The $999 HIFIMAN Ananda-BT Bluetooth Over-Ear Planar Magnetic Headphone is something of a unicorn in the wireless headphone world. There aren’t too many wireless open-back audiophile headphones out there, especially full-blown Planar Magnetic models.
As a matter of fact, I can’t think of any others. If you know of another one, feel free to drop me a line.
The Ananda BT is based on the $699 Ananda, a wired headphone that’s significant because it was one of the first high-end (ish) Planar Magnetics you could drive with a portable device. Most Planar headphones require a powerful headphone amp to get the best sound out of them.
For the wireless version, HIFIMAN put in a DAC/Amp section partially based on circuitry from their top of the line digital audio player. Now any smartphone can be a quality source.
The result is a headphone that makes you forget everything you thought you knew about wireless headphones. And for the most part, that’s a good thing. Read on for my breakdown of these fascinating headphones.
The Ananda-BT sample I have was sent to me by HIFIMAN in exchange for an honest review, and that is what follows.
The Ananda-BT is a big headphone (the earcups cover almost the whole side of my humongous head), but it’s amazingly light and comfortable for its size.
That’s partly due to the light plastic frame and thin metal headband, but the soft suspension strap which rests on the head also helps to distribute weight.
Adjustable metal sliders allow the Ananda to fit any size head, but I wish the suspension strap had a little more play. Since it doesn’t move much, it makes the headphones sit up really high when you extend the cups. That can make them look a little weird when you pull them all the way down.
The large hybrid earpads also help with long term comfort. They are very soft and angled to fit the head snugly.
Inside the earcups reside HIFIMAN’s NEO “supernano” Diaphragm, which is 80% thinner than their other designs, allowing for fast response and full-range sonics despite their higher sensitivity.
Those NsD drivers are paired with an amp custom-designed for this headphone, and as stated above, a DAC circuit with portions of its design taken from their $2500 R2R2000 portable music player.
That DAC supports files up to 24bit / 192khz via USB (the USB-C cable doubles as an audio cable for computers) and 24bit / 96khz via Bluetooth. The 24/96 Bluetooth rating reflects the Ananda-BT’s support for pretty much all “lossless” HD Bluetooth codecs, including APTX-HD, HWA, and LDAC.
On the outside of the earcup is HIFIMAN’s signature Window Shade grill, which is said to reduce sonic reflections. I’m not too sure about that, but it looks just as good here as it does on their top of the line HE1000 headphone.
What we dig about the Ananda-BT:
HIFIMAN has done an excellent job of translating the experience of premium full-size planar cans to a wireless headphone.
The internal balanced amplifier does an excellent job of utilizing the “supernano” diaphragms to their full potential, and the ability to play audio from your laptop through the USB-C cable into the Ananda-BT is a cool feature.
The included hard case is excellent, and they also have a detachable boom mic that lets you use the Ananda-BT as an awesome gaming headphone.
What to look out for:
While the Ananda BT represents a wireless headphone of a caliber we haven’t seen before, there are some trade-offs you have to accept to get there. For one, while you can use them wired to a computer with the USB cable, there is no other wired option.
In other words, there’s no way to bypass the DAC/Amp built-in to the headphones and connect to a digital player or phone passively. That’s something most other wireless headphones can do.
Also, while the Ananda-BT comes with a removable boom mic for phone calls, you have to put it on to take a call, which may be annoying for some. There’s also no volume control or music track control on the headphones, so you need to have access to the source to do those things.
I might as well get this out of the way. The Ananda-BT is the best sounding wireless headphone available today. The sound is head and shoulders above anything else out there, including the Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless Copper, our 2019 Product Of The Year.
I used them with my Fiio M11 Pro connected with the LDAC codec, and I loved the wide-open sound. When I listened to “Father Stretch” by Kanye West’s Sunday Service Choir, it was like listening to a private concert.
The soundstage was wide, extending out beyond the cups, and imaging was precise, allowing me to pick out all the various elements of the group. Detail and separation are off the charts! Everything sounded very natural, including the drums that punctuated the song. The sound was speaker-like.
Treble was slightly elevated, but not to the point of fatigue, and the mids were super crisp. If I found anything lacking, it was the Bass. If you like your low end to hit real hard, the Ananda-BT may sound thin to you. I want my Bass to be tight and articulate, which is what you get from these headphones.
The Ananda’s are well-balanced, not playing up any one part of the audio spectrum. I liked them with all genres, including modern ones like electronica and hip-hop. However, with audiophile genres like Jazz, they are special.
The Ananda-BT isn’t like any other Bluetooth headphone out there. They’re not without their quirks, but to me, the positives outweigh the negatives.
Yes, I would’ve loved to be able to use them passively with a headphone cable or control the volume from the headphone itself, but on the other hand, I find it amazing to be able to get this level of sound quality from a wireless headphone.
They are super comfortable, and I love the option of running them wired from your laptop with the USB cable. I find myself using them like this in my home office all the time.
If you are looking for the ultimate audiophile sound from a pair of Bluetooth headphones, you need to check these out.
Frequency range: 8Hz-55KHz
Weight: 460g (495g, including the microphone and cable)
Playback Time: 10hours
Full charging time: 2.7 hours
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