The Terrific HiFiMAN HE400S Planar Magnetic Headphones Page 2

Circuit races on the HE400S diaphragm are clearly visible with earpad removed. This planar magnetic headphone has a one sided magnetic structure.

Sound Quality
Oh man! The HE400S is a fabulous sounding headphone! Right off the bat, I'll say it lacks low bass extension and is just a tad splashy sounding in the treble...but that's when I compare it with the best headphones available. Given it's price and type, I find it best to compare them head-to-head with the venerable HD 600/650. Listening side-by-side, I've got to say I prefer the HE400S over the HD 600 by a modest margin.

We've all heard the phrase, "the Sennheiser veil" regarding the HD 600/650, and I do think there's something to the criticism. There seems to be some lack of presence in them. Not so with the HE400S. Vocals sound more coherent and "real" with the HE400S. The human voice with its chest and nasal resonance; growling sounds of the throat; and lip-smacking spittal are rendered better as a whole than the HD 600/650 to my ears, which, in comparison, sound a bit hollow and distant.

The mid-range of the HD400S is simply superb...and, of course, this is where most of the music happens. While the treble can seem just slightly hazy, it's never harsh unless the music is. And while the lowest bass notes lack weight, they're tight and undistorted. The overall presentation of the HE400S is so gorgeous that the errors are easy to forgive...heck, I hardly miss them at all given the beautifully coherent presentation over most of the sonic middle ground. It's important to note, at this point, that others have found the HiFiMAN Focus pads ($39) to significantly improve bass response.

While full size, open headphones are not ideal for portable use, the HE400S is so efficient that they can be driven to solid listening levels with a smartphone. Pair it up with a dedicated amp and sound quality improves nicely as the front end preceding it improves. These are a very versatile headphone, and make a great first serious purchase for budding headphone fact, they're so good they may become a staple for advanced headphone enthusiasts in general, especially as a second headphone for use at the office or when away from your primary rig.

I'm loath to dethrone the HD 600 from the Wall of Fame, or claim the HE400S clearly superior...but so far, it's drawing me to that conclusion. I've only had a couple months of periodic listening sessions to to the HE400S, how in the world can I say they best the legendary Sennheisers and feel confident about the observation? The answer, I guess, is that's the way I hear it. An astonishing, unexpected, and thrilling circumstance.

Bassheads beware: The HD400S is probably not the headphone for you. (Look toward the Philips Fidelio X2 for an open headphone with powerful bass.) But if you're a headphone enthusiast wanting a sonic bargain for a wide range of listening and shy away from the slightly laid back sound of the HD 600, the HiFiMAN may be just the ticket. Though a bit hobbled by lack of low bass and ever so slightly splashy treble, everything in between is gloriously coherent and musical.

The HE400S is hitting the Wall of Fame with authority. I'm not going to remove the HD 600 because...well...I just can't disrespect its legendary status—it remains a great headphone and worth the price of entry. I will remove the Philips Fidelio L1—at the same price I'd take the HE400S all day long. Highly, highly recommended!


SBAF impressions and tips and tweaks.
Previous threads at Changstar here.
Head-Fi thread here.