Listening to a $6K headphone and loving every second if it
The Hifiman Susvara is the perfect headphone for hardcore audiophiles with deep pockets.
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
First things first, priced at $6,000 (£4,166, AU$7,499) the Hifiman Susvara is a very expensive headphone. It might appeal to the kind of person who can drop $274,390 for a Lamborghini Huracan Performante sports car without checking their bank balance. The lucky One Percenters have the best toys.
What makes it so special? Firstly, Hifiman has fitted the Susvara's with its latest planar magnetic drivers which have evolved into the thinnest, lightest and most responsive on the market. Susvara's "Stealth" magnets in front of the diaphragm are said to be more acoustically transparent than other headphones' magnets and impedance is rated at 60 ohms.
Susvara doesn't thrill the ear by going overboard with "detail" and "resolution" -- it sounds above all natural. There's a remarkable sense of ease, clarity without a hint of grit, grain or edge. Hifiman's previous flagship, the HE1000 V2 is still a great headphone, but sounds softer, less present, and it's less comfortable than the Susvara.
Listening to Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer's recent "Bach Trios" album and going from the luscious sounding Audeze LCD-3 Fazor headphones to the Susvara the sound was more transparent and alive. The LCD-3 Fazor is my favorite full-size headphone from Audeze, but it was outclassed by the Susvara. That headphone's sound was more palpably realistic, its treble sparkle/air trumped the LCD-3 Fazor's, which was veiled by comparison. One upside to the LCD-3 Fazor is that it's much easier to drive, so it doesn't require a high-end amplifier to play loud, while an extreme, high-end headphone like the Susvara absolutely does.
I used a Rogue RH-5, which is the least expensive amp I've found that works well with the Susvara. My Pass Labs HPA-1 is a great headphone amp, but didn't quite have enough oomph to make the Abyss AB-1266 or Susvara shine. I also briefly tried the Hifiman EF1000 headphone amp, which as you would expect turned out to be an ideal match with the Susvara.
On rock music Susvara takes no prisoners: This headphone dishes out visceral kicks, raunchy power chords and rhythm with gusto, the low bass profoundly deep. I noted again and again that because the Susvara's sound is so clear I tended to play it louder than other headphones. When I realized how loud it was I turned it down to safer levels.
The Susvara's only competition is the Abyss AB-1266 headphone, which sounds even more dynamically alive, and it has a wider, more out-of-the-head sound stage. It's also a little easier to drive, but much heavier -- 21.9 ounces/620 grams vs. the Susvara's 15.9 ounces/450 grams. The AB-1266's head fit is never all that secure: If you quickly turn left or right
flops around on your head.
All true, but for sound quality the AB-1266 is still my reference. Compared to that one the Susvara sounds like a more conventional headphone, albeit one with superior midrange, so vocals and acoustic instruments sound more natural, and imaging focus is more precise than what I heard from the AB-1266. The Susvara is also more comfortable than the AB-1266 or any full-size Audeze headphone.
So yes, at 6 grand it's a lot of money, and it looks and feels like a headphone for the rich. Hifiman aims high, but if Susvara is a little out of reach, no worries, the company also offers a broad range of less pricey headphones, including the best sounding $300, £190, AU$419 full-size headphone on the planet, the HE400S.
Summing up, the Hifiman Susvara is a true statement design and a must-have for any serious and wealthy headphone connoisseur.