HiFiMAN RE-400 [2013-02-16]
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http://www.head-fi.org/t/651419/hifiman-re-400-review

First Impressions: Since these are pre retail they aren’t in anything fancy. I don’t mind that though, I’ve heard a bunch of HiFiMAN IEM’s and everyone one of them has been jaw droppingly good. I have little doubt that the RE-400 is going to be any different but given they seem to be replacing the aging yet still stunning RE-0 I don’t know quite what to expect but I do expect greatness.

First listen and they are not disappointing. They seem to have the same RE-0 level of detail but seem vastly easier to drive and much bigger sounding. The bass too feels far more vigorous as that was always a complaint of the old 0. Oh god, are these maybe big and balanced enough to be GR07 challenging? Oh because if they are and I think they will, they I think will be besting them in the detail retrieval department. Oh my, suffice to say after a couple of hours listening is pretty impressed that it’s going to kick the snot out of just about everything near its price!

Source: Hisoundauido Rocoo BA predominantly.

Lows: To many out there this is still going to be lacking in the lows. Quantity wise it’s a step up from the RE-ZERO and 0 but a bass monster this is not. That said the quality is just as you expect, outstanding! As lightingly fast and agile as you’ll find on a dynamic. Tight and just super cleanly delivered. Sure the best BA’s can best it but, and it’s a big but, HiFiMAN have tweaked the 400 to be a little less 0 like. The 0 when it came out was a dynamic but sounded just like a BA, exactly like a BA and the lacking a sense of fullness in the lows that brings. The 400 offers a low end that’s that bit fuller and more expansive. It seems physically larger in the way a multi BA IEM might. It lets you have a greater sense of feeling the note rather than simply being made aware of it in a cold and lifeless manner. The 0 while stunningly accurate wasn’t ever one for capturing the soul of a song and bringing it to life. The RE-400 on the other hand is so much more wonderfully alive in the low end, convincingly vibrant unlike the colourless 0. Depth here is pretty good too, the spec says down to 15 Hz which should beat human hearing but at that level it’s more about feeling than hearing and the 400 feels right. The 0’s lack of that, like many BA IEM’s, leaves many to be unsatisfied by that sort of sound without bumping up the audible bass level dramatically. The 400 introduces a hint of that dynamic fullness.

So, yes the quality is superb and it’s gloriously full bodied for the linear nature of its sound. There is still the fact that this can’t roar and rumble like the GR07 can. The GR07 can thunder out of nowhere, the RE-400 just won’t. It’s very lively with a fab dynamic range and it can really kick it up for pop music but nothing ever runs away with itself. The bass is stunning and likes to party but won’t go too far (or as far as some would like.) It’s still got that seated sense of self control of a truly audiophile product than the wild abandon of a “consumer” orientated product.

N.B. For those that have asked about how these compare to the RE-262, I don’t think of them as 2 things id naturally compare as they are aiming for different things. The 262 is about smooth, lush sound that ever so laid back and relaxed. The 400 is far more exciting and excitable. Bass levels are rather more in the 400 too to go along with that hint of consumer type fun.

Mids: Fabulous is every possible way. Sure they don’t really come in the creamy liquid lusciousness of the RE-262 but they are so very much more alive than those in the RE-0. The 0 as I’ve said was stunningly good but a bit soulless. The 400 is still a bit dry but no more of that thinness. They feel so very much bigger and dynamically vibrant. The dynamic range on these is quite stunning btw. They seem so easy to drive too. The clarity and openness is faultless. They are superbly detailed and acoustic guitars snap and twang perfectly.

They may be a bit forward compared to many mainstream things but the mids are spot on linearly balanced to my ears. That said they seem a little easier to make loud in the upper mids than the lower mids. The deepest male vocals don’t have the Joie de vivre that the girls manage, most male vocals do too. That seems a very small quibble though as these are otherwise amazeballs good for this price. (Pretty damn good at any price!)

Highs: A traditional strength area for dynamic drivers and HiFiMAN. It’ll come as no surprise to anyone that the highs here are truly excellent. Hand on heart though I do believe the 0 just beats them but it’s so close who cares, it’s not like anything else for this money can. They are wonderfully extended and can shimmer and portray a decaying cymbal like little else can. For all my love of BA drivers and the things they can do the highs they never quite nail like the best dynamics can. This is one of the best dynamics so long as you feed it quality stuff. The highs are the first thing to die in compression. Feed it good stuff and it just shines! Mr Johnson’s “Staple it together” the highs are cleanly recorded and aside from the 0 nothing priced like this is as good.

The only negative ish is that many who like a trebly IEM are more familiar encountering it in a BA like the ER4 or DBA-02 where the treble has a much more abrasive edge to it. The RE-400 (and the 0) have a much more natural and rounded edge to cymbal impacts. Therefore it may not have the same attention grabbing, in your face nature if that’s what you want.

Soundstage: Pretty good! It’s not a quality HiFMAN’s stuff is known for but these sound pretty reasonably sized. Vocals are a still a bit tight in but less so than its predecessor. Where they stand rather better is in the space and separation. The lows highs and mids are clearly distinct in their placement and feels like a good sized living room.

Fit: Well they are teeny tiny and they come with a good range of tips too. Fit was mostly a case of stick in and done but….. while better than the 0 was there is still a touch of air pressure / venting issues. In a fairly closed dynamic you always will but on the whole it was fine in daily use.

Comfort: The things are tiny and weigh hardly anything. I was utterly happy to wear all day long and not notice them.

Cable: Hmm it’s a woven cable from the Y splitter on down. If you’re not careful you could get it to kink but it wasn’t bad. Above it was just plastic and bit of me finds it disappointing but then I remember what they cost. It’s very ordinary and functional.

Build: The buds themselves are superb things, little slabs of what I’m guessing is aluminium. They should survive rather well I think. The jack, while hardly a looker seems very sturdy and the Y splitter seems very solid too.

Microphonics: Erm none really. None that I noticed anyway. Of course I did wear them up, even down there really wasn’t much to speak of.

Amped/Unamped: It held up surprisingly well when unamped given what the 0 was like. The 0 somewhat famously needed a power station behind it to drive it at its best (I think why the ZERO came out) but the 400 seemed pretty happy running off my phone. The bass suffered a bit in depth and solidity. Not that it got what I’d call flabby but it lost that granite like quality it has amped. The highs too lost their magical uber shiney shimmeryness. How much of that was due to lack of power verses coming out a so so source who can say. They still sounding stunningly good but if you supply them with better they will rise to the occasion. Oh and I rather did like adding additional impedance. When added it rather refined the already very good highs to nearing the RE-0 level.

Isolation: Pretty not bad. It’s a dynamic but it’s fairly closed like all its siblings. Not trip to New Zealand good perhaps but easily enough for normal usage unless you Tube commute every day. Certainly enough to get you run over because you didn’t hear that bus coming up behind you if you aren’t looking.

Accessories: 4 pairs of tips which seems like an odd number and some weird cable tidy thing. The cable tidy thing feels cheap, chavvy and personally I’d never use it. Ignoring its white it’s just too small and personally I don’t like wrapping cables that lightly. I’d maybe have liked to see a little case but let’s face it, if you want a little case hit up ebay and pick one. You aren’t buying this for the accessory package.

Value: Erm as best as I can tell unbeatable. For USD100 or 63 POUND (today anyway according to google) I know of nothing as good sounding. Anyone who is in any way serious enough about audio quality to have read all this really ought to buy a pair right now.

Conclusion: While I can accept that these may not be to everyone’s tastes and whatever else but these are pretty flawless. Okay they don’t isolate like a pair of ER4’s and the don’t have bass like an IE8 or mids like the SE530 or RE-262 and they don’t have the mesmerizingly stupendous treble of the RE-272. So if you’re the sort of person that wants and indeed expects the moon on I stick then these may not be for you but these are so without failing for the money. The closest thing I can possibly come to a failing is that they won’t be as bassy as some people are going to want but that’s not the RE-400’s fault but the fault of years of consumer conditioning to the notion more bass = “better.”

Can not being overly coloured be a failing?

If had been told that these were to cost twice their price it would have still been a favourable review, maybe not such incredible value but on the sound quality there is not much that can best them. If I’m honest the only real competition I see for these are the GR07 and its sibling, the GR01, both rather more costly. The 7 is however more of an all-rounder with a more vigorous low end talent so it may appeal to the masses a hair more but it’s practically twice the price! What’s more staggering is that the 400 still beats it on detail retrieval. Acoustically the GR01 and the RE-400 are oh so very, very close. It wouldn’t surprise me one jot if the engineers at HiFiMAN had been listening to the GR01. The differences are the GR01 isn’t as extended in the highs as the 400 but it obviously isolates rather more. So very, very similar sound signatures but the RE-400 is somewhat more dynamic sounding. As in acoustically dynamic not BA / dynamic.

The 400 is really up there with pretty much the best you can find regardless of price. Sure it’s not quite top tier stuff, nether was the 0 but its close enough you won’t care. Frankly at its current US$100 it’s an utter steal. For what is practically no money in audiophile terms these offer genuine talent that is for all intents, practically perfect. Anyone with audiophile aspirations ought to have one of these and could legitimately only have one of these.

Yes, really it’s that good.