Originally posted 11/23/21.
- 1/6/22. More sound impressions.
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…
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!
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check Apos!
- Impedance: 35 Ohm
- Sensitivity: 90dB
- 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.
In fact, 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 (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.
Unfortunately, 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 110 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 face by a random passerby.
Regardless, 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.
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?
I’m leaning towards no.
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. 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 screams “I’m better than an Ananda.”
The only thing that the Arya does do 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.
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.
For example, 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) 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 90dB Sensitivity meaning it needs quite a bit of power from an amp to reach acceptable listening levels. Related: How to Choose a Headphone Amp [Definitive Guide]
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 power.
With that, what supposedly sets HIFIMAN apart according to…HIFIMAN?
Let’s take a gander into 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.
Unfortunately, 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 in these headphones – 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.
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. I feel as though that extra $1000 is a complete waste of money when I can get an Ananda for over half the price and be completely content.
If I’m you and looking for the best – i.e. something better than an Ananda – 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 Ananda is what you’ll want.
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!!
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All the best and God bless,