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Before we get into the Sennheiser HD600 vs. HIFIMAN HE400i, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..
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What I will bring you in this review
For this article I will compare the two, and then link to my official reviews towards the end! 🙂
- Similarities & Differences
- Final Word
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!
I enjoy both of these headphones immensely, as they represent a true starting point for the serious listener who really wants to make that perfect first purchase. Well luckily for you, you’re in the right place! There is a caveat here however: Once you step foot into the deeper waters, there is no turning back. Cheaper headphones in general just won’t sound quite as good. Now of course there are some exceptions, like the wonderful Sennheiser HD25 which really packs an A+ price to performance ratio, and sounds almost as good by comparison with these two bad boys.
By and large however, you will notice a huge jump in sound quality in this mid-tier price range. The interesting thing to note is that what is now considered “mid-fi” was definitely hi-fi just a few years ago, before ridiculously priced headphones really started making a name for themselves (Think the HD800 and Audeze LCD-3 for example).
Once you start messing around in that price range, headphone amps become extremely important, and the law of diminishing returns sets in. Now why is that so? Well high end headphones are generally high maintenance, like that spoiled girlfriend that everyone tries to avoid 😛
They tend to be very “amp finicky” and will only work well with certain pairings and in some cases only the best tube amps. Tube amp vs. Solid State. I’ve listened to a few really high end cans, and while the sound is indeed good, you’re not missing out on much that you couldn’t get with either of these two puppies that I’m about to discuss.
So let’s talk a bit about the Similarities & Differences!
Similarities & Differences
- Both are open back and do leak sound. You’re best bet is to keep these in studio at your desk, as they will both require good amplification. How to choose a headphone amp!
- Both have a 3.5mm jack that comes with a 1/4″ adapter.
- Driver. The HE400i’s use planar magnetic drivers, while the HD600’s use your traditional dynamic driver. Essentially, both use a magnetic field around a conductor to drive the diaphragm, but a planar magnetic driver requires more magnets, and needs those magnets on both sides of the diaphragm. A dynamic driver only needs 1 magnet. This is why planar magnetic headphones are usually much heavier than dynamic headphones. Learn more about how both of these drivers work: What is a Headphone Driver? Because the magnets in a planar driver are situated in an even manner, the flow of force exerted onto the diaphragm is always constant, even though the position of the conductor changes. This is why planar magnetic headphones can generally be driven at higher volumes without much distortion, while a dynamic headphone will suffer at times in this regard. Find out more about How Planar Magnetic Drivers work!
- Overall Sound/Forgiveness. I found that the HD600’s were crisper and snappier, while the HE400i’s came across as warmer with a tad less overall clarity. I would say the HD600’s sound is more realistic, while the 400i’s seem more distant at times. More on that later. That said, I did notice that on a track like Pink Floyd’s Time, David Gilmour’s guitar was really exposed. I can’t really tell you if this was a good or bad thing, just that I could hear it in it’s most raw and stripped down state. It was as if I got a sense of his personality and soul through the instrument. It was really strange. The 600’s are very revealing as well, but maybe not to this extreme degree. So the 600’s are a little more forgiving of lesser quality source material, while making good sources shine, while the 400i’s are less forgiving of bad source material, while also making good sources shine.
- Bass. The bass response in the 600’s is a smidgen lighter, but more detailed and textured. The HE400i has a bit more bass, but it isn’t quite as clear and well defined.
- Mid-range. The HD600’s are famous for having those slightly forward mids that really make vocals and instruments shine with stunning clarity. The 400i’s do lag behind in this regard, and you’ll notice that the 400i’s do come across as slightly muffled at times, though their mid-range is still phenomenal. Over time I’ve come to realize that the mid-range is the single most important component of sound. Because I was raised on Heavy bass/bright treble, my ears got used to it. It wasn’t until I listened to tonally correct headphones that I came to appreciate that sound. When I went back to a warmer headphone with more bass emphasis, I was very much thrown off and confused. The Bowers and Wilkins P7 is a prime example of this experience.
- Soundstage. The HE400i’s definitely have a more spacious Soundstage, while the 600’s is quite narrow. What is Soundstage?
- Precision/Separation. That said, I think the HD600’s instrument separation is what makes them stand out from the vast majority of headphones in any price range. The HE400i’s is still phenomenal, but the 600 edges it out slightly. Think of the 600’s instruments as being very close together and larger than life, but you’re still able to discern and categorize sounds. You’re able to pick out an instrument and really zone in on how it plays. With the 400i’s, the sound is more distant, but still gives a sense of space and depth. The instruments are farther apart and seem smaller by contrast.
- Tonal Balance/Treble. This leads me to the next point. The HD600’s really don’t do any one thing wrong, which is why I always recommend them first over everything else. A lot of people talk about the veil, but I just don’t see it. If veil means treble that doesn’t blow you away because it’s so harsh/grating/Sibilant (What does Sibilant mean?), then yeah, the 600’s are veiled. What is the Sennheiser veil? Basically the treble has been accused of being dark, but I very much disagree the more time I spend with them. It’s just natural and not overly bright. So tonally, the 600’s are very balanced, with a slight forward mid-range, while the 400i’s bass is more pronounced.
- Amplification/Impedance. I think both will do well with most decent headphone amps, but their impedance ratings are very different. The best headphone amp for the money! The 600’s impedance is 300 Ohms vs. the 35 Ohms of the 400i. What is Headphone Impedance?
- Weight/Build. The 400i’s are significantly heavier than the HD600’s. Both are built very well, though the 600’s have been known to crack around the headband if you aren’t careful stretching them out. I will say that I haven’t had an issue thus far. Just treat them very well and you should be fine.
- Cable. The cable of the 600’s is one of my only gripes, and it’s a minor one. It looks and feels like something you would see in a $20-40 pair of cans, but it isn’t a deal breaker by any means. The 400i’s cable by contrast is thicker and seems to be around the right size.
- Ear-cups/Comfort. While the ear cups both have velour, the 400i’s is kind of a velour/pleather hybrid. The 600’s are all velour. Both are very comfortable, but the 600’s are better for long term listening sessions in my opinion.
- Look/Fit. The 600’s have a traditional type of appearance, and that Blue Speckled Finish that you may or may not like. Personally I like it just fine and it doesn’t bother me. The 400i’s utilize that hammock headband fit, and are self adjustable. This was very convenient to me, and I much prefer it over the 600’s traditional clicking mechanism.
- Frequency Response. The HD600 goes from 12Hz – 40,500kHz, while the 400i goes from 20Hz – 35,000kHz.
My HE400i Review + Comparison to the HD600
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I have listened to both of these headphones for awhile, and though the 400i is a great option in this price range, I would still have to recommend the HD600 because does pretty much everything right. It represents the benchmark that all headphones should be compared to, because of it’s instrument separation, clarity, longevity, build, comfort, and overall best price to performance ratio. They are the Gold Standard for a reason, and have remained unchanged since 1997. That alone should tell you something! 🙂 Interested in learning everything you need to know about my favorite audiophile headphones?
CHECK OUT MY OFFICIAL SENNHEISER HD600 REVIEW!!
If you’re still curious about the HE400i’s, I also write in depth about them in my..
Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Sennheiser HD600 vs. HIFIMAN HE400i comparison.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
Are you likely to purchase the 400i? What about the HD600? I would love to hear from you. Until next time..
All the best and God bless,