It's been a long while, but ohmage is back, though with some acrobatics, and without stepping on Headfonia's toes. Today’s ohmage comes straight from a special HiFiman loan, and one which is fuller of goodies than ever I could have hoped. The RE800 is my favourite of what fit in the box, despite Susvara also blowing my brain. It’s small, bright, and where it counts, powerful. It’s got many bugger points, some of which we will get to.
Heartfelt thanks to HiFiman for including ohm the outlets that get to review their latest headphones and DAPs.
HiFiman RE800 In-Ear Monitor - 699$ USD
Frequency Response : 5Hz-20kHz
Impedance : 60Ω
Sensitivity : 105dB
Earphone Weight : 0.95oz (27g)
Driver: 9.2mm dynamic driver
Housing: brass 24k electroplated gold.
Haptics - ohmage and porridge
I love the RE800, but it is something of a bitch to use. That is, it goes in and stays in, simply enough. But pulling it out again is something for baby-fingered surgeons, teenage girls, or needle nose pliers. Even pushing it it requires inaccurate jabs at the back.
A simplistic answer to the question of how one migrates the RE800 from the ear to outside the ear is: grip it by the husk, then yank. But, it's not a matter of where, or what your fingers latch on to. It's a matter of husk real estate. It doesn't exist. My wife's reachy finger nails got somewhere. My slender and boyish fingers make do with yanking the cable- a fact that likely will anger HiFiman.
I hear that the RE800 is being retooled, gaining an MCX connector. I assume this will make the earphone longer, or wider, and perhaps add more purchase for which to grip it. An MMCX version may be easier to grip, which may or may not pose connection problems.
Cable aside, the RE800 is pretty easy to use. It's small size and straight angle from nose to ass, keep it secure in the ear. It's heavy Oyaide plug yanks it every which way, when de-coupled from a DAP. But it’s a damn solid plug attached to a beefy cable. The neck cinch is a simple sawed-off metal grommet. It does the job, although plays up and down between the y split to the earphone as often as it can. What it needs is a rubber or plastic insulator between it and the cable.
Kitsch - ohmage and porridge
As Even Apple fell for it, gold has hit the mainstream. Still, it’s kitsch to me. Still, the RE800 is tastefully plated, and duller than it is flashy, which helps it resist smudges. If the colour just has to be gold it should be like this.
Still, I find the mix of industrial and luxury parts puzzling.
Build quality and finish - ohmage and porridge
Apart from the cable, which, sans sheath, leads straight into the earphone, the RE800 is well enough designed for active use. It's plug will outlast the world. It's cable is thick, pretty resistant to skin oils, and its body is solid.
That said, out of the box, sticky residue covered part of its mesh, sound tube, and butt. The same is true for the RE2000 and even Susvara. It's not the sort of thing I would expect at it's price range, and especially not in a top of the line 6000$ headphone. And, it is fair to expect issues to arise from the earphone’s bare metal sleeve biting the cable. It appears that the small things are foreign to HiFiman, whose purpose it is to focus on the big ideas: sound, physical design, and luxury pricing. The RE800 is so close to universal ohmage, but because of the small things, so far.
Sound - ohmage
There's a bit of the Xelento under the bonnet, showing itself best in its wide-berth sound stage and excellent imaging. Where it totally stymies Xelento is the midrange, which, apart from similarly lucid transitions, spreads instruments more equitably across the middle, leaving little to clump to the sides. Xelento's main problem stems from over clumping to the sides. In this respect, RE800 is nearly without rival. Wider-sounding earphones exist, but wide-sounding earphones with equally good stereo balance in the midrange do not.
RE800 tips forward, obviously balanced towards a somewhat peaky high midrange. I gravitate to this sort of sound, but realise that many don’t. If you’re sensitive to high-frequency tweaking, keep away. What I most appreciate about it is that it helps create an air airy sense of space which really helps create the mind-image necessary for both hard and fast venue-localised electronic music. The RE800 feels out the venue pretty well, putting you in the crowd, but without overdoing or stretching into threads the midrange.
It's bass is big, but diffuse, drawing normal attention to itself. The opening seconds to Markus Schulz's Mainstage rumble at the bottom of audibility, warm, round-edged, and with decent stereo presence. The centre is thick. While not struck with as much sound pressure as the HEM2, it's a bass draws comparisons with nuforce's economical champ. It’s sharper, wider, and more detailed, but its rounded tops keep from cracking into the lower midrange.
Mids are somewhat rolled by the brightness in the high mids and the powerful warmth down low. The brightness up top trickles down, somewhat watering down otherwise powerful vocals. This is particularly obvious music with strong percussion and good bass lines. Male vocals take on a crispy shine. If you're a fan of Bruce Springsteen-esque blue collar pathos, you’ll note an adolescent spike that fits female vocalists better. Generally, non-husky female vocals fit this to a T. If you’re a fan of single-driver IEMs, you may own a Grado GR8e, GR10, Xelento, AKT8iE, or something older, an ETY ER4, for instance. The GR800 has a calmed version of the ER4’s highs mixed with the Xelento’s width, combined with something approaching the AKT8iE’s bass. It’s good. But it’s bright, if not painfully so.
What this high-mids tipping works really well with is live music. Small crowds larger up, and you're put in the first few rows of the audience, the vocalist's banter running left and right in front of you, with amazing audience interaction.
Overall, the RE800’s u-shaped sound is controlled, though pitched forward. Those that like bright upper mids with a strong, but not overpowering bass, and crispy mids may really enjoy this earphone. Of course, you also have to like a wide stereo image.
Between it and the RE2000, the RE800 is my pick. For the price, and considering its closer, tighter mids, I might even choose the RE800 over Xelento. And that's saying a lot. It's not finished the best, nor is its cable system great. It fits well, is comfy, and, for those whose sound preferences tend to warm bass and bright upper mids, the RE800 is about as good an earphone as I've heard in a small form factor. I have a feeling it will be a big hit among full-size Audio Technica and Beyerdynamic fans. In general, it is for me.