HiFiMAN HE400S - Reviews
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
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.
  • Like
Reactions: saftpirat
zeissiez
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.
serman005
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.
F
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.
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
 
 

LazyListener
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.
serman005
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.
snafu1
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.
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.
  • Like
Reactions: trellus
emester
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.
swannie007
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.
F
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.
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.

 

Why Choose A Dynamic Headphone…When You Can have Planar?

Dynamic headphones utilize conductors that vibrate in limited areas of the diaphragm. Result is that a large percentage of the diaphragm cannot be directly driven by those conductors.
Planar headphones have conductive layers over almost all of the diaphragm. Evenly driven by these conductors, result is significantly lower distortion than conventional dynamic headphones.
 

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!

moedawg140
moedawg140
Nice review, @Netforce!  Looking forward to reading more, keep it up (if you have time, of course)!
Netforce
Netforce
Thanks moe! I'll certainly keep up with more reviews in the future!
wpiaz
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?
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.
Kyyul
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.
shotgunshane
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. 
Schmavies
Schmavies
This is one of the cheapest planar magnet headphone on the market, but I can't afford it. D:
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 [u]HERE[/u].
  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
[size=1em]Screenshot2015-09-2018.12.08-HE-400SFRt1.png[/size]
 
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.
 
fullset-up2015-10-2005.26.43.jpg
 
Official Product Link: http://hifiman.com/products/detail/238
toysub
toysub
Thanks for a great in depth, informative review!!
ReelDeal
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.
jesuguru
jesuguru
I've heard many times and places that upgrading to the Focal pads significantly improves bass extension and impact. Any experience with that?
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.
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 


 
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 


 
 

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.
MrMateoHead
MrMateoHead
Great review - I think I would agree than an HE-400 2.0 would be an awesome headphone!
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.jpgFullSizeRender5.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!
Cotnijoe
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?
raybone0566
raybone0566
great review, thanks for your thoughts
i019791
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
Pros: GREAT MIDS, EASY LISTEN, COMFORTABLE DESIGN, AFFORDABLE PRICE
Cons: sub and treble roll offs

HIFIMAN HE400S REVIEW 

by grizzlybeast

Ramble

With all of my trying of headphones I have to admit the He-400 was the gateway headphone into open back listening. I couldn’t help but to get excited when I saw that they were releasing the HE-400S. So I immediately started a thread out of pure excitement in anticipation of its release. I then received a review unit from HiFiMan and viola here I am about to attempt to describe to you another addition to HiFiMan’s strong and unbeaten track record of providing high performance at a very reasonable cost. 
 

HE400S

SAM_1673.jpg
 
Of course people tend to break this reading down into the ordinary categories so that the reader is able to quickly jump to the areas of description that most concern them and later peruse through the rest of the review. So lets not break tradition in a useless attempt to try and be something I am not… A good writer. 
 

RATINGS:

+(POOR) ++- (OKAY doesnt mean bad) +++++(AMAZING)
 
BASS SPEED++-
BASS TEXTURE+++
BASS EXTENSION++
BASS CONTROL+++
BASS IMPACT++-
BASS QUANTITY ++-
MID RANGE QUANTITY+++++
MID RANGE BALANCE++++-
MID RANGE TONALITY++++
TREBLE BALANCE++++
TREBLE EXTENSION+++
TREBLE QUALITY+++-
SOUND STAGE++-
IMAGING+++-
SOUND SEPARATION+++-
OVERALL SPEED++-
DESIGN++++
COMFORT+++++
BUILD +++
OVERALL: POOR, NOT TOO BAD, FAIR, GOOD, GREAT, EXCELLENT
 

BASS

Let’s get right to it. The bass of the HE-400S is most certainly not the center of attraction here. Instead it sounds as if the tuning was aimed at not allowing it to be a distraction. The bass of the HE-400S is relatively flat with a slight upper bass curve (not hump) that is very easily transitioned into the later described midrange. Extension, thump/impact, tightness, and control is not what I hear to be on its list of points to prove but it does have that planar magnetic quality of being weighty yet not extremely dynamic and engaging. There is a roll off but I wouldn’t call this headphone bass light instead of bass neutral. If the recording was mixed  to rumble you will get it with an acceptable amount of presence. For those who have studio monitors and know them to roll off before your sub sonic diving headphones then you know what you will be hearing here. Though it is a little less dramatic and even more flat than the average studio monitor. If these were akin to 65 inch studio monitors in frequency response I wouldn’t necessarily be always wishing for a sub so I can hear lower.  The bass has a bit of euphony to it and is still tangible. Not overly wooly but somewhat atmospheric with decent texture for its price. I don’t want to create an amping section but I will say that plugging this headphone in to the headphone out of the Pioneer vintage amp I had made a dramatic difference in quantity. I have never heard a headphone respond to current like that before other than the HE-6. If you attempt this then listen responsibly. I only crept up on the vintage pot and while not even loud the headphones ability to recreate rumble increased dramatically. I only liked it on certain songs though as I believe my amp was a bit too dark and the bass energy dominated over the enjoyable details of the song. The drums that reside in the mid and upper bass have somewhat of a “putt putt” instead of a knock. In all honesty this is a definite continuation of the departure HiFiMan has made with the HE-400 bass. The lows of this new rendition are not as much of a contribution to its exceptional price to performance as its other aspects.  
 
 

MIDRANGE

I have read someone say that these are a bit recessed in the midrange. I swear that has to be a typo or something. If there is one thing about this headphone that is present then it is the midrange (upper mids, lower mids, middle mids all of the mids, guts and all). I can get a pleasurable volume straight from my Samsung but the midrange notes sometimes would sound a bit plucky and invasive. Like as if there was no refinement in the midrange, and a bit peaky with dynamic snaps that sometimes sounded a bit surprising. This would throw my listening off at times while I was zoning out. However on my desktop the midrange, while still the same in balance, sounded tons more cohesive while still retaining much of that snap. The midrange is fairly well balanced and doesn’t sound too forward to me. There is a tonality that is a bit unique in the midrange. I am uncertain how this coloration is to be described but it was first noticed on a male spoken word artist. However different it sounded it wasn’t a problem to me nor did it cripple the midrange in anyway. It was kind of welcomed.  The lack of a big mid bass hump keeps things sounding collected and not too muddy. Voices are upfront but not too aggressive though they have a short ceiling with not too much breathe. This band section though is smooth as well as the treble. On a first listen it will be hard to tell what is wrong with the midrange if anything at all in the price range because it is not grainy and has a wholesome sound to it. It does sound a bit smokey though and leans towards the thicker side of things. The midrange is what this headphone is all about. It is fairly transparent as well for its price. Male singers sound very full with a good body to them and when a vocalist belts it lets you feel/ hear the intensity. Female vocalists take on a more intimate , seductive sound rather than a clear, and modern sound almost as if the headphones have a tube already in them. Personally I would pick a solid state amp with these, or something clean and transparent. 

 

HIGHS

The highs of the HE-400 were the main reason for me going back and forth with it so much. Of course Fang reads impressions. Of course tons of people have complained about its treble peak. It is a well-known aspect of the HE-400 and despite that it will be remembered as a game changer. The newest addition totally decimates that problem and offers us a smooth, yet not overly dark headphone that is quite possibly the most neutral HiFiMan to date (I haven’t heard the he-400i or HE1000 YET!). I will say that the HE-500 highs extend a bit further but are also not as free from peakiness as the HE400S. There is a tiny lack of air but I don’t find the headphone suffocating or relatively veiled either. The consequence is an inviting, inoffensive listen. This tuning neither tires the listener, nor lulls them to sleep. The highs are of a good quality. They never sound splashy, diffuse or too soft but have weight and personality. While I know that a little more sparkle can be appreciable, I quickly forget that I am analyzing a headphone and enjoy what I am doing, ie writing this without taking them off because of an annoyance. 
 

SOUNDSTAGE

This is an intimate headphone in most regards including its sound field. This headphone has an acceptable amount of space in between notes but it will be less spacious overall than the HE-400 and HE-4. Part of the HE-400’s balance that was missing actually added to its slightly more spacious sound. Take your pick but in a headphone of this price I will rather have my music sound realistic like the HE-400S. I don’t feel cluttered by the music by any means though. Separation is not bad either. I just don’t believe the soundstage heads will rave about this headphone or place it in any high regards here.  The field, while not large, does have a bit of height and dimension to it. It’s not just flat and center. I think I would be a bit naïve to expect a huge soundstage at this price and from a planar anyway.
 

OTHER ASPECTS…

What I like about it is the texture and tonality. Smooth fairly textured, with that planar magnetic weight. It’s not fast or slow but is natural and nimble. The music doesn’t sound strident or metallic to me. This can be a fairly sweet and pretty sounding headphone in the mids. I can easily play certain genres and forget anything critical for simple and pure easy listening. I won’t call this headphone a genre master though. I would give that title to the HE-500 over this headphone. The HE-400S fails to have that presence and extension down low to give you that ear touching rumble so Hip Hop and EDM lovers look elsewhere.  These do fairly well with experimental hip hop, and glitch hop, or electronic music that is atmospheric because these have a euphonic quality to them but it will be at the expense of bass slam. While I find myself not wanting to take these headphones off, I also don’t find my feet and head moving as much as with other headphones. Still, I am very serious when I say that sometimes I dont want to take them off. I can listen with them for hours without any fatigue. I would looooovvve this headphone as a studying tool because I am neither engaged, nor bored, nor distracted but rather placed in the exact mood of the less bass demanding songs. I feel like I am existing in the theme music of the moment with these. 

 

COMFORT,BUILD, ACCESSORIES ETC

SAM_1672.jpg
 
I truly do not remember the HE-560 being this comfortable. I distinctly remember it having more clamp than this. I like the soft pads and velour material regardless of its lint collecting properties (who cares about that). I do wish that they had a longer chord. Maybe the review unit is shy of one. I am uncertain but I am bound to my desk yet in agreement with my phone. 
 
The headphones look just like the pictures, nothing more nothing less. I find it a good and practical design that is unique, yet purposeful. AND you can’t forget about the mini plugs into the cups instead of the screw on thingies ( don’t know the name and don’t care THEY ARE GONE yayyyy!)
 
 

CONCLUSION

 As you may have already ready, the simple way to put this headphone is as a smooth and easy listen that benefits from power though not totally necessary. A phone will get you good volume. The roll off of the extremes keep it from being my favorite headphone at this price but this headphone over all is a good value. Thanks for the unit HiFiman. Now lets get an HE-400 in pink or whatever color you want but with that bass that made it famous! You know its unanimous! lol
  • Like
Reactions: sheldaze
grizzlybeast
grizzlybeast
meant to say wooly
grizzlybeast
grizzlybeast
wpiaz
wpiaz
I am amazed how reviews can be, in some cases, drastically different.
Pros: Sound, Fit, Price
Cons: Bleeding

HIFIMAN HE400S HEADPHONE 

Firstly, Like to thank HiFiMan for supplying the HE-400S for this review.
 
Features and First Impressions
 
This is the first time I am reviewing a HiFiMan product, as well as the first time I have listened to headphones with planar magnetic drivers. Having read many reviews of other planar magnetic headphones from other brands, as well as HiFiMan's own flagship, the HE-1000, I was looking forward to hearing what HiFiMan has brought to the sub $300 market. With so many Planar Magnetic headphones costing thousands of dollars, having an affordable option is great for letting more consumers experience this type of headphone.

The HE400S comes packaged nicely, as is expected with HiFiMan. In the box is your HE400S headphones and a 150cm or 59inch cable, which has 2.5mm TRS connectors for the headphone side and your standard 3.5mm jack for your input. A 6.35mm adapter is also included. The ear pads are velour, which is nice, but I would love to be able to have a set of leather ones to hot swap. The HE400S weigh a mere 350 grams or 12 ounces, which is nice a light, and quite amazing if you consider the size of the headphones themselves. They are finished nicely in a silver plastic with black accents, to resemble an aluminum look and feel. The headband is made from metal, with a leather strap.
 
The HE400S is a very comfortable headphone, that fits nicely. I used these for many hours, and not once did I notice the headphones while listen, they really let the music do the talking. The headband was easily adjustable and these would fit most, if not all head types.
 
As these are open back headphones, meaning you can see the driver from the outside through the grill, bleeding and isolation are apparent. You can't really use them out in public, as people in close proximity can hear your music and you can also hear a lot of outside noise. Hopefully HiFiMan will release a closed back version, as they made this to be portable, with incredible efficient at 22 ohms and with its sensitivity at 98dB, ideal for portable audio devices such as smartphones. I found that running these straight from my LG G4, I had the volume turn also max to get a decent volume, so a portable amp will really get these headphones singing.
 
Sound
 
Beautiful, that is all you need to know. One of the smoothest, and clearest headphones I have listened too. The full range is displayed nicely, with clean bass, mids and highs. The bass is the winner with these headphones. The extension to the sub lows are great, and when paired with an amp, it brings out even more definition. I would say, the focus is more to the upper bass range, but only slightly. These are not you typical basshead headphones, where you feel like a sub woofer is attached to your ear, they just do bass well, and extend to the bottom well. The mids at a little recessed, but still sound great with vocal tracks. The highs are smoother than I would like, but this makes for easy long listening, as you don't have piecing treble. Music sounds great with the HE400S. It sounds live and not produced, never muddled or compressed, but open and airy.

Overall
 
HiFiMan has a winning headphone, which has excellent sound and with a price tag under $300, these should be on you list for smooth and clear sounding headphones, that don't colour the sound. Yes, you can't use these for you daily commute or at your local cafe, but that should not deter you from experiencing truly remarkable sounding headphones.
 
Specs:
Frequency Response : 20Hz – 35KHz
Sensitivity : 98dB
Impedance : 22 Ohms
Weight : 350g
Cable Length : 1.5 m
Plug : 3.5mm/6.35mm

 

  • Like
Reactions: Aegruin
Virtu Fortuna
Virtu Fortuna
Could someone tell me what's the difference between HE-400i and HE-400s?
ToroFiestaSol
ToroFiestaSol
They look like a cheap Stax SR-009 (that's good for someone looking for a visual and affordable substitute for the Stax)
Are the HE400i substantially better than the HE400s?
inmytaxi
inmytaxi
I'd love to hear a pair if someone wants to send a set my way for a couple of weeks.  Way outside of my price range.
Pros: price, good build quality, excellent midrange, HFM signature bass, smooth treble, easy to listen to for hours on end
Cons: lacks at frequency extremes, not as technically capable as higher HFM models
HiFiMAN HE400S Review with HE-560 tidbits
 
Disclaimer: The following review/comparison is my subjective assessment of the HiFiMAN HE400S, which I was kindly sent as a review sample by HiFiMAN. I am in no way affiliated with HiFiMAN nor am I being paid for this review. I kindly hope you will enjoy the read ^_^
 
Introduction
I received the HE400S earlier this month. They represent the beginning of an evolution – being what I believe is the cheapest open-back planarmagnetic full-size HFM headphone. In fact, I am not aware of any other open planar retailing for this price. The Oppo PM-2 and Audeze EL-8 start at 699$. Hifiman’s own HE-400i is 499$. The price alone is not what makes the 400S special, however. They also sound pretty darn good. More on that later! Let’s start with the specs.
 
Specifications:
 
HiFiMAN HE-400S
 
DSC_1086.jpg

Type: Planar-magnetic driver, full-size, open-back design
Frequency Response: 20Hz - 35KHz
Impedance: 22Ω
Efficiency: 98dB/mW
Weight: 350g
MSRP: 299$
 
Equipment:
 
Media: JRiver Media player 20, using ASIO KS direct connection mode
Source: USB output of a desktop-PC into a Gustard U12
DAC: Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II via AES/EBU
Amplifier: Audio-gd SA-31SE via single-ended RCA input
Headphones:  HiFiMAN HE-400S via a 1/4 TRS plug
Files: FLAC, 128-320kbps MP3, 256kbps AAC,
Cables: stock power cables, decent RCA/USB/AES/… cables
 
Packaging/Accessories
The 400S comes in a sturdy thick silver cardboard box, with a Hifiman logo on each side, as well as the model name. Underneath the lid is a foam blanket and when that is removed, the headphone comes into view, facilitated in a foam cutout. The cable comes in a small papery box, found underneath the headphone in its own little compartment. Also in the box, is the owner’s guide, Hifiman invitation and warranty card. The box is rather simple, but it is functional and I definitely prefer that to the fancier offerings if it keeps the price down. For the money, there is little to complain about. Solid packaging.
 
10/10
 
DSC_1073.jpg
 
DSC_1074.jpg
 
DSC_1077.jpg
 
DSC_1078.jpg
 
DSC_1080.jpg
 
Build Quality
This headphone seems well built. With Hifiman’s not exactly stellar track record, I was worried the low asking price might cause some issues in QC. So, I was glad to be proven wrong. Everything on the outside as well as on the inside seems hunky dory and well made! In fact, it feels as good as my own HE-560, if not better. The silver polished plastic cups feel durable and look decent, the headband is metal and the suspension leather strap is as comfy as ever, if using slightly lower quality leatherette than the higher models. The clamp was perfect out of the box and the swivels swivel like they should. The switch to the 2.5mm connectors is a god send and a remarkable improvement from the previous SMC connectors. The earpads also feel surprisingly good, given the low asking price and are about equal to Focus pads in structure, if slightly less thick. The new direction with Hifiman seems to be that of increased build quality for less, such as the super cheap RE-300h, which also was remarkably built. Hopefully then, the QC issues have finally become a thing of the past. A big thumps up to HFM for that.
 
10/10

DSC_1079.jpg
 
DSC_1082.jpg
 
DSC_1083.jpg
 
DSC_1084.jpg

Comfort/Fit
The included VelPads are very good pads. Just the right softness and sturdiness to not decompress too much or too little. They are essentially an all velour version of the Focus pads. The velour feels plush, pillowy, does not itch and is a big step up from the old generation velour/pleather earpads. That said, I still opted to use the Focus pads instead, as they are my all-time favorite earpad. The Vel pad is pretty great still. I also opted for a more open grill mesh to improve the openness a bit. These are rather minor things that don’t affect the tonality too much. They do improve the sound a bit though and since they are fully reversible and on the cheap side, I recommend them. [All mods at your own risk!]
 
9/10 [stock] + 10/10 [Focus pad]

DSC_1087.jpg
 
DSC_1088.jpg
 
DSC_1089.jpg
 
DSC_1092.jpg
 
Bass

While sharing their name with the bass monster that was the original HE-400, these are not bass canons and instead have a very similar bass response to the HE-400i. The bass has good impact and punch, but definitely close to neutral, with no extra emphasis. It is even down to 70Hz, where it starts to roll-off slowly, losing some energy at 50Hz and rolling off completely at 30Hz. These have very little sub-bass presence and won’t rattle your skull. The bass is fast with good definition, not muddy or flabby. Excellent tightness. In comparison the HE-560 digs deeper, hits a bit harder and does not start to roll-off much until 30Hz, producing better sub-bass frequencies. But it is still not a sub-bass monster by any stretch. So, while the lowest of the lows are not very present, I still like the overall tight and nice HFM-style bass performance of the 400S.
 
8/10  
 
Midrange
This headphone has magical mids. The 400i again comes to mind, but the 400S isn’t as forward. The midrange is very smooth and relatively more forward than the thinner 560. Everything from vocals to violins and guitars shines through with good quality, great presence and heft, good thickness and quality. They are also fairly detailed mids! I could listen to this midrange for hours [and in fact I have!]. If I have one quibble, it is that the midrange can steal the spotlight off the rest of the frequency spectrum, leaving bass and treble slightly behind. This midrange is definitely the best part of this headphone and if you are a midrange head, you won’t be disappointed! The 560 is a more technically capable headphone overall, with a slightly more laid-back midrange but the overall midrange performance is quite similar still.  
 
9/10
 
Treble
The treble here is superbly smooth and fairly well extended, up to 13KHz, then dropping off completely at 15. This means that the headphone lacks the upmost extension and air, not quite capturing the realism and micro detail that more trebley headphones have, but it is not dark by any stretch and has good energy. Treble heads won’t be fully satisfied but they won’t be yanking their hair out either. I find the treble to be better rounded and smoother than both the 400i/560, but overall more similar to the 400i, with the 560 having more energy in the lower treble and extending up further, with better air. In all, an inoffensive treble, which absolutely won’t fatigue. Given the price, it is very good.
 
8/10
 
Vocals 
 
a]Male
The male vocals sound right. The ratio of delicacy and body is good, accommodating for lots of different singers and corresponding genres, from hip-hop types to MJ and beyond. Presence is very good, while lacking just the bit of air. Sibilance is hardly ever an issue. Clarity is excellent. Definitely similar to the pricier HFM models here, for less.
 
9/10
 
b]Female
A well balanced headphone usually performs well with both sexes. The 400S is no exception and it once again does well. The lack of air shows a bit more here but it does not make females sound canned, veiled or the sort. Just lacking a bit of delicacy and breathiness. Presence is great and there are no significant dips or peaks, resulting in very even vocal response. Sibilance is not a problem here either.
 
8/10
 
Sibilance
These headphones are sibilance free for the most part, save for super bright recordings. [Nothing can help those…]. There’s slightly more energy in the 5 and 7KHz area but that has very little effect on sibilance, which most often happens in the 4 – 5KHz range. The 400i had a peak in the lower treble and so has the 560. The 400S has no such peak, which reduces the leading edge presence a bit, but also reduces sibilance even further. None of the newer HFM is overly prone to sibilance but the 400S is the least still.
 
9/10  
  
Soundstage
The soundstage is slightly smaller than the HE-560 and similar to 400i, which means quite decent for a planar, but not quite AKG/Sennheiser/Stax level. The shape is certainly oval, with more width than depth, thus not circular. It can extend out of the head a bit, but won’t project out completely. It certainly does not feel closed-in or claustrophobic like a closed headphone and the ‘open’ intimacy actually helps the overall musicality, which the 400S has plenty of.
 
8/10
 
Imaging  
The imaging is also a bit less precise than the 560/400i. It does image well, with great center stage, good layering and nice spread, filling the stage evenly. Some headphones can image unevenly or pan instruments extremely left/right and I am glad to say that this cheapest Hifiman does not have this issue.
 
8/10
 
Instrument separation
The instrument separation also falls close to the 400i level. The 560 edges out both with lighting fast response and amazing clarity, while the 400s still remains excellent. Not quite as crystal clear, but there’s little in the lack of clarity. It also has to do with the midrange being slightly more pronounced, resulting in a bit less energy with more bass/treble focused instruments. But there is no siginificant recession at any one point of the spectrum.
 
8/10
 
Detail/Resolution/Finesse    
The 400S is a fairly detailed headphone. It does not quite have the finesse and technical prowess of the 560 but that is not expected. Due to less clarity, some micro detail does get smeared in busy passages and there is a tiny bit of air missing. However, being the musical headphone that it is, it still conveys most detail very well thanks to its balanced nature and smoothness. It will not shove it into your face, but it will present it well. The lack of absolute detail does not bother me, as this is much preferred to throwing gobs of detail at you, while being abrasive and harsh in the process. This is the type of headphone that you’ll listen to for hours instead. And for that, the level of detail it extracts is great.
 
8/10
 
Air
Not the airiest of the bunch, but there’s some air to be had. Does not quite touch the 560, but it is decent. It still does sound like an open back headphone and using a more open grill mesh also helps this aspect a bit. It is about as airy as the 400i to my ears, perhaps a hair more.
 
7/10 
 
Timbre/Realism/Decay
There is a certain coloration in the way this headphone presents the sounds to the listener. Meaning it does not quite give the most natural and realistic timbre, but manages to still sound very nice nonetheless. The timbre is not much off and it only cuts some of the air, making the HE-560’s timbre more realistic. Without side-by-side comparisons, the timbre is fairly fine and close to the 400i, but I might prefer the way the 400S handles things because it is smoother and more natural to my ears. So a slightly colored, yet present and pleasant timbre.
 
8/10
 
Overall Cohesiveness/Balance
The 400S is a very balanced headphone to my ears, if not the most even sounding I have heard. It lacks a bit at both extremes, but it doesn’t do much wrong beside that. I’ve been listening to the 400S while writing this review, for about 4 hours straight today and I feel no fatigue or ringing in my ears. The 560 does sound more airy but with the lower treble peak, it can get a bit fatiguing over time. Listening to the 400S, I am really starting to appreciate all the things it doesn’t do wrong. It will not rattle your skull, it will not make you melt listening to that female vocal or instrument piece but it will let you just enjoy the music, for as long as you’d like. And that is something quite special on its own.
 
9/10
 
Subjective value for money
The 400S costs 299$. Yet, it does many of the things its more expensive brothers do. It may not be technically better at any one thing when taken separately, but when taken as a whole, it performs admirably, given the price. It is not a HE-560 killer. I still think that headphone is better at most things, but it is not too far off, for much less. The HE-400i sits in the middle with a similar signature to my ears. I would personally pick the ‘S’ over the ‘I’ for the price as I do not think the 400i is that much better. The 560 is still the best of the bunch, but the 400S is going in a different direction – a capable and well-built planar headphone for the masses, packing a lot of sound for the asking price. I consider it the K7XX of planars. Right now, it is the first of its kind of orthodynamics, priced at the sweet spot of diminishing returns, and the competition will certainly have to try hard to beat it at that price…
 
10/10 [at 299$]
 
 
More Pictures
 
HE-400S

DSC_1070.jpg
 
DSC_1071.jpg
 
DSC_1072.jpg
 
DSC_1075.jpg
 
DSC_1076.jpg
 
DSC_1081.jpg
 
DSC_1085.jpg

Thank you for reading! -_^
Burtron5
Burtron5
Conquerator2 what a fine all inclusive report! I own these and well, you said it all here. Great work!
 
I also listen to the HD700's as I'm an older Jazz fiend who appreciates transparency, but, I do go to these for Classic Rock and times when a poor recording/mastering needs a little warmth and rounding out. It is those times I appreciate the musicality, rolled off upper treble and overall sound that HFM has achieved here. Also they drive easily and can be used as portable (if you don't mind the look). Peace.
conquerator2
conquerator2
I agree. These are one of the smoothest headphones out there
reddog
reddog
A great review, very informative.
Pros: Orthodynamic, Efficiency, Comfort, Vocals, Bass, Overall Sound, Build Quality.
Cons: Packaging could have been done more nicely.
I am in no way affiliated or work for HiFiMAN. For this review, the HiFiMAN HE400S has been provided to me as a review sample.



I’d also like to thank H and B Digital for allowing me to demo their Beyerdynamic A20, Sennheiser HD 600, and other equipment. They are rated the #1 headphone store in NYC, and for good reason. Their customer service is excellent, their prices unbeatable, and is just an all-around amazing store. This shout out was my own idea, and I mean everything I said here. Go buy from them – it’s worth it.


Introduction:



HiFiMAN needs no introduction. As everyone knows, they’ve been one of the most active companies in the audio market, and have introduced some solid products, including (but not limited to) their acclaimed flagship, the HE-1000.



This HE400S model, however, needs a little preface. HiFiMAN produced the HE-400 in 2012, and many Head-fi’ers enjoyed its sound. Not stopping there, they released another model in the series, the HE-400i, in early 2014, and many praised its sound quality as well. However, price tags for the HE-400i run at about $450-$500, which is substantially more than the HE-400’s (now closeout) $300 standpoint.



Looking at the price discrepancy, HiFiMAN decided to come out with the HE400S, another revision on the original HE-400, providing even better sound than the original while keeping the price at a low $300. The HE400S takes a departure from the original by using beveled ear pads, a more comfortable headband design, and plug-in connectors – all the result of the new discoveries they’ve made with better technology and design. As such, there is much improved besides for the sound differences; at 22 ohms, it’s extremely efficient, and is lighter and more comfortable as well.



You may feel like I’m focusing too much on the price here. I’m doing so because of the major discussion regarding the “budget king” of headphones. Over the years, the Sennheiser HD 600 has been regarded as overall one of the best audiophile headphones with a relatively low price tag. While it isn’t cheap at $250-$300, many have decided to go with them as their primary headphone, and haven’t felt the need to upgrade further. Seldom do I find a HD 600 owner that is unhappy with it. As such, it isn’t surprising that many write great reviews of it, and it is actually rated the #2 over-ear headphone on Head-fi! I’ve had the pleasure of listening to the HD 600 in the past, and as arguably the budget king of headphones, it will be interesting to see how they fare against the new HiFiMAN HE400S, which can essentially be had at the same price.



The other “budget” headphone that has been garnering huge attention on Head-fi is the new AKG K7XX, the joint effort of Massdrop and AKG that was introduced only 8 months ago. At $200, it has a massive price/performance ratio, and over 2500 pairs were sold in the first week alone. While not always available, Massdrop has made every effort to list a few hundred pairs every 2-3 months. I myself got one of the first 400 pairs during the first week, and have been extremely happy with it as my primary headphone. While picky when it comes to equipment and power needs, with the right amplifiers it sounds phenomenal. It is no wonder that everyone recommends the K7XX when someone asks for a great budget headphone. Many believe that it goes side by side with the HD 600 when it comes to the budget king, yet others say it surpasses the Sennheiser cans. As it stands, the AKG K7XX is undisputedly the best open-back headphone at $200, and known as a “giant killer,” it would be wrong for me not to compare it to the HE400S.



Many great headphones are getting introduced into the market in the “budget” range, generally under $500. This only benefits us Head-fi’ers – now even us poor men can still get our hands on a good pair of cans. Because of this, it is all the more important to compare and contrast headphones, to maximize the opportunity we now have. So without further ado, let’s get right into it!



Packaging & Accessories:



The HE400S came in a light gray box, with a picture of the headphones on the front, and specifications on the back. When I opened the box, I was greeted by the HE400S, and the cable. If I had to describe the packaging in one word, it would be “clean”. There’s no frills or distractions on the box, and none inside it either. There’s no extra accessories to speak of, and frankly it doesn’t need any. It does, though, come with a warranty card, a HiFiMAN contact card, ¼’’ headphone adapter, and an owner’s manual. The warranty card and manual comes in both English and Chinese, so there shouldn’t be any language confusion there.



In short, the packaging is nice and simple, and while it doesn’t look as fancy as the boxes other headphones come in, I personally am not too bothered by that. I do wish though that they would have made a bit more of an effort in this area – many people spending $300 on this headphone want it to look good in the box as well as out. This is a minor nitpick though, and it definitely shouldn’t make or break the decision to buy these.



P1020101.jpgP1020113.jpgP1020107.jpgP1020108.jpgP1020103.jpgP1020149.jpg


Build Quality & Design:



The quality of the HE400S is definitely one of its strong points. The headband arch is made of metal, and the headband itself of a nice leather. While the outside ring of the cups and the hinge are made of glossed plastic, it doesn’t by any means take away from the build of the HE400S. The look, though, suffers a bit from the glossed plastic in initial impressions, but you get used to it after a day or two. The back of the cups has metal grills, and I’m pretty happy with that.



The earpads are well made and soft. While they don’t look fancy, they do the job well, and that’s what counts - more on that later. The cable is also one of the best made cables I’ve seen in this price range. It happens to be braided, and has two ends that connect to the headphone, one for each side. It feels really solid, and is definitely better than my AKG K7XX cable by far.



Clamping force may be a bit strong for some – it definitely isn’t loose on the head. If I remember correctly from my time with the HD 600’s, the HE400S has less clamping force than the infamous Sennheiser’s though , so I would only suggest caution for those with large heads. The headphone adjusts using a slider system, which seems more solid than other headphones with this system I’ve tried. The leather headband at the top is thin and comfortable, and despite that, doesn’t feel flimsy at all.



Overall, build quality is really top notch – these will last for quite a long time. While there can be some things improved in the overall look, the design works very well, and I have no complaints there either. The parts seem to be built like a tank, and there is good potential for upgrading the pads if need be. Well done, HiFiMAN. The quality is well above what you’d expect at $300.



P1020119.jpgP1020133.jpgP1020140.jpgP1020134.jpgP1020136.jpgP1020137.jpgP1020116.jpgP1020151.jpgP1020153.jpgP1020160.jpg


Comfort:



The ear pads are soft, and a mix of pleather and velour. While its looks don’t impress so much in person, and I can’t say what material they used as cushioning (it’s not memory foam), I can confirm they are extremely comfortable and can be worn for hours without fatigue. The pads themselves are sloped, to direct the sound properly, and I found it very comfortable as such. Do note that medium to bigger ears may touch the outer ring of the pad, but – surprisingly enough - it doesn’t affect the comfort, at least in my experience. I asked HiFiMAN whether they can reduce the width of the “outer ring” of the pads, to make more room for the ear, and will hopefully be back with an update soon.



Despite everything in the last paragraph, the HE400S is one of the most comfortable headphones I have ever worn in this price range, and is definitely the most firm. I had slight problems with the AKG K7XX headband that it seemed too loose while worn. The HE400S has none of that - the headband system is solid, and despite having slightly large ears, I had no problems with comfort when it came to the ear pads either. The design/look of the pads can be greatly improved with the HiFiMAN focus pads, but as a home-use headphone, I think we can all agree that function comes before aesthetics. And stay tuned for the next section – there’s some very good news there indeed.



P1020128.jpgP1020131.jpg


Sound:



This is where the HE400S really shines. First off, before any testing, it’s already unique with being an orthodynamic/planar magnetic headphone at this price. I won’t go into the differences between planar and dynamic headphones, but suffice it to say that planar have their benefits. It is also incredibly efficient at 22 ohms. This is not a small feat - it means good results with portable players and phones, even without an amp – which is huge.



Equipment Suggestions: For this I would like to elaborate on that last point. Many people were not happy with the results from their portable devices, and started to blame HiFiMAN for deceiving them. I would just like to say that it is extremely important to have a good DAC for great results. The HE400S is a very unforgiving headphone – if there’s any limitations with your soundcard, DAC, or player capabilities, you will hear it with this pair of cans. There’s more of a need for the amplifier to bring out the details and soundstage, rather than “the cans need more power”. If your source sounds bad with the HE400S, chances are it is a bad source, rather than a headphone requirement.



So given all that was said, these headphones are demanding – maybe for power, but definitely for a great source. I found this out when I paired the HE400S with the Shozy Alien – one of the best sounding music players under $700, with and without an amp (the Beyerdynamic A20). Although it sounded much better with the A20, it definitely sounded great without it too. So to get the full potential? A smackin’ good amplifier is necessary. But even what is more required is a source that is nothing short of rave reviews, because I can promise you, that is where the true potential lies with these cans.



Bass: As a planar magnetic headphone, these are supposed to do bass better than dynamic headphone – and they do, quite well. The bass is solid on here, and a strong point of the HE400S in general. Coming in at full force, it is very layered, extended, and anything but tame. Some may find these slightly abrasive, because the bass is so strong; all others will enjoy what this has to offer. The lower end is also quite warm, but isn’t bloated – though any more would be categorized as such. It’s also pretty flat in terms of quantity – I don’t hear any bass “bumps” along the lower end. While it remains quite large, it stays evenly large to my ears, and no sub, mid, or upper bass surprises. Sub-bass is great on normal listening tracks, although lower than 30hz and it’s kinda hard to hear, but that’s expected. Sub-bass music tracks did quite well, so I’m happy with it. Just don’t expect this to be a subwoofer, and you’ll be fine.



The good thing about the HE400S is that the bass doesn’t bleed into the mids – ever. There’s always enough “space” for each part of the frequency to play out on its own, and not interfere with each other. When it comes to volume, it may seem like the HE400S is slightly loud– since when the mids and highs are at normal hearing levels, the bass is a bit stronger and louder than the other two, in my experience. Deep drums are absolutely fantastic, and there’s the “thump” everyone loves – not thunderously loud, like with bassy headphones, but there.



The thing is, if someone would call the HE400S a “bassy” or “bass oriented” headphone, I would vehemently argue. Yeah, there’s bass, but at the same time it’s done in a moderation where it becomes a part of the frequency, like it should, and not a summary of the overall sound. Think of the K7XX – sure, it has a bass bump, but the sound is so much more than that. I would say the same applies here.



Mids: I thought the bass was good, but oh boy, the vocals are even better. Listening to Sultans of Swing, their voices really shocked me the first time I listened to them. The only thing I can say is the detail and clarity are unreal- this is basically the next best thing after a live performance. If your equipment is good, then the vocals will really shine here, male or female. Vocal lovers will love this headphone, hands down.



Instruments don’t disappoint either. Guitars are fantastic and captivating, and pianos sound good too – albeit a bit “stronger” on the lower end than neutral because of the bass. While we’re on the subject, violins sound simply excellent as part of the high end. Cellos, as an example of the bass, sound much cleaner than expected, which is a relief, and are brilliant overall.



Highs: The high end here isn’t what I would call tame. However, since the rest of the frequency is so “forward,” it’s easy to see why someone might think so. It doesn’t get left behind though – not in the slightest. Highs are as present as ever, and may even be a bit bright on some electronic tracks. Everything else sounds neither bright or flat – but perfectly in middle, like I would want them to be. They sound great, too – drums leave nothing to be desired, and neither do violins. While I won’t write much else here, there’s not much else to be said – I enjoy the highs immensely, and it brings the entire sound spectrum together. It’s clear, spacious, and detailed – everything I could want for this section. They are more laid back than the bass or mids, but are in no way cold – the perfect place for highs, in my opinion.



Soundstage: Larger than average, but still snug. These have enough “legroom”, while refraining from sounding too spacious. Front and back have slightly more depth than left/right, but still sounds great nonetheless. These may not do justice to the orchestral stage, but are spacious enough with a good amplifier to enjoy orchestras too. Straight from a PC, these may sound slightly claustrophobic. Same goes for any other good headphone though, so to get the best out of these, use good equipment.



Instrument Separation: The separation is fantastic on the HE400S. With a slightly warm signature, you’d think this is lacking, but not in the slightest. While these cans are not reference geared, they put a mighty good effort in this regard.



Coloration: There’s not much coloration, if any, in the HE400S. However, it is darker sounding, in addition to having a planar magnetic signature, so it may take a bit of time to get used to.



Imaging: This is another strong point of the HE400S; imaging is done to a “T”, and there is a very 3D-like effect that is easy to enjoy. You can tell where each instrument comes from, and front-to-back differentiation is done very well here.



Detail & Extension: The detail aspect is the crowning glory of the HE400S, so to speak. Lows, mids, and highs are all loaded with detail, and it especially comes to play by vocals and the lower end in general. This will play a huge role in the HE400S vs. HD 600 shootout later, so stay tuned.



Coherency & Flow: It isn’t as great as some of the other headphones I’ve tried, but still decent nonetheless. The HE400S goes in the “audiophile” category, rather than the “smooth” or “enjoyable” category of headphones, at least for me, so that takes some impact on the flow of the headphone.



Immersion Factor: Despite what I just said, the immersion factor is actually quite good here. While it isn’t the usual get-in-the-groove type, it’s actually pretty easy to, well, get in the groove. You aren’t going to sleep to the HE400S, but you will block out other things and focus on the music.



Genre Recommendation: Electric guitars and otherwise “harsh” sounds will sound more abrasive on the HE400S. EDM is great here, dubstep is not. Classical music is interesting in that given the sound signature, I thought it would fail epic-ly, but to my surprise it did very well for most of my classical collection. Like I said before, most instruments sound fantastic with these set of cans, with the possible exception of piano pieces. Regardless, acoustic music performs well here. Electronic music will be an amazing ride on these – just don’t pair it with harsh songs and it should do just great.



Vocals, like I said before, are simply sublime. So hip hop, rap, opera, etc. will sound fantastic. Rock music may fall into the first category, just given its nature, metal and heavy metal definitely do. Just think of the genres you usually listen to – if they seem “harsh,” be careful. All other genres I’ve tried do great.



Sound Summary: The HE400S offers a prominent but nuanced bass, excellent mids, and highs that don’t disappoint. While the planar magnetic sound may seem “bigger” to some compared to dynamic headphones, and the sound is of a darker nature, it doesn’t take much time to get used to, and after that you can treat yourself to a sweet audiophile-type headphone – the details it produces are well above what most headphones offer in this price range.



Now, let’s do some comparisons. I’ve used a variety of equipment for this, and good ones too, so no complaining
:



HiFiMAN HE400S vs Sennheiser HD 600:



I’ve actually wanted to get the HD 600 for a long time, so I’m actually prejudiced towards it, but comparing the two side by side showed me some things I wasn’t expecting.



Detail: For me, this was the biggest difference - the HE400S wins by a large margin here. In comparison to it, the HD 600 sounds like it’s missing out on a lot of what is in the track. When hearing the HE400S, you hear everything that is supposed to be there, and much more nuance as well.



Soundstage: This was the next big difference to me. While the HD 600’s soundstage is more well-rounded (think circle rather than oval), it seems much more claustrophobic in comparison to the HE400S. I’m not talking about “airy” here – the HD 600 seems closed back in comparison to the HE400S.



Bass: The HE400S has a stronger, and much more detailed, bass. This will be a hit or miss for some, as the bass on the HE400S is quite strong, like I’ve said. However, if you’re fine with the quantity, the HE400S should win out here.



Tonality: Here the HD 600 wins – the HE400S takes some time to get used to, and is a darker headphone in general. The HD 600 is easier to listen to.



Mids: I just wanted to add this, because the mids of the HD 600 are quite solid, and is usually what people praise the HD 600 for. It’s actually a tie here – the HE400S has some excellent mids, and they don’t disappoint even compared to the HD 600.



Overall? I think the HE400S is a better headphone by far – the detail it provides alone takes it a league above the HD 600. The bass hits harder, for sure, but it’s a planar – what did you expect? Now that I’ve heard both side by side, I don’t feel the need to buy the HD 600. Is it smoother? Yes. But for most head-fi’ers, detail should come first.


HiFiMAN HE400S vs AKG/Massdrop K7XX:



Here are the differences I’ve noticed between the two:



Vocals: The vocals of the HE400S clearly outshine those of the K7XX; they are more realistic, less one-sided, and much more detailed. Vocal lovers deciding between these two should definitely opt for the HE400S.



Clarity: The K7XX seems to win here, although the HE400S isn’t bad by any means. AKG headphones are known for their airiness and soundstage, and the first plays a big role here. The K7XX just seems… more crisp and clear than any other headphone I’ve tried even double the price.



Bass: The K7XX’s bass is good, no doubt – and if I had to live with it, I would with little regret. But the lower end on the HE400S is just more nuanced and pronounced, and thus wins here. K7XX – good. HE400S – even better. The HiFiMAN headphone displays bass like a boss.



Soundstage: It’s a tie for me. Not in quantity, but overall usefulness. Although the K7XX has the bigger soundstage, sometimes it’s just too big for me. The HE400S rarely feels “small” and remedies the previous problem. Call me crazy, but I would call the HE400S soundstage more realistic. The K7XX is fun to listen to though, and its larger-than-life soundstage comes in handy often, so it’s a tough call.



Highs: The HE400S is definitely tamer here, but while the K7XX is crispier here (and more enjoyable), it seems distant at times, and can get bright pretty easily. A tie, and more of a preference thing.



Tonality: The HE400S is obviously darker, but again it’s a matter of preference between the two.



Separation: the HE400S wins here – the instrument separation is clearly better, at least on the equipment I have now.



Equipment Required: The HE400S definitely wins here, without a doubt – the K7XX gave me a lot of headache before I found an amplifier that it works decently with, and its “62 ohm” tag is as misleading as it can get. The HE400S has a 22 ohm rating, and can be played out of any good DAP or DAC, ‘nuff said.



Build Quality: The K7XX isn’t built badly, but the HE400S clearly has better build quality. From the headband to the cable, everything points to the HE400S, with the possible exception of the earpads. The HE400S is the one that will last longer, and I’m willing to say by a large margin too.



Which headphone do I like better, in terms of sound? Well, I don’t listen to vocals often anymore, so for my preferences, on the top of my head, I would say probably the K7XX. However, the more I listen to the HE400S, the more I like it, and now I wouldn’t buy one over the other, as they both have their advantages and disadvantages. The bass and vocals are clearly better on the HE400S, while the airiness of the K7XX isn’t something I’m willing to give up just yet.



However, for the K7XX, you will have to spend another few hundred dollars for it to sound at least somewhat optimal – amplifiers under $200 will not perform well with the K7XX. Add another hundred dollars or so for a Schiit Modi 2 and you already spent more than the cost of the K7XX on just budget equipment for it to sound decent. The HE400S only need an iPhone to sound good, and you can take your time later on getting the best amp or dac for your needs – you don’t have that luxury with the K7XX, and believe me, it’s worth the consideration.



If I had to do it all over again? I’d probably choose the HE400S, because the K7XX is just so darn picky. In pure sound competition though, each outperforms the other in different areas. I mostly listen to one or two genres (not for the review, of course, but for my personal needs), so my personal preference isn’t a fair call, but it really depends on what you listen to. Both are strong contenders, and in my opinion, deserve to be in the list of budget kings.


Value & Conclusion:



The HE400S probably isn’t a headphone that will “wow” you on the first listen - it has a dark signature, and as a planar, also has a unique sound that’s different than most dynamic models. But after a few days of listening, it’s clear that the HE400S is a solid contender, and worth much more than its asking price. It’s incredibly efficient, sounds freakishly detailed, and not only blew the HD 600 out of the water, but also outperformed the K7XX in many areas. So the two budget kings? In my opinion, there are now three.



P1020138.jpg

- Avishai Zitron
WhiskeyJacks
WhiskeyJacks
Thanks for the review, and this is directed towards Johny Jumper, Having the HD595 and the HD600 I would honest skip over the HD558 unless you are on a budget, and jump on the HE-400s, Phillips X2, (Used) HE-400i. Depending on your preference to headphone sound and what your range is. yes there are better headphones other than these, but all these choices I feel like would be great options for someone looking. Something you would not need to upgrade from unless you were looking for something different or are really into the hobby. Just my two cents, hope you find what you are looking for.
Johnny Jumper
Johnny Jumper
Thanks! I am(was) on a budget. I decided on NAD Viso HP50's. I got them today and already switched out the stock ear pads for velour Brainwavz. Also switched to a Kabeldirect cable. They sound fabulous so far.
wardo783
wardo783
Good review, been thinking about pulling the trigger on the HD600 but Tyll's recent review has me thinking twice about the HE-400s. I found your comparison between the two very helpful.
Top