Audio Random IEM / Headphone Rants


esanthosh

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Got the RE-400 today.

I am impressed by how far Hifiman has progressed with packaging and accessories. The tips are aplenty and what I like most about them is that they seem to be different. Granted I could get a proper seal with just 2-3 tips so far (all large size), I still like the experimentation (though some like long single flange have been around since MEE's M9(?) tip package). I initially thought the center blocked tip was a quality control issue until I read Rin's page. There is a good round zipper case, a couple of complys (medium and large size) along with shirt clip thrown in for good measure. The housings are small and very comfortable (at least for an hour in this case). The cable is normal till Y-split and fabric sheathed after that. Hmmm... Wonder why they chose that? I don't think RE-400 is a looker.

Anyways, the first tip (long single flange) and the first few tracks I tried made me wonder if I had chosen to buy the wrong IEM. The mid-bass lift was apparent, because sub-bass.. well...... didn't exist. It was annoying because I'd either have liked something flatter in the bass region or something with more quantity. Some of the new music I've been trying (Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory and Injury, Evoken - Antithesis of Light) could have done better with the sub-bass. But, when I changed to familiar territory of Opeth, I could not find much wrong. Then I changed the tips to large bi-flanges and now am on the slanted clear flanges. The bass, while not in spades, has good texture where necessary. But, I still would have liked a bit more quantity, especially in the sub-bass region. RE-400's strength lies where Hifiman's strength always lies - mid-range and up. The mids sound clean, warm, engaging, articulate and is just positioned right - neither too forward / recessed. I think the notes are just about rightly fleshed - not lean/thin, not thick. I like the smooth treble presentation in contrast to my general leaning towards a brighter presentation, just because it blends better into the overall sound and does not seem to be missing details. While the sound stage is not huge, it is well rounded with a right mix of width and depth. So far, I have hardly found anything to complain about imaging.

As of now, I think they are clearly better than RE-0/RE-ZERO (based on vague, failing memory), but I am not sure if they are as good as PFE/HF2, leave alone RE-272. To me, they stand mid-way between RE-ZERO's approach and RE-262's mid-centric approach when it comes to sound signature. If I find time, will write a detailed review with comparisons later on. Till then, take these out of the box impressions with a pinch bag of salt.
 
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Mr India

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guys how much difference do these expensive iems make in listening to high quality music. currently use the samsung in er ones that come with galaxy S3. but on some songs it really sounds harsh. i like bass and good clarity. someone suggested http://www.flipkart.com/soundmagic-pl21-headphone/p/itmd65cy6gthzskf
i have budget around 1600 for these. would prefer ones that will cancel outside noise as i wanna use them in my gym which plays some reLLY CRAPPY MUSIC
 

Ritvik

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One thing Hifiman seems to have done with the RE-400 is create an IEM that doesn't have quality control issues (at least none that I've read about). It's the first of their IEMs that hasn't given me a problem. I have 3 to 4 RE-1s lying around at home as well as a pair of the RE262s with one channel that doesn't work. I'm a massive fan of their stuff and I would love to own the old HE-5 someday but I'm worried about having them fail on me.
 

rdst_1

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One thing Hifiman seems to have done with the RE-400 is create an IEM that doesn't have quality control issues (at least none that I've read about). It's the first of their IEMs that hasn't given me a problem. I have 3 to 4 RE-1s lying around at home as well as a pair of the RE262s with one channel that doesn't work. I'm a massive fan of their stuff and I would love to own the old HE-5 someday but I'm worried about having them fail on me.
+1. Have my RE-1 lying around and I haven't been able to buy another IEM since then. Please guys I want to buy a new IEM but I have been away far too long. Don't wanna try anything new. Just want the signature to be as close to my RE-1, because they are the only IEMs I can listen to for hours. Longest I used them was for 12 hours straight and I could have still continued listening on had my journey not ended.
 

esanthosh

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guys how much difference do these expensive iems make in listening to high quality music. currently use the samsung in er ones that come with galaxy S3. but on some songs it really sounds harsh. i like bass and good clarity. someone suggested http://www.flipkart.com/soundmagic-pl21-headphone/p/itmd65cy6gthzskf
i have budget around 1600 for these. would prefer ones that will cancel outside noise as i wanna use them in my gym which plays some reLLY CRAPPY MUSIC
Expensive IEMs do make a difference. But, the sound quality improvement is not linear in relation to price. At the current juncture, you can find quality sound within $100. After that, upgrades depend on your personal sound signature preferences. The subjective 'sound quality' differs from person to person. Unless you try out different sound signatures, it is hard to say whether paying more for expensive IEMs makes sense.

In your case, I'd look for something durable and isolating rather than something with the greatest sound quality. I doubt MP21 isolates as much. A choice of IEMs can be found in Joker's guide. Unfortunately, we do not have that wide a choice within India :(

One thing Hifiman seems to have done with the RE-400 is create an IEM that doesn't have quality control issues (at least none that I've read about). It's the first of their IEMs that hasn't given me a problem.
I hope that's the case, Ritvik. Despite the numerous failures associated with Hifimans, I never had an IEM fail on me (RE0, RE-ZERO, RE-252). May be that is because I use them as one of the IEMs, not my main or even fallback IEM. As far as RE-400 goes, Amazon's 1-star and 2-star reviews indicate that there were failures within a couple of weeks of usage.

+1. Have my RE-1 lying around and I haven't been able to buy another IEM since then. Please guys I want to buy a new IEM but I have been away far too long. Don't wanna try anything new. Just want the signature to be as close to my RE-1, because they are the only IEMs I can listen to for hours. Longest I used them was for 12 hours straight and I could have still continued listening on had my journey not ended.
It's difficult to replace RE-1 (despite the fact that I didn't like it that much :p). RE-262 and SM3 are what I consider to be similarly inoffensive. I would say, based on reading, TDK BA200 seems to be a good choice as well.
 

kenpachiroks

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@esanthosh

They require a long brain burn in. :D And a variety of music to be appreciated completely.
I hope I can finish up my first ever review soon. Its difficult :sorry:. How do you do it?

Also try a narrow sub-bass lift. The drivers are capable.
And they seem to sound better at slightly higher volumes

One thing Hifiman seems to have done with the RE-400 is create an IEM that doesn't have quality control issues (at least none that I've read about). It's the first of their IEMs that hasn't given me a problem. I have 3 to 4 RE-1s lying around at home as well as a pair of the RE262s with one channel that doesn't work. I'm a massive fan of their stuff and I would love to own the old HE-5 someday but I'm worried about having them fail on me.
The first batches were plagued by a faulty connector issue. They seem to have fixed it since then. Cable winder replaced with a case. Upped the number of tips.
They do care :)
 

esanthosh

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They require a long brain burn in. :D And a variety of music to be appreciated completely.
Not really. In my case, it required 15-30 minutes of brain burn-in. I am quite familiar with Hifiman sound since I've heard all their IEMs except RE600. I owned only the 0, ZERO and now own 400 and 272.

But, a line is longer or shorter only relatively, not in isolation. Hence without comparisons, I am unable to make up my mind where they exactly stand.

I hope I can finish up my first ever review soon. Its difficult :sorry:. How do you do it?
Just persist. My first review sucked completely. No first "review" can be worse than that :). The only requirement is honesty - to your ears, within your current sphere of knowledge, limitations and capability. Of this, the only thing that cannot be upgraded is your hearing capability. Both knowledge and available gear can keep on improving with time and money spent. Just remember - one brick at a time to build a house.

It takes both energy and time, especially if you are doing proper A:B comparisons. Auditory memory lasts for a very short duration and it is initially very painful to do a quick A:B:A, especially if the IEMs require volume adjustment to achieve equal loudness. I could spend half an hour just to write 3 lines, but sometimes write 10 lines with just 15 minutes of listening. At times, you get writer's block. You just do not get a proper term for what you are hearing (memory lapse or lingo issue). There are reviews where I've left off things because I did not know how to properly express them.

The worst part of reviewing is once you keep practicing it, you become an expert at finding faults, but you can never ascertain why people like something so much. Every time you hear something better, the invisible bar of satisfaction gets raised, thus lowering your ability to enjoy anything below it. That is why I prefer writing reviews for 3-6 months of the year and then take a break for the rest. But, when restarting, it takes a long time to move from thinking about music to acclimatizing back to critical listening. So, the first few reviews need huge effort, but it gets easier with time.

Hope this helps...
 
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kenpachiroks

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@esanthosh
My inexperience warranted a long burn in I guess. :p

Thank you for the advice. I'm aiming at being completely honest Sometimes I don't feel/hear what many others describe. Cue false sense of doubt. So, I'm trying to ignore everything I've heard 'about' this iem and focus on what I'm hearing 'from' this iem
 

hzant6681

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One thing Hifiman seems to have done with the RE-400 is create an IEM that doesn't have quality control issues (at least none that I've read about).
Sadly, my Re-400s left side strain relief broke near to the housing a few days back. :-(. So build issues are still a concern with Hifiman IEMs. I know it's still under warranty,but I didnt want to go through the hassles of shipping them overseas, so I fixed them with little feviquick. The RE-262 which was also bought from a TE member had driver burn out after a few days of listening. But surprisingly my 2yr old Re-zero's and my recent used RE-0 (which i assume to be at least a year old) are still going strong (touch wood ;)). The irony is I bought the Re-400 assuming them to have potential, as a back up to my Re-zeros :sour:.
As of now, I think they are clearly better than RE-0/RE-ZERO (based on vague, failing memory), but I am not sure if they are as good as PFE/HF2, leave alone RE-272. To me, they stand mid-way between RE-ZERO's approach and RE-262's mid-centric approach when it comes to sound signature.
Didn't want to send a faulty Re-400 to you, and was fearing what else is going to fail with Re-400s. My opinion of the Re-400 are that they sound monitor-ish and laid back. I agree that they are better than Re-zero & Re-0, but in just two things the bass and the tuning (smooth,cohesive non -sibilant sound). I didn't find it as an big upgrade to Re-zero or even the Re-0. The treble's a little laid back for my taste. The Re-262 is still ahead of the Re-400.

Try them with the filters removed, the treble improves without changing other things. Rin choi has suggested a Re-400 to RE-600 mod in his blogspot
If any of the RE-400 users out there want to experience the sound of RE-600 without having to pay the quadruple amount of money you've already spent, here's a little trick for you:Simply insert a sheet of microfiber cloth between RE-400's nozzle and the sleeves, and RE-400's sound shall become pretty similar to that of RE-600. The result can't be identical, but why not give a shot when the mod is totally reversible & free
Dunno if Dr. Fang :greedy:would agree with Rin :D.
 

guptaji

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guys.. does anyone have any thoughts on the sound quality of the Sony XBA-4iP? Its currently available for $150. The cheapest quad BA that I have seen.
 

esanthosh

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My opinion of the Re-400 are that they sound monitor-ish and laid back. I agree that they are better than Re-zero & Re-0, but in just two things the bass and the tuning (smooth,cohesive non -sibilant sound). I didn't find it as an big upgrade to Re-zero or even the Re-0. The treble's a little laid back for my taste. The Re-262 is still ahead of the Re-400
From memory (which you can verify). RE-400 > RE0 in imaging, treble and fleshed out notes. RE0 is thinner sounding with high energy in the treble, but it's treble presentation is not great. I think RE-ZERO may sound clearer, but dry next to RE-400. Here too RE-400 may have an edge when it comes to presentation.

Yes! RE-400 could indeed do better with a treble lift. Give it a +2-3dB lift in both LS and HS (I lowered it to 10K, adjust this by ear) in Clip+ and you are good to go. I am not going to do mods until I am done with comparisons for the review.

guys.. does anyone have any thoughts on the sound quality of the Sony XBA-4iP? Its currently available for $150. The cheapest quad BA that I have seen.
It's a weird IEM loved by some and hated by others (what isn't, but...). Two reviews to read are Joker's and this one. Is it worth a gamble at $150? Read the reviews and decide.
 
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kenpachiroks

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My first review :writing:. Please be gentle. I've been unabashedly honest.

HiFiman RE-400 Review

Packaging and build:

The packaging is minimal and exquisitely so. The extra tips filters and manual are behind the felt coated foam holding the earphones. As I gingerly dislodged them from the grooves, I was struck by how tiny they are. I always try to avoid gripping the strain relief as a precaution, but it was difficult considering the size. The shiny bead blasted aluminium back goes well with the brushed aluminium housing.

Which brings me to the build. This is the most common qualm people have reported (which HiFiman identified as a faulty connector and has fixed in subsequent batches). The plug is beefy, the y split seems sturdy. However, I noticed that there’s some free movement of the cable at the entry point of the strain relief (i.e the entry hole is thicker than the wire). As long as the cable is secured properly within the main housing this shouldn’t be an issue. (I was tempted to add a dab of glue at the strain relief end to restrict that free movement).

The half and half cable is… okay. The cloth half is a little kinky (pun not intended). The sticky half is thin and flexible making it very comfortable when worn over ear. Apparently the hybrid design serves to reduce weight among other benefits.

Accessories, Comfort and Isolation

Tips galore but an odd assortment. Anyway, I have very narrow ear canals and the smaller tips gave me a good seal. The pseudo-double bump tips gave me pressure problems, so I settled for the bar-tips. The complys are good, but the foam overhangs (ahead of the rubber tube) get scrunched. (I have modified them by cutting off the overhangs. )

Cable noise is more than present when worn cable-down. Disappears when worn over-ear. Can hardly feel then in my ears after a while. It is evident that the HiFiman team has paid a lot of attention to ergonomics.

Other accessories include a shirt clip, 5 pairs of stock filters. I have dry wax so I won’t be changing them out anytime soon. Perhaps I could use them to hard EQ them (doubling the filters, felt mod etc.) Maybe later.

Isolation is average, even with a good fit. But maybe that’s about as good as it gets for vented earphones. The vent is placed ventrally

Sound

A short intro/disclaimer

My experience when it comes to iems is very limited. The RE400 is my first foray into audiophile territory. I’ve been in a V/U-shaped bassy world thus far. Chronologically..

Sony MDR-E818LP>Sony MDR-EX35LP>Creative EP-630>Xears TD4 Ebony Blackwood>Brainwavz R1>HiFiman RE-400

I’ve loved and hated every set. So I set my sights higher and decided to bravely plunge into a neutral world just to see if that was the right direction for me. Doing an A:B comparison doesn’t make much sense with iems that differ this widely.

My impressions may seem overblown to some. But such a drastic change in direction can do that.

Back to the review

I expected to be disappointed by the RE-400 in the bass department. I like a little rumble and feel in my bass. But given my inexperience, I was very curious about bass quality vs quantity. Fast forward to my impressions…

I initially thought of describing it by music genre. But after a week with them I’ve decided to go ahead with the classic break-up.

Treble

I’ve always found sharp treble to be off-putting. There is a (false?) sense of enhanced clarity that comes with sparkly treble. But for me, the overall enjoyability dips.

I’m absolutely amazed by how smooth the treble is on the RE-400. Some may like a little more sparkle, its sooo perfectly where I want it to be. It may lack some bite with fast electronic music. I found no nasty peaks or dips. To me, the detail and clarity was eye widening (considering my experience or lack thereof).

Mids

I was expecting to be impressed. But not blindsided like this. It felt like I had suddenly switched from 64kbps to a vinyl track. The first thing that struck me was how much more life-like it felt. The vocals had a certain texture. Simply put, if that texture was absent, the vocals wouldn't be as immersive.

A striking feature was the depth to the vocals (not necessarily to the soundstage). It sounded “wholesome”(male and female alike). I’m finding this very hard to describe but I must persist, because it’s that important. I am able to gauge how much breath and effort the singer is taking. Apart from the core vocals I hear a lot of nuances and details that contribute to that sense of “completion”. This particular feature impressed me the most in this iem.

Another thing I noticed is how untouched and unaffected the mids are. No matter how busy rest of the spectrum gets, the mids always come through unadulterated. Like I had a separate pair of ears for the mids. And it seemed like the bass and highs complemented it nicely. Like they were all on the same plane of preference.

Bass

I will have to divide this segment into two. Initial impressions and Brain burnt –in impressions.

Initial : Sub-bass was non-existent. Some tracks need that sub-bass to sound right. It adds to the ‘natural, warm’ feeling. Sub-bass is more ‘feeling’ than ‘hearing’.
Tracks that had a strong mid-bass component were handled beautifully. I couldn’t believe the detail and how fast it sounded. But I would have liked some more punch.
Sadly the mids keep grabbing the spotlight therefore I didn’t get to try many bass heavy tracks.

Brain-burnt in : Sub-bass still non-existent. But I found out that at high listening volumes the RE-400 extends pretty deep. So it is capable (which will come in handy later on).

I feel the punch in the mid-bass now. And I find the quantity sufficient(not lacking) now. Surprisingly enough, I’m actually enjoying them immensely. I love the attack speed and the detail. I want to say “resolving” but I’m not sure if it is the correct term. I’m quite stunned to find myself enjoying this “type” of bass. The initial disappointment only surfaces when I find the sub-bass lacking.

ljokerl advised me to try a “narrow” lift of a few dB in the sub-bass. This improves presence without affecting the mid-bass. The RE-400 is a very capable iem in this respect. The overall tonality has warmed and I’m not disappointed as often. I still find myself wanting a bit more presence but I don’t think EQing it in is the answer. (Perhaps a vent redesign, dampers coupled with a sub-bass lift)

Drums sound very natural (except the deepest reaching ones). It’s easy to differentiate between the types of drums. The bass conveys that much detail.

Bottom line: Bass enjoyment is very track subjective. EQing helps because the drivers are capable

Other miscellaneous rambling

The soundstage isn’t the widest. The Brainwavz R1 has spoiled me in this regard. But it isn’t congested either. It conveys a good sense of space. Vocals can be very very intimate. And orchestras can be sufficiently spacious. No complaints there.

All the music components are clearly positioned and layered without any interference. I believe that is good “imaging”?

Like I mentioned before, I sense an overall “completion” in the music. Vocals will have a ‘bass’ component and a ‘lower highs’ component in addition to the core “mid” component. The RE-400 delivers all of it in equal measure (just a tad more in the mids).

I have observed that they sound even better at higher volumes (+1/2 dB above normal listening volume)

I am curious to as to how the RE-400 will perform when powered by a better source. That will have to wait as I don’t have the resources :(

Some have reported good results by using dampers to add a little warmth and presence (even going as far to comparing it to the 400$ RE-600). I will try these mods later on.

Conclusion

This iem was meant to be a test, an experiment. My first foray into neutral audiophile territory. And they have surprised me. They have made me second guess my sound sig preference. I know what I want now (until the next revelation). But what I want now is so different from what I wanted, I doubt I’ll ever have such a drastic change of heart.

I expected it to fit a small segment of my music but I’m shocked at the versatility and satisfaction it has given me in most of my music.

I have a very non-technical way of knowing when music sounds really good to me. It has nothing to do with genre, mood or content. It depends solely on raw music quality. This happens to me with “certain tracks” that span a wide genre(Examples: Imogen Heap- Let go, Jasmine Thompson - Home, Mick MCauley & Winifred Horan - A Daisy in December, Eminem- Sing for the moment etc). Well….. My eyes well up. Not related to feelings of sadness, happiness etc. My eyes simply leak a lot of tears without warning(freaked me out the first time). Let’s just say, I can’t see through the haze of tears when I have the RE-400 on. It’s only happened with the Fidelio L1, some active speaker I can’t remember, rarely with the Brainwavz R1.

The RE-400s have set the bar very high for me. If these had a little more sub-bass presence I would have absolutely nothing to complain about. I think finding something much better will be very difficult unless I burn my wallet, so I will now look for an iem to complement (not beat) the RE-400.

Credits:

  • @esanthosh for all the advice he’s given me. And for replying to my monotonous PMs.
  • Modular(head-fi) for his detailed and comforting words from a very understanding POV.
  • Big ups to HiFinage for bringing HiFiman to India at such an amazing price.
 

guptaji

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what a brilliant review!! loved reading it.. you almost convinced me to buy these!! :)
 
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esanthosh

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@esanthosh Any idea about soundmagic p20 ?
That's an old model headphone, isn't it? Personally, no idea.

Joker's review

Sound: (5.25/10): As is the case with most supraaural sets, the sound quality of the P20 is highly dependent on how well the pads seal with the listener’s ear. For me, this required holding the headphones down for critical listening – otherwise the bass was nearly non-existent at comfortable listening volumes. When fitted properly, the P20 is quite punchy but there’s not much depth or weight to the bass compared to higher-end sets. According to specifications, the P20 should be more extended at the low end than the older P10 but I just don’t hear it – bass roll-off below 40Hz is very noticeable, though not unreasonable for a set in this price range. On the upside, the P20 is generally a very balanced headphone. Clarity is impressive, especially in the treble, and detail does not disappoint for a reasonably-priced portable. Like the P10, the P20 is smooth-sounding and not very forward but it does have strong upper mids and lower treble and can be a little piercing at high volumes. Top end extension is quite good but the presentation leaves a bit to be desired – the soundstage is medium in width and lacks slightly in depth, resulting in mediocre separation and layering. It’s not a bad presentation but definitely one that screams ‘budget’ headphone. On the whole the P20 could be on-level with its main competitors if not for the fit interfering with sound quality, at least for me.
 

kenpachiroks

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what a brilliant review!! loved reading them.. you almost convinced me to buy these!! :)
Thank you! :)
It is not the safest of choices. It may be too sterile and uncoloured for some. I wanted to know what stellar mids sounded like. I wanted to know if Bass quality could trump quantity. I wanted to know what neutral sounded like. So for me, it was worth the gamble.
 

FaH33m

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Brilliant review of RE-400 Kenpachi and Esanthosh . Loved reading them. Brings back old memories of HiFiMan/ Head Direct products . Started with the love for RE-2 ,RE-0 and then RE-252 . Used to love Brendon's RE-1s , one of the best mids and soundstage back then. Wonder why they discontinued old models .

Havent tried any of the new offerings but going by the reviews it seems they have retained their distinct sound signature.

One distinct feature of Head Direct back then was most top IEMs would definitely need an amp to shine . Does the sample apply to new products ?

Would love to try out RE-400 / RE-600 if someone from Mumbai has them :D.
 

Ritvik

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Haven't tried the RE600 but the 400 seems pretty good straight out of a decent DAP. Used it with the clip+, iPhone 4 and the AK100.

The RE-1 is still my all time favorite IEM and I loved the 262 as well. Both of which I fell need an amp, the RE-1 more so.

I think they discountinued a lot of the older products because failure levels were high. I remember writing to them to see if I could get another RE-1 and the suggested I try another one of their other products (I forget the exact one) and stated that it has an improved manufacturing process and is more reliable.

If there's anything out there that's close to the RE-1 I would love to give it a go. Especially if it has a removeable cable, I've been a bad bad boy today. Couldn't resist the lure of the ALO International any longer :(