Home Open Back Headphone Reviews HIFIMAN HE400se Review – The End Of Hi-Fi?

HIFIMAN HE400se Review – The End Of Hi-Fi?

by Stuart Charles Black
Published: Updated:
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Shoutout to Mark over at HIFIMAN for the demo unit!

So, after demoing over 130+ units and having thousands of hours of demo time, I can right now safely say the 400se is the best option in mid-fi and at its current price is likely the easiest purchase you’ll ever make in this hobby.

Today we’ll delve into everything: Build, Comfort, Sound, Features, Potential Drawbacks, and everything in between.

By the end of this article, you’ll know if the 400se is right for you.

Greetings mate, 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…

At A Glance

HIFIMAN HE400SE Stealth Magnets Version Over-Ear Open-Back Full-Size Planar Magnetic Wired Headphones for Audiophiles/Studio, Great-Sounding, Stereo, High Sensitivity, Comfortable, Sliver
HIFIMAN HE400SE Stealth Magnets Version Over-Ear Open-Back Full-Size Planar Magnetic Wired Headphones for Audiophiles/Studio, Great-Sounding, Stereo, High Sensitivity, Comfortable, Sliver
Circumaural (Around-Ear)
Open back, Planar Magnetic
Not specified
Detachable 3.5mm (dual)
Headband Style
25 Ohm
Frequency Response
20Hz - 20kHz
Primary Use
Cable Length
Not specified
Cable Detachable?
Amplification Required?
Amazon Prime
HIFIMAN HE400SE Stealth Magnets Version Over-Ear Open-Back Full-Size Planar Magnetic Wired Headphones for Audiophiles/Studio, Great-Sounding, Stereo, High Sensitivity, Comfortable, Sliver
HIFIMAN HE400SE Stealth Magnets Version Over-Ear Open-Back Full-Size Planar Magnetic Wired Headphones for Audiophiles/Studio, Great-Sounding, Stereo, High Sensitivity, Comfortable, Sliver
Circumaural (Around-Ear)
Open back, Planar Magnetic
Not specified
Detachable 3.5mm (dual)
Headband Style
25 Ohm
Frequency Response
20Hz - 20kHz
Primary Use
Cable Length
Not specified
Cable Detachable?
Amplification Required?
Amazon Prime


Price: Check Amazon! | Check Apos Audio!

In The Box

HIFIMAN HE400se Headphones

User Guide

Warranty Card

3.5mm detachable cable


The road traveled with HIFIMAN has been a long and winding one, filled with lots of ups and quite a few downs.

Iterations, re-iterations, stealth revisions, Quality control issues, failed partnerships, build updates/re-updates, and an admirable pursuit of never-ending improvement have brought us here.

Enter the HIFIMAN HE400se.

In some ways, this is sort of like a redemption song for the China-based company, but that already happened with the DEVA in 2020.

No, this signifies something different.

To some extent, the introduction of the 400se feels like the end of hi-fi, at least in a traditional sense.

In other words, how do people think about Hi-Fi vs. what is it, actually, to someone with a lot of experience?

It’s no secret that audio (specifically the headphone market) has changed quite dramatically over the years.

As with starting a home studio, it’s no longer complicated nor does it cost thousands of dollars to get up and running.

For as much as I’ve lamented the influx of new products at every turn, and the subsequent elitism that comes along with that, there is an upside to oversupply; it means that achieving great sound is more than possible for the average person with an average bank account.

The fact that so many people are trying to compete for what’s in your wallet is both terrifying and miraculous at the same time.

Your typical entry-level Amp/DAC combo sounds almost as good as something considered “High-end” and that’s most certainly a good thing if the goal is to save money while simultaneously drinking expensive scotch with your pinky out.

The higher you hold it, the fancier you are.

Not only have headphones followed suit, but they’ve completely shattered this “price to performance” barrier.

For all its flaws, Capitalism can sometimes be cool when you find yourself talking to people about stuff that they would otherwise never give a crap about (i.e. audiophile type headphones).

If you thought spending a mere $200 on a product that I paid retail for back in 2016 (the original HD600) was outrageous, the planar magnetic 400se is like “Hold my beer, son.”

There are many reasons why paying a paltry $109 for a planar is absurd, and it all starts with the fact that you’re paying, wait for it…$109 for a planar. With stealth magnets to boot!

Let’s get into it all now.

Build Quality

The build of HIFIMAN headphones underwent a significant transformation from the 400i/400S models to the DEVA in 2020.

This change introduced a more modern and refined design, featuring improved materials and construction.


The DEVA’s design departure from its predecessors set a new standard in terms of comfort and aesthetics, but it was also simply built better and rectified the Quality Control issues that had become quite a problem – so much so in fact that my local Audio Advice stopped carrying HIFIMAN products before the shift happened; around 2019.

This design shift was carried over to the newer 400se model, maintaining the sleek and ergonomic structure of the DEVA.

The 400se shares the same updated build, offering users a combination of comfort and style – and it’s also DUMMY THICC.

HIFIMAN X Dekoni Cobalt Review

Also pictured above is the Dekoni x HIFIMAN Cobalt (far right).

This overhaul reflects HIFIMAN’s commitment to enhancing the overall user experience and aesthetics of their headphones while preserving their renowned audio quality.

The original run of 400i/400s was flawless, but I think they learned a valuable lesson after cable/connection issues, malfunctioning parts, etc.

The Drop/HIFIMAN HE-4XX experiment was also an utter disaster for some of the same reasons, but its design was even worse.

Who would have thought that drilling screws into plastic probably wasn’t the best idea?

HiFiMAN HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. Sundara


Both the headband adjustment, material, and shape were also handled quite atrociously, but that’s a story for another day.

Everything about the 4XX was really weird, and I’ll just leave it at that for now.

The 400se actually feels sturdy and functions flawlessly, as the design is simplistic and utilitarian.

While I do miss the swivel aspect of the older iterations, it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme – especially if it means fewer things can go wrong.

They rotate just enough to not feel as rigid as something Focal would manufacture, but they’re also not really studio headphones like a CB-1 or M50x.

In other words, the design looks and feels appropriate for the target demographic.

It’s also important to note that the cups do rotate down, but not around.

Just think of The Exorcist if you’re having trouble.

Again, these are scotch/caviar headphones for those who enjoy holding their pinky out.

The 400se mimics the exact design of the DEVA, but this time it’s black and silver/gray like the original 400s.


HiFiMAN HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. Sundara

OG 400s.

Everything about the new 400se is simple, from the smooth click adjustment to the perfectly padded headband to the shape and material of the cups to the sleek overall aesthetic.

One issue still apparent is the ever-maddening glue dilemma on the back of the cups.

I’ll say it and keep saying it until HIFIMAN does something.

Why, WHY does Dekoni manufacture the pads that you should put on your headphones?

It’s getting ridiculous at this point.

HIFIMAN HE400se Review

^That’s pretty much a brand new pad and the glue job looks like it was done in 3rd-grade arts and crafts.

You can imagine how easily it’s going to come apart down the road.

Here’s a DEVA pad. The same issue remains, although it looks a bit better (not saying much):

Now check out a Dekoni pad next to a 4XX unglued pad. There’s no contest.

There’s no excuse for HIFIMAN to not manufacture that pad themselves.

Why should I pay Dekoni for something HIFIMAN should have done? This has been an ongoing issue for the last 6 years. Get it together.

Nobody should have to fork over that much cash for something so basic, especially when you consider the price of Dekonis.

It’s asinine. $80 for freaking pads? Yeah, no thanks. That’s over 2/3 the price of the 400se!

Just fix your mistake, HIFIMAN. For the hundredth time.

As I’ve said countless times in other articles and videos, this is probably not an issue if you don’t handle the cups too much (i.e. swap them a lot), but it’s still crazy to think that HIFIMAN simply won’t do the right thing here.

I mean, it can’t be that hard to just wrap the damn piece over the plastic and not haphazardly glue it, right?

It’s one of the dumbest design decisions I’ve ever seen and makes no sense at all. Gluing the pads that way is asking for them to fall apart.

The other issue is that the pads flatten out/wear down pretty quickly.

Expect both pads to flatten out considerably toward one side after about a month of daily use.


So, the build of the 400se is pretty fantastic aside from the glue thing, but comfort ends up being the best it’s ever been with regard to HIFIMAN products.

The DEVA comfortably made my Top 15 most comfortable headphones list, and it’s definitely near the top.

The 400se is no different.

I simply never have to adjust or take them off, and this is likely a byproduct of the improved headband design, as well as the weight; which has always been near perfect.

Headband dig is rather common in cheaper cans, but the 400se proves itself to be miles ahead.

I’ve never once felt it, or the DEVA, dig into my head.

Again, all of this for $109.

There are headphones at similar prices (and many that are way more expensive!) that don’t even come close to this level of comfort.


By now you may be wondering how they sound.

Perhaps the best reason to stop everything you’re doing and purchase one of these is because of just that – their unique sound profile.


Admittedly, it’s hard to believe that a product cheaper than Drop’s 6XX could actually be better, but that’s precisely what we have here – for a few different reasons:



Sennheiser’s mid-fi line of 580/58X/600/650/6XX are all known to have narrow imaging and “okay” placement.

The separation of instruments’ sounds is excellent, but at times they feel congested and don’t occupy the space as well as I’d like.

In other words, they are a bit too close together and need to be spread out more.

HIFIMAN’s mid-fi lineup has always provided better imaging and placement, with wider staging, better width, and more depth front to back.

In other words, instruments and sounds have more room to breathe which helps immensely with detail retrieval and overall resolution.

I can pick out individual soundscapes and backing instruments a lot better with a 400se, DEVA, etc. than I can with headphones in Sennheiser’s line.

The music also feels grander, providing that “out of your head” sensation that sometimes makes you feel as if you’re in an actual recording space or even a live venue (though that effect has been grossly exaggerated by everyone and their Grandma).

If headphones like the HD600 rarely give you that sensation, HIFIMAN headphones do so more frequently while something like a K702 does it very frequently.



Perhaps the best reason to invest in a planar headphone like the 400se is its Timbre; or, how an instrument may sound in real life vs. the way it sounds through a device.

In other words, its unique tone.

You may notice that cheaper headphones tend to sound decent, but they don’t give you any sense that you’re experiencing the music in an actual environment.

Of course, this is more prevalent in closed-backs than open ones, but still, there are some closed-backs out there that mimic the effects of open headphones: namely Sony’s MDR-Z1R, The Status CB-1, AKG’s K550/553, The Beyerdynamic DT770, etc.

The AKG K702, one of my favorite dynamic headphones, comes close to achieving a somewhat planar-like sound but is still outperformed by both the DEVA and 400se.

With the 400se, instruments and voices are that much more natural and intimate.

Listening to an artist like Sufjan Stevens is almost like being serenaded by him, rather than simply hearing his composition being played out through headphone drivers.


Attack, Sustain, And Decay

Going off of the last point, attack, sustain, and decay are all markedly better with a planar, and this has a lot to do with their driver structure.

In short, it’s because there are more magnets (vs. only 1 in a dynamic) and they are placed evenly around the diaphragm.

This results in a better and more uniform sound with less distortion among other things.

The 400se contains stealth magnets, which differ in shape so as not to hinder or alter the sound waves as they pass through the magnet and approach your ear.

In theory, this results in even less distortion and interference than a traditional planar with squared-off magnets.

Can I tell the difference?

I would say yes, and I noticed this before I discovered that they used stealth magnets.

The sound felt even better and more alive than I remember when listening to some older HIFIMAN models.

Instruments and voices not only ring out better (sustain), but they trail off as they would if you were hearing them live (decay).

In other words, they sound more realistic.

You may have experienced a song in which you can’t quite make out what the instrument does when it’s finished playing a note or chord, or the entire run of the specific sequence of notes.

It kind of gets lost as a new sound comes into view (so to speak).

With a 400se, you can hear what all of the instruments and sounds are doing to the fullest extent.

They are fleshed out better and seem more natural and organic – even more so than the original 400i and 400s.

Put another way, sounds aren’t overlapping each other to the point where everything kind of sometimes becomes a mish-mosh.

This is common in cheaper dynamic headphones most notably.


Detail Retrieval and Resolution

You’ll start to hear the stuff on the right and left, or those backing instruments; the elements way in the back such as the one that plays during the chorus of Kevin Garrett’s “Factor In” around 1:46.

It kind of sounds like a high-pitched synthesizer, giving the song some extra atmosphere and wisp – but there’s also a clear melody to it – something I didn’t notice as much in other dynamic headphones.

What I’m getting at here is that the songs start to sound 100% complete with most everything being accounted for.

While you may get that last extra 1 or 2% with something like a Utopia, it’s probably not worth it unless the price is right like Bob Barker.

I’ve talked quite a bit about the Utopia and I still think it’s the best-sounding dynamic headphone on the planet.

The 400se is in no way better, (as in, the Utopia is still superior to me) but it may not be enough of a difference to warrant that sort of price jump.

That’s really up to you to decide, though.

In many ways, a Planar does rival expensive dynamic headphones.

At 2:44 Garrett says “One look at you and I start to crash” and then there’s this instrument that sounds much clearer and livelier than I ever remember, kind of emulating the downward spiral he just vocalized.

These are the types of things that seem small and insignificant until you’re listening to music and it all comes together like the Beatles.

It’s that “heart drops into the stomach” feeling so to speak.

It’s the experience I always talk about; falling in love with music all over again.

Re-discovering some of the intricacies in your favorite music that may have become lost over the years.

The headphones in this case do help to provide this amazing experience, but again, you’re only paying $109 (price subject to change).

So in essence, and in somewhat of an ironic sense, they are cheap – but only in terms of the price.


There are very few times when I listen to a HIFIMAN headphone and don’t complain at least a little bit about the treble.

It’s almost become a meme at this point.

I can only think of one or 2 instances (The Ananda in particular) in which I wasn’t that bothered by it.

In my mind, HIFIMAN finally listened.

No longer am I hearing that signature “hiss” “bite” or “essiness” that they’re known for.

It’s completely gone. This is one major difference between the DEVA vs. 400se.

The DEVA is clearly bright up top and took some EQ for me to enjoy it even though that phenomenon can be dicey to talk about as well.

The 400se is neither overly bright like a 7506, nor is it dark/veiled (insert whatever term you want) like an Audeze or *gasp* Sennheiser.

Yes, the HD600 can sound veiled at times.

The 400se achieves a nice happy middle ground; not too dark, not overly bright.

Bass & Mid-Range

HIFIMAN HE400se Review

Both the bass and mid-range here are classic HIFIMAN. Vocals and instruments are lively, and everything sounds correct and tonally accurate.

You’re still getting that signature gradual decline after 1kHz into 2k, but it doesn’t bother me here as it sometimes does with a Sundara.

I’d classify the overall sound as fairly neutral and transparent, with a slight emphasis on the mid-range around 1kHz.

The bass is your typical HIFIMAN outfit; slight roll-off and no mid-bass bloat.

Some will complain that the bass doesn’t slam hard enough, and while I understand the sentiment, I don’t entirely agree.

If you’re coming from super bass-heavy headphones, then yeah, you’re going to feel like something is missing.

The kicker (no pun intended) is that the 400se portrays bass in a neutral-ish light as you’re able to hear individual bass notes and understand the composition better as a whole rather than hearing extra emphasis on one particular part of the low end.


I have to say that even though the Soundstage here is a bit better than an HD600, I still found the 400se a bit too claustrophobic for gaming.

In other words, it wasn’t as open or spacious as a DEVA, SHP9500, Arya, or K702, and I was fairly surprised by that.

I will have to go back and double-check my findings, but I’d recommend any one of those headphones over the 400se if someone forced me to decide.

Final Verdict

HIFIMAN HE400se Review

I do believe the 400se is still about the best value in mid-fi that you’re going to find in terms of the quintessential planar sound at an insane price point.

This headphone is sort of what it would be like if the HD600 and K702 had a baby.

You’re getting the best of both worlds: The K702’s Soundstage (albeit not as wide), with the HD600’s great instrument separation and non-fatiguing treble.

Add in the fact that it’s a planar with stealth magnets that outperform both in terms of Timbre and overall resolution and you’ve got all the makings of an easy purchase.

The HIFIMAN “experiment” has seen its ups and downs, make no mistake about it.

They’ve screwed up a few times and it was a bit touch and go there for a while back in 2019.

But it seems like they genuinely care about improving their product line and for that I applaud them.

So here’s to you, HIFIMAN. Now just fix the damn glue issue and you’ll be the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Video Discussion

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Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this HIFIMAN HE400se Review, and came away with some valuable insight.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

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Is this product worth an investment? What are your thoughts on the hobby as a whole? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,





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Photo Gallery II

Photo Gallery I 


Tasmin Little – The Lark Ascending (2013)

Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes (2012)

Toonorth – Aftersome (2021)

Bill Evans – Everybody Digs Bill Evans (1959)

Oceansize – Frames (2007)

Tortoise – TNT (1998)

Papa M – Whatever, Mortal (2001)

Papa M – Live From A Shark Cage (1999)

Papa M – Hole Of Burning Alms (2004)

Slint – Spiderland (1991)

Papa M – Papa M Sings (2001)

Papa M – A Broke Moon Rises (2018)

Sam Gendel, Sam Wilkies – Music for saxophone & bass guitar (2018)

Meitei – Komachi (2019)

Papa M – Highway Songs (2016)

Pajo – Pajo (2005)

M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011)

M83 – Saturdays = Youth (2008)

Trans Am – Surrender To The Night (1997)

slenderbodies – Are We? (2021)

Henry Green – Half Light (2018)

St. South – Nervous Energy (2016)

Flor – Ley Lines (2019)

Great Good Fine Ok – III (2017)

Great Good Fine OK – Great Good Five OK (2021)

vbnd – scum funk (2021)

Gustav Holst, John Williams, Strauss, Sprach Zarathustra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra – the Planets (1997)

Gustav Holst, Lorin Maazel, and Orchestre National de France – The Planets (1982)

slenderbodies – Fabulist (2017)

Henry Green – Shift (2018)

Aquilo – Silhouettes (2017)

Ford. – The Color Of Nothing (2020)

Ford. – (The) Evening (2018)

Amber Rubarth – Sessions From The 17th Ward (2012)

Bill Evans – Sunday At the Village Vanguard (1961)

Bill Evans – Live At the Montreaux Jazz Festival (1968)

Shallou – Magical Thinking (2020)

Sufjan Stevens – A Beginner’s Mind (2021)

Phoenix – Alphabetical (2004)










  • Excellent Comfort
  • Built extremely well for the most part
  • Neutral sound
  • Insane value


  • Mids can sometimes be too relaxed/dull
  • Soundstage could be better

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Saul November 28, 2021 - 5:30 pm

H Stu. Just pulled the trigger on a set of 400se. Current $129 pricing made it irresistible to finally scratch the itch. As a long time planar speaker owner (ET-LTF8b) I have long wonder what planar tech sounds like bolted directly to my head. Your review somewhat sealed the deal (and put the nail in coffin on the drop 4xx).

I’m curious though as to the 400se vs Sundara. Worth the $$$ or two different animals?

Stuart Charles Black November 29, 2021 - 1:24 pm

Hey man what a fantastic deal and steal!

Thanks for stopping by. Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I honestly don’t really think the Sundara is worth the money anymore at $349 even though yes, it is a slightly different tuning. The treble is more subdued, and the headphones have a warm/gooey type of quality kind of like the HD650. It sometimes is not a good thing though. They can come across as dull in certain instances.

I think you’re going to fall in love with the 400se and I wouldn’t worry about it. It doesn’t suffer from those issues but it’s also not overly bright like most HIFIMAN cans.

I had the Sundara at #2 on my Top 5 Under $500, but the 400se will most assuredly be #1 or #2 now knocking the Sundara off.

The Sundara was a great headphone, but not really worth the money anymore. In 2018 it was a giant leap forward for HIFIMAN, but they’ve since improved even more and audio as a whole has gotten a lot cheaper since then.

Please keep me posted on your 400se impressions!!


Prabin November 30, 2021 - 5:47 am

I’m getting one

Stuart Charles Black November 30, 2021 - 3:03 pm


PRABIN December 14, 2021 - 7:38 am

I’ve sent you a pic in Instagram. Check it out. Day 1 and I’m stoked.. I saw your review after ordering one by the way. ?

Stuart Charles Black December 14, 2021 - 2:19 pm

Ha ok. I also reworked the Top 5 Under $500 to reflect the change. https://homestudiobasics.com/the-5-best-audiophile-headphones-for-under-500/

Alberto December 7, 2021 - 6:59 am

400S vs 400SE? Thanks

Stuart Charles Black December 7, 2021 - 7:26 pm

Hey man, I would just go with the 400SE. There’s no real reason to get a 400S anymore due to the SE’s updated build. Sound-wise, it’s been quite a while since I heard a 400S but it’s pretty much the same sound although I think the SE handles the treble better than pretty much all mid-fi HIFIMAN models. It finds a nice balance of bright-neutral without getting out of line IMO. I would just go for it you won’t regret it.

Skelly December 9, 2021 - 2:37 am

Aside from the concern about the earpad deflating (which is probably due to stronger clamp force and I bent up the headstrap a bit to make it more comfortable and less clampy), the 400SE is kinda insanely good for the price. I don’t usually like to say “for the price”, but there’s definitely 200 and 300 dollar cans that just suck compared to new kids on the block that have better tech and lower price. Which is exactly what the 400SE does. I feel like it pairs insanely well with the Vali 2+, as the Magni 3+’s focus on accuracy and neutrality can make these headphones seem a little boring. Same thing for when I A/B tested with my HD6XX. I felt like the Vali 2+ breathed new life and excitement into the headphones, so my go-to is always the Vali (with the Electro Harmonix 6922 tube replacing the stock one). Super fun to listen to. I feel like the Vali’s pleasant distortion and coloring combines well with the 400SE and it’s focus on neutrality and cleanliness in the audio. 400SE is super clean like everything is so smooth, so the slight texturing and coloring the vali does really provides an affordable audiophile setup that rivals people spending much MUCH more for. As far as bass is concerned, there’s just enough to be satisfied, but it could use a tiny bit more oomph. Still, they’re kickass and the pros far far far outweigh the cons.

Stuart Charles Black December 11, 2021 - 3:07 pm

Yeah man, the 400se certainly feels “market disrupting” in the same way that the 6XX did, only I think it’s an even better value, cheaper, and with a superior sound. You’ve got better separation, Soundstage, Instrument Timbre, and decay; all things I’ve always harped on when talking about HIFIMAN and the generally loftier sound coming from planar headphones. It’s truly one of the best mid-fi headphones to ever come along (perhaps the best). I’ll probably knock the 6XX down to second place on my top 5 under $500.

Actually listening now with the iFi xDSD Gryphon (demoing). It just sounds wonderful and exactly as you describe – smooth, detailed, and clean. I just can’t get enough, hence this 5,000-word article lol. It really makes you realize how poopy headphones like the A71 sound by comparison.

And yeah, I would definitely not pair a 400se with a neutral, sterile type of amp. I think it works best with something like a Zen, K5 Pro, or something similar; i.e. not entirely neutral but not overly warm like a tube amp.

I also think HIFIMAN improved the treble on the 400se. I didn’t find it overly essy or bitey like a DEVA or some of the earliest iterations of the 400i, which is also something I complained about quite a bit. Not saying they took my critique into consideration, but it does feel like they’re constantly trying to improve.

I think it’s extremely important for them to keep the house sound without making the treble too dark (as there’s a fine line), and I believe they’ve achieved that wonderfully well. I’d classify it as bright-neutral, as in, I think it strikes a near-perfect balance. A little bright? Yes. But that’s not a bad thing here. It’s almost perfectly done. Certain types of music will make it sound a tad brighter (for example now I’m listening to Boston’s More Than A Feeling and it’s heading that way), but it still somehow retains an impeccable sense of control despite everything going on in the hook.

You took the words right out regarding the bass as I was going to say the exact same thing. Just a liiiiiiitle more slam. I guess you could go all Metal571 and EQ up the bass (which I’ve certainly done in the past), but yeah. It’s one of those minor nitpicks that at the end of the day, I don’t really care too too much about.

Skelly December 12, 2021 - 12:36 am

Not to flood up the comment section but I have two last questions! How would you compare the HE400SE to your beloved K702? I pulled the trigger on a K712 pro and I came back to the 400SE. Do you think I’d be better off selling the K712’s and grabbing the K702? In addition, what other amps should I be on the lookout that give me the same good combination like the Vali 2+ with the 400SE?

Stuart Charles Black December 12, 2021 - 9:09 pm

Wow man nice timing I just mentioned to someone yesterday how I want to compare the K702 and 400se! I will get back to you on that in a bit. As far as swapping K712 for 702. Yeah I do think so and here’s why: https://homestudiobasics.com/akg-k612-vs-k712-vs-k702-vs-k701-vs-q701/

Hm you said Vali 2 was erring on the warmer side? I’m honestly not a big Amp guy anymore because I think they’re overrated but I also may not be the guy to ask since I’m not a huge fan of tubes (at least the last 2 I tried). Idk. Too syrupy for me. The TA-20 was one recent one I tried.

Stuart Charles Black December 23, 2021 - 6:44 pm

Hey man I haven’t forgotten about ya.

I’ve been doing an exhaustive back and forth so I can get my impressions right. The 3 biggest differences between the headphones are mid-bass meat, Soundstage, and the mid-range. The K702 is more open sounding, wider Soundstage, etc.

It sounds more open which can be fairly jarring when you switch back to the 400se – which is kind of claustrophobic at first (may be the mid-range discrepancy which I will touch on later) – until you realize that its Timbre, decay, and detail are all just a bit better. Even though the Soundstage is wider on a K702, you may not notice certain things in recordings that you will with the 400se.

An example would be J Dilla’s “Say It” which actually reveals background ad-libs (panned right/left, down and back slightly) better and provides a somewhat more immersive experience even though technically the K702 should be doing that given its unique signature. Planars are known to sound more realistic and that’s certainly the case here.

Furthermore, there’s more mid-bass meat on the 400se which certainly gives it that extra edge in my mind. You won’t be having to throw on XBass with an iFi product, though it still can add to the experience depending on the track in question.

This is an ongoing theme in planars vs. dynamics, and thus why the 400se is #1. It just performs a bit better even though the 702 is no slouch (also why it’s #3). I’ve talked about this before in delicate compositions such as those by Sufjan Stevens, and it really is a photo finish with regard to whether or not I ultimately prefer a planar over a dynamic.

Keeping with the mid-bass on the 400se, it’s done just right and provides a perfect amount of slam without suffering from the pitfalls of traditional cheap and/or closed-back headphones that go overboard and end up sounding bloated and artificial. By contrast, the 702’s mid-bass is a tad thin but still sounds great. It just doesn’t have as much impact.

Finally, the mid-range on each is done slightly differently. K702 opts for that 5dB rise around 2kHz which I really like and in some ways prefer to the slightly rolled off 400se after 1kHz into 2k – typical of HIFIMAN and not bad, but in comparison, you can tell that it’s a bit more subdued and slightly pushed back.

This is likely another reason why the 400se sounded strange at first after a long demo with the 702. You’re used to that forwardness and then it kind of just disappears until your brain gets reacclimated to the new signature.

Overall, the 400se still comes out on top but I will always keep the 702 around and still enjoy listening and/or gaming with it every day.

Hope that helps! Let me know.


Skelly December 24, 2021 - 2:35 am

No worries! I actually was re-reading your review! Thanks for all the insight and research you’ve been doing, I admire how much you go into detail about how the headphones sound and not just from some data frequency graphs. Back to the 400se, yeah there’s just something about that timbre, decay, and detail that’s all so enticing, especially at such an affordable price, it’s nuts.

I recently purchased the HE560 v4 from Adorama because the deal was kinda too good to pass up, so I pulled out the Paypal Credit and just went for it. Originally it’s in the 800’s but it’ll go on sale on Adorama for about the 240 range? You can get a used refurbished one for about 209 as well. I’m honestly having a bit of a tough time deciding which one I like more. If I could, I’d buy you a review pair to try out. I still might have a slight preference for the 400se but I also love the sound that the 560 v4 brings to the table especially with a really nice extended bass. I hope you get to try the 560 v4 someday! Thanks again for all your review work.

Stuart Charles Black December 28, 2021 - 9:38 pm

Hey man!

My pleasure and great to hear from you. I hope we continue our dialogue.

I was telling someone in another comment about HIFIMAN’s sleight of hand and a complete disruption of the market which has caused me to have to re-evaluate my Top 5 Under $500. In other words, re-considering what the actual best value is and it’s most certainly the 400se until someone else decides to step up. As you said, the price of the 400se is insane when you take everything into consideration. As much as I love the 6XX, it’s finally been outclassed.

Yeah man, that sounds like an awesome deal! Perhaps you could send it over for demo sometime.

Look forward to hearing from you again!


Skelly January 10, 2022 - 11:39 pm

I just saw in your other article about your top headphones under 500 bucks, that you’re working on a 400se video! I’m super excited to see it. Could you possibly go for a little segment comparing it against the sundara? Because apparently that’s the next step up. However I think that’s arguable considering how you actually prefer the 400se over the sundara, as well as many others that I’ve seen online. As you said, for some, the sundara may not exactly be worth all that money by now. For a considerably lower price you still get something that’s on par or at least directly just under the sundara, which is pretty damn impressive!

I also wanted to mention that I’ve been switching back and forth from the HE560 v4 and the HE400se. I’m beginning to come to a conclusion that I actually prefer the 400se, and it’s cheaper lmao. The tuning just totally rocks. Hifiman really setting a new standard with these things. In terms of an actual upgrade, I think the next can I’d really like to save up and grab would be the Hifiman Edition XS. It seems like a nice sweet spot at 500 dollars because it’s not nearing 1000 buckaroos for a set of cans, which I would like to avoid spending, and you’re still getting something incredible. Anandas would be nice, but that Edition XS is sitting at such a nice sweet spot, it’s next on my list (I don’t actually have a list, I’m just really interested in planars and Hifiman cans in general. I listen to a lot of jazz and funk, so Hifiman planars are an absolute joy to listen to!)

Stuart Charles Black January 13, 2022 - 6:26 pm

Hey man!

Great to hear from you again. I will certainly jot that down and plan to incorporate it into the video! Thanks 🙂

But yeah, spoiler – I don’t actually think it’s a step up at all, and imo is a complete waste of money. The Sundara now sits in this awkward price range but is almost useless now with the introduction of the 400se which is just as good for way cheaper. The Sundara also had the slight issue of being overly warm at times and you can clearly see this on graphs with regard to the too-dulled-down treble.

The 400se takes the too bright/hissy DEVA/older 400 models and finds an almost perfect sweet spot of “bright-neutral” without irritating me in the slightest. I haven’t once heard any hiss save for some really badly recorded metal tracks.

Lol and yeah. The problem with HIFIMAN is that they’re always outdoing themselves and end up just kind of punking themselves almost. Because in my mind, the Sundara is almost completely obsolete now. There’s literally no reason to buy it unless you’re a snobby audiophile who’s living in the past. In 2018 it was groundbreaking. Now? Anyone who tries to sell one in my mind is kind of a shill.

Let me know if/when you get the Edition XS! Looks like something I need to get my hands on and compare with the Ananda/Arya. What a sweet price point! Man, that may replace the Ananda for step up from mid-fi but I need to demo it first. I see here it’s got the updated build. HIFIMAN can be super confusing. For instance, the Arya employs the old build of the original Edition X, and then you have the Ananda which mimics the Sundara’s build.

I think HIFIMAN could stand to be a bit more organized. I THINK they’re attempting to phase out all the old builds and go with the new one, but you can never really tell.

Thinesh December 27, 2021 - 9:08 am

Hi Stu,

Love the reviews. However, you might want to put a warning message for anyone buying Hifiman off Amazon. I bought the Hifiman HE200i (based on your recommendation)and about 10-11 months later, the right driver cutout. When I contacted Hifiman, they said they would not honour the Amazon purchase as it came from Amazon.com. If you buy from the Hifiman store on Amazon (which is actually an authorised reseller) then they would honour the warranty. Long and short is Amazon agreed to take back the headphones and refund me my money. I’m now in the market for another headphone. I have the Ananda’s (secondhand) but they press on that space between my jaw and ear so much I can only tolerate it for 15min, so I’m stretching them out with a pillow and hopefully that works. If it doesn’t I can’t decide between HD6XX and the HE400se. Space and soundstage is important to me. I listen to jazz, and rock mainly. I really wanted to like the Ananda’s but the pain…

Stuart Charles Black December 28, 2021 - 8:36 pm

Hey Thinesh!

Thank you! Yeah, the older models are definitely hit and miss; something I mention in a lot of other articles but will also edit to add here.

If you end up having to return the Ananda, definitely go with the 400se as it improves tremendously on the other issues present in older HIFIMAN models! Also check this article for an explanation of why I decided to dethrone the 6XX for #1 spot.

Keep me posted on everything!

Thinesh January 24, 2022 - 2:50 am

Hey Stu. So I found out that I could bend the top metal frame of the Ananda and that made it much more enjoyable and although not completely comfortable, now it’s listenable. After much agonising I decided to go with the K702, I think it’s the turtleneck that sold it for me. (Also if I have the Ananda, another hifiman HP didn’t make sense) It’s comfortable and a great sound. I wanted to ask though – is EQing worth it. There are a lot of opinions and I know it’s subjective but do you bother EQing your HP?

Stuart Charles Black January 24, 2022 - 3:55 pm

Hey Thinesh!

Hahah! *Doug Funnie voice* IT’S NOT A TURTLE NECK!! It’s a SWEATER!! That’s awesome though, glad to hear it. 🙂 I don’t have those issues with the Ananda but it just goes to show everyone’s a little different.

I EQ very rarely as I think it’s a bit counterintuitive to spend a bunch of money on headphones only to change their sound signature. Kind of defeats the purpose in most cases, but yes, I do sometimes. I EQ’d the DEVA’s bright treble out for example as I thought it made sense to do so.

Keep me posted on the 702!

redmito January 2, 2022 - 6:16 am

Hey Stu,
Im currently using the akg k702 and beyerdynamic dt 770pro with an Ray Samuels SR-71A amp and an ipod 5th A1136 modded by red wine audio. I want to know if buying the HE400se would be worth it. thanks in advance

Stuart Charles Black January 4, 2022 - 2:04 pm

Hey man!

I think so. Here’s my explanation: https://homestudiobasics.com/the-5-best-audiophile-headphones-for-under-500/ You can just skip down to #1 to see, but I would place the 400se ahead of the 702 although I love both headphones.

REDMITO January 7, 2022 - 2:31 pm

Thank you again for replying

Stuart Charles Black January 7, 2022 - 3:51 pm

My pleasure man! Keep me posted on your decision. 🙂

REDMITO January 20, 2022 - 1:04 pm

Hey Stu,
so I decided to not buy the 400se because when i tried it i didn’t think it was worth it. However, I may end up saving up some more money and seriously considering on the hifiman ananda.

Stuart Charles Black January 24, 2022 - 3:52 pm

Hey man!

Kind of shocked to hear that but okay. Keep me posted!!

REDMITO February 7, 2022 - 4:19 am

Hi Stu,
At the end, I got the HIFIMAN Edition XS . I preferred it over the ananda because the bass has more ‘thump’ into it and it still has most of the things I like about the ananda. Anyways I got a very nice deal that includes the Edition XS and the Topping NX7 for Rp.8.500.000 (Indonesia’s currency) which is $590 which I think it’s a steal. I think it was worth it on waiting for a bit because I love the Edition XS and the NX7 and I don’t think I’m going to buy anymore headphones for a while .

Stuart Charles Black February 7, 2022 - 2:56 pm

Wow, great buy! Keep me posted on your impressions for sure. 🙂 I’d like to try an XS soon.

REDMITO February 8, 2022 - 2:39 am

I had my first listening session yesterday and wow, what an experience. The soundstage was so wide and the instruments sounds very realistic. One of the songs I listened to was ‘Hotel California’ from ‘Hell Freezes Over’ album and it was amazing. Again the soundstage was wide and deep. I can isolate and focus on the individual instruments playing. Another thing that surprised me was the sub-bass. I listened to some songs and I just noticed the sub-bass that was present in the song which was really surprising in a good way. I love the sound signature of this and the level of detail and resolution doesn’t disappoint. I haven’t used it for 150 hours which is the recommended time to ‘burn-in’ so I’m looking forward on how it will change as I listen to it more.

Stuart Charles Black February 11, 2022 - 3:33 pm

Hey man great to hear! I wouldn’t get too caught up about burn-in though or worry much about it. Here’s why: https://youtu.be/5h4E1AtoR_A Do keep me posted on your sound impressions though. The 400se is a fantastic headphone!

REDMITO March 9, 2022 - 9:11 am

Hey Stu,
It’s been a while and I had listened to the Edition XS a lot now. There’s nothing left to say other than that I still love this thing. It could be placebo talking but I think the bass sounds better and the treble has become smoother compared to the first time I listened to it. I’ve been thinking about getting an aftermarket cable though, I think I would like it more if it sounded warmer. I would like to hear your opinion on getting the aftermarket cable. In your experience, does 8 braided cables sound better than 4 braid cable. If so, how big is the difference? Hope to hear from you soon!

Stuart Charles Black March 14, 2022 - 4:23 pm

Hey man!

Glad you’re enjoying 🙂

No, cables in my opinion don’t make a difference at all so I’d steer clear of pouring money into something like that.

REDMITO March 16, 2022 - 12:55 am

Okay, thank you for all your help! I really appreciate it man.

Stuart Charles Black March 16, 2022 - 3:24 pm

My pleasure!! 🙂

Oscar Villanueva February 1, 2022 - 7:54 pm

Hi Stu. Been keeping an eye on your videos and articles. First of all thank you for all your dedication and research. It’s been very helpful.
About the AKG K702 compared to the Hifiman 400SE, which one do you think may fit better with my music preference SQ wise, which is mainly film (instrumental) soundtracks, from a more classic filmscore sound like John Williams to a more modern style like Hans Zimmer. I personaly like clarity, natural/organic sound and imaging.

Thank you so much in Advance

Stuart Charles Black February 2, 2022 - 6:43 pm

Hey man!

Thank you, and you’re welcome!!!

Yeah, it’s close there. The K702 will give you a wider Soundstage and immersion into the environment – sort of mimicking the effect of surround sound which is really cool. The 400se’s Soundstage isn’t as wide but still has some out-of-your-head moments. Overall, the 400se is going to sound a bit more realistic with slightly better instrument timbre, decay, etc. 400se’s clarity is a bit better as well. As far as a more natural/organic sound, gonna have to go with 400se there as well. It’s close, but the 400se is the best mid-fi headphone out: https://homestudiobasics.com/the-5-best-audiophile-headphones-for-under-500/

I will say I use the K702 for film duties but part of that might be because I don’t have a long cable for the 400se yet.

Keep me posted with further questions!

Oscar Villanueva February 2, 2022 - 8:27 pm

Thank you Stu. The thing is I acquired recently the K702 which I love, but was tempted to sell it and get the 400SE, but I guess I’m gonna keep it and may be sell my Senns HD598 and get the 400SE. From your insight I guess the 400SE surpass the HD598 considerably, right?

Stuart Charles Black February 4, 2022 - 6:45 pm

My pleasure man! Yeah, I think that’s a good decision. Sell HD598 and keep 400se and K702. 400se is light years superior to the 598. Listen to both 702 and 400se for a while and decide if you want to keep them or sell one. Keep me posted!!

Julio February 4, 2022 - 10:58 pm

Hey Stu. I was going to buy a second-hand 2020 Sundara for about $200 but then saw your review of this 400se. How was the 400se on the zen dac v2? Is there a difference if I play it on balanced vs unbalanced? Second-hand $200+ 2020 Sundaras are rather frequent from where I am that from outright value, I would have thought they’re the better value. From reading your article, however, you liked the 400se more than the Sundara anyway. How is the 400se holding up for you? I’m also contemplating on the dragonfly red vs other options like the hidizs s9 pro and the fiio models you regarded as good portable value.

Stuart Charles Black February 7, 2022 - 2:54 pm

Hey man!

The 400se sounds great out of Zen. I’m at around 2 on the volume pot with power match.

Balanced vs. unbalanced I can’t comment on with the 4.4mm jack as I only have XLR balanced here, but as for general impressions there’s a slight difference but nowhere near as big as people make it out to be. Honestly, it’s mostly a volume difference as generally speaking, you’re getting more juice balanced.

400se is holding up well! I’m listening now and out of all the headphones I have, I use this one the most and it’s not close.

As for your dilemma on the Sundara, that’s a tough call but I’d still lean towards the 400se unless for some reason you really want a warmer, more syrupy sound. The Sundara is great but can be a bit dull at times and the treble can sometimes lack sparkle. I think the 400se solves the issue of older models being too hissy but without coming across as too laid back. There’s sparkle there but it never feels over the top.

Julio April 8, 2022 - 1:14 pm

Hi Stu! Thank you for your insight. I finally settled on a used HE400se from a trusted friend with an open grill mod, larger pads, and I tried a balanced cable on the zen dac for slightly more volume for $80 total. This is the Chinese version mind you, but I also tested the international “stealth” version and barely saw any difference for about $40 more. For a price comparison, I also recently got a Koss KPH40 with the USB C DAC ($60) and other than their outright difference in open ear and on-ear, getting the 400se at $80 feels absolutely nuts! (Though to be fair the KPH40 is also crazy good and I thought it beat the SHP9500 in a vacuum unless the SHP9500 had AutoEQ and Bass boost)
There was also someone that offered me a used Ananda for $390, which I’m assuming is a massive steal? In any case, I still tried the Ananda, and I don’t really feel left out especially considering the $300+ difference versus the HE400SE.
All in all, I am deeply satisfied to the point that I’m considering calling the hobby off for a good few years

Stuart Charles Black April 9, 2022 - 10:14 pm

Hey Julio!

My pleasure and what a steal. So glad you’re enjoying them!

Had no idea there was a KPH40. Gonna have to try that one!

Love the 9500 but do feel as though the 30i outclasses it a smidgen!

Yes, the Ananda at that price is more than a steal, it’s armed robbery. xD I’m glad you’re satisfied and calling off the hobby, but get back to me in a couple of months’ time so we can see where you stand LOL.

Reach out anytime my friend and keep me posted.


Julio July 19, 2022 - 11:55 am

Hey Stu! I had to update my audiophile journey as I finally got my true endgame setup now. I traded my ifi zen dac for a Shanling UP5 portable dac, which I’ve heard is comparable to the Fiio BTR5 minus the clip. For the home dac, I got the JDS Labs Atom+ stack for $140. Clean, neutral, and doesn’t cheat the headphone sounds with a house sound. Now, the big boy that got me to posting this update: Hifiman HE6SE V2 Adorama edition. These often go on sale in Adorama and the latest sale price I saw it go at $499 from past $700 deals years ago. I got these secondhand for $445. I feel like it’s a supercharged HE400se with insane detail and tonality that rivals and beats the Focal Clear imo. I think it’s worth taking a look at and I’d like to see your comparison for it versus the Ananda or even more expensive headphones, since it feels like the HE6SE breaks through several price brackets. As my friend said, “it’s as if I have an older Ferrari, while he has a modern Corolla”. At the end of the day, I have a Ferrari, haha.

Stuart Charles Black July 26, 2022 - 3:19 pm


Thanks for the comment! Yeah, I am about to do an Ananda/Arya/Edition XS shootout. Haven’t heard much about the HE6SE unfortunately. I didn’t like the Focal Clear and thought it was grainy sounding with a problematic mid-range but it was certainly a bit better than the pretty terrible Elear.

So glad to hear you’re enjoying your setups! The ATOM stack is great and I recommend it often. I also have the BTR5 as my top portable option. I’m not a huge fan of chasing DACS anymore as people are always going to rant and rave about the new one until the next one comes out and the cycle continues lol.

Julio February 5, 2022 - 8:38 am

Hey Stu. I was going to get a used Sundara for $200 until I saw your review on the 400se. From an outright value perspective, the second-hand Sundara seems to be the better buy than a brand new $150 HE400se. Though from looking at your review, it seems like the 400se is better than the Sundara when it comes to the important bit (the sound). How does the 400se hold up? Will it make a difference if I get a balanced cable and plug it with the zen dac v2? Thanks for being real

Stuart Charles Black February 7, 2022 - 2:54 pm

Hey man! Thank you. Replied to your other one 🙂

JLuis February 10, 2022 - 6:14 pm

Hello Stuart, first: thanks a lot for your very good work. Let me introduce a brief history of how I reached this site. I was looking for a closed pair and, after reading some reviews, went for the Meze 99 Neo. Well, I received it and directly I plugged it to my Hip Dac 2. First song surprised me (“Wow, what a punchy bass..”), second song…, third song and I said “but what on earth has I bought??” I thought my pair perhaps was wrong, because the bass was completely inflated.. and came again to the network to read again the reviews, but almost nobody mentioned that “horrible” bass. Then, in the 4th “o” of Goooogle I found your site (why good things are so far way??), read you review about the 99Neo and said “ok, so I am not so crazy…”. I agreed with you point by point about those cans, very nice but not very well tuned. Well, in just some days you’ve helped me to change my perception of the Hi-fi headphones. I was thinking also about the Sundara, but of course I have gone for the HE400SE, that I am listening to right now. What a wonderful sound, no matter what kind of music, everything goes fine. So, again, thank you for your honest, accurate (and funny) articles. If suggestions are allowed, please consider have a look at the Hifiman Edition XS. I would prefer the Utopia, but I’m sure nobody is gonna pay 4000$ for my left kidney ? so I will wait for XS. Thanks!!

Stuart Charles Black February 11, 2022 - 3:44 pm

Hey man! Haha! Strange, I checked and I’m on the first page lol. Must have jumped up or something. Weird. Yes, they are terribly tuned. 10dB bass shelf from 20Hz to like 200 is just inexcusable. And to think, people actually trash the 50x when that shelf is like maybe 5dB. This is partly why I can’t stand the audiophile community. Lots of parroting and bs. The Neo is pretty awful. If you like bloated crappy bass, more power to you, but the problem is that most of these sites recommend everything that comes along and try to justify bad sound. I think if people want that type of sound (mid-bass emphasis) but with a headphone that doesn’t laughably boost everything and sacrifice the mid-range, the Caspian is what they’re after.

And thank you! I’d like to try an XS very soon 🙂 The 400se is definitely the best mid-fi has to offer in my opinion. Check this article for some extra justification on your great purchase: https://homestudiobasics.com/the-5-best-audiophile-headphones-for-under-500/

Kira February 12, 2022 - 11:40 am

Hello Stuart. I’ve been on a deep-dive into headphones and audio for the first time after having not previously given the subject much thought beyond ‘this sounds decent’, and your resources and comparisons have been invaluable!
At first I leaned towards DT990s and an iFi Zen v2, but talk of sibilance on those made me rethink, as I am somewhat sensitive to that. I’d mostly decided upon HD600s paired with a Topping DX3Pro+, but am rethinking again after looking through your reviews, so am curious what you would advise. My current reference point is a pair of SteelSeries Arctis Pros.
I would classify myself as more of a casual listener rather than a reference one; my use would be an eclectic assortment of music (in varying quality), gaming (Final Fantasy XIV, so MMO/RPG, not FPS or MOBA), and general use (YouTube, voice chat, etc).
It seems that perhaps HD600s would not be the best match with my usage, and may accentuate the imperfect quality in things, so now I am leaning towards HD650s or these HE400SEs, maybe with the DT990s an option as well. (Worth noting, I am from Europe, so HD6XXs aren’t really an option as they’d end up being more expensive than HD650s by the time they’re imported several weeks later.)
What would you suggest between those three, and do you have any thoughts on the DX3Pro+ to drive them? From what I can see, it seems to be similar to the K5 Pro but a little more powerful and with a few more features at a similar price, and the remote is handy.
Thank you!

Stuart Charles Black February 14, 2022 - 3:48 pm

Hey Kira!

Great questions. I think the 400se is what you’re going to want to go with. My previous top recommendation was indeed the 600/6XX but I think the 400se is a better value, provides a superior sound profile, and works well with everything (and all the stuff you mention). The treble also has sparkle and detail without getting sibilant like the 990, and the overall signature is very neutral but still enjoyable. If you’ve never heard a headphone like this, you’re going to be blown away plain and simple.

I haven’t heard the DX3Pro+ but I did a quick search and see here that it has the ESS 9038 chip and less than 0.1 impedance which basically means it’s going to be super sterile/clean sounding. The K5 Pro by contrast uses the AKM chip so it will be a tad warmer and smoothed over but still detailed. The differences will likely be somewhat noticeable so it really depends on which type of sound you think you’ll prefer. I may go with the K5 Pro paired with a 400se as something really sterile (DX3) may make the treble presentation come across as a tad hot.

Bear in mind these differences are still rather subtle but let me know what you think! My rec would be 400se + K5 Pro. Also, remember that the K5 Pro I’m referring to is not the new one but the one with the AKM chip. The new one has the ESS 9038 chip so it’s almost a toss-up I suppose. I think it’s interesting that they both carry the ESS chip but I can’t say one way or another if the newer K5 Pro is worth $50 more as I haven’t compared them yet (hopefully soon!) Per my experience, I’d probably tell you no, but it’s looking like you’ll still have to pay around $200 now regardless of if you purchase the new or old. The original was around $150.

Kira February 15, 2022 - 10:40 am

Hello Stuart! Thanks for the reply, very helpful information!
It does bring me a new question, however: HE400SE, or Deva Pro? From what I understand, the Deva Pro has similar upgrades to the 400SE, and reviews seem to suggest it sounds at least as good as the 400SE.
The Deva Pro does come with its Bluemini R2R, which can act as a USB DAC/Amp, but I presume that it would still benefit from a dedicated unit?
For the DAC/Amp, my interest in the DX3 Pro+ was in large part due to its ability to switch between outputs via its remote control – I do alternate between speakers and headphones, and it’d certainly be convenient not to have to plug and unplug the headphone cable whenever I wanted to switch. As far as I can see, the K5 Pro doesn’t allow output switching, nor do any of the alternatives at this price point, such as the iFi Zen. Would you say the difference in sound between the K5 and the ESS DX3 would be noticeable enough to push it ahead despite that?
Price isn’t really an issue for me with any of the gear mentioned here – it’s all within budget and seems to represent good value to me, so it’s a matter of performance and suitability.
Thank you again for your expertise!

Stuart Charles Black February 21, 2022 - 3:54 pm

You’re welcome!

I haven’t heard the DEVA Pro but hoping to get it here soon for demo/comparison.

From graphs, it looks a bit different than the DEVA in some respects but still has a very similar sound signature overall.

The Bluemini does come in handy but since I always have DACS here (ugh lol) I don’t use it as much as someone else who doesn’t review stuff would.

I must admit I do love the remote that Topping includes with much of their gear. It was a big reason why I liked the E30/L30 combo so much as I didn’t have to ever leave my couch. xD If convenience is what you’re after, go for it!

On sound differences, I can’t say as I don’t have a K5 ESS here but that one should be coming soon as well for comparison to the original with the AKM chip. As for the DX3 ESS vs. K5 Pro AKM, I also can’t really say one way or another (since I haven’t heard the DX3) but I’d imagine the differences are probably pretty marginal though you’d probably still notice it (as the ESS chip is very clean and crisp).

JLuis February 18, 2022 - 8:19 pm

Hello Stuart, I’ve got the HE400SE for a time and I wanted to share with you my impressions. At the very beginning I was very happy with the purchase but a little bit disappointed because I thought I wasn’t getting the whole performance of the cans. I think they are a bit difficult to move because of the low sensibility and my Hip Dac 2 couldn’t do easily. I was necessary to carry the volume knob almost to the top. Then I started to use the “Powermatch” button that the Hip has, and the sound was louder, but I think there was a sound quality decrease, with bit a noise. So, I decided to look for a balanced cable to be able to use the balanced output of the Hip that gives almost double of power than the unbalanced one. And then I got it, the headphone opened itself completely, with a crystalline sound but fleshy as the same time, great instrument separation with a lot of space, very good sound stage; it’s a pleasure. I have compared with my old Grado SR80 (one of the oldest, without letter), that I love because of how detailed they are, and the 400SE is far better in all the aspects, even much more detailed, less bass but more detailed and controlled. I am really impressed. The only thing I can say, man, is thanks a lot for your recommendation! I think Hifiman is actually changing a little bit the paradigm of the “audio-file” headphones world, because 170€ (in Europe) for this sound quality I guess is not very usual. Anyway, since I am also a little bit consumerist, I think I will want to upgrade in the mid-term. Do you think the Ananda would be a good upgrade. What could it add to the 400SE? Thanks a lot and will continue reading you.

Stuart Charles Black February 21, 2022 - 4:36 pm

Wow, that’s awesome man! Great to hear you’re loving them and you’re welcome for the rec. I think the 400se is definitely the best mid-fi has to offer and I think it’s pretty bold of HIFIMAN to challenge the market by making a planar this affordable. It really is/could end up being as disruptive as the 6XX was – perhaps even more so considering the sound of these is certainly better than the majority of cans out there.

As for your question, yes. The Ananda is my step-up recommendation from mid-fi and will net you a better sound. I also think it sits at a great price point of around $600. Initially, it was around $1000 and I still thought it was worth it but bordering on expensive, but $600 is definitely the sweet spot and I have no reservations in pointing people to it.

Sound-wise it’s clearer, crisper, and a bit more open sounding while providing more micro detail. Definitely check the article for specifics and keep me posted with questions!

George Vichev February 21, 2022 - 9:30 pm

Hey man, I recently started checking out headphones again as I needed some new fun cans. I checked several of your reviews and not only I quite like the way you write, but also you’ve nailed my experience with some of the cans I’ve used so far. I decided to share a bit of my experience and ask you to share you thoughts. Back in 2012 I bought 2 pairs of the He-400, and while I liked the overall different sound presentation, I didn’t really fall into the highs, they were fatiguing at times, if not most of the time. Another thing was the build quality I had to send one of the pairs to Hifiman, but they were very kind and quickly sent me back a replacement pair. For anyone interested the issue I posted a video back then: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssB6r-V9v_U
Long story short, after some cans (I kept 1 He-400 for about 5 years) I ultimately decided to part ways with my He-400 and leave my favorite and obscenely green Q701 as my main headphones. And then… I got 2 children and forgot about that hobby, but that’s for another time… So, to the point, I am looking for a fun headphone and I somehow miss the planar presentation of the He-400. Still, I love the AKGs, but they are a bit sterile at times, and I need a bit of rumble listening to music (not essential when I get back to Fallout :D). I was initially interested in the Sundara, but after checking out your review of the 400se – I am intrigued. I see you’ve had experience with the K702 and would very much appreciate if you give me some advice on how to proceed. In Bulgaria the retail price of the 400SE is 299lv. = 173 USD and the Sundara is 699 lv. = 405 USD. I listen mainly to (apart from loud children) rock & metal, I’m not a basshead and I like a clean presentation. I checked some of the comments here and they do answer some of my questions, still just to say hello and to hear your opinion. Thanks for your effort!

Stuart Charles Black February 23, 2022 - 3:42 pm

Hey man!

First off, that’s so cool you’ve heard the original. The oldest one I’ve listened to is the original 400i before they started outsourcing materials.

Secondly, which Fallout do you play? I actually just got the platinum trophy on Fallout 4. It was a good run and kind of sad in a way. I’ve been playing the game for 7 years and at the end of 2021 decided to get the trophy. I suppose I won’t play it much anymore as there’s nothing really left to do, but I’ll always have those great memories.

As for your question, I def understand your concern about the 702 as it can sound that way at times (a bit sterile and lacking slam) but man I love the headphone so much and use it daily for gaming.

I’d definitely discard the Sundara at that price and go for the 400se. The Sundara is most certainly overpriced now and while it used to be #2 in my top 5 under $500, the 400se is a much better value. It’s perfect for all genres and has a very clean presentation. I’d call it bright-neutral and I love that HIFIMAN improved on the treble issue. It’s no longer overly hot/sibilant/essy. Fantastic bass response as well and not too much. Honestly, it’s just about the perfect all-around headphone and my go-to for mid-fi.

Hope to talk some Fallout soon and get your opinions on which game you like best. I also just recently fixed my PS3 so I can play NV and FO3 again 🙂

Talk soon,


George Vichev February 23, 2022 - 5:47 pm

Haha, thanks man. I haven’t pushed Fallout in about a year, yes I played Fallout 4 and all the DLCs and I’m currently at level 91 (just started the game to check that out). I’ve been playing the game on and off for 7 years like you and had great fun with it! I am hoping for a new iteration of the game soon, should be magnificent with the new hardware available… I am currently playing Cyberpunk 2077, but yet again I do not have much time to enjoy it peacefully. Might just go for the He-400se, thanks for the info. Will keep you posted!

Stuart Charles Black February 23, 2022 - 7:00 pm

Same here! I’m really itching for a proper follow-up but I fear Bethesda may ruin the series if they haven’t already. While I liked Fallout 4 and felt it was an above-average game, there were a lot of issues with it and if we’re being honest, it wasn’t really an RPG. I suppose one could argue “Well you played it for 7 years you must have liked it.” Yes, but there was something truly life-changing about New Vegas and Fallout 3 that I can’t put into words. In those games, you felt like your choices mattered and there was incredible dialogue to boot. Fallout 4’s story was actually way better than I expected, but I miss feeling truly immersed in the worlds that the others provided.

And you’re welcome 🙂 I may have to check out Cyberpunk!

George Vichev February 23, 2022 - 8:25 pm

Well, Cyberpunk is nice (Keanu Reeves makes the day), but no where near Fallout to be honest, Fallout 3 was massive, but I played it over 10 years ago (will never forget Megaton and its own nuke). I still love gaming, but I do not need headphones for gaming, I need them to enjoy music (RIP Mark Lanegan). Greetings from 5 thousand miles away!

Stuart Charles Black February 24, 2022 - 5:08 pm

Yeah man I loved the music in 3 and NV. So nostalgic. Don’t tell anyone, but I spent my entire Spring Break 2008 on the couch playing Fallout 3. I pretty much didn’t move except to pee and get food xD Keep me posted on everything!

George Vichev March 2, 2022 - 8:43 pm

Nice, and I played F3 at my first job… it was great… So, I just got the 400se today. Will share my opinion when I get the chance to listen to them properly (may be in a week).

Stuart Charles Black March 7, 2022 - 9:23 pm

Nice! Definitely keep me posted man.

George Vichev March 12, 2022 - 3:32 pm

I’ve listened to the HE-400 for some time now and I’ll try to summarize my
thoughts. I like the build quality (the new black cable is also good), compared to the AKG Q701 it feels a sturdier headphone. Compared to the original He-400 I feel that the build quality is on par, the 400se is substantially lighter and comfort wise is better, it also surpasses the Q701 by a bit here – I hate those headband bumps… Regarding the sound – I’ve forgotten how much these planars leak, much more than the Q701. The Q701 soundstage is way bigger, but I do not find this disappointing in the HE-400se which compensates (for me) with great instrument separation. The most obvious difference between these and the originals are the highs – the original was sibilant and shouty at times, here the highs are presented more smoothly. Compared to the Q701, 400se lacks reach and details there, but the highs on Q can be too much at times.
Lows – seems like the right amount – more punchy than the Q701 and sounding great on bass heavy songs.
The area where I am a bit let down is the midrange and the dip there which makes vocals on some songs too far back and/or sounding a bit strange, I love vocals, so this is my only gripe. Overall I find the HE-400se to be a musical and fun headphone, which can also be listened casually (with an amp for sure), at a very attractive price (both the original HE-400 and the Q701 were double the price headphones) and I intend to keep it. At least for a while. What will be your personal recommendation for a definite step up in all departments – without spending ridiculous amount of cash of course. =))

Stuart Charles Black March 14, 2022 - 5:54 pm


Great impressions! Glad someone else is pointing out HIFIMAN improving the treble tremendously. Agree wholeheartedly with all points you’ve made with regard to build, etc. What you mention about Soundstage is why I can’t use them for competitive gaming. Just a bit too closed in for that. And yeah the 400se can sound a tad distant at times in mids but it’s a small nitpick for me. Glad you intend on keeping them!

A step-up is definitely the Ananda!

Keep me posted with any questions 🙂


Lilo March 11, 2022 - 11:45 pm

Nice review, I am just waiting to arrive my Koss KHP30i and now I think to buy the He400SE and I have two questions.
In Aliexpress they have the normal version and Stealth version, they sound really different?

Other question, I never used DAC before, I bought the Fosi Q4 Mini, it will be enough to enjoy the HifiMan HE400SE?

Thanks, I enjoy your channel and all your reviews! From Brazil!

Stuart Charles Black March 14, 2022 - 4:29 pm

Hey Lilo!

Agh. Unfortunately, I haven’t tested them side by side but I’d probably just go with the stealth as I don’t think there is much of a price difference? Correct me if I’m wrong.

Haven’t heard the Q4, do you know what its power output is?

Thank you for the kind words, my friend! Hope to chat soon.


Mac March 27, 2022 - 4:01 am

Hey Stuart, thanks very much for your review and website in general. I’m learning a lot! ? I was just wondering, apologies if you already answered this and I missed it, how is the bleed on the 400 SE? Like ,If I’m wearing them while I’m sat next to someone are they going to get irritated? I’m using 40x’s at the moment but feel like I need an upgrade but I use them everywhere and ideally would like to do the same with the 400 SE’s.
Thanks from New Zealand!

Stuart Charles Black March 27, 2022 - 4:11 pm

Hey Mac!

Thank you for the love and support!

Yes, that’s a great nugget to add into the article. Thank you!

They’re definitely going to leak sound a bit and whoever is close by will be able to hear lol. In fact, sometimes I leave music running on them and can hear what’s playing in the other room xD

What types of music do you listen to? If you think that bleed will be too much, perhaps I can point you in the direction of a great closed back alternative and something better than the 40x.

Mac March 30, 2022 - 12:36 am

G’day Stuart! Your very welcome!

Yes, I would love help, thank you. 🙂
I, like yourself, am pretty eclectic, Jazz, Classical, Opera, Blue Grass, Alternative, Rock, Folk, Electronic, etc, etc.
I listen to my music via flac on computer and phone.

Yes, totally open to another headphone set, I hope it captures the magic that you relay above if at all possible.

Many thanks! 🙂

Mac March 31, 2022 - 4:52 am

I’ve filled out the form for headphones to make life a bit easier. Lol!

Stuart Charles Black March 31, 2022 - 3:41 pm

Got it, man! Gonna reply to your comment as well 🙂

Stuart Charles Black March 31, 2022 - 8:43 pm

Hey man! You’re quite welcome 🙂

Per your email, the closest thing that fits your description of “Balanced/Flat (Rolled off bass, flat mid-range, darker treble)” in that price range is the KPH30i and Creative Aurvana Live.

The 30i is semi-open but shouldn’t leak sound nearly as bad as a true open back.

Let me know what you think!

Mac April 1, 2022 - 2:29 am

Nice one mate! Thanks very much for your help. I’ve responded to your email. ?

Stuart Charles Black April 1, 2022 - 2:05 pm

You’re welcome, Mac! Keep me posted 🙂

Bud August 14, 2022 - 11:13 am

How long did you have these before the fabric became unglued to the pad? I just bought a pair of the 400ses and now I’m worried the same thing will happen. I hope they’ve fixed this issue.

Stuart Charles Black August 14, 2022 - 1:33 pm

Hey bud!

The pads on my 400se are still fine. I think I mentioned in the review that if you change them out a lot then they’re more likely to come unglued. I experienced the glue issue with the 4XX and an original 400i from Audio Advice.

Bud August 15, 2022 - 5:09 am

That’s good to know. I received my pair today and they look and feel nice. I’m still waiting for the amp to arrive so I haven’t heard what they really sound like. For $109 these seem like an amazing budget headphone. Thank you for the detailed review.

Btw are you using any EQ for these? If so could I trouble you for your presets? I’m using Equalizer APO and I know there’s an AutoEQ feature but if you’re using something different I’m open to a new EQ profile.

Stuart Charles Black August 15, 2022 - 3:04 pm

Hey Bud!

I’m not the guy to ask about EQ as I rarely do it. To me, it always seems counterintuitive to buy headphones and then EQ them. Either I like the sound or I don’t. I will EQ in extreme cases, but mostly like to listen as is. In the case of the 400se, I like its flat sound 🙂

You’re welcome about the review. Keep me posted on the amp situation!

Bud September 17, 2022 - 10:48 pm

So I originally got a Fiio K3 amp/dac. It turned out to be generally underpowered for the 400se. I returned it and got a JDS Atom Amp+ and a separate cheap Fiio dac but the dac didn’t have the right inputs. It was USB powered but not USB input which I needed because I don’t have optical on my PC. I didn’t want to spend another hundred on a dac because this was supposed to be a budget setup and I got tired of looking so I decided to try the super cheap Apple dongle which many reviews have said is just as good as a hundred dollar dac and should work well if your headphones are low impedance or efficient. I guess the dac is fine because the headphones sound great. So I think I’m happy with this setup.

I saw your review for best budget dacs where you said you don’t look at anything under $75 because it’s not worth it. Have you tried the Apple dongle? Maybe you can do a review and see if it really works just as well as a hundred dollar dac because lots of reviewers are stunned by the price/performance of this.

Stuart Charles Black September 19, 2022 - 2:47 pm

Hey Bud!

Great to hear from you again. Sorry about your dilemma. Glad it’s sorted. I think if you had kept the K3 and just bought the ATOM (K3 has a line out) it would have been an excellent setup for around $200 but glad you’re enjoying what you have. KEEP IT! Don’t overthink it 🙂

As for your question, I haven’t tried the Dongle but heard great things. I will def have to see what the hubbub is about and potentially change my tune about dacs under $75 if I like it.

Will keep you posted.

Rider September 12, 2022 - 2:09 am

HE400se has amazing sound fidelity for the price; a new benchmark. Being open-back is the only drawback, since it might not suit a lot of people.

My desktop setup is Schiit Modi 3+ (AKM DAC) and Magni 3+ Amp; both of which is a little on the warm side of neutral (i believe).

However, my favourite female vocalist (higher pitch) sounded dull; e.g. vocal nuances like “sticky lips”, “sticky tongue movements” is not prominent. I believe it is the dip in the 1.6kHz region that contributed to it.

Using FooBar2000 media player EQ (inbuilt): 1.8kHz +2dB, (optional 10kHz +1dB), (optional 55Hz +2dB). This fixed it for me (subjective listening only) and poorly recorded MP3’s sounded more listenable. On my setup, EQ 10kHz +1dB added a little more brilliance (e.g. hits on drum cymbals is a little more prominent, etc.)

Stuart Charles Black September 14, 2022 - 2:02 am

You’re spot on! I actually am working on a video for the 400se and talk about that gradual decline after 1k which can be problematic at times, causing the exact issues you mention. On the one hand, it’s super easy to keep it as my top option under $500 because of what you said + timbre and resolution are a bit better than a dynamic in my experience. That plus the price? It’s insane that these are $109 right now frankly.

On the flip side, the reason it’s sometimes hard to keep the 400se at the top is because of the mid-range issue that’s bothered me for many years now. It’s not a complete dealbreaker, but as you mentioned, it’s just subtly always.. there. And kind of annoying. It shows up in pretty much every HIFIMAN measurement and you know something is a bit off when you’re listening. It can almost make the music sound slightly muffled/boxed in/dull (as you mention), etc.

This is why my top 3 (6XX/400se/K702) are somewhat interchangeable to me and I’m never going to be mad if someone chooses one over the other. They all have their strong suits, and they all have drawbacks.

Would love to discuss this further.

Roberto Prieto October 13, 2022 - 3:17 am

THese HE400SE for bass speed and texture, or the HD25?

Stuart Charles Black October 13, 2022 - 2:08 pm

Def HD25. 400se will be a bit slower in those regards.

Roberto Prieto November 19, 2022 - 5:22 pm

So I guess I’ll be better off with a HD650+HD25 combo over a Sundara or Edition XS or HD650+HE400SE, although those cheap IEMs look promising too maybe I’ll get one of those later and have a HD650+HD25+Planar IEM, But sometimes I fear the HD25 won’t be much of an improvemente over my current Onkyo ES-FC 300, Tyll called the latter tight and even smoother and more open than the HD25. What a shame I cant, test any of them in my country.

Stuart Charles Black November 20, 2022 - 9:00 pm

Well, I just reviewed the Edition XS and love it, so definitely something to consider! I def would forget about the Sundara though. Overpriced now that the 400se exists. As far as the 400se, you may just find it somewhat of a side grade to what you already have. Hope that helps. Keep me posted!

Roberto October 18, 2022 - 9:10 am

Hello there, relatively new to this underworld of headphones and audio, I enjoyed a lot the AKG K702 that bought on recommendations for best cans for jazz/classical. Now I have purchased the Hifiman 400SE on your advice, let’s see how they compare. I like your style . Best wishes from Plymouth UK

Stuart Charles Black October 18, 2022 - 5:41 pm

Thank you for your comment and the kind words, man! Definitely let me know how you like them 🙂

Gabe November 5, 2022 - 8:52 am

Hey there, I have tested both 400SE and Sundara and I am still not sure if the price difference is worth it. I definitely noticed the better quality (mid mostly) for the Sundara but a deeper bass for 400SE. Perhaps the mid could be adjusted from EQ and get almost the same quality as the Sundara?

Stuart Charles Black November 5, 2022 - 1:24 pm

Yeah man, I mean there’s really no reason to ever buy a Sundara now. The mid-frequency response on both is nearly identical and simply follows the traditional HIFIMAN house sound with that gradual decline after 1kHz and coming back up around 2-3. So there’s nothing really to adjust to match the Sundara because they both follow the same trajectory.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I would never personally spend $250 more (or whatever the price of the Sundara is) when I can get the same exact thing for entry-level prices.

Edward47 November 23, 2022 - 5:38 pm

Hi Stuart. I am trying to decide on a headphone for music production (mixing/mastering).

I already have the koss kph30i, which took some getting used to at first because of its flat sound, but it has been very revealing. The problem with these is that in long sessions they tire the ears, plus they are fragile, they broke after a few months. That’s why I’m looking for new ones, of higher quality construction, like these he400se.

Is the he400se good for mixing at the level of the dt880 pro or the k702? Or if you recommend another one.

PS: I don’t know if I should just buy a single headphone for mixing and playing shooters, or buy one for mixing and one for gaming like the shp9500.

Thank you.

Stuart Charles Black November 25, 2022 - 3:31 pm

Hey man!

Thank you for your comment. That’s kind of a tough one because the 9500 is fantastic for gaming; in fact, out of everything I’ve owned or tried, I always go back to it and the K702 for gaming duties when I play FPS.

For me, it’s always very hard to decide which one I think is better for directional cues and footsteps. I can pinpoint exactly where guys are coming from and how far away they are quite easily with both when I play a game like MW2 or COD4. In other words, I’m ready for the gunfight before they are but my aim doesn’t always agree LOLOL. It’s VERY close.

I would def not get the 400se for gaming (not open enough) but it’s def pretty good for mixing though not perfect because of the decline after 1kHz. Still, not a huge deal but the 400se sometimes tends to sound a bit dulled and recessed/clammy which is why I don’t like it much for gaming. For music, it’s just about perfect but you’ll find yourself turning up the volume at times to compensate for that dip.

I would def try K702 as the best of both worlds. It does fantastic for mixing and is also excellent for gaming. I have one on my head now actually!

As far as the 9500, I still have it and use it and in my opinion, you owe it to yourself to at least give it a shot seeing as how affordable it is. Then maybe decide which you want to return after demoing both the 702/9500. Heck, you may end up keeping both. I’ve had my 9500 since 2017/2018 and don’t plan on getting rid of it. I’ve also had a K702 since 2019 and plan to keep it around too.

In any event, hope that helps!

Let me know.


Nurkan December 2, 2022 - 3:47 pm

Hi Stu;

I hope so everythink good for you. I have a question about this old subject.
I have He400se and I have M-Audio Mtrack 2×2 sound card. But this card is not drive to HE400Se ( I think. ).
And I bought Topping A30 pro, now my question is This ; Is this preamp enough for He400se?

Because I live in Istanbul but I buy Topping A30 pro from Germany and I have no chance for return 🙂

Stuart Charles Black December 3, 2022 - 11:14 pm

Hey Nurkan!

Thank you for the comment. The A30 should be completely fine with the 400se! I haven’t heard the Mtrack. Keep me posted with any additional questions.


Ravi December 21, 2022 - 5:07 am

Hey Stuart, I read your review and saw many others on youtube too, and there’s quite a lot of conflicting information about the he400se. I don’t get it. Anyway, I read your article here and decided to pull the trigger on the 400se. I own the Sennheiser HD 560S and love them but wanted to experience planar sound. I am super impressed by the imaging and detail retrieval of the 560S. I was wondering, does HE400SE have at least slightly better soundstage than 560S?

Stuart Charles Black December 22, 2022 - 2:13 am

Hey man! I think you’ll find that the 400se has better resolution and timbre but not nearly as good of a Soundstage as the 560S. I was actually discussing this with someone recently and shared with him that I would personally never use the 400se for competitive gaming (and I did a deep back and forth with many headphones) as the image is a bit too narrow and at times lacks a bit of openness/clarity. I would still say the SS is slightly above average when compared to something like the Sennheiser HD58X/600/6XX/650 etc., but definitely not on the same level as 560S or K702. Hope that helps! Keep me posted with questions.


Shayan December 28, 2022 - 10:09 am

Hey Stuart,

Your articles are always a joy to read; thank you!

I was wondering whether you have any plans of reviewing Philips Fidelio X2HR in the near future. I’m looking for headphones for classical music, and I’m stuck between 400se, 560S, and X2HR. Your article on best headphones for classical music inclined me more towards 560S, but then I would like to know how does it compare against X2HR for my purpose.

Stuart Charles Black December 29, 2022 - 4:07 pm

Hey Shayan,

Thank you for the kind words! The X2HR just isn’t quite neutral enough for Classical imo. The 400se is very good (the dip in the mids may be a bit problematic), but I think the 560S strikes the perfect balance and will likely do best for the genre as the sound signature has that beautifully done but not overly flamboyant bass shelf (which Classical truly benefits from), but an overall perfect tuning and highly neutral to boot. I think it’s the one to get when you want to hear things exactly as they are. Hope that helps! Keep me posted with questions.

Shayan December 30, 2022 - 2:49 am

Thanks for the reply!

Well, that was a bit unexpected about X2HR because when I look at the sound profile graphs at oratory1990, Rtings, etc., X2HR looks quite neutral. I guess it’s a subjective matter after all. Then what if we also add K702 to the comparison? I know that you put 560S above K702 in your genre article, but can K702 + equalizer beat 560S owing to its impressive sound stage?

Stuart Charles Black December 31, 2022 - 4:48 pm

Hey no problem 🙂

A couple of things:

Graphs don’t always tell the whole story but are super helpful most of the time.

It really depends on the graph and who did it. Rtings’ graphs are kind of hit and miss imo. When I want a measurement that I know is accurate (based on how a headphone actually sounds), I look to Crinacle’s. Unfortnuenaly he doesn’t have one for the X2HR. Inner Fidelity’s graph for instance shows a significant mid-bass bump and it’s almost a universal consensus that the X2 was never all that neutral.

The K702 is one I use pretty much every day and have had since 2019. I’m listening to music with it as I type this actually. It’s almost completely neutral across the board, with a tastefully done mid-bass rise and a treble that’s crisp and lively without getting out of line. This is a great example of what I just mentioned – the 702 sounds exactly like this: https://crinacle.com/graphs/headphones/akg-k702/ Which is why I trust his graphs over others.

Also what article are you referring to? I generally prefer the 702 over the 560S though it is pretty close. I find the 560S to be really boring sounding after awhile (even though it’s tuned perfectly) while the 702 gives just the right amount of zest to avoid that issue.

Shayan January 2, 2023 - 2:32 pm

Hey stuart,

The article is this one: https://homestudiobasics.com/the-best-headphones-for-classical-frequent-findings/

At this point, I’m very inclined towards K702. So, I guess I will buy it and give it a try. Do you have any recommendations for a budget portable DAC/AMP to complement it?

Regarding X2HR, I found the sound profile at ORATORY1990: https://www.dropbox.com/s/b09edinwg6tw5vi/Philips%20Fidelio%20X2HR.pdf?dl=0

But unfortunately he doesn’t have one for X2. A general question: Are there any disadvantages to EQing your headphone?

Stuart Charles Black January 2, 2023 - 6:10 pm

Ah, yes. They are pretty close in terms of best for Classical, but I do give a slight edge to 702 overall because I just enjoy listening to it more. Keep me posted on your impressions!

As for a budget portable, the BTR5 is great.

I generally don’t EQ headphones that often but have in the past (DEVA immediately comes to mind). As far as disadvantages, yes. Some headphones don’t respond well to EQ at all so it really depends on the product in question if it will actually improve anything. HIFIMAN headphones typically respond pretty well.

Mackarell January 11, 2023 - 7:20 am

could FiiO K3s power this headphone? because i found a good deal here

Stuart Charles Black January 11, 2023 - 5:09 pm

Hey man I wouldn’t do that, no. I’d get a K5 Pro or K7.

Stoyan January 19, 2023 - 1:49 pm

Hi and thanks for the wonderful review!
I have recently bought a pair of HIFIMAN HE400SE and I am truly amazed by them!
At the moment I paired them with AQ’s DragonFly Black v1.5. I am wondering would I need DragonFly Red – will there be a noticeable difference or I can continue with Black?
Thanks for the advice!

Stuart Charles Black January 19, 2023 - 4:42 pm

Hey Stoyan! So glad to hear you’re enjoying them. And my pleasure! Glad to help.

The DF Red is a slight upgrade, but you may just notice the power increase more than anything else. I’m actually not recommending the Dragonflies anymore, but I still have a Red and it’s still great. It’s just overpriced in today’s market. If you feel that the Black doesn’t drive it adequately, that’s pretty understandable as the Black has less power than the Red. I would only upgrade if that’s the case, but I’d probably just go with a K5 pro/K7 instead of getting a $200 overpriced Red.

Please keep me posted with any questions!


Scott February 23, 2023 - 5:12 am

I’m in the process of replacing my audio setup due to a burst pipe over the Xmas 2022 holiday. I’m replacing a pair of HD6xx that I had paired with a Modi 3 / Heresy / Loki Mini+ stack from Schiit.
And while I thought the HD6xx sounded good, I really couldn’t get past the clamping force and the way they sat against my lower jaw (totally gave me a headache), so I’m not really a fan of them from a comfort standpoint. And after a year with them I wasn’t really able to get used to them, even when trying to “stretch” them out to make them less clampy.
Would you recommend the HE400se over the HD6xx as a replacement or would you recommend something else?
As far as the Schiit stack, I was going to try and replace it with the newest version that Schiit released, which I think is now just called the Modi+ and Magni+? Or would you have a different recommendation for that setup as well?

Stuart Charles Black February 23, 2023 - 5:17 pm


So sad to hear that! I had a pipe burst above me in 2021 resulting in LOTS of water in my apt. xD

And a year later to the day (12/24/22), another pipe burst above me but this time it was a pipe that came out of the hot water heater. So lots of water on my porch but other than that no biggie LOL.

In any event, thank you for your comment.

Sorry to hear about your experiences with the 6XX! Yeah, my recs would either be K702 or 400se which is actually quite a tough decision.

Check this article for an in-depth comparison, but in short, the 400se has slightly better timbre and tonality and is also much more affordable. The K702 is very very close, and it does tend to be my daily driver as I always go back to its crisp, open sound.

The Soundstage on the 702 is also wider and larger overall.

The one gripe I have with the 400se is its mid-range dip after 1kHz which can kind of make instruments and voices sound a bit distant and/or slightly muffled.

But the price of the 400se is ridiculous which is why I lean towards it over the 702 from a pure value standpoint. It definitely is a tough call.

Comfort on each is excellent, but the 702 is lighter on its feet and you may prefer that over the somewhat heavier/bulkier 400se. Again, pretty close but I lean toward 702.

Hope that helps! Keep me posted with questions 🙂


Imre March 3, 2023 - 3:50 pm

hi Stu! Just got new pair of HE400se, and I love it! Thanks for recommendation! Earlier I thought I will never buy Hifiman due to it’s infamous reputation on build quality and Quality Control. But to be honest, I really like the look, the material they used, and of course the sound quality. One question please: Have You tried the XS? Just curious how big the gap is in between these two, if any?

Stuart Charles Black March 6, 2023 - 5:44 pm

My pleasure!! So glad you’re enjoying them 🙂

As for the 400se vs. XS, what a great question.

I think I”m going to make a full article on the 400 series vs. the Ananda/XS/Arya/whatever hifiman adds in the future series. For now, yes you can expect a pretty significant upgrade – in fact, this is one of the very few upgrades from a lower-priced tier to a higher-priced one that I find is worth it.

After the XS, diminishing returns sets in extremely fast.

In any event, you can expect an upgrade in bass quality, openness, air, clarity, resolution, timbre, and Soundstage.

The headphones are simply more realistic sounding and you’ll also be able to hear more going on in the recording. I actually just updated the Arya review to reflect some things that I’ve harped on quite a bit in the past but in listening were just reinforced all the more. Check it out!

And in case you were wondering, all of those things I mention about the Arya you can expect in the Edition XS as well. I will have to update the XS article also.

Keep me posted with questions!!

Talk soon,


Juan F March 5, 2023 - 3:46 am

Hello Stu,
I know a lot of people have asked you things related to the 9500 (Which I currently have). And I’ve been thinking of having an upgrade, and I saw a youtube comment you wrote about the 400i (or the whole mid-fi) not being a big improvement over the 9500.
And well… The only option I have and consider (bc of budget and wanting to experience planars) is the 400se.
So Would you recommend it as an upgrade to the 9500? or isn’t there much of a difference? If so, what headphones would you consider to be a worthy improvement for the long run?
Thank you so much in advance

Stuart Charles Black March 6, 2023 - 7:47 pm


Thank you for the comment! I’d say it is and isn’t.

I don’t know how old that comment was, but it’s a bit tough. I would say that the 400 series is an improvement over the 9500, but not quite as significant as you might expect.

You’ll get a boost in timbre, resolution, bass quantity, but I would say not a monumental difference. The 9500 is truly a remarkable product and I’ve owned one since 2017!

That said, the 400se at its current price is a slam dunk purchase and I think you should get it. Why? Well, you’re getting an upgrade but aren’t really paying more. I don’t know what the current prices for the 9500 are, but the 400se is around $100.

In years past I may have been a bit more apprehensive about it because the 400 series used to be quite expensive. Nowadays good audio is becoming cheaper and cheaper so it’s much easier to experience that sound at a fraction of the price it used to be back when I first started around 2016.

As for a step-up from the 400se? The Edition XS for sure.

After that jump, the law of diminishing returns sets in fairly quickly and you’ll be paying a lot more money for a smaller and smaller increase in performance.

Hope that helps!

Keep me posted with questions.


Juan F March 7, 2023 - 7:49 pm

I just ordered the 400se from the link you posted.
Thank you so much for your help!!

Stuart Charles Black March 7, 2023 - 8:16 pm

Thank you so much Juan! It’s my pleasure to help you make the best decisions possible. Please keep me posted on your impressions of the headphone!!



Juan F March 23, 2023 - 2:21 am

When I first listened to them I felt like they were lacking of something (They were narrow and kinda muffled), so I paired them with a Schiit magni Heresy and well…
Night and Day difference. This headphone sounds amazing.
Again, thank you sooo muchh

Stuart Charles Black March 23, 2023 - 3:20 pm

Nice! Yeah that muffled/narrow character is something I talk a lot about actually. I’d never use them for gaming but what you’re hearing is essentially the mid-range dip after 1kHz. It’s semi-gradual, but definitely there. This can cause them to sound a bit dull/laid back at times. Still an excellent headphone though and it’s a small price to pay for the great overall sound.

Sam March 9, 2023 - 4:55 pm

Hey there, just wanted to let you know that your review helped me decide to pull the trigger on buying the 400se, and I love them. These are my first audiophile headphones period, and I especially enjoy how acoustic and jazz music sound on them. Right now I’m running them off a BTR5, but I hope to get a proper desktop dac/amp for my PC setup. Thanks a lot.

Stuart Charles Black March 13, 2023 - 9:46 pm

My pleasure Sam!!! Always nice to hear. Please keep me posted and if you need a good desktop setup, why not try the K5 or K7?

Sam March 19, 2023 - 3:08 pm

I ended up buying a secondhand ifi zen dac for about $80, and I’m satisfied with it! Fits nicely on my desk and the truebass button is nice to have to give the bass a bit more oomph.

Stuart Charles Black March 19, 2023 - 4:54 pm

Nice! Fantastic deal there. What are your general thoughts on the 400se?

Sam November 11, 2023 - 7:12 am

Hi there! I’m months late but after a few months, I can say I enjoy their sound a lot. It’s my first planar headphone, and I’m happy with the “plucked” quality of string instruments. I’m currently waiting for my Moondrop Para headphones to get delivered, but I’m still keeping the 400se to use at a different desk.

Stuart Charles Black November 13, 2023 - 10:01 pm

No worries Samantha! That’s a great way to put it haha. The timbre and overall resolution of the 400se is fantastic.

Definitely let me know your thoughts on the Para after you’ve had some time with them.


Morfevzi April 26, 2023 - 4:38 pm

Hello there Stu!

I’ve been following your blog ever since you made me make my first ‘audiofile’ purchase with the Koss KPH30i. Though after about 8 months of usage, I somehow managed to break it from its headband and I just bought the HE400se to up the ante (thanks in no part to your review). However, I seem to struggle with deciding on a ‘budget’ DAC/Amp. I was thinking about Creative’s SoundBlasterX G6 (since K5 Pro costs twice where I live) but also wanted to ask your opinion regarding this pairing. So, would a G6 pair well with the 400se or should I be looking into something else?

Take care of yourself and have a nice day!

Stuart Charles Black April 29, 2023 - 12:15 pm

Hey Morfevzi!

Thank you for the comment and nice words. I’m really sorry to hear about the headband breaking.

The G6 will go really well with the 400se and has plenty of power. I think you’ll love the pairing. If I may ask, what’s the K5 Pro’s price where you are?

Morfevzi April 30, 2023 - 7:02 am

Hey Stu, thanks for getting back to me!
Where I live, I can get the G6 for around $120 but to buy a K5 Pro, I would have to import it which costs an additional $90 on top of the $150 price tag. According to Audio Science’s G6 review, it can get around 250 mW in high gain for 33 ohms but it is noted that high gain creates noise and distortion. Since I’m relatively new in this, I’m not sure if I would notice this at all while listening. I can buy the K5 Pro in an effort to have a more future-proofed DAC/Amp but do you think it would be worth it?

Stuart Charles Black May 6, 2023 - 4:07 pm

Hey man! In my experience, you won’t have to worry about the distortion thing with the G6. In other words, take what you read with a grain of salt and understand that you’re never going to be pushing headphones to those levels; especially when we’re talking about such a low impedance. That’s just preposterous. Also, you’re pretty much never going to be using high gain unless you have really really hard-to-drive headphones with a low sensitivity and/or super high impedance.

That said, I primarily use the G6 for gaming and the K5 Pro for desktop. There isn’t anything that isn’t future proofed about the G6. It’s a great product and I’ve had one since 2020 or thereabouts.

I guess my answer would depend on if need something primarily for music or gaming.

Morfevzi May 7, 2023 - 3:48 am

Hi again Stu!
My use case is evenly split between music/film/gaming and it seems that G6 should be enough. I think I’ll get that. Thanks for all your answers.

Stuart Charles Black May 10, 2023 - 10:11 am

My pleasure man! Keep me posted on your impressions. Always here to help!

silvio January 16, 2024 - 7:19 pm

Hi Stu, great discovery your website! I am in for an audiophile headphone just for jazz, | bought the 400se after reading you consider it a baby of hd600 and k 702. I come from ath-m40x, and I was not shocked. I am considering to buy the k702 too and return one of the two. I read you consider k702 best for jazz: even better than hd600 and he400se? any closed/semi-open that could compete to avoid disturb my sleeping wife?

Stuart Charles Black January 18, 2024 - 12:43 pm

Hey Silvio man! Thank you! Yeah, the K702 is great for Jazz. I would go ahead and purchase one because you’ll definitely keep it around for the long haul. I actually just replaced the pads on mine: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/FbfRBvjpwm4 The HD600 is too narrow for Jazz imo. 400se is a bit better but the Soundstage is not as good as 702. Also as an aside, the 400se doesn’t really do well for gaming either which I was kind of surprised by. The Soundstage is above average, but for gaming, for whatever reason, it falters.

Hmm. As for semi-open/closed to not disturb wifey, I’d have to think that one over for a bit. I’m not really a huge fan of closed headphones anymore. The K240 is semi-open and may be worth a look though!

Talk soon,


fabio March 11, 2024 - 3:59 pm

Just got one today for 119 EUR. I have to say I am absolutely shocked how good this sound. The tuning is nothing short of spectacular. I think this is one of the best tuned headphone I heard (I have focal clear, 6xx, r70x). I was worried about the 2k dip.. but honestly the mids sounds so nice and liquid. I had also the 4xx and it was a bit messy with weird vocals and brittle highs. The 400se fix all this issue, it’s only glorious sound!
At this price it is an absolute steal and one of the most exciting product available.
Just listen “Zona Rosa” of Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. Piano and strings sounds so beautiful!
100% Strongly Recommended.

Stuart Charles Black March 13, 2024 - 4:04 pm


Yup! Insane value. After first demoing the 400i at a much more expensive price point back in 2017, it’s hard to believe how far audio has come. Kids these days are so spoiled xD. Yeah, I ain’t no spring chicken anymore, but the 400se at its price is just insane.

Just bookmarked that. I will take a listen with my pair and report back!



Fabio April 26, 2024 - 9:05 am

Stu, Did you had a chance to listen the he6 se v2? I was wondering how much of an upgrade is from the he400se.
What do you recommend as the next step up on the Hifiman line?
Anyway, after a month of use all the positive impressions stands. Absolutely joy to use and kinda of jack of all trade sound signature. It’s truly the end of hifi! Cheers!

Stuart Charles Black April 29, 2024 - 7:17 pm


Long time no talk! Glad to hear from you and yes, love the 400se! Haven’t heard the HE6 se v2, but I will jot it down. My step-up from the 400se is most certainly an Ananda if you prefer a crisper sound with a brighter top end, or the Edition XS for a bit of a mellower, more subdued treble and overall non-fatiguing sound.

Keep me posted man!

Robert-Andrei Botezat April 2, 2024 - 2:00 am

Hello man,

First of all, I would like to tell you that I love the work and passion that you put out there. I’ve been loving your guides and articles about specific recommendations. Keep it up, you are amazing!

Second of all, I am just owning the HD 560S with a Fiio KA1 amp that doesn’t fit it well, because I made a bad decision in the past, I bought the meze 99 classics, that I listened through at first in a specialized studio with the fiio KA1 portable amp that was recommended to me by the guys that work there and have knowledge. They’re not average salesmen. I liked the headphones back then, or so I thought, I think I just liked the idea of owning a meze headphone more than I actually liked the headphones themselves, because the sound was quite the opposite of HD 560s and didn’t felt right to my ears. After listening to the meze 99 classics for a week, I decided to return them, because they didn’t fit me, but I kept the fiio ka1 portable amp, instead of returning it, because I needed something to use it on my HD 560S on the go with my android phone that doesn’t have a 3.5 mm jack. Now I’m looking to upgrade into the Zen DAC V2 or Fiio K7 that I will be using for the Sennheiser headphones that I have right now and until I have the money to upgrade to the amazing hifiman he400se headphones that I listened through in the studio, at first I will be buying an amp or dac. The guys that work there recommended me the Fiio K7 for the hifiman he400se, that was their first recommendation and I asked for a portable amp/dac and they said hifiman doesn’t scale well with portable stuff, but if you really want, you can use the fiio btr7 amp. I listened to the hifiman he400se headphones through this portable btr7 amp, compared to the K7 and zen dac V2, that was their second recommendation, I didn’t like it at all, I felt as if the headphones sounded very warm and the spatializing and soundstage was disappearing, so I immediately realized that the portable Fiio BTR7 was not an option, and I had to choose between the Zen Dac V2 and the K7. After listening through both of those dacs/amps for a few hours, I liked the Fiio K7 the most, but slightly more so than the Zen DAC V2. The idea is that in my country the Zen DAC V2 is cheaper, around $155, but the Fiio K7 is quite expensive, around $240. Their third recommendation was Fiio K11, I think. But I after I did my research, the Zen Dac V2 suits the Sennheiser HD 560S more than the Fiio K11, because of the power requirements. I think the K7 is the best of them all for both these headphones, but the pricing here is way off. Is it still worth it to pay $240 for the K7 instead of $155 for the Zen Dac V2 that I will be using for the hifiman he400se in the future and the Sennheiser HD 560S that I own right now? What would be the best that I can buy between these without diminishing returns? Is there any other recommendation that I missed?

Stuart Charles Black April 9, 2024 - 10:06 pm

Hey man!

First off, thank you for the kind words!

You’re spot on about the Mezes lol. Those and the Neo are pretty bad. I am actually writing a guide on how to EQ bass and go into the many problems with audio companies and how they tune it incorrectly. I’m not going to rant about it now even though I wanna. xD

As for an upgrade, that’s interesting you mention the Zen. In the U.S. it’s now overpriced ($130 at launch and now $200). Not worth $70 extra, and even though it’s only $155 where you are, I’d still go for a K7 and it’s more versatile. If you don’t need RCA inputs, you may go for the K11 depending on price. Here it’s around $130 and a fantastic value. And I’d still buy one over a Zen. What did you mean by “the power requirements?” Could you elaborate on that?

As for scaling, Meh. Don’t really agree with what they said but again, not going on a rant lol. I love both the BTR5/BTR15 with HIFIMAN headphones.

As for the question of if the K7 is worth $40 over the normal price of $200, I’d still probably pay that rather than buy a Zen, but that’s just me. I’ve been pretty sour on iFi for awhile now as I feel they started to inflate their prices way too much over the last few years. Buying one of their DACS used to be a great value – now I feel it’s a ripoff. So you’re not going to hear me recommend them until the prices go back down.

As for my recs in order for FiiO: K11 > K7 > K5 Pro > K9 > K9 Pro is how I typically would rank them now in terms of overall value. And you’re in the right ballpark. The only other consideration is the JDS ATOM; also a fantastic amp but you’ll need to pair it with a DAC.

To close I’ll just say my main recommendations over the years have always been ATOM, K5 Pro (now K7/K11), G6 (Gaming). So no, there’s really nothing else to concern yourself with at this point. 🙂

I hope that helps! Please let me know and keep me posted with questions.


Robert-Andrei Botezat April 2, 2024 - 2:46 am

P. S. I forgot to say that the specialized guys at the studio recommended me a balanced cable for the hifiman he400se, because they need more power to work well. So, I will be purchasing that as well.

Stuart Charles Black April 9, 2024 - 10:09 pm

That’s fine. It doesn’t “need more power” to work well. That’s just not true. But balanced can be nice to have.

Mr.Krinkov April 2, 2024 - 6:56 am

I bought these for 70 bucks new from hands several months ago. For mixing and just general everyday music listening/games. For the price its like some cheat code among low to mid priced cans.
Coming from hd560s/600 and k612pro, at first i was confused that mid dip at 2k and treble accent were gonna hurt my work and mixes, but i got used to it quite fast – no midrange ear fatigue from dusk till dawn and at higher volume than dynamic cans.
The headband could be better but hey, for 100bucks(they sell them 60$ on aliexpress) its not a problem, my skull is ok with the shape and hardness.
I did two little mods: one from dmx – a lil piece of tape on the center of magnets array – helps to soften highfreq. Another mod i invented myself – putting plastic rings inside earpads to elevate headphone from your ear- this gives nice subbas boost that a lot of people desire. You can easily replicate this effect by elevating cans with hands – seems like planars bass boost instead of roll off like dynamics.
By the way, grille mod did nothing for me…
Overall – great eye opening experience these cheap cans are! Want nothing else right now. And thank you for your work and opinion, great site!

Stuart Charles Black April 9, 2024 - 10:25 pm

Mr. Krinkov,

It is indeed a cheat code! Hope you watched my video 🙂 It’s still astounding to me that these are $100. Would be considered a travesty years ago lol. Yeah, I mix hip-hop and would agree that there can certainly be some fatigue in that region. I don’t know if you’ve heard other HIFIMAN headphones, but the treble used to be a pretty big issue. They actually tamed it down a tad on the 400se which I really appreciated.

The resolution and timbre are also a bit better on a 400se vs. dynamics. And yeah, there’s some slight roll off but nothing too crazy. It’s funny; I actually like to roll it off in my mixes as boosting 60-90 is better for slam without the fuzz/bleed/hum. Then also cutting 200-300.

Most systems won’t play any of those really low frequencies (20-40Hz) anyways, but I still generally like Audeze or HIFIMAN type of bass tuning when simply listening to music.

And it’s my pleasure! I’m glad you’re enjoying the site and hope to hear from you again.


Robert-Andrei Botezat April 11, 2024 - 2:28 pm

Update: I went back to the store after a while and talked with a guy there and I understood after talking with a guy there, that ifi zen dac v2 is just a dac and it’s quite weak by itself to drive my HD 560S and I would need an amp as well, the ifi zen can and it would cost me a lot more, so his number 1 price-performance recommendation is still Fiio K7 DAC/AMP combo which is great choice and a lot of value and versatility. His number 1 choice was the Chord Mojo 2 dac/amp, but that one is quite expensive and the Fiio K7 is basically 90% of the Mojo 2, but the price of the Fiio K7 is half the Mojo 2. The 2nd recommendation was Fiio K11, but that one is much weaker than the Fiio K7, so I excluded that option. The other somewhat recommended portable dac/amp was the btr7, but that one I found to be too warm sounding, so I ditched it. So, the only recommendation that I intend to purchase is the Fiio K7.

I have listened to the HE400SE again and they didn’t amaze me so much as the first time I listened to them to justify the price and yeah, they are spatialized and sound like that, but, when I listened to my HD 560S and compared them side by side, the Hifiman didn’t impress me that much anymore and so I thought I will stick to the HD 560S.

After researching a lot, I have found out a closed headphone variant of the HD 560S, checked them out online, they are called the S4R 1.2 from Ollo Audio. They have great design, build quality like the Meze 99 Classics that I was looking for, but essentially better, with great sound, very similar to the HD 560S, which was exactly what I was looking for. And not to mention the CEO of the company is so open and has a mindset very similar to mine, I really like them. I didn’t test them yet, because the stores that have these headphones don’t have showrooms that allow you to test products, so I would have to buy the headphones. But it’s not a problem, because they have 30 days return and you can even buy directly from them and they ship worldwide. The company is based in Slovenia. I recommend you to check them out as well, they are well reviewed. I am sure that once you tell them about your job, I am sure they will send you their headphones to review them.

Stuart Charles Black April 13, 2024 - 12:05 pm

Nice to hear from you again Robert-Andrei!

I have to say, whatever store you’re going to, they have no clue what they’re talking about. First off, the Zen DAC is not just a DAC. It’s an Amplifier + DAC combo. Secondly, it has plenty of power to drive any of the 20+ headphones I have here, so them saying it’s not powerful enough is also false. That’s a myth that’s been perpetuated countless times and simply not true. The people saying it likely have damaged hearing from listening to music too loud and constantly needing more to compensate.

I agree that the K7 is a very good choice, and yes, the K11 is weaker but not weak on its own. It has more than enough. On medium gain, I’m at 40 out of 99 on the dial and never felt the need to push it much past that. So please don’t buy into this nonsense. I’m begging you. It’ll just end up damaging your hearing. I have been fighting it for years but it seems to get worse and worse by the week. I’ve also discussed this issue with John Seaber, an actual engineer, at JDS Labs and he agrees 100%. He’s told me some ridiculous stories about clueless audiophiles complaining about a lack of power even though the DACs he makes have upwards of 2-5 WATTS. Watts. This BS is insane and needs to stop.

As for your headphones, I’m happy that you’ve found something you like! Please keep me posted.

Robert-Andrei Botezat April 13, 2024 - 1:02 pm

I’m glad I posted and shared my experience with the people in the store. I knew from the past experiences that people that work in stores are usually trained in a way to sell you stuff and don’t have actual knowledge. Sure, there are sales people that have absolutely no clue and you can tell those ones apart easily, but then there are some that have a little bit more and they give you the impression that they know what they are walking about, but then there’s people like you that have experience and know this stuff and can tell easily. They also recommended me fiio ft3 350 ohm headphones and I tested them with the K7 and I liked that they sounded very clean and had absolutely no distortion, even at higher audible volumes, it was very clean and I applaude fiio for this technical excellence, but to me, I didn’t liked those headphones. Their comfort was not that great, compared to the HD 560S, which are one of the most comfortable and light over ear headphones that I have ever tested and actually bought and they didn’t feel great. The people recommended me those headphones over the HE400SE. But I just didn’t liked them. So yeah, that was my experience. Thank you very much for clarifying things for me and educating me. I learned some things from you and I’m glad. I will keep you up to date.

Stuart Charles Black April 13, 2024 - 1:52 pm

Thank you! Yeah I don’t want to dump all over people, but I just hear so many wrong things in this hobby that it makes me want to scream. I just wish more people could see all of this for what it is instead of constantly peddling lies. I assume you’re fairly new, so I’m trying to steer you in the right direction BEFORE you get inundated with BS from all sides. As far as headphones, they ARE vastly different and we all have our preferences. So I’m never going to sit here and trash someone for liking something that I don’t. That’s crazy. But when it comes to DACS? All bets are off. xD And thank you again. I know I can sometimes come off as a bit brash, but again, I just want you to experience good audio without going down the rabbit hole and becoming even more confused for no reason.

Robert-Andrei Botezat April 13, 2024 - 1:10 pm

P. S. I wanted to tell you my experience with tidal, which is an awesome app. I got addicted to it, lol! The sound quality is incredible, I hear things that I never was able to hear on YouTube. Especially on songs that are 24-bit 96khz or more FLAC. I can immediately tell the difference between 16-bit 44.1 khz and 24-bit 96khz FLAC.

Also, I forgot to ask you, what do you think it would be the best dac/amp in one combo for most headphones, that doesn’t cost a fortune aka the highest you can pay and get until you have to pay double to get 10%-15% only. You can also call it the sweet spot. Sadly, the JDS labs brand is not available in Romania, so I can’t buy them. Is the Fiio K7 still the number one choice?