We’ve often spoken in favour of the Chinese headphone and earphone industry. Over the last decade or so, enterprising factories from deep within China’s industrial heartland have built products as OEMs for other brands as well as under their own identities. Brands such as Ostry have produced the stunning KC06A while the Soundmagic E10 and E10S have been the go-to products in the sub-Rs. 2,500 in-ear segment for years now.
Founded in New York City in 2005, HiFiMan has since shifted base to Tianjin, China in a bid to boost its manufacturing and development capabilities. After winning awards and accolades for its products, it got our attention. We managed to source one of the company’s newer products, the RE-400 ‘Waterline’, for review.
The HiFiMan RE-400 features 8.5mm drivers with a high impedance of 32Ohms. This is something we also saw in the Bowers & Wilkins C5 S2 and it’s strange that small earphones like this require such a high level of amplification. However, most smartphones and audio equipment will be able to drive the RE-400 comfortably, so this is not a cause for concern. Frequency response ranges from 15-22,000Hz, while sensitivity measures in at 102dB. A standard 1.2m cable length makes the RE-400 ideal for commuting and outdoor use.
The earphones come with a total of eight ear-tips, including multiple pairs of different-sized double-flanged ones. There are no memory foam tips in the box, but there are a total of ten filter stickers to protect the inner components of the earphones. We don’t expect anyone to have to use these ever, as the RE-400 comes with decent filters already in place.
The earphones themselves are small and light. Most of the casing has a dull silver finish, with the back sporting a shiny silver finish with concentric circles. The casing itself is devoid of any branding or markings of any kind. The cable is rubber from the casing to the Y-splitter, and braided fabric from the Y-splitter to the banana-shaped 3.5mm plug. It is particularly tangle-prone, and we often had trouble with this.
The RE-400 has no in-line remote or microphone, so if you intend to use this for phone calls, you’ll need an additional microphone accessory. If you do insist on a microphone and remote, the RE-400i and RE-400a models feature these and cost nearly the same amount.
Fit and comfort is excellent. We’re fans of double-flanged tips because of their improved sound isolation and snug fit, so we’re glad that these in-ears come with so many double-flanged options. A combination of the low weight of the casing and the right tip meant that we were able to keep the RE-400 on for an entire work day without any kind of discomfort.
Like many other small, lesser-known Chinese brands, HiFiMan has managed to spring a surprise with the RE-400 ‘Waterline’ in-ears. They provide a subtle, refined and neutral sound that may not appeal to bass-heads, but will certainly be of interest to purists. Few headphones in this price range manage to produce this level of accuracy across the frequency range.
At Rs. 5,999, its only real flaws are a slightly weak soundstage, a laidback bass response and a lack of in-line controls and microphone. But when you weigh that against the benefits of both physical and listening comfort, quality sound and an affordable price tag, the HiFiMan RE-400 is an intelligent purchase. It’s available now through official distributors Hifinage.