HiFiMan RE272

3

HiFiMan RE272 400x300.jpg
Reviewed Oct 2011

Details: HiFiMan’s latest flagship and the company’s second balanced earphone
Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: $249)
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 20Ω | Sens: 103 dB | Freq: 15-22k Hz | Cable: 1.8’ I-plug + 2’ 45º plug extension
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: stock bi-flanges; MEElec ‘balanced’ bi-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (4.5/5) – Single-flange (3 sizes) and bi-flange (2 sizes) silicone tips, replacement filters (5 pairs), storage case, shirt clip, balanced extension cable, single-ended extension cable, and single-ended channel swap extension cable
Build Quality (4.5/5) – While the housings of the RE272 are very similar to those of the RE262, the cable has been reinforced significantly. The new cable is thicker, sturdier, and less tangle-prone. The modular system adds an extra layer of protection and the new beefy 45º L-plugs and proper strain reliefs all around inspire confidence, as does the 3-year warranty
Isolation (3.5/5) – The channel swap adapter allows the RE272 to be worn cable-up, which should help provide a deeper fit. With the stock bi-flanges or other deep-sealing tips the isolation is surprisingly good
Microphonics (4.5/5) – With the new cord cable noise is very low when worn cable-down and nonexistent cable-up
Comfort (4.5/5) – Though a deeper seal offers the best sound, there are now a total of four ways to wear the 272 with the additional cord configurations provided by the included adapters. I find three of them to be quite comfortable and would imagine most people won’t have trouble finding at least one that works

Sound (9.2/10) – HiFiMan have had a number of hits around Head-Fi but none as potent as the original RE0. Fans of the RE0 have been waiting patiently for an update but – first with the RE252, then the RE-ZERO, and then the RE262 – HiFiMan have instead offered different flavors of poised and competent dynamic-driver sound to complement – but never replace – the RE0. Now, however, RE0 fans have something new to drool over.

As with the RE0, the low end of the RE272 doesn’t offer great depth but also lacks mid-bass bloat, sounding quick and natural. Control and accuracy are excellent but there’s not a whole lot of impact to be found – noticeably less than with the Sony MDR-EX1000, for example. The bass, while fast, is a bit soft in character. The lack of aggression and edginess is particularly noticeable next to a BA-based IEM such as the ATH-CK10 or j-phonic K2 SP. The crisp, hard-edged punch of the CK10 and K2 SP makes the bass of the RE272 sound slightly recessed, even veiled in comparison. An EQ bump at the low end will help with the bass depth but it won’t make the bass significantly more aggressive. Those who like their bass snappy and delicate will like the RE272 but even the K2 SP offers more impact, punch, and rumble. Personally, I am happy with the bass quantity and It doesn’t hurt that texture and detail are top-notch; even the RE-ZERO is made to sound a touch artificial at the low end in comparison.

The midrange is where the RE272 gets interesting. The clarity and detail are simply fantastic but unlike armature-based IEMs achieving the same levels or resolution, the RE272 still manages to sound soft and delicate. Compared to the Sony EX600, too, the RE272 is more refined and dynamic, and though the sweetness and warmth of the RE262 are all but gone, the mids are still liquid and very smooth. At times, the smoothness can almost become a detractor – the RE272 isn’t particularly great at portraying grit and seems to lack a tiny bit of texture at times. The upper midrange can sound a bit glassy, reminding me of the MA-based Ortofon e-Q5. Nonetheless, the sound is open and extremely transparent, trailing the K2 SP closely on both counts. In terms of note fullness, the RE272 pulls ahead of most analytical BA-based IEMs and competes well with popular dynamics such as the Sony EX600 and VSonic GR07.

The upper mids and lower treble are prominent but the emphasis milder than with the higher-end Sony dynamics. The top end is not at all unpleasant – never harsh or sibilant like the treble of the EX600 sometimes is and not overly bright or edgy like that of some armature-based earphones. Despite this, the RE272 is very revealing and resolving – nearly on par with the brighter, more sparkle-heavy, more clinical j-phonic K2 SP. There’s still good amount of sparkle as well as excellent top-end extension and superb detail retrieval. The overall smoothness is also impressive, with no major peaks or dips, and the presentation is clean and very refined. Nothing at all to complain about with the treble.

The presentation is not unlike that of the RE262, with similarly above-average soundstage size and good layering. If anything, the 272 sounds a bit more cohesive than the 262 and both utterly dominate the RE-ZERO in expansiveness and positioning. The sonic space is wide, open, and airy, though not quite to the same extent as that of the Sony MDR-EX1000. Instrumental separation is great and the imaging – while not quite a match for the ATH-CK10 – is impressive as well. Dynamics are good and the RE272 sounds effortless and works exceedingly well at low volumes, as have all of the HiFiMan IEMs before it.

I also got the chance to try the earphones in balanced mode with a borrowed HM801 and a balanced card kindly provided by HiFiMan. Theoretically, running in balanced mode reduces channel crosstalk, doubles the voltage swing of the amp, and creates a natural resistance to interference (the latter not a big deal for IEMs). Practically, comparing the RE272 in balanced mode against running single-ended with the HM801 as a source reveals sound quality differences that are small but distinguishable. The most noticeable for me is an increase in dynamics, which are good to begin with but become among the best of all universals in balanced mode, with a darker background and amazing effortlessness. Then we have bass control – in balanced mode the RE272 seems to tighten up slightly and become crisper, with quicker attack times and even better resolution. Bass emphasis remains low but there is no denying the difference in quality. There are also very minor gains in texturing and clarity. Overall there is merit to running the RE272 balanced but whether it is worth the cost is a different discussion. Note that the sound score given is for single-ended mode – the balanced score would be one or two tenths higher.

Value (9/10) – With its quick, resolving sound and neutral-to-bright tonality, the RE272 won’t be to everyone’s liking but as an overall package it is clearly the culmination of years of R&D on the part of the folks at HiFiMan. The modular cable system used by the RE272, unlike most, actually adds value to the product at the expense of a slightly heavier cable and the fit, finish, and build quality are finally giving the major Western brands something to think about. In both functionality and sound, the RE272 is an audiophile-class product, and one of the best around at that.

Pros: Versatile cable system; solid design; 3yr warranty; top-class sound
Cons: N/A


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

3 Comments

  1. Jmop on

    Hi quick question, does the 272 hiss at all when driven balanced with hm801? I only ask since, if the headphone is easy to drive and 801 balanced is really powerful, I would think that there would be background noise.

    • ljokerl on

      No, not that I’d noticed. There might be a low level of background hiss but not enough for me to pay attention to it (i.e. I didn’t notice).

      • Jmop on

        Oh ok, thanks!

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