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Hifiman Sundara Review (headphone)

MayaTlab

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Planar magnetics can often mess with a microphone's operation - the magnetic part of planar magnetics can potentially affect the coils in a microphone, which have their own magnetic fields. May be why you see such a raggedy FR plot for the Sundaras. Maybe.

To be precise the one concern I had was the 5 or so dB high-Q drop at around 1.2kHz that both channels exhibited, not the overall wiggliness of the response. I was expecting rather a 2dB or so drop given the available measurements of the 2020 version on ear simulators (and my version was in all likelihood manufactured in 2021 if I interpreted the labels in Chinese correctly).

@solderdude knows more about this than me, but just like him I thought of the presence of electrets / MEMS within the front volume of most ANC headphones, although most of them aren't planars.

It's a bit of a moot point anyway since the DIY probe's microphone sits outside the earcup :
Screenshot 2022-01-13 at 08.44.41.png
And more importantly since a second sample didn't have such a sharp high-Q drop at around 1.2Hz and something more aligned with the 2 or so dB drop seen in most other measurements (I was only able to check that on the right earcup as the left one didn't work out of the box).

The high-Q wiggles are, as Solderdude wrote, something often seen in quite a few planars, Hifiman in particular.
For the DIY probe traces, some of the high and medium-Q wiggles are a by-product of my early attempts at creating a compensation file for its raw response, I've learnt over time how to improve it, but it's still a work in progress.
The latest compensation files I use tend to look more "right", ie most of the wiggles caused by the compensation process have been eliminated. For example, with the DIY prove above vs blocked ear canal entrance microphones below, HD650 in red, HE400SE in blue :
Screenshot 2022-01-13 at 09.10.53.png
1/48th smoothing for the blocked ear canal entrance mics. For the probe's traces it's impossible to know exactly given the way I compensate for its raw response.
For both methods please remember that the absolute values are incorrect, particularly above a few hundred Hz, and that the relative differences between the two headphones are only applicable to my own samples on my own head.
I'm only really interested in relative comparisons so creating a compensation file for the DIY probe is optional, it's just a more intuitive way to look at the acquired data, that's all.
 

Jabinho

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Thanks for the detailed review! I like mine, a lot. Peak here, shelf there, and they shine, that was my first successful EQ attempt ever. My impression is that a pair of Sundara and a random pick from the HD 600/650/660s/6XX family can make a lot of people happy.

(ok, a random pick or two :D )
Yes. But what you think about this review ?
 

Ken Tajalli

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Yes. But what you think about this review ?
It is an absolute stupid idea to listen to a recording of a hedphone in order to tell how it sounds.
The video is daft to begin with.
I am aware it has become a craze with some people thinking it is cool, but it is a craze after all, as in crazy.
 

solderdude

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You could ask how @oluvsgadgets thinks about this.
He, most likely, will have compared the sound of headphones with recordings played back on good monitors.
It really depends on what measuring fixture is used and which compensation.

It does give insight in tonal balance differences but agree that the result will not be accurate in an absolute sense.

Trying to listen to the difference between a HD800 and HD650 on a DT770 for instance is pointless because you will hear the coloration of the DT770 combined with that of the HD650, HD800 and the measurement fixture and will have lost spatial info.
 

paolomo

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Yes. But what you think about this review ?
No doubt the more affordable ones are great too! When I wrote my reply (9 months ago :) ) I hadn’t tried the HE400se yet. Full disclosure, I own both the Sundara and the HE400se now (besides the HD650). The Sundara costs more, but you aso pay for the design/finish, which are pretty cool imho.

As for the video in particular, there are many like this. Affordable products being lauded, with affiliate links “in the description below” ;) It’s a business model, and an honorable job. Still, we should watch/listen, and then draw our conclusions independently.
 

Rayman30

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Really liking this slight modification to Oratory's EQ settings for Sundara.

Preamp: -4.5 dB
Filter: ON LSC Fc 28 Hz Gain 2 dB Q 0.71
Filter: ON PK Fc 66 Hz Gain -0.08 dB Q 1.5
Filter: ON LSC Fc 105 Hz Gain 4.5 dB Q 0.71
Filter: ON PK Fc 540 Hz Gain 1 dB Q 1.4
Filter: ON PK Fc 2250 Hz Gain 3.3 dB Q 1.4
Filter: ON PK Fc 6600 Hz Gain -2.5 dB Q 4
Filter: ON PK Fc 7900 Hz Gain 4 dB Q 1
Filter: ON PK Fc 8600 Hz Gain -2.2 dB Q 6
Filter: ON PK Fc 10000 Hz Gain -1 dB Q 0.71
 

Haider

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Hi,

Remapped my Sundaras' using Equaliser APO via Peace: -
Preamp -8.5dB
55Hz low shelf 7dB gain Q1
100Hz low shelf 2dB gain Q1
125Hz low shelf 0.5dB gain Q1
2112Hz Pk filter 1.5dB Q1.5
5250Hz Pk filter 3dB Q4
6300Hz Pk filter -4dB Q3
10050 Pk filter 6dB Q4
16500 Pk filter 3dB Q2

Wondering if anyone could give it a peer review and feedback; that would be brilliant?

Thanks
H
 
Last edited:

MrBrainwash

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Hi,

Remapped my Sundaras' using Equaliser APO via Peace: -
Preamp -8.5dB
55Hz low shelf 7dB gain Q1
100Hz low shelf 2dB gain Q1
125Hz low shelf 0.5dB gain Q1
2112Hz Pk filter 1.5dB Q1.5
5250Hz Pk filter 3dB Q4
6300Hz Pk filter -4dB Q3
10050 Pk filter 6dB Q4
16500 Pk filter 3dB Q2

Wondering if anyone could give it a peer review and feedback; that would be brilliant?

Thanks
H
Tonality is off for me with your EQ.
 

radix

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Really liking this slight modification to Oratory's EQ settings for Sundara.

Preamp: -4.5 dB
Filter: ON LSC Fc 28 Hz Gain 2 dB Q 0.71
Filter: ON PK Fc 66 Hz Gain -0.08 dB Q 1.5
Filter: ON LSC Fc 105 Hz Gain 4.5 dB Q 0.71
Filter: ON PK Fc 540 Hz Gain 1 dB Q 1.4
Filter: ON PK Fc 2250 Hz Gain 3.3 dB Q 1.4
Filter: ON PK Fc 6600 Hz Gain -2.5 dB Q 4
Filter: ON PK Fc 7900 Hz Gain 4 dB Q 1
Filter: ON PK Fc 8600 Hz Gain -2.2 dB Q 6
Filter: ON PK Fc 10000 Hz Gain -1 dB Q 0.71

Did you mean for filter #2 to be -0.08? I use -0.8. Or is that part of your mod along with filter #3?
 

Haider

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Did you mean for filter #2 to be -0.08? I use -0.8. Or is that part of your mod along with filter #3?
Yes, I keep the bass up to get close to the Harman target, I've rejigged it closer to Amir's setting with a bit of bass boost: -
Preamp -8.5dB
50Hz low shelf 5.5dB gain Q1
100Hz low shelf 2.5dB gain Q1
2112Hz Pk filter 2.5dB Q1.5
5250Hz Pk filter 3dB Q4
6300Hz Pk filter -4dB Q3
 

CommanderCute

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Hey,

I own the Sundaras for a couple of days now and I'm quite happy with them together with the Qudelix 5K.

Sometimes I miss a little body/bass/impact.

So I tweaked the eq a little, tried the Oriatory1990 harman target curve and optimum hifi curve. But the sound didn't get better for me, little bit nasal. Can't describe it that good.

Since I have little experience with headphones, I wanted to ask you two things.

1. Do you use eq/Oriatory1990 with the Sundaras? Do you think the get way better with that?

2. When I just want to boost the bass, nothing more, how should I change the eq? I really struggle with it (band, filter type, q-factor, ... it's overwhelming).

Thanks for your help :)
 

radix

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Hey,

I own the Sundaras for a couple of days now and I'm quite happy with them together with the Qudelix 5K.

Sometimes I miss a little body/bass/impact.

So I tweaked the eq a little, tried the Oriatory1990 harman target curve and optimum hifi curve. But the sound didn't get better for me, little bit nasal. Can't describe it that good.

Since I have little experience with headphones, I wanted to ask you two things.

1. Do you use eq/Oriatory1990 with the Sundaras? Do you think the get way better with that?

2. When I just want to boost the bass, nothing more, how should I change the eq? I really struggle with it (band, filter type, q-factor, ... it's overwhelming).

Thanks for your help :)

Here's the EQ I use on mine. I have the Topping DX3Pro+ amp.

Preamp: -6.0 dB

Filter 1: ON LS Fc 28 Hz Gain 6.0 dB Q 0.71
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 66 Hz Gain -0.8 dB Q 1.5
Filter 3: ON LS Fc 105 Hz Gain 5.0 dB Q 0.71
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 540 Hz Gain 1.0 dB Q 1.4
Filter 5: ON HS Fc 2250 Hz Gain 3.3 dB Q 1.4
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 6600 Hz Gain -2.5 dB Q 4.0
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 7900 Hz Gain 4.0 dB Q 1.0
Filter 8: ON PK Fc 8600 Hz Gain -2.2 dB Q 6.0
Filter 9: ON HS Fc 10000 Hz Gain -1.0 dB Q 0.71

I followed the Oratory Harman w/ revised ear pads. As it says "adjust the gain of band 1..." for sub-base, I used 5.0 for bass extension. I also dropped filter 3 a little.

I increased the Preamp compensation down a little too as I used a large Filter 1. That might not have been needed.

I find the Sundara really nice. I think they have a pretty rolling, smooth sound to them and do not find it hollow.

Marc
 

Haider

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Hey,

I own the Sundaras for a couple of days now and I'm quite happy with them together with the Qudelix 5K.

Sometimes I miss a little body/bass/impact.

So I tweaked the eq a little, tried the Oriatory1990 harman target curve and optimum hifi curve. But the sound didn't get better for me, little bit nasal. Can't describe it that good.

Since I have little experience with headphones, I wanted to ask you two things.

1. Do you use eq/Oriatory1990 with the Sundaras? Do you think the get way better with that?

2. When I just want to boost the bass, nothing more, how should I change the eq? I really struggle with it (band, filter type, q-factor, ... it's overwhelming).

Thanks for your help :)
I used Amir's setting but shared the bass out from 100Hz: -
Preamp -8.5dB
50Hz low shelf 5.5dB gain Q1
100Hz low shelf 2.5dB gain Q1
2112Hz Pk filter 2.5dB Q1.5
5250Hz Pk filter 3dB Q4
6300Hz Pk filter -4dB Q3

I am using a E1DA 9038d into an Arcam rHead both are neutral. I waiting for Aiyama A3 preamp, I'm rolling the op amps to MUSES02 & tubes to some new old stock Sylvania 5654 tubes. I hope to add a bit of warmth and weight to the sound. I have listened to quite a bit of live acoustic unamplified music and instruments in reality are more rich. Go listen to some pluck a double-bass. I find Marantz deliver on this.

I am not against measuring at all but I always say measure what my brain is telling me. Ear provide a signal and The Brain does it's organic DSP. You are not hearing what your ears detect unfortunately, just ask the mental people who hear voices...
 

CommanderCute

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Thanks.

But after testing the last days I ended up just using no eq.

I like the Sundaras the way they are and with more bass they just feel boomy and loose there identity for me.

I will listen now to headphones as they're intended to be and don't try to change them.
 

Bernard23

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I'm looking at Jaakko's AutoEQ list, and there are two versions of the 2020 model, the PEQ values are different! How can you determine which pads are the new ones, old ones, new one (in brackets) ??
I started with the Sundara 2020 option using the two .wav files, but I feel it's time to tweak them a little, in the bass.

I just got mine today, along with a pair of HD650. I already had some HD560 for about a week, and Grado hemps for about 9 months now. I've no desire to start a collection, so won't keep all of them, but at the moment I'm preferring ever so slightly the Sundara over the 650, all with EQ of course. These things plays blues rock like monsters. The slam of a snare drum is the best I've heard on various tracks I know really well. They are far more dynamic and punchy than I expected having read so many reviews that don't even think about EQing.
 

GaryH

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I'm looking at Jaakko's AutoEQ list, and there are two versions of the 2020 model, the PEQ values are different! How can you determine which pads are the new ones, old ones, new one (in brackets) ??
I started with the Sundara 2020 option using the two .wav files, but I feel it's time to tweak them a little, in the bass.
Best to actually use Oratory's own EQ presets (2020 Sundara below), rather than AutoEQ's just based on his measurements.
You can easily adjust to your preferred level of sub-bass and bass via the gain of bands 1 and 3 respectively, as per the notes at the bottom-right of the pdf.
 

Bernard23

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Best to actually use Oratory's own EQ presets (2020 Sundara below), rather than AutoEQ's just based on his measurements.
You can easily adjust to your preferred level of sub-bass and bass via the gain of bands 1 and 3 respectively, as per the notes at the bottom-right of the pdf.
Thanks for that, will try them out.
Are they likely to be a more accurate starting point wrt to target over the .wav files? Or is that Oratories measurements are more reliable form which to calculate the delta to target?
Edit - just upload them into Roon, band is 0dB gain. Presuming this your "flavour" slider. How does Oratory calculate his data points? by eye (as I presume Amir does eyeballing the target delta graph.
 
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GaryH

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Thanks for that, will try them out.
Are they likely to be a more accurate starting point wrt to target over the .wav files? Or is that Oratories measurements are more reliable form which to calculate the delta to target?
Edit - just upload them into Roon, band is 0dB gain. Presuming this your "flavour" slider. How does Oratory calculate his data points? by eye (as I presume Amir does eyeballing the target delta graph.
AutoEQ uses several data sources, including Oratory's, but AutoEQ's target is around 2 dB lower than the Harman target in the bass. For this specific headphone Oratory's default EQ does not bring the response all the way up to Harman in the sub-bass, probably either because he felt the trade-off in increased distortion there or decreased volume headroom (from the lower required pre-gain to avoid digital clipping), or both, was not worth it. If these are not issues for you then you can set filter 1 to 6 dB for linear extension in the sub-bass (matching the Harman target) as he says on the pdf (and decrease the listed negative pre-amp gain by 6 dB to -11.5 dB to avoid clipping). Oratory calculates the error response (deviation from target), inverts that, then manually creates filters to target that, all while listening to the headphone and fine-tuning if needed.
 
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Bernard23

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FWIW, I just updated, both 650 and Hemp with the PEQ settings from Oratory database. I've brought my Hemps back to life again, biggest change / improvement. The convoluted files were not to my liking at all, a Grado with too much bass is not realistic.
Roon is really easy to use tbf, especially to avoid clipping. I've set all of my phones to crossfeed, that's another revelation (for me anyway).
 

Bernard23

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3 days of intense listening. I started doing the critical listening thing, playing the same tracks over and over again, listening out for different details and nuances. Eventually, work and ;life distracted me as did the boredom of it, and I started to react to the sheer engagement, every now and again I'd stop, put down my pen and start air drumming, which as a guitar player is quite serious....
Now, I'm a huge AC/DC fan, like half the world apparently; and I know most of their songs by heart (I play them on guitar daily etc blah blah), so when I got to that part of my test I remembered why I love Grado stuff, and in particular Hemps, Riff Raff on If You Want Blood is on another planet of ecstasy. So, they are my guitar hero phones, and along come Mr Sundara, and wow, are they good? I've EQ'd all of these, and this is the ladder of fortune, though the Yamahas at the bottom are ridiculously good for the £££.
The hemps are the naughty schoolkids, juts like Angus & Malcolm; climbing trees and generally arsing about. Sundara are their elder brother in college, more sensible, mature, restrained, but not afraid to go large with younger brother. The 650 are Dad at home, safe and sensible, and slightly worried about his two sons.
I doubt one device does all you want at this price, as no guitar has all the tone you want, no one camera can take all the shots you imagine; but sometimes being the middle child is such a great compromise. These phones are just quietly and unassumedly brilliant at just being really very good at everything.
 

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