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HIFIMAN Susvara Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 216 61.9%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 61 17.5%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 33 9.5%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 39 11.2%

  • Total voters
    349

jhwalker

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A simple fact about your data and measurements is that beyond 9khz headphone measurements are unreliable. Honest & genuine measurers like Rtings clearly state this with a disclaimer. Just imagine thos FR graphs abd suddenky you realise beyond 9khz its all random. Thats the region where quality & refinement of sound comes from.
He wasn't TALKING about frequencies above 9 kHz - he was talking about the clear and present DISTORTION at ALL frequencies (esp. 200-300 Hz and 4-5 kHz), already visible at 94 dB, unacceptable at 114 dB, and clipping even 1 dB higher. I'm pretty sure everyone here knows about the unreliability of frequency measurements above about 8 kHz - Amir mentions that in almost every review.

In any case, I'm happy you enjoy your headphones :)
 

Rhamnetin

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A simple fact about your data and measurements is that beyond 9khz headphone measurements are unreliable. Honest & genuine measurers like Rtings clearly state this with a disclaimer. Just imagine thos FR graphs abd suddenky you realise beyond 9khz its all random. Thats the region where quality & refinement of sound comes from.

As said above, most of us know that here but the main "problems" with the Susvara are mostly below that anyway (but it's very likely true that the phase errors extend up there too). Also, it's not a correct generalization to claim that > 9 KHz is where "quality & refinement of sound comes from." It's not our most critical hearing range, music less commonly extends into those frequencies. It's important of course, but not the singular region where quality and refinement come from.

Here's a decent subjective breakdown from Crinacle Solderdude about how people perceive frequencies.

descriptors2.png
 
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srkbear

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He wasn't TALKING about frequencies above 9 kHz - he was talking about the clear and present DISTORTION at ALL frequencies (esp. 200-300 Hz and 4-5 kHz), already visible at 94 dB, unacceptable at 114 dB, and clipping even 1 dB higher. I'm pretty sure everyone here knows about the unreliability of frequency measurements above about 8 kHz - Amir mentions that in almost every review.

In any case, I'm happy you enjoy your headphones :)
I’m a huge, die-hard Hifiman fan—I own the HE1000se, the HE1000 Stealth, the Ananda Nano and the Edition XS, and I did own the Susvara (and the Arya Stealth and HE1000 v2) for awhile.

The Susvara is an absolutely iconic headphone, unquestionably worthy of its eminence, but I don’t really think of it as Hifiman’s “flagship” anymore. I suspect that they’ve maintained its price point to perpetuate its laurels and to continue sales as long as it holds up. It’s been 2016 since they released it, and I have a suspicion that the recent price slashes of the HE1000SE, Arya, and other HE1000 editions are an harbinger of a flagship refresh coming down the pipeline in the not-too-distant future.

Hifiman has a habit of innovating new features and technology, assessing how well these are received, and updating their existing lines to include them. Their original “flagship”, the first edition HE1000 (not dismissing the iterations of the Edition X or HE-6 series) debuted the window shade grilles, nanothin diaphragm and tall, egg-shaped drivers and cups, all of which were hits. Since then they moved almost exclusively to this oval pad profile (that I now see as a signature in the vein of Dan Clark) in their subsequent releases, and the grilles and nanothin diaphragms are now standard across the board. Similarly, the Susvara launched the Stealth magnet, which they’ve now retrofitted into their entire product line.

Since the Susvara, they’ve also improved the efficiency of their planars, from the release of the HE1000se on (sensitivity of 96, compared to the Susvara’s 83). They’ve also abandoned the “reference” (ie, flat, rolled-off bass) tuning that was pre-Harman and still de rigueur in 2016, in favor of at least an attempt at Harman compliance (starting with the HE1000V2 they’ve gotten the lows and mids pretty much spot on).

Where they’ve struggled is with their highs. They’ve made decent strides with the HE1000 Stealth, Ananda Nano and Arya Organic to tame the less-controlled highs above 9-10,000hz (possibly a consequence of the Stealth magnet)—the troublesome range that has given them the reputation among some for having a fatigue factor.

And despite the biases of some who bought their wares in past years, I think they’ve improved their QC considerably, at least among their mid range price points and above.

The Susvara’s were indeed groundbreaking at the time—they arguably solidified planars as equal to if not superior to dynamic drivers, had a part in toppling over the stuffy reputation of fussy electrostatics, and were absolutely worth a high price point. I do think they went overboard at $5,999, but I’m fairly convinced that that was a reactionary move to the original Utopia, which landed four months earlier and arguably established the absurd $4,400 price barrier that was unheard of among non-electrostats at the time. Dr. Bian had indisputably invested a ton of R&D costs in that Stealth magnet and the luxury build of the Susvara, and surely had high hopes for it—and given the absurdly hyperbolic claims being made at the time (and still!) about the Utopia being the “World’s Greatest Headphone”, I suspect the price was at least in part an attempt to supplant this hysterical claim. Too bad the claim, and the price point, stuck.

I do think well-made headphones should last a lifetime, and be impervious to fads or whims—and for those who love classical or jazz and own an amp capable of powering the Susvara sufficiently to do it justice, I fully understand its endgame status. But in recent years, “audiophile”-grade gear has become highly desirable amongst younger, rock and hip-hop oriented audiences (myself included, although I’m definitely not young at 54!)—and having a headphone with a more lively, bass-forward and energetic tuning and presentation is a priority for most folks for these genres.

I think Hifiman is paying attention to their consumers’ feedback, the evidence of which is clearly evident in the constant evolution and re-tooling of their product lines, and the slow move towards the Harman target—a standard that has gradually superseded “reference” tuning and has become more popularized and demanded since its most recent revision in 2019.

From the preceding discussion it’s obvious that there’s a polarized view of the Susvara, and Hifiman in general. But I wouldn’t argue with anyone who lauded the Susvara. For me personally, the HE1000se and Stealth are equally extraordinary in their performance, and better tuned and amplifier-democratic for the genres I prefer, and for the way I utilize music listening in my lifestyle.

My prediction is that there will be a new “flagship” comparable to the Susvara in price (and hype) in the near future, that carries forward the HE1000 profile, the window shade grilles, the nanothin diaphragm and neodymium Stealth magnet—with the technical excellence and refinement of the Susvara plus perhaps a new innovation we’ve yet seen. I’m just pleased to see so many folks discussing this brand, and I for one am excited to see what they have in store for us for the future! Peace…
 

Robbo99999

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Good question but better headphones don’t reveal new details. It doesn’t work like that, unless you come from overly warm and smooth entry level stuff. The difference is in presentation of those details - which is way smoother & crisper and just sounds natural. Diana TC will reveal all details but its got an absurdly unnatural & artificial timbre in everything from upper midrange to treble. Edition XS will reveal all details. But it lacerated my ears every-time I heard it. HD800S will get close to revealing all details but it sounds unnatural in a very dynamic headphone kind of a way. Plus a ton of sibilance. Susvara just schools everything with its presentation. You have to hear it to believe it. However it changes colour with whatever amp or DAC you use it with. You absolutely don’t need multi dollar setups. I used it with Topping D30 Pro and Burson Soloist 3XP, it was clinical and detailed but never sibilant. Bass was a bit thin. When I switched to Ragnarok 2, it sounded like sound was coming from 20 feet big speakers. Bass like it will smash you. I changed DAC to Burson Composer with Soloist Amp, the crispness and clarity went even a notch further. Majority of headphones don’t change colour too much with gear. But the really good ones do. Susvara will show you that Topping XLR interconnects are hardwired to magnify high frequencies and curtail bass. Its ultra revealing and transparent.
In my mind a headphone just has to deliver all frequencies in a balanced manner from 20-20000Hz (Ok, I don't care too much above 16kHz because I can't hear properly above that). And you want low distortion along with that. When you have that recipe then that is the most resolving headphone, some people make the mistake of chasing "details" or "stuff they've never heard before in their music" - which is oftentimes just another way of saying that the frequency response is super weird therefore emphasising stuff in their tracks that they've never heard before, which is not the same as it being "desirable" or "good sounding". In my experience a headphone that is properly balanced means that you can identify all elements in the track & choose to lay your listening attention on any of the elements within the track and then quickly just choose to place it somewhere else within the music as you desire - it is good to have a balanced headphone whereby you can do that & hear separation between the different elements too, they're not just mashed together. Wonky frequency responses can mash some elements together (or omit them) so you can't seperate them or also they will also highlight certain elements strangely/artificially, and distortion will also mash elements together and make them indistinguishable which for me has been most evident in bass representation (re distortion) in some headphones.
 
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Robbo99999

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As said above, most of us know that here but the main "problems" with the Susvara are mostly below that anyway (but it's very likely true that the phase errors extend up there too). Also, it's not a correct generalization to claim that > 9 KHz is where "quality & refinement of sound comes from." It's not our most critical hearing range, music less commonly extends into those frequencies. It's important of course, but not the singular region where quality and refinement come from.

Here's a decent subjective breakdown from Crinacle about how people perceive frequencies.

descriptors2.png
I think that graph came from @solderdude originally, but I might be wrong.
 

isostasy

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That isn't what "detail" means, it's almost never that you actually hear something you didn't on something else. Almost anything, in terms of a binary did you or not hear a specific thing, you will hear pretty much the same thing on anything whether it's a $6,000 headphone or $20 IEM. At least if the $20 IEM has a reasonably sensible and comparable frequency response, which many do these days.

It's a subjective perception of the sound sounding crisper and more detailed. I'm sure it's in the frequency response at the eardrum and some of it is the treble level, but it's not just the treble level, there are brighter headphones that sound (subjectively) less detailed and less bright ones that sound more detailed.

Clarity is easier and I think better correlated to the FR, that's usually upper mids presence / "pinna gain". More of that is more clarity, until it starts to hurt. Another aspect of clarity for people might be naturalness, i.e. if it just sounds natural (i.e. pinna gain suitable for your personal HTRF, which for the average person is close to Harman). So you can maybe have something that sounds like it has more "clarity" in that sense but is lower, if it's just bang on "natural".

I'm just explaining what people mean when they say this, they almost never mean you can actual hear X which you can't on something cheaper. That's not what it means.
Thanks for the explanation. I'm not sure I understand your description of what it is though: you say "it's a subjective perception of sound sounding crisper and more detailed". The problem is that you're just using the same noun as an adjective. It's like saying of a moving object, "more speed means it's going faster", of chips "more crunch means it's crunchier". Are you able to describe what detail is in terms other than saying there's more or less of it?

Having agreed that a $20 IEM nowadays is capable of producing pretty much the same response as a $6,000 headphone, why would I want the sound to be "crisper and more detailed"? Is the Susvara adding crispness and detail to a recording which isn't there to begin with, or is it reproducing it with closer to the original level of crispness and detail which the $20 IEM is able to? If the latter, doesn't that then suggest that detail is something in the recording which is either heard or not heard?

I'm not sure about clarity being related to upper mids because HD650 is the go-to "mid-fi" headphone to bash for not having detail or clarity whilst simultaneously being criticized for having too much "pinna gain". Graphed it is close to Harman OE2018 all the way up to 7kHz so. Also how does this explain how the Susvara apparently has more detail and clarity despite having a broad dip 1-5kHz?
 
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I would definitely agree that Susvara is not worth $6000, but almost every audiophile product isn’t.
As said above, most of us know that here but the main "problems" with the Susvara are mostly below that anyway (but it's very likely true that the phase errors extend up there too). Also, it's not a correct generalization to claim that > 9 KHz is where "quality & refinement of sound comes from." It's not our most critical hearing range, music less commonly extends into those frequencies. It's important of course, but not the singular region where quality and refinement come from.

Here's a decent subjective breakdown from Crinacle Solderdude about how people perceive frequencies.

descriptors2.png
9khz & above is vital for refinement because this is where 90 percent of headphones default with rubbish reproduction and peaks and it causes a ridiculous sound. This is the region which for me makes HD650 rather poor with sibilance and harshness but makes Audio Technica R70X a genuinely great headphone. If you close your eyes to 9khz and above you miss the peaks and distortion which trashes the sound
 
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“Improving efficiency” actually translates into reducing quality in the real world. Technology has not developed to the point where you can have high sensitivity and quality both. All the revered speakers in the world have low sensitivity (except some horn). Same for planar headphones, if you let a meagre amp drive it, chances are its has huge compromises by design.
 

srkbear

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“Improving efficiency” actually translates into reducing quality in the real world. Technology has not developed to the point where you can have high sensitivity and quality both. All the revered speakers in the world have low sensitivity (except some horn). Same for planar headphones, if you let a meagre amp drive it, chances are its has huge compromises by design.
What? Proof please? Are you sure you’re talking about headphones? I own the Hifiman HE1000se, the Focal Utopia, the Meze Elite, the Dan Clark E3, Sony Z1Rs and several others, all of which have sensitivities over 90 and it’s news to me that none of these cans are “revered”. Even the overhyped Sennheiser flagships have high sensitivities (along with high impedances however). Amir just declared the E3’s one of the finest cans he’s tested (and listening to them I agree)—I think you should back up this statement because I think you just made it up, sorry!
 
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What? Proof please? Are you sure you’re talking about headphones? I own the Hifiman HE1000se, the Focal Utopia, the Meze Elite, the Dan Clark E3, Sony Z1Rs and several others, all of which have sensitivities over 90 and it’s news to me that none of these cans are “revered”. Even the overhyped Sennheiser flagships have high sensitivities (along with high impedances however). Amir just declared the E3’s one of the finest cans he’s tested (and listening to them I agree)—I think you should back up this statement because I think you just made it up, sorry!
This is definitely a general trend, rather than being 100% true all the time. Yes it has some exceptions. But the implementation of Stealth Tech in Hifiman planars has definitely compromised on quality. The OG He1000, Arya etc were more refined, less peaky and had a higher threshold before they distorted. This is in the subjective realm. Stealth was a necessity because people didn’t have huge amps generally and also mobility was desired. Btw HE1000SE cannot hold a candle to Susvara in my opinion.

Regarding Utopia, being a dynamic headphone this trend doesn’t apply as much to dynamics, but when we compare the Stellia to it, it is certainly born out. Stellia is designed for predominantly mobile use and has lower impedance and higher sensitivity than the Utopia. No wonder it distorts quicker as you raise the volume on a proper desktop amp.
 

IAtaman

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This is definitely a general trend, rather than being 100% true all the time. Yes it has some exceptions. But the implementation of Stealth Tech in Hifiman planars has definitely compromised on quality. The OG He1000, Arya etc were more refined, less peaky and had a higher threshold before they distorted. This is in the subjective realm. Stealth was a necessity because people didn’t have huge amps generally and also mobility was desired. Btw HE1000SE cannot hold a candle to Susvara in my opinion.

Regarding Utopia, being a dynamic headphone this trend doesn’t apply as much to dynamics, but when we compare the Stellia to it, it is certainly born out. Stellia is designed for predominantly mobile use and has lower impedance and higher sensitivity than the Utopia. No wonder it distorts quicker as you raise the volume on a proper desktop amp.
Ha!
This is in the subjective realm
As in, in your imagination.
 
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Ha!

As in, in your imagination.
As in reality perceived by a human.

Go find some people who will let you actually listen to these headphones. Or else you won’t ever have a clue.

I asked Solderdude which headhphones would be better than HD800S. He said Susvara & Stealth. Later on it turned out he had never heard the Stealth. That’s lol.
 

majingotan

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As in reality perceived by a human.

Go find some people who will let you actually listen to these headphones. Or else you won’t ever have a clue.

I asked Solderdude which headhphones would be better than HD800S. He said Susvara & Stealth. Later on it turned out he had never heard the Stealth. That’s lol.

I get it you have a honeymoon phase, but as an owner of Susvara myself and have heard the upper echelon (Sennheiser HE-1, Warwick Acoustics Aperio, Stax SR-X9000, Abyss 1266TC, DCA Stealth and Expanse) Susvara's sonic is nothing special. It's a different presentation that is unique to itself and objective measurements clearly show it, and you don't need to tell me you gotta buy (insert ridiculously priced amp) or you aren't hear its magical properties (lol), I run my Susvara through a 100% Class A Single Ended Triode amp (the creme a la creme amplification that subjectivists and geareophiles like) and a SOTA R2R DAC (second only to Holo Audio May DAC).

Just cross-posting my honest opinion about headphones: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...errated-headphone-you-tried.8289/post-1888311

Overrated: any headphones costing $400 USD and above and IEMs costing more than $25 USD

You don’t get better objective sonic performance above $20 IEM. What you get is a different emphasis on narrow peaks that make a listener perceive detail/resolution/slam/dynamics but all those details are already present with SOTA $20 IEMs but are more balanced throughout the frequency range

So then why do I own and enjoy the Susvara: I like its presentation out of all Hifiman headphones as well as it's "colored" in the tonality to the hyper accurate DCA Stealth (it sounds the most correct out of any headphone out there yet it's too accurate that I actually prefer narrow jagged peaks and troughs that emphasizes and de-emphasizes certain frequencies that make the Susvara more pleasing sounding)
 

IAtaman

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As in reality perceived by a human.

Go find some people who will let you actually listen to these headphones. Or else you won’t ever have a clue.

I asked Solderdude which headhphones would be better than HD800S. He said Susvara & Stealth. Later on it turned out he had never heard the Stealth. That’s lol.
I did listen to these headphones. In an isolated listening room in fact, and not at a noisy hall floor. I mentioned it a couple of times under this thread actually because "lolz" people like you keep making the same argument. I actually find the headphones to be good as well. But since you came here to share your unfounded theories with little regard for what has been discussed already, you missed that.

Reality is rarely perceived correctly by humans. If it wasn't for our telescopes, we were still trying to figure out how solar eclipses work. Or maybe you and your friends have an alternative "subjective" take on this one as well, based on your perceptions?

Tell me, what does your subjective human perception tell you about the shape of the Earth?
 
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I did listen to these headphones. In an isolated listening room in fact, and not at a noisy hall floor. I mentioned it a couple of times under this thread actually because "lolz" people like you keep making the same argument. I actually find the headphones to be good as well. But since you came here to share your unfounded theories with little regard for what has been discussed already, you missed that.

Reality is rarely perceived correctly by humans. If it wasn't for our telescopes, we were still trying to figure out how solar eclipses work. Or maybe you and your friends have an alternative "subjective" take on this one as well, based on your perceptions?

Tell me, what does your subjective human perception tell you about the shape of the Earth?
You are talking nonsense now. Arguing just for the sake of it.
 
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Btw why do DCA Stealth/Expanse have a Susvara like inefficiency. Also Heddphone? All these headphones are liked and there’s a common trend re inefficiency.
 
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I have long been trying to find a Susvara review over here. (Only 2 months old) Then I gave up until a friend linked it to me.
There are some decent things over here, but a negative Susvara review is the final nail in the coffin for ASR for me. From all DACs sound the same, to I can’t recommend Susvara, I have seen rank absurdity over here. Btw that buffoon Amir is not half qualified to review audio gear. Keep fixating on arbitrary measurements which have no bearing on sound quality. I am out.
 

majingotan

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It’s somewhat natural to have some ironic detachment when the object (Susvara) that you dearly enjoy is met with objective data that contradicts your beliefs and experiences with that object. IMHO rather than treating Amir’s work as a joke (ironic detachment), understand as much as you can what the objective data tells you, and no it doesn’t contradict anything that makes Susvara lovable to their owners once you know how the data translate to your subjective preferences
 

solderdude

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There is nothing wrong with liking the Susvara.
It has some really desirable qualities.
The price, sensitivity and performance at high SPL aren't one of them.
Amir just doesn't like it (for several reasons) and don't think it is warranted to call him a buffoon or what not for not recommending a headphone someone else may like.

Using them as is, at 'normal' to 'somewhat loud' levels you get a surprisingly 'delicate' and 'airy' sounding headphone.
Indeed it won't satisfy Harman bass lovers.
I did listen to one (and measure it) and was a bit more comfortable to me and had the edge to HE1000 in sound quality.
 
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