HiFiMan - Official Thread

HiFiMAN looks to be releasing new DAC/amp products, EF400:

https://hifiman.com/products/detail/320

HM800, but can’t find the link on the HiFiMAN site.

EDIT: More details posted in this Reddit post:

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Hmmm…interesting. I wonder how there Himalaya R2R sounds.

Here’s more info the the HM800 Dongle DAC
CanJam NYC 2022: HiFiMAN HM800 Dongle DAC - ecoustics.com

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Interesting. Wonder why they went with dual MMCX for the output ports.

Hey everyone, a bit late to the party but here’s my review of the Edition XS, particularly in comparison with the Sundara and Ananada. This headphone was a lot more interesting than I initially gave it credit for.

Introduction

“If I had my way, I’d merge the Sundara and Ananda.”

I said those words in the conclusion of my HiFiMan Ananda review. Well lo and behold, HiFiMan heard me and created the Edition XS. Just kidding. They’ve had it in development long before I ever had that thought. Jokes aside, the $500 HiFiMan Edition XS seems to be exactly that: a midpoint between the Sundara and Ananda. Furthermore, the Edition XS’ touts HiFiMan’s stealth magnet technology, something that HiFiMan has been pushing towards with recent headphones like the HE400se and Arya Stealth. With all of these factors in play, will the Edition XS live up to its high expectations or will it remain wishful thinking?

Build and Comfort

The design of the Edition XS takes cues from the Ananda and HE400se without a hint of the Sundara. And by that I mean it’s identical to the Ananda except with HiFiMan’s new headband design without the large suspension strap. Unlike the old headband, there is some horizontal wiggle room for adjustment here, rather than only a vertical alignment of the cups. It comes with a 1.5m (5 ft.) cable that’s the perfect length for a desktop listening set-up. The cable itself isn’t too much to write about, a plain black rubbery cable but it gets the job done with no cable memory or noise.

Comfort wise, the egg-shaped cups are comfortable but very large. I have no need to extend the headband at all. The clamping force is quite light, definitely more relaxed than the Sundara or Ananda. Some headband pressure does set in after some time though, limiting how long I could comfortably use the Edition XS. I definitely prefer the old suspension strap headband for comfort and the increased clamp of the Ananda.

Frequency Response and Tuning

Measurement of the HiFiMan Edition XS and Ananda on an industry standard GRAS 43AG measurement rig. The dotted black line represents the Harman target, a reference frequency response developed using consumer preferences. The colored line is how the headphone in question measures. Effectively, this shows how significantly the headphone’s frequency response deviates from the target. Note however that the target is highly smoothed and strict adherence to the Harman target is not necessary for a headphone to sound good.

As with most HiFiMan headphones, it graphs very similarly to one another. A flat bass response, plentiful upper mids, and prominent treble. Soundwise however, the one thing I’ve learned with these HiFiMan headphones is that these graphs really do not tell the whole story. Resolve has a great video on The Headphone Show with a bit of an explanation on this but the general idea is that while the Edition XS is a generally neutral headphone, it does have a minor U-shaped response and a dip in the mids. In particular, there’s a bit of a hump in the subbass and an upper treble glare. Its lower mids has a touch of fat. By contrast, the Ananda is more relaxed without as much of a dip in the mids while the Sundara is the most neutral and energetic. Between the three headphones, the Edition XS is the least forgiving in my opinion. For well mixed and mastered recordings, the Edition XS is fantastically capable and has a great auditory presentation. But for less properly recorded tracks such as alt-rock numbers, the flaws of the Edition XS’ performance are highlighted.

Instrument Notes

Drums

The Edition XS leans much closer to the Ananda in terms of its attack and decay characteristics with a soft attack and relatively long decay by planar standards. This is most noticeable on the high and low toms. It’s as if the drum skins were ever-so-slightly loose, drawing out the trailing end of certain drum notes and invoking a sense of depth. Notes have weight but a softened impact, if that makes sense. The Ananda’s bass is better controlled and a little more articulate though with a tad less weight and oomph to it.

For its hats/cymbals, there is a striking crispness to the Edition XS’ sound that stands out upon the attack of notes. This brings excellent resolution to these notes. However, there is an upper treble peak that gives the Edition XS a bright splash that slopes upwards in the frequency response. This has the effect of overshadowing the decay of these hats/cymbal notes depending on the recording. Overall, I prefer the Ananda’s rendition of the hats/cymbals the most between the three headphones for its mellower presentation.

Guitars

Bass guitar is solid. Notes are full, defined, and fluid. Acoustic guitars have a faintly lush strum body with airy upper harmonics as the strings ring out. I attribute this to the U-shaped profile the Edition XS has, particularly with its pointed treble. In comparison, the Sundara and Ananda’s acoustic guitar sounds warmer without that upper treble exaggeration. Electric guitars on all three are very similar to each other.

Vocals

Male vocals shine on the Edition XS while certain female vocals could use a little more body to them. Once again, I’ll point to the upper treble gain. I think it adds almost too much breathiness to some of the higher pitched female vocalists. At the same time, the Edition XS curbs sibilance in the traditional region around 5 – 8 kHz. On tracks where I know a sibilant note is coming up, the Edition XS tames it considerably, something that the Sundara and especially the Ananda wouldn’t be so tolerant of. Like the Ananda, the Edition XS has the ability to layer vocals in a highly coherent manner, exhibiting the unique vocal timbre of each singer in a chorus.

Presentation

The soundstage and imaging presentation of the Edition XS is excellent and very much in the same vein as the Ananda. In fact, I’m tempted to say its imaging may actually be a marginal step up. As usual, stage width is the largest. But the Edition XS has a great amount of nuance in its imaging for the height and depth when close to the center of the soundstage. Imaging of the drums are superb and paint a life-like image of the drummer’s touch across his kit or the physical chording of piano notes. The only headphone in the <$500 category I can think of a staging experience approaching the Edition XS would be the $350 ATH-R70x I recently reviewed. But that headphone has a totally different quality to its soundstage.

From a technical perspective, I do find the Edition XS a small step behind the Ananda. While they absolutely share the same DNA in terms of how they deliver their overall technical ability, the Ananda goes about it more effortlessly. In particular, the articulation and coherency between different instrument notes and how the Ananda separates them. In all fairness however, this may come down to my own preferences in the Ananda’s frequency response. Lastly, there is a little more dynamic contrast with the Edition XS compared to the Ananda but not to the level of the Sundara. Keep in mind these are all slight gradations from one another, not night and day differences.

Should You Buy It?

Yes. The Edition XS is quite a capable headphone and brings the majority of the Ananda’s performance down to the $500 mark and adds its own eccentricities. However, the Edition XS doesn’t quite live up to the Sundara x Ananda cross I had hoped for. It really is more of an Ananda variant with little influence from the Sundara. It seems like the circular vs. oval cups of HiFiMan headphones have a sizable impact on their sound profiles. As such, if you’re debating between the Sundara and Edition XS, the other major point to consider other than frequency response is how much you value soundstage and imaging as that is where the Edition XS will pull significantly ahead of the Sundara.

If you’re unsure between the Edition XS and Ananda, that’s a harder question. It’s hard to justify the $200 difference for a marginal technical improvement and when there’s the option to mitigate the upper treble glare in the Edition XS with EQ. But speaking from my privileged position as a reviewer, I do prefer the Ananda more than the Edition XS. I just find it more comfortable with as I personally prefer its frequency response and the old headband style and increased clamp force that better hugs my head. If the Ananda were to be on sale for $500, I would pick that up instead.

Either way, HiFiMan continues to make solid open-back planar magnetic headphones for customers at every price point and flavour. Hopefully my coverage of these headphones will give you a good idea of what their differences so you can pick what suits your preferences and budget best.

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Probably better posted in the Edition XS thread?

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Hi Guys,

Today we are talking about the Hifiman Flagship, the Shangri-La Senior. For this review, I am only talking about the headphone, not the headphone and amp combination, which retails for $50,000USD. This is Hifimans “Statement” headphone/amp combination, and represents what they feel is their best effort at a high end headphone. The headphone on its own retails for $18,000USD, and is an electrostatic headphone. This means that should you have a suitable electrostatic amplifier, it can be used with the headphone only Shangri-La. Based on the Shangri-La’s MSRP, and the fact this is an electrostatic headphone, Hifiman is targeting the Sennheiser HE-1 market, a similarly priced statement electrostatic amp/headphone combination. I do appreciate the fact that Hifiman has made the headphone available without the amplifier, though at $18,000USD, it is still an incredibly expensive headphone, and as such, is more of a halo product than something you see day in day out in the headphone hobby space.

I do feel a sense of responsibility with this review, as there are not that many impressions of this headphone out there, and if I am to recommend it, then that is a lot of money that I am recommending a Hifiman customer spend on a headphone. I knew that with this review, I wouldn’t be able to talk positively about the headphone unless I really deeply felt it was worth buying vs the $6000USD Susvara or other TOTL options on the market. I also wanted to do my absolute best to avoid the “higher price=better” trap that can happen. After having spent two months with the Shangri-La Sr, doing multiple long term comparisons to other top flight options on the market, I do actually feel it is the most technically accomplished, and “best” headphone I have personally heard, and I will try to explain why in the rest of this review.

For the rest of this review, I will review to the Shangri-La Sr. as the Shang SR. This review was done with the HeadAmp BHSE as amplification, and the iFi iDSD Signature as the DAC, as well at the Yggdrasil GS for a period.

In terms of bass response, the Shang SR did remind me mostly of the Susvara, with a slight increase of how incisive the leading edge of the notes is. I could very happily listen to the Shang SR without an EQ boost in the lows, but did ultimately find a low shelve of about 2.5-3dB increased my enjoyment overall of their bass response. The low end is not as impactful as the Abyss 1266TC, which remains my reference for that quality. With that being said, I was surprised at the overall quality of the bass response, as electrostatic headphone do have a rough reputation in terms of how they convey low end information. I didn’t find myself missing any sub bass information or wanting in terms of level, and the mid bass is actually not at all bloated or muddy. The bass did seem to be very, very slightly less in terms of level in the stock tuning vs the Susvara, but that was easily remedied via EQ. I do prefer a slightly more robust bass response than most people, and I would reckon most would enjoy it entirely without any increase via EQ.

In terms of the midrange, it seemed slightly “colder” than the Susvara. Perhaps, slightly less “sweet” sounding, though that descriptor is hard to quantify. The Shang SR is not a warm headphone, but is also not what I would describe as having a cold and clinical sound. It does seem to straddle that line of balance better than some other headphones. In terms of upper mids, the 2khz range seems to be very much in line with the modern Hifiman sound. It is slightly pulled back and I really enjoy this tuning type with electronica, and rock. In contrast to the Susvara, I hear the 3-4khz area as being a bit more forward, which works well with vocals, but I’m curious if some people might find it a bit too forward? For my ears, it was nothing like the Audeze CRBN, which I found far too forward in this range, and I never found myself wanting to do any EQ tweaking of the mid range.

The Highs of the Shang Sr. are slightly bright, but not piercing and sibilant as some headphones can be. I think that when I say they are slightly bright, I mean they are not as laid back and relaxed sounding as the Susvara. The Shang SR are a more forward sounding headphone overall, and I think this helps them reveal how technically capable the drivers actually are. If you prefer a more laidback listen, then I would reckon the Susvara might be a better fit for your preferences. However, if you want a headphone that is more exciting, and really commands your attention, the Shang SR is certainly more along those lines in terms of treble response.

What has impressed me most about the Shang SR over the past two months, Is their technical performance. It has taken me a long time to come to this conclusion, as I wanted to be absolutely sure about how I felt. I think the Shang SR is the most technically accomplished headphone I have heard in a decade of being involved in the hobby. They convey the most detail, in the most delicate and effortless way that I have heard so far. Their micro detail in particular is amazing, and how capable they are at tiny little dynamic swings. The speed of the driver is also the fastest that I have heard, yet I never found it to sound artificial. Over the past ten years I have almost always favoured planar magnetic headphones, and whilst I appreciated electrostatic headphones for what they did well, they were never really “for me.” Yet, as I said to someone I was talking about the Shang SR with, this is the first electrostatic headphone that I have said to myself “……yeah ok, I get it now.” They have showed me that cliche “new level” in terms of what is capable from heaphones, and that is pretty remarkable. In terms of soundstage width, they are about the same as the Susvara, perhaps very slightly wider. What is really interesting however is how “big” the sound is overall, in terms of height, and front to back. Although the soundstage is not as wide as the HD800 or 1266TC, the sound image itself comes across as being much larger. Separation and imaging are also top notch across the board, being the best I have personally heard.

In terms of build quality, the Shang SR is the best I have felt and handled from Hifiman, yet also felt as if it was a missed opportunity in a way. It feels similar to a Susvara, but with slightly better tolerances and overall build quality. With that being said, for $18,000USD I would have loved to see Hifiman go all out. The Shang Sr done in similar materials and build quality to the Audeze CRBN would make it feel more remarkable, and more worth its MSRP. From a sound standpoint, I absolutely get it, and think it is at that level, but at the price they cost at MSRP, and given their statement product nature, I would have loved to see space aged materials (carbon fibre frame etc…)

The most obvious comparison to the Shang SR is the Sennheiser HE1. Sadly, I have not heard the HE1 and can’t offer a direct comparison.

The next most obvious comparison is the Susvara from Hifiman, their planar magnetic flagship headphone. The Susvara is slightly warmer, and more laidback in the treble. It is a more relaxing headphone to listen with whilst still managing to be very detailed. The Shang-SR is like a slightly brighter, less warm, and more technically accomplished Susvara. If you love the Susvara, but feel its a bit too relaxed sounding, I would check out the Shang SR, even if its just to see what is possible.

Compared to the 1266TC from Abyss, the Shang SR is a bit more detailed and more delicate sounding. The 1266TC has more impact, and a wider soundstage. These two headphones are incredibly different sounding, and compliment each other very, very well. The Shang SR is the first headphone, that for my personal preferences, has equalled the 1266TC. Although the Shang SR has slightly out done the 1266TC in terms of detail, and refinement sonically, the 1266TC still has the most exciting, impactful, and fun to listen to response I have heard overall. I love both.

The SR009S is another obvious comparison to the Shang SR, being Stax’s former flagship. Honestly, the Shang SR. does everything better to my ears. It’s more detailed, has a more even sounding frequency response, and maintains all the electrostatic traits the 009S has sonically. I think that the new SR-X9000 may be a more fair comparison, but I have not heard them yet sadly. If I manage to hear them in the future, I will come back to this review and update this section, as I think it is a very obvious comparison to make.

Overall, The Shang SR has been a treat to spend time with. In terms of value for money, it’s not really in the conversation at all, and the vast gulf in MSRP of the Shang SR and Susvara does demonstrate the nature of diminishing returns in the Hifi hobby. With that being said, the Shang SR is the most technically accomplished headphone I have heard, period. It has an incredibly pleasing and balanced frequency response, and is also incredibly comfortable whilst wearing it. I would have loved to see Hifiman go all out on space aged materials and build quality for such an expensive statement product, but I just can’t argue with the sonic performance on display. Perhaps its a bit cliche these days, but the old quote from Ferris Buellers Day Off seems to be a fitting way to end this review. “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

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