HiFiMAN HE-400S – PLANAR MAGNETICS ON A BUDGET?

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Recently I did an article on Audeze and their planar magnetic headphones. When you’ve read the article, you’ve probably noticed pretty quick that planar magnetic headphones are not the cheapest on the block. This is about to change…

HiFiMAN, another well-respected company amongst audio enthusiasts, have just released their newest addition, the HiFiMAN HE-400S. An open-back full-size planar magnetic headphone with a retail price of $299. That’s pretty unique! Considering that HiFiMAN is well known for their great-sounding, but expensive planar magnetic headphones. Just like Audeze is…

tai-nghe-tu-phang-HiFiMan-HE400s-660x371

So, did HiFiMAN succeed in delivering a great sounding planar magnetic for a very reasonable price? To be honest, I personally haven’t got the chance to listen to them, but Tyll Hertsens from Innerfidelity had a chance to listen to them at T.H.E Show Newport 2015. This is what he had to say: “Well, if the HE-400S really performs as well as the impression I got at the show, these cans are going to totally disrupt the price/performance expectations at $300. What I heard has me questioning not whether they’ll make the Wall of Fame, but how many headphones will be knocked off in its wake.”

Everyone who knows Tyll also knows he does not make these bold statements lightly if he didn’t think they were true!

he400s

Alright, we can rest assure that these cans will sound very nice. So where’s the catch huh? Let’s talk about build quality. If you compare these with the more expensive HiFiMAN cans, you’ll immediately notice a difference in materials used. Considering the price difference, that’s pretty inevitable.

But let’s look at the HE400I which costs $499. Putting them next to each other like in the picture below you can clearly see the HE400S looks cheaper, but design wise they are identical!

HE400IvsHE400S
HiFiMAN HE-400S vs HE-400I

The HE400S weights only 350g, which is 20g lighter than the HE-400I. That’s a nice plus for the portability of these cans. Speaking of portability. HiFiMAN promotes these as “easy to drive” and that they’ll sound terrific on your smartphone. This statement however, is still a bit of a question mark. Tyll mentioned in his quick listening session that these cans didn’t sound very good with the standard rig at the audio show and that they only really came alive on his portable AK120, CEntrance M8. Just to be clear, that’s a $700 portable amp!

Considering everything, the HE400S looks to be a headphone to watch out for. This could possibly be THE headphone that brings planar magnetics into the mainstream audience.

Let me know what you think guys. Did you always want to deviate from the path of standard dynamic headphones, but thought the price was way too expensive? Well, here’s your chance. A HiFiMAN planar magnetic for $299 sparkling new seems too good to pass on.

 

18 thoughts on “HiFiMAN HE-400S – PLANAR MAGNETICS ON A BUDGET?”

  1. First of all, i LOVED the header of your website, it looks very cool, and I really like the theme of the website, very unique in my opinion.

    I have never heard of HiFiMAN in my live but is maybe because where I live (Venezuela) those kind of business don’t come here. But as you describe it, this headphones are a very good inversion, I would totally buy them.

  2. I always did like a good pair of headphones for my ‘quiet time’. But I must admit, 299$ is still quite a bit much. Yet it’s incredible to know the more expensive ones, are actually the same (design wise) as the less expensive ones I think you might have blown a lid off of a massive scam in their industry. Nice job

  3. The cost of headphones these days, $299 sounds like a great price for this pair. I’d like a bit more padding on the headband, but other than that everything looks very comfortable.

    I am not sure if I missed it in your article, but I am a gamer and I would say I am a hardcore one (I play about 30+ hours a week) so would these be comfortable for a person who plays about 3-6 hours a day?

    P.S I would be using these to listen to music whilst I play. So I usually where my headset as long as I play games.

    Thanks for the article and for the help in advance.

    1. Hi Anthony, please keep in mind that these weight 350 gr. Personally, that’s too much weight for me to keep them comfortable for hours. For long listening sessions, I use my Sennheiser HD 650 which weighs 260 gr.

  4. $299 does not sound too costly for a good set of headphones. They look comfortable which is a must for me. I have had disappointments in the past with some lower quality headsets. I went out and bought a Bose, which was more costly, but I was satisfied with the result. I may have to look into the HiFiMAN HE-400S.

  5. Those are some nice comfortable looking headphones. Im going to check out some video reviews on them a little later. Been meaning to buy a decent pair. Thought about getting the Dre Beats which is definitely the it thing right now a lot of hype right now for some $300 dollar headphones.

  6. Hey Jurgen,

    I’ve been doing a bunch of research for the best possible match on great quality headphones on the lowest budget point possible, these seem like a good match for me.

    However, I saw that in one of the photos the girl is wearing glasses, but how well do these actually fit with someone that wears glasses? I’m not sure if that is just promotional material or if they really will fit well with glasses, I need to know for sure before buying them so that I don’t have to end up returning them…

    Thanks in advance, your post helped me out a lot!

    1. Hi Colton, you should not have any problems wearing glasses. I’ve read reviews of people who tested it with glasses on and they noticed no difference.

  7. I’ve been looking for a pair of cans with an oversized design for the last few weeks now – these look a good fit ( no pun intended! ).
    I’ve heard a lot about these Planar Magnetic Drivers since my research started but I’m still unsure about the ins & outs. Could you maybe go through it in laymans terms for me ( an aging analog freak! )

  8. Hey Jurgen

    Great article. I actually didn’t know there were different kinds of headphones, probably because I’ve always used standard dynamic headphones, but I do enjoy listening to quality sound when hearing music.

    Besides my current headphones just broke, and I’m looking for a new one, maybe it is time to try something new. $299 is definitely affordable, while $699 for those Audeze seems pretty expensive.

    I’m definitely taken HiFiMAN HE-400S into consideration when looking for a new pair of headphones.

    1. Yeah, I’m also tempted to order these, considering the price. Let me know if you get them. I’m curious what your thoughts are!

      All the best,

      Jurgen

  9. Hi,
    Your post made want to listen to music… I currently use boose headphones and i must say they’re pretty amazing and they price is about the same range. How would you qualify boose as a headphones brand ? Do the hifiman he 400s need batteries. That’s the anoying factor with my one.
    Thanks for your intresting post.
    Have a good day

    1. I assume you mean Bose… Well, Bose is known to be the best in one thing -> Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). They don’t sound bad, but also not really audiophile grade. You pay for the brand and the ANC.

      Since the HE400S doesn’t have ANC it requires no batteries. Don’t expect any noise isolation of these, since they are open-back headphones.

      All the best,

      Jurgen

  10. Hi, I only usually use cans inside a studio environment but I’m looking for something that I can use on the move for my own mp3 player. Are these suited to the sort of walk around environemnt in the city. You know, the stuck on the tube and bus situation – they look perfect but I need to be sure first!

    1. Hi Chris,

      I wouldn’t consider the HE400S a truly portable headphone. I mean, it’s full-size and open-back so there’s no noise isolation whatsoever… It’s portable as in using them around the house or hotel with your smartphone or laptop.

      All the best,

      Jurgen

  11. ruggedgamers.com

    I’m not sure how to feel about this news.
    On the one hand, HIFIMAN have a strong reputation for high sound quality but a history of using subpar materials at ridiculous price points.
    Secondly, I’m not sure 300$ would be able to really touch the ‘mainstream’ audience, since unless they’re spending that much on a pair of Beats, the mainstream audience is a far cry from appreciating true audiophile-grade quality.
    Tyll’s statement that they didn’t sound so great at the show but they did on his 700$ amp points to that direction… I mean, how many mainstream listeners will have a 700-1000$ audio setup, or even know to build a quality one?

    On the other hand, WOOHOO, planars for 300$, still too steep for me at the moment, but I’m imagining a beautiful future with a pair of flat cans at maybe 150$-200$.

    And I’d love to get signal measurements on those cans. I wonder how that signal curve looks. I’d heard the treble on HIFIMAN planar magnetic cans is still a bit off.

    1. Yep, like I said, it’s a bit of a question-mark to see how they really sound on smartphones. On the other hand, $300 for a planar magnetic is a big achievement. I agree, you won’t necessary reach the typical commuters, but you will reach the people who appreciate quality sound, but had to choose a dynamic headphone because of the price issue. So this opens up a new market for HiFiMAN.

      Good news on those measurements! Tyll has them and he says they look pretty similar like the Sennheiser HD600. Check them out here .

      All the best,

      Jurgen

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