Reviewed on Apr 12, 2018

HiFiMan Sundara HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.2
5.9
Mixed Usage
8.3
Critical Listening
4.5
Commute/Travel
5.4
Sports/Fitness
5.1
Office
6.0
TV
6.0
Gaming
Type : Over-ear
Enclosure : Open-Back
Wireless : No
Noise-Cancelling : No
Mic : No
Transducer : Planar Magnetic

The Hifiman Sundara are great-sounding and comfortable critical listening headphones. They're better-built and more durable than HE-400i and deliver a sound quality that's closer to the Edition X but with slightly less bass. However, like most open-back headphones, they're not designed for other use cases but critical listening.

Pros
  • Comfortable.
  • More durable design.
  • Great and open audio reproduction.
Cons
  • Sensitive to ambient noise, by design.
  • Bulky headphones.
  • High leakage by design, can be distracting to others.

Test Results
Design 6.5
Sound 8.5
Isolation 1.6
Microphone 0
Active Features 0
Connectivity 4.8

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6.5

Design

The HiFiMan Sundara have a better design and build quality than the HE-400i. They look somewhat similar, but they have a much more polished build quality with thinner, better-built ear cups and sturdier hinges. The new hinge/yoke design is less likely to break under physical stress, which was an issue with some of the other HiFiman models. However, it also makes the fit of the Sundaras tighter on the head, since the hinges do not swivel. Also, like most similarly designed open-back headphones, they are not meant to be used outdoors or for sports. 

Style

The Hifiman Sundara look like a better designed HE-400i. They feel a lot more premium thanks to their mostly metal design and the thinner, sleeker-looking ear cups. The headband also has a lower profile and doesn't protrude like the HE-400i or the Edition X. Also the matte finish on the all-black color scheme makes the overall style of these headphones feel very high-end. Overall these headphones are one of the better-looking open-back over-ears that we've tested and feel like a definite upgrade to the HifiMan design language.

8.0 Comfort
Weight : 0.9 lbs
Clamping Force
:
1.2 lbs

The Hifiman Sundara are comfortable headphones, but they can be a bit tight on the head. They have large, roomy ear cups that are well padded and a rounded headband design that fits better on your head than the HE-400i. Unfortunately, the headband hinges/yokes do not swivel like on the HE-400i which makes these headphones feel a bit tighter on the head. On the upside, since they are well padded, you do not feel the pressure as much as some of the other over-ears we've tested, making them comfortable enough to wear for long listening sessions.

0 Controls
Ease of use : N/A
Feedback : N/A
Call/Music Control : N/A
Volume Control : No
Microphone Control : No
Channel Mixing
:
N/A
Noise Canceling Control : N/A
Talk-Through
:
N/A
Additional Buttons : N/A

These headphones do not have any controls.

6.3 Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference : 6 C

The Sundara are not the most breathable headphones despite being open-back. Since they are planar magnetic headphones, the larger drivers obstruct a good amount of airflow, so even with the open design they will still make your ears fairly warm after a couple of hours of continuous listening. They are not much worse than typical closed-back over-ear headphones and even have slightly better, more breathable pads than the HE-400i, but you may need to take more breaks during long listening sessions compared to other open-back headphones like the Sennheiser HD 700.

5.5 Portability
L : 8 "
W : 5.5 "
H : 4.2 "
Volume : 185 Cu. Inches
Transmitter required : N/A

The Sundara are big, bulky headphones, not meant for outdoor use. They're too cumbersome to comfortably carry on your person and do not fold into a more compact format. The ear cup hinges also do not swivel so they will not lay flat like the HE-400i. They are a little smaller than the Edition X and the Sennheiser HD 800 S, but you will still need a backpack or a large bag to transport these headphones. Also, they don't come with a protective case or pouch.

0 Case
Type : No case
L : N/A
W : N/A
H : N/A
Volume : N/A

These headphones do not come with a carrying case.

7.5 Build Quality

The Hifiman Sundara are a great upgrade to the HE-400i in terms of build quality. They have a mostly metal design that feels durable and premium. The ear cup hinges/yokes especially have been redesigned, to better handle physical stress. They do not swivel anymore and are made from a single piece of metal that will not crack as easily as the plastic yokes on the HE-400i. The ear cups also feel better built and more high-end, since the grills on the open-back cups do not move around like on the previous model. The headband strap and the plastic pieces connecting the yokes to the headband look like the most susceptible points on these headphones, but overall they should be more durable than most of the other HiFiMan designs.

Update Unfortunately, poor quality control by HifiMan means some models have a few driver issues. We've updated the score accordingly.

6.5 Stability

These are not sports headphones. They're a bit more stable than the Edition X and the HE-400i and will maintain their position during casual or critical listening sessions. However, the large over-ear cups will sway and quickly slip off your ears if used during exercise or while running.

Cable
Detachable : Yes
Length : 5 ft
Connection : 1/8" TRS

They come with a 1/8" TRS audio cable and a 1/4" adapter, If you need headphones with a 0.17 inch (4.4mm) balanced audio cable, take a look at the HD 660 S.

Top
Headshots 1
Headshots 2
8.5

Sound

The Hifiman Sundara is a very good sounding pair of open-back over-ear headphones. They have a consistent and well-balanced bass, a nearly flawless mid-range which is great for vocals, and a very good treble. They also have exceptional imaging, and a good soundstage, outperforming most of the headphones we have measured. However, their bass lacks a bit of thump and kick, and may not be deep enough for the fans of bass-heavy genres, especially since they have a noticeably bright treble. Compared to the HE-400i, the Sundara is slightly less bright sounding and produces less distortion.

8.5 Bass
Std. Err.
:
1.87 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
:
41.17 Hz
Low-Bass
:
-3.49 dB
Mid-Bass
:
-1.27 dB
High-Bass
:
0.81 dB

The Sundara have a very good bass. The LFE (low-frequency extension) of 41Hz, is good, but not great. Accordingly, low-bass is lacking by almost 4dB, which means these headphones lack a bit of thump and rumble so their bass may not be heavy enough for the fans of bass-heavy genres like EDM, Hip-hop and Dubstep. Mid-bass, responsible for the body of bass guitars and the punch of kick drums, is also lacking by about 1dB, but this effect will be very subtle.

8.9 Mid
Std. Err.
:
1.46 dB
Low-Mid
:
1.75 dB
Mid-Mid
:
1.5 dB
High-Mid
:
-0.56 dB

The mid-range is great. The response is even and flat throughout the range, suggesting a well-balanced reproduction of vocals and lead instruments. But low-mid and mid-mid are above our target by about 2dB. This thickens the body of vocals and lead instruments a bit, but won't be noticeable to most.

8.6 Treble
Std. Err.
:
2.71 dB
Low-Treble
:
0.85 dB
Mid-Treble
:
1.87 dB
High-Treble
:
0.34 dB

The treble of the HiFiMan Sundara is very good. The response is relatively even and well-balanced. It is consistently over our neutral target by a couple of dB. This is mostly noticeable in the sibilance range (6KHz-10KHz) where there is as much as 5dB of overemphasis. This makes the S and T sounds, mostly heard on vocals and cymbals, a bit bright and piercing, especially on overly bright tracks.

8.7 Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
:
0.27 dB

The frequency response consistency is great. The maximum amount of deviation across our five human subjects is about 3dB at 20Hz, but the rest of the bass range is exceptionally consistent. The treble delivery is also very consistent across multiple re-seat, with the maximum deviation below 10KHz being less than 3dB.

9.0 Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
:
0.2
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
:
0.47
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
:
1.48
Weighted Phase Mismatch
:
2.36

The imaging of the Sundara is great. Weighted group delay is at 0.2 which is very good. The GD graph also shows that the entire group delay response is below the audibility threshold. This ensures a tight bass and a transparent treble reproduction. Additionally, the L/R drivers of our test unit were very well-matched in frequency, amplitude, and phase response, ensuring accurate placement and localization of objects (voices, instruments, and video game effects) in the stereo image.

7.7 Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
:
2.9 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
:
6.33 dB
PRTF Distance
:
11.62 dB
Openness
:
9.2
Acoustic Space Excitation
:
9.8
Correlated Crosstalk
:
0.0 dB

The soundstage performance is good. The PRTF graph shows a good amount of accuracy, and a decent amount of pinna interaction/activation. However, there is no "10KHz notch" present. This suggests a soundstage that is relatively natural and large, but located inside the listener's head. Also, because of their very open enclosure, their soundstage will be perceived to be more open than that of closed-back headphones.

8.0 Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 90
:
0.646
Weighted THD @ 100
:
1.647

The harmonic distortion performance is very good. The amount of THD throughout the range is within good limits, and doesn't change dramatically under heavier loads either. The peak in THD around 6KHz however, is rather elevated and could make the sound of that region a bit harsh and brittle. Compared to the HE-400i, the Sundara show less THD, especially in the mid-range.

1.6

Isolation

The HiFiMan Sundara have a poor isolation performance which is to be expected for an open-back critical listening headphone. They're not designed to block ambient noise and therefore are not suitable to be used in loud environments or outdoors. The open ear cups help create a spacious soundstage but also let noise seep into your audio and leak a lot. This means that these headphones are best used in isolation where the leakage level will not be distracting to those around you, and you can take full advantage of the open-back design and good soundstage.

2.3 Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
:
Overall Attenuation
:
-1.85 dB
Bass
:
-0.43 dB
Mid
:
0.27 dB
Treble
:
-5.23 dB
Self-Noise
:
0 dB

The isolation performance is poor. Due to their open-back design, they don't achieve any isolation in the bass and mid ranges (like most open-back headphones), which are important for blocking out the low rumbling sounds of airplane and bus engines, as well as speech. In the treble range, occupied by sharp sounds like S and Ts, they reduce outside noise by about 5dB, which is barely noticeable. This means like the HiFiMan Ananda and the Stax SR-L300 they will not block any noise at all from what you hear in your environment.

0.2 Leakage
Leakage Audio
:
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
:
69.07 dB

The leakage performance is quite poor. Open-back planar magnetic headphones like the Edition X and HE-400i tend to have the loudest leakage due to the bi-directional nature of their design, and the HiFiMan Sundara is no exception. The significant portion of their leakage is between 300Hz and 20KHz which is a very broad range, resulting in a leakage that is relatively full-bodied and very bright. The overall level of the leakage is very loud too. With the music at 100dB SPL, the average leakage is about 70dB SPL, and peaking at 90dB SPL at 1 foot away. If you don't really care about leakage and are getting an open headset so you can monitor your environment while listening to music then you might want to check out the Bose SoundWear.

0

Microphone

Integrated
:
No
In-line
:
No
Boom
:
No
Detachable Boom
:
N/A

These headphones do not have a microphone. For an open-back headphone with a microphone, check out the Sennheiser Game One.

0 Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
:
N/A
LFE
:
N/A
FR Std. Dev.
:
N/A
HFE
:
N/A
Weighted THD
:
N/A
Gain
:
N/A

The HiFiMan Sundara do not have a microphone, therefore, recording quality has not been tested.

0 Noise Handling
Speech + Pink Noise : N/A
Speech + Subway Noise : N/A
SpNR
:
N/A

The HiFiMan Sundara do not have a microphone, therefore, noise handling has not been tested.

0

Active Features

The Sundara are passive headphones with no battery or app support.

N/A Battery
Battery Type
:
N/A
Battery Life
:
N/A
Charge Time
:
N/A
Power Saving Feature
:
N/A
Audio while charging
:
N/A
Passive Playback
:
N/A

These headphones do not have any active components and do not require a battery.

0 App Support
App Name : N/A
iOS : N/A
Android : N/A
Mac OS : N/A
Windows : N/A
Equalizer
:
N/A
ANC control
:
N/A
Mic Control : N/A
Room effects
:
N/A
Playback control
:
N/A
Button Mapping : N/A
Surround Sound : N/A

These headphones do not come with an app or software for added customization options.

4.8

Connectivity

The HiFiMan Sundara have a simple 1/8"TRS audio cable with no in-line remote. They will only provide audio when connected to your console or PC and have practically no latency since they are wired. However, this also means that they will not have the range and convenience of wireless headphones.

0 Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
:
N/A
Multi-Device Pairing
:
N/A
NFC Pairing
:
N/A

These headphones are wired and do not have a Bluetooth connection. If you want a good-sounding wireless headset, then consider the Bose QuietComfort 35 II.

7.2 Wired
OS Compatibility
:
Not OS specific
Analog Audio
:
Yes
USB Audio
:
No
PS4 Compatible
:
Audio Only
Xbox One Compatible
:
Audio Only
PC Compatible
:
Audio Only

The Sundara have a simple 1/8TRS audio cable with no in-line remote/microphone, so they will only provide audio when connected to your PS4, Xbox One or PC.

0 Base/Dock
Type
:
N/A
Optical Input
:
N/A
Line In
:
N/A
Line Out
:
N/A
USB Input
:
N/A
RCA Input
:
N/A
PS4 Compatible
:
N/A
Xbox One Compatible
:
N/A
PC Compatible
:
N/A
Power Supply
:
N/A
Dock Charging
:
N/A

The HiFiMan Sundara do not have a dock. If you need a headset with a dock that also has a wired connection for gaming or watching movies, then consider the SteelSeries Arctis 7.

0 Wireless Range
Obstructed Range
:
N/A
Line of Sight Range
:
N/A

These headphones do not have a wireless range since they only connect via a regular audio cable with an in-line remote.

10 Latency
Default Latency
:
0 ms
aptX Latency
:
N/A
aptX(LL) Latency
:
N/A

The wired connection of these headphones has negligible latency which is suitable for gaming and home-theater use.

In the box

  •  HiFiMan Sundara Headphones
  • 1/8" to 1/4" adapter
  • Audio cable
  • Manual

Compared to other Headphones

The Hifiman Sundara are great-sounding headphones with a comfortable but slightly tight fit. They're an excellent choice for critical listening, thanks to their open design and planar magnetic drivers that help deliver a good soundstage, imaging and frequency response. They're also better built than some of the other open over-ears that we've tested and a definite improvement of the HE-400i. However, they can sound a bit sharp on some tracks, and they're only ideal for one use case. See our recommendations for the best audiophile headphones, the best headphones for music and the best studio headphones.

HiFiMan Ananda
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The HiFiMan Ananda are a better critical listening headphone than the HiFiMan Sundara, although not by much. The Ananda have a better overall frequency response that's a bit more balanced than the Sundara. They also have a better soundstage, imaging performance, and harmonic distortion but it's barely noticeable even for trained ears. On the other hand, the Sundara offer a better value for their price to sound quality. They're also a great sounding open-back headphones, with a slightly more compact design than the Ananda that most will prefer. However, they're not the most durable headphones and have a few issues with the drivers.

HiFiMan HE-400i
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The HiFiMan HE-400i and the HiFiMan Sundara are fairly similar models, but the Sundara are better headphones. They are better-built than the HE-400i and they don’t sound as sharp in the treble range. However, these differences are fairly minor, and the HE-400i might offer better value for some since they are cheaper.

Sennheiser HD 660 S
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The planar magnetic HiFiMan Sundara are better critical listening headphones than the Sennheiser HD 660 S. they are more comfortable to wear for a long period of time and they also have a more accurate sound profile. Their bass roll-off isn’t as pronounced as the HD 660 S and they won’t sound as forward. Also, they have a noticeably more open-sounding soundstage. Overall, the Sundara will offer better value than the HD 660 S.

Audeze LCD 2 Classic/LC2C
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Audeze LCD2-Classic are slightly better critical listening headphones than the HiFiMan Sundara. The Sundara are a bit more compact and have a more balanced mid-range. They also pack a bit more bass, but not by much. On the other hand, the LCD2 have a bit more soundstage. They also have a slightly better build quality, but this mostly due to HiFiMan somewhat lacking quality control.

Conclusion

5.9 Mixed Usage

Mediocre for mixed usage. The Sundara are critical listening headphones, not intended for other use cases except maybe home theater. They deliver a great sound quality and comfortable design but have poor isolation and a bulky, cumbersome build. They are best used at home and in isolation and will not be suitable for commuting or sports.

8.3 Critical Listening

Great for critical listening. The Hifiman Sundara have one of the best audio reproduction that we've measured so far. They have a well-balanced mid-range that isn't too forward sounding with instruments and vocals. They also have enough bass to cater well to most genres of music. They can sound a bit sharp with already bright tracks but overall they sound great, they have a spacious soundstage and replace the stereo image accurately. They're an excellent choice for critical and casual listeners.

4.5 Commute/Travel

Not designed for commuting. The open-back ear cups do not block any ambient noise and leak a lot. Also, They're not portable and do not have a control scheme for mobile devices.

5.4 Sports/Fitness

Not meant for sports. They're bulky, unstable and require an amp, so they're not suitable for sports or to use outdoors.

5.1 Office

Sub-par for office use. Unless you work alone or in an isolated office the leakage level will be too bothersome for those around you. Also, the open back design does not block any noise so you will hear your environment fairly easily even when listening to music at higher-than-average volumes.

6.0 TV

Mediocre for home theater. The HiFiMan Sundara are comfortable headphones with a great and open sound quality. They also have no latency since they're wired. However, they're limited by the range of their audio cable and may require an extension cord.

6.0 Gaming

Mediocre for gaming. They're comfortable, they sound great and have a low latency wired design. However, they do not have a microphone for voice chat when gaming, and no customization options which are typical for most gaming headsets. Also, they do not have the convenience of wireless design or multiple connection options for an optimized experience on Xbox one or PS4.

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