Pros: Well controlled extended bass, tight linear sound, impressive stage width, excellent resolution and dynamics, lovely timbre
Cons: Slight recession in mids, poor shell design for mid to small size ears, there are better built IEMs for under $200
List Price: $1500 (Silver), $2000 (Gold)
Pros and cons are for HiFiMAN RE2000 Silver, value rating reflects full retail price. At time of publication RE2000 Silver was on sale for $799.
Rating Disclaimer: ratings are subjective. Audio quality and value do not mean the same thing across all prices. A headphone with a 5 rating on audio at $5 does not have equivalent sound quality as a 5 rating at $500. Likewise, value at $5 is not the same as value at $5000 dollars.
I’ve had a long smoldering love affair with HiFiMAN technology. The RE0 was my first ‘high-end’ in-ear. I still have it. The HE6 was my first pinnacle level listen. The Susvara is my favourite headphone on earth. Mark over at HiFiMAN is one of the nicest folks that I’ve worked with. I like the company. I like the product. However, there have always been rumblings on the internet about build quality horror stories that I’ve been lucky enough never to see or experience. I’ve defended HiFiMAN on the web and held up their customer service as better than reports would have you believe. I think that Mark has probably helped on that end.
This time I’ve gotten a build quality dud in the RE2000 Silver. None of the cosmetic imperfections of this review unit make it sound bad. Actually it sounds rather excellent. I can find myself grooving to either the RE2000 Gold or RE2000 Silver until my ears get tired (more on that later). Usually, unboxings are a joyous time, but in this review, I’ll be doing good news/bad news. The good news is that you get to have sound quality earlier than I normally do in reviews! Yay!
The RE2000 Silver has a balanced sound with deep bass extension, delicate slightly long decaying treble and a big soundstage with more width than depth or height. The illusion of additional depth is created due to some recession in the mids. The sound isn’t really v-shaped, as this would imply that the treble is more forward of the mids, but this isn’t so, the bass is forward of the mids, but the treble is not very much so. Instrument placement within the stage is generally good. The mids have a breathy quality to them that will either sound airy with some fragility or sibilant, depending on your track and sonic preferences.
As can be seen below in the comparisons chart, the RE2000 Silver is easier to drive. The specifications say they should be exactly the same, but for some reason they do not match for me. I tested this on multiple DAPs using the same Mandarines Symbio W eartips (best match for tips I found, Final E type is also good). With that in mind, I’m going to test the drivability of the harder to drive RE2000 Gold.
First up: phone. The LG V30 is known for doing a pretty decent job driving a lot of things, but the RE2000 Gold doesn’t match up too well when I throw on DSD (might be the lower mastering level of DSD) with Pixies – Where is My Mind? I’m not getting the soar that I expect and the bass sounds muted compared to other pairings. Treble is coming off a bit tinny and thin. When I try an easier track, Weezer – In the Garage (16/44 CD rip, medium loudness master), the V30 does better, but cymbals still sound a bit tinny, could just be the master. Queen – My Best Friend back in DSD has more volume (louder master?), but the cymbals still lack shimmer. Bass is better handled on this track. Overall, I don’t think the V30 can handle the RE2000 Gold. A quick switch to RE2000 silver confirms two things: they are easier to drive (play louder), and they don’t sound the same (more on that later).
On the opposite end of the power spectrum for driving the RE2000 Gold sits the Questyle QP2R. The QP2R is a beast with just about any portable headphone or IEM. The presentation of cymbals on Pixies – Where is My Mind? has more shimmer resulting in a more natural feel. Bass also gets some added prominence as I don’t think the LG V30 could get that bass showing in full. Same effect on Weezer – In the Garage.
Somewhere in between the two poles lies the SOUNDAWARE M2Pro. It does just as good a job as the Questyle QP2R. The RE2000 needs to be well fed. If you are playing off your phone, you probably shouldn’t be considering the RE2000.
For this time around, I’m going to do something a little different. I’m going to do comparisons in single-ended. For all RE2000 listens I used Mandarines Symbio W eartips, as the included tips with the RE2000 Gold and Silver are not suitable for my purposes and the Mandarines Symbio W sound the best of any tips I tried.
I used the QP2R for all comparisons. Since I’d rather just talk about audio, I’ve put my value comparisons in the table below. Onward and upward!
Ultimate Ears Pro Reference Remastered (UERR) vs. HiFiMAN RE2000 Silver
There’s a soft percussion in the background of Daft Punk – Instant Crush in the intro that comes through really nice on the RE2000 Silver. The RE2000 sounds bold and beautiful on this track. Right off, bass on the UERR is leaner. The RE2000 Silver has a touch of reverb on the intro solo. Soundstage has more height, but the RE2000 Silver has more width. The RE2000 Silver has vocals positioned a bit back of where the UERR has them. The RE2000 Silver sounds a bit more integrated. The sound stage just flows and feels natural on the RE2000 Silver.
Geddy Lee is my king of sibilance. On Rush – Spirit Of The Radio neither of these has any problem with sibilance. Only what should be there is there. The overall sound of the UERR is thinner and less natural sounding than the RE2000 Silver. The RE2000 Silver has an immediately more organic and approachable sound. Vocals are further back on the RE2000 Silver than on the UERR, but they also sound clearer.
When comparing the UERR to the RE2000 Silver on Metallica – Master Of Puppets, the UERR comes off sounding sterile. The RE2000 Silver is more energetic, inviting, and to use a term I rarely use: musical. Musical is rarely the right term to use, as it has next to no meaning. Some people use it to say more like vinyl. Some people use it to say more v-shaped. I’m using it here to say more organic sounding. It feels more like music.
I’ve never used this track as a test track, which is kind of a shame, as Pink Floyd – The Thin Ice has some layering in the stage, an airy vocal delivery and a mix of natural and artificial sounds in a simple arrangement. I recently listened through The Wall while contemplating the end of something beautiful. The UERR doesn’t have slightly recessed vocals, which allows Roger Waters to come through a bit louder, but the RE2000 Silver conveys more of the emotional content of his vocals. I also noticed that the crying baby felt more real and present at the beginning of the track. The width of the stage is less on the UERR compared to the RE2000 Silver, as I get more stage to the right where Roger Waters’s ‘if you should go skating on the thin ice of modern life’. Synths sound more accurate on the UERR. The drums have more impact and the guitar solo near the end of the track has more fullness on the RE2000 Silver. Drum impacts are also more convincing on the RE2000 Silver.
Macy Gray – Slowly is off of stripped, Macy Gray’s Chesky Records binaural+ recording. This means that the stage should be natural and sound absolutely fantastic through a good set of headphones. This track also throws guitar and stand up bass at you in nearly the same plane and playing with complementary rhythms that blend together beautifully. There’s also a slow distant drum rhythm. Of course Macy Gray’s voice just bleeds emotion all-over the stage. I love this song. The UERR presents the track more compact with less width and depth. It also doesn’t move me as much, even though Macy Gray and the mids in general are not recessed (RE2000 Silver has some recession in the mids). I know the UERR is supposed to represent neutral, but I like how the RE2000 Silver sounds better.
Unique Melody Mentor V3 vs. HiFiMAN RE2000 Silver
For all my listening tests with the Unique Melody Mentor V3, I had the dB-Go ports flipped wide open and the silver cable attached, as it just sounds better with silver. I think this is a good time to bring up one of the marketing claims made by HiFiMAN, here’s their marketing picture describing how balanced armatures suck. They claim that balanced armatures yield a flat emotionless sound. This kind of marketing generalisation is an unacceptable gross distortion.
The truth is that all the common technologies out there can be built to be low distortion. Balanced armature set-ups solve distortion problems by running multiple BA in parallel. This issue that HiFiMAN is reporting is actually a non-issue. This isn’t to say that the topology driver can’t have less distortion, but conspicuously HiFiMAN hasn’t bothered to report their distortion numbers or compare them to any high-end BA designs. If you are going to make an outrageous claim, it should be supported with data. Without any evidence, I’m calling bull.
Billy Cobham – Quadrant 4 is a fast frickin’ track. This track blows speed all over the frequency spectrum. There’s so much speed in this track, Pablo Escobar’s estate gets royalties every time it’s played.
Who’s faster, the RE2000 Silver, or the Mentor V3? It’s the Mentor V3. The Mentor V3 gives more distinct cymbal strikes in the fast intro. Speed in the mids and bass is roughly equivalent, but the Mentor V3 handles the minuscule cymbal taps with more precision. Sometimes some cymbal action is smoothed over on the RE2000 Silver. It’s just not as fast. The bass on both the RE2000 Silver and the Mentor V3 is groovy. The Mentor V3 has a bit more forward bass, but the RE2000 Silver has a bit more refined bass texture. Both do an excellent job.
This song is perhaps more famous because of Saturday Night Live and ‘I need more cowbell’ than being a humongous hit on several top 1000 song lists, but the percussion instrument I’m more often listening for in Blue Oyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper is the guiro. Both instruments are faint, but the guiro (I think that’s what I’m hearing, couldn’t find a listing other than percussion) has more textured presentation so gives some resolution signals that the cowbell doesn’t. The cowbell tells me about depth and a little on frequency response. The Mentor V3 sounds very natural with the track. The full texture of the guiro comes through and the cowbell is at the right depth. The guitar solo sounds precise and tuneful. Vocals have that nice classic warmness typical of the age of the recording. Bass is firm, but not huge with the Mentor V3. The RE2000 Silver has a bit more sustain and menace on the bass guitar without being as loud, due to increased texture. Drums are a touch more forward on the RE2000 Silver, but cymbals or further back. The cymbals on the Mentor V3 are a bit forward of neutral.
If you are feeling vulnerable, Damien Rice – Elephant, may make you feel less vulnerable in comparison. The Mentor V3 presents violins both delicately and with emotion. The mids are a bit more forward than the RE2000 Silver and presented somehow with greater grace and feeling. The timbre of the guitar and the sorrow in Damien’s voice just carry me more on the Mentor V3. Notes on the RE2000 Silver are a bit more ethereal, with a wispiness that belays the weight that the guitar plucks can have. It’s a more mechanical presentation, while the Mentor V3 is more sentimental. I think some of this comes down to how notes are weighted: the Mentor V3 notes have a greater weight to the centre of a note’s attack and decay, while the RE2000 applies greater relative weight to the decay in the upper mids and treble. The slight emphasis on decay on the RE2000 Silver gives it some added airiness, but makes it sound less rounded than the Mentor V3.
2Pac – Changes gives me some nice low-end menace out of the RE2000 Silver. There is really good width in the stage on the RE2000 Silver. Vocals sound clear and sufficiently rich. 2Pac’s vocals sound a little further back in the stage with the Mentor V3. Treble response on the V3 is better on this track too. Bass on the RE2000 Silver has better extension and potency in the sub-bass area with the Mentor V3 wide open in dB-Go module, with the backing bass track sounding better on the RE2000 Silver. Turning the dB-Go module closed ups the sub-bass a bit, but the bass still sounds a little more textured and complete on the RE2000 Silver. I prefer the piano presentation on the Mentor V3.
Why? – Strawberries has a big bass drop and a ton of treble. The treble on the RE2000 Silver is a bit smoother and less forward on this track. The bass impact on this track is much better on the RE2000 Silver. If you want to compare what dynamic drivers do better than balanced armatures for real, most of it is the impact and depth of bass. The RE2000 Silver is outperforming the Mentor V3 in both aspects. It just moves more air, it’s bass you feel, not just hear, and it sounds fuller too.
Lark Studio LSX vs. HiFiMAN RE2000 Silver
OutKast – Ms. Jackson has a lot going on, for real. The RE2000 Silver has some great menace going with the bass guitar, with tight funky plucks. The multi-tracked layered stage is well presented with individual elements easily discernible. However, each element is not entirely distinctive, which will be a function of the treble levels on the RE2000 Silver. With the Lark Studio LSX the underlying bass in the background is pushed well-forward. The bass drum kicks you in the face on the LSX. The LSX, in spite of the bass emphasis, still provides extraordinarily well textured bass. The bass on the LSX is a lot like dynamic driver bass. It actually is bass that you feel, which is uncommon in balanced armature setups. The lower mids and upper midbass have a warmer sound on the Lark Studio LSX. Soundstage on the LSX sounds a little wider than the RE2000 Silver on this track. Individual elements in the stage also feel a bit more distinct with better instrument separation. The sound of the LSX is actually a bit reminiscent of the RE2000 Gold but with better build quality and a bit more separation in the mids. Piano in the intro is less forward as the mids of the RE2000 Silver are a bit back of neutral. This placement of the mids tends to make the sound stage sound a bit deeper. The LSX sounds forward in general due to the elevated bass and the pretty normal emphasis mids. Both of these are fun sounding with natural timbre. The RE2000 Silver has a more neutral sound than the LSX, which is a bombastic but lovely sounding number.
On the RE2000 Silver the recessed mids make Michael Jackson sound like he is way deep in the stage rather than in the middle of it on Michael Jackson – Billie Jean. The LSX has a more front row sound, while the RE2000 Silver sounds like it is further back in the crowd. The RE2000 Silver crowd is a more civil affair, whilst the LSX is a party. The RE2000 Silver is Coldplay (civilised and moving), and the LSX is Bruno Mars + Beyonce (absolutely ridiculously fun). The Lark Studio LSX has Michael where he should be, right in the middle of the sound stage, rather than pushed back. It also pushes bass forward of the mids, which is off of neutral. The bass is big on the LSX. Both do an excellent job of resolving instruments in space, but the LSX’s better formulation of the mids gives more flexibility for instruments that occupy the mids to move deeper in the stage.
The RE2000 Silver presents Kuniko – Pleiades: I. Melanges (Mixtures) with a nice even keel. Nothing sounds over-emphasised or out of place, whether it be xylophone, tympani, or chimes. The increasing aggression of the sound at about 2 minutes in builds beautifully. The LSX gives a similar performance, but the whole sound is more front row than 3 rows back of the stage. The LSX easily goes toe-to-toe on timbre, and might be a bit more sonically precise. Soundstage size is a push, but soundstage positioning is definitely different.
Holy crap is that a forward bass when I throw Wilco – Handshake Drugs on with the Lark Studio LSX. It’s too much actually, the bass is overwhelming Jeff Tweedy’s vocal in the intro. It slinks back a little bit later while still having some presence, like the bass guitarist moved back towards the drum kit or like Jeff Tweedy moved forward in the stage. The bass is tighter and more controlled on the RE2000 Silver, but also has more perceivable extension. The perceived increase in extension is because the Lark Studio LSX has some added midbass that throws the deeper lows out of balance when deeper bass instrumentation and midbass and upper midbass are present. The RE2000 Silver sounds better on this track, though I do still find myself wishing the little bit of recession in the mids wasn’t there.
The breathiness of the RE2000 Silver really suits Tori Amos’s vocals on Hey Jupiter, in my opinion, as it gives even more fragility to the presentation. Some will find the sound sibilant as the breathiness also imbues more weight to her ‘sss’ sounds. In contrast, the LSX presents Tori a bit more solid and rounded with less emphasis on her breathy ‘sss’ sounds. The piano is also more accurately placed right next to her singing with the LSX due to greater accuracy in the mids, overall.
HiFiMAN RE2000 Silver vs. HiFiMAN RE2000 (Gold)
First off, these measure weird for SPL levels. As seen in the volume matching table, across two DAPs the RE2000 Silver seems to play louder. However, when listening, the RE2000 Silver sounds much quieter if I follow the volume matching measurements I made. I tried to do my comparisons using the measurements, but it didn’t seem fair, as generally a louder sounding IEM is perceived as sounding better. So I did my comparison using the same volume setting on the Questyle QP2R.
T. Rex is not general audiophile material, but I love me some T. Rex. It’s just too much fun. T. Rex – Monolith (DSD64) has great space on the RE2000 Silver, with a good wide stage. Marc Bolan’s intoxicating vocals are placed nice and forward in the stage. Depth isn’t huge, but there is sufficient separation between the percussive elements, bass, guitar and backing vocals. So much fun. Switching to the RE2000 Gold, the bass guitar is bigger and more forward. It’s thicker, with a less controlled sound. The RE2000 Silver bass has a more refined sound, with a bit more depth and texture to the bass. This does come at a cost, though. Marc Bolan’s vocals are also less fleshy. The sex-appeal is still there, but not quite as sultry. I’m still in T. Rextacy, but the RE2000 gold gives me a bit more silk bedsheets and come-hither looks.
Speaking of… Eurythmics – Love Is A Stranger is a nice test for vertical resolution. Annie Lennox’s lead vocals occupy a little circle in the middle of the stage, with backing overdubs and the refrain moving depth and location a bit (deeper centre and more to the right on backing overdubs). David A. Stewart is thrusting his voice around the stage like a man possessed of a horny demon in good reproductions of this track, going high and low, front and back and side to side. The RE2000 Gold doesn’t give the most resolving performance on David A. Stewart’s amorous movements. It does well with depth indicators and width indicators, but the stage height is somewhat compressed. Spacial performance on the RE2000 Silver is a little better than the RE2000. It gives me more depth and width and a smidgeon more height. Similar to the effect on Marc Bolan’s vocals, Annie’s and David’s vocals are a bit thinner sounding. Shell housing matters. The RE2000 Gold has a bit more organic sound than the RE2000 Silver. It’s a bit more intoxicating, even if the bass has a bit better definition on the RE2000 Silver.
Isaac Hayes may be one of the greatest bass vocalists to sing to a popular crowd, and the MFSL mastering of his quintessential Hot Buttered Soul album should be required listening. Isaac Hayes – Walk On By has fantastic separation between a variety of instrument types arranged in a brilliant soundscape. On the RE2000 Gold we get a thicker more powerful sound, while the RE2000 silver provides some delicacy and air. Both female and male vocals have more air around them. While sounding a bit airier than the RE2000 Gold, the RE2000 Silver also sounds a bit less energetic. There’s a passion to the RE2000 Gold’s sound that just isn’t evoked in the same way on the RE2000 Silver.
In spite of what Meghan Trainor says, it isn’t all about that bass. Kraftwerk – Kometenmelodie2 is all about the treble. The version of the track I have is a rip of the original German vinyl. The RE2000 Silver is more sensitive to the noise at the beginning of the track from the vinyl. The treble presentation on the RE2000 Silver is lighter than the RE2000 Gold. The Gold has more solidity and weight than the RE2000 Silver.
The Silver is lighter and more delicate in presentation, but loses out in impact and solidity. The RE2000 Gold has a touch of extra weight in the mid-bass, which will actually please many people, but the reinforcement in this bass comes at the cost of some definition and texture in the low end. The RE2000 Silver has the texture in the low end, but a bit less presence. Unfortunately, the reduction in presence also extends to the mids on the RE2000 Silver, where I find that the presentation is a bit on the breathy side. The breathiness of the RE2000 Silver gives the impression of a slightly bigger sound stage, but both IEMs are probably presenting about equal stages, with tonal differences likely creating the illusion of different spaces—it’s similar to how recessed vocals create the illusion of space while the shape and capacity of the stage remains the same as the same headphone with EQ boosting the mids. For my tastes, the RE2000 Gold is the better IEM of the two RE2000 versions. Realistically, the brass probably doesn’t cost too much more than the aluminum to make, so one wonders why they don’t just offer both at the same price with the same accessories and emphasize that the shells give an audible difference in tonality. Some folks will prefer the lighter airier Silver, while some will want the weightier Gold sound. I think these should both be $1500 (or less), and that a few build quality improvements will make them objectively worth that price. At time of writing the RE2000 Silver was on sale for $799 in the HiFiMAN store, and that is probably worth it.
Usability: Form & Function
Over the years I’ve read many complaints about HiFiMAN build quality, but I’ve not experienced any particular problems myself. The RE0, my first HiFiMAN purchase, is still ticking 9 years later. The MegaMini and SuperMini are well built tough and small digital audio players. The HE1000 v2 and the Susvara have beautiful build quality and comfort with excellent attention to ergonomics. The alleged HiFiMAN build quality has always been more myth than reality for me. However, I have had some problems with the RE2000 (both versions), and most of them are related to careless design and production errors that are completely preventable. HiFiMAN can and should do better.
The RE2000 Silver is the new $500 less version of the RE2000 (RE2000 Gold). From a packaging perspective, the contents of the box aren’t particularly different, but the outer box is different. The RE2000 Gold comes in a wooden box with foam insert that smells strongly of glue and/or petroleum-based foam. It’s not a good smell. The wood box has a card sleeve around it to present which headphone is inside. It was an attempt at looking premium, but managed to come off feeling cheap due to the smell. The new box for the RE2000 Silver is made of cardboard with attractive graphic design on the outside. The new box is better, by a lot. They should get rid of the wooden box.
Inside both boxes are a foam insert with three slots for the inner boxes. One inner box has the cable, the other has eartips (I don’t like any of the included tips) and some pieces to terminate a custom cable. Instead of including normal tips, the RE2000 (both Silver and Gold) comes with “special” tips. There is no S/M/L selection of single flange tips, instead you get a weird shaped medium tip, a weird medium biflange, and some normal biflanges. Only the RE2000 Gold comes with Comply tips (not a good sonic match). The RE800 improved the “special” tip selection in the Silver version, but for some reason the RE2000 at more than double the cost has 1/3rd the tip selection and all bad. In an era when many universals come with premium tips: Spinfit, Comply, Final Type E; not even including the standard tip selection that comes with IEMs under $50 is a mistake. If HiFiMAN wants to offer their “special” tips, they should do so in addition to providing normal S/M/L single flange silicone tips. There are others who have loved their tip selection, so your mileage may vary.
The other box of the RE2000 has the cable, some huge ear hooks (these are ubiquitous and I’ve never liked them, they are far less comfortable than just wrapping the cable over the top of your ear) and a tiny zip-lock baggie containing a 2-pin connector and housing apparatus. When the RHA CL2 and the AKG N5005 both offer 3 superior looking cables: 3.5mm, 2.5mm balanced, and Bluetooth; HiFiMAN offering an unattractive plastic DIY connector isn’t a good look. The RHA CL2 and the AKG N5005 are also made in China, and cost $500 less than the RE2000 Silver.
In the middle is the metal case for the RE2000. It is a good size case that does a good job fitting the headphone and cable. The same case came with the Kumitate Labs KL-Sirius ($800) and the Penon IEM v2 ($10). It is a well-functioning case, but decidedly not premium in presentation.
The cable on the RE2000 Silver has some girth to it, but it looks pretty much like any cheap cable you’d get with Skullcandy. I have $25 IEMs from KZ that have far nicer and far more ergonomic cables. There are probably hundreds of manufacturers that could make a double twist cable with built in heat-shrink pre-formed ear guides for next to nothing. Both cables also have a metal chin slider ring. The metal looks premium and matches the shells, but it is also has some weight to it, which could cause wear on the cable over time. I prefer silicone-rubber sliders like Effect Audio uses on their cables. The only difference between the Gold and Silver, cable-wise, is that instead of a $12 Oyaide (might be Oyaide ‘style’ which would be about $1) right angle termination with a stubby insufficient strain relief, they switched to a $0.50 termination with a longer insufficient strain relief. The strain relief on the RE2000 Gold is insufficient due to its length. The RE2000 Silver strain relief is insufficient because it is made of harder material than the cable, which means that the strain relief could actually create a strain point. Basic inspection of material choices would prevent this kind of construction error.
The body of the RE2000 Gold is made of brass and has a little bit of weight to it. The RE2000 Silver is made of aluminum, which is the primary difference between the IEMs. The RE2000 Silver is a little lighter in the ear, which enhances comfort. A construction composed of a single piece for the stem would have looked and felt superior. As is, on both IEMs the glue used to hold together the IEM is visible at the external seams. Similarly, on the inside of the 2-pin connector stem, the glue is visible there also. The stems on the RE2000 Silvers are not symmetrically glued; one stem is not glued to exactly the same location as the other. This type of variance is preventable by having joints that act as keys, ensuring that part positioning is exactly the same. On the RE2000 Silver, the sound bore is also not glued on evenly on one of the earpieces. This outcome could be prevented by using a screw lock system with Locktite (or similar) to hold the pieces together, or by having a lip on the inside that acts as a stopping point. Design characteristics can be used to ensure consistent construction and minimise error rates.
Using glue to join pieces together is not a problem. In fact, it can be an excellent solution to give a seamless appearance. However, if your glue has to go on the outside in ways that make it visible, a seamless appearance will not be the result. I think that HiFiMAN may be able to fix this problem and improve their overall build quality by using ultrasonic welding. Ultrasonic welding bonds materials together using ultrasonic vibration. It makes clean lines and can be done with a variety of materials. It wouldn’t have to be used for all join points. I would suggest that the logo faceplate be joined with glue and the rest joined using ultrasonic welding, this would allow for straightforward repair and warranty service and has a number of advantages over glue, including much better looking joins.
The RE2000 sounds like a $1500-$2000 headphone, but the build quality is worse than some $50 headphones.
The rubbery cable on the RE2000 has a tendency to not stay on my ear. It springs up, and requires me to use the chin-slider to make the cable secure on top of the ear. Your mileage may vary. The shell housing is large. However, it’s the shape of it more than its size that is a problem. The shell flares out wider in both width and height at the back end of the IEM. For me, the corner actually creates a pressure point on the lower back corner of my ear that makes it so I can’t listen to the RE2000 for more than a few hours without discomfort. When I received the RE2000 Gold I gave feedback to the company that they should modify the shell to make that pressure point disappear by rounding the shell. This suggestion wasn’t adopted on the RE2000 Silver.
I have demoed the RE2000 to many folks and they have all enjoyed the sound, but I have run across more than a few who couldn’t put it in their ear in the normal way. I had people rotating them forward and having the cable run downward instead of over the ear.
Here’s what HiFiMAN had to say about their shell: “the shape of the housing is again an example of blending industrial design, comfort and striking visual. Providing excellent fit, comfort and isolates, all to give you the most wonderful of listening experiences.” First, I note that HiFiMAN is a global player in the headphone market with more than 10 years in Western markets, they can hire a more proficient English-speaking copywriter. Second, much of what they say isn’t true. Sure, the shell blends industrial design and a striking visual (especially the gold), but this wasn’t designed for comfort. Unless you have large ears, the probability of ear-fatigue due to the edgy fit is high. If you have small ears, there is no way you can wear it. I think the likelihood that this was tested on a variety of ear sizes is next to none. I honestly think they took the visual design of the Edition S and tried to miniaturise it. The fit is not excellent for most people I’ve tested on, including myself. The isolation is fairly average.
The RE2000 Silver is an excellent sounding in-ear monitor. It has a more balanced sound than its gold coloured older twin with less and more controlled bass. The extension on the bass is excellent. Mids are a touch recessed and the decay on higher notes in the midrange gives a breathy quality that many will enjoy. Sonically, I think the RE2000 Silver sounds appropriate for its price. However, HiFiMAN has produced a dud on build quality and ergonomics. The build quality is shocking at $1500 (Silver) and even more shocking at $2000. HiFiMAN needs to up their game on the cosmetic qualities of their in-ear products. They’ve got the sound down and continue to make excellent sounding products.