As an owner of an ananda who is extremely pleased with it but who spends far too much time wondering what else is out there, I greatly appreciate the comparison in these reviews.
Really excellent review @SenyorC. This is one of the Hifimans that I wouldlove to try. Aesthetically too they are great.
Comparison of the HE1000se vs Arya vs Ananda
I wasn’t sure where to place this so I will leave it here and add links in the Ananda and Arya threads.
As usual, this is also available in Spanish (and English) on my blog and on YouTube, links at the end of this post.
After previously reviewing the Ananda and more recently the Arya & HE1000se, the following is a direct comparison of the three, with my opinions and preferences towards these three headphones.
Please understand that all my opinions and preferences are totally subjective and are relevant to my use case of these headphones, these are not meant to be a “X is better than Y” conclusions, more a “I prefer X over Y for this particular thing”.
Before getting into my completely subjective findings, let’s take a look at the differences on paper of the three headphones.
Price: 1000€ (approximately, in Spain, at the time of this publication)
Link to full review: Review - Hifiman Ananda
Price: 1600€ (approximately, in Spain, at the time of this publication)
Link to full review: Review - Hifiman Arya
Price: 3500€ (approximately, in Spain, at the time of this publication)
Link to full review: Review - Hifiman HE100se
Now, let’s look at each category and see how they compare with each other.
In the case of presentation, the Arya falls behind as it arrives in a simple cardboard box whereas both the Ananda and HE1000se are presented in a leather covered box that feels and looks premium. Inside the box, the layout is identical for all three.
To me, the box that they arrive in is the least important bit, however, the presentation of both the Ananda and HE1000se do make you feel that you are receiving something special. Personally, I prefer the box of the HE1000se because the brown leather and aluminium plate look better to my eyes.
The contents are very similar except for the cable included with the Arya. In the case of the Arya, the cable is fabric covered rather than the silicone tube style cables included with the other two, although the Arya only includes 1 cable instead of 2 with both the Ananda and HE1000se.
To be honest, I am not a fan of either of the cable styles, although I feel the Arya version is slightly more to my tastes. Getting two cables is nice but I would not base any preference decisions on the cables included in any of the three.
The build is very similar on all three models, at least as far as build quality. There are differences in headband and adjustment between the Ananda and the others but that is something that I class more as comfort related than build quality.
I would say that build quality is of the same standard on all three.
As I just mentioned, the Ananda lacks the adjustment that the Arya and HE1000se offer by means of cup swivel and adjustment of the comfort strap rather than the headband itself.
I personally do not find the Ananda uncomfortable but the other two are more comfortable without a doubt. The 36g difference between the Arya and HE1000se is not noticeable and if I had to choose one, it would probably be the HE1000se due to the perforated comfort strap.
Here I clearly favour the HE1000se over the others. I prefer the looks of the Ananda over the Arya, due to the silver grille, but the HE1000se looks much more elegant in my opinion.
To be honest, I don’t have issues powering any of these headphones, however, I find that the HE1000se comes alive sooner than the other two, with the Arya being the one than needs a little extra on the dial in order to appreciate it. I will also say that the Arya are headphones that keep inviting me to turn up more than the other two, I think that is relative to the detail presentation but I’ll get to that in a moment.
Here is the part where each of the headphones presents music in it’s own way. I would like to point out once more that, even if I use the word “better”, it is actually more of a subjective preference than an actual technical performance improval. I am not saying that one headphone doesn’t perform better in certain areas, I am saying that all three are excellent headphones and in certain categories they appeal more to me because of my personal preferences, your results may vary.
I have been using these headphones a lot over the past weeks (and in the case of the Ananda, much longer), during which time I have listened to all kinds of music and have formed opinions before actually sitting down to do this comparison. However, I have specifically chosen to use tracks from my test list to do comparisons here, picking a few under each category to give specific references. You can click on the name of each track and a window will open to allow you to listen to the track on the service of your choice (please note that it may not be the exact same version on different platforms), you can also find a full list of my test tracks here: My test music. It is also worth noting that I have done all of these A/B/C tests using the Asgard 3 fed by the SU-8.
Reference Track: “No Sanctuary Here” by Marian Herzog feat Chris Jones
I find that the HE1000se presents the sub-bass of this track in a much more favourable way than the other two options. At matched volume levels, the HE1000se presents more body to the subbass. The Arya feels a little more subdued with this track in the subbass, missing a little more openness to the lowest notes. The Ananda has the clarity of the HE1000se that the Arya lacks but does not seem to go as low as easily. My pick here is definitely the HE1000se.
Reference Track: “No Mercy” by Gustavo Santaolalla
More than a song, the intro of this track consists of deep hits and rumbles in the subbass frequencies. You really need to push the volume levels on this track to appreciate that low end rumbling. Here I feel that the Ananda falls a fair way behind the two rivals. While the HE1000se is very impressive with the intro of this track, I find that the Arya is more so. As there is nothing else going on to distract you from the low hits, the Arya is spectacular here.
Reference Track: “New Life” by Swindle
With this song I again prefer the subbass response of the Arya, with the HE1000se coming in a close second. The issue with this track is that there is much more going on that it seems at first listen and those details, if taken into consideration, would put the HE1000se easily above the Arya for the full track. However, I am focusing strictly on subbass here and I feel that the Arya does a better job.
Strictly talking about subbass performance, it is very close between the Arya and the HE1000se. I feel that the HE1000se comes across as more musical as it is difficult to pinpoint just the subbass without taking into consideration other frequencies of a song. However, when focusing just on subbass, especially in simple tacks that make this easier, I feel that the Arya seems to be better at presenting this. The Ananda unfortunately falls a little behind here, although it is still very good, it comes across as a little too dry and doesn’t create as much of a sensation of rumble that the other two are capable of.
Reference Track: “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against The Machine
Now this is not a track with clean bass at all, making it very easy to get wrong and also making it more difficult to appreciate the real tone of the bass and low end of the guitar. On the Arya I found it very hard to appreciate those tones in the lower end of the strings, not that they sounded bad but it is not easy to appreciate the effects even when focusing. The Ananda do manage to make it easier to appreciate those effects but the HE1000se just performs on another level here. While the Ananda give you those effects and details upfront, the HE1000se does the same but with more musicality.
Reference Track: “Smooth Operator” by Sade
A classic test of bass tone. I couldn’t even try to imagine how many times I have listened to this track or on how many systems. Listening to this song on the three headphones, focusing on the bass, there is a clear progression from one to the next. I say clear but the truth is that they are rather small increments, however going from one to the other, they are quite noticeable. The Ananda do a great job but come across a little dry sounding, moving up to the Arya there is a clear smoothness added to the bass and is slightly wider, causing the sensation that the bass is actually bigger. From the Arya to the HE1000se there is actually a bit of a step back in width, making it a little less thin sounding and resulting in a better body to the low end. It’s a Goldielocks type of moment: Too cold, too hot, just right.
Reference Track: “These Bones” by The Fairfield Four
I know it is a little strange to include an acapella track in a bass section but this song does have a lot of movement in the bass frequencies. As there are only voices in the track, it makes it easy to focus on those extremely low vocal notes and notice just how the tone and texture are presented. I have listened to this song hundreds of times (or more) on the Ananda to get the reference point that I have for this track when comparing to other headphones. I feel that the Ananda presents a very real and lifelike result with this track. On the Arya, I mentioned that I find the fundamental tones of vocals to be more present than their overtones, and in the case of the voice of Isaac “Dickie” Freeman, this can actually work against his voice, so once more I must say that the HE1000se provides the best result with his voice.
In the general bass frequencies, I clearly enjoy the HE1000se above the Ananda or the Arya. I could literally sit down analyze bass track after bass track with them, not only due to how well they do those bass frequencies but also due to how well they manage to do it without taking the attention away from the rest of the spectrum.
Reference Track: “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes” by Paul Simon
This song features a little bit of everything as far as mid centric instruments, along with clear vocals and a great (mid centric) fretless bass behind them, all topped off with some excellent percussion. This song is great to not only see how the separation of instruments is handled, but to also see if those sudden brass intrusions make the headphones harsh. I need to say that the Arya is my least favourite of the three here. While the Arya does a great job of separating all these things that are happening in the mids, they focus too much on the lower end of the mids and I find it more difficult to appreciate the bass lines in the background (my real focus in this track ) and also puts that emphasis on those lower fundamentals.The Ananda present the details much better in the midrange, keeping it more balanced between the lower and higher mids. However, the HE1000se also does this and at the same time manages to remove a little bit more harshness to Paul Simon’s voice and those brass hits. I am a bit torn here because I prefer the presentation of the details on the Ananda and the actual tone of the HE1000se.
Reference Track: “Elephants on Ice Skates” by Brian Bromberg
This is another track that could have fit in the bass section but also has a lot going on in the mids. To be honest, this is a track that I love listening to on the Ananda, loving the clarity of the details and balance to the midrange but again the HE1000se comes in with the same amount of detail more slightly smoother in some of the plucks and brass moments. Again I am torn between the Ananda and HE1000se for this track. I think that the HE1000se is a more enjoyable listen but the Ananda has more of a “wow” factor with this track.
Reference Track: “Crazy” by Daniela Andrade
This is a song that is totally the opposite, there really isn’t much going on during the whole song, although everything that is happening is mostly happening in the mids. It also means that there is absolutely nothing to hide the performance of the mids. Here the Arya is a lusher sounding headphone with an emphasis on the lower notes of the guitar whereas the Ananda is very balanced and keeps everything at the same level of presence, making the higher end of the mids seem much clearer. The HE1000se uses that dip around 2kHz to its advantage and manages to seem just as balanced as the Ananda but, again, with more musicality.
Reference Track: “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa
In order to have something very different in the comparison, this song is a typical example of a modern production, with sounds covering the whole spectrum. In the case of the Ananda, the mids are completely balanced with both the lower and upper end, presenting a very up front sound. The Arya take this same song and push it further back, further away from us, giving it more room to “breathe”, so to speak. This is a very good presentation from the Arya but once more, it takes the spotlight from the higher end of her vocals and moves it down. The HE1000se brings it back forwards, making the song feel more powerful than on the Arya but without losing that sensation of openness in the mids that the Arya manages.
The mids on the HE1000se are great, placing them clearly above both the Ananda and Arya in my opinion. However, there are certain times and tracks where I prefer the Ananda for that “wow!” factor I mentioned.
Reference Track: “Code Cool” by Patricia Barber
After the amount of times I have referenced this track in reviews, I couldn’t not include it in this comparison. This song is a great test for sibilance, not only to see if certain headphones introduce sibilance but to also to see if they hide it. Now if we are strictly talking sibilance, then the Ananda is on the verge, the HE1000se is just a touch lighter and the Arya is at a level that is much reduced. However, in this track, the high hats and other things happening in the higher regions are just as important in both the Ananda and the HE1000se do an excellent job. The Ananda is just a little brighter than the HE1000se.
Reference Track: “Long After You’re Gone” by Chris Jones
There isn’t actually a lot going on in the treble in this song but I find that it is a song that really needs good treble in order for it to sound its best. In the case of the Arya, there is just not quite enough up there in order to give it the air and space it needs. The HE1000se gives it a much better sensation of air, as does the Ananda, while the Ananda is just a bit more up front about it.
Reference Track: “Hallelujah” by Pentatonix
This track has parts that are very busy in the higher regions, making it very easy for a headphone to become harsh and sibilant in its higher regions. I must say that this song sort of pushes the limits of the Ananda in the high end and if I am not in the mood, I will find myself lowering the volume during this song. The Arya does avoid any harshness at all but also takes away from that powerful representation up top. The HE1000se manages to keep the power of those parts of the song but just taking the edges off slightly, making it easier to listen too (at certain times) than on the Ananda.
I really like the high end of the Ananda, I find it has a great presentation and manages to present details and air that is nothing short of great. However, the HE1000se takes it that one step further, managing to be slightly smoother without ever giving the sensation that anything has been lost or hidden.
Soundstage and image placement
There is no doubt that the Ananda takes third place here. I always felt that the soundstage was good on the Ananda but both the Arya and HE1000se take it to another level. The Arya has a huge sensation of space, both left to right and front to back, however, it places things in such a way that it is necessary to focus on them in order to hear the details that are behind them, which can actually take away from the attention paid to the overall song. The HE1000se manages to keep the same sensation of space as the Arya but brings the background images slightly closer, making them easier to appreciate. I much prefer the way this is approached by the HE1000se.
Details and speed…
None of the three have absolutely any issues with speed, being capable of taking whatever you throw at them and just playing it without breaking into a sweat.
As far as details, all three headphones are amazing in this regard, however, they also present them a little differently to each other. The Ananda gives you all the details up front, presenting them to you in the front row and making sure you don’t miss anything. The Arya spreads the details out much further, moving them a lot further back in some cases, making it necessary to focus on them to appreciate them but at the same time presenting a much more relaxed listen if you aren’t trying to focus on all those details. The HE1000se presents them in a more upfront manner than the Arya, making the details easier to appreciate, but without becoming up front about it like the Ananda, they still maintain that sensation of space and depth.
If anyone had told me a couple of years ago that I would be sitting here reviewing and comparing three headphones of this category, I would have said they were crazy. However, here they are and I get to say which one I prefer, what a great problem to have!
Without thinking about it too much, I can easily say that my preferred headphones out of these three are the Hifiman HE1000se.
Now, we obviously can’t ignore that the HE1000se costs more than double the Arya and more than triple the Ananda and I said that anything above the performance level of the Ananda would be more about personal preference than actual need for improvement. I still maintain that statement. Yes, I prefer the HE1000se over the Ananda but not because I need to improve anything that the Ananda is lacking, it still presents the same amount of details etc., it is because it matches my tastes and personal preference more.
I actually feel a little sorry for the Arya in this case because it came in as a clear contender to the Ananda, which it is, but was quickly overshadowed by the HE1000se. The Arya is by no means a headphone that is anyway inferior to the Ananda, it just presents itself in a way that is not my personal preference.
If I were to compare just the Ananda to the Arya, I would place the Arya in front as far as bass and lower mids, with the higher mids and treble going to the Ananda, maybe with the vocals more clearly in the Ananda camp. The details are excellent on both headphones but the Ananda is more up front about them with the Arya needing a little more attention to really appreciate them.
In my opinion, the presentation of the HE1000se is a refined and relaxed version of the Ananda, making it a much more pleasurable headphone for listening sessions. However, I would still place the Ananda as the most impressive headphone for someone who hasn’t experienced this level of performance, as the way everything is there in front of you gives it a huge “wow!” factor. This comparison has actually reinforced my opinion of the Ananda, it really is a darn good set of headphones!
So, is the HE1000se worth its price over the other models (that you can get both for the same price and still have 1000€ spare)?
I’m afraid that is a question that each individual would have to decide for themselves, I certainly wouldn’t suggest that you click “buy now” on a 3500€ set of headphones before doing more research than this comparison and certainly having a clear picture on what your own personal preferences are.
In my case, I think that I could own just the HE1000se and be happy. I think it is a perfect “only” set for me, that performs amazingly with all of my preferred music. I don’t know if I will ever end up being a “one set” owner (it certainly doesn’t look like it) but if I manage to do it, the HE1000se will be on the short list.
Hey @Resolve could you very kindly please share your eq profile with us here?
just pulled the trigger on these!