Updated: Jan 7
Transparent and neutral planar with somewhat demanding high frequencies in deutsch
frequency range: 20 - 35000 Hz | sound pressure level: 93 dB | impedance: 35 Ohm | planar ma.
The HE4XX is an interesting and competent planar headphone in its price segment!
Bass Mids Trebles Stage Imaging
8.5 8 8 8 8
Processing Comfort Earpads Headband Weight
9 8 8 8 370 grams
Price 145 €
Pro Contra - comfortable pads - somewhat high contact pressure
- neutral... - ...with treble boost
- planar bass - treble sometimes a bit peaked
- details & transparency - stage for an open design
DROP tries in cooperation with established companies to make their products accessible to a wider mass at lower prices by taking former or current products with a good reputation, giving them a little more mainstream (soundwise) and also trying to implement more cost-effective variants in the design. Although DROP does not always succeed with these "slimmed down" versions to land a big hit, but in collaboration with SENNHEISER (HD6XX & HD58X), for example, respectable headphones have been created, which can represent a benchmark in the price range.
So let's take a look at how this cooperation with HIFIMAN is bearing fruit, where several models have already been released (HE35X, HE4XX, HE5XX & EDITION XX).
The HE4XX makes a very robust impression, which is certainly also subjectively generated by its weight. This is not particularly low at just under 400 grams, but it is well distributed on the head and ears, so that the wearing comfort is in a good range.
The very comfortable pads are angled slightly to provide better ergonomics. However, I find the contact pressure a bit high at the beginning, but you get used to it just like with the SENNHEISER HD6XX, or HD58X. Nevertheless, this is, for example, better managed with the HE5XX.
The headband has sufficient padding, but it could be a bit softer. I also miss a grid device for size adjustment, but the headband automatically slides into a well-fitting position when put on.
The scope of delivery is somewhat modest. There is only a rather thick cable with a 3.5mm jack connection, which can be adapted to 6.3mm (included). The headphones are connected on the left and right via 3.5mm jack, which also makes it easy to convert the HE4XX to balanced operation.
The isolation is hardly worth mentioning due to the open design, but it is slightly better than the even airier HE5XX due to the better sealing of the ear pads.
The HE4XX was basically my first planar over-ear headphones and I was initially a bit skeptical about how the bass performance would turn out here, since I was used to more dynamic representatives. Absolutely unfounded, because the bass of the HE4XX does not quite come close to this organic and dynamic of such a "conventional" driver, but it brings completely new qualities. Of course, not every dynamic headphone is equal to a high pleasure in the bass. There is a wide control in both directions here.
The HE4XX's bass is not only interesting because of its detailed, drying playing style, it adds a certain lightness to the sound. Even though it doesn't bring the fattest kick in the subrange or build up any noticeable punch, it's very accurate without slipping into the mids or overdoing it. This not only makes it very clean, but gives it an unexpected sense of spaciousness. To that end, it persists in any genre with consistent quality and speed. Absolute bassheads might want to look to closed-back dynamic headphones, though, for the absolute kick.
I would describe the mids as quite neutral, even if they sometimes seem a bit restrained to me and don't sparkle with energy. Basically, I quite like these relaxed, natural, but detailed mids in this form, though in that case I would like a bit more liveliness to create a symbiosis with the treble. Thus, the relationship is a bit discordant to me, but I don't blame the mids as much for that, since they basically do little wrong. Voices are intimate and instruments that are more in the midrange sound largely realistic.
Neither garishness resonates nor any other unpleasant background noise. However, the mids sometimes sound a bit veiled, but this only becomes noticeable when you switch to the HE5XX, for example.
The treble should be taken with a grain of salt here and there, as it is noticeably artificially boosted, which can amplify the sibilants and cause the HE4XX's tonality to slip a bit into the bright and unnatural at times. This is song-dependent, but for me there is always something slightly artificial resonating, although you also quickly get used to it.
Nevertheless, the trebles are transparent and have a good resolution, but they don't necessarily invite you to turn up the volume. However, it is precisely the good detail and transparency that finally make the highs attractive and give them not only quantity, but also quality, even if this is not always produced in a natural-looking way.
The stage is well positioned in terms of width and depth, although this is certainly not where the HE4XX's absolute strengths lie. I would describe this as quite realistic, without the stage being classified as above average in width. Compared to the HE5XX, the HE4XX sounds a bit more compact, but this could also suit some people.
Despite the more accentuated highs, the HE4XX is not quite as airy and quite intimate, especially in the voice presentation. The separation is decent and voices and instruments are clearly separated from each other, but if you compare this to the HE5XX, you'll notice a few deficits. However, the HE4XX is not bad from a technical point of view and is certainly still very decent in its price segment. However, you shouldn't expect an outstanding holographic sound despite an open planar driver.
The HE4XX is an interesting and competent planar headphone in its price segment! However, in comparison with other price-performance powerhouses from DROP, it can't quite keep up for my taste (HE4XX < HD58X < HE5XX < HD6XX) and for me that has something to do with its slightly artificial, sometimes peaky highs, because the bass and mids are really good tonally. Here is certainly still a bit what to get out with an equalizer.
Ultimately, it is also a question of taste and above all tolerance, as far as the treble is concerned.
However, I would have liked either a bit more lively mids or slightly more relaxed highs a la HD6XX to make the HE4XX sound even more harmonious overall. The HE4XX is a very good, high-resolution all-rounder and a great entry into the planar headphone world.
If you have a few more bucks in your pocket and prefer a more lively, open sound, you should take a look at the HE5XX if you want a HIFIMAN (DROP edition).
However, with the HE4XX, you should keep in mind that despite the successful overall performance, we are still talking about a planar headphone of just under 150 €, which makes it very well positioned in its price range and more than competitive!