HE400S Headphone Review
Quality open-backs now accessible to all.
THE HIGH NOTES
- Planar design
- Easy to drive
- Lightweight and comfortable
Company & Product Overview
HIFIMAN is a relative newcomer to the headphone marketplace (founded in 2007 by Dr. Fang), yet this hasn’t stopped them from dominating the headphone world and winning accolades across the globe for their impressive sound quality. Prices range from $49 for the in-ear RE300 series all the way up to $3,000 for the HE1000, which many believe are the best headphones in the world.
Enter the HIFIMAN HE400S. At $299, we can confidently say this is one of the best overall values in open-back headphones to ever hit the market.
Packaging, Design & Build Quality
Despite their affordable price tag, the last thing on your mind is budget when the HIFIMAN HE400S arrives in a large, sturdy box complete with clean lines and a modern design. The headphones are depicted on the front and its specs are listed on the back. Upon opening you’ll find an in-depth user manual inside premium cushioning for the headphones.
The HE400S, like many open-back, over-ear headphones, utilize a large planar driver which creates an overall larger, yet aesthetically pleasing, headphone.
Each earpiece has a cord that extends out about 18” before joining a flexible 1.5m cord. The standard plug is 3.5mm, fitting a portable device, and a 6.5mm adapter is included for a headphone amp or home stereo.
If you’re seeking comfort, you’ll find it with the HE400S. An added bonus of the large planar driver is the subsequent larger ear cups that will fit comfortably, regardless of ear size. The HE400S is one of the most lightweight full-size planar headphones we’ve tested and has a lightweight head strap that easily adjusts for a great fit. You’ll be able to comfortably wear these headphones for hours.
The primary reason we highly recommend the HE400S is the sound/value ratio. Like most open-back headphones, sound from the HE400S escapes to the outside world. This means your cubicle teammate will hear you jamming out (unless they have their own pair).
To get the most out of your HE400S headphones we suggest you spend some time positioning them on your head. The planar driver used is set up vertically in the ear cups and we found you can change the clarity ever-so-slightly by perfectly aligning them with your ears. This sweet spot also seems to be the most comfortable listening position, as well.
While we have experienced slightly deeper bass (including with more expensive HIFIMAN models), keep in mind this is judging against our reference standards that are all $1,000+, compared to the HE400S’s modest price tag of $299.
The open-back design of the HE400S provides an incredibly spacious sound field. Just put on something like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” (the remastered version is especially good) and you’ll hear harmony coming from what seems like outside your ears. You’ll find the interplay of vocals from left to right to be a night-and-day difference from closed-back headphones.
Another favorite testing track we use is “Heartbeats” by José González. This track has a close mic’d acoustic guitar with male vocals and with the HE400S headphones the solo guitar sounds like it’s being performed directly in front of you. The speed of the planar driver allows you to clearly distinguish each pluck of the guitar strings, yet simultaneously pinpoint the resonance of the acoustic guitar body. This is not an easy feat to pull off with any speaker or headphone, and many times you may hear clarity without much in the way of harmonics or the opposite. To access both of these sensations in a $299 headphone is something special.
While there is no “perfect” headphone, it’s no surprise that the best pairs share similar characteristics. We were pleased to discover the HE400S allowed us to check the box on so many of our favorite traits.
If you are ready to upgrade to a headphone that is true to the music yet you’re hesitant to spend over $1,000, you should seriously consider the HIFIMAN HE400S. You’ll gain high performance audio with a product even your phone can drive, and the ability to listen for hours without fatigue.
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED
The lowest distortion design available in a headphone providing stellar speed and open sound.
Lightweight and Comfortable
At only 350 grams, this is one of the lightest planar headphones on the market
Easy to Drive
With a relatively low impedance and high efficiency you’ll find it’s easy to drive even with a phone