The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 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.
Great for neutral listening. The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 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 neutral and casual listeners.
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.
Not meant for sports. They're bulky, unstable and require an amp, so they're not suitable for sports or to use outdoors.
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.
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.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 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. For something a bit smaller and more on the casual side, check out the Audeze LCD-1.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 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.
These headphones do not have any controls.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 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.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 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.
These headphones do not come with a carrying case.
Update 02/21/2022: While testing the difference in pads between the HiFiMan Sundara 2018 and HiFiMan Sundara 2020, we noticed the glue coming off our 2018 unit's original ear pads. When we tried to replace the pads, all the material came off. There have also been user reports of similar issues. We don't know if this is an issue related to wear and tear over time or general build quality. The manufacturer notes that the only change between the original pads and the new 2020 ones is the glue used. If you have encountered this issue, please let us know in the discussions.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 are a good upgrade to the HiFiMan HE-400i in terms of build quality. They have a mostly metal design that feels durable and premium. The ear cup hinges/yokes have been redesigned to better handle physical stress. They don't 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 grilles on the open-back cups don't move around like 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. Unfortunately, poor quality control by HifiMan means some models have a few driver issues.
Update 02/21/2022: Due to user feedback, we have tested the 2018 and 2020 models for difference. The manufacturer reports that the only difference is in padding. We purchased new pads and changed the original padding on our unit to see if there's a difference in frequency response. There are slight differences in both responses, but the biggest change is that the 10kHz dip is less significant with the new pads. We also compared our 2018 unit with the new pads to the 2020 model, and you can see a graph of their frequency response here. There's also a difference at 10kHz. Using the new pads, the 2018 model has more of a dip than the 2020 model. That said, the results for this unit haven't changed as we don't necessarily expect users to change the original padding.
These headphones have a fairly neutral sound profile suitable for a variety of audio content. Vocals and lead instruments are clear and present but slightly veiled. That said, they lack low-bass due to their open-back design, so if you're a fan of genres like EDM and hip-hop, your mixes lack thump, rumble, and punch.
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.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 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.
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.
The treble of the HiFiMan Sundara 2018 is very good. Just like the HiFiMan Arya, 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.
The imaging of the HiFiMan Sundara 2018 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.
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.
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.
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 2018 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.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 do not have a microphone, therefore, recording quality has not been tested.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 do not have a microphone, therefore, noise handling has not been tested.
These headphones do not have any active components and do not require a battery.
These headphones do not come with an app or software for added customization options.
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.
The wired connection of these headphones has negligible latency which is suitable for gaming and home-theater use.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 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.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 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.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 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.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 and the HiFiMan Sundara 2020 are over-ear headphones that have nearly identical performance. They're both well-built, comfortable, and are great for neutral sound. The 2020 have redesigned ear cup padding. However, they trap more heat against your ears, which may be because of changes to the padding. If you find that over-ear headphones make your ears feel warm during long listening sessions, you may prefer the 2018 version for this reason.
The HiFiMan Ananda are better critical listening headphones than the HiFiMan Sundara 2018, although not by much. The Ananda have a slightly more premium design and feel a bit more durable. However, the Sundara are a bit more compact and the price tag is noticeably lower, which offers a better overall value for most. The Sundara also have a slightly more accurate mid-range reproduction, although it's barely noticeable. These headphones are very similar overall, but there are multiple reports of quality control issues with the Sundara drivers.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 and the Beats Solo Pro Wireless are for different uses. The HiFiMan are more comfortable audiophile headphones, have a neutral sound profile, and a more spacious and immersive passive soundstage. However, the Beats are better for casual use. They have a wireless design, which some users may prefer, are better-built, and have an ANC, which can help cut down a significant amount of ambient noise around you.
The HiFiMan HE-400i and the HiFiMan Sundara 2018 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.
The Sennheiser HD 600 and the HiFiMan Sundara 2018 are both impressive audiophile headphones, though they have slightly different sound profiles. The HiFiMan produce more thump and rumble while slightly reducing the intensity of vocals and instruments. The Sennheiser sound a bit more bass-light in comparison, and they put more emphasis on vocals and instruments. The HiFiMan have a more natural soundstage and are much more comfortable, but there have been reports of quality control issues from the brand.
The planar magnetic HiFiMan Sundara 2018 are better critical listening headphones than the Sennheiser HD 660 S. The HiFiMan 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 Sennheiser, and they won’t sound as forward. Also, they have a noticeably more open-sounding soundstage. Overall, the HiFiMan will offer better value than the Sennheiser.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 are slightly better open-back, planar magnetic headphones than the Audeze LCD-1 for neutral sound listening. Their sound profile is more accurate in all ranges, and the HiFiMan have a larger sounding soundstage. On the other hand, the Audeze have a much sleeker and smaller design, and their frequency response is more consistent among different users.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 are better headphones for neutral listening than the Sennheiser HD 650. The HiFiMan get more bass and perform more consistently in the treble range. They also have a more impressive soundstage and are more comfortable, but there have been reports of quality control issues with the brand, so the Sennheiser is still a good choice too.
The HiFiMan Arya are somewhat better headphones for neutral sound than the HiFiMan Sundara 2018. While both headphones are comfortable, the Arya are better-built and have a more neutral sound profile. They also deliver audio more consistently. However, the Sundara 2018 have a more stable fit and come with a 1/4" TRS adapter.
The Hifiman Sundara 2018 are better headphones for neutral sound than the Focal Clear Mg. The HiFiMan are planar magnetic headphones with a slightly more neutral sound profile, even though they lack a bit more low-bass than the Focal. They also reproduce audio more consistently and their soundstage is perceived as larger and more spacious. However, the Focal are dynamic transducer headphones that are better-built and come with a carrying case.
The HiFiMan Sundara 2018 are better headphones than the Audeze LCD 2 Classic/LC2C. They don't lack as much bass as the Audeze do, and their treble range is much more accurate. On the other hand, the Audeze feel much more durable and premium, especially since there are multiple reports of quality control issues with the HiFiMan.