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Golden Ears: HIFIMAN Arya Stealth Magnet Version Review

Uber High-End, Uber Good

Christopher Coke Posted:
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Hardware Reviews 0

The HIFIMAN Arya has long been regarded as one of the best sounding headphones under $2000, and the company is back with a brand new version: the HIFIMAN Arya Stealth Magnet Version. Retailing for $1599, this set of headphones features a new “acoustically invisible” magnet design and HIFIMAN’s nanometer thickness planar diaphragms — plus, a new all-black colorway because you can’t have “Stealth” without looking the part. Curious what goes into a $1599 headphone and why this high-end product line is one of the most most popular in HIFIMAN’s catalog? 

Specifications

Current Price: $1599 (Amazon

Before we get into the product itself, I should note that I do not own the original Arya headphones, so this review is that of a “fresh listener” to the Arya line. With that in mind, I have listened to many other HIFIMAN headphones, including the Ananda, Sundara, HE-R10D, and both versions of the Deva. I’ve also spent a good amount of time with other excellent planar magnetic headphones, such as the Dan Clark Audio AEON Open-X from Drop and the Audeze LCD-GX

My listening tests were done with a mix of different amp/DAC combos, including the iFi xDSD Gryphon, the iFi Go Blu, the Khadas Tone 2 Pro, the THX Onyx, and even the GoXLR. I listened to a variety of sources including Spotify Premium (max quality), Amazon Music, and standalone files. 

HIFIMAN Arya Stealth Magnet Version  - First Impressions and Key Features 

HIFIMAN is no stranger to the audiophile community — and that means all segments of the community, from affordable headphones like the HE-X4 to the $8000 Shangri-La Jr. While not the most expensive of its offerings, the Arya is an eminently premium headphone. The brand new Stealth Magnet version retails for $1599 and succeeds the standard Arya, a headphone regarded as one of the best values in HIFIMAN’s line-up. 

If you’re not deep into the headphone hobby, $1600 for any headphone probably doesn’t seem like that great of a value. And for many listeners, that would certainly be true. But the Arya SE competes in an arena multiple steps above a normal consumer headphone. Having not listened to the original Arya, I can’t speak from experience, but my understanding from reading dozens of reviews of that model, professional and normal listeners, is that it was a $1600  headphone that punches up. 

Without having heard a more expensive headphone, I can’t say that for sure. What I can say is that this is the most detailed, true-to-life headphone I’ve ever heard. There isn’t a question: compared with the Audeze LCD-GX at $900, another astounding open-back planar magnetic headphone, or the HIFIMAN Ananda, my previous favorite, the Arya are a massive improvement. 

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s get into what makes the Arya and what this new Stealth Magnet version is all about. The Arya is a planar magnetic headphone and an excellent example of why audiophiles love planars so much. Planars, when designed and tuned correctly, are capable of delivering exceptional clarity across a wide frequency response. The frequency range on the Arya is an expansive 8Hz to 65kHz and it’s tuned impeccably well. If there is distortion, you’re not going to hear it under any normal listening scenario. Clarity, thy name is Arya.  

The Arya features a big, bold design. It follows the same egg-shaped earcup structure as the Ananda. The outer face of these adopts HIFIMAN’s Window Shade design that leaves the driver wide open behind a thin mesh. It uses a protein leather suspension band beneath a glossy black metal frame. The entire headphone, save a bit of HIFIMAN branding, is completely blacked out. They’re big headphones (encompassing from above the ear down onto the jaw) and not something anyone could reasonably call sleek, but they are sleeker than the Anandas and the upcoming Edition XS (review soon!). 

Inside those earcups are HIFIMAN’s massive planar magnetic drivers engineered by the new stealth magnet system. The company isn’t big on disclosing specs, but since the cups are see-through, we can get an idea of how big a driver we’re working with:

In this picture, we can also see the new magnet structure. The so-called stealth magnets aren’t named for their size. Instead, they’re designed to be acoustically transparent. The magnets are now rounded and positioned so as not to interrupt the sound field, reducing turbulence between the sound waves. This design has trickled down from the top of HIFIMAN’s line-up, so it’s exciting to see it make its debut here and even further down the company’s product line. 

This version is also 4dB more sensitive: 94dB versus 90dB on the original Arya. That means it’s easier to drive on portable devices, though I would still recommend connecting it to a source that offers a good bit of power, like the iFi Hip-Dac2 or Go Blu.  I was also able to drive it with the TempoTec HD Pro, but the Arya Stealth scales well with additional power, particularly in the low-end. 

When it comes to build, the Stealth is very similar to the original areas, sans the all-black finish. It uses hybrid leather and fabric ear cushions with leather inner and outer rings and fabric where it touches your face. They’re plush and comfortable while still being fairly slim and low profile. The frame, hinges, and yokes are all metal, as are the window shade structures, and the outer shell of each earcup is composed of hard plastic. 

The headband structure is simple but effective. The weight of the headphone (430g) is distributed by a simple leather strap with nice stitching along the edges. Either side of the strap is held by an adjustment clasp. It clicks loudly when adjusting it, which can be a bit jarring, but doesn’t move once it’s in place. 

Also included in the box is a cable and some documentation. The cable is one of the best I’ve seen from HIFIMAN. It’s nicely braided and not microphonic. It connects to the headphones with a pair of 3.5mm jacks and terminates in a 6.35mm (¼-inch) connector. It’s only five feet long, however, so you’re forced to sit fairly close to your source. At this price, I would have loved to see a balanced cable included, but replacements are easy to find at relatively inexpensive prices. 

HIFIMAN Arya Stealth Magnet Version - Fit and Comfort

The HIFIMAN Arya have an unusual design in the headphone world, but it works to their benefit in comfort over long listening sessions. The over-sized earcups are made to wrap around the ear and distribute the clamp force across a larger area. The design is very effective and leads to a feeling of spaciousness that works well with soundstage. 

Like the Ananda, the fit is rather loose, but I found the Arya to be an improvement overall. I’m able to lean over without them slipping off immediately, but these are definitely headphones to wear when sitting down and really sinking into your music (or game, as we’ll get to later).

At 430 grams, they’re not particularly light, but the suspension band system effectively eliminated hotspots, so head soreness wasn’t an issue. 

HIFIMAN Arya Stealth Magnet Version - Listening Impressions 

Onto what matters most: how do they sound? At $1600, they should sound great and — spoiler alert — they do. Are you surprised? HIFIMAN makes some of the best-sounding planars on the market at its different price points — some being more contested than others — but there are few listeners willing to argue that the team doesn’t know how to tune and deliver a great sounding headphone. 

Here’s how the Arya Stealth Magnet Version stacks up.

Bass on the Arya is about quality over quantity, but that isn’t to say they’re light on the low-end. The Arya Stealths have good sub-bass extension; the drivers push enough air that the lowest lows — the bass you can feel — comes through nice and strong. I found this to be especially true in electronic music and hip-hop. 

Last One Standing from the Venom soundtrack seemed to thrum through my head, the kick drums thumping with realistic timbre and impact. Deep Inside by MARION really exemplified the body the Aryas are able to provide. The bass is thick, wide, and textured. Electronic bass isn’t a simple note: it’s a note that you can discern feeling from. It’s the difference between running your finger over smooth and frosted glass, but the headphones’ ability to draw those tiny nuances out and put them center-stage in your listening experience pushed listening into high definition, similar to jumping from 480p to 4K.

Moving to rock and metal, that body was diminished somewhat. The drivers don’t slam in a way that does equal justice to machine-gun double-kick segments but have enough thrust to thump through those fast sections. Atreyu’s Bleeding Mascara and Angel Vivaldi’s Dopamine needed a bit more slam for my taste, but the middle-bass, where toms live, made up for it with excellent clarity and detail. Combined with the excellent imaging, you can close your eyes and track the drum as he scales down the set in runs. 

For gaming, there’s enough body and presence to sound great in action scenes. Hiding out from tanks in Battlefield 2042 was thrilling.

Mids are very natural sounding and absolutely rich in detail. The soundstage is wide enough that every sound source is spaced out and positioned so you can hear every tiny detail. Electric guitars are particularly joyful to listen to. Lesser headphones often made distorted chords blend together into an abrasive whole. With the Aryas, you can hear the fine details even in very distorted tracks. The breakdown in Angel Vivaldi’s Serotonin (3:10) is a wonderful example of this and also exemplifies the astounding clarity across highly layered songs. 

Vocals are also outstanding. Female vocals tend to cut forward like Rihanna in Love the Way You Lie, but there’s a sweetness and realistic timbre. Male vocals are lush and enjoyable, like Ed Sheeran, 50 Cent, and Eminem in Remember the Name. Claudio Sanchez in Pearl of the Stars and Wake Up was particularly evocative when heard through the Arya Stealths.

Where these headphones really shine is when you blend electronica or hiphop with natural instruments like piano or acoustic guitar. The contrast comes through beautifully and the outstanding, realistic detail and makes those natural notes sparkle on top of the track. 

So much of the music we listen to lives in the mids. It’s an area that can become busy or highlight weaknesses in imaging and detail. I can’t say it enough: the details, from the big obvious textures, to the tiny, etched details that flit through songs are presented in with mind-blowing clarity. Perhaps this is common in the TOTL segment, but stepping up to the Arya, it’s phenomenal and so, so enjoyable.

Finally, for frequency response, we have treble. The Arya are a fairly bright headphone, which is one of the reasons those details are so easy to pick out. The treble rolls off in the upper register, making them easier to listen to over longer sessions without becoming fatiguing. The presentation here, like the rest of the spectrum, is simply excellent. It’s very natural sounding and not strident. Percussion, and cymbals in particular, have realistic texture and decay. A microdetail to listen for is the strike of the stick against the cymbal and how that strike rings out. The Stealths preserve all of that detail, really doing justice to nuance drum performances and providing excellent air and atmosphere to tracks. 

The soundstage isn’t extremely wide but the imaging is fantastic. There’s enough depth in the soundstage to create a sense of realism, as if you’re in the room with the musicians and they’re playing around you. Likewise, for gaming, it’s as if you’re in the middle of the battle. Picking out the position of sound sources is extremely easy. Panning sounds are particularly enjoyable, making the Arya a lot of fun on tracks with movement and during immersive gaming sessions. 

If you’re looking for pure spaciousness, this may not be the headphone for you. Everything has room to breathe. Everything sounds natural. But there isn’t a sense of being in a grand sense of space. These are headphones that present your music like a loft session versus a concert hall. 

For gaming, they’re excellent. Would I recommend anyone buy them just for that? Certainly not, but if you’re spending this kind of money on an earphone, it’s reasonable to expect you might want to use them for more than one type of listening. The LCD-GX has an advantage in spaciousness, so is the better choice if you plan to play games more than anything else, but the Arya Stealth is more well rounded for all kinds of listening.

Overall Impressions and Final Thoughts

As I mentioned in the opening to this review, the Stealth Magnet version is the first experience I’ve had with the Arya line-up. Users considering cross-grading should read a plentiful amount of reviews to dig into the nuances between the two models. 

As a HIFIMAN fan going down their line-up, I can tell you that there is unequivocally a wonderful upgrade jumping to the Arya Stealth Magnet version. This was the best listening experience I’ve ever had. If you have access to an EQ, you can easily add that slam back with only minor tweaks to the low-end. The XBass II function on my iFi xDSD Gryphon was all it took to make the Stealths a match, even for intense, fast-paced metal. 

At $1599, these headphones are clearly Golden Ears territory, designed and targeted at dedicated audiophiles. I would highly recommend anyone considering a purchase of this magnitude audition them first to make sure they’re a match for your taste. But, if you’re a fan of a balanced sound with outstanding extension, exquisite detail, and the comfort to last for hours and hours of listening, these are an excellent choice. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

9.5Amazing
Pros
  • Amazing detail
  • Excellent bass extension -- bass is tactile and can almost be felt
  • Wonderful natural sound (great timbre and tonality)
  • Very good imaging: sound sources are easy to place
  • Exceptionally comfortable
Cons
  • Bass is doesn't translate as well for metal (double-kick drums in particular) without a little EQing


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight


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