Published on September 6th, 2015 | by Greg0
HiFiMan HE400s: Affordable Planar Magnetic Headphones
If you’re in the market for a new set of headphones, then the time is definitely ripe as we are heading into the season where new holiday gear should tempt every wallet and pair of ears. Audiophiles have high expectations, but plenty of people don’t think of themselves that way- even though they can definitely appreciate great sound. Sometimes it boils down to price and style, since serious aficionados don’t mind spending upwards of $500, and almost enjoy a lack of style.
Luckily, today’s product brings high-end planar magnetic technology to a sub-$300 price point, and they still look classy. HiFiMan is a brand name trusted in the audio world, and we’ve tested out several of their lineup in the past, including their top-notch audio players. Their new HE400s take the experience and knowledge from sets like the HE400i that we saw late last year, use some of the same materials, and make an orthodynamic headphone built for the smartphone world, capable of being driven from mobile devices. We tested it with digital sources, direct from laptops but even smartphone and tablets, as well as our traditional array of headphone amps (with and without separate DACs).
Usually, planar magnetic headphones are heavy and bulky- and certainly no one will consider these lightweight or svelte except in comparison. But at 12 ounces, they won’t weigh you down and feel both solid and comfortable even during lengthy listening sessions. They aren’t built for portability though and are best listened to at home or in an office, in a place where you can appreciate their sonic signature. Open backed, they aren’t isolating, so we wouldn’t use them on the subway or an airplane- but open back pairs are airier, allowing you to enjoy more space in and around your music. Velour earpads are a little cozier, but a bit less durable than the other models in their family.
If you haven’t tried similar sets, then you’ll immediately notice a difference. It can take a little getting used to- more detailed and lighter with a little less booming bass than traditional sets. The basics behind the mechanics are simple, as larger conductive layers cover almost all of the diaphragm, which means a broader surface to create sound and in turn less distortion. If you listen to mostly EDM, hip-hop, or low resolution files, you might not notice a big change, but with high-resolution files, anything with warmth and vibrato, all sound richer, more authentic, present. Easy on the wallet and on the eyes, HiFiMan’s HE400s are a set of orthodynamic headphones like no other. For those with more to spend, other options are compelling- we did like the 400is better for their additional detail and richer texture. But in this price range, if you don’t need to listen on-the-go, then do your ears a favor and give the latest from HiFiMan a listen. Available now, online and in stores, for $299,