Big thank you to Mark over @ HIFIMAN for the Arya loaner!
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…
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At A Glance
In The Box
HIFIMAN Arya Headphones
1.5mm Headphone Cable (Crystalline Copper)
Pair of earpads (mounted on headphone)
Owner’s Guide & Warranty Card
Note: From the manual, it doesn’t look like there is supposed to be an additional cable provided although I did find one in the box. It was resting on top of the box so I’m not really sure what the deal is there.
Thanks to Crinacle for the graph!
- Impedance: 32 Ohm
- Sensitivity: 94dB
- Frequency Response: 8Hz – 65kHz
- Weight: 404g (14.3 Oz.)
Well, upon first listen, either this is one of the best headphones around, or it’s absolutely atrocious.
6 albums in and I’m not really sure what to make of it.
Are the majority of albums recorded badly? Sub-par?
Because there’s nothing about these that get me all that excited.
they’re one of the most revealing sets I’ve ever put on my head, meaning they are very neutral and portray the music exactly as it was recorded – good or bad.
If the HD600 gives you a blank stare, the Arya looks something like this:
“Tina come get some HAM!”
It doesn’t deviate too much from the HIFIMAN house sound, although the bass here is pretty much a flat line (Mid-Fi HIFIMAN bass tends to roll off a little more below 60Hz).
The Ananda’s rolls off by about 5dB, but it’s subtle and still feels like mostly a flat line to me.
As a former bass head, I’ve always loved the flat nature of the Ananda’s (and now Arya’s) bass response.
It satisfies my need for thump without sounding bloated – a common issue in cheaper cans but one that is circumvented here.
There’s not much more you can ask for, quite honestly.
Could it use a bit of a mid-bass rise? Well, that’s a touchy subject and it entirely depends on who you ask.
most companies tend to f**k it up, so I’m inclined to say just leave it alone.
I still can be a bit of a bass whore though. Mid-bass rises done right make me weak.
Apos’ Caspian is a good example of that.
What’s interesting is that my initial reaction to the Arya wasn’t at all like my initial reaction to the Ananda, and I was a little taken aback by it.
For the price of the Arya, I was expecting to be floored and wasn’t.
Perhaps I’m just spoiled at this point, with over 120 demoed units at the time of this review.
To me, the Ananda at around $1000 was a clear step-up from mid-fi and sounded like it (it’s since come down in price).
At the time,
I hadn’t really heard anything quite as good, save for a Utopia, which to me is the best headphone on the planet.
Many others share the sentiment and for good reason. It is that good and blows 99% of headphones out of the water.
I think the Arya falls into that category (read: a clear step-up from mid-fi) but is it worth double the price of the Ananda?
And does it fall into the upper echelon of headphones?
As in, is it a good example of something we can call “Hi-Fi” and be perfectly fine in doing so?
Those are interesting questions that we’ll attempt to dissect today.
By this point, we all know how volatile HIFIMAN is as a company; there’s really no getting around it.
Even despite their ups and downs – which I go into detail in the 400se review – it always feels like they’re attempting to make forward progress, regardless of how it looks.
A wise man told me years back that your fitness journey would never be perfectly linear; meaning it’s never going to be a straight upward line.
In other words,
there will always be peaks and valleys, but the general trajectory should still be going up in some way.
I look at HIFIMAN headphones similarly.
Surely they’ve made some strange decisions over the years, and in the case of the Arya, it almost seems like they took a step back, at least on the surface.
While the Ananda/Sundara builds represented a deviation from their original design, the Arya actually hearkens back to the strange, somewhat alien aesthetic of the “early bird gets the worm” Edition X – something I thought was a little bizarre.
Again we have fully rotating earcups, the old headband pad, and the deformed Ostrich-looking headband adjustment.
Well, alrighty then. It feels like 2017 all over again.
In other words, let’s be honest here; you’re going to look like a complete buffoon with these on your head. Again.
Seriously, don’t go outside with these on your head unless you want to get punched in the throat by a random passerby.
I don’t know exactly why they reverted back to the initial form, but it’s not really an issue or anything (well, aside from you looking like a complete asshat).
The headphones are built well and actually feel a little more robust than the somewhat flimsy nature of the Edition X.
They’re designed well, but I do remember some folks hating the look.
It really depends on taste. I personally enjoy it. Whatever, it doesn’t really matter.
We’ve still got the window-shade grille, and the pads mimic the shape of your ear so there’s plenty of room in there for even the largest of auricles.
That’s right you heard me correctly.
If you have Dumbo-sized ears, you’re in luck. The Arya will do just fine, pig.
Comfort is definitely above average here, and I haven’t had an issue with the pad digging into the back of my ear where that ridge/bone lies.
You may remember from the Ananda and Edition X review that it can be somewhat fatiguing after a long listening session.
At 404g, the Arya actually doesn’t feel that heavy, and I’m not really tempted to take them off.
Other than that,
the headphones do move a little on your head and minor adjustments will probably be made every so often.
Because of the angled drivers inside, you can actually push the headphones forward so that the backs are resting on your ears a bit.
This gives off slightly more open Soundstage and immersion, but don’t expect to be able to hold that position indefinitely.
The headphones will nearly always find a happy medium on your melon – on their terms, not yours.
Do I find this to be an issue?
Not really. If the headphones were super uncomfortable, then yes.
But this is another quirk about HIFIMAN that you’ll either come to accept or you won’t.
The burning question here is that of price to performance:
Would I really shell out $1600 for these headphones? As in, is the Arya worth it?
It’s been a while since I listened to an Ananda, but I honestly don’t think the Arya does anything inherently better than those.
- Recommended: HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition X vs. Edition XS
It should be noted that the Ananda’s bass does roll off a bit under 60Hz.
Will you notice that 5dB gentle decline? Yeah, probably, but it’s not night and day.
I love the Ananda and I recommend it all the time.
It is a true upgrade from Mid-Fi in every sense of the word, and nowadays can be had for a really great price.
Even at its initial asking price of around $1000, I thought it was a good deal. Bordering on a bit pricey, but still worth it in the end.
Now? At roughly $600-700, it’s a fantastic deal.
My dilemma with the Arya is that I wouldn’t buy it if I could get a Utopia on the second-hand market for around $1500-2000 as it’s a superior headphone in my eyes.
I also wouldn’t buy it if I could just get an Ananda for less than half the price because again, there’s little about the Arya that says “I’m better than an Ananda.”
The only thing that the Arya does better is it keeps the treble a little more in line – ever so slightly.
Though not a super bright headphone by any stretch, the Ananda sometimes sounded just a smidgen essy at times, and you could clearly hear a bit of hiss.
I don’t hear that in an Arya, but it’s certainly not a “dark” headphone either.
It’s actually just right.
I think it lies in between neutral and bright, which is a nice happy medium as far as I’m concerned.
I pretty much never get the sense that it’s bordering on Sibilant, but the track in question has a lot to do with this.
metal music (and even some more aggressive Rock) is definitely going to give off the impression that the headphones are bright-neutral, meaning you’ll probably hear a slight bit of hiss depending on the track in question.
Animals as Leaders’ 2014 “The Joy Of Motion” is an example of this; it’s just a tad bright for me, but still (as progressive metal) it’s recorded better than the traditional thrash/heavy metal of the ’80s and ’90s.
Similarly, Mogwai’s 2021 “As The Love Continues” falls in a similar vein – a bit bright in spots, and definitely heavier than I’m used to from the Legendary post-rock instrumental outfit.
So far, other than those albums, it’s mostly smooth sailing on the treble front.
The mid-range here is classic HIFIMAN; a rise at 1kHz followed by a somewhat gradual decline into 2k and then coming back up at 3.
I don’t find either the Arya or Ananda “Sleepy” as I did the Sundara, and I think this is a good thing.
As good of a headphone as Sundara is, it can sound a bit dull at times.
Both the former headphones (Ananda/Arya) do a great job of not lulling you to sleep, even despite them being very neutral and honest.
Imaging & Soundstage
Imaging on the Arya is rather excellent, but the Soundstage isn’t wide per se as with a K702.
You’ll get some out-of-your-head moments, but not nearly as frequently. This depends a lot on the track as well.
At 35 Ohm Impedance, it doesn’t resist power much but is very inefficient at 94dB Sensitivity meaning it needs quite a bit of power from an amp to reach acceptable listening levels.
Right now I’m running the iFi Zen CAN Signature HFM (HIFIMAN) at +6dB and the knob is around 12 – 1 ‘o clock.
Not terribly hard to drive, but I still would never rely on a phone to push these.
I go into the pairing of the HFM stack in the official Zen CAN Signature HFM review as well as the aforementioned HE400se review if you were curious about how they sound together.
what supposedly sets HIFIMAN apart according to…HIFIMAN?
Let’s take a gander at the manual.
Nanometer Thickness Diaphragm
We talked about planar magnetic technology and the stealth magnet design in the 400se review, so if you’re new and haven’t seen that article, check it out.
HIFIMAN utilizes a nanometer-thick diaphragm which they say is invisible to the naked eye if you turn it sideways.
Just think of a malnourished marathon runner on a diet of Powerade and rice cakes if you’re having trouble.
Yes, this can result in issues for obvious reasons, and I have heard people report that theirs have malfunctioned and/or broken.
HIFIMAN also concedes it’s incredibly challenging to design and manufacture them, and I have no doubt this is true.
They really didn’t say exactly what this helps to achieve other than a general indication of better sound.
Take that for what it’s worth.
Patented “Window Shade” System
“Created to meet the need for driver protection and optimized open-back design”
HIFIMAN says the Window Shade is precisely structured to gain greater openness in the headphone design.
“It keeps the sound waves from reflection and refraction to avoid unwanted vibration and distortion.”
“The result is a wider Soundstage, outstanding imaging, and remarkable clarity.”
Can’t really argue there as it echoes my sentiments above with regard to how the Arya sounds.
“Aesthetically, the “Window Shade” also provides a unique, high-tech look to the Arya.”
Yes, I like.
Advanced Asymmetrical Magnetic Circuit
“Years of painstaking research with this groundbreaking design offers near-perfect reproduction of live music”
Well, yeah. That makes perfect sense considering my opening statement.
These headphones will absolutely present the music exactly as it was recorded.
that’s not always a good thing if your goal is to max and relax with some tunes… all casual-like.
Out of all the headphones I’ve demoed, I truly believe this is one that absolutely demands the best source files. There’s no getting around it.
For instance, I was listening to Mos Def’s “Brooklyn In My Mind” with the Arya recently and noticed something in the instrumental itself that threw me off – something I had never experienced before.
9th Wonder mixed it in such a way that there’s this subtle hi-pass filter applied but it’s not something that I could ever discern with cheap headphones, car speakers, or even mid-fi cans.
The Arya is an example of a headphone that will reveal these things to you and it really surprised me.
Again, this goes back to the extreme transparency/honesty present – something that is hard to come by.
“It took the HIFIMAN team years to obtain the optimum balance between high driver efficiency and high sound quality. The innovative design of the double-sided, asymmetrical magnetic circuit is the perfect marriage of the nanometre thick diaphragm and its magnetic partners. The result is planar magnetic magic.”
That’s…really market-y and word salad-y, but okay, we’ll take your word for it. Lol.
“Ergonomic and comfortable headband design for most people, with greater reliability and durability.”
“The headband is the result of clever industrial design. It will accommodate a wider range of head sizes while applying pressure evenly over the wearer’s head.”
“The metal headband structure is created via CNC milling and hand polishing.”
The Ear Pads
“The Arya ear pads have been specially designed to be thicker with an asymmetrical shape that follows the form of the ear. The pads are beveled so that they contour to the shape of your head for superb comfort and extended listening.”
Can’t argue there. I love the shape and spaciousness of them.
“The premium ear pads also have a new surface that contacts with your head. This material changed from Velour to Polyester to increase sound transparency. The surrounding pleather material has not been altered.”
The DEVA also utilized this new pad material change, and I have to say it makes sense considering just how transparent the Arya is – a running theme in this article.
With all that said,
How does the Arya specifically separate itself from other headphones and competitors?
What exactly makes it “Hi-Fi”?
Since writing this article, I’ve been doing a lot of listening with it and various Amp/DACS:
FiiO’s K7, K5 Pro, the iFi Uno, Gryphon, and even my Universal Audio Volt 2 which is an excellent product if you’re looking for a great audio interface to record rap/vocals and/or guitar with.
What I’ve found is that the headphone’s resolution is the #1 thing that makes it a clear step up from most Mid-Fi headphones.
I jotted down a few tracks that really stood out to me and, similar to the Mos Def track from above, were ones that revealed things that I had no idea were there when listening with other headphones.
On Foreign Exchange’s “Shelter,” there’s a really subtle wind that you can hear during the intro.
On Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” you can hear so much more subtlety going on in the background that it becomes hard to explain.
I’ve heard this track hundreds of times over the years but it was as if the Arya peeled back another layer of sound.
On both “Hear Me Out” and “Ex-Factor” by Frou Frou and Lauryn Hill respectively, the same sorts of things will manifest.
Lots and lots of subtlety and nuance to the recording itself – as if you’re almost getting a glimpse into the process/studio space.
On “Blacklight” from Apollo Brown, there’s a subtle flute that comes through much clearer on the Arya.
Fleetwood Mac’s “That’s Alright” contains some backing vocals that sound much more prominent and accounted for than they ever did before.
Cautious Clay’s “Get By” has a ton of background sounds and atmosphere that doesn’t sound nearly as clear as it does with other headphones.
On Elzhi’s “Light One Write One” theres’ again, more background sounds, atmosphere, voices, etc. that you’ll notice.
It’s really a neat thing to behold and makes you appreciate the artist and what they put into the track all the more.
This is what you can expect when you purchase a headphone of this caliber.
It’s a more immersive, intimate experience and let’s be honest, that’s what most of us are looking for when we crave something “better.”
- Recommended: Full Playlist
In thinking about it even further, the main reason all of the above is possible lies in the Arya’s ability to separate sounds incredibly well.
If the separation on a headphone like the HD600 was above average to excellent, the Arya is exemplary.
This is something you simply won’t find even in mid-fi (to this extent, anyway), and that’s a huge reason why it does indeed sound better at the end of the day.
After 6 albums, I didn’t know what to say.
After 12+, my thoughts are that I like the Arya.
They’re a solid pair of headphones with a mostly neutral sound signature and some added emphasis in the treble without overdoing it.
The bass hits just the right amount and with the right source material, these can really sing.
I may advise you to stick with modern, well-recorded pop (I like Indie) most of the time vs. some older recordings, but that’s just me.
You’ll likely be a tad disappointed with some sub-par material because these most certainly do not put lipstick on a pig (if you catch my drift).
But, are they a “sound” investment?
In my mind, probably not, even after harping on the resolution quite a bit in this article.
My previous recommendation as a step-up from mid-fi was the Ananda, but you can get an Edition XS for even cheaper and it’s just as good (if not better).
As far as the Arya is concerned,
It’s just not worth $1,600.
It’s closer to being around a $1,200 headphone, but…
If I’m you and looking for the best – i.e. something better than an Ananda/Edition XS – I’d rather you just look to the second-hand market and try to snag a deal on the Utopia.
If you’re reading this and looking for an upgrade from mid-fi, the Edition XS is the solution, hands down.
If you’re looking for the best, that’s still a Utopia until I hear something better.
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this HIFIMAN Arya Review 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 this product worth an investment? What are your thoughts on the hobby as a whole? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,
Now that was a great review! no hype or bullshit, you laid everything so well!!
Fortunately they can be had on the used market here in the Utah for 700-800 (the V1-V2 non-stealth editions), price which is quite similar to the older HD800 & S, between those two widely different headphones.. which would you pick for a jump from the mid-fi i am currently sitting on (HD660s & Sundara owner) ?
There is also the LCD XC which a completly different beast, which also picked my interests since i have never tried a “high end” closed back.
Hey man, thank you!!
That’s pretty tough. The HD800 has a better Soundstage, but does have the 6kHz issue. That would actually be a great price for the Arya – a bit more than the Ananda but not over the top at $1600.
The LCD-XC was a disappointment when I heard it. I remember the mid-range being pretty shouty. The sound wasn’t your typical dark-ish Audeze house sound. It was brash and in your face in the treble as well. It also feels really heavy on your head – even more so than most Audezes. Honestly, taking all of that into account, you’ll probably just end up getting fatigued fairly quickly. I remember taking the headphones off after a short time like “Wtf is this”? Lol.
I was just having this conversation with someone through email; that is, how hard it is to recommend an upper echelon type of closed back. They aren’t nearly as abundant as open-backs. I may recommend you something like a Dan Clark Aeon Flow Closed, but some people don’t enjoy that warm-ish type of fun sound. It really is a love it or hate it type of thing. I personally fell in love with it. They really have a way of mimicking the effects of a live person singing in front of you.
If it’s between the Arya and HD800, I’d probably lean toward the Arya as long as you understand it’s going to be incredibly raw and honest. That is, the best source files are required for a good listening experience.
Keep me posted and thanks for stopping by!
The Arya I have heard (2020 version?} had a lot of problems in the upper mid range and lower treble. Brass instruments and many vocals did not sound correct and pop recordings had an accentuated lower treble that caused sibilance and an over energetic, fake sound. Compared to a more neutral headphone like the Meze Empyrean, the faults were very obvious. The sound stage and articulate bass are the Arya’s strengths. But they are not very revealing, only bright and hence faux detailed without revealing through musical detail. I say they are overpriced for what they deliver. The faults are quite unescapable even in casual listening.
Hey man! Yeah, they are definitely overpriced and not nearly as good as I was expecting but I do think a lot of it comes down to source material. The one I have is the stealth magnets but not sure if it’s the version you’re talking about.
Interesting review. I’m curious about what amplifiers you used them on.
They only really start to shine on high current amplifiers.
Class A speaker amplfiers take them to a whole new level.
I find the Aryas to be very revealing of source material and gear chain but they scale very well.
Focals are the complete opposite, sound good on almost any amplifier but won’t scale.
Thanks for your comment! As for the gear, I have been demoing the Arya on the K9 Pro, Gryphon, Zen + MT-604, DragonFly Red, etc.
I’ll be honest with you; I’m not a huge proponent or believer in synergy/scaling, etc. Given the amount of expensive gear I’ve demoed, I just don’t find much truth in it. After trying 60+ of them (many class A), The differences from Amp to amp are almost non-existent. Sure, there are some subtle discrepancies that mostly boil down to Output Impedance and to some extent the DAC chip, but outside of that, the DAC and Amp have very little to do with how music sounds in my mind.
I do however believe in source file above all else, so I agree with you about the Aryas being extremely revealing of source material – perhaps moreso than most other headphones I’ve tried. At the end of the day, I would never pay $1600 for these when I can just get an Edition XS. I actually have all 3 now and am doing a shootout, so stay tuned for that!
Hi there! Thank you for the review.
I think there is some confusion about a couple of things. Is the headphone in the review the Arya with stealth magnets, or the V2? It says it is the stealth version in the “At A Glance” table, but then you talk about how hard it is to drive as it has 35 ohm impedance and 90dB sensitivity. Those are the specs of the old Arya V2, the stealth version is at 32ohm, 94db sensitivity, considerably easier to drive than the V2. So much so that you can achieve plenty of volume levels even from a phone or laptop, whereas the V1 and V2 Aryas were essentially impossible to drive without an amp (sure enough, the stealth version will also perform much better with good amplification, particularly when it comes to dynamics). Also, the FR graph from Crinacle you show here is, once again, that of the V2, not the stealth (Crinacle also has the measurement for the stealth). Given all this, plus your description of their tonality as being not much better than the Ananda, I started wondering if this review was about the V2 or the stealth. Even if the measurements may look quite similar, the stealth version does sound different! Ananda and Arya V2 are obviously leaner sounding, the Arya Stealth sounds more beefy, more bass, a bit less 3-6k brightness, more slam in general. Lastly, I should point out that already after less than one year since its introduction, the Arya Stealth is already down to $1200, and that is truly a great price given the headphone’s performance.
Thanks for your comment.
1) You can see from the In The Box Image at the top that it’s the stealth version.
2) 35 Ohm/90dB is correct for the stealth version via Apos Audio, but it looks like there’s a discrepancy because HIFIMAN’s website cites your numbers and I’m inclined to go with that. Thanks for pointing it out! I will also reach out to Apos.
3) I need to switch out those graphs, thanks!
I will fix both of those things now.
That said, 94dB is pretty low and still very inefficient. I definitely would not rely on a phone to power it. A discrepancy of 4dB doesn’t make the headphone suddenly work with a mobile device. Just my opinion. Both need an amp.
I haven’t heard the V2, but I did a deep dive comparing the 3 (Ananda/Arya/Edition XS) I’m afraid I have to disagree. The article linked goes into exactly why.
The reason the Arya has come down is the same reason all expensive headphones come down – it’s because they’re not worth those ridiculous prices – this is obvious to anyone who actually compares them side by side. And the Arya still isn’t worth $1,200 to me. Not even close. This is the same sort of thing that happened with the original Edition X. It retailed at $1,200+ but was nowhere close to being worth that much.
Case and point: the Edition XS is finally priced right at $500 and HIFIMAN learned their lesson.
Anyone paying $1,200 for the Arya is burning money in my opinion. So I’m going to spend an extra $700 for what is essentially the same sound? Yeah, no. That’s completely asinine.
I’m not going to really touch on the other things you mention regarding Amps and such, as I’d just go off on a rant and feel it’s not appropriate (maybe I already ranted, idk xD). I actually typed out a long rant last night but decided against it after sleeping on it as I feel like you’re a nice fella and I don’t want to rub you the wrong way (okay that sounded dirty lol). OH, BEHAVE!!
In any event, thank you for stopping by man!
Yours and my hearing and opinions on the Aryas are nearly ~180. I own the Ananda, owned the Arya V2, and now own the Stealths after I traded in the V2s for them I had them all at the same time for a several weeks. IMO, the Aryas are several steps up the ladder from the Anandas. Where the Ananda gives you the “skeleton” of the music, the Arya fleshes out the rest of the body with meat, blood, and internal organs – meaning, that it fills in with dynamics, timbre, texture, and trailing edges of details that the Ananda merely “hints” at. Also, you’ve not exactly done due diligence if you’ve driven them with portable or IC chip based amps – they really shine on discrete Class A or AB balanced amps of ~2W or better. I had them all with Topping A90, Monolith ‘887, and Schiit Magnius – and my cheaper discrete Class AB amps (ie: Emotiva A-100, Schiit Magni 3+) sounded much more natural timbre-wise and with more depth of stage than any of the IC based amps – the IC amps just weren’t very good with the Aryas (neither version). After I sent the IC amps back, I bought a used discrete Class A balanced amp – the Gustard H20 – and it surpassed all of the listed amps pretty handily. That better Class A timbre and the continuous current from same made all the difference in the world, IMO. IMO, the Arya is somewhat of a class leader – with the right chain – and is somewhat of a bargain considering it’d take another ~$1K or more to better it in just “some” areas – much less all areas……
Thank you for your input!
Your comment prompted me to go back and refresh my memory on some Class A amps that I’ve demoed. I’ve used quite a bit of them and should edit to add I demoed the Arya with the Class A Burson Playmate 2. I will mention it in this article.
I do agree with you to an extent that Class A seems to improve the presentation somewhat, i.e. it’s a bit cleaner and has slightly better resolution, separation and clarity, but to me, it’s a pretty subtle distinction. You can read my impressions in the article linked if you were interested.
I’m just not sure it’s night and day as you seem to be alluding to. That said, if I had the choice between a Class A amp and not, I’d certainly take it over the others. I will also plan to try the Arya again with any others I can get my hands on and report back any findings.
Thank you for stopping by!