marcelzxc

New Head-Fier
HIFIMAN HE400SE REVIEW
Pros: – Good construction
– Price/performance
– Analytical sound
– Great technicalities
– Excellent imaging
– Good soundstage
– Removable and robust cable
– Removable pads
– No pressure (clamping)
– Adapter 3.5mm>6.35mm
– Stand (foam of the packaging)
Cons: – Requires amplification
– Size adjustment
– Weight and size (subjective)
– I was unable to remove the Pads (inexperience?)
– Possible cable upgrade
– May lack bass for some (subjective)

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>>I am brazilian and I speak portuguese, so forgive my english, I’ll use translation tools to help<<

INTRO:

As promised in the FiiO JT1 review, now it’s time to the HIFIMAN HE400se. HIFIMAN needs no introduction, it has already become one of the most famous Chinese companies in the field of headphones and certainly planar magnetic headphones. The company has a vast catalog of headphones available, the HE400se is just one of the brand’s entry-level headphones.

At the moment, there are two versions of the HE400se being sold on AliExpress: Version 1 which is Bilateral magnets, and version 2 which is Stealth magnets. I’m going to review is version 1. The official price of the headphone is currently published by HIFIMAN for $109.99, but it’s now possible to find the product at much lower prices than the official price.

Price: $109.99 USD
Color: Black/Silver



HIFIMAN LINKS:

https://amzn.to/3RBmfgk

https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_DeODtqz

https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_DdxA0hZ

https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_DdlUvLZ

https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_DloOZsT

https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_DBhoBC3



SPECIFICATIONS:

– Open-back Over-ear Headphones
– (1) Planar Magnetic Driver per side
– Frequency range: 20Hz – 20kHz
– Impedance: 25Ω
– Sensitivity: 91dB
– Connectors: 3.5mm (detachable)
– Plug: 3.5mm (L design)
– Cable material: rubberized copper
– Cable size: about 150cm
– Adapter 3.5mm female to 6.35mm male
– Headphone weight: 387.5g (without cable)
– Cable weight: 49.2g
– Total weight (box, headphones, etc): 805.2g
– Packaging size: 26cm [H] x 23.5cm [W] x 13cm [D]



UNBOXING:







PHYSICAL ASPECTS:

Construction: If you saw it in the introduction paragraph, there’s no way not to contextualize the current price of this product with the construction it offers. It’s a planar magnetic headphone for less than $100 usd, one of the best-selling headphones in the hobby, the bang for the buck is unbelievable. It has a metal structure that comes out of the arches and fits into the shells using a screw, the shells are made of plastic painted in a metallic color, the side grids and where the names “HIFIMAN”, “HE400se”, also they are a plastic part.

The headphone’s packaging has undergone some changes over time, now, things are much more basic, without much refinement, just a cardboard box with a sticker. At least, the positive side is that the company sends the headphone wrapped in foam that already serves as a stand for the headphone… exactly, it was designed for that very reason, I thought the idea was brilliant, the person doesn’t even need to spend extra on a stand. Of course, it’s a low-cost stand, but it’s better than leaving the headphones on anyway. It’s possible that not every package comes with this stand, so please, attention.

Headband: I thought the headband was very good, it has a lot of foam, but the arche of the headphone is thin, so it has that feeling that the weight is all in one point on the head. In this case, the weight distribution on the FiiO JT1 I found to be better. It’s not that the 400se is bad, it’s just that this headband format is kind of out of favor these days.

Pads: The 400se’s pads are better than those of the FiiO JT1, they have two types of material: synthetic leather on the outside, and also fabric on the part that comes into contact with the skin. Here on the 400se, the Pads are already much larger than the JT1, so much so that there was more space for my ears, but it’s better to have more space than to be touching the ear. They are very comfortable, I have nothing to complain about, they have good quality foam, very soft. The Pads are removable, but I couldn’t remove them, they didn’t come off easily and I decided not to force them for fear of damaging the product, however, I know from friends who have already replaced the Pads and it worked.

Something I didn’t like about the headphone was the size adjustment system… without a doubt it was the most negative point I found in the construction of the product. I’m not even going to waste time trying to explain what the system is like, it’s just that it doesn’t have the necessary strength to hold the stems, and then the shells end up coming down very easily. Any touch I give in the shells makes the stems come down. And another thing, the stems have a detail where you can change the angle of the shells, this can even be seen as a positive point, because it creates a more anatomical adjustment, however, the way it was implemented here is what I thought was bad, it left the structure is loose and kind of wobbles. It brings that feeling of a cheap product, which keeps shaking and making noise.

Cable: The HE400se cable can be removed, and it has P2 plugs (3.5mm) at all 3 ends. It’s a good cable, very robust, it has a rubberized coating that is very pleasant to the touch. The part that I don’t like is the weight, and also this rubberized material gives me the impression that it could resect and break (as happened with another headphone from a well-known brand…). I think there is the possibility of a cable upgrade here on this headphone.

Here I must need to mention and recommend the balanced cable that I’m using at the moment, I found it to be much better than the original. It’s the balanced OpenHeart 4.4mm, it’s lighter, thinner, and has better malleability than the cable that comes with the 400se… and isn’t expensive. So, here’s a good recommendation for anyone looking for a balanced cable at an affordable price.

Fit and comfort: First, as always, to say that this part is something very subjective, and second, that I come from experience with IEMs precisely because I think that comfort with headphones is less than with IEMs (at least I haven’t tested a headphone yet that makes me as comfortable as with an IEM). The Pads and Headband of the 400se are very comfortable, but the headphone as a whole doesn’t feel that comfortable… that’s because it’s not such a light headphone, for me the FiiO JT1 already has a feeling of being lighter … and there’s also the issue of size, unfortunately it is an object that I consider too big for my head. The clamping of the 400se on my head was practically zero, so much so that the headphone is loose for me, my head is small. If I shake my head, I feel like the headphone is likely to move out of its original position.

An important detail that you need to remember… The headphone has an open-back structure, and inevitably in this type of headphone, the sound ends up leaking a lot to the outside (surrounding environment). It’s like a speaker, but we forget that the sound is propagating… so, you can’t use this type of headphone anywhere, at least in my opinion, no… by e.g., in the streets, people will literally hear what you are listening to… at home at a later time it will be as if you were listening to loud music… in a library, no way! And another thing, external sounds can also enter in your listening more easily.

Accessories: There isn’t much to point out, it only comes with the 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter, and the foam stand that comes in the box (if we can consider it as an accessory).


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SOUND ASPECTS:

I consider the sound of the HIFIMAN HE400se to be Neutral-Bright. It’s true that the word “bright” may sound too strong for the occasion, someone could interpret it as if the headphone had too much treble, and that’s not the case… the thing is more because it has more measured bass, and this ends up causing that the upper-mids and treble frequencies appear more in the presentation.

For me, the HE400se enters in the hall of headphones that tend to have a more analytical sound, because it has a lot of detail and doesn’t prioritize having fun bass, or making the sound more melodious, no, here it seeks to bring more of the micro details of the instruments, transparency in the songs, and in fact making the sound have more of a feeling of resolution rather than being a warmer/laid-back sound. In any case, the sound of the HE400se is excellent, especially for the price of the product. Even though I don’t have much experience with headphones, I believe that to find the same technical performance offered by the HE400se in another headphone, I would have to pay a much more amount.

Bass:

Quantitative: Bass is moderate to low. This is really a headphone where the bass doesn’t stand out, it is the area with the least presence in the presentation. If you don’t care much about bass then these will certainly be neutral for you, but if you are a bass lover, or a self-confessed basshead, then the 400se might not be for you. As I said before, because there’s less bass, the other frequencies – mids and treble – end up being more prominent. If you’re looking for stronger bass, take a look at the FiiO JT1.

Here on the HE400se, I felt like this bass region was “flat”, that is, there was no emphasis on either the mid-bass or the sub-bass. And speaking of sub-bass, the amount in this region is even smaller, I felt a slight roll-off in the deeper sounds. Even so, I still think that the bass extension was not harmed, you will only hear the subs region a little lower, that is, the driver responds till the end, but at a lower intensity. If you like Hip-Hop, EDM, and even Metal, I think the 400se isn’t the best thing for these genres (in my opinion), but in compensation for more acoustic or more technical genres you will have quality bass.

Qualitative: Clean, controlled, fast, defined, restrained, subtle bass. Don’t expect a lot of texture and a lot of impact on the 400se, in this regard the headphone is more discreet. If it’s a song that requires more vibration, I think the headphones can leave that feeling of “oops, there could be more physicality here”, but still, in some things I heard, the headphones delivered a slight dose of physicality (not much, but delivered). The bass has great resolution, you can hear the instruments very cleanly, it just won’t have much strength, if you’re looking for a stronger impact on a bass drum, or a double bass further forward, unfortunately you may not have found it this here in the 400se. That said, the bass doesn’t invade the midrange, it’s not bloated, it’s not muffled, and believe it’s not a dry bass. They really are more serious on the side of quality than quantity.

Mids:

Quantitative and qualitative: Neutral sounding headphones always have a gain pinna a little further forward. Here on the HE400se I found the midrange tuning very good, it’s neither recessed nor too forward, to be honest, the midrange is very “correct”. As the headphones don’t have as much bass, you end up hearing more of the midrange, and therefore, you have a region that doesn’t suffer much “warmth”. They are mids with great technical performance, lots of resolution, transparency, detail and clarity. Here the HE400se manages to perform better than the FiiO JT1, not that the JT1 is bad, but because the detailing of the 400se – in my opinion – is superior. Highlights include pianos and string or wind instruments, all with excellent clarity and coherence.

Voices: In my opinion, female/high voices had a greater benefit with this headphone, mainly because the headphone doesn’t provide as much texture, so male/low voices aren’t as imposing. There’s also the issue of few warmth in the sound as a whole, which is another factor that benefits voices with lower timbres. I feel clarity and greater detail in voices with higher timbres. Whispering vocals are also very prominent here, a very positive point for those who enjoy this type of voice.

Treble:

Quantitative: The treble is at the moderate level. I see the treble in a linearity with the mids/upper-mids, that is, for me, in terms of sound, they are on par, I don’t feel that one region is standing out more than the other. Obviously, as the bass is more contained, both regions become more transparent in the presentation, and hence the “neutral-bright” nomenclature… obviously this is partly subjective, some people may think that the headphone is simply neutral, and for others the headphone is neutral-bright. Great headphones for listening to Jazz… For this genre, I also like the sound of the Tin HiFi P1 (og), which is also considered neutral-bright, but I find the P1 slightly brighter and with more mid-bass than the 400se. I didn’t feel any roll-off in the treble, the extension is good.

Qualitative: The treble of the HE400se are controlled, lively, versatile, fast, have no peaks, no coloration. The strong point is the excellent detail, airy, and definition of the high-pitched instruments. The sparkle is also very good, it brings life and energy without sounding thin or crystalline. I don’t consider the 400se’s treble to be fatiguing, I think the sound as a whole may sound not “sweet/soft”, so some people may feel tired of the more “cold/analytical” (subjective) sound. For example, if the headphone had more bass, the other regions would certainly be softer (in my opinion). They aren’t shrill treble, they aren’t harsh treble, they aren’t sharp treble, and they didn’t present any sibilance at any time. Fingering on a steel string guitar have great detail.

Soundstage: I found the soundstage sensation to be good/average. I confess that I expected even more space here, although it’s not all bad. The headphone is average in depth and height, only in width it manages to be better, it has a more horizontal sound. I believe that the smaller amount of bass made the sound appear more “flat” or with less depth. But in no way does the sound is as if it were glued to the eardrum, it’s even impossible for this to happen due to the physical part of the space between the driver and the ears (this is the positive point of headphones).

Imaging: The instrumental separation I thought was very good. The stereo image is great, when the sounds pass from one side to the other you feel the perfection in the transition. The HE400se is a headphone with great detail, and this helps a lot in identifying the instruments and their positions within the presentations (remember that the separation can vary according to the quality of the recording).

Amplification: To carry out this review I used the DAP FiiO M11S as the main source on the balanced 4.4mm output. The DAP in High Gain mode. The established volume was 100 of the 120 available. I see that here we have a headphone that requires a little more amplification than normal. Really not every source will play the HE400se well. However, from my tests here, I was surprised by some situations. First, I ran the HE400se on the M11S on the 3.5mm and 4.4mm outputs, I found that both outputs were capable of pushing the headphones (remembering that the DAP was on High Gain). Secondly, I tested it with the Aune Yuki dongle also on the 3.5mm and 4.4mm outputs, and the dongle was able to push the headphone (also with High Gain activated, because in Low Gain it didn’t push). And finishing the last test, I used the FiiO KA11 dongle, and unfortunately it was the only one that didn’t push the HE400se correctly (in my opinion).


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Valeu!
Colin5619
Colin5619
Nice review, I’m enjoying my ones as well.
marcelzxc
marcelzxc

jamejfio

New Head-Fier
Planar goodness for under $100
Pros: Exemplary imaging and soundstaging
Solid bass extension for the price
Smooth treble
Cons: Build is plasticky
Not the most comfortable headband
Full Review here: https://jamesfiorucci.wordpress.com/2024/05/31/simple-audio-review-hifiman-he400se/

HiFiMAN, the Chinese audio company that brought planar magnetic technology to the masses, released the affordable HE400 a decade ago in 2014. Then considered cheap for $399, the same design has been improved upon with numerous innovations across multiple generations, including stealth-magnet technology in the latest iteration, the HE400se, released in 2021.

Perhaps best of all, the price has also trickled down, and the HE400se can be easily found for less than 100 dollars at major retailers and HiFiMAN’s own online store. This would have been unfathomable back in 2014, the question though is will the sound quality impress as much as the novelty of a sub-$100 planar? Let’s find out.

Many thanks to Mark at HiFiMAN for loaning out the HE400se for review.

Build and Comfort​

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The build is well… fine I guess. Being made primarily of plastic and using very thin planar drivers, you don’t want to drop these headphones if you can help it. While the headband looks sturdy and probably is, the yoke adjustment feels a little rickety and may be a failure point if you like to adjust it often.


I found the comfort to be passable, but I couldn’t help but get a hotspot on the crown of my head after an hour of two without fail. It’s a thick headband with no comfort strap and stiff padding, so it’s no surprise that it’s a common sticking point for many HiFiMAN fans and headphone enthusiasts that have put up with this headband design.

The only other thing you get in the box with your headphones is a black rubbery cable and a 3.5mm to quarter inch adapter. Clearly HiFiMAN have spent almost all of their budget on making trying to make the headphone sound good; we shall see if they have succeeded in this aspect in the sound section of this review.

Sound​

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Planar technology and stealth magnets for an unbeatable price, will the sound be just as difficult to beat as well? Long story short, you aren’t going to get a better technical performance from any headphone in the ultra-budget price category than the HiFiMAN HE400se.

Just as a little side note, I was shocked by how much the sound changes when you put your hands over the cups. Not that it matters much though.

Bass​

The subbass does taper off ever so slightly in its deepest reaches, so you don’t get that stereotypical prominent rumble that other planars, even those in HiFiMAN’s own lineup, do.

Furthermore, the midbass frequencies are on the lean side of the spectrum, and macrodynamics are not the best which is a characteristic of lower-level planar magnetic cans.

All these factors combine to provide a decently well-extended but laid-back bass experience that won’t particularly excite but won’t offend either.

Midrange​

When it comes to the midrange, you have the usual HiFiMAN-esque recession between 1.5kHz and 3kHz, which is believed to help widen the soundstage and give the impression of space.

Some also say that it results in a “plasticky” midrange timbre, but I personally don’t hear it. What I do hear however is a veil to vocals, particularly female vocals which take a decisive step back in the mix. It lends itself to a relaxed vocal presence, by all means preventing shoutiness which plagues other headphones.


The trade-off is less vocal intimacy, as if you’re listening from the middle rows of a concert hall rather than in a personal booth with the artist. There’s pros and cons to both.

Treble​

The treble is subtly elevated and remains so into its uppermost registers, which can’t be said for all of its nearest competitors.

Despite the HE400se being what can be described as “neutral-bright” in its sound signature, it is far from being fatiguing to listen to even for a treble-sensitive person like myself. It’s sparkly, and gives a sense of air to instruments and vocals that can emphasise the texture of sounds in a pleasant way. Depending on the track, treble can be the star of the show with the HE400se.

Detail, Imaging and Soundstage​

Being a planar magnetic, you get a keen sense of immediacy and excellent microdynamics for the price. However, a decent dynamic driver headphone for a hundred or so bucks more will prevail over the HE400se in the detail retrieval department.

For under $100, I haven’t heard a headphone that images as well as these HiFiMANs do. The soundstage width isn’t particularly wide, but within the narrow-ish stage you can pinpoint the precise location of sounds and instruments better than anything else I’ve listened to in the budget category.

This may well be the first audiophile headphone you buy as a first taste for proper head-fi, in which case the sense of holography and the 3D-like surround-sound feeling in your head will probably blow you away the moment you hit play.

Drivability​

A quick word on the power requirement of the HiFiMAN HE400se. With a sensitivity of 91dB/mW, an amplifier with a decent power output and more importantly a high current flow is needed to unlock the full potential of the HE400se.

Considering the volumes that I typically listen at (~65dB), I found I could get to comfortable levels through my phone and laptop. However, dynamics were even more blunted and the soundstage became even narrower than it usually is. It didn’t suddenly become bad, but to unlock that final five or ten percent of sound quality a dedicated DAC/amp is a necessity.

Overall Verdict​

The HiFiMAN HE400se has been out for a number of years now, but is yet to be usurped as one of the best bang-for-buck headphones on the market. It’s still the only planar magnetic headphone you can find brand-new for less than a 100 bucks. As long as you can look past the plastic build and minor comfort niggles, the sound emanating from the HE400se is the perfect gateway to audiophilic nirvana.

Rating: 8/10​

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Jarlaxle

100+ Head-Fier
Default Entry
Pros: Price!
Great neutral bright tuning
Good comfort
Cons: Minor quirks in tonality
Nothing more at this price
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Hifiman needs no introduction as they make some of the best headphones in every price category. I have owned several Hifiman headphones and reviewed a couple of them before. In general, they all impressed me and became my benchmarks. HE400se is Hifiman’s entry level planar magnetic headphones that are currently priced at 109 USD but can be bought for even cheaper during sales.

Disclaimers​

Hifiman HE400se was provided to me by Mark from Hifiman for free and I only paid the customs fees. As I always say, everyone is biased one way or another so take everything you read with a grain of salt. Also I will try to be more concise and to the point in my reviews from now on without worrying about the word count etc. If you have any questions, please ask me in the comments and I will try to answer them to the best of my abilities.

Build and Accessories of Hifiman HE400se​


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Since HE400se is Hifiman’s entry model, it would be unfair to expect too much from it in terms of construction and accessories. So headphones being presented in an environment friendly cardboard box and only coming with a rubberized cable didn’t bother me too much.

Materials used in its construction are mostly plastic with only yolks being metal and headband being leatherette. In fact the materials are almost identical with Edition XS and HE6se v2. So while I can’t fault the choices in its construction considering the price, it’s more frustrating that higher models don’t offer a more premium experience.

Headband is mostly comfortable since it’s not too heavy. This wasn’t the case with the Edition XS since its headband caused a hot spot on top of my head. In the case of HE6se v2, while it was fairly comfortable, it wasn’t staying firmly on my head so I replaced it’s headband with a Audeze styled one.

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HE400se is not exactly easy to drive. I would recommend using an amplifier with a decent power output. Probably something along the lines of 500 mW or 1 Watt should suffice.

Sound of Hifiman HE400se​

Tonality​

HE400se proudly represents Hifiman’s bright/neutral house sound. Bass is not very emphasized but not exactly linear either. It has a tint of warmth if we consider Diffuse Field as strictly neutral. There is also a slight sub bass roll off due to the leakage in the seal in the pads.

Mids tuning is again mostly neutral with slight deviations. HE400se also has Hifiman’s usual 2k dip which helps with the sound stage but also gives a slight unnatural sensation. It’s more true for this one as the voices sound like they are coming through a tunnel ever so slightly. By itself you wouldn’t notice it but it becomes apparent when you change headphones or compare it directly to something more “natural”.

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Like other Hifiman planars, HE400se is also bright but I wouldn’t call them harsh. In fact it doesn’t have the tizzy and fatiguing nature even some of the higher models have but you can also say HE400se doesn’t have their treble extension and detail level. It's also not as refined as its bigger brothers but by itself, it’s hard to complain.

Technicalities​

HE400se is a cheap planar and this translates to several things. It’s mostly superior to the headphones with dynamic drivers that are even more expensive but doesn’t beat more expensive headphones with planar magnetic drivers and other novel technologies. It has good details and staging capabilities. Timbre is surprisingly good but not exceptional. As always, comparisons will give more context to what I try to convey.

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Comparisons​

Hifiman HE400se vs. Hifiman Sundara​

I didn’t expect the HE400se to beat its bigger brother but this comparison should help those you are considering an upgrade in the future or wondering if they should directly jump to Sundara.

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  • Sundara is mostly made out of metal while HE400se is mostly plastic.
  • They both have similar sound signatures.
  • Sundara immediately sounds clearer and more refined.
  • Sundara has more noticeably impact, authority and control in the bass. They both have similar subbass extensions. HE400se is slightly warmer and has a little bit more midbass quantity.
  • There is a bigger scoop in the mids on HE400se which makes it sound like voices coming from further away through a tunnel but it doesn’t necessarily sound wider.
  • Sundara sounds wider, deeper, more open and spacious.
  • HE400se is more likely to get sibilant depending on the volume you are listening to.
  • Timbre is more natural on Sundara throughout the frequency spectrum but especially in the mids.
  • Sundara is a step up to HE400se in every thinkable technical aspect, it’s more detailed and resolving, has better layering and separation of instruments, sounds more spacious and imaging is better. You simply feel more perceptive of your surroundings with Sundara. But HE400se puts out around 70% of Sundara’s performance, which is considered a modern classic already, for around one third of its price.

Hifiman HE400se vs. Monoprice Monolith M570​

Monolith M570 are planar magnetic headphones that are from the family of Sendy Aiva, Sivga P-II, BLON BL20 and Takstar HF580. They cost 300 USD when they were released but sold for less than 150 USD before they were discontinued.

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  • Build quality and materials are much more premium on the M570.
  • M570 is even warmer and has a thicker note weight. Bass is again more impactful and it has more authority and power behind it, but M570 also has more detail and texture in the bass. M570 extends much better into the subbass and rumbles more.
  • Mids, especially lower mids up to 1-1.5 kHz are emphasized on M570. Vocals are pretty much neutral on HE400se, on M570 on the other hand, they are close and personal and sometimes honky. This makes presentation on M570 more emotional while HE400se sounds more natural.
  • HE400 is brighter, it’s also again more likely to get sibilant with the volume but, M570 is not particularly dark either.
  • Upper mids and lower treble are similar on both but M570 has more treble sizzle and snap. Still tonal balance skewed more toward low frequencies on M570 so overall they are warmer headphones.
  • Timbre on HE400se is more natural. M570, although sounds enjoyable, has tuning quirks and is not exactly natural.
  • Their imaging capabilities are similar, M570’s headstage isn’t particularly wider but it’s deeper than HE400se. M570 is more resolving and has better separation and layering capability.

Conclusion​

I will be honest, I missed reviewing full size headphones so I had a great time reviewing HE400se. My comparisons were all with higher tier headphones because I was already impressed with them from the start. They are very well tuned, especially at their price. They didn’t outright beat any of them, true, but around 100 USD I can’t think of any headphones that’s better. So probably the lesson you should learn from this review is that HE400se is probably the best headphones around 100 USD but if you decide to spend more, you can definitely get more.
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Sha1rholder

New Head-Fier
Best Budget open-back over-ear
Pros: light weight (for a planar magnetic)
sound quality
build quality
price
Cons: hard to drive
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The HE400SE might be the cheapest planar magnetic over-ear headphones, but the sound quality of these headphones is anything but cheap. The HE400SE has two versions: the older model and one with stealth magnets (new model). The term "stealth magnets" means that the pre-installed magnets inside the headphones have a minimal impact on the sound, almost "invisible". These two versions have a slight difference in price, but the tuning style and sound quality are not significantly different. According to the frequency response, the stealth magnet version has a deeper "dive" at sub-bass. The appearance of the two versions of the HE400SE is exactly the same, so it's not recommended to buy the stealth magnet version second-hand, especially without the original box, because if the seller sends you the older model, it would be hard to distinguish.
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When driven by the FiiO K9 Pro ESS, there's nothing to fault in the sound of the HE400SE. The HE400SE leverages the good frequency extension of its planar magnetic unit to "produce a natural sound and listening experience" and "accurately reproduce the audio". At this price point, I can't find any other headphones that could compete with the sound of the HE400SE.
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For gamers who are on a budget and mainly play in quiet environments, the HE400SE is a blessing. Its balanced frequency response, undamaged low frequency (compared to the K701 and SHP9500), and excellent soundstage and imaging (imaging can be understood as the accuracy of sound localization) make it a good companion for audio and video entertainment.

In terms of wear comfort, thanks to its not-high weight (as planar magnetic over-ears usually be heavy), the clamping and pressure of the HE400SE are well controlled (shame on the Edition XS which caused serious pain on my head). The ear cups of the HE400SE, although slightly less comfortable than leather or pure velvet, have no defects. In short, I can wear it for several hours without any pressure. The much-criticized build quality problem of HIFIMAN does not exist in the HE400SE (You can't expect headphones at this price to be better-made), and the materials of these headphones are very decent and sturdy.
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Because the price of the HE400SE is so low, HIFIMAN had to use weaker magnets for this planar magnetic headphone, which resulted in the HE400SE having a lower sensitivity and needing a larger current to drive, leading to its "hard to drive" drawback. Although the HE400SE commendably does not produce "bad sound" on weaker amp, a better amp will significantly optimize its sound performance, and it is recommended to pair it with a dongle with a 4.4mm port or a desktop amp.

Suitable for: Audiophiles on a budget
Not suitable for: Users who go out a lot, people who are unwilling to buy an amp
Recommendation index: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Its only downside is "hard to drive", but as an old Chinese saying goes, "a skinny camel is bigger than a horse".
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Kindlefirehditaly

New Head-Fier
Hifiman HE400Se: Friend of the penniless audiophile
Pros: The build quality and materials are good for the price
Cable is fine
Natural with slightly warm touch
Bright and detailed but safe trebles
Fit good, really good pads
Excellent separation and imaging
Lightweight
Nice, definite, fast bass
Good natural soundstage
Mods Friendly
Price
Cons: Dispersive sound as open back
Sub-bass roll-off
They heat up your ears like all headphones, as is normal (especially in summer)
Driver Flex (normal for thin planar drivers)
Sub-bass and bass can improved if the driver is free in the air and breathes on both side
Need huge power to shine due to low efficiency

Disclaimer:​


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Hifiman provided me with a review sample of the Hifiman HE400Se, for which I am grateful!


I’m going to be as objective as possible, and being a common audio enthusiast, I will use simple words in this review.

You might also like​

Sendy Peacock Review (Fahri’s Take)

Hifiman Sundara Review

Hifiman Edition XS Review



I will highlight what I liked and what I didn’t, without any fear.


This will be my first review of full-size headphones. Mark from Hifiman sent me exactly what I wanted to try. Cheap but well-made products are the ones that sell the most and, above all, that everyone can afford.


I’m definitely very late with this review, but I hope you’ll still be interested in reading it.


So I’m not going to use super-technical words to review it, but I will do my best to describe it.


My review won’t be the most technical you will find online, but I hope you like it.


Tech Specs:​

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Comfortable
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Stealth Magnets
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Specs
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz–20kHz
  • Impedance: 32Ω
  • Efficiency: 91dB
  • Weight : 385g

Packaging:​


Speaking of full-size planar headphones costing 100 USD, the packaging is more than right and well made. Inside, we find a box with:

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  • Cable
  • 6.35mm adapter
  • Digital-only manual via QR code
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The internal packaging part can be used as a headphone stand, but the best thing would be to buy a well-made one. I really miss a hard case; perhaps they could have included at least a carrying bag.


I have often heard that the original cable was of very low quality, but in my opinion, they have updated the cable with a better-made one. It’s really soft, and probably the internal sections are really thin. Unfortunately, it is not balanced, but I immediately proceeded to purchase one from OpenHeart and another one from Faaeal at a negligible cost.


Design/Build Quality:​


The thing that immediately catches your eye is their grandeur! They are very large, fortunately not too heavy, but still convey a very good sense of robustness. A well-padded headband doesn’t bother your head, and well-padded pads don’t get too hot, but in summer they’re a pain in the ass. The part that rests on the skin is velvety, while the edge is made of imitation leather.

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The headband is mostly made of metal, but the earcups (the silver area) have a metal-like finish but are plastic. The grills, on the other hand, appear to be made of metal.


As you can see, you can see through the planar driver, which is nothing more than a membrane that vibrates in the air. The rear grilles can also be removed or customized by 3D printing them. The 3.5mm TTRS connectors on the ear cups have excellent feedback and seem durable. I must admit that for what they cost, they seem even more solid than my Philips Fidelio X2HR. They probably have a very similar quality.


Fit and Comfort​


Here, the situation is extremely personal and subjective. I personally hate the heat of all-over-ear headphones. I can tolerate them only in the winter, but hardly in the summer. I’m a bit particular, but leaving this factor aside, I’ll tell you a little about my experience.

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I’ve done listening sessions for up to about 3 hours. There is no discomfort due to the size or weight of the headphones. The only thing that could bother you is the ear touching the internal part where the driver is located. To be clearer, if you turn up the volume, the bass will tickle your ear with the covering. It’s not a real problem; it depends on the shape of the pads and the distance they give you from your ear (obviously also on the shape of your ears). I had this problem with my Philips Fidelio but fortunately there was no problem with the He400se.


Even though the pads seem to be breathable, the heat is there! I suffer a lot from the heat and can sweat even at -20 degrees. Maybe changing the ear cups could be a solution in my case, but I still think they are much fresher than many others I’ve tried.


Equipment used for the testing above:​


Device:


  • iMac
  • Redmi Note 7
  • Poco M4 Pro

Software:


  • Amazon music UHD 24bit 96kHz
  • Tidal Hifi Plus
  • Foobar 2000

DAC:



I’m not listing all the tracks because there are too many, but the Hifiman He400se does pretty well with all genres.



When in doubt, I had to do 60 hours of burn-in, but I must admit that I immediately had a better impression than my Fidelio right out of the box.



Obviously, I did a very quick test using the stock cable, but I didn’t have amplifiers with very powerful outputs on single ends except for my cheap Fx-Audio X6 with a 6.35mm output, so I immediately mounted the balanced cable.

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Dacs that can drive He400se

However, I carried out the first tests with my old FX-Audio X6, and I must say that the result is more than satisfactory. Considering the cost of this desktop DAC’s 450 MW into 32 OHM, this is probably true.


They absolutely don’t lack volume to make them sing properly, but you can easily bring it to maximum volume, and the He400se absorbs everything without any effort.


Sound impressions:​


The Hifiman He400Se needs a lot of power to stand out. The difference with the balanced cable is absurd, but I strongly fear that even more is needed. In any case, I have nothing else to test them with at the moment, but I was very tempted to order a Fiio KA13.


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Right from the start, they seemed much more balanced and natural than the Fidelio X2HR, which is very flat and almost cold. These Hifiman have excellent performances in any genre, while the Fidelio give their best with classical and jazz music.


After the burn-in period, I noticed a slight improvement in the low-frequency range. However, I’m still reflecting on the meaning of open-back headphones; it’s like having headphones in natural transparency mode always active, with the only problem being that everyone around you hears your music. The Hifiman He400Se has an exaggerated dispersion; at times, it seems to be heard louder externally than internally. If pushed to maximum volume, they practically become two speakers. The bass, on the other hand, behaves strangely; in mid-air, the bass is very pronounced, as if the free-moving driver had more excursion. You really feel the vibration of the air externally, and the moment you detach the earcups from your ears, you feel the bass come to life.


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Out of curiosity, I closed the back, and to my surprise, the tuning changed, and even the soundstage closed a bit. You lose the concert hall effect, but you gain some details that are lost a little. A closed version? I think it would sound just as good.


Treble​


The treble area is definitely good! Currently,I don’t notice any extreme trebles; they are well defined, and there is a good airiness. If you close the grill with your hands, you can feel it much more, but in general, the whole perception of its tuning changes. On some tracks, however, they can be defined as borderline but much calmer than the Letshuoer S12 Pro, for example.


Mids​


The mids are not very recessed, the high frequencies stand out more, and immediately after the vocal part, which is slightly warmer than usual at times, both male and female voices are represented fairly consistently. Sometimes there is a peak in the shrillest female voices. Musical instruments mostly sound natural and consistent. Stringed instruments sound very pleasant and have sufficient depth. Excellent separation.


Bass​


The bass is lost a little, although it is well present. Especially in the sub-bass, the roll-off is noticeable. They are more than sufficient for most musical genres, but sometimes, on some tracks, despite their speed and definition, they lack depth. Ironically, they are more noticeable on the outside of the headphones. The moment you detach them slightly from your ears, the bass comes to life. Having said that, I like the bass much better than that of my Fidelio.


Soundstage and Imaging:​


Can I tell you that, with such large open-backs and planar drivers, I would have expected a much larger soundstage? Honestly, the soundstage is just a little over your head. Practically all the planar IEMs tested so far manage to do better. However, as far as the image is concerned, it is very good.


Layering and separation are very good, which is what one would expect from a planar driver.


Fast Comparison​


I don’t have many full-size headphones; in fact, I currently only have the Fidelio X2HR, but I still have several planar IEMs with which I can make comparisons.


vs Philips Fidelio X2HR


Philips Fidelio X2HR
Philips Fidelio X2HR

On sale, maybe for Black Friday, I purchased the Fidelio X2HR. The many encouraging viewpoints I encountered in groups and online motivated me more. I would not say they were my best buy. They are built even better than the Hifiman He400Se, and the sound is extremely good. If used without EQ, they are probably made for classical, jazz, and maybe R&B. Personally, I wouldn’t listen to any genre with these, although the similarity between the two headphones is quite audible.I can’t say that the difference between the two is exaggerated; indeed, in the same price range, they compete equally. Fidelio does not require a lot of power to shine. The highs are very refined, in some cases even better; the mids have an even more pleasant tone; and the low frequencies are more or less equal but totally different. The Fidelio has the classic soundstage given by the classic drivers, aided by the fact that they are open-back. Very good image and detail, but do not reach the level of the Hifiman.


vs Hidizs Mp145


Hidizs Mp145
Hidizs Mp145

Even though they are IEMs with an infinitely smaller driver, they now have many times greater efficiency. Personally, the Hidizs are definitely better performing. The soundstage in comparison is enormous, and the image and details are superior by a few spans.


Warm, full-bodied, thick sound. It is difficult to have problems with the treble, but you also have the possibility of replacing the nozzles.


The sound is more engaging, or rather more faithful to Harman Tuning.


vs Letshuoer S12 Pro


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Letshuoer S12 Pro

More or less the same thing, but the S12 Pro is definitely brighter, and the soundstage is only slightly better than the Hifiman he400se. They are also more efficient and easier to use. I recommend reading the full review.


vs Kefine Klanar


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Kefine Klanar

The Kefine Klanar are the ones that are positioned at the same price as the Hifiman He400Se, so which one should I choose? The Kefine are V-shaped, the bass is very close to that offered by the DD, and the details and soundstage are excellent. You don’t need a power plant to make them play because they are super efficient. I recommend you read my detailed review.


Conclusion:​


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I have to say that the Hifiman He400Se performs best with adequate amplification; currently, I’ve stopped at probably half of what would be really suitable. My Hidizs S9 Pro can go full blast without any distortion, and the He400Se plays very loudly, well beyond the safe threshold. Having said that, you need at least a DAC with a Cirrus CS43131, so for their cost, you should directly add at least 40 USD plus a balanced cable, which costs around 15 USD. These are certainly costs to take into consideration if you want to try to buy them and you don’t own the equipment. Obviously, they are suitable for listening in quiet and even isolated environments. They are definitely not the kind of headphones you can listen to in the library, as those present would hear more than you yourself. But if you want to make yourself comfortable, warm, and cozy in an armchair, these are perfect. It is definitely more detailed and brighter than my Fidelio X2HR.


Do they heat your ears? I have to say that the earcups breathe quite a bit, but in the summer I’m still not able to use them. Despite the size, the weight is quite low. Thanks to the soft and comfy earcups, the weight is well distributed without excessive pressure points. I would say they are well balanced.


In my opinion, they are the type of headphones to have in your collection, as the expense doesn’t hurt your wallet. They are definitely very good considering that they are entry-level planar over-ears.

Where to buy?​


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jeromeoflaherty

Head-Fier
Premium Planar sound on a budget
Pros: Excellent reference sound for the price
Nice soundstage and imaging
Some easy 'mods and hacks'
Cons: Treble might be too much for some (hence the 'hacks')
Needs decent power to get to its best

Planar on a Budget​

Hifiman make exceptional open back Planar headphones ( though their closed backs so far have been disappointing ) but can we really expect that planar experience for little over $100.
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What is the planar ’experience'​

If you are new to headphones you might wonder why would I want a planar magnetic headphone instead of a traditional dynamic driver headphones. Well Planar’s typically provide better detail retrieval, a much more even frequency response resulting in a much more balanced sound. They also typically have much better bass than open back dynamic drivers and have lower distortion meaning playing music with a larger dynamic range without affecting the fidelity, but the downside is typically that you need more power (so are less portable) and with an open back headphones in general, you will hear the outside world and other people near you will hear your music, so not the best headphone for commuting or a shared workspace, but when listening at home or in a private office space they provide an excellent audio experience.

Read on to find out if the base model in Hifiman lineup can live up to reputation that their more expensive planars deliver …

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Introduction​

Note: Shout out to Mark @ hifiman for supplying these headphones for the purposes of this review.

In my headphone journey, I somehow missed out initially on the Hifiman HE400SE - when looking at headphones at this price point I went with closed back AKG and Sennheiser dynamic driver headphones. When I did go for an open back AKG K702 I was disappointed with the bass and the lack of balance which caused some of sibiliance issues with the treble. I simply didn’t believe I could get a decent open back planar experience on a budget, when I eventually did buy a planar with Hifiman Edition XS I was completely blown away. But the Edition XS made me curious about other Planar’s such is the headphone hobby. When some friends were asking for advise on what to get on a budget I became curious about the HE400SE, so I was very thankful with I got a HE400SE to review.

Packaging and unboxing​

The package includes the headphones, a dual-sided high-performance 3.5mm cable, and a 6.3mm adapter.
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Similar to the packaging in other Hifiman headphones, the protective construction clever doubles as a headphone stand, though not a particular high quality one. But I do like this clever re-use of the packaging:
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Build Quality​

The HE400SE has a solid construction that exceeds expectations for its price range. Its combination of metal and plastic components, comfortable padding, and sturdy connectors contribute to a build quality that is both reliable and comfortable for extended use.

The supplied cable is also a much better quality than the one that shipped with the original HE400.

Comfort and Fit​

The Hifiman HE400SE excels in providing a comfortable listening experience. I found that I could wear these all day without it feeling heavy, unlike say the larger heavier egg cup shaped Hifiman, like the Edition XS.

Both the headband and earcups are designed with the user’s comfort in mind, making these headphones a great choice for those who value comfort as much as sound quality.

Let’s get into the detail:

Headband​

Material & Padding:​

The headband of the HE400SE is a blend of functionality and comfort. It is padded adequately, possibly with memory foam, and wrapped in a soft, durable material that rests comfortably on the head. This design choice not only ensures comfort during prolonged usage but also promises durability.

Adjustability​

Adjustability is a strong suit of this headband.

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It easily accommodates various head sizes, maintaining its position reliably. This feature is particularly appreciated during extended listening sessions, as it eliminates the need for constant readjustment.

Weight Distribution:​

The ergonomic design of the headband distributes the weight of the headphones evenly across the head. This distribution minimizes pressure points, making the HE400SE suitable for long listening hours without discomfort.

Clamping Force:​

The clamping force is well-balanced – firm enough to secure the headphones in place without exerting excessive pressure on the ears or the sides of the head. This balance is crucial for comfort, especially for users who are sensitive to pressure.

Earcups​

Size:​

The earcups are generously sized, fitting comfortably around the ears. This design choice not only enhances comfort but also adds to the overall sound experience, providing a sense of spaciousness while obviously not as good as the egg shaped design,

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I did find it a perfect size for my large ears unlike say the new FiiO FT5 which has a similar circular design but the internal diameter was smaller so just that bit smaller and less comfortable.

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Shape and Depth:​

The earcups have a thoughtful design, with an circular shape and adequate depth, preventing the ears from touching the drivers – a common issue with shallower cups. This depth enhances the comfort significantly.

Cushioning:​

Hifiman has used plush cushioning in the earcups, likely a high-grade memory foam, which molds to the shape of the user’s ears.

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The outer material, possibly a soft velour or leatherette, adds to the luxurious feel and comfort.

Breathability:​

The material of the earcups also aids in breathability, reducing heat and sweat build-up during long sessions. This feature is essential for maintaining comfort over time.

Sound Isolation: i​

For an open back headphone the design of the earcups provides some sound isolation, but like all open backs its designed to blend you music with your surroundings. This not only enhances the listening experience but also adds to the comfort by minimizing external distractions.

Sound quality​

The Hifiman HE400SE not only impresses with its comfort but also stands out with its remarkable sound quality at this price point. This section explores the nuances of its bass, midrange, treble, soundstage, and imaging, underpinned by some song references that highlight these characteristics.

Bass​

Characteristics:​

The HE400SE produces a bass that is both deep and articulate. It’s not overly boosted but offers a natural and balanced low-end presence. The bass is tight and controlled, avoiding any muddiness or bloating. However, it may not satisfy those seeking deep or impactful bass, especially in genres like hard rock or electronic music. But a little bit of EQ can provide that boost for those genres of music.

Song Reference:​

With Portishead’s songs like “Glory Box” or “Roads,” the bass elements maintain their distinct character, avoiding muddiness or blending with mid-range frequencies. With the classic “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. The iconic bassline in this track is rendered with precision and clarity on the HE400SE, demonstrating its ability to handle rhythmic and dynamic bass lines effectively.

Midrange​

Characteristics:​

The midrange on these headphones is detailed and clear, ensuring vocals and instruments are well-represented. There’s a sense of warmth and naturalness to the mids, making it pleasant for long listening sessions.

Song Reference:​

“Someone Like You” by Adele. The emotive vocals in this song are beautifully articulated, showcasing the HE400SE’s ability to capture the nuances and warmth of human vocals.

Treble​

Characteristics:​

The treble range is crisp and airy, without veering into harshness. It adds a delightful sparkle to the overall sound signature, enhancing the detail in high-frequency sounds. This emphasis on treble complements the soundstage, giving instruments and effects a distinctive sizzle and contributing to the overall tonality of the headphones

Song Reference:​

“Vivaldi’s Four Seasons - Spring”. This classic piece, with its high-pitched violin notes, demonstrates the HE400SE’s ability to handle treble without any sibilance, preserving the finesse of classical instruments.

Soundstage and Imaging​

Characteristics:​

While not as good as the Edition XS the soundstage of the HE400SE is notably expansive. Despite its modest pricing, the soundstage’s width and height create a layered, articulate, and immersive experience. This is particularly evident in complex musical arrangements where it achieves great separation between various elements, although it still relies on a somewhat closer image compared to other HiFiMAN models

Song Reference:​

“Hotel California” by The Eagles, live version from “Hell Freezes Over”. The live ambiance, the placement of instruments, and the audience’s applause are portrayed with a remarkable sense of space and position, making it a great test for the HE400SE’s soundstage and imaging capabilities.

Audio quality Conclusion​

The Hifiman HE400SE excels in delivering a balanced and detailed sound across the spectrum. Its ability to render bass with precision, articulate the midrange with clarity, and provide crisp treble, all while offering an expansive soundstage and accurate imaging, makes it a versatile choice for various music genres.

Specs and Measurements​

Specifications
Frequency Response20Hz-20kHz
Impedance32Ω
Sensitivity91dB
Weight385g

The most important specifications is the 91db here as that indicates that you will need a good bit of power to power the HE400SE, an Apple Dongle (especially the European variant) will not have enough power, but the HE400SE will work with more powerful dongles (e.g. a Qudelix 5K or a FiiO BTR dongle) but I would suggest a nice desktop headphone amplifer to really get the benefit of this headphone. I was listening to it with various headphone amplifiers, even a basic headphone amp like the FiiO K11 provided plenty of power, also my new Macbook Pro headphone jack worked well but it really sounded amazing with the new Schiit Midgard which has tons of power, so I would suggest a good headphone amplifier.

Measurements:​

I usually present measurement to indicate that some EQ modifications might be necessarily (e.g. increase the bass or lower the treble) but in the case of the HE400SE I found the out of box tuning was excellent, not as quiet good as the next ’level’ up Hifiman models (the Sundara and the Edition XS) but effectively nothing to cause any concern, I listened to the HE400SE for hours without feeling I was missing anything or getting overlay fatiqued with the amount of treble, it really is a great sounding headphone at this price.

Frequency response​

But For those interested here is the Frequency response compared to some other well known open back headphones (all of which are considering more expensive):
FR
A little bit of a dip between 1Khz and 2khz might be something that you could EQ and while the HE400SE has a typical planar Bass you can easily EQ that to your preference. Note: The Sennheiser HD 6XX (a legendary open back dynamic driver reference headphone has considerable worse bass).

Distortion​

Distortion with most planars is incredible low and the HE400SE is no exception. Here are some measurements from the AudioScienceReview:
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The ‘green’ level above where the distortion is still only 2% is at ear shattering 114db your own listening level wiil be below 94db.

EQ​

There is really nothing to EQ but you could add a bass shelf of a couple of db and possible raise that 1.9Khz dip a few DB.

Hacks​

One interesting aspect of the HE400SE is possible because it’s easy to lower the treble without EQ with some simple hacks. I didn’t find this necessarily but I guess some people like a little less treble and I am only referencing the hacks here for completeness. Effectively the ‘hacks’ are simply adjustments to the planar drivers which are easily accesssible once you take off an earcup:

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The simplest hack was suggested by DMS in this youtube video (a bit of tape over part of the planar driver will dampen the treble slightly):


Alternatives​

At this price point ( $100-$150), there simply isn’t an viable alternative planar, but at the ($300-$500) level Hifiman have 2 alternatives the Sundara (also with round earpads) and the Edition XS (with iconic Egg shaped earpads), there is also the new Moondrop Para at about the $300.

Rating​

I gave the HE400SE a pragmatic rating of 5 the same as the Hifiman Edition XS, in their price categories they are both amazing headphones and are the best choices for those wanting that planar sound. The Edition XS is better but at about 1/4 of the price the HE400SE is a superbly 'pragmatic' headphone.

Summary​

Overall, the HE400SE is an excellent choice for those new to planar headphones and looking for a high-quality yet affordable option. Its strengths include a deep soundstage, detailed midrange, airy highs and comfort. While its sound signature may be pickier and more relaxed, it excels in depth and detail retrieval, making it the definitive planar headphone in the sub $200 price range.
I have already recommended it a few times as good Christmas presents as whoever receives will not be disappointed.

kmmbd

500+ Head-Fier
Budget Delight
Pros: Good build quality for the price
- Comfortable
- Good layering and separation
- Good imaging
- Near-neutral tuning works well with most genres
- Class-leading resolution
- Mods improve the sound further, driver handles EQ well
Cons: Middling stock cable
- Sub-bass roll-off
- Upper-treble can get fatiguing, with noticeable planar timbre
- Some hollowness in the mids (fixable via EQ)
- Narrow staging, a bit hazy imaging
- Need a decent amp to shine
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HiFiMAN is one of the few brands that offer the most expensive, alongside perhaps the cheapest, pairs of planar-magnetic headphones in the market.

The HE400se are of the latter category and strangely enough, have a few of the latest technical breakthroughs employed by their more expensive siblings. It’s rare to see a pair of budget headphones offer so much on the spec sheet.

So are the HE400se too good an offer to be true, or is the hype justified? Read on.

This review originally appeared on Headphonesty.

Packaging​

HiFiMAN has a simplified look to all their product packaging nowadays, and the HE400se box is no exception. The stealth magnet sticker points to the revised driver design of this model. I’ll discuss more on the driver redesign later in the sound section.

he400se - package.jpg


The stock cable has been revised in the recent production run, with the tangly mess of a transparent sheathed cable being replaced by a black PVC coated one. The current cable is serviceable but I'd recommend getting an aftermarket cable just for the ergonomics and aesthetics.

he400se - cable.jpg

Design​

The earcups are plastic and have a similar shape and size to the older gen, round-earcup HiFiMAN models. The headband and yoke are metal though, so there shouldn’t be much concern about durability.

he400se - build.jpg


The earpads have a perforated cloth material on the front with a solid pleather surround. The headband is foam-padded as well and I find the padding adequate. At the bottom, there are two 3.5mm TRRS ports.

he400se - pad.jpg


The yoke design is similar to older HiFiMAN models and some newer ones like the Deva Pro and HE6se. There is a full range of motion across the Y-axis and a good amount of side-swivel to adjust to most face types.

Comfort and isolation​

While the HE400se have a decent amount of clamp, due to the headband distributing weight evenly, no hotspots are formed. The stock pads are the HiFiMAN Palipads and they are comfortable even in the summer.

The weight is also lighter than many planar magnetic headphones due to the single-sided magnet assembly. Isolation is non-existent as these are open-back headphones.

Internals​

HiFiMAN uses their tried-and-tested single-sided planar magnetic drivers on the HE400se. The most notable change in this revision is the stealth magnet assembly.

The stealth magnet assembly has magnets with rounded edges. This apparently reduces the turbulence as sound waves pass through them. This makes the magnet array almost “acoustically transparent” and reduces distortion.

he400se - driver.jpg


HiFiMAN HE400se Sound​

The HE400se have a mostly neutral tonality with a bright tilt in the upper-mid and upper-treble regions.

The sub-bass is also rolled-off so the mids and treble sound even more up-front.

Bass​

Bass response is mostly linear until around 40Hz, below which bass starts to roll off. As a result, sub-bass rumble is lacking, and kick drums, for example, lack the physicality. Mid-bass could also do with a bit more body since snare hits can sound sharper than they should.

Bass texture is average, not as well done as some dynamic drivers in this price range. However, said dynamic driver headphones also have more severe sub-bass roll-off or higher distortion in the bass, so it’s a fair trade-off.

Midrange​

Mids can sound shouty at times due to midrange suck-out near 1.5kHz. This is an old issue with this particular driver design, as the HiFiMAN HE-6 and their variants also suffer from similar midrange hollowness.

Due to this suck-out, upper-mids sound more intense than they should and are brought to the forefront. Fortunately, male vocals sound pristine with good tonality. It’s only certain high-pitched female vocals that exhibit occasional shrillness.

Treble​

The treble is mostly even and not emphasized near the lower-treble. Upper-treble has some strong emphasis near 11kHz (to my ears) that adds “tizziness” to the sound, resulting in sharp snare hits and occasional glare.

If you are extremely sensitive to upper-treble, the HE400se might be fatiguing in the long run. Those who like airy treble should have no problem with this peakiness. I find this peak too much though and prefer to EQ it down (or modify the headphones, more on this below).

On a more positive note, the HE400se are very resolving considering their price. Part of it might be the treble emphasis, but even after EQ-ing the treble down you don’t lose a lot of information.

Soundstage and imaging​

Staging is narrow, partly due to the upper-mid focus and partly due to the driver design not aiding in staging. Stage depth and height are above average, on the other hand.

Imaging is very good with precise localization in most soundtracks. This spatial accuracy also makes the HE400se good for gaming, though there are better headphones at this price that specialize in gaming tasks.

Dynamics and speed​

Microdynamics are above-average for the price, with subtle shifts in volume picked up in most cases but certain nuances are missed. Macrodynamic punch is lacking due to sub-bass roll-off and a general lack of slam.

The HE400se showcase the typical planar speed. They will fare better in speedy or busy song passages than the typical budget dynamic driver headphones.

Modifications​

Grille mod​

The most interesting part of the HE400se, to me, is how mod-friendly they are. I will explain a simple and effective modification – the ‘grille mod’.

The grille mod consists of basically removing the grilles from the cup. To do that, you have to detach the ring surrounding the grille and then the grille just pops out. This video is helpful if you’re unsure about how to go about it.

So, what improvements can you expect with the mod? Firstly, wider staging and better bass extension. Bass slam is also slightly improved and most noticeably the treble peakiness subsides.

The biggest downside of the grille mod is that the drivers are exposed. If you live in a humid or dusty climate, this might be a bad idea.

Alternatively, you can just remove the fabric mesh from the grille and then put it back on. This doesn’t widen the stage as much as the whole mod, but you get better bass extension and less peaky treble.

he400se - mod.jpg


Air gap mod​

Another less popular mod is to increase the air gap between the driver and pads. Basically, you break the “seal” between your face and the pads by inserting foam between the driver and the cups.

This mod increases the distance between the driver and the ear, and the sub-bass gets a bump near 60Hz. The bass slams harder and becomes noticeably punchier. However, bass roll-off is not addressed and lower-mids become recessed. If you like a lot of bass, this mod might be for you.

Or, you can just EQ these headphones. Unless you are increasing the sub-bass or upper-treble a lot, the HE400se can take a healthy amount of equalization.

Comparisons​

The only other budget planar that I have tried are the Fostex T50RP mk3. They cost slightly more than the HiFiMAN and also require a lot more power to drive. The Fostex headphones are also semi open-back, unlike the fully open HE400se.

Just like the HE400se, the T50s are extremely modder-friendly. The driver inside is very capable and the construction aids in swapping out parts or adding dampening inside the cups. Check out this excellent rundown of the T50 series mods and the community surrounding them.

However, with the mods included, the T50 RP mk3 noticeably increase in price. Without the mods, I find their sound wonky and the comfort is poor.

In terms of sheer price-to-performance ratio, HE400se are still uncontested.

he400se - cover.jpg

Conclusion​

HiFiMAN offers tremendous value with the HE400se, and they are kind of an anomaly in the headphone market. Although budget-priced, there are no glaring issues in the build or design. The driver is fast enough to offer a taste of planar, and they respond well to EQ.

Most of all, you can mod to your heart’s content and the price is low enough to not fret over breaking something. Aftermarket parts are also easily available, making the HE400se an ideal subject for modifications.

I recommend the HE400se to anyone interested in modifications, looking for a pair of budget planars, or just wanting a decent pair of planar magnetic headphones in general. They are not perfect, but they get a lot of it right while being light on the wallet.
Lifted Andreas
Lifted Andreas
Thank you!

Your write up actually helped me decide if I should keep mine or not.
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ywheng89

100+ Head-Fier
Hifiman HE400SE Stealth Magnet's Review - Best bang for your buck!
Pros: Very high price performance ratio
Good technicalities
Scales very well with power and source
Cons: Amping is a must
Build quality (Nit picking)
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General/Build/Comfort/Packaging
I’m sure everyone in the community is aware or knows what Hifiman does. Hifiman was founded in 2007 by Dr Fang Bian. The company is well known for its lineup of planar magnetic headphones ranging from entry level all the way to high end models. I have tested and reviewed several products from Hifiman, namely the RE400 and also the RE600 IEM, both offer fantastic value and performance for the asking price after the price slash.
I have the HE400SE Stealth Magnet headphone with me today, the build quality is alright for the asking price, nothing much to complain about, though, i’d prefer if the ear cups are swivelable for easier storage.
The stock ear pads are comfortable for long listening sessions, as with most pads, it does get a little warm after some time. The packaging is rather minimal but functional. The box came with a foam headphone stand, which I personally find very useful, a better cable compared to previous models prior to revision of packaging, the stock cable is thicker and less prone to tangling.

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Gears used for this review
  • Earmen Angel Dac/Amp
  • Earmen ST-Amp
  • Earmen CH-Amp
  • Earmen Colibri
  • Sony WM1A
  • Hifiman HE400SE stock cable and earpads

Foreword
My review is solely based on what I hear via my equipment and I never consider my reviews to be objective in any way rather a subjective approach. Do take into consideration that everyone’s ear anatomy is not the same, so the psychoacoustics perception might be different as well, but i believe it will not stray too far

Sound Impression
HE400SE’s tonality is quite neutral to my ears, there’s a hint of planar timbre but other than that, in terms of price performance ratio, it is really good. Pairing it with iFi’s Zen Can does induce a little warmth for those who prefer this signature. Pairing it with the more powerful CH-Amp gives the 400SE a very dynamic experience, fast bass and snappy transient response, very engaging listening experience.

Bass
  • Bass is fast and precise
  • The sub bass does sounded a little rolled off, but mid bass is punchy and has good slams
  • It is definitely not the bass response that bassheads will crave, but personally the bass response to me is just nice, unless if i listen to EDM, then i will crave for more bass quantity
  • Bass has good texture overall and doesn’t sound too thin
Mids
  • The mids are not overly forward nor recessed,
  • Vocal for both male and females has good enough textures to them
  • Female vocal has a bit more energy compared to male
  • Upper mids are generally safe to my ears and not shouty
Treble
  • Treble response has plenty of energetic yet it is not harsh nor sibilant
  • Fast and snappy transient response
  • Very good resolution for the price, in fact i think it is actually punching above its price point
  • Good detail retrieval, micro details can be picked up easily
  • Very good technicalities for the price point
Soundstage/Imaging
  • Soundstage is slightly out of your head, not exceptionally wide considering this is an open backed headphone
  • Good height and width perception for the soundstage
  • Instruments can be picked up easily where it is coming from
  • Good layering and separation
Driveability
  • To properly power the 400SE, you need quite a beefy amp to drive it well, if you’re on a budget, iFi’s Zen Air Can will do the job
  • Dongle will be able to power it to audible loudness but not driving the 400SE to its optimal performance, it will get loud enough, because dongle generally don’t have enough current to power planar to its optimum performance
  • In short, you need an amp to power the 400SE properly
Comparison (Grado SR60X)
  • In comparison with Grado’s 60x, which is a dynamic driver headphone and also open backed, the bass has slightly better extension compared to 400SE
  • Bass is slightly punchier and sub bass has a little bit more rumble compared to 400SE
  • In terms of build quality, both more or less has similar build quality in my opinion
  • The 60x’s cable is not removable and gets tangled very easily, whereas 400SE is bundled with a rather high quality stock cable and it’s removable and makes cable rolling possible
  • The treble can be a little too much on certain track when you crank the volume up, those who are treble sensitive will be affected
  • In terms of timbre and tonality, the 60x has rather natural timbre and the tonality is leaning on brighter side of spectrum

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Final Thoughts

The Hifiman HE400SE is my first planar magnetic headphone, and I'm really surprised by its capability in terms of the sonic performance as well as its technicalities. Not to mention that the price is highly competitive as well given what it has to offer. If you are in the look out for your first planar magnetic headphone, by all means, grab the 400SE, it has a lot to offer, given you have a solid amp to go with it. Highly recommended!

*The Hifiman HE400SE was sent over by Hifiman for the purpose of this review, I received no monetary compensation nor was I influenced in any way to produce this review.

If you are interested in getting a pair, head over to their official store to grab one now! It is currently available for 109$ instead of the usual 149$

Hifiman HE-400SE - Non affiliated
Hifiman HE-400-SE Product Page

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Trance_Gott

Headphoneus Supremus
HE-400se – Outstanding value
Pros: Amazing price ratio
Very solid tuning
Very comfortable
Cons: Comes only with a short cable
The HE-400se is the entry-level model with planar magnetic driver from Hifiman. Back in 2012, I had an HE-400, which was an incredibly good headphone for the price at the time. At some point came the HE-400i, an improved version of the HE-400, and then the HE-400s. And now the HE-400se. Which even uses Hifiman's stealth magnets. These were first introduced with the top of the line Hifiman Susvara and then gradually used in other less expensive models. The HE-400se is even cheaper than the HE-400 was more than 10 years ago. I can already reveal that for 149€ we get here an insanely good headphone from Hifiman measured by the price.

In addition to the headphones, the packaging also contains a short connection cable of about 1.4m with a 3.5mm connection and an adapter to 6.35mm. Due to the cable length, it is more suitable for portable use. The HE-400se has also been designed for this, as it is relatively efficient and can be powered by any DAP without any problems, although a bit more power is required as for the Sundara. On the headphone side, as with other Hifiman headphones, 3.5mm jacks are used. Since I have here also still for my Hifiman Susvara various cables I could operate the HE-400se also balanced and compare with the unbalanced wiring.

DSC_0199.JPG


A storage box or cloth bag are not included here. However, the foam can be used as a simple headphone stand. However, more would hardly be expected for the price. I would have perhaps wished for an even more flexible and softer cable, as it is somewhat unwieldy. For stationary use, a longer cable would also be better. But that is already complaining on a high level. I have enough cables here at home😊.

At first glance, the design is reminiscent of the HE-6se, but the HE-400se uses more plastic here and the ear cups don't look quite as high quality. However, I find this headband to be better than the Sundara's as it is simply more comfortable and softer. The hybrid ear cushions used are also nice and soft and comfortable to wear and provide enough room for the ears. The contact pressure is a bit higher, but still keeps within limits that it does not press too much and still has the headphones a stable hold, even if you do some headbanging. Weight-wise, there is not much difference between a Sundara and HE-400se. Feels about the same weight. Hifiman simply manages to make the headphones comfortable to wear across all price limits. Other manufacturers should also take up this cause.

DSC_0201.JPG


I tested the HE-400se portable on my iBasso DX320 MAX Ti as well as on my stationary chain consisting of Topping D90SE and Niimbus US4. I operated it balanced. Compared to the delivery cable in unbalanced operation, it sounds balanced somewhat more dynamic and lively. On the MAX Ti with a larger stage compared to the even more dynamic playing on the Niimbus US4. So even such a cheap headphone scales with the sources!

The DX320 MAX Ti has a lot of power, so I heard the HE-400se at most on gain 2. Is the HE-400se a Sundara (2020 Stealth version) killer? The answer is no, but first things first. First, the Sundara costs just under three times the price of the HE-400se. But it is certainly not 3x better! You can already hear the technical advantage in terms of resolution. Here the Sundara is the better headphone. However, you can't easily compare them, because the HE-400se sounds tonally quite a bit different. It has the smoother, warmer sound. The Sundara is clearly a brightly timbred headphone. The HE-400se, on the other hand, is very smooth in the mids and highs. It is the more euphoric headphone of the two, and more fun to listen to.

DSC_0202.JPG


Tonally, it is the complete opposite to the usual rather brighter Hifiman headphones. The frequency range is largely the same as the Harman curve, but without any high-pitched bass, instead very neutrally straightened out and descending from 30Hz. In addition, there is a peak around 10Khz, which makes the HE-400se sound a bit more lively. The HE-400se is not absolutely top in any discipline, but it has no fundamental weakness anywhere either. It is very solidly tuned across the entire frequency spectrum.

I tried the HE-400se in all sorts of genres and found nothing it couldn't reproduce well. In the bass range, it always has enough punch and depth to reproduce modern pop, rock and metal recordings with enough pressure.

In the mids, it is joined by a reproduction of voices and instruments that is free of coloration at all times. Except for the last bit of audibility, which it feathers compared to higher-priced headphones, I can't find anything else negative. Due to the brighter tuning of the Sundara, transients seem a tad faster with this one. However, the bass of the HE-400se is by no means lame or too bloated, but always under control.

The treble range is buttery smooth and at no time even slightly too sharp. There are no increases in individual ranges, but only a peak around 10Khz. This adds a touch of airiness to the HE-400se. In the area of micro details the Sundara has some advantages, nevertheless the heights are by no means bad with the HE-400se.

I was definitely positively surprised by the stage imaging. Such an expansive stage with good instrument separation is for this price range lonely top! In my opinion, the Sundara is no better here. This is also a domain that Hifiman headphones simply have on it and have never disappointed me.

Hifiman now has something to offer in every price segment and in some cases also represents the benchmark for others in the individual areas. This entry level range really blew me away. I would not have thought that you get such sound quality for 149€ today. Sure, my Hifiman Susvara is another dimension in sound quality, but 149€ is out of proportion to 6900€. The jump is never, ever that big. I highly recommend the HE-400se for anyone looking to make an entry into the world of high end headphones and prefer the warmer, fuller sound over the brighter, more analytical sound.
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Mataudiophiles

New Head-Fier
planar king HIFIMAN HE400se
Pros: surprisingly low price, tonal balance, charming vocals, clarity and consistency of presentation, balanced construction.
Cons: slightly narrow music scene, no impact on the bass

HIFIMAN HE40se​

img_20230513_135824.jpg

Hifiman HE400SE

Prelude:

HIFIMAN is a popular and probably world-famous brand that produces surprising solutions from the audio world. For a long time I wanted to expand my audio collection with something from a slightly different category. Those who follow my blog or follow me on Instagram know that I like IEM headphones on a daily basis. However, as a self-respecting audiophile, or a home-grown reviewer, I can safely say that nothing human can be alien to me. So, having already a large collection of small audio, I started to develop a collection of large over-ear headphones. HIFIMAN HE400SE is a basic and legendary model that will sit in my collection next to the sivgi robin v21. I will not hide that I am quite a big lover of planar headphones for the sake of their speed and detail of presentation. However, they have their own requirements for driving.
img_20230513_135814.jpg


Unboxing:
Unpacking the cardboard box is quite standard, there is also a handful of papyrology in the original version, but my copy was devoid of it. I found the headphones themselves, a piece of styrofoam emitting a stand, which is a nice touch, but visually it is not what I expect, but at the beginning it is a good base for development. In a cardboard box I found a thick and solidly made cable, although it ended with 3.5mm, but I can already see that balanced cables will fit without any problems. That’s it for the contents of the box. At the price we will have to pay for the HE400SE, which is currently 109 USD, it is quite okay. The HE400SE are planar headphones with a large diaphragm and magnets on the front. The back is of course completely open. We also have an adapter for a large jack at our disposal. The pads themselves are hybrid by default, which provides great comfort for long listening sessions.
img_20230513_135803.jpg


Sound:
Bass:
Starting from the low frequencies, I can see that they are very fast and dynamic. Which is an inherent feature of planar transducers. The use of an open design translates into a less punctual and more resolved bass. You can feel it, but it is less tiring than in the case of closed headphones, of course not all. The mid-bass is pleasant and perfectly emphasizes genres such as rap or rock. The sub-bass is slightly less present, but I still didn’t have a sense of lack or contour.
Musical midrange: The vocal and instrumental bands are quite close to us and I did not feel their distance or artificial pumping of the stage. Vocals are clear, for me a bit warm and very musical. Readability is great. The micro dynamics are a bit behind, but the macro dynamics are great for the price we will pay for the HE400SE. The instruments are separated and well arranged. Nothing is blended or overly pushed to the foreground. Such a presentation works great in pop or jazz.
Treble: The headphones are resolving and have a noticeable treble, it is natural and does not cause such a feeling of artificial inflation. The upper frequencies are not as exposed as the midrange, we can hear them in the background, which gives a great sense of depth. In the arrangements of classical music, each of the instruments of the string section was pleasant and present in the presentation, which I liked.
Scene: The HE40SE sound with the correct depth and good width, they are intimate headphones, but this may be an intended effect consistent with their tuning.

img_20230513_135744.jpg


Synergy:
The HE400SE paired perfectly with the xDuoo TA-01B
, there is no doubt that the warming in the midrange, despite their character, had a great effect, and the headphones themselves definitely like electricity.
In the case of pairing with xDuoo MU601 and MT602, the effect was even better, the intimacy and plasticity of the message became charming and full of magical colorful message.
In combination with the iBasso DX170, its more technical style increased the detail and clarity of the message, which resulted in an even more technical presentation.

Test Files:
My original playlist on tidal, apple music, my own files.

Comparison:
HIFIMAN HE400SE ($109) VS SIVGA ROBIN V21 ($149)

The Sivga robin v21 are closed-back headphones with a v-shaped signature, with much stronger bass and brighter highs than the HE400SE, which are more balanced. They also have a narrower soundstage, but they gain from the saturation of the midrange. The HIFIMAN HE400SE also have slightly closer plans, and the Sivga V21 puts more emphasis on a brighter presentation.

img_20230513_135653.jpg


Summary:
HIFIMAN HE400SE are excellent headphones with a natural and intimate presentation, with an excellent charming message. These are not bass headphones, and they have solid drive requirements. As for the price of 109 USD, it is extremely attractive. If you like vocals and jazz, this is definitely a model worth considering. Of course, there are headphones on the market with more bass. Just like with more details or a wider soundstage. However, they do not cost $109. This makes the HE400SE with the black stock cable look really good. The only downside is that they are quite hard to drive and require a good night source. However, they can repay you with a beautiful and balanced sound.

img_20230513_135639.jpg
Last edited:
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ianfann

New Head-Fier
Best entry level planar headset
Pros: +good value
+neutral tonality
+balanced tuning
Cons: -Hard to drive
-earcups are not my preference
DISCLAIMER:
The HE400SE was sent to me by HIFIMAN in exchange for an honest review. No monetary exchange took place. This is 100% my honest opinion.

Link to buy:
https://store.hifiman.com/index.php/he400se.html


Bass:

The sub-bass is not overly emphasized and has a gentle rumble. The bass is overall well-detailed and well-controlled, not sounding bloated and no signs of bleeding over the other frequencies is seen. The mid-bass does not have hard punch or slam, but it is present when needed. The sub-bass extends pretty far, and it is slightly textured. The overall tonality of the bass region is pretty neutral.

Mids:
The mids are airy and highly resolute. The mids sound clean and soothing. The vocals have a decent timbre and voices sound organic. The mids are also pretty neutral, not biasing any frequencies. The piano and guitars sound clean and resolute with clarity. vocals dont sound bright as the mids arent emphasized, overall most tracks can be rendered well by this headset due to its clarity of the stealth magnets and not any frequency range at all emphasized. Voices are not standing out of the crowd, but they are present when needed.

photo_2021-12-28_15-58-16.jpg


Uppermids/Treble:
The higher region overall has a tad bit of emphasis to give that added energy to tracks but not to the point where it is bright or harsh. The treble has good detail retrieval and has high clarity. Though the decay is a bit fast and transients are quick with short decay. The female vocals are not bright and not shouty, though dont expect them to shine in tracks.

Soundstage/Imaging:
The stage is wide and airy, lacking depth. Though keep in mind that this is an entry level headset, the stage is more than we can ask for. The imaging is accurate with instruments being where they are supposed to be with decent separation and is not congested on busy tracks.

photo_2021-12-28_15-58-07.jpg


Verdict:
For a headset at this price point, it outshines the competition with its high resolution, clarity and overall neutral and balanced tuning. It is a very likeable tuning, being able to render most tracks and genres with ease. Would highly recommend for anyone wanting to try a planar headset at a cheap price.


For reference, check out my video:
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gLer

No DD, no DICE
Hifiman HE400se – the new budget headphone benchmark?
Pros: Outstanding value
Fairly balanced and lively sound
Great for jazz, classical and similar genres
Decent build quality
Cons: On the bright side for my preferences
Not ideal with poorer recordings
Needs lots of power for optimal performance (adds to the cost)
Worst cable known to man
Introduction

It’s been quite a while since I last listened to a planar magnetic headphone, so when the great guys at Lumous Audio suggested I take the new entry-level Hifiman HE400se planar for a spin, I jumped at the chance.

My previous experience with Hifiman is admittedly brief. I’ve sampled quite a few of the company’s headphones, from the early HE400 models, to the highly-respected HE1000, and most recently, the bar-setting flagship, Susvara, but haven’t spent serious time with any of them.

Mostly though, I was intrigued that a name-brand headphone could cost so little, especially with some of the tech on the spec sheet. Surely something had to give?

HE400se_02.jpg

In the box

Nothing about the packaging, presentation or build quality of the He400se belies its lowly price point, although I can pick out where corners have been cut.

The headphones are packed inside a black box not much larger than a shoebox, with a nicely silkscreened image on the front and specs on the back. Inside, a foam sleeve protects the headphones themselves, which are placed inside a molded plastic cutout. A thin, white cable is rolled into a cavity in the cutout, above the headphones.

Aside from a warranty and info card on Hifiman’s ‘Stealth Magnet’ technology, that’s all you get. No storage case, no cleaning cloth, no adapters (unless you count the standard 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter), and no spare pads. Not that I expected anything more, but just be aware that if you need any of those extra goodies, you’ll have to buy them separately.

One thing you’ll definitely want to buy, even though it’s included, is a different cable. Rarely have I seen such a poor stock cable on a full-size headphone. It’s stiff, wiry, tangle-prone and microphonic. Yes, it does the job of getting a signal to the headphones, but honestly, if you take any sort of pride in your audio gear, leave the cable in the box and buy a better one.

I guess context is all-important here. The stock cable on any one of my higher-end IEMs costs more than the entire HE400se package, and it’s a point I’m going to keep making in this review. The same way you can’t hold a Hyundai i10 to the same standards as a Lexus, you can’t hold the HE400se to the same standards as…just about anything that costs an order of magnitude more than it does.

The fact that Hifiman have somehow been able to produce such a low-cost headphone that presumably holds its own against far more expensive competition is quite remarkable in and of itself.

HE400se_03.jpg

Design, build and comfort

The HE400se looks a bit different to how I remember the older entry-level Hifimans, with their laughable (albeit comfortable) clothing hanger-style headband. The newer headband style is the more traditional single-piece, pleather-padded type, and this one’s rather decent, especially since the headphone itself isn’t very heavy.

The metal headband yokes can be extended a fair way to accommodate larger heads, and I don’t think anyone, even the giants among us, will have issues getting a decent fit. The cups are closer to how I remember the early Hifimans’, with a sleek silver façade but (disappointingly) made from a cheap-looking plastic material. Thankfully the grilles are made of a finely meshed metal, and to be fair the cups feel solid enough to take the regular use and abuse of everyday listening.

Hifiman have opted for pleather and suede hybrid pads, which are actually very plush and comfortable to wear. The clamp force isn’t excessive, resulting in a good seal, and combined with the generously padded headband, I could easily wear these for hours without issue. The pads are also replaceable using Hifiman’s click-on mechanism, so ‘pad rolling’ shouldn’t be a problem if you’re so inclined. The only downside to overall comfort is the ridiculously janky cable, but I’ve said my piece about that already, so let’s let sleeping dogs lie.

Not that it needs mentioning, but these are open back headphones, so expect minimal isolation when listening, and everyone in earshot will be able to hear what you’re listening to. If you’re buying these headphones for privacy, don’t. You’ll be better off looking for a claosed back pair, or IEMs.

Overall, the HE400se is well made and very comfortable to wear for longer listening sessions, especially for the asking price.

HE400se_04.jpg

Specs and tech

Before I get to what really matters, some notes on the specs and tech you can expect for your handful of ZARs.

Planar magnetic headphones have their pros and cons, fans and detractors, and the HE400se is no different. The large 10cm drivers cover almost the entire diameter of the cups, and for the first time at this price point, feature Hifiman’s ‘Stealth Magnet’ technology, the self-same tech used on the R100,000 Susvara.

Now, before you think I’m comparing the two headphones on either end of a very wide price scale, I’m not. But it’s good to see companies like Hifiman making tech they developed for much more expensive headphones accessible to audio enthusiasts with normal-sized wallets.

Without delving too much into the tech itself, if you’re familiar with Audeze’s Fazor waveguides, you’ll know more or less what Hifiman’s Stealth Magnets set out to achieve. Essentially, they’ve designed the magnet arrays that move the planar diaphragm (to make the sound that you hear) in such a way that they don’t obstruct the airflow from the drivers (hence Stealth). But they’ve also designed them so they act as waveguides for the drivers, causing less resonance and therefore lower overall distortion.

How much (or how little) this actually affects what you hear is debatable, but the theory is interesting regardless, especially (and I’ll keep saying it) at this price point.

If Stealth Magnets are the headline tech, the important spec, as far as drivability and matchability are concerned, is the HE400se’s paltry sensitivity of 91dB/mw. With a low 25ohm impendence, you’d think the headphones would be easy to drive from most sources, but not so. These things need POWAH, and lots of it, if you expect to get anywhere near the sound quality I’ve heard them produce.

Note that I said quality, not quantity. I could get the HE400se to sound plenty loud at around 70 percent volume on my portable DAP, but plugging it into a desktop amp with twice the power makes it obvious how much better they sound when given the juice they demand. That means the HE400se will necessarily need a decently powerful amplifier for optimal performance. Sure, you can try get away with plugging them into your phone, but they’re going to sound like s***, simple as that. Keep that in mind when factoring in the low, low cost of the headphones themselves.

HE400se_05.jpg

Sound impressions

The HE400se has a fairly balanced sound signature, though it’s not completely flat or ‘neutral’ either. Tonally I’d say it leans bright, with more emphasis in the upper midrange/lower treble region than the lower mids or bass, but it’s not Beyerdynamic bright or peaky, if you know what I mean.

Bass is typical planar, reaching fairly deep, but nowhere near Audeze deep, and lacking the punch of a good dynamic driver. There’s texture and speed aplenty, but it’s not the most resolving bass I’ve heard, and the sub-bass rolloff gives it more of a midbass bias. Also, unlike Audeze planars, the HE400se won’t satisfy bassheads. This is a neutral, even slightly south-of-neutral bass response that plays a smaller supporting role in the overall signature (of course Audeze planars start at six times the price of the HE400se, so there’s that).

Listening to Lorde’s Royals, I don’t get the sense of weight and slam the intro to that track is famous for, but that can also be a good thing if you’re particularly sensitive to deep bass rumble. Another go-to bass test, Missincat’s Piu Vicino, lacks the type of authority and size I know to be there with more bass-adept headphones, but again, the flipside is greater focus on the harmony, vocals and strings in the track, so it ultimately comes down to preference.

The midrange is where I have some issues with the HE400se. Lower mids and male vocals, given no added warmth or weight from the upper bass, are slightly thinner than I’m used to, while upper mids are pushed more forward than I’d like. The result is a mismatch between what I’m hearing when listening to purely male or purely female vocals, the former being too airy, the latter too shouty.

Ingrid Michaelson’s sweet voice has a glassy crackle to it on The Way I Am, a combination of the neutral bass that pushes the warmer bass plucks to the background while bringing her less-then-perfectly recorded vocals too far forward. And Don Henley’s signature smoothness is a little too lightweight in the live version of the Eagles’ Hotel California.

But…and there’s always a but, the HE400se does have a lane where the midrange deficiencies I found in my vocal test tracks don’t exists, or at least, aren’t as obvious. Missy Higgins’ Shark Fin Blues, normally a litmus test for sibilance, is surprisingly sibilance free with the HE400se. This jazzy track gave me the idea to explore other, even jazzier numbers by the likes of Diana Krall, and lo and behold, this is far more aligned with the HE400se’s tonal and technical strengths in my opinion. Diana’s smoky vocals in The Look of Love, for example, were as smooth and even as I’ve heard them, and the intimate staging of the HE400se worked particularly well for this track (more on staging below).

Again, like the bass, this is not the most revealing midrange presentation I’ve ever heard, but it’s not the least either. The same goes for the HE400se’s treble response, which as I’ve already mentioned is too peaky for my liking in the lower treble, but less so than some far more famous (and expensive) headphones. There’s enough air and sparkle to keep things interesting, and while the HE400se is many things, dull isn’t one of them.

Max Richter’s Winter 1 shows the strengths of a good planar driver in delivering plenty of detail and air to the strings, keeping up with the frenetic speed of its busiest sections. But even on slower, more meandering instrumentals, like Richter’s On The Nature Of Daylight, I enjoyed the lightness and agility of the strings. In fact, like jazz, classical music and pure instrumentals definitely play more to the strengths of the HE400se than most my indie pop and female vocal albums.

Where the HE400se loses ground to more sophisticated (and expensive) headphones are its technicalities. This is not a headphone for lovers of ultra-wide (or even just wide) staging, being rather more intimate and ‘closed-in’, though not quite as intimate as a Sennheiser HD600/650/6XX. From vocals to instruments, everything seems to be focused in the space between my ears.

Strangely enough I didn’t find the HE400se too congested on most tracks, with a decent amount of separation between vocals and instruments, and enough space between instruments to keep them from crowding. Then again, I don’t listen to particularly frenetic or complex music, so if that’s your thing, YMMV.

Resolution, as I’ve alluded to, is very average. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on too many details but I definitely didn’t get a sense that I was hearing everything in the tracks either. The lack of stage likely has something to do with it, but then so does the reality of squeezing every last drop of juice from a planar driver at this price.

If a technical detail monster is what you’re after, the HE400se isn’t it, but it’s not going to let you down like a cheap knockoff either.

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Closing thoughts

Good but not great. It’s a theme that repeats every time I listen to these headphones, but again, when I think about the price I’m paying for entry, the quality is testament to how far headphone technology has come in the last few years.

For the R3000-odd you’ll be paying Lumous Audio to own a pair, you’re getting headphone that does very little wrong (with the right sort of music, that is), and does many things right. It has balance, speed, and agreeable tonality (for many), and technicalities that won’t light up the world but won’t make you wince either. It’s well made, has some respectable pedigree behind it, and aside from the lack of accessories and throwaway cable, you’re getting more than your money’s worth for a pleasant, if not mind-blowing listen.

The HE400se, to my mind, is a gateway drug for anyone looking to venture down the quality headphone rabbit hole without spending the exorbitant amount of money required to get to the really great stuff. If you’ve previously hesitated to get into head-fi for any reason, be it cost or complexity, this could be just the ticket to set you on your way.
CT007
CT007
"Worst cable known to man". Well, can we at least see what this terrible cable looks like..?

"A thin, white cable". Mine came(Amazon) with a silver IEM-style cable, and what appears to be the stock HE400i black rubbery cable.
gLer
gLer
Yes I believe Hifiman started adding the 400i cable for free after widespread complaints about the original stock cable.
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MarcoGV
MarcoGV
Yes, I also got the black rubbery cable in addition to the thin white cable.
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hevelaoak

100+ Head-Fier
Chinese HE400se (the non-international)
Pros: neutral tuning
detail retrieval
spatial imaging
dynamics
minimal design
comfort
price to performance value
Cons: timbre
slight sibilant
need amplification
weird sound stage
no carrying pouch/bag? (no care)
HE400se5a.jpg

in the package: HE400se headphones, a black rubber sleeve stereo 3.5mm to dual 3.5mm cable (Chinese-non-stealth-magnet)


Tonality: 5/9
Technicality: 6/9
Resolution: 6/9
Biased Score: 4.5


I've been wanting a pair of budget open-back planar magnetic headphones since early this year but I didn't really have the time to start digging into another rabbit hole. but during my leisure time recently, after some readings & the double money-back guarantee from the seller, I was convinced to purchase a pair of the HE400se (Chinese version) for myself purely for the planar experience & the super cheap price tag (RM399/USD94.24). I kept telling myself that it might not be good enough to start with one of the cheapest models of Hifiman, but who knows. (this is my first experience with planar magnetic headphones and I will try giving a simple amateureview of the Chinese version HE400se alone)

No expectation
when I first listened to the non-stealth magnetic HE400se, I didn't like it very much. to say the truth, I've heard some open-back dynamic cans before, so I might have had a little expectation for some similar type of response from these cans. clearly, it was something new to me. although I didn't really like the tonality out of the box, I was quite passionate & became interested to learn more from this pair of headphones until it hit my classical library later that night.


HE400se1a.jpg

a minimalist; from the font to the headband design (without the Hifiman logo)


Build & design
minimalism is an idea that I hold dearly whenever possible. HE400se is minimalistic in many ways, from the font choice to the headband design. it's working minimalist. built with a sturdy pair of yokes with a simple mechanism, I find the headband is very comfortable that I can wear it on my head for hours. the overall build is truly alright and it came with a good working cable in a rubber sleeve. very reasonable package as per the cost. (I've been ignoring most of the Hifiman cans just because of the logo on the headband)

Revelation
I didn't bother with the 'International Version' nor 'Stealth Magnetic' as my intention was very clear and simple. I want to experience an open-back planar with a tight budget and heaven I'm indeed grateful and pleased that I made the purchase as of writing this.

the first hours with the HE400se was the usual favorite test tracks session consists of music like, from My Disco's A Christ Pendant Comfort Her Neck to Sunn O)))'s Big Church (Megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért). immediately I grasped the well-balanced and almost neutral signature of the driver. I can totally dig this kind of sound and for my musical diet although there was some sibilance here and there on certain pop vocals. (the first hours' session was a car driving and walking around the room using my LG G7 on high impedance mode; 80% volume)

Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major by Alexander Rudin (Naxos, 2002) was the key to my understanding of (this) planar magnetic response. almost everything in my classical library plays like birds of paradise. symphonic sforzando or fortissimo won't do too much harm to these headphones. it can reach a good depth even with crowded parts on live or studio recordings.

it made me smile throughout the night because of the music. it's alive and realistic. yes, I've experienced these words before, but this time it's differently different. to add & to be more precise, I just found a way to bathe myself in the sea of classical music recordings, and it was indeed pure ecstasy.

(listen to this recording and tell me I'm wrong - if possible please listen with HE400se or planar alike)


HE400se4a.jpg

the build is truly alright, but it's kinda irritating to see the wires like that - 7 pieces of non-stealth normal magnet bars


Tinkering
I read stuff online but nothing satisfies me or justifies the purchase more than listening to my classical library with my modest Chinese HE400se. a review by Mr. Ichos on April 27 & a comparison thread on Reddit surely helped beforehand. but there was something about the grill mod on the internet. some of them on Google image are really good just to look at.

I opened the soft pad, it was lovely, nothing extraordinary. removed the grill and the headphones responded slightly differently. the produced sound was more lively and airy but less thumpy, and it stayed like that for a few days until I put the grills back on but without the black cloth. I removed the black cloth & left it that way. I didn't bother to do any further modification because it was good enough for me.


HE400se2a.jpg

inside out: gotta love the look. swapped only the right cup to easily spot the channel. it's not plastic!


Technicalities & extras
music was always playing though I was not listening. sometimes through FiiO BTR5 or LG G7 on low volume. (150 hours burn-in as suggested in the manual)

I don't know anything about burn-in for planar drivers (or any kind of drivers really), but it doesn't produce any sibilant and the tonality is quite to my liking after a few days of continuous burn-in. it doesn't sound 'plasticky' like when I first heard it out of the box but the sound has slightly opening up and it's leaning towards neutral-organic. is it just me or is the HE400se is changing? does it mean the headphone is inconsistent? maybe, but it sure sounds nice.

other than classical, songs like Zu's Carbon, Lee Ritenour's Riverman & Mogwai's Rano Pano clearly sounded better than last time. these songs are sensitive & really good for gear testing. to highlight, the texture on both baritone bass & baritone saxophone on Zu's Carbon is very clear and full-bodied considering the lean bass response on HE400se. My Disco's An Intimate Conflict is one of my favorite tracks for saturated texture too. big jazz band piece like Sinne Eeg & The Danish Radio Big Band's We've Just Begun is so addictive with an articulate instrument layering & separation. dynamics are also great with tracks like Muddy Waters' Big Leg Woman, Chick Corea's The Trial, and Casiopea's Eyes of The Mind.

overall for me, it was a satisfying listening on multiple sessions with a variety of genres and mixing styles especially live classical recordings. it has a good dynamic and is almost transparent in nature. ultimately, it will shine better with better production quality. a quiet or treated room is a requirement to achieve supreme exultation.

Driveability+
I find the new Topping EX5 is a great match to the HE400se. ample power for maximum satisfaction with 1.3W @ 32 ohms peak. the dual ES9038Q2M DAC is also great. the soundstage is wide enough with great instrument separation & layering. transient is spot on, with fast attack and agreeable decay. while imaging is good, overall it behaves differently than what I used to with Moondrop Blessing 2 Dusk or ThieAudio Legacy 3 and on with other amplification. it makes me want to listen to everything that I have in my huge library again. Topping EX5 really helps to achieve the utmost joy.

the Chinese HE400se has great technical capabilities considering the price alone. but these cans really need a good amplification to perform better. yes, it's driveable but it won't reveal its true form or showcasing a balanced tonality with mobile or portable devices although it only has a 25 ohms impedance with 91dB efficiency (as advertised).


HE400se3a.jpg

Topping x Shenzhenaudio; the EX5 is a good match to HE400se. beautiful sound


Sit & listen
is this the best budget open-back planar magnetic headphones up to this point? I don't know, I just got started. it's not perfect, but I can confirm that it can produce a very musical and technical audio playback with decent amplification. I can see myself listening & bopping to these headphones for another year or two if no one ever provides me the 'honey'. at this point, I don't see why I need an upgrade with a 'perfect' budget setup like this.

despite the not-full mark score, I'm giving the Chinese HE400se a strong recommendation (4.5 stars) based on my audio reproduction product experience + the overall package. who cares about the no-carrying pouch or stealth magnetic? (I do actually care & curious about the stealth magnetic version. please send me a pair)

whether you're a veteran or a first-timer, just go get the Chinese version if you can. 1 for yourself, and another 1 for your friend or family member. sit and enjoy. sit and listen. but above all, sit together forever.

thank you for reading.


(yes, it's biased, not an objective review)
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Osiris89
Osiris89
I really don't know how anyone who reads this review won't buy these pair of cans. Heck, it won't even hurt their wallet to just try out!

Great review, mate!
hevelaoak
hevelaoak
thank you. it's a newb perspective and without any comparison. I don't urge people to buy but the non-stealth magnetic version alone is really good for the price. at least to me

SenyorC

100+ Head-Fier
A new budget reference!
Pros: - Tuning
- Performance
- SQ
- Great entry level planar
Cons: - Cable
- Considering the price, it is difficult to pick more faults
As always, my reviews are also available in Spanish on my blog and on YouTube, visit achoreviews.com to see them, along with all my other reviews (in English and Spanish).


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The Hifiman HE400se has been kindly loaned to me by Hifiman in exchange for publishing this review. They have not requested anything specific and, as always, my opinions will be as sincere and honest as possible but it is always good to be aware of the fact that it hasn’t cost me anything to try these headphones.

Intro…

Before I start with the HE400se, I would like to go back to September last year, when I reviewed the HE400i (2020). In that review, I said that the 400i were a decent set of headphones for their price but that they weren’t great. This has brought a bunch of comments (on my channel and on other forums) where people stated how incorrect I was, to the point that I felt that maybe I had received a pair with issues.

Now, the HE400se is a set of headphones that are at a similar price point to the HE400i, in fact, they are even cheaper, coming in at around 130€ direct from Hifiman.

I have never had the chance to try a different set of HE400i, so I really don’t know if they had issues or if I simply didn’t like them, but I will say that if the HE400i that I had in my hands had sounded anything like these HE400se, I would have given them a very positive review!

Anyway, enough about the past and on with the present, the HE400se.

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Presentation…

The presentation of the HE400se is very basic and it is easy to tell that Hifiman have saved as much on packaging as possible, which is a good thing when talking about a budget set of headphones.

Inside the box that is very reminiscent of other Hifiman models, we find the headphones sitting in a cheap plastic tray, along with a single ended cable and the warranty documentation.

That is it, there is nothing more to mention. This means that whatever they spent on making these headphones has gone into the headphones and not the packaging.


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Build and aesthetics…

I want to get the negative out of the way first... the cable. I am a fan of Hifiman but their cables are usually not great, at least on the models I have tried. I am sorry to say that the cable that is included with the HE400se is the worst cable I have ever received, and I am not just referring to “received with headphones”, I honestly cannot think of a cable I have disliked more with anything I have purchased.

The cable feels like a single strand cable, in fact, it feels like a length of thin fence wire that has been covered in plastic and had some TRS connectors put on the end. It is not only horrible to the touch and feel, it also bends and holds the shape just like any normal piece of fence wire would. Usually, even with some of the bad cables that come bundled with stuff (not referring to Hifiman but headphones and IEMs in general), I would say it’s not great but just swap it out if you don’t like it. In this case, I literally could not use it, it irritated me. The good news is that the HE400se are just regular 3.5mm TRS connectors, one on each cup, so you can easily use a different cable.

Ok, now that I got that out of my system, the headphones…

The HE400se do not look like an expensive set of headphones, you can tell that they are not boutique quality, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t good for their price. The headband is the same as that used on the Deva and HE400i, which is a headband that works and is comfortable enough for longer sessions.

The pads are also decent, with the internal part of the pads using cloth where they touch your face, with an imitation leather around the outside. I also believe that these are the usual Hifiman size, so replacement pads shouldn't prove to be difficult to get.

The cups are made of a silver coloured plastic that, while not being a high end material, makes the headphones very light and helps again with comfort. The yokes that hold the cups to the headband are made of aluminium (or aluminum on the US version) which also keeps them light but makes them much stronger than if they had used plastic for the yokes.

I don't think that the HE400se is a headphone that I would consider beautiful but they are not ugly, at least to my eyes, and seem to have been built to be good without breaking the bank.

DSC_4629.JPG


Sound…

Presentation and build go out the window when we make it this far, the sound is by far the most important part of any headphone but even more so when we are talking about a budget offering.

The HE400se uses what Hifiman calls the “Stealth Magnet”, which is designed to reduce reflections and other non wanted issues inside the cup, while still being able to present that clear and clean sound that we (or at least I) associate with Hifiman.

The general sound of the HE400se is something that is easily identified as being a Hifiman planar but let's go through the usual steps regarding sound.

Starting with the subbass, there is plenty of that low end rumble when needed but it does not feel overdone at any point, in fact, I would say that there is a slight roll off as the frequencies drop but the HE400se manages to still seem to be present when needed . Tracks such as “Chameleon”, which is a rather demanding track in the low end, are presented in a way that the subbass is clearly defined but does not invade other frequencies. “No Sanctuary Here” is a very pleasurable listen on the HE400se, with plenty of low presence while maintaining the clarity needed. The low hits are clear and precise, no sense of bloat or loss of control.

Moving slightly higher into the mid and high bass, they deal well with electronic music, sounding very clean in these regions when listening to songs like “I Fink U Freeky”, while still being able to present natural instruments, such as my beloved bass guitars, in a way that is realistic and well balanced. From “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa, a modern take on pop music, through to “Elephants On Ice Skates” by Brian Bromberg, a mix of plucking and ringing bass notes, both sound pleasurable and it is easy to identify the various styles happening in the low end.

In the lower mids, the transition from the bass is very clean, no sense of bleed or muddyness, making it very easy to define the differences between the low mids of say a guitar and the high bass of a bass guitar.

The mids are very balanced as we move through the center of them, although there is a slight dip when starting to reach the higher mids, somewhere around the 2kHz mark. While this dip is slightly noticeable, it is not to the extent of making vocals lose their presence in the higher midrange. “Down to the River to Pray” by Alison Krauss does seem to place her voice slightly further back that I am used to on higher end planar options from Hifiman, making it a little more in line with the backing vocals rather than take that extra step forwards, but it is certainly not unpleasant. I find this to be the case with various tracks that are mainly based on vocals, although I find it more noticeable with female vocals. In the case of “These Bones” by The Fairfield Four, the voices are still very nicely presented and seem well balanced, there is just a little step back in the higher frequency vocals.

Moving into the higher mids and the lower treble, the presence is back and makes the dip around 2kHz be just that, a small dip. This elevation in the higher mids works well to overcome said dip and manages to do so without causing any side effects such as harshness or nasal sounding voices.

Into the treble areas, there is a nice extension and presence of air and space found in the higher regions. These are not the most “airy” and “spacious” headphones I have heard but I cannot think of another set of headphones at a similar price that are better. I find the treble pleasurable and, although I could say that a little more smoothness would be appreciated, I have no doubt that these headphones are well above the competition in their price bracket.

As far as speed and dynamics, well, I could compare them to higher priced options from Hifiman and pick faults, but if we stay strictly in the sub 200€ bracket, I don’t think that any other headphones could make the HE400se seem like they are lacking in details. There are a few tracks, such as “All Your Love (Turned to Passion)” by Sara K., where I do miss some of those background details but, to be fair, they are details that I appreciate on headphones such as the Ananda which are 8 times the price of the HE400se. Even with very busy and complex tracks, the HE400se may not deal with them in such an effortless manner as the higher end planars but they certainly don’t feel as though they are struggling to keep up.

As far as soundstage and image placement, the width is not huge but it is more than enough to be considered good, with a great placement of images inside that area. Again, as I just mentioned, some of the background details are not quite present, meaning that they are also difficult to pinpoint in the sound stage, but the general placement and transitions from left to right, such as in the case of “Letter”, the placement is very good, in fact, I would say almost excellent if we consider the price range these headphones sit in.

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Conclusion…

The Hifiman HE400se are a set of headphones that offer far more than their price tag would lead one to believe. The overall sound and tuning is very good, except for that slight dip around 2kHZ and maybe a little roll off in the lowest regions (which does not bother me personally as I don’t like overly present bass).

Maybe the details are not up to the level of higher priced options but I think that they are way above the competition where they sit (at least amongst those that I have tried).

There are a few things that I could wish to improve on them but when I think of which headphones do these things much better, I realize that I am thinking of headphones that are way above the price of the HE400se. I would like to have a coherent comparison against the Sundara, which I feel is possible the next step up, but it has been so long since I heard the Sundara that I can’t compare them fairly.

In comparison to other headphones at a similar price, I have no doubt that I would choose the HE400se over the other that I have heard.

I think that if someone is looking for an audiophile experience on a limited budget, the HE400se is a great option that I would have no problem recommending. They do need amplification, at least I have found that they do, but they do not need some ridiculous amount of power to be driven properly. I have mostly listened to them from the Asgard 3, although I have used them a fair bit with the Atom and they were just as pleasurable.

If someone were to pick up the HE400se for 130€, add a Modi3+ for another 100€ and an Atom or Magni3 for another 100€, you have a very very capable set up for just over 300€. Well, maybe add an extra 20€ for a cable that isn’t made of fence wire and for 350€ you have a headphone set up that needs a lot more layout in order to improve it.

I have absolutely no doubt that the HE400se has become my recommended headphones for under 200€, possibly even more!

cappuchino

Previously known as sub30
Planar for the Masses
Pros: Planar driver benefits
Resolution
Detail-retrieval
Close-to-neutral tuning
Heavenly pads
INSANE PRICE
Cons: HIFIMAN/planar pre-upper midrange dip
Soundstage depth
Will not fit larger heads
Cable (new orders are now shipped with 2 cables)
Needs lots of power – understandable as it is a planar headphone
Timbre (preference)
Disclaimer:

I would like to thank Mr. Mark and HIFIMAN for providing a review unit of the HE400se. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.



Introduction:


HIFIMAN is one of the biggest players in the headphone world. Founded in 2007, they have since been at the top when it comes to creating the best value-for-money and the TOTL “endgame” headphones. We have here the HE400se (Global Edition), the cheapest of all HIFIMAN headphones – an open-back, planar headphone utilizing "stealth magnets", currently selling for 149 USD. It has a sensitivity oh 91 dB with an impedance of 25 ohms.


These were plugged to my Oppo Reno 4/Asus X409 with the Earstudio HUD100 MK2 (bypass, high power) and the Kenwood KA-7100 for the review. Needs lots of power for drivers to wake up (bass extension/rumble, treble energy, clarity, soundstage improvements, etc.). 2 Vrms is enough to reach my listening volume with enough headroom but is in no way going to "wake-up" the sleeping planar of the HE400se.


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Build and Comfort: A mix of plastic and metal. It’s a balance between weight, practicality and ease of use. Due to the earcups and grill being plastic, HIFIMAN was able to keep the weight down to a comfortable level. Headband is on the thicker side, is well-padded and feels nice on my head. There’s a bit of rattle on the phones themselves, but understandable for the price. The hybrid pads, meanwhile, are heavenly - soft, plush, and non-irritating. It’s also angled for better wearing comfort. I didn’t encounter any issues regarding comfort with the HE400se. Forgot to mention, but this HIFIMAN utilizes recessed dual 3.5mm female connectors.

HOWEVER, I have the headband extended to the fullest and as reference, I have an average adult Asian head. Do take that into consideration as an estimate whether the HE400se will be comfortable for you or not. To note, I wear prescription glasses and the HE400se doesn’t get in the way of wearing said glasses properly.

Cable’s bad. Like really bad. It coils, is extra stiff, retains shape (like memory wire), and doesn’t give the headphone justice. Jack’s housing is plastic but it does have generous strain relief. The dual 3.5mm connectors also have plastic housing. And my biggest caveat of them all – it doesn’t have a splitter.

*Edit: it appears to be that new orders are now shipped with 2 cables.

Isolation is non-existent. Sound leakage would get you hit on the head by the people around you.


Package: 6.35mm adapter. Paperwork. 4-core cable.



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Now, onto sound:

For this review, the headphone was left in stock mode, without mods with a listening volume of low-medium to medium.


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Bass:
neutral. Considering that it’s an open-back design, it extends surprisingly well. But do keep that design choice in mind as while it does reach sub-bass territory, it struggles and starts rolling off at around 45 Hz or so. Not for EDM at all. Texture is well-presented so as not to sound overly smoothened out. Due to the planar driver, the HE400se can keep up with any song no matter how fast the bass lines are, though it does lack the visceral and physical impact of a dynamic driver. No bleed whatsoever. An overall satisfyingly excellent bass quality for the price. Weight and impact improve with more power.

Midrange: transparent, highly resolving and airy but there’s something weird going on. I know what it is and I’ve read about it in the past – the HIFIMAN pre-upper midrange dip manifested in their planar headphones. This takes away the possible shouty-ness from that region and highlights the airy highs, which in turn generates more space between the different regions. It does take some time getting used to and will sound particularly strange on initial listen. What this does negatively is it takes away a bit of bite from instruments like that of a distorted electric guitar. After that dip, it starts picking up again to neutral level where it provides clarity and definition to the overall presentation. Male and female vocals are presented without any bias towards one or the other and resolves fairly well.

Treble: very revealing treble region following a neutral tuning, but not the most refined. Has peaks in the upper end of the spectrum which leads to a tendency for the HE400se to sound zingy at higher volumes (preference and tolerance-dependent). Also extends well which adds more air, and in extension “soundstage.” With a weaker source like a phone or a laptop, the treble region sounds dead. It really needs more amplification for the planar drivers to wake up. After that, the listener is greeted with cymbal strikes that have planar fast attack and decay, maybe even too fast for their own good as they don’t provide that realistic rattle I look for and dies down quickly. One good thing is that harsh splashy-ness is simply never gonna occur.

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Timbre:
Planar hits different. I do believe that the driver type plays a huge role on the timbral characteristics of a transducer. And with the HE400se? While it does sound pure without coloration, it has this stiff and dry trait to it where it can also be interpreted as being rather artificial and not organic-sounding.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: With the HUD100 MK2, there was limited soundstage width and height, having this sort of barrier a few centimeters away from your head that prevents a freer presentation. Plugging it to the Kenwood KA-7100 is a different story – everything opens up (more width and height; equal amount) with sound having more space to move around, giving the listener all o' them open-back goodness. Depth is enough to provide a 3D stage though I would have appreciated more as it’s barely enough to sound holographic (also presents the midrange in a more intimate fashion but still remains un-claustrophobic). Layering is sophisticated and compensates for the soundstage depth of the HE400se. Imaging plays along with that stage as well and is quite sharp and accurate, where it is easy to pinpoint where sound is coming from. Thanks to the instrument separation being able to handle any song, the HE400se can play virtually any genre but due to the depth, it has a tendency to sound crowded in the "extreme" multi-instrument tracks.

Detail-retrieval: Again, that planar goodness! Due to said driver and its close to neutral tuning, both macro and microdetails are rendered beautifully and clearly. As the resolution is also exceptional, it is a treat to listen to the HE400se.

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Conclusion:


A neutral-tuned headphone with a slight bias towards the upper frequencies, I see the HIFIMAN HE400se as a great value headphone sub-200 USD. While there is nothing going on with the packaging, the headphone themselves are built justifiably for the price, along with the heavenly pads. 2 Vrms can bring forth enjoyment, but do feed them with more power. Oh, and did I mention that they're full-size planar headphones all for 149 USD and even less?


*Dropped rating due to Takstar HF580


****If you have other questions/concerns with the headphone mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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Ichos

Reviewer at hxosplus
The King is dead - Long live the King.
Pros: - Natural and well balanced tuning
- Very extended soundstage
- Engaging and fatigue free
- Clear and detailed
- Comfortable
- Good build quality
- Great value for money
Cons: - Lacking in body and slam
- Could be more refined
- Not portable source friendly
- Passable cable
- Without any carrying pouch
The HE400se was kindly provided by HiFiMan as a long term loaner in order to be used for this and future reviews.
They have never asked for a favorable review and as always I am providing my honest and subjective opinion.

Introduction

The brand new HiFiMan HE400se is a classic favourite with a modern twist or to put it in other words yet another version of the iconic HE400.
The latest iteration was the HE400i 2020 that is now discontinued and replaced by the HE400se version.

There are two variants available , the one being made specifically for the Chinese market and the international version being reviewed here.

They retail at $149 that is $20 cheaper than the HE400i 2020 and you can get them directly from the HiFiMan store

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Technical parameters

The international version is the only one to feature HiFiMan's unique stealth magnet design.

Unlike the sound waves created by a conventional magnet , the special shape of the stealth magnets enables the waves to pass through the magnets without generating interference.

HiFiMan's advanced magnet design is acoustically transparent, dramatically reducing wave diffraction turbulence that degrades the integrity of the sound waves.
The reduced distortion yields pure sonic output that is accurate and full range.

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Build quality and comfort

The HE400se features the newly designed adjustable lightweight headband design that was introduced with the Deva and adopted since then.
The headband is reinforced with heavy memory foam padding and it has a cool feeling and comfortable positioning but it feels a little cumbersome.

The aluminum yokes insert inside the headband and can be very easily adjusted in a lot better way than the Sundara system plus they allow for an extra swivel.

The ear cups are made of durable silver colored plastic and the drivers are protected by a newly designed metallic black grill for enhanced durability and protection from the elements.

Overall build quality is typical HiFiMan but it is much improved since older generations and certainly acceptable for the price point but still something is left to be desired compared to the competition.

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The ear pads are the hybrid style that HiFiMan is using lately with faux leather at the outside perimeter and perforated at the inside plus a velour surface area that touches the face.
They are filled with memory foam and feature an asymmetrical shape that is thinner at the front side.
The inside diameter is 6cm so slightly larger than the 2020 edition (5.5cm) and a little smaller than the Deva so they can accommodate the whole ear without exercising pressure.
Weight is 390gr and while they are 20gr heavier than the HE400i 2020 edition they fit and feel very comfortable with minimum clamping force and good breathability.

Cable

The headphone features the new dual entry 3.5mm removable cable system which thankfully is compatible with a lot of aftermarket choices because the bundled cable is passable.
HiFiMan instead of improving their generally bad stock cables they just keep stepping backwards.

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Accessories

Well there are no accessories and besides the cable we get a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter and that's it.
A carrying pouch is very cheap to buy in the wholesale market and would be very easily included without affecting the selling price of the headphone.
It is not that it is so necessary but it is the first impressions that count against the thriving competition.

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Sound impressions

We have let the drivers burn for about 80 hours before starting the listening sessions.
Since this is a $149 headphone it felt natural to test it with dac/amps of similar value more or less so we mainly opted for FiiO BTR5 (balanced) , EarMen TR AMP (review) , iFi ZEN CAN and Schiit Hel 2 & Vali 2+ (review)

About power

The HE400se is rated at 25Ω/91dB and it is not portable friendly at all.
It is power hungry and there is no way to use it with a phone or low powered devices.
For example with the iBasso DX300 balanced output which is quite powerful and very competent we need to use high gain and get up to >85 volume setting in order to get loud enough but there is still much left to be desired.
The Hel 2 was very good but we reached half the pot in high gain to enjoy the HE400se.
The same goes with small dac/amps like the BTR5 which can get loud enough but it feels very underpowered by sounding thin and anemic.

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Listening

The HE400se is one of the best tuned HiFiMan headphones with a very balanced and even frequency response without any severe peaks or dips.

Bass is fairly extended and very linear up to the mids but can't reach sub bass levels without roll off.
The tuning is reference type without any unnecessary boost or coloration so it is very easy to hear and distinguish all the bass instruments no matter how many of them are playing.
We couldn't spot any signs of masking or mib bass bleeding and we were very pleased with the overall clarity and layering.
Bass is very tight and controlled but with the downside that it feels lean , that is without any extra weight and body so while it is quite dynamic you don't hear that slamming effect.
The driver is very fast and dynamically contrasted but it doesn't allow for mass air movement so the attack is soft without rumble.

Mid frequency response is very linear with the slightest dip while reaching for the upper mid range.
This is a neutral and not mid centric headphone and all parts of the spectrum get equal shares so don't expect voices to step ahead with added presence.
Clarity is amazing for the category and timbre is very natural and organic with a blended instrumental palette and a nice rendering of the various overtones.
A very engaging presentation without added warmth but still very rounded and greatly articulated with good vocals rendering.

Rising upwards we have the necessarily uplifting that it is needed to add space , air and high resolution.
Treble performance is greatly balanced between sounding lively and illuminated but with a smooth and polite manner without any signs of brightness or hardness.
Clarity is good and extension with detail retrieval are satisfying but here we start to hear a few shortcomings of the driver.
There is a certain extra loss of body relative to the mids and lows so highs sound a touch more lean in comparison.
Decay is faster than the ideal so bells and high-huts or similar instruments fade away in a hurried manner.
Timbre is good without any metallic flavor but articulation is not so fine and nuanced as we would like it to be.
An instant example is solo harpsichord where the upper notes struggle to compete with the lower register or in full orchestra where violins sound a little mashed and high percussion can't shine in the mix.

We are nitpicking here and for the asking price the HE400se is a capable and neutral , well balanced headphone with an ethereal character to it that is not analytical or cold blooded but not warm either.

The stage is remarkable and miles ahead from the bulk of the competition.
It is wide with natural proportions and although it is lacking in depth we are compensated with a great deal of space and excellent imaging just a touch panned left and right.
The HE400se is not afraid of heavy loaded and complicated music and is very suitable for large symphonic works able to do justice to the full orchestra.

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Compared to the HE400i 2020 ($169)

Overall build quality and fit are the same with 0.5cm more room inside the pads for the HE400se so not much left to talk about here.

The same goes with the overall tonality which is more or less the same for both headphones with slightly more present and forward mids for the HE400i 2020 (review).
The two siblings differ in the way that they present the music with the elder one being more cosy and intimate , a little more relaxed with an added overall weight to the sound and a more intense vocal projection.
Stage is less airy and more narrow on the HE400i but with the same pinpoint imaging.
Both headphones are great performers for the price and we do think that HE400i 2020 owners should skip the HE400se and look higher in the food chain but new buyers should not be worried about the 400i 2020 being discontinued because the brand new HE400se is of the same league and with a slightly reduced price.

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Compared to the HE5XX/Deva ($220/$299 with the BlueMini)

Build is of the same quality and the major difference lies in the extra room inside the HE5XX (review) / Deva (review) ear pads and the different design of the HE5XX headband that some users might prefer.
The expensive models are more comfortable and cool but the HE400se can fit more tightly and stay in place whether the other two feel more loose, especially the Deva.

Overall frequency response is quite similar with a few differences.
The HE400se treble is more smooth and relaxed and compared the other two models have a touch of a mid emphasis.
While you can't call the HE5XX/Deva bright or piercing they have an extra accentuation at the presence area.
Not necessarily sharp but that extra energy is clearly heard as a resonance peak that some users may find fatiguing.
Of course frequency response is only part of the equation and the rest are up to the HE5XX/Deva favor.
Bass is a fuller and extended lower with greater impact and dynamics plus it is more layered and controlled.
Mids sound more liquid and full bodied as for higher frequencies they are greatly extended with a finer articulation , extra thickness and more natural decay.
The soundstage is slightly wider but with that missing extra depth and layering so space allocation feels more natural and lifelike.
The more expensive headphones are the better performers but mid - high frequencies tonality and ringing artifacts might not suit all users alike.

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Compared to the Sennheiser HD560S ($200)

It's been a while since we reviewed the HD560S (review) and the unit is now returned so we couldn't perform an A/B comparison.

Build quality is quite different and while not necessarily a lot better it has that western touch and refinement in design and overall feeling.
Both headphones are very comfortable but the HD560S headband is better fitting and the headphone is considerably more lightweight, weighing a whole 150gr less, a difference that is of critical value on extended use.

Regarding sound signature the HD560S is more forward at the upper mid range with a distinctive peak at presence area followed by a sudden and steep roll off that translates in less distanced and warmer sounding vocals but considerably more bright and with ringing artifacts in the treble.
Both headphones are ethereal with a leaner character to their presentation but the HD560S bass is extending lower with added dynamics/ramble and extra weight.
Both have a reference like neutral tuning and are very detailed with excellent clarity and almost equal in terms of soundstage and imaging.
We found the HE400se to be more balanced and engaging for long term casual listening while the 560S felt more clear with better detail retrieval and finer articulation.

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At the end

The HE400se is going to be another HiFiMan bestseller as it is undoubtedly the best value planar magnetic headphone in the market right now with an overall sound performance that greatly exceeds the humble asking price.
It is a great entry level reference headphone and a first step into the planar magnetic world for the budget conscious audiophile who is going to feel that his hard earned cash is well spent here.
Very highly recommended.

Test playlist

Copyright - Laskis Petros 2021
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harry501501
harry501501
Bought a new 3m cable from Amazon as the black rubbery one that comes with it is pretty short. I really wanted to see that white one that had been universally rubbished lol, tho it seems they took note of the hate! Got to give them credit for that one.

Even tho I didn't really want to spend a whole lot more to get the best out of the he400se... I think I may be FORCED into getting the Zen Can 😁. I blame Ichos. About time I upgraded my desktop AMP anyway. It's powerful and does the trick, but it's pretty old now.
Ichos
Ichos
@harry501501 regarding the Zen Can , no you are not going to need a balanced DAC because it converts single ended to balanced and as long as you like your current DAC then you are just fine.
But you are going to need a balanced cable for your headphones because the Zen Can is best from the balanced output.
So blame me now but don't forget to thank me later when you have your first listening impressions!
harry501501
harry501501
Thanks Ichos, if I'd known that I'd have bought that amp ages ago lol.

Must admit, the 400se are really opening up.
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