Hifiman HE-400i: Mid-Fi At Its Best!

Disclaimer: Hifiman sent us one free unit of the HE-400i for this review only a few months after the HE-400i was released. Hifiman is a site advertiser.

box HFN Lieven round kader

 

 

 

The Unit

The Hifiman HE-400i uses the exact same headband system as its big brother, the HE-560, does. In my HE-560 review from August I said: “The detachable pads, in combination with the extremely good suspended head band design and the light drivers, make the Hifiman HE-560 one of the lightest and most comfortable Orthodynamic Headphones on the planet. You hardly notice it on your head, no painful feeling on top, no death grip and perfect sealing pads. It can’t get much better really. What a design!” And that goes for the HE-400I as well: light (12.7 ounces) and very comfortable. I never really loved the old HE-400 as much as I loved the HE-500 and on both of the old units, the comfort is only so so. They don’t really fit small heads and they don’t have the most comfortable fit. After a few hours the HE-400 starts to hurt on top of your head from the headband and the cups are big and they don’t seal well on everyone’s head. (velour pads do help for comfort). Compared to the old HE-400, the 400i now is heaven to have on your head.

Build quality, like with the HE-560 is excellent. After what happened to the HE-560’s recall, I wasn’t sure what to expect of the HE-400i but the unit I received was flawless. Well, I did only get it a few months after the launch, that probably helped as well. Never the less, I much prefer this new – smoky grey – color scheme over the weird blue the old HE-400 had. It just looks better and higher end. The box it came in is one of the prettiest I have seen from a headphone company. And I have seen a lot. (see pics)

For this review I, besides the stock cable, mostly used cables from Forza Audio and Charleston. The HE400i has an efficiency of 93 dB/mW and a nominal impedance of 35Ohm. In reality my HE-400i measures 42.9Ohm on both sides, but at least they are balanced. The latest Hifiman headphones should be easier to drive then ever before but you will notice they’re still not the easiest to drive headphones. The new HE-400i though, can easily be driven by the most popular DAPs.

General Sound

First, I will start with a description of the HE-400i’s sound in general. Then after that I’ll compare it to the HE-400, the HE-560 and the good old HE-500.

Like the HE-560 the 400i displays great clarity from the planar magnetic drivers. The HE-400i has a nice black background, great clarity and good speed. The detail level is fairly good but once you have listened to the HE-560 you will realize there still is ample room for improvement. The HE-400i’s sound stage also is fairly good for its level but the higher end headphones of course go wider and deeper. Especially the depth of the HE-400i could be a little bit better in my opinion.

The HE-400 was known for its bigger bass and the 400i also has great punchy bass with good body but it doesn’t have the body of the old HE-400. Bass quality isn’t like the 560’s bass which has a lot more detail. The 400i is a great headphone for bass lovers and bass heavy dance music/pop but it doesn’t mean it is a bass head’s headphone, cause it clearly is not.

Overall the HE-400i has a more “in your face” kind of sound with more forward sounding mids. That makes it a slightly more aggressive sounding headphone just like the HE-400 was. The mids, which have good body, especially make the vocals come out and shine.

Treble is good but it’s not the best/most detailed treble either. In one way it is a lot better than the old HE-400’s treble but I’ll get back to that later. I could say the HE-400i is quite linearly tuned but there is more focus on the mids and bass than there is on the treble. In that regard the HE-560 is a lot more linear and “reference” tuned.

Just like with the 400 vs the 500, the 400i could be considered as the more fun sounding headphone and the 560 as the more audiophile reference unit. The HE-400i is also more forgiving for bad recordings but not as forgiving as the HE-400 was. You will easily be able to pick out the not so stellar quality files in your collection.

Vs HE-560

While these headphones both use the same headband system, the HE-400i clamps fairly tight on the side of your head but it still is very comfortable and you can wear it for hours without any issues.

The HE-400i is more aggressive sounding than the HE-560, especially in the mids section where the HE-400i’s vocals are more upfront. Treble is further extended and more detailed on the HE-560. The HE-400i’s bass has more body and is bigger and harder hitting. The HE-560’s bass and mids on the other hand are more textured and layered. The 560 is more linear tuned and there is no special focus on anything. The HE-560 has a wider and deeper sound stage. It has more air and room between the instruments and it does complex and fast music a lot better than the 400i.

The 400i is easier to drive than the HE-560 but the overall sound is less refined and detailed. The HE-560 in a way is smoother and more natural sounding with more detail and timbre.

In a way you could say the 400i is to the 560 what the 400 is to the 500 but the difference is less huge as it was before. These two headphones, performance wise, now are closer to each other and that’s very positive for the consumer with a smaller budget.

Vs the HE-400

Comfort wise, the HE-400i is miles ahead of the not so comfy HE-400. Sound wise, a huge improvement was done resulting in a less aggressive sound than before with more detail, a bigger sound stage and an overall more refined and higher level sound.

The HE-400 was more raw sounding and the mids in the old version were even more forward sounding then they are now. The new HE-400i is softer, more refined and a lot more musical and dynamic making longer listening session a lot easier.

Bass quality on the HE-400i is better. The 400’s bass was more basic and had more body while the 400i’s bass is more detailed and layered: a better quality bass. Treble wise the 400 might be a little further extended but the 400i’s treble is more textured and detailed than before. The sharp side has been filed of.

The 400 wasn’t the greatest headphone ever made but for its price it performed quite good. Now, compared to the 400i, the old version is miles behind. Technology has evolved, and that’s a good thing.

Vs HE-500

Going from the 400i to the old HE-500, comfort and sound wise, is quite a shock. Comfort gets reduced to almost zero and even while I don’t have the biggest ears, they are now slightly touching the HE-500 drivers (velour pads). The HE-500 on tubes was one of my favorite headphones but I have to admit I haven’t used it anymore since the arrival of the newer headphones. Especially the Audeze LCD-XC and the Hifiman HE-560 are to blame for that.

The mids of both the 500 and 400i are comparable and the biggest difference is in the bass. The HE-500 can have great bass but getting it out of the drivers is more difficult. To do that I always use a tube amp (339 and 300b) and with the 400i it is so much easier to get out.

To me the HE-400i is tuned more linear than the 500 and the 500 is more laid back sounding. The 400i has a smoother and more musical presentation in the mids section with more body. It is less dry in a way (not that the HE-500 is dry). The 500 is known for its slightly more in the back mids so that’s no real surprise to anyone. Treble do is more detailed on the HE-500 imo.

Here it shows the HE-500 is one of the older generation orthos and the new ones like the LCD-XC/LCD-X/400i and 560 just play on a higher level with better sound, comfort and build quality.

Driveability and more on the next page

Hifiman HE-400i: Mid-Fi At Its Best!
4 (80.62%) 97 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

138 Comments

  • Reply January 6, 2015

    Lofthanza Art

    Great review! Thanx indeed.
    For some reason, I think it could be very relevant and informative to have included the Fidelio X2 in your comparisons.
    Thanx again!

    • Reply January 6, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      Thank you. I don’t like comparing dynamics to Orthos, it’s not done imho, it’s like comparing an electric car to a nitro fueled Nascar 🙂

      • Reply January 7, 2015

        Lofthanza Art

        Thank YOU sir!
        I havent heard an Ortho, but I see your point. For example, comparing a full-sized headphones to an in ear model is just irrelevant. However, I think I still can ask a question. Umm, overlooking build quality, comfort and all other areas, if the Fidelio X2 sounds like a $300 headphones, how much would you price the he400i at? Would you price it at $350, $400 or is it just worth the $500?

        • Reply January 7, 2015

          dalethorn

          I’d buy it for $500 and never look back. If you buy, make sure you can return it, then give it a good long break-in, and it’s unlikely you would let it go unless you got a better planar.

          • Reply January 7, 2015

            Lofthanza Art

            Thank you for your answer!

        • Reply January 7, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          I honestly think it is worth $499. but like Dale says, try listening to it before or make sure you can return it

          • Reply January 7, 2015

            Lofthanza Art

            Thank you!

  • Reply January 6, 2015

    George Lai

    Still the weird connectors?

    • Reply January 6, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      So far yeah, I bought adapters so I only have to connect them once

  • Reply January 6, 2015

    ohm image

    Look like a great option. And day by day, their strange design is growing on me.

  • Reply January 6, 2015

    Kootlas

    i was wondering if they sound good with Asus Xonar Essence STX ?

    • Reply January 6, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      I personally doubt the Asus has the required current/voltage for the HE-400i

      • Reply January 6, 2015

        Kootlas

        could you suggest me good and yet economical sources for he-400i ?

        • Reply January 6, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          Something like the C5 for portability or maybe (and I’m being crazy here) on of Schiit’s budget amps? Or the E12 from Fiio.

          • Reply January 6, 2015

            Kootlas

            i was thinking maybe

            ALPEN 2-E17K + QOGIR-E09K , would this sound that bad? i mean people mostly hate Fiio products

            • Reply January 6, 2015

              Headfonia_L.

              oh no, Fiio is great low budget gear. I would only use the E12 or E9K for the HE-400i

              • Reply January 9, 2015

                Ilja Dudinov

                Speaking of Schiit. Both Schiit Modi and Modi 2 uber are more powerful. At least according to specs. While E12 and E9K are 880mW and 900mW respectively, Schiit’s are 1.2W and 1.5W.

                I’m looking at these cans as an addition to my DT770 32Ohm I’ve purchased after your review 🙂 and now thinking of adding entry-level orthos to the pack. So it’s either Modi (budget) or Beyer A20. Not sure

                • Reply January 9, 2015

                  Headfonia_L.

                  How about a second hand V100?

                  • Reply January 9, 2015

                    Ilja Dudinov

                    – Is it that better? Definitely more power. I’ve checked out your review, but in comparison? Warmer than A20?

                    – And yeah, where would one find it in Europe? 🙂

                    • January 9, 2015

                      Headfonia_L.

                      It is better and more powerful. It is in no means warmer sounding, the A20 is pretty warm already

                    • January 9, 2015

                      Ilja Dudinov

                      I’m looking at V90 or G103-S actually. Nearly 200EUR cheaper and considering I’m not getting LCD-2 or HE-6 (way beyond my imagination), it should solid enough to drive my first couple of headphones.

                      One thing I’m not getting is that more expensive V90 fr. range ends at 60Khz and chaper G103-S is at 150Khz. Perhaps I misunderstand real world implications of this? Is it actually unable to produce any sound freq. beyond 60Khz? Seems unreal.

                    • January 9, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      In one sense it’s just a number. But in theoretical design at least, the extra extension makes more room for spurious signals to spread out and hopefully be hidden. Our ears and brains are amazing detectors, and when it was finally admitted** that we can hear beyond the codecs of the first CD’s, people asked “what’s next?”. But as long as electronic juices are flowing through wires and being amplified, the unwanted things are also amplified and can sometimes be heard, especially AC mains noises. So in the other sense, the greater extension is just a byproduct of making better quality circuits.

                      **There are still critics who can’t (or won’t) hear beyond so-called CD quality. Ironically, it’s like religion or God in the sense that, if you don’t seek it, you won’t find it.

                    • January 9, 2015

                      Ilja Dudinov

                      One of the reasons I don’t want to be trained to hear more than CD/vinyl quality rips. I enjoy clarity a great deal though:

                      – I like feeling bass, I don’t like hearing it. That’s why I like 70’s recordings. For example Donna Summer’s “I feel love” 12″ version. Loads of nuances lows that I feel with my guts.
                      – I like forward mids. When they’re present. A lot!
                      – I love zingy trebles.

                      If I detect that something is lacking, I have no audio background to understand what it is.

                      But I don’t mind noisy vinyl recordings. Makes me feel nostalgic about old days. They feel natural and true. But as was said here – my only fear is that I’m missing out on something by buying something inferior or cheaper. Hence the attempts to find some ground. Good quality without spending a lot on something I can’t yet appreciate fully

                    • January 9, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      Those are very good observations. The key to a fulfilling audio experience is research and careful selection of components, since any one component can be a bottleneck in the system, preventing other components from realizing their proper reproduction. You get to know over time when you’ve hit a magic point and suddenly become aware of a ‘reality’ (for lack of a better word) that you haven’t quite heard before. I had the Bravo Ocean tube/valve amp a few months ago, and just grabbed the nearest headphone (can’t say which) to plug into it, and Wow! It was a liquid-like midrange like I never heard before. So in spite of the low-cost components, I heard a synergy like never before. That’s one of those things I’ll never forget. Check out the Stereophile article on why vinyl sound can be more ‘real’, because the pickup generates its own current etc.

                      As to bass feel, tones that are very low (under 30 hz on average) are not really heard anyway, just felt. When you get down low enough, you can “hear” the individual beats of the tone, since frequencies are just that – something that occurs X number of times per second.

                    • January 9, 2015

                      Ilja Dudinov

                      Thank you for breakdown, Dale. Sums up stuff very well. Audio is expensive. My top of the line plasma tv got costed me 1500eur. With audio its just the beginning. Hating the day when I started wondering if I could get rid of headphone hiss. That’s when I read that DAC will help. You know the rest:)

                    • January 9, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      Lowering hiss is usually best done outside the DAC, by changing sensitivity of the headphone versus the amp. If no low-gain switch available, there are many DIY solutions to adjusting the effective impedance etc. Just a possibility – YMMV.

                    • January 9, 2015

                      Ilja Dudinov

                      I meant interference with internal adult audio. That’s when I got to know there are external dacs that can help. And then there was amp, then suddenly my 50 euro headphones became crap. In that sense 🙂

                    • January 9, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      Actually, I think a lot of people jump too far too fast on these things. If you have a really good DAC and amp, and a good source with good recordings, most 50 Euro headphones should play them very well. In some cases you may have to compensate the bass or treble to smooth things out, but the $50 or 50 Euro headphones I’ve had are up to that OK.

                    • January 10, 2015

                      Dave Ulrich

                      My Violectric guy told me that the performance of the V100 and the G109 should be the same, so that might be an amp to consider as well. I loved it. Of course, I love anything being fed by the Concero HD.

          • Reply January 6, 2015

            Kootlas

            i want to know what can drive these to the acceptable performance that they are made for

            • Reply January 6, 2015

              Headfonia_L.

              an amp in the 3 to 500 range would make it sound pretty darn good

  • Reply January 6, 2015

    Kristian Lindecrantz

    Great review! I see that you mentioned the connectors, just to be clear, are they still the same? I got forza cables for my he-400 and would like to reuse them if I get the 400i. Oh btw what about these paired with the dark voice amp?

    Cheers

    • Reply January 6, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      Hi Kristian. thank you. Yes, the connector are still the “old” ones.
      I have to say I didn’t try them with my LAfigaro 339 but the HE-560 was awesome on it.

  • Reply January 7, 2015

    johthor

    A really awesome review Lieven. In my opinion this is one of your best reviews ever. Your comparison and contrast with other gear gives your readers who have some of this gear a really good idea of how the 400i sounds. I have been very happy with my HE500 for the last 2+ years but your review has whetted my appetite for one of the newer orthos. Again many thanks for this outstanding review and your dedication to making this site one of the very best on the web.

  • Reply January 7, 2015

    dalethorn

    I copied this from the ComputerAudiophile headphone forum:

    “The HD600’s are excellent, and I preferred them over the 650s, however I did not end up with the HD600’s. I tried at least 6 or 8 headphones, and in the price range, I felt the Hifiman HE-400i was the clear winner for overall tonal balance, comfort, weight, and long term listening.”

    That sure sounds like a good endorsement for the HE400i.

    • Reply January 7, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      I prefer the 650 over the 600 and I’ll take the 650 over the X2, and yes, even over the 400i.

      650 is King! 🙂

      Serious though, I’m just trying to say that it’s all personal taste and listen before you buy (or make sure you can return it) is necessary

      • Reply January 8, 2015

        George Lai

        And on top of that, we all own more than one favorite pair of jeans!

        • Reply January 8, 2015

          dalethorn

          I’d like to have 4 ears. I can hide the extras with a hat.

          • Reply January 8, 2015

            George Lai

            One pair wired to the left brain, the other to the right, and the ability to hear both at the same time. True quadrophonics!

      • Reply December 12, 2015

        Sin8a

        what do you mean king? did you compare them to highers ends one? how do they fare against them?

        • Reply December 12, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          Not bragging but you do know I have all those headphones? 😉
          HD650 is King because it is one of the best headphones ever made

          • Reply December 12, 2015

            dalethorn

            Here’s a question for you: Taking the treble of the Sennheiser HD800 for example, and the Beyer T90, as the brighter headphones, then the Shure SRH-1540 and Sennheiser Momentum as less bright, would you say the HD650 treble is in between, or more like the darker 2 that I mentioned? Would that apply to the mid treble and upper treble also?

            • Reply December 13, 2015

              Headfonia_L.

              I think so yes but the most amazing thing of the HD650 is how it scales up and improves in sound when using a really good amplifier with it. A good OTL amp will make it sound a lot better than a portable amp, and if you hook it up to something like a V281 or 300B amp, than it sounds magical. The problem is that people use the HD650 with the wrong amps and then they spread the word it doesn’t sound good.

              • Reply December 13, 2015

                dalethorn

                Good observations.

              • Reply May 2, 2016

                Marc Axelrod

                I like my 650 with the Valhalla 2, and earlier with the Vali

          • Reply December 13, 2015

            Sin8a

            Interesting 🙂

            Im still trying to make my final choice between 500 to 2000$

            Im hesitating between hifiman x, ether, stax ls700 and senn hd800S for electronic production studio work..

            But maybe i should check out the hd650 too.

            Roght now i have koss esp950 .. beside the in the head LR soundstage that i dont like. They have very good clarity and resolution without harsness.

            Not good enough for pro work tho.. i need that imaging and soundstage..

            • Reply December 13, 2015

              dalethorn

              I’d suggest getting a listen to the Beyer DT-1770 Pro.

          • Reply May 2, 2016

            Marc Axelrod

            I’m using my HD 650s right out of an iPad mini listening to Haydn on Tidal and they sound great

  • Reply January 8, 2015

    Vaibhav Pisal

    great review.

    when is el 8 review coming?

  • Reply January 8, 2015

    Robin So

    In your opinion, Would you pick the he400i in comparisons to the Philips Fidelio X2? Trying to figure which one has the better value for a mid-fi price range

    • Reply January 9, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      Yes I would pick the X2 over the HE-400i, no doubt about that. But remember you will look like an ass wearing it.

      • Reply January 9, 2015

        dalethorn

        In my case, people would just say “Oh, that’s Dale”.

      • Reply February 25, 2015

        Daniel

        why would he look like an ass?

        • Reply February 25, 2015

          dalethorn

          It might depend on what kind of cart he’s pulling.

      • Reply July 25, 2015

        szoze

        You prefer X2 to 400i? Or am I misinterpreting your answer? 🙂

        • Reply July 25, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          X2, unless you’re using a good amp with the HE-400I, like the V821 or the Alo CDM

  • Reply January 9, 2015

    digitldlnkwnt

    Try the DX90 through a WA7…sounds awesome with my Alpha Primes – i would guess a better than fair shot it would sound good with these too.

  • Reply January 10, 2015

    Eric Thompson

    So if I don’t have $900 to drop?

    • Reply January 10, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      The 400i isn’t $900

      • Reply January 12, 2015

        Eric Thompson

        Yeah but the 560 is, so this is a good choice if I don’t have $900 to drop? Idk I’ve really wanted an ortho but after reading the 400/400i and 5/500 and now 560 review I feel like I really want the 560 and the 400i is just a waist of money on the way to getting the 560 but idk if I would ever spend that much and if I did it would probably be LCD 2’s. The most expensive headphones I have are my D5000’s and SE535’s.

  • […] You can read the full review here. […]

  • Reply January 17, 2015

    Jason Frankle

    So I was going to buy a 339 /he-500 setup, but I am now thinking that the he-400i is the way to go… Would the 339 compliment the 400i? 332s? Or solid state in the same range? I appreciate detail, but shy away from anything bright…

    • Reply January 18, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      Like I said the Hifiman’s do pretty darn good on the 339 with the right tubes. So does the HE-400i but I do think the HE-500 still is the best match.

  • Reply February 21, 2015

    Jkstraw78

    Have a Bellari HA-540 Class A tube amp with 12AX7 tubes; Tung-Sol ECC803S gold, Ruby, Sovtek and the HE-400i, Beyer DT-770 Pro, Audio-Technnica ATH-ESW9 and Senns 800 cans. What is another good tube amp around same price as Bellari price tag of $300 or so for the HE 400i?

    • Reply February 21, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      I don’t really recommend tube amps in that price range. Like I said, it did pair well with my 339, but that’s going for $750 lately

  • Reply March 15, 2015

    Ilias K

    Would my X3&E12 combo be a good enough source for the HE-400i? i am using it with the Fidelio L2 and i’ve been very pleased with the result so far, i was thinking of upgrading to the HE-400i..or the X2..

    • Reply March 16, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      X3 as source certainly is good enough and the E12 has more than enough power. I think it owuld work better with the X2, the HE400i might prefer a more detailed amp with a bigger sound stage like the Duet or Vorzuge

  • Reply March 18, 2015

    Nelson

    I am interested HE-400i/HE-560, but thinking of getting a decent amp to go with it. So far, I’m too young to be a tube roller. Haha. What would you recommend? Price range around $300? I was looking at the Schiit amps..haven’t try them yet though. I have RWAK100II, not sure if it has enough output ohms for it?

    • Reply March 19, 2015

      dalethorn

      Why would you want such cheap amps when you have such a good expensive music player?

      • Reply March 19, 2015

        Nelson

        Don’t wanna spend a lot on desktop amps. Desktop stuff would costs less compared to portables for the same quality.

        • Reply March 19, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          Why would you want less good sound at home? I don’t recommend Schiit. ANd I don’t agree desktop stuff costs less for the same quality. I’d suggest nothing less then a V100 second hand or something

          • Reply July 9, 2015

            Adam Gawęda

            hmm… my HE-400i works fine with Schiit Bifrost Uber/USB2 and Lyr2 with Siemens tubes from 70s

  • Reply April 22, 2015

    Devon Day

    Great review. Quite detailed as well. Even talked about the speed and attack! 🙂

  • Reply June 21, 2015

    Zendry J. Bouk

    im interested in He – 560 but im confuse on which amp to go for. Is asus xonar essence one good enought for it?

  • Reply July 25, 2015

    Francisco Urteaga

    Hi Lieven.

    I´m completly new to this whole “hi-fi” music word, I have Bose headphones and speakers, I usually use my Iphone or Samsung PC as a source, almost all my music is 320 kbps mp3, but since I started to read about all this things I´ve gone crazy with excitement and read for hours reviews about DAC´s and headphones.

    The thing is, I have a $1,000 USD budget and what to get it just right. I´ts gonna be my first “audiophile” set up but I want it to be the best it can.

    I´m thinking about this HiFiMan HE-400i whith the EF2A amp (also by HiFiMan) and a Fiio X5 ii as a sourse.

    That is $950 USD, so my question is: can I get something better for my money, or is that as good as it gets for that kind of money?

    I will be mostly listening to alternative rock such as: The National, The War on Drugs, Alt-J, Pearl Jam, some jazz: Miles Davis and such, some Indie/Folk: José González, Bon Iver, Kurt Vile, Damien Rice, and a little of piano centered orchestra music like Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. Of course I´ll star to download 24 bit music on losseless formats.

    I hope you can bring some light to the issue.

    • Reply July 25, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      You first need to decide if you want a portable or desktop setup. The higher end portable setups can be used as desktop dac as well. But even high end DAPs need an amp at all time to properly drive the He-400i. The X5SG or DX90 is a good start though, so you just need to find a good enough amp (for that budget it’s going to be the hardest part)

  • Reply July 25, 2015

    szoze

    Hi Lieven
    How does HE-400i compare to Beyerdynamic T90?
    Cheers

    • Reply July 25, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      400I and T90 are like apples and oranges. Completely different. Midfi vs Headfi. I suggest to read up on both headphones, you will see yourself they are not to be compared really. X2 and 400i is more logic but its dynalic vs ortho, a different type of sound. HE400i + big amp kicks X2’s ass anytime but the X2 unamped is impressive

      • Reply July 26, 2015

        szoze

        Thanks! That is strange 🙂 T90 costs £280 in Europe while 400i costs £450. I guess T90 seems to be a bargain hi-fi (head-fi) headphone for people on budget while 400i is plain out overpriced 🙂 No brainer. It seems that Beyerdynamic has really succeeded to produce a knock-out headphone at a fairly low price.

        • Reply July 26, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          T90s official price is €499: http://europe.beyerdynamic.com/shop/hah/headphones-and-headsets/at-home/music-pleasure/t-90.html

          That’s the official HE-400i price as well. To me T90 is more at the level of the 560

          • Reply July 26, 2015

            szoze

            🙂 Fantastic. I’ll audition both. I have an old pair of HD650, like 10 years old and need new headphones.

          • Reply December 12, 2015

            Sin8a

            I hated the old beyer T1 .. didnt even touch my koss electrostats in term of clarity, resolution and it was harsh even on good tube amp.

            • Reply December 12, 2015

              dalethorn

              The T1 was bad. A review I posted on Computer Audiophile got a comment from an expert musician, who said the T1 couldn’t resolve the difference between a Steinway and a Bosendorfer.

  • Reply July 27, 2015

    Yaroslav

    Hi Lieven, thanks for the great review! Especially for comparison to HE-* brothers, 500 and old 400, priceless.

    One question, though: does it make sense to side-grade to these if I already have HD-600 and want something more liquid/sub-bassy for ambient and electronic music? Or it’s better to save for 560 or LCD-2? Don’t have a ton of power to go around, unfortunately, playing off a usb-stick type of DAC/AMP.

    • Reply July 28, 2015

      dalethorn

      I had a LCD2 for about 8 days, and I wouldn’t describe the sound as liquid or the sub-bass as strong. But I haven’t heard the other Audeze or HiFiMan models.

    • Reply July 28, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      I would forget about the 560 and LCD2 without good amping. I’d suggest the HD650 but the amping again is a problem in your situation. Have you considered the easy to drive Beyer COP?

      • Reply July 28, 2015

        Yaroslav

        I have Momentums 2.0 and M-100 (which are my main portable, exactly for that type of music), just want something as a sidegrade or upgrade to HD600. Guess I can go with amping if this is something semi-portable, such as O2/ODAC, but from what I heard it is not a good fit for planars.

        Basically I want to go headphone first, DAC/amp second 🙂

        The reason I’m wondering about planars is that great low frequencies everybody seems to be raving about, and also the progress that HiFiMan is making with making their models less dependent on source.

        • Reply July 28, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          I understand the headphones first, but in case of most planars, you’ll need a very good amp and a good dac

          • Reply July 28, 2015

            Yaroslav

            In that case: 1W http://marketplace.lhlabs.com/collections/portable-audio/products/geek-out-1000-usb-dac-and-headphone-amplifier or http://marketplace.lhlabs.com/products/geek-out-v2-usb-dac-headphone-amplifier. Supposedly powerful enough to drive planars. True or just marketing and one would definitely need an amp on top of that?

            • Reply July 28, 2015

              dalethorn

              The GeekOuts are basically the same as the Dragonfly USB stick mini-DACs, although GeekOut packs more power into the little USB stick. The downside of that is heat, and I’ve read reports that some of them get quite hot, so do some investigation first.

            • Reply July 28, 2015

              Headfonia_L.

              I had the Geek1000 here and didn’t even bother to review it…

              • Reply July 28, 2015

                Yaroslav

                I see. Lieven, Dale, thanks! Will do investigate better sources.. Starting with Schiit, I guess.

                • Reply July 28, 2015

                  Headfonia_L.

                  hmm, or skip Schiit 😉

                  • Reply July 28, 2015

                    Yaroslav

                    Okay, so not a favorite? 🙂 Can you throw some starter brands for driving HD600 and new HE planars?

                    TBH I was looking at Schiit only because it’s as simple as it gets — here are our dacs, here are our amps, read about them, order them. All the other stuff is tons of reading which does not make a lot of sense without listening to it, of course. And then again, reading can be misleading — O2/ODAC is a good example.

                  • Reply August 27, 2016

                    Ilja Dudinov

                    Would you elaborate pls? I did read your colleague review from 2013 but still curious. I finally got Schiit combo but the new combo they’ve started to offer. Magni 2 Uber amp and new Modi Multibit. With Beyer DT770 I finally got to hear how smooth bass can be (comparing to Fiio E10K 2). So I’m curious on your…mm…wording?

      • Reply July 28, 2015

        Alfred Tolentino

        Will any of the headphones mentioned (LCD2, HD650, HiFimans….) pair well with a Benchmark DAC 2?

        • Reply July 28, 2015

          dalethorn

          The Benchmark DAC 2 should drive anything.

  • Reply August 14, 2015

    szoze

    According to your comparison of HE-400i and HE-500 it seems that you like HE-400i more. You wrote:”Here it shows the HE-500 is one of the older generation orthos and the new ones like the LCD-XC/LCD-X/400i and 560 just play on a higher level with better sound, comfort and build quality.” Do you think it is worth having both HE-500 and HE-400i nevertheless?

    • Reply August 14, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      absolutely. The HE-500 is a great sounding headphone. Not the best in comfort or in technicalities and it sounds very smooth and warm with some amps but a superb headphone. I’m not selling mine ever. I even think it’s worth having the LCD-2 and HE560 together with those as well, but this is coming from a guy who owns 11 Hifiman and Audeze orthos 😀

      • Reply August 14, 2015

        szoze

        Nice 🙂 Do you believe X-Can V3 would be able to drive HE-500 properly? It works fine with my HE-400i and T90 indeed. How about Matrix M-Stage? I can get one for €100 and wonder.

  • Reply August 14, 2015

    matthew36

    Lieven have you ever heard the Stax 2020 system? Thanks..

    • Reply August 14, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      I did a whole lot of years ago, can’t remember its sound though

  • Reply August 28, 2015

    Eli Segal

    When using the he400i with ak120ii, is there a noticeable difference in sound between balanced/unbalanced cable? thx!

    • Reply August 28, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      Haven’t tried but there should be yes. I recommend an amp though

  • Reply October 2, 2015

    Cheese

    Was the Samsung Galaxy driven by itself in that excerpt?

    • Reply October 3, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      Come again?

      • Reply October 3, 2015

        Cheese

        Was the Samsung the only thing driving the HP in the part where you said they surprised you?

        • Reply October 3, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          yes: Samsung Galaxy S4

          Sometimes the good old S4 surprises me and it does exactly that with the He-400i too. The clarity is there, it’s musical and it’s more than just an acceptable performance. Sure the bass body isn’t as big and the volume is maxed out but I could enjoy this if I had no other choice. The HE-400i is not showing its full potential though.

  • Reply October 21, 2015

    Douglass

    I was keen on the HE400i until I read the high praises for the HE500, the latter being more “impressive sounding” (wow factor). But it’s poor build, bad cables and earpad is a concern, not to mention it’s heavier and more difficult to drive than the HE400i. Which would you recommend based on sound quality alone? I listen to different genres of music – pop, rock, techno, house, vocals and instrumental/classical. I intend to drive them on a Audiolab M-DAC, or Plinius Hautonga integrated amp (will it have enough juice to drive them?). But the biggest bonus is if my Hifiman HM650 are able to drive them properly w/o the need for a portable amp(?) when I’m outdoors too. I’m intending to change my hifi setup from being speaker based to headphone based (one each for the missus and me). Would appreciate your advice. Douglas.

  • Reply October 28, 2015

    Adventure Time

    IS there a fun headphone around somewhere, that has impactful bass, and warm colored headphone, with noticeable soundstage, closed back (yes i know closed back are not good at soundstage, but i want one that has the flavour of soundstage, not overpowering direct sound, but the sound should have some space) and most importantly in a price range of 200-300 dollars. I found that mixing headphones are boring and dull to listen to. Especially the sennheiser 25 hd which i bought two years ago. :/

    • Reply October 28, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro

      • Reply October 29, 2015

        Adventure Time

        Yes i will check it out.

    • Reply October 28, 2015

      dalethorn

      DT-770-32.
      But, I could have fun with Earpods.

      • Reply October 29, 2015

        Adventure Time

        thanks i will consider it!

  • Reply November 17, 2015

    Kristian Lindecrantz

    Just noticed that these are getting a good discount come black Friday. Are these any good for edm/asot style? I have the he 400 but they don’t get much love anymore

    • Reply November 17, 2015

      Meringo

      Where are you finding the deal? I just ordered them for 375… will cancel if there is a deal coming up

      • Reply November 17, 2015

        Kristian Lindecrantz

        Got an email from hifiman today announcing the discount 23-30 November as part of their black Friday event. Try this link: https://store.hifiman.com/index.php/black-friday

        • Reply November 17, 2015

          Meringo

          AWESOME! You just saved me $75. Getting a price match.

          • Reply November 17, 2015

            Kristian Lindecrantz

            Sweet! You can put it towards some nice aftermarket cables or something 🙂

  • Reply February 29, 2016

    Juan Luis Quiroz Guevara

    The picollo can drive this he400i?

  • Reply March 14, 2016

    Matt

    Not sure if I missed this somewhere, but how about the Chord Mojo? AK100 Mk2>Chord Mojo> Either Fidelio X2 or HD-400i. The X2 are $315 here in Japan, the HD-400i on sale at $340 until the end of the month, so pulling my hair out trying to decide which to get. Thanks.

    • Reply March 14, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      HE-400i is my fav over the X2, more detail, better quality. X2 si warmer, more bass and not as fast

      • Reply March 14, 2016

        Matt

        Thanks for the reply. Looks like the HE-400i it is!

  • Reply June 20, 2016

    Dragos Ungureanu

    Hello, guys,

    First of all, thank you very much for your work here at HEADFONIA. Much appreciate it!

    My story is short and hope you can help me. Currently I own a pair of HD 598. I like it, but something is missing. Thus, an upgrade is necessary. After almost a week of research I oscilate between HiFiMan 400i and Oppo PM-3. Of course I took into consideration HD 650 even HD 700, but the dac/amp requirements are too high for me. On my table is just an Asus Xonar U7.
    Regarding the music intended to be juiced by abovementioned headphones it is the one with more bright emotion in it. For instance, even if we talk about jazz or latino songs, the instruments or the voice needs to be in front. In other words with my current headset HD 598 I enjoy rising up the 1k 2k 4k and 8k bars higher (I know I have a rudimentary dac with very simple EQ :D), especially the 2k – 8k. Without them, the instruments or voices feels like laid back and overwhelmed. Hope you have time for this 😀

  • Reply June 21, 2016

    dale thorn

    Both the 400i and PM3 are planars and will sound different from the HD598. Based on measurements, the HD598 should sound significantly brighter than the planars, and since the 598 has a huge spike in the impedance around 90 hz, the planars should have much better bass.

  • Reply June 21, 2016

    Dragos Ungureanu

    Dale, thanks to your answer. Indeed HD598 are bright sounding heads.
    Today I went to try some of them. Lucky me, the store had a lot of them. The HD 650, 700, PM-3 and many others, with the exception of 400i. First where the PM3. From the first song, I was already in love with them. Such a nice start. Then, I tried HD600 and 700, also the HD 630vb. All of them had something special, mainly the warmness of 650 and clearness of 700. But, I was missing the PM3s first impression. And this is the moment where something happened. After trying them once more, the sound was not the same. It had strong and vivid vocals, also the guitar was amazing, but piano so dark and lifeless. Now I am more confused then I was before. It is hard picking the right ones 🙁

    PS the songs where Jay Kill & The Hustle Standard – Never seen runaway; Enrique Iglesias – Bailando and Coleman Hawkins – For you for me.

    • Reply June 21, 2016

      dale thorn

      I think the planars need a tweeter, like a speaker. They can get the treble right on a graph, but it’s not as sharp or detailed somehow, so EQ’ing the PM3 even a little probably wouldn’t be the fix. I don’t want to make any more suggestions until Lieven weighs in, but, if you could test the Audeze LCD4 or HiFiMan HE1000 etc., that could be interesting.

      There’s the Stax SR-009, always on my list, preferably with one of those Hawaii amps…

  • Reply June 22, 2016

    Dragos Ungureanu

    Wow those pairs are heart killing stuff. I am afraid to try them as I will have to buy them and my budget will be crushed. Btw yesterday I didn’t get close to HD 800. It will ruin the experience with the smaller brothers and cousins 🙂 Also, yesterday was my first experience with something better than HD 598. It was amazing, despite the fact that these heads were medium budget. So, step by step is the right approach for me 😀

  • Reply November 24, 2017

    Michel I

    (!) 180 £ on amazon.co.uk today and <= HIFIMAN UK.
    A steal.

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