Disclaimer: The Hifiman RE800 is part of a tour organised by Hifiman. For other Picture Sunday posts, click HERE.
HIFIman reckon that the RE800 is their gold standard. I reckon that it’s shiny first, gold second, and tiny third. For me, there is no gold standard. There’s matte black, emerald green, navy blue, or nothing. But then again, HIFIman may have meant something else by standard. Probably, they had sound in mind first, fit second, and shine third.
If that’s the case, HIFIman and Nathan are at odds. Except that, fit, which for me is first, is something the Hifiman RE800 almost nails. It slides right in, and places its bum just high enough for fit fiddling. For me, insertion is a simple two step process:
1. pinch it into the ear
2. fiddle its bump to straighten the sound path
Because it’s small and slim, it fits just about any ear. It disappears into my wife’s wider ear holes, but doesn’t bump against her tragus, which typical earphones do. In my ears, it sticks out a bit even with the smallest ear pads, but stays clear of anything meaty. Speaking of meat, because the RE800’s relief-less body can bit its cable a bit. You can’t change the cable, so I hope this doesn’t create connection problems going forward.
Its nozzle is a bit short, making deep insertion something of a trick. I don’t get on with the dual flange mushroom tips, and end up using comply tips. With those, it fits firm, and isolates pretty well. Even hooked up to older iPods or AK100s and powerful desktop amps and DACs, it doesn’t hiss. Part of that is its 60Ω. Part of that is its 103dB sensitivity. Still, it gets plenty loud from an iPhone SE, and graciously receives more power from the likes of the Onkyo DP-S1 and Ryuzoh-tweaked AK70 mod mod.
Over at headfi, you’ll see a few smoothed and unsmoothed ARTA frequency response graphs, usually with a big trip up between 6K and 8K. Some people find them really natural, some find them peaky. I’m between the two, partially because recently I’ve found that I dig smooth and warm, but partially because I started and will always be in love with Etymotic ER4 and Audio Technica CK10-style sound.
The Hifiman RE800 isn’t as thin sounding as the latter, and is smoother overall than the former. It’s not got huge bass, but it’s got a bit of warmth through the midrange before it brightens up. And the sound stage is large, with good to great instrument placement, and for its driver size, really well delineated instruments.
It’s nowhere near Susvara in terms of absolutely clarity or sound field size, but it sounds great, and in general, follows a similar, if obviously more treble-spiked signature. A dirty little secret of mine is that that I prefer it to the RE2000, probably because it fits between the wide-but-strangely-dry Beyerdynamic Xelento, and warmer Astell & Kern AKT8iE MKII, both of which are favourites of mine.
Lieven and I will put heads (and ears) together over this, and other HIFIman products in a few weeks.