Home Open Back Headphone Reviews HIFIMAN Sundara Review [Video]

HIFIMAN Sundara Review [Video]

by Stuart Charles Black

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1,672-word post, approx. 3-4 min. read

Updates

  • 6/4/19.
  • 7/27/19.
  • 2/23/20. Added Video Shootout and updates to the 400 series as a whole.

Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!

Small Disclaimer before we get into things: HiFiMan has been having ongoing quality control issues for quite some time now, mostly with the cable connection. My video shootout goes into much depth about my overall impressions of the big 4, including Drop’s HE-4XX, the original 400i, the 400S, and the Sundara. It should also be noted that Audio Advice (a store I frequent to demo these models) has stopped carrying HiFiMan products due to said issues. Your mileage may vary. More in the video below!

Also, all of my final impressions of the big 4 can be found here in the HiFiMan 400 Series Shootout!


Before we get into the HIFIMAN Sundara Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…

I’m Here to Help!!

Image Coming Soon!

What I will bring you in this review

  1. Specifications
  2. Build Quality
  3. Comfort
  4. Sound
  5. Video Review
  6. Imaging
  7. Amplification
  8. Genre Pairing
  9. Final Grade

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!

HIFIMAN Sundara

Meaning

Sundara (सुन्दर) is a Sanskrit term meaning “beautiful, lovely”, or generally “noble; well, right”. As a personal name, it may refer to: Maravarman Sundara Pandya, Pandyan king, who ruled regions of South India between 1216 and 1238.


Specifications


HIFIMAN Sundara Review

Specifications


Build Quality


My oh my. HIFIMAN really stepped it up with these. The build on both the 400S and 400i was a tad questionable (400S especially), but by and large I would say the 400i was relatively solid. The headband adjustment is really the only thing that stood out to me as being somewhat poor. It was awkward as all get out to adjust, and the material seemed kind of sparse and vulnerable. Learn more: HIFIMAN HE400i Review!

The 400S felt even more flimsy, and housed way too much plastic for it’s price. I still enjoyed the sound however. Learn more: HIFIMAN 400S Review!

Forging ahead…

Luckily, the Sundara improved upon both of it’s predecessors 10 fold.

No longer is the headband shaped like a deformed Ostrich. It’s now round, sound, and won’t make you frown. 😀 In other words, it actually resembles a headband this time around. 😛

The adjustment itself is much more rugged, and the piece used to move the ear cups up and down has been given more heft and length, while staying roughly the same diameter across.

It’s also NOT made of plastic this time around, which is a welcome surprise.

Headband material

The actual material of the headband itself hasn’t changed, which is fine.

It feels good on your head, and with these headphones padding isn’t of the utmost importance. They rest comfortably on your melon without digging in.

Grills

The grills are also a bit different and supposedly protect the driver more. What is a headphone driver?

Chord

The chord is more solid as well, and feels more durable overall. It still splits off into a Y into both ear-cups, and terminates in dual 2.5mm jacks. The other end is a gold plated L-shaped 3.5mm that can be fitted with a 1/4″ adapter.

Ear cups

The cups are still a protein leather with a thin layer of velour on top, and are still circular. They fit my ears well, but still do tend to flatten out over time like most cups.

Luckily they are replaceable though.

Build Quality Score: A NUMBAH 1!

Verbage used to describe Sundara’s build:

(Feel free to add to this in the comments below!)

  • Robust
  • Rugged
  • Solid
  • Impeccable
  • Phenomenal
  • Excellent
  • Sensational
  • Scintillating

How about comfort?


Comfort



Comfort on these puppies is pretty fantastic, and a slight step up from the 400i and 400S.

I guess the best way to describe it is that they feel more secure, and more sure of themselves.

The 400i tends to slide downwards onto your ear lobes if you don’t get the adjustment right, and though the same applies here, I just felt like the fit was more solid overall.

It’s snug like a bug in a rug 🙂

Clamp force is exemplary as well, and they hug your dome piece with just the right amount of force. Not like the HD600’s vice grip, but not on the looser side like a 9500.

Learn more:

I would say a slight adjustment will be made from time to time, but for the majority of time you won’t need to take these off.

COMFORT Score: A

What about the Sound?


Sound


Sound quality is phenomenal.

I would describe it as a cross between the brighter, grainier sound of the 400S, and the warmer sound of the 400i.

Bass

It’s got a nice amount of bass impact.

Not too much, not too little.

It doesn’t roll off like an HD600, but it’s also not real heavy like an M100 or a 50/50x.

Learn more:

The bass has texture and character, to the point of being able to hear individual notes rather than simply feel them.

The bass also doesn’t get in the way of the mid-range.

Mid-range

The mid-range here is balanced for the most part. It does start to take a dip at around 1-2k, which renders these a bit less exciting than an HD600.

The difference is subtle though.

While the 600’s are more forward in that area, they still take a dip.

But that dip is less gradual, and contributes to that snappier sound.

The Sundara is a mix of warm and cool, while the HD600 is a very sterile/clinical (all cool) headphone with a squeaky clean sound.

The Sundara tends to be more of a kick back and relax type of headphone, while the 600 would be a bit better for your mixing, mastering, and reference needs.

Treble

The treble is a bit hotter than a 400i, but less sizzle than a 400S.

The 400S is a bit too grainy for my liking, and overall is brighter than both the S and I. It’s got a more metallic character, and can come across as too bright at times.

It’s also worth noting that this brightness also shows up around 1k, which makes sense given the 400i and Sundara both are a bit more pushed back in this area.

All in all?

SOUND SCORE: A/A-

The slightly pushed back mid-range can render these a tad dull at times, but it’s a slight nitpick.

Video Shootout

Here I compiled all of my impressions of the big 4 since 2017!

Photo Gallery

Click to see the Sundara!

HIFIMAN Sundara ReviewHIFIMAN Sundara ReviewHIFIMAN Sundara ReviewHIFIMAN Sundara ReviewHIFIMAN Sundara ReviewHIFIMAN Sundara ReviewHIFIMAN Sundara ReviewHIFIMAN Sundara ReviewHIFIMAN Sundara ReviewHIFIMAN Sundara ReviewHIFIMAN Sundara ReviewHIFIMAN Sundara Review

Imaging


Imaging is wonderful on the Sundara, to be sure.

These definitely have a wider Soundstage/Image than an HD600, but I would say the separation and clarity is roughly the same. What is Soundstage?

That said, I think because the HD600 tends to be on the more clinical side, there’s a bit more clarity but it may just be my “imagin”-ation.

Get it? Eh lame attempt at humor.

All in all, the Imaging here is spot on and if you’re coming from a lesser headphone like Beats or even a better bass head type of can, you’re going to be amazed.

IMAGING SCORE: A NUMBAH 1!

Will you need an amp?


Amplification



I would say yes.

They don’t need a lot of power, but aren’t very sensitive at 94dB. What this basically means is that they’ll have trouble getting loud enough out of your standard mobile device/Laptop.

Learn more about how this stuff works:

You can try them out without one first, but I would go with something like an Audioquest Dragonfly Red, or a Schiit Stack if you want a desktop solution. Learn more: Audioquest Dragonfly Red Review.

What types of music will these do well for?


Genre Pairing


I would recommend them for nearly all genres.

They have enough bass to satisfy a bass head…

They’re balanced enough to be good for reference…

They’re warm enough for genres like Jazz and Classical..

And they’re exciting enough for Rock and Metal..

It’s really a jack of all trades type of headphone. If I had to list out some genres:

  • Rock
  • Metal
  • Jazz
  • Classical
  • Pop
  • Indie
  • Hip-Hop/Rap
  • R&B
  • Folk
  • Acoustic

and the list goes on..

So what’s the Final Grade?


Final Grade


I would give the Sundara an A, bordering on A+. It’s not perfect, but the model I got was darn near close.

As mentioned in the video, you may or may not have issues with the cable connection. I personally didn’t, but I’ve read read reviews that have.

 

 

Drop’s (Formely Massdrop’s) newer iteration 4XX doesn’t seem to have those connection issues, and is an incredible value at the price.

 


Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve gotten some valuable information out of my HIFIMAN Sundara Review!

Marvin, what do you make of all this? Be sure to let me know!!

If you have any other questions, or feel I’ve missed the mark on something, leave a comment down below or Contact me!

I very much look forward to speaking with you..

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!

HIFIMAN Sundara

4.75

Build Quality

4.8/5

Sound Quality

5.0/5

Comfort

4.5/5

Soundstage

4.9/5

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22 comments

Mark September 27, 2019 - 11:51 am

HI!
Does using oratory1990’s EQ presets make the 600s less clinical? I was interested in a natural sounding headphone but more musical and lively than the 600s. Are the Sundara a good solution at this price range?
Cheers!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black September 29, 2019 - 3:26 am

Hey Mark!

As far as lively goes, the Sundara definitely fits that bill but it is actually more relaxed and laid back than a 600. What do you mean specifically by lively? In the treble area? The Sundara has a nice amount of bass, def less roll off than a 600 and a better mid-range in my opinion. I don’t like the forwardness at 2-3k on the 600 but consequently that does actually make the 600 more lively as far as vocals and instruments go. It’s just too much of a good thing for me. I end up not liking it.

Not sure about the oratory preset.

The Sundara’s are definitely musical and natural sounding, with great Timbre and resolution. The Ananda is actually more lively I think by my own definition. It’s crisper and more airy sounding for sure. That would be a great recommendation for you but not sure if you can stretch budget. It is around $1k.

Let me know!! I do think overall you’d be really happy with the Sundara but I’d like to get some more feedback.

Talk soon!

-Stu

Reply
Justin February 14, 2020 - 7:21 am

This is a great review! Very helpful and informative.
I still have a couple questions though. I produce electronic dance music, usually pretty hard styles with a lot of bass. I produce, mix and master my own tracks from scratch and I’m looking for a good pair of headphones to help me make better mixing decisions. I’ve done some research and found that the HD600 would be a great option for that. However, I also spend a lot of time just listening to the same type of hard electronic music for enjoyment instead of strictly analyzing it for production and mixing. What do you think would be the better option for me? Based on your descriptions of both, I feel that I’m more likely to enjoy the Sundara than the HD600 for when I’m listening casually. But by going with the Sundara, how much would I be sacrificing for critical listening? Would I still be able to easily hear issues with my mix and fix them? Is their response flat enough that something mixed on them would easily translate to other sound systems? Which ones do you think would suit my needs the best? If you have any other recommendations that would be even better, please let me know and I’ll check them out as well.
Thanks for all the great reviews and have a great day!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 17, 2020 - 2:24 pm

Hey Justin! Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words.

The Sundara is a bit warmer than average, but struck a nice balance between the cooler 400S and warmer 400i. It’s a great all around headphone and will do a bit better for mixing because the Soundstage is better than the 600’s. You’re able to actually hear more going on because the image is wider, deeper, and just has better spacing. I do believe the Sundara’s are flat enough for mixing, but sound great listening casually as well. Some have accused them of being too laid back and I can kind of see that at times, but it’s a minor nitpick to an otherwise fantastic headphone. In fact, the Sundara and HD6XX (re-brand) are my top 2 choices under $500.

The Sundara’s bass is more refined, digs down deeper, and sounds more realistic by contrast to the 600/650/6XX. Not to say those are bad, but the planar drivers of the Sundara help to portray the low end (and everything else really) more naturally. The 600’s bass does roll off more, but the Sundara’s sounds like it has more meat on it’s bones without getting out of line.

If I had to recommend one planar on a desert island, it would be the Sundara hands down. HiFiMan fixed the issues with build that were present in the 400i and 400S as well. No longer do you have a headphone that falls apart due to cheaply outsourced materials. It’s very comfortable as well and you’ll be able to wear it for long periods with minimal adjustment.

Hope that helps! let me know what you decide. Do you plan on pairing it with an amp? You’ll need something for sure but you may already have one. Let me know.

Reply
Justin February 25, 2020 - 6:09 am

Thanks for the response! It looks like the Sundara would be a great option for me. I’m glad you asked about an amp because that’s the next thing I wanted to find out. What would you recommend for it? I don’t have an amp or dac yet, but I would probably prefer an amp dac combo because it’s simpler and saves space. I’ve heard a lot of different opinions about what kind of amp would work well with the Sundara. Some reviewers have said that the Fiio E10k is good enough while others are recommending amps that cost more than the headphones themselves. I just want something that will make them sound good that’s not too expensive. What options do I have?

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 28, 2020 - 3:25 am

Hey man my pleasure! Yeah there are a lot of different amps that would work well. I just have a few questions first. Will you be using the headphones mostly on your desktop or with your phone? Also what would be a good price range that you’d want to kind of shoot for? Lastly, would you prefer a cooler, more analytical, neutral sound from the amp or do you like a warmer, more laid back tone? Let me know!! I’d like to narrow it down some. A combo is a good start though! 🙂

-Stu

Reply
Justin March 15, 2020 - 2:10 am

I would use the headphones almost exclusively on my desktop. My ideal price range would be under $200 but I can go higher if needed. I would prefer a more analytical amp that won’t alter the sound very much. Thanks for all your help!

Stuart Charles Black March 15, 2020 - 5:27 pm

Hey man! My top choice for you inside of those parameters would be a JDS ATOM or iFi Zen. JDS is more neutral/clean, and analytical but you may be concerned with build. It’s a bit on the plastic side. The Zen is a tad warmer (just a smidgen), but it’s built like a freaking tank, you can run headphones out of it balanced (via 4.4mm) and is also MQA compatible with Tidal. So my next question is would you be using Tidal? If so, the Zen is a fantastic choice and it’s an Amp/DAC combo so you won’t need to purchase a separate DAC like you would with the ATOM. Let me know your thoughts!!

phantom April 19, 2020 - 4:09 pm

Thank you very much for your very insightful (and helpful) reviews. I’m just fed up with my awful laptop in terms of sound quality, so I’m looking forward to buying a decent dac/amp such as ifi zen dac. I’ve just stuck between buying shp9500 or hifiman sundara. Comparing sound wise, which one would you recommend? I mean is it worth spending 350$ for sundara when shp9500 for 75$ exists? I really appreciate it 🙂

Reply
Stuart Charles Black April 19, 2020 - 6:45 pm

That’s a great question man and could spawn an interesting YouTube video as well!

Very tough to answer.

Welp see ya later!

Haha just kidding. What’s interesting is that the sound signatures of these headphones is drastically different. Sundara provides more bass (especially in the sub area), and generally just sounds more refined there. The other main difference is the treble which is very relaxed and warm-ish on the Sundara. The 9500’s upper mids/low treble can be “hot” at times, bordering on sibilant. I personally love the sound of the headphone and many others do as well, but I can admit that they will get slightly peaky at times and a bit “essy” with certain tracks.

I guess what I would say is what kind of sound do you prefer? Do you run Tidal or plan to use balanced cables? Perhaps you might hook up the Zen to some speakers down the road? All of these things are important considerations, but: If you are already planning on getting an Amp, it won’t really be of any benefit with the 9500 as the headphone is very efficient and doesn’t need much amplification.

That said, I do like the combo of 9500 + Zen, and you can always upgrade to the Sundara later on. The 9500 is a great example of getting way more for way less money though. The Sundara has been known to have build issues but I still rank it very highly in this article because of how amazing it sounds.

Check it out and let me know what you think!! Top 5 Audiophile Headphones For Under $500. Notice the 9500 on that list as well, AND the 9500 is #1 on my Budget Kings as well. Just a fantastic investment really.

Hope that helps some. Talk soon!

-Stu

Reply
phantom April 20, 2020 - 6:44 am

Thank you very much for your reply, very helpful and comprehensive! I’ve noticed that you see the sound quality of SHP9500 and HD600 very close to each other (please correct me if I’m wrong!); so, can all the shortcomings of SHP9500 (when compared to Sundara) be applied to HD600? (A note: I do enjoy many genres, especially classical and jazz. To me, neutrality and uncolored sound is very important. BTW, I mostly listen to FLAC musics stored on my PC).
Thanks again and have a wonderful day!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black May 4, 2020 - 6:32 pm

Hmm.. Another interesting question man! I did a big comparison of the Philips SHP9500 vs. Sennheiser HD600. They are similar in terms of detail retrieval i.e. the HD600 is NOT going to magically provide more (no matter what those audiophile snobs tell you), but there are differences in that the HD600’s mid-range is too forward and the 9500’s high mid/low treble area is a bit too bright. Bass on the 9500 is also leaner. That’s the comparison in a nutshell but definitely check out the review as I go into great depth. 🙂

I wouldn’t say the shortcomings could be applied to HD600 as the flaws in each headphone are different you know? If you enjoy classical and jazz a lot, the Sundara will be fantastic but you may actually prefer the more open, neutral, and uncolored sound of the 9500 and if you listen to FLAC, even better. I do think the 9500 excels with Jazz very well as it’s open and crisp, and doesn’t place to much emphasis on bass (which is hugely important in Jazz). The Sundara has a warmer flavor so definitely not neutral. Bass extension is much better though. It’s not a bass head’s headphone but can work in that department. It’s more of a flattish line. Have you thought about something like a K702?

I will say that overall, there’s nothing quite like a planar headphone like the Sundara. It just provides better resolution and detail retrieval across the board, with amazing instrument Timbre and a smooth, naural, and organic character. It really does outclass dynamic headphones and that’s something I also touch on in my HiFiMan Shootout Video (Def check that out too).

I know that’s a lot but I really hope it helps! Let me know. 🙂

Reply
Pascal March 25, 2021 - 7:40 am

How does the Sundara compare to the K702, is it an upgrade to the sound or is it just minor details?

Reply
Stuart Charles Black March 27, 2021 - 3:56 pm

Hey man! It’s a more relaxed presentation in the mid-range for sure. I’d say a warmer sound with a bit more bass emphasis and slightly less treble. Very very warm sound. In fact, it’s strange because the Sundara was definitely a deviation from HIFIMAN’s standard house sound with the brighter treble.

Reply
George July 15, 2021 - 2:36 pm

This is a great review. Can I know how is the soundstage of Sundara. Is it like in between the ears type. How does it compare to AKG K712 pro, which u reviewed telling having out of the head moments. How is the Bass of Sundara compared to AKG K712 pro.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black July 15, 2021 - 9:55 pm

Hey man thank you!

The Sundara’s Soundstage is kind of in the middle of something like an HD600 and K712. It’s not ears width, but perhaps like if you put your hands about 6-7 inches from your head. There are “out of your head moments” but nothing like the 712. I would describe it as above average, but not mind-blowing.

The bass of the Sundara is actually a tad more rolled off in the sub-bass regions than the K712, but it’s not a huge noticeable difference. The Sundara’s bass digs very deep and because it’s a planar, I believe it actually sounds a bit better. Do keep in mind that the distinction is actually pretty close. If you’re familiar with my other articles and videos, I talk about how the K702/712, etc. comes eerily close to sounding about as good as a planar, but I’d still say Timbre, decay, resolution are a bit better on the Sundara overall.

Hope that helps! I have some videos describing the Soundstage of a Senn vs. HIFIMAN vs. AKG. Here is one such article with a video inside: https://homestudiobasics.com/akg-k702-vs-sennheiser-hd600/ I talk about it at around 12:50

Keep me posted!

Reply
George July 16, 2021 - 4:38 pm

Thank you Stuart. I have been looking all around for this info. Watched your video as well, informative and colourful. Really good work, keep it up.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black July 16, 2021 - 5:12 pm

Thank you George! Much appreciated and my pleasure 🙂 Def look out for a new cam set up soon as well!

Reply
George July 17, 2021 - 9:01 pm

Sure Stuart. I watch your YouTube channel videos.

Stuart Charles Black July 19, 2021 - 1:28 pm

🙂🙂

Jordon July 21, 2021 - 2:24 pm

Hi Stuart,

Love your content. This series helped me decide on an open box sundara purchase. I have rediscovered my love for music as you promised. I decided on sundaras because of the easy listening. I have been using them for gaming too and wearing them for hours at a time.

Kind regards,

Jordon

Reply
Stuart Charles Black July 22, 2021 - 1:09 pm

Hey man!

Thank you so much and really glad you’re enjoying them! I love the Sundara. Keep me posted on everything. Are you on console?

Reply

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