Final Thoughts

The HE400i and the He560 are a step in the right direction for Hifiman and show a much better appreciation of what the market is asking before than previous models in the range. They have taken the best bits of the HE400, the HE500 and borrow a little from the HE6 in some respects to come out with two headphones that will take center stage in the top 10 of mid tier and planar headphones overall for quite a while to come. Whilst they share a similar slant in tonality they both have very clear target markets.

The HE400i is for the modern pop and rock lover who wants his bass heavy but detailed and wants his experience to be a highly musical one. It is a pick-up and go experience and a very good one at that. The HE560, being flatter, more linear and more neutral is intended for the more considered listener. This will be a listener who values detail, accurate timbre and articulation over slam but doesn’t want to move into a monitor like experience. It retains just enough musicality and smoothness, especially in the treble reproduction to be a headphone of choice for late nights, melancholic melodies and absorbing jazz and blues.

Both are now more efficient, more comfortable and address many of the faults of the previous models without ever directly replacing;  instead adding a little tweak here and there to ensure the owners of both get something more than just better bass, or less tizzy treble. Both have character and both are very memorable indeed. Two early contenders for me for reviewed headphones of the year. Unless of course that HE-1000 lands on my desk before Dec 31st 2015.

Price: $499 for the HE400i and $899 for the HE560

http://www.sonicelectronix.com/item_96111_HiFiMAN-HE-560.html  Price:$899

Links

HE400i – http://hifiman.com/Products/?pid=208

He560 – http://hifiman.com/Products/?pid=197

Technical Specifications

HE400i

Design: Planar Magnetic Over-the-Ear Headphones

Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 35 KHz

Impedance: 35 Ohms

Efficiency: 93dB/mW

Weight: 12.7 Ounces

HE560

Frequency Response: 15Hz to 50KHz

Impedance: 50 Ohms

Efficiency: 90 db/mW

Weight: 13.3 OZ (375g)

 

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About The Author

Editor

Founder & Owner of headfonics.com. I first started reviewing in the late 80s (ouch!). Back then it was albums, rock concerts and interviews with a typewriter for the local rag. Now its desktop/portable and digital 2.1 audio on a rather nice laptop. How time flies.

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  • 24bit

    This is one of the best reviews I’ve ever read. Makes me want to try to grab a set of 400i’s for myself. But, Marcus, those pictures are clearly enhanced with color vibrancy. 😛

    • headfonics

      Mike you just know we clearly put the awesome in color – its our duty 🙂

  • The_Grudge2

    I have the HE 560 and I feel your readers should consider just how well it responds to more current. I finally made the move to having speaker tap cables made by Norne Audio allowing me to run directly from the speaker terminals of my NAD M3. Amazing results, and previous to this I was using a lovely and very competent Yulong A18 to drive the 560s. Yes the 560s can be driven well enough with a decent headphone amp (I used a Schiit Asgard 2 at first, but didn’t like the synergy as well), but if you really want the 560s to show you what dynamics can sound like, you do need some serious current.

    • headfonics

      You are spot on there and that was a common discussion on the HE6 which is why we did the majority of our testing with the Hifiman EF6 which is a class A 5 watt per channel headphone amp and almost perfect for the HE6 and really great with the HE560.

  • The_Grudge2

    I am now actually considering the HE6 as my NAD M3 should do them justice. Great review by the way, I think you did an excellent job at providing balanced feedback. I’ll be making a point of reading around here more. Cheers.

    • headfonics

      Ah cheers thanks for the compliments!

      I find the HE6 to be so much smoother once you get a nice powerful amp with a smooth signature, the top end behaves good and proper but it took ages to find that single amp that worked and in the end thankfully Hifiman did me a favor by releasing the HE6.

      In theory the HE560 should be a lot easier to power but finding your flavor is a game in its own right so glad you found the match for you with the NAD M3.

      I used to have some decent speaker amps about 7 years ago but nothing like that now, not a binding post in sight – scarey!

  • Ryan

    I’m really considering on buying a pair of 400i to listen to my music. I am not a musician, do not play instruments and would rather not use an amp. Would it be plausible to expect amazing sound from the 400i when using with my cell phone? Also, you say that pluging these into a computer makes for a very nice and convenient listening experience. So would using these for music on my computer sound as nicely as they would using an amp? Would using in conjunction with a computer sound much better than with a cell phone or very little?

    Thank-you for your expertise.

    • headfonics

      Well actually plugging these into a DAC/AMP connected to a PC is how I explained it so yes you do need amping to have them sound at their best and most mobile phones will come up short on that account.

      I would suggest though you do not have to break the budget to get the HE400i sounding good with something like a FiiO E09k and E17 package type setup for less than $200.

      For mobile I would grab a FiiO X1 and an E11k as another cheap start up or if your phone is android or iOS the new Oppo HA-2.

      • Ryan

        I’ve been up all night reading reviews for the 400i and viewing videos on youtube for the EF2A amp/dac. I am new to higher-end audiophile equipment as this will be my first setup. A pair of Yamaha EPH-100 has been my way of listening for some time and it’s just not enough anymore.

        When I seen the price of $599 for both the 400i and EF2A I almost purchased out of excitement. Then I quickly realized that it wasn’t a deal but rather retail pricing. With that said, I’m nearly at the point of buying that combo but I’m unsure since the EF2A is dated and prone to defects.

        Having a seperate dac alongside an amp isn’t ideal for my situation. Can you recommend any amp/dac in one piece that would push the 400i at no around $300 or less? The EF2A seems like a good value but for a $500 pair of cans they seem a bit on the cheap side.

  • Dean

    Very good article. It’s exactly what I am looking for. I see you used the Oppo HA-1 for the DAC. Was the HA-1 not a good choice for an amp? From the spec sheet, it looks like the HA-1 has a 2W XLR balanced output and I think you can get a cable upgrade for the headphones (expensive). In your opinion, would this be worth the effort?

    • headfonics

      Dean thanks for dropping by and glad you liked the article. Apologies for the late reply.

      The HA-1 is a fine amp just the EF6 is a beast of an amp – 5W Class A with a nice liquid sound I love with planars.

      No need for cable upgrades, spend the extra and get the Hifiman EF6 amp instead and any clean DAC signal that decodes hi res with a line out and you are good to go.

  • Axel Cortez

    Hi excellent review, right now my setup is very basic I have a Magni 2 Uber amp with HD598 looking to get the DAC that is matched to the Magni from Schiit, and looking for better headphones to relegate my HD598 to travel duties. Is my setup which is very budget limited good form something like HE400i or I’m looking at the wrong cans?

    • headfonics

      Actually the magni is just fine for the HE400i and I owuld grab the matching Modi v2 to go with it for the DAC.

  • szoze

    Thanks for the great review! Do you think Objective 2 amp is a good choice for driving HE-400i. After reading your impressions in the interview I almost feel it would be a great pairing.

    • headfonics

      I do not see why not if you are using a stock 02 as its largely transparent in presentation and the HE400i is not the hardest to drive.

  • FormerHighEndAudiSalesman

    The “tonality” is 8.5 for the HE400i’s and 9.5 for the HE560’s? What is the science behind that evaluation, your guesswork after switching back and forth? So much for using the scientific method. The difference is more like 9.3 vs. 9.2, judging by objective third party measurements. The HE400i’s have the identical technology of the HE560’s, except for minuscule differences in their diaphragms, grills, magnetic circuits, and other components. But remove the smoke and mirrors, and both models are are still simple orthodynamic headphones which produce sound waves via a thin layer of copper between magnets. The HE560’s have slightly different parts, but fidelity-wise there is little difference (even when using empirically-evidenced objective measurements), marketing exaggerations and gimmicks notwithstanding. For several years, I was a high-end audio salesman. I know how things are done in the industry. It is common for manufacturers to mark up their products dozens of times over their true manufacturing costs, not just headphones but preamps, amps, speakers, and everything else audio. I have gotten three manufacturer’s reps to admit this fact to me in private. Manufacturers compensate magazine reviewers for writing rave reviews for their highly profitable but vastly overpriced “high-end” audio products. The unwarranted praise gets perpetuated and propagated by naive blue collar types in so-called audiophile chat rooms. As for amps and DACS, the law of diminishing returns starts at around $300 for the pair. The purpose of this pair is to convert a digital signal from a computer device into an analog signal that is sufficiently loud without detracting from nor adding to the original signal. Solid state amps do the best job at that, as they do not color, distort, mute, and add noises (popping, hissing, clicking, etc.) like tube amps do. As such, a $350 portable JDS Labs O2 solid state amp and Standalone ODAC pairing will achieve 90% to 95% of the audio quality of any $5,000 or even $50,000 setup, marketing spam notwithstanding. A great alternative pairing is the $199 Schiit solid state Magni 2 amp and Modi 2 DAC combo, but they are not portable and you may have to upgrade to the costlier Uber versions of both (another $120 or so) to achieve compatibility with your equipment. High resolution files are a an inaudible gimmick, as proven by objective measurements and self-proclaimed audiophile listening tests, so do not be concerned that your DAC cannot decode their files. Empirical evidence is minimal in the audio industry, which has opened the doors for outlandish manufacturers’ claims that rationalize the ridiculously inflated prices of their laughably overhyped yet ordinary products. Third-party measurements of sensitivity, efficiency, frequency response, distortion, and the like are some of the few characteristics that can be objectively measured — and they empirically evidence every claim made in this post. Everything else is subjective hype and nothing more than marketing pseudoscience intended to reap the biggest profits for the manufacturers and retailers. I reiterate: professional magazine reviewers are compensated for writing rave reviews for overpriced “high-end” components, which are perpetuated and propagated by barely-literate, unsophisticated, naive blue collar types who post “expert” reviews at so-called audiophile websites. What are the educational credentials of the aforementioned magazine and “audiophile” reviewers, again? Remember, in the audio industry, price is rarely proportional to sound quality. If the HE400i’s cost $20,000, the “experts” would be raving about how much better they sound than the “lowly” $3,000 HE1000’s. And yes, there are other criteria that can be used to judge headphones, such as comfort and compatibility, but I am focusing on actual fidelity.

    • Matt MusicJunky

      very interesting perception! So, in your mind, are these HifiMan’s overpriced? I’m curious to hear your take on whether there could be a better headphone at less cost, but doesn’t have the marketing thrills that come out of ‘from-the-gut’ impressions (that are sometimes bought and paid for). I’m in the market for a great open/semi-open set of cans with big soundstage, great bass, and good clarity through the entire spectrum. Is that too much ask?

      • headfonics

        Well its been 2 years since these were reviewed so times flies and all that and even Hifiman are dropping the price of both now in then in a lot of promotions. When they were released I would have said these are the ones but since then the Edition X has come out as well as the Edition X v2 which I absolutely love. They also dropped the price down from $1799 to $1299. Now this costs more naturally than the HE560 and HE400i but the inviting tonal quality is just too good in comparison.

        Of course, that is more cost and not less but it does show how quick things move on. Now if planars are not a must I would highly recommend the DT1770 from Beyer also. It’s closed but has a huge soundstage and a very high-quality bass performance. Price wise now its pretty competitive.

  • mike

    I’m a year into listening to the 400i with my Magni/Modi 2 Uber stack and I don’t think I could be happier. It’s a great matchup, and I feel like I’d have to spend a lot to get a noticeable improvement in sound quality.

    • headfonics

      Its a good choice with the schiit stacks.