HIFIMAN is one of the biggest names in high-end headphones, and today we’re taking a look at their latest release with the HIFIMAN DEVA. It’s a super stylish and surprisingly affordable headphone that can be used completely wire-free thanks to its high-res BlueMini Bluetooth adapter. With USB Type-C support for PCs, award winning open-back planar magnetic drivers, and a built-in mic, it has the potential to be a great gaming headset, too. Does performance live up to on-paper specs? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
HIFIMAN is a brand that needs little introduction. If you’re even a little interested in headphones, which presumably you are if you’re reading this, probably already know them. Founded by Dr. Fang Bian in 2007, the company has grown to be one of the leading audio brands in the headphone space. You’ve probably already seen some of their designs: The iconic circular earcups and grille designs are enough to stand out of any line-up, which is an impressive feat to maintain over so many years.
The brand is synonymous with planar magnetic drivers, and I was pleased to see the DEVA comes equipped. It’s not a sure thing at this price, and I had to double-check to make sure, but they’re here, complete with the company’s latest design for a fast, detailed listening experience. Planars are still rare in the mainstream headphone market, but there are reasons people love them.
First of all, they’re huge:
HIFIMAN doesn’t list their exact size, but they dwarf the average dynamic driver. This allows planars to move a substantial amount of air and, broadly speaking, provide a big, lush sound. At the same time, they’re incredibly sensitive. Rather than moving a cone like a traditional speaker, planar magnetics work by suspending a thin diaphragm between a series of magnets. That sensitivity allows them to deliver exceptional clarity and detail. It’s a complicated design, which is why headphones like these are often more expensive. But, if you have the cash, planar magnetics can be some of the best headphones for any type of content, including gaming.
The DEVA breaks new ground for the company, bringing Bluetooth connectivity to the entry-level of its line-up with the BlueMini DAC/amp adapter. The DEVA can be purchased as a stand-alone headset if Bluetooth isn’t your thing and it will also save you $80, bringing the cost down to a very reasonable $219. If you can afford it, I would recommend paying the extra for the adapter. It’s worth it, which we’ll get to later.
The DEVA also brings with it a fresh style that I just love. Instead of the usual black you can find on any old headphone, HIFIMAN has trimmed it in tan and silver, which just looks so much more stylish than most headphones, even within its own line-up. For whatever reason, among the major brands, this is a color scheme that’s often reserved for much more expensive models, so it’s nice to see it available at this price. And on a practical level, if you’re wearing headphones out of the house, they should look good and these definitely do — assuming you like the earcup design.
And I have to say, these are headphones that seem more expensive than they actually are. They come in a standard box that opens on what amounts to a silken bed. The headphones themselves look pricier than you’ll actually pay. The cables are thick with nylon braiding and the audio cable has nice metal jacks on either end — the side that connects to your headphones is even silver to match the trim.
The headphones themselves are medium weight at 360 grams, but if compared to other popular planars, could be considered lightweight. They feel sturdy but weight is kept in check by mixing plastic and metal components. All that glitters is not gold — or in this case, aluminum. The frame, yokes, and grilles are, but the earcups and end-caps to the headband are each plastic. The earcups each tip inwards at a 45-degree angle to comfortably fit your head but don’t rotate to rest on your chest when not in use forcing you to take them off when not in use: they were just too big to leave around my neck.
Thankfully, I didn’t feel the urge to take many breaks while wearing them. The DEVAs are a comfortable headphone, even over 5-6 hours at a stretch. The pads are soft and trimmed in fabric where they touch your skin and have enough give that I could comfortably wear glasses the entire time. The headband did have a tendency to cause a hotspot after a few hours, but a simple readjustment alleviated that easily enough (and, as I seem to mention in every review, I have a sensitive dome, so your mileage may vary.) The grip force is also well-considered and just enough to keep the headphones in place well without causing jaw pain.
Sound Performance: Music and Gaming, Wired and Wireless
Enough with the physical qualities — how do they sound? First, the thing to know about these headphones is that, at their core, they are an excellent wired headphone. That’s why you’re able to buy them on their own with just the 3.5mm audio cable. But, I truly believe leaving things there would be selling them, and you, short.
The DEVA’s ship with HIFIMAN’s BlueMini DAC/amp adapter. This little device doesn’t just open the door to Bluetooth with hi-res codecs like aptX HD and LDAC, but it can also connect to your PC over USB and become a standalone DAC capable of 24-bit/192kHz audio. This may well be better than what your onboard audio can offer, but even on expensive, high-end motherboards, there is real wisdom to taking audio processing outside of the PC and isolating it from all of the electrical noise surrounding it. As a gamer, I found that to be one of the very best ways to use it.
The DEVA’s aren’t a difficult headphone to drive, but I was shocked at how loud the BlueMini was able to drive them. At max volume, they’re easily too loud to actually wear, so if you’re worried about losing dynamics or bass when cutting the cord, don’t be. I didn’t find it necessary to drive them with my Schiit Asgard, even though that’s my preferred way to listen to over-ear headphones. That said, even my Samsung Note 9 was able to drive them and make them sound great, so even if you opt out of the BlueMini, you shouldn’t need an amp to enjoy them.
The headphones feature an open-back design, which allows sound to pass out from the rear of the driver. You’ll be able to hear your room better and, likewise, they’ll be able to hear what you’re listening to more than a closed-back. The trade-off, however, is a much wider soundstage and sense of scale in what you’re listening to. This makes them an especially good fit for gaming, particularly in games that highlight spatial awareness like battle royales.
Interestingly, HIFIMAN has tuned the DEVAs with a detail-oriented sound signature. Even though these are more likely than most of their line-up to be used on the go, they buck the mainstream trend and aren’t bass-heavy. Instead, they feel more neutral in the low-end without the rumble and slam often found with many planar magnetics. If you’re a bass-head, you might need to turn to an additional EQ to pull this side of the spectrum up a bit. In truth, I was tempted to do exactly that, but after a few hours with the DEVA, I really grew to love its emphasis on details. It’s wonderful for guitar-driven music and acoustic tracks. For gaming, it’s excellent for hearing those tiny details that keep you competitive and make the world feel alive — at the expense of some of the cinematic bombast in action scenes.
I started my listening with a mix of tracks from I the Mighty. A Spoonful of Shallow spacious soundstage, the drums were the real stand out hitting with a clear bump while the cymbals splashed on top. The texture of each hit really came through, which drew me into the song and allowed me to notice how smoothly the sound crossed between each headphone. Later, listening to Where You Let It Go the DEVA did a great job of articulating the much wider spectrum of percussion notes, from high pitched taps to electronic thrums that I almost felt more than heard.
Turning to gaming, my go-to game to test headphones is Battlefield V with its excellent audio engineering. The sense of scale was great, even without enabling Windows Sonic. The battlefield felt wide and when I ventured indoors, the echo off the walls felt real. I love the sheer amount of tiny details, from the tinkles of broken glass or the pebbles kicked up by rolling tanks. Even in the middle of an intense moment with gunshots flying and grenades exploding, I was able to hear my own shells fall to the ground and that an enemy player was storming the door. Positionality was spot on. DEVA is the kind of headphone that makes you question whether you even need surround sound.
While the tuning is sure to be a bit polarizing for the “refuse to EQ” crowd, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the DEVAs. The wide soundstage and presentation of texture in my music and games was enrapturing. These headphones do something magic with drums and percussion, drawing out the nuances in each strike. This translates directly through to gaming in other ways: gunshots, spells, the layering of effect upon effect… for the price, the DEVAs are an impressive package and the BlueMini makes them all the more versatile. If you can only afford $219, they’re worth getting on their own, but if you can push a little further and pick up the full package, it’s well worth the extra investment.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.