Founded in 2005, HiFiMAN’s recognizable designs and consistent quality have made them one of the top names in the audiophile headphone world. The Arya, released in 2018, is considered an amazing value for the price for over-ear headphones. Just spending a few minutes with them makes it easy to see why. While they lack the absolute jaw-dropping quality of their big brother, the HiFiMAN SUSVARA, the Arya delivers amazing sound in a solid, visually appealing package.
The Build and Design
The Arya has a teardrop shape with an open-back “grill” similar to the Ananda and Susvara. From a materials perspective, the Arya’s predominantly metal construction is a clear upgrade from the slightly more plasticy Ananda. The solid black paint job won’t turn many heads, but it fits in perfectly with Arya's understated nature. Even the packaging offers a statement of simple elegance. The box is fairly simple, but upon watching me take the Arya out, my wife looked into the bed of satin-like cloth where the headphones had been resting and commented, “That looks like a nice place to take a nap.”
With their other offerings that I’ve tested, HiFiMAN has always done an excellent job creating headphones which – in spite of their large size – melt right onto your head when you put them on, and the Arya is no exception. In spite of their large size, the suspension system did a good job of spreading the weight across my head and making them quite comfortable for long listening sessions.
The two key words I would use to describe Arya's sound are “balanced” and “lifelike.” With music ranging from classical, to electronic, to heavy metal, to jazz, the Arya was incredibly coherent and transparent. There was sonic space for everything and everything was in its place. On the technical side, the Arya’s tuning is generally flat, with a small upper midrange cut, and a little bit of elevation in the treble around 8kHz. While these won’t be a top pick for bass-heads, listening to electronic music there are aspects of the sub-bass in some songs that are actually more noticeable with these than on bassier headphones. Because the tuning remains flat down below the 20Hz range the sub-bass is surprisingly present and doesn’t get drowned out by some of the more frequently boosted ranges.
While the Arya can take anything you can throw at it, jazz and classical really brought the headphones to life. Listening to “Lang Lang at the Royal Albert Hall,” I felt like if I just reached out far enough, I could touch the piano with my own hands. With one of my Soul Jazz favorites, Galactic’s “Change My Ways” I could almost taste the cigarette smoke haze at a small underground jazz club (granted, that could have just been the stale cup of Starbucks I was drinking at the time.)
Of course, having big planar magnetic drivers for a spacious, lifelike sound also means that the Arya needs a bit more power to drive than your average earbuds. Using the iBasso DX220, I needed to crank the volume into the 90% plus range to achieve that. So you’ll want to make sure that you have a headphone amp with enough power to get the full potential out of the Arya.
Bonus Review: Auris Euterpe
Speaking of having an amp with enough power, I tested the Arya with a variety of sources, and my favorite was the Auris Euterpe. The Euterpe is a pure tube headphone amp with a warm output that created a delightful pairing with the Arya. Having spent a little bit of time with the Euterpe previously, it can at times be a little bit too warm, and lend to congestion with some headphones. However, paired with the eminently coherent Arya, the Euterpe just made the music feel that much more alive and personal.
In contrast to the simpler more industrial design of the Arya, the Euterpe is sure to become the visual centerpiece of any setup it’s a part of. With the tubes and the amp itself, sandwiched between polished hardwood, it’s a unique, eye-catching headphone amp in a world of brushed metal and plastic.
Functionally speaking, the Euterpe can run in high or low impedance mode, has separate filters for digital or analog sources, and can be run as a DAC/Amp or as an Amp only with a separate DAC.
The Bottom Line
With the Arya, HiFiMAN delivered excellent headphones that are well designed without being flashy or showy. The headphones themselves are sturdy and comfortable. The sound is balanced and spacious. From the packaging, to the design, to the sound, nothing about the Arya gets in the way of your music. With a good playlist and a set of Aryas, you’ve got front row seats to your own private concert.