Hifiman RE-ZERO and RE-0

Aside from the naming problem, the RE-ZERO is an awesome addition to Hifiman’s RE line world. Hadi had written a fairly in-depth review comparing the RE-0 to the Phonak and ER4, titled “Detail Experts“. One thing that stuck with me from that review is how the RE-0 is “akin to looking at a clear pond”. And rightly so, the RE-0’s unique “clear pond” sound impresses me more than anything else. Compared to any iem at any budget, nothing else really has a “clear pond”-like sound like the RE-0. I’m not saying that more expensive IEMs can’t match the RE-0’s transparency, but the RE-0’s presentation is very unique and unlike anything else in any other IEMs.

Technicalities wise, most decent balanced armature drivers will give faster transients, and a better separation than the RE-0. The RE-0 yet is special in that somehow it presents a laid back sound yet with superb clarity of the music. Although the transients may not match balanced armature IEMs, the RE-0 manages to separates instruments fairly well. The tonal balance of the RE-0 reminds me a lot of the HE5LE orthodynamic with the grill cloth removed. The sound is generally dark, but within that dark landscape, the treble detail emerges with a brilliant sense of clarity. There is little midrange and bass body, which very like the HE5LE without the grill cloth.

After all those praises for the RE-0, I have to explain why the RE-ZERO is an improvement on the RE-0 concept. Despite the brilliant and unique sound, the RE-0’s frequency balance is not the best for music listening. The RE-0 would be fine for instrumental and classical music, but with a more mainstream Pop or Rock music with vocals, the the RE-0 doesn’t quite hit the spot. What’s needed is mostly a bump in the midrange areas to add some intimacy in the music. This is precisely what you find in the RE-ZERO.

 

The RE-ZERO takes the basic RE-0 sound and bumps the lower treble to upper mid to be more forward. That makes a BIG difference when you’re listening to music with any type of vocals. If the RE-0 gives a more wide-panned presentation, the RE-ZERO is far more focused. The RE-0 will give me the impression of a more spacious soundstage, but without a focus in that soundstage. It’s like a big auditorium where all the instrumenst are placed wide apart, but without a lead vocal to define a center point. The RE-ZERO, narrows down on that hall, making it sound more like a small coffee shop jazz performance, but with a much better focus on the lead vocal. With the RE-ZERO, the presence on the vocal is very spot on. On lower listening volume, the RE-ZERO may have an impression of a narrower soundstage, mainly due to the more forward midrange. But when the volume is turned higher, I think the soundstage size between the two is roughly the same.

Drawing from an analogy from the full size headphone, the RE-ZERO is like a stock Grado SR60, where the RE-0 is closer to the same SR-60 with jumbo pads in exchange of the stock comfies. Although the RE-ZERO is not exactly a Grado SR-60, but it does have a lot of similar character with the famous forward sounding Grados.

5/5 - (1 vote)

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25 Comments

  • Reply September 8, 2010

    b

    Will you be reviewing the Etymotic MC3/MC5? Wonder how they compare to the RE0 and the BA and 2xBA headphones.

    • Reply September 8, 2010

      Mike

      I'm certainly looking to review one of those. Still hasn't got a definite plan or date for them though. 🙂

  • Reply September 9, 2010

    b

    Thank you, Mike. The design of the REO is a big put off. They look very cheap. The Etymotic on the other hand are much better but not without flaws – the angle between the cable and the headphone makes the cable stick even further out – this is bad design – it should have been approximately 90 degree angle. Also, their cable, while much improved over the ER4P/S is still not very good – looks like a bunch of manufacturers are going with this cable – Monster, Etymotic, Grado. It is rather tangle free but microphonic – especially rubbing against clothing. Why wouldn't all of them go for the Westone/Earsonice cable…

    • Reply September 9, 2010

      Mike

      I agree with all of your points there. The design of the RE0, the the Etymotic designs, the tangle free but microphonic cable, and yes the Westone cable as well. But two things though, I've fallen in love with the RE-0's sound so much that I've been using it quite often despite the not so good looking design. And also the Westone type cable, though best for softness and flexibility, tangles very easily. Nothing is perfect.

  • Reply September 9, 2010

    b

    Thanks, Mike. I'd take the Westone cable anytime. While it may tangle a bit more, it's way more comfortable, lighter and best of all – it does not impact or interfere with the sound! It'd be curious to hear your impressiones/comparison between the Etymotic MC3/5 and the RE0s.

    PS: Also, would you be reviewing any of the Monster Turbine Pro headphones? While more expensive, they are now more preferable than any of the BAs – due to their power, soundstage, fullness, slam, etc. It'll be interesting to see a comparison to other headphones in the same price bracket – Shure 530/535, Westone UM3X/3, Earsonics SM3, etc.

    • Reply September 9, 2010

      Mike

      Hey B, yes I do like the Westone cable more than anything else out there. Now about the Monster Turbine Pro headphones, what do you personally think about it? I've had the Copper model in the past, and I really can't discern how people think so highly of it. And I'm not trying to bash Monster here, as I gave a good comment on the Studio headphones on the Closed Headphones comparison. But here is what I wrote about the Copper:


      I’m playing around with the Monster Pro Copper at the moment. It’s quite a decent product overall. Average listeners might find the heavy midbass and the warm sound signature quite pleasing. But other than that, its technicalities just can’t compete with the Balanced Armature drivers.

      I’m not speaking about a sterile type of technicality either. But the JH5 is clearly leaps and bounds ahead, in terms of technicality and frequency balance. And I would even say that the JH5 is still more musical than the Pro Coppers.

      I’m also reviewing the dual BA q-Jays and dba02 at the moment, and I would happily choose the q-Jays over the copper.

      The Copper has an flat and harsh treble, unnatural midrange to bass transitiion, and a fairly bloated bass. I really don't think that audiophiles should even consider the Monster Turbines. It should be okay for the general listener without trained ears though.

  • Reply September 10, 2010

    b

    Interesting, Mike. I have gone through a number of headphones and instead of trying to make direct comparisson, I’d say what was wrong/missing with each one until I get to the Monster Turbine Pro Copper and Miles Davis Tribute. Shure e4c (maybe the best sound I’ve heard from a Shure) – great punchy sound, clear, great bass – aweful ergonomics and comfort, cable like thick and stiff like a hose and too long. Shure 530 – too melow… got rid of them quickly. Westone UM2 – not much wrong with them – had them for a while and just decided to try something different. If I recall well, they are actually better than the UM3X and 3. Westone UM3X – great detail and extension on both ends. Sterile sound – sounds like listening in a foam lined room/studio. Not fun. Westone 3 – extreme opposite – over hyped sound and soundstage(more like echo really) – sounds like listening in a marble room. Bass doesn’t go deep enough. Aweful ergonomics – too short to fit well in ear. All Westone – the best cable! Sennheiser IE7 – great soundstage, real soundstage, awesome bass – lack of detail in midrange – midrange kind of gets lost in the rest of the music. Earsonics SM3X – don’t quite get the hype on these – sure, bass and soundstage are good but there are no highs, sounds like listening in a basement with a real low seilng or underwater – no air at all. Going back to IE7 – actually quite close to the SM3X but with a lot better air. Grado GR8 – ok for vocals – no bass and body. Not really Grado signature – mellow and no energy. Actually, much much better is the MC3 – except that it is still too thin sounding but clarity is awesome. Monster Turbine Pro Copper and Miles Davis Tribute – have everything. Cable could be better ala Westone. Looks are cheesy. But soundstage is great, bass is way better than IE7 – actually very hard punching (Miles Davis even better than Copper but midrange sounds a bit more congested). I have the Copper with ControlTalk – which is a GREAT convenience that none of the other high ends offer (except for UE 10vi but haven’t heard them). Monsters need a bit of burn in as thet are dynamic but the best compliment I can give them is that they allow me to listen to and enjoy the music instead of over-analysing what I’m hearing. Very coherent and I’d say transparent in that way. So I think they are the best universals. I’d like to have even more clarity like the Etymotic but the clarity of the Monster is much better than IE7 so it is quite alright. If Etymotic MC3 only used a bigger driver for more body they may have been the best yet and only for meager $79. What a deal they’d be then!

    • Reply September 12, 2010

      Mike

      Hi, B. I'm glad you like the Monster Copper and Miles Davis IEMs. Yes, they do have quite a good bass and clear treble as well. The Etymotics have always been about treble detail and clarity, so I won't be surprised if you find the MC3 to lack body.

  • Reply February 1, 2011

    Audiofriend

    Hi Mike, Just want to get some advice from you:

    I am using an HFI -780 , I want to get a IEM which got similar signature with that. Which one should be good??..I tried Shure 535, it really impressed ,while only hold on for the price and sometimes too warming sound.!!

    P.S. Hopes the W4 come asap.

    • Reply February 1, 2011

      Anonymous

      HFI-780 huh? To be frank I can’t think of an IEM with the ultrasone’s
      sound signature.

      • Reply February 1, 2011

        audiofriend

        so any suggestion about getting an IEM ?? Shure 535??… despite the mainstream , anything good if I love live music??

        Also,for headphone, which is a proper upgrade after HFI780?? 🙂 thx!

        • Reply February 1, 2011

          Anonymous

          Have you tried the ER4? Not quite Ultrasone signature, but it’s very
          good with live music.

          As for the HFI, try out the Pro900 and see if you like it. 🙂

  • Reply February 2, 2011

    Kh2456

    Hey Mike, I can’t decide between the re-zeros or the dba-02. I would love to hear your input since you’ve reviewed both of them.

    • Reply February 2, 2011

      Anonymous

      What are you listening to? What are you using now, and what kind of an
      upgrade do you want?

      • Reply February 2, 2011

        Kh2456

        I had a pair of Klipsch s4’s which i thought were decent for the price but they got destroyed by a dumbbell at the gym :/

        Just looking for a pair of good iems for the gym. Listen to all genres but i would say mostly rap. Currently listen to M50’s at home.

        • Reply February 2, 2011

          Anonymous

          I can’t think of anything.. Try the Atrio M5 or the Super.Fi 5 yet? I
          think their voicing is very good for Rap.

          • Reply February 2, 2011

            Kh2456

            Ok I will look at those. Thanks

  • Reply June 24, 2011

    Dleblanc343

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JILPrCHQvM eek, comparing them to bose, and much worse than!…

  • Reply September 4, 2011

    DodgersKings323

    Thanks again Headfonia! I’m trying to pick between these two and the Brainwavz M3.

    • Reply September 5, 2011

      Anonymous

      Unfortunately I haven’t listened to the M3.

  • Reply December 6, 2011

    Zaid Saleem

    hey there mike sorry for the late question but i was a bit confused
     is the RE-0 compared to the RE-272 flagship is it considerable as an upgrade or are these two incomparable music wise?

    • Reply December 6, 2011

      Mike

      Hi Zaid,
      The RE-0 was very different from the RE-262, but with the RE-272 it is more similar though still not absolutely alike.
      Briefly:
      RE-0: Clear sound, a little laid back, not so much mid body.
      RE-262: Warm, smooth, good mids.
      RE272: Clear, a little forward, fuller mids than the RE-0.

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