I was finally able to get the HiFiMAN Edition XS in for testing. Here are the measurements, along with preliminary notes. I still need to spend some more time with it to get a more thorough sense of the intangibles.
HiFiMAN Edition XS frequency response on GRAS 43AG standardized measurement rig with KB5000 anthropometric pinnae:
Channel matching (for Crin):
Sound Signature (smoothed to same degree as target):
It’s generally similar to the Ananda, just with slightly less upper mids, and slightly more upper treble.
HiFiMAN Edition XS vs HiFiMAN Ananda (measurement taken from a 2021 unit):
Interestingly when you break the seal and introduce an air gap, the resonance frequency is lower down on the Edition XS than on the Ananda (this is typical behavior for undamped planars with an air gap measurement):
So for those who had trouble getting a seal with the Ananda, you’ll end up with more bass on the Edition XS. But… I didn’t have any trouble getting a seal on either of them. The Ananda clamp is stronger, meaning the front seal might be stronger, while the Edition XS has cup swivel and a lower resonance frequency. In some respects we could think of the Edition XS as the ‘safer’ design for bass extension, if for whatever reason the Ananda doesn’t seal correctly for you.
My initial assessment is that I don’t think these needed HiFiMAN’s stealth magnet tech, as my only real complaint with the Edition XS comes from the upper treble being slightly overemphasized (which is where you see the impacts of the stealth magnets). With the Ananda, it’s a bit better balanced with the upper mids, simply because the overall ear gain level is higher in general throughout. In other words, the upper mids and treble are slightly more balanced on the Ananda, and the upper treble zing isn’t as noticeable. Still, it was very easy to adjust on the Edition XS.
Here’s my EQ for it:
FR after EQ:
Here’s an alternative EQ with a bit more bass for those who want that:
I think it’s best to leave the mid treble alone on this since that’s bound to be different depending on the individual’s personal ear - or at least adjust this by ear, not by the graph if you’re going to.
Initial Impressions Only!
- Comfort is really good on these - better than that of the Ananda and Sundara for me because… it’s got cup swivel! Yes!! Thank you HiFiMAN! I much prefer this design, even though the headband plastic sides feel a bit cheap. The yoke is a sturdy piece though so that’s good.
- Slightly more ‘u-shaped’ sound overall compared to Sundara 2020 and Ananda, but generally a similar tonal balance, which is good.
- Detail is solid but not meaningfully better than the Sundara 2020. I think the real question is whether or not there’s much distance there between the Edition XS and the Ananda, and at the moment my answer is… maybe the tiniest bit for trailing ends of tones, but that could also just be due to the increased level around 3khz on the Ananda, which would give that clarity to piano tones for example. So they’re within the ballpark, and honestly close enough.
- I’m still assessing the level of macro contrast and punch here, but at the moment it’s also about par for the course with these types of planars - that is to say not great but also not super compressed either. If anything it sounds closer to the Sundara than the Ananda for this quality, so slightly better than the Ananda there I find (and remember that I also measured the Ananda on my head and got full bass extension as well).
- Soundstage - Nice and spacious sounding, these HiFiMAN planars all do a great job at that, and that’s perhaps also in part due to the midrange cut they all have around 1.2khz, or maybe their conjunction with the mid treble emphasis.
- I tend to think that without EQ the Edition XS sounds just a hair swollen for fundamental tones in the lower mids and upper bass, again perhaps due to that midrange cut above that, emphasizing this region. This makes it just a bit less cohesive than I’d like. At the same time, that does give good body and richness of tone to those regions, and I know some people like that. So this one is totally EQ optional, although I do still think the Ananda and Sundara 2020 have just slightly better tuning overall for my taste.
Conclusion subject to change as I spend more time with this headphone over the course of the week
At the moment I find the HiFiMAN Edition XS to be Sundara 2020 and Ananda adjacent, which is to say, it’s really solid. It’s also priced appropriately, if not somewhat aggressively considering the Ananda is in that same ballpark. While it’s tuning is slightly on the zingy side for me in the upper treble, the comfort benefits and lower resonance frequency of the Edition XS are at least tangible reasons to go for this one over the others if you feel those are important factors.
Here’s the video review: