🔶 HiFiMan Mini Shangri-La

This is the official thread for HiFiMan Mini Shangri-La.

This thread is for discussion and reviews.

  • Type: Over ear
  • Amp needed: Yes
  • Open Backed

:red_circle: HiFiMan Link


Z Reviews…


even mini they’re out of reach for most peeps. :frowning:

I feel like at this point I’ve tried the vast majority of headphones out there that have ever come with any recommendation whatsoever. I’ve missed out on a couple dynamics here and there and the more recently updated Utopia. Still haven’t tried the D8k Pro or some of the newer random companies that started making other planars more recently and haven’t heard the newer Meze Empyrean 2 (that supposedly is finally a good Meze, but I have my doubts and wouldn’t pay $1000 for an OG Empyrean or Elite unless I knew I could driver swap the Sunset Boulevard Elite because oh my god those are gorgeous) and haven’t heard many of the newer revisions of Hifimans stuff like the Organic, Nano, and HEK Stealth, or DCA’s Stealth or Expanse, but overall, I’ve tried enough to feel like I have a really good grasp on capabilities and understanding of the tradeoffs of certain technicalities. Same goes for source gear and I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on what is exceptionally good and what is just expensive and pretty. My current chain is: PC>Holo Red>I2S>Rockna Wavedream Signature Balanced>Schiit Kara>either a pair of Parasound A21+ in dual mono or 2023 Burson Soloist 3X GT with supercharger, upgraded SP-02 power modules, Sparkos Dual SS2590 opamps in the voltage gain stage and Sonic Imagery Labs 994 duals in the input buffer>Ifi iESL with all my interconnects and power cables being custom cables or power supplies of some kind.

The Mini Shang’s thoroughly shocked me.

When these were first announced, my first thought when I saw the headband was “You fucking idiots, just WHY?!?” but after putting them on my head, I realized how light they were and that 90% of that low weight there is being held up by clamp force, so my biggest concern with these was instantly alleviated and I really don’t think these are an uncomfortable headphone at all, despite hating every single headphone before these that comes with that headband.

When I first got these, I started listening to them totally stock with no EQ and found them to be an overall really solid headphone with great detail and separation and a tuning that was overall fairly agreeable but a bit forward at times. Nothing massive to complain about, but in typical electrostat fashion, they were a bit thin and lacked overall note weight. Most of this was expected, not my first estat, but it is my first estat that I’ve personally owned with any semblance of a normal tuning so just being able toss it on and listen without either some heavy EQ or catering extremely hard to genres that can still sound ok with them was really nice. I had the opportunity to borrow a friends Shangri-La Sr for about 3 weeks a couple years ago and I’ve been chasing that high ever since. They had a lot better note weight than any other estat I’ve had the opportunity to sit with for any good duration of time, they had a colossal soundstage, so much detail that it made it hard to passively listen to music without being distracted by everything going on, and a sense of realism that came with the raw speed and resolution that was thoroughly jarring at times. The Mini Shang has a lot of those traits with what I would call a more agreeable tuning. You do lose the colossal stage of the Sr, but trying to find something that lives up to that level of soundstage will most likely drive you insane before being successful. The Shangri-La Sr has a stage that dwarfs the HD800s and a soundstage depth that seems to carry on infinitely. The Mini Shang stage width is more along the lines of an Arya with a depth that goes far deeper than most any headphone, but that seems to be more of an estat characteristic most times. Height isn’t actually colossal and when comparing them with my HE1000se, they’ve got noticeably less height and width, but the thing about the dimensions on the Mini Shang is that it ends up being very spherical in all directions and for some reason, I think that’s where this sense of realism I’m getting from them is coming from with nothing in the soundstage ever coming off as too close or distant in any situation and is extremely natural sounding spatially. Again, overall still coming off a touch thin for my tastes and I even kind of like a leaner sound at times but one thing that stuck out almost immediately that I knew I could instantly recognize is that the standard Hifiman dip seemed far far less pronounced than almost anything else they make so that was a welcome change, but I also can’t help but feel at times that it’s the cause of the collapsed stage. I felt vindicated when I finally saw a frequency response chart of the Mini Shangs and saw basically exactly what I heard there. I did try to suck that area out in EQ and could get some extra stage out, but not by much and it hurt the overall tonality so I just abandoned trying.

All of this changed when I swapped on a pair of custom pads and slapped a fat bass shelf on them.

The transformation these have had with just a simple bass shelf and pad swap is the most significant jump in performance I’ve come across in a long time.

These things came alive.

The amount of punch and slam these are capable of, even at very high volumes, without falling apart and distorting, is nothing short of incredible. They’re punchy enough to cause me some bass fatigue in certain tracks. They have great amounts of rumble and the elevation in the bass has brought out so much room information in tracks and somehow significantly improved the already extremely convincing staging to the point that with a good enough recording, it’s almost like you’re Daredevil in a rainstorm and all the notes are creating enough sound reflections that you’re getting bat like sonar and you can hear the shape of the room in a most recordings and actually place objects in the room just from sound. Spanish guitar in a poorly treated live recording exaggerates this effect so much and it’s really crazy how much room information you can pick up on in the right situation. The bass shelf I put on was just the shelf I use on my HE6 and I figured the HE6 can handle it, but the Mini Shangs probably NEED it to get some note weight back. It helped a little for sure, but it was still missing something, so I extended that shelf up the frequency response a bit and like an estat, it took it well and absolutely zero clarity was lost, but a noticeable amount more weight was brought to the sound and the thinness that once stopped these from being anything more than mediocre was gone.

The pad swap brought an extra bit of width and depth to the stage and seemed to not necessarily relax the ear gain peak that causes them to sound really forward at times, but it more or less balanced the areas around that region to seem like they’re a little more “correct” sounding and they were a lot easier to listen to afterwards and I still haven’t given them any EQ aside from the bass shelf. I tried playing with a bass shelf before the pads and it was ok. The EQ helped, but really didn’t add much actual punch and slam, just bass volume, and definitely didn’t carry as much note weight either so the long and short of it, for me at least, is that without these pads, I personally would NOT own these headphones. With the pads and EQ, these are seriously seriously good headphones. I don’t mean that as in “Yeah, they swing with the HE1000se and HD800s” or “These get really close to some overpriced TOTL headphones with some wonky tuning but good technicalities.” I mean that these are swinging with every TOTL planar very comfortably and in my personal opinion, are just flat out outperforming most companies flagships by an absolute fucking mile and in that statement, I’m including them outperforming the HE1000se in a direct comparison and I’ve purchased the Susvaras several times and my main chain is built around an HE6 as my daily drivers (so it’s inherently built for Susvaras) and I still think that the Mini Shangs (with pads and a bass shelf) are outperforming the Susvaras in almost every aspect with the exception of basically only absolute stage width. The Mini Shangs truly do have enough of that estat detail to ruin most recordings, regardless of quality, if you listen hard enough and because of that, they’ll be replacing my HE1000se as my go to “audio stethoscope” for testing source gear and so far with most things I’ve tested, the iESL is actually a lot more transparent than I originally though now that I’ve tried it with a bunch of amps and DACs. Whether or not the iESL is doing estats true justice, I don’t know. I personally haven’t owned any other transformers or energizers of any kind, but I have demoed several and with my chain remaining identical to what it is now but swapping in a BHSE, everything I tried in that configuration was absolute trash in comparison. So given that a lot of people hype that thing to the moon, I feel like having an energizer that to me performs significantly better, I think I’m in at least an ok place with the iESL, but I’m definitely looking for an upgrade now.

I’m working on a list of comparisons with more specific comparison details and track specific examples, but I don’t want to just post over and over so I’m going to hold off for now until I dig a little deeper and actually sit down and A/B some stuff which is gonna be a little annoying with most sets other than my HE6 because I can get them to roughly the same volume at the same settings but anything else is going to require me to figure out the best way to swap between volumes. Might just make a specific preamp EQ setting and swap between them to make it easier but I’m not quite sure I’m going to go about it because I really don’t have many estats to compare with but I can say for certain that these aren’t the Jade II and really shouldn’t be thought of as a replacement at all. These are a whole different animal and are in a wholly different tier of technicalities altogether. I said it on head-fi in a random post that I think there’s a chance Hifiman shot themselves in the foot with these, but almost nobody is going to find that out because of how much is being held back by bad stock pads and the necessity of a bass shelf to give the weight, slam, and rumble that these need to accomplish what they’re capable of and that really is a shame because these things are kinda fucking nuts. They might not be the absolute best at any one thing, but with a little massaging from pads and a bass shelf, these things are exceptionally good at nearly everything and very, very well rounded.