HiFiMan HE400se Measurements and Review

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, May 26, 2021.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    This is the HiFiMan HE400SE Stealth Magnets Edition available in the USA. I picked this up for Amazon. @Vtory picked up a Global Edition and reviewed it here: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...obal-edition-measurements-and-thoughts.10809/ I don't know if these are the same for not. By all appearances and the FR, they look to be the same headphone.
    DSC00774 (Medium).JPG

    The HE400se is a really nice addition to the entry level headphone market. The other being the Drop x HFM HE5XX which received a ton of controversy because some people felt that it didn't live up to the original HE-500 (ignoring the fact that the HE5XX cost $500 less than the HE-500). Both the HE400se and HE5XX are on my list as the more pleasant sounding entry level headphones from HFM without any (much) upper-mid or lower treble peaks. The HE400se is on the more neutral sounding side, the HE5XX is darker.

    Being an entry level headphone, the HE400se isn't what I would call super resolving. There's a bit of macro-detail, increased definition, maybe even "fake" detail or sharpening effect because of the mid-treble 10kHz peak (similar to the HE5XX). The transients are not as zippy or tight as high-end planars. The headstage in nothing spectacular. It's close, compact, but with decent width. The bass extends well, with a shallow slope down toward 20Hz instead of suddenly taking a sudden dump like many open back dynamic headphones.

    FWIW, bass extension to 50Hz is generally pretty decent, good enough for most music. However, this may not be sufficient for EDM listeners. I thought I should mention this because measurbators can sometimes make too much of measurements.

    For the price, there's nothing I can really complain about with respect to sound except for some minor sizzliness or tizziness. The effect is minor and something I was easily able to acclimate to after a little bit of listening. I cannot emphasize how refreshing it was not to have to experience upper mid or lower treble oddities without having to mod, tweak, etc.

    HiFiMan HE400se Stealth Magnets
    Frequency Response
    mini DSP EARS compensated
    upload_2021-5-26_9-53-7.png
     
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    Last edited: May 26, 2021
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    I found the HE400se to be comfortable over several hours of use while I was on the computer. The cups are light. The clamping force is moderate - just a little bit less force than a well used Sennheiser HD6**. The earpads are pleather on the sides and velour on the face. The insides feel like a nice squishy low density memory foam type of material. The top of the headband is decently padded and a little fit firmer. I'm one of those people with Klingon ridges on the top of the my skull. The headband didn't pose too much on an issue with extended use, but I still prefer suspension type headbands.

    The gimbals have a range of motion there they can twist to conform to one's face. Detents have been punched into the back of the metal to allow adjustments of the cups up and down. The edges of the metal are well defined, but not sharp to the touch. HiFiMan has done a really good job here improving upon their ergonomics.

    DSC00776 (Medium).JPG
     
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  3. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Here is the flat plate measurement. The FR is similar to the artificial ears except that the mid-treble peak is broader extends down to 8kHz. My subjective reality is that the effect was something in between both measurements. The tizz (10kHz) was there and more evident than the sizzle (8kHz). Of course things can be different depending upon your ear shape. However, maybe we will know more with CSDs?

    HiFiMan HE400se Stealth Magnets
    Frequency Response
    FPC compensated
    upload_2021-5-26_10-53-21.png

    Below are comparisons to Sundara, which I was not a big fan of the tonal response, and the HE5XX (darker sounding)

    HiFiMan HE400se Stealth Magnets vs Sundara (white)
    Frequency Response
    FPC compensated (note compressed Y-axis)
    upload_2021-5-26_10-58-32.png

    HiFiMan HE400se Stealth Magnets vs HE5XX (white)
    Frequency Response
    FPC compensated (note compressed Y-axis)
    upload_2021-5-26_11-1-9.png

    And of course the reference that every knows, an HD650 (circa just before Drop HD6XX)

    HiFiMan HE400se Stealth Magnets vs Sennheiser HD650 (white)
    Frequency Response
    FPC compensated (note compressed Y-axis)
    upload_2021-5-26_11-3-17.png
     
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  4. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    HiFiMan HE400se
    CSDs
    FPC HFM HE400se L.jpg
    FPC HFM HE400se R.jpg

    Maybe this confirms what I mentioned with respect to my subjective observations (I hadn't done these yet) with respect that I heard more 10kHz tizz than 8kHz sizzle / stridency. There is a bump in that overall area, but I heard of the tizz. Note that we see some ortho ripples near the floor (under damped behavior), but it's decently controlled. Some people will more sensitive to this underdamped ortho sound than others.
     
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Before I make it seem that everything is hunky dory, I do have a bone to pick with the HE400se. This absolutely shit cable that it comes with. Yes, the cable actually came like this out of the box. I had to undo the knot.

    PXL_20210502_003236778.jpg
    PXL_20210502_003604187.jpg

    This is embarrassing. Not only that, but the cable is one of those with inflexible sleeving which retains its shape. Ugh. The worse part: they are unshielded.

    I figured I should mention since because of recent incidents where the Topping L30 was supposedly taking headphones out. One way to easily kill amps (and headphones along with them) is to build up a bunch of static electricity (say rubbing feet on carpet in drought affected California) and touch such a cable! Note that headamps with monolithic parts such as the latest and greatest 0.00001% THD opamps do tend to be more susceptible to ESD.

    $149 is a great deal on these headphones, but I do feel that we need to factor in another $20 for a decent cable, one that is more supple, more flexible, and of course shielded.
     
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  6. Tachikoma

    Tachikoma Facebook Friend

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    Yep, I had to ask if someone swapped in a DIY headphone cable when I received them for a review.
     
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  7. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    HiFiMan HE400se
    Impedance and Electrical Phase
    upload_2021-5-26_14-12-33.png

    Impedance is low at 28.5-ohms. This means the headphone will eat current. Fortunately, the HE400se is rather efficient so even modest amps can power it easily. It's still a good idea to be careful with these fairly recent orthos which are pushing lower and lower impedances. The started with LCD-X (near 20-ohms) and carried forth with Verum (8-12 ohms), HE5XX (17-ohms).

    These orthos can be small amp killers. WARNING! DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS A HOME, OR AT LEAST DO NOT ATTEMPT WITHOUT A FLIR SO YOU CAN MONITOR TEMPS!
    • Turn up bass knob on something like a Schiit Loki. All the way to the right for max bass boost.
    • Play your favorite EDM with lots of sub and low bass drops.
    • Crank up volume on the HE400se (believe it or not, they will take the abuse), being sure to back off upon very audible distortion.
    • Watch the output devices on your amp melt.
    Let's say I've done this a few times on a three different units. No problem at all. These HE400se are as tough as nails - virtually indestructible! Let me know if you guys want a demo or see me melt a few Schiits, JDSs, Toppings, etc. No manufacturer of headamps is immune from such abuse. Maybe an idea for a YouTube video.
     
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    Last edited: May 26, 2021
  8. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Thanks for this. Not sure if I'd be a buyer for either, but not having heroic amps this info does more to sell me on HE400se over HE5XX than the tonality comparison does.
     
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    I haven't tried to kill the HE5XX yet. That is haven't put it through the torture test for amps. I think this would be a good idea with the HE5XX at 17-ohms. From a consumer point of view, not really an issue unless you love high SPL, massive bass boost, and EDM. Trying to get the right headphones that can blow up amps is more the domain of amp manufacturers.

    One thing about low Z headphones is that it's harder to get a high damping factor. This low range of headphone impedances is when stuff like 0.1 output impedance and 0.5 output impedance start to make an audible difference with respect to tightness, articulation, transients. At least to my ears it does. Although neither this HE400se or HE5XX I would say scales well with better gear, the HE400se is a bit more resolving of low level information, although I prefer the darker tonality of the HE5XX. My hypothesis is that the underdamped ripples in the CSDs of the HE5XX mask low level signals.

    Distortion measurements are below. I will do the same for HE5XX. I didn't do the distortion measurements across SPLs back when I did the HE5XX review. Stand by for them.

    HiFiMan HE400se
    Distortion
    upload_2021-5-26_15-19-37.png
    Note: D3 spike at 200Hz is a measurement artifact.

    Distortion is actually very good. Only at the highest SPLs do we start to see distortion rise. When it does rise, it's in the lower mids around 350Hz and a bit more around 4000Hz rather than what we typically see in the lows. I'm sure when pushed more, the bass distortion will rise as it typically does with most other headphones. The large diaphragm and what I suspect is decently strong magnet are responsible for low distortion in the lows.

    If you hate or hate moar the Sennheiser HD650 "veil", and don't want to spent too much, then the HE400se Stealth Magnet Edition should definitely be considered.
     
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  10. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    For comparison, HE5XX distortion :oops:

    upload_2021-5-26_15-52-34.png
    Note: D3 spike at 200Hz is a measurement artifact.
     
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  11. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Finally, last one: burst envelope for completeness.

    HiFiMan HE400se
    Attack and Decay Envelopes for 10 Cycle Burst
    upload_2021-5-26_16-6-46.png

    Nothing especially interesting. Slow ramp up at 4800Hz attack seems consistent with lack of gritty, jumpy, glare, sandy timbre and transients in the highs. The timbre is on the smooth, even plastic side, despite the tizz (10kHz peak and ringing). I suspect if the 4800Hz attack was more normal (small overshoot at t=1) or undesirable (bump at t=2,3) then the HE400se would have ended up as an ear sore. Fortunately, this is not the case. The small lived overshoot at 1.5kHz and 500Hz may give the lows and mids a bit of snap. The decay is nothing to write home about for a planar.
     
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  12. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    HiFiMan HE400se Summary:

    The HE400se represents a very good value*. It's tonal characteristics are mostly neutral with a small tizz on the high end. It's positioning is at the entry level. As such, the HE400se does not reproduce the finest microdetail or nuance in well recorded music, nor does it scale well with a better component chain. Distortion is low at normal listening levels, and stays low even at moderately high levels. The bonus is that the HE400se can take a lot of punishment and is well suited for those who like to crank up the bass. If you hate the Sennheiser veil, than the HE400se is definitely a contender for less money. The HE5XX can be considered if you prefer a darker tilt, although technically both subjectively and objectively with the variety of measurements shown here, the HE400se is slightly better. With respect to headamp synergies, almost anything solid-state or low impedance transformer output tube amps with decent power will do. Tube amps didn't really do anything special with the HE5XX in my book, thus my preference remains solid-state: high-feedback super low distortion opamp designs or with discrete designs. Low output impedance is highly desirable or even imperative - the lower the better. OTL or low power tube spud amps are not recommended.

    *This would have been an excellent value if better cables were provided
     
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  13. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    I wholeheartedly agree with Marv's analyses.

    Cable is the real bottle neck. But it didn't do anything else wrong (if not superior). My gf is still happy with her 400se -- I should confess I bought her a better cable eventually tho..

    It didn't scale much and may not be in line with legendary competitors with better resolution, but not every listener nor all musical contexts require extreme resolution. Considering it responds to any eq filters very well, this will be my first recommendation to random requests from those I love (family, friend, etc).
     
  14. Woland

    Woland Almost "Made"

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    Just a reminder that the mainland China version of HE400SE is available through various channels with a better cable and at a lower cost. They have been spotted for 599RMB (USD90) on Taobao during sales.

    [​IMG]
     
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  15. Gracchus Janus

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    I don't know why these aren't so popular in NA or in Europe, as here in SA they have been one of the recently most acclaimed entrys on the planar market. I haven't auditioned them myself but the community here praises them far above the 400is or the 4XXs (which has a different sound signature, admittedly).

    The only and main thing that kept me from getting them early is that I'm not the most careful person in the world, and those ferrite magnets look like they'll break with the slightest touch. I understand hifimans budgetary reasoning for not going for neodymium, but that does not bode well for a company regularly on the spot for reliability issues...
     
  16. Bob Smith8901

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    "...the headphone will eat current."

    Now that you mention it...I'd just received my Drop HE-X4 (cousin to the 400SE w/ a claimed impedance of 25Ω) and just giving it an initial run out of my X5III's 2.5mm balanced, the unit got hot, real hot, hotter than normal, which is pretty warm. I was also able to run its volume level out of this balanced output, which claims half a watt in turbo mode...all the way up to 100% without it sounding alarmingly loud.
     
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  17. DigMe

    DigMe Needs a baby bottle

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    yeah, I noticed that too. Might snag some when I get back over there.
     
  18. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    While searching for "Stealth Magnet", I found this ad-fi thread in which people speculate about differences between Chinese and Global versions. Anybody know anything about this? (I didn't read the whole thread ... too painful)

    https://www.head-fi.org/threads/hifiman-he400se.948033/post-16234217
    https://www.head-fi.org/threads/hifiman-he400se.948033/post-16249992
     
  19. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Amazon non-global version I purchased also says Stealth Magnet.

    From a FR perspective, these look the same as @Vtory's global version. However, distortion and CSD, although not directly comparable, do seem to be a bit different.
     
  20. Woland

    Woland Almost "Made"

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    Sales : 'we can make a lot more money outside China if we charge a higher price.. but if we charge a higher price, that will hurt our sales in China'

    Marketing : 'Here's a sticker for the global ones. Now you can charge different prices. Problem solved.'
     
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