The forums have been buzzing with wonder and excitement over the new Hifiman Sundara planar magnetic headphones. Are they worth the price? Should curious audiophiles just stick with the Hifiman HE-560 (whose price has dropped to equal the new Sundara)? Should they spare the expense and stay with their HE-400i? Today I’ll try to answer those questions with this Hifiman Sundara planar magnetic headphones review.
Hifiman Sundara Planar Magnetic Headphones Review
In the Box
-Hifiman Sundara headphones
The Hifiman Sundara sports a headband with a rounder shape than others in the HE series. It still has the two-tiered style: a metal band hovering above a strip of leather. It fits securely over the ears, although the tightness was a little too much for my preferences. Despite this fact, the headband felt durable and stable, and the strip of leather did a good job of padding the head. I felt it more comfortable than the HE-400i but less comfortable than the HE-560.
The earcups are large and circular, like the 400i and 560. They are heavy, but the weight is manageable and not too overbearing. I love the matte black finish on the earcups, and this sets the look apart from the others. Additionally, the cups are free to swivel in their yolks.
The particular Hifiman Sundara I listened to was a demo model. The earpads seemed very similar, if not identical, to the other earpads of the HE series. One downside of these pads is that they are hot. They remind me of a thicker version of the Beyerdynamic velour earpads. However, Hifiman reached out and said, at the last minute, they decided to upgrade the earpads to a more comfortable version. This upgrade will delay shipping a week, but I’ll be sure to update this review once I try the real deal. I’ll also mention any changes to the sound or anything else relevant.
The low end of the Hifiman Sundara was bigger and thicker than I was expecting. In fact, it’s thickness sometimes caused cloudiness, especially between 80 Hz-150 Hz. In general, the headphones reacted quicker in the sub frequencies than in the higher lows. The HE-560’s bass response was a bit tighter, although subtly, but the Sundara definitely beat out the HE 400i to my ear. The 400i has a nice tight low end but it is a little bit too quiet for my liking.
The midrange was interesting because it was both smooth and reactive. The cloudiness of the lows extended to the low mids. As a result, depending on the mix, sometimes guitars blended together a bit. However, this cloudiness contributed to the thickness of the sound, and consequently provided emotional impact, especially with heavier music like rock, metal, and punk. A frequency cut from 1.2 kHz-2.7 kHz made vocals sit lower in the mix than usual. Overall the high mids felt smooth which gave instruments that are typically hard sounding, like harmonica, bouzouki, and horn stabs a pleasant softness. The high mids do feel a little uneven. There are lots of small boosts and cuts, and as a result there was a hint of unnaturalness to the sound of the high mids.
Because of a towering boost at 11 kHz and the uneven midrange, cymbals sounded different than they normally would. They were thinner and brighter. Additionally, vocals sometimes get sibilant although I like the airy quality of them for some female vocalists. This was my least favorite part of these headphones because I listen to a lot of music with drums and the top end just felt unnatural, particularly compared to the HE-560. The HE-400i also has a similar effect as the Sundara in the high frequencies, but the Sundara ultimately wins because it feels like it has greater high frequency extension, and thus, more air.
I was impressed by the sense of depth in the Hifiman Sundara. It is a bigger sense of depth than the 400i and felt on par with the HE-560. Additionally, the sense of width was really nice and expansive. Listening to EDM was especially fun. Lastly, it’s sense of height was also pretty nice and accurate overall.
The Hifiman Sundara planar magnetic headphones are certainly an upgrade from the HE-400i. And as a standalone headphone, there are some things I like, some things I don’t. I do think the HE-560 is better for most purposes, although it is more difficult to drive. However if you listen to music without drums, you may just prefer the thickness of the Hifiman Sundara.
The Hifiman Sundara planar magnetic headphone is available for pre-order here: