HiFiMAN HE400S Review – Best Sub $300 Open-Back Headphone?
Build Quality and Comfort
The HiFiMAN HE400s looks similar with its big brothers, the HE400i and HE560. However, the company made some big changes to really make this Planar headphone as affordable as possible. Most of the materials used in this headphone, aside from the drivers and the headband, are made of plastic. I’m not sure what kind of plastic material was used, but it doesn’t feel and look like a cheap plastic. The silver colored portions you see are plastic, including the grills on both sides.
Using a plastic as the main material has both advantage and disadvantage. It would be an advantage in a sense that it will make the HE400s lighter, weighing only around 350 grams and at the same time cheaper. But the disadvantage is that it may not be that durable to withstand hard bumps or drops. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t feel flimsy or brittle at all, but knowing that it’s plastic, it will break at some point and it’s best to practice extra care if you want the HE400S to last.
The company is using a detachable cable for the HiFiMAN HE400s, with a right angled 3.5mm jack on one end and two 2.5mm jack for the left and right channel. The cable is around 1.5 meters long, or near 5 feet long. The cable is also braided and has a two-tone design that matches the color of the headphone. One thing I like about this setup is that it uses standard 3.5mm and 2.5mm TRS jacks, and it’s a major advantage since you can simply replace the cable when it breaks or upgrade the cable with better sounding one specially if you are into customization.
The left and right 2.5mm ports are placed on an angled manner, probably at around 160°. It doesn’t have any locking mechanism but the cables don’t fall out easy either. You can also see from the first photo on the left, the stock pads are beveled to provide comfort and better sound quality. The HiFiMAN HE400s also features the newly-designed ergonomic headband, also being used on their higher-end models. The headband itself is probably aluminum since it’s light and very sturdy, not to mention it’s also able to support varying head sizes.
The pleather can be adjusted by simply sliding the block up or down. There are holes on the headband to guide you as you slide the pleather.
The thin layer of pleather on the headband section will rest on top of your head. It doesn’t have any cushion, but thanks to its wide shape design, the pleather alone is pretty much sufficient to support the headphone while on your head. For those who haven’t tried this kind of headband design before, it’s actually very comfortable. And with the combination of the velour pads, the HE400S hugs your head firmly, not too tight but in a very comfortable manner. I don’t wear glasses so I can’t comment whether it is good to use even if you have glasses or not. But overall it’s definitely a comfortable headphone.
HiFiMAN is using a hook and lock mechanism to attach the velour pads on the ear cups. Removing the ear pads is easy, but putting them back is a little bit tricky. But once you are familiar with its position, it will be easier the second or third time around. The hooks are positioned at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock.
Removing the ear pads (and the grill on the other side) gives you a peak on the planar diaphragm from the inside. Just look at that very thin layer with line-patterns, so cool!
On the other side, you can see the magnetic grills on top of the diaphragm. Be very careful now, that is very thin and very sensitive; you definitely do not want to mess that up.
Since the grill is removable, it offers quite a number of customization or DIY options. Some users in fact have modified or replaced the grills to make it either look cool in accordance to their preference, while others claim that by changing the grills it offers a change in sound quality, which for them is an improvement. I don’t know about changing the grills, but using a different type of ear pads does result to a noticeable change in some frequencies of the headphone.
To remove the grill, simply remove the ring lock first. The ring’s clip location are at 45°, 135°, 225° and 270°. I used my nail to remove the ring by simply tracing it.
Overall, while the HiFiMAN HE400S doesn’t have a rock solid body; it is still well-constructed, it’s (very) light at least for a planar headphone, and the comfort is simply superb.
On the next page is my subjective listening and sound signature/quality impression.
For US, B&H Photo here and Adorama here.
For UK, it’s available at Amazon UK here.