I am very old school about a lot of things, and I am not a fan of wireless technology in general. I used to run CAT 5 cables all over my house because I didn’t like wireless internet. I always use wired peripherals for my computers because with wireless ones you either have connectivity issues at the worst possible time, or you lose that dumb little dongle that came with your mouse and then it’s useless. I’ve never even personally owned a set of wireless headphones or earbuds because, well, I’m an old curmudgeon and I like wires!
So, knowing all of that, you can imagine that the HiFiMAN Ananda BT wasn’t incredibly high on my priority list to review. However, whether I wanted to admit it or not, there was a little nudge in my mind – a bit of curiosity. “What if it is good? You tolerated low-end headphones for decades, it can’t possibly be as bad as the Beats Solo you used to use!” So I unzipped the case, paired them with my phone, and took the plunge.
First of all, this is definitely an Ananda – nothing feels lost from its quality or character in the transition to Bluetooth. So if you like generally balanced open-back headphones with solid bass and sub-bass response, and you want the convenience of Bluetooth connectivity, then clearly Dr. Fang Bian has your back.
Like any good pair of Hi-Fi headphones, I found revisiting music that had fallen off my playlist revealed aspects of the recording I had never noticed before. “Am I Wry? No” by Mew caught me by surprise with an energy from the interplay between the guitar, drums, bass, and synthesizers in the sub-bass range which I had never heard before in the recording.
I also found the Ananda BT to be natural and transparent, with good imaging. The instruments felt well-spaced and coherent through a variety of genres. I closed my eyes, turned up some Ibrahim Ferrer, and I was transported to a little Cuban club where I could practically see the conga player up on the stage as he came into the song with a brrra-ta–ta-ta roll. And the nice thing about wireless headphones is that when that happens, you don’t have to worry about tripping on cables if you want to get up and dance a little – just make sure you open your eyes first.
While the cable (or lack thereof) might be a concern from some, my concern is that you lose the ability to use your favorite DAC and amp, and are limited to what’s built into the headphones. Thankfully, the Ananda BT’s DAC and amp perform admirably, and – while it’s no Chord Mojo – if you need the convenience of Bluetooth headphones, there’s no major sacrifice in quality or fidelity needed to accomplish that.
The Comfort and Convenience
The Ananda BT fits comfortably and didn’t slide or slip as I walked around to get a drink of water or top off my coffee. I took a couple calls with them as well, and, while I have a serious problem with vigorously pacing while I talk on the phone, the calls were clear, and the headphones stayed firmly in place the entire time. Now I’m not confident that they wouldn’t come loose if you were to wear them while vigorously cleaning – and I definitely wouldn’t recommend them for exercise – but you could probably get your living room vacuumed or the dishes done, and maybe even take a nice walk in the park, without interrupting your music.
Of course, if you’re going to take a walk in the park and there are any children around, you might want to turn your gangsta rap down, because, being open-back headphones, these do bleed quite a bit at higher volumes. I’ve certainly heard headphones with less isolation than the Ananda, but you will want to be mindful that someone nearby might be able to catch a little bit of your music or even the other end of a phone conversation at higher volumes.
I was able to easily pair the Ananda BT wirelessly with my phone and laptop, and the wired mode worked on my laptop with a hitch. The provided cable is sufficient, but on the short side, so if you may want to purchase a longer USB-A to USB-C cable to replace it. For recent MacBooks, you’ll need a USB-C to USB-C to connect it directly for charging or for listening in USB mode.
While I shout “get off my lawn!” at most wireless things, the Ananda BT might change my mind. No doubt, wires or not, it sounds significantly better than any headphones I had ever heard for the first 30 years of my life – and still better than many since. If you’re looking for wireless headphones and you also want the very best sound possible – or if you want Hi-Fi headphones and the added wireless convenience might fit your lifestyle – the Ananda BT is an amazing pick. I’m still an old curmudgeon, but spending some time with the Ananda BT has put me on the path to accepting that maybe wireless devices can be just as good as wired ones.