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Accessories Review of HiFiMAN RE300h in-ear headphones w/lots of pics!!!

Discussion in 'Android Accessories' started by twister6, Nov 24, 2014.

  1. twister6

    twister6 Android Expert
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    This is a review of HiFiMAN RE300h headphones. http://www.head-direct.com/Products/?act=detail&id=230 , available on Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/HIFIMAN-RE300h-Earphone-Audiophile-Earbud/dp/B00PI18QSE/

    When I heard HiFiMAN introduced a new line of RE300 in-ear headphones (300i and 300a with corresponding iDevice and Android controls, and 300h with high quality audio only cable), I automatically assumed this is going to be a budget scaled down version of their popular RE400 IEM which I had a pleasure of testing and reviewing in the past, both a standalone RE400 and a balanced wired RE400B bundled with HM700 DAP. From the moment I got these in my hands and my ears, it became very clear to me - I'm dealing with a whole new pint-sized beast, re-designed from a ground up and offered at a very attractive price of under $50. Here is what I found.

    Arrived in a small plastic box with a clear open display, it was a bit of a step back from an elegant design packaging I was spoiled by in the past, but I do have to be realistic this is a budget version and you have to make some compromises to keep the cost down. The back of the packaging had a clear description of the features and the spec. One thing I would like to note, you also find US customer support phone number next to their website address, and I have to tell you their support is bar none! Dr Fang Bian and his team behind HiFiMAN takes a lot of pride in their product and support of their customers. I'm not just saying that because I'm reviewing their headphones, but actually because I had to deal with a replacement under warranty and found it to be a very pleasant experience.

    Out of the box, you will find RE300h along with a pair of double-flange tips, a pair of custom silicone tips, a shirt clip (which I appreciate they didn't attach by default), and 5-pairs of stick on filters. The filters are actually a little different in comparison to RE400 where these have a more clear mesh structure. But either way, it's always a nice bonus to have, and as a matter of fact I use RE400 filters with a number of my other IEMs either as a replacement or when I try to tame down sibilance :) Btw, not sure about new filters yet, but original RE400 filters could be purchased separately from HiFiMAN. As you can see, the selection of accessories is also cut down where to keep the packaging (and probably cost) to a minimum you will not find a headphone case or a pouch and selection of eartips is very limited. At the same time, even so I always use the largest eartips for my fitment, I found the two included pairs to have a good universal fit.

    And speaking of fitment, these are the smallest, the lightest, and the most comfortable pair of IEMs I have ever tested! The body of the shell is all plastic and molded in a tiny sculptured earplug shape. The ergonomics of the design makes it fit right inside of your inner-ear with a seal which provides a high level of passive noise isolation. Considering there is no air port opening on the back or anywhere around, there is no sound leakage coming in or out of these. But you also have to be very careful with tip rolling. I found UE900 medium size tips to provide the best balance of sound quality and ear-seal, but have experienced a bit of a driver flex stepping up to a large tips (which I typically use with all of my IEMs) because super tight ear-seal introduces a level of pressure going back into the nozzle. Each shell has a clear marked L/R identifier, so there is no confusion. The cable is attached with a sturdy strain relief which could be either glued or molded to the shell. Considering a small nature of their design which disappears in your ears, I would be very careful when pulling these out and would hold only by the shell rather than a cable. Also keep in mind, if anything breaks down the road - contact their support number for assistance with any problems.

    The cable prior to y-slitter is round and thin, very flexible so it works great with over the ear fitment as well as wire down. If you need additional assistance with over the ear cable management, you can always use a chin slider (cable cinch) to bring wires closer together. Y-splitter is small and plastic with HIFIMAN printed on one side and RE-300h on the other side, and it doesn't have any strain relief so you have to be careful around that area. From y-splitter down to right angled gold plated 3.5mm plug the cable is thicker, but still easily manageable. The headphone plug comes with a good strain relief. Furthermore, RE300h version comes with OCC wires which have a higher purity than OFC, thus less signal degradation. Also, with a wire down fitment there was a little bit of microphonics which could be tamed down when using a shirt clip. Over the ear fitment also reduces microphonics significantly.

    This brings me to a sound evaluation of 300h. I intentionally requested "h" version because of its audiophile quality description and wider frequency response range. HiFiMAN is well know for their audiophile quality hi-fi DAPs and Headphones, so I was expecting something in line with RE400 neutral signature with more revealing details, perhaps. If you were thinking the same, you will be in for a big surprise since these are actually L-shaped bass dominant IEMs. Nothing wrong with that, just a different signature intended for a modern audience who wants extra bass without going over the basshead borderline, and still likes to hear vocals loud and clear. Unfortunately, most of the popular bass heavy IEMs focus too much on the "boom" while delivering a veiled muddy sound with sub-par midrange performance. Perhaps that was the idea behind "audiophile" tuning of these bassy IEMs to show that you can have the best of both worlds.

    As I mentioned above, the sound is leaning more toward L-shape warm and smooth sound signature due to a boost around sub-bass and mid-bass with some spillage into lower mids. Bass extends down to sub-bass level with a nice rumble and a rounded mid-bass punch (a bit less aggressive). Thickness of lower mids gives overall sound more body and extra warmth, but it's not as "bad" as DGS100. Upper mids are clear and well separated from the bass, but can be perceived as a little bit recessed due to bass/lower mids dominance. Vocal delivery is warm and smooth, with enough clarity and details. Treble doesn't extend too far and has some early roll-off. It's not peaky or sibilant which contributes to a great non-fatigue listening experience. The soundstage was definitely a surprise to me because I was expecting a below average performance due to a small "closed" design of these IEMs. To my very pleasant surprise, staging is definitely above average with a wide/deep sound (more wider than deeper) and, despite L-shaped sig, still having a good separation and layering.

    For a quick comparison, I put 300h against some of my other IEMs, such as RE400, KC06A, T1E, VSD3, and IM50. One common trend in every comparison was 300h having a warmer and smoother sound, thicker lower mids, and less treble extension. Most of them have brighter upper mids and crispier treble, but sometime it comes at an expense of peaky performance, grainier sound, and in some cases less natural tonality. Another common trend with other IEMs was leaner lower mids which make them sound thinner, relatively speaking. When it comes to bass, RE400 is too lean in general, KC06A doesn't have as much sub-bass extension though faster mid-bass punch, T1E and VSD3 have a similar sub-bass extension while faster and more aggressive mid-bass punch, and IM50 has a deeper sub-bass rumble and more aggressive mid-bass punch. Soundstage was on par, though KC06A is more shallow. With fitment and ergonomics, RE300h clearly has an advantage, though fitment is purely subjective to your ear anatomy.

    Overall, I was very pleased with RE300h from HiFiMAN, and probably more excited about its tiny size with an excellent over the ear fitment and great sound isolation. These in-ear headphones literally disappear inside of your ears and provide noise isolation perfect even for a busy subway commute. If you choose 300a or 300i version, you will also add in-line control and mic for your smartphone, though I have a feeling these versions will have a bit more bass in comparison to 300h. I also think their smooth and warm sound signature compliments really well a lot of my other brighter IEMs. These headphones strike a good balance between a weight of low end and clarity of upper mids without too much of upper frequency brightness. The sound is still clear and detailed, and for those who want to make it leaner - you can always use EQ to cut down lower mids. Maybe RE300h is not all around IEM for every music style since they lack in brightness and a bit bottom heavy, but for daily commuters or anybody who wants to tune out surrounding noise while submerging themselves into beats of EDM or current Top40 hits - these will be great!

    Here are the pictures.

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  2. twister6

    twister6 Android Expert
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    I just found out Penonaudio running a X-mas special with HiFiMAN RE300A (android version with a corresponding in-line remote) for $29.90: http://penonaudio.com/HIFIMAN-RE300A

    From what I read, RE300A has more bass enhancement in comparison to RE300H I reviewed above. Still, for under $30 is a great deal!
     
  3. twister6

    twister6 Android Expert
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    I still think RE300 is an excellent pair of IEM earbuds. I continue referring to them as my headphone ear-plugs because their noise isolation with a right set of eartips is really at the top of its game. They go deep into your ear, disappear like earplugs, and seal it well to deliver a very clear sound with a nice enhanced bass. These are not audiophile quality IEMs with a fatigue high frequencies or basshead IEMs with a booming veiled bass that makes everything else disappear. They are just great for everyday use, especially when you need a great sound isolation and don't want anything to stick out of your ear too much :)

    But something was bothering me since I only got a chance to test/review RE300H, their audiophile version, while I read some comments saying A-android and I-apple versions differ in sound with a more booming and distracting bass. Finally, I got a chance to get my hands on a review sample of RE300A Android version of these IEMs which you can still get for under $50 from Penonaudio: http://penonaudio.com/HIFIMAN-RE300A . Penon actually recognized the value of isolation these earbuds provide, and now they are offering a bonus of 3 pairs of eartips, two double-flange and one triple-flange versions. Unfortunately, my earcanal is not deep enough to test multi-flange eartips, so I typically use single flange ones. I can only imagine how much better isolation is going to be with these tips.

    The design and packaging of these is IDENTICAL, with an exception that my 300H was US version while 300A is Chinese versions, and it's reflected in the text on the box. But it really doesn't matter, these are headphones - no need for instructions :) Even the in-line remote, it's universal for any phone and should be self explanatory. I think it could work not only with android but also with apple since I never had issues with Apple remotes on my Galaxy phones. That is the only main difference, an included in-line remote with a single multi-function button that works perfectly for Play/Pause/Call with a single click, Skip Next with a double click, Skip Back with a triple click, and start Google search with a long press.

    Another difference is the cable where RE300H has a more rubbery/sticky finish versus RE300A having a more plasticky smoother finish. But that's just a finish. Inside of the cable, RE300H uses different wires for a higher quality sound while RE300A has an advantage of in-line remote to pickup calls and to control the music. I think both models compliment each other well. Just think about it, when you are outside or commuting, with RE300x in your ears you can easily miss the call, so inline remote has an advantage. But when you are at home relaxing and want to tune out screaming of your kids (speaking from a personal experience), RE300H will work equally great.

    Regarding sound itself, I do NOT hear any mid-bass bloat from either RE300A or RE300H. H might have a little more sparkle in the sound and according to the spec should have a slightly better extension at the low/high ends, but A sounds very similar. I had 300A on burn in for almost 60 hrs, and it sounds very clear and balanced and still has an excellent bass slam which doesn't overshadows the rest of the frequency range.

    So for those who are still deciding between which one to get, based on my testing and comparison - they are VERY similar in sound signature and quality. Just keep in mind if you want a little more sparkle and slightly better retrieval of details, go for H. But if you want a convenience of smartphone control - A is great for that! And if you are lucky enough to be able to use double-/triple-flange tips - Penon got your covered with a free set of bonus eartips, not to forget their shipment is always super fast.

    Here are the pictures (click to enlarge):

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