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The powerful Fiio M17 (full review soon) is one of the best DAPs on the market right now. Not only is it powerful, but it is also technically strong, just like a high-end AK DAP. The synergy with the Arya Stealth is balanced mode is good and you here get the typical powerful bass and full mids, delivered in a smooth and musical way. The depth and layering here is very good, and there’s a nice sub bass rumble, but the bass isn’t as controlled as with the higher end desktop amps. If you have no desktop amp available, the M17 is the next best thing. Good with the Arya Stealth, but just not like a desktop amp.
The EarMen Colibri which we looked at a week or two ago in balanced mode sounds very fast, precise, and energetic with the Arya Stealth. The most remarkable thing here is that the Colibri struggles a bit with complex passages. For the rest you get a sound which is lighter in body and bass presence, with more forward vocals. You can turn on the Bass Boost function, but it just doesn’t sound natural to me with this headphone. This isn’t the very best combo for my ears, and that’s quite remarkable as I absolutely love the Colibri which I gave a recommended buy award.
In this price segment, many of the Arya Stealth owners probably own a Chord Electronics Hugo 2, and they are in luck. The synergy between both units is amazing. It’s fast, powerful, dynamic, controlled, detailed and musical. What a lovely combo. The Hugo 2 comes very close to a desktop amp with this headphone, the difference still being ins the spaciousness, separation and decay. But this is good, a pleasure to listen to and a possible end game setup for many.
Sound – Comparisons
The Hifiman line-up is the first thing that comes come in mind to compare the Arya Stealth with. And especially the Ananda ($699 right now, heavily discounted), the HE6SE ($1,800) and the HE-1000SE. The setup used for the comparison is the Musician Pegasus + Ferrum OOR/Hypsos combo, in full balanced mode.
The Hifiman Ananda, which has more side pressure, is selling at a discounted price now and it’s an absolute steal right. It however is playing at quite a lower league than the Arya Stealth. The difference (decrease) in dynamics and energy is immediately noticeable when going to the Ananda. The Arya Stealth also is the faster headphone, and it has a higher level of precision and more control/tightness in the lower regions. The Arya Stealth also sounds less intimate as it has a wider sound stage as well as a more spacious and airy presentation. Other points where the Arya Stealth is clearly better are the layering and decay. The overall midrange of the Arya sounds more coherent and cleaner, the bass is more in control and the highs are more precise, livelier. Basically, the Arya Stealth is better in almost everything, as it’s supposed to be. But the Ananda at $699 still is a steal.
The Hifiman HE6SE certainly needs better amplification than the Arya Stealth. It’s also a lot less comfortable because of the older headband and smaller ear cups. Sound wise the HE6SE is more focussed and less forgiving. I wouldn’t call the HE6SE intimate, but they aren’t as spacious and airy as the Arya Stealth. The HE6SE imaging and 3-dimensionality is pretty song, even if the Arya Stealth sounds “larger” in the width. For me the HE6SE is tighter and lighter in the bass department with an over flatter, more neutral presentation. The Arya Stealth’s top end presentation is more forward, fuller and as such, more present always. In the HE6SE this is more neutral. Some would probably say the HE6SE sounds dull compared to the Arya Stealth, while those who like the HE6SE would say the Arya Stealth is too “expressive”. Both headphones are very different, and I see the majority preferring the Arya Stealth over the HE6SE. It’s just more exciting, energetic, and engaging to listen to.
The HE-1000SE for me still is the better headphone, sounding more natural and refined. The HE-1000SE has the width, depth and 3-dimensionality where the Arya focuses most on width. The top end of the HE-1000SE for me is also more precise and extended. Basically that goes from the lows all the way up to the highs. The Arya Stealth is fuller and softer sounding with bigger bass but the HE-1000SE is more vibrant and all around you. It’s more speaker like where the Arya Stealth, to me, is more headphone like. I prefer the vocal presentation of the HE-1000SE as well. All-in-all the HE-1000 is the better one of both to my ears. That doesn’t mean you will like it more than the Arya Stealth, but it to me is the better one, getting more things right.
How good is the Arya Stealth?! Waw! It isn’t cheap or available to everyone but the performance for the price is highly remarkable.
The Arya Stealth’s tuning is very good. It’s pleasing, yet technically strong as well as musical and exciting. The Arya Stealth always has good body, presence, impact and depth. It’s very easy to understand why this headphone is getting so many recommendations. It’s an absolute award winner and in this price category, the Arya Stealth is hard to beat.
With a good desktop amp, the Arya stealth scales up nicely, but even without special amplification, it sounds remarkable even if there still is room for improvement (compared to the HE-1000SE and Susvara). The Hifiman Arya Stealth is an end game headphone for many, I am sure. It’s a definite recommendation from my end. To our Recommended Buy list it goes, a well-deserved award!