Ananda vs Sundara Help Me!
Nov 23, 2021 at 4:09 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 18

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I currently have both the Ananda and the Sundara in my possession paired with the Asgard 3 and the AKM4490 Dac, and I really can't tell the difference between the two headphones with the exceptions of Bass, Comfort, Impedance, Soundstage (Probably due to the size of the earcups). Outside of that, I can't really distinguish the difference, and was wondering if that was due to my AMP/Dac setup or if I just have a really bad perception of audio in general. Using Tidal Hifi for all my tracks.


If I can't really tell the difference between the two headphones, should I send the Ananda back, and upgrade my Dac/Amp? I would be buying the S.M.S.L SU-9 Dac and pairing it with the Topping A30 Pro, and would be swapping from single-ended to balanced. Wondering if I would more likely to hear a difference with those two devices vs trying to hear the difference between the Ananda and Sundara.
 
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Nov 23, 2021 at 4:41 PM Post #2 of 18

W1ll1eTheP1mp

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Your dac/amp is fine. You are just experiencing the rabbit hole of hifi audio where some people pay ALOT of money for something they think may sound better and/or for tiny nuances or for something that simply isn't there. Since you are at the entrance of the rabbit hole, keep the cheapest if you can't hear more difference and don't look back!. Audio quality is very subjective. Only you can tell which is better. It's you that are going to listening to it. If the Ananda is a fragment better than Sundara, is it worth the difference in cash for you?
 
Nov 23, 2021 at 4:47 PM Post #3 of 18

Retro Gamer

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Your dac/amp is fine. You are just experiencing the rabbit hole of hifi audio where some people pay ALOT of money for something they think may sound better and/or for tiny nuances or for something that simply isn't there. Since you are at the entrance of the rabbit hole, keep the cheapest if you can't hear more difference and don't look back!. Audio quality is very subjective. Only you can tell which is better. It's you that are going to listening to it. If the Ananda is a fragment better than Sundara, is it worth the difference in cash for you?
Really the only thing I've heard that one would determine better is the Bass, but I'm neutral when it comes to Bass response. I've looked at the specs for both, and Ananada is supposed to be highly inaccurate, and warm, and all that other stuff, while Sundara is supposed to neutral and great for critical listening to it's frequency accuracy, but my god they sound identical. (Not using EQ for either since I can't manage to get APO to work.)
 
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Nov 23, 2021 at 9:57 PM Post #6 of 18

plmon

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Really the only thing I've heard that one would determine better is the Bass, but I'm neutral when it comes to Bass response. I've looked at the specs for both, and Ananada is supposed to be highly inaccurate, and warm, and all that other stuff, while Sundara is supposed to neutral and great for critical listening to it's frequency accuracy, but my god they sound identical. (Not using EQ for either since I can't manage to get APO to work.)
Where did you hear that? It's pretty well-known that the Ananda and Sundara are very close to each other in terms of tuning.

Getting back on-topic, I've had both and would say the biggest difference is the soundstage presentation. After listening to the Ananda for a while, the Sundara would sound more "compacted", like the music was crammed into a small room. I found that the Ananda didn't have that much wider a soundstage than the Sundara, but it used the space more effectively and let music spread out more within it.

But if you don't really care about something like that and would rather put the money to something else, yeah I think returning the Ananda would be the best bet. The only other reason I'd keep the Ananda in your case is if the Sundara didn't fit as comfortably. I found cons for both, the Sundara having smaller earpads while the Ananda sometimes put pressure on my jaw.

I also found that while the Ananda does sound like it has better resolution (ex, the trailing edges of sounds aren't as "blunted" or blurred), it has a "soft" kind of sound so the difference in resolution against the Sundara isn't that noticeable. Both Hifimans do benefit from getting more power, but I think the Asgard 3 is more than enough to drive them properly. I'm not sure if a balanced set-up would bring any significant improvements in this case. IMO, you'd be better off just putting that money into another pair of headphones if you want different sound.
 
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Nov 23, 2021 at 10:01 PM Post #7 of 18

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I was going by Amir's measurements over on audiosciencereview. He did graphs for both the Sundara and Ananda. Also the only other pair of Headphones that come to mind is the Hifiman He6se v2 for $600. Based on my limited experience with Hifiman, I doubt I could tell the difference, but I know they're harder to drive and would assume I'd need a more powerful amp.
 
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Nov 23, 2021 at 10:18 PM Post #8 of 18

plmon

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I was going by Amir's measurements over on audiosciencereview. He did graphs for both the Sundara and Ananda.
IIRC, there was some controversy over his measurements for the Ananda. But regardless of that, his FR measurements don't really indicate anything in the way of inaccurate, warm, etc as far as I can see. Perhaps you meant his EQ adjustments as he seemed to find both headphones on the bright side. Like other measurements such as Crinacle's, Resolve's, Oratory's, etc the FR shown by Amir's measurements for the Ananda and Sundara are not super different.

Also the only other pair of Headphones that come to mind is the Hifiman He6se v2 for $600. Based on my limited experience with Hifiman, I doubt I could tell the difference, but I know they're harder to drive and would assume I'd need a more powerful amp.
EDIT: From what I've heard, those will probably sound more different than Sundara vs Ananda. I think your Asgard 3 would also still be up to the task since their specs say they can put in over 2 watts into 50 ohms.
 
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Nov 23, 2021 at 10:34 PM Post #10 of 18

dunring

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I've had both, the only time it was noticable was when I got the Hifiman crystal core cables for the Ananda then it was quite a bit better. The sound stage was deeper on the Ananda front to back, the diminishing rate of return between the two is really steep. 10-15 percent better for double the cost. The Khadas tone board always sounded best to me on those. I still have it on a Drop THX One amp and wouldn't trade it for anything unless I win the lottery. What a nice combo, even the HE4xx I have sounds nice on those.
 
Nov 24, 2021 at 7:29 AM Post #11 of 18

surfgeorge

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If you want to do a systematic analysis, the first question is what kind of music you are listening to, and what tracks you use for comparison.
If you use Tidal check out these lists:
https://tidal.com/browse/playlist/abe0bf4b-2f61-4601-be0a-c24fa8e6c521
https://tidal.com/browse/playlist/3818ca63-07f6-427b-9bbf-c96ce51c79cb
I find Stravinsky's Firebird to be especially good for system testing, since it is very complex and a great test for separation.

The second step would be to test what the headphones can do with better source equipment.
It would be ideal if you could compare the headphones on a kind of reference class source.
It's not just about the DAC and Amp, even the digital signal can be the bottleneck.

Regarding identifying the differences, I found it works better to avoid tying to analyze too much. Listen to the music, explore it like you would walk around a room or concert hall. Pay attention to what the music does to you. Try to "see" the individual instruments, how clear is the imaging, how well is it separated from other elements, etc.
Listen with one headphone for a while, maybe repeat a track several times, then switch, and again dive into the music. It can be a tiring process to listen like that, and sometimes you may hear clear differences, and other times, when you are tired, there's not much difference at all.

If you still don't hear much of a difference sell the Ananda.
If you hear worthwhile differences, it would be best if you could start to replace components of the reference system with your components to find which one is the biggest bottleneck.

Cheers!
 
Nov 24, 2021 at 3:36 PM Post #12 of 18

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If you want to do a systematic analysis, the first question is what kind of music you are listening to, and what tracks you use for comparison.
If you use Tidal check out these lists:
https://tidal.com/browse/playlist/abe0bf4b-2f61-4601-be0a-c24fa8e6c521
https://tidal.com/browse/playlist/3818ca63-07f6-427b-9bbf-c96ce51c79cb
I find Stravinsky's Firebird to be especially good for system testing, since it is very complex and a great test for separation.

The second step would be to test what the headphones can do with better source equipment.
It would be ideal if you could compare the headphones on a kind of reference class source.
It's not just about the DAC and Amp, even the digital signal can be the bottleneck.

Regarding identifying the differences, I found it works better to avoid tying to analyze too much. Listen to the music, explore it like you would walk around a room or concert hall. Pay attention to what the music does to you. Try to "see" the individual instruments, how clear is the imaging, how well is it separated from other elements, etc.
Listen with one headphone for a while, maybe repeat a track several times, then switch, and again dive into the music. It can be a tiring process to listen like that, and sometimes you may hear clear differences, and other times, when you are tired, there's not much difference at all.

If you still don't hear much of a difference sell the Ananda.
If you hear worthwhile differences, it would be best if you could start to replace components of the reference system with your components to find which one is the biggest bottleneck.

Cheers!
Spent 30 minutes at a time listening to the same 10 second clip, and also tried a few different tracks repeaditly. I listen to all genres of music. From Nightwish to Led Zepplin, From S3RL to Deuce. Rise Against's album Ghost Note Symphony to the band Anti-Flag. All genres.
 
Nov 25, 2021 at 1:35 AM Post #14 of 18

ProtegeManiac

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I currently have both the Ananda and the Sundara in my possession paired with the Asgard 3 and the AKM4490 Dac, and I really can't tell the difference between the two headphones with the exceptions of Bass, Comfort, Impedance, Soundstage (Probably due to the size of the earcups). Outside of that, I can't really distinguish the difference...

That's already a lot of factors to distinguish them by.

It's not like you're tone deaf as to not be able to tell an HD600 from a bundled earphone in a reasonably quiet room. I mean...even a machine doesn't say there's a striking difference.
Sundara.jpg

Ananda.jpg


I mean, if I'm buying one or the other based on just the graphs, I'd gamble on the Ananda being less likely to scratch my ears, but that's about it.

You have it better ie you have both and can compare back to back, so whatever differences you can pick out, choose based on that; if you like the more expensive one better then decide whether the added cost is worth that improvement. Or choose based on ergonomics and whether that can override whichever sounds marginally better.


...and was wondering if that was due to my AMP/Dac setup or if I just have a really bad perception of audio in general. Using Tidal Hifi for all my tracks.

While the Sundara has a markedly lower sensitivity the Asgard3 has enough power to overcome that.

If anything, maybe it's switching over to Class B driving the Sundara and that just adds to the causes of what minute differences you can hear.




If I can't really tell the difference between the two headphones, should I send the Ananda back, and upgrade my Dac/Amp? I would be buying the S.M.S.L SU-9 Dac and pairing it with the Topping A30 Pro, and would be swapping from single-ended to balanced. Wondering if I would more likely to hear a difference with those two devices vs trying to hear the difference between the Ananda and Sundara.

It's ultimately up to you but personally I'd just keep whichever one is more comfortable and not even upgrade the rest of your gear. Just sit back and listen instead of overthinking it.
 
Nov 26, 2021 at 10:20 PM Post #15 of 18

catom

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Really the only thing I've heard that one would determine better is the Bass, but I'm neutral when it comes to Bass response. I've looked at the specs for both, and Ananada is supposed to be highly inaccurate, and warm, and all that other stuff, while Sundara is supposed to neutral and great for critical listening to it's frequency accuracy, but my god they sound identical. (Not using EQ for either since I can't manage to get APO to work.)
Try Roon. It's EQ is very good and easy to use and just works. I've grown tired of fiddling with APO and having to enable or "install" things for each source every time I restart my computer it seems. I thought Peace and APO were good and full of every feature one could want - they are...but the reality is, it's not always the easiest.

I tried Roon out and noticed they have an EQ that can load convolution files and also has a nice graphical EQ with a good set of filters and control. Certainly not as many as APO, but plenty.

Unfortunately it leaves an EQ now at a monthly cost...but it also happens to be a really good player that better manages your library and helps you discover stuff if you're using Qobuz or Tidal. So it's not simply just for the EQ.

As for the differences in planars from Hifiman. You're likely hearing their house sound. You'd get a more dramatic difference between brands. Though you should get a small difference between the lineup within a brand too. Like others said, how much is it worth to you? It's subjective.

Don't get me wrong, you can't take the lowest end in a lineup and expect it to be close to the top end. They clearly have "better" but once you get past a certain threshold, it's diminishing returns.

In my opinion, it's not about "better" it's about "better for you." It's unfortunately a bit of a brutal trial and error process in finding what you like. Not many people are able to try all of the headphones that they are considering before buying. You have to be fortunate enough to live near a good hifi shop. Or you find an understanding retailer who doesn't mind you returning a bunch of times...but there's only so many you can try and return before you give up or they cut you off.

I've found head-fi to be excellent in gathering opinions from people. It helped me find a new pair of headphones that I absolutely love and never expected!
 

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