For entry into the realms of audiophile headphones, you used to have to dig deep into your pockets, at least for electro- and magnetostatic designs. But now, HiFiMan, the Asian manufacturer known for its high-end headphones, is venturing into the lower price range with the HE400se.
HiFiMan’s company history began in 2005 when music-loving founder Dr. Fang Bian came up with ideas for portable devices with upmarket sound requirements. From the beginning, the focus of development was on magnetostatic headphones. In the meantime, the company catalogue has expanded to include a diverse selection of high-quality headphones renowned for their sound. The company’s parallel development of portable digital audio players is also worth mentioning.
What is a magnetostat?
The magnetostatic operating principle is based on a very thin membrane that oscillates between permanent magnet rods. A wafer-thin wire in the shape of a snail is applied to this membrane, through which the sound flows. This wire is attracted or repelled by the surrounding magnets, according to the orientation of the impulse voltage, and thus causes the membrane to vibrate.
The hallmarks of this system are a very fine resolution of the high frequencies, natural music reproduction and a differentiated dynamic range. There is a great deal of effort in development and production behind all this, which is usually reflected in the high price of the units. This is one of the reasons that we’re looking forward to the unit being tested here, as it only costs about 169 Euros.
The HE400se comes in a sturdy cardboard box that includes a silver interchangeable connection cable with a 3.5-to-6.3-mm jack adapter. The ear cups connect via a double-ended cable with 3.5 mm mini jacks. Finally, this minimalist package is completed with a certificate featuring a serial number and the service contacts.
The ear cup housing is made of silver aluminium, with removable soft pads covering the insides and open-pore metal grilles on the outsides. To adapt to the shape of the head, the circumaural ear pads, with velour on the front, faux leather on the outer edge and perforated faux leather on the inner edge, have been finished separately so that on the front, the padding material is thinner than on the rear side. This ensures not only a better fit but also better external closure.
The padded headband, made of black faux leather, wraps around the upper semi-circular rounded headrest and connects the ear cups via aluminium brackets at the sides, using screws. The contrast of black leather and silver aluminium makes these headphones eye-catching. In both look and feel, this device appears robust and has stable connection points, which bodes well for durability.
These headphones fit comfortably and tightly, enabling portability with lots of movement. Their good fit is supported by the adjustable headband. The padding provides a comfortable ear and head support that makes listening to music for several hours a pleasure.
The connecting cable, on the other hand, seems unwieldy; its stiff and twisting shape is annoying, and, unfortunately, at a length of 1.04 m, it is only intended for portable use. It would have been desirable to have a second cable suitable for enjoying music at home so that your head does not have to be so close to your home stereo system.
First of all, I’d like to point out that in the age of in-ear systems, it was really fun to wear good old fashioned headphones that sit over your entire ears again. The unobtrusiveness and inconspicuousness of said in-ears have a degree of modernity, but on the other hand, they also lack a certain something. This sensation does not occur with over-ear headphones and reminds me of my first experiences with high-quality headphones.
For our sound test, the HE400se were connected to different sources. A studio preamp with a well-designed headphone amplifier (Funk MTX Monitor), to a smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S7) and a DAW converter with integrated headphone amplifier (RME Fireface UFXII)
It quickly became apparent that these HiFiMan headphones need a good helping of output volume to get warmed up. So our experience of the sound when using a smartphone remained rather restrained. However, listening to music with the powerful wireless MTX monitor and the RME converter was a lot of fun.
One of the first impressions was of a calm and relaxed sound. The bass range delivers the necessary punch but without overemphasis. The mids fan out detailed sound information, and the highs sound unobtrusive but illuminating. A slight boost in frequencies between 3 and 6 kHz provides extra clarity and precision in the upper-frequency spectrum without sounding sharp.
The solitary voice of Malia in “Celestial Echo” (in collaboration with Boris Blank) appears vivid and embedded in the overall sound. The spatial contours are clearly outlined, and the stage is well illuminated. However, the presentation of the dynamics seems somewhat limited. There could be more expansion in the quieter and louder areas. The same applies to the transients, which generally lack a little emphasis.
Nevertheless, it is a pleasure to listen to this relaxed sound presentation, to float through spatial gradations and to be carried away by the musical performance.
The HiFiMan HE400se offer an appealing entry into the world of magnetostatic headphones for the price of 169 Euros. If you are attracted to the idea of”neutral sound”, you will find this to be a relaxed system with a relatively balanced frequency spectrum and clear stage image. In addition, these good-looking headphones, which are comfortable for many hours of use, offer undisturbed music enjoyment. In this price range, these headphones are truly remarkable and can be recommended without reservation.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principlemagnetostatic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
- Impedance25 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)91 dB
- Weight without cable390 g
- Cable length104 cm
What's in the box
- Mini jack cable
- 6.35mm stereo jack