Sure, but when your getting up to the level of Arya, the overall chain has a much greater impact than what you might have noticed before. So naturally you’ll be spending more to get the best out of them. Unfortunately the law of diminishing returns at work here.
I know. I said I owned the Arya. I also said I have the Bifrost 2 and the liquid Gold X, which is almost 2k worth of Audio equipment. I also am thinking of selling my Aryas as I almost never use them over the ZMF Auteurs.
Hi! And welcome to HFGF. Arya is a power hungry can and needs amps that can deliver current more than it needs voltage. $99 amps are gonna struggle with a load like Arya. IME the Liquid Platinum and these $1.5k-ish Hifimans (I own Edition X V2 and have an Arya on loan right now) are a fantastic match. Unfortunately Monoprice is currently listing that amp at its original $799 when it spent a big chunk of 2020 at $500ish or less. You can probably get a good deal on a used one or just hang on for a week or two and the price might come back down. I’ve heard good things about that Burson amp but haven’t heard myself. I can also confidently state the Lake People G111 is a good option for you at $549. Good luck with your search.
There’s an open box one for $419 right now
Awesome information. Thank you!
Thanks to another exceedingly generous loan from a member of our HiFiGuides community, I was able to give the HiFiMan Arya and extended audition. This was an exciting opportunity because the Arya is well respected in the larger audiophile community. It’s also my first HiFiMan headphone outside of the warmer-tuned progression of HE-4XX, Edition XX, and Edition X V2 (HexV2). The HexV2 is still in my current personal collection and is easily one of my favorite headphones. It’s also the model that Arya replaced at the $1600 price point in HiFiMan’s line of headphones with egg-shaped earcups. Alright, let’s dig in.
The Arya is an excellent headphone with standout technical performance in several areas. It’s soundstaging, bass texture, detail retrieval, and mid-range and treble timbre are all high points and some of them might arguably be class leading at the ~$1.5 price point. Its signature might be a sticking point for some because it is rather bright – which some, like me, might find fatiguing – and it also falls behind other ~$1.5k headphones in terms of dynamics and punch/slam. I really enjoyed it for its strengths but also found it to induce some vertigo-like symptoms for me, which means I won’t be hanging on to it. It’s still a very good headphone that many will enjoy and that some may interpret as ‘endgame’, but I also recommend giving it a lengthy audition or buying from a seller with a good return policy to see if its signature agrees with you.
FEATURES & BUILD
The Arya is a large planar-magnetic driver, open-back headphone. The earcups are shaped like upside-down eggs and can fully swivel to lay flat on a tabletop or in a case. The suspension-strap headband system is quite comfortable. If you have any experience with the Ananda or HexV2, the build is virtually identical. Aesthetically the Arya is completely blacked out. The unit I have on loan is from a silent revision that put a thin layer of black speaker-grille-cloth-like material over the driver on the outside for dust protection (no effect on sound, so they say) that makes it thoroughly all-black. Judge for yourself if that works for you:
HexV2 on left, Arya on right. Can you see the family resemblance?
The cable entry is dual-entry and uses 3.5 mm TS connections where the HexV2 uses 2.5 mm. Overall physical comfort is quite good. The ear openings will accommodate very large ears and the egg-shaped pads distribute the clamp pressure on the sides of the head well. The Arya unit I have is newer than my HexV2. The HexV2 is well broken in and has just enough clamp pressure to keep it on my head while the Arya was generally stiffer and hugged a little bit tighter. However, given that their builds are virtually identical I imagine the current fit and clamp of my HexV2 is a likely endpoint for this Arya unit after months of use.
The Arya has a rated impedance of 35Ω and sensitivity of 90 dB/mW – at least that’s according to HiFiMan’s website. Googling “hifiman arya specs” turns up a few different numbers. The first hit is from Moon Audio which says 41Ω and 91 db/mW and Headphones.com says the same. I’ve also seen 47Ω floating around out there. Here’s the point, the Arya has a moderate impedance as far as planars go and a somewhat low sensitivity. For context, the HexV2 is rated at 25Ω and 103 db/mW. These numbers indicate that some care should be taken in matching Arya with amplifiers. The low-ish impedance and low sensitivity, in addition to the fact that planar drivers present a close-to-constant impedance, mean that it’s a headphone that will draw a fair amount of current from an amp. Large current draws can sometimes make amps freak out. The more robust the power supply of an amplifier is, the better the results will be with Arya. If an amp is current-limited, Arya will let you know. Many $99 amps in particular don’t have particularly beefy power supplies. But then, I would not recommend running Arya off a $99 amp for a variety of reasons anyway.
That’s about the extent of features. The point of this headphone is really to provide a lot of planar driver area and that it does. So let’s talk about…
I’ve had an influx of source gear lately. I had the privilege of trying the Arya out on several amp and DAC combos. Here’s list: DACs: Schiit Modius & Bifrost 2, Denafrips Ares II, Soekris dac1321, Holo Audio Spring 2 Level 2; amps: Schiit Asgard 3, Lake People G111, Monolith Liquid Platinum (w/ new old stock Amperex PQ Gold Pin tubes), Cayin HA-1AMK2, Violectric HPA-V200, Headamp GS-X Mini.
Sound Signature & Timbre
From a signature perspective, the Arya sounds to me like a much larger, more detailed, and much more technically proficient planar version of the Beyerdynamic DT880; Arya has a neutral-bright frequency response with a lean, but well-extended low end. The treble is forward but also retains good tonal balance between the fundamental and harmonic frequencies. This tonal balance translates to excellent upper frequency detail retrieval without sounding peaky or shimmery. It also allows for accurate, reasonably life-like timbre for cymbal hits, the top range of flutes, etc. However, if a recording has too much glare in it, the Arya will tell you, and in no uncertain terms. The midrange is also very detailed, but still retains a very listenable smoothness. String plucks, room echo, even the groans of performance-hall chairs as bodies shift in them are resolved beautifully. The midrange timbre is also fantastic. Voices sound wonderful and realistic – usually. On rare occasions I noticed the treble-forward presentation can pull the perception of a familiar voice’s median frequency up making it sound just a touch thinner than I’m used to (Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree being one such voice where I noticed this). Otherwise, pianos, trumpets, drums, etc. all have excellent timbre and have gotten closer to sounding like the real thing than just about any other headphone I’ve heard so far. The bass is lean but extends well. The bass is also very tuneful and made just about every other headphone I’ve heard sound more one-notey in the bass than I originally thought they did. The bass isn’t very punchy though and is more at home reproducing the sound of an upright string bass played with a bow than it is the aggressive plucking or strumming of a bass guitar.
Space – The Arya Frontier
Holy huge-and-enveloping-soundstage, Batman! The Arya sounds ENORMOUS. The soundstage is not only wide, it’s also very tall and gives a decent sense of depth. I thought my HexV2 was a soundstage champ, but it gets one-upped, maybe two- or three-upped here. The separation and layering are also good, with some of the clearest delineations between sonic images both laterally and with depth I’ve heard so far. What’s interesting is I didn’t notice this so much until I switched back to HexV2 after using Arya exclusively for a couple of days. Even though the HexV2’s soundstage is huge in comparison to many headphones, it was the first and only time I’ve ever felt like HexV2 gave me an in-your-head sensation. Arya somehow did an interesting job of sounding huge but also not ‘forcing’ its hugeness on me until I went back to my other cans. That stands in contrast to my HexV2 when I first put it on is that right away it sounded big and grandiose. Arya’s – let’s call it sneaky – soundstage size delivery is neither good nor bad in my view, but was interesting and unexpected.
Arya Takes WaveTheory to School
Audiophile terminology. It’s annoying sometimes, right? One term I’ve struggled with for awhile is ‘texture.’ In the context of sound, it seems a strange term. Arya is the first headphone I’ve heard where the term starts to make sense, especially in the low frequencies. While Arya’s bass is lean and not particularly dynamic, it is detailed. The subtleties of the slightly higher pitched sounds that a finger plucking a bass guitar string makes, or that split-second where the impulse of that pluck travels along the string before the string’s natural frequencies create its tone, those are the kinds of things Arya pulled out and presented to me more than any other headphone I’ve heard before. Here’s the thing…I’ve heard those sounds, just not in headphones (or speakers for that matter). My dad picked up bass guitar when I was in high school. He practiced it quite a bit while I still lived at home. I’d often hear him play and even his cheap bass guitar amp would playback those finger-pluck or wave-impulse sounds. I’d often wonder why I didn’t hear them in the music I often listened to. I figured they just got lost in the mix or maybe his guitar was just weird. Now, two decades-plus later, Arya was showing me that those sounds were very much in the mix – and some of the same mixes I listened to back then like Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, or even System of a Down – and probably had been there all long. I just didn’t have gear that resolved them. Whatever the case, there is more overall tonal character to Arya’s bass that finally made ‘texture’ click for me. And it did more than that. Even though my other headphones could not resolve that texture as clearly as Arya, it showed me enough of an example of texture that I could pull out hints of it here and there in my other cans, at least the higher quality ones like my HexV2 and TH900 Lawton. For that alone, I’ll have a long-lasting appreciation for Arya.
Amp & DAC Pairings
As best I could I tried to pair Arya with amps that would rein in its treble somewhat. Amps made by Lake People – especially their Vioelectric line – don’t necessarily roll off the treble but they control it well and often make it less peaky and shimmery than many other amps. Arya benefitted from that to my ear. As I said above the Arya will glare in the high-end if the recording isn’t spectacular up top. The Lake People/Vio amps I have on hand did a good job of reducing, but not eliminating, that glare. The Lake People amps, again especially Vio, are also warmer and flesh out Arya’s lower mids and bass a little bit more. The Headamp GS-X Mini I currently have on loan also made the Arya sound its most detailed and tonally accurate, but was a bit sharper in the treble at times. Because of the load Arya presents, it also worked well with my Cayin HA-1AMK2 transformer-coupled tube amp. The sound was dryer and more detail-forward than the Lake People or Vio amps, dryer but not quite as detailed than the GS-X Mini, and appeared to roll off the treble a bit. The soundstaging was also a slightly flat, with a hint more wall-of-sound presentation than some of the other amps. It didn’t eliminate depth, but it didn’t show through as much as some of the other amps. The Monolith Liquid Platinum (MLP) also has strong synergy with Arya. The MLP and large HiFiMans in general place nice together. The slight mid-forward presentation of the MLP brought out the mid timbre of the Arya a bit more. The sense of space with the MLP + Arya was also very good.
DACs had a less of an effect on Arya’s sound than the amps to my ear. The Schiit Bifrost 2 has a warmer sound which accentuated the warmth the G111 brought out but was a bit of overkill with the V200. The added warmth BF2 brought to the MLP and Cayin tube amps was also of benefit. The Ares II could make the Arya sound even more huge, as soundstaging is that DAC’s wheelhouse. It also could liven up the Arya’s mid-bass dynamics. However, the Ares doesn’t have as much heft in the deep low end and since Arya is already leaner there that could at times be a double-whammy and sound thin. The V200 balanced that out to large degree but not completely. The Soekris dac1321 makes the Arya a little more intimate in soundstaging and does a good job with detail retrieval, but also is a more analytical DAC which makes the brightness more of an issue at times. The Holo Audio Spring 2 DAC is on a whole ‘nother level and certainly made Arya’s detail and bass texture light up. I have very limited experience with DACs on that level and need more time to figure out what’s really going on there, though.
I briefly tired the Arya with my Schiit Modius + Asgard 3 stack, too. This stack is an amazing value at the roughly one-step-above-entry-level, and handled Arya reasonably well. The Arya’s detail retrieval wasn’t quite what it was with the amps and DACs above, and the imaging was not quite as well defined or separated. The treble was also rather sharp. The Asgard is slightly warmer and thicker than true neutral, but it also doesn’t handle treble quite as well as the more expensive amps above. So, the Arya got a little over-bright and sharp at times. Still, if you’re sitting with a Modius + Asgard stack and are ready to upgrade your heaphone game, the Schiits are still good enough to allow Arya to show you much of what it does well.
You Spin Me Right ‘Round Baby Right ‘Round
Unfortunately for me there is a catch, and a big one. If I try to listen to Arya for much more than an hour in one sitting I start getting something that feels much like motion sickness. If the material I listen to is brighter than average that time gets cut down, sometimes significantly. The first time I got dizzy while listening to Arya I thought it was just an aberration and I was probably hungry or had been staring at my computer screen too long without a break. However, the second time was about halfway through the album John Williams in Vienna. John Williams is one of the elite composers of our time, IMO, and Arya’s tuning, staging, and level of dynamics make it a fine piece to play music of Williams’ style. However, that album is recorded bright (but otherwise sounds fantastic, FWIW) and by about the 4th or 5th track my head was spinning. I took a break, felt better, and dove back in again. After another 3 or 4 tracks came the head-spinning once again. The next day I played about 90 minutes from my Spotify shuffle playlist that includes a lot rock, metal, and some pop, EDM, and hip-hop. Same thing. For whatever reason Arya’s delivery of the high frequencies doesn’t seem to agree with me long-term. This makes me sad because I otherwise really enjoy Arya. I’ve also had some conversations with other audiophiles who report similar issues with Arya. The amount of time it takes for them to develop headaches or dizziness varies, but there are a handful of people for whom this is an issue. I wish I knew what it was, because I do have other neutral-bright headphones (Beyer DT880) and v-shaped headphones (TH900) for which listening for extended periods is not an issue. Unfortunately, I simply couldn’t find a DAC + amp combo that would eliminate this issue either. Some combos just delayed it for a few more minutes. Just one of those things, I guess.
This dizziness is unfortunate and something I share as a word of caution. If you’re considering an Arya purchase, the dizziness/headache issue seems prevalent enough that you should make sure the seller has a good return policy. Or, if you buy used (Arya can occasionally be found under $1000), know that you might have an issue and need to flip it at a small loss. Fortunately, Arya is still a hot commodity right now and you should recoup most of your cost in reasonably short order.
COMPARISON WITH OTHER HEADPHONES
I’ve already compared the Arya to my HexV2 quite a bunch. To recap, Arya is neutral-bright in signature where HexV2 is warmer with a gentle U shape to its signature. Arya has bigger soundstage and slightly more accurate imaging, separation, and layering. HexV2 has more bass punch/slam and an overall more dynamic presentation. They both have excellent timbre, but Arya’s timbre is slightly better with most material. However, some male vocals sound more natural to me on HexV2 because of its less prominent treble. Arya also has much more defined bass texture where the HexV2 only hints at it. If I’m listening to classical or jazz, I generally prefer Arya’s presentation (when I’m not dizzy, that is). When I want to rock, it’s HexV2 hands down.
The other large planar I own is the Audeze LCD-2 (prefazor, rev 1). And while it’s been awhile since I’ve heard them, I’ve had extended time with the LCD-X ($1200) and the LCD-3 prefazor (fazor version currently $1995). The LCD-2 has a warmer and more relaxed sound. It also doesn’t have the Arya’s spatial chops. The approach is different. Arya’s job appears to be to present every part of the music that it can. The LCD-2 wraps you in a sonic hug and encourages you settle in the for long haul. The Arya is technically superior in just about every way save low-end dynamics, LCD-2 has more bass quantity and feels more intimate. However, the LCD-2 is also about $600 cheaper than Arya. From memory, the Arya has superior detail retrieval and spatial performance than either of LCD-X or LCD-3, and it still was able to introduce me to bass texture in a way that neither LCD model was able to. The LCDs were more dynamic, though, and the LCDs were more music-genre-agnostic than Arya. The LCD-3 sounded very good-to-excellent with just about any music genre. Arya is not as much of a generalist, seeming to prefer music that is acoustic, doesn’t emphasize bass, and doesn’t benefit from aggressive macrodynamics. Similarly, the LCD-X can also be a bit more of a generalist than Arya if Audeze’s Reveal EQ is utilized. However, using software-based EQ is often clunky and inconvenient. Still, on the types of music Arya is good at, it’s easily superior to either Audeze from my memory. The other advantage Arya has is that it’s still sold new. The LCD-X is still an in-production model, but the LCD-2 and -3 prefazor models have been discontinued and must be found used.
I have a Fostex TH900 now with Lawton driver tune-up and purpleheart chambers. The cost new for all that lands somewhere in the $1.7-2k range. It’s a completely different experience. The Fostex brings just about all the bass punch/slam and overall physicality one could ask for. It’s very dynamic and lively. For rock, metal, EDM, pop, or hip-hop the Fostex is hands down more fun and engaging. However, it’s bass can be a bit overbearing on more acoustic genres and it doesn’t have that bass texture, or Arya’s overall level of detail retrieval. These two could be very good complements to each other in a collection, however.
Recently I also reviewed the ZMF Eikon which also lands right around $1500. Arya and Eikon have a fair amount of overlap in music genres that they seem to be geared toward. They both like acoustic music that isn’t particularly aggressive in the macrodynamics. However, Arya is the stronger performer for acoustic music that also benefits from sounding BIG – think symphonies and large orchestras. Arya’s overall detail retrieval also holds up better, particularly in the mids, when the music gets busy. Still, the Eikon’s timbre with intimate acoustic music is second-to-none and can create an emotional connection that Arya can’t quite match, IMO. I also think that Arya handles genres that are not in its wheelhouse a little better than Eikon handles genres outside of its wheelhouse. For example, I enjoyed rock and metal more with Arya than I remember enjoying them with Eikon, but I would say that neither headphone is best suited for those genres. And then there’s aesthetics. I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the Arya’s aesthetic is a bland form-follows-function type of thing where the Eikon has ZMF’s exquisite artistry and craftsmanship.
I haven’t heard the Focal Clear but do own an Elegia. Focal has a reputation for being very punchy and having high physicality, and I’ve heard the Elegia gives at least a taste of what Clear can do in that regard. The Elegia easily has more punch and overall more dynamic presenation than Arya. I think it’s safe to say the Clear would also win out in this area but that Arya would likely still sound bigger and grander. I’m not comfortable saying any more without hearing the Clear for myself.
The HiFiMan Arya is an excellent performer that does a lot of things very well. It will make a lot of listeners very happy. It has class-leading spatial presentation that is HUGE. It has very good midrange and treble timbre. It has good bass extension and introduced me to the idea of bass texture. And it extracts a lot of detail from the music. It’s not overly dynamic but can still be engaging. On the other hand it also is bright and for me is bright in a way that can induce headaches or dizziness. That’s sad because I really like Arya for those things it does well. So sadly, I won’t be able to keep it. Still, if you can handle its treble presentation and listen to a lot of grand acoustic music, this headphone is a compelling performer.
Enjoy the music everyone!
Thanks for that!
I’ve been holding off making a purchase of a new headphone where they Arya was a candidate. The discussions of supporting source gear used and how they interacted, along with the sound characteristics and comparisons to other phones were beneficial indeed.
The treble does get a bit smoother after burn-in time, probably the only headphone that I experienced this with because the Arya v2 is one of the few headphones I had that was brand new. The Arya v2 replaced my Arya v1 whose magnet structure landed on a foot of a table after it fell (my fault). After receiving the treble, I found it to be a more “glare-y” out of the box than the v1’s. Over time, the treble eventually smoothed out. Also, during that time I listened to my HD6XX intermittently as some form of an aural palate cleanser.
HIFIMAN89 is going to be out of use soon, it may be for one more use or time based but this is according to my source… if you were planning to use HIFIMAN89 to get $89 off $1000+ on hifiman store I suggest you USE IT ASAP
That being said if it is not working and you have sampled the Arya’s want to buy a set of new Arya’s direct from Hifiman PM me and can possibly help in some small way
Outside of this hobby, I also collect sunglasses.
When I first started 2 decades ago, I discovered polar lenses would give me this same feeling.
After about 30 mins to an hour of wearing sunglasses with polar lenses I would feel “drunk like motion sickness” and have trouble walking.
Followed by headaches.
Later I found out I was allergic to the polar lenses.
This struck me very odd at first, I even thought it was humorous hearing that.
“polarization sensitivity has long been associated with behavioral tasks like orientation or navigation. However, only recently have we become aware that it can be incorporated into a high-level visual perception akin to color vision, permitting segmentation of a viewed scene into regions that differ in their polarization. By analogy to color vision, we call this capacity polarization vision. It is apparently used for tasks like those that color vision specializes in: contrast enhancement, camouflage breaking, object recognition, and signal detection and discrimination (Cronin et al., 2003, Integr. Comp. Biol. (2003) 43 (4): 549-558. doi: 10.1093/icb/43.4.549 ). Therefore by artificially subjecting our eyes to fully linearly polarized light, such as what we see through polarized sunglasses, we somehow “trick” our photoreceptors into seeing certain signals in nature that are not acutally present.”
There have been studies claiming noise canceling headphones causing BPPV in certain people.
I wonder if the Arya had similar effects on you.
Does anyone know of the Topping DX7 Pro would be a good pairing DAC/AMP for the Arya?
I use Nordost “Blue Heaven” cables on all my headphones and they’re awesome. The stock cable for my HFM HE1000V2 sounds shrill and thin in comparison.
If the best headphone you have ever heard gets a 10 out of 10, what would you give the arya? or the ananda?
On a recent Joshua Valour video that featured his personal Arya, he mentioned that he’d removed the thin fabric mesh that covers the back side of the driver, claiming that it made them sound slightly better. Has anyone else tried this?
Hmmm it’s really hard to assign numbers to things tbh. The arya is impressive, but there are definitely cans that are a step forward and those that are a leap ahead as well. It’s nice for the price though given you like what it has to offer. The ananda I am not a big fan of, I can’t say I enjoy it’s tuning all that much, and while it has decent technicalities, it doesn’t stand out much at its price imo
Thanks. So is the he1000v2 harder to drive than the arya? If the power requirements are the same, I might skip the arya and go for the he1000v2 in the future. I can get it brand new for 2000 bucks
From a power perspective, the arya requires more juice to really get going, but from a quality of power perspective the he1000v2 will scale more with higher end sources imo. Personally I think the he1000v2 is a higher preforming headphone, but it will all depend on your source gear if you will actually get that higher performance. Also some may prefer the more neutral brighter slightly leaner tuning of the arya, or the sweeter more full and balanced signature of the 1000v2. I will say that separation and speed wise the arya might outperform the 1000v2, but from a texture, timbre, detail, microdynamics, and spatial recreation perspective I think the he1000v2 is higher preforming
Aha, sounds like the he1000v2 will be my endgame then
That is an awesome deal and I would jump on it today, if I had the same opportunity.
I think are some physical shops the might offer similar discounts. But Hifiman almost never gives discounts on its website. I live in Hong Kong right now and I can order stuff from China shipped to my home with free shipping.