HiFiMAN Ananda V1, Ananda Nano, or Edition XS? Stiff Decision, Close Price Points
HiFiMAN offers an open-back planar for every occasion, at just about every price point. HiFiMAN’s most recent release, the Ananda Nano, sits at $600, curiously close in price to the original Ananda V1 ($700) and the HiFiMAN Edition XS ($500). Anyone who wants a slice of the signature HiFiMAN sound under $1000 has a pretty tough decision to make here – but if you ask me, it’s hard to go wrong with the crop we’re discussing today. Let’s jump into it and see what differences in design, fit, and sound HiFiMAN is offering in this now-crowded price range, and how their values stack up.
What’s In The Box?
Look and Feel
Let’s get the easy part out of the way: the Ananda Nano comes with a decent carrying case. Not a common move to see from the company, especially in this price range. Hopefully, this is a sign of HiFiMAN putting a little more consideration into their accessory game in future products.
If you’ve worn one of HiFiMAN’s egg-shaped open backs before, nothing here will come at much of a surprise. The most notable difference we have to go over in the fit and comfort department is the Ananda Nano’s significantly firmer clamp pressure than what is felt on the Edition XS and original Ananda. Some might prefer the looser fits on the XS and OG Ananda, but I prefer the Nano’s tighter fit and slightly smaller chamber as it fixed issues I had with getting a good head seal on the other two pairs. Worth noting that those who wear glasses (like myself) might run into a little obstacle here with the Nano’s firm clamp.
The ear pads that come with all three pairs seem identical in design. The surface that touches the sides of a listener’s head are made out of a porous nylon, while the rest of the pads’ surfaces are made from synthetic leather. The internal pad stuffing is composed of a plush, lightweight, semi-firm memory foam. They’re inoffensive, breezy, and highly unlikely to result in excess heat build up. No issues here; HiFiMAN plays the pad game well.
As for the headbands and yokes on each pair, we unsurprisingly see nearly identical designs on the Ananda Nano as what we see on the original: an exposed metal bracket with a fixed suspension headband. Adjustments are made by sliding the length of the sturdy metallic yokes at notched intervals. The only minor difference between the two is that the yokes on the Nano are a bit more rounded out, perhaps contributing to its more aggressive clamp pressure – you can get a better idea of this by looking at some of the pictures.
The Edition XS is the outlier when it comes to physical design. Instead of the bracket and suspension headband mechanism, we see a more traditional headband padded with firm and cushy memory foam encased in synthetic leather. Like the other pairs, adjustments are made by sliding the metal yokes. The one trait the XS seems to have going for it over the other two pairs in its physical design is the small amount of wiggle room afforded by its sliders, unlike the rigid yoke sliders on the Ananda and the Nano that offer nothing in the way of horizontal adjustments.
It’s no secret that HiFiMAN usually makes some pretty comfy headphones. I think that it’s unlikely that very many are going to be too disappointed by what they find in this department, regardless of which pair they going with – unless you simply find the Nano’s clamp force too biting.
HiFiMAN Edition XS
Featuring a stealth magnet and a NEO Supernano Diaphragm (NSD) that is 75% thinner than what’s found in the original version of the headphone.
Not as much to go over here, but to be fair, the Ananda V2 saw some noteworthy upgrades, such as a stealth magnet and the NEO Supernano Diaphragm (NSD) featured in the XS and other HiFiMAN technical designs.
HiFiMAN Ananda Nano
Features a stealth magnet design and an even thinner diaphragm than the NSD that is a single nanometer thick. This ultra thin diaphragm borrows its design from the ultra-high-end HiFiMAN Susvara headphone.
|HiFiMAN Edition XS
|HiFiMAN Ananda Nano
|HiFiMAN Ananda V1
Ananda Nano Soundstage Comparison
While there are some surprising similarities to go over when it comes to balance, the Ananda, Ananda Nano, and Edition XS all have rather distinct staging and imaging characteristics.
HiFiMAN Edition XS
The smallest stage of the three pairs. Parts find considerable width, while depth feels shallow and more on-the-face than the two Anandas. Height isn’t as forward and persistent of a quality either. Regardless, spatial separation and layering is actually about as impressive as what I hear on the original Ananda, though less wondrous and expansive due to the smaller stage. Noisy tracks are impressively dissected with a reference-style accuracy. When compared to other headphones in the $400 to $500 range, the Edition XS is truly exceptional in its spatial character; however, the Ananda and the Ananda Nano are killers in staging and imaging department, and the XS reveals itself as the more “economy” option here between the 3 pairs. If there’s one element that increases with each price jump, I would pin it on stage size – specifically width.
Though not as expansive as the original Ananda, the Nano is the sharpest and most precise of the three headphones when it comes to its layering and placements. It’s stage is also the most forward-facing of the three, which works together with its ruthless imaging to provide a very realistic “in-the-room” sensation to listens. Cymbals find a height that manages to wrap around the top of my head, but the distinct “coming-from-below” character that jumps out to me with the original Ananda isn’t quite there, which I think has something to do with the Nano’s slightly smaller chamber size. So while the Nano’s stage may be around the same general size (if not shape) as the Editon XS, I found it to be the clear winner specifically when it comes to imaging. If xacto knife layering and zippy, kinetic imaging is what you’re after, the HiFiMAN Ananda Nano is a very tantalizing option.
HiFiMAN Ananda V1
It’s interesting to come back to the original Ananda 5 years since its release. In some ways, it shows its age: I don’t find its imaging that much better than what I heard on the more affordable and more recently released Edition XS. Parts don’t snap into their placements with the same 4k resolution that I heard on the Ananda Nano. At least one spatial trait that has stood the test of time with the Ananda V1 is the expansive width and height of the stage. While I found the Ananda V1’s particularly lengthy chamber to give me some minor issues in the fit department, it’s hard to deny that it contributes to some awesome vertical dimensions. Sound waves slather a wide area around my ears, extending themselves beyond my jaw and felt noticeably on my neck. One of my favorite traits about the Ananda’s spatial character is its propensity to send parts shooting up at me from below, something that the Ananda Nano and Edition XS don’t pull off in quite the same way. So while perhaps a little dated when it comes to fast and firm imaging, it stands triumphant in the sheer size of its stage – particularly its height.
Ananda Nano Balance Comparison, Resolution and Other Notes
I guess what we can call my thesis here is the following: the Hifiman Edition XS and Ananda V1 have more traits in common than what we hear with the Ananda Nano. I have nothing more than a gut feeling that the Ananda V1 may soon be discontinued, leaving the more affordable Edition XS to fill its place and the Ananda Nano to continue its legacy.
I have some mixed feelings when it comes to balance and resolution on the Ananda V1, which, as I already said, seems remarkably similar to the Edition XS. While neither are anywhere close to lacking in treble amplitudes or extension, I don’t find their emphasized treble to produce the lift and detail that I’m looking for from this kind of signature. I can look on paper all I want at how trebly the Ananda (and XS, for the matter) should sound, but there’s nonetheless a certain blunted quality to it- especially when I compare it to what I heard in the Nano.
In general, detail retrieval, resolution, tightness – whatever you want to call it – is checkered on the Ananda V1. Some of what I was saying about the shortfalls of its treble lift seem to effect the consistency of its mid range articulation. When I was listening to electronic tracks, like the album “Women World Wide” by Justice, I was very pleased with the low mid articulation that cut through busy, bass dense tracks on its own distinct layer. Other times, when I was listening to some indie rock like Japanese Breakfast, low and center mid articulation seemed…veiled? Hidden? Just not entirely pronounced with the sharpness and clarity I would want from a $700 headphone – more so lingering around the mix with a somewhat indistinct energy.
This brings me to mentioning that the Ananda V1 is technically a $700 headphone, but frequently sees sales and price drops that bring it to, in my opinion, a more fair value by today’s standards. The Edition XS shares most of the qualities I just described for the Ananda V1, but at $500, and especially in light of sales that bring it to $450 or $450, I feel a lot less critical towards it. I’ve even bought it as a gift before. My real criticism here for the Ananda V1 is one of value, which as I already mentioned, is perhaps a negated criticism due to the sale price it frequently sees.
All of this leads us to the Ananda Nano, and all I have to say is wow. But I guess you’re looking for more words than that.
Though linked to the original Ananda in name, the Nano is the result of such massive and welcome adjustments and improvements that it strikes me as more of a super-powered mutant grandchild of the original. It’s snappier, punchier, faster and tighter. Though some people may say it sounds more sterile than the original Ananda with some of its new tuning adjustments, I think the benefits are obvious. Low mids seem to find greater attenuation, giving more presence to mid bass and high mids. This gives a strict and stark distinction between mid range and low end, and in a way brings extra clarity to the low mids precisely because of their attenuation. Prominent treble extension brings some snappy, zappy lift and revealing pronunciation to the overall balance that I was missing on the Ananda V1.
The extra amplitude in the mid bass and high treble, as well as the smoothed-out, high-mids oriented mid range gives the Ananda Nano a much leaner sound than what we hear on the V1. This tuning finds a great synergy with the new ultra-thin and fast diaphragm, giving parts like kick drums and hi hats a satisfying, staccato-like quality in the midst of their exaggerated impacts.
There’s only one, very specific quality I liked a little more with the original Ananda V1 that I didn’t get out of the Nano, and that was the distinct sensation of feeling the driver movements through the earpads. Yes, the Nano has a superior driver as a result of years of innovations from HiFiMAN. While its thinner driver and stealth magnets are no doubt contributing to all of the tight and speedy qualities that I quickly fell in love with during my listens, I suspect these improvements may also be responsible for the diminished haptic-like sensation I experienced through the pads from the thicker diaphragm featured in the original Ananda.
Ananda Nano: Overall Comparison
I’m curious to see what HiFiMAN does with the Ananda V1 in the midst of their crowded mid-priced catalog: the Ananda, V1, the V2, the Nano, the Edition XS – why so many? Anyway, if you’re trying to parse through HiFiMAN open-backs in this price point, here’s my advice, take it or leave it:
If you’re looking for a good price-to-quality value buy, the Edition XS and the Ananda Nano are excellent options at their standard $500 and $600 price points – especially the Nano, which I am genuinely surprised HiFiMAN didn’t list for at least $700 (I hope I don’t regret saying that). The Ananda V1 finds a bit of redundancy with the Edition XS, but still stands above all three pairs discussed in this review when it comes to the sheer width – and especially height – of its encompassing stage. For that reason, the Ananda V1 still holds a pretty sensible value when it sees a price drop.
Ultimately, while all three headphones in this review were a genuine pleasure in their own unique ways, the HiFiMAN Ananda Nano is a step above the rest. I fully expect it to appear on a lot of “Best Headphones of 2023” lists – I’m certainly keeping it in mind when that time of year rolls around.
You can purchase the HiFiMAN Ananda Nano here
HiFiMAN Edition XS here
HiFiMAN Ananda V1 here
|HiFiMAN Ananda Nano
|HiFiMAN Ananda V1
|HiFiMAN Edition XS
|-Punchy, fast mid bass
-Strict low end and mid range separation
-Airy, snappy upper treble that provides detailed clarity
-Intimate and forward facing sound stage
-Fast and extremely precise imaging
-Snug and sealing fit – might be too tight for some.
-Great price to value ratio
|-Lush low end
-Well balanced midrange, though checkered in its resolution
-Large sound stage with a genuinely unique dominance in its vertical dimension.
-Relaxed fit, but some may have trouble getting a good seal.
-A great value…when it’s on sale. Maybe a little outdated.
|-Surprisingly analogous to the Ananda V1, though with a smaller and less vibrant stage.
-Very good value that get listeners close to high-end HiFiMAN at a mid range price.
-Relaxed fit with some wiggle room in the sliders that should help listeners attain an easy seal.