HiFiMan Sundara Closed Back

After yeasr of praise and success of the Hifiman Sundara (official thread here: Hifiman Sundara), Hifiman have released a closed back variant of the model.

Official page here: Headphones & portable audio - HIFIMAN.com

This thread is to discuss the closed back model.

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The Hifiman Sundara Closed Back have been loaned to me directly by Hifiman for me to test them and share my opinions in this review. As always, they have not requested anything specific and I will do my best to remain unbiased and sincere in my review, however, it is always worth considering the fact that it has not cost me anything to try these headphones.

You can find the official page of the Hifiman Sundara Closed Back here: Headphones & portable audio - HIFIMAN.com

This is a non-affiliate link, as are all links that I share.


Intro…

Before getting on with the review, l am going to do a little reminiscing…

I have a special place in my heart for the Hifiman Sundara, the original open back that is, as it was the first set of headphones I ever reviewed. Back in June 2019, before I had even thought about a blog or YouTube channel, I was included in a tour of the Sundara, with the agreement that I would publish my thoughts on Head-Fi after it concluded. I did so, publishing them also on forum.headphones.com, where they actually got published on the main headphones.com page.

Also around that time, I was looking for a set of closed back headphones, as I was sharing an office at the time and that meant could no longer opt for using speakers (which are still my favourite means of listening to music), and I really didn’t find anything that was in a decent budget range and that could live up to the quality of other similarly priced open back alternatives.

I have had chance to try a few higher end closed backs since then but I haven’t found anything that has made me want to run out and buy it at the price point it sits. My closed back option has been the Custom Studio Pro for quite a few years now, which is a decent set of headphones, at a decent price, but is by no means anything special.

All of this is to say that, when Hifiman released the Sundara Closed-Back version, I was very interested in getting to try it out, both due to the above and to see what Hifiman are capable of doing in the closed back space in comparison to their open back range (which I have been lucky enough to try out plenty of models, from budget to high end, and have quite a few on hand).

So, after that bit of a ramble, let’s talk about the real subject, the Hifiman Sundara Closed-Back.


Presentation…

Hifiman has changed their presentation recently, now optiong for plain brown cardboard boxes for most of their products, with a black strip that identifies the contents, in this case the Sundara CB of course.

Inside the box, the packaging has also changed. Instead of the silk covered foam inserts that were the standard for Hifiman, they now opt for a different foam without the silk lining. One of the things that I have to say about this new presentation is that the insert is shaped like a headphone stand and can be removed from the box and used for that exact purpose.

Personally I cannot store headphones on stands as I live in a place with a very high level of dust, so leaving a planar headphone (or any headphone for that matter) out of its box is a recipe for disaster. Therefore, all of my headphones live in their original boxes and in the case of this new presentation, I can grab the headphone and the temporary stand from the box, use it while I need it and then put it back. I feel it is a very useful way to make the most of the packaging.

Included with the headphones, we don’t get much. A standard 3.5mm cable, an 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter and the usual documentation is the extent of it. As always, a storage case would be a positive but in my case, I just use the box so I am not complaining (although others would probably prefer a case of some sort).


Build and Aesthetics…

The Sundara Closed-Back opt for using wooden cups which I am quite fond of. It is nothing extravagant as far as wood goes, just a light coloured Beechwood, but it still gives them a premium feel. I don’t see any flaws or blemishes in the finish of the wood but even if there were some irregularities to the grain, that is what makes wood special.

One thing that I am extremely happy about is the choice of headband on this model. Now this is a very controversial topic as there are people in both camps, those who hate this headband and those that love it. The majority of Hifiman models lately are using the headband found on things like the Edition XS, whereas the Sundara CB opts for the one with the suspension strap.

The main difference is that this headband (on the Sundara CB) does not have any cup swivel, whereas the other headband (Edition XS) has swivel but no suspension strap. Personally I don’t miss the swivel as the headphones that use the suspension strap system just happen to fit me correctly without the need. However, the version with no strap does cause me a hotspot on the top of my head after a while. Sure, I would love to have swivel on this headband also but if I have to choose, I go with the suspension strap over the swivel. As I said, this is a controversial subject and everyone has their own preference.

As far as build quality, the only thing I have noticed on the set I have is that the right hand slider doesn’t click into place the same as the left slider does. It’s not really an issue, as the resitance is enough to keep it in place. For the rest, I really can’t say anything sticks out as an issue but only time will tell as always. There is a bit of driver flex when putting the headphones on but this is to be expected with closed back planar drivers, as they are so thin and there is nowhere for the air pressure to go. It is not noticeable in use, no matter how much I head bang :grin:


Sound…

All tracks mentioned are clickable links that allow you to open the reference track in the streaming service of your choice (YouTube, Tidal, Spotify, etc.)

I have been using the Sundara Closed-Back for quite a while now, powering them from a selection of systems, however, my main use has either been in the office, powered by the iFi Gryphon, or at home powered by either the Hifiman EF400 or the Feliks Audio Echo Mk2 (fed by the EF400). I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how well the Gryphon powers these headphones even if I do personally prefer them connected to my home system.

I have also been using the Viking Weave cables with these headphones, I am not sying that it makes a sound difference but it sure does make them look great :wink:

Before getting into the description of the sound in my usual way, let me just say that, if you are thinking that the Sundara closed back is going to give you the usual Hifiman planar sound in a closed back, then I’m afraid that is not what we are getting here.

Now, that is not necessarily a bad thing, I am not saying it in a negative way, I am just trying to make it clear from the start that if you think that these are going to be an exact replica of the Sundara but in a closed version, that is not the case.

With that said, I am going to evaluate these headphones on their own strengths and weaknesses, not as a comparison to other Hifiman open models that I have on hand. I may drop in a reference here and there just for explanations sake, but a comparison is not something I believe to be useful as they are different headphones.

So starting off with the subbass, here we have the usual extension of the planar driver reaching way down into the lowest notes. The roll off of subbass frequencies starts around 35Hz and does drop quite quickly after that point but is well balanced down to that point.

Putting them through my usual test with “Chameleon”, there is no boost to these lower ranges but the clarity and lack of roll off makes the bottom end impressive. If you are someone that is looking for skull rattling rumble in the low end, then that is not what you can usually expect from planar drivers and the Sundara Closed-Back are no different. However, if you are looking for a clean representation of that subbass, then they will certainly give you that.

Royals” by Lorde may actually be a more suitable track for these headphones as they give you that subbass presence without boosting it and actually present the track the way it is (in my opinion). In other words, that low end hit is clean but the following rumble is a little dirty, if that makes any sense.

Moving the focus onto the midbass region, with things like “No Sanctuary Here” or “Sun Is Shining”, the bass is clean, detailed and well balanced, without things sounding out of place. I find that many closed backs create to much of an emphasis on the midbass region, losing the control that I Iike so much with open back headphones, however, the Sundara CB does a good job of keeping it together and not pushing it too far.

I am still a big fan of a good dynamic driver for the bass regions, especially for bass guitar, and there are only a few planars that have really made me feel like I could live without a DD for some of those amazing bass performances. I think this is mainly due to the fact that, as a bass player, I have been so used to listening to my bass through dynamic driver cabinets that that is what I associate with correct. In the case of the Sundara Closed-Back, I can’t say that these have made me reconsider my preference for dynamic driver but they are a pleasant experience especially for those fast moving complicated bass lines, due to the speed and response.

If we take “Elephants On Ice Skates” as a sample from my playlist, I feel that the lower notes are missing a little “body and warmth”, leading to a timbre that I find a little cold and distant, yet there is no issue with keeping up with the speed of the bass in something like “The Room” by Ostura. The same could be said for things like “Whole Lotta Love”, where every bass note is clear and defined, yet the timbre is just a little “cold” in the low end.

Moving into the mids is where I have my reservations with the Sundara Closed-Back and this also ties in with the bass I just mentioned. As we move into the lower end of the mids, there is a bit of a bump that does restore a little of that body that I mentioned was missing in the bass, however, this can result overly exaggerated with certain tracks, more so because it seems there is a lack of mids in the center of the mid range.

I don’t have the equipment to measure over-ear headphones correctly, I only have the MiniDSP EARS and they are not the most reliable when it comes to measurements. Therefore I usually don’t bother measuring over ear headphones and depend on graphs from others such as Resolve (The Headphone Show) when I want a visual representation. However, it seems that the Sundara Closed-Back are not something that has been graphed by anyone I know at least that I can find. Therefore, as the EARS are “sort of accurate” in the midrange, being the part that can be trusted the most from the device, I decided to throw the Sundara CB on them to see why Iwas getting strange experiences in the mid range that varies from track to track.

Here is what the EARS showed me (this is an average of the 5 most repeatable measurements, although I took a lot more):

The reason that there are two lines is because I took the measurements in two ways, the blue line is with the headphones just placed on the EARS and the orange line is with slight pressure guaranteeing the seal. I have only posted the graph to really comment on the lower to central mids but thought I would show the full graph anyway, just don’t count on the shaded areas being a true representation of the actual headphone.

Anyways, back to the mids. As I mentioned (and as shown in the graph) there is a boost in the low mids followed by a dip shortly after. I have found that this interacts in strange ways depending on the track. There are songs where the instrument or even vocals don’t seem to be affected by that peak and dip, yet in other tracks, it can clearly make both instruments and vocals sound recessed or overly present, depending on just where they fall in the frequency range.

To give some examples from my usual test list, “Crazy” by Daniela Andrade sounds nicely balanced in the mid range during the main parts of the song, yet in the chorus, the vocals seem to take a step back and place themselves behind the guitar. This is something normal due to the nature of the song but the Sundara CB does seem to exaggerate this.

Hallelujah” is an acapella track with many voices and this song actually exhibits behavior that depends upon the voice. Here the main male vocal is actually more recessed than the backing vocals, missing some presence in the lower parts of his range, whereas the female vocal takes a step forwards and places itself in front of the backing vocals.

Moving to something more electronic, such as “Light Years Away”, here the effect is a lot less noticeable and, if anything, it actually works in favour of the track. That boost where the midbass moves into the lower mids actually makes this track very punchy, which, added to the detail, makes for a very enjoyable listen.

One last track before moving on is “Killing In The Name”. The guitar here does suffer slightly from some imbalance in their lower ranges. It is not necessarily bad but it is different to what I come to expect from this song. Zack De La Rocha’s voice does take a little step back, with the lower end of said guitar becoming a little blunt, missing a bit of presence in the center of the mids for my preference.

Moving on to the upper mids, here we have the typical Hifiman dip that is something that has never really bothered me too much, putting a bit more emphasis on that 3kHz mark which is good because it does go a long way to clean up the sound. I feel that if the 3 to 4kHZ range wasn’t as present, then we would be looking at a very dull sounding set of headphones in the midrange.

Moving up into the higher ranges, there is a nice extension which I have come to expect from planar drivers but there is a little bit of “sizzle” in the highest ranges. This is not to be confusd with sibilance as sibilance is controlled well, with Patricia Barber being very listenable in the usual “Code Cool” test. Although “Code Cool” is another track that does suffer a little with that mid range imbalance.

Details and speed are something I certainly cant complain about. The Sundara Closed-Back deliver the amount of detail that I have come to enjoy (and expect) from Hifiman planars. However, once more, that mid range does take away the sensation of detail in those ranges, especially on the lower ranges of electric guitars and vocals that have their roots located in that dip. This gives the sensation of those ranges being blunt and lacking details, however, it is more that they are masked behind that boost that precedes them.


Conclusion…

I am going to repeat what I said at the beggining of the sound section. The Sundara Closed Back are not a headphone with the typical Hifiman “house sound”.

As some of you probably know by now, I am a big fan of the Hifiman sound and I have quite a few models on hand, from the budget HE400se up to the Arya or HE1000se, with quite a few in between. Although there are clear differences between the different models of the Hifiman line, there are also a lot of similarities, making all of them clearly Hifiman in their overall sound.

The Sundara Closed Back breaks away from that usual house sound and give something that is very different in the mid range. Because something is different, doesn’t mean it is bad, there are lots of songs that I have enjoyed very much on the Sundara CB but there are also lots of tracks that I haven’t enjoyed, finding that the variation in the lower mids has a negative effect on how I expect the song to be presented.

Again, I am by no means saying that the Hifiman Sundara Closed Back are a bad set of headphones, just that they are a “different” set of headphones. Usually, if you have tried something from the Hifiman line and like the sound, you can relate to other models that will improve on certain aspects but will, in general, sound similar, giving you a good reference point. With the Sundara Closed Back, that is not the case.

I would certainly urge anyone looking into the Sundara Closed Back, whether they have had previous experience with Hifiman or not, to give them a listen and find out whether they work for you or not. If you are someone who uses EQ, then I don’t think you need to worry as the drivers always respond well to EQ, but if you are someone who just plugs in and goes, then you may or may not like these headphones, depending both on your personal tastes and, more than ever, on the music you listen to.

As always, this review is also available in Spanish both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

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Could you compare against Focal Elegia?

Sorry but I don’t have the Elegia.

Yo @Resolve

Thanks for measuring Sundara on 5128 and sharing EQ to DF target

Here for anyone that missed it: B&K 5128 Target - Community Input Thread

I feel like the EQ is a bit too ‘specific’ for > 3kHz and all happening within a small space

A separate pair of headphones maybe won’t have those peaks and dips at those same frequencies as your measured cans.

There’s a lot of EQ happening within a space space. See below pics

Having said that I created 2 EQ’s, one as per yours and other just doing the < 3kHz EQ.

The latter is more detailed - obviously a tad brighter . But I have no idea the effect your EQ would have on my cans, without measuring on a 5128

Not a complaint obviously - I’m so happy you shared 5128 EQ. I can now tweak EQ till i pass out :smile:

Even just EQ’ing under 3kHz makes a huge improvement to the biggest ‘issues’ of Sundara.

The community thanks you majorly.

Resolve EQ:
image

Only fixing < 3kHz:
image

And my own custom EQ just focusing on the main issues of Sundara. A bit less bright than my EQ above, due to more bass. Bass is more in between DF target and the Linus Tech Tips target for bass.

Give it a try and report back !

Preamp: -6.5 dB
Filter  1: ON  PK       Fc   280.0 Hz  Gain  -0.50 dB  Q  1.000
Filter  2: ON  PK       Fc    2000 Hz  Gain   2.50 dB  Q  2.000
Filter  3: ON  PK       Fc    3000 Hz  Gain   2.50 dB  Q  2.000
Filter  4: ON  LS       Fc   15.00 Hz  Gain  20.00 dB
Filter  5: ON  PK       Fc    60.0 Hz  Gain  -1.00 dB  Q  1.200

image

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It’s been 5 years since the original Sundara was released, yet it remains one of the most sought-after audiophile headphones on the market. In terms of popularity, I would put it right up there with Sennheiser’s HD6xx line and Beyerdynamic headphones.

Design

The now-iconic Sundara silhouette is immediately recognizable. My favorite part is the headband. In particular, the yoke. The fork which holds the ear-cups attached is twisted at the either end, which adds character and depth to the design. But the way it transitions to the top part (that goes on your head), is genuinely done well. Most headphones with an internal height adjustment system hide it with an overly long and bulky piece. Here, despite it being long, it’s slim and perfectly integrates into the headband. It works even better with the black-silver color scheme. Moreover, if we were to exclude the silver details, the headband is fully black. Speaking of those details, the height adjustment part features HiFiMan’s letterform logo, while the two metal pieces at the ends feature the company’s name (left side) and the headphones’ name, Sundara (right side). Aside from that, the only other ‘visible’ details are hidden underneath the headband, and they are certificates (CE, RoHS, WEE Directive), all laser etched.

The ear-cups are… different. The original Sundara used metal ear-cups and were very flat in design, whereas the new Sundar Closed uses wooden ear-cups. They are still circular in shape, but not semi-spherical. They start out as a semi-sphere, but then they are smoothly “flattened” to a circle area by using one very soft and gradual bevel.

Technology


Per usual, HiFiMan’s strongest field, the technology. More specifically, planar-magnetic driver technology. Over the years, there’s no doubt that the company innovated a number of concepts in this field, many of them gaining a die-hard fanbase. The Sundara Closed is no different, with it featuring a brand-new driver, as well as some familiar technology such as the Stealth Magnet Design and Neo “supernano” Diaphragm.

Before we get into the new stuff, let’s go over what the latter two technologies are. As most are already familiar, a planar-magnetic driver consists of a dielectric film + conductive layer sandwiched between an array of magnets on either side. Stealth Magnet Design alters the magnets by having them rounded on the outside, for which HiFiMan claims to reduce reflections and diffraction, resulting in an improved sound performance. NsD (Neo supernano Diaphragm) is just the company’s branding of its own thin diaphragm, which is claimed to be 80% thinner than that in “more common headphones”.

Now, the good stuff, the new driver. When I took off the ear-pads, it was quite a remarkable sight, unlike anything I’ve seen in the past. A horizontally oriented oval driver? And that’s not even all of it!! So, the whole driver is covered in a standard dust cover, but below it we can some sort of white foam that surrounds the driver. I’m speculating it’s an acoustic dampening foam. Regardless, the driver itself is recessed further back, behind another piece of thinner foam. What’s interesting about this second layer of foam is that it has a 10 pointed star shape cutout for the driver. If anyone is familiar with Dr. Fang Bian, they will know about his obsession with shapes.

Build Quality
It cannot go without saying that HiFiMan’s rich portfolio comes with the infamous build quality. Let’s face the truth, there’s always someone around the corner sharing their negative experience with either the build quality or the QC. I’m sorry to break it to you, but I’ve yet to encountered this. In fact, my first thought after taking the Sundara Closed out of the box was, “This isn’t as bad as everyone online makes it out to be”. I wouldn’t say I was impressed, but surprised at the very least.

There’s a bit of everything, plastic, metal, and wood. The yoke is made of thicker metal which is very sturdy. It doesn’t flex one bit, and even better, the finish is actually what I’d consider premium. It’s smooth all-around and doesn’t have any imperfections. The headband construction consists of three materials: spring steel, anodized aluminum, and plastic. The very top part, which is responsible for the clamp force, is made of spring steel. Then, there’s the height adjustment system part, which consists of two thin anodized aluminum pieces, and a long plastic piece between them. I’d suspect that this is the part which is responsible for most build quality complaints. For one, the metal pieces are glued to the plastic part. For two, there are no screws, making the repairability aspect questionable. As far as this matter goes, I cannot comment, as I am unfamiliar with HiFiMan’s customer service quality or customers’ feedback on the same.

On a brighter note, the beechwood ear-cups left a positive impression on me. They have gorgeous sheen, grain, and look premium as a whole. Might I add, the grain matches on both sides! So, yeah, the wood is pretty nice. My pair suffers from wood discoloration on the edges, where it isn’t as rich in color as the rest of the cups. The plastic driver housing makes up the second half of the ear-cups. It doesn’t look like the shiny cheap type of plastic, so at the very least, that’s a plus.

I must admit that I haven’t used the headphones long enough to be a valid judge whether they stand the test of time.

Cable

At this point, I cannot run away from being called a harsh cable critic. I will say though, there’s not much I demand from a cable, it just needs to be a good and functional cable.

Let’s dig right into Sundara Closed’s cable. It appears very similar to my Deva cable, if not the exact same. To be honest, I cannot find anything that bothers me about it. It does its job as a cable. It’s slightly chubby, but not thick, and it’s very soft. I mean very, very soft. It’s like a noodle, you can kind of stretch when you pull it. Also, it has light sheen, which gives it nice appearance. On the amp end, it has an L-shaped 3.5mm connector with an integrated strain-relief. On the headphone end, it has two 3.5mm connectors with hard rubber housings. And that brings me to the next point, which some people already mentioned, it would be appropriate to see metal housings here.

Also, I like how the cable holds its shape when you roll it up and put it away. And another thing that I like is the Y-splitter, which is low enough to not bother you when wearing the headphones… unlike the HD6XX cable, khm khm.

There will be a decent number of people craving for a balanced cable, and I can’t disagree that it would’ve been an appropriate addition.

Comfort


I’m not going to lie to you, I panicked once I realized that the ear-cups lack of horizontal rotation. However, that concern went away as soon as the headphones were on my head. Also, they have the tiniest amount of horizontal wiggle, so it’s not as if they are completely fixed. Turns out it was just enough to get a comfortable fit.

For whatever reason, I don’t remember the Deva sharing these nice pads, but it turns out they are very similar to the ones that are on the Sundara Closed. They are hybrid pads, with the outer side made of pleather, the face made of really nice and soft mesh, and the inner lining made of perforated pleather. All in all, the mesh feels quite comfortable and soft on the skin, and it even keeps the pads cool!

As I have hair on my head, I cannot comment about the headband, since I already my hair serving as a cushion. It’s a very thin leather headband with even thinner foam lining, and the part that goes on your head is made of some sort of a synthetic fabric.

The clamp force is slightly above average, which lets the headphones cup really nicely around your ears, and you also don’t have to worry about the headphones constantly sliding around your head.

Sound Performance


Setup:
iBasso DX320 + AMP13 (Maximized Output)
Volume: 42
Gain: Low
OS: Mango OS

Lows

The Sundara Closed doesn’t employ a heavy sound, it effectively makes use of voluminosity instead. The problem with weight is that it can work against both the headphone and the listener, at a certain point it starts to negatively affect sound quality. What I like about the sound in this headphone is that it takes the so-called weight and distributes it around a greater space, essentially hollowing out the heft in a sense. Think of it as increasing the volume [not volume as in loudness]. The end result is a very pleasing sound to the ear.

The bass response leans more towards the relaxed side, with the attack being slower, and the attack being faster. This can be heard in both MOON’s “Hydrogen” and Lee Curtiss’ “Smoking Mirrors”, but it’s more obvious in the latter track. Daft Punk’s “TRON: Legacy (End Titles)” is a perfect example of all of the above-mentioned qualities. When listening to this track, you are reminded that bass can be plentiful without having that classic thick ’n heavy sound. Even when putting it to the test with a faster-paced track like Tiësto’s “Adagio for Strings”, Sundara Closed doesn’t fall behind in terms of speed; each beat and hit doesn’t get lost due to the more laid back bass response.

Quantity-wise, I wouldn’t say that either the mid-bass nor that the sub-bass is too forward. Speaking of the sub-bass, don’t expect to hear growling or rumbling. Take for instance Hans Zimmer’s “Why So Serious?”, my reference sub-bass test track, where we can hear a very gentle yet sufficient sub-bass extension at the 3:26 minute mark. It’s deep enough to pulsate your ears, but it’s not thick enough to give you a physical sensation of rumbling. The same applies for Robbie Robertson’s “Theme for The Irishman” at the cello sections of the track. Saving the best for last, my special track of choice, “Do I Wanna Know?” by Arctic Monkeys. What I focus on is the first few seconds, aka the introduction. There’s a consistent drum kick, and that’s what we are listening for. Only a handful of headphones and IEMs pull it off, and by this I refer to the kick possessing the rumble quality. Even less common is to hear the physical sensation of rumble. While the Sundara Closed doesn’t possess either of these qualities, it does give the kick fullness and heft. Believe it or not, there are headphones where the kick sounds very flat and boring, but that’s not the case here.

Mids

At first, the Sundara Closed sounded a bit restrained, and I must admit, muddy and lacking in clarity. However, after letting the headphones break-in for a couple of hours, their potential opened up.

There is a fair amount of warmth in the mids, making long-listening sessions easy on the ears. The Sundara Closed is the type of headphone you want to take out to have some fun. It sounds heavenly with pop. I mean, the global hits like “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk, Rihanna’s “Diamonds”, or Sia’s “Chandelier”, all sound phenomenal. The vocals are lush and don’t get in the way. There are some male vocals (e.g. Ronnie James Dio) that give off slight hints of honky quality, but others, like Pharrell in Get Lucky, sound perfectly normal. I did enjoy listening to female vocals more, and I’d say warmth is responsible for that.

As for strings, it does the job for casual listening. Acoustics strings are my preference, and it didn’t disappoint in that area. Plucks are audible and have the necessary qualities, guitars don’t sound dull, and there’s no distortion or unpleasant qualities. Pink Floyd’s “Dogs”, “Hey You”, Deep Purple’s “Soldier of Fortune”, and Yao Is Ting’s “One More Time” are among the tracks that I played and truly enjoyed listening to. However, the single performance where Sundara Closed impressed me was in Rainbow’s “Temple Of The Temple”, it captures these very fine nuances in the guitar plucks and it sounds heavenly!

Highs

Oh, don’t get me started! There are many things I like about this headphone, but treble is certainly one of my favorites. It’s exactly to my liking and fits my preference. Sundara Closed is a brighter-sounding headphone, though it might not appear as one immediately.

Percussion sounds so lively with these, it just pops. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t have a blast listening to the “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow” album. The crisp percussion is such a treat to the ears that it made me euphoric. Looking back, there is no point in time where I found myself longing for sparkle. Another great example is Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing”, where the percussion sounds exceptionally snappy and Sundara Closed doesn’t have an issue keeping up with its speed.

This top end extension is much appreciated in instruments such as guitars, saxophone, trumpet, mouth harmonica. In Russian Circles’ “When The Mountain Comes to Muhammad”, at the 4:26 minute mark, we can hear a trumpet entering the already busy mix. Even though it’s a subtle element, Sundara Closed captures the very fine nuances in the higher notes, and produces this silky smooth edge that you’ll catch if you listen closely. Later on in the track, at 7:20 minute mark, we get to hear the trumpet in a less crowded setting. I heard this exact silly smooth edge in Miles Davis’ “Portia”. The latter track is where most headphones and IEMs sound either too blunt or too sharp, but the few that perform well are the ones that manage to stay on the edge without cutting and irritating your ears, as is the case here. It’s an experience, let me tell you that.

Soundstage & Isolation

I think this is the only area where Sundara sounds just average. It’s not bad, it’s not good. It sounds like a closed-back headphone, with the soundstage reaching no wider than outside of the ear-cups. It is enough to not make them sound congested and completely in your face. As for isolation, it dampens sound, but due to the comfy pads and the ergonomics of the headphones, it doesn’t create a vacuum-like seal.

Conclusion


Some people were expecting to see the “closed-back version” of the Sundara, but HiFiMan made something new, something fresh, something that I am a big fan of. It’s likely not what people were expecting, but you can’t fault them… It’s hard to overlook the “Sundara” in the name. If I’m being honest, the market is oversaturated with headphones that try sound “reference-grade”, but end up being a poor attempt at just that. I’d rather a headphone bring something special and unique to the table. Of course, it must possess the necessary qualities in order to pull it off and sound good. In my opinion, the Sundara Closed does that. It’s a well-made headphone that’s different. Also, it’s quite the cozy pair of headphones, your ears will thank you for being able to enjoy music for hours on end.

If you’re a fan of a more intimate listening experience with extended highs, then I strongly suggest you give the Sundara Closed a listen. What will immediately strike you is its voluminous quality and lively presentation

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