Review of the HiFiMAN RE-400 – An earphone completely let down by its soundstage

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Pros: Comfort, accessories, lightweight design
Cons: Value, soundstage, isolation, microphonics

Packaging & Accessories: 9/10
Build Quality: 9/10
Design & Look: 9/10
Microphonics (higher ratings means lower cable noise): 8/10
Isolation: 7/10
Comfort: 10/10
Audio Quality: 6.5/10
Value: 8/10
My final Rating: 7.5/10

Purchase Date: May 2015
Purchase Price: £76

HiFiMAN RE-400 - Looks

First of all I would like to thank Advanced MP3 Players for sending me the HiFiMAN RE-400 for a trial review.
The RE-400s can be found on Amp3’s site for £76.
They can also be bought used on AmazonUK for around £50 and new on AmazonUSA for around $80.
As they can be found from various sources, I will be reviewing these at the given Amp3 price-point of £76 / $113.

Before getting into my written review, here’s the video review of them:

Let’s get into this written review!

Packaging & Accessories

In the package, which came in two separate bits (almost as if one wasn’t intended for the other) – there is a flurry of tips and accessories.

What I like about the provided package contents is that there’s a small case provided and even filters for the earphones. The filters are small bits that go on the drivers themselves. They are usually put on there to either change the sound and/or prevent wax/dirt getting into the driver chamber.

HiFiMAN RE-400 - Drivers

Overall I like what was included however I would have liked to see a nice soft pouch included – as these earphones are very small – I feel the included carrying case is a bit overkill. Despite it being small, it’s not something you would put in your pocket, mainly because of its hard-back nature, which makes it uncomfortable to carry around.

Build Quality

The build quality of the earphones is very good, apart from its microphonics. Unfortunately due to the way the cable is designed (sleeved past the Y-Split) it creates cable noise, which can be heard in your ears.
However, with the earphones being light and also very versatile, it’s easy to eliminate this by using them over-the-ear, rather than wear them straight-down.

HiFiMAN RE-400 - In-Ear Over-the-ear

 

Other than the cable noise, the build quality is very good – starting from the jack, which is a well-built right-angled gold-plated 3.5mm jack.

HiFiMAN RE-400 - Jack
Moving from the jack, the cable, as previously mentioned is sleeved – this is a nice touch for PC equipment, however from past experience with audio cables it can cause problems – by this I mean the cable often gets tangled and the RE-400 was no different from my previous experiences. I found the cables to get tangled pretty easily.
The cable going from the Y-Split to the earphones is of different material, more of the standard-made plastic cable. A small touch I liked, is the Y-split cable management, which is well made and also gives a nice touch of elegance.

HiFiMAN RE-400 - Close-up

The earphones themselves are well built and are very lightweight. The side indicators are situated on the strain-relief of the earphones.
The housing of the earphone is nicely coated in paint and is a very minimalistic design, which is nice to see.

Overall the build quality is very good, although it would have been perfect with no cable noise, by a better choice of cable.

Design, looks, comfort and isolation

Looks:
The looks are very nice – what I like about the RE-400s is the fact that they’re minimalistic design reminds of of an old sports car. It sits there not trying to show off, but oozes quality. This has been achieved by the paint coating that’s been used on the earphones.
Furthermore, due to their small design, they sit very flush in-ear and look very professional.

HiFiMAN RE-400 - In-Ear Straight down

Isolation:
Due to them being quite low-profile earphones, the passive noise cancellation of the earphones isn’t great. They don’t block out much external noise for an in-ear. Don’t get me wrong they still do block out noise, but don’t expect to be fully immersed in your music whilst on your daily, busy commute.

HiFiMAN RE-400 - In-Ear Straight down

 

Comfort:
The RE-400s are extremely comfortable – this mainly comes down to them being very lightweight and small-factor sized earphones.
Having tiny earphones is always comfortable, and most of the time I couldn’t even feel them in-ear, as they were so light. Its lightweight nature reminded me of the Phonak Audeo PFE range, where you knew the earphones were there, but due to them being so light, they were extremely comfortable.

HiFiMAN RE-400 - In-Ear Over-the-ear

Sound Quality

HiFiMAN RE-400 - Design

After having heard so much about the RE-400s over the internet and hyped about by a lot of people, I was curious how they really sounded. I do remember once demo’ing them back a few years ago at an audio event – but not having much time with them, couldn’t really give me a just opinion on them.
After having burned these in and having used them on my commutes and at home, I felt that these earphones were severely let down by their soundstage.
The overall sound quality is nothing to get excited about, with the low-end being average at best, with the sub-bass being near non-existent, the mids being quite dull sounding, albeit not that recessed and finally the highs being rolled off and really lacking any sort of sparkle.

However all of this could have been excused if it wasn’t for its really confined, and clustered soundstage. I’ve previously reviewed earphones that really didn’t do well in the lows, mids and highs, like the RE-400s, however due to them having a more expansive and decent soundstage, the frequencies had a bit more chance to shine.
With the RE-400s however, the soundstage is very confined and paired with its disappointing sound, I was really surprised how they got so much praise on the internet, especially seeing as there are many other earphones out there that completely trump it. The DUNU Titan 1 or the Fischer Audio Consonance, to name just but two.
In some respect the RE-400s reminded me of the Future Sonic M5, MG7 driver – however with drastically less capabilities and furthermore less depth in its soundstage imaging.

HiFiMAN RE-400 - Wires

Lows:
As mentioned above the lows don’t really extend, meaning you’re left with the very tainted mid-bass to do the work in the low-end. Unfortunately the mid-bass is underwhelming with it being really faint and not really hitting hard in any respect – be it a bloated or precise sounding mid-bass slam.
The sub-bass is really non-existent, where there’s no extension and a drastic cut off in the low-end. It’s unfortunate that there’s no real presence here, as for the MG7s they weren’t known for having great soundstage, nor mid-bass, but their sub-bass was sublime – making them extremely popular among audiophiles.

Mids/highs: 
The mids aren’t really pushed back, but nor are they forward – the RE-400s mids can really be described as bland – there’s no sort of life to them, nor is there a feeling that they perform well in this frequency region. Some might say they sound “flat” and “neutral”, but having heard many earphones and headphones that are truly flat-sounding, they’re still more exciting and more so have more life than the RE-400s will ever have.
The highs however, there’s nothing that can really be said about them, apart from what was previously mentioned. They are rolled off and have no sparkle to them. Meaning you’re left with an earphone that has even less life to it.

Soundstage:
Finally the soundstage, possibly the worst part of the earphone’s sound signature. Due to their small nature and even choice of housing material, the earphones have a really poor soundstage. There is almost no width and no real depth to the music I put it through. What’s even worse is that the sound feels slightly congested and isn’t aided at all by its bland, boring sound that the lows, mids and highs give-off.
It’s almost like one should be carrying the other, but in this respect all 4 sections of the sound quality were all disappointing.

Sound Quality Ratings
Lows: 6/10
Mids: 7/10
Highs: 6.5/10
Soundstage: 6/10

Conclusion & Closing Thoughts

HiFiMAN RE-400 - Y-Split

Overall, I can’t recommend these, mainly due to their sound quality. I just can’t justify paying £76 for these, when there are cheaper and even equally priced earphones that completely blow the RE-400s out the water.
The earphones really don’t do anything well in the sound quality section – sure they’re decent, and better than some shockingly bad earphones I’ve heard, but for £76, there’s no real excuse for it sounding “OK” or “poor”.
To top it off, I’m really disappointed in the price variances we have in the UK over the US. In the US these cost $80, which equates to £53, a much more reasonable earphone for the price. Even though I still wouldn’t recommend them at the given price of £53, I find them a lot more reasonable than £76.
In conclusion, no matter where you live, I would look for a more exciting earphone, rather than go for the RE-400s. If however you like the small-factor size, then if you’re in the US and can buy them fro under £53, then I opt to try before you buy.

Hope you enjoyed my review!
TotallydubbedHD

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