Hifiman HE-400 Ears-On: Planar Magnetic Drivers Bring Bass And Clarity

Hifiman are well respected in the audiophile space for their headphones, amplifiers and portable music players. Their latest headphone is the HE-400, an entry-level iteration of their cans driven by planar magnetic guts. Sitting on the show floor of CES, I finally got a chance to hear these in action, and I like them.

The HE-400s have an open design, so it was tough to get a full gauge of the quality on the CES floor, but even with that considered the HE-400s were impressive. The headphones are comfortable, solidly constructed and have audiophile-grade audio connectors, which are always nice. As for sound, Not only did the jazz tracks have layers and a wide soundstage, but hip-hop and electronic tracks have bass. This, of course, is because the planar magnetic drivers have a bigger diaphragms than dynamic and electrostatic drivers, which allows for both accuracy and low end response. And with an efficiency/sensitivity of 93db, the Hifiman says the HE-400 is powerful enough to be driven by an iPhone or iPod. While this is true, audio coming from my iPhone was unsurprisingly quieter, even at max volume, and if you're in a noisy spot, it's not quite loud enough.

But that said, these are a very exciting offering because it brings a high-end technology at a price point that is at least accessible, if not entirely cheap. I'm looking forward to spending more time with these, but for now, I think we should all be excited, if nothing else.

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