First, an admission: I've never really liked any of HiFiMan's in-ear headphone models. For whatever reason, they just didn't sound all that great and never measured up to the Chinese company's HE family of full-size headphones, which employ proprietary thin-film "Planar-Magnetic" flat drivers that produce clear, dynamic sound. The HE models have earned a following among audiophiles.
The good news is I feel a lot better about the new $99 RE-400 "Waterline" in-ear model. It sounds a lot better than HiFiMan's previous in-ear offerings, all of which have been discontinued.
While the RE-400s don't have the in-line remote/microphone found on a lot of today's mobile pairs, their comfortable fit and clear sound will appeal to audiophiles or anyone craving in-ear headphones without exaggerated bass or overly crisp treble.
Features and design
The RE-400s have an understated, clean design, and their small, machined-aluminum earpieces are a big part of the reason they're are as comfortable as they are. They're relatively lightweight, and one of the four sets of different-size silicone ear tips included should allow you to get a snug, secure fit.
The 50-inch-long, oxygen-free copper cable is cloth-covered, up to the point where it divides into separate left and right plastic-covered cables. The wires can either hang straight down or loop back over your ears.
While most companies selling in-ear headphones buy their drivers from outside suppliers, the RE-400's 8.5mm titanium-coated drivers were designed by HiFiMan engineers and are made in the company's own factory. Impedance is rated at 32 ohms.
Along with with four sets of silicone ear tips, you get a small white plastic cable-winding bar. But that's it -- no other accessories are included, not even a cheap travel pouch. The RE-400s also lack any type of mic or phone controls.
It's always hard to tell how well in-ear headphones will hold up over time, but the RE-400s' construction seems fairly sturdy, and it's worth noting that the cord terminates in an L-shaped plug, which tends to hold up better than a straight plug.