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[REVIEW] HifiMan RE400 ‘Waterline’ – The New Reference

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  1. ClieOS Contributor
    HifiMan first taste of success in the IEM world comes when RE0’s price was lowered to $99 during the Black Friday sale a few years ago. It was an instant hit and really set the bar high for what $100 can buy. However, the new $99 RE400 isn’t just here to repeat that success - according to Fang, the boss of HifiMan, it is meant to set a new reference point to what he believes audiophile IEM should at least be able to measure up to. It is an ambitious goal no doubt, so does it sink or swim?
    Driver: 8.5mm Dynamic with Titanium Diaphragm
    Impedance:  32 +/- 3.2 ohm
    Sensitivity:  102dB/mW
    Rated power:  10mW
    Maximum power:  30mW
    Frequency response: 15 ~22 KHZ
    Cable: 1.35m OFC
    Accessories and Build Quality
    Being a preview sample, the IEM comes without the final package and thus we won’t be looking into that. Accessories wise, you should find a pair of small eartips, a pair of small bi-flange and a pair of big bi-flanges. There is also a hexagon-stick shaped cable managing tool. As said, this is not the final packaging so you might or might not find more accessories inside the retail package, but it is supposed to have replacement filters and shirt clip as well.
    The build quality of RE400 is HifiMan best-to-date yet. The cable from the Y-splitter up is similar to that used on RE262 / RE272, which is soft, good quality and doesn’t seem to harden easily. The cable from Y-splitter down is covered with fabric sleeve to increase its tearing resistance, but unavoidably also makes it more microphonics. It isn’t terrible but the use of shirt clip is recommended. The new housing is really small and unique to HifiMan so far. The nozzle diameter is however still the same as older models so you can use aftermarket eartips like MEElec or Sony Hybrid. However, HifiMan does recommend the stock small bi-flanges as it is said to be the best pairing. The small bi-flanges are another HifiMan’s first as it is developed specifically for the new RE400 / RE600 series.  Overall it is quite comfortable and isolation is about average (-20dB or so)
    Sound Quality
    The IEM has been given over 50 hours of burn-in before the review.
    Different from the more analytical RE272 and RE0 (RE252 to a lesser extent) or the more euphonic RE262, RE400 is one that seems to carry the least flavoured sound, or should I say the least ‘wow factor’ in its sound. Don’t get me wrong, it is an excellent IEM in its own right. But if you have owned HifiMan’s IEM in the recent past, RE400 might not sound that impressive at first. Instead, it seems to be tailor to suit a more ‘matured / polite’ group of listener, so to speak. It isn’t reference flat, but there is a sense of neutral in its presentation – warm, calm, almost like a Westone UM3X type of stage monitor while still has a good degree of musicality in its presentation. Bass runs deep down to the 20Hz region, well bodied and comes with good low end rumbling. It is however not quantitatively a bass monster. At most, I’ll refer it as a bit more than neutral. Mid is sweet, detailed and textured. It is thick but not overly so. It can almost be called a mid-centric sound if not for the well complimented bass. Obviously mid are what’ll grab the listener’s attention first and the strength of RE400. Treble extends high, but mostly in a gentle fashion so all the sparkles tend to be just half-a-step behind the rest of the frequency. Analytical listener need not apply, especially if you are a fan of RE272 or RE0. RE262’s fan on the other hand might find RE400 to be closer to their heart, but it doesn’t quite have the same euphonic feeling. Soundstage is above average but not excessively wide as the whole presentation is neither upfront nor very far away, rather it is immersive and surrounding like sitting in the third role of a small theatre.
    As far as comparing to HifiMan last generations of IEM, the RE0, RE-ZERO, RE262 and RE272 – I think it is safe to say RE400 is ahead of RE-0 and RE-ZERO as far as overall technical ability goes. But it is not quite that obvious when it is compared to RE262 and RE272. Neither of the three IEM has any real weakness, so to speak – but RE262 excels in vocal fluidity while RE272 is as close to perfect reference-flat as any universal IEM that I know of. RE400 on the other hand doesn’t seem to have a particular area that makes it stands out. Then again, it is a sound that can hardly be hated. It is after all the first jack-of-all-trade in HifiMan’s line-up since they have stepped into the IEM market and it is a competent sound that could easily be placed amount the upper tier.
    RE400 is nicknamed the ‘waterline’ for its design goal as a reference line among audiophile IEM. For a less-than-$100 IEM that has SQ that rivals many that are priced twice or thrice as expensive in the upper tier, I think Fang has gotten his point across the IEM world. We have seen some really excellent sub-$200 upper tier IEM in the past couple of years, but few if any ever go below the $100 mark – but here again HifiMan has come to reconquer the land with RE400 as they once did with RE-0, and I think it is only fair to recommend it with a [5/5] Sonic Diamond for their effort.
    A thank to HifiMan for the sample.
    G_T_J, LGN Crossfire and altrunox like this.
  2. GN-0015
    Other than good sound, I hope for nothing more than a good fit with these. I had the RE0 and while I finally manage to appreciate them to a point where I couldn't leave them behind, the fit was a nightmare. The only silicon tips that I liked to use with the RE0 were the Sony Hybrids, and even with those I suffer some problems like a change in sound when I tilted my head. Foamies worked well, but those Comply stuffs couldn't last long. Now I have an Ety and I'm much happier.
  3. ClieOS Contributor
    Guess it won't really help you as RE400 has similar nozzle diameter as RE-0. However, you can insert it deeper as the housing is much smaller so there might be a chance of better fitting. If by Etymotic you mean their tri-flanges, you can actually try Monster tri-flanges as well as those are design for large nozzle but still relatively deep as Ety try-flanges.
  4. GN-0015
    Nope, Ety tri-flanges are awful as well. I have this kind of weird fit that cause some muddiness with the tri-flanges. I use the small silicon tips from my old Philips SHE9850 and they fit very well, accept when lying down when they start to turn weird. With the stock foamies, it's all fine except for the size so I use the small foamies from my Atrio. Shure Olives work well too. Didn't try some de-cored olives with the RE0 though, maybe that'd work with the RE-400.
  5. proedros
    hifiman seems to be emerging as the new great iem company , wouldn't you say ?
    they have quite a streak of impressive (especially in the value-for-money department) iems
  6. ClieOS Contributor
    They have been quite great since 2008, when you only had the choice of either TF10 or SE530 as your top-tier.
  7. proedros
    what i meant was , that maybe now will start paying attention to their products , much more than they used to
    which they should ,as bang-for-buck they are in the top companies atm
  8. Pianist
  9. Swimsonny
    That is tough one, i would not say that the 272 is treble recessed at all though, the high mid boost helps with it not being perceived.
    As too which one is more neutral i am not sure, the 400 seems to have a bit more bass and also less treble. The 272 is very very neutral over than a high mid peak. The 272 is so darn flat until 1000hz for one thing any how!
  10. Pianist
    Judging from the graph I referred to, RE272 is very impressive up to ~2kHz. The highs appear to be a bit quieter than ideal. I have to say that I did hear this issue - the resonance peak between 7-10 kHz gave an impression of strong higher highs, while the lower highs sounded a bit muted, causing the upper harmonics of some of the higher pitched vocals and instruments to lack presence and clarity. I doubt RE400 has less lower treble than RE272 - that would be a disaster. I do hope that it has a more balanced treble response without the significant dip and peak of the RE272.
  11. ClieOS Contributor
    I have no problem with RE272, but perhaps it is because I always listen to it with a bi-flanges and it is as close to be reference flat as I think (Rin described this in his measurement). For the least, it is closer than any other IEM I have heard.
  12. Pianist
    Sorry, I guess my interpretation of the graph was wrong then. [​IMG] They truly are flat up to 2 kHz though and have bass extension rivaling Audeze LCD-2! I have to say that I did hear some amazing things happen in the lows when listening to RE272, although I think Etymotic ER4 bass may still be a little bit tighter and quicker (but not as deep). I still prefer the mids and highs on good single driver BAs as RE272 sounded a little too soft and not quite the ultimate in precision to my ears. I also tend to prefer a more aggressive sound I think, as even the technically inferior FXT90 sounds more fun to me than RE272 did. I also enjoyed RE262 more than RE272. I found the former to be a bit more controlled and focused, maybe due to the higher impedance making them easier to drive. I am really looking forward to the new RE600. I am hoping for a bit more attack than RE272 had and more focus. I think RE0 fit my tastes better - I found them sharper, more lively than RE272, though a bit too bright in the highs, lacking dynamics and low bass presence/extension. An RE0/272 hybrid with the sharp definition of RE0 and the bottomless lows and wide dynamic range of RE272 would probably be right in line with my preferences.
  13. Nulliverse

    For the past month I've been blown away by the RE-272 (with SD2)... and have only just tried the tips / shallow insertion mentioned in that link. Wow! And just when I thought universals couldn't get any better...

    I'm genuinely intrigued by the RE400, but have reservations due to the 'politeness' I've heard mentioned by more than a few people now.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm all up for the 'slow burner' or 'do no wrong' approach (perfected by bar setters such as the GR07), but I fear the exhilaration of the RE-272 has left me hooked on WOW. At least for now.

    Bring on the RE600!.. but big respect to Fang, who has unleashed yet another game changer.

    Hifiman, we love you!
  14. ClieOS Contributor
    Yep, the combination of RE272 and SD2 (or SD in my case) is very hard to beat.
  15. Berkovajazz
    What is SD (SD2)?:)
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