HIFIMAN HE400SE Review: $150 Planar Magnetic Headphones?!
Updated: Aug 21, 2021
These are Hifiman’s new, entry-level planar magnetic headphones, and at S$229 or US$150, these are actually pretty decent.
Hey guys, we have the HIFIMAN HE400SE headphones today, and most of our testing was conducted on the Astell & Kern Kann Alpha player, but I also did plug these into my desktop and they worked fine there too. There are a couple of versions of this headphone, and I have the International version with the stealth magnet design.
So, let’s talk about the headphones. I have to say, I’m not all that impressed with the build quality. The arms are metal, which is nice, but the outside of the earcups? Plastic. And it’s not a particularly pleasant plastic either, it’s glossy and it looks pretty cheap if I’m being honest. It was the first thing that caught my eye when I took the headphones out of the box, and not in a good way. The grill is also plastic, but at least it’s black, so it doesn’t look as obviously plastic as the grey part.
You get some leather/velour-ish earpads, which are pretty decent. It’s bevelled to better mould to the shape of your head, and that’s nice. The one thing I didn’t quite like at the start is this, the velour or flannel or whatever material it is. I’m hesitant to call it velour because it doesn’t feel like any other velour earpads I’ve tried, but yeah, the part touching my face was a little scratchy when new, but it’s kind of softened up and it’s more comfortable now.
There’s a generous amount of padding on the headband, but it was really stiff at the start. After a week or two, it’s broken in and it’s definitely more comfortable now, but the clamping force is a bit strong for me, so after a couple of hours, I do find myself adjusting the headphones or just taking them off entirely. That being said, I had no issues with these overheating my ears, and we’re here in Singapore, so that’s a big plus there.
These have an impedance of 25 ohms, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but people online have been complaining about needing to use higher volumes with phones, so you’d probably want an amp if you’re planning on using it with a phone. That being said though, I don’t think I’d recommend using these if you’re out and about. First off, they’re open back headphones, which means outside noise will leak into your music, and whatever you’re listening to can be heard by people near you if it’s at a loud enough volume.
Secondly, the cable that comes with these sucks. The first thing I would recommend anybody who buys these to do is to go and buy another cable. These are a dual 3.5mm to 3.5mm jack cable, and they come with an adapter in the box, but my god, is this terrible. There’s so much microphonics when you so much as brush a hand against the cable where it splits into two. There’s no shrink wrap or whatever where the cable splits off either, so it’s just the braid getting loose then splitting off to the two 3.5mm plugs for the headphones. You might like this, I don’t. I think it’s not something I want in a cable. But yes, microphonics is a big issue with the upper part of the cable.
But if you sit in front of your computer and listen to these without moving around too much, I have to say that they sound great. The soundstage is nothing to shout about, but it’s decent enough, and the bass is tight and punchy while the vocals sound pretty natural. The mids and upper mids are a touch recessed, but the HE400se holds up quite well to EQing and I think I would definitely recommend playing around to try and push the mids up a bit. This is purely personal preference though.
Overall, I’d say the sound is controlled quite well and at this price? It’s really a great option to try out some planar headphones without breaking the bank. You’d have to be willing to put in the time to break in the headphones and put up with the cable if you’re not going to replace it though.
The HIFIMAN HE400SE (S$229) are available at AV1 Group and other authorised distributors.