A Headphones Reviews Blog
HiFiMan is a very well regarded Chinese Headphones, Earphones and Portable Players manufacturer that was founded in 2007 by Dr. Fang Bian. Their IEMs line is known to give a very good value for the money; from the RE0 & the RE-ZERO to the RE262 & the RE272, all are known for that. Lately, the company has announced two new models, which are going to replace their whole lineup (which has been discontinued following that announcement). The new models are the $99 MSRP’d RE-400 and the RE-600 (its MSRP is currently unknown, but it should be around $400). The RE-400 has already been released to the market a few weeks ago, while the RE-600 is said to be released around April-May. Like all of HiFiMan’s past IEMs, the RE-400 utilizes a dynamic-driver; Titanium coated 8.5mm sized one in this case.
Packaging– the RE-400’s packaging consists of two layers; the first one being some kind of a black translucent plastic case, which has the RE-400’s main-features written on its front. The left packaging layer is a black-cardboard box;
the RE-400s are placed on a velvet-like surface on this layer’s top, in a presentation that resembles jewelry presentation. On the other side of this velvet-like surface we can find the included accessories. You can watch me unboxing the RE-400s on my new YouTube channel here.
Accessories- you do not get a great amount of accessories with the RE-400s. The included accessories are:
Four pairs of ear-tips- HiFiMan includes four pairs of silicone ear-tips, which I’ve found to be of a quite good quality and well designed. We get two pairs of medium-sized bi-flanges, a pair of single-flanges and another pair of VERY-large bi-flanges. The single flanges have a silicone-splitter in the middle of their bore, a thing which I don’t know the purpose of, but I do have a guess, which is that it might be there in order to put some filters inside the tips (because some companies have already done some similar things in the past).
Cable Winder- HiFiMan also includes a white silicone-made cable-winder, which you can wrap the earphones’ cable around. I’ve tried to wrap the cable around it, but any time I did so, the cable slipped out of it after a few minutes.
The lack of a case is very noticeable, because now, even most of the $50 IEMs are provided with a one, so a $99 one should have a one included too in my opinion. I would’ve preferred to get a case instead of the not really helpful cable-winder. As for the ear-tips, I’m quite happy with them as they come in three different shapes, which means that fit most-probably won’t be a problem.
Building Quality & Design- The RE-400’s design is focused on the functionality and usability rather than of their look; it is a very low-profile and not-flashy one, and no one is going stare at you when wearing these. The small housings are fully metal-made; their body is chrome/silver colored and their back is covered with a small shiny metal plate, which is scratch prone; this part on both of the earpieces of my RE-400s is already quite scratched. The housings feel solidly-constructed and built with durability in mind.
They are vented in their bottom side. The nozzles are on the shorter side, but the tips do not stay in your ear, like it happens with many short nozzle’d IEMs.
The sound-tube is covered with a protective fabric-filter, which is rather unusual (because usually, a metal or a plastic piece is used for this purpose), but I’ve had no problems with it so far. The cable’s entry into the housing is protected with a plastic strain-relief, which is on the longer side. It is both tough and flexible in the needed levels, and it seems to protect this weak point quite well. The left and right markings are printed on the strain-reliefs in white “L” & “R” letters.
Similarly to what was done by T-PEOS in their H-100s (which I’ve also reviewed, here), also HiFiMan chose to divide the cable into two parts, each part coated with different-materials. The upper part is thinner, and is coated with rubber, while the lower part is thicker and is cloth-coated. That is done in order to make the cable produce less microphonics and also to make it more comfortable for the user, since the part that is close to him is lighter. So far, I haven’t experienced any kinks in the cloth-coated part of the cable, a thing which I’m mentioning because some of the cloth-coated cables start to have some annoying kinks in them after a while, and I hope that it’s not that case with the RE-400.
The Y-Split is an about 2 centimeters-long piece of black-plastic. It has HiFiMan’s logo printed on one of its sides, while the model’s name is printed on the other side, both in white letters. We also have a very low-profile cable-cinch, which is colored in the same silver color as the housings (you can see it in both photos of the Y-Split).
The cable ends with a large 3.5mm gold-plated connector, which has a very nice strain-relief. Even though it is big, the connector fits easily my iPod Touch even with a case on, so there is no problem fitting the jack, even if your listening device has a case on it.
Comfort & Ergonomics- I remember hearing about people that were having some comfort problems with HiFiMan’s former RE-262s and RE-272s. It seems that the feedback regarding to the comfort & the fit was taken seriously by the company, since the RE-400s are one of the most comfortable IEMs that I’ve used till now. Their housings are not only tiny and light, but ergonomically designed too, so comfort isn’t a problem with these. Also, I’ve found the included ear-tips, and especially the Medium-sized bi-flanges to be almost a perfect fit for me. They are different than other bi-flanges, as their two flanges are closer than usual, a thing which I guess that helps with comfort. The small housings make these suitable for deep-insertion, but not as deep as Etymotic’s IEMs.
The RE-400s can be worn either with the cable down or over the ear; personally, I wore these over the ear for most of the time, but it’s only my personal preference, so you might prefer wearing these with the cable down.
Isolation & Microphonics- the fact that the RE-400 is vented doesn’t make its isolation mediocre; actually, I was surprised to find that the RE-400s isolate outside noises quite well. I think that the explanation to this is that the vent is inserted relatively deep into the ear, so it doesn’t really enter outside noises into the housings, and also because of the great seal that is achieved when using the included ear-tips. Due to the smart cable design (dividing it to two parts, each with a different coating), there are almost no microphonics present; the rubber-coated cable is almost silent, even when worn straight down.
In addition, you can always wear these over the ears, and then, the microphonics are almost fully eliminated.
Sound-Quality- The RE-400s were given about 150 hours of burn-in prior to beginning the critical listening; no changes were noticed after the burn-in period.
The gear that I have used during the reviewing process is my 4th Generation iPod Touch, which is loaded with mostly iTunes Store M4A files and 320 KBPS file. For some of the time I’ve listened to the RE-400s directly out of my iPod, while I’ve also tested it with amplification, provided by Firestone Audio’s Fireye HD amp, connected to the iPod’s dock input through a generic LOD to 3.5mm adapter.
The 8.5mm large Titanium-coated dynamic driver produces a balanced, detailed (but NOT analytical in any way), natural and neutral (with a slight bass-boost) sound-signature, with clarity and cleanness all over the place. I have heard some calling these too “polite” sounding, and even boring, a thing which I could understand in some cases, but it all depends on the sound-signature that you prefer; I do agree that these aren’t the most “exciting” sounding IEMs, but I can also tell you that I enjoy listening to these quite a bit honestly. We will now move on to a more detailed description of every one of the sound’s parts:
Bass- the RE-400’s bass is on the tighter and more accurate side of things, but it is not lacking in amount by any means (though you should not expect these to be some bass monsters, as they’re not) and it has a full-body with a nice presence when the track “calls it”. The impact is a tad soft in my opinion, and the extension isn’t so deep, but both things didn’t really bother me when looking at the “full-picture, i.e., the RE-400’s other technical abilities serve as a “compensation” to these disadvantages. The bass’ speed is just amazing, moreover for the RE-400’s $99 price-tag. Its dynamics and punch are quite good too, both which are said to be improvements over HiFiMan’s older models such as the RE-0 and the RE-262 (I didn’t get to hear these, but such things were mentioned by people that did get to try all of these and have compared them).
Midrange- the mids produced by the RE-400s are just beautiful; they feel so open, airy and natural, while being very clear, transparent and tonally balanced. Detailing is exceptionally good for their price. The details aren’t “thrown” at you; they’re just there, waiting for the listener to “catch” them. The timbre is done wonderfully, being so realistic and “live”-feeling, so guitars and strings sound really good with the RE-400s. I would’ve liked the midrange to be a bit more energetic and powerful, but that’s my only real complaint about it.
Treble- the treble is nicely integrated with the midrange, both being in each other’s line. The highs extend very nicely, and are well detailed in all of their areas, just like the mids. I have detected only a minor amount of sibilance, so there are almost no ear-piercing’s’ sounds that these produce, which is great. Clarity and cleanness are present in the highs too, giving the sound that kind of special transparency that is also in the RE-400’s mids. Sparkle is produced in the right level, causing the cymbals to sound natural and quite real, while not being fatiguing or overly-done.
Sound-Staging and Instrument Separation- the sound-stage isn’t as amazing as the sound’s other parts. By this, I’m not trying to say that it is bad, as it’s not by any means, but rather only decent. It does give the sound a nice sense of space, but I would’ve liked it to have a bit more depth. On the other hand, instrument separation is a really sweet surprise when looking at the $99 asking price, as the RE-400’s performance in this department is comparable to many higher-priced IEMs.
HiFiMan brings a new standard of sound-quality to the below $100 market with the RE-400. With their sound-quality, I could’ve easily seen them sold for around $150 or even more. The RE-400s possess a neutral and balanced sound-signature which won’t appeal to anyone, as some listeners might find it a bit light on the bass, though I’d say that most of the people that would try them would also like them. I liked the way that they sounded with every genre that I’ve listened to with them, so I would say that they are quite versatile; I might even call the RE-400 an all-rounder. Offering an ergonomically-designed housing and a great isolation together with an amazing sound-quality makes the RE-400 “a full package”. For only $99 I couldn’t recommend these more!
Where to Buy? The HiFiMan RE-400’s MSRP is $99. It can be purchased for that price directly from HiFiMan’s web-store, here. The RE-400s are said to start shipping to HiFiMan’s dealers all over the world soon, so check out if your local dealer will have them in stock.
I’d like to thank Peter for the review sample.