This is a review or experience I have had with a set of HIFIMAN Ananda headphones courtesy of the Headphone Community Preview Program.
Announcing the new HEADPHONE Community Preview Program
When I was going through Officers Candidate School in the US Army many years ago, some things stood out and even today still stick in my mind. One is “First Impressions are a Lasting One”…and my first impression with the Ananda’s was well “ho-hum”…and I have read all the many great reviews about this headphone. I really wanted to really like these headphones.
Having a set of LCD2’s for year or so I tried to compare these to what I remember when I had these and of course with what I have now, the Focal Clears and the T1’s, T90’s, HD600’s, ATH MSR7’s, AKG701/2’s, Grado 325is.
First the packaging: Impressive!
Very well packed in a very nice leather like case, with an instruction manual and two sets of neat looking silicon wrapped cables.
They seem to be silicon based to me, very flexible and translucent so you see the inner wires. Very high quality looking adapters on both of them. A nice hefty right angle on one of them for those needing this.
Opening the box you see the cans resting to a very plush looking bed of satin type fabric, very nice packaging.
First impression here was well packed, nice touch with the manual and the accessory cables. Not so good IMO was the missing rotating adjustments for the ear pads and the overall fit on my head at the smallest size turned out to be a bit loose on my big head…almost seemed like I needed to put on a hat then the headphones to make them fit better for me. At the smallest headband adjustment it feels like they are too low on my ears and even though they didn’t move around, it felt like the clamping force was just a tad too little. I explain this is like getting into a motel bed with a thin sheet feeling vs getting into a bed with a thick duvet cover and satin sheets!! :>)
That said they are very light and very comfortable…
Cosmetically the design and look are nice, the large elongated ear openings are very nicely designed, the planar elements you can see thru the window blind shield. I never felt really uncomfortable these are so much lighter than the Focal Clears. You can wear these for hours on end…
When you first pick them up and look at them they don’t quite look like a $999 headphone. But these can be had for $699 out in the wild. So are they worth it at this price for a set of decent planars?
The headphone that sets the bar form me in overall tonality is the Focal Clears…IMO I agree with Tyll when he was at Innerfidelity that these are some of the most perfect headphones when it comes to reproducing music as it originally sounds.
That is piano sounds like a real “piano” and strings sound like strings, etc…
These headphones are supposed to be easy to drive at 25 ohms and a sensitivity of 103 dB. I often found myself turning up the volume more on these to get a satisfying sound to me…more so than the Focal Clears. Using high voltage and high current amps the high current amps I have seem to work best with the Anandas.
My first impression was “hey these are really thin sounding” seems to be missing the heft and warmth I am used to with the Clears. A nice thing with so many amps I can easily compare two sets of headphones quickly and get a good idea on how the compare…
Thin, yes and Resolve in his review mentioned that the Anandas are “neutral-bright” and I agree very much. Where I disagree is for me these are too light overall for my taste…Some tunes like Eric Clapton and Wynton Marsalis’s Play the Blues, “The Last Time” is full of trumpet, clarinet, bass and overall the presentation is great but very bright…almost too bright…
Put on the Clears and its back to tonal perfection or close to it.
Richard Souther Cross Currents The Last Roundup. very ethereal open depth and tonality…good.
These cans sound thinner or drier than the clears…I think the clears have more control over the overall sound reproduction…they Anandas go deep but less controlled…at times they sound a bit peaky to me…a bit too bright…not as bad as some Beyers. This first impression reminded me of the Beyer T90’s and there high end…some hate etc…not as bad, but piano seems like the tone is just too brittle for me…It may be due to their 8 kHz peak?
Resolve mentioned the timbre was on the somewhat dry quality…and again I agree whole heartedly.
The really nice positive thing with these Anandas to me is the soundstage, really nice and wide like the HD800 series, but soundstage isn’t everything. Another nice trait of these is there ability to detect and produce minute details…very fast transients like with the Sheffield Labs Drum CD are handled with aplomb…the tone here seems really good…the instruments sound life like and accurate. Which is a bit confusing when your looking at the whole sonic spectrum…its like when all the instruments are playing the tone is again not as nice as I like it and not as lifelike sounding. So individual instruments played separately are good, but together???
Open, spacious, wide soundstage…more so than the Clears for sure. Does well with acoustic guitar sounds…IE Chet Atkins, Mr. Guitar from The Day Finger Pickers Took Over The World and Richard Souther Cross Currents, The last roundup. very ethereal open depth and tonality…good.
Ben Harpers fight for your mind and the song Fight for your mind is very realistic due to this soundstage…Ben Vaughn Designs in Music and Smoketree Sernade is very well presented… lifelike and you hear to whole soundstage as it was mic’d…something that more closed in sound of the Clears that is missing a bit…again ethereal sounding…with great depth to help with the illusion of being there…
Vocals seem like the singer is wider in the soundstage and placed more in back versus a more focused singer with the clears…
It seems like the Anandas are much like the wide open soundstage of the Senn 800 series. This can be good or not so good depending on your music and liking.
The most positive thing here is their staging and imaging…with symphonic or orchestral material its really a very nice representation of the real thing…the weakness IMO is the tonality of these cans and a lack of coherence. I never heard earlier versions of HIFIMAN’s planars so I can opine on how far Dr Fang has come with the technology.
After a few days of listening when I do put back on the Clears, I fins myself missing that wide soundstage…this is one thing I really do like about these Ananda’s…
So perfection for me might be a blending of this type of soundstage with the tonality that the Clears present.
If your looking for a good starting point for $699 this could be a nice starting point, but as always you need to try and listen for yourself.