Hifiman Arya

WaveTheory

100+ Head-Fier
HiFiMan Arya Review - By WaveTheory
Pros: Excellent resolution, timbre, spatial presentation, and texture. Creates a HUGE soundstage without sounding artificially large. Physical comfort is outstanding.
Cons: Can be treble-hot to the point of creating vertigo-like sensations for some listeners. Bass quantity is on the lean side. Macrodynamic punch/slam is merely ok.
NOTE: This review was originally published on HiFiGuides Forum on 8 February, 2021. https://forum.hifiguides.com/t/hifiman-arya/343/328

INTRODUCTION

Thanks to another exceedingly generous loan from a member of our HiFiGuides community, I was able to give the HiFiMan Arya an extended audition. This was an exciting opportunity because the Arya is well respected in the larger audiophile community. It’s also my first HiFiMan headphone outside of the warmer-tuned progression of HE-4XX, Edition XX, and Edition X V2 (HexV2). The HexV2 is still in my current personal collection and is easily one of my favorite headphones. It’s also the model that Arya replaced at the $1600 price point in HiFiMan’s line of headphones with egg-shaped earcups. Alright, let’s dig in.

TL;DR

The Arya is an excellent headphone with standout technical performance in several areas. It’s soundstaging, bass texture, detail retrieval, and mid-range and treble timbre are all high points and some of them might arguably be class leading at the ~$1.5k price point. Its signature might be a sticking point for some because it is rather bright – which some, like me, might find fatiguing – and it also falls behind other ~$1.5k headphones in terms of dynamics and punch/slam. I really enjoyed it for its strengths but also found it to induce some vertigo-like symptoms for me, which means I won’t be hanging on to it. It’s still a very good headphone that many will enjoy and that some may interpret as ‘endgame’, but I also recommend giving it a lengthy audition or buying from a seller with a good return policy to see if its signature agrees with you.

KNOW YOUR REVIEWER

My preferred genres are rock/metal and classical/orchestral music. I’m getting to know jazz more and enjoying quite a bit. I also listen to some EDM and hip-hop. My hearing quirks include a high sensitivity to midrange frequencies from just under 1KHz to around 3Khz, give or take. My ears are thus quick to perceive “shoutiness” in headphones in particular. I describe “shoutiness” as an emphasis on the ‘ou’ sound of ‘shout.’ It’s a forwardness in the neighborhood of 1KHz and/or on the first one or two harmonics above it (when I make the sound ‘ooooowwwww’ into a spectrum analyzer the dominant frequency on the vowel sound is around 930Hz, which also means harmonic spikes occur again at around 1860Hz and 2790Hz). In the extreme, it can have the tonal effect of sounding like a vocalist is speaking or singing through a toilet paper tube or cupping their hands over their mouth. It can also give instruments like piano, but especially brass instruments, an added ‘honk’ to their sound. I also get distracted by sibilance, or sharp ‘s’ and ‘t’ sounds that can make ssssingers sssssound like they’re forssssssing esssss ssssssounds aggresssssssively. Sibilance does not physically hurt my ears nearly as quickly as shout, though. It’s distracting because it’s annoying and unnatural. Readers should keep these hearing quirks in mind as they read my descriptions of sound.

FEATURES & BUILD

The Arya is a large planar-magnetic driver, open-back headphone. The earcups are shaped like upside-down eggs and can fully swivel to lay flat on a tabletop or in a case. The suspension-strap headband system is quite comfortable. If you have any experience with the Ananda or HexV2, the build is virtually identical. Aesthetically the Arya is completely blacked out. The unit I have on loan is from a silent revision that put a thin layer of black speaker-grille-cloth-like material over the driver on the outside for dust protection (no effect on sound, so they say) that makes it thoroughly all-black. Judge for yourself if that works for you:

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HexV2 on left, Arya on right. Can you see the family resemblance?

The cable entry is dual-entry and uses 3.5 mm TS connections where the HexV2 uses 2.5 mm. Overall physical comfort is quite good. The ear openings will accommodate very large ears and the egg-shaped pads distribute the clamp pressure on the sides of the head well. The Arya unit I have is newer than my HexV2. The HexV2 is well broken in and has just enough clamp pressure to keep it on my head while the Arya was generally stiffer and hugged a little bit tighter. However, given that their builds are virtually identical I imagine the current fit and clamp of my HexV2 is a likely endpoint for this Arya unit after months of use.

The Arya has a rated impedance of 35Ω and sensitivity of 90 dB/mW – at least that’s according to HiFiMan’s website (https://hifiman.com/products/detail/297). Googling “hifiman arya specs” turns up a few different numbers. The first hit is from Moon Audio which says 41Ω and 91 db/mW and Headphones.com (https://www.headphones.com/blogs/news/hifiman-arya-review-a-planar-hd800s) says the same. I’ve also seen 47Ω floating around out there. Here’s the point: the Arya has a moderate impedance as far as planars go and a somewhat low sensitivity. For context, the HexV2 is rated at 25Ω and 103 db/mW. These numbers indicate that some care should be taken in matching Arya with amplifiers. The low-ish impedance and low sensitivity, in addition to the fact that planar drivers present a close-to-constant impedance, mean that it’s a headphone that will draw a fair amount of current from an amp. Large current draws can sometimes make amps freak out. The more robust the power supply of an amplifier is, the better the results will be with Arya. If an amp is current-limited, Arya will let you know. Many $99 amps in particular don’t have particularly beefy power supplies. But then, I would not recommend running Arya off a $99 amp for a variety of reasons anyway.

That’s about the extent of features. The point of this headphone is really to provide a lot of planar driver area and that it does. So let’s talk about…

SOUND

Test Gear

I’ve had an influx of source gear lately. I had the privilege of trying the Arya out on several amp and DAC combos. Here’s list: DACs: Schiit Modius & Bifrost 2, Denafrips Ares II, Soekris dac1321, Holo Audio Spring 2 Level 2; amps: Schiit Asgard 3, Lake People G111, Monolith Liquid Platinum (w/ new old stock Amperex PQ Gold Pin tubes), Cayin HA-1AMK2, Violectric HPA-V200, Headamp GS-X Mini.

Sound Signature & Timbre

From a signature perspective, the Arya sounds to me like a much larger, more detailed, and much more technically proficient planar version of the Beyerdynamic DT880; Arya has a neutral-bright frequency response with a lean, but well-extended low end. The treble is forward but also retains good tonal balance between the fundamental and harmonic frequencies. This tonal balance translates to excellent upper frequency detail retrieval without sounding peaky or shimmery. It also allows for accurate, reasonably life-like timbre for cymbal hits, the top range of flutes, etc. However, if a recording has too much glare in it, the Arya will tell you, and in no uncertain terms. The midrange is also very detailed, but still retains a very listenable smoothness. String plucks, room echo, even the groans of performance-hall chairs as bodies shift in them are resolved beautifully. The midrange timbre is also fantastic. Voices sound wonderful and realistic – usually. On rare occasions I noticed the treble-forward presentation can pull the perception of a familiar voice’s median frequency up making it sound just a touch thinner than I’m used to (Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree being one such voice where I noticed this). Otherwise, pianos, trumpets, drums, etc. all have excellent timbre and have gotten closer to sounding like the real thing than just about any other headphone I’ve heard so far [edit: this Arya review was written before I’d listened to LCD-24, HE1000v2, or Diana Phi]. The bass is lean but extends well. The bass is also very tuneful and made just about every other headphone I’ve heard sound more one-notey in the bass than I originally thought they did. The bass isn’t very punchy though and is more at home reproducing the sound of an upright string bass played with a bow than it is the aggressive plucking or strumming of a bass guitar.

Space – The Arya Frontier

Holy huge-and-enveloping-soundstage, Batman! The Arya sounds ENORMOUS. The soundstage is not only wide, it’s also very tall and gives a decent sense of depth. I thought my HexV2 was a soundstage champ, but it gets one-upped, maybe two- or three-upped here. The separation and layering are also good, with some of the clearest delineations between sonic images both laterally and with depth I’ve heard so far. What’s interesting is I didn’t notice this so much until I switched back to HexV2 after using Arya exclusively for a couple of days. Even though the HexV2’s soundstage is huge in comparison to many headphones, it was the first and only time I’ve ever felt like HexV2 gave me an in-your-head sensation. Arya somehow did an interesting job of sounding huge but also not ‘forcing’ its hugeness on me until I went back to my other cans. That stands in contrast to my HexV2 when I first put it on is that right away it sounded big and grandiose. Arya’s – let’s call it sneaky – soundstage size delivery is neither good nor bad in my view, but was interesting and unexpected.

Arya Takes WaveTheory to School

Audiophile terminology. It’s annoying sometimes, right? One term I’ve struggled with for awhile is ‘texture.’ In the context of sound, it seems a strange term. Arya is the first headphone I’ve heard where the term starts to make sense, especially in the low frequencies. While Arya’s bass is lean and not particularly dynamic, it is detailed. The subtleties of the slightly higher pitched sounds that a finger plucking a bass guitar string makes, or that split-second where the impulse of that pluck travels along the string before the string’s natural frequencies create its tone, those are the kinds of things Arya pulled out and presented to me more than any other headphone I’ve heard before. Here’s the thing…I’ve heard those sounds, just not in headphones (or speakers for that matter). My dad picked up bass guitar when I was in high school. He practiced it quite a bit while I still lived at home. I’d often hear him play and even his cheap bass guitar amp would playback those finger-pluck or wave-impulse sounds. I’d often wonder why I didn’t hear them in the music I often listened to. I figured they just got lost in the mix or maybe his guitar was just weird. Now, two decades-plus later, Arya was showing me that those sounds were very much in the mix – and some of the same mixes I listened to back then like Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, or even System of a Down – and probably had been there all long. I just didn’t have gear that resolved them. Whatever the case, there is more overall tonal character to Arya’s bass that finally made ‘texture’ click for me. And it did more than that. Even though my other headphones could not resolve that texture as clearly as Arya, it showed me enough of an example of texture that I could pull out hints of it here and there in my other cans, at least the higher quality ones like my HexV2 and TH900 Lawton. For that alone, I’ll have a long-lasting appreciation for Arya.

Amp & DAC Pairings

As best I could I tried to pair Arya with amps that would rein in its treble somewhat. Amps made by Lake People – especially their Vioelectric line – don’t necessarily roll off the treble but they control it well and often make it less peaky and shimmery than many other amps. Arya benefitted from that to my ear. As I said above the Arya will glare in the high-end if the recording isn’t spectacular up top. The Lake People/Vio amps I have on hand did a good job of reducing, but not eliminating, that glare. The Lake People amps, again especially Vio, are also warmer and flesh out Arya’s lower mids and bass a little bit more. The Headamp GS-X Mini I currently have on loan also made the Arya sound its most detailed and tonally accurate, but was a bit sharper in the treble at times. Because of the load Arya presents, it also worked well with my Cayin HA-1AMK2 transformer-coupled tube amp. The sound was dryer and more detail-forward than the Lake People or Vio amps, dryer but not quite as detailed than the GS-X Mini, and appeared to roll off the treble a bit. The soundstaging was also a slightly flat, with a hint more wall-of-sound presentation than some of the other amps. It didn’t eliminate depth, but it didn’t show through as much as some of the other amps. The Monolith Liquid Platinum also has strong synergy with Arya. The MLP and large HiFiMans in general place nice together. The slight mid-forward presentation of the MLP brought out the mid timbre of the Arya a bit more. The sense of space with the MLP + Arya was also very good.

DACs had a less of an effect on Arya’s sound than amps, to my ear. The Schiit Bifrost 2 has a warmer sound which accentuated the warmth the G111 brought out but was a bit of overkill with the V200. The added warmth BF2 brought to the MLP and Cayin tube amps was also of benefit. The Ares II could make the Arya sound even more huge, as soundstaging is that DAC’s wheelhouse. It also could liven up the Arya’s mid-bass dynamics. However, the Ares doesn’t have as much heft in the deep low end and since Arya is already leaner there that could at times be a double-whammy and sound thin. The V200 balanced that out to large degree but not completely. The Soekris dac1321 makes the Arya a little more intimate in soundstaging and does a good job with detail retrieval, but also is a more analytical DAC which makes the brightness more of an issue at times. The Holo Audio Spring 2 DAC is on a whole ‘nother level and certainly made Arya’s detail and bass texture light up. I have very limited experience with DACs on that level and need more time to figure out what’s really going on there, though.

I briefly tried the Arya with my Schiit Modius + Asgard 3 stack, too. This stack is an amazing value at the roughly one-step-above-entry-level, and handled Arya reasonably well. The Arya’s detail retrieval wasn’t quite what it was with the amps and DACs above, and the imaging was not quite as well defined or separated. The treble was also rather sharp. The Asgard is slightly warmer and thicker than true neutral, but it also doesn’t handle treble quite as well as the more expensive amps above. So, the Arya got a little over-bright and sharp at times. Still, if you’re sitting with a Modius + Asgard stack and are ready to upgrade your heaphone game, the Schiits are still good enough to allow Arya to show you much of what it does well.

You Spin Me Right ‘Round Baby Right ‘Round

Unfortunately for me there is a catch, and a big one. If I try to listen to Arya for much more than an hour in one sitting I start getting something that feels much like motion sickness. If the material I listen to is brighter than average that time gets cut down, sometimes significantly. The first time I got dizzy while listening to Arya I thought it was just an aberration and I was probably hungry or had been staring at my computer screen too long without a break. However, the second time was about halfway through the album John Williams in Vienna. John Williams is one of the elite composers of our time, IMO, and Arya’s tuning, staging, and level of dynamics make it a fine piece to play music of Williams’ style. However, that album is recorded bright (but otherwise sounds fantastic, FWIW) and by about the 4th or 5th track my head was spinning. I took a break, felt better, and dove back in again. After another 3 or 4 tracks came the head-spinning once again. The next day I played about 90 minutes from my Spotify shuffle playlist that includes a lot rock, metal, and some pop, EDM, and hip-hop. Same thing. For whatever reason Arya’s delivery of the high frequencies doesn’t seem to agree with me long-term. This makes me sad because I otherwise really enjoy Arya. I’ve also had some conversations with other audiophiles who report similar issues with Arya. The amount of time it takes for them to develop headaches or dizziness varies, but there are a handful of people for whom this is an issue. I wish I knew what it was, because I do have other neutral-bright headphones (Beyer DT880) and v-shaped headphones (TH900) for which listening for extended periods is not an issue. Unfortunately, I simply couldn’t find a DAC + amp combo that would eliminate this issue either. Some combos just delayed it for a few more minutes. Just one of those things, I guess.

This dizziness is unfortunate and something I share as a word of caution. If you’re considering an Arya purchase, the dizziness/headache issue seems prevalent enough that you should make sure the seller has a good return policy. Or, if you buy used (Arya can occasionally be found under $1000), know that you might have an issue and need to flip it at a small loss. Fortunately, Arya is still a hot commodity right now and you should recoup most of your cost in reasonably short order.

COMPARISON WITH OTHER HEADPHONES

I’ve already compared the Arya to my HexV2 quite a bunch. To recap, Arya is neutral-bright in signature where HexV2 is warmer with a gentle U shape to its signature. Arya has bigger soundstage and slightly more accurate imaging, separation, and layering. HexV2 has more bass punch/slam and an overall more dynamic presentation. They both have excellent timbre, but Arya’s timbre is slightly better with most material. However, some male vocals sound more natural to me on HexV2 because of its less prominent treble. Arya also has much more defined bass texture where the HexV2 only hints at it. If I’m listening to classical or jazz, I generally prefer Arya’s presentation (when I’m not dizzy, that is). When I want to rock, it’s HexV2 hands down.

The other large planar I own is the Audeze LCD-2 (prefazor, rev 1). And while it’s been awhile since I’ve heard them, I’ve had extended time with the LCD-X ($1200) and the LCD-3 prefazor (fazor version currently $1995). The LCD-2 has a warmer and more relaxed sound. It also doesn’t have the Arya’s spatial chops. The approach is different. Arya’s job appears to be to present every part of the music that it can. The LCD-2 wraps you in a sonic hug and encourages you settle in the for long haul. The Arya is technically superior in just about every way save low-end dynamics, LCD-2 has more bass quantity and feels more intimate. However, the LCD-2 is also about $600 cheaper than Arya. From memory, the Arya has superior detail retrieval and spatial performance than either of LCD-X or LCD-3, and it still was able to introduce me to bass texture in a way that neither LCD model was able to. The LCDs were more dynamic, though, and the LCDs were more music-genre-agnostic than Arya. The LCD-3 sounded very good-to-excellent with just about any music genre. Arya is not as much of a generalist, seeming to prefer music that is acoustic, doesn’t emphasize bass, and doesn’t benefit from aggressive macrodynamics. Similarly, the LCD-X can also be a bit more of a generalist than Arya if Audeze’s Reveal EQ is utilized. However, using software-based EQ is often clunky and inconvenient. Still, on the types of music Arya is good at, it’s easily superior to either Audeze from my memory. The other advantage Arya has is that it’s still sold new. The LCD-X is still an in-production model, but the LCD-2 and -3 prefazor models have been defunct and must be found used.

I have a Fostex TH900 now with Lawton driver tune-up and purpleheart chambers. The cost new for all that lands somewhere in the $1.7-2k range. It’s a completely different experience. The Fostex brings just about all the bass punch/slam and overall physicality one could ask for. It’s very dynamic and lively. For rock, metal, EDM, pop, or hip-hop the Fostex is hands down more fun and engaging. However, it’s bass can be a bit overbearing on more acoustic genres and it doesn’t have that bass texture, or Arya’s overall level of detail retrieval. These two could be very good complements to each other in a collection, however.

Recently I also reviewed the ZMF Eikon which also lands right around $1500. Arya and Eikon have a fair amount of overlap in music genres that they seem to be geared toward. They both like acoustic music that isn’t particularly aggressive in the macrodynamics. However, Arya is the stronger performer for acoustic music that also benefits from sounding BIG – think symphonies and large orchestras. Arya’s overall detail retrieval also holds up better, particularly in the mids, when the music gets busy. Still, the Eikon’s timbre with intimate acoustic music is second-to-none and can create an emotional connection that Arya can’t quite match, IMO. I also think that Arya handles genres that are not in its wheelhouse a little better than Eikon handles genres outside of its wheelhouse. For example, I enjoyed rock and metal more with Arya than I remember enjoying them with Eikon, but I would say that neither headphone is best suited for those genres. And then there’s aesthetics. I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the Arya’s aesthetic is a bland form-follows-function type of thing where the Eikon has ZMF’s exquisite artistry and craftsmanship.

I haven’t heard the Focal Clear. However, Focal has a reputation for being very punchy and having high physicality. I think it’s safe to say the Clear would win out in this area and that Arya would likely sound bigger and grander. But I’m not comfortable saying any more without hearing the Clear for myself.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The HiFiMan Arya is an excellent performer that does a lot of things very well. It will make a lot of listeners very happy. It has class-leading spatial presentation that is HUGE. It has very good midrange and treble timbre. It has good bass extension and introduced me to the idea of bass texture. And it extracts a lot of detail from the music. It’s not overly dynamic but can still be engaging. On the other hand it also is bright and for me is bright in a way that can induce headaches or dizziness. That’s sad because I really like Arya for those things it does well. So sadly, I won’t be able to keep it. Still, if you can handle its treble presentation and listen to a lot of grand acoustic music, this headphone is a compelling performer.

Enjoy the music everyone!
  • Like
Reactions: CT007 and Delta9K
CT007
CT007
"the LCDs were more music-genre-agnostic than Arya". Maybe change agnostic to independent.
P
PhazeCrive
Is this the revision 2
WaveTheory
WaveTheory
Yes, V2 I believe. That's the one with black cloth over the driver, if I'm not mistaken.

SenyorC

Head-Fier
Hifiman Arya
Pros: - SQ
- Comfort
- Aesthetics
- Soundstage
- Detail
Cons: - Included Accessories
- Different presentation of Mids (not necessarily a con)
This review was originally posted on my blog and is available in Spanish (and English), with all my reviews, on Acho Reviews Blog and also in Spanish on Acho Reviews YouTube

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I am enjoying these current weeks as Hifiman has kindly loaned me both the Arya and the HE1000se for review. As always, I will be as impartial and sincere as possible but it is always good to consider that these headphones have not cost me anything to try out.


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Intro…

As I just said, Hifiman have sent me both the Arya and the HE1000se, which could both be considered steps up from my current reference (and favourite) headphone, the Hifiman Ananda.

In order to try and keep the reviews coherent, I will review each of them separately (with a few comparisons to the Ananda as my reference) and then compare them directly later, as I feel this is the best way to keep my opinions relevant and not stray too far from each model. If you would like to see my full review of the Ananda, so any comparisons are relevant, you can find my review here: Review - Hifiman Ananda

I am going to start with the Arya, which I feel is the next step up in the scale from the Ananda, at least on paper.

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Presentation…

The Arya arrives in a box that is almost identical to that of the Hifiman Sundara. Inside the box, the headphones are located in a silk covered cutout, with a separate compartment for the included accessories.

As far as accessories, there is not much included in the box, in fact, just a single cable terminated to 6.35mm. However, in my personal opinion, the included cable is better than the one included with the Ananda. Rather than the silicone tube style cable included with the lower priced option, we get a cloth covered alternative. It is still far from an amazing cable but, as I just said, is an improvement in my opinion.

This presentation is far from the luxurious box that the Anandas come packed in but at the end of the day, I am more interested in the headphones themselves than the packaging.

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Build quality and aesthetics…

At a simple glance, one could think that the Ananda and Arya are identical except for the black grilles rather than the silver ones that the Ananda has. However, the headband is different and allows for more adjustment, which allows for better comfort (not that I find the Ananda uncomfortable but the Arya is a step up).

Using a headband that is less rounded than the Ananda, the adjustment in height is of the comfort strap rather than the height of the band. While it is not quite as easily adjusted as the Ananda, although it is by no means difficult, once in position it does feel better on the head.

In addition to this, the Arya has swivel on the cups, something that the Ananda lacks, and this makes the headphones contour to the face better. Again, I do not find Ananda uncomfortable but I find Arya to be far more comfortable, in fact, it is extremely comfortable for me personally.

Aesthetics are obviously very similar, with minor changes to the shape of the headband and the black grilles. Personally I prefer the look of the Ananda but once they are on my head, I can’t see either of them.

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Sound…

Here is where things do start to show clear differences between the two headphones. First let me point out the differences between the two as far as impedance and sensitivity:

Ananda = 25Ω impedance and 103dB sensitivity.

Arya = 41Ω impedance and 91.2dB sensitivity.

Now, just with those two specs, we can already understand that the Arya is going to be harder to drive than the Ananda. To be honest, the Ananda is not a difficult headphone to drive, however, it does like ample voltage in order to drive it well. The Arya, while on paper should prove more difficult, it is not really that noticeable due to the fact that an amplifier that pairs well with the Ananda will also pair well with the Arya, as they both benefit from a decent amount of voltage and amplifiers that provide this will be more than enough as far as wattage, we will just need to increase the dial in order to get there.

Another thing to point out about power is that the Arya are headphones that make it very easy to keep increasing volume to levels way above my usual listening levels. There is a smoothness to the Arya that seems to hide the fact that volume levels are above those we are usually at. At first I thought it was just the fact that I was increasing the dial on the amp to compensate for the sensitivity but measuring volume levels, I found that I was often being way above matched volume with the Ananda.

While I usually use the JDS Labs Atom for comparisons, I have been doing the majority of my listening with these headphones using the Schiit Asgard 3 as I find that it works very well with the Hifiman Planars (and others, but that's for another day). In order to have relevant comparisons between the two, I found my usual listening level with the Ananda, marked it on the dial, then measured the Arya until I hit the same level, marking this on the dial also, making at least the listening levels the same.

As usual, I gave the Arya a quick listen when it first arrived, just to make sure it worked correctly (as I do with all products) and then I connected it to a secondary system and let it play for around 150 hours (obviously with regular breaks in between).

When I first put on the Arya (after the burn in period), I had been listening to the Ananda for quite a few hours. Usually I won’t make any A/B comparisons until after using the headphones for at least 5 days (you can read more about my procedures here: About my reviews) but my first impression was that the Arya was not quite as detailed and everything seemed further away. This was obviously before I did any volume matching but I mention it because, as I have used the Arya over the past week or so, my impressions of these headphones has changed quite a bit. I will get back to this in a moment but first let's look at the frequency groups as usual.

Sub-Bass

There is absolutely no roll-off in the sub-bass except for that caused by human hearing. Both on paper and in reality, the Arya draws a straight line all the way down to the lowest registers, below the human hearing threshold. There is also no lack of performance as the frequencies drop, with the lowest notes being just as detailed and clean as any other note throughout the range.

Now, this is by no means a bass-head headphone, it does not have any bass boost at all, it is just a clean representation of what goes in, comes out. If your preferred music is bass heavy, the result will be bass heavy and vice versa.

Bass

As with the sub-bass, the bass frequencies are linear, clear and detailed. They have great speed and definition, proving that it doesn’t matter what music you pump into them, they will just reproduce it without breaking into a sweat.

As a fun test, I recorded some bass loops, adding layer after layer. Some containing long lingering notes, other short and staccato, some highly boosted, some rolled off, basically a mismatch of bass sounds that only a bassist could enjoy. I can say that the Arya comfortably dealt with all of them and no matter how many layers I added, the previous layers were still easily identified. In fact, it was even easy to differentiate the bass guitars used, meaning I could identify each bass guitar even after I had forgotten which bass I used for which layer.

Obviously, if they respond well to my mediocre and exaggerated bass playing, there is no need to point out how well they do with bass played by real bassists. It really is joyful to experience bass lines from the likes of Pino Palladino, Victor Wooten, Stanley Clarke, amongst many others. The Arya allows you to appreciate their nuances and details that are many times lost behind other instruments.

Mids

The transition from the bass to the lower mids is very clean and precise, as is to be expected from a Hifiman planar headphone. Everything is clear and detailed all the way through the mids making them a very pleasurable headphone to listen to. I did find that vocal roots took a bit of step forwards in presence in comparison to their overtones. I am not saying that lower notes were any way louder or boosted, just that usually I find the higher frequencies of vocals are slightly more forward than their roots, which is not the case with the Arya.

For example, vocals like Crooked Still in “Little Sadie”, when listening to the song on the Ananda, the higher regions of her voice stand out more than on the Arya. The Arya shows no lack of presence to her vocals, just seems to emphasise the lower regions, making her voice come across a little richer and smoother.

However it is not just vocals that give this impression, electric guitars and other similar instruments have the same kind of presence to them as the vocals, the guitar in “Crazy” by Daniela Andrade has a wonderful smoothness to it. In fact, when listening to just the guitar on its own, you would think that these are warm and relaxed headphones, however, when her voice comes in, you immediately realize how clear and detailed these are, just with a smoothness to them.

Highs

In the higher regions is where I get a little lost with the Arya. In general the highs seem to be more subdued than on the Ananda, although only slightly. At the same time, while the Ananda gives me a sense of being brighter up top, there are certain notes that sound a little harsh on the Arya whereas on the Ananda they don’t stand out. For example, with my usual sibilance test, “Code Cool” by Patricia Barber, I get the feeling that the overall song is smoother than on the Ananda but certain “S” moments suddenly sound harsh. It is not all of them, it is only on occasions and is difficult to explain. There is no clear excess of sibilance on the Arya, just that the Ananda seems to be brighter yet somehow smoother.

Detail and speed & Soundstage and imaging

Usually I would discuss these separately, however, in the case of the Arya, these are closely tied together, as the sense of detail is widely affected by the soundstage.

Let me try to explain…

When first putting the Arya on, or putting them on after using the Ananda, the first impression is that there is less detail, that everything is just not quite there. That impression is far from the truth. In the case of the Ananda, which is a very detailed headphone with a decent soundstage (I actually thought it was a great soundstage until I spent time with the Arya), all of the details are upfront, they are presented to you in a way that is impossible to ignore. Even when I am listening to the Ananda while doing other things, in other words as BGM, I still hear every detail.

In the case of the Arya, it still has excellent detail but those details are distributed better. There is better separation and image placement, not just left to right but also front to back, meaning that those secondary details, such as subtle echos or background details, are located in a way that they are not immediately obvious unless you are actually listening (i.e: paying attention) to the Arya. When using the Arya while doing other things, they are a much more relaxed listen than the Ananda, but as soon as you pay attention to them, you are immersed in a world of detail.

DSC_3699.JPG


Conclusion…

It is easy to say that the Arya are an excellent set of headphones. Their speed, detail, tuning, aesthetics, basically everything about them are things that I like.

Now, in comparison to the Ananda (which I said in the review that I didn’t need to look for anything superior), they are better in some aspects and not in others. Actually, better is not the word, let's say preference, they are more to my preference in some areas and in others not as much.

Rather than list my preferences now, to maybe later change them very soon, I will wait until I have reviewed the HE1000se, which is my next headphone on the list and I am very much looking forward to it. Once I have spent time with those, I will do a brief comparison of the three.

For now, let’s just say that I have absolutely no complaints about the Arya!

Last edited:
CT007
CT007
And is the JDS ATOM good enough for them, from a 2V DAC?

Flextreme

100+ Head-Fier
Arya's are better than many Arya owners realize...
Pros: The Arya truly has amazing potential, but it needs to be unlocked.
The massive 3D soundstage in all dimensions is unique (for headphones) and well suited for speaker audiophiles.
Well balanced and above average in all aspects of sound quality and comfort.
Scales better than most headphones with improvements in high current amplification.
Tweaking and tuning such as cables make unusual audible difference.
Responds extremely well to EQ: moderate changes up to +/-4.5 db will not diminish Arya's other qualities
With the right amp and EQ, Arya grows 'balls' and almost rival TOTL Focal's pace/speed and Audize's bass/grunt.
Cons: The Arya truly has amazing potential, but it needs to be unlocked.
Burn-in is real, takes 150 minimum hours and really needed.
Build Quality.
It does not have Susvara/Abyss resolution/delicacy.
5 khz peak: however rev 2, long term burn-in, and amplification make a big difference.
More addictive than Walter White’s crystal meth.
.

If you are interested in this review: my purpose is to show how you can maximize Arya’s potential without spending ridiculous amount of money. There are many interesting learnings, and with some effort Arya’s can become breathtakingly beautiful musical sensory overload meditation machines that are more addictive than Walter White’s crystal meth.

This is my current audiophile heaven: the Hifiman Arya powered by the Topping A90 amp and the Topping D90 DAC. The Arya is amazing, but it really came to life for me with the Topping A90 amp. In addition, I learned a lot of tweaks and tuning that made a substantial difference. Arya's resolving abilities and unusually large soundstage will highlight changes more than any headphones I have owned before: i.e. HD598, AK701, Oppo PM3, Shure SE846, Hifiman Edition x v2, BeyerDynamic T51p.

I'm updating this review continuously: you will find I change my opinion after I gained new insights: for example on the topic over oversampling and USB.

This is a highly subjective, but honest description if what I learned so far, and I truly believe this combination is something special and one of the best audiophile destinations you can choose. Enough fluff, so what have I learned?

First! Most Arya reviews (which are based on revision 1) are on point and worth your time. However, this is the second revision that fixes the peak at 5khz somewhat, keep that in mind.
It is recommended to read/google Arya reviews. Not just here, but also the youtube reviews of Headphones.com, Joshua Valour, Max Settings and Soundnews are worth your time. I will try to not repeat the same information, the other reviews are also way better than me in this :).

The 5Khz peak is real, but smoothened out in the latest revision by Hifiman. Also, extensive burn-in makes a significant improvement in this regard, more on this in the burn-in section. Aryas age like wine: not by catching dust however, only actual usage will improve them.

In addition, amplification improvement do smoothen out Arya's 5khz even further. The perceived harshness is almost gone once I got the Topping A90 amp. Optionally, a moderate -1 or -2 db around 4-5 Khz will 100% remedy any harshness for the even most sensitive listeners or very bright recordings.

IMHO, some reviews do not emphasize the greater than usual impact of amplification on Aryas enough imho...

More than other headphones: the Arya’s thrive on quality amplification and power potential, and scale extremely well with improvements in amplification:
For instance, before the Topping A90 my Arya was powered by the lovely and energetic SMSL SP200 and a high-power Kann Cube DAP by Astell & Kern. The SP200 is known to be a fun and relatively cheap powerhouse for the Arya’s. The powerful Kann Cube also does a great job, but still the move to the A90 was an unexpected improvement.

Expect the Arya to sound great on most high power dedicated headphone amps, but it will scale and respond very well to amplification improvements. My other headphones did sound better on the A90, but did not transform like the Arya’s did. Switching to the A90 really improved the Arya’s on all fronts, from detail and resolution, to bass and treble extension, more dynamics, more speed, more pace, more texture, more warmth, less harsh, clearly bigger soundstage, and quite dramatically more convincing holographic imaging. On head-fi forums you will find many Arya owners that made the same upgrade from the SMSL SP200 to the Topping A90, and every single one of them is pleasantly surprised.

If you already have a good amp like the excellent THX amps currently available: I still recommend giving the Topping A90’s a try: especially when you can return them if you are not satisfied. I am curious to your findings! I have only experience with the SP200. Some people find the A90 similar to the THX amps, an example of this you will find in this review: but… they were not using an Arya.

The higher the gain, the higher the power potential of the amp, Arya's sub bass, punch, slam, and speed will increase. When headphone lovers comment on the Arya that it sound enigmatic or even boring, it is probably amplification lacking juice or power potential. For example, any amp that delivers 1 watt at 35 ohm, will drive an Arya more than loud enough. However, amps that can deliver 6 watts, will can sound punchier, faster and very probably will improve bass impact and definition.

Important, on the A90 the Arya really likes to be run through balanced cables: it has twice the power than single ended. It really makes a difference. By running the A90 in high gain, the Arya becomes more dynamic and clearly less polite as typically people experience.

March 2021 Update: Last year when the A90 was released, it was one of the best amps out there. It technically still is, but it now has excellent competition, especially with Class A power, which can be a bit more musical: great examples are the Schiit Audio Jotunheim 2, Singxer SA-1, the FA-10 from Flux Audio or even Burson Soloist 3X performance. Like the A90, I must recommend you to check out these amps. (Disclaimer: even though I never heard them, I know how nice Class A amps can sound and I do trust the positive feedback on these amps here on head-fi.com)

The Arya is attractive for speaker audiophiles: the single most important and unique Arya characteristic is its 3D soundstage and tangible sub-bass.
Especially when you are used to an audiophile stereo speaker presentation, Arya’s soundstage scale, 3D imaging, and sub-bass are deeply satisfying IMHO.

I have auditioned many high-end and end-game headphones, including Heddphone, Susvara, and the Abyss and Focal line up. So far no other headphone stages like the Arya. Some high-end headphones have more width, some have depth, some have width and depth… but only the Arya has as much height. The result and an extremely large, perfectly organized, deep, layered, truly 3D holographic presentation that reminds me of the most expensive audiophile stereo and studio monitor set-ups. Let me be clear, Arya’s are headphones, they cannot replace speakers: but it does remind me of the 3D presentation and relative scale of high-end speaker setups. The bottom frequency extension that you almost can feel in your whole body (with the right amp and EQ) is the literal foundation in the 3D stage I have not yet heard with other headphones.

Coming from high-end speakers (Harbeths powered by Naim), it is nice not to worry about room acoustics: headphones offer an massive improvement over speakers in this regard: as no speaker set-up in the world has a perfect room response. Even with super high-end near field monitors like the Genelec 8351 in my treated (semi professional) music production studio, Arya surpass them easily when it comes to total information. Of course the 8351 soundstage is on of the the best I have ever heard near field: still Arya's I find more engaging and revealing. Note: I tried crossfeed with Roon, but the impact on SQ is bad overall and Arya loses its magic. I never ever thought I would prefer headphones over speakers for critical and both immersive listening: but now I do.

Please note: some of you will not like a soundstage this large, a smaller stage is easier to 'digest'. I allow myself to drown in it, the sense of scale and space leaves so much room for music and individual instruments to flow. I love it to bits, but for some it will be too much!

The Arya is far above average in all aspects of sound quality. They do not have a massive negative or problem like comfort.
Apart from Arya 3D soundstage, other high-end headphones easily surpass Arya on specific audiophile qualities, but comfort, resolution, timbre, extension, speed, staging, imaging, tonal balance and relative price seem extremely well balanced. IMO the biggest con is build quality, my cable connector on the right headphone cuts out when I push/pull it, but luckily I have zero problems while listening.

Because I have a big head (XXL), I bended ever-so-slightly the top metal band, to reduce the clamping force: now I can wear the Arya for hours without any fatigue. After trying Audize: I realized SQ means nothing without comfort. Luckily the Arya is comfortable enough: I do wish the pads were just a bit more plush/soft.

With quality EQ and amplification the Arya will rival/come close to TOTL Focal and Audeze headphones in the dynamics, punch, pace and speed and (sub)bass department.
TBH, I never was a fan of EQ and always had a strong preference for a bit-perfect configuration.

NO ROON?! Go to https://www.reddit.com/r/oratory1990/wiki/index/faq if you are not using Roon, from this page: "For Windows there’s nice suitable freeware in the form of EQ APO and Peace GUI. Here’s a tutorial on how to install & use EQ APO / Peace GUI."

With Roon I clearly experienced soundstage and detail reduction when I used EQ, so it always was a necessary evil, especially with my SP200 amp. However, I did not allow Roon's 'Sample Rate conversion', as a result the sound was EQed at 44.1 khz.

Since I started using Sample Rate conversion, which (even without EQ) I prefer over bit perfect on the Topping D90 DAC! Never ever thought I would prefer upsampling, but with Roon EQ I clearly do, it is well implemented. I still prefer bit-perfect music without EQ and oversampling. But when EQ is applied, I consider the oversampling setting below sound better to my ears, and the difference is negligible. I was using an faulty USB cable that was 'fixed' the signal by my iFI purifier 3. After changing it to an audioquest Carbon USB, I realised what massive impact the USB connection has on sound quality and my preferences for oversampling.

Sample Rate conversion improves EQ quality in Roon: the upsampled signal is EQ-ed by Roon and is more precise: now the EQ is almost 100% transparent and has almost no/zero audible negative impact on the signal: detail and soundstage are close to identical to bit-perfect, especially with 44.1/16bit music, which is 99% of the music I listen. Admittedly, with High-res MQA music I technically prefer the bit-perfect signal as it offers more resolution.

Currently, I prefer these Roon DSP settings:
  • -3.3 db headroom correction, clipping indicator enabled
  • Sample rate conversion: Max PMC Rate (power of 2) = On the D90 this will result in 705.6khz for 44.1 music. After extensive experimentation, I must conclude I now prefer custom settings for 44.1 and 48 khz: it seems to have slightly higher resolution and better depth than Max PMC Rate (power of 2). This setting does NOT upsample the music, but still we need Sample rate conversion enabled.
    Screenshot 2020-12-22 144221.png
  • Sample rate conversion filter: precise, linear phase
    Screenshot 2020-12-22 144452.png

    To my ears, I consistently prefer Sample rate conversion enabled when you EQ, as long this filter is set to precise, linear phase. It seems this filter reduces the negative impact on SQ by EQ
A -3.3 db headroom correction needed to ensure the EQ below does not clip the signal. Whatever EQ you use, add at least -0.3db in headroom to the highest gain.

Important note: please do you own experimentation with these settings and trust your own preferences. I can easily imagine other DACs responds different to these settings. Also, I listen 99% to 44.1/16 flac via Tidal, it is very well possible you prefer other sample rate conversion settings because you mostly listen to other formats. When you are overwhelmed or can't hear differences at first, try again later. The longer you own the Arya, it will become easier to hear small differences.

If your DAC supports MQA: disable hardware MQA capabilities in the Device Setup of Roon. This prevents the EQ-ed sound to be downsampled back to lower rates. On my D90, MQA music is still perfectly rendered on a hardware level, which is great when a bit perfect configuration is used for specific music.

If you are interested in the technicalities of Roon Sample Rate conversion: read this excellent analysis http://archimago.blogspot.com/2019/04/measurements-roon-16-upsampling-digital.html.

Currently I prefer these Parametric EQ settings:
  • +3db bass Shelf at 95hz, Q: 0.64
  • +2.5db Peak EQ at 2000hz, Q: 2
  • -0.7db Dip EQ at 2700, Q: 3.2
  • -0.7db Dip EQ at 4300, Q: 7
  • -0.7db Dip EQ at 4900, Q: 7
My EQ preferences are based on the suggestions and measurements by Oratory1990 on reddit.com. His EQ suggestions are more extreme than mine, I prefer to tweak the Arya main SQ character without fundamentally changing it.

Screenshot 2020-12-22 150806.png


Main reason I do like this EQ, it gives the Arya more punch, more energy and PraT so rhythmic music has more pace: without EQ the Arya has energy but is more polite/analytical/romantic. This EQ gives the Arya balls and pace so to speak. This EQ will not make Beats out of Aryas. This EQ brings them close the the Harman Curve, which is considered the ideal middle ground frequency curve. Note: A 3-5db bass shelf fine for electronic music, but +2db is maybe recommended for classical/jazz: experiment to find your preference...

I you really like to push the Arya's in the bass department, try a +5db bass shelf (and do not forget to set -5.3db headroom). Especially with the A90, it is amazing to see how little such an hefty EQ shelf interferes/bleeds into the mids and other Arya qualities. I'm sure other headphones are the same, but none of my other headphones respond this well: the Arya is a true EQ chameleon.

The extra sub-bass does increase the soundstage. With moderate EQ Arya's do not congest, other headphones can more easily. This means you will not loose any of Arya original qualities, especially you use Roon's upsampling first before EQ. I never ever liked upsampling but with Roon's Sample Rate conversion it genuinely is an improvement and essential when using EQ. I can imagine younger/better ears prefer to add -1 or -2db EQ around 5000 and 8000 hz, because these are well known Arya peaks. But for older ears like mine that extra energy in the treble is appreciated. :) Sometime I use this additional EQ in bright recordings, but typically I do not.

Your EQ preferences will be different than mine, so always experiment and tune the Arya to your own taste.

With EQ and top notch amplification: (sub-)bass becomes visceral/physical.
The weird thing is that the bass resonates through my body, I can feel it in my toes: almost like if you feel the bass resonate through the floor. I simply do not miss the feeling of a physical speakers and/or sub. The bass is supremely tight, textured, detailed and punchy, never bloated, even with +3.5db EQ shelf. Probably this is personal, some of you will not experience this the way I do, but it does add to Arya's magic.

The Arya respond well to tweaking and tuning. For instance, changes in cabling and the effect of filters are remarkably audible.
Some cable/interconnect upgrades made way more impact than I could ever imagine. This was quite surprising to me, but the Arya/A90/D90 combinations is indeed super resolving. I did a couple of adventurous aliexpress purchases. Expecting nothing, VFM proved to be fantastic for XLR and power cables, but not for USB:

My GUcraftsman balanced Cable is to my ears absolutely perfect: it sounded better than my 260 euro cable from Portentoaudio. Tighter bass and more resolution in the mids and treble, faster transients, less glare.This cable is well made, neutral, not bright or warm, but it surely sounds sweet in only good but subtle ways.

Less subtle was the Fake Odin XLR between my D90 and A90. I switched from a studio quality XLR: subjectively the change was big! A considerable improvement in imaging, soundstage, tonal richness and detail was visible: subjectively it felt like the D90 came "alive".

The same can be said for the fake Accuphase Power cable I tried, especially on the A90 amp the difference was similar to the XLR cable upgrade.

Lastly I use the IFI USB purifier 3 connected to the D90 DAC: it does seem to increase the soundstage.

I also upgraded my USB cable to a fake Odin, but to be honest, I could not hear a difference. Probably the IFI USB purifier 3 nullifies USB cable improvements.


Edit: do not buy the fake Odin USB cable, it introduced horrible static noise, but the IFI purifier 3 fixed this without me noticing. Months later I found out by accident that this cable had real issues. The XLR of the same company mentioned above is highly recommended however.

But, I am blown away how big the difference in SQ is by the IFI USB purifier 3! Transients, details and soundstage clearly improved. I double checked to be sure, because I had issues with the fake Odin USB cable. Frankly, I surprised again by the positive difference of the IFI purifier 3. The IFI USB Ipurifier3 worked wonders in my set-up, but after using the AQ carbon USB cable, I prefer my set-up without the iPurifier3:

I bought an Audioquest Carbon USB as an experiment, and even with the Purifier 3, a significant improvement over stock USB was there. Strikingly richer timbre of notes and much easier to follow microdetails, the difference was better than expected. I was always in the "bit are bits department" (being an IT guy), but after seeing this USB cable review, I gave it a shot.


Quite interesting, especially with the Arya and A90/D90 combo, which is so resolving, the USB chain proves to have a bigger impact than expected. I think many will be surprised by the positive impact improving the USB chain can make when they experience this for the first time (like me), especially with audiophile gear like the Arya.

Cable and filter tweaks can be controversial, but I have to say that the compound effect is not subtle anymore, they really take the Arya to the next level: most notably the increase in soundstage and tonal richness is completely worth the modest investments. I can imagine subtle tweaks like this do not have the same effect on SQ with less resolving headphones.

The Arya age like wine: the recommended 150 hour burn in time is real.
For some burn in is controversial, but for me, with the Arya it is very real. In the initial hours you can hear the Arya opening up: producing music seems effortlessly with time.

Within the first 10 hours I had a crazy experience: when the Arya was warm, because of wearing, I could hear the tiniest crackles in the right earpiece: without it being connected to an amp!!! I thought I went crazy, maybe this was some electromagnetic interference. Even without the headphone cable, my girlfriend could hear it too.

I went to my Hifiman dealer, he never heard this phenomenon before, and asked the national Hifiman distributor. He suggested the film on the diaphragm needed time to settle. Luckily after 10 hours it went away. It never interfered with music, but some spooky crackling without any signal was mystifying to say the least.

More importantly, in the early hours the Arya were very bright and even sometimes harsh with certain recordings. Even after 100 hours this was very noticeable. I sort of avoided recordings like that. Then much later, way beyond the recommended 150 hour mark recommended by hifiman, I realized the treble peaks were considerably less harsh.

Even after 200-300 I think I could make a difference even further, by playing pink noise close to painfully loud listening levels. Playing the "Pink Noise for Headphones/Speakers Burn-in" by Byld on Tidal randomized over a couple of nights, did seem to further improve the Arya. I'm fully aware this could be psychoacoustics at work, and wishful thinking on my end. But you can try, and as long you are careful with not overdriving your Arya, it cannot hurt. Let me know when you have tried it without success and that I am an idiot. :wink:

Arya like to be played loud(-er).
I found the Arya do like to be played at medium and louder volume levels. Somehow only 0.5 db in volume increase can make a great difference in detail and dynamics. Maybe it is my ears, maybe it is the amp, but there is a noticeable threshold for me.

The Arya is not a Susvara.
The one aspect the Susvara destroys the Arya is in the detail/resolution department: the Susvara is significantly more delicate and rich in information once you hear and notice this, you will long for it. Especially in the higher mids and treble range, that Arya is good but not great or even amazing. Conclusion: do not listen to TOTL headphones until you are ready to upgrade :smile:

But honestly, 99,9% of my time with the Arya I am amazed on all levels and completely enjoying the music way more than I ever was with my expensive stereo in the living room. There I was always missing something, fixing something or tweaking and upgrading (room acoustics were always interfering). As an audiophile you long for more, but never before I can allow myself to drown in the music this easily, and not worry about technicalities and constant the urge to tinker.

This Arya/Topping combination is extremely seductive/addictive: do not let it ruin your (social) life and relationships.
This is actually a problem for me, I easily get lost in the music: my Arya set-up is deeply seductive and addictive. I am constantly blown away by Arya musical en technical capabilities. This is something that did not wane, even after 1000 hours of listening I get goosebumps. Everytime I do need to make a very conscious decision to stop the music and focus on other, often way more important things in life (or just go to bed finally....).

Conclusion.
The Arya is better than many would suspect at first glance or even ownership. The Arya truly has amazing potential, but it needs to be unlocked. The right amplification, source, cables, EQ, burn-in, and cable tweaking really take the Arya to a phenomenal level and Arya can compete with other high-end headphones on all levels. Arya's are not cheap, but you do not need to spend silly money to reach true audio nirvana with them. The Topping A90 amp, together with the D90 DAC are without doubt amazing dynamic partners for the Arya.

Other great amps are the recent Schiit Audio Jotunheim 2, Singxer SA-1, the FA-10 from Flux Audio or even Burson Soloist 3X performance. Like the A90, I must recommend you to check out these amps ,your Arya deserves it.

While I really, really like the D90 DAC, I don't love it to death. As an example, I have tried the Musician Pegasus DAC: I must say I now finally understand R2R dac hype. The Pegasus was a true eye opener: bigger soundstage and what people like about an analogue sounding dac. However, it sounded a little enigmatic and was -4.5db lower volume on the A90 than my other dacs, the Pegasus output impedance was way to high for my Topping Amp.

Always looking for an opportunity to upgrade, I must say now this is quite a challenge, as I probably have to bring serious cash to experience a meaningful step forward in audiophile land.

I'm in no rush however, because only minutes ago, I was blown away again, for the thousands time, by this funky little dopamine machine combination...

This is my first and probably only review here on head fi. I look forward to your feedback and criticism, I am always learning.

Cheers

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stu32
stu32
Thanks for the review mate, I just got my Arya's, and am researching and debating how to power them. Got my mind set on either the a90/d90 stack or a90 + rme adi 2. Do you think the adi 2 + a90 will be better than the a90/d90? And what was the final cable that you went with for your Aryas?
domiji
domiji
Thank you very much for your review. I think my Aryas sound wonderful with your EQ settings and unlocked there full potential :)
H
Harisankar
"Arya is not Beats". Seriously!! Do you really want them to be? 😂😂

Other than that, great review👍

Fegefeuer

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: makes you get up and going, no analytical dryness or mushy softness, balances great technicalities with toe tapping, singing character, great micro- and macrodynamics, very expressive definition of details and textures,
exceptional soundstage depth and spaciousness, seamless transition for objects to come out of space and disappear, excellent extension to both sides, "fast" in the context of not blurring hails of transients/objects, lines, instruments
Cons: expensive, built a bit creaky, accessoires for its price really lacking, only 1 rather short cable and SE only too, 5khz peak reallly unnecessary for its price range
I upgraded from the Ananda to the Arya and didn't expect it to be this much better. See my Ananda review about its qualities and shortcomings.

Anyway, here are my impressions and comparison to the reference point: the Ananda, a bit of the HE-6 and HD 800 thrown in, but not a lot to keep this short and readable.

1) A few things we gotta let go (again):

even the Arya doesn't do hard "tactile" transients and slam like the HE-6 (I own the OG version, blu tacked, reshelled etc.). However not even the Susvara does (it's very close while doing everything better) so I didn't expect the Arya to match it.

Yes, there's a softness in the context of taking the OG HE-6 (Blu Tacked, reshelled) as a reference point but it's no biggie at all imo. It's not limpish, weak or doesn't know how to get up and get going. Not at all by far.

2) dissapointments:

a) there's a slight creakiness in the build. Dissapointing but I just hope now it stays fixed and doesn't break over itself. All I require for now.

I didn't have any problems with the Ananda's lack of swivel so I can't comment how superior this here is. Not now at least. It's as comfortable and dissapears on my LARGE HEAD.

b) cable. Only 1 short cable and it's SE only. Luckily I have a FAW Noir Hybrid HPC lyring around. This is unacceptable at this price point. There should be 2 cables with at least 2m. Come on Hifiman, follow your sound qualities.

b) the treble peak that is often talked about in the 5k area is legit, there's no way around it. No potential showstopper like the HD 800 can be for quite a few but still not really far from it. I can live with it like I can with the HD800's peak but in 2019 I would have loved to have a bit more even treble for a high end headphone.
This kind of accentuation shouldn't exist anymore in such a big price bracket. The Arya is exciting as it is, no need for that "trait". Again, no showstopper but not all that glitters is gold, right?

BASIC SOUND CHARACTER:

The Arya is fairly neutral with excellent extension to both sides. There's the already mentioned peak at 5khz which is not very broad but noticable and it's the only real dissapointment in regards to sound qualities. Further up, way over 8khz there's another peak which doesn't bother me though (like for instance on my HE-6) and probably won't bother 99% of those interested in this headphone.

detail and texture:

Arya delivers tons of (micro)detail and texture like a true TOTL. It doesn't reveal all the tiniest shades of greyness in the dark like the HD 800 can and does not deliver it as on point when attacking (transients are less tactile and sharp as the HD 800) but it trades all the ultrafinest nuances, dirty greyness and transitions for more wetness, smoothness and euphony. A very welcoming approach.

Where the Ananda shows detail and texture in a polished, kinda bleached "laser cut" way the Arya shows the micro imperfections of that cut, the finer details of that texture. The contours of the Ananda are cut, there's a harder transition to the background if you get what I mean.

The Arya is seamless here in comparison. It's more natural. A star's glow fades more gradually into the dark ( how many times did I say dark by now?). The Ananda stops and cuts off to the background. The contrast is emphasized, the Arya sits back and reveals more and is relaxed about it, more effortless. Simply technical superiority.

Bass:

Ananda is tight and controlled with its usual strict character. Arya shows more muscle and flexibility down low (no pun intended), the bass dynamics are simply superior. Bass can come out of the depth and explode, you can reach for it. It's not shocking or "jump scary" like the HE-6 on a F5 Turbo but the Arya makes up for it in detail and definition. When a bass plays out and fades off the Arya delivers everything until the noise floor in your environment takes over, there's no cutoff. It's really outstanding. When a bass drum kicks in there are more frequencies coming into play than just lower octaves. Some can go high as 4khz+. The Arya does not fail to deliver all this while mainting the corpus of the drum and let it play out into the void.

Mids:

Mids are less dry than both the HD 800 and the Ananda. The HD 800 shows a slight dip around the upper mids, the Arya is supposedly dipped at 2k which I am glad for as it lacks any form of shoutyness.
Vocals are clear, engaging, very well defined but they do not attain the magic of the HD 650 (and especially its reference like transition) and the dreamy mids of HE-500.

Treble:

As mentioned above, there's this 5khz peak that probably is intended to excite the listener and add more liveliness. Not sure what else. It's unncessary imo as the Arya is already strong in dynamics, engagement and excitement, noticably over the Ananda. This feels overdone imo and should not exist in such an expensive headphone. Mids to Treble transition should be done in a way like the HD 650 does it and then also extend like it currently does with a more smoother progress on its way to the most upper octavesl, eliminating peaks on its way.

Still: From all the peaks, only the 5khz really stands out. I feel the treble is very well done, very articulate with gobs of detail thrown at you but ultimately ending like the HD 800. I feel the HD 650 does this part smoother, yet lacks a bit of excitement and bite though.



The staging and imaging:

The soundstage of the Arya is unleashed now, it feels borderless, the strictness about it that the Ananda had is gone (read my impression on its Head-Fi page). The Ananda has very good spacing and defines space pretty accurate. Still a rare feat in its class. Only a (used) HD800 does this better (well, it does this best of all headphones imo) in its price range, also OG T1 might be able to compete with the Ananda but fall short in other aspects

The Arya lets loose the boundaries of space that the Ananda puts on (to maintain full control at all time) and now objects can come in out and out of the dark space with a seemless transition. And the Arya needs it. It needs both this trait and the larger overall image and depth it is able to create around your head.

It needs that space to show off its explosiveness, the superior dynamics compared to the Ananda. The breathability lets objects flourish and "prosper" (excuse the gibberish), almost like getting served on a platter to appetize you.

Prosper means you're able to make out the finer nuances in volume, decay, reverb and how these objects (voices, instruments, noises, fly by sounds) are drawn. No matter how fast. It's amazing. The Ananda lacks both the definition and the expression, it lacks the dynamics to explode like the Arya, both in the tiny objects and for the big picture. Micro and macro dynamisms are a huge jump.

What the Ananda also lacks in comparison is not only the constricted (yet big and remarkable) space but also depth. This is a very important aspect that the Arya "builds upon". The Arya projects depth far far better than the Ananda could ever wish for. Money no-object, this trait only is worth the upgrade.

I'm a soundstage nut and while I like most aspects about my HD 650 a headphone needs to have large space, depth and sharp imaging/placement, trailing etc. to get plenty of time from me..

The Arya now joins the HD 800 on the throne of soundstage nuttery. Comparing both the HD 800 still has the upperhand in imaging sharpness and tracing of objects but the Arya makes up for it by being more fleshed out, less dry overall and having superior extension below and imaging noticably taller.

Sure, most of the Arya's counterbalance here is more on the tonality side but if you're weighing out both headphones these aspects are important to mention.




Overall

The Arya is highly recommended from a sound/tonality perspective and while the peak is a bit unfortunate the overall traits fairly surpass that flaw.

Setup: Lynx AES -> Bifrost 2 -> Niimbus US4X -> Arya (balanced FAW Noir HPC)
sennfan83261
sennfan83261
Are you me? Your experience with the Arya vis-a-vis the Ananda mirrors that of mine. The Ananda's relative lack of soundstage depth was the biggest turn-off for me. It made everything sound flat and compressed. Furthermore, I felt that the Ananda's shallow soundstage knee-capped its layering capabilities, or its lack thereof, relative to the Arya.

Dobrescu George

Reviewer: AudiophileHeaven
Pros: + Soundstage depth and imaging
+ Comfort, really one of the most comfy headphones out there
+ Overall detail revealing abilities and clarity
+ Easy to drive compared to He6SE
+ Excelent overall desktop listening experience
+ Price for their performance is just excellent
Cons: - Hard to drive compared to typical portables
- Not portable, and no carrying case, not the most all-inclusive package
- Design is cool, but for some may be uninteresting
Light Sound Rulez - HIFIMAN Arya Review



HIFIMAN Arya is a flagship headphone from HIFIMAN, a headphone with a unique signature that will literally blow your mind, but in a very specific way. It has a pretty good price point of 1600 USD, and its main competitors will be HIFIMAN HE6SE, Kennerton Thror, and Crosszone CZ-1 Headphones. All of them are amazing, so the battle will be fierce.




Introduction

HIFIMAN is quite a well-known name within the audiophile industry, and all who heard a product from them are probably still in love with their sound, as they are some of the best at designing a likeable sound, although if you've had some of their products in their early days, you may be wondering how is the build quality nowadays. I think I had quite a fair share of Hifiman products in my hands to date, and if you check out my review on HIFIMAN Sundara, and other headphones from them, you'll know that they are not only reliable, but the samples I've had were pretty much indestructible. This being said, I had the chance to have a friend who had issues with a headphone from HIFIMAN, and the replacement process was quick, easy and my friend told me that he is not only ready, but planning to order again from them. The replacement process nowadays, at least for Europe basically includes you sending the product back to HIFIMAN, and in Europe, you're supposed to send their product to France, and not China, then they send you a replacement. It is not only easy, but also quick and with the sound and price points of their products relative to their competitors, it is one of the companies I feel the safest to recommend, especially to both beginners and those who want a hassle-free experience, but also to veterans, looking for a specific product with a specific sound, like the masterfully designed Arya we'll be looking at today.

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with HIFIMAN, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. I'd like to thank HIFIMAN for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with HIFIMAN Arya. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in HIFIMAN Arya find their next music companion.




About me


https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/about.html



Packaging


First things first, let's get the packaging out of the way:









As muchas I love the price relative to performance and the sound of HIFIMAN Products, their packaging is usually spartan, and after I'll be posting my written review about Thror, which was packaged in a wooden box, you'll understand why I say that HIFIMAN goes very light on their box. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as a lighter package means that a larger portion of the budget was invested in the product instead, and you'll be having a better overall product, at the price of a less expressive unboxing experience.

Now, with Arya, you get a cardboard box, with the headphones, and a cable, both seated in a foam cutout covered in a satin fabric, so a lavish presentation, but a pretty basic package. I don't think I would have needed anything else, given the purpose of Arya, which is clearly a desktop headphone, but spare earpads, and a spare cable would probably have been nice. This being said, if you'll want to upgrade the cable to an aftermarket, you can be happy that you're not paying for cables you're not going to use.




What to look in when purchasing a high-end Headphone


https://audiophile-heaven.blogspot.ro/p/what-to-lookl.html



Build Quality/Aesthetics/Fit/Comfort

Starting with the build quality, Arya may seem a touch light, weighting in just 404 grams and to be honest, it if you're coming from a wooden or a typical flagship, they are rather light. It isn't a sturdy-looking headphone, and from the first moment you place it on your head, you understand that it doesn't go for anything that's even remotely made to be taken outdoors.



Indeed, Arya is a headphone not only made for stay indoors, but it is made to be absolutely comfortable, to the point where it is the only headphone I consider to be even better than the mighty Sennheiser HD800s in terms of comfort, which I reviewed ages ago on Head-Fi. That's right, Arya is more comfortable than HD800S, Empyrean and pretty much any other flagship, and this is because Arya has huge ear cups assnd ear pads that cannot physically touch your ears, it comes with soft asymmetric earpads, and it has a very light weight, paired with a light clamping force, resulting in one of the most comfortable listening experiences possible.


To add to the comfort, Arya doesn't get hot, and barely gets warm during usage, and they are actually one of the headphones that survived me wearing them with my hair wet, so they aren't shy of being a resilient one.



If you're loking for faults, or characteristics that you really want to know about before ordering one, though, Arya is extremely open, and you can hear pretty much anything while wearing them. This zero passive noise isolation contributes to their sound, but if you're used to most headphones, you're using to the headphone having some degree of passive noise isolation even when the headphone is open-back, but Arya is simply open, kinda similar to the HIFIMAN Jade II System, which was also really really open.

Furthermore, Arya's noise leak is great, and you won't be able to use them if you'll need to keep your environment quiet, so no taking them to a library or in public. Also, no using them while your loved ones are sleeping, if you don't want to wake them up.

Those characteristics made including a carrying case a bit redundant, as you're not likely to take them out for a walk, and even I didn't really take them outdoors, Arya having a very unique specific sound.




The tech behind Arya is Planar Magnetic, having a very thin driver membrane, and an asymmetric design. The connectors on the headphones are 3.5mm and they come with a longer 6.3 to 2X3.5mm cable. This makes upgrading the default cables really easy, and the original cables are also interchangeable with Sundara cables and cables from HE6SE. This may come as a surprise, but it means that cables made by Meze for their Meze 99 series also work for Arya, making them one of the cable upgrade options if you were looking for them.

The important parts of the headphone support system are made of metal, and the rest is made of high-quality plastic, making Arya a proper flagship that's going to survive heavy usage, but their really open nature dictates that you're unlikely to take them in any environment that would naturally damage them.

The aesthetics are very basic, and a touch on the serious side, but they work well if you usually go for industrial looks as well, and if you're one of those folks that's into stylish and classy, Arya should fit right in.

Overall, Arya is one of the most comfortable headphones, with a strong build quality, very light weight, and an excellent fit, although they provide no isolation and are made for desktop usage only, being a specific purpose headdphone.



Sound Quality


The sound of HIFIMAN Arya could be described as light, snappy, quick, warm-ish in the midrange, well extended both ways, but with such a huge soundstage, that everything else about the sound kind of evaporates when you hear them sing.



The bass is really deep and clear, has a very quick and light nature, basically the way you usually describe the bass of a high impedance headphone, lacking a substance and thickness, but being warm in tonality, having a very light hit, yet presenting itself exactly when it is needed to convey the impact, just the way it would be in a real stage experience. If you like atmospheric music, you'll feel the bass is presented in just the right amount and impact.

The midrange is where the real magic starts to happen though, with the huge soundstage, warm-ish tonality and incredible instrument separation kicking in to brighten your day. The sound of a guitar note played through Arya is always sweet, always has the right tonality to put a smile on my face, and always makes me think of just how sweet the atmosphere that Arya conveys really is. Furthermore, I feel like with Arya, every single snare, cymbal hit and pretty much every single sound comes from such a well defined space that even something like a huge speaker setup barely comes close to the stage of Arya. Both male and female voices are played masterfully, male voices having enough depth and a serious enough tone to sound true to life, while female voices can climb as high as they require, while keeping their soft texture and clean presentation. If anything, Arya is one of those grain-free headphones, and even compared to their bigger brother, HE6SE, they feel grain-free, and they feel very fluid, smooth, yet detailed.

The treble is also quite magical, with a nice kick for sparkle, extension and air. In fact, this is the only way Arya could have sounded so good, with their huge soundstage, they needed air and extension to convey space and atmosphere. Happily, they do exactly this, and the final product is a sound that's large, clean, crisp, with a treble that has zero grain, has zero sibilance and zero harshness, but which has a nice amount of overall sparkle and clarity.

The soundstage, the element of Arya that I probably spoke the most about, is also a very strong characteristic for them. Arya sounds pretty much like a Sennheiser HD800S done right, with a similar size for their stage, but with an actually good amount of instrument separation, clear intention to sound crisp and clear, and with a much more natural, warm and friendly tonality that makes everything musical and rich.


Overall, Arya is a headphone that will make you love Jazz, Blues, Progressive, Classical, Rock and lighter music. They will also work well with all types of classical music, including opera and such, but they aren't exactly designed for electronic, metal and more aggressive music, although, you may rediscover your music through Arya, if you give them enough time and space to play the way they should.



Desktop usage


Using Arya while at a desktop is a purse pleasure. You don't even feel them on your head and you're actually more likely to want them on your head than having a speaker setup, simply due to the convenience of having a small soundstage at the level of your head, without having to bother your neighbors, but still having access to that wide space and comfort of having almost nothing on your head.

In all truth, if you're new to headphones, 400 Grams may not seem all that light, but if you had a few headphones, especially like a few flagships, Arya will feel like a feather, they are so comfy that sometimes I leave them on my head even for background and really quiet music, they simply convey the stage in a way I never run out of desire to grab them and leave them on.



In fact, Arya is so amazing that I began listening to country using them, or more precisely, I sometimes left StarCraft II's idle menu playing in the background, and while you are in the cantina within the game, you can hear a faint country music playing, and that's just beautiful through Arya. Furthermore, I found myself listening to an entirely new type of music, with things like Avant-Garde, Progressive Metal, and Country, with atmospheric music being much more engaging and intriguing through Arya than it was through most of my headphones. This is an important aspect, because if you love progressive metal, you will fall in love with Arya for sure.

The fact that Arya is easy to drive for a large flagship, means that you won't need a large headphone amplifier for them, and they can work with some stronger portable DAPs, like iBasso DX220, FiiO M11, and FiiO Q5S, meaning that you can take Arya with you on a trip, or while going somewhere, if you'll get a carrying case for them. Luckily, the headphone case made for Ananda works like a Charm for Arya, making them portable.

If you're concerned about the drive factor, relative to more portable headphones, and if you haven't experienced harder to drive flagships before, I have to tell you, some weaker AMPs and weaker sources probably won't exactly suffice, and Arya isn't done right from an entry-level source, FiiO K5PRO, for example driving them power-wise, but not doing them justice.




Comparisons

The main competitors I'll be comparing HIFIMAN Arya with are HIFIMAN HE6SE, Kennerton Thror and Crosszone CZ-1, all of those being rather worthy to battle this flagship.



HIFIMAN Arya vs HIFIMAN HE6SE (1600 USD vs 1800 USD) - HIFIMAN HE6SE is another flagship from HIFIMAN, but where Arya sounds a bit like one of those high-impedance headphones, HE6SE sounds a bit more like a headphone that has a really low impedance, but also a really low efficiency. The package is way too similar between the two, to mention, although HE6SE comes with a different cable, and HE6SE comes with a power adapter that can take in sinal from your speaker power amplifier and feed it to HE6SE. As I was saying, the sound is different between the two, with HE6SE having a more detailed sound, that's also more congested, having a smaller soundstage. HE6SE has much more impact, but Arya is more dynamic, Arya has a much more atmospheric presentation, where HE6SE is brighter and more analytic. If you're into metal music, HE6SE is clearly better for metal, for rock, for electronic and for music that's supposed to be forward and impactful, where Arya is much better for atmospheric and large-sounding music, for classical, jazz, blues, classical and such.

HIFIMAN Arya vs Kennerton Thror (1600 USD vs 3000 USD) - Thror from Kennerton could be considered a beautiful headphone, with a wooden build quality, a comfort that's much tighter than Arya, making them a much better headphone to take outdoors, if you were looking for one. The unboxing experience feels much better for Thror, but it should be noted that it si also more expensive than Arya, so they deserved a more fancy unboxing experience. You can feel that Thror is going to be a tighter fit, a heavier build, and something that feels quite a bit more substantial. While Arya is a headphone you can forget about while wearing, Thror is a headphone you'll know you're wearing and a headphone you'll know you have on your head. Thror also provides more passive isolation and leaks less than Arya, making them better suited for a portable usage. The sound of Thror is thicker, more impactful, deeper, sweeter, more organic, the soundstage is smaller, the detail level is similar to Arya, and the driving factor actually makes them similarly easy or hard drive in practice. If you're into a more personal presentation, you'll love Thror, and if you like your music smoother, yet more organic, heavier and having more substance, Thror would be your choice from those two. If you, on the other hand, like a warm-ish presentation that's atmospheric, light, snappy, quick and runs with good agility, you'll love Arya and their slightly ethereal sound.


HIFIMAN Arya vs Crosszone CZ-1 (1600 USD vs 3000 USD) - Crosszone CZ-1 is one of the two huge-soundstage headphones in the world, other than Arya. CZ-1 is actually a big different from Arya, both in the build principle, as well as in the actual sound and comfort. To begin, CZ-1 comes with a set of three drivers for each ear, to emulate and create the soundstage. The comfort is also quite excellent on CZ-1, but even for those who wanted a huge headphone, CZ-1 may be a big huge. The weight is also higher on CZ-1, making Arya lighter and also more fitted to the shape of the head. The sound is quite different, with Arya being warmer, more organic, more musical, deeper, and having a better overall bass. The soundstage is larger on CZ-1 though, although it is a bit less precise, especially in the separation, compared to Arya which seems to have the separation done better. From the two, CZ-1 is better for classical music, having a more neutral tone, while Arya is better for progressive music, for rock and for blues.



Recommended Pairings


Although Arya best responds to desktop setups and such, they can sound quite lovely even when driven from a portable, like iBasso DX220. This being said, they are also sublime from something like the mighty Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, and also a tricky setup like the M2Tech Young MK III DAC + Wells Milo Amplifier.



HIFIMAN Arya + iBasso DX220 / DX150 (AMP9) - The fun part here is that Arya is actually easily drive-able from a portable, as they have a fair efficiency and also a pretty low impedance, so you don't need a huge power amplifier to drive them, and compared to the other two large headphones with a huge soundstage, HD800S and CZ-1, Arya actually is quite nimble and will easily sound amazing from a light portable without much hassle. This being said, Arya is extremely revealing, and will call out a better source from a more entry-level one, and will reveal even a high-end source from a midrange one, making DX220 + AMP 9 one of my favorite portables to power this little flagship headphone. The level of detail that AMP 9 bears, with its nuTube Module, is just insane. To add that organic midrange and sweet treble, paired with what is a very well rounded stage, you're going to have a hard time finding a sound that is this good, for this price, and which is also portable. As a bonus, if you want to save a few dollars, you can always get DX150, which, when paired with AMP9 is almost as good as DX220 and you'll still have an excellent time listening to the combo.

HIFIMAN Arya + Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ - The Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ is one of the main desktop DAC/AMPs I have on my desk at all times, and which I'm using to power most headphones and IEMs I am reviewing, and Arya will also be paired with it. The soundstage is larger than most other combos, and the midrange feels warm, yet very spacious. The bass is snappy, quick, and deep, and the treble is sparkly and extends all the way in the highest registers. In fact, the authority and control that DAC+ has over Arya makes it one of the best desktop DAC/AMPs you could pair with them, so if you're looking for how a proper flagship sounds with a proper DAC/AMP flagship, you're set for fun.


HIFIMAN Arya + M2Tech Young MK III DAC + Wells Milo Amplifier - This last pairing or rather setup to power Arya is made from two very distinct and unique components. M2Tech Young MK III is a dedicated DAC, made for both headphone but also speaker systems, and it has a very clear, and strict sound, very fast, with a huge soundstage, but it is also a big bright and sparkly for those looking for a warm and thick sound. Wells Milo is a frontier Headphone Amplifier, with a sound that is both thick and organic, a bit warm, but also a bit smoother in the treble, but which can take advantage nicely from the huge staging infused by Young MK III. The combo gives Arya a uniquely warm and mellow midrange, paired with a thicker, more impactful bass, as well as a smoother, leaner treble and a more musical overall experience.



Value and Conclusion


The value of Arya is actually quite excellent considering what it stacks up to and what it can fight on good terms with, being in line with flagships that other companies sell for 3000 USD, but costing 1600 USD. Actually, when we look at it historically, HIFIMAN has been one of those companies to first launch a product for a heftier price, but then to become the leading force in lowering the price for a certain sonic performance, making them a company that is good for the customers in the long run.



Arya comes packaged in a cardboard box, and it may lack a carrying case, or multiple cable options, and it lacks a spare set of earpads, but the earpads will last a long while, and the cables provided are fairly good, leaving you with more budget to get a set of aftermarket cables, if you are into cable upgrades. Furthermore, they work with the carrying cases made for Ananda, and although you may not have one lying around, you can find some for a pretty low price, and you won't feel like it was missing from the package unless you're planning on taking them somewhere, situation in which you will need a carrying case.

With a build quality to match their elegant design, Arya is made to last a lifetime, and with 3.5mm connectors, you can easily replace their cables. Furthermore, their pads swivel a bit and can be adjusted, but they stay in place, and the earpads and ear cups are huge, making Arya a really comfortable headphone that you'll never want to take off your head, and with the fact they're open and don't isolate one bit, you'll actually be able to hear when your loved ones are calling you, meaning you won't need to keep taking your headphones off when someone has something to tell you. This being said, the fact that Arya is so open means that you'll probably need a listening room to fully enjoy them.


The sound of Arya if a bit different from its technical specification, as they basically sound like a high-impedance headphone, despite not having a particularly high impedance. Their sound is gentle, quick, snappy, and they convey a huge soundstage, making competition for the two soundstage kings I already know, Sennheiser HD800S and Crosszone CZ-1, Arya being in the same league when it comes to their stage. Furthermore, they are really musical and have a natural warmth in their midrange, paired with a sparkly top end that's not overdone nor harsh, so they work really well for rock, country, blues, classical, progressive and atmospheric music in general.



At the end of this review, if you're looking for a proper flagship sounding headphone, but at a pocket-friendly price, compared to headphones that have a similar performance, if you're looking for huge soundstage, great comfort, lightweight build that will still stand the test of time, you're going to be in love with HIFIMAN Arya, and they'll quickly grow on your, and maybe end up being your next headphone, so don't forget to add them to your list, if this was the kind of sound you were looking for.




Full Playlist used for this review

While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you're searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.

Youtube Playlist


https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_cjBXGmwSHSdGcwuc_bKbBDGHL4QvYBu

Tidal Playlist


https://listen.tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b

Song List


Bats - Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date
Eskimo Callboy - Frances
Incubus - Summer Romance
Electric Six - Dager! High Voltage
Kishida Cult - High School Of The Dead
Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir
Breaking Benjamin - I Will Not Bow
Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us
Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
Infected Mushroom - Song Pong
Attack Attack - Kissed A Girl
Doctor P - Bulletproof
Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw
Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!
Escape The Fate - Gorgeous Nightmare
SOAD - Chop Suey
Ken Ashcorp - Absolute Territory
Machinae Supremacy - Need For Steve
Ozzy Osbourne - I Don't Wanna Stop
Crow'sclaw - Loudness War
Eminem - Rap God
Stromae - Humain À L'eau
Sonata Arctica - My Selene
Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back
Metallica - Fuel
Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable
Masa Works - Golden Japang
REOL - Luvoratorrrrry
Dope - Addiction
Korn - Word Up!
Papa Roach - ... To be Loved
Fever The Ghost - Source
Fall Out Boy - Immortals
Green Day - Know The Enemy
Mindless Self Indulgence - London Bridge
A static Lullaby - Toxic
Royal Republic - Addictive
Astronautalis - The River, The Woods
We Came As Romans - My Love
Skillet - What I Believe
Man With A Mission - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Yasuda Rei - Mirror
Mojo Juju - Must Be Desire
Falling Up - Falling In Love
Manafest - Retro Love
Rodrigo Y Grabriela - Paris
Zomboy - Lights Out
Muse - Resistance
T.A.T.U & Rammstein - Mosaku
Grey Daze - Anything, Anything
Katy Perry - Who Am I Living For
Maroon 5 - Lucky Strike
Machinae Supremacy - Killer Instinct
Pendulum - Propane Nightmares
Sirenia - Lithium And A Lover
Saving Abel - Addicted
Hollywood Undead - Levitate
The Offspring - Special Delivery
Escape The Fate - Smooth
Samsara Blues Experiment - One With The Universe
Dope - Rebel Yell
Crazy Town - Butterfly
Silverstein - My Heroine
Memphis May Fire - Not Over Yet


I hope my review is helpful to you!

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Contact me!











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DarKu

Reviewer at Soundnews
Pros: Excellent comfort levels, you almost don’t feel them on your head
Nice fit and finish, love the huge ear cup design and ear-pad material
Impressive depth and pin-point imaging, very easy to focus on any note
Open wide soundstage, most transparent sounding
Airiest open-back planar-magnetic headphone I’ve tested
Linear and neutral as a straight line
Super extended in the sub-bass and sub-sonic treble regions
Among the best dynamics a headphone can have
Excellent detail retrieval
Cons: Plastic cups, pleather headband and ear-pads
Not that easy to drive
Slam is good but not the best

Doing reviews for good sounding headphones is easy-peasy they said, just hype them as much as you can and all will be good they said, roses are red violets are blue they said. What a bunch on non-sense! Actually, doing reviews for expensive and top-notch headphones is much, much harder to do since you need to carefully pick your words, not to mention excessive amounts of listening tests, comparisons, measurements and leaving plain subjective opinions.

The moment Hifiman Arya arrived at my door my mood was really low, spirits were not kind to me this past few days, don’t know why. I started casually listening to them with a slight headache and sincerely I was so low on inspiration that my expectance level was even lower, I didn’t think they can surpass my all-time-favorite Quad Era-1 headphones. About 5 minutes passed and I already started doubting my thoughts, another 5 minutes passed and I was already sweating, 5 more and I was angry that they just might sound better. I started bargaining and added more music to my playlist. After a painful one hour of switching back and forth my depression left me and I accepted the fact that Arya is just in completely another league. Yes, my friends they are sounding better on almost all aspects, all of that in due time.

A long time have passed since I listened to an excellent sounding pair of full-sized headphones and even a longer time passed since I tested a pair of Hifiman planar-magnetic headphone. Hifiman is not new to this game and can be considered veterans in terms of planar-magnetic technology. Arya comes from their third-wave of planar-magnetic headphones and even borrows some technology from their highly regarded and much more expensive HE1000 V2.

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Unboxing experience & Package contents

Hifiman Arya came double boxed for a very good protection. First card-board box has some foam inside to protect the second - headphone box. The second one that houses the headphones themselves looks pretty nice with this matte black painting on it. Opening up the box reveals a beautiful sight since Arya are sitting comfortably in a silky fabric surrounded again by lots of foam underneath it and on top of it.

The headphone cable that comes with it should resist a lot of use and abuse, it is also very flexible, besides that one, there is also a warranty card with the serial number stamped on it and a very detailed 26-page user-manual that I really recommend checking it out. That is basically it, I would personally like to have a hard carry-case instead on the headphone case that is not as practical while traveling, but maybe that is just me.

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Looks & Build Quality

Design wise I think Arya are looking quite handsome with this elongated and huge ear-shaped cups. There isn’t another headphone manufacturer that uses the same XL-sized earcups. They are basically hugging your ears and the pressure is close to zero, coming back from a pair of Audeze headphones it is like you have nothing on your ears.

Weighting just 404 grams (14.3 oz) it is among the lightest planar-magnetic headphone I put my hands on. Arya has a clever weight distribution mechanism that is mostly relying on two things: on the super-wide and extra-large headband that is already evenly applying pressure on the top of your heard and it is also relying on the huge and soft ear-pads that will absorb side pressure. In my opinion Arya are among the least head-crunching headphones I tested so they are scoring great marks in terms of comfort.

The headphone structure is mostly metallic except for the ear-cups that are made out of hard plastic, very similar build to that of Jade II. It is also a first for me this very open “Window shade” system, almost exposing the drivers to the outside world. Arya are as open in terms of headphones as it can get, as you basically see the magnets structure and the planar-magnetic driver assembly. This very open approach was important for achieving a really open and extra-transparent sound.

The ear-pads can be considered a hybrid design since the inner and outer material is pleather to retain all that impact and high sound pressure level, only the part that touches your cheek is a soft fabric material so the air can move in and out between the driver and the ear. I really like this approach since I am sweating with leather-only Audeze ear-pads and I am not with Arya ear-pads, very cool approach.

The suspension mechanism might look like that found on Meze’s Empyrean or 99 Classics that is naturally distributing the weight once you put them on your ears but on Arya you are manually adjusting the right height setting and comfort level. I am not too bothered by that, since it is a one-time set and forget adjustment.

Of course, the cable is detachable, thanks god they abandoned old-style screw-type plugs and chosen simpler 3.5 mm plugs. The cable is super flexible and has a fabric outer jacket, it is terminated with a 6.35 mm (1/4”) jack. It doesn’t have any microphonics when it touches my clothes so that is always a very good sign. Seeing the cable quality, I don’t think many of you will upgrade it to something better, it is already a nice quality one.

I really dig the oval shaped cups and the overall design of them. The only cons I have in terms of build quality are the pleather ear-cups, pleather headband and the plastic cups.

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Technology inside

Well, first of all Hifiman Arya is a planar-magnetic headphone that uses an advanced asymmetrical magnetic system. In simpler words it means it uses smaller magnets on the ear side and huge magnets on the outer side that are pushing a lot of air. This way the sound waves interference is greatly reduced, so the total harmonic distortion is reduced as well.

Hifiman developed their 3-rd generation Nanometer Thickness Diaphragm with a submicron thickness conductor. In short this is a very thin diaphragm but also a very rigid one, it should resist a lot of stress and in the same time it should playback all the smallest details from the recordings.

Remember the “Window Shade” system I was writing about that created this see-thought magnet and driver structure? This kind of design was implemented to have the widest possible soundstage and an impressive transparency.

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Sound Performance

Open, spacious, enveloping, holographic and very dynamic were my first thoughts. That was the moment I realized my favorite Quad ERA-1 are much more closed-in sounding and will be dethroned really soon. I’m a big believer in planar-magnetic design and no matter what happens I should always have a pair with me, be it Quad, Audeze or Hifiman. I can count all the minuses Audeze and Quads are having, I can identify them with me eyes closed but I can’t say the same about the Arya, because nothing really stands out too much but in the same time everything is at its place, I felt it sounded just right from the moment I pressed play.

It sounded super extended on both ends, I love open-back headphones since they have the airiest performance, the widest stage and the best transparency. The biggest drawback of open-back design is of course the bass performance as it always gets a hit. Only very few open headphones are having a real sub-bass performance that can reach 20 Hz levels. Quad Era-1 was such an example that I cherished and loved.

When I listened to my favorite tunes, I couldn’t believe that Arya shown me even more bass information and additional bass layers. Sub-bass was something that needed to be heard to be believed.

Overall, Arya sounded so linear and right that I had this urge of measuring them immediately and this is exactly what I did.

I. Measurements

I used a Matrix Audio Element X as the source, Benchmark HPA4 as amplification and MiniDSP E.A.R.S. as the measuring rig for the Hifiman Arya.

I used the original headphone compensation (HPN) for this particular E.A.R.S. serial number. I ran multiple measuring tests with and without smoothing and here are my results.

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A complete straight line from 20 Hz to 1Khz and just a small deviation in the treble area that is just normal behavior.

Now look when I am applying a 1⁄12 smoothing, look at that channel balance, it is simply incredible, only at about 17 kHz there is a slight channel imbalance. I thought this was a cherry-picked pair for me, but no, this is a normal Arya, nothing special was sent to me. This kind of measurements are quite impressive but are expected at this price point. My Quad ERA-1 and Sennheiser HD660S are measuring much worse in terms of FR.

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Running a water-fall plot revealed this impressive reading, in terms of frequency response Arya is absolutely close to Perfect and is considered reference even at this price point. This water-fall shows the only con Arya is having and that is the decay of the bass, is it a bit slower than the rest of the spectrum.

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I think it is time we dissect the frequency response.

II. Bass

Everyone who read or watched my Quad Era-1 review probably understood how much importance I give to sub-bass performance and I don’t mean muddy bass-head performance. I crave for fast executed bass that slams hard and most importantly that reaches Mariana Trench levels, like 20 Hz.

In this regard, from all open-back headphones I tested in the past, Arya has the best sub-bass performance. It is like listening to full-range stand-floor speakers.

I immediately fired my usual bass tracks and was a bit shocked, listening to The Prodigy – Invisible Sun, even at 10 second mark my ears already started waving and at 0:42 mark bass reached the 20 Hz mark that until now only full-range speakers were doing it for me.

Moving on to mid-bass it is done super smooth and in a very natural way. Again, as the sub-bass, the mid-bass is very present, controlled and has tons of layers. Even listening to simpler tracks like Pink Martini – No Hay Problema I felt that contra-bass (double bass) sounded so real and controlled. I felt its texture, I felt the wood and felt it going down with so many layers to it. Such an amazing performance and it really wakes up your imagination.

Bass notes on every track felt transparent, very clean and precise, just a right amount of presence, attack and slam. It was never too much (how it can sometime be on Quad Era-1) and never too soft (how Audeze are playing it), somewhere in the middle. This is a top-level sub-bass and mid-bass performance.

You should also know that Arya has a linear bass performance, so if you craving for a bass-canon headphone this will not be for you but if you craving for a clean, transparent, detailed, layered and linear bass response - then this is for you.

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III. Midrange

This is what I am calling a typical planar-midrange as it is always sweet, musical, very enveloping but never overdone. It is neither too up-front or too laid-back, just perfect.

I felt this urge to listen to some old Jazz and moments later Dave Brubeck and Django Reinhardt were already singing sweet songs to me. How would you describe a life-like presentation that just breathes and never draws attention to it? This is basically how Arya is sounding in the midrange department.

Exactly like was the case with the bass notes, midrange is very transparent, it is super airy and linear sounding. I really like that voices are super outlined and textured, you can feel the vocal cords vibrating, don’t get me started with guitars and violins, let’s just say that they sounded just right from the get go.

Upper midrange sounded meaty and heavy, male voices sounded really imposing as they moved much more air around the room. Listening even to Leonard Cohen can send shivers right down your spine.

This is not your creamy, overdone, or dry midrange, nothing like that.

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IV. Treble

Moving into the treble area I was prepared to hear a little bit of brightness but luckily with Arya that never happened as they have an excellent treble performance. Hifiman is specifying an 8 Hz to 65 kHz frequency response, sadly my measuring rig can’t go higher than 24 kHz, but up to that number treble is measuring really good and sounds as good. And yes, it goes past 20 kHz into the sub-sonic area where we can’t hear it but somehow, we can feel it.

There is a slight drop in the 4 kHz area that I consider insignificant, a 4 dB drop is Ok for a natural treble performance. I consider the treble performance of Arya excellent since it never rises above the bass and midrange level and truth to be told there are very few headphones that can do that.

As a result, treble is also airy, extended and detailed. Listening to some fast drum solos I was happy to hear clear and real cymbals, I was hearing its start and finish, not a single blob of muddiness. Treble is also biting and has a lot of presence and detail; however, it is never bright/harsh sounding.

In terms of frequency response this is among the best open-back headphone I had the pleasure of listening.

V. Transient Response

Truth to be told this is the only area where I think Arya is not performing top-notch but still quite good. The water-fall plot is also strengthening my claims, especially in the bass area.

Arya are still having a good thump and slam; it is just not on the same level with the best. Attack is good and speed of delivery is also good but slam and impact lacks a bit. They sound mighty good with normal paced and slower music, and just good with fast-paced electronica. I still very much enjoyed my time with fast metal or electronica, don’t get me wrong, it just didn’t knock me out of my chair.

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VI. Soundstage & Depth

In terms of soundstage and depth, Arya with its huge driver assembly and with its window shade system sounds impressively open wide and deep. Mariana Trench deep? Yep, that deep.

Listening to Sara K – If I could Sing Your Blues I can swear I am having a cigar at a live performance, that trumpet sounds so far away from me it is like coming from outside my room, it sounds detached from the rest of the instruments, I am really curious how they achieved that.

Arya can push a lot of air and that is very apparent with basically any music you throw at them, the air bubbles between the notes are really huge that I can appreciate any note, its shape and texture. In regards to soundstage this is as open as it can be, with the right music it can be mesmerizing.

VII. Detail Retrieval

I like that Arya is showing all that important micro-detail information but in a non-aggressive way. Very non-Sennhseiser-HD800-like but natural somehow. It plays every small micro-vibration and detail but doesn’t scream: Look At Me How I Do It!

Paired with Matrix Element X and powered by the extra-detailed Benchmark HPA4 any air-mass moving around and every single tiny detail can’t hide away from Arya. Yes, Arya is very detailed and renders even tiny dynamic swings with ease.

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VIII. Dynamics

From the moment I started listening to Arya I knew they have something different from my other two headphones and that is dynamics. The difference between a low intensity sound and high intensity one is very big, so much that I needed to readjust the volume once per song. They possess better dynamics even than my Quad Era-1, which already did impressive in terms of dynamics.

Listening to some high-quality electronica can be really a mind-blowing experience. I’m having goose-bumps listening to such tracks and coming back from Quad Era-1 is quite hard being impressed by dynamics of other headphones.

IX. Power Requirements

Having a sensitivity of just 90 dB per 1mW at 35 Ohms, Arya are considered hard to drive. It is the hardest to drive headphone I have right now at my place. I need about 9dB higher volume setting on the HPA4 than my Quad Era-1 and about 11 dB higher than my Sennheiser HD660S so be careful about headphone amp matching. However, if your amp is up to the task, Arya will shine with impressive dynamics, wide spread soundstage and gobs of control and grip. Sadly, a portable source can’t make them truly sing, the pocketable FiiO M11 will bottleneck its performance, even my Headamp Pico Power is not quite up to the task. Volume wise Pico Power is Ok on the high gain, but dynamics are not impressive anymore and Arya will sound more closed-in.

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X. Matchability

Since Hifiman Arya are very neutral with no particular dips or rises I really recommend a linear source and amplifier. A warm or dark sounding source and amplifier will work as well. I would probably stay away from loose, slow, bright sources and amplifiers. They worked fine even with a hybrid tube-based xDuoo TA-10, but transient response took a hit as it is making them looser sounding.

Of course, best results I achieved from the Benchmark HPA4 followed by Aune S7 PRO and the rest. Out of the Matrix Element X headphone out they again lacked in dynamics and overall enjoyment level. Arya is craving for a dedicated and juicy headphone amp that could offer them a lot current for goose-bump inducing dynamic swings.

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Comparisons

Hifiman Arya ($1600) VS Quad ERA-1 ($800)

I will skip the boring stuff like the build quality and package contents. Arya is double the price of Quads and once you listen to them you will understand why.

Arya is offering at least one or two additional layers of dynamic range; Arya is having more micro-detail information and even an additional layer of sub-bass. In terms of treble performance Arya is completely in another league since it will render even sub-sonic information and has a much better upper-treble performance. There is a drop in the lower treble on the ERA-1 that makes them really easy-going and somehow smooth sounding. ERA-1 will not punish you as much if you are listening to lower-quality material, Arya will show everything be it good or bad.

Arya is also sounding more open, wider, more holographic and really envelops your head, ERA-1 is a bit more up-front sounding.

There is just one single thing that Quad ERA-1 is doing better than Arya and that is the slam. ERA-1 hits harder, on rock and electronica it can be too much at times, it will tire you down in the long run. If Arya would have the same slam and kick it would be the perfect headphone for me.

There is no point in comparing the Arya to HD660s since they will just obliterate them in every possible way.

Conclusion

A lot of time has passed since I heard a close to perfect headphone. The linearity and true to the recording nature of Arya of mind-boggling. Not only because it will please a vast majority of listeners, but because searching for a perfect mate in terms of amplification becomes much easier. Choose a super linear amp that offers gobs of power like the newest Headamp GSX Mini or Aune S7 Pro and you are good to go.

In terms of sonics there is almost nothing to complain about them. Hifiman had a really long way in planar-magnetic design and all those years of experience paid off bit time. Hats off to Hifiman for this impressive technical achievement!

Hifiman Arya can be yours for $1600 and you buy it directly from their web store.

PROS:
  • Excellent comfort levels, you almost don’t feel them on your head
  • Nice fit and finish, love the huge ear cup design and ear-pad material
  • Impressive depth and pin-point imaging, very easy to focus on any note
  • Open wide soundstage, most transparent sounding
  • Airiest open-back planar-magnetic headphone I’ve tested
  • Linear and neutral as a straight line
  • Super extended in the sub-bass and sub-sonic treble regions
  • Among the best dynamics a headphone can have
  • Excellent detail retrieval
CONS:
  • Plastic cups, pleather headband and ear-pads
  • Not that easy to drive
  • Slam is good but not the best
ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT:
  • DACs: Matrix Audio Element X, Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro, Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, KECES S3, Burson Swing
  • Headphone amps: Benchmark HPA4, Aune S7 PRO, Erzetich Bacillus, Headamp Gilmore Lite Mk2
  • Full-sized headphones: Hifiman Arya, Quad ERA-1, Sennheiser HD660S
  • Loudspeakers: KEF LS50W
  • Interconnects: QED Reference XLR, Aune AL3 XLR
  • Power Cables: Isotek EVO3 Premier
  • Balanced Power Conditioner: PLiXiR Elite BAC 400, KECES BP-600
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K
Khronos
As interesting as it seems it's, well, Hifiman. Beautiful, good sounding headphones, heck, it defeats the Eras which you said can go toe to toe with an LCD-4. But... Hifiman...
Pah, the Kaldas RR1 is coming out and is said to be 90-95% SR-007.
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iBo0m
iBo0m
Great review in every aspect! I can second that drive Arya may get tricky sometimes :)
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