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HIFIMAN HE400S vs. HE400i

HIFIMAN HE400S vs. HE400i

What I will bring you in this review

Today I will outline the HE400S and then compare it with the 400i towards the end. 🙂

  1. Ratings/Price
  2. Specifications
  3. Summary
  4. Pros
  5. Cons
  6. Video Review
  7. Amp/DAC requirements
  8. Who these headphones benefit?
  9. Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
  10. Consensus/Conclusion
  11. Similarities & Differences
  12. Video Comparison
  13. Final Word

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!






  • Design: Planar Magnetic
  • Type: Open Back
  • Fit: Circumaural (Over-ear)
  • Driver Size: 80mm. What is a Headphone Driver?
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
  • Efficiency: 98dB
  • Impedance: 22 Ohms. What is Headphone Impedance?
  • Weight: 12 Oz. (350 grams)
  • Color: Silver with Black trim
  • Accessories: 1/4″ headphone adapter, headphone cable (1.5m)


The biggest things to keep in mind with these headphones are the following:

  1. They won’t sound their best with the stock ear pads. More on that later.
  2. The cable is very suspect. This was pretty much unanimous in all of the reviews including the positive ones.
  3. There is a lack of bass extension that can be remedied with the Brainwavz Focus Pads and/or the grill mod. This isn’t a deal breaker per se, but there is a definite bass roll off starting at 7oHz, and completely rolling off by 30Hz. Just think of them as bass lean. You’re not going to be blown away by it.
  4. They sound best with high quality source files. 320 kbps should be the standard here.

Other than that, these are a fantastic sounding headphone with a pretty good build quality aside from the cable issue. They aren’t very amp specific, and will sound fine with many different combinations.


  • Clean bass, not boomy.
  • Great mid-range. Very natural. Their bread and butter. Extremely clear even using Spotify’s sub optimal 192kbps files. If you have Spotify premium I believe they provide 320kbps which is the standard for good listening and a number you should always strive for.
  • Easy to drive.
  • Comfortable. Can wear for hours.
  • Wide, airy Soundstage. What is Soundstage?
  • They respond well to EQ.
  • Good instrument separation, transparency, and detail.
  • Solid packaging.
  • Removable cable.
  • Easy to drive. The 400S isn’t amp picky.
  • Has a nice, warm Timbre. What is Timbre?



  • Splitter broke after 1 week of light use.
  • *Cable is not of a high quality/comes loose and/or breaks easily. The sound also may be unbalanced on right vs. left. Unfortunately, customer services solution to bad cables, and ones that break down over a short period of time is for you to buy new ones. Unacceptable.
  • Boring sound. (1)
  • Ear pads replaced too many times/itchy or uncomfortable. (3)
  • Uncomfortable. (1)
  • Heavy. (1)
  • Muddy vocals. (1)
  • Lack of sub bass and bass extension in general. (2)

Video Review

All credit goes to @Metal571. Check him out on Twitter!

Amp/DAC requirements

An amp isn’t required, but will greatly aid you in the studio when you’re sitting at your desk. I absolutely love these straight out of my phone though. They aren’t too loud or too quiet; it’s a nice happy medium.

Some common combos:

  • Opportunity H2 DAC and Amp.
  • HIFIMAN Super Mini Hi Res Portable Music Player.
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Audio port sounds good.
  • Sounds good out of a Macbook Pro.
  • Bottlehead Crack. They really shine with this one. 
  • Schiit Asgard 2
  • Emotive XDA-2
  • OriGen+ DAC/AMP USB combo
  • Anthem MRX-310
  • JDS Labs Objective2+ODAC
  • FiiO E17K Alpen 2
  • FiiO Mont Blanc
  • Audioquest Dragonfly DAC (Black). Seems to be a popular combo.

Wow, so out of those? My top recommendations would be the Audioquest Dragonfly for something super portable, and the JDS Labs O2 for something desktop worthy. I personally use the Schiit Magni/Modi combo which I also love. You could opt for the amazing Bottlehead Crack, but just keep in mind it’s a DIY project. You will have to put it together yourself (with the help of an instruction manual of course) 🙂

  1. How to choose a headphone amp!
  2. The best headphone amp for the money

Doesn’t sound good:

  • Out of lower end portable, MP3, and tablets with questionable hardware.

Who these headphones benefit?

Good for:

  • Jazz
  • Acoustics
  • Classical
  • Electronica
  • Indie
  • Indie Pop
  • Pop
  • Dance
  • New Age
  • Ambient
  • Vocals
  • Violin
  • Guitar
  • Piano
  • Hip-Hop. No they’re not a bass heads headphone, but listening to some of my favorite artists on Soundcloud I started to hear things that I hadn’t before. It was like I was aware of the artist and how they intended for the mix to come out.

With the Brainwavz FocusPads (replacement ear pads), more bass driven music comes to life. The problem with this is that they cost an additional $40 when they should be included for no extra cost, or used as the original ear pads! It really defeats the entire purpose. They also add bass at the expense of the luscious 3D sound signature.

Thoughts from Stu’s notepad

Things to remember:

  • On your mobile device, they aren’t too loud but also not too quiet. They kind of sit somewhere in the middle. I never have to turn them down, but on the flip side, I would like to turn them up on occasion. They’re the type of headphone that makes you want to know every single thing going on, even though they provide that in spades.
  • The bass is not going to be very powerful or deep. While it is clean, it lacks that “oomph” that many people desire. It could definitely use a bit more extension.
  • The build quality is decent overall but not spectacular.
  • The sound signature isn’t flat, but also not overly colored.
  • Being closed back, these have zero noise isolation. Closed back vs. Open back headphones.
  • Does not come with a headphone case.
  • You may not want to travel with them. While they are a solid desktop headphone, they aren’t sturdy enough to lug around.
  • Word on the street is that these will take upwards of 150 hours to break in. A lot of people don’t really believe in this phenomenon, but I’m here to tell you that there is some truth to it. Pretty much all of the headphones I’ve owned over the years started to sound significantly better over time.
  • There’s a grill mod you can do which also supposedly improves the bass, sub bass, Soundstage, and treble response. There’s more depth to the sound.
  • You will definitely want to make sure your source files are good as mentioned in the Pros section. This is very common with headphones in this price range. They tend to really expose bad quality tracks.
  • While the treble is solid, it does lack a bit of air, sparkle, and detail that would otherwise capture that realism in tracks that we all love. It still has energy, but isn’t quite as treble heavy as other cans. The good news is that it won’t make you tired, which I’ve come to find is a problem with listening to bright/sibilant headphones too long. What does Sibilant mean?


A fantastic overall sounding headphone with some quality control issues. The bad chord is unanimous, and while the Focuspads help the overall sound, they should have come with the headphones.

Similarities & Differences


  • Both have velour ear pads.
  • Both have the same frequency response: 20Hz – 35kHz.
  • Both excel in many of the same genres.
  • Both sets are constructed in the exact same manner, with a couple of subtle differences. The first is color and the second is ear-pad material. The 400S sports velour, while the 400i seems to be made of a plush, soft pleather. It is rather comfy.
  • Both are very comfortable.
  • Both come with the same 5 foot, heavily braided L-jack 3.5mm to split L & R 3.5mm balanced cord, and only differ in color. Oddly enough, I didn’t experience nor did I hear anyone having issues with the 4ooi’s cable.


  • Amp. Without a doubt, in my opinion, the 400i is much too quiet with your portable device, while the 400S sounds great. So you will need to purchase an amp with the 400i without question. However, with the 400S it’s debatable. If I didn’t already have an amp, and I was deciding, I would probably wait awhile before I bought one, since I can enjoy the sound immediately with the 400S.
  • Sound. The HE400S has a warmer sound, while the HE400i has a cooler sound. What this basically means is that the 400S is more enjoyable and lush, while the 400i is more analytical and detailed. I would definitely agree with that sentiment. The 400i’s are a marvelous headphone and they reveal quite a fair amount of minuscule detail. Time by Pink Floyd is a classic example. Those jangly guitars really come to life, but don’t necessarily sound amazing if that makes sense. It’s almost as if the recording was exposed in a way. Now don’t get me wrong: The song still sounds good, but it’s very revealing in a sense. The 400S is also incredibly revealing in it’s own right, but more enjoyable and less analytical about what it’s presenting.
  • The 400i is more open and has a slightly cleaner sound overall.
  • Mid-range. The 400S’s mid-range isn’t as forward/prominent sounding as the 4ooi.
  • Reproduction. The 400S may be better at reproducing the true sound, or Timbre of the instrument.
  • Treble. The 400i has better treble, but it may sometimes be fatiguing. The 400S has slightly less, but it fixes what the 400i got wrong. There isn’t that presence peak in the 400S like there was with the 400i.
  • Bass. The400S produces a more realistic bass response, while the 400i’s is punchier and digs deeper. The 400i’s bass has more depth and texture to it, meaning it’s more nuanced and detailed. The 400S’s bass has a thicker impact, while the 400i’s is smoother.
  • Soundstage. The 400i’s have a better Soundstage than the 400S’s.
  • Imaging. The imaging on the 400S is less precise than the 400i.
  • Instrument Separation. The 400S isn’t quite as clear as the 400i. You will be able to distinguish the locations of different sounds easier with the 400i.
  • Impedance. 22 Ohms for the 400S vs. 35 for the 400i.
  • Sensitivity. 98dB for the 400S vs. 93 for the 400i.
  • Weight. The 400S is a tad lighter at 350g vs. the 370g of the 400i.
  • Fatigue. Because the 400S is warmer, it’s less prone to causing fatigue than the 400i.
  • Packaging. The 400i’s packaging is a bit better and fancier than the 400S’s. Patrick Starr says, “If ya wanna be fancy, hold your pinky out like this! The higher you hold it, the fancier you are.” 🙂

Video Comparison

Final Word

The major point to take away here is that the HE400S is warmer while the HE400i is cooler, or more analytical. If you aren’t too fond of being overly critical of your music, the 400S may be the way to go. I personally enjoy the sound of the 400i. It’s more musical with better resolution, while the 400S is just smoother and more relaxing.

Out of these 2, I would go with the 400i, but today I’m going to recommend something else. I believe the HD600’s are the overall best purchase you can make as a budding audiophile, and sound better than the 400i’s. This is strictly my personal opinion, but the 600’s are more resolving and have better instrument separation. The 400i’s in comparison are a bit warmer, with a slightly better soundstage, and definitely do put a smile on my face, but they can’t replace my 600’s. The price to performance ratio of the 600’s does outshine the HIFIMAN series by a small margin.

Interested in learning all about the HD600 in an in depth and informative review? Check out my official:


Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on the HIFIMAN HE400S vs. HE400i.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Does it help to know how many people had the issue in the Cons section? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

Which of these tickles your pickle? What do you make of the HD600? I would love to hear from you. Until next time..

All the best and God bless,





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