My Journey to the Hifiman Sundaras: Some Thoughts

I posted this on the headphone subreddit and wanted to post it here to formally introduce myself to the community. Not sure if this is in the right sub forum but none of the others seemed to fit.

I’ve been around this hobby for most of my adult life since the late 90s and have dealt with QC and build quality issues with a lot of headphones. I’ve never really documented my journey before so bear with me.

TL;DR: Tried a lot of headphones, now using Sundaras and love them. This community is great.

Grado: My First Stop

My very first pair of good headphones, the Grado SR-60 (non e version), was my first foray into the audiophile world. I remember as a teenager in late 90s that I wanted headphones that had MOAR BASS. I knew that there had to be better alternatives than what I could get at the drugstore so I turned to the internet and found Headroom and became interested in the SR-60 as it was a recommended budget choice at the time. The sound was a revelation to my uneducated ears, and I’ll never forget when a Head Fi member told me to turn off the bass boost on my Aiwa portable CD player to listen to music. What?? But what about MOAR BASS POWAH? I turned it off for about a week and got acclimated to a more flat bass presentation and realized what I had been subjecting myself to for most of my teenage life. No disrespect to those that employ a bass boost or some kind of EQ in their current setups, but it was then that I decided that I didn’t really want to mess with it in my listening. HOWEVER, I will say that in recent years I have slowly come around on the idea of it. Maybe I’ll give it a shot one of these days.

Now for the not so good: over time the deficiencies in build quality reared their ugly head. The SR-60 had a cheap leather headband that ripped from daily use and cheap foam pads that basically disintegrated over time as well.

Etys: A Rush of Sound to the Head

I eventually moved up to a pair of Etymotic ER-4P’s that I was VERY happy with soundwise. I had an Altoids amp built by JMT from Head Fi which served as my first amp. I was over the moon with this setup, until the cable started to split open at the strain relief, again from nothing more than daily use. After having them sit unused in a drawer for a few years, I pulled them out and sent them to Etymotic who replaced the cable with the new and improved braided cable that they switched to some years back which supposedly had much better durability. After some time one of the earpieces started cutting out and now that side no longer plays any sound. Over the years I’ve been tempted to jump back into the Ety word with the new ER models they’ve put out which look great, but my past experiences always gave me pause. Would love some input from those here that currently use the new models.

Beyers and Tubes: So Warm My Man

After a while I became curious about tubes so I got a cheap Earmax clone OTL amp and some Beyerdynamic DT 880 600 ohm editions. Now, apparently Beyerdynamic had a great rep for build quality and they were definitely solid feeling headphones. I loved the bass presentation that the combo gave me, and the warm, inviting sound of the tube amp helped tame the prevalent treble that the 880s are known for, so much so that I didn’t even know people found it to be an issue until I read more about it on forums years later. For a time the combination was great. UNTIL…the left driver or driver connection malfunctioned and no longer played any sound. Hooray.

Temporary Leave: Getting some HIFIMANs On My Way Out

I moved on to some other headphones and gear after that (Q701, K712, Magni 1/Modi 1 stack), but at that point my interest in the hobby was waning and I just wanted some simple set it and forget it IEMs to listen to music on my bus commute to work. So despite the warnings about quality, I ended up with some Hifiman RE-400s that I still own to this day. And you know what? They’ve been absolutely bulletproof for me. I’ve worn those guys to sleep and rolled over on them, bending the strain relief in the process. I’ve worn them outside in the sweltering Texas heat exposing them to plenty of sweat and they just keep working. Additionally, I ended up upgrading to the RE-600s and experienced absolutely no issues with those either. Very rock solid. These were my first exposure to the HIFIMAN house sound and I’ve found it to be a great personal reference for me. Speaking of reference…

As If We Never Left: The most Reference-y Reference sound that ever Referenced

Late last year I realized that my preferred sound signature is something as close to “neutral” as possible. I wanted to hear the music reproduced as closely as possible to what the artists and engineers in the studio intended people to hear. So then I got the bug again for some full size cans and picked up the one headphone that should be the entry point for all budding audiophiles but for some reason I had never tried: the HD600. Metal571s review stating that they were THE headphone for reference sound had me running to Amazon to smash the buy now button. I picked up an Atom and a Khadas Tone Board and sat with that setup for some months. I grew accustomed to the presentation and knew eventually that I wanted to experience planars with their fast, detailed transient response and better bass and sub bass extension. Metal571’s Audeze LCD-1 review piqued my interest, and the low(ish) price of the LCD-1s didn’t hurt either.

Zeos said he might prefer to use the LCD-1s on a daily basis over the Sundaras because of the QC and build quality rep of Hifiman. Well guess what? Last week my pair broke. The plastic at the right height adjustment just snapped as I was swiveling the cups to put them down on my desk. So they’ve been sent back to Audeze for replacement.

Which brings me finally to the Sundaras. After the glowing reviews from @Resolve and @metal571 I just couldn’t resist. They sound absolutely phenomenal. I finally know what a decent soundstage is. The presentation is very balanced and detailed. In terms of build quality, they feel much better built than the LCD-1. As for longevity, I’ve only been using them a day or so but so far so good. In fact, to my ears they are so good that I am strongly considering selling off my other headphones (HD600, K712 Pro, and LCD-1 when it gets sent back from Audeze) and keeping the Sundaras as my new baseline reference.

EDIT: Just today I’ve started to hear a minor crinkle from the left ear cup when adjusting the headphone on my head and/or pulling the left cup away from my head. A minor issue but slightly annoying. Here’s hoping it goes away over time or I just stop hearing it.

I only recently discovered this place after browsing the website and watching some of @Resolve’s reviews. The vibe around here seems to be very welcoming which I can’t say for some of the other headphone discussion venues online. Thanks for reading and I hope to participate more and more in this community over time.


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