Home Open Back Headphone Reviews HIFIMAN Sundara Review – Worth It In 2022?

HIFIMAN Sundara Review – Worth It In 2022?

The Sundara was a giant leap for HIFIMAN back in 2018, but are there better options now?

by Stuart Charles Black
HIFIMAN Sundara Review

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Originally posted 5/26/18.

Hey guys! Before we get started, check out Apos Audio. They are a great up-and-coming distributor with a phenomenal-looking website and excellent customer service. They also offer free shipping, the lowest price guarantee, a 2-year warranty, and a 45-day return.

Updates:

  • 6/4/19.
  • 7/27/19.
  • 2/23/20. Added Video Shootout and updates to the 400 series as a whole.
  • 1/7/22. Article overhaul.

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 HE4XX, 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!!

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 Word

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



Build Quality


HIFIMAN DEVA vs. Sundara

The Sundara represents a huge step up from the original 400i and 400S in terms of a robust, durable product, but the cups don’t rotate anymore.

This was a point of contention with many, but I didn’t mind it. 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 to adjust, and the material seemed kind of sparse and vulnerable.

The 400S felt even more flimsy and housed way too much plastic for its price. I still enjoyed the sound, however.

Forging ahead…

Luckily, the Sundara improved upon both of its 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 seems more durable as well and feels more robust 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.

Earcups

The cups are still 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, but I wouldn’t change them out or mess with them too often due to the glue issue – something I’ve harped on many times in other reviews of HIFIMAN products.

Upon removing the cup, you’ll notice the shoddy glue job on the back. This is pretty much the only issue I have in terms of build, but it has to be addressed. You can purchase aftermarket Dekoni pads, but to me, it’s a huge waste of money. Why should I fork over upwards of $80 because HIFIMAN was too lazy to manufacture the correct pads?

Below you can see the discrepancy, which is the same regardless of the headphones (they all use that pad). It’s ridiculous to me that HIFIMAN cannot simply make the pad on the right and include it with their headphones. It takes almost zero extra effort to do so.

HIFIMAN HE400se Review

Build Quality Score: A-

How about comfort?


Comfort

HIFIMAN Sundara ReviewComfort 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 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.

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

COMFORT Score: A

What about the Sound?


Sound


HIFIMAN Sundara Review

The sound quality is excellent for the most part.

Bass

It’s got a nice amount of bass impact.

Not too much, not too little.

The bass rolls off slightly before 40Hz, but I’d classify this as mostly a flat line bass with good impact.

It has texture and character, to the point of being able to hear individual notes rather than simply feel them, but also doesn’t feel overbearing.

If you’re not used to how the bass is supposed to sound, it may take you a while to get accustomed to a Sundara. Even so, you’ll likely fall in love because it also doesn’t get in the way of the mid-range while still retaining the impact and weight that most people desire.

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 as the Sundara’s mids come back up around 3kHz and mostly sound fine. The small issue I’ve always had with these is that they can sometimes sound a bit too dull and relaxed in certain instances. A bit too warm and glossy.

For example, voices and instruments sometimes lack the zest and energy that you may be expecting, but at the end of the day, it’s a rather small-ish complaint.

Treble

The treble also contributes to the Sundara’s mellow character, and it’s definitely more subdued than your typical HIFIMAN offering.

This, along with the updated build, are 2 things that made these headphones stand out as something completely different than what I was used to. I think they wanted the Sundara to stand on its own as an individual product rather than be compared to the headphones that came before it.

With the 400i and 400S, we had a somewhat grainy, bright-ish treble that bordered on sibilant – and in the case of the 400i, could indeed be too much of a good thing at times.

I think the Sundara was HIFIMAN’s way of compensating, in that, they decided to try something different and perhaps improve upon criticism or something. Take that with a grain of salt because I don’t actually know why they made the decision. I’m kind of just speculating.

The question then becomes, was it the right choice to make, and do I feel as though it’s an actual improvement?

This is where things get dicey for me because I do like the Sundara. Don’t get me wrong. It was #2 on my Best Under $500 for quite a long time up until recently.

In today’s market, I feel as though it’s a bit overpriced and not quite worth the purchase when you can just get a 400se. More on that in a bit.

All in all?

SOUND SCORE: A-/B+

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

Before we get into imaging and wrap up, check out the video shootout:

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 are 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 imagination.

This also could be a byproduct of what we discussed earlier in terms of the Sundara’s somewhat glossier character.

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.

Soundstage

I’ve always found Soundstage on HIFIMAN headphones to be above average, as in, you’ll get frequent out of your head moments but they don’t occur nearly as often as with something like a K702.

Now, this may or may not matter to you. For me, above average here is just fine within the context of the overall sound package.

In other words, good Soundstage to me is the cherry on top. Your mileage may vary!

Here’s a good overall picture of how I view various headphones’ Staging capabilities and how I’d rank them.

Do I personally prefer the Soundstage of the K702 over the others? I would have to say yes, but that’s just me.

The main takeaway here is that you’ll enjoy the Sundara’s sound profile regardless.

IMAGING SCORE: A

Will you need an amp?


Amplification

HIFIMAN Sundara ReviewI would say yes.

They don’t resist power much at 37 Ohm impedance but also are really inefficient at 94dB Sensitivity. What this basically means is that they’ll have trouble getting loud enough out of your standard mobile device/Laptop and require more power from an amp to reach an acceptable listening level. Related: How to Choose a Headphone Amp [Definitive Guide]

You can try them out without one first, but I would go with something like an Audioquest Dragonfly Red or something similar on the neutral side. While I’m not a huge proponent of “synergy”, I do think that warm-ish headphones should be paired with neutral amps and vice versa.

For example, I’d pretty much always aim for something around 1 Ohm output impedance or less with the Sundara. A little over 1 is probably still fine, but the closer to 0 the better in my opinion.

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 word?


Final Word


Part of the reason I wanted to re-visit this review is that the 400se is a much better value in 2022 and beyond.

I’ve discussed HIFIMAN’s sometimes strange marketing/business decisions over the years, and certainly, the introduction of a dirt-cheap headphone like the 400se is indeed kind of odd when taking a step back and looking at the company as a whole, the headphones that preceded, and so forth.

That is to say that I would simply never buy a Sundara nowadays when I can get a 400se at a fraction of the price. To me, it’s a no-brainer.

In fact, the 400se has now overtaken even the 6XX for the #1 spot on my Top 5 list, and deservedly so.

Interested in learning why? Click that link or check out the review:

 


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

Is the Sundara still worth a purchase? What do you think about the 400se? What about HIFIMAN as a company? Be sure to let me know!!

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.

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

4.65

Build Quality

4.5/5

Sound Quality

4.7/5

Comfort

4.9/5

Soundstage

4.6/5

Pros

  • Updated build from original models
  • Excellent comfort
  • Good overall sound profile
  • Imaging and Soundstage above average

Cons

  • Mid-range can be a bit dull and lack zest
  • Treble sometimes lacks sparkle

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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

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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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