I’ve been around long enough to remember when getting a Planar Magnetic headphone under $1000 was unheard of. Now, Hifiman has more models than you can count, especially if you include the Drop variants.
I’m a big fan of several of them, including the $350 Sundara, which I considered to be the best planar headphone under $500, the $330 Deva Pro (review coming soon), and the $700 Ananda, which has fallen from $1k.
Now we have the brand new $500 Hifiman Edition XS, which makes life even more difficult for those looking to pick up a Hifiman headphone below 1k.
So which one should you put your hard-earned money down on? Read on, and I’ll let you know what I think!
Disclaimer: This unit was sent to us by Hifiman Electronics in exchange for our review. No input was given or promises made regarding the content contained in this evaluation.
The Edition XS is the upgrade to 2015’s Edition X, incorporating Hifiman’s latest technologies like Stealth Magnet Technology and the NEO supernano Diaphragm.
Stealth Magnet technology utilizes specially shaped magnets that are said to be Acoustically transparent or invisible. This means they are designed to reduce wave diffraction and preserve the integrity of the sound waves coming from the diaphragm. This is said to provide more accurate output.
The Stealth Magnet tech is used in conjunction with Hifiman’s NEO supernano Diaphragm, an ultra-thin diaphragm that (I believe) was first used in the Sundara. It’s said to be 75%-80% thinner than the completion, allowing for enhanced separation and detail especially in terms of imaging.
On top of these internal upgrades, Edition XS also utilizes the memory foam headband employed on many of Hifiman’s newer headphones, including the Deva models, the 400se, and the HE560 V4. It’s a simple yet effective design that provides stability and comfort.
I actually prefer it to the suspension designs of the SUNDARA and the Ananda, as it’s easier to adjust and more comfortable to boot.
The soft headband is complemented by the large hybrid earpads, which are angled to provide a good seal against the head. They are pretty comfortable as well.
I really dig the comfort and build of these headphones. They feel really solid, and they are a joy to wear for long periods.
In addition, the Edition XS comes with a nice cable that’s a major upgrade to the curly mess that came with the SUNDARA. The XS cable is nice and flexible, plus it’s not tacky like the SUNDARA cable. It doesn’t get all tangled up which makes it easy to deal with overall.
If by chance you want to upgrade the cable the dual 3.5mm connectors make it easy, as there are tons of aftermarket cables that use that size plug.
For the bulk of my Edition XS testing, I used the new iFi xDSD Gryphon, which really impressed me when I did my review. I think it’s the best-sounding portable amp they’ve ever made, and I knew its detail and depth would really show me what these headphones are capable of.
The Gryphon was connected to my HP Envy X360 using the included USB cable, and then I played music from my trusty MQA testing playlist in TIDAL.
With an 18 ohms impedance and 92db sensitivity, you’ll definitely need a solid headphone amp to get the best out of the Edition XS. On the other hand, I was also able to get outstanding results out of a quality digital audio player, the Fiio M11 Plus LTD in particular. That was a killer combo.
From the first minute I heard the Edition XS, I knew I was listening to something special. It seemed like a perfect blend of the Hifiman Ananda and Hifiman SUNDARA, giving me a lot of the detail and openness of the former while providing a lot of the presence and punch of the latter.
It’s a pretty easy-going headphone with a more laid-back perspective than the SUNDARA, but more forward than the Ananda. As a result, it doesn’t have the SUNDARA’s upper-mid edge that many have come to live with or complain about. It also has more punch than the SUNDARA, which gives it the warmth and excitement that some feel that headphone lacks.
The Edition XS also has a little more punch and thump than the Ananda, so if you feel that headphone is a little thin on the low end, the XS may be what you’re looking for.
That said, the Ananda is a more articulate and resolving headphone than the XS. It’s more transparent, vocals sound more natural and instruments are more fleshed out. It’s more of a traditional and neutral audiophile sound than the XS.
However, I would say the XS gives you about 80% of Ananda’s detail which is still impressive. Instruments and vocals are still reproduced with remarkable fidelity. Also, the Soundstage of the Edition XS seems wider than both the Ananda and SUNDARA which makes it sound more grandiose and bigger than the other two. The scale of orchestra pieces is insane on these headphones.
These headphones are just so fun to listen to. When I say fun, I don’t mean it in a “bassy and boomy” Beats by Dre context, I mean it from a “these things rock” context. Their Dynamics allow hooks and crescendos to hit just right.
If you’re in the neutral-clinical headphone camp, you probably want to get a pair of SUNDARA’s or Anandas, but if you want a little more verve, you need to check out the Edition XS.
Another caveat is while these headphones have a nice punch and slam for a planar headphone, they don’t match the slam of good dynamic headphones like the Focal headphones. On the other hand, Focal’s headphones in the $500 range don’t have the definition that planars can offer.
I have to give Hifiman kudos for providing an affordable headphone that’s technically competent but slightly breaks out of the neutral trend they have followed for some time now. The slight bump in the midbass allows the XS to sound good on less traditional audiophile material, but still, fall in line when you want to listen to a well-recorded jazz piece.
The Wrap Up
At the end of the day, the $499 Hifiman Edition XS‘ detail, dynamics, and imaging are off the charts for a $500 headphone. This combined with the exceptional soundstage makes them class-leading for headphones $500 and under. These are excellent all-rounders. Highly Recommended!
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I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My hunger for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.