HiFiMAN HE400S headphones

12.04.2016..
HiFiMan HE400S
HiFiMan HE400S

Preamble

The orthodynamic or planar-magnetic headphones are not new. I remember in the 70’s one model by Yamaha already employing this kind of technology, but we have to get to the last decade of this century to find designers capable of giving prestige and international success to the planar-magnetic system. Among them Mr. Fang Bian, who in 2007 founded in New York the HiFiMAN company, one of the main and modern manufacturer of orthodynamic headphones.

 

Out of the box

The HiFiMAN HE400S are packed in an elegant cardboard box and dampened by shaped foam. There is also a black box with the connection cable, the ¼” (6.35 mm) headphone adapter, and the user’s manual.

 

From the technical point of view

Some time ago, I read somewhere that the orthodynamic headphones are the “electrostatic for poor people”. Maybe the misunderstanding comes from the fact that, like the electrostatic, the orthodynamic headphones are provided with a planar transducer. From here the definition of planar-magnetic: a thin and conductive diaphragm that vibrates inside a magnetic field like the drivers of the traditional dynamic headphones. From my point of view, the excellence of a headphone depends on the tastes and personal requirements. The physical principle does not determine the quality and the success of a product. The superiority “a priori” of the electrostatic headphones is no longer a rule, if it ever was.

I say it continuously: you cannot judge the quality of the headphones before a proper run-in! Initially, in fact, they could be judged very badly. The HE400S require at least twenty hours to reach their timbric and dynamic potentialities. Otherwise, you will have the worst results with sources with modest driving capabilities like portable players, smartphones, DAC and audio cards.

Even if they are not very light with their 350g of weight, the HE400S are comfortable to wear. So you can use them for long hours of relaxing listening. The headband is easy to calibrate, designed for the models of the new HiFiMAN line, and gives a correct and balanced adherence to the listener’s head. All the materials are of good quality

Some complains about the connection cable. Its cover makes it a bit stiff, easy to twist and to undesirable folds. If it rubs other surfaces, it transmits noise to the ear pads. Finally, the connection of the ear pads through mini jacks, although comfortable, is not well appropriate for the stability of the electric connection. A small rotation can produce undesirable roars and hisses.

 

Listening impressions

The first thing that I asked myself during the test was if it were correct to judge the HE400S as the entry-level product of HiFiMAN in the catalogue of the planar-magnetic headphones. My previous tests with many headphones of the series Reference make my answer no.

The first reason is that they are very easy to drive. This is something unknown to my old HE400, or headphones like the HE-6, amazing as for the performances, but requiring very powerful amplifiers, capable of delivering 5 watt into 50 ohm to give their best. Then the timbric, soft, with the mid frequency a bit rearward and a smooth and pleasant high range. The “dynamic push” of other headphones of this brand is less evident here. Nevertheless, the listening fatigue is very low also considering the weight and the velvet ear pads mostly in the hot summer months.

Like the other HiFiMAN planar-magnetic headphones, they have a good virtual stage and a matter and well-articulated bass range. I think that the purchase of the HE400S has to be aimed to their characteristics disregarding the price and possible offers. On one hand, these headphones can be driven with little power by several devices thanks to their good sensitivity, 98 dB with 22 ohm of impedance. The best outcome is with classy amplifiers, without any problem of supply. With great satisfaction, I have tried them with DIY amplifiers and with the Violectric HPA V281.

 

Musical genres

Listen to whatever music you like, they are enough versatile to disregard the musical genre. Obviously, a good take will highlight the overall musical quality.

 

Conclusions

You cannot get bored with all the proposal of headphones available on the market. I think that the average quality is getting higher also for the budget headphones like the HE400S. In brief, that means having a classy product at an accessible price.

 

Selection of listened music

Leonard Cohen - Popular Problems - HD Tracks 24/96 - 2014

Chris Cornell - Higher Truth - CD-2015)

David Gilmour - Rattle That Lock - CD-2015

Howling - Sacred Ground - CD-2015

Dave Matthews Band - Away From The World - CD-2012

Mumford & Sons - Wilder Mind (LP-2015)

Orchestral Spectaculars - Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Erich Kunzel - Telarc CD-2002

OST - True Detective - Music From the HBO Series - CD-2015

Pink Floyd - The Wall Experience - CD-2012

Vangelis - Blade Runner Trilogy: 25th Anniversary - CD-2007

Warren Zevon - Sentimental Hygiene - LP-1987

 

 

SCHEME SUMMARY

Top score ✳✳✳✳✳ ReMusic Sparks

Tone: ✳✳✳✳ 1/2 | Hot, but not too much, comfortable listening also for long hours.

Dynamics: ✳✳✳✳ | Not like the other HiFiMAN headphones, but good especially in the micro-dynamic component.

Detail: ✳✳✳✳ | The headphones are not hyper-detailed but you can easily make a distinction/separation of all the components.

Versatility: ✳✳✳✳1/2 | Since the sensitivity is good, they can be driven by (almost) everything. Therefore, optimum.

Image: ✳✳✳✳ | Wide in all the spatial directions, always considering that we are talking of…headphones!

Look and functionality: ✳✳✳1/2 | Pleasant look. Connection cable, connectors and ear pads can be improved.

Price/quality ratio: ✳✳✳✳ | A good purchase. The price matches the quality. If a bit less expensive, they will be a best buy.

 

 

Official technical specifications

Frequency Response: 20Hz-35KHz

Sensitivity: 98dB

Impedance: 22ohms

Weight: 350g

Cable Length: 1,5m

Plug: 3,5mm/6,35mm

 

Official Italian dealer: to Audio Azimuth website

Official current price in Italy: 349.00 EUR, street price from PlayStereo website

Associated equipment: to Mauro Cittadini’s system

by Mauro Cittadini
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