HiFiMan RE2000: Effortless

Greetings!

Today we are going to be checking out HiFiMan’s new in-ear flagship, the RE2000.

What is a flagship product to me? It’s a showcase of the best a brand has to offer and sets my expectations of what to look for from them in the future, be that in terms of design language, materials, and/or technology. The RE2000 and it’s little brother, the RE800, both utilize HiFiMan CEO Dr. Fang Bian’s new topology diaphragms. This tech involves the application of a special nano-coating to the diaphragms. By adjusting the layout, thickness, pattern, etc. a desired tune can be achieved.

This is a driver technology I would like to see work it’s way down to more affordable members of the HiFiMan lineup. The concept behind it is quite intriguing and the examples I’ve heard make for two of the best portable audio experiences I’ve had to date so let’s dive in and take a closer look at the RE2000 to find out why I hold it in such high regard.

 

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank Mark with HiFiMan for sending over the RE2000 for the purposes of review. I’m not entirely clear yet on whether it needs to go back to HiFiMan after the review is up. The thoughts within this review are mine and mine alone, and do not represent HiFiMan or any other entity. There is no financial incentive for writing this review.

At the time of this writing, the RE2000 retailed for 2,000 USD: http://store.hifiman.com/index.php/re2000-in-ear-monitor-universal-fit.html

My Gear and I:

I’m a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established writers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.

Fast forward a couple years and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like HiFiMan, RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Mixcder, Brainwavz, Meze, and many more. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to a product that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done and payment enough.

Gear used for testing was a Shanling M1, HIFI E.T. MA8, HiFiMan MegaMini, and my TEAC HA-501 desktop headphone amp. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass. Lately I’ve been enjoying more mellow and relaxed products with a bass tilt. Two of my favorite in-ears, the Echobox Finder X1[i] with grey filters installed and the Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced are good examples of my preferred signatures.

 

Packaging and Accessories:

Given the RE2000’s MSRP, it seems reasonable to expect a premium and luxurious unboxing experience. HiFiMan didn’t disappoint. As with the RE800, things start of with a cardboard sheath showing off the design and specifications of the RE2000, along with a statement notifying you’ve got the 24k Gold Edition that has been ‘electroplated with a fine 24k gold finish.’

Sliding off the sheath reveals a large, faux-leather clad case that greatly reminds me of a high quality watch or jewelry box. The HiFiMan and RE2000 branding embossed on a recessed, aluminum or alloy plate on the top of the case really adds to the high-end feel. So do the polished metal hinges and clasp at the front sealing it’s contents safely inside.

Opening the lid reveals a jet black, metal puck which houses the RE2000’s earpieces in a foam inlay, along with two smaller cardboard boxes on either side that contain the cable and most of the accessories. Lifting out the inlay unveils a gorgeous Owner’s Guide and some additional accessories, along with warranty and QC cards, and social media information. All-in you are provided;

– RE2000 earphones

– cable

– replacement pins to repair the included cable or make your own

– 1 pair Comply T400 Large

– 1 pair Comply T400 Medium

– 1 pair grey bi-flange silicone tips (pre-installed)

– 1 pair black bi-flange silicone tips (medium bore)

– 1 pair black single flange silicone tips (wide bore)

– 2 pair tri-flange silicone tips (medium/large)

– 1 pair of stiff, silicone ear guides

– warranty card

– social media info card

– soft cover Owner’s Guide

I appreciate the variety of tip styles included because as with any earphone, a good seal will have a significant impact on your enjoyment of the product. I also found the RE2000 reasonably sensitive to bore size and insertion depth, and the various styles of tips allow you to play around with this. A nice addition to fully flush out the package would be the inclusion of the bi-flange tips in more than just the one size.

Overall this was a very enjoyable unboxing experience that mostly matched my expectations of what to expect from a product of this caliber.

 

Build, Comfort, and Isolation:

Brass, gold, and plastic. That pretty much sums up the composition of the RE2000. The primary encasement for the shell is 24k gold-plated brass with a plastic face upon which the HiFiMan logo is printed. The cable plugs into a plastic protrusion sticking out the top. Despite the materials and sheer size of the RE2000 (similar to Bluetooth earpieces that contain all the electronics), it still somehow ends up being quite light and while this doesn’t lend to an overly premium feel, it certainly doesn’t come across as cheap.

I think the design could be a bit more elegant though. First, the HiFiMan logo should be pressed into the plastic. Being a print I suspect it’ll wear off over time as most prints tend to do upon interacting with oils on your skin. Second, the protrusion that the cable plugs into simply looks out of place; almost an afterthought. When you’re looking at the RE2000 side on while it’s in your ear it looks fine, but from any other angle this protrusion looks a touch awkward. Thankfully the placement doesn’t hinder ergonomics.

My initial impressions expressed some concerns about the cable. While I like it more now than I did, many of the same qualms exist. The issue is not regarding quality as the cable is clearly made of premium materials. It uses silver-coated, crystalline copper wire. The sheath is very thick with a meaty rubber below the y-split that doesn’t transmit much noise at all. While it has retained some bends from being wrapped up in the package, those are much less prominent than they were and new bends are heavily resisted. The y-split and chin slider feel like they’re using the same gold-plated brass found on the earpieces so the visual and tactile appeal is definitely there. The bulky 90 degree angled jack found on the RE800 carries over to the flagship which I consider a big plus. Though, as pointed out in Currawong’s review it can be user disassembled. Upon doing so you find the use of electrical tape; not the most premium of materials. Removing it, you see that everything underneath is professionally soldered and that the tape is simply acting as a shield for the metal outer sheath.

My concerns mainly come from the cable above the y-split where it thins out considerably and there is a complete lack of effective strain relief. While the cable below the y-split is thick enough to support itself, above where it leads into the plugs it cannot so when it bends it flattens out. While only time will tell, that area certainly looks like a clear failure point and one which could be easily absolved with either some decent strain relief or a thicker gauge of wire. Using the included ear guides should help extend the life of the cable.

Despite the RE2000’s size and unique shape, I found it quite ergonomic and that it rested in my ear with very little drama. After about an hour or so of use the rear edge of the housing, which tapers into a fairly pronounced point, would cause some mild comfort. Either a quick break or a slight shift in position was enough to resolve that.

Given the RE2000’s shallow fit, I found isolation to be below average. For me this isn’t an issue since this is not the sort of product I’d be using outside the house. For those that feel otherwise and will be using them in noisy environments, I suggest tossing on the Comply tips which increase isolation considerably.

Overall the RE2000 is fairly well-built with a comfortable, though somewhat unconventional yet interesting design. Isolation could be better, but that’s what the included foams are for.

 

Specifications:

Frequency Response: 5Hz-20kHz

Impedance: 60Ω

Sensitivity: 103dB

Sound:

Source/Amping: Despite their relatively high impedance and low sensitivity, I didn’t find the RE2000 to be a particularly difficult earphone to drive. Everything I tried, from a lowly LG G5 to my TEAC HA-501 desktop amp, could easily drive it to blistering volumes. That said, a cleaner more powerful source showed clear benefits making the RE2000 sound more open, punchy, and dynamic.

While I may not have the same experience with flagship products as other reviewers, those few I have had the opportunity to listen to have all offered their own unique and varied experiences. The RHA CL1 Ceramic was a vibrant treble heavy thing that redefined what I consider ‘bright’. While I enjoyed it in short bursts, it offered a distinctly intense experience for better or worse. The Accutone Pisces BA with it’s hybrid setup offered up a large sound that was bright and bassy, yet surprisingly easy to listen to over long periods. The RE2000 continues this trend, with it’s solo dynamic driver setup drawing me in with a smooth, warm, balanced sound that works well with everything I throw at it. It’s proven to be a jack-of-all-trades.

I hear the RE2000’s treble as neither exaggerated nor recessed. The transition from upper to lower treble seems smooth and free of any peaks, unlike that of the RE800 which has a fairly extensive 7k peak that can cause irritation in sensitive listeners. On tracks that have a tendency to highlight and exaggerate uncomfortable treble qualities, such as ‘Bluestep’ by Gramatik and especially ‘Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes)’ by The Crystal Method (unlistenable through the CL1 Ceramic), the RE2000 presents them like a champ giving the tracks the energy they need without becoming overbearing. On the other hand, there are some tracks where the RE2000’s presentation fail to bring the energy required, such as on The Alan Parsons Project’s ‘The Voice’ and ‘Nucleus’. They come across somewhat lethargic with effects simply lacking the dynamics they need to carry your attention.

Moving into the mid-range highlights how emotional and organic the RE2000 can be. Vocals are powerful and prominent. Listening to Jidenna on ‘Long Live the Chief’ is an awesome experience as the RE2000 fully carries the swagger and confidence of his performance. The same can be said for Sarah Barthel’s intimate and sexually charged vocals on ‘Run for Your Life’ by Big Grams. I especially enjoy how the RE2000 portrays the playful interaction between Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney on ‘The Girl is Mine’. It was pretty clear they were having a ball recording this track, a truth I found out only after writing down my listening notes. Instruments simply sound right too, especially electric guitars which are awesomely textured. Listening to one of my favorite guitar solos, ‘Maggot Brain’ by Funkadelic, was an experience and a half. Hearing it through the RE2000 gave me shivers, the same as those experienced the first time this song graced my ears. That doesn’t happen to me very often. The detail the RE2000 pulls out also brought forward some very subtle instrumentation in the background that I had not noticed during past listening sessions. Truly awesome.

The RE2000 doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the low end either. It’s bass is given some slight emphasis without overpowering the other frequencies. It hits you hard and fast with an ample, full presence that isn’t overly aggressive meaning I found it quite versatile. Whether I was listening to a random jazz mix, Skrillex’s energetic ‘Ragga Bomb’, or Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic spitting fire over Hail Mary Mallon’s ‘Smock’ the RE2000’s low end presentation simply felt right.

The same can be said about the RE2000’s oddly spacious sound stage. Other earphones like the Dunu Titan 1 with it’s semi-open design sound pretty deep but lack width. JVC’s awesome micro-driver units generally have excellent width, but funnel that sound into a fairly defined tunnel. The RE2000 sounds more like a full-sized headphone or ear bud to me as it lacks that distinctive in-ear presence most iems have. It’s imaging, layering and separation is second to none as well, with a nice black background and zero congestion. Ever.

Overall there isn’t much I can fault the RE2000 for in terms of the way it sounds. As someone that generally prefers a more treble prominent signature such as that found on the RE800, the RE2000 can come across a little tame leaving me wanting for a touch more sparkle and shimmer. Even so, that preference rarely came into play as a negative allowing the RE2000 great versatility across genres and with different forms of media. It sounds every bit the flagship it is and of those I’ve tried, is the only one missing what I could point fingers at as a definitive flaw. You need to give them a listen if you get the chance. They sound absolutely gorgeous.

 

Select Comparisons:

Accutone Pisces BA (389.00 USD): The Pisces BA’s build quality is fine, but it’s materials are underwhelming at best. On the entry level single dynamic Pisces it’s acceptable, but it just doesn’t scale up well. Beside the RE2000 it’s even less impressive, especially the cable.

In terms of sound the Pisces BA is much brighter and more sparkly. Treble lacks the control and evenness of the RE2000, though is about on par with detail retrieval. The Pisces BA’s mid-range lacks the organic smoothness of the RE2000 with occasional hints of sibilance that the HiFiMan doesn’t have. Both earphones are similarly bassy with the RE2000 showing greater control and a more even balance between mid- and sub-bass. The Pisces BA is a good listen, but the RE2000 is much more refined across the board.

FLC 8S (~350 USD): The 8S is more or less infamous at this point given it’s extensive tuning system and bang-for-your-buck performance. Despite having 36 tuning options at my disposal, I couldn’t really get it to sound like the RE2000. Volume matching the best I could (FLC is much easier to drive), I settled on Gunmetal/Red/Black as the closest setup to my ears.

The RE2000 has a much thicker, heavier presentation than the FLC 8S, especially in the mid-bass. Even though the FLC 8S has a nice sound stage, compared to the RE2000 I found it more forward and confined with an intimate mid-range that really stuck out, even with a tune that pulled back the mids. I also found it to be more raw and textured. The FLC 8S is more RE800 than RE2000.

RE800 (699.00 USD): The RE800 and RE2000 share a few traits; their cables, 24k gold-plated, brass housings, and the use of topology diaphragm technology. While this cable feels a little underwhelming on the RE2000, on the much smaller, lighter RE800 it feels right at home though I still lament the lack of proper strain relief.

While the RE800 is thinner, brighter, less bassy, and more airy in it’s presentation, the two certainly sound like they come from the same family. Overall detail retrieval and clarity is quite similar with the RE800’s presentation making these qualities more prominent. The RE2000 sounds slightly larger and more open with better low end extension. Both are fantastic with their respective signature and I’d give the RE2000 the performance crown, but I prefer the RE800’s more energetic sound.

 

Final Thoughts:

If I were in the position to drop 2,000 USD on a flagship earphone, value wouldn’t be up there on my list of priorities. I’d be looking for something with unique qualities and top tier sound. After spending over a month with the RE2000, I think it has the qualities necessary to warrant it’s flagship status. It’s stellar sounding topology driver tech, gold-plating for the sake of opulence, and interesting design are all eye- and ear-catching features that make it stand out.

Some refinements could be made to the design and cable and I would like to see the accessory kit fleshed out a bit more, but these observations are minor in the wake of listening to the RE2000 and it’s warm, natural sound.

A huge thanks again to HiFiMan and Mark for the opportunity to review the RE2000. It has been an amazing experience. And thanks to you for reading!

– B9Scrambler

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Some Test Tunes:

Aesop Rock – Skelethon (Album)

Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)

King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)

King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)

Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)

Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)

Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)

Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)

Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)

Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)

The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)

Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)

Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Album)

Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)

The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Track)

Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)

Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)

Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)

Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)

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