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HIFIMAN SUNDARA

Rating:
4.5/5,
Tags:
  1. kennylim
    Great All-rounder and Excellent Value
    Written by kennylim
    Published Jul 15, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Speed, speed, speed
    Build quality
    Excellent value
    Balanced overall sound quality
    Cons - Comfort - earpads get warm, headband makes top of head sore
    Treble not as smooth/natural
    Headband adjustment too tight - Maybe limited to tour unit?
    Disclaimer: I do not actually own a pair of Sundara. I am part of the Sundara loaner tour. Special thanks to Hifiman for doing this, as loaner tour is a great way to let potential owners to sample the product at the comfort of their own environment.

    I am not gonna do introduction or list the specifications about the product as these can be found easily on the internet.

    Link to official website: https://hifiman.com/products/detail/286

    Unboxing
    The headphones came in a nice looking black box, with a thick foam mold that is covered with satin-like cloth. The headphones looks well padded in the packaging. Inside the box are: a booklet about Sundara, warranty card, Sundara itself, 2*3.5mm to 3.5mm cable and a 6.3mm adapter. While there is no balanced cabled supplied, I find the Sundara can be driven easily even with portable sources that balanced cable is not a necessity. Also, the fact that the headphone accepts 3.5mm jack on each side makes it very easy to source or build after-market balanced cable.

    Build Quality
    The frame of the headphones is mostly metal, aluminium I presume. Overall feel is of high quality and well-built product. I am surprised as my past experience with HE400, HE560 and HE1000v1 gave me a bad impression about the build quality of Hifiman product. This is definitely a good surprise. Stock cable is rubbery and thick, and while it is well built, does not give off a premium feel. Nevertheless, it is a solid cable. The 3.5mm tip is right-angled, which I find more ergonomic than the usual straight connectors found on most headphone cables out there. The headband adjustment is also a little too tight, making it very hard to adjust, but since the frame is built like a tank, I had no concern pulling and pushing the band hard to adjust to my liking.

    Comfort
    Stock pads are perforated fabric on the flat side, perforated pleather on the inside ring, and pleather on the outside ring. Overall comfort is acceptable for long usage, but does get a little warmer that I would have preferred. For reference, my ambiance temperature is usually 18C to 22C (indoors at office/home).

    The headband is very basic, a piece of wide pleather that rest on the top your head. The weight of the headphones means that it would get a little uncomfortable over time as the band would press on the top of my head, making the contact area warm and a little sore.

    Sound
    First impression: these headphones are fast. I am used to headphones with dynamic drivers (see my signature for my gears), and thus the sonic characteristics of planar jumped at me immediately. Speed speed speed is what I felt initially. It also has an airy sound to it, lending to nice sense of separation between instruments. After using it for a while, once the novelty of a new sound signature wears off, I do notice that the trade-off of the planar's speed is that it tends to sound a little thin, with not much body in lower frequencies. Overall soundstage is medium in width, height and depth. It is not too forward sounding, something like when you are at the 5th-10th row of a concert hall, which I do like.

    While the bass is not very detailed nor has good body to it, it does sound very tight and pacey. Mids, on the other hand, is done very well as it has slightly thicker than neutral timbre, and vocals are presented in a very clear and precise manner. The treble is well extended, energetic and sounds very detailed. There is a bite/edge to the treble, but not to the point of being splashy or sibilant, which the HE560 was guilty of.

    Last but not least, it is also rather unforgiving if you feed it poor quality audio or poorly mastered tracks.

    Drivability and matching
    These headphones are rated 37Ω and 94dB, but for planars, they are relatively easy to drive. I was able to drive these easily with desktop amps like the Liquid Spark and Liquid Carbon. For portable source like the CEntrance BlueDac and Sony ZX300, I was able to drive the headphones very well without needing to hit max volume. It does drain the batteries of these portable gears faster than my usual headphones though. However, as is the case with most planars, these headphones shines the brightest with desktop amps.

    Summary
    Easily found at €350 in various webshops, these are the best value open back headphones out there. Hifiman has come a long way since the days of HE400 and HE560. I would have given it full 5 stars if not for the comfort issues.
  2. Greendriver
    Precision, Poise and A Musical Journey
    Written by Greendriver
    Published Jul 2, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Great Frequency range. Comfortable. Feels like a quality product.
    Cons - No carry case included. Balanced Cable would have been nice.
    First of all, a thank you to Hifiman for allowing me to take part in the loan program for the Sundara, which arrived safely a few weeks ago. I will give my honest impressions on my first experience with a magnetic planar headphone, and you should be aware that I am under no obligation to advertise this product – these impressions are my own.

    Having seen other reviews online regarding Hifiman Headphones, the only negative issue appears to be a history of quality control problems. However, the Sundara seems very good in this respect. Solidly built, it has a pleasing, understated look about it. Some have pointed towards wear in the headband adjustment, but I don’t see this as an issue if you own the ‘phones, you just set it and forget it, and enjoy the music. The Sundara is comfortable on my smallish head, the lack of swivel in the head piece the only criticism.

    That’s not to say you should throw these around, however. They’re not built for professional use, although they have an analytical sound. If you want to break down the music content and not the ‘phones, try the Sony Professional series or Beyer Dynamics, for instance. After all, you might chuck a g-shock watch on the table after use, but you would treat a Breitling, Vacheron or any other precision instrument with more respect, and you should do the same here.

    I would like to have seen a balanced cable included in the box alongside the conventional one, as I would like to have tried it with the balanced output on my Pioneer XDP player. And a carry case or bag would be useful.

    There are three areas in its sonic delivery I find particularly impressive:

    · Sheer quality in the presentation of acoustic instruments – piano, guitars, voices etc.

    . Speed of delivery – a particular quality of the planar unit, it seems. There is a lovely sense of space around instruments.

    · Sound stage – not the widest, but I prefer my performances from the perspective of rows 10-20 in the audience, not looking up from the front row. If you want the lead singer right in front of you, singing to you personally, the Sennheiser experience may be more for you.

    A sign of a quality headphone in my view, is when one can listen at moderate volumes and still get the full flavour of a wide dynamic and frequency range. Set the volume to medium on a quality source, and the room to private and you will settle back to a thoroughly musical experience. The Sundara makes some of my other headphones i.e. Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro, Sennheiser Amperior (my on-ear favourites), Philips Fidelio X2 seem a little hyped. Extended listening through my Cambridge CXN2 via my Cyrus One amp makes me realise how good the Sundara is.

    These headphones are not private and you are not sealed from the outside world. So, external interference from a tv, local road rage incidents, a partner intent on reminding you of your marital or material duties etc. will interrupt your temporary reverie.

    On first listen, you may feel there is a lack of bass quantity in the Sundara, but this is not the whole truth. It is not hyped, and the frequencies do not bleed into each other. The higher frequencies are fairly pronounced, however. Like all revealing headphones, these will ruthlessly expose limitations in the recording or reproduction processes or poor-quality recordings.

    These will work fine from a smartphone, and sound very good when using Tidal or Neutron, for instance. They have made friends with my Hifiman Supermini too.

    So, these are my impressions. Thanks to Hifiman for including me in the loaner programme. I would love to compare them to the Ananda sometime.

    The defining question after all this would seem to be: would I spend several hundred pounds of my own money to add the Sundara to my collection?

    Well actually, I already have.

    Thanks for reading.
      B9Scrambler likes this.
  3. Dobrescu George
    One To Always Fall For - HIFIMAN Sundara
    Written by Dobrescu George
    Published May 29, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - + Excellent comfort regardless of your head size
    + depth, width and overall size of the soundstage are all amazing for a 500 USD Headphone
    + Good build quality, no issues with Any Sundara that I know about
    + When properly driven, the dynamics and details are heaven-like
    + Great overall headphone
    Cons - - The treble is soft and slightly splashy, which is positive, but tends to be the only part of the sound that's not quite that amazing
    - The default cable is springy, thick and I personally don't like the L-Shaped connector
    - No carrying case included in the package
    One To Always Fall For - HIFIMAN Sundara

    [​IMG]

    HIFIMAN Sundara is a Planar Magnetic Headphone priced at 500 USD, and it has been my main portable headphone for quite a bit now. The name sundara means beautiful, right, noble, There are many reasons why I pick it often many of its competitors, as you'll find out in today's review of this ~500 USD Headphone.




    Introduction

    When it comes to HIFIMAN, you probably heard of them. Everyone probably has. They're one of those companies that existed for a long time, from whom you probably tried a product and liked how you sounded. You probably also read complaints online about their build quality and such. To say the least, it looks like I started reviewing their products after they sorted out their build quality issues, because to date, at least when talking about Sundara, we're almost 10 Sundara owners in Romania, and not one had an issue. Like, quite literally, out of 10 pairs that I know about in Romania, every single user reported that they are going strong, no issues in any sense. I also needed HIFIMAN's technical support, as I managed to break one of their products from misusage, and I can only say nice words about them, they were very responsive, sorted my issue out in less than one week, new product came in. The thing is, I also had a friend who needed their help, and once again, his experience was exactly the same as mine, but they had no idea me and that person were friends, so I can say that regardless what you knew about HIFIMAN in the past, right now they are one of the top companies when it comes to customer support.

    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. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by HIFIMAN or anyone else. I'd like to thank HIFIMAN for providing the sample for this review. The sample was provided along with HIFIMAN's request for an honest and unbiased review. This review reflects my personal experience with HIFIMAN Sundara. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in HIFIMAN Sundara 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:

    https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/2...HIFIMAN-RE2000Silver-RE800Silver-Sundara.html

    [​IMG]

    I invite you to check the unboxing article I done, along with my first impressions of Sundara, RE800 Silver and RE2000 Silver. As presented there, the package of Sundara was very satisfying for a headphone at this price, but lacked a carrying case, which may have came in handy.



    What to look in when purchasing a Midrange Planar Magnetic Headphone


    https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/what-to-lookl.html



    Technical Specifications


    Frequency Response: 6Hz - 75kHz
    Impedance: 37Ω
    Sensitivity: 94dB
    Weigt: 372g



    Build Quality/Aesthetics/Fit/Comfort


    Let's start with the build quality, Sundara is pretty much a tank. I don't say this because I have seen it, because it doesn't seem that resilient, but I've been using it for a while now, about 3 months or more, and my unit is still in top condition. I mean, I haven't just been using Sundara, this is my workhorse, I took Sundara out in Snow, Dust, Wind, and even worn them while I had my hair full wet, after taking a bath. And if you check out my Youtube Channel, and my video review on Sundara there, you'll notice I also have long hair.

    [​IMG]

    Sundara seems to be made to survive. Not only that, but they don't have a scratch.

    The aesthetics are rather basic, but cool, they look round and large, but they aren't Audeze levels of large, more like normal headphone-sized. The cups are made of a black metallic grille that looks pretty darn nice in person. The headband of sundara, for the better or for worse, is the same as the headband on much more expensive models, including HIFIMAN HE6SE, making this headband a pretty universal one. I noticed that some folks complained about the headband, but the issues experienced must have been from very early batches, because right now there are absolutely no issues with the headband, and I've been using Sundara under very heavy strain for a good amount of time. To give you an idea about them, I literally just throw Sundara in my backpack sometimes, then deposit food above them, I really consider this a workhorse headphone, not a very fragile one.

    [​IMG]

    The fit and comfort are simply ideal, they are the reason I take Sundara on my walks this often. Sundara is rather light, being one of the lightest full sized headphones. Furthermore, the cups are rather large, and the material on the inside of the earpads is actually velour instead of vinyl or leather, so even in Romanian Summer, at 30C, my ears don't sweat much from Sundara, making them perfect for a little walk.


    I know this may be slightly controversial, but I prefer to use a full sized open-back headphone while out and about nowadays, because I want to know when some kind of danger is around me, but if you need isolation or low leakage, then don't pick sundara, they isolate very little, and they leak a lot. This being said, Sundara works just as well inside, and you don't have to deal with the outside noise when using them indoors. This being said, I personally, and this reviewer in particular has been enjoying Sundara both indoors and outdoors. At very acceptable listening volumes, most people around you won't understand what you're listening to, unless you're in a really quiet place, so walking around with Sundy is surely possible.

    As far as driveability goes, Sundara is hard to drive, to extremely hard to drive, most portables struggle to drive it properly and only flagship DAPs with a lot of power and good voltage can properly control them. More about this in their portable usage part of the review.


    The cable of Sundara is maybe its least interesting aspect, but all HIFIMAN Headphones seem to not be doing so well with the cables, people seem to always complain about those. On Sundara, I enjoy the cable overall, but I dislike the L shaped plug, it tends to disconnect often when I pass around stuff and the cable kinda hangs out. This is also because the cable is pretty springy and not flexible enough, making it prone to get tangled when you pass near certain objects.

    [​IMG]

    All in all, Sundara reaches the levels of what a really great headphone at 500 USD is comfort, build and aesthetics wise. Of course, if anything, it lacks a carrying case, and it isn't perfect, especially when we talk about the cable, but it is still darn amazing, and it still reaches the golden levels of how a headphone in this price range should be built and how it should feel like.



    Sound Quality


    While some companies may not enjoy the fact that I take a lot of time sometimes to write about a product, it surely helps both me and you as readers, because I am able to get proper insight and opinions on their sound, and I am able to share those with you. There is nothing perfect in this world. Sundara will be far from perfect. What matters is if it will make an excellent purchase for 500 USD or not (and considering it goes on sale for 350 USD often, you are sure to get a deal if they were already great at 500 USD).

    [​IMG]

    As you may guess or suspect from the title of this review, Sundara is one of the best 500 USD Headphones I have ever seen. Their sound can be described as mostly neutral, without a strong coloration either way, with a neutral bass, neutral midrange, and neutral treble. The midrange is slightly on the thin side, it isn't the full and lush type, but rather the more musical, light and revealing / detailed type. The bass is extremely deep and satisfying, but the amount is closer to neutral than anything else, with a weak tilt towards the sub bass being enhanced. Here, the thing is, the bass is one of the best you will find in this price range, extremely quick, clean and accurate, makes listening to both death metal and house similarly satisfying. The treble is the downfall of Sundara, it is a very 500 USD kind of treble (I'd easily grade the bass and the midrange for ~1000 USD if comparing to everything else on the market), but the treble clearly is a 500 USD kind of treble. The main advantage of the treble is that it is slightly splashy, which surely is welcome to any headphone, it isn't harsh, and it isn't sibilant. But I sometimes wish they had just a bit more sparkle.

    Now, for the deep analysis, starting with the bass, the bass is round, it is deep, and it is quick. It can reach to earthquake levels of frequencies, but it is moderate and neutral in quantity. I wouldn't EQ sundara for more bass, somehow this presentation favors them the most. If you read other reviews, and especially user opinion from many users, it seems that the levels of detail and clarity in the bass have made Sundara the favorite headphone for bass for many many users. Which is funny when you think that something like Alara has way more bass enhancement, and has similar levels of clarity and detail, somehow most people who recommend Sundara for their bass seem to prefer this kind of neutral-ish approach.


    The midrange is extremely sweet, and at least for me, it is the highlight of the Sundara. It is not a forward midrange, and I really love that, it is neutral in the overall presentation, ever so slightly cold rather than warm. This compliments pretty much everything I have in my library, especially metal and guitar notes, and when paired with a high-quality DAC/AMP or DAP, you can hear a ton of detail from Sundara, in fact, making them just one step below Arya or HE6SE, both of which are uber expensive flagships. If you're using an iBasso DX220 + AMP7 from iBasso, there are moments when you wouldn't be able to say that Sundara is a 500 USD Headphone, especially for how dynamic, detailed, punchy, and clear the midrange is. The midrange is ever so slightly on the cold side, but this compliments guitars quite well and gives the entire sound a very dynamic and snappy presentation, compared to a lush presentation which usually imposes more weight on each musical note.

    The dynamics of Sundara when properly powered, are absolutely outstanding. They aren't HE6SE or Arya quite yet, but you have to hear them to understand how close to those heavy names they are.


    The treble of Sundara is maybe their weakest point when it comes to the detail, it lacks the detail the midrange has, but otherwise, it is a nice treble. I love the fact that Sundara was made with a slightly wet / splashy character, because it compliments music quite well. Splashy means that regardless of the source, it usually avoids to be rough or harsh, and usually it isn't sibilant either. The treble can be listened to by anyone, and for 500 USD, the launch price of Sundara, it is the only sonic component that is pretty much in line with other headphones at this price, everything else having a performance a bit above this price point.

    [​IMG]

    The soundstage of Sundara is actually interesting, they have an excellent overall instrument separation, but a natural soundstage. I can't say that their soundstage is the largest ever made, but even when going from a true flagship to Sundara, which is a mid range headphone, I can still be quite happy and content, Sundara manages to have both an excellent width and depth, and they leave enough space for instruments to breathe. The overall stage isn't HD800 wide, but it is wide enough that you won't be needing for air. Compared to most other 500 USD Headphones, Sundara performs excellently in terms of both staging and dynamics.

    Overall, Sundara has a sound that is at least amazing for their price range, reaching the golden levels for their price easily.




    Portable Usage


    Now, now, now, I just said that Sundara isn't exactly portable, and I am not going to take back my word.

    [​IMG]

    I have been using them at least 75% portably, since I keep most flagships for at home and indoors usage, but I still take sundara on my head after taking a batch, when I have wet hair. On the other hand, while outside, the main complaints I'd have are that they don't isolate and leak quite a bit, although I don't seem to annoy people around me, and the few times someone asked me something about my headphones, they were genuinely interested in purchasing a pair, and at least 2 of them actually did.

    Now, the driving part, Sundara takes a lot of power to be driven well. If they are playing some music, it doesn't mean that they are driven well. To place things in perspective, most DAPs below 300 USD simply won't do for Sundara. They will still sound good, but not amazing. For proper amazing sound from Sundara, you need something like iBasso DX220 + AMP7, FiiO X7mkii + AMP5, Chord Mojo, or the like, something with really high power and driving ability.

    When properly driven, Sundara is simply outstanding for their price, when you factor in their sales price of 350 USD, they become a really hard no brainer regardless of other factors, especially given how popular Chord Mojo is in general, and how many people own it already.

    [​IMG]

    On the ther hand, the cable is like their downfall, too thick, not flexible enough, a bit too springy, and I don't really like the L Shaped connector. This being said, they are already performing spectacular for the price otherwise, and a high quality new cable starts at 50 USD, and you can find some even cheaper, since Sundara has a pretty common connector, so it would be better to just invest in an extra cable.

    Overall, Sundara was designed as a desktop headphone more than as a portable one, and as a desktop headphone, it truly reaches the golden levels for everything, including cables and comfort, but even so, you are able to use it portably quite comfortably, and I have been using it that way, so I can recommend Sundara for street usage as well, as long as you are using a high quality DAC/AMP or DAP.



    Comparisons


    For the comparisons part of this review, I have chosen Verum One, Brainwavz Alara, and Sennheiser HD660S. I tried keeping the comparisons close to their price point, as something like Audeze LCD-2C, which I also have for review, is quite a bit more expensive than Sundara.

    [​IMG]

    HIFIMAN Sundara vs Verum One - Verum One is a magical headphone, there's no denying that. Besides the comfort, which is actually a bit better on Verum One due to extra padding, Verum One does get a bit hotter, having leather / pleather pads all-around, compared to Sundy's lighter and hybrid pad design. When it comes to how easy to drive they are, verum can be driven almost to full potential from a smartphone, but becomes magical when driven from something magical, like the Brooklyn DAC+ and Wells Audio Milo Amplifier, but then we're really going to an area where we shouldn't Verum One costs 250 USD, and to their right, you can fully enjoy them from virtually anything, while Sundara really needs a proper source to be driven well. When it comes to their sound, Sundara is much lighter and more neutral, verum One is more liquid, smoother, but also more lush and thicker, Verum One is like the smooth, natural, clean and deep planar, they sound like an LCD-2C, even in terms of detail, but even more natural, where Sundara is lighter, snappier, has more dynamics and a more airy sound, Sundara has less bass, less thickness and less impact, where Verum One is actually quite deep and natural. The treble has more sparkle and a more interesting presentation on Sundara, Verum One being quite smooth in the highs. Overall, from the two, you also should take into account that the design of Verum One means you won't be taking them outside, as for the sound, Verum One is the easy to drive, lush, deep, smooth, liquid, natural headphone, where sundara is the neutral, deep, impactful, vivid, detailed, resolute, one with a slightly splashy treble, but which has quite a bit more sparkle.

    HIFIMAN Sundara vs Sennheiser HD660S - Sennheiser HD660S is quite a bit more expensive than Sundara, especially if you find Sundara on sale, but I know many of you were wondering how the two compare. Now, on comfort, both are comfy, but sundy is a bit more heavy, yet feels less hot, you sweat less with Sundara, and it is less tight on the head. On the other hand, the sound is considerably different, Sundara is quite a bit wider in the soundstage, and both are similarly hard to drive, although Sundara may get louder a bit easier than HD660S, which is both hard to drive and control properly, but also hard to get loud. The soundstage is wider on Sundara, and also deeper, while it is more intimate on HD660S, at least when using most portables. When going to a full blown desktop DAC/AMP, HD660S can get a bit wider, but only with very specific ones. HD660S cannot be used outdoors at all, since it comes with pretty proprietary connectors, comes with a long cable, and gets hotter than Sundara in the summer, plus is harder to drive. The detail is actually similar, but Sundara exposes more detail overall, while HD660S is smoother in general, with a bit more emphasis on a more liquid sound, where Sundara is slightly splashy and also slightly soft, but still bearing a touch more detail. The bass is deeper on sundara, with more impact, and tighter on HD660S, with slightly more precision. The treble is actually a tie between the two, in terms of detail and overall clarity, but I could say that the treble of HD660S is more dry, and more revealing as well, while with Sundara, the treble is a bit more splashy, which also makes it more fatigue-free. Overall, both are excellent headphones, but each is made for a slightly different public.

    HIFIMAN Sundara vs Brainwavz Alara - Alara is like the headphone you'd want to get if you really liked Quad Era, but wanted something more reliable. From my short tests with a friend's Quad Era, I thought that the two were quite similar, and both boasted similar characteristics, except for the price, as Alara is quite a bit less expensive than Quad Era. In fact, I've seen Alara selling for as low as 400 USD, making it one of the closest in price to Sundara, when on sale. Now, the comfort is most certainly different. Both have good pads that don't get hot, but Alara will not accommodate small heads. In fact, this is a big issue with Alara, as at one of our audiophile meetings in Romania, I noticed that a few friends really had an issue. I must have a larger head, because I really didn't have an issuer with them. After you solve the comfort issue, Alara is a bit heavier than Sundara, but not much heavier. Alara is considerably easier to drive, and theoretically would be easier to take outside, but Alara comes with longer and more uncomfortable cables, making Sundara the better choice for outdoors usage. At least you know that you can plug Alara in a less fancy DAC/AMP and they will reach their maximum quicker. Now, the sound is very different. Alara is much much bassier, much warmer, much thicker, Alara is lush, deep, has a more dry and quicker overall sound, and Alara has a more intimate soundstage. Sundara is much more neutral, but still has the same depth to its bass, and Sundara has a bit more detail in the midrange. The dynamics are better on Sundy, regardless of the source used, but this is also a bit characteristic of the tuning, with a thick and lush and deep tuning like with Alara, the Dynamics are usually less pronounced than with a more neutral tuning like Sundara has. Overall, if you're looking for thick, lush, deep, warm and powerful, Alara is your choice, while if you're looking for airy, clean, detailed, dynamic, neutral, and wide, Sundara is your choice.



    Recommended Pairings

    For the recommended pairings part of this review, I have chosen iBasso DX220 + AMP7, QLS QA361, and Chord Mojo. I also have done extensive testing with Sundara and Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, and needless to say, I was in love with that pairing, but, I felt a bit like it is too expensive to talk about that pairing in particular, but don't worry, Brooklyn DAC+ will surely be featured in my Kennerton Thror, and HIFIMAN Arya reviews, and more.

    [​IMG]

    HIFIMAN Sundara + iBasso DX220 (AMP7) - This is the DAP I think that sounds the best at this moment. I have a ton of flagship DAPs in my possession, and I really am fazed every single time I plug in DX220. In fact, I sometimes take a longer path when going somewhere, just so I can listen to a few more songs and just to hear it a bit more. The dynamics, this is exactly what caught me. Don't get me wrong, I think that DX220 is excellent even with AMP1MKII, but it is nowhere near DX220 with AMP7, in this combination, the dynamics are simply, real. Now, the sound of this pairing is one of a dream, I could easily tell that the headphone in the pairing costs 1500 USD or more, if you blindfolded me and placed this pairing on my head, just so much dynamic and clarity, such a deep and impactful bass, and everything is so controlled and clear. And I haven't even scratched the surface, DX220 can do MQA, Streaming, Tidal, and much more. This is the choice, if you have the money for it, DX220 can drive pretty much everything, and will do one of the best jobs out there with it.

    HIIMAN Sundara + QLS QA361 - QA361 is like a more minimalistic version of a player. It really is magical as well, but it is a softer nature, more gentle, more easy on your ears. It is more splashy and more clean, yet manages to have similar dynamics and depth when you compare it to DX220, but with Sundara in particular they are really similar. QLA QA361 has an excellent depth, detail and clarity. In fact, with Sundara it may gather and reveal the most detail I've heard, but it fails just slightly behind, when it comes to Dynamics, although before hearing DX220 and AMP7 with Sundara, I thought that QA361 is the kind of sound with little Sundy. The impact is also amazing, although the treble gets even more soft, which compliments Sundara and lets even more detail shine through in the treble. Overall, if you like a minimalistic DAP, QA361 should serve you extremely well.

    HIFIMANSundara + Chord Mojo - Now, I just reviewed Chord Mojo, and I found it to be quite excellent, not only as a DAC/AMP, but also as a studio instrument, being one of the most widely used DAC/AMPs in the world of music production, engineering and mastering. To its right, it has to be, because it is one of the most affordable, most detail and most clear DAC/AMPs you can find that can drive almost anything, and which fits in a pocket. Now, with sundara, Chord Mojo is more intimate than the other pairings studied here, but has the dynamics of a proper flagship unit. The detail is also insane, but it is slightly different from the typical detail of most DAC/AMPs, Mojo is more liquid, more smooth, yet bears all the detail, Mojo really knows how to tickle me the right way, and how to achieve both the clarity, yet the smoothness of a long-term DAC/AMP. The other thing to consider about Mojo is that it can actually drive Sundara well, it does a job pretty much as good as the two, more expensive DAPs it is getting compared to, although DX220 + AMP7 may have a bit more control over Sundara, and for the price it should, and QA361 is more soft, more splashy and instead of being smooth in the treble, it has sparkle and detail, but a soft kind of detail.



    Value and Conclusion


    It has been really fun talking about Sundara, a headphone I know in and out. And when I remember that it costs about 500 USD, but it also goes on sale for 350, it is really hard to say that it isn't good value. In fact, it makes excellent value, and all HIFIMAN Headphones lately have been so great in value that they are super easy to recommend. Especially now that all the build quality issues have been sorted out, and now that HIFIMAN has a really awesome customer service and is able to take care of you and offer proper support. I suspect they'll slowly become in the same levels as other companies with golden customer support, like FiiO, iBasso, Brainwavz, and many others.

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    Now, starting with the build quality, you're looking at a headphone that is made to last. I wouldn't have thought as much either, just from seeing it, but only my pair of Sundara knows to how much abuse I put it through, and how well it lasted. Furthermore, Sundara is designed to look pretty darn cool, and although it won't be winning any beauty contests, I'm never shy nor feeling bad when I'm wearing them. I'm sure I'd be turning more heads around if walking with a Kennerton Thror, but I really feel more comfortable to have Sundara when out and about especially because of this reason.

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    When it comes to the sound, Sundara is a true winner. For me, for portable usage, I simply find them quite ideal. They are neural, but slightly splashy / soft, so that they never become harsh nor strident. Instead, they have a large stage, excellent instrument separation, and they are some of the best when it comes to dynamics and punchiness, especially in this price range, being only paralleled by the amazing Verum One, but having to take one outside, I'd probably take Sundara more often.

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    Before the final conclusion, I'd like to add Sundara to Audiophile-Heaven's Hall of Fame for being a rather excellent overall headphone, a headphone I have used and am still using a lot, and a headphone I can guarantee will provide long hours of fun to you. They are well made, sound good, and if powered properly, they can sound quite amazing.

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    Now that we reached the end, if you're looking for a 350 USD Headphone, or a 500 USD Headphone, that is Planar Magnetic, then you are most probably looking at Sundara, Verum One and Alara. If you want a more light, slightly soft, yet extremely dynamic sound, excellent comfort, and a neutral sound, yet with a very low-reaching bass, you should totally consider Sundara, and keep in mind, I am using it because I like it for real, no one can force me what to use in my free time, like when taking a walk, but Sundara often is the natural choice, so at least give them a listen if you can, I'm sure you'll see their beauty, especially for the price asked.


    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.



    Tidal Playlist

    https://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


    I hope my review is helpful to you!

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    Contact me!

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      Malfunkt and volly like this.
  4. Spandy87
    Upper mid-fi king
    Written by Spandy87
    Published May 5, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Outstanding treble
    incredible resolution and speed for the price
    Exceptional imaging
    Cons - Bass roll-off
    Slight upper mid shout
    No swivel for the cups
    Introduction
    For this review I was fortunate enough to be selected by HiFiMAN to be on the head-fi loaner tour for the Sundara. I had previously been a bit disappointed with this 'upper mid-fi' price category, having reviewed the Beyerydnamic DT-1990 pro, and realizing that a lot of the praise it's been getting is sorely unwarranted. People seem to be fooled into thinking that its 8.5khz treble peak equates to detail, when in reality it's just an overexposed and oversharpened image. Now onto HiFiMAN's offering in this category:

    While I was a big fan of the HE500, the newer generation (560 and 400i) didn't grab me as much. They're still capable performers, but for some reason they always sounded a bit boring by comparison. Add to that the fact that they had some serious build quality issues with cups falling off (I had one literally fall apart in my hands in a headphone shop), it hasn't been a good look. Now comes the Sundara - a better built, more streamlined replacement for HiFiMAN's entry level audiophile planar magnetics.

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    Build quality & comfort
    The build seems to have been improved when it comes to the physical construction of the headphone, with the exception of a cheap and plasticky headpiece adjustment system. But this time around, the yokes are thankfully made of metal, and are all one piece so they're unlikely to fall apart like their predecessors did. The downside of doing this is that this system doesn't allow for any cup swivel. In my opinion this is completely inexcusable, and this is perhaps my biggest complaint when it comes to the Sundara. Nonetheless, it's still reasonably comfortable once you get used to the clamp, and the pads feel quite good.

    Performance
    Detail retrieval and speed are both exceptional for this price. It's not as good as some kilobuck cans I've got on my desk at the moment, but boy does it ever get close at a fraction of the price. The Sundara does a better job in this department than the DT-1990 pro, and it also does better than the HD660s from Sennheiser - at least as far as speed is concerned.

    Soundstage is good, but not the widest I've ever heard - certainly wider than the HD660s. It also has a good sense of depth and layering. The real standout here though is imaging and instrument separation. The Sundara is simply categorically superior to the two aforementioned upper mid-fi dynamic headphones, and this is partially why I regard it so highly in terms of detail capabilities as well.

    Of course, it also has that distinct planar timbre that isn't for everyone. Personally I love it, because it makes things sound punchy, tight, and well controlled. I like to describe this as sounding like tones are plucked rather than pushed. The nice thing about the Sundara is that it doesn't sound overly thick or closed in, and that's also partially due to its tonality.

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    Tonality

    Bass - The bass rolls off a bit below 50hz, but this can also be improved by ensuring you get a good seal. I found my measurements shifted quite a bit in that region depending on how I positioned the headphone, and it sounds like that too. Nonetheless, the bass is tight and well controlled, likely aided by the planar driver - and while it's not as linear as I'd like, it's still satisfying.

    Mids - This is possibly the flattest response up until the upper midrange where there's a slight elevation. I find this causes a very slight shout, but it's tastefully done and I can't say it ever becomes bothersome. Similarly, the ear canal compensation around 3khz isn't overly subdued, which really helps with clarity and presence.

    Treble - The Sundara has some of the best treble response under $1000. There are a few other headphones that do about as well (like the Ananda), but at the Sundara's asking price it's actually insane how well it does in the treble. Because of this, the Sundara is a statement on what good treble response should be - and in this sense the Sundara is the perfect reaction to the "fake detail" headphones like the DT-1990 pro that oversharpen images and fool reviewers. On the flip side, there are headphones that seem to have been developed with the idea of just reducing treble altogether to avoid having to deal with it being overly sharp, and that's not good either. The Sundara demonstrates what's possible with treble when it's tuned just right, and it underscores the importance of how carefully treble needs to be tuned to get it right. If anything, this is the Sundara's crowning achievement.

    Conclusion
    In a world where everyone is either oversharpening or muting the treble, the Sundara navigates the perfect middle ground, showing what good treble actually is. It's not perfect in its design, but at less than $400 the Sundara is an absolute steal. I can't think of anything better for the price, at least for the moment. Moreover, this is such a benchmark headphone that other manufacturers need to use this as their target if they intend to sell a product at the same price or higher, especially when it comes to treble response. In fact, this does tre ble better than some headphones that cost thousands, and so anyone looking for a definitive statement on treble, they wouldn't go wrong with the Sundara.

    If anyone's curious, I made a video review you can check out as well for more info.
      Aegruin likes this.
  5. Zelda
    HIFIMAN Sundara
    Written by Zelda
    Published Apr 30, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Sound quality: Open, airy, detailed and highly controlled. Clean, accurate and very good timbre.
    Comfortable and and solid materials used
    Even greater value when it goes on sale.
    Cons - The design limits the fit.
    Missing a bit on sub-bass extension. Sound stage is not particularly wide.
    Review - HIFIMAN Sundara

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    Website - HIFIMAN

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    Official Sundara info

    Specifications

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    Price: U$499 (retail). Goes for sale at $349, available on HIFIMAN Store, Amazon and Ebay.

    Credits to HIFIMAN team for arranging the Sundara unit for the needed review time.

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    There is not much to say about the unboxing of the Sundara. The headphones arrive in a large cardboard box with an image of the Sundara model at the top and the specifications at the back. Inside the headphones are snugly arranged inside polystyrene covered by an all shiny black satin cloth with the cable and a 6.3mm adapter attached to the 3.5mm plug. There is the manual with a long story of the Sundara and a warranty card. A carrying case could have been included as it is not too convenient to keep them stored always back in the box.

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    Design

    The HIFIMAN Sundara continues the large around over-ear planar open-back from the company. The whole design is very similar to the previous models like the HE400i but has a new fresh look that it is simple yet elegant and discreet. It is smooth with an air of high-end on it without a fancy looking premium finish. I won't comment on the durability of the new Sundara as only had them for less than 2 months taking lot care of them; and there were some previous reports of QC issues. However, the materials used here seem to be solid enough for the retail price.

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    The main structure mixes different metal types. The headband arc is made of spring steel while the round yokes and outer cups are apparently of stiff anodized aluminum. Not sure on grills specific material, but still a strong metal alloy as well. The only section where plastic is used is on the sides of the headband that joins the outer band arc with the yokes acting as the adjustment mechanism. All with a dark matte finish and a few silver points. The lower headband strap is attached to the plastic covers too. It is made of synthetic leather like material and while looks kind of plain it is soft and comfortable and helps to distribute very well the weight of the headphones. The Sundara's weight is about ~370g which may not sound particularly light for a full over-ear headphone set but in practice results very friendly as a planar option thanks to the well thought design.
    Personally, I had no need to adjust the headband as found it large enough, but should be mentioned that the adjustment system is quite stiff and requires some extra effort; it's actually a good thing as the Sundara will keep the fixed and secure fit.

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    The ear cups movement is limited to only swivel up and down around the yokes and can be the main disadvantage of the Sundara design which also found on the upper model Ananda. It's not a serious thing to complain about as the fit and seal around the ears is still very easy but still affects when trying to achieve a best fit compared with many other over-ear headphones where the ear cups rotate to right and left sides. However, the round ear pads are slightly angled from the thinner front to the thicker back part what helps a bit to get a more natural fit despite their fixed design. The pads are about 15mm thick with a soft synthetic material outside and very soft and breathable mesh inside that sits very comfortable around the ears and skin. The pads are strongly attached to the cups and follow a simple mechanism to replace them if needed.

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    As for what the cable matters, it is supposed to use a crystal OFC copper wire inside. Length is about 1.5m and ends in a standard 3.5mm TRS plug, and a simple all plastic y-split. The connection to the headphones now utilizes regular TRS 3.5mm connectors too which is a better standard nowadays. However, the outer sheath is thick and very stiff and also holds a strong memory effect out of the box. It can result quite springy and annoying to use and despite whatever good wire material used inside and a more friendly cable would be nicer at this price.

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    Apart from that, overall the Sundara seems to hold a very decent quality, solid and comfortable design.

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    Sound Quality

    Main sources used: iBasso DX120, HiBy R6 Pro, AQ Dragonfly Red, xDuoo XP-2.

    With the new Sundara model HIFIMAN introduce a new planar driver of a much thinner diaphragm. Whether this new option has benefits in sound quality or not is not a matter that could be discussed here, but nevertheless as for what sound matters the Sundara rates pretty well for the price (and much better if got on during sales). While this is not the first HIFIMAN product I review it is always refreshing to try their new offers. Had a briefly demo listen to the HE400, 400i, 560 some time ago, and while cannot give a direct comparison with those, the Sundara holds a certain HIFIMAN house sound. It could be described as being very neutral but not in a thin, texture-less or clinical way; rather, the sound is mostly linear and nicely balanced. A more accurate way to describe it would be as 'even', without certain emphasis on lows or highs, and definitely no peak or dip either. It has a very subtle sense of fullness and a hint of warmth that is not uncommon on HIFIMAN gears (and that's a good characteristic). The sound is open, clean, very natural in timbre, and if well powered it is effortless and airy.

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    The bass is rather neutral in quantity and may get just a tiny bit above than that. It is smooth and light in body and doesn't reach much depth. There is no strong impact to boast about, but it is usually present in the sound mix with a slight punch on the mid-bass and faint heard rumble. It is very linear with a small roll-off on the lowest sub-bass region. The quality is really good; it is tight, well layered and effortless. Also quick in attack, well paced, not aggressive but has great speed and precision. The response to some EQ or bass boost from a portable amp is good too and it is still capable of showing good dynamics and richer texture if paired with warmer sounding source, but still maintains the neutral-ish signature.

    The midrange is a strong point on the Sundara. From previous HIFIMAN products, the mids usually tend to stand out in quality and their natural presentation, and the does Sundara planar follows that characteristic as well. From the inoffensive low-end the midrange is free of any bass intrusion, rather uncolored texture yet well tuned in its presentation. The linearity continues here but the sound is not too flat or cold. It is more about accuracy. There is a small hint of richness that gives a slight sense musicality but remains pretty neutral if just a bit forward. It is open and very detailed; not a kind of detail that tries to go always too forward but rather flows naturally on the mix in the smoother nature of the headphones. Instruments are neatly positioned without a very wide distant effect. Vocals are clear and very detailed - male singers lack some weight and texture while female gain more focus and energy but not prone of being sibilant despite the bit brighter signature of the Sundara.

    Treble is relatively elevated next to the lows and mids though not aggressive. It has a brighter tone for sure but well balanced that is difficult to point out a specific strong peak or dip on its response. The control is surprisingly really good and sounds very coherent and even. Yes, the specs state a 75 kHz reach which is way too high to pick, but the extension is high and effortless. While the treble is full and energetic and won't be completely smooth or liquid it is still missing that usual sharpness and tiring presentation those bright headphones sets tend to present.

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    The presentation is open and very airy. It focuses on great accuracy and coherent positioning, goes very spacious but doesn't deliver a special wide stage range nor reaches a best depth, but still enjoyable with its very natural timbre. Channel separation is not too sharp; the Sundara rather gives a more rounded effect and precise image. Dynamics are good but second to the more impressive as the openness and resolution on the Sundara.

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    The specifications and HIFIMAN own description suggests the Sundara being efficient enough to be driven even out of a standard smartphone or normal audio player. In practice it proves to be true as for volume matching matters without reaching the max steps. Sound-wise it's not that bad and not as weak as that the HE400i. But it's just decent at best and nothing worth the $500 price tag or whatever lower deal it may get if planned to be used right of a weak source. Small DAPs like the Fiio M6 are still not enough (though better than a phone or stock audio card); sound is lacking in bass and stage is too small. A more powerful player like the DX120 already makes a noticeable difference - there is bass presence and depth and larger stage. The Dragonfly Red DAC too - and actually has a very good synergy with the Sundara with more power, thicker low-end and fuller midrange if a bit smoother yet controlled treble. The new HiBy R6 Pro gives superb resolution and much higher micro-detailing with a much open and airy presentation; soundstage is also there, but again it's not the most impressive part (unless the 4.4mm balanced output used). Simply put, this shows the good synergy and transparency of the Sundara.
      DannyBai and NymPHONOmaniac like this.
  6. B9Scrambler
    HIFIMAN Sundara: Benchmark
    Written by B9Scrambler
    Published Mar 10, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Balanced, capable sound signature - Nice build quality - Comfortable and light
    Cons - Limited ear cup movement - Scant accessories
    Greetings!

    Today we're checking out one of HIFIMAN's more affordable new planar magnetic headphones, the Sundara.

    HIFIMAN was founded in 2007 in New York, and in 2009 released their first product, the HM-801 portable media player. Since then they've expanded their portfolio to include a wide variety of headphones, earphones, DAPs, and various accessories. Their lineup of planar magnetic headphones is their bread and butter though and it is packed with industry leading products. That won't be changing with the Sundara we're checking out today.

    At 499 USD the Sundara offers up some pretty spectacular performance while improving on the build quality of past products. Let's take a closer look at why this is my new 500 USD benchmark.

    Disclaimer:

    Thanks to Mark at HIFIMAN for arranging a sample of the Sundara for review. The thoughts here are my subjective opinions based on my time listening to the Sundara. They do not represent HIFIMAN or any other entity. At the time of writing the Sundara retailed for 499 USD. You can check it out here on HIFIMAN.com: http://hifiman.com/products/detail/286

    Who doesn't enjoy perusing a good manual?: http://down.hifiman.com/manual/SUNDARA-Owners-Manual.pdf

    Source:

    The Sundara spent it's time paired up to my TEAC HA-501 desktop amp, a ZiShan DSD or HiFi E.T. MA8 providing music. The Sundara is a little more difficult to drive than the specs would suggest, likely thanks to the slightly low sensitivity. My TEAC was more than up to the challenge though. It could easily bring the Sundara up to my fairly low listening volumes, and well beyond, without coming anywhere close to tapping out the volume pot or running into distortion or clipping.

    Personal Preferences:

    I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. My preferences for earphone tuning are quite relaxed and as such their is no one signature I look for. The HiFiMAN RE800 Silver, Brainwavz B400, and Massdrop x MeeAudio Planamic are examples of earphones with wildly varied signatures that are enjoyable for different reasons. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when perusing my thoughts on how an earphone sounds.

    Specifications:
    • Frequency Response : 6Hz-75kHz
    • Impedance : 37Ω
    • Sensitivity : 94dB
    • Weight : 372g
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    Packaging and Accessories:

    The Sundara comes in an environmentally friendly cardboard box that feels dense and tough, offering plenty of protection during shipment. The dark tones of the package contrast nicely with the macro shot of the Sundara found on the front, along with your typical HIFIMAN branding and model designation. Flipping to the back you find some basic specifications and contact information for HIFIMAN.

    Lifting off the lid you find the manual and warranty card sitting on a thin foam sheet meant to protect the headphones from being scratched. Lifting out the sheet I was pleased to see the Sundara tucked tightly into a foam insert covered in a loose, flowing, premium feeling fabric. For additional scratch protection, a slip of plastic was set overtop the metal pivot points on the earcups. Dead centre was the cable, neatly wrapped and tucked into a recession with the 1/4" adapter in place. In all you get:
    • Sundara headphones
    • 3.5mm cable
    • 1/4" adapter
    Overall this is about as basic as an accessory kit gets. No carrying case or baggy, no alternate cable options, etc. You get only what you need to start listening and nothing more. Some might be disappointed at first but once they start listening to the Sundara, they'll understand where the money went.

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    Build, Comfort, and Isolation:

    The Sundara is crafted almost entirely from aluminum and looks simple but striking with it's black and silver color scheme. Plastic is limited to reasonably small sections on the base of the headband where the extensions reside and the leatherette head pad attaches. The plastics feel pretty decent with a pleasing matte finish, and flicking them with your finger nail doesn't result in the cheap sounding click you find on some other products.

    The metal found everywhere else is neatly painted and is quite sturdy, especially the yolks which are twisted for some additional strength. The weaved metal grills are quite firm and resistant to pressure and should do a good job of protecting the drivers, though it should be common sense to not deliberately crush or put unnecessary pressure on them. At the base of each ear cup is a 3.5mm input for the left and right cables. I appreciate that HIFIMAN positioned them so that when the headphones are in place on your head, the cable are angled forward slightly. This keeps the plugs from poking your shoulders if you turn or tilt your head. The move to 3.5mm plugs might disappoint some users since other products in the range use 2.5mm plugs and without an adaptor your upgraded cables for those models won't fit. The adjustment slides for sizing are a little rough during movement, but that's the kind of thing you set and forget. Plus, once you've picked a size it holds it firmly with no risk of it sliding or and need for readjustment, something I can't say about the Brainwavz HM100. That is designed to let the sliders move freely requiring constant readjustment. Annoying...

    The cable is admittedly not my favorite, but it works well enough. The sheath is made from a fairly stiff rubber that is larger than the wiring within. If you squeeze it there is a fair bit of air before you reach the wires. This allows it to kink if you bend it sharply enough, though the cable dissuades you from doing that thanks to the stiffness. The cable also has a default state of being semi-curled, even after having been unpackaged and hanging for a while to try and straighten it out. The main 90 degree angled jack is quite reminiscent of what HIFIMAN used on the RE800 and RE2000 (gold versions) with a chunky, squared off, gold and black coloured plug. Not great for portable use, but fine for desktop amps which is likely what the Sundara will find itself plugged into most often. The 3.5mm plugs for the headphone end are also metal and quite compact with some mild strain relief in place to protect from bends, though the sheath is probably stiff enough to do that by itself. Prominent L/R markings are written in white letting so you can easily determine which chanel is which. The y-split is the only part that feels built to a budget being that it is two pieces of plastic pressed and glued together (I assume). It doesn't feel particularly durable, so take care not to put too much pressure on it.

    Comfort is lovely despite the limited range of motion of the ear cups. The extremely lightweight aluminum construction combined with a wide, flexible leatherette head pad and HIFIMAN's well-cushioned hybrid, angled pads makes for a headphone that sits naturally with a fairly even weight distribution. The only thing that would make it better is some forward and backward pivoting motion to fine tune how the pads interact with your head. Even something as minimal as what Brainwavz did with the Alara would go a long way. Still, without that I have no issues wearing the Sundara for hours. Heat buildup isn't an issue during that time either given the Sundara is open back and the velour portion of the pads is quite breathable.

    Isolation is, well, non-existent. The Sundara is very much an open headphone to the point where you can put your ear up to the back of the cup and have a half-decent listening experience. All outside sound bleeds in, and whatever you are listening to bleeds out as well. This isn't the type of headphone for discrete listening on the bus or in a library, or in bed when your significant other is trying to sleep, that's for sure.

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    Sound:

    The Sundara is the most balanced planar in this price range I've come across. While not neutral, there is no particular frequency that fights for top billing which is something I cannot say for the competition.

    Treble here is very tidy and well controlled without any extreme peaks that often end up causing strife among the treble sensitive. Measurements show a small peak around 5k which is good for improving clarity and it's apparent. The Sundara isn't veiled or muffled whatsoever with notes having strong definition and control. Another calculated peak is present in the brilliance region giving chimes and cymbals some lustre. It's not overdone though so unlike on some other headphones where such elements can overstay their welcome with unneeded aggressiveness, through the Sundara they sound natural. Or in the case of the screeching that not to subtly works it's way into The Crystal Method's “Grace feat. LeAnn Rimes”, it sounds as natural as it can. The Sundara is one of the few headphones that makes that song perfectly listenable despite the introduction of such a questionable element.

    The mid-range is to my ears very even from lower to upper with no area taking any precedent, nor any bias towards male or female vocals. Sarah Barthel and Big Boi share equal presence on Big Gram's “Run For Your Life”, though I personally am partial to Sarah's sections. The Sundara encapsulates her hypnotic voice perfectly and I find myself repeating her parts. The same can be said on “Born To Shine” which also introduces the RTJ boys, EL-P and Killer Mike, for a few swagger filled lines. The Sundara let's this track ooze character which is always appreciated, especially when listening with the accompanying video running in the background. The Sundara isn't all about vocals though. The acoustic guitars on Porcupine Tree's “Baby Dream in Cellophane” sounds so intimate and crisp, like I'm sitting across from the artist. Close my eyes and I'm transported back to university listening to my buddy Mitch practice for open mic night at the campus pub while I play Halo:CE online over XBConnect. The timbre is just right, the attack and decay of each strum reverberating as it does in person. Throwing on recording of a live performance like King Crimson's “Indiscipline” from the 'On Broadway' album further highlights just how natural and accurate the Sundara can be.

    The Sundara's low end feels pretty endless with outstanding extension well into regions you feel, not hear. While it lacks the unique growl of the Brainwavz Alara's planar drivers, the Sundara can be just as impactful and visceral. Take the opening drum sequence on the aforementioned “Indiscipline”. You feel every punt of the bass drum, every stab at the snare. It's pretty awesome, especially when you take into account how the drumming swirls around you from channel to channel. Quite the experience without a doubt. Switching gears to The Prodigy's “Thunder”, the pounding beat the track opens with hits hard and at high volumes creates a solid sense of pressure. The texturing is excellent too with the crunchy notes introduced later on feeling every bit as dirty as they should. Speed isn't an issue, no surprise given we're working with a planar, with the Sundara tackling the rapid fire double bass with ease. There is no smearing or muddying of notes with each beat coming through clear and distinct, even at higher volumes. The Sundara is actually quite well suited to thrash thanks to it's speed and clarity.

    The Sundara's sound stage is fairly open and spacious with the mid-range acting as a central leaping off point. Jacob Collier's “Hideaway” is a song I've seen recommended in a few places so I picked it up and have listened to it over and over the last few weeks. It really shines on the Sundara. Jacob's main vocals sound front and centre with instruments blossoming out all around him. The imaging quality is stellar allowing you to pin point locations, while the layering and separation keeps everything clear and distinct. Taking this down to a more casual level, the Sundara is fantastic for gaming. I really enjoyed them with World of Tanks. Sitting in a heavy armoured Russian heavy tank and listening to rounds ping and ricochet off the hull, or a tank destroyer firing a massive shell on a nearby ridge really added to the experience. Never underestimate how much more immersive a quality set of headphones can make gaming.

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    Select Comparisons:

    Advanced Alpha (499 USD): The Alpha has a leaner, lighter and brighter presentation than the Sundara with a stronger upper mid presence that can occasionally make female vocals a bit strident. Treble is a bit less sparkly on the Sundara but feels more even in presence top to bottom. Mid-bass on the Alpha has more kick and impact but sub-bass doesn't seem to have the same extension and emphasis. Sound stage on the Alpha is a hint larger but falls behind in terms of imaging precision and layering. Clarity, detail, and texture are all more prominent and clean on the Sundara. I quite enjoy the Alpha but the Sundara is more consistent in it's tune. It simply provides a better listening experience across a wider variety of genres.

    Build is very similar with the Alpha seeing metal used on all the pivot points and moving parts. Plastic is only found on the ear cups. Weight is extremely similar with the Alpha feeling very slightly more weighty. While they both use wide pleather head bands, the Alpha's auto-sizes to the head while the Sundara uses more traditional stepped extenders. I personally prefer the Sundara's setup. While it takes more effort to set up, I find the weight distribution more even and consistent. The Alpha tends to droop after a while requiring adjustments. Alpha gets some points back for the fully articulating cups. The Sundara's cable is better as well, or at the very least more suited to the style of headphone. The Alpha has a very short, iem-like braided cable that feels very out of place on a full-sized planar. Alpha's packaging has a nicer initial presentation with a big case similar to what HIFIMAN provided with the Susvara, sans the velour fabric insert. Foam only. ADVANCED also tosses in some spare hybrid pads which change the signature up slightly.

    Brainwavz Alara (499 USD): This is a more even fight. The Alara is a bit darker and more heavy-handed in the bass but otherwise is also very well balanced. The Alara's treble is a bit less emphasized but even more detailed and a touch tighter. The Sundara's mids aren't quite as forward, either in emphasis or how they are presented physically. The Alara's low end is it's claim to fame. While a little slower than the Sundara's, it gives up nothing in terms of impact and depth and introduces an addictive growl and impressive texturing that makes listening to low notes an absolute joy. That tuning balance combined with a much more intimate sound stage and slightly improved technicals (imaging accuracy and separation in particular, Sundara layers better) makes the Alara feel more immediate and as if they were intended to be a tool for monitoring purposes. The Sundara is more open and playful and doesn't sound quite as serious. The much wider, deeper sound stage of the Sundara has me choosing it over the Alara. That and the way it portrays guitars.

    In terms of build, both use a mix of plastic and metal but the Alara is much beefier. It weighs a lot more and gives off a greater sense of durability, though the plastic yolks are a question mark in the long term. The Alara's ovular pads also have a hybrid velour/pleather setup but are much smaller. While my ears fit within them no problem, someone with larger ears will find the Sundara's more spacious pads offering greater comfort. The Alara's ear cups fully articulate which makes a noticeable difference in how they sit on the head when compared to the Sundara. The headband padding is a bit on the thin side though. Also keep in mind the Alara is really only suited to those with medium to large heads. I had to add extra padding to the headband so they would fit me. This isn't an issue on the Sundara. Packaging for the Alara is a basic cardboard box but you get la bunch more extras, such as a compact carrying case, spare pads, a gorgeous fabric cable, carrying strap, and a 1/4” adapter.

    Final Thoughts:

    Outside of the limited articulation of the ear cups, there is little to criticize about the Sundara. I thought the HE-350 was fairly well built, but compared to the Sundara it feels like a toy. The new, mostly metal design is very lightweight, surprisingly low profile, comfortable, and I think it looks fantastic. While time will tell, it seems quite durable and as if it will stand the test of time.

    The nice build quality and comfort is supported by outstanding sound quality, the most important part of any headphone. The Sundara's balance and clarity is breathtaking and shines with anything you toss at it, from acoustic jams to EDM bangers. It extends well in both directions, sounds natural and realistic, and is very crisp and clear. A product like this really begs the question, “Why pay more?”. It does everything so well. If you're in the market for a premium, full-sized open back but don't want to dip your toes into the kilobuck+ models, this is probably the one to get. HIFIMAN did a fantastic job with the Sundara.

    Thanks for reading!

    - B9Scrambler

    ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

    Some Test Tunes:

    Aesop Rock - Skelethon (Album)
    Daft Punk - Random Access Memories (Album)
    Elton John - Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album)
    King Crimson - Lark's Tongues in Aspic (Album)
    King Crimson - Starless and Bible Black (Track)
    Supertramp - Crime of the Century (Album)
    Infected Mushroom - Converting Vegetarians (Album)
    Infected Mushroom - Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
    Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (Album)
    Massive Attack - Mezzanine (Album)
    Fleetwood Mac - Rumors (Album)
    Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels (Album)
    The Prodigy - The Day is My Enemy (Album)
    Tobacco - F****d Up Friends (Album)
    Felt - Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bone) (Album)
  7. kpet82
    Great all-rounder and value king
    Written by kpet82
    Published Sep 4, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Soundstage, balanced sound signature, build quality, great value
    Cons - for the asking price - none
    First off- I pair the Sundara with the mighty Chord Mojo. I find the sound signature to be balanced with no signs of sibilance or fatiguing highs. The lows are punchy and fast. The mids are very neutral to my ears. Vocals are neither forward nor recessed. Highs are perfect for my taste. Usually I prefer darker headphones, but the Sundara made me change my mind. It is nor veiled nor harsh. Again, balanced in every way.

    To my ears, the Sundara is a chameleon. Sometimes it manages to sound warm and sometimes cold. I guess that is what you call a neutral headphone (well, close enough at least). You hear what was intended by the artist.

    I listen to a variety of genres. From post-metal to jazz. I think the Sundara handles it all with ease. OK, sometimes I would prefer the body of something like the LCD-2, but to me, the Sundara is a better option. It is way more comfortable, has better sound stage and is way easier to drive. And it is half the LCD-2s asking price. I have tested and owned a lot of headphones, including the LCD-2, but the Sundara is the only one where I simply cannot find any deal breakers.

    If you prefer classical, modern or rap, audition the Sundara. If you listen to guitarbased genres - folk, rock, jazz etc. the Sundara is a no-brainer. For the asking price it simply is a beast. Highly recommended.
      Greendriver, Module, PDC3 and 3 others like this.
    1. volly
      B9, are you able to get your hands on the AR-H1? Would love to see a comparison between the Sundara and the H1! Again, love your work! xoxo
      volly, Mar 12, 2019
    2. Greendriver
      Excellent review. I agree with everything you say. My only concern is that the diaphragm is so thin, by design, it may be delicate, so be careful with handling. These are revealing, so bad recordings will not be glossed over! An amp is not essential, but highly recommended. Audition several types of music and be aware that these take a while to burn in, as they sound a little thin initially...
      Greendriver, Mar 20, 2019