Review: HiFiMan RE-600S and RE-400C in-ear headphones
Two solid options from HiFiMan.
The in-ear headphone market is fast becoming the domain of true wireless sets, but what if you still want a wired set?
The market there has turned into a race for the bottom, with low-cost being the first thing to think of, with quality of sound a distant second or third.
Not so with HiFiMan, who might be better known for its range of planar over-ear headphones, digital audio players, and audiophile-quality gear. They also have a reasonably-priced, reasonable-quality range of in-ear headphones as well, and we’re looking at some of those today, the $75 RE-600S and the RE-400C.
So, what are they all about?
Okay, we’re going to spend the bulk of our time looking at the revamped RE-600S. That’s not because the RE-400C that you see above isn’t good, it’s purely because they’re a 7-year-old design, that HiFiMan added USB-C to instead of the usual 3.5mm jack. That’s a good move for the company, as the headphone jack is disappearing fast from our smartphones. It’s not available in the U.S., however, and the RE-600S is.
HiFiMan might be better known for its planar technology headphones, but it’s also got a fairly good rep for inexpensive IEMs. This is actually the second revision of the RE-600S, with a newly improved cable that uses single crystalline copper composited with crystal silver for better signal transmission and improved reliability.
It uses an 8.5mm driver with a titanium diaphragm and a powerful neodymium magnet and has a 15Hz – 22KHz frequency response. It’s got a 16 Ohm impedance so it’ll work fine on pretty much anything.
HiFiMan sells this set of IEMs in a pretty snazzy presentation box, stuffed with a selection of Comply ear tips so you can find the right fit for your ears, a small, zippered carrying pouch, and a bunch of extra filters to put on the tip.
So, are they HiFi, man?
We’re going to be listening to the RE-600S on the superlative ADI-2 DAC FS from RME Audio. That’s because I don’t want anything coloring the output except the IEMs themselves, so let’s dig in.
It’s been 20 years since Eminem spat the Marshall Mathers album out of his mouth, and Stan still bumps. Whether it’s the haunting vocals from Dido, the fantastic sound effects layered behind the backing track, or Eminem’s voice, the RE-600S put in the work, keeping everything balanced from the mix, with the balanced sound signature that the first-gen of the RE-600S was known for.
Now it’s time for a disco tip since that era was all about flat, noisy floors, falsetto vocals, and the sound revolution that lead to my beloved techno. Sylvester had one of the best falsetto voices in the business, and You make me feel (mighty real) is an absolute barnstormer of a track. His falsetto can be a bit fatiguing if your headphones are bright, but the RE-600S earbuds keep everything groovy, baby.
Gang Starr’s Jazz Thing, with its meandering through jazz samples, scratch turntablism, and modern poetry of hip hop is a workout for any speakers, let alone IEMs. The RE-600S keep Gang Starr’s voice firmly planted in center stage, while the music flows around, behind, and through his history lesson. The only thing I’d wish for here is a little tweak to the low frequencies to get the bass really shining through.
So, should I buy either of these offerings from HiFiMan?
For the current selling price of $75, the HiFiMan RE-600S is a fantastic buy. It’s rare to find neutral sound signatures on IEMs, let alone in the sub-$100 range. Go buy these, listen for a couple of days, and you might just be replacing whatever your current daily is. Even if not, they’ll be a worthy backup pair just in case…
The cheaper RE400C isn’t available in the U.S. yet, but pricing looks to be similar to the prior RE400, which didn’t have the USB-C connector. At that price, they’re an easy and inexpensive way to add wired headphones to your USB-C equipped smartphone, without having to mess around with external dongles.
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