In this article we review the Hifiman HE400se headphone, selling for $149 USD.
Disclaimer: Hifiman sent us the HE400se free of charge in exchange for this review. The unit doesn’t have to be returned as far as I know.
It is simply impossible that you have not heard of Hifiman. They are China-based personal audio company led by Dr. Fang Bian and they have been around for like 10 to 15 years.
We have reviewed many units from Hifiman here on Headfonia, and my absolute favorite ones are the HE-6(SE), the HE-560, the Susvara and the HE-1000-series. What I like about Hifiman is that they are an innovative company and they continue to R&D new goodies for us Audiophiles. More important, they let trickle down high end technologies to their lower range units and the headphone we’re reviewing today is a perfect example of that. Another thing I really appreciate is the fact that they have great gear in all segments of the market. No matter how big or small your pockets are, Hifiman has you covered with great gear.
Over the last year we saw some great new products from Hifiman such as the DEVA headphone – which is available in a wireless and cabled version, the HE-5XX headphone they created together with Drop and the HE400i 2020. The Hifiman headphone we’re looking at today is the HE-400SE. It’s another evolution of their HE-400 series headphone, but we’ll go into that in the next chapter.
For those of you who’d like to know more about Hifiman and their founder, there’s always this interview we did with him: https://www.headfonia.com/q-n-a-saturday-hifiman/
The original Hifiman HE-400 was released back in 2012 but I remember it very well. It was a darker sounding headphone but back in the days, it was quite the eye-opener together with the much cleaner and energetic HE-560 which was released in 2014. With these two headphones, Hifiman had something for both tastes.
The first HE-400i version saw the light in early 2015 and is was a huge hit. It was selling for $499 USD and we called it a Mid-Fi at its best. It’s one of Hifiman’s best selling headphones, ever. From the review:
The HE-400i sells for $499. The sound quality you get in return is impressive and Hifiman has really let the HE-400 evolve in an i(mproved) version that makes you forget about the HE-400. You get all the benefits of the orthodynamic drivers: clarity, detail, speed and a black background. You’ll love every single bit of it.
In 2015, the Hifiman HE400s saw the light, and that one we referred to as “the dynamic easy to drive ortho”. It’s the only HE400 that’s not in the Reference category. From the review back in 2015 we remember that it was an orthodynamic headphone, that sounded more like a dynamic driven one, especially because of the way it renders bass. I think we even called it a headphone tuned for the masses.
Then 5 years later in December 2020, Hifiman came back with the HE-400i 2020 version. I wasn’t surprised about this as the HE-400i was a really good headphone with excellent drivers. You can find the full HE-400i review here: https://www.headfonia.com/hifiman-he-400i-2020-review/. From that one we remember the following:
“When starters or normal headphone users like my friends asks me for a recommendation of a closed headphone, the Beyerdynamic DT770 32 is the easy recommendation. Starting from now the Hifiman HE-400i is my recommendation for an open design headphone. You don’t have to know a lot about headphones and technology to love these headphones. And for the very accessible price these are going for, they’re the ideal recommendation to a whole lot of people.”
And now Hifiman has launched the SE version of the HE-400 and it’s what we’re looking at today. This time I have to say I was more surprised with the SE variation, as it have only been a few months since the 2020 i version was released. At the same time we’re getting SE versions for almost everything, so it for sure was coming. The Hifiman HE400se is part of Hifiman’s “Reference Collection”.
Let’s get started with the HE400se!
The Hifiman HE400se we have here, is the the international version with the stealth magnets, not the Chinese version. Of course it’s still an open back headphone, no change there. The HE400se uses a 2-sided magnet systems where the HE400i uses a single sided one. From what we can find, the HE400se uses ferrite instead of neodymium, and Hifiman is calling it their “stealth magnet” design. It’s supposed to reduce wave diffraction turbulence which degrades the integrity of soundwaves. It – according to Hifiman – also reduces distortion to barely audible levels, yielding a purer, more harmonious sound.
The HE400se comes with the new style lightweight, adjustable headband (more in the next part) and the headphone’s drivers are protected by a newly(?) designed casing. This is supposed to enhance the durability and protection from “the elements” as Hifiman calls it.
Same as before Hifiman is using the 3.5mm connectors in the earcups, and the cable that comes with the unit is terminated with a 3.5mm plug, with a 6.35mm adapter. We don’t know too much about the cable’s composition, only that it’s a silver copper one.
In theory, the Hifiman SE-version headphones are easy to drive, so it shouldn’t be different for the HE400SE. IT’s selling for only $149 USD, that’s $20 USD less than the HE400i 202 version we really liked.
Let’s dive in some more.
Comfort, Design & Build Quality
With the new headband this unit is sharing with the HE400i 2020 version (as well as some other Hifiman models), the HE400se looks more like a normal and modern headphone. I’m actually a big fan of the “old” headband design of the HE-400i, HE-560 and the HE-1K series because of the sublime comfort, but I have to admit that this new one looks good and feels comfortable as well. The headband and cups are also very easy to adjust. Some have reported issues where their head started hurting on top where the headphone “touches” your skull, but I can’t say I experienced any discomfort with this headphone at all.
To me the headband is soft and perfectly spreads the weight over the top of your head. Of course at only 390g (20 more than the HE400i 2020), there isn’t much weight to distribute. The HE400se version resembles the HE400i 2020 headphone in a lot of ways, such as the pads and cups. The beveled pleather and velour ear pads have a new pressure pattern according to Hifiman. They feel soft and perfectly fit around your ears. My ears don’t really touch the pad or driver. The headphone pressure on the side of your head is just right. It’s not the lightest pressure but it will keep the headphone in place at all times when moving around.
I really like the simplicity of the HE400se’s design: it’s simple but the headphone looks cool. The ear cups in this version have a gloss silver finish and they color-wise look more like the H400s. That one however had a fully different headband. Build quality wise the HE400se also scores well. They just like the HE400i 2020, feel sturdy, especially because of the headband, and they do look like they can take a beating. The cups swivel a lot however, so if anything does break or come loose, I expect it to be there where the yokes go in to the headband.
What I don’t really like in the comfort and looks kind of way is the supplied cable. It’s very stiff with little flexibility and sticks everywhere, annoying me even when sitting still. Sonically there’s nothing wrong with this cable, it just annoys me because of how it “behaves”. I have mostly used the HE400S with the cable that came with the Little Dot triple driver headphone. Of course it’s very well possible that the cable doesn’t bother you in any way.
Specs, Price & Accessories
Frequency Response : 20Hz-20kHz
Impedance : 25Ω
Sensitivity : 91dB
Weight : 390g
The Hifiman HE400Se comes in a standard, pretty nice quality box. On the inside you’ll find a plastic base in which the HE400se is perfectly placed in. IT does look really cheap, but hey, the HE400se is cheap, so it’s kind of normal to have this kind of packaging. In this box you will also find:
- 1¼” (6.35 mm) headphone adapter
- Headphone cable (1.5 meters or 4.9 Feet; 3.5mm plug)
- Detachable Earpads：1 pair (on the headphone)
- Stealth Magnet Technology leaflet
- Card with the driver’s serial number
The new HE400se is selling for only $149 USD, making it the cheapest 400-series headphone of the line-up. The “original” HE400i is still selling for $449 USD and the 400i 2020 version for only $169 USD. That makes the HE400se the least expensive headphone in Hifiman’s Reference line-up. Does it have the potential to be the best performing sub $150 USD orthodynamic headphone?
Let’s find out.
The part on sound starts on the second page. Click HERE or use the nice little jumps below.