If value is King, these reign supreme
The HiFiMan HE400 SE, the Stealth Magnets variant of the 400, their budget Planar, is the best headphone on the planet. Ok, the above was a headline grabber. Nevertheless, I stand by my statement, provided the sub heading is used for context. Let’s get this show on the road; we’ve got a lot to get through, and there’s no time to waste; I’m certain that someone will realise they’ve made a horrendous mistake and the price must be raised by £200+.
These headphones were supplied to me by HiFiMan. They are not seeking a return for them. They have been provided in return for an honest review. No money exchanged hands. When I earn enough from this to be reviewing from my villa in Monaco, I’ll be sure to let you all know. For now, this is all done for the love. Our effervescent team subjective member, Tom, has a set of these already. It’s been anguish not casting a glance over his work, although, of course, I can once this has been written up.
About the HE400 SE
1: It’s cheap. For a full sized Planar, it’s crazy cheap. For a stealth magnet version, with the added silver plated copper cable (available for the Global Edition, which will apply to anything sold outside China), it’s breathtaking value, even if it matched the HE400 I 2020. Well listen here folks, it’s £10 cheaper… It retails in the UK for £159, and the I edition is £169. I kept on checking that. I am right.
2: It is suitable for portable products. Whilst I have, up til now, refused to plug this into my smartphone, because frankly, it deserves better. At 91 dB and 25 Ohms it may just achieve a viable output from your smartphone. I used an AK380 Meteoric Titan for my evaluation. I recommend decent DAPs or DACs for the SE, but nothing beefy is needed. The need for a decent source is simply to get the best from the SE, nothing more.
3: It’s comfortable. It has the same headband and cups as the I version, and, even for my narrow head, it’s a superb fit. The cups are thick and the tension is bang on. My ears are not sweaty or compressed when I take these off; even after hours of painstaking research. Oh, the efforts I make for you all!
4: It’s a full sized headphone. This is an important distinction. In ear monitors, earbuds, on the ear and closed cup full sized headphones are all compromises compared to an open, over the ear design. There really is nothing to beat the sound of a well engineered, open design, £ for £. Simply; the bigger drivers have more room to breathe and create a larger, more realistic sound.
5 : It’s a planar magnetic headphone. Planar diaphragms allow more of the sound wave in; and they are thinner than a dynamic design. Magnets are still used. A planar design has some of the low frequency benefits that come from using magnets, and some of the higher, faster responses of the much thinner electrostatic driver. The Stealth magnets allow more sound waves to get through; they’re in a grill formation, rather than a solid bar shape. This should reduce any distortion yet further.
Versus the HE400 I 2020
When I first heard the I, I was agog at what they were doing for the money. I sat there seriously contemplating; ” if you had this and only this to listen to music with, could you be content?” I found myself answering a resounding”yes” to that, but, always? wondering if someone could beat it in the years to come. The 400 I is behind the SE in every way I can think of. First off, the SE has a faster sound. It makes it sound more alive to the intracacies of the recording studio, lightly, effortlessly jumping from micro effect to micro effect. The bass goes deep but the speed of the phones keeps the linearity of the whole perfectly intact. More insights can be gleaned; from the richness of a voice to the dynamic attack of an Orchestra in full flow. The accuracy of the delivery of the SE lent a silkiness to the sound signature; the I model was rough and slightly dull in comparison. For test purposes, I used the silver cable bundled with the SE for both models. That cable is used in all 4 recordings on the YouTube review. Even with the same cable and same track, I felt that the 2 models were World’s apart.
Is there yet something else out there that can give the HE400 SE a run for it’s money? If there is, I get around, and I haven’t heard it. I’m so pleased our manufacturers are still placing the needs of the audio lover squarely into their ethos. A wired, open full sized headphone is still the yardstick to aim for in the pursuit of excellence in sound. In value for money, the HE400 SE is the brush that wipes the floor of it’s fellow dancers.