HIFIMAN SUNDARA

Bobject

New Head-Fier
$350 Benchmark in Neutrality (+ comparison to 560S)
Pros: -Near damn flat frequency response.
-Class leading resolution, detail, clarity, speed, attack, etc.
-Surprisingly good dynamics.
-Good short term comfort.
-Built better than most HiFiMan headphones
Cons: -Cable isn't great
-Long-term comfort is not great.
-Questionable QC at times
-Adjustment mechanism leaves scratches
-Can be a touch sibilant at times
Comfort:

Good. There isn't anything poking my ear like last time I tried these. Clamp is there, but not as bad as the 560S, nowhere near. I bet the actual force is similar, but the Sundara spreads it out more. My ears are a bit too big for the cups, and I bet that will be an issue after a while or wearing. Overall, it's good.

Build:

Excellent. Very excellent. Everything is metal and feels premium. Its odd that HiFiMan has such a well built headphone in comparison to Sennheiser not having a well built headphone with the 560S. The adjustment mechanism does scratch the metal though, not a huge deal.

Sound:

Neutral and technical. These have the best frequency response that I have ever heard. Bass extends well, never boomy or bloated. Mids are dead neutral, no upper midrange shout. Treble is wonderfully balanced with no large peaks and dips.
Everything has such a level of detail and finesse to it, the separation qualities are fantastic. All aspects of technical performance are class leading except for soundstage, which is *only* "above average".

560S Comparison:

Bass is more present then the 560S, and it is fast and textured in comparison.

Mids are more recessed than the 560S, but not bad at all. Similar level of midrange detail at first listen. Doesn't have the same awful midrange shout of the 560S. (Yay!)

Treble is similar in amount but much better in quality than on the Sundara than on the 560S. Much more detailed than the 560S.

More sibilant than the 560S in some tracks, less sibilant in others.

Imaging is fantastic, more defined and precise.

Another interesting thing is I find these do much better on Sabaton heavy metal than the 560S and basically everything else I've had. The key to those songs sounding good is separation and distinction for me. (My wallpaper in the background is their Great War album cover)

Overall: For $350 these are a no-brainer and you should absolutely buy one if you have the means.

RikudouGoku

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Very clean but textured bass (that can go from flat to almost basshead levels of quantity)
Godly vocals
Extremely well tuned treble, lots of detail but not peaky
Very technical
Timbre
Build quality
VALUE
(Takes EQ like a champ)
Cons: Soundstage width can be better
Weight
Heat
Needs a powerful amp (even more so, with EQ)
No accessories
Cable
20210907_131124.jpg

Disclaimer: I bought this with a review discount from HifiGO. Thank you very much.

Price: 350 usd

Specifications:


Frequency Response: 6Hz – 75kHz

Impedance: 37 ohms

Sensitivity: 94 dB

Weight: 372 g

20210907_131521.jpg

Accessories:

None except the 3.5 -> 6.35mm adapter


Cable: Pretty normal looking cable that is pretty thick and around 1.6M, measures at 0.43ohm. Has a plastic divider but metal connectors, I would get this replaced with a cable from XINHS.


20210907_132027.jpg

20210907_132053.jpg

Build: Made out of metal and feels solid. Metal headband along with a pleather band. The cups do not rotate (left – right) but can tilt (up – down). The adjustment system is pretty good as there is a distinct click along with markers along the way so its easier to align them on both sides. The pads have memory foam on the outside and velour on the inside, is pretty soft.

Fit: Very good, its pretty big for me but the clamp isn’t too weak/strong so it works well. If you have a very small head, it might be too big for you though.

Comfort: Pretty good up to an hour for me, then the heat starts bothering me and also the weight (but I’m not really a headphone guy so…).

Isolation: Next to none, also leaks a lot, to the point where you can listen to it on the other side of the cup.

Setup: Schiit Asgard 3 (high-gain, volume around 9-10 o’clock), stock pads/cable, PEQ

(PEQ is used during this entire review and pro/cons reflect that as well)

Lows:
Sub-bass focused, very clean due to the fast speed and tight bass. Not for bassheads (still lacking in quantity even after my EQ) for sure, but can handle a lot of boosting (EQ) due to the planar and doesn’t lose much quality (although anything more than 10db and it starts losing a lot of quality).

Mid-bass: Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), very clean due to the fast and tight bass but lacking in quantity, texture is good though. The (02:55-03:01) section with the chopper is clean and hearable but could be more forward.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), texture, speed and tightness are very good but lacking a bit bass quantity to make it fun.

Sub-bass: Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), does rumble but not a lot and extension could be better (hard for an open-back to do though…). Punch quantity is lacking and could have more texture, but is clean due to the speed/tightness.

Will Sparks – Sick like that (03:08-03:22), quantity is a bit lacking, but texture, speed and tightness are very good.

Mids: both male and female vocals have great tonality, although they are more versatile so they match a lot of genres but in most cases will slightly lack some brightness (female) or warmth (male). Vocal balancing is very good and they are natural due to the timbre. No bleed from the bass so it is very clean and detailed without being fatiguing.

Female-vocals: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), vocal (is forward) and instrument tonality is great, very clean and detailed as well. Timbre is very good and does remind me of dynamic drivers, although just a bit more unnatural than a well-tuned DD.

Yuki Hayashi – MightU (01:58-02:55), instrument tonality is great but vocals need to be a bit brighter. Timbre is very good.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), not peaky and still with very good tonality.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Crescent (02:07-02:26), slightly shouty and fatiguing.

Male-vocals: Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (00:57-01:17), very good vocal and instrument tonality/timbre that is clean and detailed.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), both vocal and instrument tonality needs to be warmer but very clean and detailed.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), electric guitars aren’t sharp but a bit fatiguing.

Deuce – America (03:03-03:16), slightly shouty but very good imaging and separation.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello tonality could be a bit warmer, more textured but is clean and detailed with good timbre. Violin tonality could be brighter, but good treble-extension and detail with good timbre.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), good tonality, timbre and is clean and detailed.

Soundstage: It is an open-back so it is pretty big.

Tonality: Bass-boosted neutral. That is pretty balanced between warmth and brightness. Timbre is very good, although a step down from well-tuned DDs.

Details: A lot of macro and micro details.

Instrument Separation: Excellent imaging and separation, very impressive.

Songs that highlight the Headphone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEgL-3gfexo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsLsBs4oW30 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nugM7vYfu9I

Good genres:
Jack of all genres, master of none for my library

Bad genres: Jack of all genres, master of none for my library



Comparisons:

Headphone: Koss KPH30i, stock pads, stock cable 3.5mm

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), extends a LOT deeper and rumbles more on the Sundara. Punch quantity is also higher on the Sundara but a lot cleaner due to the faster and tighter bass along with a lot more texture (and is much more detailed). More tonally correct on the Sundara, but slightly better timbre on the KPH30i.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), more mid-bass quantity on the KPH30i but a lot cleaner on the Sundara due to the faster and tighter bass. More texture and a lot more detailed as well on the Sundara.

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), a LOT cleaner (faster/tighter and less bass quantity) and more detailed on the Sundara. Quite muddy on the KPH30i.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), vocal tonality is a lot better, cleaner and detailed as well as more forward on the Sundara. Instrument tonality is a bit better on the KPH30i (warmer) but does sound quite bloated in comparison to the cleaner and more detailed Sundara. Timbre is slightly better on the KPH30i.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), more relaxing and non-fatiguing on the KPH30i but a lot more detailed and cleaner on the Sundara.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), more forward vocals, cleaner and more detailed. Tonality is slightly better on the KPH30i with both vocals/instruments due to the warmth but does get bloated. Timbre is very good on both.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), electric guitars are a bit sharper on the Sundara but more tonally correct.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello tonality is similar but more detailed, cleaner and more textured on the Sundara with better timbre on it as well. Violin tonality, texture, treble-extension, detail and clarity are a lot better on the Sundara as well as having similar timbre.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), tonality, detail and clarity are all better on the Sundara. Timbre is slightly better on the Sundara.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), a lot wider soundstage on the Sundara and slightly deeper. Separation, imaging and detail are leagues ahead on the Sundara. Timbre is similarly natural.

Overall: Sundara is outclassing the KPH30i in pretty much all aspects. You get what you pay for.

Sundara (with EQ)KPH30i
Sub-bass+-
Mid-bass+-
Lower-mids-+
Upper-mids+-
Treble+-
Upper-treble+-
Soundstage+-
Imaging+-
Separation+-
Macro-detail+-
Micro-detail+-
Timbre+-


Headphone: Sennheiser HD560S, stock pads, stock cable 6.35mm

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), extends a lot lower and rumbles more on the Sundara. Punch quantity and texture are a lot higher on the Sundara, while they are similarly fast/tight. More tonally correct and better timbre on the Sundara.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), More quantity and a lot more texture on the Sundara. Similar speed/tightness.

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), cleaner on the HD560S due to the lower bass quantity and very peaky treble.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), vocals are a bit more forward on the HD560S and slightly better tonality (brighter) but shoutier and timbre is better on the Sundara. Instrument tonality and timbre are a lot better on the Sundara. More detailed on the Sundara but due to the brighter tonality, the HD560S is cleaner.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), a lot sharper and fatiguing on the HD560S.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), vocal/instrument tonality and timbre are a lot better on the Sundara.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), very sharp electric guitars on the HD560S and a lot more fatiguing.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello tonality, timbre, texture and detail are a lot better on the Sundara. Violin tonality is better on the HD560S, but timbre, detail, timbre and treble-extension are better on the Sundara.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), Sundara has a lot better tonality, timbre and not as peaky treble.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), soundstage is slightly wider on the HD560S but a lot deeper and more holographic on the Sundara. Imaging, micro-details and timbre are a lot better on the Sundara while macro-detail is a bit better on the Sundara.

Overall: The Sundara is the better headphone, with better technicalities, tonality for my library and even better timbre (due to how poor the timbre on the HD560S Is). You might prefer the HD560S if you are a treble-head though.

Sundara (with EQ)HD560S
Sub-bass+-
Mid-bass+-
Lower-mids+-
Upper-mids+-
Treble+-
Upper-treble+-
Soundstage+-
Imaging+-
Separation+-
Macro-detail+-
Micro-detail+-
Timbre+-


Headphone: SIVGA Phoenix, stock pads, stock cable 3.5mm

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), extends lower on the Sundara but similar rumble. Punch quantity is a bit higher on the Sundara and a lot tighter, faster and more textured on it as well. Tonality is better on the Sundara (cleaner and more detailed as well) but slightly better timbre on the Phoenix.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), a bit more quantity on the Phoenix, but tighter, faster and more textured on the Sundara.

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), cleaner on the Sundara, with faster and tighter bass along with more texture, although a bit more quantity on the Phoenix.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), vocal tonality (similar quantity) and timbre are better on the Sundara, cleaner and more detailed as well. Instrument tonality is somewhat similar but a lot cleaner, more detailed and more clarity on the Sundara while timbre is slightly better on the Sundara.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), a bit shoutier on the Phoenix

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), vocal tonality and timbre are better on the Phoenix but cleaner and more detailed on the Sundara. Instrument tonality is better on the Phoenix but better timbre on the Sundara.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), electric guitars are sharper on the Phoenix.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello tonality is better on the Phoenix, but detail, clarity, texture and timbre are better on the Sundara. Violin tonality, timbre, texture, detail, clarity and treble-extension are better on the Sundara.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), slightly better tonality on the Sundara, a lot cleaner and more detailed as well with better timbre.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), a lot wider on the Sundara and a bit deeper as well, more holographic on the Sundara. Detail, separation and imaging are a lot better on the Sundara. Timbre is generally better on the Sundara.

Overall: The Sundara is clearly the winner here, in everything from the tonality, technicalities, timbre and also better EQ capabilities. I only recommend the Phoenix over the Sundara if you want a warmer tonality, cannot use EQ and do not have a powerful amp.

Sundara (with EQ)Phoenix
Sub-bass+-
Mid-bass+-
Lower-mids==
Upper-mids+-
Treble+-
Upper-treble+-
Soundstage+-
Imaging+-
Separation+-
Macro-detail+-
Micro-detail+-
Timbre+-


Headphone: Audio Technica ATH-R70X, stock pads, stock cable 6.35mm

(Sundara with EQ)

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), extends a bit lower and rumbles a lot more on the Sundara. Punch quantity is a lot higher and more textured on the Sundara, while it is faster and tighter on the R70X. Much more tonally correct on the Sundara and timbre is similar.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), more mid-bass on the Sundara with similar texture. Tighter and faster on the R70X, cleaner on it as well but similar detail. Tonality is a lot better on the Sundara with similar timbre.

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), a lot more mid-bass on the Sundara and more textured, it is faster and tighter on the R70X but bass strikes are more distinct on the Sundara. Brighter on the R70X but much more tonally correct and still similar detail on the Sundara.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), vocal tonality is slightly better on the Sundara, more detailed and more refined, timbre is similar. Instrument tonality is a lot better on the Sundara and more micro-details while the timbre Is similar.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), shoutier and peakier, more fatiguing on the R70X.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), Vocal and instrument tonality is a lot better on the Sundara with more micro-details, similarly clean but more refined on the Sundara overall. Timbre is similar.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), better tonality on the Sundara while timbre is similar.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello tonality, texture, detail and clarity are better on the Sundara with similar timbre. Violin tonality is slightly better on the R70X but cleaner, more detailed, textured and better treble-extension on the Sundara with similar timbre

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), a lot better tonality, clarity and detail with the Sundara with similar timbre.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), wider on the R70X but a bit deeper on the Sundara. Imaging, micro-detail and separation are better on the Sundara while macro-details and timbre are similar.

Overall: The Sundara is outclassing the R70X with its tonality and matches my library a lot better. Technicalities are better on the Sundara and even the timbre is similar. If EQ is an option, the Sundara is beating the R70X in almost every way with my library.

Sundara (with EQ)R70X
Sub-bass+-
Mid-bass+-
Lower-mids+-
Upper-mids+-
Treble+=
Upper-treble+-
Soundstage-+
Imaging+-
Separation++
Macro-detail==
Micro-detail+-
Timbre==




Headphone: Audio Technica ATH-R70X, stock pads, stock cable 6.35mm

(Sundara, no EQ)

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), extends lower and rumbles more on the R70X. A bit more punch quantity and texture on the R70X but tighter and faster on the Sundara. A bit better tonality on the R70X and timbre is better as well, but cleaner and more detailed on the Sundara.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), a bit more bass quantity on the R70X but similar texture while it is faster and tighter on the Sundara. A bit more tonally correct on the R70X and better timbre but cleaner and more detailed on the Sundara (treble is also more refined on the Sundara and less peaky).

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), cleaner due to the tighter bass and slightly lower bass quantity on the Sundara. Speed and texture are similar. (Treble is peakier and less refined on the R70X.)

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), vocal tonality, detail and clarity are a lot better on the Sundara and also more forward and less shouty, timbre is slightly better on the R70X but overall naturality is better on the Sundara. Instrument tonality and timbre are better on the R70X but cleaner, more detailed and more clarity on the R70X.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), brighter tonality on the Sundara but shoutier on the R70X.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), vocal tonality and timbre are slightly better on the R70X but cleaner, more detailed and more clarity on the Sundara.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), sharper electric guitars on the R70X but better timbre, tonality is better on the Sundara.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello tonality, timbre and texture are better on the R70X but cleaner and more detailed on the Sundara. Violin tonality, detail, clarity, texture and treble-extension are better on the Sundara. Timbre is better on the R70X.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), slightly better tonality and timbre on the R70X and peakier treble while it is more detailed/cleaner on the Sundara.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), soundstage is wider and a bit deeper on the R70X. Detail, separation and imaging are better on the Sundara. Timbre is a bit better R70X.

Overall: The R70X is a bit warmer overall with a bigger soundstage and a bit more natural timbre. But the Sundara is the more refined iem, with better tonality (less peaky treble and shouty vocals) along with better technicalities and if you are after vocals/treble, the Sundara is playing in another league.

Sundara (no EQ)R70X
Sub-bass-+
Mid-bass-+
Lower-mids==
Upper-mids+-
Treble+-
Upper-treble+-
Soundstage-+
Imaging+-
Separation+-
Macro-detail+-
Micro-detail+-
Timbre-+


Conclusion:
Bass that can be elevated to match your taste with EQ, godly vocals and extremely well-tuned but detailed treble and VERY technical that punches way above this price range. Highly recommended. Thanks for reading.


EQ:
Low-shelf: 80hz, Q: 0.7, gain: 5.5db
Low-shelf: 200hz, Q: 0.6, gain: 2db
High-shelf: 10 000hz, Q: 0.7, gain: 1.5db
Preamp: -8db

Cable source: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/resistance-of-cables-pics-comments-and-links.907998/

Reference/test songs:
ruffandruff
ruffandruff
Incredibly detailed review mate!....I noticed that you added these comparison tables since your falcon pro review which makes thing clear and easy to understand and also saves time for the reader. I appreciate all the work you put into your reviews.
RikudouGoku
RikudouGoku
@ruffandruff Thank you very much! Yes, the comparison tables is a new idea I got. :thumbsup:

Rhamnetin

Headphoneus Supremus
Flagship level of performance for $350
Pros: Best value in the headphone industry bar none, very well rounded, deep and clear bass that you can only get from planars in this price point and beyond, perfectly well balanced mids and treble, inviting sound signature that won't fatigue anyone yet it doesn't sacrifice treble extension, clarity, resolution especially for the price, comfort
Cons: I question the ear pad longevity but I'll keep an eye on it and update this when necessary, pre-2020 models had fragile 2.5mm connectors on the headphone, normally I'd complain about the stock cable quality but not at $350
20210926_123200.jpg

Here is the brief story of the first time I listened to the HiFiMan Sundara: I sat down in a very quiet storefront to audition both this and the Final Audio D8000 Pro Edition ($4,299 very efficient planar) side by side on a Chord Hugo 2. I had no real expectations for anything, I was just satisfying my own curiosity. Lo and behold, it was a crushing victory for the $350 Sundara over the $4,300 D8000 Pro.

The D8000's bass was very muddy in comparison, like listening to a mid range dynamic headphone at best. Decay was slow in comparison, again like a low to mid range dynamic headphone. The D8000's attack is just not crisp or clear at all. The D8000 also exhibited the stereotypical planar upper mid range recession that makes vocals sound weird, as if trapped in a vacuum with no air whatsoever, though this effect wasn't quite as strong on the D8000 as it is on most Audeze headphones. The treble response of the D8000 was also uneven in comparison, not terribly offensive but was not as linear.

So the $4,300 planar sounded like a mid range dynamic headphone next to the Sundara. Don't blame the wonderful Chord Hugo 2 for this either, it has plenty of power for both headphones. The D8000 is the more efficient one at 98 dB/mW, though its impedance is 60 ohm. The Sundara is 94 dB/mW at 37 ohm. And yes, the Sundara was dominant in this comparison with its stock cable from HiFiMan.

Everything about the Sundara's sound is reminiscent of > $1,000 headphones, not a mere $500 much less $350 mid range headphone. HiFiMan consistently raises the price to performance bar, but with the Sundara they have just outdone themselves. For this reason, it has become one of my reference headphones by which I compare all others.

20210926_123317.jpg


Build Quality and Comfort

The Sundara is a single sided planar magnetic headphone. Make sure you don't buy a pre-2020 version; you do not want those fragile 2.5mm headphone connectors. Since 2020, they've used 3.5mm connectors instead. Not as nice as Audeze connectors, which I wish were industry standard, but an improvement for sure.

The headphone frame, yokes and cups are all metal. The cups swivel and are stiff to do so. It uses a suspension headband design which I prefer for minimizing the amount of weight on the top of your head. The headstrap and pads are pleather, and the pads have a nice surface texture. Long term durability of pleather is always questionable, we'll see how this one does in that regard.

There are still reported build quality concerns for the Sundara, but nothing I have experienced first hand yet, so at the moment I can't make any such complaints. The cable quality is like other HiFiMan headphones - it is a generic cable, not meant to be anything more than that. It didn't prevent it from outclassing the Final Audio D8000 Pro in my comparison, nor did it prevent it from sounding like a > $1,000 headphone. The quality of the cable tends to be exaggerated by some.

This is a relatively light planar, being well under 400g. The adjustment range is plenty for most, the suspension headband does its job, and the pads aren't too tight for my ears, so there are no comfort issues. It is light and doesn't squeeze my head or ears. It's a tiny bit heavier than the HiFiMan HE-5XX, but because the Sundara has a suspension headband design and the HE-5XX does not, the HE-5XX starts to fatigue the top of my head somewhere after an hour of listening, while the Sundara never does.


Sound Quality

I would describe the Sundara's sound signature as this: well rounded but on the laid back side, clearly designed to not be fatiguing, but thankfully at the same time it achieves this without blatant upper mid/lower treble recession (like many planars do, and this is not even good at avoiding a fatiguing signature) and without a blatant lack of treble extension. The Sundara is not as forward as other HiFiMans.

For this review, I'm driving it with a Bricasti M1 SE DAC and HeadAmp GS-X Mini. I've also compared it in single ended with the stock cable vs balanced with a Norne Audio Drausk series 17.7awg cable. Single ended makes the GS-X Mini more like the Gilmore Lite Mk2 with the PSU upgrade. But the Sundara will sound good even out of a Chord Mojo or JDS stack, it is not a hard headphone to drive at all.

Bass: I hear the bass kick in at around 20 Hz in bass sweep tests. Good luck finding this kind of bass extension from a dynamic headphone anywhere near this price point. Same for the bass clarity; dynamic headphone bass (e.g. Sennheiser HD 6XX, AKG K7xx, Beyerdynamic DT 880, and even going beyond this to the likes of the Beyer T1) is sound soft and muddy in comparison.

But the bass is noticeably less forward than other HiFiMans like the HE-5XX. It is still not soft and can deliver satisfying impact when needed. No mid bass bloom or hump, linear bass with sub bass presence. You can get better sub bass for under $1,000 though if you can get your hands on a ZMF Blackwood or ZMF Ori, and probably some Audeze models like LCD-2s that can be found for under $1,000.

Mids: The Sundara really sounds like a > $1,000 headphone here, especially with complex, well recorded and mastered classical music. It keeps its composure like no other sub $1,000 headphone I've heard, dominating the rest in separation and imaging while retaining full bodied sound for all instruments.

Smooth upper mids, something many headphones in this price point struggle with - no offensive grain or harshness in the upper mids, no classic planar recession here either. Comparatively, the Sennheiser HD 650/HD 6XX is a grainy mess in the upper mids. The HE-5XX is more forward in comparison, and has slight upper mid recession resulting in less "air". Vocals sound very authentic.

When comparing balanced to single ended, going back to single ended reveals a tiny bit of grain in the upper mids which balanced smooths out.

Treble: So many headphones fall apart here at any price point. I'm not the type of listener who finds treble that's not horribly recessed to be too bright either, ultimately lots of equipment is just lacking in treble extension and many headphones have uneven treble responses, but no such issues manifest with the Sundara. The treble has a laid back character, but not one that sacrifices "air" or extension - I hear it extend up to 18 KHz in treble sweep tests, which is probably the new limit of my hearing.

Although laid back, this doesn't result in anything sounding thin to my ears. Probably the most tonally similar treble I've heard comes from HiFiMAn's HE1000 but I'm relying on memory from years ago for this. You won't find many people call the Sundara fatiguing because of its treble character, but it still sounds capable with rock and metal music, unlike the HD 650/HD 6XX which are way out of their element there.

The Sundara's treble is more laid back overall than that of the HE-5XX, and certainly more than the HE-560 v2, while having better quality than both. So I take no issue with the Sundara's treble presentation; it is not my favorite ever, as I don't prefer a laid back character, but it is able to portray everything authentically to my ears regardless, just as if the treble is placed further behind on stage so to speak.

Sound Stage/Imaging: Once again, the Sundara just sounds like a > $1,000 headphone here, not a $500 much less $350 headphone. This really manifests when listening to any complex, well recorded and mastered classical music. Other mid range headphones (by price) just get completely outclassed here as do plenty of > $1,000 headphones like the aformentioned D8000, while the Sundara remains competent in the most complex passages.

Balanced operation with my equipment improves the Sundara's capabilities here, but these impressions of superiority are still present using it single ended and comparing it to other single ended equipment like the HD 6XX, HE-560 v2, HE-5XX, Final Audio D8000, etc.

The Sundara places you a few rows back compared to the HE-500/HE-5XX, HE-560s, Audezes, and many other planars. In this regard it is more like the HE1000s I've heard (v1 and I think v2 but not SE). The sound stage can get wide if needed and is able to envelop me and portray things as if sounding centered, something every other sub $1,000 headphone I've listened to hasn't been able to do well.

Conclusion

Buy this headphone. It consistently competes with other flagships yet it costs just $350. You might end up selling other headphones and making money back because of the Sundara. You might also find it difficult to justify > $1,000 headphones because of it. You also don't need to spend a fortune on an amplifier to run the Sundara.

No, I don't consider it to be the best headphone I've ever heard, but definitely top 5 or 6, and I've listened to much of what's out there at any price point. As far as planars go, I rank it as a clear #2 best I've heard, with #1 being the HE1000 (I have not heard the SUSVARA yet, and can't count the Abyss Phi CC or TC I heard since that was improperly driven). So yes, that means I rank it above the modded HE-6 and the Audeze LCD-4 I've owned, and it's not even close! This really makes me what HiFiMan will come up with next for this price point.
Balamani
Balamani
Nicely writtem, that tells a lot about the value of Sundara!

Sajid Amit

1000+ Head-Fier
Gateway to Planar Magic
Pros: Speed, Tonality, Air, Detail Retrieval
Cons: None
Driver Type: Planar
Design: Over-Ear (Circumaural)
Earcup Style: Open-Back
Sensitivity: 94 dB
Impedance: 37 Ohms
DAC: Topping D90
Amplifier: Topping A90, Headamp GSX Mini, and Speaker Amps (Roksan K3 Integrated with Cayin SP30s as Pre-amp)

Disclaimer:
The pair of Hifiman Sundaras I am reviewing are a loaner unit from Gears for Ears, a top audiophile store and the authorized dealer of Hifiman in Bangladesh. I have owned the Sundaras prior, but sold it and subsequently purchased the Hifiman Arya and the Hifiman Susvaras. You could say it was my gateway to TOTL.

With all that out of the way, let's move on to the review. I will cover aesthetics, build quality, detail retrieval, speed, dynamic slam, sound stage and imaging, tonal balance, genre matching, and end with some thoughts on comparisons. In fact, throughout the review, I'll compare the Sundaras to its peers, the Sennheiser HD 600 and the HD 650, but still have a summary comparison section at the end.

Aesthetics: I find the design pretty. It's minimal and pleasing to the eye. If you have used higher-end headphones, you might not be blown away by the Sundara's design. However, if this is your first 350 dollar headphone, you are likely to be impressed.

DSCF2669-1.jpg


Build Quality: The build quality is fine. I am aware of QC issues of Hifiman that people talk about, but other than their cables, I have been fine with their build quality.

Also, I get them from an authorized dealer called Gears for Ears (GFE). That gives me a lot of peace of mind.

Since I own multiple Hifiman headphones, and have been doing business with Hifiman through GFE for a while, I can say that Hifiman's customer service has been great!

Detail retrieval: The detail retrieval for the Sundara is best-in-class at its price range. It's better than the HD 600, 650 and 660s, although the 600 and 650 are among my favorites in this price range. I think the Sundara trades blows with headphones in higher price ranges, in terms of detail retrieval.

Speed: Oh, the speed. I love the Sundara's speed. I have thrown a lot of tracks that can test a headphone's speed, from speed metal to complex orchestras that start and stop, demand transient response capabilties, and the Sundaras do not disappoint. The speed scales better with more powerful amps (e.g., when I go from the A90 to the GSX Mini).

I have also played the Sundaras on my speaker amps, which I use to drive the Susvaras, and the Sundaras become even faster. Planars scale with better current supply, and speaker amps are not current limited, while headphone amps tend to be. However, I would not advocate using speaker amps with Sundaras. That's just me and my experiments. :ksc75smile:

DSCF2675-1.jpg


Dynamic slam: The Sundaras have decent slam, when juiced properly. It's not a Hifiman Arya level slam, but it is a mini-Arya, really, especially when powered right. The slam improves considerably on my GSX-Mini compared to lower-end amps.

Sound stage and Imaging: This is where my raving of the Sundaras will be relatively muted, as the Sundaras have okay sound stage. It is nothing spectacular. But it's superior to the SS on the HD 650 and HD 600.

In terms of sound stage, I have been spoiled by my Hifiman Susvaras (and the Aryas), so I have high expectations.

However, this is a $350 headphone, so it stages okay for its price.

Tonal balance: The Sundaras have outstanding tonal balance. I just love its tuning. It's neutral yet highly engaging, and although each Hifiman headphone has a different take on "neutral yet highly engaging,"

In the higher frequencies, particularly, the air region, I think the Sundaras are a top-notch headphone, in any price category. The treble is magnificent on this headphone. In this category, it smokes headphones well, well above its price range.

Genre matching: The Sundaras are genre neutral. If you listen to modern music like rock or heavy metal, you will appreciate the speed, slam, and details, and the treble sparkle. If you listen to jazz or classical or acoustic-guitar-based music, you will appreciate its analytical yet musical sound signature.

However, as with anything else in audio, there are always compromises. These compromises are, of course, more evident when you compare them with peers. For instance, the higher price Focal Elegia will slam harder, and you will get more bass energy.

Comparisons with HD 600 and HD 650:

So if you had asked me 6 months ago to compare between the HD 600 or 650 with the Sundara, I would have picked the HD 650, then 600 and then the Sundara.

However, in the last 6 months, my tastes have been altered by listening to TOTL headphones such as the Hifiman Susvara, Abyss 1266 TC, Final D8000, Diana V2. I own several of these.

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I think once you have listened to summit-fi, you start developing an appreciation for details, speed, and neutrality, combined with slam and sparkle. And in such ways, I think I prefer the Sundara over the HD 600 and HD 650.

The HD 600 and HD 650 are still magical headphones. I don’t think the Sundara does vocals the way HD 600 or even the HD 650 can. These Sennheiser cans do vocals better than the Focal Clears even which are 4X the price (the Clears may have slightly better vocal detail, but on timbre, the Sennheiser cans school the Clear). Moreover, the 650 sounds sweeter, warmer, thicker and lusher than the Sundara, which is great if that’s what you are looking for.

It really depends on what sound signature you are after. I think if you are starting out and can afford a couple of headphones, you could start out by owning the Hifiman Sundara and the HD 650.

They are good complements to each other.

In sum, I would strongly recommend the Hifiman Sundara at its price point!

Thanks to Gears for Ears for loaning me this unit. Their online store is here and their Facebook page here.

My video review comparing the HIFIMAN Sundara with the Sennheiser HD 600 and HD 650 below.

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A
amorrish
it's one of the 2 on my short list for my next pair of headphines, at present I have the Phillips SHP 9600 and Sennheiser/drop 6xx, was looking at Verum 1 but heard some worrying things about creator still trying to get,my head around if that should effect me as I have no idea of what the execs of any of the larger HP manufacturers are like either.
Balamani
Balamani
Well written! it is the gateway and could be more too
Sajid Amit

Ichos

Reviewer at hxosplus
The King of Neutrality
Pros: - Neutral tuning
- Transparency
- Technically potent
- Great headstage
- Comfortable
- Sturdy build
- New lowered price
Cons: - Needs amp to get the most of it
- Complete absence of accessories
- Poor cable
- Could use a little more body
Preface

The headphone was kindly provided by Hifiman after our request and is a long term loaner for future reference.
Hifiman never asked for any kind of a favourable review.

You can buy it from Apos Audio - https://apos.audio/products/hifiman...id=c95e32681&_ss=r&&sca_ref=676352.9NrkRMN27k

Hifiman Sundara isn't exactly a new model and we are a little bit delayed to post our impressions but it's never too late to review a good headphone so here we are!
IMG_20201119_215935.jpg


Technology and physical

The Sundara is an open back planar magnetic headphone with a specially designed driver.
The driver is featuring the brand new NEO supernano diaphragm which is 80% thinner than previous designs resulting in a faster and more detailed response.
The new driver design is of higher sensitivity resulting in an impedance of 37Ω with 94dB sensitivity making the Sundara able to be powered from medium output portable devices.
The ear cups feature the new 3.5mm cable plug that is very easily swappable and offers plenty of aftermarket choices.
IMG_20201119_214243.jpg

The headphone was originally released circa 2017 and since then some early production issues have been successfully addressed.
Sound and drivers are exactly the same but quality control and pad structure has greatly improved plus adding some minor cosmetic updates.
The original price was 499$ but now it sells heavily discounted at 349$.
IMG_20201119_214213.jpg

Sundara in Sanskrit means beautiful and it really is with a modern and unique design in a cool mat black look.
The Sundara is one of the sturdier built headphones in the market with a full metal body.
Not only the headband with its yokes and joints but even the ear cups are made from lightweight aluminum.
The headband design is a hybrid one with the shelf adjusting leather belt attached in an aluminum frame.
That kind of headband is more to our liking than the new padded one but unfortunately it doesn't allow for ear cup swivel.
The user replaceable angled cut ear pads are made from a combination of microfiber and leatherette with memory foam inside.
The weight of the headphone is 373gr pretty light for a planar and comfort is truly great thanks to the medium clamping force and the roomy , large and well ventilated ear pads.
IMG_20201119_214222.jpg

Build quality is typical Hifiman that is quite good but still slightly lagging behind the competition.
Our sample was in perfect shape without any kind of deficiencies but ear cup adjusting was a little stiff.
After opening the containing box the lack of provided accessories becomes apparent as the only thing we get is a 1.5m quite microphonic cable of typical quality.
Nothing to write about but still better than the older transparent one.
IMG_20201119_220251.jpg


Now on to the most important thing

Sound quality

A few thoughts about amping


We have tested the Sundara with various desktop and portable devices in order to assess sound quality and driving efficiency.
After extensive listening tests we have come to the conclusion that the need of an external amplifier or a powerful portable device is very desirable although not absolutely necessary.
The Sundara can reach adequate volume levels through portable devices but they still sound underpowered.
They feel lean and anemic with a loss in bass extension body and impact plus the higher frequencies sound thin , more pronounced and rather irritating.
Feed the Sundara with enough current and they instantly transform to a better headphone as weight and dynamics are added to the bass plus they become more tonally balanced.
Higher frequencies are portrayed more full and the driver responds better with the result of an increased naturalness of the decay.
IMG_20201119_214644.jpg

On a side note believe it or not the Sundara require a long burn in period to sound at their best.
We have mainly used iFi ZEN CAN plus Erzetich Perfidus and FiiO M11PRO.
So sound impressions are given assuming that the Sundara are properly amped and burned in.

Listening

We are dealing with one of the most neutral and evenly balanced planar (and not only) headphones out there.

Bass extends very well down to almost 40Hz but it can handle even lower material without any hassle.
Of course this is not a bass-head lover bass as it is perfectly linear and with audiophile qualities.
It is very tight and well controlled with enough layering to portray even the most complex passages.
It is fast with a clear priority in detail rendering it with great clarity and the only downside being the lack of body.
It is more of a lean presentation without added weight but it nevertheless sounds very dynamic and impactful.

Transition to the mid bass and lower mids is exemplary at a straight line up to the mids.
As a result we don't get any extra warmness unless it is there in the recording.
The Sundara is not a warm sounding headphone but it surely doesn't sound cold either.
It is a kind of a distanced view of the raw material letting the music flow without much interference from the headphone itself.
Dynamics and micro detail retrieval are excellent and the driver can rise from silence to forte and back forth with lighting speed.

Mids too are the definition of neutrality getting only a very slight emphasis in order to sound just a little forward.
They are crystal clear and full bodied with excellent timbre and pitch without lacking in definition and detail.
Voices and various instruments are lively portrayed with a lifelike quality to them without being over excited.
It's a reference presentation one of the best out there with the ability to remain true to the source and sound very engaging at the same time.
Solo voices or Opera arias and choruses sound magnificent and addictive through the Sundara.

Upper mids and presence area get an extra emphasis but they are not overly cooked and after that the headphone gradually rolls off.
As a result we hear a desirable extra clarity of great quality and excellent detail retrieval without being overly irritating or harsh.
It's smooth enough but still users particularly sensitive in that area may be a little fatigued depending on the listening material.
Timbre is mostly done right but higher pitched instruments can sound lean and off tone with a metallic timbre to them.
Decay is on the right timing for the whole audio band but again higher percussion instruments may fade away too quickly.
As a whole a mostly well done presentation without sounding harsh or sibilant with a few issues here and there.
IMG_20201119_224815.jpg

Soundstage of the Sundara is excellent for the category better than most rivals.
It is wide enough with plenty of air for the instruments to breathe and accurate positioning of individuals and groups.
It can communicate for us the recording venue with great success aided by the good depth layering.
The Sundara is a beautifully transparent headphone that responds very well to gear upgrades.
It will highlight the best parts of gear used and at the same time will ruthlessly reveal all the downsides.
A very satisfying experience not far behind from the more expensive offerings.

Hifiman mid price comparison

Now let's have a look how they compare against the other in house rivals offered by Hifiman.
If you don't care for this lengthy section then jump straight ahead to the conclusion.

Versus the HE400i 2020 version

The brand new HE400i 2020 retails at 169$ so it is half the price of the Sundara.
Weight and comfort are more or less the same as the overall appearance but we think the Sundara is the better looking headphone although this is purely subjective.
The HE400i 2020 headband is the new padded one which allows for cup swivel and offers a slightly different fit at the head.
Build quality is way better for the Sundara with a bombproof full metal construction which makes for a more bulky headphone compared to the HE400i 2020 which is more discreet.
Impedance and sensitivity are almost identical and they both require an external amp to sound at their best although they can be successfully used with portable devices.
IMG_20201008_190446.jpg

Frequency response and overall presentation are almost identical.
Presence area is a little bit more emphasized at the Sundara adding more clarity and detail retrieval at the cost of being a little more sharp or harsh compared to the HE400i 2020.
Difference is not that huge but the new version of the HE400i is smoother in this area although more coarse but some users may prefer it for being less fatiguing.
Frequency response of course doesn't tell the whole story and in the case of the Sundara we get a way more refined and technically potent and full bodied headphone.
It is better articulated with added layering to the bass plus far greater dynamics and speed.
Clarity is of higher quality so micro detail retrieval is better as for the headstage is more holographic and engaging compared to the two dimensional and cramped scene of the 400i 2020.
The Sundara is definitely the HE400i 2020 evolved to a technically advanced and more sophisticated headphone.
Truth to be told you pay two times more but you don't get two times more performance.
So if your budget is limited then the HE400i 2020 is an absolute bargain and for 169$ you buy an excellent sounding neutral planar headphone not that far behind from the Sundara.
(Original HE400i 2020 version is here
https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/hifiman-he400i-ver-2020.24702/review/24488/)

Versus the Deva

The Deva is 299$ and you get as a bonus the BlueMini or you can have it for 209$ without the BlueMini but we are not certain if the latter option is still available by Hifiman.
The ear cups are made of plastic and it is 13gr lighter.
The headband is the new style with overall build quality still in favor of the Sundara by a fair margin.
Design and looks are subjective but comfort and fit aren't with the Deva being more comfortable due to the larger and more roomy ear pads that add extra bulk to the headphone.
Impedance is 18Ω with a 93.5dB sensitivity and while we still recommend an external amplifier it is not as necessarily as in the other two models and the Deva can sound sufficiently good from portable devices.
IMG_20201008_190509.jpg

Overall sound signature is quite the same and despite differences being marginal we can talk about two different presentations.
The Deva gets as a starting point the great neutrality of the Sundara and then adds a little spice to the sound with a more hifi tuning.
Bass extension and quality is about the same and both headphones sound clear and well layered.
But the Deva is willing to sacrifice a bit of detail and information in order to sound more visceral with greater impact and slam at the cost of ultimate control where the Sundara reigns.
Transition is in the same linear manner and then the Deva becomes a little rounder and more forward at the mids adding a touch more excitement and fuller performance in that region.
This combined with a rather more conservative approach higher above makes for a warmer and more easy going sound without any hint of hardness.
Timber and decay are more natural but there is a loss of micro detail retrieval and sparkle.
So the Sundara is the synonym of neutrality with a luminous and detailed presentation and the Deva is more natural and warmly tuned slightly lacking in ultimate technical performance.
Regarding soundstage both are exceptionally good and way better than most of their rivals but the Deva is the winner with slightly more wide and layered presentation.
You can't go wrong with either as both are great and a bargain for their price and only personal sound preference will tell which one to choose.
(Original Deva review is here
https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/hifiman-deva.24334/review/23957/)

Comparison verdict

IMG_20201008_190426.jpg

Hifiman have nailed the budget and mid price categories with three remarkable headphones at very competitive prices.
According to your budget choose either HE400i 2020 or Sundara if you fancy a neutral headphone that still sounds engaging and not boring at all or stay with the Deva if you are after a more natural easy going presentation.

At the end

Hifiman Sundara is one of the best headphones for critical listening no matter the price and the king of neutrality while still sounding engaging and enveloping.
We think of it as the sweet spot in the Hifiman catalogue and a classic planar magnetic headphone that truly deserves to be in everyone's collection.
At the new 349$ price is an absolute bargain and if you can afford it then go immediately and grab one to discover what you have been missing till now.

The test playlist - http://open.qobuz.com/playlist/5669033

Copyright - Laskis Petros 2020
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Tripokaridos
Tripokaridos
I find your review spot on. I get the same feeling on everything and yeah they need power to have body on sound.
A question , the stock cable was the first i change and use a 3m from other company 3.5 to dual 3.5 an oxygen free copper.(thank u for help) I see that u used FAW CH mk2 on these... is the sound change ? Does it worth 150 euro more, other than aesthetics and amazing build that FAW have ?
Ichos
Ichos
Thank you for your kind words.
To tell you the truth I haven't used another cable to A/B.
So maybe some of the attributes I heard are because of the cable.
FAW cables are analogue sounding with plenty of information to pass through and never sound harsh.
Balamani
Balamani
A great HP in Hifiman line up and it hits the sweetspot, nice review!
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dooxtypoox

Head-Fier
Pros: + Tactile bass feedback that is not overbearing
+ Sound profile excellent with orchestra and acoustic
+ Wide soundstage
Cons: - Little sub-bass presence (expected for open back)
- Possible uneven vocal harmonics
- Shallow stage depth
Video Review

Price and specifications
Price: USD$499, USD$349 at the time of posting this review.
HIFIMAN store
HIFIMAN ebay
HIFIMAN Amazon

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

thumb 3.jpg

Accessories
1 x 1.5m long headphone cable with 3.5mm termination
3.5mm to 1/4" adapter

Build and comfort
These are a sturdy well-built set of headphones. The soft headband also helps with relieving that over-head pressure. Although they have quite a bit of clamping force, the Pali Pads counteract this by doing an excellent job at relieving that over-ear pressure which is why I don't have a problem wearing these for hours at a time.

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Sound
The Sundara was tested with my Sony ZX300 (DMP-Z1 firmware mod) and iFi ZEN DAC.

True to its overall neutral tuning, the Sundara has a linear bass response. It doesn't have much sub-bass which is expected because of its open back design. Kick drums and bass thumps/rumbles are not emphasised over the vocals in hip-hop and even in bass heavy tracks, which could sound dry for some.【1】 But a hint of tactility from the planar magnetic driver makes up for this, with bass that I can lightly feel.

Midrange gives substantial focus to both upper and lower midrange, with the upper mids being slightly more emphasised than the lower mids. Bolstered by its lower to mid-treble boost, this gives the Sundara's vocal presentation a strong vocal presence. This is why higher female vocals have slightly more of an aggressive edge in presence over deeper male vocals.【2】

The tonal balance the Sundara strikes between its upper and lower mids hits the sweet spot with orchestral tracks in my library. Strings and woodwinds are neither overly sharp nor bloated, they have an airy, breathy quality to them.【3】 If there was anything I would have preferred, it would be for more sub-bass to give the low end instruments like the tuba more weight.【4】 Nevertheless, the grandeur of a full orchestral set is brought forth with its wide soundstage.

The Sundara is certainly a solid performer with orchestral tracks but its relative lack of energy at approximately the 2kHz region makes vocals sound a slightly uneven to my ears. The human ear is very sensitive to how voices sound and from my subjective perception, it feels as if there is a "missing" element to it. Vocal "unevenness" aside, I find that the Sundara's timbre sits much better with ballads with an orchestral backing and acoustic.【5】 In my opinion, it doesn't sound as appealing with the likes of indie pop, rock and metal.【6】

Technical summary
sundara technical summary.png

Sundara has a wide stage, although much wider than it is deep. You're going to get a broad stage with instruments panning across left and right, more so than from front to back. This isn't necessarily a bad thing and it's a matter of preference. I just personally tend to prefer deep stage perceptions with distinct layering with my music.

Conclusion
The Sundara is suitable for those looking for a clean bass response that doesn't skimp on tactile feedback. I personally like its sound profile with orchestral tracks and acoustic although some listeners may potentially find its presentation of vocals slightly uneven. Although there isn't much depth to its soundstage, the soundstage is very wide which still makes these enjoyable to listen to.

Thanks for reading! You may find more reviews on my Head-fi thread.

These are some of the notable tracks used to come to my conclusions for those who're interested (not exhaustive).
Sample tracks for reference: Artiste 1Song 1, Song 2. Artiste 2Song 1…
1. Coldrain - REVOLUTION. Falling In Reverse - Popular Monster. Billie Eilish - my future. Bring Me The Horizon - Ludens.
2. Of Monsters And Men - Stuck In Gravity, Wild Roses. Andrew Lloyd Weber - Memory, Amigos Para Siempre.
3. Kitaro - Matsuri, Fiesta. Joe Hisaishi - Oriental Wind, Cinema Nostalgia. (Dream Songs)
4. Joe Hisaishi - My Neighbour Totoro. (Dream Songs)
5. Andrew Lloyd Weber - Til' I Hear You Sing, The Music Of The Night, Amigos Para Siempre. MY FIRST STORY - ACCIDENT, LET IT DIE. (THE PLUGLESS)
PVRIS - Hallucinations, Stay Gold. All Time Low - Safe, Summer Daze. Bring Me The Horizon - Sleepwalking, Antivist.
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rprodrigues
rprodrigues
Great review!
dooxtypoox

rev92

100+ Head-Fier
Hifiman Sundara - Mixed feelings
Pros: Neutral tonality
Great resolution
Lightweight
Comfortable
Easy to drive
Cons: Poor Quality Control
Poor finishing
Feels cheap
Somehow emotionless, boring tuning
Hifiman Sundara is a 499$ planar magnetic headphone considered as one of the best price to performance ratio in the headphone market.




Packaging




The Sundara comes in a medium size box. From the graphic’s perspective, it looks good, but it’s quality falls a bit short.
Inside, you’ll find some paperwork, a detachable, 1,4m cable terminated in 3,5mm jack and the headphones themselves.

Cable



The cable is rather underwhelming. It is 1,4m long, terminated in 3,5mm jack. It has a rubbery finish which is quite pleasant to the touch, but it’s not very flexible. The cable provided with Sendy Audio Aiva beats it by miles.

Build quality

Sundara is not really a great built pair of headphones. It feels a bit cheap in the hands, and it has a design flaw – the headband adjustment work’s way too stiff and it scratches the metal of the earcup’s wings.

Comfort

As stated previously, the build quality is far from being impressive, but Sundara is one of the lightest planar magnetic headphones on the market. Thanks to that, it’s a very comfortable pair of cans and one can use them for a couple of hours with ease.

Sound

The Sundara is a very neutral, transparent and reveiling sounding headphone. For the price it offers top-class resolution, detail and a quite flat frequency response.

The bass is well articulated, it goes quite deep and has a good texture. However, it lack’s slam and impact of some competitors like Sendy Audio Aiva, Meze 99 Classics or the Brainwavz Alara, having the best resolution of the bunch though.

The midrange is very flat and neutral, focusing on the detail retrieval, rather than creating musical and engaging sound. It lacks the warmth, color and body in male-vocal tracks, making it sound quite uninvolving.

Treble is a bit bright with an excellent detail and crispiness, making it by far the most stand-out frequency of the Sundara. While being well pronounced, it isn’t prone to sibilance, being on the edge of being too crispy yet never feels sharp or overpowered.

The best part of the Sundara is it’s soundstage creating capability. It’s wide, deep and excruciatingly (for it’s price) accurate. Imaging is excellent, as is the sense of airiness and separation. Class leading, no doubts about it.

Summary

The Sundara is a very polarizing product. While being underwhelmingly built and falling short in terms of looks and overall feel, it delivers a superbly competitive sound quality. This fact in itself has to earn our recommendation, as you’d have a problem finding a better sounding pair of headphones in the 500$ price market.

For more reviews visit ear-fidelity.com
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rev92
rev92
Yup, quite easy. They do sound better running from a decent amp, but i find them sounding already good from just about everything :)
Cheers mate!
Tripokaridos
Tripokaridos
Strange they are harder to drive compared to hd600 and 650
rev92
rev92
Hmm, dunno, i didn't notice it to be honest. Running these between my iDAC2 on it's own and with the A50s+P50 combo didn't show a huge difference, but maybe thats just me :dt880smile::see_no_evil:

genclaymore

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Comfortable Headband/Earpads
Light
Removable Cable/Earpads
angled 3.5mm /w 6.3mm adapter
Cons: No Hard headphone case for protection
20200726_014610_HDR.jpg
I was in the market for a new headphone after my ATH-R70X left driver getting damage, I thought long and hard on my next headphone and decided to returning back a Hifiman headphone after missing the sound of planar's. I was a little worried after seeing some people having QC issues with their Sundara. But never less I took the chance. Mine was perfectly fine with no issues at all.

When you open it up, they give you the manual and the warranty card, which has the info you need to register your headphone's which gets you extended 3 month warranty on top of the one year warranty. As well as the included cable of course.
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After receiving it, the first thing I notice after putting it on my head was how light it was. The last Hifiman I had was the HE-500 and man that was heavy. I was happy that this wasn't the case with the Sundara, even the headband design is comfortable, I didn't even feel the headphones on my head, same with the ear pads, which are nice and big around my ears. The stock ear-pads feels really good. I believe they are the Focus ear-pads. My ear is far away from the drivers which is a good thing.
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I so glad that they went with 3.5mm connectors on the headphones over the SMC connectors that the HE-500 had,Since the cables stay in place on the headphone's. The headphone size adjuster took a little force to change, but that's not really a problem. The grill's on the rear of the headphone's are in correction position. I seen people mention that there's was slant instead of straight.
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After handing the headphone's they felt very durable to me,with the headphone's construction including Metal and hard plastic. Stock cable feels sturdy as well.


While they didn't come with a carry case, I doubt you would want to take these any where, the box they came in, has a velvet cloth which you can set the headphone's back in. But I much rather they included a hard case for protection instead of using the headphone box.
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So far I been using the Sundara for nearly 3 months, so far I been enjoying these headphone's a lot,more then my R70X's that I had prior to these. Every thing sounds so wonderful including games and movies.


The Setup

SMSL SU-8 V2 ran into the SMSL SH-8 with a pair of balanced cables, with the Hifiman Sundara plugged into the SH-8 Balanced Headphone jack. The software that I will be using is Spotify with the streaming quality set to very high, which is the highest setting you can set.


Highs


Franz – Sims (Jazz)

what I noticed right away was the drum kits are clean, as I can hear the snare's and the light drum kit easy. They do not blend together and the separation between is very good as I have no problems at hearing any of the other instruments as they don't bump into each other and are in there own space. Even the tambourine can be heard from among the faint piano and high voice notes.


Meds


MonstaX – Hero (K-pop)


Wow I can really hear them as if I'm sitting in front row and they are in front of me spread out on the stage, separated heard from each other. Including the background voices that's going on along side the main singers. There voices are not drown out in the rest of the beat. Each with right amount of weight behind there voices, its not too much or too little, its right. Really feels like I'm there, that's how well it sounds.


Same results when I listen to EXO – Monster, only that the voice's in this song comes off as having a echo but in a good way.


Lows

Katashi Kaito – Beach life (Jazz)


Bass sounds great, it's not muddy and it's clean. It doesn't blend into any of the other instruments in the song, It Sundara has no issues with deep bass. I'm hearing all of the different bass notes of the bass guitar and the bass drum of the drum kit. The bass guitar and the hard hitting drums and bass are heard apart from each other with ease, they do not drown each other out which is good.



Ricci – Bang

I picked this song due to it having a lot of bass and hard hitting bass. Which does really hits hard, and go deep, The sundara's handle this song without any issues in the bass freq. There is no muddiness any where, I can hear it very clear. Like the other song the bass does not blend into each other. I can even hear the sound from ammo being dropped on the floor in the song along the bass.



Sound Stage

The size of the sound field to me seems to be large as all of the songs I been listening to, including ones not mentioned, the audio was outside my head and felt like it was very open, I would say Medium to large in the size of the sound stage. Some songs even felt like the audio expended around and above me if that makes sense. I don't know any other way to put it.




I love these headphone's a lot more then the Audio Technica R70X's that I had before them, due to the fact that these are more comfortable in the headband pads,ear-pads and weight, I hardly feel the headphones on my head. Plus It was easily to get the cables that I wanted due to the connection on the headphones being more common. Where the R70X's it was harder due to Audio Technica special lock function on the headphone.

The headphone adjustment could be better but other then that I had no issues at all.

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Sandiego77
Saw sundara review on youtube with sound samples and it was not good, today I join in the forum and fresh reviews about sundara are very good and in page bottom I saw sundara advertisements. I make conclusions how much rewies can be trusted

ostewart

Reviewer at Sound Perfection Reviews
Pros: Clean, crisp sound
Cons: Slightly lacking body, cable is average at best
Firstly I would like to thank Mark at HiFiMan for sending me this sample to review.

*disclaimer: This sample was provided for the purpose of writing a review, no incentive was given to write a favourable review. All opinions expressed are my own subjective findings

Gear Used:
YULONG DA10 / DAART Aquila / Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ > Sundara

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Tech Specs:
Frequency Response: 6Hz – 75kHz
Impedance: 37 ohms
Sensitivity: 94 dB
Weight: 372 g

http://store.hifiman.com/index.php/sundara.html

Packaging, Build quality and Accessories:
The Sundara come in a classy 2 part box, the front has a picture of the headphones on along with the model name, the back has the basic specs and company info. Slide the top off and you will find the Sundara neatly nestled in a fabric coated tray, along with the cable. No frills here, just nice, neat packaging that protects the headphones along with providing a storage solution (as no pouch or case is included) along with protecting them in shipping.

Build quality is very good overall, with a mainly metal construction and 3.5mm mono sockets on each cup, there are no noticeable weak spots. The pads clip on like most other HiFiMan models, so changing them is easy and the headband adjustment is nice and tight. The stock cable is fine in terms of thickness, but it retains too much memory from being wound in the box that is wants to curl up all the time. The cable is a minor inconvenience, and one that is easy to replace at least. The Sundara may not look particularly fancy, but they are built well and should last well if looked after.

Accessory wise all you get is the standard stock cable along with a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter. To be fair these really don’t need anything else, but it would have been nice of HiFiMan to include a basic pouch at least.

Comfort and Efficiency:
The new headband is very comfortable for my head, the strap distributes weight perfectly and the adjustments are tight. It also doesn’t look as silly as their previous square design, but there is one minor problem, the cups go up and down in adjustment but do not pivot at all there the arms meet the top of the headband. For me, with the angled pads, this does not create an issue but I do think having a pivot point tends to make them fit better and more comfortably for the masses.

The Sundara, whilst being a planar magnetic design, are not that power hungry compared to some. You can quite easily get good listening volumes out of a portable player or smartphone, but of course they are more at home when fed a signal from a nice desktop setup. When paired with a good solid state amp they come alive in terms of soundstaging and bass weight/impact.

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Sound:
Lows: The lows on the Sundara do not stand out and grab your attention upon first listen, they are more at home plodding along in the background and adding a reserved amount of body and punch to the sound. Where they stand out is when you throw some fast paced music at them, and just hear them keep up with every beat, they have truly astonishing transient response. The lows are not thin, and impact is backed up with rumble but they are not boosted and the impact is not overly strong. They have a more reference quality to them, never becoming the focus but providing a nice level of punch along with nice flat extension down to the sub-bass region.

Midrange: The midrange is well balanced between the lows and highs, with superb detail and layering. The tonality may come across a little cool for some, but the openness and transparency is worth the trade off in my opinion. Unlike some, the Sundara handles both male and female vocals with ease, there is no noticeable peaks that favour the lower or upper midrange. There is a small rise in the upper midrange but it doesn’t stick out and the midrange never becomes too up front. In some ways it has a very easy going and smooth presentation without lacking detail.

Highs: Now these are the kind of highs that a lot of headphones should aspire to have, excellent detail and clarity with effortless extension and speed, All without being artificially boosted. Those most sensitive to treble may find these to lean a little towards a brighter signature, but I find them to be spot on with a very refined top end response that never becomes grating or fatiguing. The treble response has excellent resolution yet it is so refined, with plenty of speed to keep up with complex mixes without becoming congested or splashy. I am really impressed by the clarity yet refinement in the treble of the Sundara, comparing them to some of the competition these just sound right, being less peaky and artificial.

Soundstaging is good overall, with slightly better height than width, but the separation and spatial imaging is excellent allowing plenty of air around instruments without losing coherency.

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Conclusion:
If you favour a more reference tuning you will enjoy the Sundara a lot, they have excellent resolution and detail all wrapped up in a relatively refined and smooth presentation. Yes they may lack a little sheer impact down low and have a slightly cooler tonality but pair them with the right equipment and they are a joy to listen to. My HE-500’s hit harder and have a little more sparkle, the HE-500 are more energetic and fun, but the Sundara is more refined and I enjoy both for different reasons. Suffice to say the Sundara do a lot right for me, and I find myself grabbing them over the Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation (one of my all time favourites) a lot recently.

Sound Perfection Rating: 9/10 (Class leading resolution and detail, refined sound, but the cups don’t swivel and they are quite basic looking)

NymPHONOmaniac

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Lightning fast transient response, Incredible Imaging, Transparency, Tonal Balance, Realist timbre, Well-controlled bass, High resolution and details, Neutral yet musical, Sturdy construction, Good Value at 350$
Cons: No carrying case, cheap cable, attack lack a bit of snap and definition a bit of edge and bass a bit of extension (even if already incredible for a planar), was too expensive at 500$
HIFIMAN SUNDARA REVIEW

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SOUND: 9/10
CONSTRUCTION-DESIGN: 8.5/10
ACCESSORIES: 7.5/10
VALUE: 8.5/10
Hifiman has a special place in my heart, not in the sense I’m a hysterical fanboi that loves everything they launch, but in the sense they have been part of my audiophile quest since a very long time. In fact, my first ‘’serious’’ DAP was an Hifiman HM601 and while it’s far from reference sounding with its warm bassy analogish sound signature, I was extremely impressed by its power output as well as open lively sound, it was the only DAP I own that can inject life to my headphones collection of the time (Grado Sr325i and GS1000, Fostex T50rp, Sennheiser HD590 etc). Then, Hifiman begins to launch earphones and sometime after they begin to launch their first Dynamic Headphones. I do own their HE300 and again, like the HM601 DAP, it was far from perfect and feel more like a prototype product than accomplished one. So, a love-hate affair begins with this company and extends further when I test their RE800 Gold which I found underwhelming again. Then, I test the extremely pricey RE2000 iem, and yes, I was blown away by its lush musicality. This is when I understand they earn a lot of experience in audio engineering and tend to try to push sound boundaries with new technology as used with topology drivers of RE2000 Gold and Silver.

11 years ago, the Hifiman revolution begins with their entering into high-end Full-Size Open Planar Headphones with the first HE5 model and then follow the HE6, HE5LE, and HE4 models. In 2012, price value was pushed to their limit with the launch of the mythical HE400 series. At first, this model was priced 400$ but fastly go lower with a new version, to finally stay in the 200$ zone. Now, the Massdrop version of HD400 calls H4XX is selling as low as 145$, which is just insane unbeatable value. Since this time, Hifiman never stops launching new ortho-dynamic full-sized headphones, perfecting this sound technology with every new models. In total, they have at least 13 Planar Headphones but the one I decide to review today is second most budget-friendly model call SUNDARA.
Résultat de recherche d'images pour the evolution of hifiman technology

As soon as the SUNDARA go down from 500$ to 350$, I know this can be the cheapest Planar headphones eng game some were waiting for. The fact that it has a sturdy metal construction, looks more comfortable than other models (including infamously uncomfy HE300) and most of all use a NSD orthodynamic diaphragm 80% thinner than all past models really make me obsess to test those.

Indeed, my expectation was incredibly high, but realist too, because I own a pair of Magnepan Planar speakers and know to some extend the particular sound transmission this technology offers. Until now, I was very unsatisfied with planar earphones compared to speakers, so what I wish to get with the SUNDARA was an open, detailed and delicate sound with a fast transient response that avoid any type of congestion, as well, I cross my finger that it does not sound too clinical or thin in timbre and have some proper bass response.


Let’s see in this review if my Planar dreams come true.


The Hifiman Sundara can be bought for 350$ from Hifiman Official EBAY store HERE.

SPECS

Type: Over ear, open
Usage: Home usage
Driver type: orthodynamic
Pads: replaceable, slanted hybrid pleather/polyester cloth
Inner pad dimensions: depth: 20mm rear, 25mm front side, Diameter: 55mm
Collapsable: No.
Headphone connector: 3.5mm TRS (marked L and R)
Cable entry: double sided
Cable: replaceable, 1.6m. 3.5mm TRS with 6.3mm adapter
Nom. power rating: not specified (assumed 1W)
Max. voltage: 6 Vrms (assumed 1W)
Max. current: 160 mA (assumed 1W)
Max. S.P.L. 122 dB (assumed 1W)
Frequency Response: : 6Hz-65KHz.
Impedance: 37 Ω
Efficiency: 94 dB/1mW (108 dB/1V)
Weight: 372 g.
Clamping force: low/medium
Accessories: 1.6m. cable with 3.5mm TRS jack and 6.3mm adapter, booklet.

INTERN

The SUNDARA has a very big orthodynamic driver of about 9-10cm diameter, it’s take the full space of headphones cups and have a square shape. It’s among the thinner planar diaphragm ever created with only 1 to 2 micron of thickness. This technology call ”Neo super-nano diaphragm” is stated to be 80% thinner than all previous Hifiman headphones. This ”NSD” diaphragm promess extremely fast and detailed transient response.


SUNDARA


PACKAGING&ACCESSORIES

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The SUNDARA come in a luxury box, lying in a bed of black silky fabric like a precious diva. It does not have any carrying case included, which is a little disappointing if we wanna protect this diva. Apart from the cable and the 3.5mm to 6.5mm jack, their an instruction manual and the warranty cards.

CONSTRUCTION

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These Headphones are real full-size open-back with big cups that will fit even biggest ears. This is quite big and heavy headphones, with its 90% metal construction, it has a weight of near a pound (372g), but due to its weight spreading headband, the heavyweight isn’t felt and make these comfortable for long listen. Quality of construction is very impressive for an Hifiman product, it feels well crafted with good attention to details, the metal parts are smooth and the thick metal cups have a special black painting that isn’t prompt to easy scratching. After 2 months of use, I have nothing to report about headphones durability, but I read some people have an issue with the planar driver behavior, perhaps I’m lucky, but they work as well as the very first day for me. These are 100% open-back, and the big metal grill is both beautiful and sturdy. Only part of construction I feel might be fragile is the plastic covering of metal headband, the type of plastic reminds me old Sennheiser Headphones which were easy to break, anyway, their no pressure on this plastic, just be cautious to don’t drop them on a hard floor or hit this part.


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CABLE is about average, it’s a step up from the HE-300 in terms of flexibility and softness, but not in terms of component because HE-300 has a Silver plated braided cable. It looks similar to the HE4XX cable. We talk about a basic copper cable with inner wires that feel loose in its thick rubber body. What worry me with the durability of this cable is the two 3.5mm plugs that bent dangerously when you sit the Headphones on its cups, this surely can lead to cable damage.


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COMFORT is really nice, while the headband diffuses the weight and form to your head for an ergonomic fit, it will not cancel totally it’s weight, perhaps this will be a problem for people with very fragile neck but personally, I never feel any long term discomfort with them. The ears cups are very big and the ears pads quite thick so you do not feel any pressure on your ears, in fact, perhaps it will lack some for smaller heads because as say, the SUNDARA is large and big headphones. About the pads, it would have been even better if a little thicker and softer so it seals perfectly around your ears, which is important to get the best sound possible. One thing certain, the SUNDARA aren’t portable headphones.

DRIVEABILITY

These are capricious headphones to drive, not the most difficult on the market, but even with a rather low impedance of 37ohm, their very low 94db sensitivity as well as demanding orthodynamic drivers made them harder to drive than lot of higher impedance Dynamic Headphones. To be safe, I would say you need a minimum of 2000mW@32ohm to push their dynamic range at full potential. Lower than 1000mW@32ohm amping will not do them justice and create a more closed sound lacking in bass impact and imaging accuracy. Read the PAIRING section for more info about different amplifier’s synergy.

SOUND

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Enjoying the SUNDARA is some kind of sacred audiophile experience that needs a meditative critical listening devotion. The unsaturated layers of nuances in musicality is like learning a new language, once well translated, with the help of best amplifier pairing possible, you discover the truth within its musical language which is an Elegy poem about the waves of transparent layers of sound. This isn’t your typical Planar headphones, this one knows how to sign with gradation, this one extends in both low and highs end effortlessly. Subtly balanced dynamic range, smooth breezy timbre, floatings mids as light and complex as feathers, delicate treble with otherwordly brilliance, the SUNDARA deliver a translucid ocean of sounds where we can contemplate for hours musical marine life. Even after 2 months of daily usage, these headphones still amaze me and learn me something new about timbre, tonality or imaging due to its fascinating articulation. In more rudimentary terms, the SUNDARA sound signature is airy, neutral with slight V shape bass, a hint of warmth in timbre, extremely transparent and fast in transient response but though the attack is ultra fast, it’s not too edgy, but rather soft in low and mids with some extra crispness in the treble.

SOUNDSTAGE is really unique, very tall and quite wide, it has a circular spatiality to it, sometimes you wanna turn your head to ‘’look’’ at the sound source, instrument surrounding you from every side possible. To achieve the best headroom level, you need to amp this sophisticated maestro well, otherwise, it will sound less open and airy.

IMAGING is one of the numerous highlights of SUNDARA, because whatever the numbers of instruments that play in the busiest music, it will play it at the same dynamic range, with same accuracy, definition and clarity. Again, it isn’t shown in a clinical way where it extracts some boosted highs or mids and takes it apart for you, it just divides all layers of sound equally and precisely. You swim in sound complexity and can pinpoint any instrument you want, even if the space between them isn’t boosted or lowered. Precise and highly revealing is the instrument placement, clear is the separation.

TONALITY is hyperrealist and has a high level of fluidity in balance. Yep, it has some liquid edge to its mid-range, avoiding any harshness or shoutyness to its vocal presentation. Tonal balance does have extra push in the treble but keep it laid back enough.

TIMBRE is transparent, wooly, soft on edge, smoothly textured and even unpredictable in nuance richness. I never heard anything like this before, and while it can be disconcerting at first and considered as warm or even dark, it isn’t as it have complex nuance to it that trigger your attention and ask for silent concentration.

BASS is fast, thigh and soft in impact. The extension is good, but they’re no sub-bass boost, so it’s not thick or heavy in the rumble. It’s rather flat full-bodied bass, with a slight boost in mid-bass so you can feel some slam when needed too. The texture is life-like, especially for an acoustic instrument like acoustic or slap bass, it’s not grainy nor dry, and do not bleed on mid-range. Separation is excellent even if definition is not very edgy, it’s hard to explain but the bass comes to you in a unique acoustic projection which makes it more appealing for the plucked bass line with natural extension than thick thumpy synth-sub already lacking in definition. Cello too sound light in weight but fast in attack and full in tonality. I would say that more you go up in frequencies range with the Sundara and more the definition became edgy and clearer, resolution always being at highest level possible.

MIDS are lean in presentation, ultra well layered with nuance in presence and attack. The level of transparency is incredible, as well as tonal representation. Vocal has a wide airy presentation to them, it’s not overly intimate and very natural in timbre with right amp pairing. The definition is rather soft, and I do not hear any unpleasant grain or sibilance even if they’re a slight push in upper mids that make female singer slightly more lively and present. An instrument like saxophone sound exquisite, full and airy, with a very articulate tonal modulation, adding it’s airy layers delicately over other sounds layers. The piano is a little less realist even if highly clear and nuanced, this instrument benefits extra weight in note impact in mid-range to be properly discernable in subtle pitch change which the Sundara timbre does not offer perfectly. When we listen to violin, this is again pure joy as if we can follow sound projection decay in spatiality, it’s not screechy or grainy, and attack is fast and precise, in fact, I rarely heard violin playing as beautiful than from the Sundara, it’s natural, airy, agile and highly accurate both in tonality and timbre. With this exquisite TRACK from Sokratis Sinopoulus Quartet, the Lyra sound so airy, natural, transparent and well-layered above other instruments, it’s near surrealist, as well, full-bodied acoustic bass stays in the back perfectly articulated, while well resolve piano and sparkly percussions are from each side.

TREBLE is most likely the more vivid and energic part of SUNDARA, but not in an aggressive unpleasant way, but delicately snappy one. These are very revealing sounding headphones and they easily dig lot of micro details. Strangely, I cannot consider these bright, but sure sharp and crisp, the highs are light in decay so whatever how fast is the percussions or instruments attack, it never mix or distort in transient response. As well, highs do not sound unbalanced with the rest of the spectrum, they stay in the back of mids and upper mids. Their definition is sharper than smoother mids layers. Acoustic guitar sound extremely clear, with a hint of metallic brilliance, it’s not as full sounding as I would like but make its articulation faster which sharpens overall imaging. Harpsichord has the same coldish treatment in timbre, but now you can listen to Pierre Hantai playing BACH ”English Suites” and take apart all note individually. I’m not sensitive to treble, and though the SUNDARA isn’t light in upper highs, I think nobody will find them aggressive.

PAIRING&AMPING

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With FIIO BTR5

This Bluetooth DAC-AMP can deliver 240mW@32ohm with its balanced output, luckily, the Meze balanced cable fits the SUNDARA. I need to push the volume to MAX to have high volume enough, and while the sound is coherent and enjoyable, it feels little congested and bass is tamed. With instrumental music or not too busy track, like vocal-based music, it will sound quite good, very smooth and clear enough, but you got less articulation and very intimate imaging. This is not a serious solution to drive these headphones, just temporary ones when you wanna wander around your home without leaving the Sundara alone.


With Ibasso DX90+JDS LAB ATOM

The DX90 has dual sabre ES9018 DAC which deliver highly clear and accurate reference sound, but while the ATOM is powerful for its size with up to 1000mW@32ohm, the SUNDARA are the type of headphones that prefer having too much power than just enough. Well, I can’t say the ATOM doesn’t deliver enough power as it can drive SUNDARA at dangerously high volume without creating distortion, but I can’t say either it push the dynamic range at it’s best. The soundstage is deeper than wider and out of your head which affects mid-range layerings definition, the bass did dig low but isn’t perfectly articulate and nuanced, treble seems to be a little more laid back too, lacking some grip and air. Tonality is about the same, its more about sound openness and attack that feel tamed a little, still a very listenable pairing!


With Xduoo XD-05Plus

At 1000mW@32ohm, the Plus has no difficulties pushing the Sundara at very high volume, but the AK4493 DAC and overall total harmonic distortion level is higher than the ATOM so the resolution isn’t as clean and transparent. As well, the bass is warmer, but when you add bass gain it adds some very interesting punch weigh as well as warmer overall tonality that tends to thicken vocal presence. The SUNDARA are slightly cold sounding so this extra warm is welcome and adds pleasant musicality to the cost of affecting some technicalities like imaging precision and attack decay. If you want extra meaty SUNDARA, this pairing is an interesting one, especially when you upgrade OPamp.


With Xduoo TA-10

Now, we have plenty of power to drive the SUNDARA, with its 2000mW@32ohm, the TA-10 opens the soundstage and makes it airier without losing the cohesive transparency of the whole sound. Bass isn’t thick or super weighty, but more extended and controlled, the acoustic bass is wonderfully natural and full of nuances. Layerings is slightly liquid, very lively and realist. The whole sound is smoother, due to the delicate way of dealing with the treble. Still, timbre lack a bit of thickness to it, perhaps this is due to AK4490 DAC or the hybrid tube amping. Here we have reference sound which is very flat, a little cold but very fast in attack-decay


With SANSUI AU-D5 (vintage Japanese Linear A Solid State amp)

This extremely powerful amp might not be the cleanest one int term of THD, but I cannot even turn it at half volume before making explode my ears with the SUNDARA. Who know if it’s euphonic euphoria or the effortless power, but this amp injects life and musicality like no other. Bass gain body and extension without losing its control and transparent layering, the mids became more present and slightly warmer and thicker making vocal lusher and more lively. Treble too gain body, keeping a good amount of brilliance in high harmonic while feeling more natural and less bright. The soundstage is now finally out of my head, very airy and spacious, which is what I expect from open-back headphones. This is my favorite pairing and the one that shows what SUNDARA is capable of, both in terms of technicalities and musicality.

COMPARISONS

VS SENNHEISER HD58X JUBILEE (150$)


I listen to those for a full day and really think they are among the best headphones you can get under 200$. The sound difference between dynamic and planar drivers is more about transient response speed in busy tracks, while the HD58X isn’t bad, it will lose clarity and lack fast articulation in imaging that the SUNDARA offer. The soundstage is slightly wider with the HD58X, but taller and deeper and more holographic with Sundara. As said, imaging is more capable in term of clean layering, which make the Sundara more transparent in timbre too. BASS is slightly fuller and thicker with the H58X, as well, it feels it have more sub-bass extension, the slam is more impactful too, but the bass line feels better separated from mids with the Sundara. MIDS are fuller and more textured with the H58X, it has more body but less transparency, it’s more intimate too. TREBLE is notably more detailed and delicate with the SUNDARA, we hear more micro details while the H58X add texture with its lower and mid-treble, giving lusher overall sound.
All in all, Sundara technicalities are better which is evident in imaging and transient response, but the bass and mids of H58X are more bodied and natural. So, if you are into sound value alone, at 150$ the HD58X Jubilee is unbeatable.


VS MEZE 99 NEO (200$)

These are closed-back and quite portable compared to SUNDARA, as well, they are extremely light so more comfortable with people that have small ears, cause for me, they put pressure on my ears making them less comfortable for long listening. Again, it’s a dynamic vs planar competition here, but the NEO isn’t as balanced as the HD58X. Simply put, the NEO is so inferior to the SUNDARA that it’s a depressing job to do this comparison. Soundstage sound boxy and imaging mixed up and congested compared to the more open sound and transparent sound layering of Sundara. BASS is way more boosted, boomy and uncontrolled, with considerable bleed on mid-range, while it’s flat, clean and flexible with the Sundara. MIDS are more recessed, thinner, grainier and have upper mids boost that makes them sound sometimes shouty. TREBLE is less balanced, less snappy and can add splashiness to cymbals.
All in all, the 150$ price difference makes you go from entry-level sound to TOTL sound with those and we don’t talk about small benefit returns. The NEO sounds like an immature, fun-tuned, unbalanced boom-box compared to the ultra-refined, nuanced and technically talented Sundara.

CONCLUSION

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HIFIMAN do an extremely impressive tuning job with the SUNDARA, it’s neither too warm or too bright and has a good amount of bass that is rarely found with Planar headphones. Once well amped, the SUNDARA show it’s true nature, which is an open, highly revealing sound with clear and airy imaging, beautifully balanced tonality and the fastest transient response I ever heard.

You can throw any music style to them, even the busiest classical symphony or jazz big band, and it will play it with articulate technicality, showing every instrument with smooth transparent resolution and snappy treble.

In the sub-500$ price range, their not a lot of choices for versatile Planar headphones, and while the HE4XX might be unbeatable in terms of value, the SUNDARA is surely the best deal for budget Planar ”End Game”. For 350$, this type of mature neutral sound is as much exquisite to listen to than revealing in technicalities, making the SUNDARA a perfect choice for those who search reference sound at an accessible price.


( For more honest reviews, go to my official website HERE )
NymPHONOmaniac
NymPHONOmaniac
@RoePerk Your right, Atom isnt showing full potential of Sundara, especially in term of clarity and dynamic. Xduoo TA10 offer 2W@32ohm, but the dynamic isnt very hefty either. I prefer using my old Sansui AU D5, at 1/3 of volume it play ultra loud, have weighty dynamic, thick lush timbre, but not a very crisp treble. Topping L30 is quite nice too. I'm still searching the ''perfect amp'' for my beloved Sundara, because they are still my favorite evne if I own Deva, Ananda and 400i 2020.
S
SMOTOJO
RoePerk-You tried the Sundara with an Asgard 3 and it did not drive them to perfection, very, very hard to believe??? And I say this only because the Asgard 3 makes my HE400i's sound unreal and they spec very close to the Sundaras!!! I don't know...
P
pablomelguera
What do you think about the FiiO K5 Pro? It has 1.5W @ 32ohm. I also can use a Focusrite 2i4 i own as a DAC and buy something like the L30 for the some money.

.Sup

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: excellent, balanced sound, comfortable and light, price, build quality
Disclaimer: The headphones were sent to me by Hifiman as part of their loaner program.

I first listened to Hifiman headphones with the release of the HE-4 about 8 years ago, since then I've heard numerous of their headphones and earphones including Hifiman's flagship ShangriLa system. Personally, I own HE-4 and have owned HE-500 and HE-300 so I’ll base some of my review in comparison to the former two.

In the box you get the headphones itself, 1.5m cable terminated with 3.5mm angled jack along with a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adaptor and a nice booklet containing Hifiman’s planar history, a message from the founder and setup and overview instructions.
When I first took the headphones out of the box I was impressed by the almost entirely all-metal design of the structure, only the mechanism that allows for headband height adjustment is made of plastic. I have encountered no squeaking of this part or any other for that matter. The headphones do not have a swivel option but for me the fit is perfect. I recommend, upon first receiving the headphones, to check if the screws connecting the yokes to the cups are tightened enough, mine were not equally tightened on both sides, I was able to almost fully remedy this using only my fingers. But this gives you an option to chose how stiff you want the cup’s tilt to be.

The cable is rather thick, or to be precise the tubing makes it thick. The tubing is oversized and you can feel the cable inside is thinner. It could be a way to protect the internal wires by allowing leeway when the cable is folded or twisted during use. It is pretty stiff but does not tangle, I would prefer a much softer, less stiff cable. Durability wise it should last long.

The pads have soft fabric on the inside and are very comfortable, I have sensitive skin and have not been irritated by it. The headband on minimal position fits my head perfectly, the gripping of the cups on my head is also perfect out of the box but as the headband is made of metal, adjustments can be made. When I look down, the headphone stays in place, unlike the HE-500 that allowed only for robotic movements if I didn’t want to damage the parquet. My head measures 37cm or 14.5” from the center of my left ear, across my head to the center of the right ear for those with smaller heads wondering if it will fit.

Onto the sound characteristics. It does not resemble any of the three headphones I have owned. It does not have the smoothness of HE-4, the mids and bass layering of HE-500 or the warmness of HE-300, no, its a headphone that has its own strengths. It has neutrality, airiness, and balance.
Nothing stands out and yet that is what I like about these headphones. Any genre of music I listen to with them sounds good, great. They are not warm, nor they are cold or clinical, they don’t sound congested and no tone is emphasized. They have the perfect amount of bass for me, a bit less than HE-500 and a bit more than HE-4. It is tight and punchy. No tone is overwhelming the other. They are also very fast and dynamic, unlike any planar I have heard so far. But planar’s “meatiness” is still here.
I have never put much emphasis on the soundstage, I either like the whole package of the headphone’s sound signature or I don’t but I will try to describe it to the best of my ability for those who do care.
The soundstage is average for an open headphone but spoiled by HD800 it is not fair to say they have a narrow soundstage, I’d say as much as they are neutral in sound signature, they are in the soundstage, not very wide but also not narrow. To put it in perspective; if an average closed-back studio monitoring headphones are 1 in soundstage and HD800 is a 10 then these are a 7.

I listened to Sundaras with most of the equipment in my signature but liked pairing with the Mojo the most. Volume on the Mojo is about the same as with the HD800; yellow-yellow or yellow-green. Not a very demanding headphone when it comes to power requirements, I even tried it with the last iPhone with a headphone jack, 6s Plus and the volume was around 90%, pretty good for a mobile phone.

Closing thoughts.
I was thinking about how I would convince myself to purchase the Sundaras. A while ago I said to myself I would limit my inventory to three headphones max, not including Bluetooth. If I didn’t own any headphone I would just buy these and not miss anything from other headphones that I own. After hearing hundreds of headphones I can confidently say these can compete with anything I have heard up to 1k€. But luckily Hifiman priced them very competitively. I just hope they last long and there are no issues so one can enjoy the pleasing sound without worrying.

Thank you to Hifiman for entrusting me with these, I encourage more manufacturers and sales reps to do this kind of loaner programs.
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audioblog18

New Head-Fier
Pros: Speed is stellar
-Natural tonality
-Transparency and clarity of midrange
-Ample and brilliant treble, not harsh at all
-Quite resolving for the price
-Build quality
Cons: Requires great power
-Bass weight seems to be lacking
-Stock cable
-Medium sound stage for an open back design
Thank you Mr. Paul of HIFIMAN Electronics for letting us give our honest take towards the HIFIMAN SUNDARA. Given that the review unit is from them and is free of charge, it doesn’t affect the honesty and integrity of this review.

Shop Links:

HIFIMAN:

http://store.hifiman.com/index.php/sundara.html

eBay:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/HIFIMAN-SUNDARA-Over-Ear-Planar-Magnetic-Audiophile-Headphone-Home-and-Studio-/254143269726?oid=263415145598

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/HIFIMAN-SUNDARA-Over-ear-Full-size-Headphones/dp/B077XDWT7X/ref=sr_1_14?m=A1GH37DDIGH3L6&s=merchant-items&ie=UTF8&qid=1515383085&sr=1-14

The Company

HIFIMAN has been one if not the best headphone maker out there, they specialized in producing headphones with unconventional drivers, they used Planar Magnetic drivers as the owner, Dr. Fang actually has researches regarding the technology behind Planar Magnetic drivers. Up until now they are very popular in the audiophile realm with several awards and positive feedback. HIFIMAN ANANDA and SUNDARA are few of their new lineups and it is quite popular in audiophile groups. HIFIMAN continues to be one of the top brands in headphone class and it is my personal favorite.

The HIFIMAN SUNDARA

“Easy-to-drive Full-size Planar Magnetic Headphone” this is the claim of HIFIMAN with regards to the HE 400 series and other models above them. The SUNDARA is a lot more efficient than the 400i in real time usage, it can be driven by smartphones to listenable level without reaching 100 volume and it can be observed when using it with DAPs.

Fit, Comfort and Build


The HIFIMAN SUNDARA, looks and feels a lot better compared to the 400i the clamping force seems to be more modest and comfortable. The overall build quality is also a step up, the pads is less warm and is more suitable for warm countries like the PH. I think the grills looks less enticing than the one with the 400i but still I love the looks of grills more than anything, it looks cool IMO. Headbands became more rigid and this is due to the fact that the drivers isn’t rotatable like with the 400i, I don’t find it useful anyway

Despite turning the cups rom plastic (400i) to metal, they did maintain the lightweight feeling for the SUNDARA, I can attest that the difference in weight between the two isn’t huge. I tried using it for hours and I didn’t felt fatigue on my neck which simply means that the weight is comfortable enough. My only gripe is that it is kinda hard to adjust and it leaves some serious wear after doing that, the cups feels slightly shakey too.

Technical Specification:

1. Frequency Response: : 6Hz-65KHz
2. Sensitivity : 94dB
3. Impedance : 37 Ohms
4. Weight : 372g
5. Cable Length : 1.5m
6. Plug : 3.5mm/6.35mm
The box of the SUNDARA isn’t as premium as with the 400i, it feels lighter too. Luckily i find the cable to be better since the sleeved ones that came with my 400i is very tangly in comparison. The manual looks better, and the 6.3mm adaptor still looks the same. I still wish that they included a pouch to carry the 400i, nonetheless the packaging is average at least for me.

Sound

I love gears with midcentric to flat sound signature as I really love listening to vocals rather than instruments. My genre ranges from heavy rock, alternative rock, pop rock, acoustic, pop, jazz and folk. Majority of my test tracks are in 16 bit – 44 khz and 24 bit – 48 khz FLAC file and here is the list of my commom test tracks.

  1. Reese Lansangan – For the Fickle (background, female vocals and upper mids)
  2. Foo Fighters – Bridge Burning (Imaging, Layering, Coherence, Sub bass and Mid bass, Mids, Treble)
  3. Jensen and the Flips – Come Closer (Mid Bass, Mids)
  4. Ed Sheeran – Dive (Mid bass, Lower Mids)
  5. Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why (Upper Mids and Instruments)
  6. Paramore – Hard Times (Imaging, Layering, Coherence, Sub bass and Mid bass, Mids, Treble)
  7. Utada Hikaru ft. Skrillex – Face My Fears (Imaging Layering, Bass, Mids, Treble, Coherence, Quickness)
  8. Passenger – Coins in a Fountain (Mid bass, Layering, Imaging, Instruments, Lower mids, Treble)
  9. Tori Kelly – Hollow (Background, Upper mids)
  10. Ariana Grande – Raindrops (Background, Upper mids)
Summary

For the Quality, higher is better as this includes resolution and dynamics while the quantity and positioning are subjective, it actually tells how close and how much the frequencies are.

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Bass


Tight, punchy and quick, it is by far the most agile bass that I’ve heard in any gear, playing some Billie Eilish tracks I can easily notice both the sub bass and mid bass having good amount of details and tightness, it is very coherent. Rumbles and riffs are rendered in a textured manner, both attack and decay are fast enough to easily tackle some fast paced tracks. Mid bass is slightly forward, quantity is just enough to have a weight but never bleeds or overshadow the lower mids. Just like the sub bass, the mid bass is very quick as well, the quantity is just enough to be there when needed, it is generally tight and rounded, it has good fullness and it doesn’t cause the lower mids to sound muddy or veiled. Overall the bass is smooth yet resolving with excellent speed but lacks depth, air and weight (for bass heads).

Midrange

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Neither too lush nor thin, just enough to feel enough body and transparency at the same time. Both the instruments and vocals aren’t far from you and not too close as well, I’d say that it is almost positioned neutrally or at the middle ground. Just like the 400i, I love how natural the timbre is, it doesn’t sound too thick, unnatural or colored, I mean it isn’t perfectly clinical but the coloration here is very little about just 10%. Resolution is great, not the most revealing pair out there but it has nice smoothness without smudging details and I really love that. Upper midrange is kinda sweet and has just enough body for it not to sound shrill or shouty, I find the timbre of upper mids natural as well, very life like maybe because it isn’t placed to recessed or the staging is just enough for it not to sound too spacious nor confined. Both instruments and vocals are rendered very well, when properly driven I can’t hear any signs of being sibilant.

Treble


The attack and decay of sundara’s treble is very quick, that’s the first thing I noticed after playing some Paramore tracks. It has airier treble than the 400i but still isn’t as airy as dynamic driver headphones like AKG K712 or Beyerdynamic DT 1770 pro. The treble despite its speed has very good resolution and extension, it is placed neutrally or just a step behind, since it is airier than the 400i, it gives a better sense of width, depth and height. Even though it has nice sparkle in it, it never sounded harsh nor piercing even when I tried it on my smartphone (which is technically underpowered). I’m not a treble head and I believe the quantity and sparkle of sundara’s treble is just enough for me but I think it may sound dull for treble head folks out there, I can’t notice major peaks and that’s commendable.

Sound stage and Resolution

Imaging and layering is above average, I can easily pinpoint the instruments in the projected stage by the SUNDARA, it isn’t the best but definitely not bad for the asking price. The depth and height are great while it is slightly narrow compared to other open back HPs like AKG K712 but the SUNDARA sounds more real and less veiled in comparison. The stage naturally expands depending on the tracks played, I tried playing some live tracks and it is simply good, the stage isn’t as huge as other open back but it made me feel that I’m listening to an actual concert because of the layering and imaging. Resolution is very good as well, I can easily pick the micro details in “visit to hida” by Radwimps and “Everything’s not lost” by Coldplay. I’d say that the midrange is the most detailed part amongst the three frequency bracket. I’d say that the SUNDARA isn’t the most resolving pair out there but hey, it is pretty detailed despite being smooth at the same time, no harshness or whatsoever yet it managed to reveal details with ease.

Synergy and Sound Signature

The SUNDARA seems to adapt the same sound signature of the HE-400i which I truly loved after listening for the first time. The signature of the Sundara ranges from warm and smooth to neutral instead of dark (like other planar magnetic headphones). Bass is a bit forward and is very quick, tight and resolving despite being smooth at the same time, the midrange is smooth and a bit forward in comparison to treble it has very natural timbre and sweet upper midrange that makes it a good gear for vocal focused tracks, lastly treble lacks air but offers good sparkle, resolution and speed to compensate. I suggest to use a neutral sounding DAP/DAC/AMP when using the the SUNDARA since the signature it has is flexible enough to tackle every genre you have in your music library.

Shanling M3s (High Gain, volume @ 80)


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Unlike the 400i, this is much more efficient as it is pretty loud at 80 steps of volume, it is also a lot better in terms of SQ when directly plugged to DAP compared to the 400i. Obviously it lost transparency and body but not that much, it still sounds fantastic even when directly plugged to DAP. Upper midrange became slightly forward but drier. The staging is also affected, the depth and width is reduced but again, it isn’t as humongous when comparing to the 400i and shanling M3s pairing. Dynamics also took some damage but overall it is a huge step up from the 400i if you want it to be used un-amped.

lrm_export_124779142273589_20190505_1432510273025220904365784646.jpeg

Adding iFi iCAN 2 SE with its bundled IC, it sounds fuller and with the 3D switch and XBass switch, I can easily control the sound of SUNDARA. Turning on the 3D switch and 4000mW output (XBass off) the SUNDARA sounds smoother, richer and more transparent. The upper mids doesn’t sound dry at all and the bass became punchier and more weighty. The soundstage became wider and deeper in comparison to M3s alone. It became more dynamic and slightly more lush. I definitely prefer this pairing, more detailed and smoother but still neutral and open sounding, if you can spend bucks for AMP you should consider buying one because planars really love power and they sound a lot better when properly powered. Turning the XBass on, the midrange is being pushed few steps back while the bass remains the same making the overall signature U shaped to slightly V shaped.

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Adding Periodic Audio Ni (double amping) as amplifier and using copper IC, the body is slightly reduced compared to the iFi iCAN 2 SE and Jazz R7.0 but it sounds more transparent than the R7.0, details are there but not as prominent as when I’m pairing it with iCAN 2 SE. Noise floor is suprisingly low despite using it on PO and not on LO (the Ni doesn’t have volume control, same goes to the M3s when it is on LO so I have no choice but to use PO to be able to control the volume). Despite being small, the Ni was still able to power the SUNDARA decently (55 steps on the M3s) with good enough details, transparency and dynamics and being pocketable at the same time. I’d say that it became thinner and drier compared to the jazz and iCAN SE but not as dry when I plugged it straight to the M3s.

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Adding Jazz R7.0 as amplifier and using copper IC, during my HE-400i review, this is my favorite amplifier to pair with it, but after getting the iFi iCAN 2 SE, everything changed though this is still a good budget amp to power demanding planars. The same changes can be observed with this pairing, fuller but less detailed, sound stage is pretty good but not as accurate and spacious as with the iCAN. Smoothness is at peak when using the Jazz, no peaks or harshness at all, very good if you intend to use the SUNDARA for easy listening.

Smartphone (Huawei Mate 10)


Huawei Mate 10 has a sound signature of neutral-bright, sound quality is below the M3s to be honest the midrange became recessed and slightly veiled as compared to any other source that I’ve tried. Luckily bass, dynamics and treble doesn’t suffer that much, sound stage became narrower and less spacious while the resolution isn’t that great too. Although it is loud enough at 90 steps, it isn’t even comparable when using the Ni or the iCAN 2 SE, nonetheless it is decent for watching videos via youtube or using it for games.

Comparison

AKG K712


An open back that falls in the same price tier as the SUNDARA, after listening to the K712 paired with M3s and iCAN 2 SE, it sounds a lot thicker and slightly veiled in comparison to a more natural and transparent SUNDARA. The K712 has a slower yet airier bass in comparison to quick and tight bass of SUNDARA, resolution seems to be on par so I call it a tie. The midrange of K712 is a bit veiled and too lush compared to the SUNDARA which is sweeter, cleaner and more transparent I think that the SUNDARA wins the midtange. Lastly for the treble, the K 712 sounds brighter in comparison to the SUNDARA but it also packs more air, sparkle and has better extension, on the other hand the SUNDARA sounds smoother and faster, it never sounded harsh at all so I’ll call it another tie. The sound stage of the K712 is much wider but I prefer the imaging and layering of the SUNDARA so to be fair, it’s another tie. Lastly, resolution since there is some muddiness and sense of being veiled I’d easily give this segment to the SUNDARA.

Beyerdynamic DT1770 Pro


This is a dynamic driver headphone so obviously it has better staging and airiness, but lacks coherency, speed and transparency in comparison to planars surch as SUNDARA. Desptite being closed back headphone, the DT 1770 Pro sounds wide and airy, but for me the SUNDARA seems to be more 3D-ish. Sub bass depth and weight easily goes to the DT 1770 pro while the tightness and speed of mid bass goes to the SUNDARA, resolution seems to be fair so I’ll give it a tie. The midrange of the SUNDARA and DT 1770 pro seems to be linear while the latter leans to be slightly recessed, transparency, timbre and resolution easily goes to the SUNDARA while the 1770 pro sounds lush, some might prefer the latter but I’ll give the win to the SUNDARA. Lastly the treble of the DT 1770 pro wins in terms of airiness, resolution, and sparkle while the SUNDARA snatched the speed and extension, still I’ll give the win to the 1770 pro. Overall they are pretty close depending on usage, I can’t use the SUNDARA outside of my workplace or house since it is an open back design and lacks isolation and sound seal.

Conclusion

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The HIFIMAN SUNDARA is a nice upgrade from HE-400i and also a nice set of entry level planar magnetic headphone. They are far more efficient than the 400i but I can attest that smartphones isn’t enough to power it to decent level. The sound signature is almost identical to the HE-400i except that the treble is a bit more relaxed and smooth. In terms of sound quality, the SUNDARA is above in any ways, it has better dynamics, resolution, layering and imaging. The HIFIMAN SUNDARA is definitely a good buy especially when pairing it to a good amplifier as it scalea nicely with various amplifiers that I’ve tried, with great power comes great sonic perfomance.
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kennylim

Head-Fier
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.
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Greendriver

Head-Fier
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.

Dobrescu George

Reviewer: AudiophileHeaven
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



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



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.



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.



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.



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).



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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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Spandy87

100+ Head-Fier
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.

DSCF5417 copy.jpg


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.

DSCF5416.jpg


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.

Zelda

Headphoneus Supremus
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.
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
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B9Scrambler

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Balanced, capable sound signature - Nice build quality - Comfortable and light
Cons: Limited ear cup movement - Scant accessories - Cable
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

Edit 5/14/2020: Lowered score since the DEVA does most of what the Sundara does in a more affordable, more comfortable, and more flexible package.

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 - screw*d Up Friends (Album)
Felt - Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bone) (Album)
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iBo0m
iBo0m
It was a good read!

kpet82

New Head-Fier
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.
volly
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
Greendriver
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...
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