Review: HiFiMan Sundara

Firstly I would like to thank Mark at HiFiMan for sending me this sample to review.

*disclaimer: This sample was provided for the purpose of writing a review, no incentive was given to write a favourable review. All opinions expressed are my own subjective findings

Gear Used:
YULONG DA10 / DAART Aquila / Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ > Sundara


Tech Specs:
Frequency Response: 6Hz - 75kHz
Impedance: 37 ohms
Sensitivity: 94 dB
Weight: 372 g


Packaging, Build quality and Accessories:
The Sundara come in a classy 2 part box, the front has a picture of the headphones on along with the model name, the back has the basic specs and company info. Slide the top off and you will find the Sundara neatly nestled in a fabric coated tray, along with the cable. No frills here, just nice, neat packaging that protects the headphones along with providing a storage solution (as no pouch or case is included) along with protecting them in shipping.

Build quality is very good overall, with a mainly metal construction and 3.5mm mono sockets on each cup, there are no noticeable weak spots. The pads clip on like most other HiFiMan models, so changing them is easy and the headband adjustment is nice and tight. The stock cable is fine in terms of thickness, but it retains too much memory from being wound in the box that is wants to curl up all the time. The cable is a minor inconvenience, and one that is easy to replace at least. The Sundara may not look particularly fancy, but they are built well and should last well if looked after.

Accessory wise all you get is the standard stock cable along with a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter. To be fair these really don't need anything else, but it would have been nice of HiFiMan to include a basic pouch at least.


Comfort and Efficiency:
The new headband is very comfortable for my head, the strap distributes weight perfectly and the adjustments are tight. It also doesn't look as silly as their previous square design, but there is one minor problem, the cups go up and down in adjustment but do not pivot at all there the arms meet the top of the headband. For me, with the angled pads, this does not create an issue but I do think having a pivot point tends to make them fit better and more comfortably for the masses.

The Sundara, whilst being a planar magnetic design, are not that power hungry compared to some. You can quite easily get good listening volumes out of a portable player or smartphone, but of course they are more at home when fed a signal from a nice desktop setup. When paired with a good solid state amp they come alive in terms of soundstaging and bass weight/impact.

Sound:
Split into the usual categories with a conclusion at the end.

Lows: The lows on the Sundara do not stand out and grab your attention upon first listen, they are more at home plodding along in the background and adding  a reserved amount of body and punch to the sound. Where they stand out is when you throw some fast paced music at them, and just hear them keep up with every beat, they have truly astonishing transient response. The lows are not thin, and impact is backed up with rumble but they are not boosted and the impact is not overly strong. They have a more reference quality to them, never becoming the focus but providing a nice level of punch along with nice flat extension down to the sub-bass region.

Midrange: The midrange is well balanced between the lows and highs, with superb detail and layering. The tonality may come across a little cool for some, but the openness and transparency is worth the trade off in my opinion. Unlike some, the Sundara handles both male and female vocals with ease, there is no noticeable peaks that favour the lower or upper midrange. There is a small rise in the upper midrange but it doesn't stick out and the midrange never becomes too up front. In some ways it has a very easy going and smooth presentation without lacking detail.

Highs: Now these are the kind of highs that a lot of headphones should aspire to have, excellent detail and clarity with effortless extension and speed, All without being artificially boosted. Those most sensitive to treble may find these to lean a little towards a brighter signature, but I find them to be spot on with a very refined top end response that never becomes grating or fatiguing. The treble response has excellent resolution yet it is so refined, with plenty of speed to keep up with complex mixes without becoming congested or splashy. I am really impressed by the clarity yet refinement in the treble of the Sundara, comparing them to some of the competition these just sound right, being less peaky and artificial.

Soundstaging is good overall, with slightly better height than width, but the separation and spatial imaging is excellent allowing plenty of air around instruments without losing coherency.


Conclusion: If you favour a more reference tuning you will enjoy the Sundara a lot, they have excellent resolution and detail all wrapped up in a relatively refined and smooth presentation. Yes they may lack a little sheer impact down low and have a slightly cooler tonality but pair them with the right equipment and they are a joy to listen to. My HE-500's hit harder and have a little more sparkle, the HE-500 are more energetic and fun, but the Sundara is more refined and I enjoy both for different reasons. Suffice to say the Sundara do a lot right for me, and I find myself grabbing them over the Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation (one of my all time favourites) a lot recently.

Sound Perfection Rating: 9/10 (Class leading resolution and detail, refined sound, but the cups don't swivel and they are quite basic looking)

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