My final listening session came with with the most expected pairing, the HE400S and my iPhone 6S+. Leading the playlist was ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ from Seal’s album 7 [iTunes AIFF 16/44.1 Warner Bros. 2008]. Having just heard the HE400S paired with top level high-end gear, it was interesting to listen to this more utilitarian pairing. First, the quality of the HE400S revealed the shortcomings of the iPhone as a DAP. It was outclassed by the Questyle by a wide margin. The key is that the clarity and transparency of the HiFiMAN planar magnetic technology proved revealing to the lesser sonic quality of the Apple device as a source. Not that it was bad, but there were edges to the presentation that the other gear was able to remove or not introduce into the song. The soundstage in particular was more closed in and there was a brightness to the sonics that would indicate a lower quality DAC providing the conversion back to analogue.
High quality equipment has the benefit of offering a great presentation or the downside of revealing lesser quality along the chain. There was no challenge with volume. I was operating at about 70% of maximum and had no desire to push it higher. HiFiMAN’s claim of efficiency and amenable impedance were easily supported by this listening session. To be fair, the presentation was easily as good as any I have heard when sourcing from an iPhone. Plus, the iPhone is designed to do far more than simply source music. Yet from a music delivery perspective it was the weak link alongside the £240 HE400S. Given its ability to scale with state of the art gear and its ability to be driven with no compromise in volume on something as ubiquitous as a smart phone it has proven to be an effective performer in any audio setting. Given its reasonable price point we may have a new value-based headphone champion. It is called the HiFiMAN HE400S, and I suggest you try it as soon as you can. Highly recommended!
Type: Circumaural, open-back, planar magnetic headphone
Drivers: Full-range, low-mass, planar magnetic drivers
Frequency response: 20Hz–35kHz
Impedance: 22 Ohms nominal
Cable: Detachable 1.5m
Price: £249, $299
Manufactured by: HiFiMAN
Tel: +1 201 443 4626