My first exposure to Hifiman headphones was during the local November Hifishow in 2014 when there was a dealer that displayed an HE400i, HE560i, and even the mighty HE500. At the time, I was just a couple of years into my headphone journey so auditioning those unsurprisingly blew me away. 3 years after that, I decided to finally get myself a pair. It was considered to be a competitive mid-fi headphone during that time and fast forward to today and having owned more than 10 headphones after, I thought it’d be interesting to see where I’d rank the HE400i and whether it’s worth recommending in 2020.
The Hifiman HE400i is an open-back full-size planar magnetic headphone that’s been around since 2013. Originally retailing for $499, the HE400i has undergone some minor revisions over the years and has seen its price go down to as low as $179 occasionally. Here are the different variants that I know off:
- Original HE400i with screw-on cable
- HE400i with the 2.5mm connectors
- HE400i with the 3.5mm connectors
- HE400i 2020 edition
I have the HE400i with 2.5mm and with the exception of the 2020 edition, all variants look the same.
As an open headphone, its main application is for home use but I doubt anyone would be wanting to take this out and get seen wearing it as you will definitely get some attention while doing so.
I’ve had this pair for a long time so the pics below show some wear on the headband and earpads.
It’s predominantly made of plastic but they don’t feel cheap plastic especially the cups. The headband has the square-ish look that Hifiman still uses in their newer higher-end models such as the Arya, HE1000, and even the Susvara. It’s also got a suspension piece of pleather that is designed to distribute the weight evenly.
The earpads have a hybrid of synthetic leather on the outside and velour on the inside. It should be large enough for most ears as mine had no issues getting in completely.
The cable is annoyingly short at 1.5m and is covered by a cloth-like material. It terminates in a straight 3.5mm with two 2.5 mm mono plugs going in on each earcup. The plugs just go in straight without any locking mechanism but I find it secure enough.
Not much else comes with the headphone. You get a quarter-inch adapter and that’s about it. The box is pretty good though and can easily function as a storage box as it has some good padding inside.
I’ve owned the HE400i for close to 4 years now and aside from the normal flaking of the pads and the headband wrap, the headphone is very much in a useable state. I know people feel Hifiman’s build is inferior to others but my experience with this specific product is just fine.
Isolation & Comfort
Comfort is quite good with this headphone. The large circumference and the mixture of velour and pleather on the earpads don’t irritate my ears. I’d say it’s a little shallow though so my ears can kinda touch the inside part of the housing which I do not find it annoying at all.
At 370g, I do not find it heavy but if you’re coming from portable headphones it may take a while for you to get accustomed to it.
I know some people still hope for some form of isolation from an open-back headphone and this one won’t provide you any. It is also going to leak the hell out of your music so be prepared to let your colleagues know you’re listening to K-pop music if you’re planning to use this for work.