The treble section is articulated and transparent with a good level of detail and resolution. It’s not like the best treble you can have amongst planar headphones of course, but once again impressive for this price.
The character here is quite bright, especially in the lower-treble range, but once again the transparency and detail are excellent. There’s a good extension and articulation as well. However, the treble needs a bit more refinement, in my opinion, especially considering the spikes and brightness in the lower treble.
With all that said, the clarity and detail level are very impressive, and the treble is overall spacious and airy, opposite of the mid-range in that department. I think if the brightness in the treble range could’ve been lesser, it would’ve been a bit more coherent and refined.
The sound stage of the Sundara Closed-Back is not very spacious, although it’s better than I expected for a closed headphone with this price. Yet, there’s a sense of intimacy, especially with vocals and instruments. And since the treble is sometimes aggressive and bright, the mid-range suffers a bit from staging and imaging perspectives.
The best part about the Sundara Closed-Back is the resolution and clarity. I can also add the detail level to those. It’s a very resolving and transparent headphone overall. The instrumental separation is fairly good as well. For layering, I’ve heard better headphones, but mostly they are much pricier so it’s not all that fair.
The tonality is good, but not spectacular, especially in the mid-range. The bright and thin treble response creates contrast in terms of timbre since the mid-range is not that bright and thin overall. On the positive side, the headphone has good pace, rhythm and timing. There’s also good definition and dynamism.
The Sundara Closed-Back is not very hard to drive, and you can have good results with DAPs that has good amp power, and portable DAC/Amps such as hipdac 2, Violectric Chronos, or even FiiO E10K TC. So against the open-back version, it’s definitely more flexible.
The obvious comparison. The open-back Sundara is bass-shy when compared to this version, so the difference is quite big from the start in terms of presentation. Mid-range is similar although I think there’s more space in the open-back here. Treble response is more effortless in the open-back as well, whilst the closed version feels a bit holographic and close.
The soundstage is better with the open-back Sundara, obviously, and there’s more space in the mids which makes it more coherent and tonally consistent. However, the closed-back Sundara might appeal to you if you like an engaging, potent and dynamic presentation which is quite ”in your face”. Also, if you enjoy your bass, the closed-back is pretty impressive in that regard.
Another ”kind of” closed-back Hifiman, is the R9. The Sundara Closed-Back has much better build quality and a premium feel, especially with its wooden ear cups. Comfort-wise I think they’re similar.
The R9 has a dominating bass, which I think affects the overall presentation. The Sundara Closed-Back, although having a warm bass, is not that problematic in that area. It stays clean off the mids, and it has better texture, decay and refinement. The mid-range is more resolving with Sundara Closed-Back with better transparency. The same can be said for the treble range as well. Overall R9 is a slower headphone whilst the Sundara Closed-Back is the more resolving, clear and faster offering.
I think Hifiman Sundara Closed-Back is a good offering in the $300-400 mark. It has a dense, enjoyable and fun presentation with warm bass and bright treble. It’s not too hard to drive, and it certainly has what it takes in terms of being a dependable closed-back headphone for the price.
If you’re not willing to spend huge amounts of cash for a closed-back headphone for your desktop, this Closed-Back is a good choice. However, if isolation is not a problem, the open-back Sundara is a great deal at this very moment since it’s on sale. If you’re into Hifiman signature, this is a very good closed-back offering and better than the HE-R9 in our opinion. Of course, if there’s no budget limit, the HE-R10P still is the absolute best closed-back Hifiman.