• A fabric, drawstring-equipped carrying bag.
• A ¼-inch phone jack to 3.5mm mini-jack adapter plug.
The voicing of the HE-400 is significantly differently from that of the top three HiFiMAN models (namely, the HE-5LE, HE-500, and HE-6). Specifically, the HE-400 has a noticeably darker, warmer character than any of the other HiFiMAN models, and it also shows a judicious touch of upper midrange/treble roll-off relative to its siblings.
How you feel about the HE-400’s voicing will, I suspect, largely be a matter of personal tastes. For my part, I would say that the voicing of HiFiMAN’s top models (in particular, the HE-500 and HE-6) is more neutrally balanced and thus more accurate overall; they certainly display more upper midrange/treble energy that the HE-400’s do. But with that said, let me also acknowledge that some readers have voiced the perception that the top tier HiFiMAN ‘phones (most notably the HE-6) might be too bright for their own good, and so they have reasoned that a somewhat darker, warmer sound would be, if not more accurate in a strict textbook sense, then more appropriate and more musically satisfying on a wide range of less-than-perfect recordings. For those readers and those who perceive music as they do, the HE-400 could be just what the doctor ordered.
Despite its different voicing characteristics, however, the HE-400 does evince certain unmistakable elements of the traditional HiFiMAN “house sound.” First, the HE-400 offers powerful, articulate, and deeply extended bass, which is one of the qualities we’ve admired most in the other HiFiMAN ‘phones we have reviewed. Second, the HE-400 offers a midrange sound that offers plenty of openness, very good measures of resolution and detail, and that delivers expressive dynamics. If solid bass performance and seductive mids are the qualities that float your sonic boat, you may find much to like in the HE-400. If, however, you yearn for a headphone whose upper midrange and treble are accurately balanced relative to bass and mids, you may find the HE-400’s top end roll off a bit frustrating (as if some desirable parts of the music are being subdued or sacrificed in the name of achieving a warmer, more forgiving sound overall).
How does the HE-400 fare in comparison to today’s best, comparably priced dynamic driver-based headphones? To address this question, we compared the HE-400 extensively to one of our favorite $399 dynamic ‘phones: namely, the Fischer Audio FA-002W High Edition. The results were eye-opening. In terms of overall tonal balance, we found the Fischer sounded more neutrally and accurately balanced (indeed, the Fischer’s balance reminded us to some degree of how the HiFiMAN HE-5LE sounds). Both the FA-002W High Edition and HE-400 headphones are highly articulate, but if you focus on areas of the HE-400’s particular strengths—bass and midrange—you will discover the HiFiMAN ‘phone does enjoy several advantages. First, the HiFiMAN’s bass is just a touch more powerful and articulate, especially when listening to instruments such as well-recorded acoustic basses where there is a lot of low-end textural information to savor. Second, its midrange offers the aforementioned seductive quality that pulls you into the heart of the music. Third, the HE-400—much like its more costly siblings—offers a desirable quality of top-to-bottom coherency or self-consistency.
Conversely, though, the Fischer can often sound like the more detailed and revealing headphone overall, and that is true in part because its upper mids and highs are more accurately balanced than the HiFiMAN’s. Interestingly, and this is a new wrinkle that the HE-400’s design makes possible, the HE-400 is if anything easier to drive than the Fischer Audio headphone is. The Fischer ‘phones really need a good, powerful amp in order to do their thing and if you plug them in to a wimpy amp the headphone’s performance suffers noticeably. The HiFiMAN, too, sounds best with a good amp, but the key difference is that its performance doesn’t drop off too dramatically when you use lesser amps (or even an iPod, though you’ll need to crank up the iPod’s volume levels to get the HE-400 to sing). The bottom line is that the HE-400 is thoroughly competitive with one of the best $399 dynamic headphones we’ve yet tested, though which you might ultimately prefer could easily be a matter of personal taste.