Introduction to the HiFiMAN Svanar Wireless review
HiFiMan is known as one of the leading manufacturers of headphones. Their top products like Susvara or Shangri-La are considered TOTL by many. The HE400se and Sundara mark the first steps for beginners.
Their lineup is impressive, considering they seem to have an answer to any headphone question. On top of that, they have a growing range of DAC/AMPs and IEMs. Their newest IEM, the Svanar left quite an impression on Paweł, so when option for reviewing Hifiman Svanar Wireless popped up, we knew it was going to be something else. And it is.
HiFiMan is run by Dr. Fang Bian, a true genius, who helped to shape the headphone industry as we know it today. He is an audiophile by his heart and a big fan of R2R DACs. The latest EF400 and EF600 DAC/AMPs from HiFiMan feature this technology, the HiFiMan’s Himalaya modules.
Surprisingly, their newest TWS also use this type of DAC, the Himalaya. What is interesting, this is the first TWS with R2R DAC and not without a reason. Read about that more in this review, in the tech section. The Hifiman Svanar Wireless is not a Svanar with a BT built in, rather it’s a top solution in its class, just like Svanar is topping the IEM line for HiFiMan. Let’s take a closer look at the subject of the review and compare it to the competition.
Packaging and Comfort
The reviewed Hifiman Svanar Wireless comes in an aesthetic, simple box. On the front, there is information about the Himalaya R2R DAC and the Topology Diaphragm technologies used in this TWS. There are also QR codes for their social media, website, and basic info about the product on the back.
Inside you’ll find the earphones, the case, a set of tips and a charging cable. Nothing fancy, but all you need. There are both silicon and foam tips in the set, although, only one size of foam. There is a much wider selection of silicone tips including even double flanged ones.
I was unsure about the fit, as the earpieces seemed bulky at first, but I can wear them comfortably for an extended amount of time. The inside of the earpieces has kevlar inserts that are moulded into an anatomic shape, mimicking the concha. For this size, they are okay even with small ears like mine.
Good news for those who want to use reviewed Svanar Wireless when exercising, HiFiMan thought about you, and Svanar Wireless has an IPX5 water resistance rating. The included case is quite bulky, so I imagine some users refuse to use them on shorter commutes. On the plus side, the case fits earpieces even with bulky foam tips on.
Tech, ANC and Build Quality
Build quality is good. The earpieces are made out of lightweight metal and, as mentioned earlier, kevlar. The shape of the earpieces is quite unique: the external part has ANC/call microphones at a distance from the ear to improve selectivity. The main body is quite thick, housing electronics and the new dynamic driver.
It uses a dynamic driver with a diaphragm that is coated in a very specific shape. Interestingly enough, that process was covered in Dr Fang Bian’s PhD thesis. Selectively treating the surface of the diaphragm with Nanoparticles helps to improve stiffness but with only a small increase in weight. In this way, you can have a dynamic driver that is excellent over a full range of human hearing. Being stiff and fast at the same time, similar to Nano coated planar diaphragms HiFiMan uses.
Svanar Wireless features ANC, allowing for up to 35dB of noise attenuation. That is something all of us, daily commuters, will appreciate. It is not as strong and precise as the ANC of more commercial-focused brands like Sony, but it is on par with audiophile manufacturers. I guess this tendency stems from audiophile manufacturers not wanting to sacrifice too much sound quality for a few dB of attenuation. This is reasonable, especially since you can do so much by selecting different tips, which can give you more attenuation than any ANC.
If you told me 2-3 years ago, there will be a TWS with an R2R DAC I would just laugh. Last year, probably too. But here we are. Let me tell you some more about how they were able to achieve that. My guesstimation at least. So, will we see a wave of R2R-equipped TWS? No.
Let’s get back to the beginning. R2R DAC uses a resistor ladder that divides the power supply voltage accordingly to the input signal. As you know, DACs are sophisticated devices. R2R is even more demanding than delta-sigma because most of the parameters depend on the accuracy of the resistor ladder. Even though you only need two values R and 2R (hence the name), they need to be stupidly accurate. Top designs use tolerances around 0,01%, so the possible difference is 1 to 10000.
Another issue is TCR: a temperature coefficient of resistance. With super nice resistors we are talking up to 25ppm/1C which is 25 to 1 000 000. Let’s assume we have around 50 resistors, the whole circuit warms up by 10C (pretty normal stuff). Every resistor behaves slightly differently. You can see how quickly it can get out of hand. The miss in the accuracy of a resistor ladder is directly related to the THD figures, the distortion. Hence you can easily see, that higher distortion values compared to delta-sigma are normal for the R2R DACs.
One time I was discussing R2R DAC with a pretty well-known Hi-End DAC manufacturer and he said that MOQ (minimal order quantity) for custom resistors like that is 1 000 000 pieces and they weren’t so keen on such a small order. So this is one part. The other part is the digital signal processing that is required to make those resistors sing. Usually, it is done in FPGA, a programmable logic that is capable of super-fast operations, but is expensive as f… And physically large.
So, how did HiFiMan make so many products with their Himalaya R2R DACs and how did they fit all that into such a small product? They ordered enough resistors to make it economically viable. They also probably use custom, minuscule resistors in the Svanar Wireless to keep it small. They also have their DSP processors made as ASIC – in short custom integrated circuits. Just as somebody uses ESS’ ES9038PRO, HiFiMan has its own Himalaya chips. And integrated circuit manufacturers won’t sell you 1000 of them. Oh no. Think bigger. Much bigger. Biggus Dickus, the famous Roman noble bigger.
The Svanar Wireless uses Bluetooth 5.2 with the latest codecs including SBC, AAC and LDAC. Surprisingly, no aptX of any sort. The battery allows for 4h of playback in HiFi mode, 6h in ANC mode and 7h in transparency mode. My suspicion is that in Hi-Fi mode the BT is forced into the highest transmission rates. The case extends the playtime to around 25h, give or take.
How does the HiFiMAN Svanar Wireless sound?
Well, HiFiMan has its signature sound focusing on sound staging and detail. So it is on the slightly brighter side, but nothing too extreme. It balances very nicely with foam tips, I use the Comply TWS.
The sound of the reviewed HiFiMan Svanar Wireless is focused on the midrange for the most part. Voices, and guitars, have the primary role here. The bass, while not as pronounced goes very low, giving us a satisfying thump. Treble has a very nice airiness and timbre, especially for a dynamic driver. The sound staging is very good, being outmatched only by the Final ZE8000.
The detail provided by the subject is excellent and on par with similarly priced IEMs. It is an overall highly enjoyable, fast, detailed tuning. A nice inversion of what we normally expect and get from TWS. Even I, in previous reviews of TWS, have mentioned that bass-heavy is the preferred tuning for me on the streets. I’m pleasantly surprised to report, that it is still true, however I had no issues using the Svanar Wireless, nor have I felt unsatisfied with the amount of bass. To finish my overall experience I have to add that you can definitely hear the R2R DAC used to hear. The sound staging, vocals and treble are very similar to what I hear on my EF400 and HE6SE set. And if that isn’t good enough, I don’t know what else to say.
Fast, light and crisp. It is recessed compared to the rest of the range. It is both good and bad. Depending on your approach. Heavier bass helps to conceal the sounds of a busy city. On the other hand, it can get tiresome pretty quickly. If you are from the second camp, you’ll be more than happy with this TWS. While not the hardest-hitting, it has good extension, the tactile feel of a dynamic driver and nice textures for a DD. Take a listen to the Roses by SAINt JHN (Imanbek Remix), which is a very bass-heavy mix. It can be overwhelming with Sony WF-1000XM4, but not with reviewed HiFiMan Svanar Wireless. Heavy, slamming bass is tight, fast and isn’t trying to blow your eyes out of their sockets. This tuning goes great well with music like contemporary pop, jazz, and rock where bass usually takes a supporting role.
This is a star of the show. Think about a sound that is in between the dynamic driver with a timbre and BA for detail and speed. Acoustic guitars in Keith don’t go by Nils Lofgren (I know, it’s time to let Keith go) sound super snappy and lively, as they do live. That’s something that in other TWS often is either muffled by excessive bass or flattened too much. The main quality of Svanar Wireless is this lively, natural, but neutral approach to sound. Together with a nice detail, we get a very nice performing midrange, that will satisfy even more demanding audiophiles. Especially, since we are talking about TWS, not IEM.
I like it a lot. It is sparky and big. While not as precise and instant as from BA-based TWS it has an appealing tuning that helps to elevate the midrange even further. Once again, it goes great with rock music, such as That Golden Rule by Biffy Clyro. Cymbals have a nice attack and chunkiness to them that helps to balance out guitars. The treble is also a little “bottom heavy”, having a constrained top end. I feel that it is done so the TWS doesn’t become overbearing over long periods. It’s hard not to appreciate the level of detail and resolution when we’ll consider it’s a wireless IEM, something that would have been not possible just a few years back. What a great time for audio we’re living in.
For a TWS, reviewed HiFiMan SSvanar Wireless has very good sound staging. It has a nice, airy, wide soundstage. It doesn’t break any records in depth though. The centre of the sound is very close to you but has no issues reaching far to the sides. The tuning emphasises the airiness even more. The sound spreads nicely outwards, not being constricted to the 5 cm around your head. That quality also supports my thesis, that Svanar Wireless was tuned for comfort and long usage.
Sony TWS is one of the most popular on the market. It has a companion app, that allows for updating software, additional tuning and other tweaks like EQ. On the ANC side, it does have a more selective system and has more attenuation than Svanar Wireless.
On the sound quality, the Sony has bloated bass, that overwhelms everything else. It comes nothing close to the competitor. The XM4 just sounds cheap in comparison, with lacking details and a 5% tuning. In comparison, the soundstage and treble performance of the Svanar Wireless is just miles ahead, presenting a much more detailed, natural and sophisticated kind of sound.
To top all of that, Sony has a weird fit, which I’m not the biggest fan of. Functionally Sony is stronger but loses in other fields. If you value music quality, you’ll definitely choose Svanar Wireless. HiFiMAN has no chances when talking about functionality and app options, since Sony is probably going to sell their XM4 in millions of pieces, something that HiFiMAN can only dream about. However, TWS earphones have 1 main goal – to sound good. And when we value that the most, the Svanar Wireless is just a much, much better choice than the WF-1000XM4.
HiFiMan Svanar Wireless Review – Summary
The Svanar Wireless is the first R2R DAC-equipped TWS in the world.
Additionally to that, it also features lighter, more open and relaxed tuning than most of its competition. If you prefer that over the rumbling bass of most TWS, now you know what to choose. The Himalaya is not a gimmick too. It is a full-fledged solution and you can hear that natural, open sound that you know from other HiFiMan products.
While quite chunky, earpieces proved to be comfortable over longer periods. The big case can be an issue for some people. Innovative, with a less popular tuning, the Svanar Wireless is a solid proposal for the market of TWS. If that description tickles your fancy, it will be an excellent choice!
Big thanks to HiFiMAN for providing the Svanar Wireless 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. HiFiMAN hasn’t seen this review before publishing it.
I can really say “been there, done that” in regard to audio. Designing, building, fixing, reviewing, selling. All of that for big boy stereo. Headphones are something new and fresh for me. We all need something exciting now and then, so join me in my quest of discovering this cool world. We will listen to, drink and WE WILL bring the balance to the force. Oh, I like beer.