HiFiMAN Audivina

Audivina is the latest closed-back planar-magnetic headphone made by HiFiMan. It’s priced at $1999.

Introduction to the HiFiMAN Audivina Review

I think the HiFiMan is the most famous brand in the audiophile world, or at least one of them. They produce headphones and earphones in almost every price point and at certain prices they even produce headphones that compete with each other. They have the know-how and you can spot it in their flagship model – Susvara, but they know how to transfer the knowledge and performance even in much, much, MUCH cheaper HE-400i.

One of my initial contacts with HiFiMan gear was with the mentioned Susvara plugged into a Niimbus US5 PRO and Chord Dave. It was a day in the middle of covid lockdown, but I had an opportunity to meet some other audio freaks and I remember that even though we had masks on, our facial expressions were very visible. Listening to Golden Times by French 79 was more than an experience. That’s nearly like a drug, after listening to music with this setup I was lacking the emotions when I got back home and I used my casual setup.

I need to admit that since that day I’ve become a fanboy of HiFiMan. Unfortunately, I don’t have Susvara yet, but Arya Organic has become my daily driver since its release a year ago and there are no clues it’s going to change shortly. They have some issues, for example, they sometimes have problems with QA, but the customer service is amazing. Or they used to sell $6000 headphones with a terrible cable, but they listen to people and now it’s pretty decent, so when you get the headphones you don’t have to think about buying a decent one in a moment you’re unboxing them.

HiFiMAN has a load of stuff they are going to show and I’m very excited about all of them, but for now, let’s focus on the subject of this review, the HiFiMan Audivina.

Packaging

The unboxing experience of the HiFiMan Audivina is basic, but for me, it’s not a point to seeing fireworks, it’s a nice addition, but I just expect the box will secure my headphones during the transport and it won’t be that huge I would have to get a bigger apartment to store it.

The cardboard with a simple print of the headphones and basic pieces of information contains a hard case for the headphones, the Audivina headphones, and three interchangeable cables: two longer ones, one with 6.3mm jack termination, a second one with 4-pin XLR termination and a third one is shorter for use on-the-go with 3.5mm jack termination. Each one is well-made and pretty comfortable – nothing extraordinary, but they do the job. 

I need to highlight one more thing. I like that more and more manufacturers deliver their headphones with a dedicated hard case. Even though I’m not going to carry it in my backpack, it’s easier to keep it safe from dust and damage on a shelf.

Tech

HiFiMan is a company that focuses mostly on planar magnetic headphones, you can find some dynamic drivers in their headphones lineup but they are only exceptions. Audivina is another headphone that utilizes its stealth magnet driver design. This design enables the waves to pass through the magnets without generating interference. Thanks to it, HiFiMan drivers generate sound that has significantly reduced the wave diffraction turbulence. The turbulence can significantly degrade the integrity of the sound wave, which is undesirable. The reduced distortion provides a better sonic output that should be accurate and full-range.

Another great tech inside the Audivina is NEO “supernano” diaphragm. The typical thickness of a dynamic driver diaphragm is about 20-30 microns, while HiFiMan claims their latest drivers have a thickness of 1-2 microns, that’s incredibly thin. To visualize how thin it is, human hair is about 120 microns thick. The material used to make the diaphragm must be very rigid, but thanks to the thickness, it’s very light, so it can move even faster and produce fewer distortions.

Lastly, I need to mention the resonance chamber design, which is inspired by the acoustic architecture of the Bayreuth Festival Theater in Germany. Its multi-stage attenuation makes the listener experience a wide soundstage in a small, enclosed space. Sound takes a circuitous way through the chamber, creating a wide soundstage which is beyond expected in most closed-back headphones.

Design, Build and Comfort

If you have ever touched any of the premium headphones from HiFiMan, then you will know what to expect. The headband has the same construction as the one from HE1000se, or Arya Organic. Simple metal construction with an adjustable material band that touches your head. You would say it’s getting boring since HiFiMan has used it for many years, but better is the enemy of good and I see no reason to change it since it works well and they can spend the R&D money in different, more important areas.

The shape of the ear cup frame is also identical to the one of the Arya Organic, but the biggest difference is certainly the cover. HiFiMan Audivina is a closed-back headphone, and the shells are made of wood with a resonance chamber inspired by the acoustic architecture of the Bayreuth Festival Theater in Germany.

Earpads have hybrid construction with leather on the outside and some fabric in the areas where they touch your head, so even in warm conditions it doesn’t stick to your skin. This grants optimal balance between comfort and sound. What’s interesting, it’s the first time I’ve seen NASA technology used in the headphones, the earpads are attached to headphones with velcro – the same one used by astronauts to join their spacesuits. Thanks to it you can detach and reattach earpads without worrying about breaking some joints or applying some glue, or double-sided tape.

Now let’s move to the comfort, which is inseparably connected with the build quality. As I’ve already mentioned the earcups have hybrid construction so they grant good thermal comfort which is particularly important in closed-back headphones. The clamping force is just in point, not too tight so I don’t feel it’s going to crush my head but also not too light, so when doing some faster movements it won’t fall off. The weight is also good, you feel it’s solid, but at the same time, it’s not LCD-X so it doesn’t cause pain in my neck after 15 minutes of listening. I can put the headphones on and forget about it for many hours.

Sound of the reviewed HiFiMAN Audivina

Now let’s move to the sound. It’s the most important part for me because there are better ways to spend $2k on good-looking furniture. As a word of introduction, I would like to write that I’ve never listened to headphones with a similar sound signature and I needed some time to break in. It’s very specialized and for me, Audivina certainly won’t become a daily allrounder, but I will try to show places where it shines and outperforms competitors.

The first facet that deserves our attention concerning HiFiMan Audivina’s sound capabilities is the treble response. Impressively, the headphone retains high-quality technicalities throughout the treble range. The brilliant balance struck by Audivina ensures both accuracy and smoothness are delivered seamlessly. Crucially, the smooth presentation of treble frequencies is key to creating a headphone signature that is ideal for prolonged listening sessions without fatigue.

This adds immense comfort and listening pleasure especially, for audiophiles who are looking for gear for prolonged listening sessions. While there’s not much more to elaborate about the treble, a few real-world listening examples might shed more light on its performance. Let’s consider the glockenspiel in Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield. Its sound is effortlessly delivered by the HiFiMan Audivina. It’s smooth and pleasing, and you can easily listen through the whole 24-minute song and still feel fresh after that experience. Another example would be Bubbles by Yoshi Horikawa. This track demands extreme technical precision from the reproduction equipment due to the uniquely crafted sound elements it contains. The Audivina doesn’t disappoint. It reproduces the song faithfully without showing any technical issues or introducing unwanted distortion, maintaining a decent level of detail and resolution.

The next crucial part to analyze in the frequency spectrum is the midrange. A lot happens here. If you crave detail and texture in your music, Audivina delivers that in profusion. For instance, while listening to Mettavolution by Rodrigo and Gabriela, the precision and vividness of these headphones allow you to distinctly hear each misplacement of a finger on the fretboard, demonstrated by a characteristic buzzing sound. The HiFiMan Audivina makes it almost palpable. I’ve mentioned that the reviewed headphone is specialized and the reverberation in the midrange is one of the reasons for it.

Vocal reproduction may come across as unnatural and potentially unpleasant with a noticeable amount of compression, making it particularly notable in genres like pop or rock music. For instance, in the song “Gimme Shelter,” Mick Jagger’s voice appears as if he’s performing from several kilometers away. In contrast, classical instrumental music fares significantly better through the Audivina. It allows the instruments sufficient breathing space, creating a distinct and incredibly open auditory experience that brings out the best of these songs. This contradiction illustrates how the HiFiMan Audivina might cater to specific genre preferences over others as a specialized audio device.

This is the moment I would like to focus on the bass response. It’s not the fastest bass I’ve met in the headphones but it has its vibe. It’s tremendous while listening to Toccata and Fugue by J. S. Bach, you can nearly feel the rumble of the organs and you feel like you’re listening to it in a huge baroque basilica. Yet again it won’t perform well in rock or electronic music, because it will be one big mid-bass hum, but if you will pick music that matches the signature of the Audivina, then it can shine. Another example, where Audivina can show what it’s got is electronic music. Vertigo Valley by French 79 has loads of bass lines, but there are also some moments when the bass is nearly silent and recessed in the space.

Many headphones reproduce it only quieter, but Audivina makes it so good that you can easily tell that it moves to the background, far from you. This is a trait commonly expected from high-end stereo speakers situated in a well-designed acoustic room. In the headphone market, such an acoustic experience is rarely witnessed. Nonetheless, I’ve encountered such a phenomenon only in headphones like the RAAL SR-1B and HiFiMan Susvara, which cost at least twice as much as Audiwina. I think this sets the Audivina bass response in an elite class of its own.

Lastly, let’s move to the soundstage, it’s also an unusual experience. I’ve already peaked. It’s extraordinary in terms of dimensions. The reverb is like in a huge basilica, or stadium, but this brings some problems. The sound source’s positioning is terrible, you can’t guess where the sound comes from. I’ve tried to play some FPS games with Audivina and I sucked even more than usual. I felt everything was located in the back further away from me than it actually was. If you care about the sound airiness, then it can be one of the best closed-back headphones in the market available, but you need to sacrifice the positioning for it.

Comparisons

 

Meze Liric

In terms of the price, the comparison of HiFiMan Audivina with Meze Liric is very close, because both cost about $2000. But if you haven’t read my review of Meze’s headphone, let me introduce it in the beginning.

It’s a closed-back Rinaro planar driver headphone made in Romania. For me, it’s a top-of-the-league piece in terms of build quality and design. It’s like a work of art in your hands (or on your head) made of aluminum, magnesium alloy, and leather. Every part is manufactured consciously and fitted perfectly. In terms of build quality, it feels like Meze Liric is more premium than HiFiMan Audivina, because of the fit and craftsmanship, but the Chinese headphone wins with the velcro pads which are much easier to replace than the glued ones in Meze.

Comfort is very closely attached to the build quality but at some point, it doesn’t matter, because I could use both headphones for hours without any fatigue, so we have a tie here. What can be important for closed-back headphone users, Liric suppresses the noises, so it can be a better choice for commuting or in loud open spaces, but if you’re afraid of sound bleed, Audivina can also be a headphone to use while your surroundings wants to sleep. The package is similar, Meze lacks any balanced cable but since Liric isn’t an extremely power-demanding headphone most amps can easily drive it with single-ended output. To be honest I didn’t need the balanced cable with Audivina as well, but it’s nice that HiFiMan added it to the bundle.

After talking about the driving capacities, we can smoothly move to the sound comparison. Let’s start this part with the treble, and here Romanian headphones are more detailed and sparkly, but the signature of Audivina makes the listening experience a bit calmer. The midrange is probably the biggest difference, Meze Liric has a more typical headphone sound with a great amount of texture, whilst Audivina is something completely different from almost anything you’ve ever listened to. It has a ridiculous amount of texture, but with some distortion, so it’s not as universal as Liric, but in some genres I’ve mentioned already, it’s a killer.

Next is the bass and here yet again some can say the Liric is very schematic, because the bass is fast and agile, which is typical for planar magnetic headphones. And again Audivina is something unique, the bass is more relaxed and smoother which can be a problem when you’re looking for an all-rounder headphone, but if it’s the next one in your collection, then this can be a great addition. Lastly, the soundstage, headphones have an impressive airiness, but Audivina is just incredible. The soundstage is out of this world. On the other hand, Liric has much better imaging, you can easily guess the position of sound sources, while in Audivina, because of the dimensions of the soundstage, it’s pretty hard.

To sum this comparison up, I can write that both headphones have the premium feel you would expect from a $2000 product. Meze Liric is more allrounder and it can easily become your daily driver, while HiFiMan Audivina is the more specialized headphone for specific genres.

HiFiMAN Arya Organic

This comparison can be slightly odd because Arya Organic is cheaper (it’s priced at $1299 vs $1999 of Audivina) and it has an open-back design, but even though I think the use cases of both are pretty similar. Both are more stationary-oriented, share similar tech, and have equal principles in sound signature.

Audivina has a more premium package because it arrives with 2 additional cables and a carrying pouch, but that’s the only difference, there is no more fancy stuff. It’s fine, because after unboxing the box lands in a wardrobe or the rubbish anyway. In terms of build quality and comfort, the comparison is very easy – the headband is the same and there are only some cosmetic differences, Arya Organic has a black paint finish and black synthetic leather head strap, while Audivina features bare metal and a genuine leather strap.

The biggest difference is the outer part. Arya Organic has an open, metal grill, while Audivina has a closed wooden shell. This should significantly affect the sound and it does, but not in a way the intuition suggests, but I will get back to it later. The overall comfort of both headphones is good.

The sound isolation of Audivina is better, but blindfolded I would say both headphones are open-back. Now let’s move to the sound comparison. The treble of Arya Organic is bright and sparkly, it’s not the level of the OG Arya or Arya Stealth, but Audivina is much more relaxed with fewer details. This can be a disadvantage for Audivina in terms of pure performance, but it’s less fatiguing in prolonged listening sessions, especially when you want to chill in an armchair after a busy day. When it comes to midrange, Arya Organic is a benchmark. Nothing fancy, but perfectly balanced with a good texture, while Audivina gives much more color to the presentation. That’s like comparing water with Coca-Cola, water will pair well with everything, while Coke can overwhelm some nuances in taste, but when you pour it into bad whisky it will create a decent cocktail.

The bass of Arya Organic is faster, but Audivina has the rumble, so depending on the music you’re listening to, one can fit better than the other. For classical music, I would go for Audivina, but for some rock, I would go for Arya Organic. And now let’s get back to the construction, the common sense suggests the closed-back headphones should have a smaller soundstage when compared to the open-back ones, but here Comes HiFiMan. The whole Arya lineup is known for its tremendous soundstage, but it’s nothing when compared to Audivina. I need to highlight it once more, Audivina has a HUGE soundstage that is hard to compare with anything.

The positioning is better in Arya because it would be nearly impossible to bridle it in such a big soundstage of Audivina. So If you’re looking for a headphone for gaming then Arya will handle it better, but for music where the airiness is more important, then Audivina just slays everything So both headphones are tailored for home usage, but that’s the place you need to think about what’s more important for you. I think Arya Organic is a safer choice if you’re looking for more versatile headphones, but if you need serious sensations, then the soundstage and the bass of Audivina can serve them to you.

HiFiMAN Audivina – Summary

HiFiMan Audivina is a headphone for a conscious user. It won’t be a good choice if you want to find a headphone to rule them all, but in some specific genres, like classical, or jazz music it shines and outperforms even more expensive gear.

Its midrange can help you discover nuances you’ve never heard before, but you will need some time to get used to it. The dimensions of the soundstage are incredible, but because of that the precision of positioning is lacking, so it will handle perfectly in music but not so great in video games or movies. The sound isolation is lower than in most closed-back headphones, but I think the closed-back design was necessary to achieve that signature, not to make it a portable headphone.

It’s very comfortable and well-made, so long listening sessions won’t be a problem. I feel I need to highlight once more – you should listen to them before purchase because the signature is unusual and it won’t fit everyone.

Big thanks to HiFiMAN for providing us with the Audivina for this review. I wasn’t paid or asked to say anything good or bad about this product, all of the above is just my personal, unbiased opinion.