The RE2000, that we have here, is their top of the line model of IEM. It incorporates some interesting technical features to help create a very fine product with a refined, top-notch, sound.
Sporting a unique look and leveraging the company’s expertise with nano-thickness materials for the drivers, the HiFiMAN RE2000 IEMs make a very compelling case for themselves. They produce a natural and engaging sound signature with a detailed response across the audio bandwidth.
HiFiMAN RE2000 In-Ear Monitor
- In many respects they have a similar sound as the HE1000 planar headphones, just shrunk to in-ear size.
- Extended and sweet-sounding highs.
- Solid, extended bass frequencies with great punch.
- Vocals sounded warm but not overly forward.
- Good quality construction.
- Sensitive enough to be driven from about any portable device but best performance is obtained with an amp.
- Comfortable fit.
HiFiMAN recently introduced two new IEM models to their Reference line of products. They are the RE800 and the range topping RE2000, which is the object of our attention here. At first blush they appear to be another extremely high-quality offering from our prolific friends at HiFiMAN. They seem very solidly built and feature some novel construction and technical features that have evolved from some of their top tier headphone designs. For a retail price of $2000.00, one should expect these little precision gems to perform to a high standard on several levels. And that is precisely what we aim to find out.
Single Dynamic Driver, In-Ear Monitor
Manufacturer Freq. Response:
5 Hz – 20 kHz
13.8 grams (0.48 ounces)
Black plastic and metal housing with 24k gold plated accents.
Detachable 1.2-meter (4.0 Feet) Headphone Cable with 3.5mm plug, two 0.78 mm “H” connectors, two sets of Comply foam ear tips, assorted single, dual and triple flange silicone ear tips, two plastic ear hooks, carrying case.
HiFiMAN, RE2000, IEM, Earphones, Nano, Dynamic, Topology, In-Ear Monitor Reviews 2018
The HiFiMAN RE2000 IEMs are a very robustly built pair of earphones, feeling nicely weighted when held in hand. The overall design is an interesting blend of angles and curves with a large HiFiMAN logo boldly, yet tastefully, emblazoned on the outside. The majority the RE2000s housing is made from solid brass, with the exterior finished using 24 karat gold plating. HiFiMAN says that, after much experimenting, they settled on brass as the main material because it had the best acoustic properties for this application. The gold plating is simply a decorative touch.
In each housing, HiFiMAN uses a single 9.2 mm dynamic driver which utilizes what the company refers to as a Topology Diaphragm. The design of the Topology Diaphragm consists of layers of a nano-particle coating applied to the driver diaphragm directly. These layers each vary in a specific way in terms of geometric pattern, compound and thickness. This technique apparently allows the sound to be manipulated to achieve a desired tuning target as well as reducing unwanted distortions.
The detachable 4-foot cable set (a first for the company’s IEM models) is made from a silver coated-crystalline copper wire, similar to that used in a number of HiFiMAN’s higher end headphone offerings. The cable connectors that attach to the earphone’s themselves are “H” connectors. HiFiMAN has included an extra loose set of these connectors to use, in case owners want to build their own or experiment with other cable sets with their RE2000. I should also mention that the 3.5 mm headphone jack at the other end of the cable set is about as serious and solid looking a connector as I think I’ve ever come across.
In terms of accessories included with the RE2000 there is a compact travel case, two different sizes of Comply™ foam ear tips, a small variety of silicone ear tips including dual and triple-flange types, the aforementioned extra “H” connectors and a very nice presentation case that the entire kit comes packaged in.
For this review, the RE2000 were connected to a variety of equipment for evaluation. These included: the OPPO HA-1 DAC/headphone amplifier for at-home listening. My iPhone 6S Plus and my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 were paired with an OPPO HA-2SE portable DAC/Amp and an Emotiva Big EGO DAC/Amp respectively for mobile environments.
So, the top line question here would most surely be: “Well? What does a $2000.00 pair of earphones sound like?” Pretty darn sweet, would be my answer to you. But before I get into too much detail, let me go through a few initial physical impressions. The overall packaging of the HiFiMAN RE2000 is quite well done. The synthetic leather, latched presentation box that encloses the product makes quite the statement when you first open it up. The instruction manual is nicely photographed and printed on heavy stock paper.
The IEMs are shipped in a custom cut foam insert layer in the middle of the case with another small box containing the cable and accessories to the left and a container of ear tips set off to the right. Beyond that, the accessory count is rather sparse. There is surprisingly no ¼-inch phone adapter included with these earphones, let alone any additional cable set.
After experimenting with the various included ear tips, I found I got the best fit and seal with the Comply™ medium foam tips. I initially expected that the size and shape of the earphones would preclude me getting a comfortable fit. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily and well the RE2000s sat in my ears with just the cable looped over the top of my lobes. It seems the gently sloping inner part of the housing, that resides in the ear, and the softly rounded edges play a big part in the comfort. I was able to wear the RE2000s for 2-3 hour stretches quite easily during my review. However, I found the included plastic wire guides to be of minimal use to me, so I left them in the box.
In terms of sound quality, the RE2000 can easily compete with some of the best sounding IEMs that I have come across. While they may not have as big a soundstage as some of the new open-back IEMs that have come to market lately, the RE2000s imaging is quite good but resides slightly “in your skull,” if that makes sense. What the RE2000s do have is a natural and alive quality to their sound that is instantly addictive and works well with a wide variety of music. Breaking things down a little further, the bass reproduction is excellent. It is powerful, impactful and you will feel it with the right material. The bass prowess of these earphones do justice to modern pop, rock and electronic music, but also have enough tautness and resolution to their low end that the plucks of an acoustic double-bass remain richly detailed. I feel that I got the best bass performance when I used a headphone amp with the RE2000s and I will touch on that more in a moment.
Overall, the midrange performance seemed to have a slight warmness to its presentation. This helped keep things smooth and appealing sounding, without being overdone. Vocals may be a touch on the forward side, but I didn’t find the amount to be objectionable and it did help to keep a nice separation between instruments and vocals in the same range. Piano and guitar notes had great levels of detail to them while maintaining enough body in their sound to make them feel right there.
Looking at the treble performance of the RE2000, again there was a certain natural rightness to the sound that these earphones kept delivering. There was never any sibilance or glare that I was aware of during my listening. Cymbals always had a nice crispness and attack to their sound with the right metallic sheen and decay afterwards. Big band music with a large array of horns did not elicit any wayward wincing from yours truly. In this case, instruments were nicely imaged in my head, and all the brass sounded nice and clean without any abrasiveness. I also didn’t get the impression that the highs were rolled off at all. High pitched flute notes sounded properly extended and airy, and strings had plenty of detail to them as well.
With a 60-ohm impedance and 103 dB sensitivity, I was able to get good volume out of the HiFiMAN RE2000 IEMs when paired with my iPhone or Surface tablet alone, but I didn’t feel like I was getting the most out of their sound quality. Bass tended to feel a little sloppy and the overall imaging didn’t come off quite as clear. That changed immediately when I paired the earphones with any of the headphone amplifiers that I had available. For mobile use, pairing the RE2000 with the OPPO HA-2SE was just what the doctor ordered. The better-quality DAC and amplifier section of the OPPO paid immediate sonic dividends. The overall detail was cleaner, imaging was improved, and the bass became tighter and more impactful. For home use, I generally prefer using full size headphones when listening, but the HiFiMAN RE2000 were comfortable enough that I was able to use them for some prolonged sessions at my workstation. In this case, I had them hooked up to my OPPO HA-1 DAC/Headphone amp and all the aforementioned benefits applied here as well.
However, this also segues into my one main beef with the HiFiMAN RE2000 IEMs and that has to do with value. Do these IEMs sound like $2000.00 earphones? You bet they do! They have a rightness and appeal to their sound quality that is not easy to come by. But you are not going out and spending $2000.00 to buy a pair of earbuds to just use with your iPhone when you go jogging. These are for people who care about music, and they sound their best when paired with a good amp or DAP. The problem IMHO is that the RE2000s don’t come with the requisite accessories that befit a product of this quality and price range. I wish HiFiMAN would dispense with the fancy presentation box and slick manual, both of which, once opened, will most likely be put on a shelf somewhere never to be seen again. Instead, consider including a wider selection of ear tips, a cleaning kit, a longer cable set for using at home since the included cable is barely long enough for desktop use. The omission of a ¼” headphone adapter is a head-scratcher here and, for two-grand, should be a no-brainer. HiFiMAN does offer a balanced cable set for the RE2000 as $199.00 additional purchase on their web-store. In my mind, this should be included as standard equipment when you purchase these IEMs. As a prospective buyer, these are the things I would expect to be included as part of the purchase of a top-of-the-line IEM in this price range.
A great sampling of tracks from RCA’s classical Living Stereo series of recordings. Starting with “Fugue in G Minor” performed by organist Virgil Fox, the lowest notes come through with impressive authority on the RE2000s.
Every other octave of the, no doubt, monstrous organ at New York’s Riverside church rings with unerring clarity but it’s that lowest octave that you can feel coming through your skull, that is the most impressive and the HiFiMAN IEMs do it proper justice. Moving on to “Tchaikovsky’s Concerto in D, Op.35” featuring Jascha Heifetz on violin along with the Chicago Symphony. Heifetz plays like a man possessed on this insanely quick and fiendishly difficult concerto. Yet, the RE2000s let me hear every scrape of his violin as the notes came at an almost blinding pace. The HiFiMANs placed him squarely in the center and properly forward in the sound stage. There was a brilliant tone and body to the violin notes as he played, with the highest notes remaining clean and un-abrasive. The CSO was nicely imaged farther back and around Heifetz creating a nice sense of dimensionality and depth.
Originally released in 1976, this is the digitally remixed version of the album that most folks from my generation are familiar with. A good deal of spatial enhancement was added to this remix and the embiggened sound tends to be quite favorable to headphone listening.
On the track “Arrested for Driving While Blind,” Frank Beard’s drum work sounds good, with a nice punch to the toms and weight to the kick drum. The cymbals have a nice sheen to their sound as well and are mixed in such a way as to seemingly extend outside the earphone boundary. “El Diablo” showcases a nice, meaty bass line from Dusty Hill that the RE2000s reproduce vividly and with good depth. This contrasts to the tasteful hits of Billy Gibbons processed guitar work that pop in and out of various parts of the sound field throughout the song. The guitar notes themselves have great edge to them with a ton of ambience to boot. And with the HiFiMANs, I could pick out the faintest sound of amplifier buzz in the background that I had not noticed before. On the track “Enjoy and Get It On,” the RE2000s do a great job of reproducing all the raspy, soulful character in Billy Gibbons’ voice. Although limited in vocal range, these earphones lend just the right warmness and weight to his ragged singing to make it a really enjoyable listen. The RE2000s also did a great job in helping me notice just how varied an array of guitar parts there are on this track. While it may only be three-bar blues at its core, you begin to appreciate the deliberation that was taken at getting the right guitar sound for each given part of this song. Particularly that thick, distorted closing solo that makes it sound like the guitar is cackling at you as it moves away.
A well-engineered pop/soul recording from one of the few great modern female voices IMO. From the opening track “Right to Be Wrong,” the HiFiMAN RE2000 IEMs treated me to a lush and detailed rendering of Stone’s voice. Every drawn breath, accent and inflection came across with great depth and detail along with that subtle, appealing warmness.
Here, in particular, I was reminded how very much the RE2000s sound like an in-ear version of the HE1000 headphones to me. The song “You Had Me” has a thumping bass line through the whole song that you will solidly feel with these earphones. That said, the bass even at its loudest didn’t get sloppy or muddy when used with a headphone amp. All the other song elements, including Stone’s voice, remained distinct and clear, and were nicely spread out in the sound stage. “Holding Out for a Hero” is stripped down to just vocals and piano and the RE2000s serve both elements up with unerring clarity. The piano sounds clean and the notes ring nicely with good depth and weight, especially in the lower registers. Joss Stone’s voice comes across as the plaintive, raw sounding instrument that it is, revealing both sheer power and vulnerability in equal measure here. These earphones show off every nuance and character that can be found in that fantastic voice, in one of the most natural ways that I’ve heard it.
One of the nicer big band recordings that I have, the late Clark Terry was a renowned trumpet and flugelhorn player. The track “I want a Little Girl” starts off with Terry’s solo trumpet which the RE2000s handle deftly. The playful sounding notes are kept clean and clear with just the right amount of sparkle but no abrasiveness or distortion that I could detect.
As the rest of the band kicks in, the room ambience opens up and RE2000s give you a really good sense of scale of the band and the environment they’re playing in. This is also one of the only two tracks that Terry sings on as well, and the RE2000 do a great job with his older and slightly deeper, voice. The earphones kept his singing sounding warm, expressive and very dimensional. “Easy Does It” starts off with a great sounding stand-up bass line, riding cymbal and flute playing. The bass plucking is detailed and deep, the cymbal sounds properly crisp and the flute sounds clear, light and melodic. When the rest of the brass comes in, it hits hard and loud at times but never sounds anything other than clean, detailed and easily listenable through the RE2000s.
While light on accessories, THE HIFIMAN RE2000 are some of the best sounding IEMs that I have heard to date.
- Appealing “alive” sound quality from top to bottom.
- Innovative nano-material coated drivers are the real deal.
- Solid construction with quality materials.
- Understated good looks.
- A broader and better selection of included accessories. At least add a second longer cable set and a 1/4” phono plug adapter.
The HiFiMAN RE2000 In-Ear Monitors are an impeccable sounding pair of earphones. To my mind they sound very much like HiFiMAN’s former flagship HE1000 cans in character, just applied to the in-ear format. They have an appealing “alive” sound quality that is exceedingly revealing but never ruthless with any material that I played with them. Sensitive enough to be driven by a smartphone, the RE2000s really come into their own when driven by a quality headphone amp or DAP. Played under those conditions, you get the best of everything. The bass is strong and tight, the vocals lush and the highs sound as sweet as can be. Plus, they are fairly comfortable to boot! The only reservations I have about the RE2000 have nothing to do with their sound quality at all, just with their accompanying accessories. They are sparse, and for the money, I simply would have expected more. Overall however, if you are a discerning listener and are looking for a top notch sounding pair of IEMs, you would do well to audition the HiFiMAN RE2000s. With a good amp, precious little sounds better.