HiFiMan HE-300

IT MAY BE ONLY 4 YEARS OLD, but the HiFiMan brand has had a major impact on the growing world of portable audiophilia. The new HE-300, which uses conventional dynamic drivers, is the company’s most affordable over-ear headphone yet. With its solid, mostly metal construction and audiophile-grade detachable cables, it sure doesn’t look like it costs $249. You even get an elegant hardshell case in the deal.

All of the panelists dug the elemental design of the HE-300, Geoff remarking (in a favorable way) that it looks “almost homemade.” Thanks to broad-diameter earpads that easily accommodate prodigious pinnae, it’s also reasonably comfortable. The pads are fairly firm and the band grips your head tightly, but soft fabric covering the pads keeps them from irritating your skin. Still, as the only listener who got to experience these headphones long-term, I found them a bit tight after more than an hour.

You could consider the HE-300 almost the opposite of the Grado RS2i. Where the RS2i sounds thin, the HE-300 sounds robust, beefy, and satisfying; where the RS2i sounds detailed, the HE-300 sounds a bit smeared. Still, all of the panelists enjoyed the sound. “They’re very good and tonally well balanced,” said Geoff, who picked them as his second-favorite, “although they’re not as open-sounding as some of the others because there’s not as much treble.” Howard ranked the HE-300 third, liking the sound overall but still calling it “overly warm.”

The HE-300’s frequency response shows an even balance from bass to low treble, but the high treble is rather soft. The 75-ohm output impedance measurement increases bass by a max of 2.4 dB at 68 Hz. Nominal impedance is 58 ohms maxing at 94 ohms at 68 Hz. Isolation is better than expected for an open-back headphone, reducing ambient noise by 12 to 30 dB above 2 kHz. Distortion is low at 80 dB, and it remains comparatively low at 100 dB, hitting just 9.1% at 20 Hz. Average sensitivity from 300 Hz to 10 kHz with a 0.179-volt RMS signal is 97.6 dB.

There’s no doubt that this nicely made and reasonably priced headphone will find fans — mainly among those who prize fat, warm, robust sound.