Hifiman has been producing fine audiophile products for a while now. Their full size headphones help lead the charge for planar magnetic drivers (HE-6, HE500) and they more recently started producing less expensive dynamic drivers as well (HE-300). They even popped up quite a bit at a recent Head-Fi meet as a fan favorite.
Although the HifiMan product line is probably one of the broadest brands in terms of overall audiophile products (full-size, headphones, amps, DAP) one of their most recent extensions leads us down into the realm of universal fit IEMs. Those familiar with my site will know that my first go ‘round with universal IEMs many years ago yielded less than awesome results. More than one brand (who shall remain nameless) offered products in the $100 range that were way off tonally or even slightly distorted. I’m glad to report that many companies are making leaps and bounds in the right direction when it comes to universal fit IEMs. The days have come where expectations for $100 IEM investments can finally be met (or even exceeded) .
The new HiFMan RE-400 lands squarely within that price category at $100, and boasts a single 8.5mm titanium diaphragm. Its outer casing consists of a tough aluminum material and feels very solid to the touch. While you can see my ramblings of the importance of proper tip selection and fit [in this review], I did find a comfortable fit with some soft foam tips I had lying around that I choose to utilize for the duration of the review. Although not interchangeable, the 400s cable is braided at the connector end and then sports a very smooth texture after the Y-split. The fit, finish and design overall is something you would expect for this price range, if not even a step or two better.
The sound of the RE-400s is lightyears beyond those first $100 pair of universals I experienced years ago. The overall tonal signature is delightfully neutral. Frequent IEM goers will be quick to point out that fit plays a huge role in the bass response. The overall frequency response with the tips I used was surprisingly (even astonishingly) balanced and vibrant. I did notice that the 400s required a little extra volume to perform their best. This may be related to the tips I was using, but a little extra nudge on the volume knob did a lot for the overall timbre and dynamics, especially in the mid range. Once I found my footing vocals seemed exceptionally transparent with just a hint of grain, but still far more performance than I expected from this price point. The bass section didn’t surpass the level of definition or extension of some of the top-tier Jerry Harvey models, but was definitely not a one-note wonder. Both speed and impact were well accounted for. The bass section seemed to have just a little extra thump on the tip of the toe end of the spectrum, which is something that I have noticed with other universal fit IEMs.
Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of the 400s is what you don’t hear. No bloated bass, no screeching treble, not even a muffled midsection to throw you off the trail. Give them the gas they need and they will get the job done. Additionally, the 400s benefitted greatly from a proper audiophile setup. Even though their meager 32 ohms of resistance makes the 400s easy to drive from any source, using both the Cypherlabs AlgoRhythm Solo –dB in conjunction with the ALO International scaled performance up quite a bit. As I listened to the cringe-worthy but well-produced lyrics of P.F. Sloan by Jimmy Webb, detail and soundstaging were exceptional for something that you cram down into your ear canal.
Even with the inevitable drawbacks inherent with this type of headphone, the HiFiMan RE-400s remain a very tight sounding audio delivery system. Not only does it deliver on the $100 mark, its sonic character holds up into the higher price points with authority. The 400s are a great buy. I’d even go as far as to say that my faith in the $100 universal IEM has been restored, thank you HiFiMan.
On Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AWLEAH6/