About 9 months ago we tested the HifiMan Sundara, the new entry-level model. In December 2018 the brand introduced the Hifman Arya. With an asking price that is 1,100 euros higher than the Sundara, we are very curious how this new lot of the HifiMan family performs. You too?
For an introduction of the brand we refer to our review of the Sundara. We note that HifiMan has continued the line of name change to models and that the structure of the collection is also becoming clearer.
The Hifiman Arya is in a price range where the competition is serious and formidable. Think of the Audeze LCD-2/LCD-X, Sennheiser HD800 S, Focal Clear, Grado GS1000e / GS2000, Mr Speakers Ether Flow. These are (except the Focal) all planar headphones, open-back and cost between 1,300 and 1,700 euros.
You haven’t finished yet, because the quality of these devices really comes into its own with a good headphone amplifier. The target group of people who buy high end headphones and related equipment sees this as their own ‘branch of sport’. Instead of a set of speakers, they opt for personal audio in the literal sense of the word.
And there’s something to be said for that. Your editor once stood in an apartment where there was an audio set with two Mark Levinson monoblocks, speaker cables thicker than your garden hose and B&W 801 speakers. We felt sorry for the neighbours upstairs and downstairs when we consider what a sound pressure level this system can produce in a room of 4 by 6 metres..
There is a rule of thumb – which has never been sufficiently proven so far – that an audio system with headphones as a viewer is ten times more affordable than a system with speakers, while maintaining quality. In other words, to stay with this review copy: if you want to achieve a similar quality with speakers as the HifiMan Arya, you pay ten times as much for it, namely € 16,000. In this review we have not been able to test this statement (unfortunately) but we have experienced that high end headphones, coupled with a beautiful amplifier and ditto source, bring the dynamics of the music very close. It is not for nothing that this type of headphones is also used in the studio; for mastering, checking the stereo image, as a control instrument.
Magnetostatic or planar headphones dominate in this price range. The speed of planar systems will be known to the reader; the challenge is to develop a magnetic film as thin as possible that is also able to deliver acoustic dynamics and punch. Some models in the HifiMan collection prove that controlled and powerful control is essential; the HE6 and the Susvara are notorious for their complex controllability. These headphones do fine on a loudspeaker output of a power amplifier!