T.H.E Show Newport 2015 Showstopper: HiFiMAN HE-400S Low-Cost Planar Magnetic Headphone

Back in the day, say 1997, we used to think the Sennheiser HD 25 was a very expensive headphone at $249. Then Monster Beats by Dre came along and the price of headphones started rocketing up. I think that broad increase in the acceptable price of headphones has slowed significantly, but in my view, it's settled down quite a bit higher than what I would consider proper pricing. Thing is, there's not much out there to drag the prices back down. The only way that's going to happen is if low cost headphones start sounding way better.

Well, if the HE-400S really performs as well as the impression I got at the show, these cans are going to totally disrupt the price/performance expectations at $300. What I heard has me questioning not whether they'll make the Wall of Fame, but how many headphones will be knocked off in its wake.

I should mention for those who attended the show and heard these cans as displayed, the the rig driving the HE-400S ($299) was really not up to the performance level of the headphones. When I hooked them up to my portable rig (AK120, CEntrance M8) they blossomed. If you heard these at the show and weren't impressed don't miss an opportunity to try them again on a really good rig. These are dy-no-mite!

Jeff Han will fill you in on the video.

Click here if you can't see the video.

tony's picture

Phew, they got an Asian that speaks English, nice going.

Did you see that lady admiring your enthusiasms?

HIFIMAN is hitting HomeRuns!

Guess I'll order one.

Or should I wait a bit?,

Tony in Michigan

Bobs Your Uncle's picture

1st Potential Response:
Mere moments on Google reveals that "Asians speaking English" have been available for some years now. And now "You Too" are encouraged to select your own favorite "English Speaking Asian" for use in any video related capacity you wish.

2nd Potential Response:
Yeah & we're not nearly as annoying as all of those "Un-Cool Old School" type Asians; the ones who are encumbered by things like, oh...you know ... "being foreign-born" or even because they chose "non-English speaking parents" to begin with!

Selected Final Response:
I believe it would wrong, Tony, to attribute any malicious bias to you personally, based upon this one comment.

Assuming the absence of any prejudice-prone ignorance, I do consider it fair to suggest that little thought (maybe none) was given to your opening sentence, & that in future a quick re-read would be in order before hitting send.

Friendly Best Wishes from - Pedantic In Ohio

tony's picture

I admire the HIFIMan people and the thousands of years of greatness China has had.

My Industry does Big Shows, we have show people fluent in the Country of the Show, I'm glad HIFIMAN is doing this sort of thing now ( or finally ).

I'm watching this young man giving Tyll an overview of this headphone and admiring his mastery of the subtle details of his language mastery, Hifiman needs this sort of thing.

He sold me more than his Boss could ( and I believe his boss ). I saw Tyll and Fang do a solo seminar at the last show, Fang is good and brave but not a great English communicator.

I'm happy for HifiMan to have this new spokesman.

Tony in Michigan

Bobs Your Uncle's picture

Having read many of your comments in these threads, Tony, I didn't believe you to be some arbitrary unthinking bigot. Despite my surprise at the tone I took away from the opening sentence of your comment, I just couldn't shake it. Hence my response.

Thanks for providing context & the understanding it provides.

Pedantic In Ohio

tony's picture

One of my 3 sons is a Japanese speaker, he's mastered the 5 major dialects of Japan to the point that the Japanese themselves think he is a Native.

However we are Swede/Russian/Spanish of origin.

Today, I see Asia ( especially China ) providing the lead in engineering and manufacturing for us audiophiles; Foxconn, HifiMan, the Koreans, the Japanese, the "Asian Tigers" are taking the lead ( earning the lead ).

Language binds us all together and it seems English is that language. ( not our choice but there it is )

My hope: is that if we can all talk to each other we won't start shooting bullets to solve our problems.

I'm doing more than keeping my fingers crossed.

Europe has just gone 70 years without a War, a New Record for them.

Thanks for writing,

Tony in Michigan

Roch Rx7's picture

Tony/BYU: After BYU's reply, I was more interested in your discussion on race/language than I was the HE-400s (400i user here)

Thanks! Lol!

sszorin's picture

The Asians spoke, hundreds of years ago, Portugese and Spanish first, thanks to the Jesuit missionaries. Languages, music, science and philosophy were the pillars on which the spread of the Catholic faith rested. The Asians learned Portugese and Spanish and Latin quickly; somehow the Latin based languages seem to fit the Asian minds better. The Jesuits were so successful in teaching music that for instance the folk singing tradition of Japan has its roots in their work of teaching common people solo and choral singing. Wherever they came, the Jesuits quickly established schools and taught the local children music and to young adults making of musical instruments. Music, for them, was the real universal language.

sszorin's picture

There is truth in what you are hinting at because "English" befuddles one's brain. Even those born into the language cannot get a proper handle on their 'mother tongue'.
Ezra Pound once complained that [I paraphrase] 'Spanish, French, Germans ... have their own languages, but we have only English'.

ManiaC's picture

Can't wait to see review!

electro-static's picture

Hey Tyll, I was wondering which headphones on the wall of fame that you would consider to be at risk of being knocked off by the HE400S as well as the type of signature that they have, are they neurtal leaning with slightly forward mids like the HD600, warm with slightly recessed mids like the Fidellio X2, or Rich with forward Bass and Mids but recessed highs like the Vmoda M-80? or perhaps none of the above?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I'm afraid an answer to that will have to wait until an official review.
electro-static's picture

Can't wait for the review then! Lately there have been a ton of good headphones in the $200-$300 territory, never been a better time to be in this hobby.

LexLutor's picture

Your enthusiasm in the video make it look like these HE-400S will sound better than the HE-400i.

Three Toes of Fury's picture

first up: great dialogue between Tony and Bobs. Its a testimony to the quality of people on this site that you both had a discussion about comments made and interpretations of said comments. you dont usually see such mature approaches on comment threads.

second up: ahhhh!! Tyll...any indication on when these puppies will hit the streets!?! Ive been wanting to jump in the planar pool for a long time. Ideally i would snag the Hifiman He-500's but they were out of my price range. Ive almost pulled the trigger on the He-400s for a while but worried that i'd regret it if the sound signature was too far removed from the 500's. Then, along came the PM3's. I know they are closed but their pricepoint and reviews have been good. I decided to wait. Based on your teaser...i think my wait has ended. I look forward to a formal release date on these headphones and, moreso, your full review!

Peace n Living in Stereo


Condocondor's picture

I would very much like to be re-assured of the working conditions of the factory workers making these headphones! Samsung had an investigation in a factory in the same city the HiFiMan headphones are manufactured. There was child labor, forced overtime with 100hr work week, and gender wage disparity. Before everyone start celebrating over the cheap price of the headphones, be sure to find out the labor conditions. I could not, for moral reasons, support a manufacturer with poor ethics. AND IT GOES ON ALL THE TIME IN CHINA. If you don't care about these things then it's your karma. Buyers be warned! I have no other competing interests whatsoever here. I'm a massage therapist in Fort Wayne, IN.

iamleo's picture

First it was the language, then it's the factory condition. I don't understand why we are not talking about the product itself.

I think Hifiman has its own manufacturing and R&D facilities in China. From this factory visit report I read, http://jaben.com.my/news/hifiman-factory-pictures-the-debut-of-china-made, I think those are pretty nice facilities.

The manufacturing processes involved precision machineries and complicated instrument. This is not something that can be done by child labor.

Now I think everyone would welcome some early impressions about the HE-400S.