HiFiMAN HM-700 with RE-400B Testing and Subjective Listening
The user interface may not be the best feature of the HM-700, but being a HiFiMAN product, it’s expected that this tiny device would sound great. Fortunately, the combination of the HM-700 and the RE-400B, and the music they produce is something that you would not expect based on their appearance alone.
Loading music into the HM-700 is very easy. It’s just like copying your music folder from your PC to the HM-700. There’s no special software needed, it’s just like copying any music file from one folder to another, just simply drag and drop them. Remember, not all FLAC files are supported. According to their specs sheet only 16bit FLAC are supported.
I loaded the HiFiMAN HM-700 with lossless (FLAC) files and honestly the sound quality that it produced isn’t disappointing at all. In fact it was better than I expected. The sound is detailed, well-balanced or well-articulated. I don’t think the sound was colored in anyway, and vocals are not laid back or recessed.
Leaving the EQ setting to its default, which is Normal, I find the HM-700 somewhat neutral and is a bit leaning towards the bright side. Sometimes I need to set the EQ setting to Full Bass just to give the music more warmness and boost on the bass level. It doesn’t have a huge sound stage, but it certainly doesn’t sound cluttered as well.
I guess my only problem with the HM-700 is the hissing part. It’s not a dead-silent DAP, but the hissing is only noticeable if you use a sensitive IEM with balanced armature drivers. However hissing wasn’t noticeable when the RE-400B was used. That’s also one reason why the synergy between the RE-400B and the HM-700 is quite excellent.
I listened with the RE-400B using my desktop PC connected to an external DAC/AMP, the iFi Nano iDSD. When not paired with the HM-700, I find the RE-400B to be slightly warm. Bass is not extended into sub level, but the good thing is it’s not bloated, the bass is not boomy and is somewhat natural sounding. Bass is definitely there, except that it’s not as deep compared to other IEMs. This is definitely not for bassheads. Midrange is the best part of the RE-400B. It’s not laid back or veiled, and it’s not too forward as well. The vocals are clear and crisp and don’t sound boring. The treble has a good amount of extension but it is smooth and never sibilant. It gives the music the details and clarity you need to hear without being edgy or sharp. Overall, I find the RE-400B to be a good in-ear monitor, something that I was not expecting from a sub-$100 earphone.
I tried using my CIEMs with the HM-700 and it was able to drive them easily. The only problem is the hissing which I can hear with my CIEMs. It was able to drive my Heir Audio 8.A quite well, but I also noticed that the bass was slightly toned down just a little bit. Nevertheless, pairing the Heir Audio 8.A, a warm CIEM, with a slightly bright HM-700 was a good combination for me.
I also tried some of my headphones, like the V-MODA XS and B&W P7. These two are very easy to drive headphones and the HM-700 was able to drive them quite well. However, I still find them better sounding when connected to a dedicated DAC/AMP. I don’t have any hard-to drive headphones currently, so I can’t comment if it can drive a 200ohm headphone. I also don’t think that it’s appropriate for you to use a full sized headphone with a device like the HM-700.
After testing the HM-700 with different IEMs / CIEMs and headphones, I still feel that the RE-400B in-ear phone is the best partner for the HM-700. Their synergy is just better compared to other headphones/IEMs I tried. Well, they were meant to be used as a pair in the first place.
One more thing before moving to the conclusion part. I feel that the battery life was somewhat short. The official spec sheet did say that it can reach up to 15 hours. But based on my experience I’d say 8 hours or below. Of course, actual battery life depends on the headphone/earphone you pair it with and the volume you use.