HifiMan has upgraded their open back, planar magnetic HE400s headphones to the HE400se. One of the least expensive products in their line, the HE400s has been a great headphone for those looking to start out in the audio world at $299. Now running for half the price at $149, the HE400se is here to further perfect the formula.
What’s in the Box
- HifiMan HE400se
- Dual sided 3.5mm cable
- 6.35mm adapter
Look and Feel
These are quite similar to the original HE400s, except with a slightly different headband. The ear cups are extra plush and have a soft lining on the inside. These have a pretty nondescript look, their minimal grey and black exterior not drawing much attention. Clearly, the sound is the priority.
The HE400se uses “Stealth Magnets” that are meant to eliminate interference created by conventional magnets when sound waves are passing through. This unique magnet design is meant to be transparent and reduce turbulence in order to persevere the “integrity of the sound wave.”
These have a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz and an impedance of 25 Ohms
The most impressive part of the HE400se’s soundstage is its holographic qualities. This is an extremely lofty, porous soundstage that extends sound outwards in an extremely comfortable, natural fashion. Listening to Syd B’s “Are You Feeling It Too?” the vocal stacks sound feathery and vividly textured. The reach the HE400se's width feels about standard for an open back, it’s not pushing things further out than any other open back I’ve heard, but I didn't expect it to for its price.
The low end on the HE400se is somewhat subdued and very tightly controlled. These don’t feel hollow in the low end, but there’s not a strong boom, thud, or bump to them. This feels like an intentional choice, as the HE400se to me didn’t come across as headphone meant to up intensity, instead erring on the side of smoothness, transparency, and clarity. I wouldn’t have minded a slightly harder punch from the lows on these, as they definitely round off the edges of many attacks. Still, as per usual, there’s always the flip side of those with sensitive ears who will love this softer impact.
The mids on the HE400se do a great job cleaning things up pretty heavily but never crossing the fine line between silky and thin. The high mids are clearly cut a bit, leaving any resonance in the dust. But the handling and detail retrieval the HE400se has makes this cut not feel like its sacrificing presence or intimacy from lead elements like vocals, keys, and guitars. The low mids feel cut a bit too, but in less drastic ways, leaving just enough to maintain warmth, but definitely looking to keep things as light and airy as possible overall.
The HE400se are on the brighter side, but they’re not super heavy handed in the highs as a whole. There’s a clear boost going on, but it’s leaving the 4kHz-8kHz range alone mostly and paying more attention to the 8kHz-16kHz range, giving us a super clean, subtle shine. If you like brightness like me, but are insanely picky about it being done the right way, the HE400se will likely float your boat. Their high end feels crisp but is devoid of grit or metallic timbres.
Compare to the HE400s:
The HE400se sounds similar to its predecessor the HE400s of course, but they still differ more than one might expect. the HE400se is noticeably brighter in the high end, making the 400s sound slightly dark by comparison. Additionally, the HE400s seems to have a somewhat heavier-set bass response than the HE400se, making it be a bit more impactful but not quite as light and open sounding. Aside from the sonic differences, the HE400s also has a bit of a tighter fit than the HE400se.
The HE400se feels like a great improvement upon the HE400s, and for half the original’s price, it’s hard to pass up. This feels like what a $149 headphone should be: a solid sound that’s more than just functional, containing plenty of nuance and character. If you’re in the market for a planar magnetic open back and aren’t looking to spend the big bucks quite yet, the HE400se may be your best bet.
You can purchase the HifiMan HE400se here