Hifiman Arya Review
By Carroll Moore -November 13, 2018 5:00 pm
Since its announcement at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, the Hifiman Arya has been haunting my dreams. Waking up in cold sweats, I would wonder how this $1599 headphone would sound. Borrowing technology from the higher-tier HE1000v2 and coming it at almost half the price, the allure was maddening. Until now. With the Arya resting seductively on my review desk, I can finally dive into a new world of sound. But what lies in store?
The Arya arrives in a package similar to that of the Sundara and Ananda – with lots of cardboard, a warranty card, a user manual, and a single 5 ft (1.5 m) headphone cable.
In terms of appearance, the Arya looks more like the Edition X than any other Hifiman model. However, instead of chrome grills, the Arya rocks a matte-black color scheme with the same elongated earcups.
On the earpads, hybrid leather-and-velour padding allows some bass extension without rendering every marathon listening session a hot, sweaty mess. That removable cable connects to both earcups via 3.5 mm dual entry plugs, while the end of the cable terminates in a 6.35 mm plug.
Once situated on my head, I’m instantly reminded of why I recommend this brand to folks who find Audeze cans too heavy. Because the Arya sits on my head like a velvet dream, with a negligible amount of weight that melts away as I get sucked into a world of sound.
Frequency Response: 8-65,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 35 ohms
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 90 dB
Ah, specs from Hifiman. As we can see, the Arya boasts an expansive frequency range well beyond the range of human hearing. However, I’m expecting to notice a good deal of extension because of this. At 35 ohms, the impedance seems a bit low and in practical testing the Arya still seems to require some juice. (For my listening sessions, I used it with the IFI iDSD Micro Black Label, as my FiiO just couldn’t handle this level of awesome.) Lastly, the sound pressure level of 90 dB seems kind of weak on paper – but with proper amplification, you won’t have any issues finding an appropriate level of volume.
In the low end, the Arya provides a driving and energetic performance. There’s tons of detail here, but there’s also a certain energy that reminds me of the Edition X and X V2. Warm but not too bassy, the Arya features a decided sense of weight in the low end – a sense of depth and a precise, contrasting nature that ensures you feel low frequencies not in your ears, but somewhere in your chest. With good impact, the bass remains crisp and clean, but never gets too crazy. With perhaps the slightest bit of emphasis here, it does add a little extra “oomph” to my test tracks from New Order and Atmosphere, sounding more like the HE1000 V2 than the Edition X V2.
Good detail and excellent fidelity abound in the mids. Not exactly forward-leaning, it’s a pleasant evolution from the Ananda which, for me, sounded almost too mid-heavy (and this coming from a guy who loves his mids). But there’s just enough emphasis here to jive with that fat low end, while never really surpassing it. The result, then, sounds full and articulated, but not quite so sterile and un-engaging as the Ananda.
Sparkling with detail that waxes a little bright at times, the Arya’s high end features beautiful extension. Vocals sound phenomenal, but the real show-stealer in this part of the frequency range will be the instrumentals. Strings sound downright breathtaking, with near-perfect tonality. This yields a delicious sense of fidelity while keeping the overall experience emotive and fun.
Breathtaking in its sweeping grandeur, the soundstage here lands within the same lofty realm as that of the HE1000 V2. Every note seems drawn in the air around me, appearing in distinct immutable layers. Listening to a song with the Arya is like following the sound of music through many, many rooms. But each room yields a new nuance, a new microscopic look at the finest detail, the tiniest relics of genius scattered as pressure in your ears.
Hifiman goes back to a braided cable like that found on the older HE400 models with the Arya. It’s a nice trip down memory lane, and I think I prefer it compared to the other designs they’ve used since.
Despite very high expectations, I’ve only been let down by the Arya in one regard: there’s no 4.4 mm cable in the box. Yet, it comes included with the HE1000SE. I mean, I understand that if you pay almost $2000 more, you should get a nice balanced cable. But I am dying to hear the Arya’s sonic chops played with all the space and depth that comes with balanced sound.
Overall, the biggest success of the Arya is the sheer level of sound quality. It’s mind-numbing, spine-tingling, toe-curling goodness wrapped up inside a headphone. A headphone I just don’t want to CANNOT FOR THE LIFE OF ME put down.
In Comparison to the Hifiman HE1000SE
Here the Arya appears to pale slightly in comparison. “Slightly” because the HE1000SE appears a little brighter and harsher to my ears, while the Arya seems just a tad bit relaxed in comparison, without ever sounding too piercing or uncomfortable. That being said, the HE1000SE still offers waaaaay more depth and soundstage. Mids and lows, on the other hand, seem fairly similar between these models (although there may be slightly more detail across the frequency range in the HE1000SE).
In Comparison to the Hifiman Edition X V2
The Edition X V2 offers more extension in the low end and, surprisingly, in the high end as well. Compared to the Arya, the biggest difference here is a distinctly lacking or recessed midrange – one that just seems to shrink away from my ears in comparison to the Arya’s meaty presence.
In Comparison to the Hifiman HE6SE
Now the plot thickens, because it took some time for me to really see (or hear, if you will) how these two headphones differ. The HE6SE definitely requires way more power to drive, but it would be too easy to label these headphones as low-impedance and high-impedance variations of the same sound. To my ears, the HE6SE may be technically more accurate. I say technically because it’s a shade, a whisper, an iota of accuracy more than what is found in the Arya. When stacked up together, the Arya seems slightly crisper with a tiny bit more contrast and extension in the lows and highs.
At $1599, the Hifiman Arya is an impressive addition to the Hifiman Lineup. For those in search of good extension in the lows and highs, while not losing any of the midrange, the Arya may well be the holy grail. This slightly v-shaped sound signature delivers an impressive sound profile that works well with any genre of music, while never straying too far away from a sense of accuracy. This is a fun headphone for fun people who want to have fun listening to things.
But maybe you want clinical accuracy, or a headphone that is slightly better-suited as a benchmark. In this case, my recommendation would go to the Hifiman Ananda ($999), or the stalwart Sennheiser HD800S ($1699).
If you’re the kind of listener who wants an intense listening experience with tons of extension in the lows and highs, you could get more of that sound from the Hifiman Edition X V2 ($1299). However, this may result in a loss of midrange detail.
For those of you who prefer a warmer sound altogether – without the Arya’s luscious high-end detail – I recommend checking out the Audeze LCD-X ($1699).
The Arya offers a revealing yet entertaining listening experience. Sporting a wealth of detail and impressive extension, the Arya feels more like a drug or a higher plane of existence than it does a headphone. Our recommendation? This is one of those headphones you just have to hear to believe. Definitely seek out a place to audition it, but only if you have the money to buy it. The sound is just that fine.