Introduction to Hifiman Svanar review
Hifiman is one of the most known headphone audio manufacturers in the world, so introducing the company isn’t really needed this time. However, while Hifiman specializes in full-sized headphones, they also have experience with IEMs. Their flagship RE2000 never gained as much attention as Hifiman would have liked though.
Now, they came up with the Hifiman Svanar, which this review is all about, a successor that is highly influenced by the RE2000. Is a 1DD IEM priced at around 2000 USD something that’s going to be a valuable choice in today’s market?
I said it many times, and I’m going to say it again – it’s not the number of drivers that matters. However, the asking price is quite steep, so you’re more than welcome to expect quite a lot from a product like this. Let’s dive right into it.
The Hifiman Svanar comes in an elegant box which is quite similar to what they’re offering with their high-end over-ear models. The box itself is wrapped in a graphic sleeve that looks pretty good. Underneath that sleeve is the box itself, wrapped in a leather-like material. This box looks great, definitely what you could expect from an IEM in this price range. Also, it could serve as a storage box for when you’re not using the reviewed Svanar. Very good job here Hifiman.
Inside the box is where things start to get worse. First of all, you’re getting a round carrying case, which feels like plastic (I don’t know if it IS actually plastic, but it definitely feels like one). The carrying case is actually pretty useful and protective, it doesn’t open on its own and it should offer a good level of protection for your shiny Hifiman Svanar. The only problem I have with it is that it feels rather cheap for a $2000 IEM. It’s not bad, but it should have been better.
Next up, probably the most controversial thing about this product – the cable. So, Hifiman went with a single, black, 3.5mm cable. I’m sorry, but this cable should have never been included with a $200 IEM, and the Hifiman Svanar is not 200 but 2000 USD. It feels cheap, it’s unbalanced. At least it’s comfortable.
And here comes the thing that I just cannot understand. Well, when reading about the cable you surely thought to yourself – hey, it’s 2-pin, I’m going to use a different cable and call it a day. Yeah, I had that idea as well….and none of my 10+ 2pin cables don’t work with the Svanar. By don’t work I mean that I cannot even plug the cable into the Svanar, as the IEM uses rather non-standard 2-pin connectors.
So, you’ve got 2 choices – to use the original cable included, or use the additional 2-pin connectors (which Hifiman luckily has included in the box) and custom order a new cable. Here’s the thing – If you have followed us for a while now, you know that I’m a huge Hifiman fan, as this is definitely my favorite manufacturer in the market. But I have to stay as objective as I can, and the route that Hifiman took this time is just incorrect by a huge margin.
We’re all used to Hifiman not giving us exceptional cables in the box, but at least they always used standard connectors for you to use your fancy aftermarket cable. Not this time big boy, unless you’ll order a new one that would go specifically with the Hifiman Svanar. I’m sorry Hifiman, I’m sorry Mr. Fang Bian, but I think you should make a new revision that’s going to have standard connectors ASAP. Especially since the Hifiman Svanar sounds absolutely fantastic…but we’ll get into it.
Design, Build and Comfort
Okay, let’s turn our heads and get into more positive stuff. The actual design and build quality are both very good. The Hifiman Svanar looks clean and very attractive, and the golden inner part is just brilliant in real life. The shape is very ergonomic which leads to great ergonomics. I have absolutely no problems using the reviewed Hifiman Svanar for a couple of hours, so this is a huge pro in my book.
As for the build quality, I have no complaints. It’s definitely not as great as the stuff from Fir Audio, Dita, or Campfire Audio, but there’s also nothing bad about it. The fit and finish are both flawless, and my unit came with no imperfections whatsoever. The cable ruins the whole look, but hey, we’ve already covered it.
Overall, the Hifiman Svanar itself looks like a premium IEM. The competition is insanely tough nowadays and it’s definitely not the most luxurious-looking or feeling IEM on the market, but it’s definitely good enough. This isn’t really surprising, as Hifiman was never known for incredible craftsmanship or luxurious materials. The Svanar looks and feels like Hifiman – functional, premium enough, and should be pretty durable.
As far as tech goes, the first thing that draws attention is the acoustic aspect of the reviewed Hifiman Svanar. The shells are made of aluminum and brass, with both influencing the acoustic properties of the shells. The rear chamber is aluminum, while the front is made of brass. Because Hifiman focused a big portion of its marketing on that aspect, the driver inside is probably an open design, which means that there’s no sound-canal inside, to allow the driver to resonate into the shells. This should improve the soundstage capabilities of the Hifiman Svanar, and what you’ll read in a minute proves that it definitely works wonders.
The driver used is a single Dynamic Driver with Hifiman’s Topology Diaphragm. It refers to a diaphragm with a special nano particle coating applied to its surface.
“The distribution of the coating has distinct geometric patterns. By varying the surface pattern, a compound used, the thickness or geometric pattern should wave formation can be manipulated to achieve the desired audio effect and control”.
“The idea behind the new Topology Diaphragm was inspired by Dr. Fang Bian’s Ph.D. The thesis is that “different Nano materials have different structures and each of those materials has its own properties”. Therefore, by carefully controlling the diaphragm surface structure you can yield different results in acoustic performance to a degree previously unobtainable”.
This shows how complicated the technology behind the Svanar really is. Many people tend to see a single DD IEM and think that it’s just nothing special. But as I said, it’s not the number of drivers that matters, but the thought behind the whole project. All of this would have been for nothing if the Svanar wouldn’t offer a great sound, so let’s get right into it.
What does the Hifiman Svanar sound like?
A lot can be said about HifiMan, but what no one can argue with is definitely their sound quality. Hifiman Svanar uses some very interesting technologies which promise an improved sound, and now it’s time to see if it all works.
So, long story short, the Hifiman Svanar sounds absolutely marvelous. It’s probably the best-sounding 1DD IEM I’ve heard, and it has some aspects that I personally value a lot in audio. We’ll go step by step.
Starting with the bass, this is a very impressive aspect of the Hifiman Svanar. The amount of rumble, the extension, and the texture are all fantastic. While many 1DD IEMs struggle with subbass extension, this is not a problem with the Hifiman Svanar. It offers a very natural bass reproduction with excellent technicalities and great fun delivery. The bass frequency is never overdone, nor it’s never lacking in weight and presence.
The Hifiman Svanar is by no means a bass-head IEM, but to say that it’s bass light would have been a major misunderstanding. The low frequencies have a great balance between hitting hard, reaching low and never getting to the front row. Having in mind the entire frequency response and the overall characteristics of the Svanar, providing that kind of bass response is an absolute blast. We’ve all seen all those balanced, neutral-tuned 1DD IEMs that lacked in energy, punch, and weight in the bass department, and the Svanar is definitely NOT one of these IEMs. This is what a balanced IEM should sound like.
The midrange is once again, very technically impressive. It has a lot of air to it, vocals are highly texturized and natural sounding, but they are definitely not overly thick sounding. The bass doesn’t bleed into the midrange, which allows this frequency range to sound very clean and snappy. Where the reviewed Hifiman Svanar shines the brightest is the female vocal range, as the Svanar offers charming, forward, and very melodic-sounding female vocals. Once again, the detail retrieval is fantastic and there’s a lot of texture to the sound. The acoustic chamber of the Svanar also gives that airy, spacious presentation that further improves the technical capabilities of the IEM itself.
While some may want a slightly thicker or warmer-sounding midrange, this is entirely subjective, as the Svanar does not lack in weight or warmth department. However, if you’ve tried Hifiman over-ear headphones, then you can get an idea of how the Svanar produces the midrange. It’s all about the natural, technical, and very insightful type of presentation that the company specializes in for many years now. I personally think that the Svanar is the IEM version of the HE1000se, and having in mind how great the latter is, this is nothing short of spectacular.
The treble is once again technically impressive and neutral sounding. The amount of air and detail retrieval are both improving the treble response to create a highly addictive and attractive type of sound delivery. Once again, the Svanar doesn’t really sound like a 1-driver IEM due to its fantastic extension in the upper frequency, being reminiscent more of a multi-driver IEM. However, this is still a Hifiman’s product, so don’t expect the Svanar to be dark or dull sounding, as this is clearly not the case with this IEM. The treble is exceptionally extended and highly detailed and it offers great shimmer that goes great with well-mastered music.
Nonetheless, the reviewed Hifiman Svanar also does fantastic with poorly recorded albums, as it doesn’t overpower any significant frequency, and given how insane the resolution of the sound is, it never gets sharp or unpleasant sounding. I’ve tested the Svanar with a wide variety of different music genres and different levels of mastering and the Hifiman Svanar does it all with exceptional confidence and a level of refinement.
The soundstage is where things are starting to get really, really serious. When I first read about the Svanar on Hifiman’s site, the whole Moscow State Theater story didn’t really convince me to be honest. I somewhat felt like it’s forced for story-telling and wouldn’t actually mean a thing. Oh, how wrong I was. The Svanar has the biggest soundstage that I’ve heard in IEMs to this day, and you know that I’ve heard a lot. The Svanar reproduces the sound so wide and deep that it actually sounds exactly like a pair of great over-ear, open-back planars, and I’m not exaggerating.
Even when my better half tried it for the first time, she immediately got excited by the staging capabilities. She said: Wow, the vocal on the left was soooo far away from me, that’s insane! The song she played is Lovely by Billie Eilish and Khalid, and if you’ve ever heard this song on a pair of great headphones then you know how spacious it can sound. I honestly feel no difference in the staging between the Svanar and the Susvara when it comes to this song, and to say that it’s actually incredible. Apart from the actual size of the soundstage, the imaging and separation are also both class-leading, offering an ultra-precise insight into the recording, even when listening to symphonic music.
This is probably the most important comparison that can be done in this review. The Final A8000 has been a statement when it comes to 1DD IEMs for years now, and it still has a lot of happy users today. We’ve reviewed the A8000 a while ago here.
However, as time passes by and new technologies emerge, the position as the leader of the market is never going to withstand forever. And now, as the Svanar comes at the same price as the A8000, I can say that the latter has been officially dethroned.
First of all, the Final A8000 is still better made and it looks better than the Svanar, there’s no doubt about it. Hifiman has never been known for its luxurious materials and incredible build quality, and it’s no different this time. The A8000 just looks like an absolute gem, and its craftsmanship is among the best in the world when it comes to IEMS. Also, the cable included with the A8000 is miles ahead of the one supplied with the Svanar, it’s not even a competition here.
However, everything changes when it comes to ergonomics, and most importantly, sound. First things first, the Svanar is (for me) way more comfortable, as it lacks the sharp edges that are present all over the A8000. I never found the Final flagship really comfortable for me, as it starts to give me some serious discomfort after about an hour into listening sessions, because of those sharp edges. The Svanar on the other hand has a very ergonomic shape that ensures all-day comfort, and after trying long listening sessions with the Svanar, I can definitely say that it is very comfortable.
Comfort is not everything though, and when it comes to the sound, the Svanar is victorious again. While the A8000 offers similar technical capabilities and that insane speed to the sound, it lacks in sub bass rumble and attack, as it was never known for its great bass response.
The Final A8000 won its status because of its highly detailed, fast, and snappy sound characteristics, which are all present in the Svanar as well, but together with the bass that is simply better in every aspect. On top of that, while I have nothing to complain about in terms of soundstaging capabilities of the A8000, the Svanar once again goes an extra step in this regard. It sounds wider, deeper, and even more accurate, resulting in a type of experience that is way closer to a pair of speakers or high-end open-back headphones.
The Final A8000 is still a great IEM even today, but the Svanar is just a refined version of it coming at the same price. While compromising on the build quality and accessories, it just offers a better sound paired with better ergonomics. This is quite simple for me personally.
Hifiman Svanar Review – Summary
The Hifiman Svanar is a very pleasant surprise for me. Hifiman is my favorite audio company, but it’s because of their over-ear models. I’ve never seen their IEM department as anything too exciting, and the Svanar completely changed my mind about it.
While the overall presentation, and especially the cable isn’t anything special, the sound quality of the Svanar is just fantastic. It pairs a fantastic technical performance with a sophisticated tuning that does everything well, and the soundstage is just insane.
Big thanks to Hifiman for providing the Svanar 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.