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HiFiMan RE2000: 24k GoldenEye - [Review] 🇬🇧

Prolog:

Die Preise für neue In-Ear- und Bügelkopfhörer-Flaggschiffe verschiedener Hersteller scheinen kontinuierlich zu steigen, wie auch die Akzeptanz einiger Käufer, solche Preise auszugeben, weshalb es heutzutage definitiv keine Seltenheit mehr ist, In-Ears und Kopfhörer über 2000€/$ zu finden, was früher nur bei sehr wenigen maßgefertigten In-Ear-Exoten und nicht minder „exotischen“ Bügelkopfhörer-Produkten von Stax der Fall war.
Dass für einen Firmenflaggschiff-Bügelkopfhörer solche Preise aufgerufen werden, überrascht mittlerweile wohl niemanden mehr so sehr, und sogar immer mehr universelle In-Ears erreichen oder überschreiten die 2000er-Grenze.





So auch etwa der 2000$ kostende HiFiMan RE2000, in dem nicht etwa ein Dutzend Treiber Verwendung finden, sondern je Seite lediglich ein dynamischer Wandler, dessen Membran in einem bestimmten Muster nanobeschichtet ist, was laut HiFiMan angeblich zur Versteifung der Membran sowie zum gezielten Feintuning des Klanges beitragen soll.

Als mir der RE2000 zum Testen angeboten wurde, war ich mir zunächst nicht sicher, ob ich zusagen sollte oder nicht, da mich der Hörer persönlich ehrlich gesagt ausgehend davon, was ich über ihn flüchtig gelesen hatte, nicht so sehr ansprach, doch entschied ich mich letztlich doch dazu, mir den In-Ear genauer anzuhören und ihn zu testen.


Und hier folgt somit nun mein englischsprachiges Review eines In-Ears mit einem dynamischen Treiber je Seite und einem Preis von 2000$.


Introduction:

HiFiMan was founded in 2005 by Dr. Fang Bian, however not under the name we know the company today, but as “Head-Direct”. In the beginning, it was not the high-end company that we know today and offered mainly budget products, but eventually directions and priorities, along with the name, changed, and HiFiMan as we know it today began to focus on higher-end gear.

While it is mainly the section of planar magnetic headphones HiFiMan is known for (I am an owner of the HE-400 myself and would have likely purchased the HE-6 to complement my Sennheiser HD 800 and Audeze LCD-X if it were still available in stores as a new product), HiFiMan has also manufactured several in-ears that were positively received by the community, such as the still very affordable RE-400 that is heading into a quite neutral tonal direction.
However the market doesn’t stop growing and the same goes for the development of new products in the hi-fi sector, and so HiFiMan is also introducing new models (some people might say they are doing this at a higher pace than they should), such as the RE2000 that is the company’s most recent in-ear flagship.

The RE2000 is a dynamic driver in-ear with one dynamic driver per side that has got a new diaphragm design, called “Topology Diaphragm” by HiFiMan. What this means is that it features nano-coating in a specific pattern, which can be used to fine-tune the sound waves and also increase the membrane stiffness according to HiFiMan. Whether this is a ground-breaking invention or offers just a small real-world advantage is up to you to decide.

HiFiMan’s RE2000 in-ear flagship is priced at US$2000, matching its model number, which did cause some jokes when it was first introduced. Surely this is rather a lot of cash for a single dynamic driver in-ear, making it more expensive than other flagship dynamic driver models from Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser, Dita or Campfire Audio, however these days with a summit-fi audio market where company flagships seem to be getting continuously more and more expensive, it is no real surprise or shock to see this number.


What the HiFiMan RE2000 sounds like and how it performs is to be found out in this review.


Full disclosure: I was approached by HiFiMan who wanted me to review the RE2000 that was sent to me at no additional cost as a sample. As with all of my reviews, I am not affiliated with the company in any way, am receiving no monetary compensation and was not given any directions or restrictions for my text.


Technical Specifications:

Price: US$2000
Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Impedance: 60 Ohms
Sensitivity: 103 dB
Driver: 9.2 mm dynamic “Topology Diaphragm” driver
Cable: silver-coated crystalline copper wire
Earphone weight: 13.8 g
Cable weight: 23 g


Delivery Content:

For a high-priced in-ear, you would usually also expect an at least somewhat luxurious package and delivery content, and HiFiMan’s RE2000 does definitely not disappoint in this regard by even the slightest bit.



It arrives in a large, hinged and pleather-coated storage chest/box that, on the outside, somewhat reminds me of the one my Sennheiser HD 800 came with.
Inside, you can find the ear pieces in the centre, safely placed in a lightweight and transportable aluminium case with a black finish and a white HiFiMan logo on top, while the accessories such as the cable (that also comes with a set of spare 2-pin connectors which is hopefully not a bad sign) and ear tips are stored in separate cardboard boxes.



The selection of included ear tips is unfortunately quite poor, especially given the price. While one will find Comply Foam, single-flange, double-flange and triple-flange tips, they don’t come in more than one or two various sizes at max, which is a bit embarrassing for every in-ear that is not priced in the lower two-digit budget sector.



Silicone ear guides, a booklet and a warranty card can be found inside the large box, too.




Looks, Feels, Build Quality:

The RE2000 is HiFiMan’s first in-ear with detachable cables. Thankfully, they have decided to use the 2-pin standard instead of (rotating and non-locked) MMCX connectors.
The cable features a fairly large and angled 3.5 mm plug with gold-plated and aluminium elements. The gold-plating can also be found on the slim y-splitter with “HiFiMan” and “RE2000” labelling and the chin-slider.
The cable is a bit thicker than normal below the y-splitter but not by much. While it is nicely soft, it has also got a slightly sticky plus rubbery surface and lacks strain relief on some transitions. In addition, it doesn’t really appear like a cable that was made for a $2000 in-ear although besides that, it is admittedly somewhat nice for a non-braided/-twisted cable.
Fortunately though, it can be replaced with any cable of choice as long as it is using 2-pin connectors without a collar.



The shell’s inner half consists of brass that was electroplated with 24k gold. It is more matt than shiny and therefore not as intrusive.
While the surface is flawlessly built, the faceplate with the HiFiMan logo that would look quite a bit more premium if it was engraved or CNC-milled and the design honestly doesn’t have the appearance of a four-digit flagship in-ear.


Comfort, Isolation:

The RE2000 is not necessarily ergonomically shaped but not on the large side either – in fact, I would consider its size to be “medium”, with a good amount of in-ears having larger shells. Nonetheless, people with really small ears will likely get problems finding a good fit and seal, as well as people with ears that offer enough height but not enough width (since HiFiMan’s in-ear flagship is on the wider side). In addition, the RE2000’s shells are also on the bulkier side, but this will likely only cause problems with shallow ears.

Sort of a problem could be the short nozzles though, since in combination with the bulky shells, I can see them limiting the possibilities of a good angle and seal for some people.



As noted, the tip selection is quite poor, especially given the price. Almost all tips except for the large Comply Foam tips that I however don’t like much were too small for my ears, so what I had to do in order to get a seal was to trim down the large triple-flange silicone tips to just a large single-flange tip while maintaining the same length as the grey double-flange tips that came already installed on the in-ears. Measurements by the way proved that there was no tonal difference between the modified and grey tips and the modified ones (mainly due to the same length).



This way, I could find a good seal and have to say that I find the RE2000 to fit rather comfortably in my large ears.
The gold-plated brass shells are by the way no problem at all and don’t feel cold or unpleasant. The in-ears actually don’t feel much different from models with acrylic or plastic shells in one’s ears.

Just as it is the standard for most higher-priced and professional in-ears, the HiFiMan RE2000 is also intended to be worn with the cables around the ears which improves the fit, security and lowers microphonics (cable noise) that I can happily report to not exist.


Noise isolation doesn’t reach the best isolating in-ears’ standards but is fairly good and a bit better than average for a dynamic driver in-ear with a vent in the shells (precisely, it is in the 2-pin socket).


Sound:

Sources I used for critical listening were the iBasso DX200 (AMP2 module), Cowon Plenue 2 and my Chord Mojo-Leckerton Uha-6S.MKII stack.

For listening, I used the included large triple-flange tips that I trimmed down to large single-flange tips that have the same length as the grey tips that came already installed on the in-ears. Due to the same length, measurements indicated both to have the exact same frequency response.

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Frequency response measurements can be found here.
Keep in mind though that I am not using a professional measurement coupler but a Vibro Labs Veritas coupler that was pseudo-calibrated to more or less match an IEC711 coupler’s response with applied diffuse-field compensation that is definitely not perfect at the current state and shows too little level around 3 and 6 kHz. But if you mentally visualise somewhat more level in those areas, the result will be fairly close.

Tonality:

So what does HiFiMan’s RE2000 dynamic driver in-ear flagship sound like?

Tonally, the RE2000 sounds fairly balanced, with just a slight “smiley face”/v-shaped/loudness tuning.
The bass isn’t emphasised by much but only around 6 dB compared to an in-ear that is diffuse-field flat in the lows, such as the Etymotic ER-4S/SR. Its bass emphasis and quantity is quite comparable to the InEar StageDiver SD-2 but with around 1 dB more in quantity when doing direct comparisons, along with some of the added impact of the dynamic driver that gives it a little more perceived weight wherefore it feels more impactful and energetic.
The bass extends very well into the sub-bass, with just a slight drop below 40 Hz, nonetheless with still very good presence that can be heard and also be felt here, so even though the sub-bass does not show more quantity than the midbass, it can have some nice rumble if the recording digs this low.
The bass emphasis somewhat blends into the lower midrange and higher root, making it gain some fullness, body and a touch of cosy and pleasant warmth. To my ears, the (lower) mids are therefore on the smoother and fuller side without appearing artificial or overly coloured.

Unlike most in-ears, the RE2000 doesn’t show any dip or recession in the area of the middle highs that’s usually responsible for some smoothness and a somewhat relaxed character or can also be used to prepare some headroom for peaks, but instead the HiFiMan has got an emphasis at 5 kHz, followed by another one around 11 kHz.
Due to the 5 kHz lift with no valley before it, vocals also gain a little countervailing air as a nice contrast to the pleasant warmth in the lower midrange. However, a bad side-effect of this is also that the highs do not appear as even as they could be and don’t convey the ultimately highest realism. Cymbals for example sound a bit “spread” and slightly artificial due to the 11 kHz emphasis (a bit as if they were played with brushes instead of sticks) and also gain some metallic character due to the 5 kHz elevation, along with trumpets that are slightly on the squeakier side. A result is also some slight sharpness/over-crispiness at times.
A good thing is however that there is not really much added sibilance in vocals.

At this price point, I really don’t want this to happen even if it is no drastic phenomenon. There are in-ears at lower prices that are less even and realistic in the highs, but there are also plenty models that are somewhat more linear and smoother up top. At $2000, I would expect a fairly smooth (as in even and linear) treble that conveys realism and doesn’t have a slightly artificial touch to cymbals and in general, even if it is rather mild.

Extension past 10 kHz is good though and subtle airiness in the super treble can be therefore also heard.

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The tuning in the lows and midrange is good – instruments sound realistic and vocals are pleasant. Only people expecting a spot-on flat presentation might find drums to have a pinch too much body. Guitars sound very authentic and realistic, too.
The treble really isn’t that bad at all – but it is just not authentic enough for the price. A bit more fine-tuning to get the 5 kHz and 11 kHz emphasis down and make them flatter would have definitely been beneficial for some more treble linearity, naturalness and authenticity.

Resolution:

For an in-ear with a single dynamic driver per side, the RE2000’s performance and presentation is admittedly fairly impressive, detailed and precise even though it might not fully convince die-hard Balanced Armature lovers. To show how far high-end dynamic driver in-ears have come these days, the HiFiMan is a really good example nonetheless.

Coherence, not much surprisingly, is really good, but that is also what should be expected at this price point, no matter whether we’re talking about a hybrid, dynamic driver or multi-BA in-ear.

Speed with complex and really fast recordings is very good for a dynamic driver in-ear but not fully on the same level as with some really good multi-BA models.

Bass quality is very good – the RE2000 has got a fast and tight bottom-end reproduction with good details. Still, it has got a nice body and doesn’t deny its dynamic driver heritage despite the excellent control. Fast and complex bass lines and quick punches are no problem for this in-ear.
What is extremely nice is also the almost tactile and very well-layered texture in the lows that I have rarely heard with an in-ear. In this way, it somewhat reminds me of my Audeze LCD-X’s bass texture although the two are admittedly still different in terms of bottom-end presentation.

Positively striking is also the separation that is nothing but excellent in the highs, presenting a razor-sharp and spot-on separation of single notes in the highs. Decay feels neither too quick nor too fast. CSD plots back this up and don’t show any undesired ringing in the upper highs.

The midrange shines with good speech intelligibility and rendering of fine details as well – singers’ small variations can be heard precisely. Still, I have got the feeling like there could be slightly more details in the mids that feel just like “80 to 85%” to me compared to the rest.

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As good and impressive as the RE2000 is as a high-end single dynamic driver in-ear, I ultimately have the feeling that the technical performance does not fully justify the asked price given similarly performing in-ears for half as much do exist. Sure, the bass quality and separation are very good, but then again this is nothing that some other high-end in-ears for somewhat less money can also achieve on the same or even slightly higher level.What really makes the RE2000 unique though is its low frequency texture that is nothing but splendid.
You can blame that on the law of diminishing returns, a price that was probably set too high, the recent development of the headphone and in-ear market or whatever you want.

Soundstage:

Just like the RE2000’s general tightness and separation, its soundstage is convincing as well.

The portrayed sound field is fairly large, leaving the base of my head to the size. It doesn’t reach the size of many open-back full-sized headphones though and is also spatially not as large as the now discontinued Ultimate Ears UE18 Pro.
There is overall a little more width than depth (the ratio is about 55% width to 45% depth to my ears), but the presentation is good and goes fairly deep wherefore layering is no problem and done quite precisely.

Placement and separation are done remarkably well and single instruments have their dedicated spot in the imaginary room without blending into each other. Therefore the imaging is plenty precise and the RE2000 also manages to portray some empty space around instruments.



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In Comparison with other In-Ears:

Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors (triple-BA; €1149):

The UERM are the more neutral in-ears out of the two with somewhat less bass quantity and less warmth in the lower midrange. The RE2000 has got the more impactful bass that, while just around 3 dB more present, is more energetic appearing.
The HiFiMan has got the slightly airier/brighter upper mids at the same time (the UERM are flatter and a bit more authentic here).
The RE2000 is a good bit more pronounced around 5 kHz where the UERM are a little recessed (when regarded by diffuse-field standards and when I’m listening to sine sweeps) wherefore the HiFiMan sounds a little more metallic and brighter here.
The UERMs’ only real criticism is that their 10 kHz area has got a rather narrow emphasis that can sound somewhat sharp and unnatural when certain notes hit it exactly. Then, but only then, the UERM also sound brighter than the RE2000, however their cymbals don’t appear as spread as the HiFiMan’s. Most of the time though, the UERM sound a bit more authentic in the highs (but are ultimately not perfect either in terms of treble realism – but then again cost only about half as much as the RE2000).

It is quite remarkable how close the RE2000 comes in terms of bass speed and tightness. The UERM decay slightly faster, but ultimately bottom-end control is on the same level. Due to the slightly slower decay, the HiFiMan has got that admittedly quite pleasant dynamic driver texture.
When it comes to midrange resolution, the UERM are a bit ahead and portray the somewhat superior speech intelligibility as well as minute detail retrieval.
Treble separation is almost a draw with the UERM separating single notes slightly sharper with busy and complex recordings. Treble resolution is comparable.

Playing fast and busy recordings, the UERM is somewhat ahead when it comes to control.

In terms of soundstage, the RE2000 has got the somewhat wider base as well as also a bit more spatial depth, therefore generating the more open appearing presentation. Borders around instruments appear slightly cleaner on the UERMs’ side with busier recordings though and their soundstage also scales better with the recording.


Sennheiser IE 800 (single dynamic driver; €699):

Compared to the tiny IE 800, the RE2000 appears quite large.

The IE 800 has got a more unique design in my opinion. The RE2000’s cable, while not perfect either and a bit sticky, is still better than the Sennheiser’s that doesn’t even have good strain relief on about any transition and is more microphonic.

Sound signature-wise, the IE 800 is tuned more for fun and has got the noticeably stronger v-shape, with a forward bass and especially sub-bass, the more sparkling and forward upper highs and a dip in the 5 kHz range to generate headroom for the upper treble emphasis.
The midrange tuning seems more natural on the IE 800 (the RE2000’s upper midrange is a little thin in comparison).
Cymbals sound splashier and brighter on the Sennheiser. On the HiFiMan, they unfortunately appear a bit more metallic due to the 5 kHz elevation though. The Sennheiser’s on the other hand are much splashier (definitely too splashy for some people).

When it comes to resolution, the IE 800 is already a quite capable single dynamic driver in-ear. The RE2000 however takes it to an even higher level and offers even a bit more tightness and speed in the lows, along with the more precise separation in the highs.
So the overall amount of details is even higher on the RE2000 that just sounds more precise.

The IE 800 has got the slightly wider soundstage to my ears, however it has got almost no spatial depth at all. The RE2000 on the other side offers some real spatial depth and layering.
Instrument separation is cleaner and more precise on the HiFiMan’s side, too – compared to it, the IE 800 even seems spatially a bit mushy.


Fidue SIRIUS (quintuple-hybrid (1x DD, 4x BA); $899):

When it comes to design, build and styling, the Fidue is quite a bit ahead in my opinion.

The SIRIUS’ shells are somewhat larger than the HiFiMan’s but not as bulky.
In my ears, the RE2000 is a little more comfortable than the SIRIUS that can cause problems due to its sharp corners and edges. Both in-ears have got a pretty short nozzle that I would wish was a bit longer.

The SIRIUS’ bass quantity will ultimately depend on how close its vents are to your ears. In my ears and with my ear anatomy, the RE2000 has got slightly more bass than the SIRIUS (about 1 dB) and the slightly more present sub-bass rumble. The HiFiMan’s lower mids are slightly fuller.
The RE2000 is brighter in the 5 kHz range where the Fidue is more in the background. The SIRIUS has got some more energy right before 10 kHz whereas the RE2000’s 11 kHz range is more pronounced. The Fidue’s highs sound overall smoother and definitely somewhat more realistic to me. In comparison, the RE2000 reproduces cymbals more spread, more metallic and with more sharpness and is generally a bit brighter overall in the treble.

The HiFiMan’s bass is a bit tighter in attack but a little slower in decay, resulting in an overall comparably tight but more textured reproduction with the slightly higher control.
Midrange resolution is relatively identical among the two in-ears with the HiFiMan surprisingly having the somewhat cleaner and sharper treble separation in the lower and middle highs.

The SIRIUS has got the larger (especially wider) soundstage. Separation is comparably good between the two with just slightly more precise separation of single instruments on the HiFiMan’s side.


Conclusion:

On the technical side, the HiFiMan RE2000 is remarkably good for a single dynamic driver in-ear and shows what high-end dynamic driver in-ears can be capable of nowadays.
It features a very good bass with tightness, speed, control but at the same time some really nice texture and has got really good note separation and a high overall resolution (that is a bit lower in the midrange than in the highs and lows though). Its soundstage is also not only large but also precise and has got good layering and very good separation capabilities.



However, the RE2000 is definitely not without flaws and shows some downsides that should not be as present at its price point, since a good number of similarly priced and even less expensive in-ears nowadays manage to avoid them.
One comparatively major nitpick is the treble that just isn’t as even, realistic or linear as it could ultimately be. Cymbals just don’t sound fully authentic to me for example. In the process of fine-tuning, the 5 kHz and 11 kHz elevations could and should have been flattened for more realism. Therefore, the lack of the last bit naturalness in the treble is quite a bit of a letdown at this price point.

Another thing is that the design, build, cable and especially poor selection of included tips don’t fully fit into the picture of a high-priced in-ear.


So ultimately, in my opinion, the price is definitely set somewhat too high and a bit questionable for the total package (treble evenness/naturalness/realism, build, design, cable, short nozzles), as convincing (and even somewhat impressive) the technical capability of the high quality dynamic driver is, but I guess that is how high-end, the law of diminishing returns and the high-end in-ear market unfortunately works nowadays.