In 2021, HiFiMAN started to release some of their headphone models with a new stealth magnet design. Both the Arya and DEVA got stealth magnet treatments and now the Ananda has recieved this update. Stealth magents aren’t the only new edition, they’ve even gotten rid of the Ananda name and is just going by the Edition XS. The price is also reduced to only $499, a significant drop from the Ananda at full price currently. Let’s see what these new design choices can offer to the Edition XS.
What You Get
- Edition XS Planar Headphones
- 3.5mm Cable
- Quarter-inch Adapter
Look and Feel
Think the Ananda but without the suspension headband and slightly reduced in size and you got the Edition XS. This new structure works as a streamlines version of the Ananda’s original design, while sitll supplying that lightness in its overall level of comfort. The single piece headband style isn’t new to HiFiMAN’s design, but the suspension headband still offers less pressure than this leather one. However, it won’t deter from the experience, as the feeling is miniscule compared to the long hours you can sustain while wearing the XS. Although I felt like I needed to adjust a few times, I spent many hours testing the XS without many major gripes about its fit.
If you need a refresher on what exactley stealth magets add to the existing driver principle, they basically make sure the signal passes through without generating unwanted interference. This keeps the fidleity of the acoustic signal uncompromised, which in term delivers a more transparent signal to your ears. For the Edition XS, HiFiMAN adds a Neo “supernano” diaphragm which is 75% thinner than their previous units, and help to increase the transient resposne with a wider range.
When HiFiMAN started to implement stealth magnets into some of their popular releases, I could immediately sense that there had been a change in approach to soundstage reproduction. As someone who’s a fan of the expressive imaging in the original version of those models before the stealth magnet versions, I could see the reason why some listeners might not prefer that type of sound. Although the older versions of the Ananda and Arya have a lot of fun with their imaging and soundstage, these new stealth versions are a lot more realistic with their response. Now with the Edition XS, I feel like the stealth implementation has really hit its stride for me, to the point where I would consider it an improvement to the sound overall, rather than just a different style of signature.
Listening to the Edition XS, you still get that wow factor that HiFiMAN headphones can bring you, while at the same time delivering a more natural output. Instrumentals and effects still appear big, but now with slightly closer proximity to your headspace. This mitigates the distance in the imaging, eliminates the feeling of sounds resonating from the ether, and instead makes the instruments appear like they’re coming from their natural origin in the mix. If anything, this gives the Edition XS a greater chance to highlight its layers, focusing on more micro details and accurate positioning. You get the perfect combination of air and solidity in the instruments, delivering the best of both worlds in a HiFiMAN soundstage.
The bass presentation on the XS is as effective as ever, bringing a buttery smooth timbre and a clean texture to its response. You don’t miss much in the lows on the XS, and it isn’t afraid to show just how much clarity these frequencies can produce with the fast transient response that supplies plenty of accentuation and crisp details to the sound signature. One of its best attributes is how well handled the tuning is so that the bass never boosts too much outward in a distracting way. There’s a great level of tightness here that helps separate the bass dynamically from the rest of the frequency response, while still delivering richness and clarity. It’s both deep and well rounded, starting from a throaty positioning in the sub-bass, and extending into a sharp pool of mid-bass tone around your jaw. This bass really does the work, soothing you in its coloration and uplifting resonance.
In the midrange, you get an almost equal level of fidelity when compared to the bass and even venture into a warmer territory in the low-mids. You can definitely feel the timbre pushed forward, while exhibiting a more neutral tonality. However, the XS never skips out on presenting a grander sense of fullness to its signature, resulting in more lifelike instrumentals and powerful vocals. Certain elements know when to cut through the mix and showcase their true nature, with pianos and synths being a significant standout. WIth Pianos, there’s a noticeable emphasis in the upper mids that is both striking and a bit piercing at the same time, but other times the warm tones make their way through and compliment certain notes and textures.
The crisp details of the XS extend well into the treble, offering a top layer of shine over the sound signature. Its tone isn’t as smooth as some might hope for, but its expression is well balanced with the rest of the frequency response, never delving into brightness, but still isn’t shy about its accentuation. There’s a definite spark to a significant amount of treble-centric instruments and effects, and although the resonance is slightly aggressive at times, it always feels natural to the mix.
There’s a lot to like about the Edition XS and its stealth drivers, and by the quality of the sound signature, I think it was the right idea. I’m still a big fan of the original Ananda, but I think the style of timbre here will speak to a lot more listeners. It sucessfully combines HiFiMAN’s signature sound, with a greater focus on accuracy and realism, with nothing lost in between. With the decreased in price coming along with these improvments, and the Edition XS becomes a headphone even more worth your time.
The HiFiMAN Edition XS is available at Audio46.
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