HiFiMAN RE-252 In-Ear Monitor

Name: HiFiMAN RE-252 In-Ear Monitor (IEM)
Price: $199
Rating: Recommend*

This week, we take a look at the HiFiMAN RE-252 in-ear monitor (IEM), marketed toward enthusiasts looking for some isolated sound bliss for their daily listening pleasure. Priced at $199 and packaged in an obviously Apple-inspired case, we go hi-fi in this deep audio analysis of what hopes to be the to ultimate pair of isolating earbuds. Does it deliver? Click below the jump to find out.

Initially, we weren’t too impressed with the packaging. It looked somewhat dull, despite nearly replicating the casing Apple uses for their iPods. However, the plus side is that it comes with 8 membrane replacements, a clip, a silicone tip replacement, and of course, the RE-252s. We wish more headphone companies included so much in their packaging.

In the looks department, the RE-252s aren’t skimpin’ either. You’ll look like Batman or Lady Gaga, but in a downplayed sort of way. But more importantly, let’s talk about the sound.

I’ll be honest, at first listen, I was not impressed. At all. The bass seemed missing, and the highs and mids felt merely average. Perhaps this is from my transition using the Denon D2000 and Sennheiser HD-550’s for the past few months, so I decided I’d keeping testing them out for the next two weeks. The result? A puzzling, yet ultimately fulfilling experience.

As I expected, my ears had become accustomed to the bass heavy Denons and could not appreciate the RE-252s for what they were – a completely neutral pair of IEMs. When I say neutral, I must completely stand by the term. To define it, a bass heavy listener would only describe it as pure mids and nothing more. To a jazz fanatic, one would call it lifeless.

But that’s when it hit me. I listened to a Lykke Li track in *.flac format in my quiet studio apartment. Music came out of the earphones as if it was an effortless flow and extension of my computer. The bass was actually there – it was just the most neutral, unemphasized bass I had ever heard in my life. The mids were there as well, just not curved into the high category like many headphones tended to do. And the highs were just where they should be – soft and reserved. Perfect.

Like other IEMs, they’re not really meant to be used for running as the bouncing wire tends to cause feedback. If you’re going to use any type of IEM, it’s meant to be used in a setting where you do not wish to disturb others, such as on a bus, at a library, or your local cafe. It’s isolated enough that you can wear it on short plane trips without any trouble, though we wouldn’t say it completely isolates the sound – just about 85% of it. Add on the fact that the bass is so neutral means you can literally listen to these for hours without any sign of fatigue whatsoever.

Summary: The price you pay for this neutrality isn’t what some would consider a “value buy” by any means, however. At $200, you can almost invest in a full headphone instead. But if having a pair of non-fatiguing, comfortable, and completely neutral (we seriously need to emphasize this folks as it is an acquired taste) earphones is your main market right now, we have no reservations in recommending the HiFiMAN RE-252s as your IEM of choice. Just make sure you know what “neutral” truly entails before taking the plunge.

Full Disclosure Notice: Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes. Our full notice is here.