Today we are talking about the Hifiman Susvara. A $6000 flagship. Thats right, you read that correctly, $6000. I had to pause when I originally read the price of the Susvara, I was absolutely shocked. “Never would I consider purchasing such a headphone, regardless of how good it sounds!” Yet here I am, sitting with a pair on my head…that I purchased. “Are they that good?” You might find yourself asking. The simple answer is, yes, they are. They are tied for the my number one favourite headphones position. The other headphone being the AB-1266 Phi from Abyss Headphones (now the AB-1266 Phi TC, which I haven’t heard, but hope too soon.) Both headphones are a wonderful experience to listen to, but they are completely different. I will get into those differences a little bit later, but for now, let’s go over the Susvara.
The Hifiman Susvara is what I would consider the successor of the venerable old classic Hifiman headphone, the HE6. It takes the sound of the HE6 and, in my opinion, improves upon it greatly. Fang Bian, CEO of Hifiman has done a real bang up job with the Susvara.
The first thing I would like to talk about with regards to the Susvara is the build quality. Hifiman has a spotty history when it comes to build quality. Always prioritising the sound of the headphone, less so the ergonomics, quality of build, and materials. To put it simply, Hifimans previous flagship, the HE1000V1 was terribly built. I went through 3 pairs before I gave up and swore off the Hifiman brand for good. The sound of the Susvara, which I will get to later in the review, is what won me back over and brought me back to the brand. The HE1000V2 was a much better built headphone than their V1 sibling, but still lacked the fine details of fit and finish you would expect from a $3000 headphone. The Susvaras build quality does improve upon the HE1000V2’s build quality slightly, but nowhere near enough to represent a $3000 price increase. It uses the same materials, construction method, and is basically a rounder looking HE1000V2.
It is like the Susvara is missing that last 10% of attention to build quality, and materials, and would truly make it a stand out flagship headphone. Something like the Utopia from Focal. If you have held the Utopia, you will understand what I am talking about. Sumptuous leather, rock solid carbon fibre, and an attention to detail that you would expect from a major fashion house. The cables that come with the Susvara are an afterthought at best, with Fang Bians reasoning being “someone spending this much on a top of the line headphone will just replace the cables anyways.” In my opinion, that is not a good enough reason to include such plastic, rubbery, awful cables. I am considering upgrading my cables for the Susvara, but that is not because I want to, it is a necessity due to the poor nature of the stock cables.
Now, the main question when it comes to the Susvara is how do they sound? Do they really justify the $6000 price tag? No, they don’t, but they do come damn close. At the time of writing, the Susvara can be found on the used market for around $3500, the new asking price of the HE1000se. I honestly believe that if you can find a pair of Susvara around $3500-4000 vs. the current competition, they are worth it. The best way I can describe the Susvara is that they are like the HE1000V2 on steroids, with a bit more punch and a more forward nature. This might not make sense, but think of it like if the HE1000 is slumped over in a chair, the Susvara is sitting up straight.
The bass of the Susvara isn’t as hard hitting and tactile as the Abyss Phi, but it is very present and detailed. The Susvara has more bass than the HE1000V2, but has less quantity than the Abyss Phi. It sounds rounder, as if it has a less hard edge than the Abyss Phi. Listening to fast complicated bass passages in electronic music comes across very well, and it doesn’t get all muddied up. The clarity on the bass is excellent on the Susvara. The Susvaras bass has a subtle and nuanced presentation, and is very easy on the ears.
The mids on the Susvara are…creamy? Smooth? Liquid? They are hard to describe, but they are truly wonderful. I definitely prefer the mids on the Susvara to the mids on the Abyss Phi, my reference. The Susvara are less warm than say, and Audeze LCD-3, and about on par with the LCD-4. Not overly warm, but the Susvara also don’t sound cold and clinical. They present vocals wonderfully, in that they aren’t too present and piercing in the mix. Strings are gorgeous, and the mids texture is world class.
The treble on the Susvara is a bit more laid back than the Abyss Phi. I found the Phi to have better clarity and definition in this area. The Susvara was better than the LCD-4 in terms of treble according to my preferences, but I think it would really depend on the type of sound you enjoy as to which you would prefer. You can pick out all the tiny little details with the Susvara, and there are no hardcore spikes drilling into your ears.
Overall the Susvara have a very balanced and even presentation. One which is extremely pleasing, and easy to listen to.
The Susvara has a superb soundstage. It sounds “real.” The soundstage is not as big as the Abyss Phi, HD800, or HE1000V2, but this is not a bad thing. It does sound very open, and deep. It is very precise sounding in terms of where the instruments are. The imaging is up there with the best I have ever heard.
Vs. The HE6se
The Hifiman HE6se is a fantastic headphone. At the used prices it is available at currently (around $1100) it represents what I consider a bit of a bargain. It is a better headphone, or is more to my preference than the Audeze LCD-3. The HE6se is a new headphone, but does sound very similar to the original HE6. The HE6se actually slam harder than the Susvara. The Susvara sound as if you have taken the HE1000V2 and HE6se, and produced a hybrid, but with superior technicalities, detail retrieval, and sonics to both. The Susvara, well, smokes the HE6se in most areas. However, due to the extreme price difference, I consider the HE6se to be a bit of a bargain. If you have any specific questions regarding these two headphones, please leave me a message. They are both superb.
VS. The Abyss Phi
Although I have already compared these two in the main review, the Abyss Phi is my current reference, and I wanted to compare them a bit more. The bass on the Phi is elevated. They definitely have more quantity of bass than the Susvara. However, whilst the Susvaras bass sounds rounder and a bit less defined, it works very well on certain types of music. Acoustic and Jazz are an absolute delight on the Susvara. I prefer the Susvaras mid range to the Abyss Phi’s. As I said, it is “Smooth” and natural sounding. It sounds like real life. The treble on the Phi is much more in your face, but also sharper. It completely depends on my mood and what I am listening to in terms of which headphone I will choose. Perhaps with these two headphones it is not a question of which is better, it is more a case of them being different. They excel in certain areas, but both are worth of the “Top of the line” title.
The Susvara are an amazing pair of headphones. They cost too much at MSRP, yes, but they are amazing nonetheless. They were good enough for me to say “yes please” when I found them at an attractive price. I pray that if Hifiman does introduce a new flagship planar magnetic headphone at some point, it doesn’t cost $10,000. Most people are not going to spend $6000 on a pair of headphones, and that is completely understandable. I wish Hifiman had priced the Susvara at $4500 or so new, as this headphones should be experienced by more people. It really doesn’t scream “I’m a flagship” compared to something like the Focal Utopia, and could be a lot better in terms of build quality and the Materials they have used. However, to put it simply, they sound damn good. $6000 good? I suppose that is up to the listener.
2 Comments Add yours
I have purchased the DCs BArtok headphone amp and read a review in headphone guru that there is a very special synergy between this headphone and the BArtok. Would you recommend this headphone for use with the BArtok?
Well, I haven’t used the Bartok so I can’t say for sure. It might work well as a DAC using a more powerful separate amplifier, but I honestly don’t think the Bartok built in amp is powerful enough. Just one mans opinion 🙂