HIFIMAN Arya Stealth edition Review
The Silent Force (Arya Stealth edition)
Pros: + Class leading bass technicalities
+ Neutral and balanced yet musical and engaging
+ Transparent and accurate yet not punishing
+ Masterclass imaging
+ Excellent midrange consistency
+ Exceptional clarity
+ Sparkling and alive yet not piercing or fatiguing
+ Highly resolving but not analytical
+ Wide and spacious soundstage
+ Super comfortable
+ Easy to drive
Cons: – Slightly bright on the treble
– Ethereal and lean
– Bass not as visceral
– Huge ear cups
– Complete lack of accessories
– Not as luxurious as the competition
– Only one mediocre cable
The review sample was kindly provided free of charge in exchange for my honest and subjective evaluation.
I only covered import fees and tax.
The current price is $1599 and you can buy it directly from the HiFiMan online store.
Arya Stealth edition
Arya is one of the most known HiFiMan headphones, strategically positioned between the Ananda and the TOTL models of the company.
The version reviewed here is the third one, the Arya is revised now with the new Stealth magnet system by HiFiMan without any further increase in the selling price.
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.
HIFIMAN’s 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.
HiFiMan has been actively revising current models of their catalogue with the Stealth magnet system, like the HE400SE and the Ananda.
Arya features the Nanometer Thickness Diaphragm, a breakthrough core technology developed by HIFIMAN and the first of its kind in a headphone application. Working with this advanced material is extremely challenging yet the successful incorporation of this film as the Arya’s planar driver is the cornerstone of its remarkable sound.
The new Stealth edition is more efficient than its predecessor
There is also the Patented “Window Shade” System, created to meet the need for driver protection and an optimized open-back design together with the asymmetrical ear cups that follow the natural shape of the human ear.
Design and build quality
The Arya with the characteristic oval shaped ear cups, the window grills, the suspension headband and the total black color is the definition of the classic HiFiMan headphone and by far my most favorite one.
The Arya is made from a combination of steel and high quality plastic which leads to a nice compromise between sturdiness and being lightweight, as it weighs only 430g, pretty good for a big planar magnetic headphone.
The suspension system, the grills and the yokes are made from metal while the ear cups are made from plastic.
Both the metallic and plastic parts are of higher quality than the Ananda, the metal is thinner and better finished while the overall construction is much better.
There is no cracking noise during use, the height can be easily adjusted while the headband is made from synthetic leather with an extra cushioning in the inner part for increased comfort.
Real leather would be a more premium material for a flagship headphone and while the overall build quality is very good, still there is something to be missed when compared to similarly priced, more luxurious headphones like the Focal Clear Mg.
Anyway, the only vulnerable point seems to be the material in the inner part of the headband that is thin and prone to tearing due to the friction with the head.
The Arya Stealth is super comfortable thanks to the huge and swiveling ear cups, that are roomy enough to accommodate larger ears while the hybrid cushioned ear pads are soft to the touch with excellent breathability.
The ears stay cool even after a couple of hours of use while the headband is doing an excellent job into equally distributing the weight all over the head.
There are no pressure points on top of the head while the clamping force is just right in order to keep the headphone stable and well fitted without causing any discomfort.
The only downside is that the ear cups are really big and some users with smaller heads might find the Arya too large for their face even at the lowest setting of the available height.
Cable and accessories
The Arya comes with a user replaceable cable system featuring two 3.5mm mono sockets, one at each ear cup, so it is compatible with balanced cables.
The included cable is a 1.5m long, single crystalline copper cable with cotton reinforcement, ending in a 6.35mm plug.
The cable, despite being of better quality than the notoriously bad cable of the Ananda, it still is cheap and mediocre, not worthy of a flagship.
HiFiMan should have included two cables of higher quality, one single ended and one balanced or at least one balanced cable with a single ended adapter.
Don’t look for accessories, you are not going to find anything, no carrying case, not even a 6.35mm to 3.5mm adapter.
Well, at least you can store the Arya into the cardboard box but again the lack of accessories and the mediocre cable are pretty unacceptable at this price point.
Patience is a virtue
HiFiMan suggested that I should burn the headphone for at least 150 hours prior to listening tests and thus I did.
I usually don’t progress the burning process but this time I was asked to do and I have to report that the treble really settled down, smoothened and sounded less bright/etched after the suggested time of use, so new owners should be patient and do not rush into early conclusions.
The Arya is quite easy to drive and it doesn’t need powerful headphone amplifiers, most flagship DAPs and portable DAC/amp combos should do the job.
Thus said, it scales incredibly well so don’t expect to hear what is capable of with entry level gear.
A high quality source is a prerequisite and I have used no less than the FiiO M17, Cayin N8ii, Flux Labs FCN-10 and FiiO K9 Pro ESS while more portable DAPs like the iBasso DX240 and FiiO M11 Plus ESS, yielded very satisfying results.
The Arya is the epitome of a well balanced and neutral sounding headphone without really exaggerating any part of the frequency spectrum while the overall transparency is at the highest possible level, so source matching is quite critical.
Nonetheless, even with brighter sounding gear or lower quality material, the Arya has this inherent ability to stay musical and engaging without really becoming punishing.
Yes, it is definitely a revealing headphone but in a polite manner, it is not clinical or strident.
On the contrary, Arya plays music with a great sense of realism, a touch of warmth and deep emotional expression that guarantees great communication between the listener and his favorite tunes.
The tonal timbre is mostly natural and the Arya can easily convey all the harmonic wealth and the diversity of the multicolored overtones.
It is a headphone truly enjoyable with most kinds of music but it is with classical and acoustic material where it really excels and should be considered as one of the top performers of the market.
Texture is delicate, almost ethereal, the Arya is more lean than visceral, the presentation is mostly about precisely defined, detailed and finely sculptured images rather than the full bodied and muscular reconstruction of the music.
Ethereal doesn’t mean shy though, the Arya can hit hard and is fully convincing when it comes to producing thundering bass and largely contrasted dynamic swings but then you shouldn’t expect a full bodied and shuttering sound experience like that of the Focal Clear Mg.
Bass tuning is reference flat with great sub bass extension and exemplary transition into the mids.
Graphs might suggest otherwise but the Arya never had any problem faithfully and convincingly reproducing the lowest electronic bass tunes.
Fast and dancing with great ebb and flow, super tight and controlled with extremely low distortion, the bass on the Arya has some of the best technicalities ever heard from a headphone, a truly remarkable performance.
Definition, layering and clarity are phenomenal while words like masking, mid bass bloat and muddiness are completely unknown to the Arya, you can clearly hear every single instrument and the faintest of the notes no matter how busy the bass line is.
Listening to the following rarities, two concertos for low pitched wind instruments, the Contrabassoon and the Tuba, is just an amazing experience.
The mid range is neutrally flat, clearly expressed and finely articulated, harmonized with the rest of the frequencies, it is not forward sounding nor recessed, just ideally balanced.
Instruments and voices are reproduced with an earth-like quality, almost organic, there is an increased sense of musicality combined with great lucidity, you can hear behind the lines, this is a highly convincing and atmospheric musical experience.
All types of voices, from baritone to high soprano, are projected with the same intensity, the interplay between them is magnificent as in the famous operatic quartet “Bella figlia dell’amore” from Verdi’s Rigoletto.
The Arya is youthfully fresh, alive, sparkling and agile, with excellent treble extension but still smooth and well behaved.
It is not perfect though, when listening to acoustic instruments you can’t fail to notice some brighter overtones with sharper edges but thankfully everything is under control, the headphone is slightly bright on the upper treble but not sibilant, piercing or fatiguing.
High pitched instruments are decaying a touch faster than the ideal and are heard with a somewhat thinner texture but still in tune, expressive and tonally correct.
Detail retrieval is stellar, the Arya is highly resolving yet not analytical, you can hear everything but in a relaxed and not suppressing way, it is not tiring, the details are not forced into your face, they stay part of the whole musical experience, humbly fulfilling their part into communicating the music in a realistic manner.
The soundstage is wide open and spacious with excellent depth layering, reconstructing a holographic and large scale presentation with great sense of the ambience.
But what really sets the Arya apart and ahead of the competition is the masterclass imaging.
With a laser sharp positioning both in the horizontal and the vertical axis, every single instrument is proportionally occupying its well predefined position no matter if you are listening to a solo performer or a large scale symphonic work.
If you have been thinking till now that the Sennheiser HD800S was the imaging champion then you should definitely listen to the Arya and you might change your mind.
A great example of what the Arya can do, is listening to choral works like the passions of J.S Bach.
The competition is pretty tough at this price point but the Arya Stealth can hold on its own.
Vs the HD800S
The Arya should be considered as the HiFiMan alternative to the Sennheiser HD800S. (Drop HD8XX illustrated in the photo)
They are more alike than different since both are quite ethereal and transparent but the HD800S is slightly more visceral, a touch warmer and slightly more forward on the mids.
On the other hand the Arya has better sub – bass extension and you might find it as more convincing regarding the tonal accuracy of the higher pitched instruments.
The HD800S soundstage is more diffuse and wide whereas the Arya is more solid but with sharper imaging.
Two great headphones of equal status, the planar magnetic versus the dynamic you will be surprised to find out how similar and different sounding are at the same time, a really tough choice to make.
Vs the Focal Clear Mg
The Focal Clear Mg is another beast at the same price range but this time the sound signature differences from the Arya are quite pronounced.
The suspended dynamic driver is offering some of the best dynamics ever heard with a rumbling, thundering performance while the bass is considerably more visceral and full bodied with excellent technicalities at the same time.
Much warmer with a forward midrange and a recessed, safe treble tuning, the Clear Mg is thicker, smoother and darker sounding with slower note decay and a more laid back and relaxed approach, some might even call it more musical and organic.
Soundstage is more intimate, positioning the listener closer to the performers rather than attending the concert from the gallery as you do with the Arya.
The Clear Mg soundstage is open and well defined but it can’t compete with the Arya when it comes to imaging, layering, size and overall holography while although the name would suggest otherwise the Arya is more clear and crystalline sounding than the Clear Mg with lower bass distortion.
Two excellent but different sounding headphones, well deserving the flagship status.
Vs the Ananda
These two are close relatives, the house sound is definitely the same but the Arya is offering a much better sense of realism with more natural timbre, less artificial texture, finer articulation and enhanced clarity.
Sub-bass is more extended on the Arya, it has greater physical impact than the Ananda which is also thinner sounding than the Arya with slightly sharper and brighter overtones.
The imaging is much superior on the Arya which also offers a grander soundstage with better sense of holography.
In the end, the Arya is easily the better headphone and should be considered as the natural upgrade over the Ananda.
In the end
The HiFiMan Arya – Stealth edition – is an amazing sounding headphone with a flagship level performance.
Whether you are going to like the neutral tuning and the ethereal character is something purely subjective and personal but irrelevant to the actual sound quality of the Arya which is nearly perfect.
We are in the realm where there is no right or wrong, tonal accuracy, timbre and technicalities are guaranteed and the only thing you have to do is to decide if the specific headphone character suits your needs or not.
The Arya Stealth is undeniably one of the best sounding flagship headphones on the market and it is a real shame for HiFiMan that they haven’t bundled it with a cable and some accessories worthy of its status.
Copyright – Petros Laskis 2022.