HiFiMan Ananda Stealth Review
HiFiMan Ananda Stealth Review
Stealth magnets – Enhanced performance
Pros: + Lively and airy presentation
+ Neutral – balanced tuning
+ Excellent technicalities and transparency
+ Resolving and detailed
+ Open sounding with accurate imaging
+ Not clinical or artificial sounding
+ Very comfortable to wear with roomy ear pads
+ Relatively easy to drive and scales well
+ Better sound performance than the original model
Cons: – Build quality and materials are not a match for the price
– Mediocre cable
– Lack of accessories
– Slightly lacking in dynamics and impact
– Not that full bodied
– Mildly bright and unforgiving
The review sample was kindly provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
I didn’t receive monetary or any other kind of compensation and I don’t use affiliate links.
The catalog price of the HiFiMan Ananda Stealth edition is $999 but you can buy it as low as $699 directly from the HiFiMan store.
HiFiMan Ananda Stealth edition
HiFiMan lately have been revising some of their headphones with the new stealth magnet technology that was introduced with their flagship Susvara.
It’s not long ago that Arya got the new magnets and now time has come for one of the most popular models of the company, the famous Ananda.
HiFiMan explains that unlike the sound waves created by a conventional magnet, the special shape of Stealth Magnets enables the waves to pass through the magnets without generating interference.
This advanced magnet design is acoustically transparent, dramatically reducing wave diffraction turbulence that degrades the integrity of the sound waves.
The reduced distortion yields pure sonic output that is accurate and full-range.
The Ananda Stealth, like its predecessor, is equipped with HiFiMan’s Supernano Diaphragm.
The all new NSD is 80% thinner than
previous designs resulting in a faster more detailed response while retaining lush musicality never before possible.
At between 1 to 2 micrometers thick, the NSD diaphragm sets all new standards at the diaphragm manufacturing process.
At the same time the window shade grill design greatly reduces sonic
reflections for clearer sound.
Build quality, appearance and fit
Appearance, materials and build quality are identical to the original model.
The all black Ananda has the same large sized, oval shaped, ear cups that are extremely roomy and comfortable offering a great user experience aided by the relatively low weight (440g) and the medium clamping force.
The asymmetrical ear cups are made from a combination of plastic with aluminum grilles and they can’t swivel on the horizontal axis.
The yokes and the hybrid headband are made of metal and plastic with a leatherette strap rest for the head.
The user replaceable, memory foam, ear pads have an asymmetrical design that follows the shape of the ears and the face.
They have a hybrid construction which consists of a leatherette surface at the outer perimeter, perforated leatherette at the inside and fabric for the surface that touches the face.
They are very well made with precisely aligned stitching and they look durable.
The overall build quality of the headphone and material selection are not up to the current standards of the market and most competitors have a more luxurious feeling and are better made.
HiFiMan has the fame of offering some of the most mediocre cables in the industry and unfortunately the saga continues here.
The truth is that the new cable is much better than the older one but still this is a plain detachable cable with 3.5mm plugs on the headphone side and an angled 3.5mm jack with an 6.35mm adapter at the other end.
Nothing fancy, a simple, industrial mass made 1.5m long cable that is rather thick and stays always bent no matter how much you try to straighten it but thankfully it has minimal microphonic noise.
Well, except for the cable and the adapter you are not going to find anything else, not even a simple carrying pouch made of plain fabric.
You can use the included protection foam insert as a headphone stand.
The Ananda Stealth was left playing music for more than 150 hours in order to make sure that it had fully settled down before listening sessions.
The Ananda is rated at 27Ω with a 103 dB/mW of sensitivity and while it is relatively easy to drive and portable friendly the truth is that it can do a lot more.
The Ananda Stealth requires plenty of current in order to wake up and start shining so don’t expect to use it with your regular DAC dongle, well at least if you want to utilize its full potential and not just get loud.
As an example, from the balanced output of the FiiO K7 (set at low gain), I had to set the volume to more than ¾ while listening to classical music when for the Focal Clear Mg ½ was more than enough.
For testing the Ananda Stealth I used various sources including the HiFiMan EF400, FiiO K7 and K9 PRO, the Aune Audio X1s GT and the Violectric V380² among others.
A full desktop system included the Schiit Lyr+ with the Ideon Audio Ayazi MK2 DAC.
From portable/transportable sources I got some excellent results with the FiiO Q7 and M17, the iBasso DX320 and the Mojo 2.
The stock cable was replaced for most of the time with the Lavricables Ultimate line, pure silver cable.
Before going into the usual frequency response analysis what must be foremost and strongly emphasized is the superior transparency of the headphone.
The Ananda Stealth has fidelity “par excellence”, it will mirror your source with a crystal clear way into your ears without any coloring from the headphone itself.
Give it a tube source and it will sound warm and organic with a holographic soundstage or switch to a THX amplifier to get a more technical kind of audio performance.
A very adaptable headphone that allows the user to mix and match his gear at will to build his ideal system.
The general sound signature is not that different from the original Ananda, it is the famous HiFiMan reference – neutral tuning with excellent bass technicalities, addictively balanced mids and a touch of treble emphasis that is not overly-done.
The low end tuning is exemplary, at least if you like a reference frequency response that stays faithful to the recording without emphasizing any part of the bass range.
The Ananda Stealth will produce all the sub-bass extension whenever needed and at the same time it will offer the most neutral bass response without emphasizing mid-bass and with a linear transition to the mids.
Clarity, layering and definition are truly remarkable for the category while the texture is a balance between good body weight and superb technicalities.
The bass line gets resolved in the most refined way without a single trace of overlapping and masking, with the Ananda Stealth you are going to hear every last note no matter how many bass instruments are playing at the same time.
Mahler always comes to mind when testing a headphone for bass technicalities and tuning accuracy and the Ananda Stealth passed the test with flying colors.
The bass is not that visceral and weighty but you wouldn’t call it too lean and dry either.
It has a satisfying level of intensiveness and at the same time it sounds controlled, tight and fast without missing in decay and reverb information.
The dynamic contrast is very satisfying for a planar magnetic driver, it is not as impactful and hard hitting as competitive dynamic drivers but still you get a good amount of punchiness and force.
The mid-range is also balanced and neutral with good overall presence, transparent and very articulated with the typical HiFiMan leaner but not dry or artificially sounding texture.
Just mildly recessed, it sounds natural and realistic with good timbral coherency, accurate tonality, plenty of harmonic diversity and a multi-colored chromatic palette.
Slightly warm and quite organic, it presents the music in a holistic way where vocals and instruments are reproduced in a lifelike manner rewarding the listener with plenty of musicality and sentimental depth.
The Ananda Stealth is not boring or clinical sounding and it can successfully connect the listener with the music like when listening to Carl Nielsen’s second symphony.
The treble response is also typical HiFiMan and not that different from the non-Stealth Ananda.
It is emphasized in the upper presence area for adding clarity, spaciousness, plenty of definition and detail retrieval, a tuning that results in a mildly bright and luminous character albeit never venturing into harshness territory.
This is a sparkling and fast sounding headphone with plenty of energy and luminosity without sounding piercing or fatiguing.
It should be noted though that there is some weight loss in the treble
texture which is a little leaner and drier sounding than the rest of the frequencies and – depending on the recording and the rest of the chain – with a touch of a metallic hue.
You wouldn’t call the Ananda Stealth as a totally unforgiving headphone per se but the ultimate transparency in combination with the luminous treble will not help with poorly recorded material and will definitely highlight every sound characteristics of your chain, good and bad alike.
The original Ananda was a very open sounding headphone but the Stealth edition raises the performance a step above with a more solid center image, deeper layering, more accurate positioning and greater holography.
The soundstage is naturally expanded and not artificially stretched with plenty of air around the performers and a soundscape that is positioned slightly in front of the listener’s head.
Listening to large scale symphonic and choral works is a very immersive and realistic experience.
Compared to the original Ananda
They might look identical but it is not that difficult to pick them apart in a blind listening test.
The original Ananda has more raw sound characteristics and is not as polished and refined as the Stealth edition.
The latter has a higher quality resolution, it is more rounded and less coarse, especially in the treble, with a more natural timbre and better frequency cohesiveness when the original is perceived as slightly metallic and artificial.
Frequency response is almost identical but the Stealth is a touch warmer with fuller texture in the bass and sweetness in the mids where the original is harder sounding with a touch of shouting vocals, especially female, that can induce fatigue on the long run.
Compared to the Arya Stealth ($1299)
The Arya Stealth has the same type of the HiFiMan neutral – bright tuning but is just slightly more tonally balanced than the Ananda Stealth.
Detail retrieval is more or less on the same level but the Arya Stealth sounds more refined, resolving and nuanced.
Bass technicalities are better on the Arya which also has the upper hand when it comes to soundstage with a more solid center image and precise imaging while it sounds a bit more holographic and immersive.
All in all, the Arya Stealth is the more refined, resolving and technically comprehensive version of the Ananda Stealth and the natural upgrade path if you have the money and want to stay on the same kind of sound signature.
Or on the other way, the Ananda Stealth can give you a great percentage of the Arya Stealth performance for almost half the asking price and for that alone it should be considered as a real bargain.
Compared to the Meze 109 PRO ($799)
The Meze 109 PRO is $100 more expensive, an amount that is %100 worthy and well spent if you consider the more luxurious appearance, the more premium materials, overall build quality, the better stock cables and the premium carrying case.
The 109 PRO is also easier to drive from portable sources.
On sound quality, the main difference comes from the lower range where the 109 PRO has deeper sub-bass extension, it is emphasized on the bass and the mid-bass, resulting in a more fun and warmer tuning which is not as tonally correct and deviates from the strictly neutral and reference bass tuning of the Ananda but it makes the 109 PRO more versatile and suitable for casual listening.
The dynamic driver has the undeniable edge when it comes to dynamics and impact force, the 109 PRO is more imposing and hard hitting with a weightier and more visceral texture but the Ananda Stealth takes the lead in overall technicalities with better definition, layering and clarity while it is more tight and controlled.
As a whole the 109 PRO is slightly darker and grainier sounding and not as clear and transparent as the Ananda Stealth which offers superior fidelity and source mirroring while it is more resolving and refined in the treble despite both having an almost identical higher frequency response.
The 109 PRO is fuller sounding on the mid-range, more engaging and musical, sweeter and lusher, more harmonious and rich, it places the vocalists closer to the listener and it sounds more seductive and realistic.
There is also a difference in the sound stage proportions and allocation, the 109 PRO is narrower and more intimate sounding but with equally excellent positioning and imaging accuracy.
From a sonic perspective only, both headphones are well worth the price of admission and can offer hours of endless pleasure as long as you pick the right one according to your music listening preferences.
In the end
The Ananda Stealth edition is one of the best sounding headphones in the sub $1K region and a worthwhile upgrade over the original model.
If you like a neutral, reference type of tuning with a slightly bright character and impressive technicalities for the category then the Ananda Stealth should be at the top of your list.
Copyright – Petros Laskis 2023.