Svanar is the flagship in-ear headphones in the HiFiMAN portfolio. They are equipped with Topology Diaphragm dynamic transducers with a diameter of 9.2 mm and an impedance of 60 ohms, enclosed in aluminum and brass housings.
HiFiMAN headphones are often featured in dot. Audio, but they are usually circumaural and mainly planar. I also had contact with in-ear headphones from an Asian manufacturer, which were lower-positioned models in the RE600 or RE400 style. I fondly remember the latter because a great price-quality ratio characterized the RE400 and was rightly appreciated for its balanced and natural sound with a musical character. HiFiMAN’s flagship in-ear headphones have unfortunately eluded me so far, so it’s time to change that.
The title Svanar is impressive and, at the same time, raises some doubts because these are expensive headphones with single transducers in the main roles. Until recently, I would have considered it crazy, but the IE 900 from Sennheiser showed how much you can get out of full-range dynamics. The problem is that HiFiMAN priced their product even bolder because the Svanar cost almost 2000 US dollars, which is 700 dollars more than the IE 900. What do we get in return?
- two pairs of tri-flange tips (sizes S and L);
- two pairs of double-collar tips (size S);
- a pair of single tips (size S);
- 2-pin 0.78 mm cable (length 130 cm);
- 2-pin 0.78 mm plugs with housings;
- headphone case;
- the case for headphones and accessories;
- documentation and warranty card.
The first impression is positive because the headphones are packed in a solid trunk, which can later be used to store the Svanars and other audio equipment. It was decorated with a spectacular emblem with the manufacturer’s logo and model number. Unfortunately, the spell is quickly broken because the equipment is of low quality and the set has not been thought out.
Tips look bad, and their selection is a misunderstanding – we have either large “Christmas trees” or small tips that hardly anyone will like. Among them is one pair (yes, one) of thin single overlays with a strange, stepped shape. It isn’t easy to understand why the user needs such a mishmash of overlays instead of ordinary three-size tips. In addition, the manufacturer mentions a set of thermoactive foams, but I did not find any in the box.
Unfortunately, this is not the end because the cable from the set is also nothing special – it lacks braid and integrated temples. In addition, the 3.5 mm plug has a rather large housing, known from around-ear headphones, e.g. the Sundara model. Interestingly, along with the Svanars, we also get additional 2-pin plugs. Thanks to them, we can … make a balanced cable because we will not see it in a set of headphones for 2000 US dollars. Ouch.
It turns out that the extra 2-pin plugs were not in the box accidentally because the matter is even more complicated. But more on that in a moment.
The name Svanar was not taken from Hinduism this time, unlike the Ananda, Sundara, or Susvara models. Its origin should be sought in Europe, more precisely in the north, because svanar in Swedish means “swan.” The manufacturer assures that it was inspired by swans, both those floating on the pond and those dancing in the opera. This is evidenced not only by the shape of the housing but also by the internal chambers, modeled on the orchestra pit, i.e. the area for the orchestra in the opera house. It’s hard to say how much truth and how much marketing, but the fact is that Svanar catches the eye.
The housings are two-piece. External elements are made of anodized aluminum in silver, on which small monograms of the manufacturer have been applied. They are gray and not conspicuous – you can only see them from a certain angle. Concave lids and gently contoured edges attract the eye. You can see deeply recessed 2-pin 0.78 mm sockets on the upper one, accompanied by small vent holes.
In turn, the internal parts of the housings are copper-colored. They are made of brass, additionally gilded with 24-carat gold. You can see that the model was based on personalized headphones because the shape of the Svanars is ergonomic – the bumps and recesses correspond to the internal structure of the auricles. On the other hand, the sleeves have a typical length and diameter and have been secured with standard nets.
The build quality of the headphones is very good but not outstanding. I have no objections to brass – the material is massive, pleasant, and perfectly finished with a high gloss. Aluminum is also characterized by impeccable processing and does not disappoint during organoleptic inspection. So what’s the problem? Well, the fit of the housings is not perfect – if you look closely, you can see minimal unevenness in the gaps. The flaws are hard to see and don’t matter much, but they shouldn’t be present in headphones in this class.
Ergonomics and use
In my ears, the headphones lie like a glove, literally as if they were designed especially for me – the shape of the housings perfectly complements the pits, scraps, and bulges of the auricles. So I did not feel discomfort even during longer listening sessions, except for a momentary feeling of coolness, which is typical for metal headphones. In addition, Svanar protrudes only slightly from the ears, perfectly holds their places, and does not vibrate even during sudden head movements.
However, I would like to point out that I usually like a variety of in-ear headphones, so I can’t vouch for the universality of the Svanars. Nevertheless, the headphones should suit users with average auricles and ear canals because the sleeves are not excessively long or wide. However, people with smaller ears and shallower ear canals may not be satisfied – the Svanar is a slightly larger design, definitely more spacious than the aforementioned IE 900.
The sound insulation also impressed me. With properly selected tips, the headphones largely cut off from the world, suppress external noise and allow you to focus on the music fully. Some higher-pitched sounds penetrate the ears, but not enough to be distracting. There is no mention of isolation straight from Etymotic headphones yet, but the level is still highly satisfying for in-ear headphones, which are applied quite shallowly.
The cable is a bit springy, it can tangle, but it still fits well. I didn’t have to use the unfortunate earbuds from the set because the in-ear sections did not fall off the auricles. This is largely due to the slider at the splitter, which allows you to shorten the earbuds effectively, i.e. additionally stabilize the cable on the auricles. I also had no problem with the microphone effect – tapping or shuffling the cable was not noticeable, which is not so obvious in the case of headphones with integrated temples, which e.g. IE 900 suffers from.
Unfortunately, it turns out that the 2-pin 0.78 mm sockets used … are not universal because they are recessed deep into the housing and equipped with small guides. Therefore, if the cable does not appeal to us or is damaged, we will be forced to import the original cable from Asia or make it ourselves based on additional plugs from the set. Sennheiser uses a similar practice because the new IE 900 series headphones require longer than usual MMCX plugs. However, with the IE 900 model, we get a set of cables, i.e. wires with 2.5 mm, 3.5 mm, and 4.4 mm plugs, so in their case, it is easier to forgive non-universal sockets. I cannot justify the idea of HiFiMAN.
- design: intrathecal
- drivers: dynamic 9.2 mm
- frequency response: 5Hz-35kHz
- sensitivity: 100 dB
- impedance: 60 ohms
- cable: silver-plated OCC copper, 2-pin 0.78 mm > 3.5 mm (length 130 cm)
- weight: 7.8 g (single earphone); 39.5 g (both headphones with cable and tips)
HiFiMAN Svanar – tips
I usually use only the earbuds supplied with the headphones for listening, but it was not possible in this case. I couldn’t seal the canals with the tips in the kit, which turned out to be either too small or too long. So I reached for SpinFity CP145 in size M, which perfectly stuck to the sleeves and sealed the ear canals, which guaranteed proper bass reproduction.
HiFiMAN Svanar – sound
According to the manufacturer, Svanar sounds balanced, and each band has the same priority. I also met with similar opinions among testers. I’m afraid I have to disagree with this because you can hear the boosted low tones, the accent in the lower midrange, and the slightly softened treble. As a result, the Svanar sounds warm, massive, dense, smooth, and accessible. I suspect that the opinions about balanced sound may result from problems with sealing the ear canals, which is easy in this case. However, this does not change that Svanar sounds great, engaging, and maximally musical. Despite the single converters, the sound is really big, and the natural-analog character of the Svanar will delight many.
The bass is impressive. Mainly, its mid-range was emphasized, but the midbass does not flood the bass’s upper parts or limit the descent, which does not disappoint – the Svanar successfully pulls out the sub-bass frequencies. However, the number of low tones was not overdone, so calling the Svanars bass headphones would be an exaggeration. In the lower end of the band, you can hear a lot of energy – the bass is springy, massive, and dense, but it can still hit dynamically and fade away efficiently. Although the bass could be even faster, it is difficult to achieve in the case of low tones firmly embedded in the sub-bass and mid-bass. In addition, the headphones also successfully differentiate textures and instruments and do not mask details but retain the bass’s smooth, engaging, and entertaining nature. I had a great time listening to modern electronics, classical, and jazz.
The midrange continues the character of the bass because its lower, more massive, denser, and warmer range is in the lead. I think that the sound is colored – the midrange is colorful, saturated, and also smooth. This is the effect of a calm but not cut-off upper subrange. The midrange is still drawn with a rather hard line, it sounds precise and controlled, but there is no sharpening or aggression. As a result, Svanar is extremely pleasant to listen to; they do not tire at all but rather engage with music or relax depending on the repertoire. I used to complain about the too-soft sound, but today I am for yes – the possibility of relaxing with music is not so obvious in the case of modern IEMs. Especially,
The treble is not surprising because the nature of the headphones is consistent. So the treble has not been sharpened; it does not sound razor sharp and does not seem detached from the midrange. In my opinion, the treble is not perfectly stretched, and it does not go very high. Still, the soprano successfully illuminates the other bands – I did not have the impression of dimming or darkening the sound. Such tuning enhances the musicality, makes strongly realized strings, guitars, or wind instruments easy to digest, and the sibilation either does not occur or is not noticeable. Thanks to this, weaker recordings also sound great, which in the case of sharply tuned hybrids, often become inaudible. So the Svanar are not monitors; they don’t sound faithful to the sound material, but thanks to that, the music comes first.
There is also something to admire on the soundstage. Despite the unsymmetrical wiring, you can count on a contrasting separation of the channels, which translates into a wide message. I perceived the space as ellipsoidal, but the depth or height is almost as wide as the width. The sound is, therefore three-dimensional, and the instruments are exposed at different points – in the head area and beyond. The holography also deserves praise because the sounds are shapely, large, and regular. The bass, in particular, stands out, taking up much space in the scene. However, this does not negatively affect the separation of sounds, although it slightly reduces aeration because the low tones fill the recesses of the stage, as is usually the case with such a signature.
HiFiMAN Svanar – comparisons
Initially, I associated the Svanar with the FD7, top dynamics from FiiO. Indeed, both models enhance the bass, warm up the sound, and are characterized by calm upper ranges. It soon turned out, however, that the Svanar represent a higher technical level – they differentiate instruments better, bring out more details, are more dynamic, and build a wider soundstage. In direct comparison, the FD7 sounded narrower even when powered from the 4.4mm jack. The Svanar also wins with the bass, which has a stronger impetus, sounds more springy and energetic, and more willingly descends into the sub-bass. The comparison is not entirely fair because currently, the Svanar is five times more expensive than the FD7 (approx. EURO 225 vs. EURO 430). It is worth noting, however, that the FD7s have replaceable acoustic filters and a modular cable with balanced plugs.
Then I reached for the Meze Advar, a model with dynamic transducers, which is positioned higher than the FD7, but still lower than the Svanars because we are talking about headphones priced at EURO 750. The Advar are also musical and smooth, but in my opinion, more balanced. The bass of the Meze headphones turned out to be calmer and shallower, the upper midrange clearer, and the treble brighter. Even though I like the tuning of the Advars, the Svanar are on top again – a fuller and more energetic bass, a more differentiated midrange, and a wider sound stage speak for the superiority of the in-ear headphones from the HiFiMAN.
Unfortunately, I do not have the Sennheiser IE 900 for direct comparison, but I tested them relatively recently and spent a lot of time with them. In this case, the difference in tuning is much greater because the IE 900 emphasizes the bass and treble and pushes the midrange further away. As a result, the sound of the IE 900 is less natural and more striking. In addition, the Svanar is more accessible because the IE 900 sound brighter or even sharper. I also think that both models present music differently – the Svanar sound ellipsoidal and the IE 900 spherical. In this confrontation, the verdict will largely depend on preferences. I am unsure which model I would choose – IE 900 and Svanar impressed me. I will only add that the IE 900 is cheaper (about Euro 1350) and comes with cables. On the other hand, the warmth, colorfulness, and analogy of the Svanar are truly unique features.
At the end of the comparisons, I reached for different dynamics, but triple, i.e. the Campfire Audio Trifecta. This time the situation is completely different because the Svanar is cheaper and almost twice as, and the American manufacturer’s top dynamics are close to Euro 4275. You can also hear a big difference in the sound – although the Trifecta also show a dynamic bass, they have a more even midrange and a clearer treble. In addition, Campfire Audio’s flagship dynamics are less smoothed and build a larger soundstage with stronger aeration. Both models have a certain warmth, analogy, but I like the more expressive Trifecta. On the other hand, the difference in quality is not big; it’s again a matter of taste, so the Svanar is better. You will also be able to read more about this confrontation in the test dedicated to Trifecta.
HiFiMAN Svanar – synergy
Svanar are highly synergistic and consistent headphones. They respond to the character of the source but retain their massive, warm, and musical signature. I noticed that they were not affected by devices with a weighted bass (e.g. FiiO M17 ) or devices that sounded clearer (e.g. Astell&Kern Kann Max ). I would combine the Svanar with neutral or brighter devices to add clarity and slightly brighten the bass and midrange. I also recommend springs with a large space for the Svanars to spread their swan wings.
The Svanar also have an ace up their sleeve because the dynamic drivers are 60 ohms, so you don’t have to worry about noise or interference, allowing you to get a black background. For comparison, the mentioned Trifecta (and not only) have many problems with it. The efficiency of the converters in the Svanar is still relatively high (100 dB), so you should not be afraid of problems with the drive – rather, any “audiophile” source will cope with them. I have to admit that it was a highly desirable variation for me because I have enough problems with signal purity.
HiFiMAN Svanar certainly does not bore. I think ergonomically shaped housings are a bull’s-eye – the Svanar, even integrated with my auricles, held perfectly and did not compress at all. I was also impressed with the sound insulation, as the headphones effectively suppressed external noises and allowed me to focus on the music. It came easily to me because the warm, colorful, and thus surprisingly natural sound more than once captivated me. Much of this is due to the energetic bass, saturated midrange, and wide soundstage.
Unfortunately, the equipment fails badly. In my opinion, the overlays are a box, and the cable should be of higher quality. The lack of a balanced cable is a misunderstanding, especially because the 2-pin sockets are embedded deep in the housings, so it isn’t easy to find a replacement cable. Additional plugs that allow you to make your cord are just sprinkling salt in the wounds. I would also like the build quality to be higher – it’s not bad, but I would expect perfection at this price.
HiFiMAN Svanar cost 2000 US dollars. If the price is not an issue, and you are looking for a mild sound at a high level, they are definitely worth your interest. The Svanar sound less aggressive than hybrids or multi-armature models, they do not require synergy and cope with virtually any repertoire, and at the same time, they do not hum. It’s an explosive mix. If only the equipment and cabling situation were different because such shortcomings are hard to accept at this price.
+ solid case included
+ interesting design
+ Perfect ergonomics (subjectively)
+ highly effective sound insulation
+ flexible cable
+ resistance to noise
+ extremely musical sound with energetic bass, warm midrange, and calm treble
+ ellipsoid soundstage and shapely holography
– impractical set of tips
– no balanced cable included
– non-universal 2-pin 0.78 mm sockets
– build quality could be higher