HiFiMan Susvara Headphones Page 2

Combined with an AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt DAC [HFN Oct '19], where I normally set the volume in Audirvana 3.5 at around –18dB, the Susvara required nearer –4dB for most music, trading a little smoothness for acoustic openness. Thus a motoric Prokofiev pianoforte Étude played by Sandro Nebieridze on his remarkable debut CD [Harmonia Mundi HMN916115] lost some of the sense of attack, while with Erich Korngold's charming Straussiana [London Sinfonia/John Wilson; Chandos CHSA 5220] harp and metal percussion lacked some presence.

Wolfing It Down
So, much as I enjoy this diminutive DAC/headphone set-up for personal listening, for the rest of this review I turned to Benchmark's more revealing DAC3 B and partnering HPA4 headphone amplifier [HFN Oct '18]. Returning to these same tracks, the Korngold's little flecks of percussion were now properly instated, the strings' pizzicati springing into life. And with the Prokofiev you could visualise exactly where the Steinway was located, and appreciate the shrewdly limited washes of pedal – this is a Study that hits a brick wall at its ending! But then I stayed for the whole of the next track on the CD, Rachmaninov's piano transcription of Vocalise: a wistful, measured account, the Susvara focusing the dynamic gradations absorbingly.


Turning to my standby speech test, Prokofiev's Peter And The Wolf [Patrick Stewart, Lyon Orch/Kent Nagano; Erato 4509-97418-2], listening with the Susvara was revelatory – the best headphone replay of this classy production I have heard to date. It was the first time I had found the narrator was placed fractionally left of centre; his sibilants were well under control and you could hear the reverb around the voice. Each instrumental 'character' was accurate – flute, clarinet, bassoon, horns and kettle drums (these boosted by the Erato engineers). The whole thing had you relaxed and enjoying, as an adult, what is intentionally a story for children.

Writing about Dave Brubeck's Time Out album [Columbia Legacy CH 65122] in our review of the HiFiMan Arya headphones I concluded that 'I could go on listening indefinitely', but these far more expensive 'phones bring a different, richer experience. They make you listen in a very alert way, intent on all the details, such as the studio echo around the drums and the impact of Joe Morello's playing at the halfway mark in the recording before Paul Desmond's solo cuts in. Was anything missing? Yes, the cymbals were rather subdued by the Susvara headphones' smooth, warm balance, but that was it.

Out Of My Head
Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon [EMI 582136 2], with its extreme channel and sound effects gave a good measure of the Susvara's imaging impressions, for here the 'soundstage' ran subjectively slightly outside the headphones, left and right, and projecting well forward – even imaging 'over the head' on a number of these tracks.

Musically it was something of a relief to turn to the calm of Debussy's 'Nuages' from his Three Nocturnes in a recent Linn recording with Robin Ticciati and his Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin [CKD623; 192kHz/24-bit]. I'd been listening to this quite a bit, puzzled by some extraneous noises in the opening minutes. I guessed a mic had picked up the conductor's breathing and this was confirmed by the Susvara. Every wind instrument, meanwhile, was firmly located in the hall (the Haus des Rundfunks).

The coupling here is the 1947 Requiem by Maurice Duruflé with Magdalena Kožená in the 'Pie Jesu', and with these headphones you could really savour her voice production in all its variety.


Digging out an old mono track from 1931, Duke Ellington's 'Hot And Bothered' [Columbia Legacy 516 425-2] the image was dead-centre, and all the vibrant colour of the band and the brilliant dexterity of its players brought out another facet of the Susvara: its sheer tunefulness and the way in which the music simply flows.

My final session included a Classic FM favourite – Allegri's circa 1638 Miserere, with its soaring treble lines. I played The Tallis Scholars' remake version from 2005, which was recorded at the Merton College Chapel by Philip Hobbs [Gimmell CDGIM 641]. The CD includes two versions of the Miserere, the second one with extra vocal embellishments by Deborah Roberts, and here the Chapel acoustic colouring the lines sung by Andrew Carwood (as cantor) contrasted beautifully with the ethereally distant setting of soprano voices and then the perspective of the closer balanced choir. In short, it was a very compelling experience.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
They're large and expensive but these beautifully engineered planar magnetics are a joy to handle. Those swivelling adjustable yokes ensure a comfortable fit around the ears and they don't get hot. The Susvaras offer a smooth, totally unfatiguing sound with superfine detail resolution that commands your listening attention – I shall certainly be loath to send them back to HiFiMan!

HiFiMan Corporation
Jiangsu Prov., China
Supplied by: Signature Audio Systems
07738 007776