Hifiman Serenade Review

Hifiman Serenade

 

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Sound Intro

I have used the Hifiman Serenade in multiple setups in my office as well as living room, but I have always used it as a DAC/AMP. The HIMALAYA DAC technology inside the Serenade is excellent and easily outperforms DACs found in other all-in-one units in this price class. The two connections I mostly used with the Serenade are the USB-input and the LAN-input (ROON).

Most of the time I have used the balanced XLR and 4.4mm outputs, with headphones such as the Hifiman Arya Stealth, the HE-1000 and the good old Audeze LCD2.1 (the original). I have also used harder to drive headphones such as the Susvara, Stealth and even the RAAL 1995 Immanis. Power-wise there are no issues at all and we’ll get back to the synergy part later in this article.

We in this part usually focus on how the companies are describing the sound and performance of their unit, but in this case there only is very little to be found on that. So let’s get started!

Sound General

The Hifiman Serenade is an amplifier that is very easy to listen to, and also one that is easy to review as its characteristics are so outspoken.

The Serenade at all times gives you a good amount of weight from top to bottom and you get a weighty sound no matter what headphone you are using. At the same time, the serenade does not exaggerate either. The Serenade is a warmer and smoother tuned amplifier with incredibly rich mids. The timbre is a pure pleasure to the ear. The Serenade is engaging, super musical and emotionally appealing. It’s not a clinical or analytical amplifier at all. That said, with already fuller and warmer tuned headphones, it might become too much.

The Serenade is a spacious and airy sounding amplifier, with a very rich yet natural tonality. The stereo imaging is excellent as well as the left/right balance. The presentation with its smoothness and softness is musical at all times. You get a nicely clean sound even if the clarity could be further enhanced. Sound stage wise, the Serenade is wider than it is deep. Looking at the price point, the depth is actually good, and the same goes for the layering. In regards to precision and refinement, the Serenade isn’t the ultimate performer but it doesn’t pretend to be either (think tonal and note extension, as well as decay). Again, at this price point the Serenade’s performance is nothing but impressive.

Hifiman Serenade

The Serenade is the type of amplifier that makes listening to your favorite headphones and tracks a pure pleasure. It’s soft on the ears, easy to listen to, powerful and oh so musical and emotionally engaging. It does everything very effortless, it never sounds forced or uncontrolled though the tightness, snappiness and PRaT are better in higher end amplifiers. At this level though, it’s pretty impressive.

As said, the mids are seriously impressive and musical with this amplifier, and the same goes for the vocals. These blend in nicely and they are perfectly positioned, with not too much front presence. The tonality is sublime and female vocals such as those of Billie Eilish or Melody Gardot will seriously impress.

I find the Hifiman Serenade to be a balanced and linear amplifier when looking at body and weight. Everything connects perfectly to each other. Bass is weighty, punchy but not overly present. The mids perfectly connect to the lower frequencies from a body point of view. The mids are probably the strongest point of the Serenade tout court. The treble follows in line with good body and softness. Treble is soft and easy to the ear, very forgiving. It will never offend or sound harsh but it has enough energy to keep things exciting. The overall presentation is easy on the ears and the Serenade can play an important role in softening down headphones that sound a little too hot or sharp for you.

Overall, the Hifiman Serenade offers good depth and layering in bass, mids and the higher frequencies but as said, the Serenade is not the ultimate technical performer. Dynamics, tightness and PRaT aren’t as spectacular as in higher end DAC/AMPS. It however makes up for that with its fullness, mid tonality/timbre, softer/warm presentation, vocal excellence, easygoingness and high emotional level. It’s such an incredibly musical amp, and a pure pleasure to the ear if you just want to enjoy your favorite tunes without getting the very last bit of precision. Throw vocals in to the mix and you easily reach musical nirvana.

Hifiman Serenade

Synergy

The Hifiman Serenade is a DAC/AMP combo that works well with a whole series of headphones, no matter the driver technology. The only thing I would recommend here is to stay away from already warmer and slower sounding headphones as they might become a bit much.

The four headphones I listened to most with the Serenade are the Hifiman HE-1000, the Arya Stealth, the Audeze LCD2.1 and the Sennheiser HD 800s.

The Sennheiser HD 800S isn’t always the easiest headphone to match an amplifier with. It in general prefers tubes or warmer sounding solid state amplifiers, and the latter is the case here. The HD 800S already is a very spacious and highly technical performer and as such it matches perfectly with the fuller and warmer signature of the Serenade. The Serenade also does a really nice job in taming the highs, making the treble section easier on the ears. The Serenade will never get the highest technical performance from the Sennheiser, but it will transform the HD 800S in a softer, fuller, more musical and easier to listen to headphone for the masses. You get a good balance between technical performance and musicality, so it is a nice combo!

The Serenade also is a great companion for Hifiman headphones such as the Arya Stealth and the HE-1000 (all versions). My personal favorite of these two is the HE-1000 as I find the synergy with the Serenade to be exemplary. It has been quite a while since I enjoyed the HE-1000 this much. The sound stage width, airiness, energy, body, impact and musical delivery are just spot on for me. The HE-1000 luckily is a strong performer in regards to depth, energy and top end extension, so it perfectly matches the warmer, fuller and musical presentation of the Serenade. It is my favorite headphone to use the Serenade with, together with the Audeze LCD2.1.

Hifiman Serenade

The Audeze LCD2.1 I am using is one of the original LCD2s with the vegan pads. The pads are completely worn out, but I still like using the Audeze from time to time. Luckily Dekoni is bringing back the vegan LCD pads, and I have a set on order. Anyway, the LCD2 was, and still is, a spectacular sounding headphone when powered correctly. The synergy with the Hifiman Serenade is excellent and you get an exciting, weighty, punchy and colorful sound with excellent mid focus. The (mid) timbre and vocals in this setup are superb and it’s just a musically engaging combo that wants you to keep listening to more and more of your favorite tracks.

TL;DR: The Hifiman Serenade has more than enough power to drive all your headphones. The recommendation is to not pair it with warmer and fuller sounding headphones. Combine it with headphones that can benefit from the Serenade’s characteristics (such as those mentioned above) and you will be a very happy listener. The Serenade won’t get you the ultimate precision and refinement, but it makes up for that with musicality and engagement. It’s such an addictive DAC/AMP.

Conclusion

When I first learned about the Hifiman Serenade, I wasn’t fully convinced that it would perform well but I was seriously wrong. For $999 USD you get a well-performing DAC/AMP unit that plays well with a whole series of headphones.

The Hifiman Serenade not only has all the power you need. It with its full, weighty, warmer and easy to the ear tuning also is musical and very engaging as well as addictive. Combine it with a technically strong headphone or one with a more mid-focus and the Serenade will seriously impress.

The Serenade is the kind of amplifier that puts musicality, smoothness and mid timbre as well as vocal excellence before technical top performance. It does all that in an effortless, musical and very addictive way and it lets you enjoy your music more than anything. If you want a higher analytical level, more precision and a more reference like neutral tuning, the Prelude might be more your thing.

All-in-all the Hifiman Serenade for under $1K is an excellent performer and in this price range there isn’t a lot of competition that outperforms it as a DAC/AMP with this kind of tuning. As such it is very easy to give this DAC/AMP our Recommended Buy Award. The Serenade now is featured on our Best DAC/AMP buy list here!

Well done Hifiman!

Hifiman Serenade

Summary

Pros:

  • Musicality
  • Smoothness and warmth
  • Vocal tuning
  • Mid timbre
  • Powerful yet effortless sounding

Cons:

  • Technical performance (Precision, Prat, Extension)
  • Limited Dynamics

 

Page 1: Hifiman, Serenade, Specifications, Box & Accessories, Design & Build quality, Lay-out, Usability

Page 2: Sound Intro, General, Synergy, Conclusion, Summary

4.3/5 - (220 votes)
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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

1 Comment

  • Reply June 18, 2024

    Christian Wagner

    I had this unit on loan from my dealer for 6 weeks. I suspect if you had used it as a preamp to drive a power amp and speakers your enthusiasm might be tempered somewhat.
    Very beautiful sound, powerful, plenty of gain, and I fully agree with your sound assessment but the basic, antiquated one way push UI has no place on this unit.
    Also, upon power on and off, big pops, clicks and necessary speaker and sub excursions. There is no excuse for this when other units in this class handle power cycles silently, with wholly better user interfaces, including larger, clearer text.
    Its okay that you want to say it out performs others, but even better you do the comparisons, I have.
    It sounds so good that if the issues were corrected I would buy it immediately, yet I went with one of the others because it isn’t just the sound that makes a unit great.

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