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.
- 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
- Build Quality
- Video Review
- Genre Pairing
- Final Word
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!
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.
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- Type: Open Back.
- Driver: Planar Magnetic.
- Fit: Circumaural.
- Impedance: 37 Ohm. What is Headphone Impedance?
- Sensitivity: 94dB/mW. What is Sensitivity in Headphones?
- Frequency Response: 6Hz – 75kHz.
- Color: Matte Black.
- Weight: 379g.
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.
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.
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.
The grills are also a bit different and supposedly protect the driver more. What is a headphone driver?
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.
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.
Build Quality Score: A-
How about 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 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 🙂
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?
The sound quality is excellent for the most part.
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.
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.
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:
Here I compiled all of my impressions of the big 4 since 2017!
Click to see the Sundara!
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.
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?
I 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?
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:
and the list goes on…
So what’s the 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!!
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All the best and God bless,