Review - Hifiman Arya

 English | Español

Also available on YouTube in Spanish: Acho Reviews YouTube 


I am enjoying these current weeks as Hifiman has kindly loaned me both the Arya and the HE1000se for review. As always, I will be as impartial and sincere as possible but it is always good to consider that these headphones have not cost me anything to try out.


Intro…

As I just said, Hifiman have sent me both the Arya and the HE1000se, which could both be considered steps up from my current reference (and favourite) headphone, the Hifiman Ananda.

In order to try and keep the reviews coherent, I will review each of them separately (with a few comparisons to the Ananda as my reference) and then compare them directly later, as I feel this is the best way to keep my opinions relevant and not stray too far from each model. If you would like to see my full review of the Ananda, so any comparisons are relevant, you can find my review here: Review - Hifiman Ananda

I am going to start with the Arya, which I feel is the next step up in the scale from the Ananda, at least on paper.


Presentation…

The Arya arrives in a box that is almost identical to that of the Hifiman Sundara. Inside the box, the headphones are located in a silk covered cutout, with a separate compartment for the included accessories.

As far as accessories, there is not much included in the box, in fact, just a single cable terminated to 6.35mm. However, in my personal opinion, the included cable is better than the one included with the Ananda. Rather than the silicone tube style cable included with the lower priced option, we get a cloth covered alternative. It is still far from an amazing cable but, as I just said, is an improvement in my opinion.

This presentation is far from the luxurious box that the Anandas come packed in but at the end of the day, I am more interested in the headphones themselves than the packaging.


Build quality and aesthetics…

At a simple glance, one could think that the Ananda and Arya are identical except for the black grilles rather than the silver ones that the Ananda has. However, the headband is different and allows for more adjustment, which allows for better comfort (not that I find the Ananda uncomfortable but the Arya is a step up).

Using a headband that is less rounded than the Ananda, the adjustment in height is of the comfort strap rather than the height of the band. While it is not quite as easily adjusted as the Ananda, although it is by no means difficult, once in position it does feel better on the head.

In addition to this, the Arya has swivel on the cups, something that the Ananda lacks, and this makes the headphones contour to the face better. Again, I do not find Ananda uncomfortable but I find Arya to be far more comfortable, in fact, it is extremely comfortable for me personally.

Aesthetics are obviously very similar, with minor changes to the shape of the headband and the black grilles. Personally I prefer the look of the Ananda but once they are on my head, I can’t see either of them.


Sound…

Here is where things do start to show clear differences between the two headphones. First let me point out the differences between the two as far as impedance and sensitivity:

Ananda = 25Ω impedance and 103dB sensitivity.

Arya = 41Ω impedance and 91.2dB sensitivity.

Now, just with those two specs, we can already understand that the Arya is going to be harder to drive than the Ananda. To be honest, the Ananda is not a difficult headphone to drive, however, it does like ample voltage in order to drive it well. The Arya, while on paper should prove more difficult, it is not really that noticeable due to the fact that an amplifier that pairs well with the Ananda will also pair well with the Arya, as they both benefit from a decent amount of voltage and amplifiers that provide this will be more than enough as far as wattage, we will just need to increase the dial in order to get there.

Another thing to point out about power is that the Arya are headphones that make it very easy to keep increasing volume to levels way above my usual listening levels. There is a smoothness to the Arya that seems to hide the fact that volume levels are above those we are usually at. At first I thought it was just the fact that I was increasing the dial on the amp to compensate for the sensitivity but measuring volume levels, I found that I was often being way above matched volume with the Ananda.

While I usually use the JDS Labs Atom for comparisons, I have been doing the majority of my listening with these headphones using the Schiit Asgard 3 as I find that it works very well with the Hifiman Planars (and others, but that's for another day). In order to have relevant comparisons between the two, I found my usual listening level with the Ananda, marked it on the dial, then measured the Arya until I hit the same level, marking this on the dial also, making at least the listening levels the same.

As usual, I gave the Arya a quick listen when it first arrived, just to make sure it worked correctly (as I do with all products) and then I connected it to a secondary system and let it play for around 150 hours (obviously with regular breaks in between).

When I first put on the Arya (after the burn in period), I had been listening to the Ananda for quite a few hours. Usually I won’t make any A/B comparisons until after using the headphones for at least 5 days (you can read more about my procedures here: About my reviews) but my first impression was that the Arya was not quite as detailed and everything seemed further away. This was obviously before I did any volume matching but I mention it because, as I have used the Arya over the past week or so, my impressions of these headphones has changed quite a bit. I will get back to this in a moment but first let's look at the frequency groups as usual.

Sub-Bass

There is absolutely no roll-off in the sub-bass except for that caused by human hearing. Both on paper and in reality, the Arya draws a straight line all the way down to the lowest registers, below the human hearing threshold. There is also no lack of performance as the frequencies drop, with the lowest notes being just as detailed and clean as any other note throughout the range. 

Now, this is by no means a bass-head headphone, it does not have any bass boost at all, it is just a clean representation of what goes in, comes out. If your preferred music is bass heavy, the result will be bass heavy and vice versa.

Bass

As with the sub-bass, the bass frequencies are linear, clear and detailed. They have great speed and definition, proving that it doesn’t matter what music you pump into them, they will just reproduce it without breaking into a sweat. 

As a fun test, I recorded some bass loops, adding layer after layer. Some containing long lingering notes, other short and staccato, some highly boosted, some rolled off, basically a mismatch of bass sounds that only a bassist could enjoy. I can say that the Arya comfortably dealt with all of them and no matter how many layers I added, the previous layers were still easily identified. In fact, it was even easy to differentiate the bass guitars used, meaning I could identify each bass guitar even after I had forgotten which bass I used for which layer.

Obviously, if they respond well to my mediocre and exaggerated bass playing, there is no need to point out how well they do with bass played by real bassists. It really is joyful to experience bass lines from the likes of Pino Palladino, Victor Wooten, Stanley Clarke, amongst many others. The Arya allows you to appreciate their nuances and details that are many times lost behind other instruments.

Mids

The transition from the bass to the lower mids is very clean and precise, as is to be expected from a Hifiman planar headphone. Everything is clear and detailed all the way through the mids making them a very pleasurable headphone to listen to. I did find that vocal roots took a bit of step forwards in presence in comparison to their overtones. I am not saying that lower notes were any way louder or boosted, just that usually I find the higher frequencies of vocals are slightly more forward than their roots, which is not the case with the Arya. 

For example, vocals like Crooked Still in “Little Sadie”, when listening to the song on the Ananda, the higher regions of her voice stand out more than on the Arya. The Arya shows no lack of presence to her vocals, just seems to emphasise the lower regions, making her voice come across a little richer and smoother.

However it is not just vocals that give this impression, electric guitars and other similar instruments have the same kind of presence to them as the vocals, the guitar in “Crazy” by Daniela Andrade has a wonderful smoothness to it. In fact, when listening to just the guitar on its own, you would think that these are warm and relaxed headphones, however, when her voice comes in, you immediately realize how clear and detailed these are, just with a smoothness to them.

Highs

In the higher regions is where I get a little lost with the Arya. In general the highs seem to be more subdued than on the Ananda, although only slightly. At the same time, while the Ananda gives me a sense of being brighter up top, there are certain notes that sound a little harsh on the Arya whereas on the Ananda they don’t stand out. For example, with my usual sibilance test, “Code Cool” by Patricia Barber, I get the feeling that the overall song is smoother than on the Ananda but certain “S” moments suddenly sound harsh. It is not all of them, it is only on occasions and is difficult to explain. There is no clear excess of sibilance on the Arya, just that the Ananda seems to be brighter yet somehow smoother.

Detail and speed & Soundstage and imaging

Usually I would discuss these separately, however, in the case of the Arya, these are closely tied together, as the sense of detail is widely affected by the soundstage.

Let me try to explain…

When first putting the Arya on, or putting them on after using the Ananda, the first impression is that there is less detail, that everything is just not quite there. That impression is far from the truth. In the case of the Ananda, which is a very detailed headphone with a decent soundstage (I actually thought it was a great soundstage until I spent time with the Arya), all of the details are upfront, they are presented to you in a way that is impossible to ignore. Even when I am listening to the Ananda while doing other things, in other words as BGM, I still hear every detail. 

In the case of the Arya, it still has excellent detail but those details are distributed better. There is better separation and image placement, not just left to right but also front to back, meaning that those secondary details, such as subtle echos or background details, are located in a way that they are not immediately obvious unless you are actually listening (i.e: paying attention) to the Arya. When using the Arya while doing other things, they are a much more relaxed listen than the Ananda, but as soon as you pay attention to them, you are immersed in a world of detail.


Conclusion…

It is easy to say that the Arya are an excellent set of headphones. Their speed, detail, tuning, aesthetics, basically everything about them are things that I like.

Now, in comparison to the Ananda (which I said in the review that I didn’t need to look for anything superior), they are better in some aspects and not in others. Actually, better is not the word, let's say preference, they are more to my preference in some areas and in others not as much. 

Rather than list my preferences now, to maybe later change them very soon, I will wait until I have reviewed the HE1000se, which is my next headphone on the list and I am very much looking forward to it. Once I have spent time with those, I will do a brief comparison of the three.

For now, let’s just say that I have absolutely no complaints about the Arya!

SenyorC