Drop + HIFIMAN HE-X4 Review

Drop, previously Massdrop, has develop into some of the well-known collaborators within the headphone world. It’s method is straightforward: accomplice with large manufacturers to make customized variations of already well-liked headphones that improve excessive factors or reply to large critiques amongst headphone lovers. Whereas the Massdrop + Sennheiser HD-6XX headphones are most likely its best-known headphone and established the corporate’s footing on this area, the Drop + HIFIMAN HE-4XX was one other high-water mark, bringing planar magnetic headphones to a extra inexpensive value level. 

Right this moment, I’m trying on the model new Drop + HIFIMAN HE-X4, Drop’s new entry-point to audiophile-grade planar magnetic headphones. They arrive in at $129 and have an open-back design for elevated sound stage, making them a very compelling choice for avid gamers with separate mics. There are some trade-offs right here however for the cash, it is a nice worth headphone that’s a whole lot of enjoyable to take heed to.

Specs

  • Present Value: $129 (Drop)
  • Drop + HIFIMAN
  • Open again precept
  • Planar magnetic drivers
  • Shade: Darkish Gray
  • Delicate-touch matte end
  • Spring metal and hand-stitched protein leather-based headband
  • Focus-A hybrid ear pads
  • Adjustable sliders
  • Metal gimbals with black oxide end
  • Black printing
  • Laser-etched serialization
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz–20 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 91 dB
  • Impedance: 25 ohms
  • Cable: four.9 ft (1.5 m), detachable
  • Plug:  ¼ in (6.35 mm)
  • Weight: 420g

At this level, HIFIMAN is a identified commodity within the audiophile world, however since this X4 is prone to enchantment to customers approaching audiophile cans for the primary time, some introductions are so as. HIFIMAN is well-known within the fanatic world for its planar magnetic headphones. It’s been on the recreation for a variety of years and has delivered among the most revered units within the enterprise. The Sundara, for instance, has been the reigning champion of the sub-$500 value bracket since its launch. HIFIMAN’s headphones go proper up the ladder in value and efficiency properly into the multi-thousand greenback zone. Nearly all of its best-regarded headphones use the motive force expertise discovered within the HE-X4. 

Picture Credit score: HELM Audio  

Although there are variations between its headphones, it’s well-crafted, well-tuned planar magnetic drivers are a through-line in what makes HIFIMAN’s line-up so well-liked (with uncommon exceptions just like the HE-R10D which makes use of a dynamic driver). Reasonably than use conical dynamic drivers — suppose: speaker cones — planars use a flat sheet traced with conductive filament. On one or either side of the sheet are arrays of magnets. These two parts work in collectively to maneuver the sheet and produce sound. Planar magnetic drivers typically require extra energy to sound their finest however are well-liked as a consequence of their wonderful element, significantly within the higher register, however are additionally identified for his or her wonderful bass efficiency (when tuned for it). All of it comes all the way down to how the motive force is applied however broadly talking, a planar driver often affords a stage of crispness, element, and “really feel” than dynamic drivers. Planars are usually costlier, nonetheless, and sometimes require additional energy to sound their finest, which is without doubt one of the the reason why the HE-X4 is such an fascinating headphone. 

Unboxing and First Impressions

First issues first: I used to be despatched an early model of this headphone and retail packaging wasn’t prepared. The headphone I’m reviewing as we speak must be the identical one which customers obtain however gained’t include the Slappa case. It does include a tender fabric storage bag along with the cable. There’s nothing too outstanding right here: the cable is rubber-coated however doesn’t get hung up on clothes and didn’t trigger any microphonics I might hear. It connects to the headphone with a pair of three.5mm jacks and terminates in a three.5mm single-ended connection to be used with computer systems, smartphones, and different digital audio gamers. Drop does embrace a 6.5mm adapter, so hooking as much as higher-end audio gear shouldn’t be a problem. 

The headphone itself feels sturdy and well-built. It encompasses a steel-spring headband, so may be very versatile and also you gained’t have to fret about it breaking over time. The yokes are additionally metal and fasten to the band with a easy meeting that seems simply replaceable ought to it ever fail (assuming elements are made accessible).  The housings are the one half that’s plastic nevertheless it feels sturdy with no noticeable creak or give when squeezed.The open backs are guarded with metallic grilles. They don’t have a lot give when pressed on however will rotate when twisted. It looks as if these headphones could be pretty straightforward to open up for customized mods.

Relating to padding, now we have a faux-leather wrap across the headband and a set of HIFIMAN’s FocusPad-A ear cushions. There may be very minor padding between the band and the place it touches your head nevertheless it seems to be simply sufficient for lengthy listening periods. The ear cushions use a hybrid design with a velour face and pleather across the sides. There’s a noticeable lip between the leather-based and velour and it doesn’t look as clear because the inventory pads on the Sundara or DEVA. The pads use completely different materials, so it’s a little bit of an unfair comparability, nevertheless it simply doesn’t look as good. Nonetheless, they’re cozy.

Beneath these cushions lies the drivers. I don’t have actual sizing however these are massive diaphragms able to transferring a whole lot of air. The HE-X4 makes use of a double-sided magnet array, just like well-liked traditional planars. In comparison with the HE-4XX, the frequency response isn’t as broad and is restricted to 20Hz – 20kHz versus 35 kHz. The drivers are extra environment friendly with an impedance of solely 25 ohms and a sensitivity of 91dB. Each my THX Onyx dongle DAC and Behringer UMC202HD audio interfaces have been in a position to drive the headphones to distortion ranges. My small Meizu HiFi dongle DAC couldn’t push them fairly so loud however even that would push them to fulfilling ranges with full bass response. 

That mentioned, these merely gained’t get as loud as among the pricier planars on the market and can distort when pushed too far through quantity of low-end EQ. I think a part of this is perhaps due to how Drop has tuned the low-end response out of the field. Extra on that within the listening part.  

Consolation and Match

At 420 grams, the HE-X4s are a reasonably heavy headphone however Drop and HIFIMAN did job of constructing them comfy to put on over lengthy stretches. For this assessment, I used them recurrently at my day job the place I put on headphones for as much as six hours at a time. I by no means skilled any hotspots or soreness from an excessive amount of clamping. The burden is distributed properly and the stability between clamp pressure and “head hold” is properly executed. 

Although I’m not the most important fan of the Focus-A hybrid pad look, they’re unquestionably cozy. They’re not exceptionally breathable however my ears solely ever felt heat and by no means scorching. After all, we’re not but in the summertime months, however these pads ought to stay extra comfy because of their velour faces keeping off contact sweat. I want they regarded somewhat extra refined however that’s a small concern after they truly really feel so good to put on. 

Listening Impressions

Firstly, these are a enjoyable headphone. At $129, Drop and HIFIMAN are concentrating on extra of a mainstream viewers and the result’s a headphone that highlights the qualities most newcomers hear about planars earlier than attempting one for themselves: punchy bass that reaches low, clear mids with good texture, and non-fatiguing treble. They’re not the perfect in anybody space however they make for an fulfilling hear that’s a far sight higher than most headphones you’ll discover at a division retailer at this value. 

Placing them on for the primary time, the primary impression I had was “Sundara-lite.” There’s a good sense of area with completely different devices being pulled aside and clearly discernible. The Sundara’s felt nearly like microscopes with how clearly they pulled aside the layers of music. We’re not at that stage right here, however a gentler sense of verticality exists. Just like the Sundaras, you possibly can shut your eyes and film how every music comes collectively, how the tracks lay on prime of each other, and, significantly within the mids, you get a pleasant sense of element. I significantly loved electrical guitars with these cans. Coheed and Cambria’s “The Telling Fact” was a wonderful instance of this, and I might clearly hear the nuances of the a number of guitars weaving out and in, accentuated by snappy snares and cymbal crashes. 

The soundstage is pretty huge however not exceptionally so. As an open-back, it achieves sense of area, nevertheless it’s not on the stage of the Sundaras or Gold Planar GL2000s. We’re nonetheless higher than a closed-back by an extended stretch however mids specifically generally tend to sound pretty shut in. This may work to its profit in acoustic tracks or video games if you wish to hear precisely the place an audio cue is coming from, and relying on whether or not there’s extra reverb or atmospherics, the soundstage can transcend to feeling massive. Nonetheless, it varies, so I’d describe the soundstage pretty much as good, not nice. 

Drop positively tuned up the bass with these headphones, lending them a hotter signature total. The sub-bass actually stands out and songs sound full and huge. The X4s can positively slam and border on rumble when the music requires it. It’s not overstated, nonetheless. For instance, sticking with Coheed for a second, in “Welcome Dwelling” the kick drum thumps and injects vitality and drive into the verse. However then in a gentler monitor like “The Mild and the Glass” it’s in a position to step again and let the acoustic guitars breathe. 

That mentioned, the bass isn’t tight and may typically really feel tender and rounded on the edges. The X4s don’t have the identical pace as a set just like the Sundara’s or HD-58Xs in sub-bass response although it’s punchier than both of these headphones. Likewise, it’s clear that the Drop pushed the bass from the get-go as a result of there’s restricted headroom to push it additional earlier than distortion units in. There are occasions when it feels prefer it’s simply on the cusp of breaking via into a strong, slammy response however simply can’t break via. Dangerous? No — particularly as a result of the degrees at which distortion is audible are past what I take into account protected. It’s nonetheless a enjoyable hear however that is an space the place you possibly can inform it’s entry-level positioning.

Relating to mids, guitars and vocals actually come ahead. With the bass being as tuned up as it’s, that’s factor and permits the X4s to sound vibrant within the areas you need it to sound vibrant. As a musician, I discover the tuning right here extra true to life. In PVRIS’s “Solely Love” (acoustic model), the bass and sub-bass make a lush mattress for the music however the guitars and sparkle on prime and ring out with wonderful readability and element. “Loveless,” alternatively, actually highlights how the soundstage can be nice with the best songs. The atmospherics are wonderful, the acoustic guitar rings out simply above the bass with good texture and element, and Lynn Gunn’s vocal sounds nearly intimate.

The HE-X4 additionally handles treble properly, however wasn’t the star of the present for me. It sounds extra rolled off to my ear (as of this writing, there aren’t any frequency graphs accessible) with cymbal crashes decaying rapidly. Excessive hats, nonetheless, come ahead properly. That mentioned, the highs lack the identical element because the mids and are total much less outstanding. Nonetheless, sibilance was by no means an issue for me and I by no means discovered the X4s to be sharp or fatiguing within the higher register.

Gaming

For avid gamers on the lookout for a headphone that can sound nice with out costing an arm and leg shall be in good palms with this headphone. In comparison with the common gaming headset, the sound high quality is a lot higher. The element, imaging, and bass response are all going to be enhancements from regular headsets — keep in mind, extra bass doesn’t imply a greater gaming headset. As an alternative, these have a tuning that’s punchy and detailed and attracts out crucial particulars for aggressive video games. The directionality and positioning can also be fairly good.

Remaining Ideas

The Drop + HIFIMAN HE-X4 is a superb headphone for the cash. It’s not going to win any awards for element retrieval, significantly within the high-end, however at $129 its efficiency punches above what I might count on. It’s comfy for lengthy listening periods. It’s a enjoyable hear and an ideal introduction to the world of planar magnetic headphones. 

The product described on this article was supplied by the producer for analysis functions.
 

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