Home Headphone Comparisons HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition X vs. Edition XS

HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition X vs. Edition XS

by Stuart Charles Black
HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition XS

Don't forget to share if you found it helpful!

Big thank you to John @ Apos Audio for the Edition XS loaner, Patron “Hawk” for the Ananda loaner (as well as Audio Advice back when they carried it), Mark over at HIFIMAN for the Arya, and Audio Advice again for the original Edition X demoed in 2017.

I was not paid directly by any of these companies/people; I’m just giving my thoughts and impressions of each.

Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!

Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear) all over again, so…

This article will house all current and future impressions of the Ananda, Arya (Stealth Magnets version), Edition X, and Edition XS (Stealth Magnets), but will also include any future iterations/versions of this lineup – similar to my Sennheiser 58X/600 series, AKG 600/700 series, and HIFIMAN 400 series guides.

So bookmark, share, and check often as HIFIMAN loves to make revisions.

Today we’ll cover all 4 headphones – discussing build, comfort, sound, amplification needs, genre pairing, balanced listening, value, and more.

By the end of this article, you should know exactly which one is most worth a purchase and why.

With that, let’s dive in!

I’ve never owned any of these headphones outright, but have extensive experience with all of them and have listened to each for many hours.

Build & Comfort

HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition X vs. Edition XS

The original Edition X.

HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition XSIt’s quite interesting to have observed HIFIMAN’s build trajectory dating back to around 2017 when I first heard the original Edition X. 

That headphone utilized the weird Ostrich-looking headband shape and donned their somewhat cumbersome adjustments and small plasticky sliders.

By the time the Ananda came out in 2018, they completely revamped the design.

You may also remember that the Sundara from 2017 shared this updated look in that they likely just applied it to the Ananda.

No longer did the Ananda’s cups rotate as they did with the original Edition X, but the headband was now rounded off, the sliders were longer and made of metal this time, and the product itself seemed a lot more durable.

Some other notable changes included the suede headband padding (vs. the cheap-ish feeling faux leather on the Edition X) as well as the bale structure which also seemed more robust.

Arya

HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition XS

With the Arya, they did a complete 180 and went backward – again utilizing their original design.

The cups are fully rotational again and the headphone looks to be a carbon copy of the 1st gen Edition X – albeit with a darker color scheme.

You’ll also notice they can contort in some strange and interesting ways; something you may or may not care about.

But wait, there’s more.

In 2020 a completely new design was introduced in the first generation DEVA which has carried over to the newer 400se and Edition XS – one that utilizes DUMMY THICC everything and by most accounts a more streamlined look.

The adjustment blocks are thicker, and the headband padding is thicker, but by and large, all 4 of these headphones function in very similar ways.

To recap:

  • Edition X – Fully rotating and folding cups (up and down) Ostrich headband, dual 3.5mm terminations into each earcup. Old design.
  • Ananda – No cup rotation but the cups can fold up and down, rounded headband, dual 3.5mm terminations into each earcup. Design revision #1.
  • Arya – Fully rotating cups, Ostrich headband, dual 3.5mm terminations into each earcup. Old design again.
  • Edition XS – Slight rotation in and out, rounded Dummy Thicc headband, dual 3.5mm terminations into each earcup, DUMMY THICC. Design revision #2.

What hasn’t changed across all 4 of these is the window grille aesthetic which, depending on who you are, may be cool or ugly.

The only difference is that the Arya opts for the dark look vs. the silver on the other 3.

HIFIMAN claims this design greatly reduces sonic reflections for clearer sound – but we’ll get into that in a bit.

At a glance:

  • Edition X (2016) – Metal w/ high-grade plastic, Pleather/Velour earcup padding. Note that the Edition X V2 swapped out velour for polyester which became a mainstay in future iterations.
  • Ananda – All metal construction, Pleather/Polyester earcup padding.
  • Arya – Metal w/high-grade plastic, Pleather/Polyester earcup padding.
  • Edition XS – Metal w/high grade plastic, Pleather/Polyester earcup padding.

In case you were wondering, HIFIMAN claims that the switch from Velour to Polyester (the part that rests on your ears) increases sound transparency.

Again, we’ll touch on that in a jiffy. 

Comfort

HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition XS

You’ll find it to be around the same on all of these, and definitely above average with some caveats.

Let’s discuss them. 

First off,

for planar magnetic headphones that are on the heavier side, all 4 of these feel pretty darn good on your head.

You may look at the headband pad of the Edition X, Ananda, and Arya, and think, “Wow, seems a bit sparse.”

Well, yes and no.

The headphones actually don’t dig into the top of your head much at all, and the clamping force on the sides is near perfect.

So by and large, it doesn’t really matter all that much. The pad is really just there as a brace if you will.

With the Edition XS,

you’re getting a bit more headband padding though I honestly don’t find any of them more or less comfortable than the others in this respect.

One thing to keep in mind is that the cup may dig a little into that ridge behind the back of your ear, or it may not.

Even despite it being a minor nitpick, I’ve experienced it personally and know folks who have as well. 

Other than that,

comfort here is mostly exemplary and you’ll be able to wear them for long listening sessions with minimal adjustments.

The cups nicely contour to the typical ear shape, and there’s plenty of room in there for even the biggest of auricles.

In other words,

if you have ears the size of Texas, you’re in luck!

HIFIMAN definitely does not discriminate here.

Lastly keep in mind that the Ananda, for me, clamps a bit harder than both the Arya and Edition XS.

Definitely, something to consider.

Sound

HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition XS

The burning question is this:

Do all of these sound the same?

Well, yes and no.

The original Edition X was super smooth and laid back, but lacked a bit of detail and the resolution wasn’t quite where it should be for the price.

I actually didn’t recommend it back in 2017 because I thought it was a bit overpriced for what you were getting.

In other words,

The treble lacked zip and sparkle and the mid-range followed that HIFIMAN house signature, but overall the headphones lacked a certain energy.

Ananda vs. Edition XS

This may be my imagination, but in going back and forth extensively, I feel like the Ananda is slightly crisper and livelier than the Edition XS.

The Ananda is also more efficient at 103dB and a bit easier to drive than the Edition XS (92dB).

This could definitely have something to do with it as well.

I did my best to recalibrate the volume to match when going back and forth – essentially keeping it at one specific spot for the Ananda (around 10 o’clock), and then moving it up to around 12 before listening to the XS.

It’s also interesting to note that even despite the Ananda being somewhat livelier, I also think it’s just a tad more sibilant/essy which has always been a running theme.

The Edition XS seems to be a bit smoother and more fluid, while the Ananda is a tad rough around the edges.

HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition XS

Again,

could be my imagination.

Bold Claim #1

The overall sound of these headphones can be described as open, crisp, airy, and detailed.

Companies love to make bold claims based on design choices, but I think HIFIMAN’s make sense here.

In other words,

their claim of “The Window shade grill greatly reduces sonic reflections”, makes sense when you think about the sound signature and how it plays.

It’s very clear and unobstructed. Sounds have room to breathe and exist in an open space and certainly, that coincides with the claim.

But are the window shade grilles the actual reason for that?

From my perspective, it’s a bit harder to say, but I do think the planar driver itself has a lot to do with it as well.

Bold Claim #2

“The more breathable Polyester increases sound transparency.”

This sounds a bit more like market speak to me, but they’ve stuck with the same cup material for a number of years now so take that for what it’s worth.

I won’t personally say it makes much of a difference, but I could be wrong.

Bass extension and thump are more or less about the same, but what’s interesting is that I felt like the Ananda hit a bit harder on Damu The Fudgemunk’s “Colorful Storms.”

 

After coming to this conclusion and comparing RTING’s graphs, it would seem that the opposite is true:

It’s the Ananda that’s a bit more rolled off.

Still,

as mentioned previously, these bass responses are extremely similar, and across 20Hz – 100, the discrepancies in each are maybe 1 or 2 dB at most.

On Boards of Canada’s “Nothing is Real”, as well as Uyama Hiroto’s “81 Autumn” the difference is clearer and I can hear a bit more bass impact with the XS, even though taken as a whole, the Ananda still seems more energetic and brighter.

If there’s any roll-off below 100Hz on each, it’s only at max around 5dB.

This ensures you’re getting plenty of slam and impact – just one reason of many why I love this lineup so much.

EQ

HIFIMAN headphones generally respond to EQ quite well, so if you want to bring up the sub-bass, +5dB at 20Hz, around +4 at 30, +3 at 40, etc. seems about right.

You get the idea. Just play around with it.

This will essentially result in a flat-line bass which is ideal in the majority of instances.

Resolution, Timbre, Detail

HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition XS

Resolution, timbre, and micro detail on both are very similar here; perhaps about the exact same.

That is to say that the hallmark qualities of this line are there in spades – instruments have excellent decay which is one thing that really sets these apart from the 400 series.

That’s not to say that 400 series headphones are bad in those respects – just that they are a bit outclassed.

Recap/Main Takeaway:

Though the headphones are very similarly tuned, the Edition XS is smoother and more fluid, less brash, and not sibilant at all.

The Ananda, while excellent sounding, has a touch of overly bright and is a bit rougher around the edges.

In other words,

the Ananda is a tad more “in your face” if that makes sense. 

Arya vs. Edition XS vs. Ananda

You may have already guessed it when taking into account my Arya review, but the Ananda is slightly more brash/sibilant while the Arya stays a bit more in line.

The Edition XS is certainly the smoothest out of these 3, and overall sounds the least sibilant – in fact, it’s pretty much not at all in comparison to the others.

It’s no surprise that the Edition XS in large part mimics the overall sound portrait of the original Edition X – only this time the sound signature is less dull and priced correctly.

Can you believe that the original Edition X went for upwards of $1,200?!

HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition XS

Bass & Mid-Range

Again, you’ll find the bass on the Arya to closely match that of the Ananda and Edition XS.

Some slight roll off but by and large hits deep and has plenty of nice impact.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about the mid-range – somewhat of a touchy subject in all HIFIMAN offerings, but also not a complete dealbreaker.

You’ll find that slight roll-off after 1kHz to sometimes render music a tad too laid back, but the saving grace is that it comes back up at 3kHz – giving female vocals and instruments some much-needed energy and zest.

At the end of the day,

the mid-range can sometimes bother me but still sounds mostly correct outside of roughly 2kHz.

One of the main differences between this lineup and say the 400 series is that there’s a larger peak around 3k which kind of makes up for the dip more than it does with a 400se.

The other difference is that there’s less roll-off below 100Hz on these headphones vs. a 400se.

You’ll notice a roughly 10dB cut vs. around 5 for the Arya/Edition XS/Ananda.

To recap:

  • Original Edition X – Somewhat dulled sound, not as refined or lush, certainly overpriced in 2016-2017.
  • Ananda – Very open, clean, and crisp, but definitely the most sibilant/essy out of these 4. The original asking price of $1000 was pushing it, but $600-700 seemed about right for what you were getting.
  • Arya – Slightly less brash/sibilant than the Ananda, very much overpriced in 2021-2022 and beyond at roughly $1600.
  • Edition XS – Seems to find that perfect balance and less sibilant than both the Ananda/Arya. Perfectly priced in 2021/2022 and beyond at roughly $500.

Amplification & Genre

HIFIMAN Edition XS Review

As touched on in the sound section, the Edition XS seems to be the hardest to drive and requires the most juice:

At a glance:

  • Edition X – 25 Ohm, 103dB, not very hard to drive, can be used with a mobile phone.
  • Ananda – 27 Ohm, 103dB, not very hard to drive, can be used with a mobile phone.
  • Arya – 32 Ohm, 94dB Sensitivity, harder to drive than the Ananda and Edition X. Will take a smidgen more juice but don’t freak out about it.
  • Edition XS – 18 Ohm, 92dB, Similar to the Arya.

If you were curious George,

I used the iFi xDSD Gryphon, FiiO’s K9 Pro, the iFi Zen paired with an xDuoo MT-604, as well as Universal Audio’s Volt 2.

If I had to suggest a good pair, keep it simple and snag an ATOM Amp + ATOM DAC for your desktop and maybe a FiiO BTR5 if you want to listen portable but also have the option for 2.5mm balanced.

If you’re looking for a balanced desktop solution, the Zen is great and you can pair it with an MT-604 (or something similar) as I did.

Balanced impressions

Well, I’ve been doing quite a lot of listening this way and though it may be my imagination and/or a placebo, I do think balanced is going to result in a slightly cleaner presentation with a tad better resolution and detail.

Timbre also seems to be improved somewhat.

Again, this may be all in my head so take it for what it’s worth.

Outside of those subtle differences, listening balanced isn’t really a grand revelation.

If anything,

it’s a lot more convenient because you’re always going to have more juice at your disposal.

Genre

These excel with pretty much everything due to their open nature, above average Soundstage, and excellent placement and separation of sounds – yet another reason why I highly value this lineup and believe it to be an excellent step up from Mid-Fi.

So whatever you listen to will sound pretty rad on these: Rock, Metal, Pop, Indie, Rap, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Classical, Ambient, Folk, it doesn’t matter.

HIFIMAN Edition XS Review

With that said,

the burning question is of overall value.

Which of these is most worth a purchase?

You probably already know the answer.

For the longest time, I strictly recommended the Ananda as a step-up from mid-fi.

It was and still is a great headphone.

But,

it seems the Edition XS has forced my hand.

Video Shootout

Don’t forget to leave me some love and subscribe! <3

 

Final Verdict

HIFIMAN Edition XS Review

I did not recommend the original Edition X or the Arya – both of which I felt were overpriced, then and now.

In the case of the XS, not only are you getting essentially the same sound for $200-300 less than an Ananda, but it’s an improved sound, meaning, it’s less sibilant, less harsh/brash, and overall sounds smoother and more fluid.

For all of HIFIMAN’s past mistakes,

I have always felt like they truly care about improving their product line.

I say that with over 5 years of experience demoing their headphones.

The Edition XS to me represents another leap forward for them, both in terms of value, build, and sound quality.

I think they have done an incredible job over the years of fine-tuning their sound but also realizing that perhaps they were a bit overzealous in pricing some of their earlier models.

Both the 400se and XS represent what I believe to be the end result of a years-long maturation process.

In other words,

the value and price you’re paying perfectly match what you’re getting.

So if you’re asking me which of these I would recommend you purchase, it’s the XS hands down.

Act Now:

 

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this HIFIMAN Edition X vs. Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition XS Comparison/Shootout and came away with some valuable insight.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

Is the XS the most sensible option here? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

Be sure to also check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

Don't forget to share if you found it helpful!

You may also like

8 comments

EthanFriend October 21, 2022 - 11:03 pm

Very interesting read. Honestly none of them seem like a nice upgrade or interesting step up from my modded HE400SE. Thye’re just so expensive for such little improvements in sound, and almost no improvements on build quality. Why can’t AKG or Sennheiser do something crazy good with excelent build quality at the price of the Edition XS to compete with hifiman? I feel like if you want to enter high-fi hifiman is the go to brand and their build quality doesn’t deserve it in my opinion but the market around 500€ just sucks.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black October 21, 2022 - 11:26 pm

Ethan,

Thanks for the comment!

You make a great point. In fact, I’m going to do a deep dive with the XS vs. 400se and see if I believe it’s truly worth it. I still say yes now because I’ve always loved the more open nature of the Ananda and the XS just picks up where that left off but at a better price point and improved build.

That said, the SE is so dirt cheap which is what makes that jump kind of jarring in a way. It’s still $400 more so I can see where you’re coming from. This is kind of almost a blessing and a curse.

Years back, mid-fi was a lot more expensive and you’d have to drop a considerable amount. For instance, I paid $330 for a made in Ireland HD600 in 2016, but times have changed quite a bit.

Their build has improved tremendously from the early days, so I have to give them some credit. I’ve had no issues with anything since 2019, and I’ve demoed quite a number of their headphones since then.

And as for your question, it is a good one. I feel like AKG hasn’t really done diddly in quite a number of years, and Sennheiser too for that matter. There really isn’t anything in that step-up from mid-fi category for those 2 companies, and it’s something I really haven’t thought much about.

Reply
Paolo June 11, 2023 - 8:19 am

Wow, I just read this today and I so much feel the same way. The HE400se non stealth (a popular reviewer named R**** said the stealth magnets tend to be just a tad brighter than the non stealth ones on most hifiman HPs but not at all something to write home about) go for around $60-$70 in the Philippines from China and I have a modded one as well. I love it so much that although I am looking at the XS for an upgrade (the XS can be bought here from China for $380). But I have a fear that they may underwhelm me or may not be much of an upgrade from the HE400se which I really love. I think the next step would be to audition rather than just buy blindly but unfortunately we don’t have any stores that sell high end HPs in my city.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black June 12, 2023 - 12:23 pm

Wow, $380? I say drop everything and buy it. That’s a crazy good price when you consider that the Ananda once retailed for $1000 a few years ago around 2019. And no no, you will find it a pretty significant upgrade because of how much more open it is. Instrument separation, timbre, and resolution are all better than a 400se for sure.

Reply
Paul October 23, 2022 - 12:44 pm

Great article! I purchased the Edition XS and loved the sound but unfortunately I had to return them because the constant squeak the earpads made against my glasses when I moved my head. I also wasn’t a fan of the super loose feel. I have a big head but still always felt like they might slip off when I leaned forward. I don’t think they would and this feeling would have probably gone away after getting use to the less clamp force if I would have kept them.

With that it would come down to the Ananda or Arya. Not a fan sibilance and upper end harshness so a little nervous about the Ananda’s so can you please clarify;

Are the Ananda’s referenced the newer Stealth model?
With the Arya Stealth now selling for $1,299 vs $1,600 ($1,099 Open Box) does that change any of your perspective. It’s still a lot of money. I can pay it but not sure I want or need to, to get good headphones

Lastly are there any other sub $1,000 headphones that compete with the Edition XS sound for the money?

Thanks and keep up the great work!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black October 23, 2022 - 4:36 pm

Paul,

So sorry to hear that! Great comment though; you reminded me I need to mention that in this article as well as the official one when it gets published. I too have experienced some slidey-widey issues and it should be noted. I also have a big head, only mine is an “Apple-Ass head” so lovingly referred to by a friend/coworker back in the day lol. xD

In any event, most of the newer updated build iterations have this slight issue including the DEVA, DEVA Pro, 400se, and Edition XS. Something I can deal with but certainly should be kept in mind.

Yup. This typically happens with these types of products. Everyone hypes them up at their outrageous price, but they nearly always come down. This is why you should read my blog; I’m always going to give you the 411 right up front. I never recommended the Arya at $1600 (how ridiculous) and I still don’t think it’s worth $1000 even at that heavily discounted price.

Trust me, if you buy the Arya, you’re burning money. I’ve gone back and forth between these 3 for quite a while and there’s absolutely nothing that would warrant the price jump of $500-700+.

As for your question, that’s tough! If you read Ethan’s comment, that is another dilemma that I hadn’t thought much about as he mentioned neither AKG or Sennheiser really has a good competing headphone as a step up from the 600/700 and 58X/600 series respectively.

In short, not really unless you want to go the Audeze route (those below $1000). I personally could never own one of those due to their weight, and you may also take issue with the severely rolled-off treble area. Now, I personally really enjoy the sound of Audeze headphones, but I realize that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

I’ve also tried a couple of other potential alternatives including the GL2000 from Gold Planar and G200 from HarmonicDyne, (both obvious competitors to HIFIMAN at that price range) but I don’t think either of those is quite worthy though they certainly both have their strong points.

As for if the Ananda I have is the stealth, I don’t think it is but I’d have to ask Hawk. It does clamp a bit tighter with minimal movement, but yeah, the treble is a bit hissier.

Reply
Святослав November 11, 2022 - 4:58 pm

I’ve read all the articles and comments, but I haven’t found it. Is switching from akg k702 to hifiman edition xs or ananda stealth a big breakthrough in sound quality. Here I am thinking and deciding whether to buy any of them?

Reply
Stuart Charles Black November 11, 2022 - 5:40 pm

Hey there. I answered your question on the Ananda review.

Reply

Leave a Comment