Considering Sundara to Arya Upgrade

Hello everyone,

Lately I’ve been considering upgrading my Sundaras to the Arya. Based on my audio preferences, I was hoping to get some advice on if this is a good upgrade for me.

Currently I own:

  • Hifiman Sundara (2020 version)
  • Sennheiser HD 6XX
  • Schiit Modi/Magni Stack
  • XDUOO MT-602 Tube Amplifier

After a couple months of listening to these higher end headphones, I have a much better idea of what I’m looking for in terms of sound. I love the sound of both of these headphones, but both are lacking in certain aspects.

  • 6xx:
    Obviously the main thing I like about the 6XX is the vocals, especially the forwardness and intimacy of them. All of my music has vocals, and I want that to make sure those are front and center. I feel like the vertical size of the sound is decent on these.
    What they lack to me is soundstage, instrument separation, a little bit of the highs, and a little bass.

  • Sundara:
    What I like about these are pretty much the opposite. I got the 6XX first, so I when I got the Sundaras I was impressed with the soundstage and how clearly you could pick out a sound in space around you. They were a little bit bright for me at first, but I got used to them and like the extra detail better now.
    What they lack to me is forward and present vocals. Vocals are clear enough, but they can either be mixed in with the music, or the vocals can feel like they’re shrunk to make room for the instruments around them. I also feel like the sound is kinda small, in terms of verticality/scale. These too lack some bass compared to my preference.

I usually gravitate toward the Sundara.

What I’ve heard about the Arya feels like it’s pretty much exactly what I want in a headphone: forward and present vocals with good soundstage, good vertical scale, and good instrument separation to be able to pick out every instrument clearly in space. Plus I think the bass is more present and full than these two other headphones, right? Though I’m not a bass head, I can live without punchy and huge bass at the cost of the rest of the music, it’s just a bonus to me.
I usually listen to EDM, a little pop, and a little 80s/90s. But for EDM, it’s more the electronic sound and the vocals I want more than the extra bass.

I also know if I upgrade to the Arya that I’d want to upgrade my amp, if not my DAC to at least support balanced output in the future. I might need a post on that later if I decide to buy them.
I should also note that if I made this purchase, I’d be selling the Sundaras but keeping the 6XX.

Hopefully that is enough to give you a sense of what I’m looking for in a headphone. If the Arya is what I should look into, great. If you see a different headphone fit my preference (that isn’t more expensive), I’d love to hear it! And if the Arya does something that I’ve never heard before in my two headphones, that’d be cool to know too.

This would be a pretty big investment for me, so any help on making my decision would be greatly appreciated!


I would recommend looking into the Focal Elex! It sounds like it might be the kind of upgrade you’re looking for and it’s forgiving enough that it should honestly sound pretty decent out of a Magni.

I think headphones in the $1.5k range (Arya, Clear, HD800S) are all going to want a better amp, though I can’t speak to the Arya personally, just what I’ve heard from others.


I definitely like hearing all that! Save me a lot of $$. I’m certainly not looking for the absolute best of the best, but just the sound I want with enough detail and soundstage to satisfy that itch for something better. I’ll look into it, thanks! :+1:

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From what you’ve said you prefer, the Arya would be right up your alley for sure, as an endgame target.

I have both the Elex and the Arya, and while the Arya is a really solid step up in most respects from the Elex, the Elex is still a better value. Also, with your library, the Elex may play better because it is more dynamic and aggressive than the Arya is.

Where the Arya falls apart in value isn’t the headphone itself, but the need for extras to get the most out of it. You’ll need a high-current amp, a good DAC, and some kind of replacement cable. With a Magni and Modi, I doubt the Arya would sound much better than your Sundara.

If I were in your shoes, I would first look at an Elex or Clear by Focal, then look at upgrading your DAC and amp to something like a Bifrost/Jotunheim level, then get the Arya. You’d be able to take your time with it while getting a good upgrade with the Focal, and to top it all off, Focal’s cables work with the Arya.


Thanks for the input! Another Elex suggestion too. It’s nice to have some consensus. It does feel more natural to stair step up to my endgame of probably the Arya and better amp/DAC, but that is a $2000+ investment vs $700 (or less used… but QC).

The only major turn off about the Elex is the QC and how fast some of them die. How long have you had yours? I’m not seeing reviews from “a year later” so I can’t gauge the longevity, it could probably be enough to pull the trigger if it’s lasted you long enough.

If anyone else who has an Elex reads this too, maybe rgdelato, could you share your experience with longevity?

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I’ve had my Elex for nearly two years and I’ve had zero issue with it. They’ve taken a few falls onto carpet perfectly fine. There are QC issues though. IIRC, the issue was a weak wire attached to the driver that leads to channel cutouts ,and that wire is stronger on the Clear.

That’s part of why I mentioned the Clear. The Elex and Clear are very similar, except the Clear has a more responsive driver (Elex is no slouch though), better QC, and a couple extra accessories. I got my Elex for $600 and the Clear was $1500 then, so it would’ve been really dumb to get the Clear then. Now that the Clear is $1000, the Clear is a viable suggestion.

Either way, you’re going to have to get used to babying your headphones some if you don’t already. I used to toss my Sennheiser HD650s around without a thought. Not anymore🙂

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Well that’s good to hear, I’m glad to see they can last! And yes, my wired headphones live on a stand, in their box, or on my head their entire lives. It’d be the headphones’ fault if they failed, and I know Drop is also great with returns/replacements. I also peaked at eBay and found a pair of Aryas for $1000, so I’ve got a real decision on my hands

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If I were you I’d get the Aurorus Borealis.

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