Headphones and Earphones
- Written by Nick St Denis
- Published on 19 March 2013
The HiFiMAN HE-300 Headphones: Design, In Use, and Ratings
Out of the box, the HE-300's look much like the HE-400's. These headphones aren't going to win any fashion shows, but they sure look like they know what they're doing. They're manly phones with their open back design, and they fit snugly and with authority on your head. I especially like the feel of the velour headphone pads. They help the phones to "grip" your head, which could come in handy depending on the style of music you're listening to. These phones are not made to slap on and ride your bike down the mountain. Instead, they scream "Sit your butt down in front of your favorite stereo and get to some serious listening!"
These headphones aren't all talk, though. HifiMAN doesn't skimp on quality here, and the build quality is solid through and through. I especially like the heavy duty cables with their individual left and right screw in connectors. They have a very industrial weight to them, and they feel as substantial as they look with their metal finish. I have to admit the metal screw connectors might be a bit tricky and awkward at first, but they give a reassurance that they're plugged in and going to stay there.
Like I said earlier, once I put them on my eggplant shaped head, the velour pads gripped my head and felt very secure. It may not seem like much, but I want my headphones to stay where they are and not creep on down with every nod of my head. Headbangers rejoice! They also have a symmetrical balance to them that gives them a feeling as if they're sitting on the "center" of your head on the center of its axis.
A word of warning: If you're looking for teeth rattling bass while you're bumping your Skrillex dubstep, then these headphones aren't for you. While they may look industrial strength, I wouldn't call these Heavy Metal (heavy in the high frequencies) headphones. They have a more mid-range tuning that lends the headphones to more acoustic instruments. Andy McKee's acoustic guitar sounds snappy and full, and you can almost hear the hammers hitting the strings on Chick Corea's piano. I will admit that I was a bit disappointed that my Rush "Moving pictures" test didn't pass muster for deep rich bass sounds, but once I figured out what these phones excelled at, I was more than happy to burn through my Michael Hedges, Al Dimeola, and Tuck Andress CD's.
Have you ever tried out a new pair of speakers or headphones and suddenly realized you're hearing things you've never noticed before? Well yeah, I had a few of those moments with these. Especially when coupled with HifiMAN's awesome EF2A headphone amp. You can push these things and the added tube warmth brings out even more depth. These are VERY live sounding headphones. Within that mid-range, acoustic tuning, these headphones are very impressive for being "baby brother" headphones.
Some of us know how big brothers can be pushy and domineering on occasion. Let me say - and this is speaking from experience - little brothers are sometimes just waiting in the wings to rise up and surprise ya! With HifiMAN's HE-400 headphones being the big brother in this scenario, their "little brother" HE-300's are no slouches!
Don't be fooled by the "entry level" price point of these headphones. Of course they aren't going to compete with the "muscle" of the $1K+ headphone group, but the gap between these and your mid-level priced headphones is almost negligible. Rise up, little brother!