Home Headphone Comparisons HiFiMan HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. Sundara

HiFiMan HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. Sundara

by Stuart Charles Black
HIFIMAN Sundara Review

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If you landed here from another query, don’t panic! Everything’s here 🙂

Hey guys! Before we get started, check out Apos Audio. They are a great up-and-coming distributor with a phenomenal-looking website and excellent customer service. They also offer free shipping, the lowest price guarantee, a 2-year warranty, and a 45-day return.

Also updating to say that this article is going to cover all future HIFIMAN 400 series models as they have this weird obsession with headphone revisions. So definitely bookmark it as I will likely be adding to it every so often. All of this can be found in the Table of Contents II linked below. 🙂 If you have any requests, also let me know.

Originally published 2/22/20.

Updates:

  • 2/1/21. Article/link cleanup.
  • 6/16/21. Article update.
  • 7/3/21. Article cleanup/revisions.
  • 11/17/21. 400se addition.
  • 4/11/22. Article update.

Big Shoutout to my friend Luke Wagoner for the 400S, InToIt Reviews for the 4XX, HIFIMAN for the DEVA and 400se, and Audio Advice for the 400i and Sundara!

Note: Audio Advice has since dropped HiFiMan from their lineup due to ongoing Quality Control issues, and in a way, I don’t blame them. More on that in the article! Strap in and sit back because it’s going to be a wild ride!

Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!

Before we get into the HiFiMan HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. Sundara MEGA shootout, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…

I’m Here to Help!!

Table of Contents

Introduction
Specifications
Build
Comfort
Sound & Imaging
Video Shootout
Photo Gallery
Amplification & Genre
Recommendation & Final Word
Album and Song List


Table of Contents II

Revisions/Additions to the lineup

HIFIMAN DEVA vs. Sundara

HIFIMAN HE400se

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!

Introduction

I have had the opportunity to demo all of these headphones on numerous occasions, in various settings, and with a plethora of different amplifiers dating back to around 2017.

When I started frequenting my local Audio Advice back then, the 400i was one of the first really good headphones I ever tried out.

Before they started using the incredible NAIM DAC V-1 for headphone demoing, there was of course the famed Bryston BHA-1 – still, the best Amp that I’ve personally ever heard.

I’m not going to tell the story again as I’ve talked about it ad-nausea, but the combination of the 400i with the Bryston and a FLAC file of Over the Hills and Far Away by Led Zeppelin really made me stop and go “Yeah now I kind of understand why people obsess over this sh**”

Lol. My opinion of audiophiles and this whole prick-waving contest has definitely shifted over time, but I digress. What is an Audiophile?

Since that day I haven’t really experienced anything close to that moment, save for a Chord Mojo paired with a MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Closed.

The other eye-opener was the Audeze LCD-3 and Bryston playing Pink Floyd’s “Time.” That was also a face melter for different reasons which we won’t get into today. Actually, here’s a link to the experience which is part of the rabbit hole series.

The point is that I feel comfortable enough in going back and forth with these and giving a rock-solid recommendation.

Part of that is because I understand and have experienced firsthand some of the pitfalls that come along with having a HiFiMan headphone in your possession (it’s both a blessing and a curse), but also how they all sound in relation to one another.

So let’s dive in, shall we?!

Specifications


HiFiMan HE4XX

HIFIMAN HE4XX

  • Price: Check Amazon! | Check Drop! | Check eBay!
  • Type: Open Back.
  • Driver: Planar Magnetic.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 35 Ohm.
  • Sensitivity: 93dB/mW.
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 35kHz.
  • Material: Spring Steel, Synthetic/Protein Leather, Plastic.
  • Weight: 406g.
  • Color: Midnight Blue.
  • Cable Length: 4.9ft.
  • Detachable: Yes.

HiFiMAN HE400i

Original production run

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

  • Price: Check Amazon! | Check eBay!
  • Type: Open Back.
  • Driver: Planar Magnetic.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 35 Ohm.
  • Sensitivity: 93dB/mW.
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 35kHz.
  • Material: ABS Plastic, Polymer, Spring Steel, Synthetic Leather.
  • Weight: 370g.
  • Color: Black/Deep Purple/Dark Blue (It’s hard to tell).
  • Cable Length: 1.5m.
  • Detachable: Yes.

HIFIMAN HE400S

Original production run

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

  • Price: Check Amazon! | Check eBay!
  • Type: Open Back.
  • Driver: Planar Magnetic.
  • Fit: Circumaural (Over-ear)
  • Impedance: 22 Ohms.
  • Sensitivity: 98dB/mW.
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
  • Material: ABS Plastic, Polymer, Spring Steel, Synthetic Leather.
  • Weight: 12 Oz. (350/360 grams)
  • Color: Silver with Black trim
  • Cable Length: 1.5m
  • Detachable: Yes

HiFiMAN Sundara

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

Meaning

Sundara (सुन्दर) is a Sanskrit term meaning “beautiful, lovely”, or generally “noble; well, right”. As a personal name, it may refer to: Maravarman Sundara Pandya, Pandyan king, who ruled regions of South India between 1216 and 1238.

  • Price: Check Apos Audio! | Check Amazon! | Check eBay!
  • Type: Open Back.
  • Driver: Planar Magnetic.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 37 Ohm.
  • Sensitivity: 94dB/mW.
  • Frequency Response: 6Hz – 75kHz.
  • Material: Spring Steel, Synthetic Leather, Anodized Aluminum, OFC Copper Cable.
  • Weight: 372 or 379g. No concrete number on this.
  • Color: Black, Silver.
  • Cable Length: 5ft.
  • Detachable: Yes.

Now that the technical crap is out of the way, let’s dissect build.

Build

Well.. this is about to get complicated.

The original 400i that I have been demoing since 2017 has never had one issue, and has likely been through hundreds (if not thousands) of different hands.

Before Audio Advice dropped HiFiMan from their lineup in 2020, it would sit on the shelf unscathed, even despite many people handling it and using it (in-store as well as at home).

I took it home on numerous occasions and never had any trouble. Then I started hearing about people having problems with it breaking down, but couldn’t figure out why.

It wasn’t until I stumbled across a post on Reddit that talked about HiFiMan outsourcing cheaper materials for the headband in the newer production line of 400is.

Then it all made sense; the one I had demoed for so long was part of the old production run.

Don’t ask me why they decided to use cheaper materials, but it’s been a downhill QC issue fest for them ever since. A lot of the newer models have issues with anything ranging from:

  • The cable shorting out/sound cutting out on the right or left channel.
  • The headband yokes breaking.
  • The headphone just falling apart.
  • The original Focus Pads coming unglued (worst design choice ever).

And so on.


Update: HIFIMAN has revamped their line with a better build and most of the issues have been rectified. This article deals with the older models, but the DEVA, 2020 400i, and 400se all contain the updated look.


The good news is that regarding the 400S, I’ve never really heard of folks having issues, and I have not either. The problems mostly stemmed from newer 400i and still do to this day.

Fortunately for us, the birth of the Sundara in 2018 fixed pretty much all that was wrong with the build quality of the former. Sorta.

It streamlined the design and replaced all of the plastic with a rock-solid and robust metal. The headband padding retained the look of the 400i and 400S, but the piece over top supporting it rounded off in a much more aesthetically pleasing way. The pad itself also seemed to be made from better quality material.

The headband adjustment itself (The small piece that you use to move the pad up and down), was also replaced with a more reliable piece of metal on both sides.

The same 3.5mm terminations appear on all 4, but the ear cups on the Sundara no longer swivel as they did with both the 400i and 400S. All 4 terminate in a 3.5mm jack as well and come with a 1/4″ adapter.

Drop’s (Formerly Massdrop’s) newer model 4XX does hearken back with those same swiveling cups, but they still don’t swivel all the way around (90 degrees) as they did with the originals.

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

The original HiFiMan HE400S

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

The original HiFiMan HE400i

Notice how both the original 400S and 400i above fold flat in the same ways, and also move and contort in a myriad of directions. They tended to move around a lot more freely which many people, including myself, enjoyed.

With the 4XX, it stops at around 45 degrees now, while the Sundara’s don’t move or rotate at all. I kind of enjoyed the swivel action, but in the grand scheme of how the headphone sits on your head, it’s not really that big of a deal.

All 4 sport the same circular comfy velour pads, but they are still the Focus pads, and they’re still awful.

My issue with them is not that they aren’t comfortable, but that they’re built horribly and utilize poor design choices with regards to the piece of faux/protein leather on the back that wraps around the cup and attaches.

It should be noted that the original 400i had a protein leather outside with the velour seen on the front of the cups. This is the focus pad variety.

The 400S’ original pads were all velour. Inside them is of course memory foam.

As for the piece of protein leather wrapping around the back, it’s haphazardly glued on and ends up peeling off over time if you tend to switch out ear cups a lot.

If you don’t do that, but only replace the cups when they wear out, it’s not really an issue because you’ll only be swapping once and then not handling them at all for a while.

If you do a lot of pad swaps though, the material will break off from the plastic and leave you wanting to gouge your eyes out. Trust me.

I’ve read plenty of reviews that echo the same sentiment and have had it happen to me on more than one occasion. In fact, I had to glue back the one from Audio Advice because it just fell the f apart. Not cool man.

The great news is that there’s a company called Dekoni that makes really really good sheepskin replacements for all of these headphones. They do run a bit pricey but you’ll see why they’re worth it below.

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

So which of these looks like a complete failure? Lol

I’ll give you a hint; it ain’t the one on the right.

There’s no glue needed. The piece (now sheepskin) still wraps around the plastic, but notice how there’s more real estate. With the old cup, they glued a tiny sliver of it around its circumference and called it done.

Yeah, that’s not going to lead to issues down the road .. said no one, ever.

It gets on my nerves thinking about it, but I digress.

The Dekonis are the preferred option for sure. They’re also very comfortable and plush as well. An all-around great product that should have been HiFiMan’s own creation from the start.

Ah well. Live and lear.. well no. I can’t say that about HiFiMan either. Because HiFiMan didn’t learn. They keep pumping out headphones with connection problems and sh**y pads.

Alright, I’ll stop.

I’ll put it to you this way: Would you rather just pay for the Dekoni’s upfront (a quality product) and have zero headaches down the road, or would you rather spend more money later when you have to keep replacing the originals because they suck and fall apart?

Yeah, I bitch and moan about the price of them in other articles, but what can I do? Until HIFIMAN fixes their own horrible blunder, I’m going to complain about it.

Ok, I’m done for real.

Other minor differences

Some of the other differences between these 4 are fairly minor. The Sundara boasts a somewhat updated “look” and feels more aesthetically pleasing than any of the others.

The lattice grilles are in stark contrast to the honeycomb configuration of the 400i, 400S, and 4XX, but that’s really about it as far as the outside of the cup.

The Sundara just feels extremely solid to the touch and I think you’ll definitely agree that it’s a marked improvement over the earlier models when you finally hold one in your hand.

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

Lattice Grilles. Such cloudy. Many wow.

The 4XX is a bit of a different animal altogether when it comes to build.

The headband is an awkward-looking piece of steel (I assume) wrapped in an odd, somewhat messy piece of stitched faux/protein/whatever leather. It just clashes with the rest of the headphones in my opinion.

The bales of the headphone are robust spring steel, but the adjustment itself is basically a round piece of plastic and feels like it’s going to snap over time or something. The combination of materials here is strange and feels like an afterthought rather than a carefully planned protocol.

One issue I’m having with the 4XX is that the silly right adjustment won’t even move up or down.

It’s one of those things that you don’t want to mess with because it feels like applying too much pressure is going to result in the same phenomena that happens when your Grandpa tells you NOT to reach down into that freshly opened cereal box for the toy and you do it anyway. XD

In other words, an earth-shattering explosion and subsequent mess on the floor. Rest in Peace Grandpa. Anyone else misses their Grandpa?

The piece that’s used to adjust feels so stiff and rigid but doesn’t really move freely up and down which is could be a problem if you’re unlucky and get a bad apple.

It feels like trying to adjust the headband is going to result in a broken mess. The left side does adjust, but you’re kind of having to really labor to get it up and down.

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

The weird headband.

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

The round piece moves up and down the length of the spring steel mechanism.

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

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

It might sound like I’m tearing this headphone to pieces (figuratively lol) and I kind of am.

I’m just not sure I would fully be comfortable relying on it for the long term is all.

Some others have reported issues with the small hex screw that goes into the ear cup (pictured above), and honestly, I can see why. Who would ever think it a good idea to drill steel into plastic? That’s a story for another day, but the main takeaway is this:

You get what you pay for. Does it feel solid in your hand? Absolutely. It’s actually heavier than both the 400i and 400S.

It doesn’t feel cheap at all when you’re holding it, but some of the decisions they made in actually putting it together are a bit suspect in real-world practice.

The other issue is that of the sound cutting out, but thankfully that doesn’t apply to the 4XX. I never have had an issue with it on the Sundara, but I have with the 400S and 400i.

The Ananda also had the same issue, which is in part why I think Audio Advice just got fed up with it. I remember telling them about it on a few occasions and I think they finally got the hint when their customers kept complaining.

That’s neither here nor there though.

The overall winner here is definitely the Sundara. I haven’t had any issues with it. It’s the one bright spot in another wise dark history with regards to quality control and HiFiMan.

Cable

  • 400S: L-shape, braided, 3.5mm termination, splits off into a Y for each cup.
  • 400i: L-shape, braided, 3.5mm termination, splits off into a Y for each cup.
  • 4XX: L-shape, traditional, 3.5mm termination, splits off into Y for each cup.
  • Sundara: L-shape, traditional, 3.5mm termination, splits off into Y for each cup.

So what about comfort?

Comfort

Thankfully, the comfort on all of these is very good, to the point of you being able to wear them for long periods with minimal adjustment.

They fit very well on your head, with a nice enough clamp pressure to feel snug but not overpowering. For comparison’s sake, something too snug would be like the feeling of a Sennheiser HD600 fresh out the box.

Both the 400S and 400i are lighter than the Sundara and 4XX, with the S version being the lightest out of the bunch.

* = Reports may vary. My scale weighed the 400S at 360g.

  • 400S: *350/360g.
  • 400i: 370g.
  • Sundara: *372/379g. Tyll weighed it at 379.
  • 4XX: 406g.

It’s interesting to note that all websites I’ve seen claim 370g for the 4XX when that number isn’t even remotely close.

It is the heaviest out of the bunch, and as I mentioned earlier, feels more substantial in your hand.

With the Dekoni pads, you’re adding about 11g to the overall weight, but it doesn’t make them really feel all that much heavier on your dome.

The 4XX’s headband padding is kind of “meh” in my opinion, in both look and comfort. I find myself adjusting them when they’re on my head way more often than I do with the others.

The feel of a 400S on my head right now is similar to the feeling I get wearing an HD600. In other words, blissful. Wearing both is like receiving a warm hug from an old friend.

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

Hugs not Drugs.

With the 4XX, I find that the headband tends to dig a little into the top of my head over extended listening sessions. Because the 400i and 400S are lighter, the thin sliver of padding works extremely well.

The Sundara also has a thin pad and I find it works just fine too, even despite the headphone being a tad heavier. The headband padding on the Sundara is also a slightly different material as I mentioned earlier.

All in all, comfort is borderline exemplary for the Sundara, 400i, and 400S, and maybe average to slightly above average for the 4XX. You’re not going to be adjusting the former much, but with the 4XX you will be doing so a bit more often.

Let’s talk sound.

Sound & Imaging

I’ve always felt like the sound of the 400S in relation to the others presents the starkest contrast, but in the grand scheme of things, they all do sound very similar.

The main difference between the 400S vs. the rest is that its bass rolls off considerably more, and does sound a bit lean by contrast, even though it’s still immensely textured and detailed.

This kind of makes the 400S sound cooler, a bit more sterile, and a bit crisper, if a tad grainier in comparison to the warmer sound of the Sundara, and somewhat more refined (but still bright at the top) 400i.

The Sundara is definitely the warmest out of the bunch. Its mid-range rolls off gradually after 1kHz, and the treble is a lot more subdued and controlled. It never gets bright or essy, but it can sometimes sound a bit dull, similar to an HD650.

In past articles and videos, I described the 400S as sometimes trying a bit too hard to impress you, whereas the 400i is more laid back and doesn’t really care what you think.

That sentiment still mostly remains, but what I like about the 400S is the treble. It sounds nearly perfect and doesn’t have that bite or sizzle that is present in the 4XX and 400i.

The Sundara definitely remedied that treble issue as well and is probably the most relaxed out of all of these.

So in short, both the 400S and Sundara won’t get bitey/essy in the treble, whereas the 4XX and 400i will.

The peak at 9-10k is more apparent in both the 400i and 4XX, and it sounds a bit too peaky which results in some extra sizzle that isn’t really necessary. In fact, in the case of the 4XX, I think it kind of almost ruined the overall sound signature.

With the 400S and Sundara, the treble sits better in the overall mix and really never gets out of line.

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

400i

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

400S

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

4XX

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

Sundara

Mid-Range

On all 4, you’ll notice the mid-range tends to roll off a bit after 1kHz, which is in large part what gives the headphone its relaxed type of character.

All 4 also slightly rise back up around the presence region (2-3kHz), which to me sounds just about perfect.

I’m never feeling like the vocals or instruments stand out too much as I do in listening with an HD600, and I’m almost never turning down the volume because of an unnecessary amount of “forwardness.”

One of the coolest things in revisiting the 400S right now is the same amazing detail and spacing is still present exactly how I remember it. It’s still a very natural sound, and has always been a perfect entry-level planar headphone because it doesn’t break the bank, but also sounds marvelous. What is a Planar Magnetic Driver?

In Sufjan Stevens’ “Tahquamenon Falls” I’m hearing an extra layer of detail and subtlety that is simply not there with other dynamic driver headphones. What is a Headphone Driver?

400S vs. K702 Comparison

The same composition feels more intimate and delicate with a 400S than it does with even a K702 (and that’s saying a lot considering how great the 702 is).

Sufjan’s voice especially feels a little bit more dynamic, as if he’s closer and in the vicinity with you. Not a night and day difference, but definitely noticeable if you’re paying attention.

Fortunately for us, the 400S almost demands your attention. I had to stop a few times in writing this just to take it all in, marveling at how well the music is portrayed. It really is something to behold and makes you want to revel in the experience a lot more than your typical headphone would.

I would say the sound of both the 702 and 400S is very similar, but there’s just something about the 400 series that renders music better. It’s hard to explain.

Notes have a better attack, sustain, and decay. They trail off better and feel more fully fleshed out. A great example of this (and specifically excellent decay) is Shallou’s “Begin” feat. Wales.

Overall, you’re able to hear more subtleties in the human voice, and how certain vocal inflections may sound in reality. Tracks that you’re very familiar with and have been listening to for years may sound slightly foreign to you!

In that sense, the 4XX does mostly stay true to the original 400i. In my notes, I wrote down a reminder to describe the link to the 400i and its Timbre after listening to “Anemone” by Slenderbodies with the 4XX. What is Timbre?

With this song, I was immediately reminded of why I loved the 400i so much when I first heard it back in 2017. Fortunately, the 4XX still captures that same magic and sounds mostly marvelous (outside of the treble issue).

The sound of the fret-board at 57 seconds provided an almost insane level of resolution and Timbre, with the character of the instruments standing out in a way that simply doesn’t with other headphones.

HIFIMAN HE4XX

This is one of the best things about owning a headphone of this caliber. It makes you excited about listening to music again. One of the best examples I ever read concerning this idea came from an Amazon Reviewer. He described the sensation of it in terms of “rediscovering the music that had long since been forgotten about.”

In my Focal Utopia Review, I described the phenomena of opening doors. Door 1 is what 99% of headphones will portray. Door 2 digs a little deeper, and Door 3 opens up nearly everything that a song has to offer.

With the 400S, it feels more like an extra layer gets peeled back to reveal even more going on beneath the surface in the song mentioned above, at about halfway through.

It’s like the instrument keeps on revealing more of itself, its character, its tone, Timbre. The soul of the artist behind that instrument is explored more deeply. The way it sounds in real life vs. what it sounds like through a device.

You’re still listening to it through said device (Amp + headphones), but the presentation of what you’re hearing is more accurate and true to life if that makes sense.

In “Holland”, many of the same sentiments apply. Sufjan’s guitar just sounds incredibly lifelike and detailed but delicate in a way that simply astounds me. It’s almost like catching lightning in a bottle.

The Soundstage on these headphones is also above average, but it doesn’t have as much width or depth as something like a K702. It’s getting there though. What is Soundstage? [Detailed Explanation]

You’ll be frequently:

  1. Taking off the headphones to look around.
  2. Pausing the track to figure out if the sound came from the song, your apartment, your house, or even outside!
  3. A combination of all.

With the K702, you’ll most certainly do more of this, but the 400 series is not far behind with regard to the overall spaciousness of the image.

So:

  • A headphone like the 600 is very narrow in terms of Soundstage but still has good instrument separation. It just doesn’t have very good width or depth. It’s a bit below average in that regard.
  • The 400 Series (400S, 400i, 4XX, Sundara) is better than the 600 series and improves on all of those things.
  • A headphone like the K702 takes it a step further, improving on the 400s by providing an even more immersive experience with regard to Soundstage and Imaging. As far as the overall sound experience itself though? I would give a slight edge to the 400 series.

What about the DEVA vs. Sundara?

DEVA vs. Sundara

HIFIMAN DEVA Review

I think HIFIMAN really took a giant leap forward with the arrival of the DEVA back in 2019.

It was the first time they took the design of the headphones in a different direction, and I think it’s really paid dividends.

The DEVA is a complete overhaul of the 400i and 400S design, but it’s also different from the Sundara.

Like the Sundara, the cups don’t rotate, but the headphone is now much more robust than its predecessors and doesn’t have any of the cabling issues inherent on some Sundara and Ananda models.

Note: Those issues have since been rectified AFAIK and in my own experience.

Everything about the new build is DUMMY THICC as if it’s been in the gym working out and putting on some muscle (albeit with a bit of inevitable fat).

It’s not sloppy. It’s THICC. Like that chick at the gym who you want to talk to.

The headphones are a bit bulkier than the older models, but I don’t mind it much. The design is more streamlined and practical looking, though out of all the ones I tried, I personally like Sundara’s aesthetic most.

Comfort

Comfort on the DEVA has improved tremendously. Not that it was bad before, but you’d be making adjustments every so often as the headphone would sometimes tend to slide down a bit, causing the pads to kiss the tops of your ears.

Not so with the DEVA, which surely has a place in my most comfortable headphones of all-time list.

It’s simply a dream to wear, and one of the only headphones I’ve never found myself adjusting even once, for any reason at all. I can even wear it with a hat and glasses and feel completely fine.

HIFIMAN DEVA Review

Potential downsides

What frustrates me is that HIFIMAN hasn’t learned its lesson about the cups.

They still utilize the same stupid design as the previous models and the material doesn’t wrap around the back of the cup properly as it does with the Dekoni variety.

Aside from that, it’s a great update.

Bluetooth

Furthermore, the wireless version of this headphone can be used with the supplied Bluemini adapter which also doubles as a headphone Amp/DAC. You can also use it wirelessly as it comes with a supplied cable in the box. A fantastic value indeed.

Sound

The DEVA’s sound is similar to that of the original 400i and the more recent 4XX from Drop. It’s much more crisp and lively than that of the Sundara.

There’s a peak around 8-10kHz, but it’s not quite as pronounced as the 4XX’s peak from what I remember. You will notice it on the DEVA quite a bit at first, but it does tend to mellow out the longer you listen.

Hey, MELLOW OUT MAN!

Originally I EQ’d the area down by about 5dB, but around 2 decibels down works fine now.

It ensures the headphone still has some air without sounding essy or sibilant, but I prefer to continue rolling the treble off after 10k as well due to personal preference.

Your mileage may vary.

The Sundara’s treble doesn’t need any EQ, and the overall sound is a lot smoother and more mellow by contrast, almost to a fault. It’s warmer, more laid back, and more relaxed sounding, but both headphones take to EQ quite well if you want to mess around.

You’ll find that both start to gradually roll off after about 200Hz, and each can sometimes lack the weight and impact that something like an Ananda provides in spades.

With the DEVA, I find that:

  • +1dB at 125Hz
  • +2dB at 100
  • +4dB at 60
  • +5dB at 30Hz

works extremely well.

HIFIMAN DEVA vs. Sundara

This gives you some nice sub-bass extension and adds some meat on the DEVA if you’re feeling like you want to be an obnoxious, out-of-control bass head.

Go ahead, gas up Majid Jordan – Gave Your Love Away and tell me I’m wrong. 😛

I’ve always found HIFIMAN’s mid-range to be mostly spot on, so I wouldn’t really mess with it too much.

The Soundstage on both the DEVA and Sundara is above average, as you’ll sometimes get the sense that things are happening around you rather than from the headphones.

Still, the stage isn’t quite as wide as something like a K702, but imaging and instrument separation on both is exemplary.

You’ll start to notice smaller details and subtle textures going on in the background. Attack, sustain, and decay is especially noteworthy on tracks like Martha My Dear from The Beatles – and songs you’ve heard hundreds of times (if not thousands) take on new life as if a veil was lifted and the sound was set free.

Think of these headphones like flowers, after they’ve opened up and bloomed completely. You’ll often wonder to yourself:

  • “How did I miss that subtle breathy sound in the vocal passage so many times previously?”
  • “The background instrumentation sounds so incredibly clear.”
  • “I can make out what the instruments are doing much better than I could before.
  • I can hear each individual bass note and exactly how it relates to the composition as a whole”
  • “The vocals sound more present and lively, but still sit in the mix rather nicely.”

etc. etc.

All of these things and more are reactions you’re likely to have when listening to either headphone.

Interestingly enough, the main differences between them come in the form of features.

The DEVA is a Bluetooth headphone with an included Amp/DAC that doubles as the adapter that can be used with your phone, but you can also use it with the supplied 3.5mm headphone cable into a separate Amp/DAC, which you may prefer if you’re anything like me.

The Sundara is about as plain Jane as it gets, and isn’t quite as good of a value as the DEVA, truth be told.

HIFIMAN HE400se

HIFIMAN HE400se Review

I was fortunate enough to receive the updated 400se from HIFIMAN and I have to say, this will probably be my go-to recommendation for most people looking to invest in one of their headphones.

It shares the same updated build of the DEVA, but they actually improved the sound signature which I was fairly surprised by. Learn more: HIFIMAN HE400se Review!

Let’s take a break and watch a video…

Video Shootout

Don’t forget to leave me some love! <3

Photos..

Photo Gallery

Shoot I

HE4XX

HiFiMAN HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. SundaraHiFiMAN HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. SundaraHiFiMAN HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. SundaraHiFiMAN HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. Sundara
The weird headband.
HiFiMAN HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. Sundara

Shoot II

HE400i

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

Shoot III

HE400S

HiFiMAN HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. SundaraHiFiMAN HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. Sundara
Hugs not Drugs.
HiFiMAN HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. Sundara

Shoot IV

Sundara

HiFiMAN HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. SundaraHIFIMAN Sundara vs. HD650 vs. HD600
HIFIMAN Sundara vs. HD650 vs. HD600
HiFiMAN HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. SundaraHiFiMAN HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. SundaraHIFIMAN Sundara vs. HD650 vs. HD600
HIFIMAN Sundara vs. HD650 vs. HD600
HiFiMAN HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. Sundara
Lattice Grilles.

Shoot V

400se

What about amplification? Will you need an amp to drive these?

Amplification & Genre Pairing

Absolutely. But don’t get too carried away. How to Choose a Headphone Amp [Definitive Guide]

  • 400S – 22 Ohm Impedance/98dB Sensitivity
  • 400i – 35 Ohm Impedance/93dB Sensitivity
  • 4XX – 35 Ohm Impedance/ 93dB Sensitivity
  • Sundara – 37 Ohm Impedance/94dB Sensitivity
  • DEVA – 18 Ohm Impedance/93.5dB Sensitivity
  • 400se – 25 Ohm Impedance/91dB Sensitivity

The DEVA is the easiest to drive out of this lot, as you can plug it into your phone and get loud enough levels with most newer devices sporting better internal DACs. Beginners Guide: What is a USB DAC?

On paper, the others will need some juice from an amp to reach acceptable levels, but they aren’t that much harder to drive. I’ve never had an issue with anything I’ve used, even something like an E10K or K3 from FiiO will work.

If you weren’t aware, Sensitivity is just a measure of efficiency. How efficient is the headphone at using the power it receives? In the case of these 4, not so much. What is Sensitivity in Headphones? [Explained]

Good efficiency is somewhere in the ballpark of 98-99dB, and anything above that. 97dB sits in a middle ground (HD600), while anything below that isn’t efficient at all.

AKG headphones also reside in this area, mostly coming in at around 88-91dB or thereabouts.

Fortunately, the Impedance of these models is also low, meaning they won’t resist the power being fed into them. This is what kind of makes them fairly easy to drive, all things considered.

As mentioned in the open, I’ve demoed each of these with a wide array of different amps:

The list goes on. Here are all of the Amps & DACs I’ve listened to thus far if you were interested!

I would say the Bravo Ocean paired with one of these is probably going to sound ever so slightly better than the others being that it’s a Class A Tube Hybrid, but it’s not a huge difference.

I really did enjoy the pairing though, specifically with the 4XX. It helps in providing a liquid-smooth, buttery sound, but any of the other Amps also sound great.

What’s great about the DragonFly Red is that you can reap the benefits of Tidal’s MQA while still running it into the Bravo Ocean via a 3.5mm interconnect. Related: Tidal vs. Spotify

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

DragonFly Red + Bravo Ocean + 4XX = 😀

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

The DragonFly Red in this sense becomes especially useful if you purchase it first, but then decide to upgrade Amps later on down the road.

You can use it with your phone, as an Amp with your PC, or as a DAC into another Amp. It has loads of power and sounds great with every headphone I’ve used.

Wondering about the Cobalt? Well that’s another long and complicated story: [Definitive Guide] AudioQuest DragonFly Red vs. Cobalt vs. Chord Mojo

With the E10K or K3, the same concept applies. Let’s say you bought one of those to get your feet wet. They’re cheap and sound great, so it’s understandable. I still have both in my studio.

Because each has a line out, you can easily upgrade amps down the road if you need more power.

In that way, the K3, E10K, and DragonFly Red become incredibly versatile in the studio as you can mix and match with any headphone amp that supports line-in or RCA in.

Genre

The other great thing about these headphones is that they all do very well with a wide variety of genres. To get an idea of what’s good, I mostly listen to Hip-Hop, Indie Pop, Rock, Metal, Classical, Jazz, Downtempo, Folk, Acoustic, and Ambient music.

All of these genres and more sound fantastic with any of the 4 headphones. I find that, like the K702, quieter passages also sound incredible with these, and sometimes even better than any of the other genres.

I would say the 400 series renders Jazz very well, but perhaps not quite as good as the 702.

What’s also amazing about the sound of these headphones is that they will really appeal to bass heads looking for a more realistic type of low-end portrayal.

As a recovering bass head, I used to think headphones like the M50x and V-Moda Crossfade M100 were what you went for if you were craving some slam and impact. While I still hold both in high regard, they aren’t something I gravitate towards anymore.

When I listen to Hip-Hop nowadays, I desire impact, but I also want to actually hear the individual notes better and experience the sub-bass extension that the 400 series provides.

With that, what’s the final word?

Recommendation & Final Word

The sound of these headphones is pretty similar across the board, with some subtle changes here and there.

Overall, the DEVA is the easiest to drive, and the 400S presents the largest sound signature discrepancy. Even so, it’s still a pretty similar sound to the others in the grand scheme of things.

The bass is a bit more rolled off, and its treble isn’t peaky like the 400i and 4XXs is. The mid-range on all of these headphones is more or less the same.

Update: I would not recommend the 4XX because of build issues, but the newer DEVA, 2020 400i, and 400se have improved on the build.

The 400S does have a good treble response, but you may have build issues with the cables going into the ear cups.

I can’t recommend the 400i anymore because of QC/build issues, but I haven’t heard of anyone having trouble with the 400S. In 2019 I borrowed my friend Luke’s model and he’s never had any issues with it either but has since sold it for other reasons.

2022 Update

The Sundara was my previous go-to solution out of these until the 400se came along and really shook things up. I still like the Sundara but feel it’s now overpriced when you can get a 400se and experience a livelier sound signature for less money.

SEE IT FOR YOURSELF ON AMAZON!!

 

CHECK IT OUT AT APOS AUDIO!!

 

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve gotten some valuable information out of my HiFiMan HE4XX vs. 400i vs. 400S vs. Sundara Shootout and Comparison Review!

Are you convinced that the Sundara is the best option here? Be sure to let me know!!

If you have any other questions or feel I’ve missed the mark on something, leave a comment down below or contact me!

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

I very much look forward to speaking with you…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

Be sure to also check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

Albums…

Album and Song List

My listening experience with these spans hundreds of songs, but here are the most recent I listened to – specifically with the 400S and 4XX.

  • Atu, Asante – Lately (feat. Asante)
  • Vasser – Little Things
  • DRAMA – Low Tide
  • Death Cab For Cutie – Soul Meets Body
  • Ekali, Yuna – Leaving (feat. Yuna)
  • Robotaki, City Fidelia – Satisfied
  • Kasbo, TENDER – Aldrig Mer (feat. TENDER)
  • Alex Lustig – Free Form
  • Slenderbodies – Anemone
  • Shallou, Wales – Begin (feat. Wales)
  • BAYNK – Sinead Harnett – Settle

Albums

More to come!

Jay-Z – 4:44 (2017)

Death Cab For Cutie – Plans (2005)

Sufjan Stevens – Michigan (2003)

Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans (2004)

Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise (2005)

John Coltrane – My Favorite Things (1961)

Slum Village & Abstract Orchestra – Fantastic 2020 Vol. 1 (2019)

John Coltrane – Giant Steps (1960)

John Coltrane – Blue Train (1958)

Tycho – Weather (2019)

Yes – Relayer (1980)

Pete Rock – Petestrumentals 2 (2015)

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8 comments

J. Fikar December 20, 2021 - 10:07 pm

Hi Stuart,
thanks for the great comparison of these models from Hifiman. It is a very informative review. And the photos are awesome, the light is great, as is the technical quality of the images. Really good work!
Right now I’m deciding between Sundara and Ananda, to go with my FIIO K5 PRO 🙂
Good luck
Joe

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 22, 2021 - 4:32 pm

Hey thanks man!

Sundara vs. Ananda huh? Well, in a nutshell, the Sundara is warmed/smoothed over sounding while the Ananda is more open and crisp. That’s the layman’s comparison. I think the Ananda has a bit better separation, resolution, and spacing. Timbre and decay are also better. If you’re thinking of a Sundara, I’d rather you just go with a 400se and save a bunch of money. Also, the Sundara + K5 Pro is likely too much warm and I think the Sundara needs something more neutral to offset that kind of dull, “lull you to sleep” character it has.

The Ananda is still the upgrade from mid-fi imo and priced perfectly now. So I’d go with that if you want just about the best above that congested $300-400 area. I wouldn’t bother with an Arya. Good headphones, but not worth the price increase.

Hope that helps!

Let me know.

-Stu

Reply
Joe December 25, 2021 - 2:09 pm

Hi Stu,
thanks for your advice. On your recommendation I have included the Hifiman 400SE in my selection.
I also have a Dragonfly Red for my mobile (in addition to the Fiio K5 Pro for my PC.)
Do you think the Dragonfly Red is powerful enough for the 400SE? I would have it as a portable solution as well. Or should I buy Anandas which are much more sensitive and Dragonfly Red could handle them better?
Anandas are 4 times more expensive than the 400SE. Is the extra cost worth it?
Thanks for your time and have a great day

Joe

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 28, 2021 - 9:15 pm

Hey Joe!

Fortunately for you, I have the Red here now and just plugged it in with the 400se. Plenty of headroom as I’m on about 40-50/100. In that range, you’ll be in a comfortably loud volume level.

I don’t have an Ananda, but I do have an Arya here to test real quick. Both have about the same impedance and sensitivity IIRC.

With the Arya/Ananda, you’ll be on around 30-40/100 as a comfortably loud volume.

The Ananda is my go-to (and has always been) for a true upgrade from mid-fi, but your question is a good one as they’re basically giving away the 400se at its current price.

Perhaps just get a 400se now as it’s so cheap and then decide later if you want to upgrade. I would say just go for the Ananda straightaway, but again, they’re basically giving the se away. For instance, if the se was like $200-300, I’d say just bypass it.

In the long run, yes, the extra cost is worth it at the Ananda’s price of around $600. In fact, they are a bit of a bargain considering their initial price was $1000 and I was recommending them at that price too (albeit it was borderline pushing it). $600 could also be the market re-adjusting for what they’re actually worth to most people, but it’s hard to say. The Arya is definitely not worth $1600 even though it is a good headphone.

I honestly think HIFIMAN is doing a bit of a sleight of hand with how they’re pricing things nowadays as it’s forcing me to re-evaluate what the best value is; i.e. I had to do a shakeup of my Top 5 Under $500 because of how disrupting (and how good!) the 400se is.

Hope that helps! Your question was a bit tough but I hope I’ve clarified some.

Keep me posted 🙂

Reply
Joe January 6, 2022 - 12:00 pm

Hey Stu,
I bought the Hifiman HE400SE on your advice and they sound really really great.
A big improvement over the Sony MDR-1A!
I’m tempted now to buy a better DAC/AMP than the Fiio K5 Pro 🙂
The Monolith THX 887 seems like a good amp to me…

Have a great day and thank you very much again!

Joe

Stuart Charles Black January 6, 2022 - 2:51 pm

Hey Joe!

So glad you’re enjoying them!!!! Don’t go too crazy on Amps and DACS though 😉 That’s a rabbit hole you DON’T want to go down, trust me. hehe.

Reach out anytime with questions or further assistance!

-Stu

Joe December 21, 2021 - 5:46 pm

I dont know why my previous comment disappeared.
J.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 22, 2021 - 4:33 pm

No worries! I just have to approve comments first. Check out my reply! 🙂

Reply

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