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

Editors Note: To say that I'm ecstatic that ljokerl will be contributing to InnerFidelity would be a gross understatement. His long-time and deep experience with IEMs, and his massive contributions to the community at Head-Fi.org make him an outstanding voice in the world of headphones, and eminently qualified to write for InnerFidelity. A quick look at his profile on Head-Fi and then a long dwell on his IEM review thread, now hundreds of products long, will give you a clear idea of the caliber and quality of his knowledge. I hope you'll join me in giving him a warm welcome in the comments, I know we'll all benefit from his IEM musings in his first review here and in his future contributions at InnerFidelity. Welcome ljokerl, I'm tickled pink.

HiFiMAN RE-262 ($149) and RE-272 ($249)
If there is any one product to be credited with catalyzing my love of in-ear earphones, the HiFiMan RE0 is it. I bought my first pair in 2009, back when the company was better known as a US distributor for a number of Chinese Hi-Fi brands under the name Head-Direct. The RE0 was nothing short of a revelation. At a time when the IEM market was dominated by armature-powered monitors from the likes of Shure and Ultimate Ears, its dynamic driver provided clean, well-balanced sound that the competition couldn't touch. Over the years Dr. Fang Bian & co expanded the lineup to much more than just earphones, but the latest-gen RE-262 and RE-272 in-ears, like their progenitor, are audiophile fantasy through and through.

Construction & Functionality
The newest HiFiMan earphones are the result of years of development and dozens of improvements on the company's previous designs. External differences between the two earphones are minimal---both use plastic housings but the RE-272 boasts a glossier gun metal finish and has the appearance of a higher-end product. Both earphones come with five sets of eartips, a shirt clip, a strip of replacement filters, and a storage box.

The shape of the housings is ergonomic, with angled nozzles and rounded protrusions intended to stabilize the earphones in the ear extending towards the antihelix. Both sets feature lengthy strain reliefs and thick, sturdy cords. Cabling is one of the major improvements over previous HiFiMan earphones---thicker, more tangle-resistant, and lower in cord contact noise (microphonics). It is also modular---HiFiMan took feedback from previous designs to heart and implemented a highly configurable cable system with the latest versions of the RE-262 and RE-272.


The RE-262 and RE-272 are both wired for balanced use---the 1.8' (55 cm) main cord is terminated with a TRRS (tip-ring-ring-sleeve) plug, which holds separate L-/R- and L+/R+ leads. Theoretically, running in balanced mode can reduce channel crosstalk, double the voltage swing of the amp, and create a natural resistance to interference, but there are currently precious few sources, portable or otherwise, that provide balanced TRRS output. Single-ended use with a standard stereo jack requires one of the two included adapters. Three different 2' (60 cm) add-on cables are included---a TRRS extension and two TRS adapters for single-ended use. One of the TRS adapters swaps the left and right channels, allowing left and right earpieces to be switched in the ears. Because the shells are asymmetric, this yields some very welcome fitment options. All of the cables are terminated with beefy 45-degree 3.5mm plugs.

All in all, the design, construction, presentation, and functionality of the RE-262 and RE-272 allow the earphones to run in competition with flagship products from other brands. Indeed, I find the ergonomics to be far more tolerable than those of the renowned Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 and Sony's dynamic-driver flagship, the MDR-EX1000. Isolation is good as well---better than average for a dynamic-driver earphone but not quite up there with the upper-tier Shure and Westone monitors.

On to sound quality ...


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.