HifiMan Arya Review Page 2

The upper midrange has a small peak around 3khz, again leaning in the direction of the Harman curve, but I actually hear a dip around 2khz just before that. Moving on, the treble is broadly even, but with a 5khz bump and 10khz spike that I found a little sharp for my tastes – less because they were so severe but more because I suspect they were surrounded by slight dips at 4khz and 7khz. The treble isn’t bad, but does feel a little peaky at times, especially on piano music or other music that uses instruments with wide-ranges. Overall I would say the frequency response isn’t particularly smooth, and some ranges are a bit hashy. This doesn’t keep the headphone from being enjoyable and having a mostly excellent frequency response, and I think from a design standpoint the team at HifiMan has done a good job of balancing the distortions and tradeoffs in the headphone so that where there are resonances or peaks they are musically acceptable or at least inoffensive for most listening. Whether you see it as a flaw or a plus, these headphones have a way of making pretty much everything you play through them – regardless of genre – sound relaxing and gentle, a bit like a warm bath.

For the most part I think they possess a frequency response many will find a pleasing variation on ‘mostly neutral.’ I do have one issue with them though: I couldn’t pin down exactly what it was, but listening to these headphones for extended periods of time, regardless of volume level, caused me higher than usual levels of fatigue. I typically listen quietly outside of reviews, but for reviews I will listen at all sorts of volume levels to see how a headphone responds. With the Arya’s I couldn’t stand to listen at high volumes for more than a few minutes, and at lower volumes I could do about an hour or two max before I had to take a break. Swapping amps helped alleviate this somewhat, though oddly, while I felt high-powered tube amps sounded especially excellent with the Arya, the amps that seemed to alleviate this fatiguing quality didn’t have anything in common I could really discern. Some were tube, some solid state, mixture of high and low powered and with many different impedances. The problem was much alleviated by playing files with high degrees of resolution, little compression and using a good DAC. Well-recorded classical music did quite well here, though the issue never completely went away for me.

This fatigue could have something to do with the transient response of the headphone or what has been dubbed the ‘Ortho Wall’ by some in the headphone community, a kind of 4khz ringing most planar magnetic drivers exhibit which has to do with the resonant qualities of the driver construction. Whatever the cause, I’ve found that I tend to be particularly sensitive to this quality in planar magnetic drivers. Some friends of mine who listened to the Arya’s who have not historically been sensitive to this Planar-Magnetic quality told me they felt the Arya was not fatiguing over extended listening sessions, so I’ll leave you to make of that what you will.

In terms of detail resolution I was otherwise very impressed with the Arya, and thought the tuning and relative ‘speed’ of the driver were all very nice. While I wouldn’t say it sounded particularly similar to an HD800, I could see folks who enjoyed the HD800, but were looking for a bit more bass fullness and a similar soundstage experience, really enjoying the Arya. That huge soundstage with precise instrument placement and loads of spatial detail really can be quite addicting. If you listen to music with lots of dynamics and slam like rock or metal, you might find it a little underwhelming, but on acoustic genres such as folk and classical, this is one of the more compelling sub-$2,000 USD headphones that’s crossed my desk.

HifiMan’s got my attention, and I’ll be looking to hear more of what they have to bring to the table. I recently had a positive experience with the new HE-1000SE at Canjam Socal and some Matrix audio gear. I think the company has found some strong footing with build quality, tuning and value for the money and I’ll be looking more closely at their offerings. The Arya in particular at $1,599 USD does seem a reasonable ask to me. It’s not cheap but neither is it unreasonable for it’s price in my opinion for a top-notch headphone. It is one of those headphones that feels as if it’s got a ‘Goldilocks’ price. Neither too high nor too low, but just right. Despite my personal feeling of fatigue with these headphones, if you’ve enjoyed HifiMan’s recent crop of headphones and don’t experience that same fatigue, I would by all means give this headphone a listen.

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Richter Di's picture

I own the Hifiman Ananda and I am very happy with them. I use them with Jan Meiers Corda Soul which allows via a notch filter to get rid of resonance frequencies. Very helpful.
BTW, you got yourself a little typo right at the start of the review:
„When I was just starting in the hobby one of the early headphones I aspired to own was the HiifiMan HE-400.“
The Hifiman has to „ii“.

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