Head To Head: HE-400i vs HD-58X

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by musichal, Jul 16, 2018.

  1. musichal

    musichal poet emeritus Subscriber

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    First, let me 'fess up. These are the two best headphones I've heard in many years, like decades. I listened to some Stax Lambda Pros a good bit back in the 80s. Those were the best I heard then, and that was a long time ago. Aural memory being what it is, I certainly cannot compare those accurately to these. First 'fess.

    Second. Back then I could hear up to 18k, give or take a k. Now I top out at 10k; I can hear 10k just fine, both ears. Well, rolled off, just fine. I know this because the first thing I did was play test tones to begin this comparison, as a check both for the phones and my hearing. The 10k required a bit more volume than lower frequencies for me to clearly detect. Second 'fess.

    Third. I don't have the advantage of having heard any high-end headphones lately - I lack a TOTL reference. Perhaps I could, or will, think of several more confessions I might make.

    Yes! Fourth. I'm a dumb-ass, and I know this because I paid three times more for the 400i than I did for the 58X. So therefore I'm biased, right? That is a popular enough sentiment around here - if he paid a lot, it has to sound better. OTOH, I'm kind of pissed that Hifiman started blowing them out at sale prices about three weeks after I overpaid, and that stings a little, so let's just call that a wash, shall we?

    The Hifiman is a, what, $220 headphone? The 58X, $150, and a special deal from Sennheiser thru Massdrop - they even produced a new driver for it. Near enough the same money, near enough the same value. Or is it?

    So that's four confessions that beg the question: What do I care about a dumbass-who's-deaf-above-10k-and-hasn't-heard-the-best-HP's comparo of these two headphones? I'm so glad you asked. My answer starts with you can't even buy one of 'em - maybe they'd bring the 58X back for another drop, maybe not. The reasons not to care are mounting... maybe I should just stop here.

    However, I'm simply not that smart, remember the dumb-ass thing?

    But I can think of a reason or two for you to read on. If you are thinking of purchasing headphones and reading this, you probably haven't heard the TOTL models, either. And many of you are as old as I am, and probably don't hear much higher in frequency than I do, and some of you less. If you are in this group, do you want to read what some young whipper-snapper with 20k (gold?) ears thinks of the sound, or would you rather hear from someone who shares your HF deficits? Think about it. Okay, you'd want to hear from both. Fair enough, me too. And the last reason is that some of you are dumb-asses, too. I happen to know this, being so able to spot the trait in others (takes one to know one).

    Well, I told you about the test tones, and how my listening acuity fared, what about the phones? I expected that the Sennheisers would have deeper bass extension, but actually they both did well from 30hz to the limits of my hearing. No egregious noises, misbehaviors or anomalies noted with either pair. Both sounded smooth rather than peaky to my ear using sine waves, pure tones.

    I listened to Donald Fagen's Morph the Cat, the track, all the way through with both headphones, twice. I expected the 58X to go just a little deeper, but it didn't. It was first up. I thought they sounded very good, but not as resolving through the mids as my speakers. Still the muted horns that come in the second half the track sounded good to me, but not as good as the Silver 6. Same for the well-recorded vocal harmonies. The bass seemed just a tad soft to me, lacking the articulation to which I'm accustomed. Some people will like the slightly warmer sound, though. The HF sounded reasonably detailed, I thought.

    Then it was the 400i's turn. It won, hands down. Sorry, but that's just how it is. Immediately apparent was its advantage in the top end. More snap. More detailed. More better. Mids. Muted horns sounded more immediate and lifelike. Resolution was so obviously better that I wondered why I didn't recognize it while I was listening to the 58X, but it's mostly due to not using the 400i lately and that aural memory thing. Head to head the improvement was glaring.

    I know there's been a lot of hype around the 58X, saw the choices when I did a search, but didn't read any reviews because I wanted to come to this comparison fresh, and get it wrong all on my own, if that is what I've done. For all I know the experts are saying they're the best thing since sliced bread... but I doubt it. Their standards, or rather, their reference will be better than my 400i, and I can't see them swooning over these.

    Even the 400i's bass sounds better. If you pulled both out of boxes and listened to new pairs, you'd call BS on that. The 400i do have a long break-in until they stop sounding anemic, and even longer until they reach their full bass capability. I know, you don't believe in break-in, I just became acclimated to the HP. Wrong, get a pair and stick with 'em, don't return them when the bass sucks, and you'll find out for yourself. I don't know if it is because they are planars, or why the long break-in, but that's what happens.

    So the one you can't buy is the one you shouldn't. You lucked out. At current sale prices, the 400i is a steal, imo. The 58X is competent - it won't actively annoy you. Sound better than my $60 AKG-240S. If $150 is as far as your budget can possibly reach, you might consider a used 400i pair, but you didn't miss the deal of a century on the 58X, either. The 400i definitely gets a little closer to an electrostatic Lambda type of sound.

    Okay, in closing: I made my statements declarative, but I certainly don't claim infallibility. All this was my opinion, but it would read ten times worse if I kept throwing in IMOs or YMMVs every other sentence. Your experience differs from mine? Well, you might just be right, and I missed it. Or we both may just be right because we hear differently. BTW, are you a young whippersnapper?
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2018
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  2. Tedrick

    Tedrick Infinity-phile Subscriber

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    Nice review/comparo. Thanks for the effort, and for taking the time to write it up.
     
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  3. musichal

    musichal poet emeritus Subscriber

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    Looks like another HD58X drop is available, and again with no long wait, ready to ship. Anyone who may be interested in ordering needs to move on it now, as the drop ends in about 7 hours from the time of this post. Some 1800 units available. I see from reviews on the site that they have many much more enthusiastic owners than I. And, to be fair, my HE-400i are well broken-in, while the HD58X still are not, as I haven't used them a lot.

    Anyway, just letting you guys know they are available again for a short window of opportunity.

    LATER EDIT:

    I am not sure I gave the Sennheiser's a fair shake in the head-to-head, because of two factors:

    One: They weren't broken in.

    Two: A rather quick judgement based on immediate comparison.

    The first is clear enough, as stated. The second deserves some explanation: It takes me a long time to compare speakers (unless a total mismatch - good speakers) and I use a variety of music over several days, or even weeks. I find this type comparison works better for me than switching immediately back and forth - I listen to one pair for days, then the other. It virtually eliminates the need to match levels as should be the case with the quickie method, for one thing.

    But more than that, the variety of genres and recordings reveals more of a speaker's qualities - its inherent weaknesses and strengths.

    And yet further, and more controversial (perhaps), I find that trying to make quickie judgements with instant switching comparisons puts me in the wrong frame of mind for actually enjoying music. And since enjoying music is the reason for having all this gear, then shouldn't I compare in a way that better reveals a given component's ability to enable that? That is why I compare speakers the way I do.

    So why use a different method for comparing headphones? Why did I do that? Abandon my preferred methodology?

    We're once again back to that dumb-ass thing.

    So, for the next several days I will be listening to music via the HD-58X, as I am now even as I type. Will report back to this thread when ready, and we'll find whether my opinion of the phone has changed.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2018
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  4. Old Guy8

    Old Guy8 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Enjoyed your review.
    I've been considering a new pair of headphones. All I have are Koss 4aa- low comfort, Portapros and AKG Parabolic model K280 which have twodrivers at angles. Not a fan of effect. For what they are and new cost, I like the Portapros. Limit of my headphone experience are what I have.
    Not sure how high I hear at my age. I don't do a lot of music headphone listening. May be because of phones SQ.

    I'm also a dumbass. I was at the Axpona audio show in Chicago. Should have spent time in thier headphone hall with dozens of brands they had for listening.


    Edit: I ordered the HD 58X today. Posted reason in another thread, so won't double post. In stock. Thanks to Musichals and other reviews here. Difficult to listen through someone elses ears, given differing tastes and music played. Take your chances. Like ordering a beer you haven't tasted. It can endup being an IPA marketed by another name. And taste like Grapefruit.

    Edit 2: I ordered today, Massdrop HE 4XX which may be close to HE 400i. Massdrop isn't specifying drivers in it. QC issues some owners report, hopefully I can deal with if appear.
    Looking forward to them.

    Edit 3: After some breakin on the HE- 4XX, do think they are quicker, livelier and I prefer over 58X. Not experienced enough for reviews.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2018
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  5. Dadbeh

    Dadbeh Schrodinger's meerkat Subscriber

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    I have Soundware P1 preamp/headphone amp (on loan for review) + HE400i playing Paolo Nutini's Iron sky. good stuff
     
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  6. musichal

    musichal poet emeritus Subscriber

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    I listened to the 58X for days. My opinion that the 400i is a much better headphone did not change. The 58X are competent, and okay good. The 400i exceptional. That's how they shake out for me.
     
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  7. JoeESP9

    JoeESP9 ESL's & tubes since 83

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    IME planar and ESL phones sound better than conventional magneto dynamic. IMO/E esl's sound the best. Planars are IMO a close second.
     
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  8. ConfuciusSay

    ConfuciusSay AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I’m convinced headphones are like cuisine - you want a steak, I like Thai! I had the 400i for a while and could never get it to sound right for my needs even compared to senn 598. I was biased that I wanted planar to be better than dynamic but my ears wouldn’t agree. Most important thing is that you’re happy! Enjoy the music :)
     
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  9. Hugo9000

    Hugo9000 Active Member

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    Most entertaining review I've ever read! I really loved your long intro! :D Now, did I continue reading to the end because of your valuable insights, the entertainment value of your writing, or because I, too, am a dumb-ass? Or all of the above? hahaha! :D (For what it's worth--nothing, probably lol--I'm 49 and my hearing is pretty strong until 15k, where it diminishes before topping out right about 16k.)
     
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  10. musichal

    musichal poet emeritus Subscriber

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    Still loving my HE-400i. How about you? And priced much lower than when I bought (under $200 now), I think they are a steal.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2018
  11. Old Guy8

    Old Guy8 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I previously posted here, bought HE4xx model which had different headband but also 93spl and 35 ohm. Were $170. Assume they are very close. And have Senn 58x. Slightly prefer 4xx. But the Senns are more efficient for low power use. Use Senns for phone Utube music.
    Both are partially broke in with close 100 hours. Guess I prefer my speakers over either of these phones. Only get used when others would be bothered. "Inside head sound" and sweaty ears, Don't call me
     
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  12. musichal

    musichal poet emeritus Subscriber

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    Have always preferred/will always prefer speakers! :thumbsup:
     
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  13. Nutsfortubes

    Nutsfortubes AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Ok I now have 10 hours of listening with my HE400i with a Cary HH-1 headphone hybrid amp with Gold Lion E88CC.
    I think it is a well voiced amp. Well Balanced sound, lots of low end punch but not bloated, mids are silky but not over ripe, highs are not etched. sound stage is spot on I use Sonny Rollings Way Out West MFSL CD and the trio is rock solid in place. Also on Nat King Cole After Midnight when Sweets Edison blows his horn I knew it was him with out reading the liner notes. From what I can remember the Hifiman 400i cans with the HH-1 comes close to my old Quad ESL57s driven by a NYAK Moscoad 300, if memory serves me correct. Theses cans are steal for $179.
    SOTA Star vacuum TT Esoteric SA-10 SACD player through a CJ PV-8 preamp.
     
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  14. tuberadios69

    tuberadios69 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I own a set of Sennheiser HD580's from around 2004 (replaced outside earcaps/screens with the metal screen HD600/HD650 version which fit perfectly and slightly opened up the sound). I have loved them for many years so I bought a set of the Massdrop HD6XX two years ago. Love those, too. Then the epiphany occurred. I bought a pair of the HiFiMAN/Massdrop HE4XX in Spring of last year. They do take many hours to break in (>50 hours for me). Once broken in, I must say they are much better to my ears than the esteemed Sennheisers. They are more open and natural sounding, tighter, more extended bass response and simply more life-like sounding. I'm actually pretty shocked this turned out to be the case. I still enjoy and have both Sennheiser pairs but the HE4XX's are now my "go to" headphones. They are also more comfortable than the Sennheisers. I wasn't expecting that, either. I also replaced the stock cord with Nordost's Blue Heaven headphone cable for further improvement. But even before adding those cables, the HE4XX's still sounded better than the Sennheisers. They are simply more three dimensional sounding to my ears.
     
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  15. flyz51

    flyz51 dipolar since 1990

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    Loved the intro and review. Last week I received a demo pair of the HE-400i headphones at a blowout deal that I couldn't refuse. Haven't had a lot of listening time with them yet, but really like them so far. Only quibble is that they aren't very efficient and I'd love a touch more oomph at times. They sound lovely when I stream from from my flac library using JRiver, especially when I've got the AQ Dragonfly Black DAC in the signal chain. I suspect it's time to start shopping for a decent headphone amp to pair with to pair with these.
     
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