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HiFiMan RE-400

HiFiMan RE-400 Waterline Review

HiFiMan RE-400
Added Mar 2013

Details: Newest entry-level earphone from one of the pioneers of accurate dynamic-driver earphones
MSRP: $99 (manufacturer’s page); $99 for RE-400i w/mic & 3-button iOS remote (manufacturer’s page); $99 for RE-400a w/mic & 1-button remote (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $79 from amazon.com for RE-400; $79 from amazon.com for RE-400i; $79 from amazon.com for RE-400a
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 32Ω | Sens: 102 dB | Freq: 15-22k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ 45º-plug
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: stock bi-flange
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (3.5/5) – Single-flange (2 sizes), short bi-flange, and long bi-flange silicone tips; cable winder Updated February 2014: RE-400 now comes with 3 types of silicone bi-flange eartips, 4 types of silicone single-flange eartips, a shirt clip, and a clamshell carrying case
Build Quality (4/5) – Construction is in line with what we’ve seen from HiFiMan as of late – solid housings, long strain reliefs, and thicker cables. The top part of the cord is similar to the RE262/RE272 while the bottom part is nylon-sheathed. HiFiMan’s standard 45º-plug completes the picture. The RE-400 is single-ended – there is no option of running it balanced and no adapters are necessary to use it with standard 3.5mm jacks
Isolation (4/5) – Quite good for a dynamic-driver unit. The small housings and thick stock tips allow for a deep seal with even better isolation.
Microphonics (4/5) – Bothersome when worn cable-down; fine otherwise
Comfort (4.5/5) – The housings of the RE-400 are the smallest of all the HiFiMan earphones I’ve seen to date. The shape seems to favor a deeper seal, which shouldn’t be an issue for all but those with the smallest ear canals. Cable-up wear is easy though the cable slider is a little loose on the cable.

Sound (9/10) – The RE-400 takes the place of the RE-ZERO in HiFiMan’s new, more streamlined lineup. For the most part it stays true to what we’ve come to expect from the RE-series earphones–its tone is mostly neutral and the sound is about as clean and transparent as it gets. The RE-400 seems to be endowed with a slightly more robust low end compared to the old RE-ZERO–there is a slight mid-bass lift audible with the newer model. This gives its bass a little more weight and depth and tilts the overall tone slightly in the “warm” direction compared to the RE-ZERO, RE272, and Etymotic ER-4S. This is not necessarily good or bad—those who want a ruler-flat bass will likely still prefer the 272, but it will allow the RE-400 to cater to a wider audience, which is a definitely plus in my book.

I would still classify the RE-400 as a neutral earphone with just a hint of warmth. The midrange is clear and well-positioned, neither recessed nor forward in the presentation. Detail resolution is excellent and the overall sound is very transparent. The top end, similarly, is present but not overbearing. As with the other HiFiMan earphones, it is delicate and refined. For an accuracy-oriented earphone the RE-400 is rather smooth and forgiving – it is a little more tolerant of sibilance than, for example, the Etymotic ER-4S. Treble extension is quite good, which tends to be the case with HiFiMan sets – certainly on-par with other high-end dynamics such as the VSonic GR07 and Sony EX1000.

The presentation of the RE-400 is versatile and uncongested. Separation lags a hair behind the ER-4S and RE272, which seem to benefit from the lack of a mid-bass lift, but really isn’t far behind these (far pricier) flagships. The overall sense of space easily beats out similarly-priced sets such as the MEElec A161P and Ultimate Ears 600, and even offers slightly better depth than the older RE-ZERO. Like the rest of the RE-400’s sound, the presentation is very, very difficult to fault.

THL Recommended Badge 2014Value (10/10) – The latest iteration of the balanced-and-accurate dynamic-driver earphone from HiFiMan, the RE-400 offers an audible tuning change from the old RE0 and RE-ZERO models. It produces slightly weightier bass, a more well-rounded presentation, and smooth, forgiving treble while still offering accuracy on a level very rarely found at or near its price point.

Additional improvements over the previous-gen RE-ZERO include a more robust construction and better noise isolation, mostly due to the more compact, deep-sealing form factor. The RE-400 also boasts much nicer packaging, though there is still a disappointing dearth of accessories. The no-frills approach is fine by me – the RE-400, like its predecessors, is a listener’s IEM. All in all, adding a hint of warmth to an otherwise neutral sound should let RE-400 appeal to the casual listener better than the models it replaces while holding very close to the HiFiMan sound many—myself included—have come to love.

Pros: Very smooth & balanced sound; small & comfortable;
Cons: Cable noise can be bothersome in cable-down configuration

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ABOUT AUTHOR

ljokerl

ljokerl

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.

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313 Responses

  1. As far as I know the M-Audio IE10 is a rebranded UE Super.Fi 3, which is at least a 10 year old design. These were pretty solid when were on clearance at the end of their natural life 5+ years ago, but I would not buy one in 2016. If you want a ~$50 BA, I’d get a Phiaton MS100BA.

    Both the HiFiMan and the Phiaton will give you a very strong contrast to the much more v-shaped AX-35 – they are balanced, somewhat mid-centric earphones with a neutral-to-warm tone.

    The VSD3S will be less in the way of a contrast, but it is a very good value and introduces you to the VSonic sound, from which there is then a clear upgrade path with the GR07, if you end up hooked.

  2. Or maybe it would be even better to prefer Vsonic VSD3S (can buy used one for 37$) instead of poorly built RE-400 and old BA from M-audio?

  3. Hi!
    I use Cowon D2+ (love it for the combination of sound, runtime and dimensions) and Astrotec AX-35 earbuds. At the moment I’m looking for new IEM to broaden my outlook. After weeks of continuous googling and reading multiple reviews I’ve ordered Zero Sound Tenores from Japan and now I still want to get more and I’m choosing between the brand new RE-400 for 64$ and used M-Audio IE-10 for 46$. The second one is absolutely unknown for me. Is it a good deal for money?

  4. Wow my left channel started to cut out at random, it happened twice already. It had me completely confused because I have never had that happen to an IEM ever. Guess I will be returning that pair and probably going for an HF5 next.

  5. I had the RE-400 AND the RE-600, The sound extremely similar, very neutral, but the build quality is terrible, on both IEM’s one of the earpieces cut in and out until eventually the sound was more out than in.

    Just bought the Shure SE-215 and the rich powerful sound is right in my wheelhouse! Except it took me a whole hour to figure out how to put the cotton things on, not used to that over the ear wrap. But I figured it out. takes a tad longer to put them on than your average IEM but they’re more comfortable.

  6. It’s exactly how it sounds – the BA has a (very small amount) more bass while the classic is slightly more neutral. Both have more bass than the RE-400 so if that was on your list you might as well get the less expensive GR07 Classic.

  7. Hi |joker|, thanks for the reply! Think I am leaning towards the GR07 now after reading the horror stories of RE-400’s build quality, but then again the GR07 doesn’t have much going for itself too with regards to QC. But anyway, what are your opinions on the differences b/w GR07BE vs the CE (classic)?

  8. Yes, that’s a good summary of the differences between the two. Honestly, unless you’ve been using a good mid-level IEM already, I would think either of these two will deliver the details you crave and you can’t really go wrong. They both perform well in the detail department, though the GR07 tends to be a bit more “in your face” with it and is the one I’d go for if money were no object. The DUNU Titan 1 is another one in that price range that’s extremely good at bringing out details in vocals. Has a slightly different sound signature to the GR07 (more forward upper mids, brighter overall tonality), but performance and value are about on-par.

    There aren’t really any alternatives that fall much under $60, either – you can again get like 90% of the RE-400’s detail with something like an Ostry KC06 or VSonic VSD3 but you won’t be saving much $$ with those so you might as well jump up to the HiFiMan.

  9. Hi |joker|, really enjoying your reviews on these earphones! Thanks so much for doing them!

    Recently, after borrowing an M50x from a friend, I fell in love with the extra details I’ve gotten from my songs, especially the vocals and instruments, since I’ve only been using warmer/bassier IEMs. Having come to appreciate the neutral sound signature, which of the RE-400 or GR07BE do you think will be a better choice? (the M50x is considered neutral-ish, right? :P)

    Where I live, I’m able to get the RE-400a for about USD63, or the GR07BE for about USD100. From what I’ve read in your site, I understand that the GR07BE is slightly more sibilant, but provides more pronounced lows and highs, but the RE-400 is able to deliver 90%-ish of the former’s performance for almost half the price. Otherwise, what other suggestions do you have, for a detailed IEM that can really bring out vocals and instruments (or what other sound signatures should I look for)?

    Once again, thank you so much, and I look forward to your reply!

  10. UM3X and SM3 are similar to each other… and pretty much to nothing under $300. The SM2 is not too different from the SM3 but it’s almost as expensive at about 200 EUR.

    Ideally you’d want something a lot thicker and more full-bodied than the RE-400. Some of the bassier IEMs in the price range will do that – e.g. the RHA MA750 and Yamaha EPH-100 – but they give up some of the midrange forwardness in return (especially the MA750). Not sure which would be a better option for an SM3 fan between these and an RE-400, I supposed it depends on what they value most about the SM3.

    One other option is the Sony MH1C. You can find these on ebay for about $30 and sonically they punch way about their weight with a warm and smooth sound signature. Might be worth trying just because they’re so inexpensive. Cable on these is pretty annoying though.

    RE-400 has pretty strong presence around 2-3k. The treble is smooth, though – 8k shouldn’t be a problem, at least no more so than other smooth-sounding IEMs.

  11. Any IEM you would recommend that sounds like the SM3 on a budget?
    I also really liked my UM3x (which I sold once I chose the SM3 as my daily driver).

    About the RE-400, when you say upper mids, which frequency range would that be, more specifically?
    I tend to down-equalize the 8k range on most of the phones, as it sounds artificial to me when they have a bump (or are not subdued?) in that area.

    Thanks Joker.

  12. Pronounced mids and no sibilance – check. However, that’s about the extent of the similarities – the RE-400 is not going to have the warm, bassy full-bodiedness of the SM3. The upper mids are a lot more forward (they’re a little subdued on the SM3 to create the abovementioned sonic flavor) and the soundstage is way less 3-dimensional and involving. RE-400 is a good IEM, it’s just not a great match for some of the strengths of the SM3.

  13. Coming from an SM3, how would I feel about this IEM? I absolutely worshiped my SM3 haha

    My SM3 recently got eaten by my dog (I know…) and I cant really afford another one right now.
    What I really value in an IEM is the sibiliance and highs, I am kinda sensitive to highs and I like to do some extended listening sessions. Plus, I also really like the pronounced mids signature of the SM3 and UM3X

  14. Guess you got a better one or something of sorts. I’m pretty surprised it’s lasted you this long. As I said, I also used the case, but the low quality of the cable was immediately apparent to me, which is why calling it a great cable surprised me. Not asking you to base your reviews on other people’s experiences of course.

  15. As always with these things, YMMV. I got my RE-400 in spring of 2013 and have put thousands of hours on it with no problems, but I also use the case and all that. It wouldn’t make too much sense for me to base ratings off of reviews on Amazon rather than what I actually experience.

  16. I got these based on this effusive recommendation. I must say, the sound quality is superb, but the cable quality is absolutely terrible, which was evident from the moment I opened the box. Hard to understand how anyone, specially someone who tests all kinds of headphones for a living, could think this is worth a 4/5 build quality rating. The cable peeled at several places overtime, even though I was extremely careful and always kept them in the bundled hard case. All of a sudden, after around six months, they weren’t even recognised by whatever I plugged them to. I decided to not ship them back, as I’d just receive back a pair that would break quickly again. Checking on Amazon you can see this is a common issue, so needless to say I’ll sadly have to take this site with a grain of salt and also look for opinions elsewhere.

  17. It varies, and isn’t always listed (or listed accurately) by the manufacturer. Like other specs, I am sure it’s often mis-reported and generally not great to rely on.

    Lower-impedance headphones need more current while high-impedance ones (like 600 Ohms) need more voltage. Depends on which one your source has an easier time with. It might be impossible for you to damage a low-impedance IEMs because of low peak-to-peak current output.

  18. Can’t edit. But I should point out that this is the top volume high gain of the DACport Slim. And even under this setting these awesome IEMs don’t rattle at all during the Bass Shaker test (<100Hz).

  19. What is the power rating of these IEM (and IEMs in general)? How much can you amp them before you risk damaging them?
    Would 2.9 V rms / +11.5 dBu (said to drive 600ohm headphones) be enough to damage an IEM driver?

  20. The ER4S? The difference is much smaller in magnitude than between the HF5 and model below it, but the ER4 gives an even clearer and more refined sound. It’s one of the top earphones for clarity and detailing regardless of price, and the HF5 is not far behind.

  21. Pretty good, but wouldn’t be my top pick specifically for analytical IEMs – it’s a little too dull and smooth. I’d go for the best Etymotic you can get (HF5 ideally, but MC5 if that’s over budget), or a Final Audio Heaven II. You’ll get a crisper, slightly flatter sound with those.

  22. I’m looking for the most “analytical” IEMs I can find for under $100. Would the RE400 be a good choice?
    It has been so frustrating trying out different IEMs and their fake signatures, it’s almost as if people never heard of EQ. What’s the point in listening to something fake anyway? You have a brain with a capable EQ.

  23. Should choose based on your preferred sound signature – whether you need any bass boost, like brighter sound, are worried about harshness, etc.

    Without any additional info I almost always recommend the GR07 (or GR07 Bass Edition). It’s a good midpoint between truly neutral/accurate earphones and ones that are more fun but give up some fidelity in exchange. The bass is pretty punchy but not heavy and the sound overall is very clear and detailed. It’s a great way to jump into higher-end IEMs.

  24. Hi Joker, sorry to bother you but I don’t know how to choose between HiFiMan RE-400, Etymotic HF5, Shure SE215 or VSonic GR07, I listen to Pop, Rock, EDM, and Epic Music (Hans Zimmer mostly).
    Could you help me pick one?

  25. Generally speaking they get from more mid-centric to more v-shaped as you go RE-400 -> GR07 -> GR07 BE -> DN-2000, with the DN-2000 having the most bass depth/impact and treble energy the RE-400 having the least. This is approximately true for soundstage as well – the RE-400 is the most intimate while the DN-2000 is the most out-of-the-head.

    Which one is more neutral between the RE-400 and GR07 depends on who you ask – true neutral is probably somewhere between those two.

  26. could you compare between the sound quality , bass , neurtral, soundstage, subbass, wide , clear, treble, of RE-400 & VSONI GR07 BASS & VSONIC GR07 ORIGNAL AND DUNU DN-2000???
    THANK YOU

  27. $40 is a no-brainer for a pair of the RE-0s even today. They do have a slightly different sonic flavor than the RE-400s without deviating much from the HiFiMan house sound, so I think you would like them, especially for $40. And while they’re not as well-made as the RE-400s (unless this has been improved for the Massdrop version), it won’t hurt too much when $40 earphones go bad, so you could even use them as your gym pair.

  28. Hi Joker. Hope you are OK.

    It’s been a long time since I asked for your opinion. If you dive into previous comments you will see how much I loved (and still do) the RE-400 as well as the old TF 10’s. I had been looking for an upgrade over the RE-400 for quite a while and eventually ended up getting the Flare Audio R2pros which is the sound I have always dreamt of.

    They are very close in terms of sound signature to the RE-400 but at the same time, better in every single factor. From what I gathered, the R2pros should be very similar with the Aurisonic Rockets not only in signature but design-wise and construction-wise as well.

    I still own the RE-400 and give them occasional use when I want to switch from the Flares. I also got a cheap pair of Brainwavz Deltas for gym use which are really great for what they are.

    Yesterday, I noticed that Massdrop is offering a discount for the HifiMan’s RE-00, a headphone which is essentially the revival of the legendary RE-0.

    The reason I’m thinking of getting these is that I remember myself wanting these headphones back in 2011 while had been discontinued. So the prospect of getting them now is more of a fulfilment of an old dream than a realistic need or anything else… Although, for 40 dollars (shipping included) itch me to order!

    Do you think it’s worth to get a pair based on my likings in sound and the headphones I own?

    Many thanks.

  29. Not sure – the only one I have is the OPPO HA-2 and it’s good, but I’m not sure how it will perform with the HE400. It does ok with my HE560, but doesn’t reach full potential.

  30. Thanks very much Joker. Any ext. amp/DAC suggestion (considering the overall cost pf Sony’s walkman and HIFIMAN HE 400s)?

  31. No choice except to use an external amp/DAC – there’s just not much else you can do in this situation. On the upside, it’s the ideal use case for an amp – you don’t have to think about whether your setup needs one…

  32. Hi joker! I also have the Re-400 for over an year and half and I’m pleased with’ em, specially using my Sony a-15 as source. I tried the Sony with HIFIMAN HE 400s, and the sound was very pleasing and smooth, but not loud enough. Do you have any suggestion or do I have to use a external amp?
    Thanks in advance.

  33. TDK BA200 but they’ve been discontinued so chances are you won’t find one new in that price range either. Don’t think there’s anything else under $150 – that’s a big part of what makes the RE-400 so special despite its flaws.

  34. Thank you for your answer 🙂

    I checked the headphones you mentioned but they all are too expensive for me and difficult to find here in Europe. I read some review and compared the mesurements between the RE-400 and the Audio Technica ATH-IM02 on GoldenEars and it seems to correspond to what I’m looking for, but importing it here would cost 210 USD, which is almost 3 times the price of the RE-400…

    Is there something in the $100-150 price range that would meet my needs without losing too much clarity ?
    If not I should probably buy another RE-400, I still really enjoy them with a bit of EQ.

    I’m definitly keeping in min the Rockets for when I’ll have more money though 🙂

  35. To me that sounds like the Aurisonics Rockets. They are close enough to be called a direct replacement for the RE-400, yet differ in all of the areas that seem to be key for you – the bass is a bit stronger (and noise isolation is better, which should help even more on the subway), the mids are a little less forward, and the treble smoothness is preserved. For a not-too-radical change from the RE-400 the Rockets are the best choice from what I’ve tried.

    The few other sets I can think of that maintains balance and smoothness comparable to the RE-400 but also pursue a slightly less mid-centric sound – e.g. the Sony MDR-7550, Audio-Technica IM02, InEar StageDiver SD-2 – have even less of a bass impact difference vs the RE-400. And of course sets that have significantly stronger bass tend to either have harsher highs (a more “v-shaped” sound tuning) or lack the clarity of the RE-400.

  36. Hi Joker,

    First of all thank you for your amazing site, it is very useful !

    I had the RE-400 for a year now and they are starting to break, sometimes the left channel doesn’t work… I’m looking to buy a different IEM and I thought that maybe you could help me, because even if the RE-400 sounds great overall, there are some small things that starts to annoys me…

    I find that the forward mids, and especially the vocals, are fatiguing my ears after some time. If I EQ the 1K and 2.5K band of my 6 bands EQ by 2 or 3 dB it’s much better, but I can’t do that on every devices I use. I have another cheap IEM which is very very bassy and sounds bad, but I can listen to it all day with no problem…
    I also find, when I don’t EQ, that sometimes male vocals can sound a bit thin, a bit as if they were coming from a megaphone. Female vocals, however, are outstanding.

    I’m also looking for a mild stronger bass. I often listen to the RE-400 in noisy environment (subway) and I find the bass a bit hard to hear in those situations.

    Regarding the treble I just reallty love their smoothness.

    It would be awesome if you could recommens me an IEM 🙂 Thank you !

  37. The DN-2000 is arguably more v-shaped than the Titan 1 so it doesn’t seem like the answer here. The GR07 is also more v-shaped than the RE-400, about on-par with the Titan in that regard. It’s still more neutral than the Titan 1 overall, but mids aren’t really its strength. If you want a smooth-sounding, accuracy-oriented in-ear that channels the HiFiMan sound (more or less), the closest thing to an upgrade I can recommend is the Aurisonics Rockets.

  38. “Detail resolution is excellent and the overall sound is very transparent”. i totally agree. I love detail and clarity, especially mids.

    As an upgrade i was thinking between either VS GR07 or Dunu 2000? Again, I’m trying to find an IEM that matches re400s but has a more hi end sound.

    I’ve recently bought the Dunu Titan 1s which i love and only yesterday discussed here, but they are more V shaped and I’ll use them as my “fun” set as they are great to listen too and tap your feet to… but I’m still after that perfect-for-me sound where you hear all those little hidden sounds. And now that i am hooked on sound… I WILL FIND THEM haha

  39. I should have mentioned, the sound-stage on the Titans is very wide which makes them more fun, and helps you pick out some little things in songs that the re400s couldn’t reveal

  40. Awesome, glad you like the Titan 1 coming from the RE-400!

    Great impressions post – I’m sure it will be useful to some of those reading this page with a similar dilemma! Upgrades to the RE-400 and SM E10 are still some of the most common recommendation requests people post on this site.

  41. As I mentioned on the Gr07 page, you suggested I try Dunu Titan 1s for something similar to the re400s, but with more “energy and colour”. You couldn’t have been more right (thus the thank you’s).

    I like the re400s, they are accurate sounding, very neutral, decently revealing… but ultimately a bit dry and lifeless. I was after something a bit more fun. The Dunu’s are just what I was looking for. They are £90 on Amazon uk, £30 more than re400s.

    From the very first pluck of the guitar on Abba’s Chiquitita (first song on my Fioo X1) I was hooked. When listening to the same song on the re400s I thought the guitar sounded great and accurate… but with the Dt1s I was hearing it as if my head was glued to the guitar. I can’t describe it but the notes shimmered and every pluck and sounded way more ‘musical’. Everything from the vocals, harmonies, piano, etc… all better with dt1s. The re400s won’t let you down for the price. They were my first upgrade from Soundmagic e10s and a big upgrade at that. Funnily enough, the DT1s actually sound like a cross between both the SM10s and re400s IMO. They have the warmth and fun of the SMs and the accuracy of the re4s.

    The bass in the re4s is a let down. People will say they are accurate to the song’s intended sound, but to me they really lack any energy whatsoever. You can use EQ to increase their warmth, but with the DT1s I was hearing bass a way I hadn’t ever heard before, and love it.

    I’d defo recommend the DT1s if you want a warmer and even MORE accurate sound. They are more than worth the extra £30. The DT1s are even more revealing than my Grado sr80es without the aggressiveness of the Grado sound. I’d give the re400s a 7.5/10… the Dunu’s an easy 9/10 (which may go up to 10/10 once I’ve really taken them a ride among all mu favourite artists).

  42. As always, it really depends on what you’re looking for as those all sound different. The VSonics are a good choice as a starting point for Hi(er)-Fi in-ears if what you want is a very clear sound with punchy but not heavily emphasized bass and crisp treble (and don’t need the treble to be super smooth). They’re not as bass-heavy and treble-light as the Shures, not as midrange-focused as the RE-400, and not as bright and laid-back as the KC06.

  43. Hi there! Nice review. I was thinking of buying the Vsonic VSD5 but since it would be my first and only pair of IEMs for a long time, I want to make sure I don’t go wrong. How do the Vsonics stack up against these HiFiman re400?
    And what about Ostry KC06, Shure SE215? Many thanks for your time! 🙂

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