HiFiMAN RE2000 Silver: Lower price, better sound
Today we’re checking out a new earphone from HiFiMAN, the RE2000 Silver.
In 2017 HiFiMAN stunned audiences with two new flagship earphones, the RE800 and RE2000. These two gold-plated beauties were not for the feint of wallet, especially the RE2000 which registered in at a hefty 2,000 USD. In late 2018, less expensive variants of these two premium products showed up featuring a new color, new tuning, and some other mild changes to the materials and construction. Most importantly, the price dropped considerably.
Despite a 25% decrease in price, at 1,500 USD the new RE2000 Silver is a luxury item and will still be an unrealistic purchase for the average buyer. However, those wanting a high end product that provides a top-of-the-line listening experience? You would do well to give this earphone a look. I can help you with that, so let’s go and see what the new RE2000 Silver is all about.
This RE2000 Silver is a sample provided by HiFiMAN for the purposes of review. While it does not need to be returned, it is still the property of HiFiMAN and will be sent back if requested. The thoughts within this review are my own based on over two months of use. They do not represent HiFiMAN or any other entity. At the time of writing, the RE2000 Silver retailed for 1,500 USD. You can check it out here: http://store.hifiman.com/index.php/re2000-silver.html
The RE2000 Silver was powered primarily by my TEAC HA-501 desktop amp with a ZiShan DSD or HiFi E.T. MA8 taking on source duty. For mobile use, it was either run straight out of the Shanling M0 which powered it just fine, or through the Radsone Earstudio ES100 over LDAC connected to my LG G6. The RE2000’s impedance is higher than usual for an iem, but the high sensitivity makes up for this so its not particularly difficult to get up to comfortable listening volumes.
I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. My preferences for earphone tuning are quite relaxed and as such there is no one sound I look for. The HiFiMAN RE800 Silver, Brainwavz B400, and Massdrop x MeeAudio Planamic are examples of earphones with wildly varied signatures that I find enjoyable for different reasons. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when perusing my thoughts on how an earphone sounds.
- Driver: 9.2mm dynamic with ‘Topology Diaphragm’
- Frequency Range: 5Hz – 20kHz
- Impedance: 60 ohms
- Sensitivity: 103dB
Packaging, and Accessories:
Part of the process of lowering the price in comparison to the original RE2000 involved simplifying the packaging. Gone is the large jewelery box style case in favour of a more traditional cardboard box. It’s a attractive set of packaging with a gorgeous close up image of the RE2000 Silver dominating the cover, a heavy bokeh effect blurring the ear piece in the back. Beneath the earphones is a black band containing HiFiMAN branding and the model information. Around the sides of the box you find additional branding and model notification. Flipping to the back things are pretty simple. There are three sections containing various pieces of information; specifications, contact information for HiFiMAN, and their social media information and store web address. Overall a nice package made from high quality cardboard, but it doesn’t give you the same burst of excitement you get when opening the original RE2000’s more premium package.
Inside? Hey! Things are looking up with a presentation very similar to that of the original gold RE2000. You’re immediately greeted by three items set within a cardboard lined foam insert; two small, matte black cardboard boxes and a metal carrying case. In the left box is the cable and spare 2-pin “H” plug parts. In the right box are the spare tips. The metal case will look familiar to gold RE2000 owners since it is the same one they got with that unit. Inside are the Silver ear pieces set within a foam insert. Lifting out the insert you find a few more inclusions; owner’s guide, warranty card, and some silicone ear guides. In all you get:
- RE2000 Silver earphones
- 2-pin silver-coated crystalline copper cable
- 2 pairs of tri-flange tips (m/l)
- 2 pairs of bi-flange tips (m)
- 1 pair of single flange tips (m)
- 1 pair of silicone ear guides
- Warranty card
- Owner’s manual
The carrying case is really nice, especially with the HiFiMAN logo laser etched into the top. The lid is held shut by the pressure of a rubber seal and could keep water out should your RE2000 Silver find itself in a situation where water damage is a possibility. It’s about the size of a hockey puck so maybe a little to big to pocket, but that’ll vary per user I suspect. The tip selection? It is pretty paltry, especially when you look at the massive selection of varied tips they gave you with the cheaper RE800 Silver. I was actually quite surprised at how limited the selection was given the Silver’s housings are quite large and tips play a very critical role in how someone experiences an earphone. Maybe they figured people buying earphones at this price range would already have a set of preferred tips, and wouldn’t bother with the stock options anyway. Either way, it would have been nice if they shipped the RE2000 Silver with the same excellent tip set included with the RE800 Silver. A bit of a missed opportunity there.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
Flagship headphones need a distinctive look to set them apart. With the RE2000, HiFiMAN went out and did just that. While it doesn’t do anything crazy with the design, the RE2000 was its own earphone and unlikely to be mistaken for anything else. The RE2000 Silver’s virtually identical to the original gold model, save for a couple tweaks.
The heavy gold-plated brass of the original housing was swapped out for a much lighter aluminum and coated in a more durable, frosted silver paint job. While I am quite partial the gold and black color scheme of the original, the gold plating was quick to wear. Being such a big earphone, the weight was noticeable but not uncomfortable. At least for me. The weight reduction alone immediately makes the new Silver a more comfortable product, even if the ergonomics remain the same. But, that means that those that found the rear of the housing somewhat edgy will find this quality remains.
The plastic used for the faceplate and protrusion for the 2-pin receptacles remains the same. While the quality is fine, given the cost of the Silver something more premium would have been nice. Or, just ditch the plastic plate entirely and role with painted aluminum with a black logo. That would have been cool. It also would have been nice of HiFiMAN to press their logo into the plastic instead of just print it, something they did with the original. That wears off over time, as is starting to happen on my gold RE2000. Another minor change was the direction of the key the cable plugs into. It ensures the cable can only be plugged in one way and sits opposite to how it did on the original RE2000. I tried the Silver with the original RE2000’s cable and the sound didn’t change, so those with existing upgrade cables shouldn’t find them incompatible with the Silver. Not sure what that change was intended to accomplish, but there ya go.
The cable doesn’t feature a beautiful braid or twisted design and instead sticks with a tried and true black rubber sheath. Inside is silver-coated, crystalline copper wire so you know they didn’t cheap out on the important part. The 2-pin ‘H’ plugs are compact little hunks of plastic, and if the extra parts included are any indication, are user serviceable if need be. I appreciate that. The y-split is quite compact and made of the same painted aluminum as the ear piece housings, so the design remains consistent as you head down the cable. There is also a handy aluminum chin cinch which works well when in use. It stays put without inconveniently sliding down the cable. The original RE2000’s beefy 90 degree angled jack has been swapped out for the same slender aluminum straight jack we saw on the RE800 Silver. I know many dislike straight jacks, but this is a change I can get behind. This new jack is much smaller and lighter and will put less strain on your device’s input port. That’s nothing but a win in my books. I just wish the strain relief was functional instead of being a 10mm long hunk of hard plastic. But, you can take the good with the bad. I suspect HiFiMAN is expecting customers buying this earphone to swap out the cable right away for some after market option, likely balanced, so they opted to include something that would work well but not cost an arm and a leg to include. Campfire Audio’s silver Litz cable for the Atlas comes to mind. While not a great cable, it’s perfectly serviceable and does what it needs to do.
Isolation is below average for a dynamic based earphone. Sitting in silence with no music playing, I can easily hear myself typing away, cars driving by on the nearby road, noises from tenants in other units, etc. Once you’ve got music playing those noises are expectedly reduced, but, if you are planning on taking your premium 1,500 USD earphones into noisy, chaotic areas, be prepared to increase the volume to compensate. That or just toss on some well isolating foam tips.
Tips: The RE2000 Silver is sensitive to tip selection. Wide bore tips like the stock single flange or those from JVC bring the treble presence up, mid-bass down, and opens up the already large sound stage even further. Sticking with small bore tips like the stock bi-flange or Spinfit CP100 makes the Silver a little warmer, thicker, and bassier, closer in sound to the original RE2000 but still with a hint of extra treble energy.
The original RE2000 remains one of the most enjoyable listening experiences I’ve had to date. Big and powerful with impressive end-to-end extension, tons of clarity, yet nothing harsh or piercing to hinder the performance. It is an amazing sounding product that everyone should listen to at least once in their lives. The RE2000 Silver provides what amounts to essentially the same experience, but in a more balanced package.
I love how the treble is slightly boosted. Not to the extent of other TOTL sets like the Campfire Audio Atlas, but just enough to add the right amount of energy to the presentation. As can be heard throughout tracks like Culprate’s “Undefined” and “Pure Narcotic” from Porcupine Tree, the shimmer on cymbals, chimes, etc. is no more than pleasant, not overblown at all. Notes are perfectly weighted and precise, completely absent of the loose splashiness common to more budget oriented sets. Even harsh songs like The Crystal Method’s “Grace feat. LeAnn Rimes” is completely listenable through the Silver. This song is cursed with a very polarising, shrill siren-like effect that runs throughout the track pretty much from start to finish. While not an enjoyable track through the Silver, it’s at least bearable. That’s actually quite the accomplishment considering how unbearable it can be through other earphones.
The RE2000 Silver’s mid-range is a wonderful place to spend your listening time. Vocals are strong and articulate with neither gender receiving a more favorable presentation. Whether your enjoying Sarah Barthel or Aesop Rock, you’re getting the full, emotional brunt of their performances. Timbre is spot on too with the drums at 2:21 on Supertramp’s “Crime of The Century” hitting and echoing with a natural tone. The same can be said for the violins the swell and fade into the darkness throughout. On Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” the vocals are extremely sweet and clear with clear in and outtakes of breath. The mid-range in general feels very dynamic and capable with only the slight recession being subject to any sense of scrutiny.
Dipping into the low end is rewarding. Heading back into “Get Lucky”, the bass line that heads the track has a puffy feel to it but remains in the background acting as the platter on which the rest of the track is served. The RE2000 Silver’s low ranges have a real toe-tapping, musical quality to them that lets you enjoy your tunes without distraction. The lazer-like effects heard on The Crystal Method’s “Tough Guy” are countered by some impressive texturing in the low end. Showing this off even better is pretty much anything from The Prodigy’s ‘The Day Is My Enemy’ or Tobacco’s ‘F***ed Up friends” which are both quite grungy, gritty albums, reproduced in all their grimy glory through the Silver.
Like the original RE2000, the Silver has a big, open stage with the sort of imaging, layering, and instrument separation you would expect from an uber-pricey premium offering. While those in the market for the Silver are unlikely to consider them for this purpose, I like to use gaming to test sound stage and imaging accuracy. Using them with Dirt Rally in the cockpit view was an exhilarating experience. While I prefer a tighter, smaller stage for this purpose, the growling engine out front and rocks pinging around in the wheel wells sounded mighty impressive. The transitions from one terrain to another were easily deciphered with the Silver letting me know when I was pushing the car too much and exceeding track limits. Running through BT’s “If The Stars Are Eternal Then So Are You And I” was quite the mind-bending auditory journey with the Silver as I become engrossed and surrounded by the ethereal music. With the RE2000 Silver, I could follow specific layers with ease and track an effects journey across the sound scape. It was pretty damn cool.
Select Comparisons (volume matched using Dayton iMM-6):
Campfire Audio Atlas (1,299 USD): Like the RE2000 Silver, the Atlas has a very forward, large and open sound. However, it’s presentation is even bigger and more bombastic. The Atlas’ signature puts more emphasis on the low end giving it an extra weighty, physical presence. The RE2000 Silver certainly isn’t lacking in the low end with plenty of quantity and just as good of extension, it just doesn’t play as central a role in the signature. The RE2000 Silver’s treble extends just as well, but is more even from presence to brilliance regions. Lower treble seeing additional emphasis giving it an edge in overall clarity over the Atlas. The Atlas places more emphasis on the upper treble making it sharper and more shimmery. The Silver has a more emphasized mid-range with a thicker note presentation and more impressive vocal and instrument clarity. The Atlas’s more aggressive presentation results in a more intimate sounding earphone than the RE2000 Silver which is extremely open and spacious. The Atlas is capable of tossing sounds outside of the head just like the RE2000 Silver, but it more often than not keeps the action within arms’ reach. The Silver’s more spacious stage results in even more impressive layering and separation, but I found the Atlas’ imaging to be even more razor sharp and precise. The Atlas is a TOTL bass head earphone retaining impressive performance everywhere else, whereas the RE2000 Silver is more well-rounded and a jack-of-all-trades type earphone that can be subtle and nuanced, yet
let loose if the track demands.
HiFiMAN RE2000 (2,000 USD): The two RE2000s are much more alike than they are dissimilar with the Silver coming forward with a slightly more balanced sound. They are both well-balanced and slightly warm. The original RE2000 produces more treble and bass than the Silver variant, with the Silver dialing those areas down slightly. I can’t tell if there were any changes to the mid-range, so likely any extra emphasis I hear there is the result of the extremities being dialed down, thereby making the mid-range more obvious. I couldn’t determine any differences in terms of sound stage width and depth, nor in terms of qualities like imaging, layering, and separation. The Silver is just as impressive as the original gold variant in all regards and provides the same bombastic listening experience, just one that is a bit more even across the frequency range. Since the two perform on the same level in my opinion, the only reason I can see to recommend the gold version over the Silver is that you prefer a more v-shaped leaning sound. They’re both among the best earphones I’ve heard either way.
While they eschewed the gold-emblazoned housings of the previous RE2000, HiFiMAN still struck gold with the Silver. The sound quality on display is mature and refined, even more so than the original and more expensive RE2000. The Silver highlights one of many possible tunings that people strive to experience at the proverbial end-game in this hobby. And, it’s done without a hybrid setup or multi-driver “trickery”. Just a single 9.2mm dynamic per side with some unique tech applied to the diaphragm.
I would have liked a more comprehensive accessory kit akin to that provided with the RE800 Silver, and a higher quality cable to better match the price tag. Even with these minor quibbles the RE2000 Silver makes for an easy to recommended listen for someone looking to step up to top-of-the-line products. You can find better looking and better built earphones elsewhere but few can match what really matters, that being the sonic performance you get with this earphone.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (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)
Aesop Rock – Fishtales (Track)