HiFiMAN Arya Organic vs. Arya V3 Stealth: Worth the Upgrade?
While impatiently waiting to get my hands on the HiFiMAN Arya Organic for review, I’ve been listening to the HiFiMAN Arya V3 a few hours a day in the meantime. Let me be upfront: not without its faults, the Arya is one of my favorite headphones in the $1000 to $2000 range. I have some pretty high expectations for HiFiMAN’s new Arya Organic and eagerly hope that some of my minor criticisms for the V3 are smoothed out in what is now the 4th generation of the popular planar open-back. Let’s see if the new build is all it’s cracked up to be, what differences HiFiMAN is making in the headphone’s driver, and most importantly, the differences you can expect to hear between the two Aryas.
Fit and Build
It’s pretty apparent that HiFiMAN is making a statement with the Arya Organic’s build. Though I’ve never personally had issues with build quality from HiFiMAN products, the company has seen scattered criticisms from some customers in this category. Whether or not it was intentional, the upgrades we see in Arya Organic’s physical design seem like a direct response to such criticism. Its new, sophisticated wooden details offer a bold textural contrast to the black “window shade” driver covering that is also featured on the Arya V3.
While I find the Arya V3’s build acceptable, the Arya Organic borders on exceptional with its inclusion of sturdier, wooden materials. Though the Organic’s wooden design finds a little more heft than the plastic design of the Arya V3, the fit, and comfort are about the same, perhaps a pinch looser. Same breathable earpads, same manual adjustment suspension headband with notched adjustments. Fine by me; I found the Arya to be a pretty comfy and spacious headphone prior to the release of the Organic. No need to fix what isn’t broken.
The HiFiMAN Arya V3 set itself apart from its predecessors with its inclusion of stealth magnets in the driver design. The Arya Organic takes things a step further by including stealth magnets as well as a driver diaphragm that is a single nanometer in thickness. This design element was borrowed from the Susvara, HiFiMAN’s open-back planar flagship headphones. With the recently released HiFiMAN Ananda Nano sharing the same upgraded design, it seems like this nanometer diaphragm will be the defining hallmark of HiFiMAN’s current and ongoing generation of headphones. I certainly hope it yields the same improvements in sound quality that it did for the Nano, which was a pretty big hit here at MajorHiFi.
It’s worth noting that while both the Arya V3 and Arya Organic have 32-ohm impedances, their low sensitivities will likely require that a listener use an amp to sufficiently drive them.
|HiFiMAN Arya V3
|HiFiMAN Arya Organic
|Planar, stealth magnets/open-back
|Planar, stealth magnets, super nano diaphragm/open-back
|8 Hz – 65 kHz
|8 Hz – 65 kHz
HiFiMAN Arya Organic vs. V3 Soundstage
While I never got a chance to listen to the first two editions of the Arya, The HiFiMAN Arya V3 might have been the first time I ever understood what people mean by a soundstage that is “too big.” This is more of a personal preference than a serious criticism, as I’m nonetheless seriously impressed by the enormous stage that the Arya V3 has going for it. Its vast width affords the headphone a hyper-detailed sensitivity to stereo positions. Certain basslines that I had always heard in mono placements on other headphones have their tiniest, 2-degree pan placements put on blast by the Arya V3. While this will certainly delight plenty of listeners, the ruthlessly exposing scale of the V3’s stage was nearly too detailed for me; it might sound silly to say I was distracted by the detail (specifically in its width), but that is ultimately my (highly subjective) take away. However, it’s impossible to deny that this stage size was also responsible for an epic height and depth that created clean, articulate, and vividly entertaining layering. Lingering reverb decays, for example, are all the more realistic due to the V3’s endlessly cavernous quality.
While I find the Arya Organic to possess a slightly smaller stage, this is a quality that I welcome in the headphone. While center placements seemed to teeter and gravitate slightly towards the left or right on the V3, the Organic has a much easier time establishing a solid and unified front-center image. Though more intimate and direct than the stage I heard on the Arya V3, fear not: HiFiMAN is still delivering gigantic spatial qualities with the Arya Organic.
HiFiMAN Arya Organic vs. V3 Balance Comparison
If you don’t already know, HiFiMAN’s Arya headphones have a reputation for packing in a bold treble profile on top of an otherwise flat and balanced tuning. I have a penchant for brighter signatures and generally love what the V3 had to offer in its balance. But in the midst of its brightness, I was regularly impressed with what I heard coming from the mid-bass on the Arya V3. Though fairly even-keeled in their amplitudes, low-end parts took on an incredibly tight and controlled quality that punch down the middle of the Arya’s atmospheric stage. Midrange parts presented with a highly natural quality, but gave me the illusion of high mid emphasis that was informed by the airy upper treble lift further up in the balance.
It’s hard for me to really dig into the Arya V3 with a critic’s ear because as I’ve already said, I like the headphone quite a bit. But alas, for the purposes of comparing the V3 with what I heard when listening to the Arya Organic, I’ll have to get the tweezers and magnifying glass out for some nitpicking.
My only small criticism for the Arya V3’s balance stems from a part of its tuning that I’m otherwise generally appreciative of its treble profile. At times, the V3’s bold mid-treble has a quality I would venture to describe as, well, a bit crashy and splashy. At high intensities, cymbals, hi-hats, and higher-pitched electric snare drums can come off a little coarse. Rather than tss, the Arya V3 sometimes goes cccsh. To be more general and maybe phrase it in a more relatable way, the V3 has some minor issues with peakiness. After even a brief period of mental burn-in with the headphone, this wasn’t something that stayed on the forefront of my mind during my listens. This characteristic is a bit more noticeable when I return to the Arya V3 after listening to another headphone for a longer period of time.
Maybe you already see where I’m going here. The Arya Organic presented a much smoother treble profile without sacrificing its predecessor’s intensity. The traces of scratchiness that the V3 exhibited on cymbals and parts of the like was entirely absent when listening to the newest iteration of the Arya.
There’s significantly more control in the Organic’s sound; not only in the treble, but all across the spectrum. The Arya V3’s tight mid-bass finds even further refinement on the Organic, punching with just a touch more sub-bass reinforcement.
But overall, I don’t think it’s balance adjustments that are making the biggest difference between the two versions of the HiFiMAN Arya. Rather, there’s a noticeable difference in speed. Though the Arya V3 is very far from being a blunted-sounding headphone, the Arya Organic attacks note with a ferocity that makes the V3 sound rounder by comparison. So, while I might call the Organic a more aggressive upgrade from its predecessor, this has much more to do with its delivery than its balance.
It can be frustrating to see a manufacturer come out with new versions of a popular model with negligible differences and a higher price tag. HiFiMAN, however, is not a guilty party. The HiFiMAN Arya Organic retains the familiar frequency response of the Arya V3, and its vast spatial qualities, with a newfound speed and forwardness. What’s more, we see a $1300 price tag on the model, which is $100 less than the Arya V3’s initial retail value. With the Arya V3 now at $999, HiFiMAN is finessing the $1000 tier as well as they are the $500 tier. 2023 is shaping up to be a pretty great year for the company as they again inject the market with yet another model that radiates high-effort upgrades, impressive performance, and a fair value.