HIFIMAN Arya

Ichos

Reviewer at hxosplus
The Silent Force (Arya Stealth edition)
Pros: + Class leading bass technicalities
+ Neutral and balanced yet musical and engaging
+ Transparent and accurate yet not punishing
+ Masterclass imaging
+ Excellent midrange consistency
+ Exceptional clarity
+ Sparkling and alive yet not piercing or fatiguing
+ Highly resolving but not analytical
+ Wide and spacious soundstage
+ Super comfortable
+ Lightweight
+ Easy to drive
Cons: - Slightly bright on the treble
- Ethereal and lean
- Bass not as visceral
- Huge ear cups
- Complete lack of accessories
- Not as luxurious as the competition
- Only one mediocre cable
The review sample was kindly provided free of charge in exchange for my honest and subjective evaluation.
I only covered import fees and tax.
The current price is $1599 and you can buy it directly from the HiFiMan online store.

Arya Stealth edition

Arya is one of the most known HiFiMan headphones, strategically positioned between the Ananda and the TOTL models of the company.
The version reviewed here is the third one, the Arya is revised now with the new Stealth magnet system by HiFiMan without any further increase in the selling price.

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Stealth Magnets

Unlike the sound waves created by a conventional magnet, the special shape of Stealth Magnets enables the waves to pass through the magnets without generating interference.
HIFIMAN’s advanced magnet design is acoustically transparent, dramatically reducing wave diffraction turbulence that degrades the integrity of the sound waves. The reduced distortion yields pure sonic output that is accurate and full-range.
HiFiMan has been actively revising current models of their catalogue with the Stealth magnet system, like the HE400SE and the Ananda.

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Technical highlights

Arya features the Nanometer Thickness Diaphragm, a breakthrough core technology developed by HIFIMAN and the first of its kind in a headphone application. Working with this advanced material is extremely challenging yet the successful incorporation of this film as the Arya’s planar driver is the cornerstone of its remarkable sound.
The new Stealth edition is more efficient than its predecessor

There is also the Patented “Window Shade” System, created to meet the need for driver protection and an optimized open-back design together with the asymmetrical ear cups that follow the natural shape of the human ear.

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Design and build quality

The Arya with the characteristic oval shaped ear cups, the window grills, the suspension headband and the total black color is the definition of the classic HiFiMan headphone and by far my most favorite one.

The Arya is made from a combination of steel and high quality plastic which leads to a nice compromise between sturdiness and being lightweight, as it weighs only 430g, pretty good for a big planar magnetic headphone.
The suspension system, the grills and the yokes are made from metal while the ear cups are made from plastic.
Both the metallic and plastic parts are of higher quality than the Ananda, the metal is thinner and better finished while the overall construction is much better.
There is no cracking noise during use, the height can be easily adjusted while the headband is made from synthetic leather with an extra cushioning in the inner part for increased comfort.
Real leather would be a more premium material for a flagship headphone and while the overall build quality is very good, still there is something to be missed when compared to similarly priced, more luxurious headphones like the Focal Clear Mg.
Anyway, the only vulnerable point seems to be the material in the inner part of the headband that is thin and prone to tearing due to the friction with the head.

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Wearing comfort

The Arya Stealth is super comfortable thanks to the huge and swiveling ear cups, that are roomy enough to accommodate larger ears while the hybrid cushioned ear pads are soft to the touch with excellent breathability.
The ears stay cool even after a couple of hours of use while the headband is doing an excellent job into equally distributing the weight all over the head.
There are no pressure points on top of the head while the clamping force is just right in order to keep the headphone stable and well fitted without causing any discomfort.
The only downside is that the ear cups are really big and some users with smaller heads might find the Arya too large for their face even at the lowest setting of the available height.

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Cable and accessories

The Arya comes with a user replaceable cable system featuring two 3.5mm mono sockets, one at each ear cup, so it is compatible with balanced cables.
The included cable is a 1.5m long, single crystalline copper cable with cotton reinforcement, ending in a 6.35mm plug.
The cable, despite being of better quality than the notoriously bad cable of the Ananda, it still is cheap and mediocre, not worthy of a flagship.
HiFiMan should have included two cables of higher quality, one single ended and one balanced or at least one balanced cable with a single ended adapter.
Don't look for accessories, you are not going to find anything, no carrying case, not even a 6.35mm to 3.5mm adapter.
Well, at least you can store the Arya into the cardboard box but again the lack of accessories and the mediocre cable are pretty unacceptable at this price point.

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Patience is a virtue

HiFiMan suggested that I should burn the headphone for at least 150 hours prior to listening tests and thus I did.
I usually don't progress the burning process but this time I was asked to do and I have to report that the treble really settled down, smoothened and sounded less bright/etched after the suggested time of use, so new owners should be patient and do not rush into early conclusions.

Associated gear

The Arya is quite easy to drive and it doesn't need powerful headphone amplifiers, most flagship DAPs and portable DAC/amp combos should do the job.
Thus said, it scales incredibly well so don't expect to hear what is capable of with entry level gear.
A high quality source is a prerequisite and I have used no less than the FiiO M17, Cayin N8ii, Flux Labs FCN-10 and FiiO K9 Pro ESS while more portable DAPs like the iBasso DX240 and FiiO M11 Plus ESS, yielded very satisfying results.

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Sound impressions

The Arya is the epitome of a well balanced and neutral sounding headphone without really exaggerating any part of the frequency spectrum while the overall transparency is at the highest possible level, so source matching is quite critical.
Nonetheless, even with brighter sounding gear or lower quality material, the Arya has this inherent ability to stay musical and engaging without really becoming punishing.
Yes, it is definitely a revealing headphone but in a polite manner, it is not clinical or strident.
On the contrary, Arya plays music with a great sense of realism, a touch of warmth and deep emotional expression that guarantees great communication between the listener and his favorite tunes.
The tonal timbre is mostly natural and the Arya can easily convey all the harmonic wealth and the diversity of the multicolored overtones.
It is a headphone truly enjoyable with most kinds of music but it is with classical and acoustic material where it really excels and should be considered as one of the top performers of the market.
Texture is delicate, almost ethereal, the Arya is more lean than visceral, the presentation is mostly about precisely defined, detailed and finely sculptured images rather than the full bodied and muscular reconstruction of the music.
Ethereal doesn't mean shy though, the Arya can hit hard and is fully convincing when it comes to producing thundering bass and largely contrasted dynamic swings but then you shouldn't expect a full bodied and shuttering sound experience like that of the Focal Clear Mg.

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Bass tuning is reference flat with great sub bass extension and exemplary transition into the mids.
Graphs might suggest otherwise but the Arya never had any problem faithfully and convincingly reproducing the lowest electronic bass tunes.
Fast and dancing with great ebb and flow, super tight and controlled with extremely low distortion, the bass on the Arya has some of the best technicalities ever heard from a headphone, a truly remarkable performance.
Definition, layering and clarity are phenomenal while words like masking, mid bass bloat and muddiness are completely unknown to the Arya, you can clearly hear every single instrument and the faintest of the notes no matter how busy the bass line is.
Listening to the following rarities, two concertos for low pitched wind instruments, the Contrabassoon and the Tuba, is just an amazing experience.

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The mid range is neutrally flat, clearly expressed and finely articulated, harmonized with the rest of the frequencies, it is not forward sounding nor recessed, just ideally balanced.
Instruments and voices are reproduced with an earth-like quality, almost organic, there is an increased sense of musicality combined with great lucidity, you can hear behind the lines, this is a highly convincing and atmospheric musical experience.
All types of voices, from baritone to high soprano, are projected with the same intensity, the interplay between them is magnificent as in the famous operatic quartet "Bella figlia dell'amore" from Verdi's Rigoletto.

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The Arya is youthfully fresh, alive, sparkling and agile, with excellent treble extension but still smooth and well behaved.
It is not perfect though, when listening to acoustic instruments you can't fail to notice some brighter overtones with sharper edges but thankfully everything is under control, the headphone is slightly bright on the upper treble but not sibilant, piercing or fatiguing.
High pitched instruments are decaying a touch faster than the ideal and are heard with a somewhat thinner texture but still in tune, expressive and tonally correct.

Detail retrieval is stellar, the Arya is highly resolving yet not analytical, you can hear everything but in a relaxed and not suppressing way, it is not tiring, the details are not forced into your face, they stay part of the whole musical experience, humbly fulfilling their part into communicating the music in a realistic manner.

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The soundstage is wide open and spacious with excellent depth layering, reconstructing a holographic and large scale presentation with great sense of the ambience.
But what really sets the Arya apart and ahead of the competition is the masterclass imaging.
With a laser sharp positioning both in the horizontal and the vertical axis, every single instrument is proportionally occupying its well predefined position no matter if you are listening to a solo performer or a large scale symphonic work.
If you have been thinking till now that the Sennheiser HD800S was the imaging champion then you should definitely listen to the Arya and you might change your mind.
A great example of what the Arya can do, is listening to choral works like the passions of J.S Bach.

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The competition is pretty tough at this price point but the Arya Stealth can hold on its own.

Vs the HD800S

The Arya should be considered as the HiFiMan alternative to the Sennheiser HD800S. (Drop HD8XX illustrated in the photo)
They are more alike than different since both are quite ethereal and transparent but the HD800S is slightly more visceral, a touch warmer and slightly more forward on the mids.
On the other hand the Arya has better sub - bass extension and you might find it as more convincing regarding the tonal accuracy of the higher pitched instruments.
The HD800S soundstage is more diffuse and wide whereas the Arya is more solid but with sharper imaging.
Two great headphones of equal status, the planar magnetic versus the dynamic you will be surprised to find out how similar and different sounding are at the same time, a really tough choice to make.

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Vs the Focal Clear Mg

The Focal Clear Mg is another beast at the same price range but this time the sound signature differences from the Arya are quite pronounced.
The suspended dynamic driver is offering some of the best dynamics ever heard with a rumbling, thundering performance while the bass is considerably more visceral and full bodied with excellent technicalities at the same time.
Much warmer with a forward midrange and a recessed, safe treble tuning, the Clear Mg is thicker, smoother and darker sounding with slower note decay and a more laid back and relaxed approach, some might even call it more musical and organic.
Soundstage is more intimate, positioning the listener closer to the performers rather than attending the concert from the gallery as you do with the Arya.
The Clear Mg soundstage is open and well defined but it can't compete with the Arya when it comes to imaging, layering, size and overall holography while although the name would suggest otherwise the Arya is more clear and crystalline sounding than the Clear Mg with lower bass distortion.
Two excellent but different sounding headphones, well deserving the flagship status.

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Vs the Ananda

These two are close relatives, the house sound is definitely the same but the Arya is offering a much better sense of realism with more natural timbre, less artificial texture, finer articulation and enhanced clarity.
Sub-bass is more extended on the Arya, it has greater physical impact than the Ananda which is also thinner sounding than the Arya with slightly sharper and brighter overtones.
The imaging is much superior on the Arya which also offers a grander soundstage with better sense of holography.
In the end, the Arya is easily the better headphone and should be considered as the natural upgrade over the Ananda.

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In the end

The HiFiMan Arya - Stealth edition - is an amazing sounding headphone with a flagship level performance.
Whether you are going to like the neutral tuning and the ethereal character is something purely subjective and personal but irrelevant to the actual sound quality of the Arya which is nearly perfect.
We are in the realm where there is no right or wrong, tonal accuracy, timbre and technicalities are guaranteed and the only thing you have to do is to decide if the specific headphone character suits your needs or not.
The Arya Stealth is undeniably one of the best sounding flagship headphones on the market and it is a real shame for HiFiMan that they haven't bundled it with a cable and some accessories worthy of its status.

Test playlist


Copyright - Petros Laskis 2022.
Last edited:
Ichos
Ichos
Yes the K9 PRO is similar to M17 but it has better driving force.
There are also more to check as an example Burson sounds warmish, Violectric stuff also, Lyr 3 is a great amp etc.
iFi also but the Arya is always going to be the Arya, it is not a warm headphone nor forgiving not the most full bodied.
tradyblix
tradyblix
It probably shouldn't say "Except for the Stealth Magnets the Arya features the Nanometer Thickness Diaphragm," which doesn't make much sense.
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Ichos
Ichos
Thank you for pointing out. English is not my native language.
Let me rephrase and correct it.

rev92

Reviewer at Ear Fidelity
Hifiman Arya SE
Pros: Superb looks
Fantastic comfort
Impressive engineering
Well made
Class-leading detail and resolution
Big sound
Fun factor
Aggressive in a good way
Rather easy to drive
A headphone to beat in the $2000 market
Cons: Might be a bit too extreme for some
It's still plastic, which is not a problem, but still
Quite unforgiving
Hifiman Arya SE is the newest version of this vastly popular high-end headphone. It now uses Stealth Magnets and it still comes at $1599.

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Introduction​

For everybody that is into high-end headphone audio, the Hifiman Arya needs no introduction. It’s been one of their best-selling products for years now, offering one of the best values in its price range.
While it has been changed a couple of times in the past, in 2021 Hifiman released an official, new version of the Arya, called Arya SE. The SE stands for Stealth Edition, thanks to…Stealth Magnets being used of course. Since they had been adding this technology to all of their products for the past few months, it was just a matter of time till it comes to the crowd-favorite Arya. Apart from this change, there’s not much that has changed, if anything actually. The Stealth Magnets though are not a minor change, since it’s such a great and innovative technology that helps deliver the best sound quality possible. What’s most important – the price hasn’t changed, and the Arya SE still comes at $1599. Kudos for that.

Packaging​

Having reviewed many Hifiman products I tend to not know what to write in this paragraph more and more. Well…it’s a Hifiman unboxing experience, standard box, nothing fancy or luxurious. The packaging is good, aesthetic, and secure, sporting stealthy and elegant graphics.
What’s inside then….well, once again, nothing extraordinary. Apart from the headphones, you’re getting a cable, some paperology, and that’s basically it. I really like this approach, as Hifiman tends to keep the prices of their products to a very reasonable level, and not adding any flashy accessories surely helps that.
The included cable is again, standard for Hifiman. It’s not bad, it’s not great either. It’s just a black, braided cable that feels right and durable, same old story. I won’t bother adding anything else than that, because there’s nothing more to say about it. Get an aftermarket cable if you’d like, it’ll improve the sound and ergonomics of the Arya by some margin.

Design, Build and Comfort​

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Here things start to be very interesting. I’ll start by saying that the Arya has always been one of my favorite headphones on the market when it comes to its design. The all-black design makes it look elegant, stealthy, and really sexy. Its main competitors, which are the Audeze LCD-X and the HEDDphone are also all black (well, the jokes in the HEDDphone are silver, but the rest is black) which looks to be a trend in the sub $2000 market. No surprise here though, as the all-black design is both safe and incredibly appealing.

The build quality is really good. Even though the earcups are made of plastic, the whole headphone feels solid and really well-made. As usual with high-end Hifiman products, I have to point out one, very important thing. I can’t rate the build quality and comfort separately, since one is dependant on the other. Having in mind that the Arya SE is significantly lighter and more comfortable than the Audeze LCD-X, and WAY more comfortable than the HEDDphone, I can’t do anything else as rating the build quality superb. It’s just an engineering approach to the design, where functionality and comfort are most important, and that’s how it should be.
Speaking of comfort, the Arya SE weights 430g, which is right in the middle of being light and heavy. Its whole design though, especially the suspension strap headband design makes it a joy to use. The weight distribution is spot-on, the earpads are plush and pleasant to the touch, which makes it a headphone that you’ll be able to use for the whole day without breaking a sweat.

The headband regulation that is present in the Arya is the same as with their flagship Susvara and their $3500 HE1000se (oh it’s not the last time I’m going to mention these in this review for sure!). I got to admit, that it is my favorite type of regulation ever. While not as elegant and interesting as in the Empyrean/Elite or D8000Pro by FInal, it just works perfectly…it’s clicky, it ain’t going nowhere unless you’d want it. The scale is also really good, making the Arya suitable for people with basically all head shapes and sizes. Hifiman hasn’t changed it for years now in their flagship open-back game and it’s definitely a good choice. If something works perfectly, why bother? Stay with it Hifiman for the next years to come.

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Tech​

As I mentioned before, the biggest change to the original Arya stands in using the Stealth Magnets. In my Deva Pro review, I stated why it is a bigger deal than it might look like, so I’ll copy it here as well:

Stealth Magnets are what sets the tone for the current generation of HiFiMan cans. They came up with a new shape, that makes it easier for sound to pass through it. Conventional, rectangular in cross-section magnets create a resonance between them. That resonance will color the sound in an unwanted manner. Having the edges trimmed at a 45-degree angle strongly reduces the resonance, allowing air (and sound) to move freely. Being all technical it goes like this: moving air changes its volume as it encounters the flared magnets. The changing volume also changes the speed. Less speed means a flatter Q of the resonance. How it’s possible that nobody else does it if it’s so simple? Well, it’s not easy to make magnets in that shape that are repeatable and have very good parameters suitable for planar headphones. So you either pay a ton of money for them, or you order a train of those at a bit less outrageous price. Then you put them in every product you have. Now we have them in both HiEnd Susvara, in basic HE-400SE, and everywhere in between, except the Ananda.

It’s a brilliant technology and I love that Hifiman is adding it to all of their headphones, and the Arya is no exception. It helps the drivers in reproducing micro details and it improves an overall sense of spaciousness.

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Apart from adding the Stealth Magnets, the drivers also seem to be different than in the previous versions of Arya. They now have that green tilt that is present in the HE1000se, it looks…identical. I don’t think that these are the same drivers, but I don’t have proof that they’re not.
The Arya SE is rated at 32Ω and 94dB, and thanks to that it’s not difficult to drive, which is a welcome change to the previous versions. The original Arya was known for its inefficiency, meaning that you really needed a powerful amplifier to get them to sing. While it’s not a big deal in 2021, since we got so many powerful amplifiers on a budget, it still is problematic, especially if you plan to use your headphones with portable devices.

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Well, you don’t have that problem anymore. The Arya SE runs from almost everything, as something like the Atom + by JDSLabs or basic Topping amplifiers are more than capable of driving them. Also, they do work well with my iBasso DX220, which was not possible with the OG Arya.

Sound​

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The original Arya has been and still is one of the crowd-pleasers, having fans all over the market. Many describe it as the ultimate planar for those who are not willing to spend multi-thousand dollars for a pair of headphones. While it was still rather expensive, the amount of high-end value we were given fully justified that cost.

Having all this in mind, it’s not an easy task ahead of the Arya SE – to improve on something that is widely regarded so good that you won’t ever have to upgrade it. Luckily, Hifiman is not about making meaningless updates of their products just to sell more units every year. In the TECH paragraph I stated how big of a deal the Stealth Magnets are, and now having them in the Arya means that it should be better than ever…right?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the OG Arya on my hand, and I haven’t heard them for a while now, so this is going to be a standard review of the Arya SE, not a comparison between the two versions. I’ll be comparing them to other high-end cans though, so you’ll get an idea.

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The bass starts a theme of the overall signature of the sound – it’s aggressive and incredibly fun. The Arya SE is a hard-hitting, extremely fast, and forward-sounding headphone, and it all starts in the bass delivery.
The low frequencies are not heavy, thick, or huge, they do sound right in the middle. It’s the bass quality that impresses, with its fast decay and lightning-fast attack. The Arya SE is made for electronic music and this type of bass reproduction only confirms that.
The whole bass response is rather linear and very clean, but it sounds like a planar bass – don’t expect a final word in impact and physicality. Compared to the LCD-X 2021 it’s not as thick and moist, while it’s also not as technically and physically impressive as the Susvara or the HE1000se.

The midrange is pretty regular for a Hifiman headphone – it’s linear, neutral, and very detailed. Don’t expect any added warmth or body to it, as the Arya SE is flat and precise. With their staging capabilities though, it sounds very intimate and right in your face, being one of the most forward-sounding midranges I’ve heard in a long while.
The vocals sound extremely crisp, precise, and right in front of you. While it might not be the perfect headphone for male vocals, because of a lack of lower-midrange added warmth, female voices sound very airy and forward, which is a good thing. I wouldn’t call the Arya SE a vocals master anyway, as it might sound too sterile and forward for some (well, I’m one of that people apparently). The master of vocals is the Susvara for me and compared to the Arya SE, the Susvara sounds more organic, richer, fuller, and straight-up more natural and pleasing. Also, the LCD-X is also more natural and full-bodied sounding in this regard.

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Let’s get into the treble. I think that this is the best thing about the new Arya SE. The treble response is absurdly fast, clean, and detailed, getting really close to HE1000se level, which is one of the most detailed headphones on the planet.
What’s most important though is that it’s not harsh or boosted, which could be problematic for some with the OG Arya. The SE is more forgiving and less fatiguing, but it is actually a more detailed pair of headphones than the original, which is really impressive…Stealth Magnets Ladies and Gentleman.
The overall sound of the treble is almost as fast as it gets, with details for life. Cymbals and female vocals sound natural and very precise, but not overdone. I’m also happy to report that I tried many bad mastered albums on the Arya SE and it was a pleasant experience. If you’ve been thinking about getting the Arya for a while and you were afraid of that infamous hot treble, the Arya SE could be your savior.

Now into the soundstage. I remember the original Arya as a very spacious and open-sounding headphone. When I listened to the Arya SE for the first time I was actually quite surprised, as it is an intimate and close-sounding headphone. The imaging and separation are both brilliant but don’t expect a huge soundstage around your head. It somehow reminds me of the LCD-X 2021, as both headphones don’t offer acres of space around you, but rather a small and precise staging.
It has its pros and cons though, as for electronic music it actually works great, offering a more focused, forward, and “fun” sound than a headphone with a huge soundstage, for example, the Susvara.

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Overall, the new Arya SE is a highly technical headphone with lots of details and a great insight into the recording. While not as relaxed nor lush as something like the new LCD-X 2021 or the Susvara, it offers an incredible value when it comes to a technically impressive planar under $2000.

Comparisons​


Hifiman HE1000se
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I’ll start by saying that the Arya SE is in many regards a “baby 1000se”. Both headphones offer incredible detail retrieval and highly technical presentation, but there are also some differences.
First of all, the 1000se hits harder in the bass region, it is more full-bodied and natural sounding, also because its bigger soundstage. While the Arya SE is a supercar pulling you right into the middle of the musical spectacle, the 1000se is more refined and slightly more relaxed sounding (not to say that it is a relaxed sounding headphone to begin with).
Unfortunately, you can’t just buy the Arya SE and expect the level of the 1000se for half the price – the latter is a superior sounding headphone in every aspect, being a natural improvement over the new addition to Hifiman’s lineup.

Hifiman Susvara

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These two also share some similarities, but there are more differences than in the previous comparison.
Comparing the two, the Susvara comes as more natural, smoother, and more engaging of the two, while also having superior technicalities. It’s what you should expect though, as we’re comparing the Arya SE to one of the best (if not THE best) headphones in the current market, and also one of the best headphones ever made.
The new Arya SE is more forward and extreme sounding than the Hifiman’s flagship, being a great choice for people that are looking for this kind of sound signature.
It grabs you by your clothes and puts you right in the middle of a party, while the Susvara gives you a glass of good quality whisky and makes you kick back and enjoy every single note in music.
What’s also very important is that getting the right system for the Susvara would cost a lot, while the Arya SE is not as demanding, both in terms of raw power and the overall quality of the rest of the components.

Audeze LCD-X 2021

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This one is really interesting. The Hifiman Arya SE is slightly more detailed and forward sounding, while the LCD-X 2021 comes as more full-bodied and warmer. While the 2021 version is not as dark sounding as their previous models, the new X is still a rather thick and musical sounding headphone. The Arya SE on the other hand is more forward and focused sounding, giving you a slightly better insight into the material.
When it comes to the sound signature, the Arya SE is leaner and quicker in the bass, more neutral in midrange and the upper-mid to treble transition is more pronounced. It is more intense sounding in every regard, with the LCD-X 2021 being more relaxed and romantic.
The staging is quite similar between the two, with both giving you a rather small and intimate staging performance with a focus on imaging.

HEDDphone
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The HEDDphone is probably my favorite headphone in the $2000 market, but it has a major problem – the weight. If it was around 500g, It would definitely be one of my most used pairs for the past years, as its sound is striking and very interesting.
Both the HEDDphone and the Arya SE are highly technical, but the tuning is where they do vary a lot. The HEDDphone is definitely less clear and focused sounding, giving us a more airy and thick sound.
Putting the Arya right after the HEDDphone gives us a feeling that a slight voal has just been removed. The lower-midrange in the HEDDphone might come as slightly veiled and dull for some, but honestly…I really like it, it gives male vocal that magic and warmth that I crave.
Speaking about the technicalities, both are on the same level when it comes to detail retrieval, even though the Arya SE sounds clearer and brighter. The HEDDphone has a better soundstage, especially the depth which is much more pronounced than in the Arya SE.
Choosing between these two is all about your preferences – if you prefer razor-sharp, slightly bright-sounding headphones, then the Arya SE is your choice. The HEDDphone however will suit you more if you like somewhat thicker and more unique sounding headphones, of course, if you can stand the weight.

Summary​

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A legend is reborn. The new Hifiman Arya SE is an outstanding headphone with a focus on technicalities. It offers a class-leading detail retrieval and resolution while being extremely forward and fun sounding. Pair it with superb ergonomics and that ultra-sexy, all-black design and we’re getting a headphone to beat in the $2000 market.
Recommended.

Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
  • Headphones – Hifiman Susvara, Final D8000 Pro, Audeze LCD-X 2021, Hifiman Deva, Hifiman Ananda, Hifiman HE1000se, Meze Elite
  • Sources– Topping D90se + A90, Ferrum OOR, EarMen Tradutto, Musician Aquarius, Musician Pegasus, JDSLabs Atom DAC+/AMP+, Cayin N3Pro, Pro-Ject Debut Carbon PRO + iFi Zen Phono, xDuoo TA-26

dill3000

100+ Head-Fier
HIFIMAN ARYA STEALTH – NOBLE ONE
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When the HIFIMAN Arya was first sighted, many were wondering where it would fit amongst the many other releases that landed upon the shores of the mythical land of Headphonia. Costing as much as the Edition X’s original MSRP it at first looked like the third entry in that series – with a name change – but when it became clear, it would be given a driver in the fashion of the legendary HEK, the headphone that ultimately defined the transition of the HIFIMAN high end sound from the classic HE series, it was destined to become quite popular and beloved. Years after all, this became true. We are at the third revision now, and one that is quite a bit more radical than the minor V2 revision. Another transition, actually, this time leaving the old magnet structures behind for the stealth magnets. A trickle-down tech that the Susvara introduced and now found its way into both mid- and high end offerings. At the point of this review, the Ananda hasn’t been gifted with stealth magnets yet while a, possibly Asian only release, the Edition XS has embarked to give the Edition line a reemergence.

Everything’s about Stealth Magnets now after the Susvara and the HE-1000SE held it exclusively for a long time and the Deva got it too with its Pro release.


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Unseen, unheard

When sound waves pass through the magnet structure via the diaphragm, they are prone to interferences and diffraction with conventional designs as air is moved through them. The Stealth structure ensures this to happen to a minimum for more precision, clarity and imaging precision. In the same vein a stealth bomber’s shape and form which is not a random or artistic choice at all, and ensures deflecting or bouncing off radar waves and becoming unnoticed, HIFIMAN’s stealth system ensures magnets not being in the way of the sound as good as possible.

The introduction of stealth magnets to the Arya transforms the Arya line similarly to what the HE-1000SE brought along for the future of the HE-1000 series.
When the HE-1000SE appeared on the shelves, sporting both the stealth magnets and a higher sensitivity, bringing HE-1000 level performance for portables while actually surpassing them in technical performance notably, it came with a few yet worthy tradeoffs.

While the huge soundstage shrank slightly in size, especially in width, the precision of the imaging or the sharpness of how objects were rendered increased tenfold. The stealth magnets removed the diffuseness of the stage and the placement of objects, giving the whole structure of the composition more realism, breath and overall clarity. Actually, exactly what was promised in the marketing papers.

Does this spoil the review a bit? Well, to a good degree, yes. Naturally, as the topic of stealth magnets comes up, the changes can almost be guessed 100% right.
However, there’s more to all this than just cleaning up the image and unsheathing laser swords and guns to draw and shoot into the vast and dark background, splitting atmos and planets on the way.

HIFIMAN’s confidence making Arya’s non-stealth edition now a special request only has its good reasons. Let’s find out:

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Overall character and differences:

The original Arya inherits a lot of traits of the HE-1000. It’s more laid back, relaxed, more comfortable with its surroundings. It shares the large soundstage and the bass rumble, though differs in energy delivered down low, being a tad more restrained and not going to the last end in its treble delicacy as the HE-1000 actually does. Remember, the driver is not the same but being done in the same fashion, with more tolerances during the production.

Staging is somewhat diffuse but not very much so, imaging isn’t fuzzy but slightly smoothed “in”. A headphone not too picky or too revealing, a warm, relaxed listen. Where the HE-1000 maintains more composure and linearity in delivering that credo, the original Arya tends to have a peak at around 6khz which is noticeable but not overly annoying. Could have smoothened out the overall character better though to make it stand out less. Exactly what happened when the V2 came out in the vein of the 2020 revisions. Henceforth, the V2 model is now the reference to which the Arya Stealth Magnet Edition is reviewed.

The Arya Stealth is almost antithetic to the OG. It takes the composure up a few notches, does away with laid-back and instead gets more aggressive, upfront, forward, more attacking with greater dynamism, explosiveness and cleans up the imaging by a huge margin, doing away with the diffuseness and trades off some vastness of the soundstage size for a far sharper tracing of objects. Where the Arya can sound a bit lean at times, the Stealth fleshes everything out with muscles and bones in a show of force.

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Timbre

Headphones with strong timbral qualities to me are headphones like the HD 6XX family and the Susvara. The naturalness, especially in their mids, make listening to real instruments and vocal performances simply a mesmerising, an almost live experience.

The Arya V2 was a solid performer here, but of course not up to the level of the Susvara. The stealth, armored and equipped with a new acoustic design and shaper blades now stands comfortably in the gap between these two, with more naturalness, less rounded and smoothed now, leaving space and breath for the all the finer overtones and the delicate textural components.

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Bass:​

Whereas the Arya V2 took a slightly modest approach to delivering the bass in terms of volume, as in delicate, well-defined and more linear than boosted or even boasting but still with power if the music intends to, the Stealth version is rather aggressive and more forward in its approach of bass delivery. Fuller, more in your face and ballsy. All that while not just maintain the same quality as the Arya V2 but even going beyond it: resolve and easy tracking/following of multiple bass lines, clarity of the bass, unfathomed and never congested. All traits of the OG but surpassed here. Bass extension is bottomless, good sub bass rumble and general heft and sustain, however as with every modern HIFIMAN softer in approach compared to the first generation as in the HE-6 but still a very welcome departure from the previous iteration.

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Midrange:

The original Arya is clean, clear, resolving in this area with no notable drawbacks, albeit overall more relaxed and polite than upfront or attacking like for instance the HE-1000SE and sometimes slightly lean. Overall, not full and rather warm like the grandfather, the HE-1000 but a bit more cooled down and as linear and almost flat, except when it rises around the upper mid range.

The Arya Stealth decides for a U turn here, being fuller and more fleshed out and brings the inherited qualities more to the front, attacking, aggressive like the bigger stealthy brother (the HE-1000SE) leaving the Arya a bit in the dust with its added technicalities. The barrage of details is now better sorted, clearer, better aligned, and structured. Stealth Magnets doing their work as they are supposed to, bringing instruments more upfront, up close, giving a better sense of their textural composition and the finer details.

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Treble

The Arya in its first edition had a few minor quirks here, notably in the 6khz and 8khz region, making it prone to sibilance with certain songs and sometimes being a bit too aggressive with genres like metal. The V2 fixed both quirks but kept the clarity and airiness.

The Stealth goes further here, giving the aggression a nice little boost with its more intense energy delivery and added cleanliness. Trails and reverbs are easier to hear fading out in the distance now.

It maintains its philosophy of going all out with its strengths and technicalities and never loses composure when doing so. All while not abandoning the airiness and illumination of its predecessor.

Soundstage and imaging:​

Imaging characteristics are improved hugely here, it’s one of the first apparent things when you put on these headphones, assess the balance and tonality. Whereas the Arya V2 seduced with a large and tall soundstage that had good depth leading to a coherent sense of space and distances, the rendering of objects or instruments inside wasn’t as sharp as the HD 800 or HE-1000SE. The Arya Stealth bridges this rather huge gap and brings the Arya series to another level, closer to the top. Instruments and their positioning, placement are far sharper and precise now and move “fuzzyless” around the still big space that draws the whole scenery well out of your head.

The slightly distant character of the Arya V2 surely helps in perceiving its very large and tall stage – naturally as the Arya Stealth is more dynamic, punching harder and more relentless, the greater sense of “physicality” also makes the stage appear slightly less. In my opinion, this is aforementioned trade-off is just a matter of psychoacoustics.

All in all this makes the Arya Stealth also more universal than before giving you a nice high end gaming and movies experience next to “just” opening itself up to far more music genres.

Activate Dolby Atmos on your favorite DAC’s input. Start a movie of your choice like Mad Max or Godzilla and immerse yourself in their explosive, thunderous worlds. As the Stealth never loses composure, you can be sure to never lose tracking of individual cues in the mix, no matter how many layers. This is also a strong aspect of the Arya V2, but it’s noticeably beaten here.

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Amp pairings:​

HIFIMAN’s high end headphones usually get very underestimated in terms of power or quality power requirements, excluding the Susvara and the legendary HE-6, both which rose to fame also just due to being very hard please. Whereas both of these lead to a far higher percentage of amp discussions within their respective threads (anywhere on the web) compared to any other headphones on the market, the HE-1000 series including the Arya (which is after all part of the HEK family) got rather “shifted to the side”, while in fact absolutely profit from high, clean current. This is similarly true for the HE-500, HE-5LE and HE-4, whose amping requirements were strongly overshadowed by the rise of speaker amplifier enthusiasts with their HE-6’s. Though with the HE-4 the high requirements were noted in its early days already, but the short lifespan of these headphones unfortunately made them forgotten in every aspect.
Anyway. The Arya Stealth is rated at 94db compared to the 90db of the HEK Family and the Arya v2, a healthy boost towards stronger DAPs in the same fashion as the HE-1000SE.

Can you still run it on a smartphone? Absolutely. To the max and fullest? Of course not.

Give it good, clean power in the same vein as the original Arya and you are good to go.

Amping the Arya with a few of my power amplifiers brought them rather close to the Arya Stealth in terms of dynamics, explosiveness and in the finer nuances of the treble, but overall, the Stealth was still ahead with its inherit advantages. The Stealth also benefited from these amps, but scaled less than the Arya. If it’s enough, it’s enough.

Conclusion

There is no room anymore to beat around the bushes. The Arya Stealth is the worthy evolution of the Arya series, expanding on the original’s capabilities with better dynamics, punch, slam and quite a bit better imaging. The genre compatibility is now another level, making the Arya the most universal headphone recommendation before you go up to the big boys.
Blaurocking
Blaurocking
Arya is a big boy ! 🤨
At least in my books.

carloskleiber

Head-Fier
Hifiman Arya stealth magnet version- the return of an old friend
Pros: Classy presentation of details in a non-forced way;
Soundstage is immense, both horizontally and vertically;
Responds to EQ like ATC monitors;
Vast information on the Z-axis is a huge help in mixing;
Instrument and vocal timbres extremely accurate;
No such thing as fatigue with these headphones;
Frequency response designed in a very logical way that makes them very useful in a professional setting.
Cons: Same headband as the HE-400i;
I wish it came with more cables.
I have been using the OG Arya since 2019 before the pandemic started. As a professional musician, the start of the pandemic meant no more work as a performer. Luckily, I have been working as an audio engineer on the side, and in 2020 saw a huge surge in the demand for my services. The Aryas quickly became a close companion and helped shape many of my best audio works.

After the release of the stealth magnet version this year, I quickly opted for the new version. As soon as I put them on I thought of an analogy- Gandalf the Grey is now Gandalf the White. Still very much the same Gandalf we love, but more powerful, and all-business.

A bit about me- I have been an audiophile since my high school years, having bought my first pair of serious headphones (the humble AKG K240s) after skimping on lunch $$ for a whole semester. In the decade and a half that ensued, I have gone through at least 20 pairs of headphones, if not more. I now work as the founder and director of an early music (baroque) ensemble based in China; I also work as an audio engineer specializing in early music and chamber music in the Netherlands as well China.
A Vivaldi aria performed by my ensemble

I first came in contact with Hifiman through a pair of HE-400i in 2017 and quickly sold my prized Sony SA-5000 after a short comparison. I was hugely surprised that the humble little thing was so balanced in many aspects that I had no regret selling the SA-5000, which truly did shine, but only in a few areas. Needless to say, the Arya was a huge upgrade from the HE-400i in every possible way, and by far the most worthy headphones I have ever had the pleasure to possess- until the new, upgraded version.

Build and comfort

I have no complaints with the build quality, really. They look like headphones Darth Vader would use. The ear cups are deeper and firmer than the OG Arya, which to me is an improvement. I have ears that stick out quite and bit, and these new ear cups prevent them from touching anything. The clamping force is a tad stronger than the first iteration of the Arya, which I also like. Sometimes I would like to move my head around after a few hours at the computer, and it’s nice to know your headphones won’t likely fall off. My only complaint is that the headband is the same plasticy material as the HE-400i. It’s still very comfortable, just not as flashy as the leather headbands on the HE-1000 series. Again, I haven’t paid $3000+ for them either, and I appreciate the trickling down of HE-1000se technology at no increase in cost.

Sound- comparing to other headphones

A lot of Hifiman headphones seem to share a trait, to which the Arya is no exception. Many musician friends would comment on their noise isolating abilities after trying them, and be surprised when I tell them that open headphones do not isolate any noise whatsoever. I would attribute this phenomenon to the vast amount of information delivered by these headphones that immediately occupy the attention of the listener, creating a false sense of noise isolation. The same phenomenon is also true for other models such as the Ananda BT, Deva, and a few Stax systems I have had.

The sound of the stealth magnet version of the Arya can be described as something in between the old Arya and the HE-1000se. This would make sense because the specs of the new Arya has impedance reduced a few Ohms, and sensitivity raised a few dbs (Original Arya 91db, new Arya 94db, HE-1000se 96db). Other than what’s visible on paper, it is clear the magnet size has been slimmed down (hence the “stealth magnet”). Now the green tint of the driver is visible through the space between the magnets, which is kind of cool to look at. I am quite positive this does something positive to the sound- have you tried cupping your hand over open headphones? I guarantee you will not like that sound.

The new Arya inherited many of the traits of the original Arya- the vastness and tallness of the soundstage; the infinite and borderless X, Y and Z-axis; the true-to-life reproduction of instrumental and vocal timbres. The presentation of detail is very likeable; it is not braggy like some of the high-end dynamic headphones from the last decade, but rather presented with a bit of humility, which I consider very classy. The FR has a small dip at 2khz, which to me is a smart design- some headphones such as many of the Stax’s I have auditioned tend to sound shouty on certain instruments and voice types, e.g. a soprano.

It differs from the original Arya in small but meaningful ways- the stealth magnet version is much easier to drive. My old Aryas was never driven to satisfaction from Hifiman’s own HM1000 and 901R’s 4.4mm balanced outputs. The new Aryas sound quite happy with these sources; the bass is certainly fuller, and they never sound congested even while listening to large orchestras. The timbre of the old Arya is mostly retained. I would say they are a touch more transparent too.

The original Arya when compared to the HE-1000se was like an introverted version of his extroverted brother. They were much harder to drive, and sounded a bit distant compared to the “in your face” sensation the HE-1000se could sometimes evoke. The new iteration of the Arya brought it a step closer in the direction of the HE-1000se, while retaining most of the timbre characteristics of the original Arya. It's a tad warmer and more enthusiastic, but not quite like the HE-1000se.

Comparing it to a few Stax systems reveals one big weakness in the tuning of the Stax- they just haven’t done the frequency response right. While Stax systems can sound very smooth and open, there are too many dips and bumps in the FR for me to trust them with any critical tasks. They also tend to get very shouty with sopranos and violins. With the Aryas, I know if something doesn’t sound right, it’s because I haven’t mixed it right.

Unfortunately, I haven’t spent serious time with any version of the Sennheiser HD-800 to comment on how they would compare.


Sound- as a tool for mixing/mastering

Many audio engineers swear by using speakers for mixing and mastering, and I partially agree- unless the problem of HRTF is resolved, headphones will not give you the truest stereo. However, while I use monitors to check imaging and phase, I do most of my mixing on the Arya. Perhaps it would be interesting to know that the Chinese version of Arya often comes with an “audio engineer” designation, which makes perfect sense. In terms of tonal balance, spatial information, and their ultra-sensitive response to EQ, they are very reliable headphones for audio engineers. While you may not want to depend solely on headphones for your final mix and master, they will do 90% of the job, especially while on the move, when bringing a pair of monitors just isn’t an option. With the Aryas I can check the reverb tails, apply EQ, compression, etc with full confidence, and make cuts and edits knowing that if I can’t hear edit-hiccups on the Aryas, no one else can hear them. The other big advantage is the ability to discern subtle differences between microphones and preamps, differences that would definitely be lost on a similarly priced speaker system. As you may know, those subtle differences tend to add up in a recording, and skimping details here and there quickly reduces the overall quality of a recording to unacceptable levels. The closest experience I had that resembled Aryas is a pair of ATC active monitors.

Moving onto the new Aryas- since I did most of my work on the original Aryas, I went through my finished work from this year on the new stealth magnet version. And oh boy, they immediately exposed some of the mistakes I didn’t realize I had made while mixing. I’m not sure whether it’s the new Aryas being more detailed, easier to drive, or both.
Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre - Sonata D minor Presto
This was one of my better audio works. Now I realize while the violin was captured great, the harpsichord and viola da gamba could use a bit more detail, and perhaps overall a bit more bass.

The OG Arya definitely could not be driven to satisfaction from headphone jacks of most audio interfaces- it is a shame because the average audio engineer is not the target customer for high-end headphone amps, and the old Arya really needed one to shine. The new version largely solved this problem, and I would be happy to see more audio engineers embracing them as a pair of very reliable workhorse headphones. After all, in today’s world, much of all music is played through headphones. It wouldn’t hurt to have more quality content produced by headphones, for headphones. Here's an all-time favorite of mine, produced by Chesky Records/Steve Guttenberg.
Amber Rubarth - Novocaine
veindoc
veindoc
enjoyed sound but sheer size of speaker too large on my head. Is the Susvara smaller dimensions especially top to bottom length?
carloskleiber
carloskleiber
Hi ishmaelk,
I realized my recording lacked bass because the new Arya has better bass, and I'm able to hear how other recordings has bass that this one lacks...on the old Arya I couldn't hear bass as well, and when I compared my recordings to other people's, I didn't particularly notice this aspect.
carloskleiber
carloskleiber
Mr. Panda, I would say definitely yes. Although I generally go for Bluetooth headphones for listening these days.

Daniluzzu

New Head-Fier
Hifiman Arya - Stealth Magnet Version (latest version!)
Pros: - Giant presentation, music sounds BIG.
- Agreeable tonal balance (easy to Eq where needed).
- Large soundstage.
- Very good resolution and driver speed.
- Very good imaging and instruments separation/location.
- Very clean sound, with distortion almost non-existent.
- Great representation of the Z-axis (lots of depth).
- Very good general sense of clarity and "vision" of a mix.
- Bass is tight and well articulated.
Cons: - A bit hot in the upper mids (3-4k) and lower treble (7-9k).
- Bass might sound a bit lean but only on certain music genres.
- Perceived macro-dynamic is volume-dependent, tends to get a bit "flattened" at low listening volumes.
- It takes good driving for the headphones to sound dynamic and with good punch and slam.
A few weeks ago I started auditioning the latest version of the Hifiman Arya, recognizable from a sticker added to the box saying "Stealth Magnets Design". Much has been said already about the Arya, but with this review I would like to humbly offer the standpoint of a professional classical musician who happens to have developed an obsession for headphones, recording, and audio gear in general. I am a professional violinist, active in the field of concert performances of classical and historical performance of early music. I started getting into audio techniques about 13 years ago, simply because I was eager to properly record myself and the ensembles I played with. The rest is history, I fell into the trap of the endless rabbit hole of audiophilia with an ever increasing hunger for better gear, and in recent years I started combining my concert activity with audio production.

I will keep updating this review as I get the opportunity to try these headphones with other dacs and amps, but for time being I am using a Violectric V800 with XMOS feeding a AAA THX 789 via balanced, source is my computer via USB. I have been comparing the SE and balanced outs of the amp as well.

I will occasionally mention other headphones in this review for direct comparison with the Arya, including my beloved Stax system with the SR- L700 (same price category, besides a few obvious similarities between the two headphones).

Build:
I don't need to spend too many words about the build quality of the Arya. I really have no problems with it, it feels strong and durable to me, even if it received some criticism by others. Sure enough, there are headphones out there that feel even more robust, but everything is relative, if you are coming from a Stax Lambda this thing feels like a tank.

Comfort:
I also have no problems with comfort, with its 404 grams of weight (with no cables) the Arya is on the light side in the world of planar headphones, the headband structure is great, clamp is just right (for me), and the pads are huge, to the point I can have my ears float in the pads' space without touching anything, and I have larger than average ears. I'd say they are about 95% as comfortable as the Stax L700, whose softer pads and leather are just a bit more gentle on the skin. In any case, both are the most comfy headphones I have tried to date.

Sound:
Before I get into my opinion of the tonal balance of the Arya, I would like to share my perspective on the Harman Target curve response, since everyone posting measurements these days tends to show raw FR's of headphones compared to this or that version of the harman. Readers are welcome to skip this section and jump directly to the next paragraph, where I focus on the Arya.
I know my opinion on the matter may have several readers raise their eyebrows, and I know that there are several versions of the Harman Target and that it gets updated periodically. Some versions might work for some, other versions for others. We need to start accepting the fact that we all hear sound and tonal balance way too differently from one another. As Dan Clarke mentioned in the 2016 CanJam conference, the tiniest variations in the shape of the pinna lead to macroscopic changes in perceived tonal balance in the order of +/- 5db above 3khz (that is A TON if you ask me). Therefore, the concept itself of a universal tonal target sounds dumber and dumber to me as the years pass, and the more I learn. I am beginning to think of the Harman Target more as a consumer idea, as something that will please more or less everybody. But incidentally, the best headphones I heard in my life are not quite in line with that target, and the Arya is one of them. For instance, are we really sure the raise to 3k needs to be 14db? and do we need that much pressure at 2k? Personally, I don't think so. When I sit in front of a pair of good studio monitors I'm pretty confident they are shooting at me less 2-3k than a driver placed at 3cm from my ears tuned after a theoretical target derived from speaker measurements in diffuse field. I also don't agree with the bass boost of some versions of the Harman (like in the 2017 version), a bit too much for me... it certainly is fun and it works great on some music genres, and today it is really easy to be a bass-head, easier than in the past for sure, since headphones these days produce bass with a quality that was unthinkable even just 15 years ago. But too much bass boost doesn't work on those genres with the most delicate harmonic balance of timbers, such as classical, early music, some jazz, and acoustic music in general, while it is a lot of fun on Reggae, Hip-Hop, Electronic, some Metal and Rock, Pop, etc. I own a pair of NAD HP-50, whose tuning is amazingly similar to the Harman Target. And they are indeed very nicely tuned headphones, with great imaging, pleasant tone, smooth and inoffensive, and boy they got bass! Unfortunately though, they often dissatisfy me with classical music recordings, the bass might bleed into the mids, ruining the delicacy of the timbers of classical instruments. A problem that I don't hear at all the second I listen to a Bob Marley album, and many non-classical others. Similar to the bass matter, headphones with particularly recessed upper mids and treble also don't sound right to me on classical instruments. I remember how conflicted I was about the LCD-X (pre-2021 model, haven't heard the 2021), because it is pure pleasure, you hear the music as a whole, organic and coherent, and those mids and bass... how can we not fall for that thick flow of "nutella sound"? But then you listen carefully to a baroque violin, a harpsichord, or a string quartet, or one of the good old Philips or Decca records of orchestral Symphonies, etc... and something is not right, the LCD-X would sound somewhat dull timber-wise, with what I would describe as a harmonic simplification of the timbers. That kind of music, unlike other genres, is mastered with little to no compression, the pressure of the upper mids and treble is mostly left natural, and it is very delicate! It takes a deficit of anything in the 3 to 10k area to no longer be able to recognize the timbers of those instruments as they sound in reality. And this is a problem of many headphones tuned to be euphonic and inoffensive to the ears (less 3-10k pressure). On the other hand, you listen to other genres with the LCD-X, and it is a pleasure indeed, you BECOME nutella yourself, so unfortunate that they fall so short when it comes to timber realism of noble acoustic instruments. This very point takes me back to discussing the Arya in detail, sorry for the tedious preamble.

Back to the Arya. I felt the need to discuss my view on the mainstream theoretical targets also in consideration of the background music culture that guides the tuning of Hifiman headphones, particularly the Arya (and I am sure the Susvara as well). I came across a very interesting interview with Dr. Fang Bian while I was in my second week of auditioning the Arya. He appears to know very precisely what he wants in the tunings of his headphones, and that is also based on his passion for classical music. This is a person who regularly attended concerts at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center during his years living in New York City. In the interview, he discusses the high prices he would pay to get the specific seats he wanted at Carnegie Hall and other theaters. I started doing the same since getting into audio production! Whenever I attend a concert, besides enjoying the music, I also try to focus on the tonal balance I hear from the live performance. Being a person coming from that same music culture, I understand why the Hifiman headphones are not quite intended for bass-heads but rather for people who care about clarity, intelligibility, and timber realism. But regardless of taste and musical background, I will venture saying that the Arya is a headphone that can readily impress any listener. The very first time I listened to it I was "hit" by this gigantic presentation of the music before any other consideration came to mind. Both the stage in which the music happens and the instruments/vocals themselves are perceived LARGE. Instruments in a mix also sound tall, something I now believe is typical of elongated/oval shaped drivers, as I found in my past experiences with Stax systems that included the SR-202 and the SR-L700.
Resolution with the Arya is excellent, there is an amazing sense of clarity and intelligibility of the music. The driver speed is also very good, faster and more resolving than most dynamic drivers I've tried. Instruments and vocals sound really defined, clean, and precisely placed in the image. The sense of depth of the elements of a mix is one of the
strengths of these headphones, and one of the factors, along with their quality of imaging, contributing to the great vision they give you of a mix.
To my great surprise, I found that, compared to the original Arya, this version is about 3 times easier to drive! In fact, it is usable from a phone (though barely), and certainly usable from a computer output. But it is also clear that it takes higher level dac/amps for the headphones to show their muscles. Punch and dynamics in general improve dramatically with better driving, the Arya does scale quite a bit.
In terms of tonality, the Arya is generally well balanced, and is mostly agreeable without eq-ing it. Bass is well extended, I can't hear any roll-off in the sub at all, and the treble is abundantly there. In my opinion, their real tonal strength is the amazingly linear response from 2k down to the underworld of the 20hz. In other words, the entire area of the fundamentals sounds perfectly linear, I really can't complain about anything. Only at times I like to boost the bass a bit, but not much, depending on the music I can go for a +1 or +2db shelf around 80-100hz, or nothing at all. One of the major "features" of their frequency response is their slightly recessed 2khz area, which I am a fan of! I was puzzled seeing that other reviewers propose EQs for the Arya that include a boost at 2k... oh right! the Harman target, haha! Well, no question this is a matter of personal taste, to me the 2k a couple db under target is a great thing, it moves the soundstage a bit further away from me, bringing the listening experience closer to what should be the real target, that is listening to studio monitors. The idea of recessed 2khz is similar to that of the Neumann NDH 20, though to a lesser extent with Arya (the Neumann is really missing a bit too much at 2k). I know I may be biased about this point, but we already know that the mystery of the famous "veil" of the HD600 and 650 lies in their slight excess of energy at 1-2k (a veil that I acknowledge exists only when they are not driven properly), and as a person who has experience with Stax systems, I heartedly welcome an FR with less 2k (as much as I love them, I will never understand how the Stax folks are fine releasing headphones with that much 1-2khz response! it's physically painful, besides messing with the timbers and making the overall sound shouty). Moving up to the upper mids, the Arya is indeed a bit hot around 3.5/4k, but again, this bothers me only on certain recordings, and when it does, I don't hear any problem Eq-ing down 1 or 2db at 3.5k. They also sound a bit intense in the treble, which depending on the music can be a pro or con. It is a pro when that means having a better perception of air, reverb tails, and plancton in general, particularly in recordings mastered a bit on the dark side. It can be a con for recordings that are on the bright side, as you hear some shimmer to the sound that may not be desirable. No problem Eq-ing this as well, with just a gentle shelf of -1 or -1.5db from around 7k (often not needed). Generally speaking, the two Eq settings I mentioned (3.5k and 7k), do help to make the Arya sound even more natural (where by "natural" I mean HD650 natural).
In terms of dynamics, the Arya performs very differently depending on how it's driven and how loud the music is played. I still believe that planar headphones are not quite at the level of dynamic headphones in the same price ranges when it comes to impact and macrodynamics, but with good driving and at volumes that aren't too soft the Arya sounds really dynamic! a bit more so from the balanced out of my THX 789 compared to the 1/4 inch out. And speaking of the sonic differences between the two outputs, they are quite subtle, the Arya sounds great both ways, but with the balanced out I can hear just a tiny bit of extra punch, resolution, and separation, and the feeling of a blacker background, but again, it is a very subtle difference.

Final Thoughts:
As soon as I get a chance, I will try the Arya with different rigs and add my impressions to this review. For now, I have to say I am really impressed by it, and the lovers of classical/early music, jazz, and acoustic genres should totally give it a listen. And hearing how clear and revealing the Arya sounds, I can't help thinking of my old Stax L700 (which to my great sadness I was forced to sell recently for financial reasons...). What I get with the Arya is almost the technical performance of the Stax, super close! like 98% of their imaging precision, 96% of their resolution, 99% of their image width, but for those couple percentage points I trade in, I get in return 1) a headphone with much better tonal balance out of the box (as wondrous as it is, the L700's FR is a mess, I used to Eq it heavily!), 2) a larger soundstage (not small on the L700, but the Arya just sounds VAST), 3) more body to the sound, with bass of completely different quality, more material, extended, tight and articulate (do we need to say more about what is already known about the electrostatic bass?....).
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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!
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

100+ 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.

Arya RAW measurements (second test).png


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.

Arya SMoothing applied (second test).png


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.

Arya waterfall second.png


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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