Brief: HiFiMan’s first sub-$50 IEM in several years
MSRP: $49 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $49 from amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 108 dB | Freq: 15-20k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock double flanges; generic double-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down
Accessories (2/5) – Long single-flange and short bi-flange silicone tips; replacement nozzle filters (5 pairs)
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The tiny housings of the RE300h are plastic and feature replaceable nozzle filters and decent strain relief. The cables are plastic and not nylon-sheathed below the y-split like the higher-end HiFiMan models. A nice L-plug terminates the cable
Isolation (3/5) – The RE300h is a shallow-fit earphone but the included tips isolate surprisingly well and aftermarket tips can increase isolation a bit further
Microphonics (4/5) – Decent even when worn cable-down thanks to the soft cable
Comfort (4.5/5) – The housings of the RE300h are designed for cable-down wear and unusually-shaped, but very small and lightweight. The small footprint in the ear and shallow fit makes them extremely comfortable, though I can see some users – especially those with larger ears – having to find alternatives to the two included eartips to get a proper seal
Sound (7.9/10) – The RE300h takes the HiFiMan house sound and makes it more consumer-friendly by skewing the usual near-neutral balance in a warmer, bassier direction. In 2009 – three generations back in HiFiMan terms – the RE1 model attempted something similar but it was pricier and suffered from relatively low efficiency, which made it less well-suited for the mainstream consumer. The RE300h has no such problems – it’s easy to drive and the bassy and forgiving sound signature feels right at home at $50.
The RE300h places more emphasis on bass compared not only to any other HiFiMan product I’ve heard in years, but also other high-performing ~$50 sets such as the SteelSeries Flux and Fidue A63, stopping just short of the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear. It is not intended to please bassheads, but rather to deliver enough punch and body to avoid any accusations of sounding flat or lean, as often happens with higher-end HiFiMan models. Unfortunately bass control typically decreases as bass quantity goes up, and the bass of the RE300h is not as tight as that of higher-end HiFiMan IEMs and the aforementioned Fidue, SteelSeries, and Sennheiser sets.
The lower midrange of the RE300h is just as prominent as the bass. Indeed, the lack of midrange recession is what keeps the earphone grounded in the HiFiMan house sound. The RE300h ends up sounding warmer and not at all v-shaped compared to sets like the SteelSeries Flux, Xiaomi Piston 2, and Sennheiser Momentum.
However, together with the prominent bass, the warm and somewhat thick mids limit clarity. Other earphones mitigate this by providing bright, emphasized treble but the smooth and relaxed highs of the RE300h are no help here. As a result, clarity lags slightly behind the abovementioned earphones. Treble smoothness, on the other hand, is superb. The RE300h is less bright/energetic and more forgiving than the Flux, Piston 2, and especially the Momentum In-Ear. It kills harshness and sibilance on tracks like very few IEMs can, especially at lower listening volumes.
Like the higher-end RE-400, the presentation of the RE300h is not at all laid-back, in part due to the forward midrange. However, the soundstage still has pretty good width and ends up surprisingly well-rounded – certainly an enjoyable presentation well ahead of most others in this price range. It’s also worth noting the high sensitivity of the RE300h – the earphone is well above average in that regard, too.
The RE300h’s older sibling is well known for its balanced and accurate sound. Compared to the pricier RE-400, the lower-end model sounds warmer and more bass-heavy. It is also more sensitive. The changes towards “louder” and “bassier” make sense when moving downmarket and targeting consumers rather than audiophiles. Unfortunately, with the tuning change the RE300h also loses some of what has made the RE-400 one of the best audiophile earphones on the market for the past 2½ years.
The extra bass of the RE300h is intrusive compared to the RE-400’s tighter, more well-measured low end. It is boomy and makes the earphones sound muddier. The RE-400 has more of a midrange focus but still sounds more tonally correct and natural, especially with vocals. It is clearer, more accurate, and more refined. The highs are brighter and crisper. Detail comes through better as well.
The one thing the RE300h does have going for it besides greater bass impact and better sensitivity is a more dynamic presentation, which makes its soundstage appear a little less flat and intimate than that of the RE-400. Soundstaging has never been one of the RE-400’s strengths, and it really shows here.
VSonic VSD3S ($45 – $60)
The RE300h is reminiscent of other HiFiMan in-ears with its lack of midrange recession and forgiving treble. The VSD3S, likewise, follows the VSonic house sound through and through, and is tuned very differently from the RE300h. Its sound is slightly v-shaped, with more bass punch and brighter treble compared to the HiFiMan set. The VSD3S is clearer and slightly more resolving, but suffers from sharper, more sibilance-prone highs and mild midrange recession. Despite its lower bass quantity, the RE300h has more bass bloat. It is also warmer, smoother, and more full-bodied than the VSD3S, and has a slightly more well-rounded soundstage.
Sony’s warm and smooth-sounding MH1C follows a less balanced sound tuning than the RE300h, placing more emphasis on bass (especially deep bass) and less on the midrange. However, the less forward mids of the Sony unit are also a bit thinner, which helps the MH1C achieve better clarity compared to the RE300h despite its more powerful bass. The presentation of the MH1C is more laid-back and spacious, too, while the RE300h is more forward and intimate. Lastly, the HiFiMan unit is significantly more sensitive.
Value (8.5/10) – The HiFiMan RE300h is an earphone for those who above all else favor a warm and forgiving sound. It maintains forward mids and smooth treble for that quintessential HiFiMan flavor, but provides more bass than the higher-end models. The result is a sound profile dominated by the bass and lower midrange, and somewhat limited in clarity and bass control. These are not positive traits for critical listening, but there’s plenty to like here as well – the lack of midrange recession despite strong bass, the soundstage, and the smoothness, which kills off harshness and sibilance better than the vast majority of competing earphones. I also like the tiny low profile housings – HiFiMan’s been pretty good at giving us IEMs that fit well in smaller ears lately. All in all, while it is not going to dethrone HiFiMan’s higher-end RE-400 model in bang for your buck, the RE300h offers a unique sound tuning in a unique form factor, both of which make it a compelling offering.
Pros: Compact & comfortable housings; plentiful bass with prominent mids and very smooth treble
Cons: Clarity and bass control could be better