connectors
     
    FullSizeRender6.jpg
    You Can See That the Right Connectors is Crooked and Has
    Some Glue Residue on It
     
    Listening Impressions:
    I think I would feel fairly comfortable describing the HE400S as having one of the most balanced sounds amongst the 300 dollar open headphones. Overall sound is smooth, offering a very easy and enjoyable listening experience.
     
    Listening was done mostly with my desktop setup, running music through Foobar USB out to a Schiit Wyrd and Asus Essence III (single ended) with music of all different genres and quality (with the exception of DSD).
     
    Bass
    So I’ll get this out of the way first. Yes, the bass is rolled off. I found that past 80Hz or so, the bass does begin to decline and by 30Hz or so, the amount of bass you’ll get compared to the rest of the frequency is fairly minimal. Yes, it still rumbles at 30Hz, but its presence is pretty much irrelevant when listening to music at reasonable volumes and you don’t get the most dynamic sound from the HE400S. When compared to other planar headphones like the upper echelon of HIFIMAN’s headphones, it becomes incredibly obvious that the low end of the HE400S is not “filled up” in comparison. While there is a gradual decline in bass presence, I only really find it to be problematic below 40 or 50Hz, so it’s not like the HE400S has no depth to its bass at all either. Rather, it just lacks a bit of the lower end texture and control that planars are so well-known for.
     
    Moving on from that point, the bass of the HE400S is honestly pretty good. The mid bass has just a very slight extra lift to it, giving it a little more punch but remaining very neutral. Bass impact is very well-controlled and very tight. One other little gripe I have with the HE400S, though, is that the HE400S has the tendency to be a little reverberant, particularly in the bass. While the impact is honestly really tight and on-point, the decay tends to linger just a little longer than I’d like.
     
    Again, overall, the bass of the HE400S is quite good. Detail, texture, and impact are all good, but this is not the headphone for those interested in hearing what makes the planar bass so well-known. The HE400S bass does not excel in speed nor extension – the two elements that many associate with planar bass.
     
    Midrange
    The sound of the HE400S is smooth, slightly warm, but also not the most transparent or open (mostly due to a somewhat lacking top end extension). The midrange has good presence and strikes a good balance between being full-bodied without becoming a thick sound. Vocals have good focus and good detail while instrument separation is good, but not stellar. Particularly at higher volumes, I find that the sound of lower instruments can smear just a little bit. Instruments also have a bit of a softness to their timbre that gives them a little bit more of a romantic sound rather than being sharper or analytical sounding. Whether that’s a plus or a minus really comes down to preference. I personally find it to be a little unnatural sounding, but comfortable and pleasing to listen to at the same time.
     
    Treble
    The treble of the HE400S rolls off a bit and doesn’t have too much of a presence past 16kHz to my ears. Thus, the HE400S can lack a bit of air and sense of openness. That being said though, I didn’t find the HE400S to sound particularly closed in either. It certainly could benefit from a bit more upper treble extension though.
     
    Besides that point, I think the treble of the HE400S is very well balanced. Lower treble has a good sense of presence but without ever sounding harsh. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone complaining of harshness from the HE400S as the treble is relatively smooth and inoffensive. Instruments can lack just a bit of texture and micro detail in comparison to more expensive headphones, but I was pleased to find that the treble is well-controlled and articulate, giving the HE400S a clean sound. Nothing ever sounds splashy to me and everything remains very well separated and crisp.
     
    Soundstage and Imaging
    I would say the soundstage is pretty respectable for the price that you’re paying for the HE400S. Width, while not as wide as that of the HE560, extends out a good bit. You also get a decent perception of depth from the HE400S, but I think the layering of instruments and the imaging within the soundscape has a good sense of coherence and it’s what makes the presentation of the HE400S’ sound enjoyable for me.
     
    Overall, the HE400S offers a decent out-of-head experience but, again, doesn’t offer a particularly open or expansive sound.
     
    FullSizeRender2.jpg
    My Listening Set Up With the HFM HE400S and HE560
     
    Comparisons
     
    HIFIMAN HE400S and HE560
    So the point of these comparisons with higher end headphones isn’t for me to state the obvious that something like the HE400S is outclassed by the likes of the HE560. Rather, I hope that these comparisons will help those interested in upgrading from the HE400S or considering a lower priced complement to their headphones to understand what they’re getting themselves into. So yes, the HE560s is considerably more resolving than the HE400S, especially in the sub bass, where the HE400S is lacking, and in the treble where the HE560 tends to be brighter.
     
    The designs of the two are essentially the same, with a metal headband and plastic earcups. Of course, the earcups of the HE560 have the added fanciness with the veneer wood design. The HE560 also has a matte black finish while the HE400S has a glossy silver finish. I personally like the look of the matte finish better, but it’s just preference. Besides the basic design, the HE400S is also a little lighter than the HE560, making it slightly more comfortable as well. The most significant external change, however, is probably the cable connectors. The new 2.5mm mono plugs are definitely easier to deal with!
     
    Signature wise, the HE560 in comparison to the HE400S has a much more substantial sub bass presence (compared to the rolled off sub bass of the HE400S), slightly less mid bass, slightly less forward mids, and more treble presence overall. The HE560 is what I consider to be one of the most neutral headphones I’ve heard, with just a bit more treble than I consider neutral, while I see the HE400S as being just a tad warm.
     
    The difference in mid bass presence isn’t too substantial, especially compared to the difference in sub bass presence. I covered it briefly earlier in my review, but the sub bass presence of the HE560 makes the HE400S roll off incredibly noticeable. The HE560 doesn’t have an accentuated bass, it’s just wonderfully well-extended. The midrange of the HE560 is drier and slightly more distant than the HE400S. I don’t think there’s too drastic of a difference in presentation between the HE400S and HE560, but it’s still noticeable. The treble region of the HE560 and HE400S is where the two differ most probably (minus the difference in sub bass presence). The HE560 has a sharper and analytical sound that is somewhat fatiguing for some people. It also has an incredible sense of openness and air due to a good treble extension. The HE400S in comparison has a smoother lower treble with less energy and somewhat of a treble roll off, making it completely fatigue free.
     
    Both headphones are very neutral and I think people will find that there are certainly similarities between the HE400S and the HE560. I actually think the HE400S sort of sits somewhere between the HE560 and HE1000 in terms of sound signature and presentation (again, minus the roll offs). However, the HE400S is not merely just a HE560 or HE1000 junior. It’s sound is still different enough that it still has a unique sound within the HFM lineup. However, if you do have the HE560 or HE1000, I personally don’t see too much incentive to get the HE400S, unless it’s because you need a headphone that you’re willing to beat up a little more. On the other hand, I think for those interested in upgrading from the HE400S, it’s good to consider the higher end HFM models and to know that you’re not getting yourself into a completely different beast.
     
    HIFIMAN HE400S and ZMF Omni
    Coming Soon!
     
    Quick Thought on HE400S with Fiio X5ii and iBasso DX90 (Taken From Earlier Post in HE400S Thread)
    In terms of power, both devices have plenty of power to drive the HE400S. Mid volume on low gain was enough for both devices to drive the HE400S.
     
    Comparing the HE400S from the DAPs compared to my desktop setup with my Asus Essence III shows that the HE400S does scale well despite the fact they're fairly easy to drive. Yes, the HE400S is more detailed, clearer, etc. with the Essence III, but I think the biggest difference is that the HE400S sounds much more open and has a good bit more 3D and larger soundstage in comparison to when the HE400S is connected to the DAPs.
     
    That being said, I certainly wouldnt say the HE400S sounds bad by any means with the DAPs. With the X5II, I found the sound the sound wasn't too colored by the X5II, keeping the sound of the HE400S clean and open despite the smaller soundstage. However, I felt that the sound fell flat a bit. Overall sound feels a little relaxed and lacks a little bit of articulation. 
     
    With the DX90, the overall sound is a little darker than the X5II and soundstage is just a tad smaller. However, I find the DX90 with the HE400S to be more articulate and well-separated sounding than with the X5II. The DX90 also has a bit more of a bass boost to it too, which really helps the HE400S out because the HE400S, without a doubt, does have a roll off to its low end. 
     
    So basic take away is that yes, the two DAPs drive the HE400S with no problem. Yes, the HE400S can sound better with better gear, but no, it doesnt mean it sounds bad with the two DAPs by any means. The X5II has a flatter signature, but also a bit relaxed sounding to my ears, while the DX90 with the HE400S has a slightly more colored sound that also has a slightly smaller soundstage but overall punchier and more exciting sound to me.
     
    Very brief thoughts. I'd be happy to give you guys any thoughts that I may have missed that you may be interested in knowing (I'm sure there are plenty of things I didn't mention).
     
    Ending Thoughts:
    I really wish I had other open headphones around the same price as the HE400S on hand to do more accurate and helpful comparisons with – unfortunately that’s not the case. I have heard the likes of the K701, Fidelio X1 and X2, and Sennheiser HD600 and 650 though. I’m not able to make a solid conclusion on how the HE400S compares to its competitors, but I can say that I like the sound of the HE400S quite a bit. I’ve nitpicked quite a bit in terms the sound of the HE400S but in the end, I think the HE400S offers a neutral yet enjoyable sound that isn’t particularly lacking in the sense that it doesn’t leave all that much to desire or truly complain about. Part of me being pickier with the HE400S is also the fact I’ve come to expect quite a bit from HIFIMAN and the fact that most of my reference headphones are a good bit better. I think the HE400S is a very good all-rounder headphone and has a solid sound for the retail price. I also really like the overall design of the HE400S and am pretty glad that the gloss finish isn’t a fingerprint magnet. Attention to detail could still use a little work, but I think HFM has put forth a good product!
      Light - Man, Jeff Y and twister6 like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Cotnijoe
      @all999 I considered for a while of giving it a 4, but I ultimately do feel that 4.5 is more appropriate for the HE400S. The treble roll off isn't as much of an issue as it is a tuning preference, but yes the bass roll off is somewhat of an issue for me. I'd love to know what you mean when you say I say a lot and not enough at the same time. Perhaps you mean that I don't say enough positives to really support my 4.5 rating?
      Cotnijoe, Aug 30, 2015
    3. raybone0566
      great review, thanks for your thoughts
      raybone0566, Aug 30, 2015
    4. i019791
      I understand that you compare with what you have at hand, but a comparison to the HE400i seems to me much more meaningful than the HE560
      i019791, Aug 31, 2015