I’ve been using the Audio-Technica M50x for many years now. Don’t take this review the wrong way, no matter how much hate it gets from audiophiles it’s still a very good pair for many use-cases. As part of my journey exploring Hi-Fidelity sound, I concluded that sound is too complicated, and there are lots of imposters reviewing products without training or audio background. So I’m not going to pretend to be an experienced audio reviewer, I’m just an enthusiast who shares his experience.
The M50x is a good headphone but it was hyped for the wrong reasons because of big Youtube reviewers who lack the experience to review it as a Hifi product. The big issues with m50x are that it’s V-shaped and has a very narrow sound stage because it was made for studio monitoring not enjoying music.
I wanted to experience Hifi and was looking for something more high-end but not too expensive, so I chose one of the most recommended headphones in the Hifi communities, the Hifiman Sundara.
Disclaimer: I paid for this unit out of my pocket. This review is independent and unbiased, no one is influencing my review.
The Sundara is a planar magnetic headphone, to understand that we need to talk about types of headphones. Most headphones use dynamic drivers, an electrical current is sent through a coil. This coil is connected to a diaphragm, by regulating the electrical current of the coil, the diaphragm moves up and down, compressing and expanding air particles and creating sound waves. The planar-magnetic driver is more or less a planar version of the dynamic driver components: flat magnets and flat film. The diaphragm is evenly-suspended between permanent magnetic fields, which makes them extremely resistant to all kinds of electronic and audio distortion. It also gives fast response times with little to no transient sound as the audio source stops sending high or low frequencies.
Back to Sundara, let’s go over the specs, it has 37 Ohms and 94 dB sensitivity which makes them easy to drive from a phone or laptop. But planars reach peak performance when they are powered properly from a decent source. Hifiman used what they call Nano diaphragm, which they claim is 80% thinner than previous designs, about 1 to 2 microns thick which allows it to have a very fast response.
They weigh 372g which is a bit on the heavy side, but the leather headband is quite comfortable for extended listening sessions with good weight distribution. Personally, Sundara fits my head perfectly, even with the lack of swivel it has enough flex to sit comfortably. Height adjustment is a ratchet mechanism and it is plenty tight to prevent them from adjusting themselves, but it strips the coating a bit, so careful when you adjust them for the first time, and better not adjust them frequently.
Over on the back of the ear cups, you have this wide wire mesh covering the back of the driver. The earpads are a hybrid design with a fabric material on the inside that touches your head as well as perforated leather on the inside and non-perforated leather on the outside. They’re plushy and wedge-shaped, so they’re thinner at the front than they are at the back. All in all, with the metal frame the build is excellent.
They come with a 1.5 meters cable, which connects to each ear cup with a 3.5mm jack, then to the source with a right-angled 3.5mm jack with a 3/4” adapter. The cable is not too stiff but not flexible either, so as in most cases an after-market cable is a nice upgrade.
Let’s get to sound quality, starting with the response. The bass is clear, unlike the amplified bass on the m50x, the bass feels “weaker” being used to the heavy bass, but it feels clear with a lot more energy. I feel it’s a better bass than the muddy amplified bass that most V-shaped headphones reproduce. It’s more controlled, quick, and has more extension. If you like your bass extremely punchy you might need to EQ it a bit.
Mid-ranges is excellent, if you look at the measurements there is a bit of warmth in the low mids, a bit of high energy at 1K, and a slight dip around 500Hz but nothing major, it’s a perfect response. A good mid-range response means vocals are excellent, listening to some strong vocalists like Nate Ruess, Sia, Indila, and Kaleo I can only enjoy the depth and the energy of such a fantastic reproduction.
The treble is top-notch, m50x has too many peaks in this area with a big dip around 4K but the Sundara tracks the target very well. There is a peak that might sound sibilant but not to me, FIY I survived listening to Ellie Goulding – Burn (a famous track for sibilance), not my cup of tea though.
Unlike the m50x narrow sound stage, the Sundara has an impressive sense of staging, I have no other reference but according to other reviews as well it stages very well. It feels like you can hear the layers and feel the distances in the track. Regarding resolution, I think it’s very able to reveal small details in the recording.
The Sundara is one of the best headphones at its price point, it’s a fantastic choice to enjoy music at its finest, learn more about sound and your preferences before jumping to a higher tier.