I personally think the Hifiman Sundara looks pretty cool with the huge sexy grill on those ear cups. I also love the way the headphone yokes curve and flow from the cups to the headband. The newly designed headband that borrows from both Hifiman’s previous designs, looks premium with its mix of aluminium and synthetic leather.
All in all, the Hifiman Sundara has a unique design. It looks nothing like any of its brothers and sisters, and even compared to what’s on the market for that matter. Its matte black color and overall look combines quality, professionalism and fashion. With all the hundreds if not thousands of headphones on the market, it’s not easy to come up with something new, but I do feel Hifiman managed to create something unique
While I understand why Hifiman decided to go for the new 3.5mm headphone connectors, I just wish all companies would decide on a standard already. This is hell for people with a lot of headphones/cables like me though I suppose cable companies profit from the regular changes manufacturers make.
Build Quality & Comfort
Hifiman has been focusing on making sure the build quality of their latest ear- headphones is up to level and just like with the previous models I reviewed, there was absolutely nothing wrong with them and they were and still are in perfect working order.
Comfort wise I have to admit I’m not fully convinced by the Sundara. The headphone band is great and it perfectly distributes the weight evenly over your head. And yes, the weight itself is no issue either, especially looking at the weight of other planar magnetic units such as the Kennerton Odin and earlier Audeze LCD-series. The angled and large (55mm space) earpads also are very comfortable and they create a perfect seal. Then why am I not fully happy? There are two reasons. First there’s the clamping force which doesn’t seem to become less and second I really miss the swivelling yokes like those of Beyerdynamic or the older Hifiman units where they let the ear cups move in more directions, and not only up and down. It’s not that the Sundara doesn’t sit well over my ears and against my face, it’s just that it could be even better, more comfortable, less stiff. Now I keep having the feeling it’s too sturdy, that something isn’t feeling right. But maybe that’s just me and the shape of my weird head.
So while I did complain a tiny bit about the – yet again – new connectors, I also have to admit that the stock OFC Copper cable that comes supplied with the Sundara actually is very nice. No it’s not the longest in length, but it’s well built, has good connectors, sleeving and most important of all: it sounds quite good and is friction noise free.
As a result, I haven’t felt the need to turn to any of the 3.5mm cables I have in storage somewhere. Good job on that, Hifiman.
Sonically they share the same HIFIMAN level of resolution and even handed sonic performance across the acoustic spectrum that you have come to expect. Smooth and highly extended, delicately nuanced treble and rich, hearty, punchy and rhythmic lows too. Vocals and strings are astonishingly true to life.
When I first started listening to the Sundara I have to admit it did not blow me away as it sounded thin, light and bass shy. Some burn in, change of source and amp and forgetting all about the Audeze LCD-MX4 I was listening to helped and now I can really enjoy listening to the Sundara, when hooked up to an amp that suits its character. It’s not the easiest of headphones to describe however.
If you google for Sundara measurements you’ll immediately find those of Tyll and see that the Sundara is pretty flat overall with a specific low and high end. Actually, it’s a pretty weird curve to look at and at the same time you can actually hear what you’re seeing. A pretty neutral and linear headphone, from bass to treble. The treble section on paper doesn’t look very impressive but it actually sounds better than you expect from the graph. The Sundara also has an excellent L/R balance and stereo presentation. At the same time the Sundara has a nicely open and spacious tone to it.
Sound stage wise the Sundara scores quite good though it excels more on the top end than it does at the low end. The low end, with the right amp, will have enough presence and impact when called upon but it doesn’t reach down very low. The Sundara’s width and height to me however are better than its depth but it certainly isn’t weak there either. For me there still is margin for improvement when it comes to layering though, but it’s something I always pay extra attention to.
So in general you get a neutral, fairly linear presentation where the upper mids and treble show a little more energy. Bass, with the right source, will show up when called upon, but this really is a more neutral approach to musical reproduction. The clarity, dynamics, speed and details are all there and the beauty is that Hifiman has managed to keep the Sundara entertaining and musical even with this more neutral approach. The Sundara never sounds boring or emotionless, and it in fact is very engaging, dynamic and musical in its very own way.
Actually I have mostly enjoyed listening to classical music on the Sundara, but that might be completely different for you. On bad recordings the upper mids and highs won’t sound their best but the Sundara never becomes shrill or sharp either. Top quality files are recommended though?
Bass, Mids, Treble
If you’re a basshead or expecting more than neutral bass presence wise, then this really isn’t the headphone for you. As said, bass is lighter in body but when called upon it will present itself modestly. Bass is definitely quality over quantity here and bass doesn’t go very low and deep. Its presence will never be overly shy but this just is bass in a very neutral and light way. You can add some bass by using a bass heaver amp or source though and by doing so bass does become more apparent. So if you need a little more bass, this is a quick win. Bass quality is good though: it’s tight, fast and punchy. Of course you don’t get the bass richness of say the HE-1000 top model but within its specific tuning, the Sundara bass simply works well .
Bass of course doesn’t run into the mids and it’s in those mids where Hifiman really makes the magic happen. Even though there’s an overall neutral character and tuning, the lower mids somehow come over a bit thicker and smoother and with their richness in detail that results in this lovely musical presentation. It’s really well done. Vocals are neutral yet natural but not as smooth and certainly not as warm as on most modern headphones, but the mids section in totality simply works. The mids are rich and dynamic and carry more than enough energy, especially the upper mids part excels in this.
As we’ve said the treble section is the one where the Sundara extends most and you get a wide, dynamic, fast and precise treble which is giving the headphone its energetic character. Don’t mistake this for being overly treble focused, cause this isn’t the case at all. Treble is detailed, clean and clear without going to the harsh and bright side. I could have appreciated a better treble layering and more detail but we can’t forget we’re talking about the Sundara here, not the HE-1000.
Sources / Amplification
Hifiman has made it very clear that the SUNDARA is meant to be used by a wide range of sources, from the upper end quality of a large desktop amplifier as well as a basic DAP or other portable sources (hence the short cable). Hifiman does admit that the Sundara does scale up with more power. If you have a high-end desktop amp or a powerful TOTL DAP, the Sundara will scale accordingly and give you ever greater audio performance.
From my Samsung S6 phone running Tidal, the volume does have to go almost all the way up to get to a good listening volume. The S6 is a warm and thick sounding source and that shows in the Sundara, where you get increased bass presence, thicker mids with more smoothness and warmth and softer treble. I’m pretty sure a whole lot of people will like this presentation but it isn’t really how the Sundara is tuned to sound.
Fiio’s M7 DAP is a portable player for the normal consumer and that means it also comes with a full bodied sound and a good amount of bass. Volume like with the phone goes up quite a lot compared to say a set of CIEMs but it’s all under control. While the bass level here clearly has some elevation, the mids aren’t as thick sounding as on the S6. The added warmth and smoothness also is far less present here and I actually can really appreciate this sound signature with just a little more bass and mid weight, without interfering with the rest of the tuning.
The part on sound continues on PAGE Three after the click here