Trying out the HifiMan Sundara headphones

in STEMGeekslast year


I recently picked up new headphones for my PC. I've been happy with the ones I had, but I wanted to step up to the next level and see how much of an improvement it would make.

I have been using a pair of Sennheiser 598 SR but I've wanted something better for a long time. The 598 SR are not bad headphones by a long shot, I paid $170.96 for them back in 2018 and have zero complaints. I want to see how much of an improvement even better headphones would be.

When it comes to headphones, I am fairly difficult. I have music playing whenever I am at my computer and not playing a game. My preference for music is all over the place from Eminem, Daft Punk, Kenny Chesney, Nine Inch Nails, and John Mayer. I also am a hard core gamer, and to be honest this is the most difficult requirement to satisfy.

All headphones at this level will perform amazingly well with music, but gaming has different demands. For one, you generally want to stick with open headphones, as you want a large sound stage for positional audio. Open headphones tend to leak into your environment, so others can generally hear what I am listening to in the same room. They also pick up more ambient noise than closed headphones, this generally isn't a problem and I prefer this as it allows me to hear if my wife or son are calling me. I don't generally hear much of anything else unless it is fairly loud.

Sennheiser 598 SR


My current headphones sound great and have performed well for both music and gaming. They feel light and are easy to wear for long periods of time and do not get hot. Like I said before, I have no complaints and just wanted to see how much of an improvement better headphones would give me.

HifiMan Sundara


I have had the HifiMan HE-400i on my wish list for a while, but I never picked them up as I wasn't confident they would be a big improvement. HifiMan headphones are planar magnetic, which in general sacrifices some bass for better audio fidelity. I recently found out about the HifiMan Sundara which are step up from the HE-400i but have had manufacturing quality control issues. HifiMan has done a silent update on the Sundara line so I wanted to give them a try.

To put things in perspective, the 598 SR are around $200 but are discontinued. The Sundara go for $350, but I managed to get mine for $314 shipped.

So I know you are wondering, are they any better?

Without a doubt, they are a huge improvement. Sound quality is much more refined and crisp, the bass is noticeably lower, but after comparing them to my 598 SR I find the 598 SR's bass muddies the sound and overwhelms the rest of the music. This wasn't as noticeable until I started listening to the Sundaras. In the past I had BeyerDynamics 880 Pros which are really high quality headphones but after having to resolder them a few times, I ended up getting the 598 SR.

In terms of gaming, I am loving it. I feel like I can position gun shots, foot steps, and environment noises far better than the 598 SR's. I also feel far more immersed in the game with the Sundaras as I hear less of my real world environment and the sound stage is much larger. Sound effects sound much more lifelike which massively improves the immersion.

I'm already in love with the sound of the Sundaras, and prefer them immensely over the 598 SR. I do have a few issues I have noticed but none of them are deal breakers.

Obviously the bass is lower, it is noticeable. I can probably adjust this with an EQ, I'm going to see how it goes after a while and see if it poses a problem. I do think the 598 SR's were too bassy now that I have listened to these, so some where in the middle would have been perfect. To be honest though, they still have a nice punch.

The Sundaras have a single cord that splits into two connects that connect to each ear piece. The 598 SR only connected to one ear piece, which I found a bit more comfortable. Unfortunately the 598 SR's had the cord on the opposite side of where I plug into the computer, so it was always going across my chest. My BeyerDynamics 880 Pros I was able to take them apart and swap them fairly easily, I never tried on the 598 SR.

The Sundaras cord is very short for connecting to a PC and I pull on it whenever I try to reach for anything that isn't in my immediate area or turn around to talk to someone. I had to order a longer cable which comes in tomorrow. I wanted to be sure I wanted to keep the headphones before ordering the cord. Today being the last day on the return window, I went ahead and ordered the cable as I am certainly keeping these.

The 598 SR were far more invisible to me while wearing them, they just disappeared from your mind. I can't say this to be true for the Sundaras, the ear pads are leather and are a bit warmer and they are a bit heavier. They are not uncomfortable, just not as comfortable as the 598 SR's. If I was in a hot environment, I can see them potentially being an issue.

The Sundaras require a lot more power to drive them and most computers can't manage it without help (amplifier). My Asus Dark Hero motherboard has a very high end sound system and is able to drive them well, barely. With my 598 SR's, I was typically listening at 20-30 volume, with the Sundaras I am around 40-60, generally I go higher when gaming than when listening to background music. Both headphones I use the Extreme Amplify level on the sound card, if I use standard performance mode with the Sundaras I have to max the volume to get near preferred level.

They are obviously fairly expensive, so that may be an issue for many. I use headphones many hours a day and I can justify the expense, your mileage may vary.

I have always wanted to try an external DAC/AMP combo but have been hesitant as I am concerned about the impact of positional audio. I was very happy my onboard sound card had enough power to drive these.

I will continue to use the 598 SR's when I travel as they can easily be driven by my laptop while on the road.

The two product shot images are from Amazon product pages.

Posted with STEMGeeks


So with all this extra time in how are you liking the headphones? Did you ever make the plunge and get a DAC?

 last year 

Sorry for the late reply, missed getting back to this.

I love them, nice improvement over my Sennhessers. Volume is a bit more difficult as I have to change it more frequently due to them needing more power and so I typically have to turn them up when playing games for them to shine but then back on my desktop I don't want them that high.

I haven't got a DAC, haven't had much time to think about it lately. I do want to try one and skeptical if I will see much of a difference and concerned I might lose some positional audio for gaming.

No worries and that's awesome you're digging them. I picked up an iFi Zen Dac Signature and Zen Can for my desktop use. The Zen Dac (non-signature version) is a dac/headphone amp and you get a lot of awesomeness for the money. My bet is you'd definitely hear a difference when it comes to music but not so sure about positional audio in gaming - although my guess is that if you're not doing any audio processing DAC wise right now, you'd see a boost in positioning and detail of that with a DAC.

There are a few gaming centric DACs too: Schiit Hel, Sennheiser has one, and there was another that is escaping my memory. ;)

 last year 

High end motherboards have pretty sophisticated audio systems, mine features a 10 channel DAC.

My Asus Dark Hero:

ROG SupremeFX audio technology delivers an exceptional 113 dB signal-to-noise ratio on the line-in connection to provide best-ever recording quality. There's also a low-dropout regulator for cleaner power delivery to the SupremeFX S1220 codec, an ESS® ES9023P digital-to-analog converter for superior front-panel output, and a Texas Instruments® RC4580 op amp for high gain with low distortion — all to produce unmatched audio quality.

Nice review. I still prefer cordless, such as the bose qc35, and i am very happy to date. Like the complexity you have in using them for many things, I even added another requirement which is outside environments and noise canceling for wind or noise. Bose need the setting adjustment for when its too windy (from high to medium) but with a button click it works very well.

Like you I am looking for a step up.. but i am not sure if the sony ones or keep on bose and try the 700 version. I know it’s too expensive for what it does… but for a requirement I have is quite good.

Any views, experience on these?

 last year 

I generally avoid wireless, but I did just switch to a wireless mouse Razer Viper Ultimate which I love. They now use custom wifi, so they don't have the latency of BlueTooth and are on par with cored.

I'm not sure if there are any headphones that can do the same, I don't want any delays for gaming, especially with audio.

I have no experience in anything wireless unfortunately.

Ok... I mean... never witnessed delays with bluetooth headphones... With mouse yes... I agree with you and I use wired ones for that reason. But sound never got a problem, or at least never noticed that way. Even on shootthemup kind of stuff.

Mouses get destroyed by me... the buttons max clicks are just something that lasts 3 to 4 years max for me. keyboards thought, last forever almost.

 last year 

I have the complete opposite experience, keyboards (even though I buy high end ones) tend to act up over time, where mice I just tend to want something better.

How many headphones have you had my friend, you are really a fan of them, I like them a lot but I can't use them so often, they give me headaches.

 last year 

Quite a few over the years. I usually get a lot of use out of them.

Awesome review! I love headphones, I still have my old Sony headphones which have worked really well. But definitely in the market for new ones. I might just have to pick these up.

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How many headphones have you had my friend, you are really a fan of them, I like them a lot but I can't use them so often, they give me headaches.

It feels good listing to a music 🎶 with a nice and quality headphones. 🎧 And you have a good test for it. The price wasn't a hindrance to you because you like going for what you want.
Thumbs up

Very nice!

ga sibsakka!! ni dding big e da!

 last year 

Gabbly gook!

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