Hifiman Arya - Reviews
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.
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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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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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
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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