Let’s take a deep dive into a company I’m really familiar with, find out if any of their products are worth a long-term investment, and if so, which you should consider first.
Greetings Friend-OH and Welcome aboard. Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear) all over again, so…
Be sure to stick around until the end of this article as I’ll be going over a couple of potential downsides to owning one.
Where are they made and are they any good?
They’re made in China and absolutely. Your first foray into the line will likely make your jaw drop like Alex from Clockwork Orange, eager for more.
Let’s take a look at a few ways that a HIFIMAN stands out.
Being that HIFIMAN headphones are planar magnetic, there are more magnets placed around the diaphragm, and they are placed evenly. In a Dynamic headphone, there is only one Magnet employed. What is a Planar Magnetic Driver?
This allows the sound to enter your ears more naturally. A Planar Magnetic headphone really does sound more realistic, giving you more of that theater-like presentation and better Soundstage. In some instances, it kind of feels like you’re there in front of the band! Kind of. Check my video on What is an Audiophile for some dirty humor about all that.
There’s much lower distortion at higher volumes, and in fact, it’s basically non-existent (you likely will never be able to tell or hear any). My first time listening to the 400i with a Bryston BHA-1, in particular, was a moment I’ll never forget and something I talk about often here on the blog and channel.
Planar Magnetic headphones have a larger and more powerful diaphragm. This allows air to move with more authority, resulting in a more powerful but yet natural bass response that nearly everyone is going to love. Both HIFIMAN and Audeze bass really stand out from the crowd in terms of having loads of impact without sounding muddy or bloomy.
I’ve always said that for as much snake oil, lies, deception, and gimmicky bullshit there is in the hobby, transitioning from a dynamic headphone to a planar headphone (i.e. a HIFIMAN) is certainly none of those things.
It is a true upgrade, and anyone who tells you otherwise is LYING.
Jokes aside, most people are going to instantly be able to tell the difference between a dynamic and a planar, especially at first. What is a Headphone Driver?
My Over the Hills and Far Away experience with the original 400i and Bryston was simply breathtaking and a moment that will be seared into my memory banks for as long as I live. There’s really nothing like the performance of a good planar. Read:The HIFIMAN HE400i Will Change YOUR Life!
So what are the best HIFIMAN headphones? Which should you consider first?
The Sundara is the outlier because it opted for a more subdued and relaxed treble response but also has a gradual decline after about 1kHz.
This can become problematic at times as the headphone sometimes sounds a bit dull/relaxed/overly glossy. Not a deal-breaker, but definitely something to keep in mind. Even with those minor nitpicks, I rank the Sundara pretty highly in my top 5 under $500 guide.
The 400i’s bright treble can get essy/sibilant at times, so be mindful of that as well.
Why not go for the others?
BECAUSE I SAID SO!
Nah, it’s because of build issues. The 4XX is notorious for being constructed terribly, and you’re taking a gamble with the 400S/400i variants. I would personally never invest in a 4XX – I don’t care how many silly Drop revisions come out. Until they construct it better than a Jenga tower, I ain’t buying!
The original production run of 400is was flawless until they started outsourcing cheaper materials for the headband yokes. The 400i I demoed for 3 or so years was a flawlessly built piece of equipment and had been through thousands of hands without an issue.
The ones that followed were not and thus why Amazon ratings had kind of tanked for a while. At one point the 400i had something like a 3.7/5 rating which was sad to see. It’s gone up quite a bit since then.
Fortunately, the 2020 revision and DEVA rectified most of those issues. The build on them is basically flawless now and the design actually improves the comfort level. The DEVA is definitely in my top 5 most comfortable headphones ever.
The other 2 issues were the glue on the pads coming undone, as well as connection issues into the cups. AFAIK, the latter has been completely fixed. I’ve been demoing the DEVA since June of 2020 and haven’t had an issue.
That’s a bit of a different story and really my last main gripe with HIFIMAN. Please, for the love of God, manufacture Dekoni style pads. There’s no reason a third party should have to make the pads that you were supposed to make in the first place. It really makes no sense to have to pay an arm and a leg for pads that should be included in the box.
As you’ll see in the images, the HIFIMAN pads barely wrap around the plastic whereas the Dekonis do with plenty of real estate and require no glue.
The original hybrid pleather/velour Focus pads used on many variants felt great on your head and ears but were constructed terribly at the back. Why can’t HIFIMAN just make a simple fix here? Using glue in that way is pretty much the worst idea ever, especially considering how much people modify headphones these days.
The DEVA’s pads have the same issue and it’s infuriating. As long as you don’t change pads too often you should be okay, but the more you handle them, the more likely the glue will start to come undone and it really does make you want to pull your hair out.
And I have a lot of it!
The Focus pad also wears out fairly quickly but that’s to be expected with any pad really. Be prepared to replace them after about a year or so depending on usage.
So, are they worth a long-term investment? I think the 3 below are.
Stu is determined to help you make sound decisions, and strives to deliver the best and most in depth content on the internet! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, pray, rap, make beats, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His sense of humour, coupled with a knack for excellence and strict attention to detail are what allow him to stand out in an crowded industry.