HIFIMAN ANANDA - Reviews
Pros: Lighter weight than some large planar headphones, comfortable for long listening sessions, large planar driver equates to large (tall) stage and almost electrostatic like presentation of sound (speed/size), fairly balanced presentation of sound, does scale with better gear, extends well, different than other similarly priced planars at this price point.
Cons: The worst stock cables of all time, does tend to sound overly compressed on lower quality gear, headband adjustment is useless unless you have a VERY large sized head, not as well extended on the top as others at this price.
I first would like to thank Hifiman for sending out this unit as part of the loaner tour program. I have had the pleasure of participating in a few of these types of programs with Hifiman, and prefer these types of programs to just sending out models to popular reviewers on YouTube.

I will be sharing my review as more of a first impression (3 days in) and will commit to changing any information below if warranted after my full time with the Ananda.

Packaging/Build
Well, Hifiman is still using the leatherette presentation box... which I guess is Ok. I don’t really have anything to add here other than the presentation box does a great job of keeping the headphones safe during transport. This is not something that I would ever use beyond shipping, but hey... you get something.

The Ananda is built about as well as any other Hifiman I have ever owned/used. It’s the same as the Sundara and the Jade II. I will say that this particular unit seems to be less squeaky than the Jade II that I used while on that loaner tour. I will add that I am not a huge fan of the new style of headband. The lack of swivel adjustment is not ideal, and while this has not been an issue for me, nor do I imagine that with drivers as large as the Ananda it being an issue for most people, it would be nice to have that as an option. I can say that the change on the yoke system from plastic to metal is a nice, as this should help to solve the issue of shattering plastics. I do wish that the support strap was made of a softer material, as I can imagine that people without hair on top of their heads would prefer something more comfortable on their head than a stiff band. The vertical adjustment for me was totally useless, as the headphone sat well on my head without any vertical adjustment, so if you are someone with a slightly smaller head... you may want to look elsewhere for your headphones. That’s a bit of a shame, as the sound these provide is quite special (more on this later). This was the same issue I had with the v2 version of Hifiman popular Edition X line. I don’t know who they are measuring for their headphones adjustments, but they must have truly massive heads.

The catheter tube cables are the absolute worst cables I have ever seen provided from any company. They feel cheaper than a $15 Amazon cable, and I do not understand who made the decision over at Hifiman to include these... that person needs to be removed from the QA/design team. I cannot express to you enough that the price of this headphone needs to be adjusted as you will most certainly be looking for another cable to use. I would recommend going to Heart Audio and spending your hard earned money with them for their interchanging system.

Initial Listening Gear
I used a variety of gear with the Ananda in the first 3 days, and Tidal as my streaming platform.

  • ifi micro iDSD (non-black version)
  • AudioQuest Dragonfly Black v1.5
  • Little Bear B4-X
  • AudioGD R-28
  • Bottlehead Crack (non-speedball w/upgraded caps and output stage)
  • Jolida Glass FX Tube DAC DSD
  • Aune x7s
  • Emotiva A-100
  • Apple lightning to 3.5mm dongle adapter
  • Earstudio es100


Gear Comparisons
I must preface this with the understanding that all of my listening impressions were done with the stock 3.5mm cable (un-balanced) that was provided, as I had long since sold my other headphones that have been terminated in dual 3.5mm connectors. I also listen at much lower listening volume than most. I average around 60db for listening with peaks hitting at 64db. I use dB Meter for iOS to measure these volumes. It’s probably not the most accurate way of measuring dB, but it’s used as a volume reference point for me.

I first started with the Ananda with the Apple 3.5mm adapter and quickly decided that this was not a good solution for these. The Ananda is rated at 25ohm with a sensitivity of 103dB/mW. While you can get these loud on the adapter... it’s not a pleasant sound. It was horribly narrow and flat sounding. It also had a strange way of sounding very harsh in the upper mids and treble.

After testing several different ‘portable’ solutions I landed on really liking the presentation of the AudioQuest v1.5 black in to the Little Bear B4-X. This setup provided ample stage, detail and dynamics. The ifi was a close second, and far more ‘portable’ of a solution, but lacked that extra texture that was provided by the Little Bear. I did try the ifi feeding the B4-X at one point, and while that sounded fantastic, it was a bit ridiculous of a setup for ‘portable’ or even as a ‘transportable’ setup. I have really enjoyed being able to take this setup to the office and using it throughout my day at work. Thankfully I work alone in my office, as the Ananda is in no way a closed, or even semi-closed headphone.

What I did notice quite well was that as I went up in my chain of gear... the Ananda responded by presenting more. The change from the Apple dongle to the es100 showed more detail and a wider presentation with greater dynamics. Similarly, the change from the es100 to the ifi micro iDSD was just more of everything.

The biggest difference in the jump came when I was able to run the Ananda on my modified Bottlehead Crack fed by the R-28 dac. That was a blissful combination. Spacious sound with amazing detail and extension.

The Ananda did a great job of being a transportable headphone along with a headphone that I could sit down with in my listening room for more long-term listening sessions.

Sound
Again, I must preference this part with an understanding that I am evaluating the Ananda on the way that it presents music to my ears for enjoyment. I don’t care about the accuracy, frequency response or other measurements... I listen to music for the enjoyment of the sound, and to me that comes down to how does the headphone make me feel when listening to the music. I will also provide my impressions based on the song and my preferred gear used for transportable and listening room (v1.5 DFB -> B4-X for transportable and R-28 -> Bottlehead Crack for listening room)

Dominique Fils-Aime - Feeling Good
Dominique has such a natural and textured voice that it’s easy to lose her sense of texture when a headphone struggles to reproduce a natural voice. The good news here is that the Ananda does an excellent job of delivering quality vocals for Dominique. There are stark differences in presentation for this track between the transportable rig vs. my listening room setup.

  • Transportable - Strong and close center image for her voice without a lot of reverberation or decay in her textured tones. Slightly thin sounding without a lot of body in the lower mid range. Excellent staging, if a little narrow, with the supporting vocals in the track.
  • Listening Room - Much wider presentation with plenty of air separating the main vocal track and the supporting vocals. Thick body in her voice with plenty of texture. This sounds glorious.

Cassandra Wilson - Strange Fruit
I absolutely love the way this track starts out with a solid bass line. the texture of that bass has to be reproduced correctly as the bass player pulls off the note and you can hear the player slap the finger board before starting the lick again. At the :13 mark the trumpet player quietly sneaks in to the mix far back on the left with a sustained note.Then at :18 there is some strange percussion hit that almost sounds like a random thin piece of metal, it‘s the guitar, but it’s strange. Cassandra comes in at :52 with her raspy, textured voice. Again, quite a difference between the two setups.

  • Transportable - impressive imaging and depth on this track. The trumpet sounds a good deal behind the main sounds in this track. The bass is slightly lacking in a full tone for a standing bass. Cassandra‘s voice is displayed well here with great texture and definition. I will say that the depth of her texture is slightly thin in the lower registers of what she’s hitting in this track.
  • Listening Room - Everything that the transportable setup was is just so much more here. The staging and depth is more, the standing bass is now full and impactful and her voice has been rounded out with the addition of that lower mid range that was slightly lacking. This track sounds massive and alive.

Melody Gardot - Amalia
This song starts out with a fun, if not Jack Johnson style, guitar line. The rest of the group comes in after a round and Melody starts in with some vocal work. This is a very relaxing song, but can become very muddy sounding if the headphone is not capable of staging the different elements well. The good news is that the Ananda again performs well at reproducing the correct instruments in their respective places.

  • Transportable - Slightly leaning towards a lean sound reproduction with speed in the bass (lacking a bit of impact on those sustained low notes). Melody’s voice is textured and breathy, the way it should be... but again, slightly lacking in the lower mid range to fill out her voice.
  • Listening Room - There it is. Ok, I am beginning to sense a trend here. The Ananda really likes to have power in reserves to be able to reproduce the dynamics to fill in the gaps where other gear may be lacking.

Overall, for my listening preferences (which is textured vocals) the Ananda performs extremely well at it’s price point. I find myself reaching for the Ananda far more in my listening room than other options I have available to me. Now, that could be down to the fact that I am on this loaner tour and find myself compelled to spend as much time as possible with it, but I would like to think that I would happily remove some of my current lineup for these. I have previously owned both the v1 and v2 version of the Edition X, and based on memory I can say that I prefer the Ananda for my listening preferences.

Now, if you’re wanting big and impactful bass I would recommend looking elsewhere. The Ananda reproduces what the is on the track and does not provide more than what is there. The Ananda is also slightly rolled off on the top, but in the best way possible. There was never a time in my initial listening that Ananda ever presented anything that was sibilant to me.

If these initial impressions are anything similar to what I will find over the coming week, then I am more than happy to recommend the Ananda for anyone looking for a large sounding, open and fast headphone at this price point. Is it perfect, no... but isn’t that a dumb question to be asking? If you’re in to the enjoyment of music reproduction... this is a good one depending on your use case. it shines with vocals and instruments, but if you’re wanting electronic reproduction look elsewhere.
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ppcx2
Isn't an OTL amplifier not recommended for planars because it can't provide a lot of current at low impedance? Does the upgraded caps and output stage help here?

I want to buy a tube amp but I don't think I would be too happy with hybrids, that of course don't have issues with planars. I was considering the little dot 1+ or the little bear b4-x because as hybrids they match well with Ananda, but if you got her to shine with the OTL crack I am interested how! Thanks for your review!
Olumm
Olumm
It's all about what your ears hear when you are listening. I couldn't care less about how something measures, I care about how it sounds when I play music. The crack I had was probably a horribly measuring amp with the Ananda, but to my ears it sounded wonderful.
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Pros: Neutral sound, bass extends fairly low, cohesiveness between the bass-mids-treble, really good detail retrieval, wonderful treble without ever becoming sibilant, plush angled pads providing nice comfort, lighter than most planars, sounds great on modest gear
Cons: Compression in the dynamics for certain songs, soundstage not as wide nor exhibiting similar depth as some of its competitors, headband adjustment being rather limited

First off, I have to give thanks to Hifiman for setting up this loaner tour for the Ananda. The only thing Hifiman requested from me, and from every other loanee, was an honest impression/review of this can. (EDIT: I wrote this review prior to purchasing a modded prototype HE-6, which unsurprisingly excels in almost every category over the Ananda.)

Packaging/Build Quality
:
The cans come in a nice sturdy box (leatherette?) befitting their price point. I am bit disappointed that there wasn't a balanced cable, but these cans are really efficient at 25 Ohms and 103dB/mW (more on that later). As for the cans themselves, the metal gimbals and the metal headband are sturdy and do the job. Like others stated elsewhere, I thought I was going to be concerned with the lack of swivel from the newest Hifiman headband, but the cans ended up fitting my head just fine due to the stock angled hybrid pads. The weight and the clamp force are just about perfect in my book.

The ratcheting adjustment system for the loaner unit was a little hit or miss. For example, the right side slides up and down fairly straightforwardly with the required amount of force for adjustment being just about right. The left side, however, was more difficult to slide due to the larger amount of force (far more than the right side) needed for adjustment. I don't know if this issue is simply isolated to the loaner unit, but it is rather annoying. As reported elsewhere, the paint of the inner sides of the arms of the earcups are stripped from previous adjustments.

Also in the loaner unit, I noticed a looser fitting of the left 3.5mm jack than the right 3.5mm jack into their respective connectors. This can lead to some static during playback if one gently swivels the left 3.5mm jack about for a bit. Left alone, thankfully I didn't notice any static in the left earcup during playback. After two weeks with these cans, my opinion of the sturdiness of the metal headband or the comfort of its swivel-less design has not changed all that much. There was a period of time where I wished that the cans did swivel about as I had to spend a little bit of extra time to find the right fit and comfort. Thankfully, the pads are soft and plush, and any comfort niggles fell by the wayside.

As for the included Neutrik-terminated 1/4" TRS cable, to be slightly charitable, I must say that I do not rate it too highly. Intertwined silver and copper wire strands are visible through the transparent tubing, with the tubing itself looking like it came from a hospital. Overall, the tubing is a bit stiff and is prone to flopping and twisting about. I saw elsewhere that it appears to be prone to kinks, but that hasn't happened to the one provided with the loaner unit. External microphonics appear to be on the negligible side since I did not notice much of any while using the stock cable for most of the loan period. Bottomline, they do the job despite being unwieldy to handle.

Sound:

Equipment:
Work: FLAC > Musicbee > Modi 3 > Magni 3
Home: FLAC > Musicbee > SDAC-B > THX AAA 789*
*I didn't find much difference when running the Ananda balanced (Gain 1) or single-ended (Gain 2) on the THX AAA 789.

One word popped in my mind when I first listened to these cans through my Schitt stack at work: neutrality. My opinion didn't change when I listened to these cans at home. As a testament to their efficiency, my volume knobs are about 10 o'clock on low gain (Magni 3) and 8 o'clock on higher gain (Magni 3; THX AAA 789 - second gain) using the stock TRS cable. Having just listened to the AKG K501 and its concert hall soundstage before the Ananda arrived, the soundstage of the Ananda was less wide in comparison upon initial listen and the sound didn't swirl around my head as much as they did in the AKG K501 (Shoji Yamashiro's "Kaneda" from Akira [Symphony Suite] - VDR-1532). Still, I am enjoying the Ananda so far and it has many things going for it over more specialist cans like the AKG K501. A further breakdown of the sound follows.

Bass

The planar bass of the Ananda is tight exhibiting little to no bloom and extends fairly low. While not as low as Hifiman's HE-500 and Audeze's LCD-2 rev. 1 (LCD2.1) (nor as texturized as the latter), the bass of the Ananda certainly extends far lower than the rolled-off bass of Sennheiser's HD6XX and AKG's K501. Still, the Ananda certainly does not exhibit the slam of the HE-500 and the LCD2.1, as Ananda's presentation is a bit softer than the latter two.

Mids

They are slightly more dipped in 1-2k than the HE500 and HD6XX (by ~2dB according to InnerFidelity and solderdude's measurements) but are still enjoyable the same, as the Ananda's mids tends to veer closer to a softer, more neutral presentation.

Treble

Probably my favorite part of the Ananda. The treble appears to be well-extended with a bit of air surrounding the instruments, not as much air as provided by the AKG K501 though. Thankfully, the Ananda avoids the nastiness of a 7k peak, which to my ears permits its treble to extend quite nicely without experiencing any overbearing sibilance. With respect to timbre, pianos can sound a bit hot with the Ananda. Detail retrieval definitely is better on the Ananda than on any other can that I own (EDIT: except for my recent purchase of an HE-6), sometimes to its own detriment (see below).

Soundstage

The soundstage is wider than the HD6XX but less so than the HE-500 and AKG K501. The Ananda's soundstage is definitely taller than the HE-500's. However, I have an issue when it comes to soundstage depth with regards to how "compressed" certain orchestral tracks, particularly older recordings, can sound. For example, in the opening measures of the third movement (Presto) of Beethoven's 7th Symphony conducted by Karajan (recorded in 1962), it seems that the strings and timpani are smushed together into a blob. My AKG K501 separates things out a little better in this regard, but it isn't a night and day difference with this old recording. Since the Ananda seems to push detail to the fore, it sometimes sounds like instruments in the mix for older or poorer recordings are pushed closer towards the ear thereby reducing any sense of soundstage depth. Still, I prefer the Ananda for classical music far more than the HD6XX, HE-500, and the LCD2.1. The Ananda, however, cannot unseat my can of choice for classical music: AKG K501 with its concert hall soundstage.

Overall

To me, the Ananda is a well-balanced headphone that can be the only one a person needs, as it handles most genres well. Despite it being more resolving than any headphone that I currently own (HE-6 coming in shortly however), the Ananda has a musical sound signature that isn't sterile or dry as other more technical cans. At $850, I believe it is a fair price for a highly efficient can that still sounds good on modest setups.
Pros: easy to drive, clean, spacious, detailed, very technical, well-extended presentation, also ticks a lot of other boxes like gaming and movies due to its staging qualities, sharp imaging, no basshead phone but no limpish pound and slam character either
Cons: dry, lacks a bit emotion, very stoic/"technical". cables don't reflect their MSRP 1000 Dollars really well
This review is a bit older (a few months) and at that time I owned the Gungnir Multibit B. The Edition X V2 was a friendly loaner.

The Hifiman Ananda is Hifiman’s entry model into their high end lineup sporting the NEO supernano diaphragm which supposedly is 80% thinner than the previous generation. Those who know and adore the very first generation might shudder in fear now as the thinner diaphragms which came by over time and replaced the old world also meant less tactility, physicality in transients and impact/slam. The first of the new generation were indeed softer in attacks, transients and didn't slam as well. They improved in other areas like microdetail retrieval, headstaging, especially tallness but they were also mellower, less direct. Like a change of character or philosophy actually.

A few entries later the softness and roundness became less and less and with the Susvara almost reaches HE-6 levels of slam and tactility now (while beating it in every other area). The Susvara is my favorite headphone out of all headphones but unfortunately out of my reach budget-wise.


This little review highlights the differences to the Edition X V2 and is not a roundup comparison with all the gear I have. I would have loved to give detailled comparisons to the HD-650, HD 800 but I'm short on time nfortunately and not used to write reviews.

COMPARISON TO THE HEX V2:

TL;DR

Choose Ananda for technical superiority (microdetails, driver control, speed (attack, decay), better clarity, sharper staging, imaging) and leaner sounding more "linear" character, but accept a slight peak in the treble around 8khz which might irritate a few people.

Generally Ananda bests the Edition X V2 in technicalities but is drier and more stoic. The Edition X V2 counters with romanticism and character.

Choose HEX V2 for an "easier to handle" default tuning with overall more warmth, more low end presence, slightly thicker mids and smoother, mellower treble while being technically similarly competent, but definitely not equal. It's more "romantic" (the combination of above) than the Ananda and that is its big counter.

Hex V2 doesn't handle louder volumes as well as the Ananda though but don't expect Ananda to let you crank it up like a HE series oldschool Hifiman, which not only sustain much more power but are more dynamic as well and therefore also give you a better reason to crank it up. Ananda and Hex V2's compressed dynamics don't allow for the "startling effect" anyway. This startling effect describes the explosive power of the HE-6 to fire at you from total darkness, nothingness with a hail of supernovae. I'm exaggerating here but you might understand what I mean.



THE LONGER VERSION:

The Ananda is a bit different from the Edition X V2, sharing a new generation driver design called NEO supernano diaphragm which indeed brings a few improvements but comes in a slightly questionable housing/design.

I personally don't have any problem with the comfort or how they fit on my large head. Some might however as the cups actually don't move at all. I personally believe the lack of swivel isn't such a big deal as the pads rest easy. If your head is tiny there are Dekoni Nuggets which you can use on the headband to make your head appear taller. People did with the HEX V2.

SOUND:

The Ananda is more controlled, tighter, cleaner/clearer (more clarity), overall more linear sounding and slightly more detailed whereas the HEX v2 is "thicker" overall (also in the mids), has more low end (in volume, not in extension, Ananda goes as deep) but less in detail and control.

Bass

Don't expect the bass to rumble down low like a AH-D7000 or the TH-900, the character and tuning goes past the expectations of bassheads. It goes for accuracy, linearity over wow factor. Make no mistake though, it's not like the bass of the TH-900 isn't accurate in context. Not at all actually. The tuning is simply different. The TH-900 grows a lot in presence and rumble the lower you go, the Ananda goes for linearity and does extend pretty well but never goes for the thunder or the furious slam of the TH-900. It does not take away, it does not give but is still leaner in character. it maintains excellent control and details stand out. More so than the Hex V2 which brings us more volume down low and a tiny bit less control, adding to the overall warmer character but also adding to the bass presence.

The Edition X V2 is the more playful headphone here thanks to more low end. It doesn't impact harder though, the Ananda is slightly less soft here, is tighter and better controlled.

Mids of the Ananda are slightly forward just like the HEX V2 but due to its less thick overall (not thin) presentation and the superior cleanliness/clarity they have a more direct tone about them at times but the technical qualities actually rub voices a bit dry. This is where the Edition X V2 counters with more lushness and character, yet the emotion of voices which a HE-500 or HD 650 deliver should not be expected here either. Personally I love the HE-500's voices the most out of all headphones. Such a dreamy, emotional character which ascends above the technical superiority of other headphones.

The treble is less smooth with a peak around the 8Khz area and this might irritate a few people over time. Not in the same vein as the HD800 stock though (far from it). Extension itself is very good and goes very high. Air superiority is on the Ananda's side and certainly fits its overall character.

I'd like to consider the Ananda as the more tonally "correct" headphone in most areas but the compulsive striving for "correctness" and linearity makes it a bit too stoic at times. It's as if it wants to take control at all times and not let go and sharpens up top to emphasize its own character even more, it's actually overshooting. This sharpening stands out as this very peak I mentioned. That's where the Ananda's "in control" slightly loses its grip and its overall character certainly makes this peak stand out more. The Edition X V2 would definitely let this peak go more unnoticed if it had it.

We're not talking about Beyer, Ultrasone peak levels of course. I'm simply magnifying this part a lot to contrast the slight differences better.

Ananda does staging and imaging better than the Hex V2, cues in the "3D space" are easier to make out, traced and sharper drawn. It's certainly not due to its tuning alone but more founded in the improved drivers and how they maintain better control of the diaphragm.

I personally prefer these over the HeX V2 though as I'm not that sensitive towards the peak, meaning I'm ok with technical superiority and the leaner (but better controlled and detailed) low end, more "neutral" approach over the more agreeable treble tuning of the Hex V2 and its overall noticable drift towards warmth. A good sacrifice for me. If I want smoother and more warm, bloomy, dreamy I have the HE-500.

In the context of the philosophy of complementary headphones aka insanity such a verdict is easily spoken out of course. What if I only had to choose between the two and wasn't allowed any other headphone at all? I would go for long time listening, lushness and probably chose the Edition X V2.

Such a world doesn't exist for me though so I''d realistically be going for technicalities and a better fit in my collection.

All in all:

The Ananda improves upon the already improved Hex V2 in terms of overall technicalities. The HEX V1 had what many people called plasticky timbre and a certain softness in its attacks. The Ananda is still there somewhere or let's say not where I'd like it to be but trickle down is a thing so sooner or later we might enjoy a bit of Susvaras qualities in a similar design and price point. Give it a few years, maybe a hundred.

The Ananda is thus no total or absolute replacement for the oldschool HE series which have a certain "realness" in their tonality: harder transients and attacks, more "tactility" and especially macrodynamics.

Yet out of the box aka no modding and with not a lot of power to spare the Ananda reclaims space with great imaging, staging, details and genre, application compatibility.



setup: TIDAL -> Lynx AES -> Gungnir Multibit -> V281 (balanced out), Forza Audioworks Claire HPC MK II cable for each headphone
SilverEars
SilverEars
Spot on review, totally agree. If anybody is wondering what the differences are between the two. This review should give you a good idea.
bagwell359
bagwell359
Good review, lots of detail. IMO: Ananda lacks body, is bright, lacks harmonics, seems Solid State, appeals to people used to recorded music, I keep turning it down. HEX v2 has body, has lushness/harmonics, seems more tube like and organic, though it does lack dynamics and some details.
Pros: Bass
Always sound "nice" at least
Easy to drive (with solid state amps)
Cons: Lack of adjustability
Doesn't play well with tubes
Ananda BW.JPG
I was selected to be on the Ananda loaner tour for North America and jumped at the chance to try them. I wanted to see whether the Ananda could replace my daily driver HE-400is or perhaps complement them in my music workflow. I’ve had a month with the headphones and was offered a discount on a new set if I wanted to purchase them after the tour in exchange for my honest opinion. Read on to find out whether I’ll be taking Hifiman up on that offer!

The Hifiman Ananda is a high-end headphone from, of course, Hifiman. I am a regular user of their HE 400i headphones. This review will examine the Ananda on some of its own listening strengths as well as comparing the sound to the HE-400i. First some background is in order so that you understand how I’m going to be judging these headphones. I’m an amateur musician, producer, and mastering engineer, and I’ve used the Hifiman HE-400i headphones as my primary monitoring solution for the past 3 years with excellent results for my own music as well as others’. I make and primarily work on electronic music and especially experimental electronic music (think Aphex Twin, Orbital, etc). Because I have a day job and most of my time spent listening to music is spent critiquing either my own work or someone similar, I do not have very much time to listen to music for pleasure anymore. We’re talking maybe once or twice a month I can set aside a few hours and break out my fun headphones or pull out my vinyl collection. When I do, my tastes range widely from classical into jazz, rock/metal/punk from the 60s to the present day (check out Amyl and the Sniffers and thank me later), with funk, soul, some early hip-hop, and of course a large variety of electronic music (including chiptunes, which I feel bears special mention). And I got a chance to play a little of all these on the Ananda. That said, though, 95% of the time I have headphones on it is to work on music, not listen passively, so I will be judging the Ananda from this view as well as from a casual listener’s view.

I’ll start with build and presentation before going into the sound. The boxes that Hifiman use for all their headphones are very nice and nearly the same, but Hifiman does up the ante a bit for their higher end models. The standard Hifiman box is a sturdy box wrapped in leather (or something like it) and with a soft top that has the Hifiman name and logo screened on it. The headphones come packed in foam cut to shape for the headphones and all their accessories. The Anandas come in a box much like my HE-400is, but the Anandas get a crushed velvet interior over the normal foam and the headphone’s name screened directly onto the box, which is enough to make you feel special. The Anandas come with plenty of cabling options with 3 sets of cables in the same reasonable size, one terminating in straight quarter inch plug, and two with straight and 90-dgree 3.5mm plugs. Everything is branded Neutrik and while they are not the prettiest cables I’ve ever seen, they are of the best quality I’ve seen included with a headphone.

I love the look of the headphones themselves. I don’t have a great description of what it is about them or why, but I think they look the part of a $1000 headphone. That’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself. However, I can add that the paint is a noticeable step up over my HE-400is and they are probably much easier to keep clean as there’s no chrome finish to attract fingerprints. I have only one complaint in regards to the physical design of this headphone, and that is the unadjustable headband. I have a small head, most adjustable headbands I bring only one click out from closed, if that. Here, my ears fit in the earcups fine, but after about 20 minutes I realized that there was no clamping force on the sides of my head at all and the full weight of the headphone was resting on the top of my head. In this way, they’re similar to my AKG Q701s, but the Anandas weigh significantly more. This is a disappointment for me because these weigh around as much as the HE-400i in my hands, but I can wear the 400i for hours before my head hurts (my ears will need a break before my head does), but the Anandas were hurting my head in about half an hour. . I’m sure this isn’t a problem for most users, but I also know it isn’t a problem for me with a different product from the same company, so I can’t avoid mentioning it.

The first thing that jumped out at me in a good way when I put on the Anandas was the bass. For electronic music, these headphones are very, very good. If I hadn’t heard the HE-400i before this set of headphones, I’d call the bass a revelation. The bass doesn’t go as deep as the 400i, and it rolls off faster than the 400i too, but believe me when I say you aren’t missing out on what these headphones fail to pick up and what they do present is the best bass I’ve ever heard, full stop. Most of the sound below 40 hz is just mud that isn’t well controlled in most mixes, so by having the headphone focus less on that it brings much more clarity to the midbass, and that is where these headphones shine. In comparison, the 400i goes deeper, so you do get more frequencies, but they are never as controlled as on the Ananda and picking up frequencies so low can pick up mistakes left in the mix by an engineer working on a lesser system.

From there, we’ll move up the frequency range where the Aananda has a pleasant, musical boost in the midrange that seems to bring out the attack on individual notes better and puts a bit more space around individual instruments up to around 1khz. The 400i is much flatter through here and has less space around the instruments but seems to have slightly more soundstage overall. I’d say the Ananda is a forward headphone, voiced close to the stage, where the 400i is voiced sitting middle of the hall for a more neutral presentation.

Then we come to the treble where the Ananda again has a pleasant boost and the HE 400i does not. But here, I think the Ananda goes a bit far and suffers for it (and this is the weakest part of the headphone for me). I already said this is a headphone voiced close to the music, so it lacks somewhat in soundstage, but the boost in higher frequencies adds to that, overfilling the remaining space around your head. Worse, while the boost in the midrange feels like it brings out detail and attack, the treble feels like it becomes less defined and blurs the instruments above around 3khz together. The timing accuracy remains great, though.

It’s not bad by any stretch of imagination. In fact, I didn’t find a single track where this headphone sounded bad, even tracks that I know sound harsh with the boosted treble on my Grados. I even did a good portion of my listening on YouTube, and there the compression artefacts on the audio were less noticeable and the music was more musical. I just found myself wishing it was more like the bass all the way up through the rest of the frequencies, tight, defined, and smooth. The headphone is smooth all the way from top to bottom, but not as smooth as the HE 400i because of the slight boosts in the midrange and treble. The headphone is tight from top to bottom in the timing domain, but the frequencies become looser and less defined in the treble region.

For most of the review, I drove the Anandas off my daily driver Schiit Fulla v1. I know better can be had in the world of amps and dacs, but for something that is so small and so quick and easy to hook up, has no warmup time, and that I can cheaply replace if anything happens to it, nothing beats it. I had no desire to try running the Anandas directly out of my laptop or PC as I know the direct outs on both are tuned for gaming and so aren’t much fun to listen to. The Fulla did a fine job, but I wanted to try the Ananda with tubes before I sent it on to see if that helped with my criticisms of the treble. I broke out my Schiit Vali 2 for the first time in months and warmed it up, ran it out of my Modi (I’m still rocking the original) and gave the tube sound a spin. For my Grados and AKGs, tubes take the edge off and make those headphones a lot better, and I thought that meant tubes would pull back the treble on the Ananda. Unfortunately, tubes actually made cymbals on the Ananda go from forward to outright screechy. Everything got more defined, so instrument separation in the top end was a bit better, but the mid-range and treble also developed a harsh etch or edge to them. The tubes also pulled out a bit of that bass I loved so much. This had me stopping or skipping songs that were just unlistenable for the first time with this headphone. My HE-400is don’t like tubes either, I only tried them with the Vali 2 once and that was enough. They behaved similarly to the Anandas if memory serves. My guess is that the drivers behave differently with tubes than dynamic drivers do and maybe a higher quality tube amp can give these drivers what they need, but if you like me just want the tube sound sometimes and have one cheaper tube amp to try, skip it with the Anandas. It could also be that the drivers just expose any weaknesses in amp design and reminds us of why so many manufacturers stick to similar designs, but I don’t have a large enough sampling of amps to try and determine that.

None of this is a problem if you’re looking to listen to some music for fun (the treble isn’t bad, it’s just not AS GOOD AS the amazing bass), especially anything electronic. Just don’t use tubes. For the purposes of this review (a pleasure listening headphone), it’s a 4-star headphone (one star off for the unadjustable headband). But I said my personal goal was to see if this could replace a known good headphone in a studio environment focused primarily on critical listening. On that front, I can’t use this headphone – because it’s too good. The HE-400i is a neutral headphone, but most importantly it punishes bad mixes. The Ananda was less pleasing on material I knew had mix issues, but it was always fun to listen to it on the proper equipment. If I replace my HE-400is with Anandas, I’ll probably love my music more than I ever have, but I will not be able to make it sound good for everyone who doesn’t have a pair of Anandas laying around. This doesn’t impact my rating of the headphone in the slightest because Hifiman doesn’t advertise these as studio monitors (neither do they advertise the HE-400i as such, it just happens that that headphone is tuned just right for the job). But I did say I’d let you know if I would buy them. I need something more brutally honest with me, and the Anandas are not it, as much as I may love listening to the deepest of deep house on them.
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Pros: Easy listening, warm, rich, detailed sounding headphones.
Cons: they are pretty big!
Disclaimer

I got this unit as part New Zealand tour arranged by team Hifiman, thank you very much for including me in this tour :)

Introduction

I am just another music fans in this world, I love listening to music, and that made me stumble into head-fi around 13 years ago when looking for the best way to listen to my music. I am not in anyway an audiophile, heck not even close, so please forgive any lack of details in my review. Most importantly this is my personal impression on the unit, most likely i heard things differently than you, my ears, my preferences, my brain :)

I've listened to Hifiman Ananda for about a month. I've used them mostly with Hiby R6 amped through Schiit Magni 3. The source will be either my personal flac or spotify.

Music preferences

My music preferences is mostly instrumental, whether it's Classical, Jazz, Celtic, New Age, etc. I also enjoy music with vocal on them, but my playlist is mostly instrumental. I would say around 80/20 mix.

Example of the music I listen (not limited to):
- Acoustic Alchemy
- Tony McManus, Soig Siberil
- Hawaiian Slack Key guitars
- Gontiti
- Fusion Jazz (Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, Fourplay, Special EFX, you get the idea)
- Akira Jimbo, Tetsuo Sakurai, Casiopea
- Incognito
- Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi, Musica Antiqua Koln, Rolf Lislevand
- Yoko Kanno
- Madonna
- Toto

Daily Gears

My typical listening gear daily is Hiby R6 -> Reso Concerro for USB to SPDIF converter -> Schiit Gumby -> DIYT2 -> Stax SR-007 Mk2

When traveling I usually use Sony MDR-1000x paired to the Hiby R6.

Build Quality and Design

If you haven't seen them before, they are quite big, no matter how big your ears are, these will cover them just fine.

The pads are quite soft, the sides are leather, while the surface that touch your ears are alcantara i think? they are comfortable and I don't have problems using them for 2 hours and more.

The headband construction is mostly metal, clamping force is medium. They are very open design, so will leak a lot of sounds!

Sound Quality

Ok the most important part for me, sound quality, so how do they sound? Warm, cozy with bit of sparkle on the high end. They have a slight mid-bass hump that gave them these nice warm, lush and smooth sound. Music sounds quite laid back, however they are quite resolving and details as well, the extra sparks in the upper mids and treble help them sounds sweet and fresh. I love how they sounds just about "right" and natural, if any spectrum is bit forward, it is done in a very subtle way that you do noticed them, but it's never annoying.

Bass

While the bass doesn't hit super hard, there are enough amount of them to give body to the music. The slight mid-bass hump is enough to gave some warmth to vocals and mids but never intrude into the mids region.

Mids

Mids are clear and beautiful, although they might sits just ever slightly behind the bass and treble. Even though the Ananda is a warm headphone, the mids still come out very clear and clean.

Treble

Treble are very well extended, and as mentioned before, slightly elevated to gave nice sparkle to music. No sibilant or sharp edges at all here.

In my opinion, Hifiman has managed to tune the Ananda to perfection, they sounds lovely, I can listen to them for hours and hours without any fatigue. It's just sounds right and relaxing. When you listen to them you don't really care about the quality of the recording, or how good the string sounded (really good by the way), you just enjoy the music and let it flow....

One thing that really worth mentioning as well is that they sounds very good out of portable as well. I tried them direct from Hiby R6 and while not as good as the Magni 3, still very enjoyable.

Comparison

I will be comparing the Ananda with Sennheiser HD800.

1st Song - Toto - I Will Remember

The intro of this song feature a really nice drum bass rolling left to right right (or the other way around), I almost always startled at the beginning. Both headphones did a good job startling me, although the Ananda is a bit softer with the drums while HD800 is more precise. When the vocals start coming in, the mid-bass of Ananda really help a lot here, delivering more romantic vocals, makes them more pleasant to listen to. HD800 deliver a very clean mids, however at the cost of being a bit thin and raspy sounding vocals. They are both good, it's just for this particular case, I prefer the Ananda experience compare to HD800.

2nd Song - Dave Grusin, Lee Ritenour - The Bird

In beginning and throughout the song, there is a constant drum bass keeping the beats. On the HD800 it's a constant "dib dib dib", while on the Ananda it's more like "dirp dirp dirp". There is also a constant cymbal (hi-hats?) on the back right, on HD800 it's sounds more clear and distinct, I can hear the same thing on Ananda, just not as bright or defined. Mind you this is all very small difference and not that obvious. I would guess this is caused by the tuning of HD800 which is leaner and brighter compare to Ananda. When listening to this song, I was thinking the Ananda will win again, however I actually prefered HD800 sounds compare to Ananda. The instrumental mids/trebles are really the hero for this song and HD800 strike back here.

Driven out of Hiby R6 and Magni 3, I felt that Ananda and HD800 are within the same class, they deliver the same resolution and details, imaging is better on HD800, but the warmth of Ananda is easier to listened to.

At the end of the day, it really a matter of taste I suppose, you want analytical and lean? go HD800, warm and cozy? Ananda. Gentle reminder that this is all my opinion, YMMV with different source/amp/etc.

Summary

I loved the Ananda, if I don't have my Stax system, I might buy and build my system around Ananda, and happy to call it an end to the journey. They are that good.

At $999 (discounted to $849 at the time I publish this), I felt that it's a very strong contender for under 1k headphones. It's easy to drive, easy to listen to, built quite well and most importantly, sounds just right out of anything.

Give it a listen if you can, you might find them to be the headphones that you never knew you needed.

Thanks for reading.
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Pros: Detail, Speed, Comfort, Sound Stage, Overall sound quality
Cons: Slightly thin
Over the last few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time with the Hifiman Ananda’s, and below is my non-standard review. I say non-standard as I’d like to condense what would be a typical long form review into just the quick details. This is done in the hopes that the necessary info can be conveyed quickly without any muddying of what I’m trying to say. So with that said, here are some questions and answers that may be helpful at a glance:

In sound quality alone, are the Ananda’s worth their full retail asking price? Yes

Are these headphones comfortable? Yes. No squishing of the ears, no tight clamp, no pressure spots, not overly hot. They don’t disappear entirely on your head, but they aren’t uncomfortable in any way.

What is the general tuning? Neutral. To my ears there is a shift towards a U shaped sound with slightly elevated bass & treble. However, the shift is so small that the headphones are closer to neutral than anything else.

What is the overall sound like? Fast paced, airy, slightly thin, natural tones, and well-defined bass.
  • The slight thinness of the overall sound allows for the micro details to come out cleanly, then that thinness is countered by the natural timbre and well-defined bass.
  • Additional perceived clarity is brought out by the non-smooth treble, which has a slight sparkle at the top to make notes stand out more.
  • Bass is well textured and ample in quantity for all genres, but it does lack some desired slam compared to bass emphasized headphones. The bass extends well and hits with such speed that it is very satisfying against the rest of the sound.
  • The sound stage is both wide & tall enough to allow clear separation and placement of every instrument. The sound stage can be described as enveloping.
With everything put together you get a sound that is thin in overall ambience, but yet every single note is full, clear, and with precise separation. Adding clean textured bass within an enveloping field, and you end up with a nice satisfying experience.

What do these headphones excel at? Incredible micro detail, speed, and accurate full tones. The combination lends itself to critical listening without the music ever becoming too cold or sterile.

What do these headphones lack? Thickness in the overall sound, a minor effect that isn’t enough to ruin the experience.

What music genres are these headphones best suited for? All genres sound great to me, but I’ve especially enjoyed classical and electronic. Electronic music was a surprise since that genre usually benefits more from heavy emphasized bass, but the speed and micro detail in the Ananda’s allows for a precision in the music that elevates electronic music to the next level.

What formats are these headphones best suited for? Everything, but I have enjoyed them most in critical listening and gaming.

How is the stock cable? Surprisingly good. The cable isn’t microphonic in any way, and is thick enough to avoid tangling. I compared the sound quality to the Meze 99 Classics stock cable, the 99 Classics silver plated balanced cable, and 4 other random cables that were under $40. The Ananda stock cable sounded better than all of them, being free from any distortion. All other cables had some form of distortion, usually in thinning out the sound in one or all areas

Are these headphones perfect? No, see the negatives section below.

Negatives:
Once you get to this tier of headphone there must be extra scrutiny on anything that holds the headphone back from being perfect. This isn’t because perfection is expected (or perhaps even possible), but just that headphones in this tier are so good that any negatives tend to stick out more against the rest of the near perfect sound. That said, the negatives below are minor in that they do NOT define the sound of the Ananda’s. The negatives are minor enough that they could be described as nitpicking. Nonetheless, these negatives need to be called out as they can detract from the sound depending on your tastes.
  • Slight thinness of the overall sound, even if every note sounds correct. I do actually think this is required in order for the micro details to come forward with the precision that they do, but the thinness can take away some enjoyment of music depending on what type of sound you prefer. Jazz was one area that stuck out to me where some of the spirit may have been taken out of the songs. If you value details over a more warm and melded soundscape, then this probably won’t be a negative for you. If you value warm tones and a higher level of musicality over detail, then I don’t think this is necessarily a deal breaker (again, it’s minor), but these may be more useful to you as critical listening as opposed to casual everyday listening. For me, I’m a mix of the two. After getting used to other headphones I find that the Ananda’s sound too thin for the first minute or two, then once I adjust to the sound it becomes near perfect. After that adjustment period the headphones offer a killer combination, as the sound then seems full with detail that probably wouldn’t be possible in other tunings.
  • Occasionally the treble can become a bit sharp on some notes, but never sibilant. Saxophone and trumpets come to mind when they are played at a high pitch. Once again I actually think this is intended in order to give additional perceived clarity in the overall sound (making notes pop more vividly). However, this is something to consider if you are especially sensitive to treble spikes.
  • Sound leakage. To those in the same room, it will sound like you have two portable speakers attached to your head. These do leak a lot of sound, so there’s no chance of wearing these in an open office. On a positive note, the sound leaking out is of decent quality, so it’s only the amount of sound leaking out that you need to worry about. Likewise with so much sound leaking out, there’s really no isolation of external noise for the listener. So, these headphones are really best for you and others when you are in a mostly quiet environment where others won’t be disturbed.
Conclusion:

The tuning on the Ananda is aimed entirely at detail without taking too much away from any other area, and in this they greatly succeed. Any negatives in the sound design are likely intentional in order to extract every little detail possible. Somehow Hifiman was able to succeed in detail retrieval while limiting the negatives to such an extent that the end result is a very high quality headphone that is a treat to hear. The simple strum of a guitar, or tone of an electronic note can be heard with such clarity and fullness that every second of a song becomes more enjoyable.
heidimilk
heidimilk
Very nice review! I felt exactly the same when listening to them.
I also came across electronic music when trying them out and WOW! It was an unexpected but enlightening experience, I smiled because I was so happy with the sound. IMO the bass and overall sound signature of these is definitely magical... will buy them for my next pair of overear HPs.
Pros: Rich sound. Versatility. Solid. Looks. Comfort.
Cons: Another temptation. Doesn't have the forensic detail or huge soundstage of the HD800.
Introduction

Screenshot 2019-08-02 at 15.04.41.png


I am part of the review tour that @TeamHiFiMan organised for the World. I have been busy; I received the HiFiMan TWS600 Earbuds within 2 days of the Ananda's arriving. I was the first to receive these, I have not burnt them in. I didn't have the time or the patience, sorry HiFiMan! I got them out the box, I listened to them whenever I got the chance. It's that simple, to start with, anyway. I have no affiliation with HiFiMan, I just tend to like the sound of their kit. As you already know, I have given these a 5 rating. I don't give many 5 ratings out. These are not perfect. But they are good enough to be considered as "excellent" in the headfiometer ratings system. So, 5 it is. 4.5 seemed petty. My rating was based on value for money, comfort, versatility and above all else, sound quality.

About the Ananda

The Offer

This is currently for sale for $999 on the HiFiMan site. However, I got an email 2 days ago, and I think you might, with a bit of ingenuity, get them even cheaper.
Screenshot 2019-08-02 at 13.38.31.png
I wish you the best of luck with that. You have to register with HiFiMan to get this coupon by email by the way. It's not valid in conjunction with other offers, the usual restrictions apply. But, if you're interested, here is a way to seal a slight bargain.

The Headphone

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Seen in conjunction with a perfect partner, the Fiio M11, here is the first glimpse of the HiFiMan Ananda. It has a really low impedance, 25 Ohms, compared to similar priced full sized headphones it will match up against. Why is this important? Because headphones with more resistance will need more power to sound good. And if that power delivery is not clean, the higher resistance headphones won't sound at their best. Hence, more money needs to be spent. The result is a lack of versatility. I'm assuming when I state this, that most of the readership own a ridiculous amount of audio product anyway, so will dismiss my previous statement about clean high power amping as being irrelevant to their situations. Wrong! Wrong I say! You can plug these into a smart phone if there is simply no time to spend 30 minutes stringing together 6 products with 5 cables, and you can't find cable 4.... There's always a cable missing.... Obviously, a smartphone is not the market these headphones are being aimed at. The R2R2000 Red or the Supermini perhaps? Both HiFiMan products. The Fiio M11 is what I used with these 90% of the time. I can honestly say that not fiddling around with loads of other Dac/Amps, Amps, Cables, Laptops, Tablets, Netbooks, DAPs, Phones, I mean the list goes on! That was a breath of fresh air between the ears for me, and it certainly meant more time listening to music. The only real fiddling around was my last hour with them. This is where you come in.

You can listen to these- right now

Although it didn't turn out as easily as I wanted it to, and it took me half a day to produce, which was half a day of my life I will never get back no matter how much of a boy scout I become, I cobbled together a really decent recording of the very own HiFiMan Ananda I am talking to you about. Why? They cry! For several reasons. I am a reviewer, I can tell you my opinion on a product. But what I will always always tell you is; TRY BEFORE YOU BUY. Please hear my plea when I say this - TRY BEFORE YOU BUY. Am I receiving you? I sure hope so. I have listened to a lot of headphones, from the Orpheus, to the HE1 to the Shangri-La, the Shangri-La little brother, the K1000, HE1000V1 to 20 (I dunno how many there are), all the brands, Stax, Meze Imperial Stormtroopers etc. etc. I've got a crazy number of full sized headphones. I'm, quite frankly, ashamed to even guess at how many. However, what I cannot state is that I've listened to them all. Not to every major full sized can out there. There has probably been a new one released this week. I mean? Why would this week be any different from any other week? And even if I had, I only used my ears. And I only interpreted the sound with my brain, astute though that undoubtedly is....
Which brings me back to this video and the reasoning behind it. It will give you a chance to hear what I have heard for yourself. To make up your own mind as to what the sound characteristics of the HiFiMan Ananda really are. I have used a PCM recorder, a WAV file, an AMI MusiK DDH-1 Dac/Amp and 3 headphones. The headphones I have recorded? The Ananda(of course) which starts the recording. The Sennheiser HD800, a 300 Ohm Dynamic headphone, has been used for the next part of the track, the Ananda comes back in, and then my very own old Skool HiFiMan HE6 finishes off the proceedings. I say old skool; the HE6SE is now out. That has the new headband, but it has the same drivers and the same tuning that has established it's older cousin's legacy as a legend among Planar Magnetic Headphones. The quality of the recording remains good despite it's being posted on YouTube. The differences should be audible amongst the 3 contenders here provided you listen with some decent headphones. Please, not out of the smartphone speaker! It took me ages to make this and that is just sacrilege!


So, what did you think? I have to confess, the Sennheiser HD800 does not compare on this recording comparison, and I believe that is for a few reasons. The recording of the HD800 has been affected by it's smaller cup size. The PCM Recorder was able to relatively sit inside the Ananda and the HE-6. The headband on the HD800 is wider than it's Chinese Rivals too. This meant I could not get the PCM Recorder far enough inside the cup of the HD800 as I would have liked. That said, some characteristics which differentiate the HiFiMan and the Sennheiser can still be heard. The reality is, is that the Sennheiser HD800 is a World Class Headphone. The Sennheiser HD800, even with my modded version, does not isolate as well as the Ananda and nor does it possess the slam of the Ananda. It does have a huge soundstage and a linearity that is stunning, that the Ananda does not have. 20190522_171605.jpg
Ananda? Could be. A tasteful shot of some Chinese delicacy anyway

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HiFiMan HE-6 - frankensteined.
20190802_143459.jpg
Sennheiser HD800- minijack and heavily modded with felt padding around the metal ring of the drivers

So, is the HD800 better?

The HD800 is not necessarily better, not in my opinion. It comes across as harsh on many tracks. Conversely, the HiFiMan Ananda will stroll up to the same stuff and say "I quite enjoy these actually, old chap". Less of the old, HiFiMan! Well I'm getting on, which probably makes me more prone to piercing treble, but that's digressing. The Ananda is smooth where the HD800 dig deeper and try to unravel more layers of instrumentation. The question is, do we always want that? Tonality! Takeanidea, that's what the people want! In other words, give me a lush, warm sound that is fun, that makes me follow the music without being overwhelmed by it, and I am a happy man. Are you the same? Who knows. Go back and have a listen and see if you can understand where I am coming from here. The HD800 I own has been tamed without taking away the soundstage, and has been supercharged in the bass region. Because, by God, it needed it! Even then, the bass doesn't have the oomph that the Planars can do. Before you ask me whether my HD800s are on sale, no dear Sirs! I have had to hand over the Ananda's to another. And I have, to my ears, the best sounding HD800 out there. All I am saying is this- the Ananda does what an HD800 can't do, and an HD800 does what an Ananda can't do, and sometimes the HD800 shouldn't do it either. Naughty HD800!

Conclusion

That didn't take long did it? I have included much of my content on that video above. I want you to listen to it as it forms much of what I have to report on the HiFiMan Ananda. But, of course, I can't go without detailing just a few more things. The comfort of the Ananda is great. The headband is of the tearband shape, and the yoke on these is twisted. Very pleasant looking and very comfy to wear. The adjustment(for me at the very bottom because I have a diminutive head) is easy and precise. The headphones sound good, real good, through a Fiio M11, one of my latest purchases, and I didn't break them in. I never really thought break in makes a big difference on a full sized. But, of course, the brain has to adjust to a new pair of headphones, especially with the trauma of dropping yet another 1K of one's hard earned.... The versatility of these is real. I had the volume of the M11 set to 55 out of 120 for quiet rooms and 70-75 for louder environments and this was on the low gain setting. The overall impressions for me on these headphones where a rich, laid back experience. And who can argue with that in these crazy days that we live in?

Screenshot 2019-08-01 at 17.11.11.png
Pros: Great soundstage and imaging, near neutral performance with a couple elevations for increased musicality.
Cons: Cable not the same quality as the headphones, no travel case.


Hifiman Ananda

disclaimer: I received the Ananda as part of the Head-fi tour and would like to extend a thanks to Hifiman for giving me the opportunity to try them out. I received no guidance or incentives to write this, and upon completion the Ananda (sadly) went on to the next reviewer.



Unboxing / Accessories:

Having recently reviewed the He6se, I immediately recognized the packaging as both share the nice leather(ish?) display box. The outside of the package sports the same color scheme as the headphones themselves in black and gray although the proportions are reversed with gray being the main color of the lid and black the sides.

Inside the box is satin covered foam with a precise cutout for the headphone itself and a cutout in the center for cables and accessories. A foam plate hides the center compartment and insures cables do scratch the cups during transit. I use the term transit intentionally here as it is by no means a travel case and for a portable headphone, this is something Hifiman should consider adding to the mix. Rounding off the kit is a 3.5mm cable with 6.35mm adapter, and the user manual which reads as much like ad copy as instructions. It contains the history and tech used in the Ananda as well as some rudimentary instructions. Honestly for a headphone designed as a portable, I have to question as to whether the choices made regarding the cable couldn’t be considerably improved upon. More on that later.

Build/Fit:

The headband is the new style similar to the He6se I have tested recently. The upside of that change is it is considerably more durable than the earlier versions. the downside is it loses the rotation of the cup on the vertical axis so may cause fit problems for some. I found the cup shape allowed a better fit than the same headband afforded with the He6se while a friend found the reverse to be true. Clamping force is relatively low and combined with the light weight of the Ananda makes them comfortable for extended wear. My neck is much less fatigued after an extended listening session than it was with the LCD-2X or He6Se. Before dropping the cash on the Ananda I’d highly recommend finding a loaner program where you can conduct an extended audition to be sure the fit is good.

Moving to the cups, they are the extended type similar in design to the edition X, He1000, Arya, and Jade making them the least expensive Hifiman with this style cup and gimbal system. Cups are flat black with Silver/polished steel louvered grills that reduce driver reflections and still protect the driver from impacts. The 3.5mm mono connectors are angled slightly forward and give an easy way to upgrade cables if so desired without the expense of proprietary connectors. Pads are soft leather and sloped to help with fit since there is no vertical rotation of the cups. For many this will be enough to offset that lack, for a few it won’t as previously mentioned. Pads snap into place with a series of small clips that attach to a metal ring inside the shell. Removing the pads exposes a really fantastically artistic driver. To me the Ananda design is as much art as science and Hifiman succeeded at making a really pretty headphone.


Internals:

Like most of Hifiman’s over-ear models, the Ananda utilizes a Planar magnetic driver, unlike others, the driver in the Ananda is a new design aimed squarely at making planar drivers easier to drive and thus usable with a broader selection of devices. The diaphragm is called the Neo SuperNano Diaphragm and is between 1 and 2μm thick. Hifiman’s claim is that this is 80% reduction in thickness and weight when compared to the standard planar driver, and both the thickness and weight (or lack thereof in this case) contribute to how difficult a headphone is to drive. In the case of the Ananda, the results are a nominal impedance of 25Ω with a sensitivity of 103dB/mW. I found the ananda easy to drive using my portable DAPs, but it certainly benefits from better sources and will gladly soak up more power if it is made available. To hear a full size planar that doesn’t sound extremely anemic when driven from a portable is a new experience for me though, so I do think Hifiman by in large achieved their stated goal. That having been said, the Ananda still needs more power than most cellphones or tablets can muster and will lose some range when under-powered. The only planar I have heard that performed well with less power is the Sine, and realistically the Sine is not a competitor for the Ananda in any other measure.


Cables:

The cables that shipped with the Ananda are quite similar in construction to that which shipped with the He6se. That is both a good thing, and a not so good one. Good stuff first, very pliable, very well made, low microphonics, and very solid connectors. The main difference in the cable between the He6se version and the Ananda version is the source terminations which reflect (kindof) the idea that the Ananda was designed for portable use. The He6se came with either 6.35 or XLR connectors while the Ananda comes with 3.5mm with a 6.35 adapter and a 6.35mm terminated version.

On to the not so good, the cable is obviously a compromise between desktop and portable applications and to me, kind of looks like Hifiman phoned it in and said just use what we already have. For as much work as went into making the headphone appropriate to portable use, the cable simply doesn’t fit. With most all high-end portable devices offering either 2.5 or 4.4mm balanced connections, why would you not supply a 2.5mm terminated cable with an adapter to connect either a 4.4mm balanced or 3.5mm single ended device? If you really wanted to offer a 6.35mm connector, I’m sure a 2.5mm to 6.35mm version could be fashioned as well. I also found the length of the cable to be considerably longer than desirable for portable use. Overall, if you are going to travel with the Ananda, plan on buying an aftermarket cable.


Sound:

Since the Ananda is billed as a portable, I ran it using both portable gear (xduoo xt10ii/iFi xDSD and Dethonray DTR1/Oriolus BA300s) as well as desktop gear (Schiit Bifrost MB/Valhalla 2 and Burson Swing/Fun (upgraded w SparkOS Op-amps)). As mentioned previously, the Ananda will operate with lower power, but it definitely benefits from more power qualitatively, if it can’t quantitatively to the degree that some other models (He6se) can. My notes regarding sound quality are combined from all devices and where exceptions came up, I noted the device pairings.



Bass:

Sub-bass on the Ananda can only be described as minimal. Roll-off begins high enough up that anything below 150Hz is well behind the rest of the signature. Those looking for more low end, will be better served by other models in the Hifiman lineup. Mid-bass is much better represented and realistically from about 200Hz up, linearity is very good. To my ear, mid-bass is neutral or just a hair less, but mid-bass detail and texture are extremely good. While I would prefer a bit more bass, the fact that what the Ananda presents is as clean and well defined as it is, makes what is missing almost ignorable. Transition from the bass into the lower mids is very smooth and clean and where mid-bass bleed usually contributes a bit of warmth to the signature, here the tuning provides it as no perceptible bleed was present.



Mids:

I was told the Ananda was a replacement in the line for the aging He560 (which I own and enjoy) but the mids separate the Ananda from being an He560 replacement in my view. The He560 has great linearity through the mids, which is quite simply not something the Ananda can claim. While the lower mids are nearly linear with the mid-bass, the upper-mids and lower-treble are both lifted above the rest of the signature. I use the word lifted instead of pushed as it is quite tastefully done and gives vocals a bit more life, but it does take the Ananda out of the running as the best truly neutral model available. Mid quality is nothing short of fantastic with detail level and texture again being excellent. If anything vocals come off just slightly thicker and warmer than absolute neutral.



Treble:

Lower treble transitions from the upper mids smoothly and doesn’t have any notable spikes or dips. Treble is well detailed and has good texture. I did find timbre to be a bit bright at times as the Ananda seems to have an elevation in the 7kHz range that extends through somewhere between 9 and 10kHz. The upper end is tough to pin down as it seems to vary with source material. In this case bright should not be thought of as synonymous with harsh though. The Ananda maintains good control throughout the top end and while it has a bit of extra energy, it is not harsh and somehow actually manages to sound a bit relaxed and gentle. Again, the Ananda takes on the character of the recording. Poor recordings come off as thin, tinny, and metallic. Better recordings sound much more lifelike and lose that edge. Well recorded strings are a pleasure on the Ananda as it gets their timbre closer to spot on than most.



Soundstage / Imaging:

I expected good things in this department as the big planars usually deliver and the Ananda certainly does. Stage is large in all dimensions with width being slightly larger than depth. Perhaps most impressive is the sense of height conveyed by the Ananda. Imaging is equally good as instrument seperation is quite spacious and detail and clarity makes seating the orchestra very straight forward. Nothing is next to each other that should be behind, and layering is good enough that instruments in front/back arrangement are still both clearly audible with no overlap or loss. Songs like The Who – Baba O’riley and The Cars – Moving in Stereo have various voices and instruments moving effortlessly around the stage and the ear is able to follow their movement from one point to the next, not just hear the endpoints. In this measure, the Ananda is just shy of the greats like the HD800. I think the term Holographic gets used too much in defining audio soundstage and imaging but the Ananda deserves the moniker. If you have ever wondered what people meant by Holographic, get an Ananda and Who’s Next (Vinyl or Flac) and take a listen.



Comparisons:

Campfire Cascade

At first glance these two have little in common, closed dynamic vs open planar, a $400 price difference, and design elements that both represent their makers. What they do have in common is they are the best efforts of two companies to make a headphone for on-the-go use. The funny thing to me is, as different as they look, they weigh nearly exactly the same thing. Consider that for a second, the Cascade looks built for military use, while the Ananda appears much more delicate and finessed, but both weigh within 10 grams of each other. Clamping force is much higher on the Cascade so those with larger heads may prefer the Ananda for that alone. Conversely, smaller heads may find the clamping force of the Cascade makes them more usable if on the move. I compared sound with filter 2 and the cloth pads on the Cascade which is my favorite tuning.

Even with the cloth pads, the Cascade has considerably more bass quantity (particularly sub-bass) than the Ananda. Both are tight, but the Ananda is a bit faster and shows off a bit more detail in the mid-bass as a result. Both are detail monsters in the mids and for me it is hard to pick a winner here as I like the timbre of acoustic guitar a bit better on the Ananda and its electric counterpart a bit better on the cascade. Highs are cleaner on the Ananda, but again both are polite tunings that manage to deliver enough treble to have good air and sparkle without getting strident or piercing. Turns out the two may have something in common after all.



Mr Speakers Aeon Flow Open

This seems like it should be an apples to apples comparison as both are from premier makes, both are open planars, and both are aimed at the portable space. There the similarities end though. The Aeon is the lighter of the two by almost 1/4 the total weight. When combined with a headband that offers more adjustment, the Aeon feels a little better on the head than the Ananda.

The Aeon Flow was notably harder to drive than the Ananda and much more source sensitive. Big planars are rarely a good match with tubes, but the Aeon seems particularly poor where as the Ananda actually paired well with the Valhalla2/Bifrost MB combination. The Aeon can sound a bit clouded with pairings it doesn’t care for and is probably best paired to neutral to a bit dry/cold solid state gear. The Ananda on the other hand doesn’t seem to care what feeds it and while it scales with better gear, it showed the ability to handle sources as diverse as the Cayin N3, Burson Fun, Oriolus BA300s, Valhalla2, SSMH, and Millett Nu-tube Hybrid.

The Aeon sounds a bit warmer and thinner in comparison to the Ananda and the emphasis is in different regions. I already mentioned a slight upper-mid push and a 7kHz elevation on the Ananda, by comparison the Aeon has a mid-bass lift and then recesses the mids with a push back forward at the upper-mid/lower treble junction. Transitions are a bit smoother on the Ananda, the mid/treble transition is particularly so as the Ananda sort of effortlessly flows from one to the next while the Aeon Flow has some jagged edges.

To my ear, the Aeon Flow comes across as the more musical of the two with a bit more thickness to the sound, but it loses to the Ananda on all the technicals. The Ananda is the more accurate of the pairing with bigger stage, better imaging and layering, more detail, and a more neutral overall presentation. Choosing between these two comes down to critical listening vs listening for pleasure for me.



Audeze LCD-2

Admittedly, the LCD-X is probably the better comparison spec-wise as the LCD-2 is much higher impedance and harder to drive than the Ananda, but I did not have the LCD-X on hand to compare. The LCD-2 is considerably heavier than the Ananda at roughly 500 grams vs the Ananda’s 400. The Ananda feels lighter than the actual weight difference as well as the headband does a better job of distributing weight. I’m not a fan of the pads on the LCD-2 either and have long since replaced mine with Dekoni pads, but still find the pads on the Ananda to be more comfortable. Both have angled connectors although I like the LCD version a bit better with its Mini-XLR and steeper angle than the 3.5mm of the Ananda. Both are solid, I just prefer the look of the LCD connector better.

Sound is very different between the two. The LCD-2 has a boosted low end, while the Ananda does not. Bass lovers will gravitate to the LCD series for that alone. Bass clarity is roughly equal on both with a slight advantage to the Ananda in texture to my ear. Mids are similar between the two if a little thicker on the LCD and slightly better clarity on the Ananda. Highs are again similar as both models are slightly rolled off and smoothed over. Detail levels are similar in the upper ranges, but again timbre and texture as improved on the Ananda as the attack on percussion is a bit sharp and snappy on the LCD-2.



Sennheiser HD800

Here we have another one of those comparisons that at first glance doesn’t look to be well thought out. I’ll admit I did this one based on the soundstage of the two being similar (a huge complement to the Ananda in and of itself).

Obvious things first, these two are not designed for the same market. The HD800 is a 300Ω model designed for seated use while tethered to a potent amp and is really somewhat picky about what it gets paired with. The Ananda is 25Ω model that can be driven by a smartphone in a pinch.

Now for the not so obvious, The HD800 with its plastic construction is nearly 100 grams lighter than the Ananda and to me is an easier fit and more universal in fit. Those same friends I mentioned earlier that had trouble getting the Ananda adjusted had no issues with the HD800. Clamping force is slightly higher on the HD800 but not so much as to be uncomfortable for long wear. To me, the HD800 is the benchmark for soundstage and imaging, it quite simply has better imaging and stage than anything else at anywhere near its price point and easily defends that crown against a lot of things priced much higher. The downside is the HD800 has the now famous 6k spike that the Anax mod calms a bit but does not completely remove. Here the Ananda scores points for being a model with a more polite and even treble with almost as good a stage and imaging as the HD800. In fairness, detail level is better on the HD800 but those who like the stage on the 800 but not the treble will do well to give the Ananda a listen.



Thoughts / Conclusion:

The Ananda is a very comfortable headphone for me, but some may have some fit issues with the lack of swivel on the vertical axis. The cable is an also ran and if really targeted to a mobile market, Hifiman would be better served to package it with a 2.5 or 4.4 mm balanced cable. This effectively increases the asking price by $200 at minimum as the cable will likely be replaced by the target audience. Sound wise, the Ananda is slightly below neutral in the low end and then has a small emphasis on mid-bass and lower mids, near linear mids through treble and another push in the 7k-10k range. Both are enough to be notable departures from neutral, but both add musicality to the sound. Detail level is quite good as are attack and decay which is to be expected from a big planar. Soundstage and imaging are fantastic and only slightly behind the vaunted HD800 in that respect. The Ananda is the easiest of any Hifiman’s planars to drive and close to the easiest of all planars (The LCD-X may claim that title). The other nice thing is the Ananda is fairly forgiving of source and worked equally well from the xCAN and the Valhalla 2. Most boutique headphones seem to be fairly picky about pairings so it is nice to see one that performs well with a wide range of options. Overall, the Ananda is one heck of a headphone for the asking price and an easy recommendation if you are in the market.
Pros: Sound Quality. Comfort level. price point
Cons: downgrade from edition x v2 in terms of build

Sound Quality
My previous review of the Hifiman edition x v2 shows very well how I feel about the sound quality on this headphone.
Is there any sonic difference? not that I can note of but I go into more detail about the differences in the video.

Build Quality
The build quality is where it changed from the edition x v2 and I go into the details, again in the video but
to put it simply, it has changed and debatable for the worse.
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Pros: Amazing neutral sound, comfort, looks, ear cup design, very large sound stage, lightweight, flush 3.5mm headphone cable ports
Cons: Ear cups no longer swivel (not an issue for me), maybe too large for those who have smaller heads
My audio connective trail and setup:

16 & 24-Bit WAV lossless files,

Foobar2000 with WASAPI event output,

Digital optical toslink cable,

Cambridge Audio DacMagic with a linear 12v AC 2000ma power supply,

a custom 6 core pure silver litz RCA cable,

Graham Slee Solo with PSU1,

all connected to a custom Russ Andrews Yello power mains extension with a Supra gold plated UK mains plug with a AMR gold-plated 13 amp fuse inside.


Hello people.

These have been burned in for at least 30 hours and I plan to add updates with further listening.

After experiencing a poorly made Edition X V2 where a plastic bracket on the headband started cracking by itself (I treat all my cans with great care), I was hesitant to try another higher end HiFiMan headphone but here we are.

These look great, really nice but large.

I love the outer grills, simple and elegant (you can actually see through the drivers if you shine a light).

The new headband looks good too.

But HiFiMan have removed the sideway swivel for the ear pads, controversially.

It makes these cans stiff and rigid but that doesn’t bother me.

And hopefully they used better quality materials, metal and plastic are used just like their Edition X V2.

They feel light because the weight (399g) is distributed well. Considering the size of these cans, the low weight is great.

They are supremely comfortable, my goodness!

Not excessively clamping either.

The hybrid ear pads are top class too.

The ear cups are gigantic, so big in fact that I did not need to adjust the headband at all. Not even a single notch!

These cans should not be an issue for those who have larger ears but it may be an issue for those who have smaller heads…

I love the shape of the ear cups, they make complete sense and I’m surprised not more manufacturers use that shape for their headphones.

HiFiMan have been using oval shaped ear cups for their higher end cans for a while now. The Susvara, HE1000, Edition X and Shangri-La.

They now come with flush 3.5mm headphone cable ports. Yes! Huge cable rolling possibilities, you can swap cables from Focal Clear/Elear/Elex, Beyerdynamic 2nd gen T5/T1/Amiron just to name a few.

So far massive credit to HiFiMan for the looks, comfort, weight, design, ear cups and headphone cable ports : )

Sound.

Oh damn!!!

These have a very large, open, expansive and wide sound stage. MASSIVE!!! And great height to it too.

They are airy, transparent and spacious.

Superb imaging and resolution.

On some songs, you can hear the decay and echoes more clearly.

They do need quite a bit of power, I went up to 12 o’clock on the dial!

It has great presentation but it lacks a little intimacy. We must remember we cannot have everything... I do have to stress that nothing sounds recessed or further back.

This can just takes everything in it’s stride, effortlessly.

I would describe their signature as very neutral sounding, I cannot hear a particular emphasis on a frequency. These are probably the most neutral cans I have ever heard.

I do not find them boring, analytical, harsh, bassy or bright.

They are very well balanced sounding, I cannot hear a obvious or blatant flaw sonically.

The bass is very good. It is clean, large and smooth. It has great depth, speed, texture and extension but it does lack a little impact and slam. Just a little.

The mids are excellent, superb detail. I would prefer the vocals a little more forward but they do sound great.

The highs are good but here is the thing, they do lack a little clarity, resolution and detail. A little. That may be saved for HiFiMan’s more expensive cans.

They are also very versatile with music genres, I have not heard anything they do not sound fantastic with to be honest.

These cans sound truly magnificent with movies, hearing Avengers Infinity War on Blu-ray (toslink to DacMagic) was spectacular. Epic in scale and grand in size.

To sum up these are very, very difficult cans to fault.

In any aspect really!

They look great, are very comfortable, have large and well designed ear cups and they sound utterly brilliant. Very enjoyable and neutral sounding with a huge sound stage.

I would say they are one of the best cans I have ever heard, irrespective of price and my favourite pair of planars.

They should bring Ananda to many people : )

Well done HiFiMan, very highly recommended indeed.
zellous
zellous
@caenlenfromOCN
Did you hear the Ananda balanced or single ended? What setup was used? I plan on hearing it balanced soon.
That should further enhance the sound stage, imaging, spaciousness and potentially detail and clarity.
I just really like the single ended Solo with PSU1 amp : )
Amuria Iris
Amuria Iris
:O, very nice, simple and direct description / review, classy.
Thanks for that, really looking into maybe getting this one soon ^-^
zellous
zellous
Thank you Amuria Iris, I really appreciate it. I have reviewed a few headphones here on Head Fi over the months and the Ananda is only the third headphone that I gave 5 stars to.
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