HIFIMAN Deva Review
Pros: – Great tonality and sound quality
– Exceptional soundstage
– Super value for the money
– Bluetooth version with the BlueMini
– BlueMini performance
– Analogue connection
Cons: – No case included
– Only one very long cable
– BlueMini microphone is passable
– Dynamically shy
Hifiman Deva BT
A lot more than a bluetooth headphone.
The Deva sample was kindly provided by HiFiMan for a honest review and is still under their ownership.
This is my personal and subjective evaluation of the headphone.
It was a few months ago since we have reviewed the Hifiman Ananda Bluetooth of which we thought that it is an excellent sounding bluetooth headphone with only a few shortcomings and namely the lack of analogue connection.
The full review can be found here
In the meantime and after the release of the Ananda BT , Hifiman kept very busy and they have developed a new open back bluetooth headphone this time designing it from the scratch instead of adding bluetooth capability to an already existing model.
Let’s not forget that owner and lead designer Dr. Fang Bian believes that wireless headphones are the future so a great part of the company’s R&D is dedicated to their development.
The Deva are now offered even without the BlueMini for 219$ and we can add it for an extra 80$.
The Deva is an open back planar magnetic headphone with the added ability to go wireless on demand.
The Deva is featuring Hifiman’s Neo supernano diaphragm which is 80% thinner than previous designs resulting in fast response and detailed image with lush , full range sonics as Hifiman claims.
The impedance is 18Ω with a sensitivity of 93.5db so the need for an external dac/amp or a dap is mandatory in order to get the full potential of the headphone.
Hifiman’s Achilles heel is build quality but it is a fact that they are trying very hard to improve on it.
The Deva build quality is a step up to the right direction and very acceptable for the price.
The cups and headband joints are made from good quality plastic with a mat silver finish that looks very nice but only time will tell if it will fade away or not.
The grills and the swiveling yokes are made from solid aluminum and the adjusting system is better than the Ananda working easily and without cracking noises.
The headband is internally reinforced with two metal layers and it is heavily padded with foam and faux leather at the exterior.
The perforated ear pads are removable and user replaceable featuring memory foam and faux leather.
The color is not very much to our liking but we think that there is a black edition at the works.
The Deva are very comfortable due to the low weight at 360gr and the roomy ear pads that breath very well.
Clamping force is medium without annoying pressure but the headband positioning to the head is a little awkward and might irritate some users.
Anyway we have successfully enjoyed a full opera session without removing them from our head.
There is no need to say that the Deva due to their full open back nature are suited only for indoor use.
Wired or wireless?
This time Hifiman – known for listening to user feedback and addressing the negative user comments regarding the lack of analogue connection in the Ananda BT and not having to compromise sales of an already existing model , they have opted for a different design solution.
The Deva is a regular headphone with an analogue 3.5mm trrs connection found at the bottom of the left ear cup and in order for us to add bluetooth connection we have to plug the bluetooth dongle called BlueMini.
The supplied 3.5mm cable is of good quality but a little stiff in the handling.
As stated above the connection at the headphone side is 3.5mm trrs so we have the ability to go fully balanced by building or buying a 3.5mm trrs to 2.5mm / 4.4mm balanced cable and that’s great but the extra cable should have been provided for the asking price.
Except from the analogue cable we are offered an extra USB type A to type C cable and a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter.
Sadly no carrying case is included not even a pouch.
Other manufactures at this price point offer good quality travel cases so Hifiman might reconsider their policy and offer at least a carrying pouch.
The BlueMini is a newly developed wireless adapter specifically designed to plug directly into the left ear cup of the Deva and stay there secure.
It is very compact and it doesn’t affect comfort or cause any annoyance.
It is a bluetooth receiver supporting all the known codecs even the high resolution ones so we get LDAC , aptX HD , aptX , AAC , SBC but no aptX LL.
It also supports USB dac connection up to 24/192 with phones , tablets and PC’s through the USB type C connection which is also used for charging.
We tested it successfully with Android and Windows OS without the need of drivers.
Playing time is on the low side with about 5 – 6 hours of real usage but the good news is that it fully charges in about 30 minutes.
Expect from the power / multifunction button there is also an extra one which disables the charging feature so we can use the BlueMini without draining the phone battery.
Pairing is very easy as it enters pairing mode upon power on and it supports auto power off after a few minutes of inactivity.
There is also a small build in microphone but calling quality is mediocre at the best.
Internally we find separate amp and buffer circuits adding greater power output and better dynamics with low THD.
The BlueMini is rated at 200mW for the Devas specific load with 95dB SNR and 0.1%THD pretty spectacular for this tiny device.
The use of the BlueMini is not limited to the Deva and can be easily used with other headphones too very simply by adding a 3.5mm female to 3.5mm male cable.
Sound impressions with the cable
The major portion of the cabled listening tests was conducted with FiiO M11pro and EarMen TR amp known for their linear sound profile.
The TR amp was more than capable of driving the Deva at ear deafening levels but the M11pro from its single ended out was stretched enough.
Unfortunately we didn’t have a balanced cable to our disposal.
The Deva are among the best tuned headphones we have ever tested at any price point with a great natural (not neutral) tonality with a very lifelike presentation and exceptional timbre very close to the real thing.
Bass extends well with an audiophile tuning without bleeding into the midbass.
It is more than enough for all the genres of music rendering extremely well all the lower register acoustic instruments.
Heavy bass friends and EDM / electronic music lovers may find it lacking a few db but the Deva responded very well to EQ.
From a technical point of view it is more than acceptable with good layering , resolution , impact and weight.
Sure it could be more tight and precise or even a little bit faster and layered but still it is very satisfying.
The mids sounded just a tad little forward enough to make them very evolving and give voices a tiny prominence at the mix.
Voices that are crystal clear , round , full bodied and very engaging with life like presentation.
Rising higher we hear clarity , good energy and fine articulation with very natural decay of all percussion instruments.
This are high frequencies at their best , Hifiman have done an exemplary job tuning them by retaining a great balance between vividness and lack of brightness
so we can listen for hours long without any fatigue.
Detail retrieval is more than adequate but it cannot reach the performance found at higher priced rivals or brighter tuned headphones that favor analysis over musical enjoyment.
The Deva can project an incredibly open and spacious soundstage with pinpoint accuracy and precision not usually found in this category.
We get excellent width and depth with 3D layering truly remarkable for a mid tier headphone and one of the most airy presentations on the market.
Dynamics are good but they could be a lot better as we missed some slamming and hard hitting.
The headphone is very transparent and responds very well to amplification and gear upgrades so it will never be a bottleneck.
Sound impressions with the BlueMini
Judging from its size we wouldn’t expect much but we were proven wrong as the BlueMini is a truly remarkable performer.
The sound presentation is quite linear highlighting the Devas virtues without adding or subtracting nothing.
We hear the same great sound signature with a few shortcomings compared to a good analogue connection.
Think this as an entry level dac/amp lacking in dynamics , bass slam and extension as also in detail retrieval and separation compared to the better upstream gear.
Other than that it is pretty good and it gets very loud so it can be easily suggested as an all in one solution without the fuss of hanging cables.
Bluetooth signal is strong and stable.
Of course as it is to be expected the USB dac connection yields much better results compared to the wireless one.
There is a let down regarding the microphone call quality which is passable and – as with the Ananda BT – the volume adjustment when listening to music is not linear as it should be but it is done with certain irregular jumps.
Vs the Ananda BT (Bluetooth only)
From the technical point of view the three times more expensive Ananda BT is a lot better sounding headphone from the Deva.
We get better bass extension and quality with better layering , speed and precision.
The Ananda BT are a lot more dynamic and hard hitting and of course very detailed but surprisingly they cannot match the Devas excellent soundstage which is more open and spacious but loosing in separation and accuracy.
Tonality wise they are more or less in the same ballpark with an excellent natural presentation and we might even consider the Ananda a little bit more fatiguing.
Other than that the Deva are more lighter and a bit more comfortable and of course they offer the analogue cable connection not found in the Ananda BT.
So our take between Ananda BT and Deva BT is that if budget is not of a problem and we want the best open wireless headphone available at the market right now then the Ananda BT is the obvious choice.
But if we are of limited budget or we want to make use of the analogue connection from time to time then the Deva offer a lot more sound than the asking price.
Vs the Sennheiser HD660s (cable only)
The Sennheiser HD660s is one of the best mid tier headphones of the market with great virtues retailing at about 500$ so it is double the price of the Deva.
At the European market the gap is more narrow as the HD660s is better priced while the Devs is a little more expensive than the US market.
First of all and regarding tonality they are both of same overall tuning with great natural tonality without any annoying peaks and excellent timbre with a lush midrange.
Both headphones extend more or less the same at the lower register but the HD660s is more precise and layered with better texture and above all greater dynamics.
The HD660s is a little more clear sounding throughout all the registers and can resolve better being able to portray all the fine nuances without sounding bright or sharp.
Soundstage is were the Deva takes the leading edge with it’s huge presentation vs the intimate nature of the HD660s.
The HD660s can boast a laser like precision but so can the Deva adding to this more width and depth with double the air around the instruments and great layering.
Regarding comfort the Deva is the more comfortable around the ears and more cool but the HD660s headband is of a better fit and positioning.
So there is no clear winner here and despite the HD660s being double the price it isn’t double the better.
Both headphones have their unique virtues and only taste or budget will be the decision factor.
Vs the Hifiman HE400i ver.2020
The 40$ more expensive Deva (without the BlueMini) features the same headband , it is 10gr lighter and more sensitive and easier to drive.
Comfort is a little better with the Deva thanks to the larger more breathable ear pads but it is also bulkier with the HE400i offering more snug and discreet fit.
Overall sound signature is quite the same with only marginal differences but that are easily audible.
Bass extension and quantity is the same as is the quality with both headphones sounding clear and layered but the Deva is offering a more visceral presentation with better overall dynamics.
Performance up to the mids is identical with a slight boost for the Deva making for a fuller and warmer sound.
Upper mids are more restrained at the Deva resulting in an easier going presentation but there is a slight emphasis at about 5KHz that some people might find annoying.
The HE400i is slightly more detailed and airy but we thought that the Deva presented micro details better with a more natural and unforced way and the timbre was more to our liking.
Headstage is equally good and enjoyable at both headphones that they really reach well above the competition.
So when it comes down to choosing as always it is a matter of budget and preferences with the cheaper HE400i 2020 version offering a more monitoring and neutral character against the most warm and full bodied Deva.
Last but not least let’s not forget that the Deva can be easily transformed to a high quality bluetooth headphone with the addition of the extra BlueMini.
At the end
The Deva is an exceptional headphone, the outsider that can – under certain circumstances – win the mid price race.
With an astounding sound quality and more than enough technical ability it is a steal for the asking price and we need to spend a lot more to get something substantially better.
Regarding the soundstage it has literally no rivals in it’s category and that is a truly remarkable achievement.
Add to this the great comfort and the extra ability to go wireless on a snap by adding the optional BlueMini dongle and we have in our hands a clear winner.
This is one of best headphones Hifiman ever made and the only thing we miss is a black edition.
A truly achievement and a bargain for it’s asking price with or without the BlueMini.
The test playlist – http://open.qobuz.com/playlist/5669033
Copyright 2020 – Laskis Petros