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HIFIMAN RE800

Rating:
3.92308/5,
  1. Brooko
    RE800 – Unrealised Potential
    Written by Brooko
    Published Jul 29, 2017
    3.0/5,
    Pros - Close to reference signature, generally good SQ, resolution. coherency, fit, comfort
    Cons - 7 kHz peak (sharp), cable connection quality (being addressed), value
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    Picture are default 1200 x 800 resolution - click to view larger images.

    INTRODUCTION

    I posted my RE2000 review just a few weeks ago, and the follow up to that review was always going to be it's sibling – the RE800. When Mark contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing both the RE2000 and RE800 I went into it knowing I couldn't afford the RE2000 but hoping that the RE800 might hit a sweet spot between sound and affordability. I'd loved the RE400/600? earphone which was included with the HiFiMan SuperMini when I reviewed it, and was expecting that the RE800 might sit somewhere between it and the new flagship RE2000. And after reviewing the RE2000 and hearing how wonderfully tuned, and how responsive the new Topography driver was, I was looking forward to putting it though its paces.

    ABOUT HIFIMAN

    HifiMan Audio was founded in late 2005 by Dr Fang Bian when he was resident in New York. He started Head-Direct, and in 2007 began use of the HifiMan brand. They started initially with in-ear earphones, branched out into building hi-res portable players, and this was followed by planar magnetic headphones. As the business grew, so did the need to expand, so in 2010 Dr Bian started two small factories in China, and moved the HQ to Tianjin China in 2011. They are now a well recognised brand globally – particularly in the field of portable or personal audio products.

    I found most of these short facts from a couple of interviews with Dr Bian posted on line, and among the interviews were a couple of direct quotes which I found fascinating and illuminating:

    I started listening to a lot of music when I was in high school. I used a Walkman and Discman all the time because I had nothing else available to me. They were designed more for convenience than great sound. I wanted both- convenience and great sound so that set the stage for my dream to build the best sounding personal audio products.

    Starting with me, everyone is passionate about what we are doing at HiFiMAN. We may not always do everything perfectly from the beginning but we try hard to get it right in the end and our track record is pretty good. Most of all, I want our customers to know how much we appreciate them. Their support and feedback is invaluable.
    [
    /SIZE]

    DISCLAIMER

    The HifiMan RE800 that I’m reviewing today was provided to me as a review sample. After I finish with the review, I will arrange a tour through NZ and maybe Australia. At the completion of the tour, I will either return the IEM to HifiMan, or they may allow me to hang onto it for further review comparisons. Either way – they retain ownership.

    I have made it clear to HifiMan that I still regard any product they send me as their sole property and available for return any time at their request. But I thank them for the ability to review and possibly continue use of the RE800 for follow up comparisons. I do not make any financial gain from this review – it is has been written simply as my way of providing feedback both to the Head-Fi community and also HifiMan themselves.


    I have now had the HifiMan RE800 for just over 3 weeks. The retail price at time of review is USD 699.

    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)

    I'm a 50 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portables (mostly now from the FiiO X5iii, and iPhone SE) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Sennheiser HD800S, Sennheiser HD600 & HD630VB, and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2 and Adel U6. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).

    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880. I have a specific sensitivity to the 2-3 kHz frequency area (most humans do) but my sensitivity is particularly strong, and I tend to like a relatively flat mid-range with slight elevation in the upper-mids around this area.


    I have extensively tested myself (ABX) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent. I do use exclusively red-book 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables (unless it was volume or impedance related), and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 50, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays). My usual listening level is around 65-75 dB.

    For the purposes of this review - I used the HifiMan RE800 from various sources at my disposal – both straight from the headphone-out socket, and also amplified. In the time I have spent with the HifiMan RE800, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (break-in).

    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.


    THE REVIEW

    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
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    Front of the retail box Rear of the retail box

    The RE800 arrived in a large retail box (253 x 183 x 70mm) – which consists of a full printed sleeve over a “jewellery type” hinged lid box. The outer sleeve is nicely done in grey with a carbon type pattern, clean white (and easy to read) text, with a picture of the RE800 on the front (as well as a sticker stating that they are electroplated with a fine 24K gold finish). The rear has specifications and contact details.

    The inner box is what looks like a wooden/mdf case with a grey contact paper (the sort you cover kids school books with) over the top. It actually doesn't look too bad – but nowhere near the black leatherette that the RE2000 had. In the center is a printed square with the HifiMan logo, the RE800 model number, and their slogan “Innovating the Art of Listening”. The inner box is closed with a polished stainless hasp.


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    The inner box First look inside

    Opening the box reveals the RE800 and a rather plain looking generic clamshell zip-up carry case fitted into a foam top layer via cut-outs. Opening the case reveals silicone tips, a pair of formed ear guides, and 2 packs of Comply foam tips. In a compartment under the case are contact and warranty cards, and a very informative full colour booklet on the RE2000.

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    The full packageExcellent full colour guide

    The accessories include:
    • 2 pairs of black silicone triple flange tips
    • 1 pair of grey silicone “flat” dual flange tips
    • 1 pair of black silicone “flat” dual flange tips
    • 1 pair of grey silicone single flange tips
    • 1 pair of medium T400 genuine Comply tips
    • 1 pair of large T400 genuine Comply tips
    • 1 pair black flexi ear-guides
    • 1 black soft shell storage case
    • Maintenance and warranty card.
    • Full colour booklet/manual

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    Tip selection Storage case

    The storage case is moderately large, and is not really jeans friendly, but would be ideal for use as a carry case in a larger jacket pocket, loose trousers or carry bag. It is 80mm in diameter, 35mm in height, with a zippered lid, and internally lined with a soft canvas like material. The case looks fairly generic, but should do the job for transport, and should provide a nice mix of portability and reasonably safe storage / protection when on the go.

    All in all, the included accessories are fair, but not outstanding for this price point.


    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    (From HifiMan’s packaging / website)
    ModelHifiMan RE800
    Approx price$699 USD
    TypeSingle Dynamic IEM
    Driver9.2 mm Dynamic with Topology coating
    Freq Range20Hz – 20kHz
    Impedance60Ω
    Sensitivity105 dB
    Cable Type1.3m, non replaceable
    Cable MaterialsSilver coated crystalline copper
    Jack3.5mm gold plated single ended, right angled
    Weight27g
    Casing materialBrass with electroplated 24K gold finish

    FREQUENCY GRAPH

    The graphs below are generated using the Vibro Veritas coupler and ARTA software. Ken Ball (ALO/Campfire) graciously provided me with measurement data which I have used to recalibrate my Veritas so that it mimics an IEC 711 measurement standard (Ken uses two separate BK ear simulators, we measured the same set of IEMs, and I built my calibration curve from shared data). I do not claim that this data is 100% accurate, but it is very consistent, and is as close as I can get to the IEC 711 standard on my budget.

    I do not claim that the measurements are in any way more accurate than anyone else's, but they have been proven to be consistent and I think they should be enough to give a reasonable idea of response - especially if you've followed any of my other reviews. When measuring I always use crystal foam tips (so medium bore opening) - and the reason I use them is for very consistent seal and placement depth in the coupler. I use the same amp (E11K) for all my measurements - and output is under 1 ohm.

    The graphs are provided merely as a point of discussion, and later in the review I've included comparisons to other IEMs for similar reference.


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    My sonic impressions of the RE800 – written well before I measured, and amended afterwards with frequency information:
    • Bass is quite linear, definitely not overly emphasised and tends to sit behind the mid-range a little. Extension is reasonable into sub-bass, and there is audible rumble but it is somewhat subdued. The bass that is presented is quite natural in tonality though.
    • Lower mid-range is nicely in line with the bass, but recessed compared to upper mid-range. Male vocals are nicely presented with good sense of timbre.
    • Upper mid-range is emphasised, but it's a really nice gradual rise to between 3-4 kHz and gives female vocals a nice sense of euphony.
    • Lower treble extension is extremely good, but there is a really large peak at 7 kHz – some 10 dB above the highest mid-range peak and more than 20 dB above the lower mid-range. As a result, the lower treble is quite splashy and brash – especially with cymbals. Softening this peak produces a much better signature in my opinion.
    • Overall a really nice signature apart from that single peak. It's just too sharp and can get quite harsh/brittle depending on the recording and listening volume. More on this later.
    • Channel matching is excellent (much like the RE2000) – among the best I've seen throughout the entire spectrum.

    BUILD AND DESIGN

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    Rear view of the shellSide view

    At first glance the RE800 looks quite elegant, shiny, and pretty well built. The outer shell is an all gold electroplated (over brass) two piece shell shaped similar to their RE400 and RE600, and is what I would call a tear-drop or water-drop design. The seam or join where the two pieces meet is visible when looked at closely, but is also very smooth and placed together well.

    The interesting thing about the actual housing itself though is some of the research which went into the material to use. HiFiMan went through a very extensive prototyping development stage, and came down to three options – bronze, copper and brass. Bronze proved too hard for forming, and copper was too soft. Brass proved to be the ideal middle ground, and also had the right tonal properties. Now we know that brass is also prone to oxidisation, and this is probably the reason for the additional use of the 24K gold electroplating to finish the shells.


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    Front view and nozzleHiFiMan logo and very faint L/R markings

    The RE800 is a small IEM with an end to end length/width of just 17mm (from the rear to the front of the nozzle), and a circumference of just 11mm at its widest point. Any edges are nicely rounded, and there are no sharp corners which could end up touching your ear. The nozzle is 6mm in diameter, mesh covered and has an extremely generous lip.

    The perfectly symmetrical tear-drop shape means that the RE800 can either be used cable up or cable down, and the shape lends well to a relatively deep insertion.


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    Y-splitRight angle jack

    There are virtually no markings anywhere on the RE800 – except for a small HiFiMan logo on the very base, and also an extremely tiny L/R indicator on each cable exit. To actually work out which ear-piece is which (and remember the two basically look identical), you have to squint to actually try and see the markings. Its just not a good design. Even a little bump on the left or right exit would have made tactile identification possible.

    Speaking of the exit, it is simply a hollow tube extending perpendicularly from the main body. The cable is routed through this hollow tube, and there is no strain relief. Given that this is a fixed cable, and this is potentially a point on the IEM where stress could cause cable damage, its simply unfathomable that this was not addressed before release. And especially so when you consider some critique HiFiMan have had on their RE400 and RE600 designs in the past, and also considering this is a $700 earphone. This is a design flaw that needs to be addressed.

    Edit : Hifiman have since posted that they are introducing a replaceable cable design now using an MMCX connection (https://www.head-fi.org/f/threads/how-do-you-improve-upon-gold.855108/). Nice job HifiMan.


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    HifiMan's jack (L) vs Dunu's (R)New connector (photo courtesy of HFM)

    The cable is a crystalline copper wire with a silver coating (SPC), and finished with a quite satiny black overwrap which appears to be a PVC base. The main cable appears to be quite sturdy and strong, but north of the Y-split the cable is quite a bit thinner.

    At the Y-split there is no relief, but I don't really think its needed because of the design (generally this area hangs down and there is no constant movement). The lower cable is also strong enough, and the Y-split itself is essentially a hollow tube with a tapered base. It is made of the same material as the shells, printed with the model number, and has an excellent cinch.

    The jack is 3.5mm, right angled, and has a quite heavy duty housing. The standard stereo plug is gold plated. An interesting thing about the jack is that despite its heavy duty appearance, unscrewing the cylinder shows the use of electrical tape for insulation rather than the more popular heat shrinking. Both do the same job, but the electrical tape sort of clashes with the price point / build expectation.

    Internally HiFiMan uses what they call a 9.2mm Topology driver. They have invested a lot of time into researching advanced depositional technology, and the result is a driver with a nano particle coating applied to it's surface. The distribution of the coating has distinct geometrical patterns, and this allows HiFiMan to manipulate or control the wave patterns to achieve a desired audio effect. According to Dr Fang Bian, “different nano materials have differing structures and each of these materials has its own properties”. Therefore by carefully controlling the diaphragm surface structure, you can yield different results in acoustic performance to a degree previously unobtainable with conventional designs. Dr Bian also says that the Topology driver also reduces uncontrolled diaphragm distortions which occur in both BA and standard dynamic drivers.

    HiFiMan also claim that no other driver technology allows for such control and precision resulting in clarity, detail and nuance such that it can best the world's most complicated multi driver set-ups, but with none of the coherency and crossover issues.


    FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION

    I'll start with the easy one (isolation), and we can then look at fit and comfort. Isolation will be dependent on tip selection and insertion depth. If you get a good seal, isolation is exceptionally good (definitely well above average for a vented dynamic IMO). While it may not reach the absolute high isolation of sealed BA IEMs, I would have no issues trying these in noisier environments, including long haul flights.

    Regarding fit and comfort – and these thoughts can be more subjective, although due to the small size and rounded design, I can't see comfort being an issue for anyone. As I stated earlier, these can be used either over ear or cable down, and because of the diminutive size, insertion is fairly deep which means nothing really touching the outer ear – which equals no discomfort.

    I'm going to quote from the manual:
    “The shape of the housing is a traditional, rounded bulbous shape taking its design from the RE400 and RE600. Rounded, smooth and simple in its harmoniously elegant symmetry. Smooth and curving it rests gently in the ear and should give users a comfortable fit, worn up or down, as best suits their personal preferences.”

    This time HiFiMan are entirely correct in their printed summary. The design is both comfortable and fits snugly no matter which way you orient them. Thumbs up from me.


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    HFM's triple and single flangeOstry tuning and modded Spinfit

    Like the RE2000, the RE800 also has a generous lip on the nozzle, and this means that practically any tips will fit. Because of the deeper fit, I personally found the triple flanges a little lengthy, but Comply tips and foam modded Spin-fits definitely did the trick for me. I also tried Spiral-dots, Sony Isolation tips, Ostry tuning tips and a number of others.

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    Spiral dot and ComplyExcellent comfort (they are tiny)

    The HiFiMan RE800 sits inside my outer ear when worn, and I can easily wear them for extended time periods (they are quite simply non-fatiguing). I can lie down with them, and sleeping with them intact causes no issues.


    SOUND QUALITY

    The following is what I hear from the RE800. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my FiiO X5iii (single ended) and A5 amp, no EQ, and Comply foam tips. I used the FiiO devices simply because paired they give me a very transparent window to the music with low impedance, and more than enough power. With both, there was no DSP engaged.

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    The X5iii and A5 test comboFiiO X5iii solo or X7ii were also more than enough

    For the record – on most tracks, the volume pot on the A5 (paired with X5iii) was just under one quarter (on low gain) which was giving me an average SPL around 65-75 dB. Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.17556


    Relativities
    • Sub-bass – has good extension and even at my low listening levels some rumble is audible, but somewhat gentle. There is not the same impact as the RE2000. There is also no boosted over-emphasis and sub-bass sits extremely well within the overall frequency mix. There is no bleed into lower mid-range. Quality and timbre of the bass is very good (the Topography driver seems to handle bass really well), and the RE800 sub-bass definitely sounds more “reference” to me than boosted.
    • Mid-bass – has a small but quite natural mid-bass hump – and impact is sufficient but does not go much beyond that. Lovers of a stronger bass will probably need this area boosted, but as a more reference bass lover, I find it fits perfectly in line with both sub-bass and lower mid-range. Again the term “reference” comes to mind.
    • Lower mid-range – there is virtually no recession at all compared to bass, and overall this area fits pretty nicely between bass and upper mid-range. Male vocals are excellently portrayed, but there is unfortunately some heat coming from the lower treble area which can cause the lower mid-range to almost feel dry and a little thin. I think the lower mid-range is brilliantly tuned – and for the third time the thought that this is truly a reference tuning is what springs to mind.
    • Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range, and there is a gentle but sustained rise from 1 kHz to a first peak at 3-4 kHz, then a slight drop to 5kHz. The result is a clean and clear vocal range, with some very good cohesion and definite euphony for female vocals to sound sweet and elevated. The RE800 has been a relatively flat and well balanced monitor to this point, and this slow rise gives a nice mid-forward tuning. Again though, the issue stems from the lower treble – and its sad that with a lot of music, a dryness and leanness pervades. Its not the fault of the upper mid-range, but the lower treble.
    • And now we come to the problem area. Lower treble has very good extension, and really is quite sustained from 6-10 kHz. But there is a massive spike at 7 kHz which is a full 10 dB above the upper mid-range, and a scary 20+ dB above the lower mid-range. We know this area has the ability to heighten presence of cymbals and its not unusual to see it boosted – just not to this extent. When you do, there is an unnatural brittleness introduced, and for any music with presence at this frequency, it feels as if somebody has turned a button called “sizzle” on. It's also an area I know where many people have sibilance issues. On an almost perfect reference signature, I simply can't understand why HiFiMan have done this.
    • Upper treble – rolls off slowly but naturally – but still has some extension through the upper registers. I can't really comment on the sonic signature of the upper treble, as it is rare for me to hear any nuance at these frequencies.
    Resolution / Detail / Clarity
    • There is no doubt that the RE800 is a very revealing monitor. The reference nature of the bass, coupled with the upper mid-range and lower treble extension will always shine a spotlight on detail. What also helps is the Topography driver. Whatever HiFiMan have developed with this driver is pretty special. Overall resolution is quite incredible with nothing hidden. It is vibrant, clear and articulate (just unfortunately has that sizzle in the upper end). Pink Floyd's “Money” and 10CC's “Art for Art's Sake” both shone with the level of detail presented. This is undoubtedly a cooler, leaner drier signature than the RE2000, but I still like it. Take the annoying etch out (EQ!) and this should prove to be quite the signature.
    • Cymbal hits have excellent clarity and presence, and this includes decay. The problem though is the brashness or brittleness (which I know is the 7 kHz peak). It's just too much.
    • Overall I feel as though I'm hearing everything in the recording at my lower listening levels. Turning the volume up can get quite fatiguing though.
    Sound-stage, Imaging
    • Directional queues are very good – clean and clear and very precise.
    • Presentation of stage is definitely outside the periphery of my head space with binaural tracks. They are expansive but the sense of stage size isn't overdone.
    • Separation of instruments is also very good, and this seems to be a strong point of the Topography driver. The clear definition of each instrument is quite compelling.
    • Immersion during the applause section of “Dante's Prayer” was very good, a little more left/right than completely spherical, but circular enough to be thoroughly believable. What wasn't was the heightened harmonics from the clapping sound – again a brittleness which shouldn't be there.
    • “Let it Rain” is always my next track and it had a wonderful 3D-like sense of spatial presentation – it is the way the track was miked. The issue was an abundance of sibilance with Amanda's vocals – and I know its present in the recording – but this time it is being heightened.
    Sonic Strengths
    • For the most part, overall tonal balance and clarity
    • Imaging, separation and sense of space in the staging.
    • Very good portrayal of both male and female vocals, although can be a little on the lean / dry / cool side of things.
    • Detailed at low listening levels
    • Transition between lower and upper mid-range is very good.
    Sonic Weaknesses
    • This one is easy – the 7kHz peak. Its just too much, too unnatural, and things like natural decay on cymbals should not be this accentuated. When I listen to tracks with a lot of upper end detail, and cringe at some of the heat or sizzle that simply shouldn't be there, I know its a step too far. Some (like my friend George) are going to find this perfect, and good luck to them (we all have different preferences after all). I can adapt to it – but its still like biting on tin-foil at times. And this is from a treble lover who usually doesn't like anything overly smooth.
    • At higher volumes the RE800 has the ability to shred the lower treble if you have any music with strong 7 kHz presence.
    AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

    The RE800 is an interesting IEM with its 60ohm impedance and 105 dB sensitivity. Looking at the specs, you'd immediately think that this IEM will need extra amplification, and it does need a higher volume from most of my portable devices. To maintain my usual 65-75 dB listening level utilises around 55-60/120 on the X5iii by itself. This equates to almost 50% on my iPhone SE with the same track.

    I went back and forth (volume matching with test tones and fixed volume on the A5) comparing the X5iii both amped and unamped, and I couldn't say that there was any change in resolution or dynamics. Both sounded similar. I have been spending a lot of time in the evening with my iPhone SE. Its a very good portable set-up – especially for bed-time listening. Oh BTW – I EQ when using the RE800.


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    Testing with the IMS HVA, iDSD, FiiO A5 and E17KBut even an iPhone manages quite well

    I also with tried with the IMS Hybrid Valve amp and my iDSD but none of them seemed to be adding anything extra (although the tubes on the hybrid did soften that treble just a little). So I'd suggest that amping is not a requirement but for those who enjoy using a stack – definitely it won't hurt anything – and perhaps you'll notice improvements which were lost on me.

    I also had my daughter check for hiss, but none was present on any of my sources.


    EQ / BALANCED PERFORMANCE

    Unfortunately I could not test balanced performance as the cable is fixed and therefore I cannot test. At the price point, and considering they are adding an MMCX connector, I would suggest HiFiMan consider including a balanced cable?

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    EQ with E17K really helpedRemoving some top end and adding some bottom

    As far as EQ goes, I've obviously been using it for a while. On the FiiO devices I've simply been dropping the 8 kHz slider by 6 dB. Its enough to take the edge off and brings welcome relief to the etch or brittleness. I also used my X3ii + E17K set-up, and utilised the tone controls to try and adjust the peak down to what I would consider a more reference level. I ended up using -10 treble adjustment, and the change was so good (it also drops mid-range a bit) that I thought I'd measure it so others can see the change. This to me would have been a marked improvement. Adding a little extra bass on occasions also helped. Now you get all of the detail, but none of the pain.

    COMPARISON WITH OTHER IEMS

    This almost seems a little unfair – as I know the issue with the RE800, but I have to compare default sound with default sound. I chose IEMs purely based on comparable pricing (although included the RE2000 as they are from the same stable, and the Alclair Curve because it is one of my “go to” IEMs).

    For my source, I wanted something neutral, but with a good digital control, to make sure I could volume match properly, and still make sure there were no questions about power output. So one again I chose to use my old work-horse combo – the FiiO X3ii and E17K. Neutral – check. Power output OK – check. No DSP or EQ was used. Gain was low (I didn't need any more). I volume matched using a calibrated SPL meter and fixed 1kHz test tone first. My listening level was set at my normal 65-75dB.

    First up was Alclair's Curve at $250 (chosen because it has a small 7kHz lift but I wanted to show the difference between bump and peak), Jays q-Jays ~$279 Dunu's new DK-3001 at ~$500, Rhapsodio's older ~$555 RTi1 single dynamic, and 64Audio's ~$899 U6 (oh and the RE2000). Hopefully this gives enough insight to anyone interested in this IEM. Here are my very subjective personal thoughts:


    HiFiMan RE800 (~USD 699) vs Alclair Curve (~USD 249)
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    HiFiMan RE800 and Alclair CurveFrequency comparisons

    The Alclair Curve is a dual BA universal from Alclair, and one which has consistently been in my top 5 since I got it. In terms of build materials, the gold electroplated brass casing of the RE800 trumps the hard polycarbonate housing of the Curve – but as far as actual build quality, build design, fit and comfort goes, the two are pretty equal. Both are exceedingly comfortable and “disappear” when worn. The accessories go to the RE800 (slightly), whilst the cable quality goes to the Curve (although both are reasonably good at first glance, and we don't know what the replaceable options on the RE800 will be yet).The RE800 requires more power with its lower sensitivity and higher impedance.

    Sonically the Curve against the RE800 is an interesting comparison. They both have very similar bass and lower mid-range. Both also have a rise into the upper mid-range, although the RE800's climb is more sustained to a higher peak. Both have a 7 kHz peak, but the Curve's peak is less than half of that of the RE800, and that is where the issue is. The Curve is beautifully reference with a mid-range and lower treble bump which is nicely complimentary to the bass quantity. The RE800 is beautifully reference with a mid-range bump which compliments the rest of the frequency range, but a lower treble spike which dominates. I actually prefer the bass tonality / texture of HiFiMan's Topography driver over the bass on the Curve – but that's where it ends. The Curve does almost everything else better at almost 1/3 the price.


    HiFiMan RE800 (~USD 699) vs Jays q-Jays (~USD 279)
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    HiFiMan RE800 and Jays q-JaysFrequency comparisons

    Jays q-Jays is another diminutive dual BA universal, and also has a prominent peak in the 7 kHz region. In terms of build materials, I'd rate them evenly. Both are tiny, and both are made of excellent long lasting materials. But again as far as actual build quality, build design, fit and comfort goes, the two are equal (actual overall finish may even go to the q-Jays). Both are extremely comfortable and “disappear” when worn. The accessories go to the q-Jays, as does the cable quality and design (q-Jays is replaceable with an excellent locking mechanism).The RE800 requires more power with its lower sensitivity and higher impedance.

    Sonically the q-Jays (like the Curve) is very similar in bass and lower mid-range. The q-Jays are a lot flatter through the upper mid-range (I sometimes bump this up with EQ), and have a peak at 7 kHz which some of my on-line friends tell me can get a little peaky (I don't really notice it). In direct comparison, the RE800 again has that better bass tonality and timbre. If I could get half way between the upper mid-range (drop a bit from the RE800 and add a bit to the q-Jays), both would be improved. But you can again see the difference at 7 kHz where the RE800's “mountain” is more than 10 dB above the q-Jays comparative “mole-hill”. The q-Jays can sometimes appear to flat in the mid-range, but their treble nicely matches the rest of the frequency range. For me – even if I have to EQ both, there is not a compulsion to take the far more expensive RE800 over the better value q-Jays.


    HiFiMan RE800 (~USD 699) vs Dunu DK-3001 (~USD 500)
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    HiFiMan RE2000 and Dunu DK-3001Frequency comparisons

    Here we start getting closer on price. Both are built very sturdily with no real weaknesses. But the tiny RE800 is a lot more comfortable than the somewhat unwieldy DK-3001. Accessories are in favour of the Dunu – especially with both balanced and SE cables included – as well as the extra tips and other accessories. The RE800 requires more power with its lower sensitivity and higher impedance.

    Sonically these two are similar in same ways, different in others. The DK-3001 has better bass impact, is a little more mid-forward and also a little smoother as far as lower treble goes. The RE800 might still have edge on bass definition and speed, but it would be marginal. The DK-3001 is a touch more V-shaped, but it s also cleaner, clearer, and less etched.

    If judging solely on default signature, I'd take the DK-3001 over the RE800. But as I can EQ, and given the greater comfort with the RE800, then its a pretty even match. If comfort wasn't an issue with the DK-3001, I'd choose it every time over the RE800.


    HiFiMan RE2000 (~USD 2000) vs Rhapsodio RTi1(~USD 555)
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    HiFiMan RE800 and Rhapsodio RTi1Frequency comparisons

    Rhapsodio's RTi1 has yo-yo'd a bit on price lately, but now sits at a quite competitive $555 Build quality is similar in terms of actual materials (longevity), but there is no doubt the RE800 has the slightly better finishing. The RTi1 has the better quality cable, and it is removable. Both were similarly sparse on overall accessories included (considering their respective prices) – perhaps the RE800 edges slightly in front here, but neither offer much above “just enough”. Both are easy to fit and comfortable for longer term wearing. The RE800 requires more power with its lower sensitivity and higher impedance.

    Sonically these two have similarities and differences. The Rt1i has much stronger bass and is more of a V shaped monitor. They have extremely similar mid-ranges and transitions through to upper mid-range. Both have their treble peaks, and the peak on the RT1i was one of my critiques when I reviewed them. The RT1i's peak occurs a little earlier and can also be more than a little annoying – despite being smaller than the RE800. Both sound etched and overly hot with some tracks, and for me both require EQ. This is a really hard one to call and comes down to preference. Take the lower treble peaks out of both – and each one shines.


    HiFiMan RE800 (~USD 699) vs HiFiMan RE2000 (~USD 2000)
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    HiFiMan RE800 and RE2000Frequency comparisons

    Build quality on both is similar in terms of materials. Obviously the two are very different sizes, and that makes quite a difference in terms of comfort – with the RE800 being an IEM I can wear without any comfort issues for hours, while the RE2000 does have one annoying hard ridge (fixable by tip and angle of wearing). The RE800 has (for now) the fixed cable system, and the thinner wires from y-split to earphone would concern me slightly if there were any longevity issues (unknown at this stage). Both have similar accessory packages (personally one area I find slightly weak with HiFiMan compared to other offerings). The RE2000 and RE800 have almost the same power requirements.

    Sonically these two have somewhat similar bass through to upper mid-range, (the RE800 is a little thinner / leaner and cooler comparatively). The RE800 is also a lot brighter in the lower treble with the 7 kHz peak. Compared to the RE2000, the RE800 tends toward glare, and also enhances sibilance. The RE2000 is rich and smooth and has that effortless quality of letting you simply immerse yourself in the music. Both have questionable overall value – and I guess this depends on your disposable income. But I'd take the RE2000 despite the heftier cost.


    HiFiMan RE800 (~USD 699) vs 64 Audio U6 + G1 ADEL module (~USD 899)
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    HiFiMan RE800 and 64 Audio U6Frequency comparisons

    The U6 is another of my go-to monitors, so please take that into account during this comparison. For this comparison I chose to use the G1 module simply because it elevates the mid-range a little and I prefer a more mid-forward signature.

    Build quality (materials) is firmly in the RE800 favour. Its going to last for quite some time with the use of the alloys. Cable quality overall might be questionable on both and you'll note with my U6 that I'm now using the Linum Bax cable (because my 2nd 64Audio cable has broken at the 2 pin connector). I know 64Audio would have replaced it – but this time I wanted a longer lasting solution. Lets hope when HiFiMan move to their replaceable cable that they provide something with quality. Accessories are in the 64Audio camp with the U6 having the ADEL (or Apex) modules and ability to tune. Fit and comfort is shared – both are easy to wear for long periods. The RE800 does again require more power with its lower sensitivity and higher impedance.

    Sonically the U6 has the stronger bass overall and has a somewhat warmer tonality. The RE800 is a little leaner and cooler – and also a lot brighter with the more forward mid-range and peaky lower treble. I'd actually prefer it if the mid-range on the U6 was a little more of a natural transition (like the RE800), but it still sounds pretty good. Both earphones have a 7 kHz peak – but again the U6's is far lower, and also has the added warmth from mid and sub-bass to even things out. The U6 is more spacious overall with better width and depth of stage. Despite the higher cost, I'd again take the U6 – even if EQ was an option.


    VALUE

    The RE800 is a comfortable, well built monitor with a near reference signature, but one very annoying peak. Adding the replaceable cable is going to really help value – but overall I still think it's pitched too high. It may be the gold electroplating pushing things up, and if it is, then at least HiFiMan have some options. Less bling, introduce the replaceable cable, chop the 7 kHz peak, and all of a sudden you have a really good earphone – perhaps even worth around the $600 mark. In its current state though – I simply don't see the value. There are better options out there.

    HIFIMAN RE800 – SUMMARY

    Its actually quite easy to get used to the RE800 and they have a lot of good points. Sometimes you can even mask that peak – similar to how I mask my tinnitus (the brain is a wonderful filter after all). But in this case, with this earphone, it simply shouldn't be there. Its over-done, and at this price point you expect better. There are a lot of good points though.

    The RE800 is generally a well built and presented IEM which has few other flaws. HiFiMan have already said they are making the cable replaceable so that solves one potential issue. If they include a balanced cable as well – then perceived value will go up.

    Sonically it is very close to what I would term “reference”, and only hampered by the fact that the mids might be a touch too far forward, and we already know where the treble issues lie, and where they can be solved. With EQ applied, the RE800 is extremely well balanced and really is a delight to listen to. The Topography driver gives a really nice sense of timbre and tonality, and the instrument separation is very good indeed.

    But the RRP at USD 699 means that this is getting to the stage where potential buyers will be quite discerning, and for me anyway, they've missed the mark. Three and a half stars for me (although only three will show) – unrealised potential which hopefully they can fix with an update.

    Note that with a successful move to a quality removable cable (and including a balanced option), the 7 kHz peak dealt with, and a price around the $600 mark -this would be 5 star IMO.

    Again I just want to close with thanking HiFiMan and Mark for arranging the review sample.


    [​IMG]
  2. Arysyn
    HiFiMan RE800
    Written by Arysyn
    Published Jul 26, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Sound & Staging : Bass tight and near-neutral, Mids clear and neutral, Treble excellent all around with plenty of detail and space. Mostly intimate 3d-like sound
    Design & Fit : One of the very finest and best on the market
    Cons - While near-perfect to my preference, it would match my ideal sound signature with slightly less Bass quantity, and Vocals a bit more forward.
    Hello to everyone reading this, which is my first review posted here on Head-Fi. This is my overview of the RE800 by HiFiMan.

    To begin, I am going to give a bit of a disclaimer of sorts about my review style. From my experience reading and writing reviews, there are various ways in which a review can be written. The more common way I've seen, is where the reviewer describes the subject of the review from the perspective of trying to help you, the reader, in deciding whether or not to further explore the subject being reviewed in such ways that include the possibility of trying or buying that which is being reviewed.

    Of course I'd like for my reviews to help readers make those considerations more positively and productively. Although, sometimes reviews can be written in a way where it appears the reviewer is trying either to promote or discourage the sales of the subject being reviewed, whether or not that was the reviewer's intention.

    While the focus of a review still should be on the subject itself, I believe in order to avoid any negative connotations connecting myself to a particular subject I'm reviewing, I will write reviews in a style of my personal experience with the subject of my review as if I'm being interviewed about it, where my experiences with the topic are at least almost as important as the focus on the subject itself.

    Despite my technical reliance on audio frequency response graphs, which I utilize in understanding the sound signature output of a particular audio product, I believe that regardless of the technical attributes and the particular specifications of these audio products in delivering their sound signature output to every listener, there are a variety of various and varying variable interpretations of the very individual and unique perceptions from the resulting production that also deserves recognition when interpreting results regarding the sound signature output of any particular audio product.

    In writing my reviews and in reading comments from those who've read them, I will try to teach what I know, along with learning from others, particularly involving their connections to these personal audio products not only through the technical aspects of sound connectivity, but also from the sharing of our experiences brought on by the emotional connectedness to the music and delivered to us by the sources we choose to utilize for this very purpose. It is in that common bond we connect socially in our spiritual quest for that perfect sound, the very harmony which matches our deepest lows, our most enveloping and surrounding mids, and our heightened highs that delivers us to our sanctuary of sound, our audio utopia.

    In traveling on our journey to musical nirvana, there are plenty of insightful tools to help us reach that heavenly state of audio bliss. One of which is like a travel guide, audio frequency response graphs, which to us audio enthusiasts basically are scientific roadmaps to that wonderful soundscape we call our ideal sound signature. These are great tools to help us understand what our audio devices sound like. I am particularly dependant on these graphs to give me a clear description of a device's sound. Although as I mentioned earlier in this review, individual interpretations of each listener may differ, and the input they offer regarding their perceptions also are important to the understanding of audio output data.

    I happen to have recently had my very own audio frequency response graph designed for me by a graphic designer, to show an example of what my ideal sound signature is. I've already posted the graph in a few threads on the Head-Fi forum, but for the sake of this review, I'll display it again here.

    iemearphone-audio-frequency-response.png

    I'd say that pretty much describes my review stylings, including my own preferences. So now I'll begin discussing my impressions here about an audio product of Dynamic Driver - based iem earphones I believe produces a sound signature which somewhat closely resembles my own ideal sound signature preferences displayed on the audio frequency response graph, or at least it is one of the closest to doing so of all the Dynamic Driver - based iem earphones I've seen from the many audio frequency response graphs I've viewed online.

    The Dynamic Driver - based iem earphones I'm referring to, is the HiFiMan RE800. However, before I begin to describe my impressions of it, there is an audio frequency response graph of the RE800 displayed on the forum, which was produced by one of the Head-Fi Moderators, Brooko, of which I'm going to display here :

    Re800_channels.png

    While there are some differences between the RE800 and my ideal sound signature preferences, which are evident in the audio frequency response graphs displaying those differences, there also are some similarities. I will be describing them here throughout my review of the HiFiMan RE800.

    In regards to reviews concerning audio products, most of these reviews begin describing in detail everything visible regarding the product's design, fit, and the supplied accessories, along with displaying photographs relating to these details. Accompanying those photos, are images of other items that were brought alongside the main audio product. The important thing here to note regarding these aspects of the RE800, is that the build itself is made of a high-quality brass material housing, and it appears to be one of the best fitting iem earphones on the market.

    The product ought to fit very well in most ears, though isolation is highly dependent on the tip size. However, as is the case with almost any product purchase, the details regarding these issues ought to be researched thoroughly by the buyer in questioning the manufacturer and/or merchant about these details prior to purchase. No reviewer can completely describe the fit and feel of these audio products to the reader in absolute description to completion.

    My viewpoint of addressing accessories in a non-shopping product review, is that I believe such details are more appropriately suited for discussion in forum posts and in the reviews sections on merchant websites. I also believe the greater detail of these side offerings are best left to the manufacturer and the merchant to explain in their product's descriptions and purchasing information.

    I'm assuming that at least most viewers reading this review have already become aware of my ideal sound signature by looking at the audio frequency response graph I posted earlier in this review, which displays what my ideal sound signature essentially is. However, I'll also describe it in comparative words contrasting that of the sound signature produced by the RE800.

    In conducting my impression study for this review, I've listened to my song choices I hear when first trying a new audio product. These are the following tracks :

    Curtains (Myst4 Revelation version) by Peter Gabriel
    Veni Redemptor Gentium by Paul Schwartz
    Turning to Peace by Paul Schwartz
    Forever by Schiller
    Let Me Love You by Schiller
    Rivers of Belief by Enigma
    Return to Innocence by Enigma
    Dreammaker by Thomas Bergersen
    Merchant Prince by Thomas Bergersen
    Moment of Peace by Gregorian

    There are other tracks I normally listen to when first trying a new audio product, along with those I listed. However, I haven't found the time to do so yet.

    The main dac/amp source I'm using for the RE800, is the Meridian Explorer2, which hopefully I'll be reviewing sometime soon. I've also listened to the RE800 through the Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Roadie and the Zorloo Zuperdac. The differences in how the sources affected the sound signature of the RE800 were noticeable. From my estimation of the sources I've used regarding which source is producing the most similar sound signature in contrast with what the Meridian Explorer2 produces, is the Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Roadie, which when used with the RE800, increased the Bass by a 2dB difference between neutral, about half the measurement shown by the audio frequency response graph produced by Brooko. while bringing the Mids and Vocals to about neutral. The Treble sounds slightly less detailed than the Treble produced by the Meridian Explorer2. The Zorloo Zuperdac increased the Bass by double the amount in contrast with the Bass produced by the Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Roadie, or similar to the results shown by the audio frequency response graph produced by Brooko. The Treble sounds much less detailed than the Treble produced by the Meridian Explorer2. That describes how the RE800 sounds when listened through the sources I utilized.

    Now, I'll overview the differences between listening to the RE800 through the Meridian Explorer2 in contrast with the audio frequency graph showing my ideal sound signature.

    Mine (Bass region) : There is a line starting at the very beginning, which is at the 0Hz point, going upwards a 30dB increase to neutral, at the 50Hz point, which is near the middle of the Low-Bass region. From here at the 50Hz point, there is a neutral line to the 250Hz point. This is at the end of the entire Bass region.

    ME2/RE800 (Bass region) : There appears to be a very small amount more quantity in the Sub-Bass region than in my preference. The neutrality starts earlier in the Low-Bass region than in my preference. A neutral Bass overall, though because it begins earlier in the Bass region than in my preference, it provides a bit more Bass quantity than what I prefer. Although, the Bass quality is very good.

    Mine (Mids region) : From here at the 250Hz point, which is at the beginning of the Low-Mids region, there is a line going diagonally upwards a 5dB increase to the 500Hz point. This is at the end of the Low-Mids region, and at the beginning of the Mid-Mids region. From here at the 500Hz point, there is a neutral line to the 1KHz point. This is at the end of the Mid-Mids region, and at the beginning of the High-Mids region. From here at the 1KHz point, there is a line going diagonally upwards a 5dB increase to the 2KHz point. This is at the end of the entire Mids region.

    ME2/RE800 (Mids region) : Mostly neutral. Very rarely becomes recessed at all. However, my preference is for Vocals to be more forward. Although, the quality in keeping the Bass region separated from the Mids region is very good.

    Mine (Treble region) : From here at the 2KHz point, which is at the beginning of the Low-Treble region, there is a neutral line to the 10KHz point. This is at the beginning of the High-Treble region, where the audio frequency usually begins its decrease downwards on the audio frequency response graphs. Mine does too, but in a slow, even pattern, until the end.

    In comparing the ME2/RE800 Treble to my Treble preference, both are great. My preference would be a slightly higher Treble than the Mids of my preference, yet would remain flat in the Treble, without any peaks or dips. Although, I haven't yet heard any negative side effects from the Treble on the ME2/RE800 configuration as it is.

    My preference basically has the Bass at a low/neutral level, lower Mids on a slow incline upwards, so as to not allow muddiness into the sound, flattening in the middle of the Mids across that region for even, forward Vocals, then another slow incline upwards on the higher Mids for a fair buildup in clarity towards the Treble, which remains flat throughout, until towards the end.

    The ME2/RE800 has a smaller, opera house staging, rather than an arena staging. More intimate, though certainly larger than in a studio setting.

    The ME2/RE800 combination is great, regardless of my preferential differences. Despite that it doesn't completely match my preference, it gets close enough in the areas that really matter. Although, the other sources used with the RE800 did make me think more negatively towards the RE800 for the fact there was too much Bass, and not enough forwardness in the Vocals. Still, with the ME2 by its side and connected as its source, the RE800 is as great as I think it can be.
      Dobrescu George and earfonia like this.
  3. MrOTL
    Golden looks, golden sound!
    Written by MrOTL
    Published Jul 11, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - High resolution even 1 DD, Rich bass, Silky treble, Comfortable fit, Luxury appearance
    Cons - Passive mid-range(depend on device), Poor carrying case
    [​IMG]



    Hifiman Electronics is an audio manufacturer established in New York, USA in 2007 and is one of the few places that can produce headphones with magnetic planer driver. It is also introduced in "TIMES" magazine and has a high level of technology that earns good reputations from famous audio commentators. Hifiman, has focused on producing headphones for the past a decade, now challenges in-ear headphone market, which has been showing great growth in recent years.


    Specification of ‘RE800’ is pretty gorgeous. Brass housings are treated with 24K pure gold and new diaphragm technology called 'Topology diaphragm' is implanted on ‘RE800’. The 'topology diaphragm' is nano-coated on the surface of diaphragms, which can suppress distortion more than usual dynamics-drivers, while still providing a wider dynamic-range and headroom than amateur-balanced drivers. At the same time, it is possible to output the expression of the sound more uniformly.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The enclosures of both housings are made smaller than regular earphones in the same price range. Thanks to the reason, ‘RE800’ is possible to wear with over-ear-way too, so that people who have even small or big ear-canals use it more easily. Nozzles are the most common size (4 mm diameter), and the entrances are tightly covered with wire mesh. The single ducts beneath it reduced vibration of the diaphragm (Cracking sound when plug into canals) and air pressure in the ears.


    The cable is covered with a soft black cloth over silver-plated wires, and seems really simple likes ordinary earphone cables. The Y split and the cable slider are also plated with pure gold over brass materials, with brand and product model names engraved back and forth. The 3.5mm stereo input plug is made in a long and heavy-weighted with 'L' shape. There is some clearance in front of the plug, so no problem when using together with a smartphone or a portable audio device with thick cases.

    [​IMG]

    In particular, a single full-range silicon ear-tips are unique in that those are a single mass and has a layer like a double flange silicone ear-tips. The contained ear-guides provide good grip to prevent the ‘RE800’ from flowing down when mounted with over-ear way. The pouch has a pocket inside. However, it is still unfortunate that earphone is not completely protected against scratches or damage.








    Main Tested environment
    Hifiman Megamini DAP
    Sony NW-WM1A/ NW-A35
    Cowon Plenue D/P1/P2
    Astell&Kern AK70/240/380/SP1000
    Chord Electronics Hugo
    Samsung Galaxy S8+
    Mackbook Air 2015
    iPhone SE


    Music reference
    Classical, Jazz, New Age


    Usage time
    34 Hrs



    The "RE800" showcases emphasis on harmonic of the treble and bass. The presentation of sounds clearly is located from the center of the listener's head and width of soundstage is not opened than the shoulders. Even though midrange tends to be laid back a little because of the emphasized high and low frequency, there was no suppression or obtuse feeling due to the clear stage image.

    The bass particles are as micro-powder like flour and the roll-off response is linear and slowly decays. This feature delights listeners by explosion of intense bass, which sounds among even a lot of string-instruments in the orchestra as like as dust-explosion-characteristic.

    Thanks to the bass that resonates reliably without excessive distortion, even if the low-bass is emphasized, it does not give the listener fatigue. The smooth texture of the bass and natural expression is to be of great benefit in expressing the sounds of analog instruments, but in electronic music, bass instruments possibly tend to overlap one another.
    The midrange is warm and reverberant, allowing you to feel clear harmonic texture of vocals, pianos and classical guitars, and is heard one step laid back giving calm and clear tendency. The reverberation is evenly distributed to the upper and lower middles, and catches the sharp expression of female vocals as well as male’s.


    [​IMG]


    The "RE800" has sheen, airy, and textured sound-signature on treble so that can play sound-sources with fast and rhythmical string instruments without any awkwardness. The lower treble has reverberation with moisture texture, and expresses well a feeling of emptiness after a violin string ringing well. Also, vivid and lively in female vocals as well.

    Depending on the enclosed ear-tips, it can be transformed into four different sound-signature. The Bi-flange silicone ear-tips reduce the amount of mid-bass, gives you a more-sheen harmonic tone at treble, and the full-range silicon ear-tips pull the middle forward and inflate upper-bass. The Tri-flange ear-tips give flattened sound tone on middle and treble, and more condensed sharper bass. The memory foam ear-tips suppress the representation of the middle and treble, also emphasize the mid bass, making the overall sound-signature softer.

    It has a resistance value of 60 ohms and requires high volume in light output devices such as smart phones. If you do not secure the proper output, occurs sibilance at the upper midrange easily, so that recommend matching with devices having a stable output volume level. "RE800" is recommended to use with DAP called ‘Megamini’ makes the passive midrange more clear and accurate, and gives the bass more natural and hitting.




    [​IMG]


    Conclusion


    "RE800" not only shows high-quality appearance with pure gold plating, but also a natural bass and treble performance while showing a resolution comparable to that of multiple BA with a single dynamic driver. Small size and simple design have shown the benefits of comfort and practicality. If interested in in-ear monitor with luxury look and natural sound performance, "RE800" will be a good choice.








    Disclaimer

    Hello, I am a Head-fi product reviewer named 'Bigheadfiler' in South Korea. This review may not be perfect because it is my 6th English translation. I appreciate your understanding. Thank you.

    The RE800 was offered by ‘Hifiman Electronics’. The content of the review has been written without any restriction because the authors' freedom is respected.
      Dobrescu George and B9Scrambler like this.