Review - HIFIMAN Sundara

Website - HIFIMAN


Price: U$499 (retail). Goes for sale at $349, available on HIFIMAN Store, Amazon and Ebay.

There is not much to say about the unboxing of the Sundara. The headphones arrive in a large cardboard box with an image of the Sundara model at the top and the specifications at the back. Inside the headphones are snugly arranged inside polystyrene covered by an all shiny black satin cloth with the cable and a 6.3mm adapter attached to the 3.5mm plug. There is the manual with a long story of the Sundara and a warranty card. A carrying case could have been included as it is not too convenient to keep them stored always back in the box.


The HIFIMAN Sundara continues the large around over-ear planar open-back from the company. The whole design is very similar to the previous models like the HE400i but has a new fresh look that it is simple yet elegant and discreet. It is smooth with an air of high-end on it without a fancy looking premium finish. I won't comment on the durability of the new Sundara as only had them for less than 2 months taking lot care of them; and there were some previous reports of QC issues. However, the materials used here seem to be solid enough for the retail price.

The main structure mixes different metal types. The headband arc is made of spring steel while the round yokes and outer cups are apparently of stiff anodized aluminum. Not sure on grills specific material, but still a strong metal alloy as well. The only section where plastic is used is on the sides of the headband that joins the outer band arc with the yokes acting as the adjustment mechanism. All with a dark matte finish and a few silver points. The lower headband strap is attached to the plastic covers too. It is made of synthetic leather like material and while looks kind of plain it is soft and comfortable and helps to distribute very well the weight of the headphones. The Sundara's weight is about ~370g which may not sound particularly light for a full over-ear headphone set but in practice results very friendly as a planar option thanks to the well thought design.
Personally, I had no need to adjust the headband as found it large enough, but should be mentioned that the adjustment system is quite stiff and requires some extra effort; it's actually a good thing as the Sundara will keep the fixed and secure fit.

The ear cups movement is limited to only swivel up and down around the yokes and can be the main disadvantage of the Sundara design which also found on the upper model Ananda. It's not a serious thing to complain about as the fit and seal around the ears is still very easy but still affects when trying to achieve a best fit compared with many other over-ear headphones where the ear cups rotate to right and left sides. However, the round ear pads are slightly angled from the thinner front to the thicker back part what helps a bit to get a more natural fit despite their fixed design. The pads are about 15mm thick with a soft synthetic material outside and very soft and breathable mesh inside that sits very comfortable around the ears and skin. The pads are strongly attached to the cups and follow a simple mechanism to replace them if needed.

As for what the cable matters, it is supposed to use a crystal OFC copper wire inside. Length is about 1.5m and ends in a standard 3.5mm TRS plug, and a simple all plastic y-split. The connection to the headphones now utilizes regular TRS 3.5mm connectors too which is a better standard nowadays. However, the outer sheath is thick and very stiff and also holds a strong memory effect out of the box. It can result quite springy and annoying to use and despite whatever good wire material used inside and a more friendly cable would be nicer at this price.

Apart from that, overall the Sundara seems to hold a very decent quality, solid and comfortable design.

Sound Quality

Main sources used: iBasso DX120, HiBy R6 Pro, AQ Dragonfly Red, xDuoo XP-2.

With the new Sundara model HIFIMAN introduce a new planar driver of a much thinner diaphragm. Whether this new option has benefits in sound quality or not is not a matter that could be discussed here, but nevertheless as for what sound matters the Sundara rates pretty well for the price (and much better if got on during sales). While this is not the first HIFIMAN product I review it is always refreshing to try their new offers. Had a briefly demo listen to the HE400, 400i, 560 some time ago, and while cannot give a direct comparison with those, the Sundara holds a certain HIFIMAN house sound. It could be described as being very neutral but not in a thin, texture-less or clinical way; rather, the sound is mostly linear and nicely balanced. A more accurate way to describe it would be as 'even', without certain emphasis on lows or highs, and definitely no peak or dip either. It has a very subtle sense of fullness and a hint of warmth that is not uncommon on HIFIMAN gears (and that's a good characteristic). The sound is open, clean, very natural in timbre, and if well powered it is effortless and airy.

The bass is rather neutral in quantity and may get just a tiny bit above than that. It is smooth and light in body and doesn't reach much depth. There is no strong impact to boast about, but it is usually present in the sound mix with a slight punch on the mid-bass and faint heard rumble. It is very linear with a small roll-off on the lowest sub-bass region. The quality is really good; it is tight, well layered and effortless. Also quick in attack, well paced, not aggressive but has great speed and precision. The response to some EQ or bass boost from a portable amp is good too and it is still capable of showing good dynamics and richer texture if paired with warmer sounding source, but still maintains the neutral-ish signature.

The midrange is a strong point on the Sundara. From previous HIFIMAN products, the mids usually tend to stand out in quality and their natural presentation, and the does Sundara planar follows that characteristic as well. From the inoffensive low-end the midrange is free of any bass intrusion, rather uncolored texture yet well tuned in its presentation. The linearity continues here but the sound is not too flat or cold. It is more about accuracy. There is a small hint of richness that gives a slight sense musicality but remains pretty neutral if just a bit forward. It is open and very detailed; not a kind of detail that tries to go always too forward but rather flows naturally on the mix in the smoother nature of the headphones. Instruments are neatly positioned without a very wide distant effect. Vocals are clear and very detailed - male singers lack some weight and texture while female gain more focus and energy but not prone of being sibilant despite the bit brighter signature of the Sundara.

Treble is relatively elevated next to the lows and mids though not aggressive. It has a brighter tone for sure but well balanced that is difficult to point out a specific strong peak or dip on its response. The control is surprisingly really good and sounds very coherent and even. Yes, the specs state a 75 kHz reach which is way too high to pick, but the extension is high and effortless. While the treble is full and energetic and won't be completely smooth or liquid it is still missing that usual sharpness and tiring presentation those bright headphones sets tend to present.

The presentation is open and very airy. It focuses on great accuracy and coherent positioning, goes very spacious but doesn't deliver a special wide stage range nor reaches a best depth, but still enjoyable with its very natural timbre. Channel separation is not too sharp; the Sundara rather gives a more rounded effect and precise image. Dynamics are good but second to the more impressive as the openness and resolution on the Sundara.

The specifications and HIFIMAN own description suggests the Sundara being efficient enough to be driven even out of a standard smartphone or normal audio player. In practice it proves to be true as for volume matching matters without reaching the max steps. Sound-wise it's not that bad and not as weak as that the HE400i. But it's just decent at best and nothing worth the $500 price tag or whatever lower deal it may get if planned to be used right of a weak source. Small DAPs like the Fiio M6 are still not enough (though better than a phone or stock audio card); sound is lacking in bass and stage is too small. A more powerful player like the DX120 already makes a noticeable difference - there is bass presence and depth and larger stage. The Dragonfly Red DAC too - and actually has a very good synergy with the Sundara with more power, thicker low-end and fuller midrange if a bit smoother yet controlled treble. The new HiBy R6 Pro gives superb resolution and much higher micro-detailing with a much open and airy presentation; soundstage is also there, but again it's not the most impressive part (unless the 4.4mm balanced output used). Simply put, this shows the good synergy and transparency of the Sundara.