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HIFIMAN ANANDA

Rating:
4.75/5,
Tags:
  1. Dramlin
    Detailed, Precise, and Fantastic
    Written by Dramlin
    Published Sep 2, 2019
    5.0/5,
    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.
    1. 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.
      heidimilk, Sep 5, 2019
      Dramlin likes this.
  2. Takeanidea
    HiFiMan Ananda - the ultimate all rounder for £1K?
    Written by Takeanidea
    Published Aug 2, 2019
    5.0/5,
    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

    20190709_101427.jpg

    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

    20180429_223430.jpg
    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
  3. SOULSIK
    My Favourite Headphone Just Got Cheaper
    Written by SOULSIK
    Published Oct 8, 2018
    5.0/5,
    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.
      volly likes this.
  4. zellous
    I don't need Ananda pair of planars after these
    Written by zellous
    Published Sep 12, 2018
    5.0/5,
    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.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. 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 : )
      zellous, Sep 14, 2018
    3. Amuria Iris
      :O, very nice, simple and direct description / review, classy.
      Thanks for that, really looking into maybe getting this one soon ^-^
      Amuria Iris, Sep 14, 2018
      nicolitis and zellous like this.
    4. 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.
      zellous, Sep 14, 2018
      Amuria Iris likes this.
  5. daduy
    Warm and cozy
    Written by daduy
    Published Sep 18, 2019 at 4:31 AM
    4.5/5,
    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.
      Baten likes this.
  6. Wiljen
    Hifiman Ananda: the price of greatness has dropped
    Written by Wiljen
    Published Jul 4, 2019
    4.0/5,
    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.
    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.