Venturing out of the IEM field but still within the planar/ELS realm is something that may not strike most people as “too good to be true”: the seemingly unassuming Hifiman Sundara. Sure they are no $45 ELS IEM miracles but unlike the latter they are not legend and by golly do they ever deliver. I purchssed my first pair at the launch price of $500 CDN (for some reason they were also $500 USD in the US). I know my headphones, Been collecting for decades and toting the modest box home wasn’t expecting that much of what would be found inside, truth be told I was expecting a variation on the HE560 which to me would have been a nice if not shocking experience, a routine, modest embellishment of a well-liked item costing less but performing slightly better than the predecessors(s).
People who were not that familiar with Hifiman were expecting a new rendition of the HE400i but I knew that wouldn’t be the case, they were a tad bit too expensive to fit the bill plus the “new and improved” 400i was already known to be the soon-to-appear 400s as those who follow the industry already knew. At $500 it wouldn’t be be a 400 series. So I was slightly curious when I opened the box, didn’t know what the expect since you couldn’t see the product the way it was wrapped, and I had not read any review prior.
I immediately recognized the new headband Hifiman had started to use of their high-end models. Good start! The remainder of the cans was suited to the headband: matte metal headband, matte metal cups, matte metal yokes, delightful metal grilles with a light sheen to them. Real leather suspended head strap. The only plastic in sight were the silverish grey covers that hid the (rather stiff) click-stop adjustment mechanism. They were built like tanks, never seen anything like it at that price point. They were almost identical to the higher-end HE6 SE with the sheen and matte reversed, and thinner cups.
The cable was a Y-shaped and somewhat short affair wrapped in a rubber tube with standard miniplugs for each cup and a standard miniplug with the customary 6,35mm full-size connector at the other end, allowing for use with third-party cabling options if need be. Lack of a recess on the cups jacks were the only visible concession to cost-saving construction trade-off, the rest was almost as perfect as the $2K HE6 SE.
Once broken in the sound was as good as the looks. No need to elaborate as there is already a thread for the Sandara on the forum, I just wrote this because the Sundara is a near-miracolous value that I strongly believe fully belongs here even if it doesn’t promise earth-shattering performance for 40 bucks. What it promises it generally delivers. Sure it has its quirks, (those damn strident unbroken mids almost drove me nuts) but none so serious as to threaten its status as too good to be true, It’s a damn good can that shares many traits wit the Focal Clear, at 1/3 the price, worth mentioning imho.