Review - Drop Cavalli Tube Hybrid (CTH)

Review - Hifiman Deva


First let me say that these headphones were sent to me for review by Hifiman, for which I am very grateful, in exchange for my unbiased review. As always, I will give my honest personal opinions on them but it has not cost me anything to test them out and create this review.





Intro…

The Hifiman Deva was released a while ago as a bit of a break from the norm, being a Bluetooth headphone, by the attachment of an external module, that could also be used with the included wire. There are many reviews of these available around the web, from reviewers such as Resolve (The Headphone Show) and Wheezy Reviews amongst others.

Due to their price of around 300€, the majority of these compared the Deva directly with the Hifiman Sundara and other similarly priced headphones, with the added benefit of Bluetooth.

However, recently Hifiman started to offer the Deva in a wired only version at a much lower price of just over 200€. This clearly changes the price bracket in which the headphone sits and puts it in competition with other headphones at similar prices.

One of the most known headphones in this price range is the Sennheiser HD6XX (the Drop version of the HD650) which is a widely recommended headphone at this price point. Unfortunately, as I am based in Europe, the HD6XX is not something that is easily obtainable and the cost of import taxes and shipping do increase the price of the HD6XX significantly, making it closer to the HD650 (which is the non Drop version of the same headphone), which is around 340€ and puts it in a different price bracket. This would mean that the Deva actually competes in the price bracket of things like the Beyerdynamic DT880/990, the AKG K-712 Pro in the lower end of the “audiophilia” world, along with many other headphones that are more aimed at the higher end of the casual user world. I will explain why I mention the “casual user” world in a moment.

As I don’t have the specific Beyers or AKG’s that I mention to compare, I will make some references to the HD6XX, as it is a well known headphone and is a good reference point as far as sound qualities.



Presentation…

The presentation of the Deva is almost identical to that of the Sundara. A simple box with a silk lined interior, containing the headphones and the cable.

There is no case or bag included for transport, and although some kind of storage option is always appreciated, these headphones are not aimed at portability due to their open-backed nature. And to be honest, at this price bracket, I am more focused on the performance than case candy.

The cable included is a little thick and stiff but is more than adequate both for functionality and the price range.



Build and comfort…

The look of the Deva is definitely a break from so many other black offerings that fill the market. This is something that will either appeal to you or not, depending on tastes.

The looks of the Deva are one of the reasons I mentioned the “Casual User” under presentation, as I feel that the look of the Deva is something that could easily appeal to the higher end of the “Casual User” market, those that are interested in something that sounds good but also needs to look cool when set up at home. This could easily compete with things like the B&O Beoplay, some of the Bose or even B&W, these brands sell a lot of headphones to those who want a look that is not just a simple black headphone.

I think in this case, the Hifiman Deva has certainly beat things like the HD6XX and the Beyer DT series, at least as far as the higher end home consumer rather than the audiophile community. I mean, let’s be honest, harcore audiophiles will wear anything on their heads if it gives them that extra 1% in sound quality 😉

Personally, I quite like the looks and think they would fit in quite well in a lot of homes, possibly matched with something like a silver Schiit stack.

The build is a combination of metal, plastic and imitation leather, with hybrid pads (pleather on the outside and material on the part that touches your face). They seem to be well put together and the cups that are made of plastic are nicely finished to match the metal parts, giving them a nice overall presentation. There is no creaking or rubbing going on while adjusting and the notches on the headband are sturdy and feel well implemented.

As far as comfort, as always this is something personal to each individual. They are fairly lightweight (around 350g) and there is plenty of adjustment to find the perfect fit. The headband is nicely padded and the cups are large. Personally I find them very comfortable.



Sound…

To be honest, it has been a while since I last used a planar-magnetic headphone for any length of time, being the Hifiman Sundara that I reviewed around a year ago (you can find that review here: Review - Hifiman Sundara) and those were my first venture, and a very enjoyable one, into the planar-magnetic world.

As soon as I listened to the Deva for the first time, some of the Sundara memories came flooding back. I am not going to compare sound to the Sundara as it a long time since I had them on my head (although I keep planning on picking up a set) and there are plenty of reviews that already mention the comparisons available (such as those I mentioned earlier). Also, these (Deva) are also now in a completely different price category, nearly half the price, making a direct comparison unfair.

The bass is nicely articulated, with more presence in the upper bass frequencies than the lower ranges. There is a roll off that seems to start somewhere around the 50Hz mark, lowering the subbass which means you won’t get any of those low note rumbles in tracks like “Nara” by E.S. Posthumus or “No Mercy” by Gustavo Santaolalla, but the increase in the higher bass frequencies makes up for it and still allows them to present you with a nice warmth in the lower end.

The speed and clarity that is presented by the planar-magnetic drivers in the bass range results in nicely defined bass, where the bass lines are nicely appreciated even when songs get busy. You can easily differentiate between different instruments that occupy the same  low frequency ranges whilst still doing a nice job of maintaining warmth to those areas.

The Deva are not a headphone that will appeal to lovers of lots of bass, but that is not the profile of the Deva (nor of Hifiman in general). As I mentioned previously, the HD6XX get a lot of use for my preferred style of music and I feel that the Deva are not quite as warm as the HD6XX but do present a little more definition in the bass range, allowing me to enjoy many complicated bass guitar passages.

The transition from bass into the mids is smooth, with no bleed that I can appreciate. Instruments that are located in the lower parts of the mids are not overpowered by the bass. For example, when listening to things like live performances of Victor Wooten, Stanley Clark and Marcus Miller (tracks like “Thunder” or “Beat It”) these are songs that include 3 bass guitars with very complicated bass playing by 3 amazing bassists. The Deva do a good job of letting you appreciate all three basses and styles, without them drowning each other out.

The overall cleanliness of the usual Hifiman sound along with the definition of the planar magnetic drivers makes acoustic tracks a pleasure to listen to. It has just enough warmth to give the acoustic guitars and basses some body and at the same time allow appreciation of the nuances of the instrument as it is played.

Vocals are not quite as warm as on the HD6XX and not quite as present, but to be fair, vocals are something that the HD6XX is excellent at. Songs like “No Ordinary Love” by Sade or “Hello” by Adele, which depend on a nice warmth and smoothness to the voices, are presented nicely but the vocals are not quite as much the center of attention as on the HD6XX but are still very pleasurable to listen to.

On songs that are purely based on vocals, such as “Hallelujah” by Pentatonix or “These Bones” by The Fairfield Four, voices are very nicely separated and very clear, but I still miss a slight bit more of warmth to them.

Up in the higher registers, the Deva has a nice presentation and is not overly bright, while still maintaining things clean. There is not really too much sibilance added and “Hope is A Dangerous Thing” by Lana Del Rey or “Code Cool” by Patricia Barber are both quite listenable without overpowering sibilance. If anything, I would say that the Deva is missing a slight touch of “air”, not that it is missing, it is just slightly below what I would personally prefer.

The speed and definition of the headphones in general is very good, as is to be expected from a planar magnetic. I do feel (from memory) that the Sundara performed quite a bit better than the Deva in this category but again, it is not really a fair comparison.

The soundstage and image presentation of the Deva is something that is also very good. It is leagues above the HD6XX in this regard, in fact, I would say that the soundstage is probably one of the best I have had the pleasure of trying. The typical test track, “Letter” by Yosi Horikawa”, has a great width to it and the placement of the pencil as it writes is very well defined. Listening to “La Luna” by Ottmar Liebert & Luna Negra, this binaural recording shows of the capabilities of the Deva very well and allows you to feel like you are surrounded by the instruments.



Conclusions…

I have spent the last week or so with the Hifiman Deva, using them daily at the office and also doing detailed listening at home and I must say that I am impressed for a headphone that comes in at around 200€.

The Deva is not perfect and there are certainly areas where the sound could be improved, however, every time I think of what is better on other headphones, I remember the price of the Deva.

At this same price, there are things that the Beyerdynamic DT880/990 or the AKG K-712 Pro do better and may appeal more to those who are looking for a specific detail or signature, but the Deva is a decent all rounder. I can’t make direct comparisons with those headphones as I do not have them so I am going to refrain from saying which I prefer. They are also dynamic driver headphones, I am unaware of another planar magnetic headphone in this price bracket except maybe for the Fostex T line.

Where I do feel that the Deva pulls ahead is in what it offers for the price and who would probably be interested in these headphones.

I think that those who are not really looking to get into the audiophilia world but are more looking for a good sounding headphone that is also a break from the typical black headphones found in this category, then the Deva fits that perfectly. I think that matched with something like the silver schiit stack I mentioned, it would look great in any person's living room or office (as long as a headphone that is as loud on the outside as it is on the inside is not a problem).

For someone who is interested in moving up through the audiophile world, then maybe they should take time to factor in the strong and weak points of headphones at this price, or even save up a little more and head for the Sundara. Although I still wouldn’t say the Deva is a bad choice at 200€.

For those who just enjoy listening to music and want a nice headphone without breaking the bank, then I wouldn’t have an issue recommending the Hifiman Deva. In fact, it could be a headphone that is purchased because of how it looks and then serves to introduce someone into the world of what good audio sounds like in comparison to consumer grade stuff.


SenyorC