Tuesday, October 24, 2017

HiFiMan HE400S Planar Driver Headphone Review

Up for review today is a pair of headphones I am pretty excited about. It is the HiFiMan HE400S. HiFiMan does not use the traditional dynamic drivers in their headphones. Instead they use a planar driver. Planar drivers are typically not very efficient, and are usually found in expensive models. But with the HE400S, HiFiMan is bucking this trend, as they are very efficient as well as only $299 MSRP!
Features and specs:
Frequency Response : 20Hz – 35KHz 
Sensitivity : 98dB
Impedance : 22 Ohms
Weight : 350g
Cable Length : 1.5 m
Plug : 3.5mm/6.35mm

The HiFiMan HE400S came in a nice printed hard cardboard box with photos of the headphones. When I opened the box, I found the headphones well protected in a custom foam cutout. The materials used were mostly plastic, with some metal and soft plastic in the headband. The detachable cable is braided cloth covered. Quality of materials used was good, as was the fit finish of the headphones. The quality of the cables is excellent. The build quality of the headphones was just a tad under what I would expect at the price point. But given what they were at this price point, I was excited. I'm sure they had to cut some corners to fit the HE400S in this low price point. They also had a black painted metal mesh on the exterior of the earcups that allowed you to see the planer driver inside.

For song selection, we thought we would mix some new school with some old school.  We'll start with twenty One Pilots: Heathens, then go to Kansas: Carry On Wayward Son, and Fresh Aire: Going To Another Place.   Twenty One Pilots: Heathens, vocals were very smooth, natural, with excellent texture and resolution.  Piano sounded very natural, with nice low level harmonics.  Percussion was extremely crisp with very good resolution.  Bass was tight, with good impact, extension, and authority.  Soundstage was quite large with excellent imaging.    Kansas: Carry On Wayward Son, vocals were silky smooth with excellent harmonics and texture.  Keyboards sounded natural, and the cymbals were crisp and dynamic.  Kick drum had good impact and played with some authority.  The soundstage was big with very good imaging.  Fresh Aire: Going To Another Place, strings were extremely crisp and clean with excellent resolution of the strings.  Piano sounded very natural with very good natural tone.  Flute was extremely smooth like honey, with lots of air and plenty of resolution to hear the tonguing technique.  Drums had nice depth and impact, and played with some authority.  Soundstage was big with very good imaging.

The HiFiMan HE400S with it's price of $299 is a great price.  It's the first headphones that I have seen that uses a planar driver at this low of a price.  And the overall sound was pretty neutral.  It's headband design also made it very comfortable, especially with the soft velvet earpads.  The detachable cables were very high quality.  But the plastic earcups did seem a bit cheap.  I guess to get a planar driver at this point...some corners had to be cut.  The HiFiMan HE400S also performed better than expected at their price point.  I loved the cable quality, and the sound quality of the highs and mids.  I just would have liked to have heard a little more output in the bass, and see a slightly better build quality in the earcups.  I knew the mids and highs were going to be exceptional with the planar driver.  With sound this good at their entry level product, I can only image what a mid grade or upper level product would sound like! Based on their design, features, quality, and performance, the HiFiMan HE400S has earned our Highly Recommended Award.  For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.hifiman.com.