- Good accessories package
- Warm sound
- More exciting, powerful pairs are available
- Cheap-feeling cable
- Non-removable cable
- Triple cable extension package
- Dual and single-flange rubber tips
- Shirt clip
- Multiple cable extensions
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.
HiFiMAN’s in-ear headphones tend to offer one of two sound signatures or sonic personalities, if you like. There are ultra-detailed, bright sets like the RE0, and warmer “middy” pairs like the RE262.
A particular focus on the mid-range is pretty rare in earphones, even in expensive pairs, because an ultra-detailed treble or taut deep bottom end tends to be considered more important. The mids here are unusually good, with a rich texture that gives vocals a rich timbre that’s easier on the ears than vocal detail gained through an intense, bright top-end. To find similarly adept treatment, you’d have to look fairly high up Shure’s range – the most well-known mid-tastic earphones there are.
Performance elsewhere in the sound is less remarkable. The soundstage isn’t hugely wide, the bass is a little reserved – although thoroughly well-handled – and there isn’t the level of treble detail you’d hear in HiFiMAN’s cheaper RE0 earphones, or something like Etymotic’s ER4P. What you get as a trade-off is added warmth and a sense of musicality. They’re not clinical in that respect, which is often a trait of “audiophile” earphones.
Conversely, though, they’re also not the most fun earphones you can get for £100. The Ultimate Ears 400 have a less balanced sound, but a lot more bass, and the Phonak PFE 012 provide a good balance across the whole frequency spectrum with greater energy and punch. That’s not to say the HiFiMAN RE262 don’t have much to shout about – their mid-range is still something rather special at this price, but it’s a sonic advantage we imagine many people would be happy to trade-in for a more energetic or more aggressively detail-seeking sound.
At £100, the HiFiMAN RE262 sit at the cheaper end of high-end earphones – strange as that may sound – and don’t quite offer the fidelity and insight of slightly more expensive pairs like the Ultimate Ears 700. Their great treatment of vocals in particular shouldn’t be ignored, though, so if there’s more singer-songwriter to your music collection than synths-n-cymbals they’re a sound choice. However, they don’t strike us as quite the bargain the HiFiMAN RE0 seemed to us back in July.
HiFiMAN’s RE262 take a slightly unusual approach of aiming primarily for a warm and musical sound rather than one that’s particularly insightful or powerful. It’s a tactic that works, making vocals in particular sound great, well-textured and smooth. Other pairs offer better performance with harder or beat-based music, though, somewhat limiting the appeal of these otherwise interesting-sounding earphones.
Score in detail
Design & Features 7
Sound Quality 8