HIFIMAN Arya has always been a sort of “gateway drug” for top of the line headphones. The soundstage, clarity, imaging, and resolution have always been a significant cut above what you’re getting at lower price points, but it leaves you wondering, "How much better can it get?" and readies you for a chase deeper down the rabbit hole.
Arya Organic is the latest revision, following the popular, but still somewhat controversial V3 “Stealth Magnets” version that was released in 2021. V3 adjusted the tonal balance to offer a bit more bass, and offered a mild taming of some upper end frequencies, which many (including myself) consider a win. In the process though, it lost a bit of its signature soundstage and holographic imaging, which others considered too big a loss. Does Arya Organic continue in the same direction as V3? Is it a course correction back towards the V2? Or is it something else entirely?
Build and Design
While many of their latest releases (like Ananda Nano) have demonstrated a clear improvement in sound quality over their previous generation headphones, HIFIMAN’s packaging seems to have gone in the other direction. Arya now comes in a simple brown cardboard box with no accessories other than a simple cloth-wrapped 6.3mm cable. The one saving grace of the new packaging is that the molded foam that houses Arya in the box is designed to pop out and function as a headphone stand, but you’re probably going to want a better stand in the long run.
The headphones themselves are very much the same as previous versions of Arya – save for some added visual flair from the faux wood grain that’s wrapped around the cups. Otherwise, the headband, earpads, and earcups all seem to be identical to Arya V2 or V3. In short, Arya’s look and feel remains largely the same, while the packaging is a slight downgrade from the original Arya (though it should be noted that Arya Organic launches at $1299, while Arya was originally listed at $1599,) but has the sound been refined to a degree that will make you forget all about what box it came in?
At its core, Arya Organic remains… Arya. The basic sound signature is mostly neutral with linear bass and an emphasis in the upper end leans slightly bright. My first impression when I put it on was, “This sounds like… Arya.” but after a little more time I noticed that it didn’t exactly sound like the Arya Stealth, nor did it sound like the V2. What it did was bridge aspects of both to create quite possibly the most complete sounding revision of Arya yet – but more on that later.
Arya Organic’s low end hits with deep subbass and a largely linear presentation. There’s great texture and a good sense of realism and physicality for with drums, bass guitars, and other instruments that dip into the low end. Bass heavy tracks bring out slam and physicality, but don’t expect a strong emphasis in the low end. Hip-hop and EDM in particular could have you wishing for just a little extra “oomph.”
The midrange presents a solid balance between vocals and instruments, and offers a largely natural timbre that can feel slightly bright with some acoustic instruments. The vocal presentation is particularly notable, offering a crisp, clear, delivery across a variety of vocal ranges and styles.
Arya Organic’s treble is slightly emphasized over the rest of the sound, giving it an airy feel and strong definition. With classical the upper end really highlights the emotion highs in strings and woodwinds, and with rock and metal – particularly on the more progressive/technical end – the speed and resolution provided excellent insight into the music, without getting too harsh. However, without tubes to round things out, I found that some classic jazz ended up feeling a bit hollow.
The presentation of the stereo image is excellent. The soundstage is wide and three dimensional, extending a bit more in width than in depth or height, but the presentation offers a cohesive, balanced sense of space. Instruments and vocals have a strong sense of separation, and the imaging delivers accurate positioning with a holographic feeling.
I tried out Arya Organic with a variety of sources and amps, including the Earmen ST-AMP, Feliks Euforia Evo, iBasso DX170, KANN Max, and SPL Phonitor SE. Arya Organic with the Euforia Evo was – unsurprisingly – my pick for both the combination of accuracy and excellent synergy in the highs and mids that allow Euforia to fill in the small gaps I heard in Arya’s tuning with other sources. Arya Organic is also more sensitive than previous versions, and gets along quite well with even the DX170.
“Rising Sun” by White Moth Black Butterfly is one of my favorite evaluation tracks as it features multiple vocalists – male and female – a mix of rock and electronic elements that exercise the full range of your gear, and a production that puts the spatial capabilities of your headphones to the test. Arya Organic delivers the whole package – lifelike sounding guitars, the ethereal air of the swirling synthesizers, and an up front vocal presentation that puts you in the room with the singers.
In contrast, Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me” offers a sparse arrangement, with a small jazz ensemble and a strong highlight on the vocals. With Arya Organic, you’re front and center in an empty club. Jones and her piano feel like if you extended your arm, they’d be just out of reach. Arya Organic’s imaging spreads the band out placing the guitar and bass just off to either side of the piano, and the drums further back in the center. Arya provides a clear separation and sense of space between instruments, but also a sense of cohesion and blending that brings the performance together. With most of my sources, there’s just a hint of a plastic-y sheen to the bass and guitar, but plugging Arya Organic into tubes cleared that up perfectly.
Thomas Bergerson aims to evoke a range of emotions in Humanity - Chapter V, with tracks that range from wistful solo piano pieces, to anthemic orchestral arrangements that sound like they were pulled from the score of the latest superhero blockbuster, and tracks that somehow sound like heavy metal – just without the guitars and drums. Lean back a bit, close your eyes, and you’ll get lost in the emotion of the music, or put on your critical listening hat to pick up the smallest details of the richly layered production. However you choose to listen, Arya Organic proves to be the perfect tool for experiencing the full range of Bergerson’s compositions.
Comparison: HIFIMAN Arya V3 (Stealth), Audeze MM-500
After spending quite a bit of time with Arya Organic, I felt that there were two really important comparisons – both of which I had within arms reach: the Arya V3 “Stealth Magnets Version” and the Audeze MM-500. I didn’t have the Arya V2 available at the time, but it’s a headphone that I’ve logged enough hours with to bring into the conversation.
In terms of build, as we noted above, Arya Organic is about 90% exactly the same as Arya V3. The main differences are visual of the wood grain and the slight difference in earcup construction that goes along with it. MM-500 is an entirely different animal. While I find the Arya to be a touch more comfortable due to MM-500’s clamp force, the build of MM-500 is in a different class than Arya. From the supple leather in the earcups and the choice of materials in the frame, to the rotation and articulation available in headband, MM-500’s construction is clearly a cut above.
Between the Arya family, Arya Organic surprised me quite a bit. While my initial impression was simply “This sounds like … Arya.” what struck me in more extended listening was that it sounds like both V2 and V3 in different ways. Where V3 improved some aspects of the timbre and improved the tonal balance, it also lost some of the spaciousness, clarity, and imaging characteristics that had made Arya such a standout to begin with. Arya Organic maintains a stronger tonal balance and more natural timbre, but also brings back much of the clarity and width in the soundstage that V3 lost. The one edge that V3 maintains is that the upper/mid bass and low mids are more filled out than on Arya Organic, meaning that some fans of warmer tunings (who don't have tubes handy), might still lean towards the V3.
Between Arya Organic and MM-500, MM-500 provides stronger clarity, and a richer thicker midrange, but trades in some depth and impact in the bass for the clarity. MM-500 is a little more reserved in the upper treble, offering less air, but still has excellent resolution. MM-500’s soundstage isn’t quite as wide, but the image is presented with just a bit more clarity and stronger separation.
MM-500 vs. Arya Organic largely comes down to preference. For anyone to make a definitive call, you almost need to hold them both in your hand, have them both on your head, and really take some time. I did do all that, and I’m still not sure which one I’d take home with me. As far as the Arya comparison, I had found Arya V3 to be an improvement over the V2, and Arya Organic evolves the Arya line further by capturing some of what was lost from V2 while building on Arya V3’s improvements.
When you really start thinking about Arya Organic – in terms of pricing, brand philosophy, and all that stuff – it almost starts to feel like you’re visiting Bizarro-World on backwards day. In 2020 you would have paid $1599 for a new HIFIMAN Arya V2, and while every other price on seemingly everything else has gone up since then, in 2023, you can now get the objectively better Arya Organic for $1299. As your gateway into top of the line headphones, Arya Organic’s pricing helps keep that gate as wide as possible, but the improvements in its sound and performance gets you that much closer to true top of the line quality right from the start.