Planar magnetic headphones aren’t that common, but every now and then a company comes out with a pair that shatters price boundaries. The most recent pair of headphones in this trend is the HiFiMan HE400S, a pair of planar magnetic headphones with a price tag of only $300. Sure, that might sound like a lot, but for what these headphones have to offer that’s a very competitive price.
This isn’t the first pair of planar magnetic headphones we’ve reviewed — the last pair were the Audeze Sine’s, which we absolutely loved. At $150 less, do the HiFiMan HE400S’ compare? We put them to the test to find out.
There’s no denying that these headphones are pretty bulky, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While bulky, the earcups themselves still manage to stay somewhat thin, which is thanks to the planar magnetic drivers — drivers than basically uses a super-thin membrane instead of a series of magnets to produce sound. The frame of the headphones is partly what makes them so bulky — instead of a round frame the goes around with the shape of your head, the frame is square. That’s partly because of how users change the size of the headphones. Instead of expanding the earcups down for larger heads, you simply move the headband up along the frame.
The earcups are also relatively large, which in this case is a good thing — they’re large because they’re decidedly over-ear. Those earcups are silver with a premium-looking black grill, while the rest of the headband and frame is a matching black. The build of the headphones is overall pretty nice — the headphones seem pretty solid and like they can take a beating — or last a while without breaking.
In the box, you’ll only find the headphones, a y-shaped cable, and an 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch adapter. There’s no carry case to be found, and while that’s a slight bummer, the fact is that these aren’t the type of headphones that you’ll be taking on the road, so it’s a feature that’s barely missed. At home, if you’re really set on protecting your headphones as much as possible, you can just use the box.
The cable itself is a very nice braided cable — which is both strong and stylish. It connects to the headphones with a 2.5mm connection.
Design is one thing, but it doesn’t mean all that much if the headphones don’t feel good or sound good. Thankfully, the HiFiMan HE400S’ feel great. There’s plenty of padding around the earcups, which sit around your ear as any over-ear headphones would. Not only that, but the headband features a soft vinyl-type material, ensuring a comfortable fit on top of your head too.
If we had to make a complaint, it would be that after a few hours of listening the top headband can start to get a little annoying, but in general these are some of the more comfortable headphones we’ve tried and you could use them for at least a few hours without feeling the need to take them off.
Thankfully, the positive aspects of the HiFiMan HE400S’ don’t stop at the design and comfort — they also sound pretty great.
These headphones aren’t aimed at being super bass-heavy or overly bright — they’re aimed at audiophiles on a budget, and as such they need to sound as natural as possible. The sound that these headphones offer is super smooth and easy to listen to for long periods of time without there being much listening fatigue.
Before getting into the different frequency ranges, it’s important to note that these headphones have an open design. What that means is that you’re going to hear sound from your environment extremely well, and people around you will be able to hear the music you’re listening to. Generally open-back headphones are better suited to home listening than anything else, but they offer a more realistic sound — more like you just have speakers right near your ears than that you’re creating an entire listening environment inside a pair of headphones.
The worst thing about the HiFiMan HE400S’ sound is the bass, but it’s not bad by any means — we just wish there was a little more. Kick drums are nice and defined, bass guitars are anything but muddy, and overall the bass sounds great. So great, that more of it would most definitely be welcome.
Mids on these headphones are nice and defined without being overbearing. When companies give headphones too much midrange, they often end up sounding like a radio, while scooping the mids too much gives a fake sound. The HE400S generally seem to hit that sweet spot very well.
It’s the high end where these headphones really shine. The vocals in Betty Who’s I Love You, Always Forever are nice and present, the strings in Bach’s Violin Concerto No. 1 are very well-defined, and the cymbals in AC/DC’s Back In Black cut through the mix perfectly.
In general the headphones performed pretty well too — they didn’t really distort until we hit really unsafe listening levels, so if you listen loud these will be a great choice for you. They have a very neutral sound but slightly more bass wouldn’t have been unwelcome.
At $300, the HiFiMan HE400S’ are a budget audiophile’s dream. No, they’re not the best choice for taking out and about, and if you’re super into hip hop they may not do the trick for you. Where they really shine, however, is in offering a very neutral sound that will bring an excellent experience for most. We highly recommend these headphones, especially if you’re looking for a pair of open-back planar magnetic headphones on a budget.
|Frequency response||20Hz – 35kHz||Noise attenuation||Unknown|
|Driver size||Unknown||In-line controls||No|
|Rated impedance||22Ω||Earpad material||Foam|
|Total harmonic distortion||Unknown||Magnet material||N/A|
|Rated input power||Unknown||Water resistance||No|
|Maximum input power||Unknown||Battery life||N/A|
|Wireless connection||No||Wireless distance||N/A|
|Wired connection||Yes||Cable length||1.5m (4.9ft)|
|Detachable cable||Yes||Case type||N/A|
|Weight||350g (12.3oz)||In-the-box||Cable, 1/8-inch – 1/4-inch adapter|
|Active noise cancellation||No||Colors||Black|