HIFIMAN RE-600S V2 - Reviews
Pros: Premium presentation and unboxing experience
Good build quality
Lack of bass quantity (yes this is a pro imo, you can find my explanation below)
Balanced sound signature
Comfort
Detailed
Very large soundstage, one of the most spacious earphones
Sub-bass extension
Small size
Versatile
Large choice of eartips
Cons: Cable, both quality and the fact you cannot change it
Lack of bass quantity
Slightly warm sound signature can be limiting at times


Re-600s is an updated version of the older RE-600 which released back in 2013. Re-600s released in 2014, and then in 2017 Hifiman released Re-600s V2 in 2017. If you are following me, I will be reviewing the RE-600s V2, which is an earphone from Hifiman’s “Premium” line of products. It retails originally retailed for $200, and as of today (June 7th) you can get it on Hifiman's official store for $74.90.

You may be wondering how the three releases differ from each other, and it’s not that complicated. The original RE-600 (2013) featured a balanced, TRRS jack and the old cable. RE-600s (2014) came with a single ended, 3.5 mm jack, the same goes with the RE-600s V2 (2017) except it came with an upgraded cable.

Let me put it formally like this:
RE-600 (2013 release) - balanced TRRS cable
RE-600s (2014 release) - 3.5 mm cable (still the same cable as previous release)
RE-600s V2 (2017 release) - 3.5 mm cable + upgraded single crystalline copper cable


I was sent RE-600s V2 as a sample from Mark on behalf of HifiMan. I was required to write an honest review and not overstate the advantages. Everything said in this review is my opinion and how I feel about the RE-600s V2, I had no external/outside influence on my opinion.

What’s in the box:

One of the first thing you are going to notice, and one thing which caught my attention: the box and the unboxing experience itself. It is clear that Hifiman put extra thought and attention to both the packaging and the unboxing experience. The unboxing experience is one remarkable thing which you will not forget about the RE-600s V2, it’s something which is special to them.

There are two sections of the unboxing: the main box and a carrying case. In the main box, which is rather premium, you get your RE-600s V2 earphones, and the ear tips. In the round carrying case, you will find even more ear tips and extra filters. The main box is made of faux leather, it has a metal stripe in the middle. This stripe acts as a magnet which holds down two flaps of the two compartments. You will also find that the model name is etched onto this metal stripe, and “HiFiman” is indented on the bottom flap.

The overall unboxing experience is very premium, meeting the standards of it’s premium price tag. I can definitely say that the unboxing experience would contribute as a great gift to somebody. Presentation 10/10, good job HifiMan!



Accessories -

When Hifiman released the RE-600s with it’s premium price tag, they ensured the customer one thing, and that is the ear tips. There are enough ear tips so everybody can find their preferred one. The ear tips of my choice were the white, oblong ones. The seal and fit is perfect with them for me. You have 11 pairs of ear tips in total to choose which one fits your needs:
3x S Bi-Flange
2x M Bi-Flange
2x S Mono flange
4x Silicon tips
A round carrying case is also included, it is of both function and use. It’s a nice and firm case which will keep your earphones safe when traveling and you will find no struggle to fit the earphones inside it (you can find images of it online, or at the official store from HifiMan).
Inside of it you will find a set of extra filters, 5 pairs if we were to be exact. This ensures longevity of the earphones, in case you lose or damage them, you can always replace them. This is a nice feature, and it is something expected and appreciated at this price point.



Design & build quality - When they said “less is more” they truly were correct.

The design is very simple and minimalist, which contributes to its great build quality. I would consider the RE-600s to be a micro-earphone purely due to it’s small size. While they are small, they have a 8.5 mm driver which features a titanium diaphragm and neodymium magnet. The earphones themselves are of a metal housing and a braided cable. The cable gives me a throwback to 2000’s when the cables were similar to the one featured on the RE-600s, however that is not to mislead you about what hides below the braided material: an upgraded single crystalline copper. The cable is stiff out of the box, but with use it will become more flexible. The cable is non-removable as with many earphones, I didn’t find any problems with it. The 3.5 mm plug is straight, it features a rubberized housing which I found no issues with when taking my phone out of my pocket.

The earphones themselves have a straight, non-angled nozzle which goes inside of the ear perfectly, the nozzle has a lip which ensures that your ear tips stay in place.
Simple design combined with good build quality.



Comfort -

Due to their size, they have great comfort. They give a good seal and fit, I quite enjoy long listening sessions with the RE-600s. I experienced a nice, deep insertion into my ear, and this resulted in a good seal, a very tight seal. I also found out that the RE-600s is perfect when you are laying on your side or sleeping. They didn’t protrude and it is most likely due to their size which resulted in a pleasant experience. When I move around they stay in my ear and don’t fall out, which just concludes that the comfort of these is well executed and overall near-perfect. The small size and light weight greatly contribute to its comfort. The seal I get with the oblong white ear tips is pretty much top notch, I get a full seal with them. Yet another element which HifiMan nailed here.



Functionality and convenience -

RE-600s are a pair of very functional earphones. They are small and easy to travel with, they are very easy to drive, the accessories are functional and of good quality.

Their sonic and sound qualities also make them very versatile, they are perfect for music and movies due to their soundstage characteristics (I will talk about the soundstage in detail in a separate segment). I can also confirm that you can wear it cable down (like normal earphones) or over-ear (like IEM’s), so it gives you the flexibility and choice tho fit your preference. While the RE-600s is a music focused earphone, it performs in other fields well. I found the open and spacious sound to perform well for, as mentioned above: watching movies, the soundstage of them is something which truly stands out.

Sound: Did somebody say mid-range heaven?



Lows-
The low end is very balanced, it definitely won’t give you a headache. This being said, they don’t rumble, and will definitely not be a choice for bassheads, however this is all expected. You have to keep in mind that in order to get more quanitity and quality bass performance, you need a bigger driver. This is the same with speakers, you will never get near to the bass performance of a bigger speaker with a small speaker and driver, that’s simply not how sound works and travels. In order to get more quantity of bass, you need a bigger driver which will move more air molecules. When you have a smaller driver it needs to move more to produce lower frequencies. The mid-bass is well defined, there isn’t a lot of weight and energy in the low end region, and neither do they deliver a strong punch, but I simply enjoyed their low frequencies response because it is balanced with the other frequency ranges. I myself appreciate a nice sub-bass extension, even though the RE-600s don’t rumble, they definitely delivered the sub-frequencies. When I played Hans Zimmer’s “Why so serious?” I was shocked to hear the sub-frequencies at the mark 3:30. This was a segment where I was pretty surprised and impressed, especially considering their size.

Mids-

This is the field which RE-600s shines in. I found myself heavily enjoying various types of music with them. RE-600s are slightly laid back, however they have a very full body sound. I mainly enjoyed listening to tracks where the vocals are more prominent, mainly because of the weight in the vocals that the RE-600s delivers.

The imaging is also one element which truly impressed me, the accuracy of the RE-600s is something which is among the stronger points of it. Listening to tracks of classic music such as Beata Viscera (monophonic conductus) by Perotin and Anthony Pitts, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, various tracks by Lana Del Ray: The Next American Record, 13 Beaches, In My Feeling, Honeymoon, The Blackest Day, Dark Paradise, truly reminded me how much I enjoyed listening to music with them.

I would characterize the sonic performance of the RE-600s as very open, dynamic, and fairly transparent and balanced. I truly found myself enjoying the open and dynamic sound that the RE-600s delivers, it’s very enjoyable and addicting.

Vocals are very enjoyable, you will find out that they deliver the vocals with a lot of energy, they carry their weight pretty well. Besides for vocals, they are great for classical music.

Listening to the latest album “Before Love Came to Kill Us” by Jesse Reyez, I truly noticed the full body of her voice, and I quite enjoyed it with the RE-600s. Or "The Winner Takes It All" by Susan Boyle, it is able to produce the vocal range of Susan, and when she hits her peak, oh does it sing. I myself am passionate about intense vocals, and while Susan's "The Winner Takes It All" isn't the most intense, it is still a very beautiful piece where you can hear a very good vocal performance.



Highs-

There is a great amount of clarity in the high frequency range while staying away from being bright. Perhaps they lack the sparkle, but this is due to their slightly laid back and warm sound signature. This being said, there is no feeling that the high end is reduced, however you can feel that it is limited in some particular genres and songs. As I mentioned before the overall sound signature and frequency response from the RE-600s is balanced, and high frequencies are no exception to this.

Travis Scotts “Stop trying to be God” is a good reference for high end, I usually listen for harshness or piercing high end in it. What can be noticed is that the top end is indeed rolled off, the highest top end, so you will not get the sparkle from some stringed instruments or intense vocals. It truly depends on which music you listen to, in some cases you will notice the lack of sparkle, in other cases you will get the exact performance you are expecting. For example, the introduction of “Poison” by Freya Ridings, the piano notes hit with the top end sparkle, the same performance continues throughout the vocals by her.



Soundstage -

I have to say that this is the biggest soundstage I have come across yet, the width, the height, the depth. All very deep and accurate, imaging is very precise. The soundstage of the RE-600s keeps me coming back to it, it’s very appealing. It’s something which sets it apart and makes it unique, I would say that the soundstage alone is the selling point of this earphone.

I have to emphasize how important soundstage is, because it gives a very crucial dimension to music, it gives music depth. Depth is something I’d describe RE-600s with, very deep and open sound. One of the main disadvantages to a narrow soundstage is the enclosed feeling, the sound seems to be constricted and restricted. It takes away the dynamic and life of music, this is why I think the RE-600s sound so good, they have this extra dimension which gives music life.

One of the most spacious earphones I have come across, all coming from a 8.5mm driver. I don’t know about you, but I am very much impressed by this. In fact, I was blown away when I heard the soundstage they were capable of creating.

Let's take "Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers, a beautiful masterpiece, the soundstage is very accurately presented, with the piano and the cymbal staying far left, and the stringed violin on the far right, with the vocals in the center.



Separation -

With a very spacious soundstage, the RE-600s has outstanding separation. There is a lot of room for instruments to breathe and therefore it results in very accurate and clear separation, and also imaging. Whether it's in "Where to turn?" by James Litherman, "Smoking Mirrors" by Lee Curtiss, or "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2" by Pink Floyd, both the separation and imaging is very accurate and easily noticeable.




Conclusion -

RE-600s V2 is a very well rounded off earphone, it completely surprised me with it’s performance. With 3 years after its release, you will probably find them with a good discount, and they are definitely not to be ignored. One thing which I can tell for certain is that I greatly enjoy them, their small size and their comfort. Whether it’s the transparent and balanced sound signature, their clarity, the soundstage, it’s all a very well rounded off package. Considering their size and overall sound performance, I can recommend them, and they are very suitable for a present with their packaging. One of the things you learn to appreciate with an audio device which doesn't have emphasis on low frequencies, are the vocals. What else will you focus on if it's not the bass? The mid range, and that's what I believe the RE-600s are the best at. Especially considering that they are very spacious, which makes vocals and overall mid range beyond just pleasing for listening. RE-600s is an easy recommendation, it's an earphone I believe everyone should try out.

Attachments

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voja
voja
@OpiateSkittles well I'm screwed. Final Audio needs to have a word with me.. I need to try them. Now you have me curious, because I love how small driver earphones feel in the ear, but having full body bass with good weight at that size?! Need to hear it!
G_T_J
G_T_J
Good write-up. To me that's the best all-around signature and the most musical IEM I have ever tried. It's also my favorite and wouldn't trade it with anything.
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OpiateSkittles
OpiateSkittles
@voja
They definitely pack some rumble down low, but I find even the most expensive offering in the E-Series pretty average. The treble is just too smoothed over for my tastes. That said, for 40ish USD, the E2000 is quite respectable.
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Pros: Balanced, near neutral signature - Comfort and ergonomics - Amazing packaging and accessory kit
Cons: That cable...
Greetings!

Today we're checking out an older release from Hifiman, the RE600s.

While this brand is probably still best known for their planar headphones, their iem lineup has received it's fair share of accolades over the years. The RE600s is one of them, though it has largely become overlooked in what is a shockingly fast moving industry. New releases are forgotten within the month, and older gems might as well not exist given how little attention they get. When the updated RE600s was released in 2017, it was already far from being a new product (original released in 2013), it just so happened to have been updated and revised with a better cable and more common 3.5mm jack. In 2020, reviewing such a product might seem like an especially weird choice. Surely tech has moved on and the RE600s is completely irrelevant? While there is one aspect in particular where the RE600s could and should have been improved upon by now, it's guts still out compete many of it's modern counterparts and it remains a very competitive earphone.

Let's take a closer look.

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What I Hear The RE600s is one of the few iems that I would say aims for a neutral signature. The extremities are lightly elevated keeping the RE600s from sounding sterile and lifeless, broadening it's appeal to my ears. This is one that can satisfy pretty much everyone. My first listen brought to mind the RE600s's little brother, the RE400, but with a dose of refinement and some tweaks that make it the standout of the two (as it should be given the chasm in price).

Treble out of the RE600s is fairly well balanced between upper and lower regions. Lower treble gives the signature plenty of detail without crossing into analytic territory, while upper treble is boosted just enough to give instruments some shimmer and sparkle. The best part is that, while raised above neutral, the RE600s' upper regions remain smooth and impressively fatigue free. Notes are well controlled and absent of splashiness. Dynamics are great too with notes having plenty of depth, snap, and attack to them. There is very little to criticize here. “Some Skunk Funk” from The Brecker Brothers has a tendency to become grating through earphones with less refined treble, but here through the RE600s you get the detail and energy without the pain.

Bass is much the same, though I can guarantee there will be many that feel quantity is greatly lacking. Basshead earphones the RE600s is not. That said, even as someone that thoroughly enjoys bassy iems, I had no problems enjoying myself with the quantity of bass on hand from the RE600s. It was enough to satisfy on everything but dedicated bass tracks. Mid-bass is lean but notes hit with authority and texturing is phenomenal. There is no sense of bloat, nor is the midrange affected in any way. Subbass extension is great with the RE600s pretty easily replicating deep rumbly notes that you feel more than hear, like the opening of Kavinski's “Solli”. Just don't expect them to rattle your eardrums because the quantity needed for that simply isn't there.

In the mids is where the RE600s really shines. With a near perfect balance and zero sibilance (that wasn't already there in the recording), all vocalists I've tried from Yazmin Lacey to Corey Taylor sound absolutely stunning. They come across textured and natural, shining among the instruments and effects present throughout the rest of the track. This extends to instrumentation too where timbre is pretty much spot on, matching benchmarks like the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. About all I can fault the RE600s for here, and this could also be a plus given personal preference, is that intense micro-details picked up by analytic earphones, such as the EarNiNE EN2J, are smoothed over slightly. It's still a very detailed presentation, just not one that can be used to truly pick apart and dissect a track in a way that some others do better. I'm going to use a term I know the community loves; musical. The RE600s' midrange is musical and engaging, not sterile and analytic.

The RE600s' balanced presentation is set within a fairly average sized sound stage, but one that is very well rounded and even. Effects will dance off into the distance at times, but for the most part music plays within the realm of just past the confines of your head. This isn't a bad thing because stereo imaging is top tier and extremely accurate in the way sound is placed, and sweeps from channel to channel. Layering and separation are very good too, among the better single dynamics I've heard, but falling short of multi-driver setups like my benchmark in this price range, the Brainwavz B400.

Overall I can't help but love the way the RE600s sounds. The balance of treble, mids, and bass is just right. Timbre is natural and engaging. The somewhat intimate sound stage works well with the technical performance. It all rolls together to create a cohesive experience that few earphones in this price range provide.

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Compared To A Peer (volumes matched with Dayton iMM-6)

Not going to go over build in these comparisons since the RE600s is pretty far behind the competition in this regard. They're also ahead of the rest in terms of comfort and ergonomics, so that'll be skipped too. Sound only this time around.

BGVP DM6 (199.00 USD): The DM6's penta-armature setup provides a very different listening experience than the RE600s' single 8.5mm dynamic driver. Where the Hifiman is balanced and even from top to bottom, the DM6 is bassier and more aggressive. The DM6's low end and mid-range are thicker and more weighty compared to the RE600s but sub-bass rolls off earlier, or at least it feels like it since low notes lack the visceral feel of the RE600s' dynamic driver. Treble is similar in emphasis through the presence region with the RE600s holding strong into the brilliance region where the DM6 loses emphasis. This results in the RE600s having a more sparkly, airy top end. That said, the DM6 has a larger sound stage all around, especially width, though it's imaging lacks the razor sharp precision of Hifiman's single driver. Layering is quite similar between the two with the DM6 showing slightly improved instrument separation when tracks gets overly convoluted. Timbre out of the RE600 is more accurate, especially on brighter instruments and effects where the DM6 comes across somewhat artificial and metallic. Both earphones display snappy attack and decay characteristics with the RE600s' bass being more nimble, textured, and articulate.

While the DM6 provides some serious “wow factor” on first listen, this quickly wears off and the RE600s' more mature and balanced tuning wins me over.

TFZ Secret Garden HD (199.00 USD): Like the RE600s, the Secret Garden HD (SG from here on out) features a single dynamic driver setup, though one considerably larger at 12mm vs. the Hifiman's 8.5mm. It too is coated with a dense material. Where Hifiman chose titanium, TFZ went with graphene. So what does this do for the listening experience? I don't know, but they're both good, but also quite different. While I'd still say the SG has a well-balanced tune (esp. for a TFZ), the RE600s is notably more so. The SG's lower treble is significantly more emphasized making the SG the more detailed and analytic earphone, but this combined with an upper midrange bump results in sibilance not present in the RE600s. The SG's midrange is leaner and colder sounding which to my ears makes it best suited to male vocals, while the RE600s handles all genders wonderfully. The low end of the TFZ is more abundant in both upper and low bass, with sub-bass presence being much more prominent. Personally, this is right up my alley and as such I find the TFZ's bass much more engaging, especially since it gives up little to nothing in terms of texture and control. Sound stage falls into TFZs's camp with the SG sounding wider and deeper. It can toss sounds well off into the distance in a way the RE600s simply cannot. In Hifiman's corner is imaging accuracy which the SG cannot touch. The RE600s also replicates tracks in a more layered and nuanced way, with instruments retaining greater separation during congested moments. The biggest gulf between these two is when it comes to timbre. TFZ does a good job in the bass and and lower mids, but as frequencies rise it sounds less and less natural, unlike the RE600s which simply sounds “right” top to bottom.

Like the DM6, the TFZ provides plenty of “wow factor” on first listen, but unlike the DM6 it sticks around. Despite enjoying the SG's bass more, the RE600s' technical prowess and more realistic and consistent presentation means it fairly easily takes the win.

Campfire Audio Comet (199.00 USD): The Comet is Campfire Audio's most affordable earphone at the moment, but they didn't cut corners to achieve this. This is evident in the outstanding build quality and the impressive sound coming from the single full-range armatures installed in each earpiece. Next to the RE600s, the Comet provides listeners with a warmer sound signature. The presentation is more silky and smooth, with additional mid-bass presence that gives the Comet a heavier sound, thicker midrange, countered by some shimmery treble energy. While upper treble on the Comet does roll off somewhat early thanks to the limitations of it's single armature, it's more emphasized than the lower treble. This gives it a bit more sparkle than the RE600s, but it's resolution suffers in the process and it lacks the micro detail of Hifiman's 8.5mm dynamic. This reduced texture and detail is present through the entire frequency range. On the plus side, I find it makes the Comet easier to listen to for VERY long periods, though neither is particularly fatiguing to my ears. The Comet has a wider but somewhat flat and generally confined stage. Imaging is tighter and slightly more accurate on the RE600s, whereas imaging and instrument separation is clearly in the RE600s' corner. When it comes to speed, notes through the Comet's armatures hit with less rapidity and decay slower. Bass notes tend to linger which I appreciate, which feeds into the smooth, somewhat mellow experience the Comet exudes.

Since these two takes such different approaches to replicating sound, I'm having a hard time saying which I enjoy more. I appreciate the RE600s' accuracy and technical competence which are clearly superior, but at the same time the Comet's warmer, more mellow presentation is so very pleasing to the ear. I guess I'll have to give them a tie and say they are complimentary. If you want a more neutral, accurate experience, go for the RE600s. If you want a bassier, more relaxing experience, go for the Comet.

In The Ear The RE600s shares a shell with it's more budget friendly sibling, the RE400, but there are some notable improvements. Where the RE400 is bare aluminum, the RE600s is finished in a glossy piano black that makes it look and feel more premium. This also helps with scratch resistance. The cable is similar to the one on the RE400 but has been beefed up a bit, especially below the y-split where the cloth section is much thicker. Doesn't help much though, as the sheath quality is still well below average. The rubber sheath above the y-split is very stiff and plasticy and in cold weather loses most flexibility while the cloth cable below the y-split is prone to kinking and tangling as it wraps up upon itself. To put it simply, the cable feels cheap and unbefitting of the RE600s, let alone any iem above 10 USD for that matter. At least strain relief at the earpieces and straight jack is good, though it's missing at the y-split, a common failure point with iems. On the plus side, Hifiman was thoughtful enough to include a chin cinch, but it's shape doesn't flow with the design of the y-split so it comes across as an afterthought. Still, I'd much rather have it than not and it works well, so thanks Hifiman for including it. Despite the mediocre cable, fit and finish is good. The individual pieces that make up the earphones are put together neatly without any gaps or misalignment, the cable feels securely attached, and the nozzle filters are stuck in evenly.

The RE600s is extremely comfortable thanks to their compact size, light weight, and traditional iem fit. The nozzle is quite average in circumference (6mm) with a prominent lip so there is a good chance you can equip your favourite tips and they'll fit just fine. Another plus of the RE600s' somewhat standard barrel shape is that you can wear it equally well cable down, or with it wrapped up and over your ear. The only thing that might be a problem is that stiff rubber sheath which can be noisy and has a tendency to pop back up over the ear when you tilt your head or bend over.

Isolation is about average for a vented earphone, if not slightly below. Without music playing, I can easily follow conversations around me, catch the 'snick snick' of keyboards clacking away in the distance when in the office, and hear cars passing by. With music playing, all of this is dulled notably, but still prominent enough to require an increase in volume to counteract it. Adding foam tips certainly helps so be sure to pick up a set if you plan on listening in consistently noisy areas.

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In The Box The RE600s' packaging is easily some of the most premium I've come across, if not the most premium. Instead of a traditional cardboard box slathered in branding, model info, and featured bullet points, you get this beautiful leatherette and aluminum box. The design is split into two sections separated by a band of aluminum printed with the model information, the only place where it can be found. The top section contains the earphones fitted with a set of bi-flange tips, nestled into a felt coated foam insert. The bottom section contains another foam insert which contains six pairs of tips and a cable wrap that I initially confused for an eraser. Seriously, it looks and feels like an eraser. Weird, but nothing wrong with the inclusion of a dual purpose item, am I right? The rest of the accessories include a clam shell carrying case, four extra pairs of tips, and five extra pairs of nozzle filters. These extras are simply tossed in the packaging the main case ships with and were clearly not intended to be included originally. Still, who is going to complain about extra stuff? In all you get:
  • RE600s earphones
  • Clam shell carrying case
  • 3x Bi-flange tips (small)
  • 2x Bi-flange tips (large)
  • 6x Mono-flange tips (varying sizes and styles)
  • Filters (5 pairs)
  • Earphone Carry Pouch
  • Cable wrap
Overall this is a wonderful unboxing experience. It really makes you feel like you're getting something special. I'm sure some will complain that the money could be better spent elsewhere, and they're not wrong *cough* cable *cough*, but I'm not one of them. Add to that a ton of extra tips, and there is sure to be something for everyone here. No need to jack up the cost of your new purchase with extra accessories that should have been there in the first place, something Hifiman almost always gets right.

Final Thoughts The RE600 is an earphone I was excited to hear for the longest time with that excitement waning only when I bought the RE400. It took me a long time to warm up to the RE400, with it finding a place in my listening rotation only once I had tried nearly every tip in my collection, settling on some obscure single flange set that came with who knows what iem. Given the community comparisons between the RE400 and RE600 over the years, I was expecting to have much the same experience with the RE600s. Thankfully that was not the case. While the two are certainly similar, the RE600s' additional low end and reduced upper treble meant it was more immediately enjoyable out of the box, with that pleasure only increasing the more I used them.

The RE600s is a legendary earphone, and for good reason. Its sound signature is neutral without being boring. It is technically competent without being overly analytic. It can hit deep bass notes without sounding overly bassy. It has a midrange that is accurate and balanced. It has the imaging, layering, and separation chops necessary to provide a killer staging experience, despite not sounding particular vast and spacious. The only thing I can fault this earphone for is the cable.

As has been pointed out countless times over the years, it is terrible. If Hifiman updated the RE600s with a removable cable, similar to what they did with the RE800, without increasing the price, I bet it would see a revival among the community. The audio climate has changed drastically since the RE600 was first released, and while it is still plenty competitive from an auditory perspective, the RE600 falls far behind when it comes to how it is constructed. One change could fix everything though. Come on Hifiman! Give the RE600s the love it deserves.

Thanks for reading.

- B9

*If you enjoyed this review, visit The Contraptionist for more just like it.*

Disclaimer Thanks to Hifiman for arranging a sample of the RE600s for the purposes of review. The subjective impressions within this review are based on time spent listening to the RE600s over the course of a month. The RE600s normally retails for 199.00 USD but at the time of writing was on sale for 74.90 USD: https://www.hifiman.com/products/detail/144

Specifications
  • Frequency Response : 15Hz-22KHz
  • Sensitivity : 102dB
  • Impedance : 16 Ohms
  • Weight : 13.7g (0.48 Oz)
  • Plug : 3.5mm
  • Driver: 8.5mm with titanium coated diaphragm
Devices Used For Testing Shanling M0, XDuoo Link, LG G6, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501

Some Test Material
Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
King Crimson – Lark's Tongues in Aspic
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam
Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams
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Pros: Linear tuning, Fantastic fit and comfort, Great isolation, Sharp imaging, Clean midrange, Nice bass extension
Cons: Treble not aggressively detailed, Stiff non-removable cable, May be too mellow for some
Introduction –

Overlooked, underappreciated and unloved are all words that adequately describe the Hifiman RE600. While its lower-end sibling, the RE-400, received no shortage of accolades, the considerably more expensive and visually identical RE-600 very much fell into obscurity. It didn’t help that Hifiman’s higher end offering retained the same design shortcomings and longevity concerns despite the increase in price. But years later, Hifiman have balanced out their offerings, perhaps in the wake of the newly announced RE-800 and RE-2000, with the second iteration RE-600 bearing a considerable price cut and a vastly improved cable. But are these tweaks too little, too late? And is the RE-600 still a competitive buy? Let’s find out.

*The RE-600 initially launched with a $400 USD asking price. The improved V2 has since dropped to $200 USD and can be found for even less online. Of note, the RE-600 has a balanced 2.5mm termination for use with certain dedicated audio players while the RE-600S has a regular 3.5mm plug which suits smartphones, laptops and all other players.



Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Hifiman very much for providing me with the RE-600 in exchange for my honest review. There is no monetary incentive for a positive review and despite receiving the product free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.



About Me, Background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases –

I generally prefer a u-shaped sound that is close to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound. I’m not particularly treble sensitive so I may be more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I will note if I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review and describe the sound changes.

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Accessories –



The RE-600 V2 comes identically packaged to the original model with the same extravagant faux leather box and accessory suite. The lightly padded leather contrasts to the chromed RE-600 plate, all crafting an air of premium quality.



The top cover magnetically opens to reveal the RE-600 while the bottom contains the eartips and cable winder. Some papers, extra nozzle filters and a hard carrying case are packaged separately due to popular request. Unfortunately, the carrying case is quite average, poorly sized and frankly cheap feeling.



I suppose it’s because a case was never meant to be included with the RE-600 though even the cheap zippered unit is better than nothing. The included eartips are similarly of questionable quality, a few of mine had forming issues and most were strangely sized. Rather than including small, medium and large sized tips, Hifiman equip the RE-600 with a medium dual-flange sized tip and only include considerably larger tips in the box. Strangely, the pre-installed tips are also made from a different silicone than the others though I found the stock dual flanges to provide the best combination of comfort and sound quality anyway.



Design –

The RE-600 is almost identical to the RE-400 in size and shape with only the piano black finish and improved cable differentiating between the two. The RE-600 looks subjectively more premium though I do prefer the matte texture of the bare aluminium RE-400, the gloss finish can diminish in-hand feel though this is hardly relevant when in the ear. And honestly, I’m glad that Hifiman decided to stick with the same design because it is exceptional in almost every way.


The RE-600’s ergonomic advantages begin with their minute housings that are even smaller than the already tiny ie800 and magnitudes smaller than the Pinnacle P1 and 1More Quad-Driver. The cylindrical housings are just 7 millimetres in diameter with some fluting to enable the use of slightly larger drivers. The housings are entirely aluminium but remain essentially weightless due to their small dimensions. Their gloss black finish is even and the earphones feel pretty well finished though they still pale in comparison to meticulous build on the 1More Quad Driver. The rear face exposes the silver metal underneath with a concentric texture adding some visual intrigue. Hifiman apply a clear coat over the exposed metal to prevent scratches though mine still suffered from a few nicks during daily usage.



The earphones have average sized straight nozzles that will fit most tips out there such as the Sony Hybrids and Spinfit Cp100s. The RE-600 was designed for a deep, cable down fit though due to their very laterally placed strain reliefs, they also fit perfectly over-ear (I preferred to wear them over-ear to reduce cable noise). Either way, the RE-600 is perfectly comfortable for long-term listening, one of those earphones that disappear in the ear, and provides great passive noise isolation, just less than the fully sealed monitors from Shure and Westone. They are perhaps the smallest, most isolating dynamic driver earphones I have ever tested. When paired with foams, the RE-600 easily suffice for any kind of travel including air travel. Fit stability is also fantastic and the earphones easily stay put during my usual 6km run without requiring adjustment, they are just as isolating and stable as most sealed monitors but are far more comfortable long-term. They are quite low-profile during when inserted though side lying is still not ideal due to the shape of their housings.



As stated by Hifiman, the main change with the RE-600 V2 is its improved cable, both in terms of build and sound, seeking to address the primary shortcoming of previous Hifiman models. The new cable is a silver plated copper unit with a smooth texture above the y-split and fabric weave beneath. Unfortunately, the cable is still fixed though the inclusion of any kind of connector would not be possible due to the earphone’s size. That being said, the included cable is of pleasing quality and feels far sturdier than most. Strain relief on all terminations, especially the jack and earpieces are exemplary and I have confidence in their longevity; I actually prefer having a solid fixed cable over the ergonomically flawed semi-replaceable unit on the ie800. The cable is essentially silent when wearing the earphones over the ear and never catches on clothing during commute due to its smooth texture. It is a bit stiff, especially above the y-split, with more memory than I would like though it isn’t springy and rarely tangled during my use. Thickness is on the beefier side, around 30% thicker than the cable on the RE-400 which is fantastic. The straight 3.5mm plug is quite low profile but will not fit into thicker phone cases due to a lack of any offset. Overall, I am content with the RE-600 V2’s cable, it is hugely improved over the thin, rubbery unit on the RE-400 and RE-600 but ergonomically, the cable still falls short of the brilliant Meeaudio MMCX cable and even the super tangle resistant 1More cable.



Sound –



Utilising a single dynamic driver, it’s easy to dismiss the RE-600 as over-priced for what is on offer. But in reality, it’s the quality of that driver and surrounding acoustics that really matters, much more so than the complexity of the driver array itself; the Sennheiser ie800 is a fitting example. And while hybrids and multi-armature earphones have all become commonplace around this price point, I actually find myself preferring single dynamic driver earphones in a number of scenarios. The RE-600 exemplifies my beliefs with a midrange that one could almost mistake for a BA earphone mated to a lovely extended bass response and smoother treble that avoids the sharper tones that can affect some BA’s. Of note, the only sonic differences on the new RE-600 V2 over the original can be attributed to their new SPC cable, the drivers and housings have remained unchanged.

While I’m not the biggest believer of burn-in, there is no doubt in my mind that the RE-600 has undergone change in one way or another. Out of the box, the RE-600 sounded quite dry and their midrange was unnatural. While a lot of earphones sound the same out of the box or experience small changes relatively quickly, the RE-600 did require a lot of burn-in, around 200 hours before I noticed any changes at all. By the time I got around to the full review, my RE-600 had over 300-hours of burn-in and sounded perfectly natural and extended in either direction. I also rolled a few tips looking for a little extra low-end and found the Spinfits and Sony Hybrids to provide that little extra warmth. However, both also had a negative effect on the midrange so I ultimately stuck with the stock dual flange tips as they were the most linear and natural sounding to my ear.



Tonality –

The term balanced gets tossed around a lot in reviews but few earphones are described as being neutral. Because neutral is so similar yet so different to balanced; while I would call an earphone like the New Primacy or Campfire Andromeda balanced, they are most certainly not neutral in any way. And that’s because neutrality isn’t always ideal, balance enables room for sculpting and personalisation whereas neutral is thought to be derivative of a tool as was the original Etymotic ER4. But with neutrality comes many benefits, namely transparency, consistency and resolution. The RE-600 is almost ER4 neutral but with better sub-bass extension, a little more deep bass presence and a smoother high-end. This actually makes it very difficult to appreciate the RE-600 because they don’t leverage clarity and aggressive high-frequencies like the ER4 and Grado GR10E to justify being so lean. Instead, the RE-600 is smoother and more laid-back, how they can be so forward and laid-back at the same time escapes me, and though it provides an unorthodox listen, the RE-600 has all the technicality I could wish for.

They can sound anaemic on first listen, but one can quickly acclimatise to their sound, especially if you’re coming from an already leaner earphone. Their stunning transparency and great end to end extension also mean that they respond very well to eQ, and it was evidently a conscious choice on Hifiman’s behalf to make them sound this neutral and lean. I do feel that the RE-600 is actually slightly mid-forward though bass and treble never become overwhelmed in any way.



Soundstage –

The RE-600 has a fantastic soundstage considering the size and nature of the earphones sound though the outstanding 1More Quad Driver possesses more space and separation while the Pinnacle P1 is wider in presentation. The RE-600 has a well-rounded presentation with very good width and depth but just average height; though few earphones around this price really excel in this regard. Imaging is the RE-600’s speciality, they are one of the best performers I’ve ever heard with regards to instrument placement and centre image at any price. When listening to Bigbang’s “Last Dance”, vocals were appropriately diffuse without sounding distant while guitar strums and atmospheric effects were all perfectly placed with exceptional layering and plenty of space. By comparison, the RE-400, Pinnacle P1 and even 1More Quad Driver all provided considerably vaguer responses. Separation is very impressive, not quite Quad Driver impressive, but easily on par with the Pinnacle and other similarly priced earphones despite the RE-600 being the most mid-forward. It’s the soundstage that really prevents the RE-600S V2 from sounding over forward and fatiguing, it is far superior to the Etymotic ER4 in terms of space while retaining that razor sharp imaging, making the RE-600S the endlessly more listenable daily earphone.



Drivability –



Despite the RE-600 originally being designed for Hifiman’s dedicated balanced sources, the RE-600S V2 is very easy to drive from essentially any source. With a sensitivity of 102dB and an impedance of 16ohms, the RE-600S V2 reaches dangerous volumes from portable sources and is more impervious than most to hiss. They were driven fine from my iPod Nano 7G and HTC 10 with my Oppo HA-2 and Fiio X7 providing minimal benefit. In fact, due to their rather immaculate transparency, the RE-600S V2 finds better synergy with warmer, more musical sources over analytical ones, and the slightly fuller X5 III and HTC 10 both provided perfect pairings. They don’t require an external amplifier but scale very well, again due to their transparency, and they are without a doubt one of the most revealing earphones I have heard, despite not being the most technical or analytical.



Bass –

The RE-600S V2 is very neutral in the bass department with a slight emphasis on deep and sub-bass. They are completely devoid of flab or bloat and bass speed is comparable to any armature-based earphone. That being said, they also have a lot more sub-bass than the vast majority of armature earphones, even those costing many times more. Once adjusted to their lean low-end, I quickly realised that the RE-600S V2 isn’t missing out on any low-frequency information with great sub-bass reach and nice rumble. They don’t have the same bottomless bass response as the ie800 or larger dynamic driver earphones like the cheaper Fiio F5, but they do provide a nice sense of moving air when the track calls for it. Being as transparent as they are, bass really gets out of the way when not called for and the earphones can sound quite thin with certain material. On the flipside, the RE-600S V2 has the ability to sound very full and warm, once again, when the track calls for it. As a result, the RE-600S is not always the easiest earphone to listen to and they don’t sugar coat your music like a lot of earphones out there, but if you’re looking for fidelity, you will find plenty to love here.

Of course, isolated comments fine, but it’s in comparison to class leading earphones in different price ranges that the relative performance of the RE-600S V2 becomes apparent. From the outset, Hifiman’s highly awarded RE-400 presents as the most pertinent comparison and though the two don’t vary much in tuning, the quality of the RE-600’s sound has been universally improved. Within the low frequencies, the RE-600 is instantly more deep bass focused than the RE-400, though the RE-400 has more mid-bass, sounding fuller as a result. When listening to Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s “Soul to Squeeze”, bass notes on RE-600S had more of a sub-bass focus, bass had more depth while the RE-400 sounded slightly fuller and more punchy. Bass notes had more texture on the RE-600 despite having slightly less emphasis and bass resolution was appreciably improved. I also found comparison with the GR10E to be intriguing as both earphones pursue a similar sound yet the Grado has maintained its initial $400 asking price; so let’s see if that retained value translates to a similarly timeless audio performance. Being a single BA earphone, the GR10E lacks the bass depth and sub-bass fullness of the RE-600, although its single moving armature driver grants it with very impressive end to end extension. Listening to David Bowie’s “No Plan” revealed that the RE-600S manages more sub-bass solidity and a little more texture in the low-end. The GR10E had a punchier mid-bass performance that was still without a hint of bloat or flab; it was also admirably nimble and tactile, handily matching a lot of multi-armature earphones. The GR10E did have a little more bass definition though both resolved similar amounts of nuance and texture.



Mids –

Hifiman has always impressed me with their midrange tuning, and its good to see that their expertise with open headphones has transitioned well to the in-ear form factor. It was actually within their midrange that the RE-600S drew parallels with the RE-400 and Grado GR10E with the RE-600S providing a nice middle ground between the warmer RE-400 and brighter Grado. The RE-600 unsurprisingly has more similar tuning to the RE-400 though subtle tweaks in all areas bring the tonality closer to neutral reference while improving upon resolution, transience and texture. The RE-600 is a slightly mid-forward earphone with very revealing and neutral bodied mid tones that makes the slightly thicker, warmer RE-400 sound lacking in resolution and detail. The RE-600 also has more midrange clarity partly due to their more forward presentation though they still don’t quite sound as glossy as the more sculpted earphones around this price like the 1More Quad Driver. The RE-600 is also an exceptionally coherent earphone, more so than the RE-400 due to its superior staging performance, with improved vocal layering, background detail and separation. The RE-600 is very detailed despite not being particularly aggressive, with similar retrieval to class leaders like the Pinnacle P1.

But coming back to the RE-600’s initial $400 asking price and comparison is not quite so single sided. While they comfortably compare to the very best $200 earphones out at present, the RE-600S V2 still lacks that extra layer of technicality possessed by more expensive earphones. To reinforce my point, I’ll draw comparison back to the $400 Grado GR10E, released around the same time. Immediately, the GR10E provides a surprisingly balanced listen for a Grado product; it is definitely one of my favourites from the company. The Grado maintains tinges of that signature Grado sound with a slightly brighter tonal tilt and a plethora of midrange detail, definition and resolution. Though the RE-600 is a very clear and resolving earphones, the GR10E is clearer yet and slightly more resolving at the cost of sounding slightly thin and raspy throughout. The RE-600S sounds more natural with more body to vocals but also less overall clarity. And though they are more accurate in this regard, the hyper clear GR10E really flatters female vocals and accentuates their sublime resolution and detail retrieval. On the contrary, the more linear RE-600 is more consistent with most instruments and male vocals do tend to sit slightly behind on the GR10E, where they are more balanced on the RE-600. The GR10E is also a little dry in the lower mids while the RE-600 proves to be more natural and coherent. Considering that I prefer brighter earphones, it’s no surprise that I bias the GR10E though, at their reduced price, the RE-600S represents terrific value with only slight compromise on quality while holding some advantages in tuning.



Highs –

Despite their lean bass response and linear midrange, the most polarising aspect of the RE-600S V2 will likely be their treble tuning. As aforementioned, most lean, neutrally tuned earphones like this tend to have aggressive treble responses that provide awesome clarity and detail uninterrupted by their leaner low-end. However, the RE-600S V2, despite their new silver plated cable, is instead quite smooth and laid-back with slight roll-off at the very top truncating some high notes. So like the Fiio F5, they do lack that instant wow-factor though longer term, they prove to be just as revealing while being vastly less fatiguing; As much as I love the GR10E, I wouldn’t listen to them all day for instance.

When listening to Radiohead’s “High and Dry”, treble notes on the RE-600S were notably more resolving than the RE-400 though the RE-400 does have a little extra emphasis that the RE-600 does not possess, making the RE-400 sound more vivid and dynamic. That being said, the RE-600 doesn’t sound particularly dark due to their great detailing and resolution and the RE-400 does sound more granular by comparison. The Grado’s are interesting in that they create that vivid and endlessly revealing treble response without succumbing to grain or harshness. This was most evident when booting up Nirvana’s “Lithium”, a very treble heavy song which can sound downright crunchy on some earphones, especially those with any kind of middle treble emphasis; fortunately for me, neither the RE-600S nor the GR10E provided an ear-splitting rendition. The GR10E immediately impressed with fantastic extension, detail retrieval and air. The RE-600S was a little rolled off in the high-end, especially audible in comparison to the GR10E, with treble notes being pushed back a little by comparison and higher details were less crisp and aggressive in their presentation. The high end on the RE-600 is definitely on the more laid-back side despite the upper midrange being quite aggressively detailed whilst the GR10E is quite aggressive all the way through. As a result, the RE-600S is smoother throughout though the GR10E is more separated and considerably more open.



Verdict –

While the $99 RE-400 broke headlines with its value for money, the RE-600 is not to be seen as overpriced or underperforming in any way. While it doesn’t sound as engaging and dynamic as most of the earphones that we have come to consider balanced or impressive, when attuned to the RE-600’s mellow and delightfully linear tuning, all those earphones come off as unnatural and sculpted. I don’t mean to hype up the RE-600, it’s not a new earphone nor is it a flawless one, but I do think it has been severely underappreciated and misunderstood in many ways. Because at the end of the day, the RE-600 is an incredibly versatile and natural sounding earphone with ergonomics that are nothing short of outstanding. Sure, I would prefer a little more treble extension and perhaps a smidge more midrange clarity, but the RE-600 carries that neutral balanced armature sound pioneered by the original Etymotic earphones without compromising sub-bass extension and soundstage size.



But if you don’t understand the audiophile jargon, our bias towards neutral earphones and love for transparency, but have stumbled onto the RE-600S V2 anyway, I should warn you that this earphone is most certainly not for you, nor was it really designed for a consumer market. The RE-600S V2 competes very well with earphones like the Quad Driver and Pinnacle on a technical level though those will definitely serve many listeners much better with their more polite tuning. I’m not downplaying the RE-600 here in any way, simply stressing that impressive technical performance doesn’t always translate to an impressive listen and while I think everyone can appreciate the RE-600S V2, I’m not sure everyone can enjoy it.

Verdict – 8.5/10, If there’s one advantage the RE-600 holds over other earphones, it would be consistency; they perform so predictably with every genre, vocals, in particular, always sound exceptionally lifelike and natural. So don’t let the leaner, more laid-back tuning turn you off because extended listening reveals that the RE-600 has all the resolution and fidelity we are all looking for in this hobby. They haven’t aged since their inception, rather the RE-600 has matured with more modern earphones lacking the refinement and restraint of Hifiman’s classic offering.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed my review, please see my website for more just like it:
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