HiFiMan SUSVARA "Review" and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by purr1n, May 27, 2017.

  1. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    Hey Guys,

    I've got the Susvara in house so I wrote up some more impressions/vs. the Abyss Phi. Pretty similar to my original set of impressions but I thought some might be interested.

    [​IMG]


    I have had quite a bit more time with the Susvara now so I thought I would share some thoughts on it, as well as a more detailed comparison with the Abyss Phi. Again, lets get it out of the way that this headphone retails at the crazy price of $6000USD. Just a bit nuts.

    I loved the Susvara the first time I heard it, it was/is my second favourite headphone I have heard, period. I went back to the shop four more times and listened carefully, and still really enjoyed it. I sold my LCD-4’s, and some other stuff to make up the difference.

    One thing to note is, I own this pair of headphones. I paid for it with my own money, I didn’t win it, and this isn’t a loaner pair. This review is completely honest.

    The build quality is something I wanted to pay close attention to as with the Susvara being a Hifiman product, it is definitely something to worry about. As I said in my initial impressions, the build quality seems to be better than the HE1000V1, and similar to the HE1000V2, perhaps a tiny bit better. It is pretty much the same headphone as the V2 HE1000 in terms of outer materials and whatnot. At this asking price, I really would have liked to have seen some real leather, and just….more attention to the tiny details, if that makes sense. It all seems fairly well put together, certainly much better than the HE1000V1, but it just lacks that last few percent that would truly make it an amazing “Statement” product.

    The Hifiman Sundara, a $500USD headphone, has better build quality than the Susvara. Thats a bit darn ridiculous if you ask me, but it is what it is. I wish Hifiman had waited 6 months on the Susvaras release, and done something similar to the Sundara with it. There is so much potential here and it just isn’t there yet.

    It really begs the question, what on earth makes this worth DOUBLE the asking price of the HE1000V2’s???

    Well, lets get into that a little bit. In terms of build quality and the materials used….it really isn’t. Its a rounder HE1000V2. In terms of sound quality? Perhaps it is. It is certainly better than the HE1000V2, whether or not it is $3000USD better is up to the listener I suppose. This headphone is FAR into the land of diminishing returns. I think it would have been really neat if Hifiman had lowered the price of the HE1000 to say..$2500USD, and released the Susvara at $3500USD. I reckon they would be selling like hotcakes if they had. As it stands, I don’t there there are too many out there in the wild, which honestly isn’t surprising.

    Now lets talk about the sound quality, which I suppose at the end of the day, is the most important part. After all, once they are on your head, all the concerns about build quality and the materials used don’t matter as much (unless they fall off your head and break.)

    I’m going to include comparisons to the Abyss Phi below, as they are both competing in the top of the line arena and are what I have on hand to listen to :)

    Bass: The Abyss Phi has more quantity, and to my ears, better quality of bass. The Susvara sounds a bit rounder and is less hard hitting. However, neither headphone seems to lack definition when playing complex bass patterns. I listen to a lot of Electronica, so this is something I pay close attention to.

    Mids: I prefer the Susvara’s mids most of the time vs. The Phi’s. However, it really does depend what you are listening to and what mood you are in. The Phi seem to have a little less presence in the mids and are not as warm as the Susvara. Compared to the LCD-4, the Susvara is less warm, and seems to have less presence in the mids. They seem to bridge the gap between the LCD-4 and Phi nicely. In terms of mids, the Susvara just “works” for me and my ears.

    Treble: Apart from the occasional sibilance I hear from the Phi at higher volumes (which I think might be more my source gear than the headphones but lets not get into that right now) I do prefer the Phi to the Susvara in the treble. The Susvara is smoother sounding, less in your face, and more relaxed. The Phi has incredible definition in the upper region, and really lets you hear what is going on. You can still hear great treble detail from the Susvara, but it is less present, and more chilled out sounding for lack of a better expression.

    Soundstage: I like a big soundstage, and the Phi provides that. It is bigger than the Susvara. However, the Susvara’s soundstage is bigger than the LCD-4’s and much bigger than the Utopias. I don’t feel I am missing out when I’m listening to the Hifimans, I just prefer that extra width coming from the Phi, thats all. The sound coming from the Susvara seems to envelope the ear more than the Phi, but its really hard to describe.

    Transparency, and technicalities: The Abyss Phi is again the winner in my books. Both have great detail, digging into the recording and pulling out the tiny things you want to hear at this level. However, the Phi is the more dynamic headphone, and can absolutely punch your ears off. The Susvara is a bit less dynamic, but seems to be about equal in terms of transparency to the source.

    At the end of the day, the Abyss Phi is still my favourite headphone. It is more in your face, and aggressive. It is a no compromises all or nothing headphone. However, with that being said, the Susvara is almost as good, but completely different. It is easier to listen to. If I just want to chill out and enjoy some tunes, I think I will be reaching for the Susvara rather than the Abyss. If I have some free time and can really just concentrate on listening, I will reach for the Abyss. Perhaps its not a case of worse or better between these two headphone, and more of a case of different.

    I should mention that the Susvara is incredibly comfortable. Its weight isn’t too bad at 450g (similar to the Utopia) but it feels lighter than that. It certainly beats the Abyss in this area. I could wear the Susvara all day happily :)

    The Susvara is an incredibly expensive headphone. Its really a bit silly. I pray that if Hifiman introduces a new planar flagship, it isn’t $10,000USD. Most people aren’t going to drop $6000USD on a pair of headphones, and that is completely understandable. I wish Hifiman had even priced it at $4500USD, as this headphone should be experienced by more people. It really doesn’t scream “I’m a flagship” compared to something like the Focal Utopia, and could be a lot better in terms of build quality and the materials they have used. However, they do sound damn good. $6000USD good? I suppose that is up to the listener.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2018
  2. Turdski

    Turdski Rando

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    Excellent review and comparison, @ufospls2! Much appreciated.

    I've thought about lugging in my Master 9 to the Headphone Bar to hear how well it might drive them, or otherwise match up.

    Do you ever find the Susvara lacking in dynamics, or is it simply not as pronounced as the Phi or Utopia in that regard?
     
  3. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    Thats exactly what I did! It was a bit of a bitch to carry it all the way there, but worth it at the end of the day. The M9 drives them well, but I do have the +3db gain option, so I don't know how a stock M9 would fair. 3db isn't that much so it would probably be ok. I would like to hear the Susvara off of a high end speaker amp, but for now, especially after dropping so much money, I'm happy to just chill with the M9.

    I definitely don't find it lacking in dynamics, I just find the Abyss has more punch and slam. The Susvara is a bit more relaxing to listen to, I'm really enjoying it!
     
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  4. Maxx134

    Maxx134 no one will touch his boy parts without $$$

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    Agree 100%
    I really like comparisons like this as it avoids the long winded stories of music selections and equipment jargon.

    I am glad you can verify what I heard and agree the Phi is superior technically and yet the Susvara is just a more relaxed presentation.
    Paired with some good tube gear the PHI might calm any agressiveness you heard.

    In my observations (at friends house) one point I was able to pick out some details that were more solid in the Phi so I switched back to Susvara quickly to see why I didn't notice it before, and yet same details were there just a calmer laid back which is why I wasn't able to notice it before...
    and so I felt maybe the Susvara is just a bit laid back..

    Yet when I heard them again recently in another tube setup,
    the Susvara wasn't as laid back(more neutral), and the Abyss was also less agressive (more neutral)...
    So I would have to say the differences can be mitigated a bit with system synergy.
    The Abyss was more responsive to the gear.

    Yet to me the Abyss PHI will always be a notch above the Susvara especially with bass & dynamics.

    When I heard the Abyss Diana at Canjam I was fairly convinced that it lies in between the Phi and the Susvara, so I will find out more on Diana.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
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  5. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    [​IMG]

    Hey Guys,

    Its a really rainy, grey, gross day here, so I thought I would continue on with my occasional “very rainy….” posts. I’ve had about a month of owning the Susvara now, and two months since I originally posted about hearing them. They are actually continuing to grow on me every day. “Mental burn in” perhaps…or something. I’ve been using the Susvara more than my Abyss Phi lately due to new toy syndrome, not due to the Phi’s lacking in comparison. I thought I would take the chance on the rainy afternoon to do some comparisons. I was too lazy to carry down all my heavy gear from my bedroom, so I thought it would give me a chance to try both with my iDSD BL, and see how it goes.

    The Susvara does not get enough juice from the iDSD BL to be driver properly. However, for just sitting listening at lower volumes, its the typical iDSD BL goodness. I really like the iDSD BL, don’t really care bout what others have to say about it. The DAC portion is great, and the amp portion is good. The iFi Micro iCAN SE amp is a tiny bit better than the BL’s DAC, but both are very competent.

    The Susvara is just a lovely enveloping wave of sound. It sounds so effortless! They are SUPER COMFY. Comfiest headphones I’ve tried in ages, and definitely the comfiest I’ve owned.

    The Phi’s do get just enough juice from iDSD BL, but still do sound better with a beefier amp behind them. Trying to bass boost on the BL with the Phi’s is like…https://imgur.com/7pBZaNr …..Highly recommended if you get the chance.

    The Phi are still my favourite pair of headphones, but it is so, so close. Both have their own attributes that makes them special, and so much fun to listen to.
     
  6. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Friend

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  7. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    Yeah I'm totally tapped out money wise right now, but my Master 9 with +3db gain and some upgrades runs them quite well. I'd love to try a high end speaker amp some time in the future :)
     
  8. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    [​IMG]

    Well, thats a couple months that I have owned the Susvara now. I have come to three main observations, and I am pretty set on these now, vs the first few days of ownership when I still wasn’t 100% sure.

    1. The Abyss Phi is still my favourite headphone, but it is close.
    2. The Susvara is a worthy upgrade over the HE1000V2, but not $3000(!)USD worthy.
    3. It is the comfiest headphone I have owned.
    So. The Susvara vs the Abyss Phi is an interesting comparison. The Phi is more in your face, aggressive, and the Susvara is more relaxing and chilled out. Its a softer sound. The Susvaras bass is more wooly and round sounding. It doesn’t box your ears off like the Phi. The mids on the Susvara are a bit more forward. The highs are also a little bit less sibilant and smoother than the Phi. In terms of soundstage, the Phi are larger and wider.

    I listened to the HE1000V2 again, and the only thing it does better than the Susvara is it has a taller soundstage. I think this might be due to the shape of the cups? I’m not sure. The Susvara does every other aspect of sound reproduction better. Is it worth $3000USD more? No, but if you can get a good deal on the Susvara, and you should be able to, it is worth saving for.

    The Susvara is so comfortable. Even more comfortable than the HD800(S) to me, and that was my previous most comfortable headphone. They aren’t too heavy, and the weight they do have is well distributed. The ear pads are really comfortable, but I would have liked to have seen real leather and better craftsmanship on them. That brings me to my next point.

    The Susvara have a much better build than the HE1000V1, which I used to own. They are a tiny bit better than the V2’s, but don’t feel as sturdy as the Sundara. I have been careful with them, but they haven’t fallen apart, or had any troubles yet. With that being said, especially at their asking price, the build and materials could be way better. Perhaps if they had gone all out in terms of materials and craftsmanship, they would be worth the current MSRP. As it stands? They fall short. In terms of sound, yeah, they are pretty darn good.
     
  9. Jozurr

    Jozurr Almost "Made"

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    Just looking at that picture is giving me anxiety thinking of placing the Susvaras on top of that wood and scratching them. They're easily scratched.
     
  10. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    I'm super careful with them, and made sure it was a safe place to put them down. No scratches :)
     
  11. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Friend

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    Everything about the sound signature seems to describe them closer to the LCD4's than the Abyss.

    How would you say they compare directly to the LCDi4?
     

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