You should by now know that HiFiMAN discontinued their old IEM line and have now released a new one. They started off with just the RE-400, a 99 pound earphone that stunned everyone, amazing performance at such an affordable price. However that didn’t explain a lot about the RE-600 that would be following it with a release a few months after. The RE-600 shares the same shell but costs a lot more at 400 pounds and I think this worried some people. To me them sharing the same shell caused no worries as I found both the wonderful RE-262 and RE-272 to sound different (and amazing) and they also shared a shell.
These also share a lot of common ground with the old generation as the RE-600 feature a balanced TRRS 3.5mm jack for use with their HM-901 with balanced amp card and then a adapter so it can be used with everything else (standard TRS unbalanced ouputs). I was hoping to see higher impedance with these like they did with the RE-262 but this is your usual 16ohm driver here, actually 20 ohms lower than the RE-400, but all this means is it is easily driven so it can be a good thing.
Now the obvious thing to do with these is compare them to the simply brilliant younger sibling, the RE-400 because there are a LOT of similarities. However as they are of different price points I do want to try as hard as possible to look at the RE-600 against direct competitors in the 400 pound range.
These are some great on the go earphones and that obviously has allowed me to use these in conjunction with my DAPs such as the HiFi ET MA8/MA9, Mezzo Soprano AK100 and iBasso DX50. As they have all got dedicated line outs I have also spent time adding a portable headphone amplifier to them, with some great effects.
I of course did use it for many hours at home as well using my dedicated desktop rigs including the Rein Auido X3-DAC, Firestone Audio Cute Series and the Audinst HUD-mx2.
All cables are made from the fantastic Charleston Cable Company, which really do add something to the rigs I use. Music is all FLAC ranging from 16/44.1kHz to 24/192kHz.
HiFiMAN really stepped up here and outdid them selves. Packaging has never been something that they have taken to seriously but with the RE-600 it really is extraordinary. The storage case it comes in is something on the next level. It is a synthetic leather case that lifts up to reveal the earphones on top and then a range of tips and the cable management system on the bottom underneath a silver plaque with RE-600. It is such a nice touch and makes you feel warm inside knowing that they have put this much into making the whole experience amazing. Obviously this is not the expected case for on the go and you do get a small round clamshell case for protecting them securely when on the move.
With these earphones, something they do not leave you wanting any more of is tips and they offer very unique designs. In total you get thirteen pairs of tips but of a huge variety of types. To start with they come with two pairs of Comply foam tips, they are T400 and come in medium and large sizes. You then get two pairs of very large dual flanges; these are my favourites as they get a deep insertion, amazing seal and great isolation. You then get 3 pairs of small dual flanges, which are tiny little dips with each flange the same size and I have found these very effective on other earphones and also a pair they label mono flanges that have a small groove in them. You then have two pairs of small single flange tips that are nothing special apart from that they have a bit of silicone running down the middle as if to separate bores? Lastly you get some clear silicone tips. They are different because some are very straight, some rounded but it is one pair that catches my attention because they curve off to an angle, which is very unique for a tip and unlike anything I have seen before. They did work well with the RE-600 but I do prefer the large dual flanges.
Lastly you get the white silicone cable management system they like to bundle that I guess works but is not something I ever find myself using. You also get 10 pairs of filter that you can replace if the ones they come with ever get a bit mucky.
The design of these are low profile but kind of classy at the same time. The housings are tiny and a shiny black colour with the back of them metallic silver. Other than there is not a lot to say about them, they are so small they can go unnoticed.
The build quality is probably the best I have seen from a HiFiMAN IEM so far. The cable on this is made especially with the RE-600 in mind and is made of a crystal copper and crystal silver. The bottom half of the cable is sheathed in Kevlar and feels super sturdy and while the upper half feels good, it does feel just a tad weaker. The y-split looks nice to the eyes as well as being chunky and these are equipped with a cable cinch. The housings have a nice long strain relief that install faith in these and the housings are SO SMALL I can not see any way they could run into trouble. They also have the filters of course so nothing can get into the earphones causing trouble. This is a very well finished product!
Have I mentioned yet that these are miniscule; down they’re with the other smallest IEMs around such as the NOCS NS800 and Logitech UE700 and these makes them very easy to get comfortable. I personally like to loop them over the ear as I get them a bit deeper but they are just as pleasant to wear straight down or like I do. They are as light as a feather at 13.7 grams and they cause no weight stress in your ears, in fact, I find these some of the most comfortable earphones I have yet to own.
IEMs that feature a dynamic driver and a vent are normally quite underwhelming but with the large dual flange tips and an over the ear fit these are just amazing in terms of isolation. So good in fact I use them on the sit on mower, which is VERY loud and I simply get to enjoy the music. These would be great on a plane or any other methods of transport and I really have to say I am impressed with them in regards to isolation.
For the RE-600 they have gone for a very easy to listen to sound signature that is also very efficient in technical areas. It is an earphone that is not shy in terms of bass response yet I would not consider it a very warm earphone at all and certainly not a bassy one. The midrange managed to be lush and rather forward while the treble is quite easy going and perhaps just a tad underwhelming in presence.
The soundstage has really impressed me, when listening to a song that possesses a lot of imaging in both width and depth this really does well and it really does sound great. I would not say that is near as large as the Tralucent 1plus2 or some other but it nails all the dimensions and gives you a out of the head 3-D experience and I am loving that.
Instrument separation is also portrayed very well. Every so rarely to I find the odd bit of smudge in between instruments and the rest of the time everything is very clear and airily spaced out.
The bass is really something. It is very dynamic, powerful and it has the extension that I have never been given from a previous HiFiMAN IEM. It doesn’t overpower, sound boomy or even warm yet I do not see how anyone could listen to these and say, they don’t have enough bass. They bass also feel rather dry and accurate, it has a nice decay that is not too much and the body it hits with is tight and healthy, it gives a solid impact. Extension to the sub-bass offers a bit of rumble but not is not quite as visceral as the Tralucent 1plus2 and Rhapsodio R^2. It still delivers more than satisfyingly in sub-bass and it makes them a very complete sounding earphone. It is also worth noting that the bass is very flat through all the way to 20hz, no part of the bass stands out and this really works well.
Vocals are painted on a very dark background and sound very natural and honest. They are detailed, balanced and real and the rest of the midrange is the same. We have some amazing detailing and a very dark background. Timbre seems to have the right amount decay and possesses good impact. I think the lower mids are just a bit stronger than the higher mids but not by a long way. Simply the midrange is very nice but I do sometimes it just misses something, it doesn’t emote me and does not captivate the real special moments of some songs.
The treble is the most relaxed part of the earphone, it does not have any peaks and does not add a great sense of clarity to the earphones. The treble seems to be smoother than it is clear. It is un-fatiguing and never sharp but some times you need it to be more risqué to really get to the nitty gritty details in the treble. Extension seems to be fair but you could have a bit more. Personally these earphones with a bright amp allows you to get a really beautiful treble because I feel like I want just a bit more presence than they have.
The sound is coherent but not the fastest that I have ever heard, something like the RE-272 was so fast and detailed that these would sound pretty mundane next to them but these do a much better bass response and soundstage that the 272 would be jealous, in the end they are very different IEMs and will suite completely different tastes. The frequency response here can feel at home with a lot of genres and will be able to really impress a lot of people but I do feel it sounds just a little bit safe.
I do also think that I may not be getting the true potential of this earphone. It is clearly made for being used with a balanced source or HiFiMAN’s very own HM-901 and I think that is likely where it reaches a true potential and will wow me truly so hopefully I will get a HM-901 for review and I can bring you a part 2 for this review.
Compared to a few others at a similar priced and this does well. The Heir Audio 4.Ai, one of my old favourites I a lot warmer than this but also more balanced in the treble. I think the 4.Ai is as nice in details but is not as coherent and has obvious phase problems in comparison. The Rhapsodio RDB V1 Mini is to me a nicer pair of earphones. Better balance, more details, soundstage is bigger and just as 3D and also the treble is much more shimmery with out being offensive. The Final Audio Design Heaven VI is another direct competitor and although there is something magic about the FAD, it does come in sounding a rather similar signature to the RE-600 (in terms of amount of bass and mids with the FAD having more treble) but at an inferior level and not as confident soundstage. Earphones like the Logitech UE900 and Westone 4 I do not find to be on the same level, worse speed, not as detailed and generally a not as enjoyable experience.
This is a great earphone that really gives you all the luxuries that a 400-pound IEM deserve. The sound alone justifies the price tag and everything about is pretty class. Finally bringing up the RE-400 though I do not now how much this truly brings to the table over it. Yes it sounds better and is built better and comes with nicer stuff but I think HiFiMAN could have got away with a 250 pound price tag for the RE-400 and things would have seemed more just. This is the sad thing and it always will be and that is that the RE-400 will shadow the RE-600, the sound signatures are similar and there is not the largest of progression in technical ability and in all honesty this leaves me in a dilemma in how much I value the RE-600. I can only think once again that you really have to get in a balanced rig such as with the HM-901 to see what it can really do so hopefully, a part 2 will come for this review.