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Before we get into this article on The Best HiFiMan Headphones, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
I’m Here to Help!!
Today we’ll be covering all HIFIMAN headphones that I’ve personally had experience with dating back to 2017 and ranking them in order from worst to best.
Worst doesn’t necessarily denote a negative connotation; it simply means you should probably consider them last whereas the higher-ranked headphones should be looked at first.
This post will also be updated and act as sort of a central hub for all future HIFIMAN products that I demo.
By the end of this article,
you’ll know exactly which products are most worth a purchase based on hundreds of hours of listening with dozens of different amp/dac setups.
Cool. Let’s dive in.
The 4XX was lent to me around 2019 and unfortunately, it’s the worst on this list – mostly due to build issues around the hinge/bale structure area.
the right side was stuck and I couldn’t even adjust it to fit my head (move it up and down). Since it wasn’t mine, I decided to leave it alone completely for fear of breaking it.
The problem with the 4XX is the combination of materials chosen – namely metal and plastic which is one of the worst ideas imaginable.
Who would have thought?
Another issue people had was the screws coming loose and out, which again, goes back to the lack of foresight when coming up with the design.
They actually sound good for the most part, but you’ll notice the peaky treble issue is apparent here – perhaps even more than other models in the line.
It’s sibilant, biting, and very essy.
The other elements of the sound signature – bass and mid-range – are in line with the typical HIFIMAN house sound.
Bass has some impact but does roll off a bit, and the mid-range still takes a gradual dip after 1kHz.
All in all, not recommended unless you’re into returning headphones.
HIFIMAN Edition X
The original Edition X sounded good if a bit on the dull side.
It lacked a certain energy and slam, and the overall signature could have used a bit of refinement.
The other issue was the price.
If you can believe it, HIFIMAN was charging around $1200 for these in 2016-2017, and even then I thought it was too much.
Fortunately for you and me, prices for headphones have come down considerably since then and I know for a fact part of the reason is due to an oversupply.
Put another way,
there are so many new companies nowadays coming out with new headphones and the market for them is beyond oversaturated.
I think HIFIMAN realizes that they can’t get away with it anymore.
More on that in a bit.
Please understand – this is NOT a bad headphone. It’s just a bit outdated.
The 400S was actually one of my favorite sound signatures from the line, but again, the build kind of held this one back a little.
It felt very cheap and flimsy, and the paint chipped rather easily as well.
My friend Luke let me borrow these on a few occasions and I really fell in love with the light, feathery, immensely detailed, and pleasant sound.
they could sound grainy at times and there was some pretty significant bass roll-off (to the tune of 20dB on Tyll’s graph) below around 70Hz.
HIFIMAN would fix this in later models, so I’m not entirely sure a 400S is worth it nowadays especially when you consider that, again, prices have come down quite a bit.
Not only that,
but they don’t even appear anywhere on HIFIMAN’s website anymore.
These are similar to the 400S and you can still buy them on HIFIMAN’s website at around $449.
Would I pay that price nowadays?
Absolutely not, but I will say that the 400i was my very first experience with the planar sound and it’s a moment I’ll never forget.
I tell this story often here on the site, but the first time I really had my eyes opened to upper-echelon sound was with the 400i paired with Bryston’s BHA-1 Headphone Amplifier.
I was at Audio Advice demoing a mix CD with FLAC/Lossless files, and Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away” came on.
“I’ve heard this song a thousand times so what could possibly be different here?”
Those were my thoughts as the iconic opening guitar lick played familiarly in my ears.
As the build-up began, I noticed details emerging from everywhere that I had never heard before in my life.
Small stuff. Subtle nuance. Guitar plucks. Fretboard sounds. Breathy noises.
You know, things that you never really hear with crappy headsets.
Everything sounded so incredibly natural. For the first time in probably 14-15 years, I was so excited for the drums to come in that I could hardly stand it.
The anticipation was almost too much.
One thing I cannot stress enough is how different Robert Plant’s voice sounded. It was so crystal clear that it was almost like I had never actually heard him sing before.
The song itself took on an unfamiliar quality as if it was the first time I had actually sat down and listened to it.
This is a common phenomenon with regard to audiophile headphones.
It’s why people end up going deep down the rabbit hole while blowing all of their hard-earned money and whoring street corners to make ends meet.
When the drums and bass finally came in, I was in pure ecstasy. It’s a moment that hasn’t really been replicated since.
Every hit was so natural and smooth, but it still had this incredible sense of impact and weight that’s hard to describe.
The articulation of the kick drum itself was so realistic that it almost made me want to cry tears of joy.
It’s so hard to put into words.
It felt like the members of the band were so in tune with one another. Like they were soulmates.
Like they understood each other on a level that few artists ever achieve.
It has been said that John Bonham was the heart and soul of Led Zeppelin.
After he died, I read somewhere that the other band members refused to go on without him.
In listening to these headphones, I finally realized why.
The intricacies of his drumming were truly spectacular, but it took something like a 400i, a good amp, and good source files to finally reveal that.
There’s a reason why old headphones continue to stand the test of time even despite new ones flooding the market daily.
The 400i is a prime example.
Like the 400S, it’s incredibly detailed and smooth but improves upon the issue of grain that we discussed earlier.
This time around,
the sound is a bit warmer and less brash.
It’s not really trying to impress you but ends up doing just that because it’s a bit more laid back and thus more enjoyable over a longer listening period.
Like the 400S, there are some things to keep in mind:
The build of the headphone is a bit better than the 400S (370g vs. 346), but the newer models have been known to break down due to a headband issue with the yokes.
The model pictured earlier is one of the older ones. It’s been demoed hundreds (if not thousands of times) and still functions beautifully. I’ve been demoing it on and off since 2017 with no issues.
Like the 400S, the pads sometimes slide down onto the tops of your ear lobes causing discomfort. Comfort is still good overall though, and very similar to the 400S.
The sound this time around is ever so slightly warmer but still retains that amazing sense of detail present in the 400S. There isn’t a hint of grain here.
What I like about HiFiMan as a company is that they seem to use community feedback to their advantage, by improving the product line and responding well to criticism.
The Sundara was a giant leap forward when it came out in 2017-2018, which showed they took our concerns into account.
I remember being extremely impressed holding it for the first time in my hands.
It was built better and felt more substantial than its predecessors.
It was an instant level-up.
The design was more utilitarian and streamlined, while still retaining a sense of beauty and elegance.
You’ll really know where your money went when you finally get your paws on it.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel overjoyed at the way it feels and looks (to the point of treating it like a hamburger).
In fact, the term Sundara in Sanksrit actually means beautiful.
It’s a wonderful design all around but also improved on the shortcomings of its older brothers.
What does it do better?
The headband yoke pieces are now made of anodized aluminum and feel much more rugged. It’s the piece pictured below with the logo and “HIFIMAN” text.
The headband itself is rounded this time. Before it looked like some weird Alien design or a kind of deformed rectangle.
The headband adjustment itself is more streamlined and thinner, but stronger. It feels amazing to the touch and the matte black is a welcome change as well.
The entire unit contrasted against the 400i feels and looks extremely professional.
The termination into each of the ear cups is now 3.5mm vs. the coax of the 400i.
The thin headband pad seems to be made of a different material. It feels better to the touch, but at the end of the day, the difference is marginal in the grand scheme of things.
The grilles on the Sundara are now a stronger lattice design vs. the older honeycomb configuration on the 400i and 400S.
Also of note is that the Sundara’s cups cannot fold flat this time around like the 400i and 400S. I’m not entirely sure how I feel one way or the other.
I’m a bit indifferent about it, but it should be mentioned.
The weight of the Sundara is about the same, coming in at 2g heavier than the 400i (372g vs. 370).
Aside from that, the sound feels more refined at the expense of being a bit too warm for my tastes.
In other words,
the treble bite is gone but the headphones almost feel too relaxed and laid back – in effect lulling you to sleep similar to the HD650 effect.
Comfort is about the same as the others. We’ve got the same protein leather/velour combo, and they feel great on your head with just enough clamp pressure to remain stable.
Like the others, there are some things to keep in mind with the Sundara as well:
- The focus pads will wear out over time but are replaceable.
- The headphone still has a tendency to slide down a bit, touching the tops of your ear lobes and causing some minor discomfort.
A guy I frequently chat with on Facebook didn’t seem to have that issue, so your mileage may vary.
I did find the Sundara overall to be a bit better in the comfort department, but the difference is slight.
This video only pertains to the original 400 series but is still useful for comparison.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Arya, other than it’s way overpriced thus why it’s #5 vs. say #1 or #2.
If the Edition X was too much at around $1200, the Arya is laughable at $1600.
Even $1200 is a no no.
In other words,
there’s nothing about these that’s any better than an Ananda or Edition XS and certainly nothing that warrants a roughly $700-$1000 price jump.
If HIFIMAN has taught us anything over the years, it’s that they experiment with pricing A LOT.
for whatever reason, they still sell a lot of their older models at the original inflated prices and typically don’t discontinue anything unless it falls into the category of extreme dinosaur status.
The Arya also hearkens back to the design of the original Edition X, and it could be a good or bad thing depending on who you ask.
The cups rotate around completely and the headphones are more flexible and malleable than both the Sundara/Ananda design as well as the newer Edition XS/DEVA/400se design.
That is to say that HIFIMAN basically has 3 different designs that have alternated throughout the years:
- Edition X/Edition X V2/400S/400i – Fully rotating and folding cups (up and down) Ostrich headband, dual 3.5mm terminations into each earcup. Old design.
- Ananda/Sundara – No cup rotation but the cups can fold up and down, rounded headband, dual 3.5mm terminations into each earcup. Design revision #1, 2017-2018.
- Arya – Fully rotating cups, Ostrich headband, dual 3.5mm terminations into each earcup. Old design again.
- Edition XS/DEVA/DEVA Pro/400SE/2020 Revision 400i – Slight rotation in and out, rounded Dummy Thicc headband, dual 3.5mm terminations into each earcup, DUMMY THICC. Design revision #2, 2020 – present.
we’re getting an incredibly neutral, unforgiving signature that really does work well with good source material, but again, it’s overpriced.
One of the main differences between these and something in the mid-fi line (400 series) is the bass doesn’t roll off nearly as much (only about 5dB vs. 10+ on the others).
The Arya, like the Edition XS and Ananda, also tends to be more open sounding, with slightly better resolution, decay, and instrument timbre.
Mid-range fidelity is about the same, with a gradual decline after 1kHz and coming back up at 2-3.
because of what we just talked about with regard to openness and the like, you won’t notice this slight dropoff nearly as much as you will with the 400se and other 400 series models.
Treble is handled well, with less bite and sibilance than the original models, and a more refined, even-sounding headphone.
The DEVA is a bit higher on this list due to value alone.
I still recommend it in certain instances because of how much you’re getting:
- You can use it wirelessly with a phone, using either the Bluemini or something like a FiiO BTR5.
- You can also use it wired with your phone, with something like a DragonFly Red or hip-dac.
- You can use it wired on your desktop, with the supplied Amp/DAC, or with a separate Amp/DAC of your choosing.
- They aren’t too hard to drive but do happen to be fairly inefficient, meaning they require quite a bit of power from an amp to reach an acceptable listening level. Either a FiiO K5 Pro or Zen is my preferred desktop homie.
- Because the cable is detachable, you can use it as a gaming headphone with something like the Boom Pro and a Creative G6 on your console. You can also use an attachable Mod Mic if you want.
- It has a built-in microphone for calls.
Simply put, the DEVA is still a solid choice for a lot of people and is priced pretty fairly all things considered.
I will caution you that the treble does suffer from that bite similar to a 4XX, but I actually EQ’d it down a bit since HIFIMAN headphones typically respond very well to equalization.
There are a couple of reasons why the 400se is higher on the list than the DEVA:
- The treble bite/sibilance issue has been fixed.
- The headphones are dirt cheap.
the 400se is just about the best overall value in Mid-Fi.
I go back and forth a bit on this, but it’s unbearably tough to recommend anything else when you can get the experience I described with the original 400i for a measly $100 nowadays.
That’s right, you heard me correctly.
The 400i is essentially the same sound at around $349 more than the 400se.
See what I mean about HIFIMAN experimenting with prices?
Some folks will inevitably take exception with the bass roll-off, as again, there’s about a 10dB slide downward after around 100Hz.
Still, these are excellent-sounding headphones and pretty much destroy anything in the $100 range.
There aren’t too many instances where a significantly more expensive headphone is a true upgrade from a cheaper one, but this is a rare exception.
The Ananda continues the fantastic build of the Sundara, but the cups are shaped a bit differently and it’s a bit heavier at 399g.
It doesn’t feel heavy though!
This design takes the Alien look of the 400i and amplifies it tremendously.
Some people are going to despise the look of this Super Mutant Behemoth, but it really is beautiful in person. Was that an oxymoron? Maybe.
The cups actually kind of mimic the shape of your ears and are bigger, thus providing a lot more room for them to breathe.
This also creates a better Soundstage experience.
Everything sounds more open this time around. There’s more air, more space, more width, and more depth.
As far as sound goes, it’s a true upgrade from the Sundara.
The Sundara has good spacing and instrument separation, but the Ananda’s is great.
Minus the Bears’ “Pachuca Sunrise” sounded better than I ever remember.
This is a song that I’ve heard many times over the years, but the tone and resolution coming through the Ananda were breathtaking, to say the least.
The bass here is exceptional, and one of the headphones’ best qualities.
It’s fairly flat, doesn’t roll off much at all, and provides a ton of impact and slam without feeling bloated or cheap.
I find this type of sound to be nearly perfect; Everything sits in the mix as it should, and I’m not finding any one thing overpowering the other.
The only caveat here is the Treble.
99% of the time it’s going to sound great. I love it. But there are instances in which it comes across as kind of bright and perhaps slightly hot.
It’s a very minor nitpick, but should be pointed out.
Aside from that, there are some things to keep in mind about the Ananda:
- The piece that connects to the ear cup is shaped a bit differently than the Sundara, but both are made of the same material.
- I was having some issues with the wire terminations going into each of the ear cups. The sound was cutting out intermittently, but Audio Advice has since fixed the issue. It seemed to be only happening with one particular model inside the store.
To recap, just think of the sound of the Ananda like Winterfresh Gum or Lipton Brisk Iced Tea. I know it’s abstract but work with me.
You’re going to feel this crisp, brisk sense of detail in yo ear canals, but it’s not really cold in a negative way if that makes sense. It’s refreshing asf!
It’s a bit more sterile and clinical sounding than the Sundara, but it’s not a chore to listen to.
It just feels right, man. It feels good.
HIFIMAN Edition XS
Coming full circle has never felt better, from a price standpoint as well as the overall sound.
Here we have a perfectly priced step up from mid-fi without the essiness/bite/sibilance found in the Ananda.
If you’re reading this, the Edition XS is a rather easy purchase as an upgrade from the lower-tiered models, but it’s also a better value than the Ananda.
Not only is it more affordable than an Ananda, but comfort is actually a bit better because it doesn’t clamp quite as hard.
The Ananda is a great headphone and it is very comfortable, but its rigidity should still be mentioned.
It’s only when you put an XS on your head does the discrepancy make sense.
The XS is slightly less intrusive and also houses the updated build found in the DEVA, DEVA Pro, and 400se.
All in all, the XS in my mind is a result of a years-long maturation process from HIFIMAN, and they should be applauded immensely for it.
Maturation process? What do you mean by that?
What I mean is that as alluded to earlier, it seems HIFIMAN has learned its lesson with regard to pricing.
Never before has it been easier to upgrade from Mid-Fi without burning a hole in your pocket.
You may remember that the Ananda’s original asking price was around $1000.
It’s since come down to around $700.
The Edition XS is $499 and a fantastic overall value. If you’re looking for that step-up, I wouldn’t think twice.
With that, what about amplification? Will you need something to power all of these puppies?
- HE-4XX – 35 Ohm, 93dB, inefficient but still not very hard to drive.
- Edition X – 25 Ohm, 103dB, not very hard to drive, can be used with a mobile phone.
- 400S – 22 Ohm, 98dB, not very hard to drive, can be used with a mobile phone.
- 400i – 35 Ohm, 93dB, inefficient but still not very hard to drive.
- Sundara – 37 Ohm, 94dB, inefficient but still not very hard to drive.
- Arya – 32 Ohm, 94dB, harder to drive than the Ananda and Edition X. Will take a smidgen more juice but don’t freak out about it.
- DEVA – 18 Ohm, 93.5dB, inefficient but still not very hard to drive.
- 400se – 25 Ohm, 91dB, inefficient but still not very hard to drive.
- Ananda – 27 Ohm, 103dB, not very hard to drive, can be used with a mobile phone.
- Edition XS – 18 Ohm, 92dB, Similar to the Arya.
If you’re unfamiliar with these terms, don’t fret! It’s really simple.
- Impedance is a measure of resistance. The higher the number, the more it will resist any power being fed into it. What is Headphone Impedance?
- Sensitivity is a measure of efficiency. A higher number means it’s more efficient at using the power that it receives. Generally, anything around 99-100dB and over is pretty efficient. What is Sensitivity in Headphones? The lower the number, the less efficient.
What do I recommend?
For your desktop, the ATOM is perfectly fine for all of these. Plenty of power, clean and neutral, sounds great.
DON’T OVER THINK IT!!
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on The Best HiFiMan Headphones.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
What do you think of this list? Agree? Disagree? Would you shake up the order? I would love to hear from you. Just keep it civil, alright mate? Until next time…
All the best and God bless,