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Hifiman IEM's: RE-400 and RE-600

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  1. Deni5
    Minireview and a mod

    I bought Hifiman-RE400 because I like their line of IEM's. I also have RE-ZERO and RE-272. So when I heard that RE-400 is supposed to be better than previous models I got interested. Is there any difference between RE-400 and older models? I would say Yes, in some ways huge differences. To me it sounds like the older line has a different housesound than the new line (RE-400). Older models are similar but with different variations. The new RE-400 sounds alike but it is different and it should because it has a newly developed driver and a new driverhouse. To me the biggest difference is in the way that bass is presented. The quality of bass is much better, more on the later.

    Main keyfeatures of this IEM I would say are these
    * Neodymium magnet
    * 8.5mm Titanium Diapharagm
    This is what I think is giving them their special sound signature. Neodymium magnet is the strongest type of permanent magnet made and because of this the driver should push serious amounts of air - and it does. So the quality of the bass is dependant on this feature I think. Titanium Diapharagm is somewhat known to produce great crisp treble with lots of detail. There are many that use titanium coated drivers in larger headphones but I don't know if it is something that is usually used in IEM's. I also find the size of the driver, 8.5mm, interesting. Bigger drivers usually sounds like they can provide more bass, but they usually loose speed so fast paced music can sound kind of dull.

    Then again if using a smaller driver size you probably would get the opposite - faster pace but thinner bass. So there should be a balance and I think Hifiman has chosen a very good value where the pace and bass is great. Also I like the use of aluminium housing as this should vibrate less and result in cleaner more controlled sound. So it seems like they have good features that should provide a great sound. So how is the sound..?

    Note. Not many state what dac/amp they are using when testing an IEM. Personally I think this is very important because IEM's can sound very different dependant on what you use. One important thing to look out for especially when using IEM's is the output impedance. Too high value can color the sound output so not all amps are suitable for driving IEM's. In this regard I am using O2/ODAC-combo (of course there are many more suitable combos).

    To me this is where the new line shines. Bass was good with older models but not like this. It has a different kind of punch. It is very tight and controlled. This leads to the IEM being suitable for many more music genres. Previous models where excellent with some genres like pop, rock but many genres sounded a little dull and thin because of the bass for example reggae, dubstep, drum and bass, electronic music, hip hop. RE-400 actually handles all these genres really well imo. Bass is so tight and clean you can feel it almost. It is not boomy at all imo. As I stated earlier I think that the Neodymium magnet is responsable for this feat. On a last note I wan't to say that this is by no means warm bass. On some occasions the music can sound cold. This might be tuned this way because IEM's with warm bass usually are not that detailed.

    Midrange is something that has gotten better with the later models and it is still good with the RE-400. As many has stated this is probably where this IEM shines the most. Vocals are clean and good. I can easily hear the lyrics even if the bass is pounding, not many IEM's that can handle this that good if looking in this price category that they are in (and sometimes even more expensive ones). I believe this could be one of the more neutral bass (as opposed to warm bass). To me the midrange sounds very forward, almost to forward sometimes because I sometimes sense that many things in the sound picture is way too back because of the forward mids. Imo it sounds like a n-shaped frequency curve (but I don't know because I haven't seen a frequency curve of this IEM).

    Treble is also something Hifiman has handled great earlier and now as well. The titanium diapharagm provides crisp good quality treble, but imo it is too far back in the sound picture. So it's there but it is hard to hear all the details because of the mids being so forward. The bass also takes away some of the attention to treble. Earlier models seems to provide more treble but that is because how the sound signature of them are - either you have more bass and mids or more mids and treble. It is usually difficult to have all equally - somethings have to go (at least in this price range).

    Because of the treble not being as forward to me it sounds like some soundstage is lost in width. Of course this depends on which songs you are listening to and how they are mastered but in general that is what I hear.
    Same here because of treble presence I don't find them very analytical. Sure there is detail but imo more treble presence would provide bigger soundstage and make them more analytical (like many BA-based IEM's)

    To me these are the most comfortable of the RE-line yet. They are small so they go deeper inside your ear and you get a better fit. This should also provide a better bass response.
    This is probably my favorite cable if compared to RE-ZERO and RE-272. Almost no cable noise imo.

    BURN IN?
    I have used them about 50 hours or so. To me it seems like burn in changes the following: a slightly wider soundstage and tighter bass.
    So all in all I think it is a very excellent IEM. I like it a lot and think it is well worth current price of 99 USD. Imo this could easily be worth 149 USD as well. There are some slight flaws but I could not ask for more at this pricepoint. It can take on most competition in the pricerange. Sure there will be some that handles some parts like treble better but as a whole RE-400 should be the better IEM.

    ...and now to the fun part - mod (removed white foam / double black T4000-filters on top of each other)
    I accidentally dented one of the black T4000-filters when changing the tips that came with it (small bi-flange tips are my favorites) so I thought Oh well I can just replace it. But then I know of the foam mod on earlier RE-models where some say it changes the sound. Might as well do some testing - what this does to the sound. So I removed the T4000-filter on top and saw that there was a white circular foam inside the canal. I removed them both completely and did some listening.

    My predictions - it should provide more treble and bass should be very thin. This was correct. Then I thought the foam must be doing something to the treble that is why it's so laid back. So I tested what it would sound like when I have the white foam removed but put on only one of the black T4000-filters. Interestingly enough I heard slightly more bass, treble was perhaps slightly less than not using any filters at all but still much more presence than with white foam on. So of this I draw the conclusion that if I can encapsulate the housing more then I would get more bass, which is something that I like in RE-400 but I would also want more treble energy as this seems to make the soundstage wider and because of it being titanium coated I should be getting a more analytical sound like in BA-based IEM's.

    So I thought what happens if I put a second layer of T4000-filter on top of the one I already put. This should provide better isolation and thus elevate the bass as well.

    Well I tested this and.. wow. Bass was back to normal, really tight and punchy (not boomy) and I didn't loose much treble either. So in some ways by doing this I got the parts I was missing from RE-400 in the first place. It is like it has turned from something n-shaped to a more v-shaped frequency curve (although I cannot confirm this) - but still it is a little strange because v-shaped mostly means losing a little mids and I don't think I am losing any mids. They seem to be like before but now that there is more treble energy the mids does not seem that forward as before.

    Are there any downsides of this mod. Well, the bass is still not warm, but as I said before this leads to a very clear/detailed presentation of the sound. I also believe the aluminium housing slightly makes it this way. Now that there is more treble some might find it fatiguing - it all depends on what sound signature you prefer. I actually like it more now in that it is more analytical almost like a BA-based IEM. Mod as I see it should be totally reversible - I could just put the white foam back in as it was before and just close it with a T4000-filter (you receive 10 pieces of spare T4000-filters in the package). Maybe I can control the sound even more by putting on a third layer of T4000-filter, but I am actually perfectly happy with the way it is sounding now so I won't do that change. Unfortunately I don't have a second RE-400 so that I could compare them to each other. I'll probably end up buying another one. For 99 USD it is a steal to me.

    So to conclude this post - I think Hifiman's new driver is amazing and they should be able to put out great things of it in the future (for example RE-600 and maybe some others as well who knows)

    Thanks for reading. Remember that warranty is not valid if you mod them so what you do with the provided information is up to you.

    Berkovajazz likes this.
  2. Nulliverse
    Very interesting impressions Deni5, helpful too.

    Could you possibly compare your modded re-400 to your re-272?
  3. AstralStorm
    How are you wearing your RE-400? I found that shallow insertion improves air and treble a lot - or rather that deeper (standard or more) insertion with these cuts it noticeably. The upper mids then are slightly less prominent in comparison to the rest too, making for better balance.
    I'd say my insertion is -3 mm from the so-called "reference plane" - the back of the IEM is lined up with antitragus. (That small triangular bit of cartilage at the bottom of the outer ear.)
    I will try the mods of course, it's almost free after all. I suspect though that the foam also controls 4kHz and 7kHz peaks - it did in the previous models.
  4. audiobot
    Wow! is all I have to say. Won't bother with the specifics, just know that I am a previous owner of the DBA 02, AT CK10 and JVC FX700. These match those heavyweights in sound quality. They look attractive in your ears. Mine seal deep with no part of the housing sticking out (Sony hybrid tips XS). Highly recommend these. Only $99!! Seriously go out and try these.
  5. proedros
    good to see hifiman iems getting some love
    and they haven't even released RE-600 yet
  6. Deni5
    Ok here it goes - a comparison of modded RE-400 and RE-272.
    I just bought RE-272 two months ago when I heard that Hifiman where ending the older line of RE- IEM's. Last year I was looking into Etymotic ER4-P and RE-272 and ended up buying the Etymotic. I really like the Etymotic ER4-P converted to S, but I must say that I like RE-272 equally well and in some regards more. BA-based and Dynamic-based IEM's have there advantages and disadvantages so it is hard to pick a favorite. Both IEM's are well regarded and rightfully so imo. What I like the most about the RE-272 is its soundstage (width) and treble presentation. What I am missing in it is a little more bass, more control. I listen to a very wide variety of music genres and it is really difficult to find a very balanced IEM that does about everything right - sure there probably are some that has this feat (I haven't listened to some really expensive 1000+ USD IEM's). With larger headphones it is easier to tune them sounding more balanced compared to IEM I believe.
    Note. I have not access to my O2/ODAC combo at the moment so this comparison is made by my Audioquest Dragonfly. It sounds a little different - like more laidback in comparison and less treble but output impedance should be under 1 Ohm so there should be no coloration - in other words it works good with IEM's.
    Driver Size: 9 mm
    Impedance: 20 Ohm
    Effeciency: 103 dB
    Freqancy: 15 Hz to 22K Hz

    Driver: 8.5mm
    Impedance: 32  OHM+/- 3.2
    Sensitivity: 102dB/1mW
    Rated power: 10mW
    Maximum power: 30 mW
    Frequency response: 15 ~22 KHZ

    So as you can see the 'Impedance' of the IEM's are not the same and it is somewhat difficult to compare them. I have to turn up the volume higher on the RE-400 (after the mod I sense that it plays a little louder though).
    I used the following music to compare:
    Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me - Theme from Twin Peaks-Fire Walk With Me
    This is a dark jazzy song that I almost always use to compare different headphones/IEM's. It is a song where you can easily hear a difference. You can hear if it has a warm sound character or not. How well it can handle subtle background music/percussion. How detailed it is. So I use this to mostly check how good treble and overall detail a headphone/IEM has.
    RE-272: Colder, more treble presencce, slightly wider soundstage
    RE-400: A little warmer closer to neutral, good treble presence very detailed but because of the warmness there is slightly less attention to the treble, RE-272 has a slightly wider soundstage
    Dr. Dre - Kush
    This is a hip hop song. The first 20 seconds has kickdrum that I listen to to check how much punch the bass has. If it's boomy or tight and also the speed of it.
    RE-272: Good bass. It is punchy.
    RE-400: Better in all regards to me. Very tight, not boomy. Great speed.
    Dire Straits - Six Blade Knife
    Very laid back song. Bassline is the main event. There is lots of background sounds that can easily be drowned out if sound character is too warm. This could also sometimes interfere with the vocals making them less detailed. I use this to check how vocals holds up and how well the background low level sounds are played.
    RE-272: Bass is good. Vocals are great not affected by bassline. Lots of treble information not at all affected by the bassline. Soundstage is wider than RE-400.
    RE-400: Bass is better. Vocals not affected by the bassline. Slightly less treble information but overall a slightly warmer presentation - imo overall better than RE-272 because of it sounding a little cold in comparison.
    UB40 - Kingston Town
    Very simple reggae song. Not that detailed - but this is a song where the most 'very bright' IEM's fail as they can't play the bassline that well - it is too far back in the presentation and it all sounds very dull. It is also a good song to test very smooth vocals.
    RE-272: Very light on bass on this song. Sounds slightly dull. Soundstage about the same since there is not a lot information all-around anyway.
    RE-400: Much better detail on bass. Sounds more natural/much better overall.
    So what's to make of this. It is really difficult to pick one that is better. Technically RE-400 maybe is better (because its driver has better capabilities), but I like the soundstage of RE-272 and it's overall presentation. It is a little dependant on how many different genres of music you listen to. If you listen to a very wide selection - then generally RE-400 is better balanced because of the bass (imo). But if you have a narrow taste RE-272 might be the better choice. It is like comparing different kinds of "good" - both are a great choice I would say so I'm keeping them both.
    It is also somewhat unfair comparing a 99 USD IEM to previous 249 USD IEM (bought mine for 199 USD) [​IMG]
    But really I think that RE-400 plays in the same league. I like my mod of it and will probably buy an unmodded as well. You can say in other words that with Hifiman IEM's you always get more than you pay for. [​IMG]
    Thanks for reading.
  7. Deni5
    Hi AstralStorm,
    I almost always wear my IEM's down. Only wear them over ear if I have no choice like with Rock It R-50 or if there is too much cable noise like in Meelectronics A161P. I use the tip that was on from the beginning, small bi-flange. When I insert it I find a point where I can feel a little suction - this is when I know that I have a good fit. Anyway you are right that a more shallow fit changes the presentation - I use this trick on my Klipsch X10 IEM which I find a little to basshappy. With the smaller bi-flange tips on the X10 I loose a little bass because of the shallow fit but then treble is given more attention so it overall sounds more balanced and better.
    Anyway I like the suction fit (more inserted) better because I don't want to loose bass detail. The mod I did was to cope with bringing more treble but still keeping most of the bass intact when using this fit. You can also surely get a different sound character when using different tips. I haven't tested that many on the RE-400. Just tried the bigger bi-flange but prefered the small bi-flange because I got a better fit with that one. [​IMG]
  8. AstralStorm
    Well, I get great fit with most of the included tips - except the tiniest one. I don't like the suction, but the fit is perfect according to "hum" occlusion test. There is suction when I remove the IEM, of course. However, the shallow fit makes the sound slightly tighter in bass and gives notably more highest end and air.
    About vs RE-272 - RE-272 struggled sometimes with electric guitars, seems they have a high midrange cut. It is similar to RE-400 when fitted very deep, but RE-400 fittted shallower have a different sound, neutral in this regard and with more air. In RE-272, I got a soundstage that was much more in-head and somewhat bent with middle being notably closer; with these, I get out-of-head and linear.
    Shallow fit was not possible with RE-272 due to the shell shape.
    Other than that, these are technically better than RE-272 because of much better bass and the bit of metal reverberation which vastly improves soundstaging and naturalness.
    I'm trying the mods now, more in a minute or two.
  9. AstralStorm
    No filter, no damper, medium fit (back at antitragus):
    Comply Ts400 M - Bass is "faster", but it's a bit weird - like plasticky impact (kinda like some BAs) + airy decay, but with a lot of impact. High midrange is a bit more forward (e.g. female vocals, guitars). Slightly more 6k crunch, seems to be slightly exaggerated 8k peak - slightly more highs in general, but not really a lot. Slightly more reverberation. Not a lot of change to the sound.
    Large RE-272 biflange with long stem - sound gets similar to TWFK-based Brainwavz B2 unequalized, meaning a wide 6kHz peak. Also a midrange dip. However very good bass handling, I'll try it w/ damper and filter.
    No filter, no damper, shallow fit (back beyond antitragus):
    Large stock biflange gets very similar to TWFK-based Brainwavz B2 in unequalized configuration, shallow fit, meaning a wide and large 6kHz peak. Also even worse bass handling. Truly a downgrade.
    No filter, no damper, deep fit:
    Comply T400 S and included tips gets an 8k dip ans sound even warmer, otherwise sounds relatively close to balanced filtered/dampened configuration in shallow fit w/ Ts400 M.
    Hifiman small translucent biflange from RE-272: highs get boosted out the wazoo, seems like a major peak around 8kHz.
    Filter, no damper, medium fit:
    Large RE-272 stemmed biflange - superior. Very balanced sound, in fact better than both the stock large biflange and Comply Ts400 M. Very airy, bit more sparkly. Mids are exactly where they should be, as previously. Bass is a bit lighter and faster than with Comply Ts400 M, no added warmth, but keeping all of the excellent impact. Generally sharper, bit colder sound. Wider soundstage.Reverb as controlled as w/ Comply Ts400 M. Very comfortable as well (much more than RE-ZERO or RE-272 ever were with these), but much less hassle to put in. Isolation is slightly lower. Main issue - right tip tends to stay in the ear when removing - easily taken out though.
    Comply Ts400 M - Very similar sound to the dampered one - a bit colder, more air, more sparkle. Still warm though, but not as thick and smoothened. Better microdetailing.
    Filter, no damper, shallow fit:
    Large stock biflange - 6k peak, but less than in the scenario without the filter. Warmer than the RE-272 biflange. Very "crunchy" sound, similar to best fitted Brainwavz B2 (w/ Comply P).
    I think the RE-272 biflange without the damper is the best configuration, although I suspect people who like warmer presentation would prefer Comply Ts400 M without damper.
  10. Deni5
    Shallow fit should make the soundstage wider / bigger.  My Yuin PK1 is a earbud and you could say the fit is shallow - soundstage is huge [​IMG]
    It depends on what isolation you want or need. It's no big deal at home where it's quiet most of the time, but in a more crowded area it makes difference. Anyhow even if I found the soundstage a little smaller when inserted deeper it is not bad at all. Having this great sound at this awesome isolation (because I do feel they isolate very well) is amazing.
    Now I'm back to using the O2/ODAC and I feel it has much more punch and details. Hmm, I wonder if these like more power to shine more (ie  Neodymium magnets likes more power?).
    Sound is OK when using out of my iPhone 3GS, but not like this - this is better in all regards. Also better than out of Audioquest Dragonfly. Of this I draw the conclusion that they like a more powerful amp. A headphone amp is really recommended for these even if they can be driven out of most portable devices.
    Very interesting findings, AstralStorm. Did you try dual T4000-filters or you are perfectly fine with just using one?
  11. Stuff Jones
    Anyone? I'm tempted by these as an alternative to my TDKs because they seem to have better build quality, fit and isolation which means they can be used out an about unlike the IE800s.
  12. AstralStorm
    I'd yet be careful about the build quality - it's still not certain whether the cable will survive. It does seem to have slightly crystalized, but haven't hardened yet.
    About more power: these aren't very efficient, so some devices might be driven to the brim of their capabilities - and there the quality tends to suffer.
    However they do not really benefit all that much by amplification. They do benefit from great extension at the source though, as they are very wide bandwidth.
    I'm perfectly fine with using no T4000 dampers, but with the foam filter. The damper seems to just cut the highs, so adding more would cut it more. Perhaps the other damper from RE-272 (T2000?) could be used if undampened configuration is too bright.
    The foam on the other hand improves bass quality and controls a 6kHz peak. Perhaps the foam can be replaced with something different, but I won't be trying that.
    As for the tips, the large long silicone biflange from RE-272 (the one with a large space between the flanges) is currently my preference. I might endeavour into custom silicone tips.
  13. Eddie C
    Two T4000 filters and no damper sound perfect to me, the incresed treble was exactly what I was looking for!
  14. Deni5
    I haven't tried using just the white foam and no T4000-filters as AstralStorm is preferring. Either way both mods should provide more treble I believe but in different ways. Perhaps removing the white foam will lead to treble peaks in some regions - I don't have measuring instrument to check this.
    I have listened to dual T4000-filter/no foam-mod for many hours (lots of different music genres) and didn't find it strange sounding at all. Imo it works very good with all kinds of music and I like its sound character. To me the dual T4000/no foam-mod sounded like an unmodded RE-400 but with more treble presence. Anyway I have ordered another set of RE-400 so it will be nice to compare them directly.
    Just looked up what the foam mod on older RE-0 does (should be the exact same for RE-400) and found the following (answer from ClieOS):
    What exactly does removing the foam do?
    Reduce acoustic impedance, cut down bass and increase treble.
    I'm not exactly sure what acoustic impedance is but is has something to do with the speed. I find that the RE-400 copes really well with very high tempo (BPM) songs like in drum and bass. It retains all the detail exceptionally.
    OK so if you remove the white foam you cut down bass and increase the treble, that is also what I found when I removed the white foam and used just one T4000-filter. So I liked the treble but not the bass it was too thin. Even if the treble was a little filtered out it was still more than with the white foam on. I wanted the bass back to the way it was from the beginning - that is why I put on a second layer of a T4000-filter.
    I don't know why but there is a lot more bass presence when using two T4000-filters instead of just using one and because the white foam is removed there is also more treble presence. Also tried a third layer of T4000 two days ago and all it did was give more bass and a little less treble. So the more T4000-filters you use the less treble and the more bass, if the white foam is removed.
    I went back to using two T4000-filters as I liked that sound signature / balance more.
  15. Deni5
    Some more impressions..
    Turns out I've been listening to mostly normalized music since my main playlist I use contains many different songs. [​IMG]
    Anyway I'm using foobar2000 now with standard FLACs (not normalized) and soundstage difference is huge. I'm really impressed.
    I just found an album in my collection I bought on HDtracks half a year ago that is great for testing headphone performance (although this is mainly for headphones but still):
    HeadFi and HDtracks - Open Your Ears
    Let me just say that RE-400 passes the test with a good grade [​IMG]
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