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Hifiman HE400SE Review (Headphone)

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 2 0.7%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 10 3.7%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 89 33.1%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 168 62.5%

  • Total voters
    269

solderdude

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At 30Hz K371 has 7dB more output than HD560S and at 50Hz 5dB more. So yes, you can hear that difference at any level. In the end its just exaggerated low bass in the K371 which many people like/prefer.
HE400SE has even less bass than HD560S but is better extended.
 

Pdxwayne

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At 30Hz K371 has 7dB more output than HD560S and at 50Hz 5dB more. So yes, you can hear that difference at any level. In the end its just exaggerated low bass in the K371 which many people like/prefer.
HE400SE has even less bass than HD560S but is better extended.
Indeed, I am curious if I would like HE400SE more due to something not sub bass level related.
 

pk500

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Btw mine only came with the newer black cable but not the white one. Even never revision or whats up?
The white "Christmas tree tinsel" cable? Consider yourself lucky that you have the black cable. The "tinsel" cable works but looks to be as durable as a condom in a pin factory. :)
 

solderdude

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The 400SE has a substantial and audible upper mids dip which comes in handy with lots of pop and rock recordings. Takes away the brightness in the music. The HD560S emphasized the lower treble.
Both can easily be EQ'ed to similar tonal balance (up to 8kHz)
 

ninetylol

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Holy Sh#t,

Those are prolly my most liked headphones (besides Sundara) stock without EQ. Now i just tried oratorys EQ settings and WOAH. Didnt expect them to change that much. But guitars are completley gone without EQ and suddenly theres another instrument with EQ. Crazy stuff. You should all at least try them with EQ :cool:
 

DanTheMan

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Well damn it. I bought this and I utterly love them. Stupid good and not just for the money. This silver cable however is bar none the worst cable I’ve ever “heard”. It transmits more noise than I honestly knew was possible. What in the hell? It has to be intentional. Oddly enough there was a second black cable in the package that is great…. Very soft and low noise. Unusual decisions going on in the HiFiMan’s mind, but I can’t deny this headphone’s ability to clearly delineate instruments, voices, percussion, counterpoint melodies, and tonality/timbre. Better than any large set of dynamic drivers I’ve heard before, but I’ve never heard the Sennheiser 800 series. In truth, better than any set of drivers I’ve ever heard. I few have come close, but this takes the cake. Weird thing is that even though they have deeper bass than the HD650, they sound bass lite comparatively. They require a sizable bass boost. The upside is that they can handle it without falling apart. Looks like I just converted to planars, but I won‘t be selling my 650 any time soon. I’ve only run it off my ancient FiiO E12 Monte Blanc if that matters to anyone. Frequency response isn’t everything and though I can’t support it with evidence, it’s obvious to anyone who has much experience in audio. We shouldn’t be afraid to admit it as objective-minded humans. Anyway, back to Brahms. I’m out.
 

solderdude

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Weird thing is that even though they have deeper bass than the HD650, they sound bass lite comparatively. They require a sizable bass boost. The upside is that they can handle it without falling apart.

Frequency response isn’t everything and though I can’t support it with evidence, it’s obvious to anyone who has much experience in audio. We shouldn’t be afraid to admit it as objective-minded humans.

red = HE400SE, purple = HD650.png

As you can see bass extension is very similar. Also note that HD650 is often said to lack low bass.
From 70Hz to 200Hz the HD650 actually has 2 dB more bass and is why the HE400SE is relatively a bit bass shy.

Notice how the slope (tilt) from the HD650 from 100Hz to 1kHz is downwards and from the HE400SE is upwards ?
This means HD650 is a bit warmer in the mids.
The small bump between 600Hz and 1kHz gives a bit more forwardness/open-ness to the HE400SE as well.
Its not by much but this makes the HE400SE a bit more dynamic sounding.

Now we come to the elephant in the room.
From 300Hz to 4kHz we see the HD650 is closer to the horizontal line (which is audible 'flat' in this plot) where the HE400SE, in good accordance with all other Hifiman models, dips. In other words the clarity in the HE400SE is definitely less. This is heard in voices the most and in instruments like electric guitars for instance.
You can EQ this back in. I would say that for listening to classical and well recorded jazz a little extra presence is needed.
For pop and rock music as well as for many older recordings the dip helps but when this is not too much it will take the 'edge/hardness' down.

Above 6kHz there is another substantial difference between these headphones. From 7kHz to 15kHz the HE400SE has a very audible 6dB lift opposite the HD650. This is above the sibilance area (5-7kHz) where the HD650 peaks a tiny bit but not enough to become sibilant.

From 7kHz to 12kHz we enter the realm of sharpness. It is very easy to see that even though there is a 'dip' in clarity there is a sizable lift in sharpness in the HE400SE. So cymbals, violins and other 'nuances' from instruments with harmonics all the way up there are accentuated.
For classical music and especially people above say 45 y.o. this works really good and adds some 'air'.
With some recordings and some people being sensitive in that area (alas for me) the sharpness is too much and especially with trumpets in jazz this results in some sharpness.

Then we haven't even discussed the slight angle difference of the drivers and different driver-ear difference which gives the HE400SE the edge when it comes to 'stereo imaging' and 'soundstage'. Despite the dip in clarity (which doesn't help with stereo imaging) the angling of the driver is of importance.

The above is actually obvious to anyone who has much experience in audio.
And indeed we shouldn’t be afraid to admit it as objective-minded humans that frequency response isn’t everything but is at least it clearly is in your assesment (which isn't wrong) and this can be supported it with evidence (Harman and other research) and as I did above.

So yes they are different. Just like any other headphone differs. Yes, preference exists. Also new toy syndrome exists.
No doubt the HE400SE is a very good entry in the planar world. I own both HD650 and HE400SE as well. Both can do with a bit of EQ.
Out of the box the HE400SE impresses more. Enjoy but keep your HD650 around or EQ.
 

DanTheMan

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I was hoping to stimulate a conversation with that one

Your measurements are significantly different from Amir’s and come closer to the tonal differences I hear. Probably a fit/fixture/head issue and to some degree a resolution problem. Your measurements have significant smoothing applied by the looks of them. No doubt that the lower 7-12kHz energy in the 650 has a significant role to play in that as well. What smoothing did you apply?

I have no desire to get rid of my 650 FWIW. Going back and forth, I definitely enjoy them and I hope that was clear in my previous post.

I also wouldn’t assume my hearing has issues as it seems you were applying. I have a recent audiogram if you need evidence lol

edit: I have a 5 dB shelf up to 500Hz and these still don’t sound like they have as much bass as the 650. By Amir’s measurements that should be an obvious elevation in bass output as it should be from yours.

second edit: first thing I listened to on them was Rap God.
 
Last edited:

solderdude

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What smoothing did you apply?

'Psychoacoustic smoothing' (an option in REW) is what I use when comparing headphones for tonal balance. Less clutter and fairly accurate in tonal balance.

I also wouldn’t assume my hearing has issues as it seems you were applying

No implications. Just mentioning this aspects (upper treble) response in general.
 

mechdroid

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FWIW i have had the 400se's for about a week now and concur with DanTheMan. He pretty much summed up my impressions to a T.
I am comparing to the 560s and 58x though which are also excellent. Solderdude's reply was very enlightening with a lot of useful information.
In regards to EQ, I use a Moto E4 with Onkyo HF player to OTG cable to SMSL Sanskrit and finally a Drop THX One or custom O2 with a LM4562 input opamp (made a nice difference to me). Anyway I believe I have found a way to edit the Onkyo HF player EQ curves offline. The interface is difficult to use on the screen of a small phone. It is a nice FIR EQ though. The process is quite easy and you don't need to root your phone. Is this forum the place to explain it?
 

DanTheMan

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'Psychoacoustic smoothing' (an option in REW) is what I use when comparing headphones for tonal balance. Less clutter and fairly accurate in tonal balance.



No implications. Just mentioning this aspects (upper treble) response in general.
That’s what I was thinking it was. I was just playing around with it last week. REW has gained some interesting features.

Older studies in Sound Reproduction concluded that ‘old’ folk don’t like a treble boost anymore than young people do. Is there a newer study that you are referring to?
 

DanTheMan

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FWIW i have had the 400se's for about a week now and concur with DanTheMan. He pretty much summed up my impressions to a T.
I am comparing to the 560s and 58x though which are also excellent. Solderdude's reply was very enlightening with a lot of useful information.
In regards to EQ, I use a Moto E4 with Onkyo HF player to OTG cable to SMSL Sanskrit and finally a Drop THX One or custom O2 with a LM4562 input opamp (made a nice difference to me). Anyway I believe I have found a way to edit the Onkyo HF player EQ curves offline. The interface is difficult to use on the screen of a small phone. It is a nice FIR EQ though. The process is quite easy and you don't need to root your phone. Is this forum the place to explain it?
I want to use SolderDude’s psychoacoustically smoothed graphs to EQ these 2 today. I should really just measure the response on my ears and make them match. I can to blocked ear canal measurements easy enough. I haven’t done that in a long time, but I should do it again just so I can line then up perfectly And match either of them to the other’s original response. It’ll be an interesting exercise to me though in the grand scheme of things means nothing to the rest of the world. The 650 are the headphones that really got me out of the headphone hobby. I enjoy them so much, I stopped looking for headphones for over a decade. They fit me like a glove.
 

Timbo2

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After a month with these I'm still very happy with my purchase, but with one issue. They are built to a price and it shows. I would hesitate to recommend them to somebody that isn't willing or able to tinker with them.

Specifically, I started to notice a rattle in my right channel. I was afraid it was an electrical issue, but it turned out to be a mechanical one. If you do an internet search for "Hifiman and rattle" you'll get multiple hits. Also one of the more highly rated negative reviews on Amazon made note of the same issue.

An easy way to determine if you've gotten unlucky is to put on the bass heavy track of your choice, turn on the EQ and turn the bass up to 11 while turning down the midrange and highs. No need to actually wear the headphones and hurt your hearing, you can hear the rattle from the outside.

You'll need to pull the earpads off. They are bit fiddly, but they just pop off from four attachment points. Underneath the earpads are 6 screws. You need to tighten them up. However, the first time I tightened them up it got better, but the rattle was still there at extremely high volume levels. So I completely removed the screws, pulled the metal ring and the gasket underneath the ring. I flattened the ring as much as possible and reinstalled everything. I reinstalled the screws in a crisscrossed star pattern similar to wheel lugs on a car and slowly torqued them all evenly. This worked and the noise is gone.

If you suffer from this and don't want to take them completely apart like I did - back off all the screws, make sure the metal ring is fully seated and retorque all the screws in a star pattern. See if that works before you take everything apart.

The other issue to keep in mind when you reassemble is that the earpads aren't symmetrical. Make note of which side is up before you remove them.
 

solderdude

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That’s what I was thinking it was. I was just playing around with it last week. REW has gained some interesting features.

Older studies in Sound Reproduction concluded that ‘old’ folk don’t like a treble boost anymore than young people do. Is there a newer study that you are referring to?

Low treble boost (5 to 8kHz range) sure. Upper treble boost isn't a problem for older folks in general. This also depends on where one's hearing dips. This can be anywhere between 8kHz and 12kHz which also has to do with pinna shape. This alters as we age. Then we have tinnitus which also has an influence on how sensitive one is to upper treble.
 

DanTheMan

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Well I am unable to locate my blocked ear canal microphones at the moment so I tried the Crinacle profiles for each and matched levels. Original clarity disparity holds true, but I think they are both improved by EQ. 400se seems to improve more (as in more in line with long listening session enjoyability) however. In truth, the 650 just doesn't seem like it needs EQ at all. When I find those mics, I'm going to try it again.
 

Pdxwayne

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Listened to mine for the first time today. First impression is very bright, but not fatiguing....

Does it need breaking in?
 
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