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HiFiMan HE400se Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.5
Reviewed Aug 05, 2022 at 11:57 am
HiFiMan HE400se Picture
8.2
Neutral Sound
3.6
Commute/Travel
5.1
Sports/Fitness
4.3
Office
4.6
Wireless Gaming
6.7
Wired Gaming
1.4
Phone Calls
Type Over-ear
Enclosure Open-Back
Wireless No
Noise Cancelling No
Mic No
Transducer Planar Magnetic

The HiFiMan HE400se are planar magnetic over-ears ideal for audiophiles who value high audio quality at a more affordable price. If you're not already familiar with planar magnetic headphones, this driver design can offer three benefits over more conventional dynamic drivers, such as the AKG K371: a better bass response, more immersive soundstage, and less distortion. Adding to this, HiFiMan has refined their drivers with 'Stealth Magnets', a design choice they advertise as further lowering audio distortion without degrading audio quality. However, their wallet-friendly price point comes with a couple of caveats. The manufacturer has already made one silent revision, replacing the original braided audio cable with a thicker rubber cable due to user reports of poor build quality and breakage. There's a chance you still may receive the headphones with the original cable though, depending on the manufacturing batch.

Our Verdict

8.2 Neutral Sound

The HiFiMan HE400se are great for neutral sound. Thanks to their open-back design, they're able to create a great passive soundstage that feels immersive and wide. Although this same design means that they lack thump and rumble, they have a fairly neutral sound profile overall and even have a bump of extra warmth that helps balance out their bass. Vocals and lead instruments also sound natural and clear. However, their high-mid to low-treble is recessed, which veils the upper harmonics of vocals and instruments in mixes. On the upside, they deliver audio consistently, so you don't need to worry about large deviations in bass or treble due to fit, seal, and positioning.

Pros
  • Very comfortable fit.
  • Consistent audio delivery.
  • Wide, spacious, and natural passive soundstage.
Cons
  • Dip in the high-mid to low-treble weakens and veils vocals and lead instruments.
3.6 Commute/Travel

The HiFiMan HE400se are poor for commute and travel. They're really not ideal for this use, especially as they won't block out any background noise, which means that you'll hear all the rumbles of bus or plane engines instead of your audio. Since they're designed to leak audio, even if you're listening to your favorite tunes at a moderate volume, others around you will be able to hear it. They're also bulky, hard to transport as they don't have a carrying case, and lack controls.

Pros
  • Very comfortable fit.
Cons
  • Leak audio, even at moderate volumes.
  • Won't block out any background noise.
  • No mic or controls.
5.1 Sports/Fitness

The HiFiMan HE400se are disappointing for sports and fitness. They're not designed for this purpose as they're bulky, can fall off of your head with moderate movement, and their audio cable can be a snagging hazard. They're also open-back headphones, so if you're wearing them in a noisy environment, you'll have trouble hearing your audio well. Others around you will also be able to listen in on your music due to their high leakage.

Pros
  • Very comfortable fit.
Cons
  • Won't block out any background noise.
  • Not stable enough during moderate movement.
  • No mic or controls.
4.3 Office

The HiFiMan HE400se are poor for office use. If you have your own personal office, they may be worth considering if you value high audio quality. However, for most people, they offer large drawbacks, especially if you share your workspace with others. They're not designed to block out sound, which can be frustrating if you work with chatty colleagues, and they also leak audio, even at moderate volumes. They lack a mic too, so you won't be able to take calls or meetings. On the upside, they're comfortable enough for long listening sessions.

Pros
  • Very comfortable fit.
Cons
  • Leak audio, even at moderate volumes.
  • Won't block out any background noise.
  • No mic or controls.
4.6 Wireless Gaming

The HiFiMan HE400se are wired headphones and can't be used wirelessly.

6.7 Wired Gaming

The HiFiMan HE400se are fair for wired gaming, so long as you provide your own mic. Since they're audiophile headphones, they don't have a mic, so you won't be able to converse with teammates. If that isn't a deal-breaker for you, they have a comfortable fit for long gaming marathons and their open-back design can help create a more immersive soundstage experience. Their sound profile is also well-balanced when it comes to dialogue and instruments. However, they lack low-bass, so gameplay can feel a bit light on thump, rumble, and punch.

Pros
  • Very comfortable fit.
  • Wide, spacious, and natural passive soundstage.
Cons
  • Leak audio, even at moderate volumes.
  • No mic or controls.
1.4 Phone Calls

The HiFiMan HE400se are audiophile headphones and don't have a microphone.

  • 8.2 Neutral Sound
  • 3.6 Commute/Travel
  • 5.1 Sports/Fitness
  • 4.3 Office
  • 4.6 Wireless Gaming
  • 6.7 Wired Gaming
  • 1.4 Phone Calls
  1. Updated Aug 05, 2022: Review published.
  2. Updated Aug 01, 2022: Early access published.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style

The HiFiMan HE400se have rounded ear cups that are quite reminiscent of higher-end models like the HiFiMan Sundara 2020. However, the silver plastic detailing and aluminum hinges help differentiate them from other products in this manufacturer's lineup, which tend to have an overall black color scheme. They also have a more conventional headband than over-ears such as the HiFiMan Arya, which tend to have large ski-band headbands.

Keep in mind that earlier batches of these headphones come with a silver braided audio cable. If you purchase from a newer batch, you'll receive a black cable.

8.0
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.87 lbs
Clamping Force
0.7 lbs

The HiFiMan HE400se are very comfortable. They feel lightweight and don't clamp too tightly on your head. The padding also feels plush and soft against the skin. However, the padding can get warm over time as heat is trapped in the cloth part of the cups.

0
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
No Controls
Ease Of Use No Controls
Feedback No Controls
Call/Music Control No
Volume Control No
Microphone Control No
Channel Mixing
No
Noise Cancelling Control No
Talk-Through
No
Additional Controls No
5.3
Design
Portability
L 8.2" (20.9 cm)
W 6.3" (15.9 cm)
H 4.5" (11.4 cm)
Volume 231.18 in³ (3,788.30 cm³)
Transmitter Required No

Like most audiophile headphones, these over-ears are bulky and not designed for outdoor or on-the-go use. The ear cups can't swivel to lay flat and they take up a lot of room in a bag. They don't come with a carrying case to help protect them either.

0
Design
Case
Type No case
L N/A
W N/A
H N/A
Volume N/A
7.5
Design
Build Quality

The HiFiMan HE400se have a good build quality. Their frame is a mix of plastic and metal, and although the plastic feels a bit cheap, the headphones still feel sturdy overall. The headband has faux leather padding while the ear cups have a mix of faux leather and cloth. These over-ears also have planar magnetic drivers as well as two ports for the left and right audio cable connectors. On the downside, the hinges make a creaking noise when you move them. Luckily, they don't make any annoying sounds when on your head.

When we disconnected our unit's audio cable from the drivers, the left connector's glue came apart, exposing the wires inside the cable. We were able to push the connector back into place and it seems like there has been no change in performance. However, the cable seems of low quality. Luckily, the cable is replaceable, but this may still be a dealbreaker for some, as you'll need to factor in possible cable breakage over time.

6.0
Design
Stability

The HiFiMan HE400se have mediocre stability. They don't clamp as tightly onto your head as other headphones from this manufacturer such as the HiFiMan HE-400i. They slightly move around with low-intensity head movements, but they can easily fall off of your head with more intense head movements. They're not designed for this purpose though.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Design
In The Box

  • HiFiMan HE400se headphones
  • 1/8" TRS to L/R 1/8" TRS cable
  • 1/4" TRS to 1/8" adapter

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
-2.79 dB
Treble Amount
-1.75 dB

The sound profile of the HiFiMan400se is fairly neutral, making them a versatile choice for most kinds of audio content. They have planar magnetic drivers, but they also have an open-back design, which means that they don't produce as much thump, rumble, or punch as their closed-back, dynamic driver counterparts such as the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO. That said, their mid range is well-balanced and neutral, but a dip in the high-mid to low-treble veils vocals and lead instruments.

8.3
Sound
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
0.34 dB

The frequency response consistency of the HiFiMan HE400se is great. Once you get a good fit, you should experience consistent bass and treble delivery each time you use these headphones.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
7.7
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
3.09 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
55.76 Hz
Low-Bass
-6.07 dB
Mid-Bass
-1.57 dB
High-Bass
1.37 dB

The bass accuracy of the HiFiMan HE400se is good. Although they lack a thumpy low-bass, which is to be expected from open-back headphones, they still deliver adequate punch and warmth. If you listen to the song Green Light by Lorde, the bass line in the first chorus has depth and presence without overwhelming her vocal track.

8.6
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
1.86 dB
Low-Mid
0.7 dB
Mid-Mid
0.22 dB
High-Mid
-2.21 dB

The HiFiMan HE400se have excellent mid accuracy. The range is very flat, which results in natural and present vocals and lead instruments. However, a dip in the high-mid weakens their upper harmonics. This means that if you listen to songs like Sinnerman, you'll notice that Nina Simone's vocals as well as her powerful piano melody in the climactic ending sound a bit distant compared to the racing hi-hats.

7.6
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
3.58 dB
Low-Treble
-2.14 dB
Mid-Treble
0.62 dB
High-Treble
-8.23 dB

The treble accuracy of the HiFiMan HE400se is good. The low treble is recessed, which veils vocals and lead instruments. However, the mid-treble is more neutral, so sibilants like cymbals sound bright without being too piercing.

7.4
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
1.81 dB
Dips
0.92 dB

The peaks and dips performance of the HiFiMan HE400se is decent. A small bump in the high-bass adds a touch of extra warmth to mixes while a drop in the high-mid more prominently affects the left driver and hurts the clarity of vocals and lead instruments. A very large peak in the mid-treble turns sibilants like S and T sounds piercing.

9.0
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.12
Weighted Phase Mismatch
2.32
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
0.64
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
1.38

The imaging performance is outstanding. This test looks into the alignment of the left and right drivers. It indicates how well headphones accurately reproduce and place spatial objects like instruments in the stereo image. For example, if you're listening to orchestral music, good imaging allows you to hear violins coming from your left, clarinets center-stage, and trumpets from your right. Bad imaging can play with the placement of these sounds: your audio can sound lower in volume and as if coming more from one side, skewing the overall sound. Very bad imaging can even mean that the left and right drivers are completely out of sync, making for a less-than-enjoyable listening experience.

The group delay falls below the audibility threshold, resulting in tight bass and transparent treble reproduction. Our unit's left and right drivers are also well-matched when it comes to phase, amplitude, and frequency response. This helps to ensure that objects like voices and instruments are accurately placed in the stereo image. Keep in mind that imaging can vary between units, and it can indicate a manufacturer's quality control and ergonomics. Planar magnetic headphones are also difficult to manufacture consistently due to their complex drivers. As a result, they tend to have more variance between units than dynamic driver headphones.

8.3
Sound
Passive Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
3.34 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
5.66 dB
PRTF Distance
9.82 dB
Openness
9.6
Acoustic Space Excitation
9.4

The passive soundstage performance of the HiFiMan HE400se is great. The soundstage seems wide, natural, and open. However, the headphones have some trouble creating an out-of-head experience, and audio can sound like it's coming from inside your head rather than from speakers placed in front of you.

0
Sound
Virtual Soundstage
Head Modeling
No
Speaker Modeling
No
Room Ambience
No
Head Tracking
No
Virtual Surround
No App
8.1
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.186
WHD @ 100
0.091

The weighted harmonic distortion performance of the HiFiMan HE400se is great. The responses fall within good limits, resulting in clean and pure audio reproduction.

Sound
Test Settings
Firmware
No Firmware
Power
Passive
Connection
Wired
Codec
PCM, 24-bit, 48kHz
EQ
No EQ
ANC
No ANC
Tip/Pad
Default
Microphone
No Microphone

These are the settings used to test these headphones. Our results are only valid in this configuration.

Isolation
0.9
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-1.98 dB
Bass
-0.16 dB
Mid
0.78 dB
Treble
-6.32 dB

The noise isolation performance of the HiFiMan HE400se is bad, but that's to be expected from open-back headphones. They're not designed to block out background noise like the low rumble of bus and plane engines or ambient chatter.

0.6
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
67.59 dB

The leakage performance of these headphones is bad, but again, that's to be expected from open-backs. They're designed to leak audio in order to create a more immersive soundstage. The trade-off is that others around you can hear your audio, even in quiet environments.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
No
In-Line
No
Boom
No
Detachable Boom
No
0
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
N/A
LFE
N/A
FR Std. Dev.
N/A
HFE
N/A
Weighted THD
N/A
Gain
N/A
0
Microphone
Noise Handling
SpNR
N/A
Noise Gate
No
Speech + Pink Noise Handling
N/A
Speech + Pink Noise Audio Sample N/A
Speech + Subway Noise Handling
N/A
Speech + Subway Noise Audio Sample N/A
Active Features
0
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
No Battery
Continuous Battery Life
N/A
Additional Charges
N/A
Total Battery Life
N/A
Charge Time
N/A
Power-Saving Feature
No
Audio While Charging
No
Passive Playback
Passive Headphone
Charging Port None
0
Active Features
App Support
App Name No App
iOS No
Android No
macOS No
Windows No
Equalizer
No
ANC Control
No
Mic Control No
Room Effects
No
Playback Control
No
Button Mapping No
Surround Support
No
Connectivity
0
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
No Bluetooth
Multi-Device Pairing
No
NFC Pairing
No
Line Of Sight Range
N/A
PC Latency (SBC)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX HD)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX-LL)
N/A
iOS Latency
N/A
Android Latency
N/A
0
Connectivity
Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line Of Sight Range
N/A
Non-BT Latency
N/A
9.5
Connectivity
Wired
Analog Audio
Yes
USB Audio
No
Detachable Yes
Length 4.92 ft (1.50 m)
Connection
1/8" TRS
Analog/USB Audio Latency
0 ms

These headphones come with a detachable 1/8" TRS cable with a separate 1/8" connector for the left and right drivers. They also come with a 1/8" to 1/4" TRS adapter so you can connect it to an amp or DAC. Keep in mind that earlier batches of these headphones come with a silver braided audio cable whereas newer batches come with a black rubberized cable.

Connectivity
PC Compatibility
Analog
Audio Only
Wired USB
No
Non-BT Wireless
No

The HiFiMan HE400se can only connect to PCs via analog. They don't have a mic though so you can only receive audio.

Connectivity
PlayStation Compatibility
PS4 Analog
Audio Only
PS4 Wired USB
No
PS4 Non-BT Wireless
No
PS5 Analog
Audio Only
PS5 Wired USB
No
PS5 Non-BT Wireless
No

The HiFiMan HE400se can only receive audio when connected to your PS4 or PS5 console.

Connectivity
Xbox Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
Audio Only
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Non-BT Wireless
No
Xbox Series X|S Analog
Audio Only
Xbox Series X|S Wired USB
No
Xbox Series X|S Non-BT Wireless
No

These headphones can connect to your Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S via analog. However, they can only receive audio since they don't have a mic.

0
Connectivity
Base/Dock
Type
No Base/Dock
USB Input
No
Line In
No
Line Out
No
Optical Input
No
RCA Input
No
Dock Charging
No
Power Supply
No Base/Dock

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The HiFiMan HE400se come in two batches that are differentiated primarily through their audio cables. The first batch has a silver braided audio cable. However, users reported breakage issues with this cable and as a result, the manufacturer produced a second batch that has a black rubber cable. This change was also done in a stealth revision, so it's possible that you may not know which batch your product comes from until you open their box. In terms of colorways, these headphones come in only one color variation: 'Silver' and you can see our model's label here. Our model is also from the second batch and comes with the black rubber cable.

If you come across another variant of these headphones, please let us know in the discussion section below and we'll update our review. 

Compared To Other Headphones

The HiFiMan HE400se are budget-friendly audiophile headphones. They stand out from the affordable, open-back crowd, thanks to their planar magnetic drivers. This design helps them create a more immersive soundstage than many of their dynamic driver competitors such as the Philips Fidelio X2HR, and they can produce a bit more low-bass. As HiFiMan also produces a wide lineup of planar magnetic headphones, these over-ears are often compared to some of this manufacturer's mid-range products such as the HiFiMan Sundara 2020. The HE400se are similarly great for neutral sound, but their high-mid to low-treble is more recessed, which weakens and veils vocals and instruments compared to the Sundara, which have a flatter overall response.

That said, if you're on the market for great-sounding headphones, you'll want to check out our best audiophile headphones article. You can also take a look at our picks for the best headphones for music and the best wired headphones.

HiFiMan Sundara 2020

The HiFiMan Sundara 2020 are better planar magnetic headphones than the HiFiMan HE400se. While both headphones are very comfortable and well-built, the Sundara have a more neutral sound, especially as their treble response is flatter and less veiled. Their passive soundstage is slightly better too as it sounds a bit more natural, and the headphones are prone to fewer inconsistencies in audio delivery.

Philips Fidelio X2HR

The Philips Fidelio X2HR are slightly better headphones for neutral sound than the HiFiMan HE400se. While both headphones are comfortable and well-built, the Philips are dynamic headphones with a more neutral overall sound profile. Their mid and treble ranges are very flat and even, so vocals and lead instruments sound clear, accurate, and bright. However, the HiFiMan are planar magnetics with a more immersive passive soundstage. They're also less sensitive to deviations in bass and treble delivery due to fit, positioning, and seal. 

HiFiMan HE-400i

The HiFiMan HE-400i and the HiFiMan HE400se are similarly performing planar magnetic headphones with a couple of differences. While both headphones have a similar sound profile with a shared dip in the high-mid to mid-treble range, the HE-400i are an older model with a ski band headband, helping to distribute the headphones' weight across your head. Their passive soundstage also feels wider, which can help immerse you in your audio. In comparison, the HE400se are better-built, more lightweight, and have a conventional headband, which some users may prefer.

Philips SHP9500

The Philips SHP9500 and the HiFiMan HE400se are two great entry-level audiophile headphones with small differences between them. The Philips are more comfortable, and have a more even, although slightly brighter treble range. On the other hand, the HiFiMan are better-built, have fewer deviations in audio delivery, and are able to deliver a bit more low-bass. However, most users should appreciate either model. 

HiFiMan Ananda

The HiFiMan Ananda are higher-end planar magnetics than the budget-friendly HiFiMan HE400se. While both headphones are comfortable, the Ananda have a better build quality, a significantly better passive soundstage performance, which feels more out of head and natural, and their sound profile is more neutral overall. That said, if you're on a tighter budget, the HE400se still offers good value for sound, although they don't feel as durable. 

AKG K371

Depending on your usage, you may prefer either the AKG K371 or the HiFiMan HE400se. The AKG are closed-back headphones, which are well-suited for listening sessions where you want to block out background noise and reduce audio bleed. They also have a more neutral overall sound profile, which some users may prefer. However, the HiFiMan are open-backs, which are designed to let sound escape the ear cups in order to create a more immersive soundstage. They're more comfortable, better-built, and are able to reproduce audio more consistently. 

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