Hello there friend and Welcome aboard!!
Before we get into the Sennheiser HD600 vs. HIFIMAN HE400i, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..
You’ve come to the right place!!
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..
HIFIMAN HE400i REVIEW!!
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,
Hi, just found your webpages whilst researching my next headphone purchase. I enjoy your format and presentation and detail, thanks! I’m a cautious buyer, taking ages to decide, to the point of not bothering sometimes 🙂 I’ve had HD595 for 8 years now, no complaints, but I’m sure the world has moved on. Recently purchased AudioQuest Dragonfly Red, playing through my PC (via USB). Was thinking I could improve audio experience with a headphone upgrade. But read so much am now stuck. Audio source is ‘only’ Spotify Premium, plus audio software such as Reason and VirtualDJ. Mostly electronic dance music, covering everything from techno to drum and bass. But I do dabble in Classical as well. And gaming (BF4) for about 50% of the time. Just looking for a brilliant all rounder really, like the HD595 but better…..!? HD600 a good choice? Not sure if balanced purity (HD600) over what sounds like a slight bass bias (400i) might be right. HD595 comfort is 10/10 and I sometimes have to check they’re on my head. Don’t want to compromise comfort due to the hours I spend in a single session. Any thoughts please? Keep up the good work on the reviews, THANKS.
No problem Richard! You’re in the ballpark for sure. The HD600 is my go to recommendation for a perfect all rounder, but it may not be as good for gaming due to it’s somewhat narrow Soundstage. Still, it’s a pretty flawless option, with fantastic instrument separation, and works well for pretty much any genre of music. I listen to a lot of Spotify as well, and out of my Oppo HA-2 it’s a dream. Just be aware that because it’s so honest, you’ll occasionally come across some pretty piss poor tracks. It’s just the nature of the beast given how honest the headphone is.
HE600 Review: https://homestudiobasics.com/the-sennheiser-hd-600-review-gold-standard/
The HIFIMAN HE400i is equally as delicious, but it’s sound signature tends to be on the warmer side, with a noticeable increase in overall bass impact. Soundstage is a bit better than an HD600, so depending on your sound preferences, you may take it over the 600.
400i Review: https://homestudiobasics.com/hifiman-he400i-review/
400i Video: https://youtu.be/yYmcANRHHOA
A great budget option that sounds just as good as the HD600 is the now venerable Philips SHP9500, which sits at under $100 and sounds incredible. I’ll say it right now: There are some people who will argue with me about this, but I find little to no difference in the sound of the HD600 vs. the 9500. I’ll link you to my review/video in which you can also check out some of the comments on Youtube where I defend my stance. If you’re not trying to spend a lot of money, I see no reason in buying an HD600 when you can get the 9500 for a fraction of the price. The only real difference is that the 9500’s come across brighter and somewhat more strident, but in my opinion you can only make that distinction when A/B testing both side by side, which I have done extensively.
The only issue is that because you’ve had the 595 for so long, it may be more of a side-grade rather than a true upgrade. I have the 558’s and they do share similar characteristics and qualities, though I do prefer the 9500 by a slight margin. The 9500’s will also be great for gaming, but some people disagree and say their Soundstage isn’t impressive. I think it is.
A fantastic option for gaming specifically is the Sennheiser HD599, which does represent a nice upgrade trajectory from your 595, and will perform almost as good as an HD600, but also be better for gaming. So that’s something you should consider, and I may go with that actually if I were in your shoes given you already have the fantastic DragonFly. To be sure, all headphones mentioned will work fantastic with the Fly, as I have gotten a chance to demo that piece as well and plan to add it to my collection in the not too distant future.
As far as comfort, The HD600 and 599 are the best, followed by the 400i and then the 9500. The 9500 is extremely comfortable, but rests on your head in kind of an awkward way. Still, I’ve never had to take it off but your mileage may vary in terms of overall feel.
Well that’s enough of me rambling for now. Let me know what you make of all this! Look forward to hearing from you again..
Wow, thanks for your comprehensive and rapid response. You touched on a number of areas exactly in-line with my thinking and concerns. As expected, this is beginning to open a Pandora’s box of other options (not heard/considered the 9500 before). But that is kind of what I wanted. I don’t expect you to tell me which single headphone I should buy, just open up my eyes to all the options I should consider.
I have a pair of B&W P7 wireless I use when I’m in need of music and am walking around the house. These award winning cans are obviously fantastic, but I tend to use them for maybe an hour at a time max. And although I can hear and sense the technical superiority compared to the HD595, I find the sound too clostrophobic next to the open-back I have become accustomed to, and they clamp abit too tight around my head. But I’m not a hardenned audiophile. I don’t have a mental breakdown if I can’t hear the sound of the bow on a violin string or unable to resolve the spacial separation of a group of musicians. My mind/ear adapts somewhat to what I’m hearing the music through and the emotional impact is more important than spectral analysis. I mean, I also use a £60 pair of Optoma BE Sport3 Wireless Bluetooth In-Ear Headphones when going to the gym. By all measures massively inferior to what I use when in the house, but I rooted my phone, installed Viper-FX audio app and have tweaked it to sound immeasurably better than how it was out-of-the-box. Is it objectively close to the original sound, I doubt it. Is it a representation of a fairly flat and balanced but enjoyable sound signature, I say yes. I kind of ironed out the typical V-shape sound of Electro dance music.
To be honest, if everyone on the internet could actually try out ALL the headphones they were perspecting before buying, most of doubts and concerns would evaporate. It is entirely subjective and individual. The wavelengths of sound frequencies audible to the human ear are around 17mm to 17m, so at the mm and cm scale the shape of your outer ear, ear canal and ear drum layout starts to have a significant impact on the perceived sound. Also age and history of exposure to different sound amplitudes will completely colour how we hear things.
Soundstage. Interesting. My friend tried HD800 (I think!) and said they were amazing but almost too good. Not sure what music he listened to, but said the separation and detail was flawless but because of that it seemed to lack a cohesiveness and didn’t fuse together. Every sound too isolated from the group. I imagine soundstage is important for gaming?? Separate the snipers from the ground troops. Pinpoint the location of the enemy helicopters sweeping overhead. Just read your Soundscape page (I love strolling through your site and finding nuggets of information, new and old) and see an order – HD 800 > HD 650 > HD 600 > HD 598 > HD 558 > HD 380 > HD 280 > HD 202 > HD 201. Can I presume the HD595 fits between the HD558 and 598 on this linear scale? And therefore expect the HD600 to be slightly more open than the HD595. Is there an objective measure of Soundstage? When buying my mobile phone, I looked into the DAC chips used in each device and read a lot of talk to do with crossover measurements.
Oh yes, I’ve not even started analysing the HD599, but thanks for the tip. I’ll probably dig through dozens of sites and reviews and try to amalgamate opinions and numbers into something tangible.
Thanks again for your time. For all it’s worth I will feedback some information and experience when I finally upgrade, but might not be for a few weeks/months.
That’s really interesting about the ear canal and the size in mm. I hadn’t really thought about it, but it makes sense given our ears are all slightly different. And you’re right about age and exposure. I’m 31 and don’t really listen with headphones like I used to. I think it’s actually a good thing, as my ears really needed a rest. I used to mix on phones into the wee hours of the morning, and it was exhausting though in my 20’s I could handle it. I could probably still do it now, but there’s no way the volume would be as loud. 😛
Soundstage is actually quite hard to be objective about, because no, there really isn’t a good way to measure it. After hearing a ton of high end headphones, I’m of the opinion that it’s a bit overrated, but still not like completely bogus or anything. There are headphones out there with wider imaging than others, but as far as people saying “It’s like you’re there with the band” that’s a bit over exaggerated in the majority of cases. I would say a good Soundstage is generally around shoulder width, and if people claim anything more than that, it’s mostly just not true. I mean we’re talking about headphones here, not surround sound speakers. I just think the whole thing has become blown out of proportion in the last few years.
As far as the 600 being more open than a 595? Probably not. The 600’s have a rather narrow image actually. If one was looking for a strict gaming headphone, they may pass on the 600. That said, overall it’s still at the top of the list of headphones to consider because it does pretty much nothing wrong.
Keep me posted on your findings, and I can help guide you to a logical solution!
Another example of this came on Pink Floyd’s “Time.” Unfortunately, this experience was neither bad nor good.
I’m little afraid of this, would the way that these headphone make things sound so present/exposed make it sound strange/unnatural/unpleasant?
I should clarify, at that time I was using the 400i in my local Audio Advice on a Bryston BHA-1, which is like a $1,400 amp. I was a bit taken aback by the clarity, so yes it felt a bit strange. However, on a more affordable set up like the Magni/Modi I didn’t get those same impressions. It’s really hard to quantify. It may have just been the mastering quality of the CD, or some other unknown/unseen factor that I wasn’t consciously aware of. Time of day, mood, alertness, etc. You know what I mean? There’s so many variables at play. I do remember Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away” sounding the best I’d ever heard it on the same Bryston with the same 400i if that helps.
Looking to upgrade from beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio’s. Looking currently at HIFIMAN HE400i would you think it would be a worthy upgrade I listen mainly to metal and indie and some electronic trance style things. I also will be gaming with them. Sennheiser HD 600 are $286 vs $200 for 400i on amazon atm.
Which of these you go with (600 vs. 400i) depends on the type of sound you’re after. The 400i is a warmer, lusher sound with added bass emphasis but still very detailed. The HD600’s are a sterile, cleaner sound with more bass roll off. Which sound is more appealing to you? Either is a worthy upgrade, that’s not really the issue. 🙂
For gaming, the 400i’s Soundstage is a bit more immersive/wider than the narrower staging of the HD600. It doesn’t make the 600 “bad” for gaming, it just means that you won’t be quite as immersed if that makes sense. I don’t actually have the 400i on hand right now, but I just got done doing a comparison to the 600 not too long ago. Just a second ago I went into the living room to A/B test the HD558 against a 600 for gaming and really the only difference is that the 558 is a bit more “3D sounding” than the more closed in 600.
That said, the 600’s instrument separation, detail, and clarity are all amazing, but you’re not going to get a very wide image. I linked the video in the article. You should watch it.
Hope that helps!!
Let me know..
I have found the Monolith M1060 revision 2 what would you say if i threw into the mix? From what I read it will be a better planar headphone
Don’t know much about the Monoliths, but my boy Metal571 does and I value his opinions even though we don’t always agree on stuff Check out his video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FL4BbYnse88
Let me know what you think!
Hi again, I’m leaning towards the HD599. I can believe the HD600 might be technically better, but I think the attraction of purity and balance is less important than warmth and smooth for prolonged listening to EDM and gaming. I’m slightly concerned the HD599 might sound ‘too similar’ to my HD595 and I’m not impacted by the upgrade as much. The HD600 will no doubt sound sharper and clearer than my current experiences. The Dragonfly upgrade I did was definitely better than the PC sound, but not massively. Maybe because the motherboard was setup to be audio friendly, with an isolated and shielded section on the board, regulated power input to soundchip and some fancy gold audio capacitors. But I’m confident I will hear the improvement straight away with the new headphones (HD599), just not able to sense value for money as measured by ‘$ per degree of improvement’ compared to HD600…….
Oh yeah, for gaming it’s a no brainer for sure. I think you should go for it actually. If it’s not enough of an upgrade you can always return it and get the 600. Thing is, the 600’s won’t do as well for Gaming (though they still sound fine to me). You just don’t get as an immersive experience. I A/B tested the 558 and 600 the other day and it’s without question the 558 was more 3D sounding.
As for the Dragonfly Red, it made a huge difference for me but then again my Laptop is crap, lol. Did you try it with your phone? You’ll have to buy an extra piece but it’s pretty cheap.
Let me know how you like the 599!! I would love to hear some in depth analysis.
Only a year late, due to a number of reasons!
My initial impressions of the HD599 was disappointment, compared to what I was using for a number of years before, the HD595. The weaknesses I experienced in the 595’s were somewhat alleviated in the 599’s, but introduced new issues, for me and my ears. The 595 did not have the bass presence I was looking for in a good pair of all round headphones and the 599 definitely sounded better at low frequencies. But what the 599 made up for in bass it seemed to completely lose in the treble. I don’t know how refined the high end on the 595’s were compared to a standard, either sharp or tinny, but it gave clarity and a spatial resolution that was missing from the 599’s, which sounded woolly/soft and a bit narrow. I like a certain sharpness and detail in my headphones, I think predominantly taken care of by mid/high frequencies. So maybe the 599’s represent a well-balanced sound EQ and 595’s treble-biased and bass-lacking. But the feeling for the first week of constant use was mixed, but never reaching satisfying levels. I was always enjoying the bass but missing the rest. Over time, as expected, my ears and expectations have gotten used to the 599 sound. The sound separation is similar between the two cans. The comfort is excellent with both. Due to a mostly plastic build, they are very light and good pads mean I could often forget they were actually on my head. There are small differences between constructions, but designs are essentially the same.
I have a pair of Verum1’s on order, due in next 4 weeks. Do you have a pair coming your way for a review? I’ll give an update when I can.
Glad to hear back from you 🙂 Interesting impressions and should help a lot of folks out. Would you mind sending me the 599’s? I would love to do a video comparison with the 598. Let me know man! I don’t have a pair coming for the Verum 1. Interesting sounding headphone! Had to look it up. It’s a planar?
That’s interesting about the 599. I kind of feel the same way in regards to the 598. Very good, but sometimes wooly in that treble area which is a great word to describe it!
Anyways keep me posted..
Seems that every prick is able to produce trash articles, playing audiophile or expert.