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HIFIMAN SUNDARA

Rating:
4.5/5,
Tags:
  1. Zelda
    HIFIMAN Sundara
    Written by Zelda
    Published Apr 30, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Sound quality: Open, airy, detailed and highly controlled. Clean, accurate and very good timbre.
    Comfortable and and solid materials used
    Even greater value when it goes on sale.
    Cons - The design limits the fit.
    Missing a bit on sub-bass extension. Sound stage is not particularly wide.
    Review - HIFIMAN Sundara

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    Website - HIFIMAN

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    Official Sundara info

    Specifications

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

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

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

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    Design

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

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

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

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

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

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    Sound Quality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    The specifications and HIFIMAN own description suggests the Sundara being efficient enough to be driven even out of a standard smartphone or normal audio player. In practice it proves to be true as for volume matching matters without reaching the max steps. Sound-wise it's not that bad and not as weak as that the HE400i. But it's just decent at best and nothing worth the $500 price tag or whatever lower deal it may get if planned to be used right of a weak source. Small DAPs like the Fiio M6 are still not enough (though better than a phone or stock audio card); sound is lacking in bass and stage is too small. A more powerful player like the DX120 already makes a noticeable difference - there is bass presence and depth and larger stage. The Dragonfly Red DAC too - and actually has a very good synergy with the Sundara with more power, thicker low-end and fuller midrange if a bit smoother yet controlled treble. The new HiBy R6 Pro gives superb resolution and much higher micro-detailing with a much open and airy presentation; soundstage is also there, but again it's not the most impressive part (unless the 4.4mm balanced output used). Simply put, this shows the good synergy and transparency of the Sundara.
      DannyBai and NymPHONOmaniac like this.
  2. Spandy87
    Upper mid-fi king
    Written by Spandy87
    Published May 5, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Outstanding treble
    incredible resolution and speed for the price
    Exceptional imaging
    Cons - Bass roll-off
    Slight upper mid shout
    No swivel for the cups
    Introduction
    For this review I was fortunate enough to be selected by HiFiMAN to be on the head-fi loaner tour for the Sundara. I had previously been a bit disappointed with this 'upper mid-fi' price category, having reviewed the Beyerydnamic DT-1990 pro, and realizing that a lot of the praise it's been getting is sorely unwarranted. People seem to be fooled into thinking that its 8.5khz treble peak equates to detail, when in reality it's just an overexposed and oversharpened image. Now onto HiFiMAN's offering in this category:

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

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

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

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

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

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    Tonality

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

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

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

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

    If anyone's curious, I made a video review you can check out as well for more info.
      Aegruin likes this.
  3. B9Scrambler
    HIFIMAN Sundara: Benchmark
    Written by B9Scrambler
    Published Mar 10, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Balanced, capable sound signature - Nice build quality - Comfortable and light
    Cons - Limited ear cup movement - Scant accessories
    Greetings!

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

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

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

    Disclaimer:

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

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

    Source:

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

    Personal Preferences:

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

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

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

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

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    Build, Comfort, and Isolation:

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

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

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

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

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

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    Sound:

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

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

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

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

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

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    Select Comparisons:

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

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

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

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

    Final Thoughts:

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

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

    Thanks for reading!

    - B9Scrambler

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

    Some Test Tunes:

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

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

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

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