Over the past few years, wireless headphones have become more of the norm. I see more and more people walking around with them, and wearing them on the train. Noise-canceling technology has made big strides, with the Sony XM3 and XM4, and even companies like Shure are getting into the wireless game. Audiophile-centric manufacturer HIFIMAN has now entered the game but in a rather unconventional way.
Bluetooth headphones usually feature dynamic drivers, but HIFIMAN is known for its open-back planar models. They’ve released closed-back, dynamic headphones before, but HIFIMAN has actually opted to bring the planar sound to wireless. I already have questions and concerns. Firstly, if this wireless is open-back, It won’t be ideal to use them on commutes, which is how most Bluetooth headphones get used. So you’ll probably be doing most of your listening at home or in an isolated environment. We need to look at the DEVA both as a planar, and a wireless consumer headphone. Can it really do both?
What You Get
Although the DEVA aims to be a more consumer-grade headphone, they’re presented with the same prominence as their audiophile models. Although Bluetooth is what makes the DEVA stand out from the pack, it isn’t the only option. Inside the box, you’ll find a 3.5mm cable with a quarter-inch adapter, so you can use this as you would any normal planar if you’d like. However, the main attraction is the Blumini Bluetooth receiver, which uses a 3.5mm connector to plug straight into the headphone. It also comes with a USB-C cable for charging and even laptop connections, so you can charge while listening to music. Not only is this adapter a Bluetooth receiver, but it’s also a DAC/Amp. So if you’re wondering how in the world is Bluetooth going to power a planar headset, the Bluemini DAC/Amp is how.
Look and Feel
At first glance, the DEVA doesn’t appear to be unlike a middle-line planar headphone from HIFIMAN. You can place them next to the Sundara and assume they might be around the same price. They don’t go with a more streamlined consumer look, instead, HIFIMAN keeps to the aesthetic they’re known for, with large open grills and meaty earpads.
The silver aluminum yoke properly supports the earcups, however, there are aspects to this build that I’m not a big fan of. Particularly the swivel of the earcups. It would make more sense if the cups rotated and rested on your shoulders, but they’re actually just loose. It subtracts from the perceived build quality and peels back the layers a bit more. The headband doesn’t help much here either, with mangy plastic pieces supporting it. However, the cushion materials here do provide effective comfort, and the same goes for the earpads. They’re light and never obstruct your listening experience. I just wish better quality parts were used.
The makeup of the DEVA’s interior is represented by its unique planar magnetic driver system. This planar incorporates HIFIMAN’s NEO supernano diaphragm, which is 80% thinner than previous designs. In effect, you’ll get a quicker transient response and a lusher, more detailed image quality. We also need to talk about this Bluemini adapter, and how the wireless transmission is accomplished. The DEVA uses a balanced TRRS input method for its connection to the Bluemini transmitter, supplying four discrete pathways offering up to 20dB of power handling. Combined with the DAC/Amp part of the Bluemini, you’ll get a plentiful level of volume when connecting to any device. Using my iPhone, I was able to run the DEVA at a comfortable gain with plenty of headroom.
Bluetooth and Battery Life
With the Bluetooth transmission, a variety of CODECs are featured. The DEVA Bluemini supports LDAC, aptX, aptXHD, AAC, and SBC. A great variety of high-quality CODECs that ensures a stable streaming resolution to any device. In terms of battery life, you’ll be able to use the DEVA wirelessly for 7-10 hours. There are Bluetooth headphones around this price that achieve a lot more playback time but you’ll probably be using the DEVA at home anyway so you can charge and listen at the same time.
You may think that because of the wireless nature of the DEVA, some of the signature soundstage qualities that planar headphones usually have might be lost. Thankfully, the DEVA doesn’t let me down here. Not only is the stage wide, but it engulfs your headspace in its stereo image, with sounds coming from sources that don’t feel like they appear from the driver. The standout here is the separation, which provides natural air and clarity between sound elements. The energy of the response feels like a breath instead of a punch, creating an image that revels in expansive details. The sounds have a blooming effect in the stereo field, taking a more complete shape.
Planars don’t have a great reputation with bass response, but the DEVA really dives deep. The lows are very clearly defined and sit in a multilayered space in the stereo field. The DEVA can do a little bit of everything here. It can delve into areas of the sub-bass, while also emitting some nice low-mid punch. They don’t offer much in gain or impact to these ranges, though, and lack a bit of meat that would have been welcomed here. Otherwise, this is an enjoyable bass with a dynamic range of possibilities.
The midrange here is incredibly lush and natural, with vocals appearing as crisp as they can. The upper mids are definitely lifted a bit here too. Warm textures sound great for acoustic and other contemporary performances. You can even feel the tone of the room in some tracks, like on The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” where the solo guitar and group harmonies had some soft echo to them. With a warmer tonality, the mids express a ton of clarity and fullness.
While some of the upper treble can appear a bit peaky, sibilances and other splashy instrumentals feature a good amount of detail. I would have liked to hear some more sparkly or airy textures out of the DEVA. The highs instead opt for clarity, just without any significant fine-tuning. In effect, they can go a bit flat, but never rolled-off for me, which is the way a number of Bluetooth headphones usually go.
The HIFIMAN DEVA succedes both as a wireless and planar headphone. These aspects don’t have to be exclusive either, as the DEVA can be enjoyed with both Bluetooth and cable transmission. For $299, this might even be a good place to start with planars, upgrading to superior models over time. The DEVA finds ways to be both a great wireless headphone and an entry-level planar.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Soundstage, CODEC support, midrange separation, and clarity
Cons: Build quality
|Battery Life||7-10 Hours (Bluetooth)|
|Bluetooth CODECS||LDAC, aptX, aptXHD, AAC, and SBC|
|Transmission||Bluetooth/USB Type C|
The HIFIMAN DEVA is available at Audio 46.
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