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Hifiman Sundara vs. Ananda layman comparison.

Rayman30

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#1
This is a non-scientific comparison between the Hifiman Sundara and Hifiman Ananda, without measuring equipment or proper volume matching, for the layperson who might have difficulty relating the measurements to real world listening experiences (aka me). I tried to listen at moderate volume on both, to where any higher would be uncomfortable. This is just my subjective experience and is not a substitute for scientific testing. Both headphones were plugged into a Topping A50S balanced 4.4mm output.

Songs Used:
Caravan Palace - Aftermath
Dire Straits - Sultans of Swing
Abba - Take a chance on me
Lynyrd Skynyrd - Tuesday's Gone
Joan Baez - Diamonds and Rust
Infected Mushroom - Heavyweight
White Zombie - Thunder Kiss '65
Static-X - All These Years
Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
Run the Jewels - Call Ticketron
Aurora - It happened quiet

Comfort - The cushions on the Sundara are softer and apply less clamping force, the Ananda are absolutely fine, but they do apply more pressure and are firmer.
Winner: Sundara

Bass - On the Sundara bass hits are more visceral and has more impact, it feels like your closer to the woofer, while more controlled on the Ananda it feels like you are farther away from the woofer, this comes across as more tonally accurate and appropriate on the Ananda but is more fun on the Sundara. It seems like the bass is less blended and has more clarity on the Ananda, it bleeds into the lower mids far less or is simply less distracting and lets me hear the lower mids more clearly, I respect the level of control and accuracy on the Ananda here, but I also enjoy the fact I can feel the bass on my cheeks with the Sundara. Both cans do not do well with sub base and have noticeable rolloff.
Winner: Tie

Midrange - There is an immediately noticeable middle to upper midrange shoutiness on the Sundara, it seems to be elevated there to my ears, which makes it sound a bit thinner and tinny compared to the Ananda. The Ananda tones it down here just enough, and comes across as more balanced, less fatiguing and softer overall, if a bit more scooped out and less engaging. I would say the Ananda takes a small step towards the midrange of dynamic driver headphones such as the Sennheiser HD6xx in terms of dynamics and a softer presentation. I’ve heard the midrange described as icy overall cool sounding by reviewers, I disagree, I think it has neutral to cool presentation though it can be a little thin on certain tracks, it definitely also has upper mid range shout, but its somehow less fatiguing than the Sundara, just watch out for the mids on overly compressed tracks, it can be overally thin.
Winner: Ananda

Treble - The Sundara has more treble energy, this slight elevation on the stock tuning does allow me to hear the finer details more clearly on the Sundara but it can come across as shrill and grainy, but I suspect this is due to factory tuning and not driver ability. The Ananda are more refined here, the treble is right where you would expect it. I know charts show an elevation here for the Ananda but I don't hear it. The Sundara stock tuning here is fatiguing to me, not so much on the Ananda.
Winner: Ananda

Imaging and sound stage - This is where the Ananda runs away from the Sundara. The instrument seperation is on another level, the soundstage (While I would not call it huge) is also significantly larger, the amount of air and distance between instruments is significantly better on the Ananda. I attribute this to cup and driver size, this must be that "holographic sound" that I keep hearing about. The Sundara are more intimate with far less instrument separation. This creates a boxed in sensation with certain songs on the Sundara, when switching back to the Anands it sounded like going from a studio to a concert hall . It is important to note, that some songs and certain situations had me preferring one or the other, so this is definitely prefence. One thing I did notice, was that the soundstage is so immense, that it can make the music sound a little disconnected at times, but I found this went away after some EQ.
Winner: Ananda

Conclusion: Both are great, if you don't have an amplifier then the Ananda is the best way to go since they are easier to drive. I have to say, the Ananda are superior to me, but its not night and day. I found that certain songs I preferred on the Sundara but more of the songs I preferred on the Ananda. Out of the box, the tuning of the Sundara is farther from the Harman Target, I feel like this has a lot to do with the differences here. If you asked me if the price difference was worth it, I would say this. If you plan on just plugging it in and listening straight away without any EQ, yes the Ananda is worth the price difference, however when using EQ to the Harman Target on the Sundara, they become a lot more balanced, and that makes it more complicated, then it comes down to how much you value imaging and soundstage.

This review was done with strock tunings, I much prefer Oratory EQ, which is closer to the Harman curve.
 
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paolomo

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#2
Thanks for the detailed comparison. I think Ananda have a good thing going, the way they are tuned to sound great out the box and with little power requirements. I think part of the price bonus you pay goes into this aspect.
 
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#3
Hey, thanks for the insight. I dont own the Ananda but I can recommend the E1DA PowerDac V2 for a great synergy with the Sundara, and also for the versatility to load Harman EQs (Oratory 1990_direct).
 
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#4
Which one would you say offers most bang for buck overall considering the pros and cons of each, including price difference?

Thanks for the detailed comparison!
 
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Rayman30

Rayman30

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Thread Starter #5
Which one would you say offers most bang for buck overall considering the pros and cons of each, including price difference?

Thanks for the detailed comparison!
The Sundara is more intimate and engaging, instruments are a lot closer together in its imaging, sometimes that comes across as more cohesive than the Ananda but other times it sounds congested, its more fun, but its stock tuning is overly bright to my ears so I had to use EQ.

The Ananda has a big sound, much wider sound stage, soft, polite and refined, has a better stock tuning but is somehow less fun. It seems to have a slightly more recessed mid range which could explain why the Sundara seems more engaging. However the Ananda is less congested, and its very easy to place instruments.

I sold the Sundara, which was hard to do (They are similar enough to make owning both redundant) when using the Sundara I could easily see what they were lacking, and when I was using the Ananda I found myself missing the engagement and fun sound of the Sundara.

Best value? Sundara with Oratory's EQ to Harman Target without a doubt, just as long as you have an amplifier. Now, if you can find an Ananda for $500 like I did, well then the Ananda are better value.
 
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#6
The Sundara is more intimate and engaging, instruments are a lot closer together in its imaging, sometimes that comes across as more cohesive than the Ananda but other times it sounds congested, its more fun, but its stock tuning is overly bright to my ears so I had to use EQ.

The Ananda has a big sound, much wider sound stage, soft, polite and refined, has a better stock tuning but is somehow less fun. It seems to have a slightly more recessed mid range which could explain why the Sundara seems more engaging. However the Ananda is less congested, and its very easy to place instruments.

I sold the Sundara, which was hard to do (They are similar enough to make owning both redundant) when using the Sundara I could easily see what they were lacking, and when I was using the Ananda I found myself missing the engagement and fun sound of the Sundara.

Best value? Sundara with Oratory's EQ to Harman Target without a doubt, just as long as you have an amplifier. Now, if you can find an Ananda for $500 like I did, well then the Ananda are better value.
Be careful with Ananda lest you fall down and trip into an Arya (like I did;)). Better stop there and please don't ever listen to a well driven Arya. I'm trying not even think about heKv2 or heKse but it's almost inevitable in a "resistance is futile" kind of way, haha.
 
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#7
Hi! Thanks for the review!

I noticed you compared the two using Dire Straits - Sultans of Swing. I know this is really subjective but may I know if you prefer Sundara or Ananda for this song? Thanks!
 
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Rayman30

Rayman30

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Thread Starter #8
Hi! Thanks for the review!

I noticed you compared the two using Dire Straits - Sultans of Swing. I know this is really subjective but may I know if you prefer Sundara or Ananda for this song? Thanks!
In this song I would give it to the Sundara.

This song is mildly compressed to my ears, there is some imaging there but the song does not benefit from the soundstage of the Ananda that much, because due to its compression or how it was recorded, it seems to be leaner in the mid range, the Ananda with this song might place the mids a little to recessed, resulting in having to turn up the volume a bit to get satisfactory vocal volume. The Sundara is more engaging and cohesive with this particular song, likely a result of the way the song was recorded.

But I always prefer the Sundara with Oratory EQ vs without (Comparrison above was down without EQ), but I imagine it would similar enough with or without the EQ to draw a somewhat similar conclusion, the shoutiness of the Sundara may actually make this song more enjoyable without EQ. Rule of thumb, songs with lots of stuff going on, or very big or wide sound, particularly if its well recorded give a wow factor with the Ananda, but songs that are narrow or compressed or intimate in nature seem to do better on the Sundara.

Note: I do not have the Sundara anymore, so this is from memory, my advice is if you want similar to Sundara, the HE4XX are at least 90% the way there technically, and are a ton of fun to listen to for far cheaper.
 
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#9
In this song I would give it to the Sundara.

This song is mildly compressed to my ears, there is some imaging there but the song does not benefit from the soundstage of the Ananda that much, because due to its compression or how it was recorded, it seems to be leaner in the mid range, the Ananda with this song might place the mids a little to recessed, resulting in having to turn up the volume a bit to get satisfactory vocal volume. The Sundara is more engaging and cohesive with this particular song, likely a result of the way the song was recorded.

But I always prefer the Sundara with Oratory EQ vs without (Comparrison above was down without EQ), but I imagine it would similar enough with or without the EQ to draw a somewhat similar conclusion, the shoutiness of the Sundara may actually make this song more enjoyable without EQ. Rule of thumb, songs with lots of stuff going on, or very big or wide sound, particularly if its well recorded give a wow factor with the Ananda, but songs that are narrow or compressed or intimate in nature seem to do better on the Sundara.

Note: I do not have the Sundara anymore, so this is from memory, my advice is if you want similar to Sundara, the HE4XX are at least 90% the way there technically, and are a ton of fun to listen to for far cheaper.
Thank you for the reply! Yeah I agree that this particular song is compressed but there is a good balance between instruments and vocals and it's one of my favourite songs when I'm trying out headphones. I always try to find the balance where the vocal sounds good but the instruments are still enjoyable that I can't resist tapping my feet. Probably not a good song to assess soundstage or sub-bass though.
 

rayan

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#10
Hey nice write-up, I'm kind of trying to decide between the two. Did you have any thoughts on the Ananda with EQ? I noticed you only spoke about the Sundara with EQ, but how much can the Anandas be improved?
 
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Rayman30

Rayman30

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Thread Starter #11
Hey nice write-up, I'm kind of trying to decide between the two. Did you have any thoughts on the Ananda with EQ? I noticed you only spoke about the Sundara with EQ, but how much can the Anandas be improved?
Not a lot of EQ required for the Ananda to reach the Harman curve, the stock tuning is actually very good. The Sundara are a lot further from the Harman preference curve and require a lot more EQ, but still are pleasant (albeit a bit bright for me) out of the box.
 

devopsprodude

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#12
Not a lot of EQ required for the Ananda to reach the Harman curve, the stock tuning is actually very good. The Sundara are a lot further from the Harman preference curve and require a lot more EQ, but still are pleasant (albeit a bit bright for me) out of the box.
Incorrect.

Sundara without EQ preference score 92 https://www.dropbox.com/s/o3fza1a4kmmy4vr/Hifiman Sundara (2020 revised earpads).pdf?dl=0

Ananda without EQ preference score 82 https://www.dropbox.com/s/l1wivpf8901uflr/Hifiman Ananda.pdf?dl=0

And it's not like the Ananda's performance improves with EQ. Still only 84. Sundara didn't have much room for improvement, but still gains 4 to get to 96.
 
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Rayman30

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Thread Starter #13
Incorrect.

Sundara without EQ preference score 92 https://www.dropbox.com/s/o3fza1a4kmmy4vr/Hifiman Sundara (2020 revised earpads).pdf?dl=0

Ananda without EQ preference score 82 https://www.dropbox.com/s/l1wivpf8901uflr/Hifiman Ananda.pdf?dl=0

And it's not like the Ananda's performance improves with EQ. Still only 84. Sundara didn't have much room for improvement, but still gains 4 to get to 96.
Ahh ok thanks for providing corrected information, I suppose what's pertinent for ryan in this case, is that the Ananda's factory tune is likely more agreeable than the stock tuning of the Sundara (Subjective) but I have found there to be sufficient consensus on this.

At least this is what I found with my testing, there was a larger audible change to the sound of the Sundara when using Oratory's EQ settings, the sound of the Ananda did not change that much to my ears.
 

odyo

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#14
Try this eq and thank me later:
1000hz -1db, Q3
1900hz +4db, Q1,3
3500hz -4db, Q1,5
Fixes all the issues this headphone has imo.
Bass is subjective though 100hz +4db, Q0,8 works nice with Ananda
 

aandres_gm

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#15
I'm testing both headphones at the moment. From the reviews I heard, I expected a way larger difference. While there are differences, they're not half as pronounced as some reviewers would like you to think, in my experience at least.
 
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Rayman30

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Thread Starter #18
The diminishing returns can be very steep after the $350-$500 mark imo.
 

aandres_gm

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#19
The diminishing returns can be very steep after the $350-$500 mark imo.
I feel the same way. Will make a decision next week, but, while the Ananda does have a couple of interesting aspects over the Sundara, I feel justifying the price difference is going to be hard.
 
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Rayman30

Rayman30

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Thread Starter #20
I feel the same way. Will make a decision next week, but, while the Ananda does have a couple of interesting aspects over the Sundara, I feel justifying the price difference is going to be hard.
For me, it was difficult, but the Ananda did more to separate itself from my HD-650 than the Sundara, ultimately making the Sundara slightly redundant,
 
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