HiFiMan HE-400 review: HiFiMan HE-400

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.1
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 9.0
  • Value: 8.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The HiFiMan HE-400 is a large, full-size set of headphones that use planar-magnetic drivers for exceptional sound quality usually reserved for pricier models.

The Bad They're expensive, and comfort isn't a strong suit.

The Bottom Line First-rate clarity, detail, and bass impact by way of new driver technology help propel the HiFiMan HE-400 headphones to the top of their price class.

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Superior sound quality is the reason HiFiMan quickly made a name for itself in the audiophile community, and the company continues to outperform sleeker-looking models from name brands like Beyerdynamic, Bowers & Wilkins, or Sennheiser. While those companies' headphone drivers work like miniature cone or dome speaker drivers, the HE-400 uses thin-film "planar magnetic" flat drivers that produce clearer and more dynamically alive sound.

The HE-400 headphones are designed for use at home with a receiver or headphone amplifier due to the drivers' increased weight, but they can work with portable devices; the only drawback is that you'll experience limited volume capability with a weak-powered mobile device. Though the $399 price tag exceeds the reach of audiophiles on a budget, the HE-400s are the best-sounding full-size, home headphones for those willing to make the investment.

Design and features
The HE-400s have a real leather-covered headband, high-gloss cobalt blue earcups, and faux leather ear cushions, but they're heavier than many full-size headphones at 440 grams. The Beyerdynamic T-70s, for example, weigh 330 grams. The weight difference mostly comes from the HE-400's flat bar magnets arrayed near the flat drivers inside the earcups. Switching between headphones puts more emphasis on the extra heft, but the HE-400's long-term comfort level is only slightly below average. Additionally, the earpad pressure is low, so your ears never feel like they're in a vise.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The HE-400s' 10-foot-long Y-cable attaches to the left and right earcups via gold-plated connectors. The gold may add a bit of design flair, but it also enhances long-term electrical performance since gold connectors never corrode. The bulky cable should last longer than skinnier wires, but it's also easy to replace yourself if it ever breaks.

The cable terminates in a gold-plated 3.5mm plug, and HiFiMan offers an extra 6.3mm gold plated adapter that comes fitted to the cable. No other accessories are included with the headphone.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The HE-400s have a low-rated 35-ohm impedance, but they're understandably difficult headphones to "drive." That is to say, they're not optimized for use with portable music players or phones and is better-suited as a stay-at-home headphone.

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