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Hifiman Sundara (HE400i upgraded, around $500)

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by mtoc, Sep 16, 2017.
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  1. Dystasia
    The reason why people think their phone can't drive the Sundara I think has something to do with the automatic low/high impedance switch some of them have when detecting what's connected to the audio jack. Some phones change their output from low impedance to high impedance and some even to "auxiliary" without the end user noticing. For example, the LG V30 has a low impedance and high impedance mode that are turned on depending on what's connected to the jack. I have this phone and the Sundara doesn't get to a decent volume when connected to it. The phone detects it as a low impedance audio device and doesn't try to put out the full juice. I have to fool the phone into thinking it is a high impedance device by using an adapter first and then connecting the headphone to the adapter. The phone switches to high impedance mode when it detects something that is 50 ohms or higher.

    So yeah, I think different phones have different implementations and thus why some people complain. The Sundara regardless of how efficient HIFIMAN says it is does requires a bit more juice than other phones with the same efficiency specs. I have some old mp3 players I had lying around and I can't get it to sound high enough on them.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
  2. yaby1979
    I wasn’t referring to any portable device other than the iPhone which easily drives Sundara as several others have posted. My reference to the V-30 was to the quality of the music reproduction not the quantity of the output voltage by the ESS Tecnologies Quad DAC/amp as compared to the Cirrus DAC in the iPhone 6s Plus on any headphone. To my ear the V-30 sounds thin and shallow by comparison and the Sundara sounds terrible in either mode. Apple was designing decent sounding portable audio devices when LG was a company that made poor quality air conditioners.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
  3. bradbort
    Just to add more info to the volume question, I tested the Sundara with an iphone 7, a schiit magni 3, and a rogue sphinx v2 intregrated. While listening to classical music, I raised the volume until I considered it good in terms of absolute levels and dynamic range.

    • iPhone 7. Volume raised to about 60% (using the iPhone dongle, since it no longer has an analogue headphone port)
    • Sphinx. It claims to have a 1 Watt headphone amp. Volume raised to about 10pm on the dial.
    • Magni 3. It claims to be 2 watts. Volume raised to about 7:30 pm on the dial.
    In no cases did I feel that any of these sources were being pushed too hard. Quite the contrary.
    seanwee and yaby1979 like this.
  4. vaibhavp
    Planar bass a bit linear. People might think its not hard hitting enough so its underpowered.

    It happened with me while listening to he400i. I felt my 2.5 watt amp was not doing the job properly. I was not getting the bass i wanted or am used to.

    But planar drivers are also too big at 100 mm +. And heavy as well. Quiet simple to see why it might feel underpowered. We are not looking for some simple sound after all. Ppl want texture, dynamics, impact etc from 5-6 instruments playing at the same time. Would require a lot of juice if you ask me.
  5. Dystasia
    Sorry, I didn't even read your post (thus why I didn't even quote it). My post was mostly directed to those who didn't understand why their phone (or other people's phone) couldn't run the Sundara. I don't care about your opinion on the LG V30.

    Do you mind telling me how is your Magni 3 setup?

    Also, when you use time numbers to represent volume or knob rotation, are you orienting the clock relative to were the knob starts at 0? e.g. in the case of the Magni 3 "0" volume starts at 6 on the clock. Is this correct? I'm kinda new to this so I don't really know how people use that terminology.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
  6. phthora
    Here are some measured specs as a point of reference:

    The issue is the wattage is very low, about 25mW at 32 Ohm. Overall volume and headroom are going to suffer with that little power on tap. Putting the 37ohm impedance and 94 db sensitivity into here:

    shows that at "fairly loud" the headphones' required exceeds the output of the iPhone in terms of both wattage and voltage. If you are like me and would never listen at 110db, you might be fine. But, EQ will often lower the overall volume to compensate for changes to the FR, which means that you will be turning up the volume and thus using more power for the same level of volume. Then, there are issues like compression due to digital volume control, low-ish dynamic range, SNR, and crosstalk. Compare those to the specs of the Fiio A5 at $130:


    The iPhone doesn't stack up to even a modestly priced dedicated portable amp.
    seanwee likes this.
  7. Hifiearspeakers
    Ahahahhahah!!! Best comment ever!
  8. zodiac1234
    H I F I M A N - S U N D A R A - R E V I E W

    Hello all.
    Got a pair of Sundaras and have been listening to them for a while.
    Would like to share my experiences with you, since there are not many proper reviews on the net on them.

    Reference units used:
    > Sennheiser HD600, HD650, HD800
    > Audeze LCD3
    > Hifiman HE-4, HE-6, HE1000 V2
    > Focal Utopia

    + High(er) sensitivity than previous (older Hifiman) models
    + Improved quality of construction and assembly
    + Much better connectors and cable, and nice storage box
    + Effortless presentation
    + Dynamics and clarity in the low frequency region.
    + Much more coherent across the spectrum than previous Hi-end models (HE1000 v2).
    + Great imaging capabilities.
    + Very laid back midrange response (+)

    - A "coarse" construction that still feels.... well...cheap (compared to Sennheiser 600/650/660)
    - A very audible "shelf-like" low pass response, lacking high frequency extension.
    - Lacking clarity (against more expensive units), and thus feeling less "precise"
    - Excessively "warm" sounding and rolled-off.
    - Very laid back midrange response (-)
    - Small earpads (Focuspads) and not very comfortable on slightly bigger ears.

    Actually a solid performer, capable of painting an effortless, large, deep and pleasing picture of the sonic event, with almost
    no signs of harshness or edge.
    Low frequencies exhibit wonderfull solidity and articulation that is unheard of for the price.

    Laid back, rolled-off and warm character that will suit many different (hard sounding/grainy) amplifiers.
    Its overall performance was surprisingly ever so slightly superior to that of Hifiman HE1000-V2 which sounded a little less homogeneous, a little less balanced and slightly more grainy
    across the board.

    This could serve as a very good pair of all-round headphones for many, maybe even an end-game headphone for some.
    Yes, it is a really that good.


    R E V I E W :
    It is apparent that Hifiman is aiming to please reviewers like Tyll Hertsens (who has repeatedly stated that
    he favors laid-back treble response) by altering the frequency response and the sonic characteristic of their headphones.

    This is not a sin.
    Every manufacturer does this, and it is a quite smart and logical way to profit.
    A good/bad review can make or break a product.

    Hifiman used to have (my opinion) probably the BEST treble response in headphone-dom.

    The airy, shimmering, smooth, utterly transparent and effortless sonic character that Hifiman was famous for in the past is now
    gone and been replaced by an equally effortless, but much darker and "veiled" presentation that will undoutedly be more forgiving and more to the liking of reviewers.

    The high frequency resolution of the Hifiman headphones was a problem in the past:
    Because of this articulation and clarity, they often sounded accentuated and piercing in the highs when coupled to mainstream amps.

    However, switching from Hifiman HE-4/HE-6, or even Sennheiser HD800 to the Sundaras made one thing very apparent:
    A very obvious shelf-like "drop" of the output level beyond approx 2 kHz (I have no measurements), leading to a somewhat veiled and opaque
    presentation that left me at times - much like when I audition Audeze units - longing for more clarity. (This is of course an unfair comparison since the reference units are twice the price).****

    On Al De Meola's "Opus in Green" (World Simfonia III, Telarc release), 5 min into the track, there is a tremendous amounts of low-level, wonderfully shimmering,
    slightly sibilant cymbals, played and micked in the background, which helps create a hallucinatory ambiance and "air" that is absolutely intoxicating when played on other
    reference units - but is unfortunately completely muted and absent through the Sundaras.

    The low frequencies feel well extended (again - I have no measurements) and possess solidity and depth that help create a big and deep soundstage which is
    superior to that of other reference units (with the exception of HE1000 V2), yet the soundstage lacks clarity and focus that gives a big, but wooly and diffuse picture of
    musicians and instruments.

    At the end, the warm character of the Sundaras can be both a curse and a blessing.
    I must point out that my reference electronics is all Single-Ended with tubed Front-End, and I am sure this rolled-off presentation will be much appreciated on hard-hitting, clear-sounding OP-based, or
    push-pull solid state electronics.

    As mentioned, I compared it to much more expensive headphones which is unfair.
    However, against the similarly priced Sennheiser HD600/650, the Sundaras were hands down, so absolutely superior in every way.

    I felt them to be even superior in many ways, to Hifiman HE1000 V2 (which has severe problems in the mids and highs due to its large non-circular membrane - but that's another story).
    Hifiman has commendably addressed this shortcoming in the Susvara, but it costs 6000 USD.

    In comparison, Sennheiser HD600/650 sounded very grainy and coarse in the midrange and highs, not as resolving and articulated in the lows, and not at all as satisfying as the Sundaras.
    I cannot think of any other headphones -->> AT THIS PRICE RANGE <<-- that can match Sundara's qualities.

    A good match up would be to bright-sounding Class-A push pull amps/Dacs.

    Best of luck to you all.

    *** Postscript:
    Innerfidelity has now reviewed Sundara and done measurements.
    Mids and highs DO NOT appear to be excessively rolled off, and the frequency response looks
    linear and clean.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2018
  9. soal
    Great review! Thank you!
  10. bradbort
    Good questions:

    The Magni is coming off the fixed output of the rogue sphinx integrated. You may ask why I have a headphone amp, when the sphinx has a perfectly good headphone port. Mostly it’s my wife :). She won’t let me remove the door on my salamander equipment rack, so its easier just to have another amp.,

    You are correct. The O volume for all the equipment is straight down. So 7:30-8 is just a bit up to the left. 9 would be directly left. 10, a bit above that. 12 straight up...and rather deafening in volume!

    I’m not sure what terminology folks use either. I just used what I thought would convey what was going on, but obviously failed :frowning2:o
  11. Dystasia
    Interesting. I have to put my Magni 3 at around 12 to get to a decent volume. Now I'm wondering if my unit is broken somehow. I'm running my PC to Modi 2 Uber via USB and then the Modi 2 Uber to the Magni 3 via RCA. At full volume in Windows and with the Magni 3 in High Impedance. Do you have your Magni 3 in high impedance mode?
  12. Ripper2860
    Yeah -- Magni 3 has 2 gain settings. The low gain setting typically requires about a 9-12 o'clock position on the volume control for my Hifiman HE400S cans (depending on the recording). In high gain mode -- I barely have to turn the volume control to get a very reasonable to loud volume.

    Note: I reached out to Schiit and they suggested low gain setting for the HE400S. I would think that is the preferred setting for Sundara, as well, given they are both low impedance with good efficiency (for Planars).
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
  13. bradbort
    REach around back and switch it from low to high gain. The Magni has low gain mode for IEM’s. High gain is for over ears, although some like to use low gain to be able to turn the volume up higher :)
  14. Ripper2860
    Low gain also has lower THD and volume pots tend to track channel balance less accurately at lower knob settings. (BTW -- The Magni 3 has a revised volume tracking slope to help push users to turn the volume knob higher to avoid the inherent stereo tracking issues at lower knob settings)...

    From Magni 3 spec at Schiit ...
    THD: Less than 0.001%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 1V RMS, less than 0.02% at 5V RMS into 32 ohms

    Can one hear the difference between the THD numbers-- I doubt it, but, the stereo channel balance tracking ... maybe.

    Don't get hung up on the volume knob position when using low gain setting. If you are able to achieve the desired volume at low gain, then all is good (or even better). If not -- switch it to high gain mode.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
  15. bradbort
    That is a good point, and since the Magni 3 can easily drive the Sundara in low gain mode, you can easily use it if you can hear a difference...
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