Compendium updated: April 23rd, 2021.
When it comes to affordable hi-fi headphones, popular opinion has clustered around a few options: the Sennheiser 660S (or equivalent), the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, and the HiFiMAN Sundara. Each of these headphones offers a special blend of tuning signature, detail-retrieval, and more. Deciding which one of these--or a different, less canonized can--is right for you can be a difficult (yet rewarding!) endeavor.
To make your research a bit easier, we’ve compiled reviews from across the web of the Sundara for your reference. What you’ll find here are the TLDR versions of the full reviews (which you can access with the provided links). We’ll continue updating this compendium as reviews come in.
From Audio Science Review’s review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on April 16th, 2021:
"We have had a checkered history with Hifiman so far with HE-6 performing very well and the Ananda, not so much. It is nice to discover that Sundara, despite its much lower price than either two, brings a competent implementation to the table. Objectively we miss the bass by a mile but otherwise, compliance to our target is very good. Distortion while not best in class, is kept much more under control than Ananda. Likely the smaller driver is able to be much more optimized here.
"Without EQ, I would not be a buyer as I love my deep bass response and highs that are a bit more sedated. With EQ, the Sundara transforms beautifully providing excellent spatial effect with respect to instrument and channel separation while providing the deep bass response that I crave.
"I am happy to give a strong recommendation to Hifiman Sundara with equalization."
From Headphone.com’s review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on February 10th, 2020:
"I strongly recommend the HiFiMAN Sundara. Changes to the pads not only make it more comfortable, it also sounds considerably better than the previous unit I evaluated, which I had already considered to be an excellent sounding headphone. In my opinion, the Sundara should be thought of as the new value benchmark, much like the HD6XX used to be, as it competes with headphones that come in at much higher price tags. Once again, I'm thoroughly impressed, and somewhat shocked at how good this is for the price, and I can't think of anything else I'd rather have within a much wider price margin."
From Joshua Valour’s review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on February 28th, 2019:
From Z Reviews’s review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on September 16th, 2019:
From Currawongs’ review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on July 2nd, 2018:
From Stereophile’s review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on March 4th, 2018:
"I think this may be the best HiFiMAN headphone to date. Maybe not in absolute terms, but in terms of being a very well balanced product offering. It looks good; it feels good; it appears to be well built; I think it's priced fairly; and the sound—though a tad cool—is well behaved top to bottom and delivers a coherent musical picture.
"I could nit-pick and complain the headband adjustment is a bit gritty, and a small carry sack should have probably been included, but I'm going to stop right there. I think this is a solid product offering from HiFiMAN.
"Yup, the Sundara is going to make it onto the Wall of Fame for not only providing a slightly bright, and probably better balanced, worthy alternative to the slightly warm Audeze LCD2C and the even warmer MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open, but also for doing it at a little over half the price! Well done, HiFiMAN!"
From The Headphone Show’s review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on February 10th, 2020:
From Headphonesty’s review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on December 5th, 2019:
- »Fast and detailed driver
- »Realistic soundstage and imaging
- »Balanced, laid-back, airy sound
- »Great price-to-performance ratio
- »Poor quality control, drivers prone to failure
- »Some grain or haze in treble
- »May be too polite for some genres
"At this price point, one can find headphones that are different from the Sundara, but one would be hard-pressed to find one that’s inarguably better, except maybe on the used market.
"The Sundara adheres to the typical Hifiman house sound of laid-back, slightly chilly mids, boosted treble, and tight and well-extended but certainly not overwhelming bass. The treble is, as far as I’ve heard, an improvement over Hifiman’s previous budget models, but still has a bit of a sizzle to it that can get irritating on particularly brightly-mastered tracks.
"Despite all that, Hifiman still hasn’t managed to pry loose the old thorn in their sides that is quality control. Driver failures abound, and the manufacturing quality of their headbands still varies wildly. These issues seem to be commonplace enough that some dealings with Hifiman customer service should perhaps even be anticipated. And you can go ahead and buy an aftermarket cable right off the bat – the included one is no good.
"But I’m going to end this review positively, because of course, I really like the Sundara. Based on the sound alone, I have no problem wholeheartedly recommending the Hifiman Sundara to anyone who’s in the market for a smooth, laid-back, inviting headphone, who doesn’t need anything with a huge amount of bite. The Sundara does lovely things for a headphone of its price, and I think it’s something any audiophile should check out."
From Headfonics' review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on June 27th, 2018:
"If names are a thing then the Sundara should have more staying power than the previous numbered generation. There is a palatable step-up in both refinement of sound and build quality on the Sundara over the previous generation that will stand it in good stead. The lack of cup swivel or fold flat might be amiss but the enhanced durability of the Sundara combined with it’s more robust headband makes it a comfortable fit, at least on my noggin.
"I am definitely pleased with how the Sundara sounds. The price point suggests a direct replacement for the older HE400i but I think it is far more refined and coherent sounding. The treble, in particular, is done right for me. It is never harsh or overly peaky with excellent articulation and more than adequate levels of headroom.
"The older HE400i came out at $499 back in 2014. The Sundara also comes out at $499 in 2018 sounding just that bit better and built to a much higher level of quality. For me, that represents a much better value proposition at the mid-fi level than before."
From Headfonia’s review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on May 7th, 2018:
"I was surprised with how Hifiman tuned the Sundara, especially looking at the fact this initially was considered as a replacement for the excellent mid-fi HE series discussed above. It however is nothing like that and Hifiman went for a flatter, even more neutral and linear tuning instead. Technically the mid-fi Sundara scores very high and its upper mids and treble section really are something else.
"The Sundara’s more neutral and linear tuning might not be for anyone but this tuning was intentional and Hifiman did it excellently so. For my personal taste the Sundara can do with a little extra amplification to sound its very best and then my choice goes to the Mojo and the Euforia. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t sound good powered directly from a phone or a DAP, but you will see the volume going up.
"In the end, if you’re looking for this type of sound, then you can’t go wrong with the Sundara. For the price it is going for it is very impressive on a technical level and the build quality also is as good as it gets. No, don’t expect HE-1000 performance or a sound like that of the HE-400i/HE-560 as you will be in a for quite the surprise. For me the Sundara’s tuning looking at the Hifiman Line-up is unique and it’s impressive to see that the R&D Hifiman is doing, is trickling down to the lower levels. One can only applaud Hifiman for that."
From RTINGS.com's review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on April 12th, 2018:
"Great for neutral listening. The Hifiman Sundara have one of the best audio reproduction that we've measured so far. They have a well-balanced mid-range that isn't too forward sounding with instruments and vocals. They also have enough bass to cater well to most genres of music. They can sound a bit sharp with already bright tracks but overall they sound great, they have a spacious soundstage and replace the stereo image accurately. They're an excellent choice for neutral and casual listeners."
From Soundphile Reviews' review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on January 30th, 2020:
- Very well built with premium materials
- Comfortable even in longer listening sessions
- Relatively balanced tuning
- Good technical ability
- Stock cable could be better
- Treble might be more abundant than some would like
"The HiFiMAN Sundara don’t redefine their price bracket, but they offer more than their predecessors, the HE-400 (in their numerous variations). They are in fact halfway between the HE-400 and the HE-560, offering arguably better build quality than both. The new design language HiFiMAN chose signals that the sound has changed, too: the Sundara are not as good as the HE-560, but they’re not too far off either. They offer a comfortable listening experience in terms of comfort, but also in terms of sound; their tuning is safe, though it may be a bit brighter than what many would desire. Still, they’re headphones that few would not like: with a current street price around $350, their value is really high.
"The HiFiMAN Sundara are among those headphones one can never grow tired of: their tuning and their technical ability are such that they could be used daily and still surprise the listener. They’re a keeper."
From The Headphone List’s review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on May 1st, 2019:
"Pros – Well-balanced signature, Comfortable, Very coherent imaging, Nice build quality
"Cons – Mediocre sub-bass extension
"Verdict – The Sundara provides a natural, tonally excellent presentation and one of the most accurate midrange timbres in its price range. Buyers would do well to choose the Sundara."
From Bloom Audio’s review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on July 28th, 2020:
"While it’s not going to be the first pick for bassheads, the Sundara is an amazing value. It’s not only a highly competitive headphone in the under $500 range, it’s also worthy of at least an honorable mention in the under $1000 range. With a sound that is natural, detailed, and musical, the Sundara is a great entry point into the audiophile world."
From Audio Monkey’s review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on January 5th, 2021:
- – Beautiful bass, even if not so deep. Very good technicality and punch.
- – Good build quality if compared to previous HiFiMAN’s headphones
- – Very nice lower-mids and highs equalization, present just enough to make them funny but detailed
- – The stock cables could be better, maybe using Neutrik connectors and including a balanced option.
- – There is a bit of nasal sound in their lower-highs, as well as some sibilance and crispness in their highs (accentuated in badly recorded tracks)
- – HiFiMAN quality control is not apparently on par with other top concurrent brands
"These HiFiMAN Sundara are great all-rounder headphones. At a price that is not yet approaching an exorbitant expense, while still remaining in a fairly expensive range for the average user, these headphones allow you to enjoy most music genres and maintaining a very high level of technicality and detail. They are quite revealing, so expect to find all the flaws in poorly recorded songs.
"HiFiMAN Sundara are headphones that I would recommend more or less to anyone, especially if your favorite musical genres are jazz, classical, acoustic or pop music. Thei are less recommended for those who mainly listen to Hip-hop, EDM, or electronic music, where a presence under 90hz is highly appreciated, but equalization can help a bit, if you listen to these genres casually.
"They are a pair of headphones that I loved, extremely comfortable, with a good build quality (however, it should be noted that my unit drivers’ made a tic sound, even with the cable detached, when used for a few consecutive hours). My advice therefore is to buy them from Amazon, to have a better guarantee in case of any kind of problem, that unfortunately HiFiMAN had in previous series (but this series seems much more cared and well-built)."
From MMORPG’s review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on November 8th, 2020:
"Are the Sundara’s perfect? No, and no headphone is. What I appreciate here, that reference sound that pulls apart each element, may not be your cup of tea, especially if you’re big into bass. But, for me, the Sundara’s haven’t just impressed me, they’ve become my new favorite headphone, even dethroning my beloved Drop x Beyerdynamic 177X Go while coming in $100 less. This is a headphone that is almost addictively good. It has reinvigorated my love of music, given me an edge in games, and put to shame every example of virtual surround sound incorporated into headsets today. If you've never experienced a high-end planar, this is an option that will leave you surprised at just what a good headphone can do. At $500, it would be impressive. At $350, it's shockingly good."
From L&B Tech Reviews’ review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on September 6th, 2020:
"Pros: Perfectly balanced sound with potent bass and buckets of details. Super-defined sound image with almost complete qualities.
"Cons: The size and weight can be inhibiting.
"Hifiman Sundara is the best hi-fi purchase in this class. The sound is more refined, airy and dynamic than the competition. The treble is silky soft, the bass potent, and the midrange is crystal clear and neutrally reproduced. The soundscape is perceived as large and open, and they thrive as well at Brockhampton as Beethoven. Sundara is simply a bargain for the price, and perfect for home use, although not very mobile friendly."
From Prime Audio Reviews' review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on April 25th, 2019:
- Comfortable design
- Sturdy and handsome build quality
- Rich, resolving sound signature
- Cable is a bit stiff
- No storage case included
"The Hifiman Sundara is a fantastic headphone that delivers big on sound with a mature but musical tuning that suits my preferences to a tee. It’s definitely not neutral as some would try to tell you; it has an underlying warmth that gives it a liquid smoothness plus a crisp, extended treble that also adds non-abrasive energy.
"The Sundara clearly portrays the ongoing evolution of one of the most innovative and consistent brands in the high-end portable audio industry. Thankfully, even their entry-level headphones can deliver an outstanding musical experience making the Sundara very, very easy for me to recommend."
From Audiophile-Heaven’s review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on May 29th, 2019:
"Now that we reached the end, if you’re looking for a 350 USD Headphone, or a 500 USD Headphone, that is Planar Magnetic, then you are most probably looking at Sundara, Verum One and Alara. If you want a more light, slightly soft, yet extremely dynamic sound, excellent comfort, and a neutral sound, yet with a very low-reaching bass, you should totally consider Sundara, and keep in mind, I am using it because I like it for real, no one can force me what to use in my free time, like when taking a walk, but Sundara often is the natural choice, so at least give them a listen if you can, I’m sure you’ll see their beauty, especially for the price asked."
From HiFiNext.com's review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on June 29th, 2020:
"Honest neutral sound in its best sense. They look stunning, are sublimely comfortable and deliver a spacious, upfront sound. Sundara is definitely aimed at those who really understand what the sound quality is, for audiophiles with experience. Someone may not have enough low frequencies, but many fans of low frequencies after some time listening to Sundara completely change their minds about this range. You can see exactly how the sound picture should sound and be created. HIFIMAN once again proved that a good sound can be available to many for really acceptable money (especially considering today’s price about 350$).
"We recommend this model for audiophiles who are looking universal headphones for every day, also for inexperienced beginners who want to understand what the right sound is, the correct presentation and what the sound should actually be."
From Audio Advice's review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on July 19th, 2020:
"During the course of testing the Sundara, we compared them directly to some other headphone models in a similar price range. Every comparison we did left us with the same question -- “Where did all the music go?” We don’t think you will find anything that gets you this much detail for $500, period.
"What you will give up, like with all headphones in this category, is portability and the types of environments you can listen in. Due to their open-back nature, your neighbors at the office will hear your music and these do not fold up for travel. But if you’re looking for a reasonable pair of headphones meant to sit and enjoy your favorite tunes at home, in a hotel room, etc, the HiFiMAN Sundara is simply amazing for the money. Pair them with a good headphone amp/DAC and enjoy!"
From Heaphone Guru’s review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on May 28th, 2018:
"The HIFIMAN Sundara, while not a flagship by any means, hits every flag in my book for an excellent sounding headphone and at an absurd value as well. It’s sonic reproduction is ludicrous for its price point and it simply works with every genre and type of music I have thrown at it. It’s neither an analytical set nor a fully transparent one but it hits the right note by being perfectly in between. It has the detail and enough transparency for me to sit down with my eyes closed and listen critically but also the mellowness to be a forgiving daily driver. I have sat with the Sundara’s on my head for hours watching common Youtube videos to Netflix movies without feeling fatigue or discomfort.
"One of my pet peeves of high-end and top of the line (TOTL) gear is that they are often too transparent and detail oriented. It makes it so that the only time you are able to enjoy them is when you are listening critically with a glass of wine or liquor by your side. Many of these headphones also only sound good with masterfully produced tracks with good dynamic range and start falling apart with ‘common’ music. The Sundara is not one such can. It has the precision of a scalpel when you require it to decipher the nuances of music, and the adaptability of a multi-tool for use as a daily driver.
"There has been no other headphone in this price range that has wowed me as much as the Sundaras have. At $499, the Sundara is my choice pick over every single headphone at this price in the world. It has ‘high-end’ sound at a mid-end price. It’s that good, no, not just good, but impeccable. HIFIMAN’s motto is “Innovating the Art of Listening”. Their new “Ultra-fine Diaphragm” technology is the real deal. It’s real innovation with actual end-user benefits. One phrase I would use to describe HIFIMAN would be “PLUS ULTRA” which is a Latin motto for having gone further and beyond. It was adopted by Spain following the discovery of the new world and characterizes Spain’s desire for “taking risks and striving for excellence”. I found it to be a fitting way to describe what HIFIMAN has done and achieved with the Sundara.
"The Sennheiser HD 600 (and later HD650) changed the playing field of headphone audiophilia in 1997 for what you should expect for five hundred dollars. Exactly two decades later in 2017, HIFIMAN has done exactly that with the Sundara; a beautiful legend has been born."
From Home Theater and High Fidelity’s review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on October 17th, 2018:
- Excellent Construction
- Clean sound with robust bass
- Easily replaceable cables
- Comprehensive manual for setup
- The HIFIMAN Sundara is very comfortable and can be worn for long listening sessions.
- Audio quality
- Build quality, especially of the headband and ear pieces
- Replaceable cables
"Would Like To See
- A carry bag for travel and protection
- Replacement ear cushions
"If you think headphone technology and price/performance ratios aren’t changing, you haven’t done enough sampling of what’s out there today.
"The HIFIMAN Sundara headphones have a clean, engaging sound. On the best quality audio, they really offer compelling performance. They are comfortable to wear, did not fatigue me in extended listening sessions, and could handle complex orchestral material and heavy rock without sounding congested."
From Audiophilia's review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on March 26th, 2021:
"One of the big selling points in my research was they could be enjoyed and experienced without the need for an EQ amp. Even though next on my list, I wanted to start with a straight connection to my integrated amp. My research lasted a couple of months, and I can attest the Sundara headphones are the best fit for the beginner audio enthusiast. They are affordable and excellent value.
"As such, the Sundara Headphones are neutral-sounding headphones, but so much more. Their accuracy and timbral accuracy will have you reaching for different genres to engage with. They are also fun. When clear imaging and an intimate soundstage are coupled with the music you love and listen to most, it’s a perfect match. I can recommend these headphones without hesitation."
From Ecoustics's review of the HiFiMAN Sundara, first published on October 15th, 2020:
"If you’ve ever watched “Bosch” on Amazon Prime, you can envision Harry Bosch cueing up this record on his vintage McIntosh/Ohm rig and staring out through his enormous glass windows at the city of Los Angeles and getting lost in the case currently occupying his mind.
"I think that’s what the Sundara does so well. It brings forth the emotion and raw humanity of a recording and lets your brain and body do the rest.
"This is not a purely cerebral pair of headphones. It has a soul.
"It is a voice of reason in these trying times. Badly needed."
Editor’s note: Emphases ours.