HiFiMAN RE-262 and RE-272 In-Ear Headphones Page 2

Sound quality
Finish aside, the RE-262 and RE-272 have so far been completely identical---the $100 difference in price set by HiFiMan is rooted entirely in sound.

The $149 RE-262 is a beast of a performer---in traditional HiFiMan fashion the dynamic driver it is built on is quick and clean, but the earphone follows a warm and smooth sound signature. The midrange leads, placing vocals front and center, while the top end is laid back in character.

The bass is fuller and more powerful compared to other HiFiMan in-ears. The RE-262 does not offer elevated sub-bass like one might find with a higher-end Monster or Denon set but the low end is impactful and natural-sounding, with sufficient weight for the earphones to sound balanced with a slightly warm tilt.

The midrange is smooth and intimate---a little thicker than that of the higher-end RE-272 but still transparent and revealing of fine detail. Emphasis drops off in the upper midrange and treble---the RE-262 is entirely non-fatiguing, even during extensive listening, but lacks the bright and energetic treble response of competitors such as the Ultimate Ears Triple-Fi 10 and Sony MDR-EX1000.

The RE-262 also has a solid presentation---not entirely out-of-the-head like the Sennheiser IE8 but well above average in soundstage size. Imaging and dynamics are good---there are sets that perform better, such as JVC's FX700, and the RE-262 does tend to push the mids forward and pull the treble back a bit, but on the whole tracks sounded neither flat nor congested, allowing for a well-rounded, ambient musical experience.

When the RE-272 was released as a follow-up to the RE-262, its $249 price tag seemed reasonable in part due to the large number of improvements outside of sound quality. Over time, however, the RE-262 has taken on the thicker cable, balanced wiring, and even the nicer packaging of the RE-272. All that separates the two now is the sound, and the difference is far from astronomical.

In short, the main improvement of the RE-272 over the RE-262 is a gain in emphasis on the upper half of the frequency spectrum, giving it more treble energy for a flatter overall signature. It is more neutral in tone compared to the warmer RE-262 and lacks the thickness of the lower-end model for a crisper, cleaner sound. Indeed, the clarity of the RE-272 is top notch, keeping up with balanced armature-based sets such as the $600 Phonak PFE 232.

The mids and lows end of the RE-272 don't govern the overall sound the way they do with the RE-262, and there is a touch less body and impact to the low end. Even the reference-flat Etymotic ER-4S has more deep bass and greater punch than the RE-272. The treble of the RE-272 is brighter than that of the RE-262 but remains smooth and very refined, not at all rough or grainy. The greater balance also means that the soundstage is more even-handed, with the mids pushed forward less and the treble more prominent in the overall sound. As with the RE-272, soundstage size is above average and rather good for an in-ear, and instrument separation consistently impresses.

There is also a difference in efficiency between the two---HiFiMan made the pricier RE-272 more portable-friendly with its lower impedance and higher sensitivity. Though both earphones give the option of being used in balanced mode, the RE-262 generally seems to benefit more from amplification. It still sounds quite good out of a portable player, however, requiring a higher volume setting for the same output and giving up small amounts of dynamics, clarity, and bass depth.

Conclusion
The HiFiMan RE-262 ($149) and RE-272 ($249) are two highly capable earphones that---sound signatures aside---are pretty much identical despite the price gap. Their modular cable system, unlike most, actually adds value to the product and the fit, finish, and construction all impress. While I happen to think that the pricier RE-272 is the better earphone, there is no guarantee that other listeners will agree. The RE-272 is a little more balanced, clear, and neutral while the warmer RE-262 is more lush-sounding and laid-back. The more colored signature of the RE-262 is magical with certain tracks and even where a mid-centric presentation is less desirable, it does not fall far behind the RE-272. Those looking for a great all-round earphone at a great price will find either of these to do the job as well as anything out there.

Just as importantly, the two HiFiMan earphones tell a story of passion for audio---these monitors were crafted by audiophiles, for audiophiles. Having followed HiFiMan on their journey starting with the RE0 and RE2, it is clear just how far they have come; products such as the $500 Shure SE535 or $600 Phonak PFE 232 are designed from the start to be exemplary but the HiFiMan earphones have gotten there with sweat, toil, and lots of revisions. It's safe to say that these two will not need a celebrity endorsement to appeal to their target audience.

Measurements analysis by Tyll next ...

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COMMENTS
Alondite's picture

With ljokerl's contribution to Innerfidelity, can we expect more IEM reviews, or was this just a one-time thing?

There are quite a few IEMs he's reviewed over at Head-Fi that I'd like to see measured. Maybe I'll get to see that full GR07 review, and the measurements that I have been dying to see. One can only hope...

Anyway, good review. Can't wait to see more.

ljokerl's picture
Thanks--I'll be doing more pieces for InnerFidelity in the future. Tyll and I will work on getting select earphones from my collection measured as well.
FLAudioGuy's picture

Nice review on the IEM's. Would like to see more.

Long time listener's picture

I'm always curious about something, which is that sometimes a 300Hz square wave will show a lot of ringing, yet measured distortion levels may still be low. What is the relationship between these?

Also, unless I'm misreading the graphs, these Hifimans seem to have extremely low measured distortion (lower than the Shure 535s, for example), except for the rise in the midrange at higher volumes. My experience with the Shures is that their sound is wonderfully balanced, but on my equipment the highs sound rather dry and harsh. Does the low distortion on the HifiMans translate into cleaner sounding highs? Thanks!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Unfortunately I don't have a complete answer for you, but I'll try.

Ringing at the leading edge of a square wave is possibly due to time alignment. In other words, if the lows and highs are going through the system at slightly different rates you can get thngs that look like ringing. I don't know if this is what's happening, but in that case each frequency might be low in distortion, but the time errors lead to some transient artifacts.

I'd say that the lower distortion would indeed lead to a cleaner sounding highs in general. Whether that's exactly the case between the 535 and HiFiMAN cans I'm not sure. Next step would be to carefully listen between the two to see if you head stuff that might be related.

It's the same old story: measurements will lead to certain thoughts about cans, but listening really needs to inform the interpretation of measurements for the story to come into full view.

doublea71's picture

I can't think of a more qualified reviewer - I'm glad your dedication and expertise is being noticed and appreciated.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
+1 :)
aravind's picture

one very nooby question..how to change the filters in these earphones? i'm too apprehensive to fiddle with these so haven't tried removing the nozzles..

ljokerl's picture
The filters are meant to be destroyed when you remove them. You have to poke through them with something (like a needle) and then hook them and pull them out/peel them off. The new filters can then be put on (they are sticky on one side).
aravind's picture

need to be very careful when doing that..thanks for your reply..

droilfade's picture

Hey Joker! It is wonderful to see you here. I have been following your thread on head-fi for quite a long time now and have asked for suggestions more than once. A very nice review to start off with.

ljokerl's picture

Thanks. Not sure why I'm surprised to sear near-total overlap with Head-Fi!

Jaron M.'s picture

|joker| didn't say "none". What are these few sources that have the balanced headphone out jack?

ljokerl's picture

By precious few I was thinking of the one that'd I've actually tried - the HM801 with balanced card - and the upcoming HM901. The 3.5mm TRRS configuration HiFiMan chose is rare but there are a number of balanced portable amps out there that would simply need an adapter - the RSA SR-71B/Protector, iBasso PB1/PB2/DB1/DB2, ALO Audio RXMKIII, and probably more that I don't know about.

Jaron M.'s picture

..does the increased price of balanced gear, portable or otherwise, easily justify itself?

ljokerl's picture

There are some theoretical advantages to running in balanced mode but I think they are minimized greatly with portable setups. The difference I heard with the HM801 was not nearly worth the $900 investment in running the RE272 balanced instead of simply using a decent source. I haven't heard enough full-size balanced setups to opine one way or another on those. 

itsastickup's picture

...is that he's a quiet listener. To a quiet listener a peak in the mids is "forward mids" but for loud listeners it's a shouty honk. For example the PL30 or the H2O audio flex, both of which get half-decent reviews by ijokerl but both of which are painful for the loud listener.

Quiet listeners like too many headphones that the rest of us can't use.

Bennyboy's picture

but they break far too easily. My 262s fell apart and my 272s broke twice in less than a year.  True, you can get replacements under warranty, but they're cheap for a reason I think.....

AstralStorm's picture

Yes, that's why their drivers make for an excellent piece for custom dynamic IEMs or for any other kind of reshell and recable.

I'm about to do that right when my new pair arrives. (old pair apparently has a dead driver which I didn't notice until it was far too late)

alfonsojarvis's picture

Wonderful information! HiFiMAN RE-262 and RE-272 this two types of model are really good. And I am thinking for buy one. Thanks a lot for your upload.

Gavin Brad

Guitarist9273's picture

I went to purchase an RE-262 last week and found that Head-Direct was no longer selling them. When I asked why, they informed me that HiFiMan had discontinued them. 

 

BUMMER!

jamessmith's picture

Sennheiser was the first company to develop the first open headphone that toppled the entire concept of headphones. yes It was a towering development in the field of headphones as it greatly enhanced the sound quality produced by traditional and earlier headphones.

 

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