HiFiMAN HE400SE vs. Sundara: Which Headphone is Best?

Choosing headphones can be overwhelming – there’s a sea of options, complicated specs, and audiophile debates. Brands like HiFiMAN become a safe haven with the HE400SE and Sundara headphones — known for quality and specific sound signatures.

The HE400SE offers budget-conscious audiophiles an entry into that world, while the Sundara provides a taste of higher-end audio refinement for discerning listeners.

These open-back planar magnetic headphones are beloved by audio enthusiasts. If you’re wondering how they’re difference, here’s what I found out:

The main difference is that the HiFiMAN HE400SE prioritize affordability and a bright sound signature, while the Sundara prioritize a neutral, balanced sound signature, superior detail, and a wider soundstage, coming at a higher price.

HiFiMAN HE400SE vs. Sundara: Key Features at a Glance

This table summarizes the core features and how they compare for both headphones.

FeatureHE400SESundara
PriceMore AffordablePricier
DesignStealth magnet arrayOlder planar driver design
ComfortLighter weightHeavier, but well-distributed weight
Sound SignatureBright, detailedNeutral, revealing
ImpedanceEasy to drive from most sourcesBenefits from a good amp

What are HiFiMAN HE400SE & how do they work?

The HiFiMAN HE400SE headphone use planar magnetic drivers for exceptional detail and accuracy. They are lighter than typical HiFiMAN models, aimed at comfortable, long listening sessions. Think of them as the gateway into high-fidelity for budget-conscious audiophiles.

Pros HE400SE Headphone:

  • Great value for planar sound
  • Bright sound, good for analytical listening
  • Lightweight, comfortable for hours
  • More forgiving with lower-quality sources

Cons:

  • Soundstage less expansive than pricier planars
  • Can feel slightly harsh in the highs to some
  • Build quality is less premium than Sundara

What are HiFiMAN Sundara & how do they work?

The Sundara headphones are an audiophile favorite, offering a taste of HiFiMAN’s higher-end tech. They use an updated planar driver for incredible detail, neutrality, and a wide soundstage that lets you pick apart elements within a mix.

Pros of Sundara:

  • Neutral sound with exceptional detail
  • Wide, accurate soundstage
  • Refined, comfortable build quality
  • Respond well to high-end amps

Cons:

  • More expensive than the HE400SE
  • Need a decent amp to shine
  • Heavier than HE400SE

Comprehensive Feature Comparison: HE400SE vs. Sundara

Here’s a deeper dive into each of the 7 key features for HiFiMAN HE400SE vs. Sundara, offering more nuance for discerning enthusiasts.

1. Price

  • HE400SE: The standout feature. Often found significantly below its MSRP, making it a gateway to planar magnetics on a budget. Keep an eye out for sales at authorized dealers.
  • Sundara: More expensive, but holds its value well. Used markets often feature them in excellent condition. It’s the ‘long-term’ investment if the budget allows.
  • Verdict: HE400SE uncontested winner on price alone, but consider value over time.

2. Sound Signature

  • HE400SE: Bright, with pronounced treble emphasis. Lends exceptional clarity to details but can feel slightly harsh for some listeners, especially on poorly-mastered tracks.
  • Sundara: Neutral to a fault. Delivers music remarkably close to how the artist intended. Non-fatiguing sound works beautifully across genres, prioritizing accuracy over any particular ‘flavor’.
  • Verdict: No clear winner. Audiophiles seeking to pinpoint flaws in mixes will love the HE400SE. Those wanting pure enjoyment and disappearing into the music gravitate towards Sundara

3. Detail Retrieval

  • HE400SE: Surprises at the price point. Picks up nuances in recordings typically heard in pricier headphones. Great for dissecting individual instruments in busy mixes.
  • Sundara: Next-level detail. Not just hearing subtle elements, but effortlessly placing them within the soundscape with startling clarity. A noticeable step up for discerning listeners.
  • Verdict: Sundara wins, especially for those who value hearing the artistry in production.

4. Soundstage

  • HE400SE: Respectable width, but lacks the depth and ‘air’ of higher-end planars. Instruments can feel slightly compressed within the sound field.
  • Sundara: Vast and expansive. Unlocks almost holographic placement of instruments. Great for orchestral pieces, or anything aiming to replicate a live performance.
  • Verdict: Sundara’s clear winner for those seeking a truly immersive experience.

5. Build Quality

  • HE400SE: Primarily plastic, but sturdy. Feels less ‘luxe’ than the Sundara in hand. Functional, but doesn’t scream high-end materials.
  • Sundara: Metal frame, plush earpads. Feels robust and built to last. Conveys an understated elegance, reflecting its position as a more premium offering.
  • Verdict: Sundara delivers uncontested refinement and a more satisfying ownership experience.

6. Comfort

  • HE400SE: Very light on the head. Clamp force can be slightly tight out of the box but loosens over time. Ideal for those who dislike the weight of heavier audiophile headphones.
  • Sundara: Heavier, but superb weight distribution and plush headband make it surprisingly comfortable for even extended sessions.
  • Verdict: Highly subjective. Pure weight belongs to HE400SE, but Sundara wins for long-term wear.

7. Power Requirements

  • HE400SE: Can be driven enjoyably off most sources. Sounds fine from phones or computers but doesn’t scale significantly with extremely high-powered setups.
  • Sundara: Works without a dedicated amp, but becomes noticeably more dynamic and open with sufficient power. True potential unlocked when paired with a high-quality amplifier.
  • Verdict: HE400SE the winner if you want plug-and-play simplicity. Sundara demands more considered setup for peak performance.

Use Cases for HE400SE:

  • New to Planar Magnetics: Great intro to the sound signature
  • Mixing and Mastering: The brightness helps find imperfections

Use Cases for Sundara:

  • Critical Listening: Detail retrieval and soundstage are superb
  • Music Enjoyment: Immersive, neutral sound across genres

HiFiMAN HE400SE vs. Sundara: Specs and Accessories

Here’s a comparative table chart of the specs and accessories for the HiFiMAN HE400SE and Sundara headphones:

SpecificationHiFiMAN HE400SEHiFiMAN Sundara
Driver TypePlanar MagneticPlanar Magnetic
Frequency Response20Hz – 20kHz6Hz – 50kHz
Impedance25 Ohms37 Ohms
Sensitivity91dB94dB
Weight390g372g
Cable TypeDetachableDetachable
Cable Connector3.5mm (adapters may be needed)3.5mm
Cable Length1.5m (4.9 feet)1.5m (4.9 feet)
Included AccessoriesExtra set of earpads, 6.35mm (1/4″) adapter6.35mm (1/4″) adapter

Important Notes:

  • Driver Size: HiFiMAN doesn’t always release exact driver diameter, so it’s hard to compare on this spec alone. The Sundara uses an older design, while the HE400SE has their newer “stealth magnet” array.
  • Sensitivity: Both are fairly easy to drive, but the Sundara may benefit slightly more from extra power.
  • Accessories: Very basic for both. Aftermarket cables and balanced options are available in case you want to upgrade.

What to Consider when Choosing Between HE400SE and Sundara

Here’s a deeper look into the 5 factors to consider when choosing between the HiFiMAN HE400SE and Sundara, keeping the audiophile perspective in mind:

  1. Budget:

The HE400SE delivers exceptional sound quality for its amazingly low price. If you’re exploring planar magnetics out of curiosity or have a strict budget, it’s a revelation. The Sundara is significantly costlier, making it more of an investment for those ready to prioritize sound refinement over pure affordability.

  1. Sound Preferences:

The HE400SE’s bright sound signature is great for dissecting mixes to spot imperfections. However, it can be fatiguing for casual enjoyment of some music. The Sundara’s neutral presentation lets you lose yourself in the music instead of over-analyzing it, working beautifully across a wider range of genres.

  1. Power/Source:

The HE400SE sounds great from most devices, making it easy to plug and play. The Sundara benefits immensely from a quality headphone amp. If your current setup is modest, factor in the extra cost of an amp alongside the headphones themselves.

  1. Critical Listening vs. Pure Enjoyment

For mixing/mastering, the HE400SE’s revealing nature is an asset. But if you mainly listen for pleasure, the Sundara’s immersive soundstage and neutral signature create a more satisfying long-term experience for many audiophiles.

  1. Upgrade Path:

The HE400SE could be a fantastic ‘starter’ planar, leaving you wanting more if you love the sound. The Sundara, if your budget stretches that far, might be the headphone you stay happy with for years due to its technical accomplishment and neutral signature.

FAQs

Here are 5 common questions people have about HiFiMAN HE400SE and Sundara headphones, along with answers to help guide your decision:

  1. Are they comfortable for long sessions? Both headphones receive praise for their comfort, but there are differences. The HE400SE wins in lightweight design. However, the Sundara distributes its weight better despite being heavier. Ultimately, fit depends on head shape, so if possible, try before buying.
  2. Which one has the better soundstage? The Sundara wins hands-down. Its soundstage is expansive, letting you pinpoint instruments within a mix. This immersive quality makes it fantastic for orchestral music or complex arrangements. The HE400SE has a good soundstage, but less depth compared to the Sundara.
  3. Do I absolutely NEED an amp for the Sundara? Technically, no, but it’s highly recommended. The Sundara will play from phones or laptops, but it will sound veiled and lack dynamics. A quality amp unleashes their full detail and spaciousness. The HE400SE is far more forgiving of modest sources.
  4. Can I use these for gaming? Yes, both offer good positional audio for gaming. The Sundara’s wider soundstage gives a slight edge in discerning where sounds are coming from. However, neither has a built-in microphone, so you’ll need a separate one for voice chat.
  5. Is the Sundara worth the price difference? This depends heavily on your priorities. If you have the budget, crave neutral sound with incredible detail, and own a good amp (or plan to buy one), then yes. If you’re a budget-focused audiophile getting your first taste of planar sound, the HE400SE delivers amazing value for its price.

Is the HE400SE good enough? Takeaway

The HiFiMAN HE400SE stands out with its incredible value for the price, offering a taste of planar magnetic sound without breaking the bank.

However, it lacks the refinement and expansive soundstage found in pricier options.

The Sundara fills this gap with superior detail retrieval, a neutral sound signature, and a wide, immersive soundstage.

This comes at a significantly higher price point.

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