Hifiman HE400SE Global Edition Measurements and Thoughts

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by Vtory, Apr 3, 2021.

  1. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    [​IMG]

    To my gf’s kindness, I could evaluate the newly released HE400SE ‘Global Edition’[1] this quickly. Sharing hands-on impressions and measurements.

    [1] HFM claims the global edition to be different from the original domestic ones released last winter. As per HFM, the primary difference is whether to use “stealth magnets”. Perhaps a rip-off version of Audeze’s Fazor I suspect. For convenience, I will call this HE400SE global edition simply “HE400SE” as domestic versions only sold in the China mainland.

    The product contains a few interesting updates in specs, from which I infer potential performance improvements to some extent.

    • Heavier than any of previous HE400 variants including Sundara -- in spite of lighter/simpler headband structure
    • More inefficient SPL sensitivity
    • Nominal impedance changed, too.
    Unlike HFM’s lower end models so far, they actually don’t sound shitty. The tonality falls down to somewhere in between Arya/HE1000 and modded HE6s. Maybe closer to the former. Much smoother in mids and highs. Plastic timbre and scooped upper midrange still there but each slightly improved. Overall, the most enjoyable 400-series HFM ever released.

    My measurements below.

    [​IMG]

    Apart from one strong peak at 10khz, the rest of FR was shockingly good for the price. The graph also indicate both well extending sub-bass (down to [email protected]) and weakened scoop at 1.7khz. Speaking of the ultra high freq peak, they sound obviously bright but not annoyingly sibilant as 5-8khz properly controlled. Fantastic channel matching (for the price) is a nice bonus.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Impressively low distortions. For your reference, D2-D4 of HE400SE are at least on par with Arya (lost on 40hz downward but marginally won elsewhere). Obviously better than any of previous-gen lower end HFM models.

    [​IMG]

    Some ortho walls or sustaining decays observed, but only weakly. None much problematic to my ears.

    I'm attaching a couple of comparative plots, too.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Oh, I forgot telling this. This pair of headphones sold (effectively[2]) $120 new. What happened to Fang Bian lol?

    [2] $150 bundled with RE400 IEM
     
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    Last edited: Apr 3, 2021
  2. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Comparisons to similarly-priced competitors
    • HD560S ($200) : Smoked. 560S only superior in lateral staging, but 400SE simply do anything else to more agreeable extent.
    • HE400i ($170; Almost OOP) : Smoked (2). 400SE will likely replace 400i soon.
    • HE4XX ($180) : Similarly smoked as above.
    • Sundara ($350) : OG Sundara easily smoked, but later revisions (at least the one I heard last year) trades blows if price delta can be ignored. Indeed 400SE mostly feel like Sundara Jr (a few good tweaks + less refined highs)
    • Verum 1 ($350) : Trading blows (2). Verum better in timbre and treble smoothness. 400SE for better lows, staging, and snappy transients.
    • HD6XX ($220) : A little tricky as 6xx can scale. 6xx better in many areas in mids and highs, but 400SE interestingly feel much less congested -- albeit more 'curated' -- when paired with Magni 3+ and Jotunheim 2. Lows go to 400SE in both quantity and quality.
     
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    Last edited: Apr 3, 2021
  3. Philimon

    Philimon Friend

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    Do you have Focus-A pads or other alternative pads?
     
  4. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    No Focus-A. Only stock pads (which I believe is Focus). I only have ZMF Eikon suede pads in the house and try out them later. They worked for HE6 but I'm unsure for this one though.
     
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  5. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I suppose with their endless stream of vaguely tweaked models, HFM was bound to undercut themselves and actually release a good value model at some point. Plastic timbre probably disqualifies this for me but I would like to hear it.
     
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  6. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    @Merrick Agreed. I found it interesting that each audio company differently clusters audio hobbyists. HFM seems to breakdown the consumer spectrum into Orfas - Enthusiasts - Semi or non-audiophiles. It's not bad for them to consistently release something affordable.

    I also like them titling each revision at least distinctly (HE400i, HE400i-2020, HE400SE, etc) -- Audeze or some company revise so secretly that user experience for the identically-named products can vary.

    By the way, there were a couple of ambiguous points in the OP.
    • The unit I evaluated wasn't mine. It's what my GF (neither an audiophile nor audio-enthusiast) purchased.
    • $120 was the price that costed her eventually. The bundle (HE400SE headphones + RE400 IEM) price was $150, and RE400 went to her friend who wanted a cheap IEM. HFM was selling RE400 separately for $30 new at discount. This bundle deal also ended on 31 Mar.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2021
  7. PacoTaco

    PacoTaco Friend

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    Where can you even get these? I could only find them at the Hifiman Store for $150.

    I only ask because, quite frankly, if this is a good deal....I'd rather only spend $120-150 to replace my Ananda's while I look for a new job.
     
  8. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    See the post just above. Sorry for my confusing description. $120 was kinda preorder deal.
     
  9. Syzygy

    Syzygy Friend

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    For someone with no Hifiman experience, can you elaborate on "plasticky timbre"?

    And if you've heard the 5se, what would be the +/- betwixt the two models?
     
  10. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    No exp with 5se, but what I meant by plastic is a kind of "artificial tone" or something associated with such feeling. This artificiality exists in all kind of non-dynamic headphones in general as I believe our ears got too much familiar with non-planar sound waves. I surmise the thinner diaphragm is, the easier issues can be called out.

    Artificiality can be perceived in various ways. And perception may vary across people. To me, meatiness, harmonics, and/or texture were primary areas mattering to me.

    Simply speaking, just take a timbre delta between hd6xx and any hfm you heard. That's more or less "plasticky" timbre we're often referring to.

    I'd also emphasize that this is rather preferential characterization than better-worse dichotomy. I am honestly fine with living with such timbre if not too much.
     
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  11. starence

    starence Facebook Friend

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    They can also be ordered from Amazon with prime shipping.
     
  12. Eric_C

    Eric_C Friend

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    Sorry I’m having trouble understanding you here. Do you mean Sundara smoked the OG 400?

     
  13. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    The other way. Sundara OG (the one SBAF had a loaner tour) was smoked. Will edit that post shortly. Done
     
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  14. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    One thing I want to make sure is anything in the quote (as well as he400se) can never become a giant-killer. Could be Ok with understandable (= for the price) compromises.. but none would be what I strongly want to possess. They could be denied largely for two common reasons: (1) technicality compromised and (2) tonality not fully pleasing -- lower treble too edged (to my liking).
     
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  15. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    One benefit of planars I believe is they respond to equalization very honestly. In my experience, orthos (particularly Audeze and HFM) are the second EQ-friendliest, only bested by SR1a or similarly structured ear speakers.

    Of course I barely use EQ for myself for a number of reasons (and some beliefs/prejudices), but gf asked me to improve 400se's sound (to her misfortune, she liked my clear mg, and she has no idea how much they really cost...). Anyway, I experimented a little with gf this afternoon, and we could settle down something simple (just a few bands, low q) but satisfactory (results confirmed by listening) in the end.

    For final objective verification, I re-measured HE400SE with EQ activated. Below is what I got.

    [​IMG]

    This setting actually sounded very good to me. Hope she would enjoy it as much as possible, too.

    • 1900hz | Q=2 | +4db
    • 4400hz | Q=4 | -5db
    • 9100hz | Q=3 | -3db
    • 11000hz | Q=2 | -2db
    • 13000hz | Q=1.5 | -4db
     
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    Last edited: Apr 6, 2021
  16. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Adding some subjective thoughts on the equalized HE400SE
    • Annoyance, brightness and timbre issues almost gone. Still there, but not bothering any longer.
    • It reminds me of the equalized Sundara (no surprising). Not fully apple to apple though -- if I recall correctly, Sundara equalized closer to Harman on highs whereas 400SE equalized closer to SBAF target.
    • With FR taken out from the equation, 400SE excels in a few technical criteria over Sundara I heard before: Better separation, nuance retrieval, and better authority/speed in bass region. Not to mention superior bass extension (Sundara quite bad for that area).
    • Soundstage and dynamics not too bad for the price, but only at the level of ok-amped 6x0. Switching to Clear MG, leagues of difference easily heard.
    • Overall, I am starting to plan to pick up a pair for myself later this year when I have to travel again. Carrying Clear or Verite for business trips could need insensitive cautions. In this respect, 400SE may reduce all the inconvenience and enable audio pleasure with acceptable compromises.
    • No matter whether eqed or not, magni 3+'s high gain works very synergistically with this headphones (Thus, I am guessing any decent dac-amp can work), where 400SE additionally scores bonus points in simplicity and transportability.
     
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  17. Raimei Templar

    Raimei Templar Friend

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    Does this actually sound anything like the original HE400?

    These SE releases make no sense to me, they keep putting out headphones that are arguably better values than some higher priced models but dont resemble the models they are based on all that closely (I guess the HE6se might be an exception).

    At 150 bucks decided to give this a try since I am currently planarless. I had the HE5se last year so I will try to compare with that with the big caveat that its from an ancient memory by audio standards. Even without hearing them though, the FR of these 400SEs is unquestionably superior looking at these measurements. The HE5se had one of the wonkiest Frs I have ever heard though once it was EQed it was insanely good for the prices Adorama closed them out for. Incredible detail and imaging ability. I very much regret selling mine, I should have kept it and been happy forever!

    I am glad to hear the 400se seems to take EQ in the bass better than the Sundara did. That was actually the reason I didnt keep the Sundara when I had it, the bass just sucked no matter what I tried with EQ, little to no impact and not all that fast, found them really boring to listen to.

    Edit:

    As a side note it seems people on Head Fi are saying that Hifiman reps are telling them that the HE400SE is replacing the HE400i in the lineup, so I guess this is really the HE400i-SE 2021 International Stealth Magnet Edition!
     
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    Last edited: Apr 6, 2021
  18. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    IDK. I didn't spend enough time with 400OG or early variants. 400SE surely have HFM DNA and house sounding though, but I am disqualified to characterize "HE400 sounding". The closest model I can comfortably say is Arya, which sounded fairly close to HE1000s.

    By the way, I'd point out that I didn't boost bass at all (I just happened to get a better seal when measuring). I don't think doing so necessary for 400SE unless you love Harman-ish bass shelfs. Nevertheless, bass behavior was very good. Sub-bass is very well extended unlike either of 400i 2020 or Sundara OG/2020, possibly due to better magnets and drivers.
     
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  19. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    HE6se V1 and HE6se V2 are very different headphones it just might require modding them to bring out that difference.
     
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  20. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Updating with CSD. Measurements taken prior to eq filters developed.

    he400_waterfall.jpg

    Likely ortho wall at 4.15khz (and at 1.1k/1.7k to less extent). But not as severe as shown in some of lower (or even higher) ends of previous HFMs. Also something is going on around 10khz, too. Because it happened in both FR and decays quite substantially, I'm suspecting multiple root causes are acting simultaneously, perhaps including some kind of pipe resonances.

    For those who are suspecting EARS artifacts, attaching my current reference of cleanness below.

    cmg_waterfall.jpg
     
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    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021

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