HIFIMAN RE-600 SONGBIRD V2 REVIEW
THE PLUS: Neutral and lively, High clarity, Good imaging, Generous accessories
THE SO-SO: Weak bass, thin timbre, dry vocal, small soundstage, worrisome construction
HIFIMAN does not need a presentation, this company is now well known by audiophile as it makes more than 15 years they work in DAP, earphones and headphones market.
Still, they look like to concentrate more on Planar headphones as well as TWS iem these last years, because apart from RE-800 silver and RE-2000 silver, not a lot are going on in their cabled earphones. This perhaps explains why I will review the RE-600 old boy today.
Hifiman RE-400 receive wide acclaim, and priced at around 40$ today, is still excellent value in term of sound quality. The pricier RE-600 was gently falling into shadow, which is perhaps explainable by its 200$ price tag that cannot keep up with the competitive sub-300$ iem market that takes a big boost in last years, especially in hybrid and multi-balanced armature form.
But due to a BIG PRICE DROP, the RE-600 are now priced at 65$. This change the game in terms of value, and I will judge now these earphones in comparison to other single dynamic drivers in the sub-100$ price range.
Let’s see if this IEM made back in 2006 can still hold it’s ground in 2020.
You can buy the RE-600 for 65$ directly from official HIFIMAN STORE.
This is a very particular packaging here, as their no official box and come in the shipping box. But when we open it we are overwhelmed by an extremely generous number of accessories as well as the real proper luxurious packaging which is an (overly?) fancy metal-leather box with magnetic doors…it’s sure very beautiful for the eyes, but this isn’t a case, the case is very basic and come apart from the package. As said presentation is very glorious, but the practical side isn’t there, you will struggle to take of ear tips and at the end of unpackaging, you don’t really know what to do with this fancy box. Well, it can be used for ranging your earphones collection. Accessories are nothing less than 11 pairs of different silicone ear tips, a 3.5mm balanced to 3.5mm unbalanced cable, 5 pairs of mesh filter sticker, 1 cable organizer and the round protective case.
The RE-600 do not look like a 200$ pair of earphones, the construction is very average from housing to cable. Even for 65$, lot of better-constructed earphones is available, think BQEYZ KB100 which have a detachable cable too. We became very severe about price value nowadays, and the fact Hifiman isn’t able to offer high-quality construction for a lot of their products is problematic. The housing is basic aluminium, which is okay, but the cable is half nylon and rubber, the part that is connected to housing feels very cheap and prompt to easy damage. The whole cable came bended and keep it’s none elegant bent.
COMFORTWISE I have not a lot to complain about apart from high microphonic noise coming from cable movement. This can be avoided by wearing cable above the ears. The RE-600 is very small so it will fit any ears without issue. These are good IEM to sleep on too. All in all, very comfy.
At 16ohm of impedance and 102db of sensitivity, the RE-600 will be properly driven with whatever source. In fact, these don’t like too powerful amping which can create distortion at high volume if unstable like Xduoo XD-05Plus with Burson V5i opamp.
Due to a rather deep insertion, metal body and no venting hole in the back of the housing, the isolation is good in passive noise cancellation. For sound leakage, the venting hole under nozzle do leaks sound.
The Hifiman RE-600 sound signature is mids and treble centric, slightly dry in timbre, neutral and punchy. Bass is flat and level of clarity is very high even if upper treble isn’t very sharp or sparkly. The RE-600 are serious and balanced, it offer an entry-level reference sound.
SOUNDSTAGE is on the intimate size, not very wide but with impressive deepness. It struggles to sound out of your head.
IMAGING is above average, with precise instrument placement that has good space between them apart from very busy tracks where it will struggle to don’t sound congested.
TONALITY is smooth and well balanced, it’s a little dry and have high level of realism.
TIMBRE is transparent, rather thin, smooth and enough natural.
BASS isn’t the highlight of HE600, though not exactly what I would call bad, it’s flat, slightly dry and extend hardly to its end. This kind of bass stay in the back and never really struggle your attention apart from the energic mid bass punch. The sub region is slightly rolled off, lack both thickness and rumble, and is shadowed by mid bass when it occurs. With the HE600, acoustic bass sound like a guitar playing in its lowest range, it does not have bass gauge, but the slap is well rendered. For synth sub, it can show weakest point and even create slight distortion. So nope, HE600 isn’t neither for bass lover or even less for basshead. It’s as flat as it can be with exception of nicely done mid bass, wich tough little tame in impact, have natural roundness and some weight to it which make it smoothly thumping when it’s asked to.
MID RANGE is clear, accurate, well-articulated and quite revealing. It has hint of dryness without sounding harsh, sibilant or shouty. Though timbre is little thin, we have a good edge to the definition that even if less sharp than treble, give a good snap to instrument notes. Male vocal sound good enough, especially in tonality and texture details, but females have more presence and body, even if the presentation isn’t super wide or airy. The separation of vocal with other instruments is excellent too, it’s precisely centered, realist and clear. Due to thin timbre, the weight of some instruments like the piano is less feel, but this isn’t a problem for violin or woodwinds instruments. In some way, we can consider the HE600 as mid centric, but it’s so well balanced and refined, that most will find them vividly neutral.
TREBLE is sharp, detailed, fast and balanced. Tonally, it’s less accurate than mid-range, but what I like about it is his control and the fact it deliver high level of microdetails without unbalancing the sound or making it overly coloured. Highs are clean, never grainy or shouty, but not very sparkly either. Percussions are thigh, agile, not very rich in timbre but very snappy in attack. Treble presentation tend to add silence between instrument instead of mixing their decay. Guitar keep it’s individuality in the mix, playing clearly, well separated from vocal and drum. Snares are slightly bright, but thin timbre make it soft to the ears. High pitch violin is very well rendered, making the HE600 very appealing for classical music. When it come to electric guitar, perhaps a little more crunch will make it more realistically abrasive, but again, this is the talent of RE600 : delivering a vivid detailed sound without being aggressive in it’s musicality.
VS MOONDROP STARFIELD (110$)
The STARFIELD SOUNDSTAGE is notably wider but not as deep, IMAGING isn’t as sharply clear too, but have better layering which permits to deal better with busy tracks. BASS extend way better, is both more natural and bodied, and even if it has more presence than RE-600 it does not feel unbalanced or particularly boosted, it’s just a realistically full-bodied bass versus a weak rolled off bass. MIDS are fuller and more natural, the vocal has a wider presence but the definition is sharper with the RE-600, still, the thin edgy sound isn’t very musical compared to smooth lush sound of STARFIELD. TREBLE is similar with both, it digs lot of info in lower and mid-treble but is smoothen on top, anyway, the RE-600 dig more micro details to the cost of sounding less balanced and sometimes offering artificial highs.
All in all, the STARFIELD sound more natural and full, both in bass and mids, and transient response is faster to avoid distortion that more vivid and detailed RE-600 encounter.
VS FINAL AUDIO E2000 (50$)
The E2000 have again a bigger soundstage with slightly less deepness, the IMAGING is as good but not as clear. BASS dig deeper, is warmer in timbre and less forward in mid-bass punch. MIDS is slightly more recessed but thicker in timbre and less intimate in presence, the definition is not as accurate and clear as the RE-600 but overall tonality is smoother. TREBLE is less thin and more natural, but it does not show as many micro details as RE-600 which have more snappy highs.
All in all, the E2000 is a fuller and more natural iem with better tonal balance and more enjoyable sound than colder more technical and neutral RE-600.
We have come a long way since 2006 in term of price value audio performance, and while the RE-600 are competitively priced at 65$ it doesn’t mean it became a giant killer in sub-100$ iem world.
Still, this type of mature neutral sound is very rare to find in the ultra-budget price range, and for this very reason, the RE-600 is sure a good value.
If you don’t care about bass performance or construction durability and search for a neutral, clear and accurate sound with an overall smooth tonality, the Hifiman RE-600 are among the fews that can deliver that under 100$.