Submitted by Line6Guitarist t3_119rnw3 in headphones

So I've been using cheap gaming headsets my whole life pretty much but got to try a sundara at my friend's, and I was quite blown away. After that I decided get myself a pair of nice audiophile headphone. Well I ordered the he400se after seeing pretty much everyone rave about how amazing they are. I'm running them through a fiio k3 with a balanced cable and plenty of headroom. And honestly, I don't get it. I know they're not sundaras but I expected them to at least be better than my current cheap headset, hell they don't sound much better than my 10 dollar earbuds. Am I missing something? Did I just set my expectations too high?

The lower mid range sounds muddy and untextured higher mids and treble sound veiled and everything feels very low resolution. I have to admit the soundstage and instrument seperation is not bad but I can't really say its good either.

After seeing everyone praise these headphones so much I got excited trying them but i guess they're just not for me.

tl;dr: I don't like them and want to understand what people like about them so much.

Edit: spelling + eq didn't help

Edit 2: So I tried these with a better amp and let me tell you the difference is night and day. Honestly I was surprised how different these sounded with a good amp. But what it highlighted is just that I simply don't like them. They're definetly not bad and I learned to appriciate them the more I listened to them but they're just not for me, so I'm probably gonna try to sell them and maybe try good old sennheiser next.



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TagalogON t1_j9nsglu wrote

Try the regular 3.5mm cable, rotate the cables around a bit and see if it's properly plugged in. Try them with your phone/other devices or directly (without using the FiiO K3/anything else) into your front/back panel 3.5mm ports/plugs for the computer.

Make sure your glasses/hair/piercings/etc. are also not in the way, they may be affecting the sound.

For comfort with headphones, if you have a big head, ear piercings, glasses, et cetera, basically anything that will interfere with the seal/fit of the earpads, here's more info about headphones and glasses and workarounds it:

Essentially try to isolate if it's a headphone problem as HiFiMan is infamous for quality control issues.

See here for a bit more info on HiFiMan quality control problems:

Otherwise yes it's probably just the expectations. Try IEMs instead as they are often better for value.

If you already tried parametric EQ, still go on and see if other sound signatures of headphones are to your liking, it's not gonna be like the other headphones but it should give you an idea.

See here for more info about Qudelix 5K, parametric EQ, comparison graphs, AutoEQ, et cetera:

Look up oratory1990 (check the subreddit, /r/oratory1990, don't forget the preset parametric EQ list (mainly for headphones but there's some IEMs there): and crinacle's articles on what amps/DACs/etc. are and what they do.

More info on headphones/IEMs and PC gaming: and and

Open back headphones noise reduction (scroll to the bottom half part of the comment), earwax clogging issue, parametric EQ, noise reduction for your PC/room, et cetera:

I used the HE400SE with the FiiO UTWS3/5 TWS adapters and they were just fine too. Again just make sure HiFiMan quality control didn't strike you and it should be just fine.

And yes don't forget the library or genres variability part, for some people they need a bit more bass or say less treble with some headphones when it comes to certain songs/albums from genres and so try different songs from your usual library and compare it to your friend's Sundara/other audio stuff.

The other main recommended headphone in that price range is the Sennheiser HD 560S.

These days Sennheiser is always running them sales on their refurbished stock of the HD 560S/etc. and these are sometimes the new revised version (different cable/etc.), btw, but they are significantly cheaper. I've heard people are also able to get another (replacement) unit if their package is like clearly used/dirty/etc. but it's normal for the dust/etc. to be there though. Check /r/buildapcsales for those refurbished/renewed/used/etc. sales, it's usually with Best Buy and Amazon too.


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9numgo wrote

Wow thanks for the detailed answer. As far as I can tell its not a quality control problem. I tried to eq them but I just couldn't make them sound good no matter what I tried. Maybe it's something personal but I just really don't understand why people praise them so much. Also I find over ears much more comfortable than iems.


The_D0lph1n t1_j9os0ve wrote

How long have you had them? The brain takes some time to get acclimated to a new sound, and it's unlikely that a headphone will sound great to you right after getting it. Listen to it exclusively for a week, then go back and compare it to other headphones.

There's also the bit about expectations. I was sort of the same way when I first started getting into audiophile headphones. It's like "that's it?" I thought the changes would be huge, but over time I learned that it's not going to add new instruments to a song or anything like that, it's just going to be a small, incremental change. It also depends on what you're coming from and what sound you're used to, like in my first point.

And finally, yeah, you might just not like them. The sound might not be for you. Ears have different shapes, brains are wired differently (there's some research done when doing MRI scans of subjects where people hear different things from the same signal, and those differences are correlated with right-side vs left-side activity in certain parts of the brain [Schneider et al., 2005]), so two people can listen to the same headphone on the same amp/dac, and their brains can perceive two different sounds from them. I admit that I find it odd that someone would describe an open-back Hifiman as muddy and veiled, but I haven't heard the HE400SE myself, and my brain is not your brain. If you've given them a week and they still don't do it for you, I'd suggest returning them and getting something else, or just sticking with what you have and enjoy.


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9ppzq6 wrote

Huh I see I knew these weren't gonna be on the same level as the sundaras but I guess I did get a bit too excited. Returning them is not really possible where I'm from but thanks anyway


The_D0lph1n t1_j9puira wrote

If you can't return them, you can either try to sell them, or just keep them around and revisit them every once in a while. Preferences do shift over time, and I've had headphones that I didn't like that much, but I went back to them a few months later and found that their sound was better than I had originally thought.


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9pv101 wrote

Aight thanks I'll keep that in mind


RChamy t1_j9qpimd wrote

My friend hated his HD560S over his logitech headset because of the non-V EQ. He used them for a week and cant go back l.


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9qvhks wrote

I used to always eq my headset to be more neutral, but you might have a point, I'll give them some more time


Overall_Falcon_8526 t1_j9pi2z9 wrote

You should return them and look for something that better suits your tastes. Are you locked in to that price range? The Sivga Oriole might be a better fit for you.


rrickitickitavi t1_j9nqq16 wrote

Do you listen electronic music by any chance?


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9nu4vr wrote

I listen to pretty much any type of music. I feel like these struggled the most with classical music and most mid focused tracks.


flyedchicken t1_j9pcu4q wrote

Hifimans are known for a bit of suck-out in the mids, at least most of them except maybe Sundara. 'Warmth' tends to not be a characteristic of their headphones I have noticed.

They do impact, details, and staging pretty well first and foremost, with slightly elevated mid-bass and treble as an afterthought. I can see how you may be underwhelmed especially if you've been demoing them with classical. Gotta say I really doubt more power is going to help here.

You may just not like the tuning.

If you like a lot of rock and classical, one of the many Sennheisers or maybe Sundara would be more your cup of tea I think. But they all cost significantly more than the 400se :/


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9prha9 wrote

Yeah this hobby is not really cheap. But the weird thing is that I don't really see these things you praise. I'm starting to feel like I got a defective unit or something. When I tried the sundaras everything felt so textured and I could make out so many little details. But with the he400se I'm sure they're not gonna compete with the sundarad but they just sound cheap. I really have no way to describe them except for cheap and low resolution.


flyedchicken t1_j9pvwjp wrote

Could be a bad cable tbh. That's the first thing I would try if you have another one that's compatible. If you are able to try a different cable and still don't see a difference, then it's either a defective unit or you hate the tuning.

I had a pair of HE-4XX that I passed on to my gf (same drivers pretty much same headphones) and they easily went toe to toe with the HE560 I replaced them with. To my ears when I listened to them both through the same amp the 4XX were like 90% as capable easily, and those HE560 are a $300-500 headphone.

They are tuned a little bit different than Sundara and probably lean a bit towards "fun" rather than absolute detail.


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9q2isa wrote

Yeah I tried 2 cables, one balanced 2.5 mm and one normal 3.5 mm but no cigar. The more I listen to them the more I appreciate them but yeah I think I just dont like them and can't differentiate between low quality and something I simply don't like.


Individual-Ride-2496 t1_j9nw1bz wrote

Maybe you just don't like their sound signature (it's darker than the Sundara) Always check if you connected the jack properly I had times when something little was blocking it.

You can check your audio options maybe it has enhanced sound on or the quality set to CD or lower. Also it depends what on your music service lower quality means more compression that could make sound muddy.

When I had them I didn't have problems like you also your ears need time to get used to new headphones. Maybe you are looking for something v shaped around the same price you can buy a AKG K361 or 371 which has more bass and top end.


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9nxjqq wrote

Yeah I probably just dont like the sound signature. Played flac files so I don't think that was the problem. I don't have a strong preference towards a v shape but I'll look into it. Thanks for the reply mate


maXXXjacker t1_j9pbu5n wrote

What you are describing sounds like you are running the headphone off a lackluster dac/amp. I do not have a K3 to comment but I think I know what you are talking about.

I plugged my 400se into my PC and my EPOS GSX300 and achieved similar results. Volume for days but it just sounds like a shit headphone and there isn't a thing you can do to make it sound better. The headphone sounds congested, the bass is one note and everything else fairly mediocre. I would say that this is not a great headphone and I would have returned it for something else post haste.

Plug it into something a bit more robust. Bass becomes better textured, excellent control and extension but the punch/slam remains about the same strength which is on the gentler side as far as planars go. Bass excitement was never a quality of this headphone, so coming from gaming headphones this would be a let down and don't expect throwing more power at the headphone to help, it's just enough to keep the headphone from being lean and boring, I would say it is a lively sound. Mids become uncongested, voices sound organic with decent timbre, decent spacing and imaging. The soundstage seems fine, it's not a big improvement but I feel everything is where it is supposed to be. Excellent clarity in the mid to uppermid region, no notable issues here but seems about right for the 400 series.

I feel like there is a point where you can hit rock bottom with this headphone, however if after a week of listening it doesn't grow on you, most definitely return it for something else as there shouldn't be any reason for you to upgrade your gear around the 400se, just get a better headphone instead.

I feel like the 400se is a great starting point to get an idea of what the hifiman sound signature is all about but this headphone does need a little bit of finesse to have it all come together and I feel like sometimes I can get it all together on less but some of the biggest complaints I've seen is about the HP needing power (not for volume) but to bring out the best performance out of this headphone and this isn't coming from people who are inexperienced with headphones but from reviewers themselves. I would agree but I've had fairly mediocre dac/amp combos deliver the goods but if what you are saying is true, it sounds like the K3 might be the problem. Just my 2 cents.


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9pql8q wrote

I'll probably try these with my friend's amp and I'll see how it goes.


maXXXjacker t1_j9q0x0m wrote

Yea, good call. Hopefully your friends amp can help you realize the 400se's potential and help you figure out if the sound is worth investing further into.

I would also have your friend listen to it and see what they think since they are used to the Sundara but mind you the Sundara is a big step up in comparison but you already knew that from your original post.



Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9q2umy wrote

Thanks man I appreciate you


maXXXjacker t1_j9r2evm wrote

No worries, let us know how it goes and what your friend was using for a dac along with amp. Hopefully we can figure this one out because the K3 specs at a minimum I would expect that the 400se should be a relatively pleasant experience rather than the description you gave it and the horrible turd fest that came out of my EPOS dac/amp. Plugging into my Galaxy S8+, I'm not a fan of how the 400se sounds either, "The lower mid range sounds muddy and untextured higher mids and treble sound veiled and everything feels very low resolution" was pretty closely fitting the description I had that you gave outside of needing more volume on the S8. Plugging into a Apple Dongle, it's not terrible but it sounds a bit rough compared to what I'm used to.

Hopefully by testing the headphone out on your friends gear will yield some positive feedback/findings to at least let us know if it is a gear thing or if the headphones sound signature is not a good fit, it's just a really tough call here because of the same-ish experiences I've had which back up your findings minus actually having a K3 to know for sure if its just a sound preference issue or the K3 is the issue here.

Hoping for the best.


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9rcnbm wrote

Pretty sure he has a jds atom stack and from what he tells me they're great. Hearing you say your experience was similar to mine is really nice to hear since the internet seems to praise these cans so much.


maXXXjacker t1_j9ri2wh wrote

That is good news, the atom stack should be a perfect litmus test to put this mystery to bed!


audioen t1_j9px3ke wrote

Interestingly, the sound tonality should be almost the same:,Sundara_(2020),HE400se

I do not think 400se should be bad choice. There are more measurements taken of this headset and IIRC they only tend to have just a defect with a bit of narrow-band resonance around 700 Hz. Otherwise, the performance looked fine. So, I am quite at loss to explain what the problem is.


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9q2o3m wrote

Unless I'm missing something I probably just don't like them


audioen t1_j9qrwwm wrote

My point is that tonality-wise, which is the most important factor of the sound, there should be barely any difference between them. There are others, like time-domain accuracy which is about resonances and reflections between head and cup, and harmonic distortion, and some arguments that say none of them matter very much. Far less than the tonality, in any case.

By and large I have thought that all Hifiman magnetoplanars have largely similar sound. The technology is very similar, it's just a thin membrane on which conductive path snakes up and down between magnets laid out to create a tiny motor force, enough to move that membrane a little according to the input and make sound.

I have the Edition XS, which should be fairly similar to 400se. You see how nicely these curves hug each other on these other models as well:

This is what I mean when I say these headsets should all have very similar sound.

I drive my Edition XS with their 18 ohm impedance using the $9 apple usb c 3.5 mm headset jack from PC. Lowish impedance of headset can be a little bit of a problem, not sure if this is a problem with Fiio K3. I can't see that stat on the product page. The Apple dongle is very cheap and pretty good, though.


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9qvztb wrote

I really don't know what the problem might be. It was probably just my expectations to be honest. The sundara sounded really good to me although they did have something missing for me, I just figured eq would solve that though.


AkagamiShanks007 t1_j9qk1w3 wrote

You should’ve bought the 560s instead, amazing deal for that price, sounds clearer than headphones 2-3x its price, altho some people say it sound too flat and thin, but it can be EQed for marvellous results


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9qkwix wrote

I'm looking into maybe getting the hd600/hd6xx how do they compare?


AkagamiShanks007 t1_j9qlb1o wrote

Watch this sound demo video of all 3 : 560s, 600 and 660s,

and let me know which one u like most. 560s is actually most clear sounding, but people praise 600 too much for that ‘meat’ they have. 560s is half the price and after EQ, it sound better than the 600


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9qov1m wrote

Well I'm kinda scared of that sentiment since I've heard some people say that about the he400se compared to the sundara


AkagamiShanks007 t1_j9qp33j wrote

Haha i can understand, which one did u like the most based on sound demo?


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9qw3bo wrote

Hmm hard to say from a sound demo but probably the hd600 because of how the vocals are presented.


BoysenberryFluffy671 t1_j9s73za wrote

I think people rave about them for a few reasons. First. They are entry level planar. A lower priced pair of headphones that introduces people to something new and different.

Second. They may have been better before. I have a pair of he400i and sure, prices come down, but maybe they lost something on the newer versions. This wouldn't be the only time. Look up the he-6. They remade that one and it's no where near the original. Doesn't stop them from charging a lot for it...then you see the Adorama sale and start wondering why you can get them for so much less.

Hifiman has some weird pricing strategies that have kinda turned me off the brand. Though I have a few pairs of them, they aren't my favorite headphones.'s the tricky thing about "mid-fi" and Hi-Fi headphones -- at a certain point, it's not about quality, it's about sound signature and your preferences. If a pair doesn't sound good to you, then just find another pair. Even if that pair is cheaper. Price doesn't mean much of anything. So don't feel bad. Return them or sell them and try something else.

Definitely try to go to a meetup or CanJam or store that has some to demo. You'll feel a lot better about your purchase and you may even be willing and confident in spending more.

I've found this hobby to be a slippery slope though.


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9sbbzh wrote

Yeah I don't really have the option of testing them before hand so trying to buy headphones is pretty stressful. Selling or returning these are will plbe pretty hard in country though but I'll see what I can do.


VonDinky t1_j9so7x8 wrote

I had a planar magnetic headphone. It sounded god awful from one dac/amp I had. Even though I could get them loud enough, no problem. Them I tried on a much more powerful dac/amp and they sounded awesome! I remember there being a website where you could calculate how much juice you needed for specific headphones. In my experience it's not about how loud you can get them, there are other specs at play. Planars are power hungry, and in my experience need a specific powerful dac/amp to get a full bodied and clean sound.


Powerful-Pair4150 t1_j9o25qt wrote

The k3 is most likely underpowering them. I would suggest the k5 pro. I had similar experience with my he560 when I first got them, upgraded the amp/dac and they came alive.


BlankkBox t1_jabcpdu wrote

I agree. Especially when you eq in more bass the headroom helps a lot.


GamePro201X t1_j9q0fi2 wrote

Sounds like the need a more powerful amp/DAC. Not really worth getting something more expensive though if you have these as your only headphones. I recommend returning them and getting something more sensitive and easier to drive


imsexierthan7 t1_j9nthsf wrote

Maybe the amp is making it sound muffled/muddy


YummyBaldy t1_j9nqptl wrote

The fiio k3 isn't a balanced amp why would you have a balanced cable, rather switch to fiio k7 then

Edit : Sorry for the inconveniences. It has a 2.5mm balanced out


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9nuoe2 wrote

Fiio k3 has a balanced 2.5 mm input and also k7 is wayyyyyy out of budget man


YummyBaldy t1_j9o98h2 wrote

Sorry OP, I've made a mistake. I don't know why it sounds bad then maybe it needs more power, cuz hifiman is the sauce. When i connect my hd600 on 260mw into 32ohm dongle it sounds really muffled, maybe the same thing happens. I know it's not the same specs but planar likes juice a lot


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9ooxwr wrote

Alright I'll try it with ny friend's amp/dac stack. Thanks for the input bro


legabs t1_j9o0y7e wrote

Try with an Apple dongle, it's cheap.Perso I hate Fiio, so I'm heavily biased toward them. Maybe it's the culprit, but maybe not.Or at least try on the amp of your friend who has the Sundara.


fortean t1_j9o8wor wrote

Of all the brands to hate... what's wrong with Fiio?


legabs t1_j9onrph wrote

Personal journey with them, 3 product I bought from them, 3 pieces of garbage.It's personal. I would not judge nor argue if other people like the brand.Actually I understand that they are somewhat important regarding the chifi realm history.

EDIT : the only other company I have a gripe with is MrSpeakers/DCA, so Fiio is not alone ;-)


flyedchicken t1_j9pdwfv wrote

Apple dongle would be a step backwards, your beef with Fiio aside. I don't think OP is short on power but if they swap to just an Apple dongle they definitely would be

Apple dongle works well with lots of headphones but it is not a one size fits all and I personally would never try to run planars off one and expect them to be their best.


legabs t1_j9ppkga wrote

I said that on another thread, but with my PM3 it works perfectly, with the Aeon almost perfectly, and average with my HE400i.
My bad you're right it's better for him to test on a friend's amp than on an Apple dongle. It's just that it was the cheapest way to compare with the Fiio.


flyedchicken t1_j9pwlz1 wrote

That's fair then, yeah. I guess they are pretty cheap and available to where you could just pick one up to try and then return it later. And lots of people probs just have them laying around at this point. Did not mean to come off passive aggressive!


Line6Guitarist OP t1_j9ooq7v wrote

Yeah honestly dealing with their software is a pain. Still couldn't manage to get 24 bitrate, even though its clearly advertised on their website