Disclaimer: We were sent the Hifiman HE-400S directly from the factory in China. Hifiman is also a Headfonia advertiser.
Several months ago I suddenly got an email from Hifiman with the news of the HE-400S. My first idea was “Another HE-400?” but it actually makes sense. While the HE-400i and HE-560 were supposed to be easy to drive orthodynamic headphones, they did in fact need an external amplifier to sound their best. And that’s exactly where the new HE-400S comes in.
Yes, the 400S really is easier to drive and it sounds darn good straight out of my phone and DAP. Hifiman claims the HE-400S is one of the highest efficiency planar headphones in the world actually (98dB). The new HE-400S also uses the new connectors like the reference model, the HE-1000, does. Besides that, the design of the HE-400S is basically a copy of the HE-400i and HE-560, and that’s more than ok. I for one like that Hifiman has kept a clear line in their designs: Their headphones look great and the headband system makes them very comfortable. I can wear my Hifimans for hours without any issues but at the same time the pads seem to be a bit different. The 400i/560 does feel more comfortable over the ears so I measured the size of the opening to find out the 400S’s opening measures 5 to 6cm, where the 400i and 560 measure 6cm everywhere. The pads this time also are in full velour and they’re not mixed like the pads on the other Hifimans.
The new 400S only weighs 350gr which is about 20-25gr less than the before mentioned models. Hifiman – so I have read – implemented one driver/ear instead of two, eliminating half the magnets. For a planar magnetic headphone that is very light but if you’re used to dynamic driver units, you still might find this a heavy headphone. For people like me, who use the LCD-XC for hours on end, the HE-400S feels like a feather. I wouldn’t call it a portable headphone however as it is pretty big, it leaks a lot of sound and it doesn’t even come with a carrying case. The HE-400S only costs $299, which is really impressive for an ortho, and it comes with a 6.3mm headphone adapter, one 1.5m cable and one pair of special designed earpads which are pre-installed. While I wasn’t always happy with the build quality of the Hifiman gear, I really have nothing to remark this time. The grey plastic and metal combination looks flawless and everything arrived in perfect working order.
For those still not familiar with orthodynamic headphones: “Dynamic headphones utilize conductors that vibrate in limited areas of the diaphragm. Result is that a large percentage of the diaphragm cannot be directly driven by those conductors. Planar headphones have conductive layers over almost all of the diaphragm. Evenly driven by these conductors, result is significantly lower distortion than conventional dynamic headphones”.
According to Hifiman, the HE-400S “delivers all the lifelike clarity, detail, extended bass and wide sound stage that audiophiles have come to expect from HIFIMAN”.Let’s see how that worked out.
First of all, the HE-400S is an open type headphone. It leaks a lot of sound, making it less friendly for use at the office or during public transport. A lot of people, because of its price and good sound, will be looking at the HE-400S as a portable headphone but I would really advise against using it like that. You would be losing a lot of the sound quality (and you would disturb everyone around you).
The HE-400S really is easy to drive. The AK120II which isn’t exactly known for having a powerful headphone section, drives the 400S to ear deafening levels without any distortion. My Samsung S4 does just as good. I normally don’t use my phone as source but a friend of mine asked me to check out a certain new player and the HE-400S sounds almost as good as on the AK. Does that mean you don’t need an external amplifier? I guess you don’t, but at the same time you will –depending on the amp used- notice its sound quality go up. They don’t scale up as well as the 400i/560 but there clearly still is a difference in sound (quality) where you “amped” get more detail, a tighter sound and mostly a more spacious sound.
I like the HE-400S’s tuning. It’s smooth, musical and probably more on the warmer side of neutral but it also shows good clarity. It’s a bit like the AD01 IEM but with less bass. It’s not as clear or spacious as his Hifiman siblings though, but more on that in the next chapter.
What I like most in the HE-400S are its enjoyable smooth mids. They have good body, good detail, enough clarity and all that with a relaxed and unfatiguing presentation. The overall balance of the HE-400S is quite good and both bass and treble fit in nicely with the mids section. Treble is on the softer and certainly inoffensive side but there’s enough clarity and detail to enjoy the music and to not miss too much. Treble in the HE-400i and HE-560 is more clear, more precise and further extended though. As said the bass blends in perfectly with the mids but this isn’t necessarily a bass neutral headphone. It has just a bit too much body to be called neutral but it does sound perfect with the mids section. Bass depends a lot on the source used but I would say it always has more body than average. With ALO’s CDM, bass body was a lot bigger than on the Samsung S4. At the same time bass was also tighter but the 400S’s bass will never be of the tightest kind. It’s not a basshead’s headphone by far and I’m sure a lot of people will enjoy the 400S’s bass.
Bass on the HE400S is special as it’s not the typical kind of bass you get from an orthodynamic headphone. It sounds more like the bass you get from dynamic headphones but its depth is lacking a bit though. Taking all this into account you could say the HE-400S has good balance, it’s a headphone that’s easy to love if you don’t expect it to sound like a high-end unit (like the LCD-2/3 or HE-560).
“Sound” continues on the next page, after the click HERE