Review - Hifiman HE400i 2020

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Also available on YouTube in Spanish: Acho Reviews YouTube 



As always, let me first point out that these headphones were sent to me for review by Hifiman, for which I am very grateful. They have not requested anything in exchange, nor am I receiving anything in exchange for this review. My opinions of these headphones will be my own personal and honest opinions, however, it has not cost me anything to test these headphones.

About the HE400i 2020…

These headphones are an updated version of a model that already existed, the HE400i, which I believe are also related to the HE4XX available from Drop. I cannot comment on comparisons between this 2020 version and other versions of this model, as I have not heard them.

These headphones are available for 169$ on HIfiman's website, which I believe makes them their cheapest option as far as over ear headphones, that sort of answers my question last week when reviewing the Deva and asking if their were any cheaper planar magnetic alternatives. Hifiiman report them to have a frequency response of 20Hz to 35kHz and a sensitivity of 93dB with an impedance of 35Ohms.


Build and comfort…

The build of the HE400i 2020 follow the latest design used by Hifiman on their headphones, at least in the lower price brackets, being very similar to that of the Deva.

The headband is nicely padded, with a faux leather covering that does feel a little rubbery, but is comfortable on the head even for longer listening sessions.

There is plenty of adjustment in the cups, with a good amount of extension and it should be able to find the correct positioning for each individual, even though comfort is obviously a very personal thing.

The pads are hybrid, with faux leather on the outside and a material which I believe is some kind of velour that touches against your face. Personally, I am not a fan of the material they have used on the inside of the pads as it seems to get warm very quickly and also causes a little irritation, but again, that is something personal and it probably worth considering that it is summer here and the temperatures hit 40ºC daily.

The openings of the pads are also a little small in my opinion, with my ears touching them, but once more that is a personal thing.
One thing that is worth noting is driver flex. When putting on or just moving the headphones on your head, it is quite easy to notice the sound of the planar magnetic drivers flexing. This is something that I had not noticed on other Hifiman models.

So, as far as overall build, I have a few personal complaints in regards to comfort, but the only one that is not something personal is the driver flex.



Sound…

My first impression of the HE400i 2020 was that it is different from the Hifiman sound I have heard from them in the past. There is a bigger presence of bass and it is a lot less bright than other headphones in their lower price brackets (I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing their higher end offerings yet).

As far as sub bass, it extends pretty low, much lower than I would have expected, producing some rumble in songs like Nara by E.S Posthumus or Bury A Friend by Billie Eilish. In the higher bass regions there is also more presence than I would have expected from a planar magnetic driver under the Hifiman brand.

However, when tracks start getting busy in the bass area, the drivers do struggle to keep up and when there are multiple instruments occupying the same frequency range, things start to get muddy.

When moving up to the lower mid frequencies, it seems that the bass bleeds over into these lower mids, creating more of the muddyness and lack of definition. When tracks are simpler in the lower regions, the mids are presented in a much better way than when they are competing against the bass.

Higher in mid range, voices are not presented badly but again seem to be lacking definition, especially when the lower regions are busy, voices becom recessed. The HE400i 2020 is missing the clarity which is usually presented by planar magnetic drivers and gives the impression of being compressed.

Up in the treble area, things are ok but are again not great. There is a touch of sibilance,  nothing major in comparison to headphones from brands like Beyerdynamic, but still slightly more than I enjoy. The treble is again not quite as defined as I would expect from a planar magnetic driver and is missing a little more in the higher registries on occasions.

With regards to definition and speed, as I have said above, they are not great in this regard. As soon as tracks start becoming busy, the drivers struggle to keep up the pace and lose a lot of definition.

As far as soundstage and imaging, they are not bad in this regard. They are not the widest soundstage I have heard but are certainly not narrow and the typical test of “Letter” or “Bubble” by Yoshi Horikawa give good results as far as the placement of images.

Timbre, however, is not  a strong point on the HE400i 2020 either. The excessive bass with the recess on occasions in the mids means that some instruments, specifically acoustic instruments, sound a little artificial and are not quite right.

One final thing to take into consideration is that these headphones take a fair bit of power to actually start to push them. For my normal listening levels I was between 11 and 12 o’clock on the Atom on high gain and I am not someone who listens very loud.




Conclusions…

The Hifiman HE400i 2020 is a budget orientated headphone that I believe is aimed towards those that are staring out in the headphone world and want to try out planar-magnetic headphones without breaking the bank.

The overall build and comfort of these is more than acceptable for their price point (even though I do personally have a couple of comfort issues) and I don’t have any complaints.

Where the headphones are not for me is in both the overall sound signature and the performance in general.

The issue I have mentioned with driver flex is something that appears on many headphones, some worse than others, and once they are seated correctly on your head, it is not really an issue but is something worth noting and could be irritating for many, especially those who don’t know what driver flex is (which would apply to many of those starting out in this hobby, to whom I feel these headphones are aimed).

However, even without the issue of driver flex, the overall compressed feeling to the sound, along with the muddiness created by the lack of definition, make me move away from these headphones and feel that it is worth considering other options.

For those that are wanting to try out planar-magnetic options, Hifiman probably has the best competition to these headphones in their own house. The Deva which are only slightly more expensive  or directly the Sundara for those willing to invest a little more to receive a lot more in exchange.

I have refrained from doing direct comparisons in this review against the Deva, as I wanted to judge the HE400i 2020 on its own terms but I will post a direct comparison in the very near future, helping grasp the differences between the two.

As I said at the beginning, these are $169 headphones and I feel that it shows. They have the looks, build and specs of much higher priced offerings but are not capable of delivering what the higher priced ones do.

SenyorC