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HIFIMAN HE400SE Planar Headphones – Bright As The Sun

HIFIMAN HE400SE Planar Headphones – Bright As The Sun

 

 

We have a really nicely priced headphone here, with a price tag of about 200 USD in most places (after tax and shipping). I will be comparing HE400SE with HIFIMAN Sundara (350 USD), Sivga Phoenix (250 USD), and Soundmagic HP1000 (300 USD). Most of the competitors are more pricey because HE400SE is supposed to be fairly close to Sundara, which is selling for 350 USD, but started at 500 USD. 

 


 

 

 

Introduction

 

HIFIMAN is a great company when it comes to audio, reliable and with a rich collection of headphones, and tons of developments in the headphone world. They are also currently the creators of some of the most affordable, cheapest headphones, as well as some of the most expensive, best ones ever ever created when it comes to the planar technology. Basically HIFIMAN is a house name that holds everything, they have the key to headphones, be it cheapo entry-level models with good performance or really nice high-end options made for those who really want to invest in the listening process. Warranty with HIFIMAN improved so much that they outdo FiiO and now HIFIMAN should be able to solve any warranty related issues within 1-2 weeks, usually by sending a new product once they receive the non-functioning one, and their main HQ for processing this was in Europe last time I checked, but for Asia, they process it in China directly, and they should have a processing center in USA too now, although it is not officially confirmed. Given that the Build quality part will have some moans, I do think that it is good to keep in mind that they are very much behind their products and ready to offer proper warranty with them. 

 

 

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with HIFIMAN, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. I’d like to thank HIFIMAN for providing the sample for this review. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in HIFIMAN HE400se find their next music companion. I would like to remind everyone that me reviewing it is not free for me, and I pay sometimes even more than the full price on VAT and taxes alone (because this is how corrupt DHL and FedEx are). 

 

 

 

Product Link

 

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3k18szn

 

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/3tKcS0V

 

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3k17qmP

 

 

 

Packaging

 

First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:

 

 

 

 

So I have reviewed most models from HIFIMAN, including their Arya, HE6SE, and Sundara, and even HE400i 2020. I have to say, they have products where they really invest in everything, and products that are made to be affordable. He400SE falls in the later category, and it is made on the cheap, the package is mostly plastic, and I dislike the overall presentation. 

 

That being said, I love the cable, it is better than the one Sundara and HE400i 2020 had, the cable of HE400SE is so awesome that some companies are selling a cable very similar to this one at the price HIFIMAN sells the entire HE400SE for (Meze Silver Cables are a good example of this). The performance ain’t even that far off, so the package of HE400SE is presented plasticky, but the contents, what actually matters, are quite good. No points shall be discarded from HIFIMAN. 

 

 

 

 

 

Build Quality/Aesthetics/Fit/Comfort

 

The build quality on the HE400 series has always been below the sundara series, and now I can feel that a bit more than ever. It is about the cups being made of plastic, and every component being made as affordable as possible. I do not care that much about this as long as the comfort is good, and indeed, HE 400 SE is as comfortable as most HIFIMAN Headphones, excellent really. They do not creak like some expensive Focal headphones, and I noticed just one minor inconvenience on the HE400SE. That is driver flex, which can be heard on most planars, even Audeze Headphones, and for some reason, on HE400SE it is present only on the right side for me. It is audible only while adjusting or moving them, so it is driver flex and not some issue with the headphones. 

 

 

If I had more talent I would probably take them apart and see if I can fix it, but from the looks of it, they are really well put together. The earpads are HIFIMAN’s usual top quality stock pads, large enough for my ears and head. I also love the fact that HE400SE is not only the most affordable Planar headphone I know of, but also the lightest I can think of that’s over the ear. Planar drivers are usually quite heavy and hard to drive, and HIFIMAN somehow made the ones in HE400SE light, but they are still plenty hard to drive. 

 

 

In fact, HE400SE is so hard to drive I have to place it above the Sendy Audio Peacock, Verum one, and slightly above Sundara. Although the specifications don’t look quite so threatening at first, when getting them to play really loud, at maximum SPL, I am having a harder time keeping control and getting proper SPL with HE400SE. You really won’t be able to drive them from a smartphone and without an Amplifier, at least like FiiO K5 PRO. This being said, I should warn you, they have slightly less control at maximum volume than Sundara or HE400i 2020, so they distort a bit more, even with high-end sources like SE180 or DX300

 

 

All in all, HE400Se is an extremely comfortable headphone, with excellent build quality for the price, and quite honestly nothing in this price range comes even close, most of the alternatives being plastic trashy ones. HE400SE is also made of plastic, but it is comfortable and well put together. They do not isolate at all from the outside noise, and they leak a lot, so only recommended in situations where you can afford for everyone else to hear what you’re listening to at similar volumes to those you’re listening to. 

 

 

 

Sound Quality

 

The overall sonic presentation of the HE400SE depends on how well it is driven, and on how warm the source is. While sundara was delightfully bright, He400SE is quite bright and needs a warm and smooth source to sound alright. I recommend a FiiO K5 PRO for most folks, as it is cheap, powerful enough, and has a DAC embedded too. Or an Atom AMP+ Amplifier should do fine. Do not try HE400SE with most portables like Lotoo Paw S1, or you may be disappointed by the maximum volume you can get. I am maxing out on both Audient EVO 4, Cyrus One Cast, Astell & Kern SE180, and iBasso DX300 most of the time. They sound the best out of Cyrus One Cast from my collection, most probably because it has the best power deliver on Single Ended, where SE180, and DX300 both have the best power deliver on the Balanced ports. Lotto Paw 6000 also works really well with HE400SE, as it has good power delivery over SE. 

 

 

Driven from Cyrus One Cast, which is the best case scenario I could get (ain’t gonna review the worst case scenario for sure), HE400SE sounds really deep, fun, rounded and controlled, with a V-Shaped sound, large soundstage and incredibly good overall detail. You could be listening to Sundara or HE400SE and barely realize the difference, HIFIMAN can deliver those at 200 USD, and they do, which is incredible for all music lovers out there. The only drawback is that as soon as they begin to be underpowered or you use something that has low power over single ended, the bass goes away, and the sound becomes detailed, airy, and bright. 

 

The bass, when they are driven well, is deep, fun, impactful, and has good nuance and overall detail. It is one of those natural bass sounds, with just the perfect amount of texture to be fun for both Pop and Metal, Rock and EDM. It is not a bass for bassheads for sure, but it satisfies my thirst for some lows fairly well, and HE400SE can vibro massage my head with the right music at the right volumes. I absolutely love their low delivery which is free from boominess or sluggy notes, and free from distortions. 

 

 

The midrange is happy-bright toned in tonality, very detailed, clean and crisp. I also love the overall voicing, which works beautifully well for both male and female voices. The soundstage is wide, with a fair amount of depth as well. The control over the bass is what gives HE400Se such a nice overall presentation, as it creates good contrast with the thinner sounding midrange. If you need a lush mid, this ain’t it, but it is grain-free and fatigue-free at the same time, so HE400SE knows how to play with your heart and ears. 

 

 

We get a bright, airy and detailed treble. Even switching from fairly expensive headphones like Sendy Audio Peacock straight to He400SE, the cheapo 200 USD headphone can surprise me with the amount of air and detail it is able to present. The sound is also fairly dynamic, especially at loud volumes. 

 

I need to insist though, they are incredibly hard to drive to get those results, and out of everything I have only Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, Cyrus One Cast, and AAdac from Audio Analogue were able to get those results, which makes the entry-level price of HE400SE something to take into account only if you have a good source already. 

 

 

 

 

 

Comparisons 

 

It is custom for us Reviewers to try and compare the thing we are reviewing to more pricey stuff, if it performs well. If you ever see a reviewer, me, or someone else, reviewing and comparing a 300 USD product (in review) to something worth 200 USD or less, it means that the item reviewed underperforms for some reason. Equal is at most what we should be doing. With this out of the way, I chose more pricy competitors for HE400SE, and we’re talking about some badass well established headphones, including Sivga Phoenix priced at 250 USD, Soundmagic HP1000 priced at 300 USD, and HIFIMAN sundara priced at 350 USD. I personally would have not included Sundara, but you guys requested it so much that I had to. 

 

 

HIFIMAN HE400SE vs Sivga Phoenix (200 USD vs 250 USD) – This ain’t even a comparison, most of you guys are better off with Sivga Phoenix if you are looking for a portable that’s easy to manage. The sonics of the two are similar, Phoenix has slightly more bass. HE400SE can manage more detail, more impact, better dynamics, and just a better overall sound, but if driven properly. As I couldn’t figure a way to do this while staying within a reasonable price, I do think that it is an interesting headphone for sure, but for someone who wants to pay 300-400 USD for the entire setup, you can squeeze a better sound, especially portably, from the Phoenix. The HE400SE will suit desktop guys more, especially as the cups are larger and more comfortable. If you drive both, eye for eye, from the same source, the Phoenix manages more performance until you reach a ceiling with 500 USD desktop DAC/AMPs, after which HE400SE begins to shine more. 

 

HIFIMAN HE400SE vs HIFIMAN Sundara (200 USD vs 350 USD) – The thing here is that Sundara is also incredibly hard to drive, and to reach the sound I was describing in my review of them, I almost always used a DX220 DAP with the AMP7 module. To get the same performance for HE400SE, you need to use more or less the same sources, but since the headphone is less expensive it is even less obvious how hard it will be to properly drive it. Now, if we are doing a serious comparison, HE400SE is a bit more comfortable because it is lighter, although Sundara feels more well built. The cables of HE400SE are considerably better, more flexible, better looking. The sonics are similar, Sundara still has a bit more detail, is smoother and more mature. Somehow, when driven really well and really loud, I end up liking HE400SE a bit more, as it tends to have more bass, more impact and more dynamics. I’m talking about listening at 100-110 dB here though, the kind of listening that leaves you with some ear fatigue. I would generally go for HE400SE more solely for the cable and lighter weight, but Sundara has its own merits still. Wouldn’t go for either if I didn’t have at least a Singxer SDA-2 DAC/AMP to drive them. 

 

HIFIMAN HE400SE vs Soundmagic HP1000 (200 USD vs 300 USD) – We get a bit crazy here, and I would say that a properly driven HE400SE can sound more natural and punchy than HP1000, which is quite a bright headphone by definition. I don’t like the sound to be too tilted towards a bright presentation, as it can cut some of the detail and can make everything fatiguing, but HP1000 can be quite great on its own right, especially if driven from a smoother source. The comfort is a bit better on HE400SE, but it does not isolate, and it leaks a lot, where HP1000 is fairly good with the isolation and doesn’t leak all that much. The overall detail level is comparable, but HP 1000 tends to make details more obvious, where HE400SE, when properly driven, has more dynamics, and a wider soundstage. For a closed back headphone, but with excellent detail, HP1000 is really nice, whereas HE400SE is great for a really good sounding open back headphone. It really makes me wonder if HIFIMAN could have made the He400SE sound this good, all without the crazy hard to drive nature, it would have made this entire review much more straightforward. 

 

 

 

Value and Conclusion

 

The closer we draw to the end of today’s full written review, the more clear it is that HIFIMAN are not just masters of headphones but also masters of affordability and able to make a really high-quality headphone without breaking your banks. He400SE is excellent in terms of price / performance ratio, and I honestly do not know of any other headphone in existence offering the same overall clarity / detail / impact / dynamics at this price, with the caveat that you need an amplifier that usually costs much more to be able to get this presentation. 

 

 

The build is improving for HIFIMAN, and they are using lighter materials, but provide the same comfort, they are using better cables, improved sonics, and everything just seems to be going up with their headphones, so much so, that HE400SE is one of the most comfortable headphones out there, a bit more than Sundara even, because I’m a long haired guy and while Sundy likes to steal a hair or two when I take them off, HE400Se does not (different adjusting mechanism and headband). 

 

 

At the end of today’s review, if you feel you’re ready to drive them, HE400SE will bring you bliss, and if you ever heard a pair and you didn’t like it, chances are it wasn’t driven well. This is a headphone that will ask the world in terms of driving power, but if you love a dynamic, punchy, natural, light, snappy, detailed, wide and airy sound, HIFIMAN HE400SE is one of the best you can get for 200 USD. And you bet that those headphones spent more time on my desk than most, as I am actually actively using them as workhorse headphones. 

 

 

 

Product Link

 

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3k18szn

 

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/3tKcS0V

 

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3k17qmP

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

— Please remember to stay safe, and always have fun while listening to music!—

 

 

 

 

 

Full Playlist used for this review

 

We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature.  PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality are all revealed by those songs. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music!

 

If you have a dime to spare (donate), it would make my day much brighter, as it would help me improve things around the website and increase the frequency of my posts.

 

Youtube Playlist

 

 

Tidal Playlist

 

https://listen.tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b

 

 

 

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