You're unlikely to ever see a pair of HiFiMAN earphones on the shelves of your local electronics retailer. It's a brand that has its eyes locked on audiophiles, not folk that tramp through HMV or Dixons looking for the cheapest pair around. The HiFiMAN RE262 are earphones for those serious about sound. They cost just under a hundred pounds, placing them in competition with top-quality sets from big names like Shure, Sennheiser and Ultimate Ears.
The HiFiMAN RE262 headphones make a concerted effort to differentiate themselves from the off. They don't come in a plastic blister pack like many earphones. They come arranged within a neat presentation box that would make a good home for a fancy piece of jewellery, if it weren't for the gold HiFiMAN logo on the top.
The earphones themselves have less bravado. Their bodies are largely made of glossy black plastic, aside from a ring of rubber towards the back of each bud - there to help out in getting the things in and out of your ears. The elongated design is slightly unusual, but it doesn't demand attention and has some practical merit, fitting the curvature of your ear and helping to slightly reduce the chance of them falling out. Only slightly, mind - it's not meant to hug your ear as this could cause soreness and discomfort.
In the fancy box you get three different cables, although the cable doesn't detach at the earpiece. Instead there's a 3.5mm junction half-way down. As these earphones are designed more for on-the-move use than for at-home listening, none of them are hugely long, although you could always snag a 5m 3.5mm-to-3.5mm cable off eBay for a few pounds if you're desperate to plug them into your home cinema setup.
The additional cables are here to make sure they work with whatever device you may plug them into - some phones pipe out a garbled mess when used with a standard stereo 3.5mm jack. These aren't the best cables around, though. They feel a little cheap next to the thicker or more carefully-textured cables of Shure's and Phonak's pairs.
Also hiding in the natty box are five sets of silicone tips - three single-flanged black ones and two white dual-flanged translucent pairs - five additional pairs of microfilters and a shirt clip. The microfilters sit over the apertures of the earphones, protecting the RE262's inner workings from gunk and junk.
The rubber tips are the HiFiMAN standards we saw in the RE0 earphones, and are some of the most aggressively seal-seeking tips you can get. For those with large ear canals, they're a treat as the largest are wider than almost all other types - although they're not quite as comfortable as the softer olive-type tips that come with Shure's SE215 and Klipsch's X10. However, these earphones are very light and remain comfortable to wear for all-day sessions.
Liberate the RE262 earphones from their little rubber hats and you'll see the one curious thing about their design. The aperture is made of shiny silver metal, not the black plastic used elsewhere. It's not clear whether this affects the sound or not, but having the added strength of metal is no bad thing as the ultra-tight fit of the tips means some concerted manhandling is required to get them on. It's not a downside as such, just evidence once agin that the HiFiMAN approach is slightly out of the ordinary. There's no remote or handsfree housing here, reaffirming that they are all about sound.