HIFIMAN keeps challenging our notions of how good a headphone can sound and how much it should cost.

Ananda

The Ananda headphones are a case in point. While not inexpensive at $999.00, it is a planar design that really performs. Recognizing how people are changing the way they consume music, the HIFIMAN Ananda is designed to work with almost any high quality portable player. I’ve heard many HIFIMAN headphones in the past and owned a few pair. The Ananda is efficient, beautifully crafted, and has a compelling musicality.

I have an older model HIFIMAN headset, the HE-560, which when introduced cost about the same as the new Ananda. That said the Ananda completely outperforms the older HE-560 in almost every parameter, especially in that most important parameter, sound.

Highlights

HIFIMAN Ananda Headphones

  • Excellent Construction
  • Clean sound with robust bass
  • Easily replaceable cables
  • Comprehensive manual for setup
  • The HIFIMAN Ananda is very comfortable and can be worn for long listening sessions.
Introduction

I’ve stated in other headphone reviews that headphones are among the hardest pieces of the high fidelity chain to review. What sounds ‘right’ can be highly selective, and headphones are the one component our bodies directly interact with. So unlike other components, there is the matter of how they fit and how comfortable they are. On the other hand, and unlike speakers in particular, headphones eliminate room acoustics and all their negative effects, so when we listen to headphones, we are listening to the original recording for better or worse. It’s like high fidelity laid bare, and each headphone on the market gets to demonstrate how musically they can sound when being fed a variety of complex music.

Good headphones can also show up flaws in other parts of the musical chain, including the portable device or component you are listening through.

HIFIMAN is the brainchild of Dr. Fang Bian, and they sell headphones that range from mid-range offerings like the Sundara, all the way up to high-end and headphones like the Ananda, and then on to the flagship Susvara at $6000. The company also offers headphone amps and some portable digital players.

HIFIMAN HEADPHONES SPECIFICATIONS
Frequency Response:

8Hz – 55Hz

Impedance:

25 Ohms

Sensitivity:

103dB

Weight:

399g (14.07 Oz)

Cable:

1.5m crystalline copper terminating in 3.5mm with a quarter inch adapter

Price:

$999 MSRP

Company:

Hifiman

SECRETS Tags:

HIFIMAN, Ananda, planar headphones, Headphones Review 2018

Design

Ananda packaging

The packaging is luxurious. The box is grain leather with white stitching as highlights. Once opened, the packaging reveals a thin but thorough manual, and the headphones themselves are waiting for you in a black satin material held in place with stable cushions. You gently lift the Ananda headphones out of the box, and hook up one of the two appropriate cables to match your music player.

The ear cups are large but comfortable. When you have the Ananda on your head, it’s comfortable and you don’t feel like your head is in a vice.

The open back design does not isolate you, so even when music is playing you can hear sounds from the room. To some, that will be a drawback, but I often prefer the open back design to the ‘sealed in’ feeling I get with closed back headphones. Ultimately, it’s a matter of preference.

Ananda Full

The ear cups are above, below and give a gap in front of and behind your ears. As a result, no part of the headphone ever touches your ears, adding to the comfort. Up top is a thin leather strap while a matte black metal band rises over the leather assembly, so there is no contact with your head.

The included cables are of high quality, and did not appear to be delicate.

Ananda cables

HIFIMAN claims a wide frequency response for the Ananda, and those specifications fall outside the range of human hearing. Still, I could find no fault with the extreme frequencies, listening to the deepest pedal notes or organs, or high strings and percussives.

I listened to program material on a variety of devices, including an Oppo BDP-203, a Denon AVR-S640H receiver connected to a Sonos whole house music system, an Astell & Kern Kann portable player, and an Aurender N100H server.

I also listened to a PS Audio server connected to a PS Audio NuWave DSD DAC routed through an Emotiva XMC-1 processor using its headphone jack.

The HIFIMAN Ananda headphones were easy to drive with any of these devices due to their fairly low impedance. Even the Kann was able to drive the headphones to very high, even painful levels, but I never heard any strain from the headphones.

At more normal listening levels, I did not hear any hardness or rough edges to the music, so I deem them very capable with almost any kind of wired or battery powered device. I also tested the headphones with a dongle on an Apple iPhone X cellphone, and again, the sound was clean and unstrained.

Like many high end models, the Ananda headphones do not come with a carry case, and they don’t fold flat for travel. That’s a mixed bag really, as I’m not sure I would like to travel with headphones this expensive. On the other hand, the Focal Clears which I recently reviewed, do come with a carry case, but it’s a bit bulky because the Focal phones don’t fold flat either.

In Use

nevsky

Alexander Nevsky “St. Louis Symphony, Leonard Slatkin”

What a great test of headphones with massed chorus, strings, percussion, and low bass. The Ananda phones held their own against this very dense classical work in high resolution by Prokofiev. The Battle on the Ice track is a perfect test of headphone quality.

Night Ferry
Night Ferry “Chicago Symphony”

This high resolution track starts with a very low bass note, and it never runs out of steam. Yet flutes and plucked strings are delicate. Dynamic range is very wide, but the headphones simply don’t give up.

Amber Rubarth
Amber Rubarth “Storms are on the Ocean”

The Ananda headphones did this acoustic recording very well. The female soloist and acoustic guitar are rendered realistically. There’s also a cello to provide clean low bass. Separation and soundstage are very realistic. Like most headphones, the sound comes pretty much from between your ears, but there is a nice slightly forward perspective to the image.

The closed back Focal Clear headphones sounded very similar, but they are closed back and on this track the open back Ananda phones had a bit of an edge in image stability and what I would call micro-details; hearing little subtleties in the instruments.

Spes
Spes “Cantus”

Another high resolution recording with massed male and female chorus. The Ananda phones allowed me to pick out the position of each voice. Human voices are a true test of reproduced accuracy, and the Ananda phones gave a standout performance here.

Conclusions

ANANDA HEADPHONES

At U.S. $999.00 the ANANDA HEADPHONES are not an impulse purchase. Still, the sound is impeccable on very high quality program material and they are easy to drive. I would rate the HIFIMAN ANANDA HEADPHONES as an excellent buy.

Likes
  • Audio quality
  • Build quality, especially of the headband and ear pieces
  • Comfort of the open back design
  • Replaceable cables
Would Like To See
  • A carrying Case for protection while traveling

There is little to complain about with the HIFIMAN Ananda headphones, and a great deal to like. I’ve heard equally good high end headphones, but never anything any better. (I’ll admit I haven’t auditioned any of the $5000 plus headphones being offered).

The sound is exemplary, and I think the open back design contributes to the comfort and overall sound of the Ananda phones. The sound was excellent on difficult to reproduce mass instruments and choruses, and it also earns high praise with acoustic instruments and hard rock.

The HIFIMAN Ananda headphones are extremely comfortable to wear; really the most comfortable headphones I’ve tested.

  • DefTechFan

    Nice review. As an owner and fan of the HE-400s headphones also by HIFIMAN, I look forward to listening to these soon. $1000 is the max I would want to spend on headphones and it’s nice to see so much performance being delivered at ever decreasing costs.

    Been eyeing the Focal Clear’s and the MrSpeakers AEON headphones for an audition but after reading this review, my first audition will be the Anada’s.