BT Magnifique – HIFIMAN Ananda Bluetooth Headphones Review
HIFIMAN Ananda BT Bluetooth is the best, most expensive high-end bluetooth headphone out there, and it has LDAC, aptX HD, HWA, works as a USB DAC, is Planar Magnetic, has the same DAC design as the mighty R2R2000, and is priced at 1000 USD. This means it will get compared to HIFIMAN Arya, HIFIMAN HE6SE, Kennerton Thror, Rosson RAD-0, Beyerdynamic Amiron, and Sennheiser HD660S. This should cover all grounds, as there are no pairings possible, given it’s unique Bluetooth design and the fact that it will sound pretty similar regardless what you’re connecting it to.
HIFIMAN describes their Ananda Bluetooth Headphone as being the world’s highest audio quality Bluetooth headphone, and well, as we’ll explore in this review, they are right. Those are the Bluetooth headphones with the best sonic quality in the entire world, at the moment of writing this review, which is about May 2020. HIFIMAN has always been bold with their products and pricing, and now they have something to back up their claims as well, since Ananda Bluetooth is probably the headphone with the best overall features as well, from all the fancy bluetooth codecs, all the way to a microphone, and everything in between. You should know that HIFIMAN is a highly trusted company, and they solve warranties really easily, although nowadays your chances of needing a warranty for one of their products is extremely low, as they are really well build.
It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with HIFIMAN, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. I’d like to thank HIFIMAN for providing the sample for this review. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Rosson HIFIMAN Ananda Bluetooth find their next music companion.
You can always get HIFIMAN Ananda BT from www.amazon.com here: https://www.amazon.com/HIFIMAN-Ananda-BT-High-Resolution-Bluetooth-Full-Size/dp/B07X52DHH8/
First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:
Ananda Bluetooth is the first of a new Generation of HIFIMAN headphones and products that come with a rich package, and this time around they’re throwing in some beautiful extras, starting with a really handy carrying case, all the way to the extra microphone, high-quality USB cable, and the manuals for using Ananda Bluetooth.
For a price this steep, you expect a nice package, and HIFIMAN doesn’t disappoint, the case is high-quality, the cable as well, and since you can use Ananda Bluetooth realistically, and reliably to take phone calls, and to hold official meetings, you’re going to have a ton of fun with the microphone they included.
Although the case included isn’t exactly the top choice for those looking for rugged, it is perfect if you’re a gamer, or if you want something rubbery, and it should offer excellent fall protection, as well as protection against pressing, as the case is pretty hard. It looks like I got only one cable, which is Type-C to Type-C, where the official package may include two, one from Type-A to Type-C as well.
The only thing that I feel may be missing from the package is an extra pair of earpads, but don’t worry, the original earpads don’t really get eaten quickly, and they hold well to actual real-life usage.
What to look in when purchasing a Flagship Bluetooth Headphone
Ananda Bluetooth has pretty much the same build and comfort as the typical Ananda, but this time you don’t need to have a cable attached to your headphones at all times, and although they are an open-back headphone, you can take them with you pretty much anywhere, and enjoy your music in the process.
The build quality is exceptional, and although they don’t look like it, the headphones are actually one of the most comfortable headphones out there while being worn. I’m talking about the level of comfort that Arya brought me, which was, as I quote myself, even better than the comfort of Sennheiser HD800S. Indeed, Ananda Bluetooth is that type of comfortable headphone that you will be able to take with you anywhere, regardless what you’re doing.
This being said, this won’t be one of those headphones that you’ll be able to jog with, thanks to the high levels of comfort, they don’t have a very tight fit, so if you want to go for a run, a Master & Dynamic MW65, or an Ultrasone Signature DXP would be much more recommended.
The Aesthetics of Ananda Bluetooth are also nice, and although they don’t have that gaming touch and flair in their build, like TWS600, they look sexy and sleek, elegant and modern. You could wear them with pretty much anything without looking odd, although, since they are open, you’re not very likely to take them outdoors.
In terms of passive noise isolation, they isolate poorly from the outside noise, and this means you’ll be able to hear pretty much anything that’s going on outside, so although the bluetooth part would imply that they are a portable headphone, it is only if you don’t mind hearing pretty much everything that’s going on around you.
The tech inside Ananda is based on the NEO Supernano Diaphragm, a new driver membrane that’s based on Planar magnetic drivers, but where the membrane is much thinner, having just 1-2 microns thickness. There’s a Balanced amplifier inside, and the Bluetooth chip is CSR8675, capable of decoding LDAC, HWA, all at 24 Bit / 96 kHz. It can also send signals through the aptX, aptX Low Latency, and aptX HD codecs. You need to enable the HWA codec, and for this you have to use HIFIMAN’s app, which works best on Android smartphones, and audiophile DAPs.
Having a DAC chip inside, Ananda Bluetooth can decode the signal received through the cable as well, so don’t worry if you prefer a cabled connection, you can do that with Ananda BT, by using the Type-C provided cable, either with your smartphone, or Windows PC. Both Android and Windows see Ananda Bluetooth natively. The downside, if we can call it that way, is that there is no passive mode for the DAC/AMP that are onboard, and while this means that you get a very consistent performance from Ananda BT, you can’t scale it with the source, like you can with HIFIMAN DEVA. Since Ananda BT and the simple Ananda should be similar, you can compare Ananda BT with a very properly driven Ananda, so although they are bluetooth, you’re not missing on much by not being able to pair them with a better source, like iBasso DX160, DX220, FiiO M11, or Opus #3.
HIFIMAN Quotes about 10 hours of battery life at medium volumes, and I can confirm about 8-9 if listening to Ananda BT at really loud volumes, and if using them with the LDAC codec. There’s also a button to engage charging, and this is because you can connect the type-C cable to a smartphone, and if you don’t want Ananda BT to drain the battery, you just don’t press the power button to engage charging. There are options with better battery life, like Sennheiser Momentum 3 Bluetooth, which averages 15-16 hours of battery life.
You have just one button for controlling them, which either turns them on / off, and puts them in the pairing mode. You can also answer calls with it, but that’s pretty much it. A volume rocker is missing, and I would have liked it if they could have had a separate volume control from the smartphone / source’s volume control.
The microphone is quite good actually, and it provides a really clean and clear performance, and although it won’t replace the recorder I use for Audiophile-Heaven Youtube videos, it is more than perfect for gaming, and even for taking phone calls or doing a bit of a video conference. The person on the other side never complained about noise, even wind was cancelled by the small windscreen, and the microphone has a more natural, cleaner overall sound than my smartphone, Xiaomi Mi Max 3, being an upgrade in every way.
The best bluetooth headphone I heard so far, this is simply the way to describe Ananda Bluetooth. There’s simply no question about it, and the only headphone that comes even close is HIFIMAN’s own Deva. There are some other exotic headphones that have bluetooth and make compelling competitors, like Master & Dynamic Mw65, or Sennheiser Momentum 3 Bluetooth, but the level of detail and clarity of the Ananda Bluetooth is really hard to match, even within its own price segment, as just like the Original Ananda, this one is a real winner.
The sonics could be described as deep, full, warm in the midrange, with a slightly forward and present midrange, a sparkly, well-extended treble, with a natural overall speed, slightly wet character, and with enough impact and dynamics to make us name it the best bluetooth headphone in the world. I borrowed an Ananda from a friend to draw some short comparisons between the Bluetooth and the Analog versions.
The bass is actually quite different from what most open-back headphones do, and it is nicely extended, closer to Verum One, or Brainwavz Alara than it is to HIFIMAN Arya, as Ananda BT has a fairly deep and hard-hitting bass, especially compared to the original Ananda. The extension is particularly exceptional, and it impressed me big time to see a headphone that’s open back, wireless, having this kind of extension. The quantity itself is above neutral, but not quite that much. AnandaBT isn’t a basshead headphone yet, so if you felt that most commercial bluetooth headphones are too heavy, too thick, veiled, muddy, or the bass was too much, don’t worry, Ananda Bluetooth is tastefully tuned to have just the right amount of bass for an open-back, but which is also wireless. On songs like K/DA – Pop/Stars, the bass extends nicely in the lows, and there’s a good amount of impact, even at the maximum volume of Ananda Bluetooth. No distortions I can describe, and the bass blends really nicely with the midrange and the treble.
Indeed, the midrange has a good amount of meat, it feels satisfying to listen both to pop, and classical, all timbres are exceptionally sweet, and there’s enough weight for instruments to feel natural. This is much more like Arya than it was like the original Ananda, and I love this type of midrange presentation for Jazz and Country music as well. The midrange is a bit closer to the listener than most HIFIMAN Headphones, but it manages to be wide and holographic despite this type of presentation, making both EDM and Cabaret sound perfect. The mid can also be said to be rich, but it is also a bit wet. Just like Final B3, there’s a little less emphasis on the low treble, so there’s no listening fatigue possible with AnandaBluetooth, and although this turns the whole midrange sweet, and a bit on the musical side, it also takes some of the cymbal attack and impact for metal. I found that the extension in the treble makes up for this softer upper midrange presentation for Rock music, so Ananda Bluetooth works well for most general music styles, even more aggressive rock, and post-hardcore being just right. Songs like Dance Gavin Dance – That’s What I Like sound sweet, the guitar notes in the background are clear and the whole presentation is very holographic. Even the percussion has the right speed and impact.
The treble is actually slightly less present and less sparkly than the original Ananda, or the Arya, and this is because both the upper midrange, and the lower treble has less presence. The upper treble extension is actually similar, and the air is similar as well, Ananda Bluetooth is really nicely extended and crisp up top, especially for a bluetooth headphone. The treble ends up having a natural character, not too dry, not too wet either. There are headphones that have a brighter top end with more sparkle, like Master & Dynamic MW65, but more presence doesn’t always equal more detail or clarity. This being said, both Arya and the original Ananda are more analytic, and feel more revealing than Ananda BT. On songs like Falling In Reverse – The Drug In Me Is You, the cymbals are nicely extended, and thanks to the relaxed upper midrange and treble, the whole sound ends up being fairly sweet and the tonality is sweet – warm – but also has bright reflexions in the treble, especially nice in the upper treble.
The dynamics are also exceptionally good, for a bluetooth headphone. The raw dynamics are better on the Analog Ananda, especially if you’re pairing it with a good source, but if you don’t have a good source for the original Ananda, the Ananda BT ends up being even more dynamic. This is one of the first times I can’t complain about the bluetooth, like I did on my video reviews of the FiiO BTR5, and BTR3K. If we’re talking about the dynamics, Ananda Bluetooth does get more dynamic on wire than it is on bluetooth, but the differences are quite small, and I can happily enjoy them in Bluetooth.
Portable / Desktop Usage
You heard it right, those are dual-purpose headphones, that can be used both for desktop, and portably, because who doesn’t want to have some sound leakage and a bit less isolation sometimes. I am actually pretty honest here, I found that the leakage is too high for using Ananda Bluetooth on public transportation, but it was pretty okay for taking a walk, especially if going through a park.
Of course, you can’t really blast the music too loud, at least portably, but while you’re at home, you’ll be happy to know that Ananda Bluetooth works both in a Wireless mode, but also in a wired mode, so you can happily listen to music at the maximum quality they can push, and thankfully that is really loud. Ananda Bluetooth, despite being a headphone that has everything, the DAC, the AMP, and the receivers inside, is able to push extremely loud volumes, and they play well controlled even at their maximum volume.
They have better detail, better control, and a more dynamic sound, with better overall resolution on wired, than they have on wireless, but this shouldn’t stop you from enjoying them in their Bluetooth mode, because the LDAC, and the HWA protocols can get really really close to the wired. aptX is lower in quality than the LDAC, and SBC / AAC won’t make much sense for Ananda Bluetooth.
Despite having a battery, and all the tech inside, Ananda BT doesn’t get hot during charging, and they are comfortable to wear for hours in a row, especially since the inner fabric used on the pads is of good quality, and it doesn’t become itchy or uncomfortable after a while. This is true even if you have a beard, as a bearded man’s worst fear is having your beard tangled with fabrics. To be more precise, in actual usage, tested by me, you can expect about 8-9 hours of usage at really loud volumes.
For movie watching, or gaming, you can always use the aptX LL, or low latency, and you’ll have zero delay with Ananda Bluetooth. On Windows, I also noticed zero delay from the cabled mode. On the other hand, I noticed that the cable sounds better from my Xiaomi Mi Max 3 and Windows, but didn’t have the chance to test with more phones.
When it comes to driving Ananda Bluetooth, anything will do, from the simplest of smartphones that’s entry-level, but has fairly good bluetooth support, all the way to iBasso DX220, which has excellent bluetooth support as well.
The main comparison points for Ananda Bluetooth are HIFIMAN Arya, HIFIMAN HE6SE, Kennerton Thror, Rosson RAD-0, Beyerdynamic Amiron, and Sennheiser HD660S. This covers a wide selection of prices and different designs, helping you understand where Ananda Bluetooth is situated in both performance, and comfort, relative to many other popular offerings of this moment. Most bluetooth headphones I tested don’t really come close enough to Ananda Bluetooth, so I’ve been trying to compare some of the wired headphones I have, and in the comparison I tried driving some of them from FiiO BTR5, Earmen TR-AMP, as portables, and used iBasso DX160, iBasso DX229, and FiiO M11 as DAPs.
HIFIMAN Ananda Bluetooth vs HIFIMAN Arya (1000 USD vs 1600 USD) – Arya is a big game headphone, but it has a similar build quality and concept to Ananda BT, so the biggest differences will be at the sonic levels. In terms of sonics, Arya is considerably more dynamic, has a larger soundstage, also has more separation between instruments, is more clear, has a more sparkly treble, and is cleaner, and more detailed. Of course, it is also 60% more expensive, and you need a source costing at least 250 USD to drive it (like Earmen TR-AMP, FiiO Q5s, iFi xDSD or Chord Mojo), so the whole package for a functioning Arya is at least 1850 USD. This being said, most people going for Arya will probably want to invest a bit more in the source, so it ends up costing more, but at the end of the day, it would be a bit of an upgrade over the Ananda Bluetooth, but also over the original Ananda, HIFIMAN having proven to have created a really nice balance of comfort, and sound in both those headphones. By direct comparison, Ananda Bluetooth sounds warmer in the midrange, leaner, but also has a smoother treble. Ananda BT has more overall thickness in the sound too.
HIFIMAN Ananda Bluetooth vs HIFIMAN HE6SE (1000 USD vs 1800 USD) – This is where HIFIMAN Turned analytical, and I really have been enjoying the HE6Se a lot, having been one of my reference headphones, and a personal favorite of mine. This being said, it is quite hard to drive, and most people won’t get away with a TR-AMP driving it, and will require something with more power, like Audio-GD Master 19, for which you need to get a DAC as well, and the least expensive good DAC I tested is a Topping E30, but there are better options out there, like Earmen TR-AMP, or even something like the Dac Box DS from Pro-Ject. At any rate, HE6Se ends up costing quite a bit more for a proper setup, compared to Ananda BT. The comfort is better on Ananda BT by a good margin, as HE6SE uses the same design as the older Sundara. Even Deva, a newly released headphone from HIFIMAN has better comfort, but Ananda BT has superb comfort. The sound is considerably more precise, more analytic, has better resolution, more clarity, more treble, with better extension, and if driven well, is more dynamic and more punchy from HE6SE. That’s a big IF, because most of the amplifiers I tried below the 880 USD price mark, where I tested the Audio-GD Master 19, were not capable of driving HE6SE loud enough, or clear enough. On the other hand, with Ananda BT the operation is plug and play, once you get the headphones, you’re set for a long time. The sound is warmer on Ananda BT, but also has a larger, more holographic soundstage, with more overall meat and thickness in the sound, and more bass. If driven properly, HE6SE is a real beast, but if you don’t want to spend the resources on HE6SE, Ananda Bluetooth is an awesome experience, and does not cost quite that much.
HIFIMAN Ananda Bluetooth vs Kennerton Thror (1000 USD vs 3000 USD) – You may be wondering why am I comparing a 3000-USD flagship, with an 1000 USD Bluetooth Headphone, but this has been requested many times, and people are wondering if Ananda stacks up to more expensive options. Thror is actually not quite as comfortable, it is configurable, but it is quite heavy, where Ananda Bluetooth doesn’t just have nice large earcups, and comfy earpads, it is also fairly light for a Planar Magnetic Headphone. The sound is much more neutral on Thror, with more detail and clarity, where it is warmer, more sweet on Ananda BT. Thror is not the hardest to drive headphone, so getting a good matching source can be easy, even an iBasso DX120 can drive them, or a high-end DAP that has lower power, like Opus #2, can do just as good of a job. It may be a bit much for a BTR5 from FiiO though. If you want an absolute neutrality, and a really clean, revealing sound, Thror is still a top choice, but if you want a warmer, lighter listening experience, Ananda BT makes an excellent choice, and it has a pretty good price point as well.
HIFIMAN Ananda Bluetooth vs Rosson RAD-0 (1000 USD vs 2600 USD) – Rosson RAD-0 has been a favorite of mine, but it is still considerably more expensive than Ananda BT. Somehow, it looks like Ananda BT has been stacking well to the competition, even to considerably more expensive options, so RAD-0 is another comparison point. In terms of overall comfort, RAD-0 is considerably more heavy, and from this entire comparison list only Amiron and Arya have similar comfort to Ananda BT, all of the others being less comfortable. RAD-0 has a much much thicker sound, with more impact in the lows, but less treble presence, a smoother overall sound, but with a wetter, more liquid character. RAD-0 is really easy to drive, a FiiO M3K, or iBasso DX120 can drive it just fine, but it is hard to master, so investing in a good matching AMP is a great idea, and I can recommend a few, but Aune S6 PRO was a favorite pairing of mine, because RAD-0 has a smaller soundstage, and adding an exceptionally wide DAC/AMP makes a great pairing in the end. Ananda has a wider soundstage, a more holographic presentation, a lighter, more snappy sound.
HIFIMAN Ananda Bluetooth vs Beyerdynamic Amiron (1000 USD vs 700 USD) – Amiron has a wireless variant as well out there, and I have been waiting to review it for a while, but the stocks have been out for a while, so it must be selling well. On the other hand, the sound of Amiron was quite different from Ananda, Amiron has always been a beast hard to master, a bit too spiky in the treble, and the bass being a bit too neutral, unless you matched it with something that had good enough power, and good enough clarity / detail to make sense for you to purchase it. Indeed, although it costs about 700 USD, you need a source that is at least 400 USD (Pro-Ject Head Box DS being the most affordable source that can drive it fairly well), and to truly master it, you need something like the Audio-GD Master 19. On the other hand, Ananda BT can be used, and plays straight out of the box, and it does so with great quality, clarity and detail. Even better, Ananda BT is always a bit warmer and sweeter in the midrange, and the treble is not quite as hot. The bass has more substance, and the midrange has more meat, although Amiron has a magically wet character across the spectrum, which gives it a nice softness that pairs well with all music styles, including poorly recorded music.
HIFIMAN Ananda Bluetooth vs Sennheiser HD660S (1000 USD vs 500 USD) – Sennheiser HD660S is only half the price of Ananda Bluetooth, so it makes sense that Ananda Bluetooth will sound better, but in what direction, and why, are questions I received, as many people wanted to upgrade from their HD660S to Ananda Bluetooth, thanks to convenience, and also to the better comfort of Ananda Bluetooth. Indeed, the high clamping force of the HD660 S, paired with the harder earpads, and the longer, harder to replace cables, made a lot of folks dive into HIFIMAN and their offerings, especially into Ananda and Arya. Where HD660S is fairly dry, detailed, but intimate, Ananda BT is fairly holographic, clean, open, and more liquid. HD660S has good impact and dynamics, Ananda BT is even better. There’s excellent clarity and to HD660S, but Ananda BT manages to be even better, especially in the midrange, where there’s better separation between instruments, and better definition for each instrument and musical note. For a properly driven HD660S, you need something like FiiO’s M11, or DX160 from iBasso, or even DX220, which means that you’re going to invest almost 1000 USD in a HD660S setup, so it makes sense to compare it to Ananda Bluetooth.
Value and Conclusion
I would say that Ananda Bluetooth is the most expensive Bluetooth headphone of the moment, but I feel that they have a good reason for being this pricey. They don’t just ask for the money because it sounds good, they actually built a lot of features in it, and when you think that they managed to give the Bluetooth version, the sound of the original Ananda, but at the convenience of driving it fully from a smartphone, regardless whether you wanted to use it wired or wireless, I’m just blown away. The value can’t be as good as Deva, which is 300 USD, but it is excellent, if you wanted the ultimate Bluetooth headphone in the whole world.
The build quality is outstanding, and although the design isn’t quite as edgy or as fun as some of the other bluetooth headphones out there, if you like a simpler, modern and elegant-looking headphone, you’ll fall in love with Ananda BT. Furthermore, they are made very well, and even survived a few crashes and accidental drops for me, so they’re a really well built headphone. On the other hand, they didn’t skip on comfort either, and are one of the most comfortable headphones in the whole world, and with Bluetooth 5.0, LDAC, HWA, aptX HD, and with 10 hours of battery life, after 2 and a half hours of charging, this is how you power a true planar from a bluetooth source. Not only do they sound great on Bluetooth, but they sound even better wired, so if you take the time to connect them wired, you’ll have tons of fun with Ananda Bluetooth, as it should be recognized by any windows device, or smartphone.
The sound is warm, but romantic, airy, well-extended, and has a resolution and detail you won’t believe is real. They even managed to employ a deep, clean and hard-hitting bass, paired with a soft, yet airy treble, and a romantic midrange that has one of the most musical presentations I have ever heard. This is one of the very few headphones, where I couldn’t tell that I was using a Bluetooth connection, it looks like if a company really wants, they can optimise the sound of a headphone to sound so great in wireless that you won’t know you don’t have an expensive DAP driving it, because it will sound like you do.
Before the end of this review, I have to add the Ananda Bluetooth to Audiophile-Heaven’s Hall Of Fame, for being simply put, the best bluetooth headphone in the whole world at the moment of making this review, and if you need some mobility, with one of the best headphones there are, you’ll like Ananda Bluetooth quite a lot.
At the end of this review, if you don’t mind that they’re open back, and if you want what is currently the best bluetooth headphone in the entire world, HIFIMAN Ananda Bluetooth is not necessarily a steal, at 1000 USD, but will totally steal your heart with the convenience and romantic, airy, wide sound they have, along with the support for LDAC, HWA, aptX HD, and great battery life, as you’ll even be able to use them wired if you’ll need to.
You can always get HIFIMAN Ananda BT from www.amazon.com here: https://www.amazon.com/HIFIMAN-Ananda-BT-High-Resolution-Bluetooth-Full-Size/dp/B07X52DHH8/
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Full Playlist used for this review
We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature. I recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music! The playlists are different for Spotify, Tidal and Youtube, and based on the songs I enjoy and are available on each!
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