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    HIFIMAN Deva : the most eclectic premium headphones ?

    ENGLISH VERSION


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    HIFIMAN Deva is the second bluetooth headphone from Hifiman after Ananda.

    It uses the same approach and aims to flexibility of use, allowing for different input options:

    • wired, traditional connection to a desktop amp
    • USB cable, for PC/Mac connection
    • wireless, using Bluetooth 5.0 protocol

    You can turn Deva into a wireless headphone using the new Hifiman Bluetooth module, the “Bluemini”, which replaces the traditional wire and includes an USB socket for charging the battery and the control buttons.

    Nothing extraordinary so far, right? but when we add that this is – as the other premium Hifiman models – a planar headphone using the new “supernano” diaphragm and we look at the price, which is entry-level considering Hifiman pricelist, then we can call it a miracle.

    Moreover, while Ananda BT doesn’t have the wired traditional option, the Deva has it, for all the cases where a wireless connection is not possible or when we want to enjoy the sound of an analogic amp.

    Basically, Deva is placed under Sundara and ideally replace the glorious HE.400, at least in terms of pricing and market segmentation, but with an ease of use remarkably improved. However we should not forget that the official retail price of Sundara and HE-400 was 450€, whereas Deva starts at 349€.

    Specification :

    • circumaural, open-back, planar magnetic headphone
    •  impedance: 18 Ohm
    • weight: 360g
    • sensitivity: 93.5dB
    • 3.5mm TRRS audio cable

    With its 25g Bluemini dongle dongle includes Blueetooth receiver,  USB-C port, built-in DAC and 230mW Amp.
    The dongle also adds the battery needed to support approximately 7-10 hours of playback per charge.
    Bluemini supports file resolutions up to 192 KHz/24 bit via USB and 96/24 in wireless mode, using a Qualcomm CSR8675 chipset.

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    From Hifiman website, the new “supernano” diaphragm, used also in other premium Hifiman headphones of the latest generation.

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    Some detail of the Bluemini, the dongle is primary responsible of the wireless connectivity of Hifiman Deva.
    Top-notch integration and build quality: only 25g including the plastic shell.

     

    Unboxing :

    The classic black Hifiman cardboard box, pretty solid, showing both on front and back sides the new Bluetooth feature.

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    Even inside the box, the packaging is premium, similar to HE-400.

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    The cables available: 3.5mm audio cable, 3.5mm to 6.3mm converter, 2m USB-A/USB-C cable and the dongle that turns the headphone into wireless.

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    User manual.

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    The look has colors similar to HE-1000, but the shape of the pads and the mechanic are closer to Sundara and HE-400.
    Brown colors and silver finishing make them modern and lively.

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    The swiveling ear cups make the Deva comfortable over my years.
    The headband is soft, upholstered and strong.
    If I really had to find a negative point, it would be the visible screws, but on the other hand they make any possible replacement of a damaged component easier.

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    It’s an open-back headphone such all the planar headphones of this series and the external part of the pad is well protected by a metal honeycomb grid.

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    The Deva logo is proudly shown, as in other Hifiman models.

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    The maximum extension of the headband, for “important” heads.

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    The inside of the ear cups is soft in contact with skin. I used Deva while I was biking and didn’t make me sweat.
    The letter showing the left channel and the jimbal of the headband.

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    The cable connecting the pads is seated inside the groove under the letter L. It’s pretty well recessed  beneath the surface, therefore I’m not expecting any damage from use over time.

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    In the left pad there is the only external connection: it can be used either with the Amp cable or the dongle.

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    The pad with the dongle on.

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    The other side

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    USB socket, confirmation LED, control buttons

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    So, as a whole, the impression is excellent.

    Build quality is slightly below the other Hifiman models I know, such Sundara and HE-400, but anyway better than the average of headphones from other companies.
    If in the past Hifiman was criticized, not for the sound, but for the build quality and the details, things got significantly better from the second version of the previous generation and the Sundara.
    Let’s not forget that the price for a planar Bluetooth headphone might be quite higher.
    If I had to point out a little flaw, it’s the 6.3mm convertor: while it works perfectly, it doesn’t seat flush once plugged-in, and it’s a bit hard to pull out. I’d rather prefer a screw-on adapter, but it’s really a small thing.

    Measures :

    I coupled the Deva with my desktop amplfier to get a first impression, then I took this opportunity to check the frequency response using my miniDSP ears:

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    The frequency response confirmed my impressions during the first listening. A good presentation across the whole frequency range, with very articulated bass, very clear miss and not aggressive highs.

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    Frequency response of Deva coupled with Audio-GD R28 preamp.

    The real surprise was the response using the USB-C wire via dongle. Considering the difference of the power outputs (my amp’s output goes up to 7.5W at 32 Ohm, while the built-in amp output is 230mW), I was not really expecting to see two responses so similar.

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    Frequency response of the Deva coupled with Audio-GD R28 (in red) and using the Bluemini dongle connected to my laptop via USB-C (in green).

    Not considering some difference due to measurement errors, I see a better bass using the desktop amp (in red) compared to the dongle built-in amp (in green), while it’s the opposite from 1500 to 2000Hz with the dongle showing less damping in this section so important in the audio range.

    In short, either for the optimization studied by engineers, or for the very low impedance of this headphone, this small 25g box is able to make shine a headphone with a quite low sensitivity.

    Comfort :

    The Hifiman Deva is few grams lighter than the Sundara and they have comparable shapes.
    The pads are more comfortable than those of HE-400, but less comfortable compared to the wider pads of Sundara.
    With Bluemini on, even if its weight is only 25g, you can fell some imbalance towards the left ear, but it is not an unbearable discomfort, after a while you don't think about it anymore.
    The pressure over the head and the ears is just right, even for long listening sessions.

    In wireless mode there is no kind of issue, even moving around the room.
    The control buttons are easy to reach and the confirmation sound is nice.
    There are 2 control buttons: the bigger one is for switching on and off and Bluetooth connection.
    The smaller button, close to USB socket, is for turning the battery charge on. When the headphone is simply wired the charge remains off. Even during playback the charge is switched off.

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    Beautiful and elegant with its brown and contrasted colors, as the light decreases it gets a darker look, that fits well in a wooden location, both high-tech and stylish.

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    A round of applause for the Hifiman designers!

     

    Listening test :

    I tested this headphone for a while in all the configurations: analog cable, USB and Blueetooth.
    Then I compared them, in order to give a better idea to the readers, to two very different headphones: my Arya, a premium Hifiman headphone and my personal reference, and the AKG K712 Pro, professional monitor headphones, dynamic, that were considered in a segment slightly superior to Deva when they were marketed.

    Deva’s sound presentation reminds me the HE-400i V2 that I owned until the beginning of the year.
    The bass range has full body and the extension is well articulated.
    Mids are clear and well defined, while highs and very high frequencies are never annoying.

    There is no emphasis in any sound range, but the sound is refined, clearly in line with a planar system, and I find it more enjoyable than the Sundara, that I tested last year.
    Where Sundara is dry and need some equalization to get a more balanced sound, Deva is already excellent out of the box.
    Soudstage is good and I couldn’t find the annoying feeling of hearing the sound inside my head.
    Three-dimensionality is not exaggerated, but we are pretty close. Very good!
    Mids are sweet and clear, but there is no attempt to over-sweeten them.

    The volume is adequate and in all the recordings I listened to there was no need to turn up the volume.
    Well-recorded female voices seem to have everything to gain from these headphones.
    As you know, I listen 99% to classical music, but these headphones go pretty well with any genre.

    But even in less "noble" uses such as Skype, video games with sound effects and movies, the overall balance, without excessive emphasis but also without shortcomings in the range, allow a fruition always in line with expectations.


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    The comparison between HIFIMAN Deva, AKG K712 Pro and HIFIMAN Arya.

     

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    HIFIMAN Deva: the latest album by Silje Nergaard (jazz-vocal) highlights the singer's voice, while keeping the piano very present. It’s even better in the album with rhythmic accompaniment of 2000 "Port of Call", where the voice is highlighted on a nice bass base and below the rhythmic accompaniment.

    AKG K712 Pro: very cold but realistic piano, you can hear the singer breathing between sentences. We are at the apotheosis of the "monitor" sound as conceived by AKG. In the trio, finally there is generous bass while Silje's "impertinent" voice dominates snares and cymbals. The most interesting performance of the K712 in this listening test.

    HIFIMAN Arya: sweeter than the other ones, low range extended to the extreme but less full of the other two. But here she deserves a kiss! I can hear some sibilance that in the other two headphones wasn’t there.

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    HIFIMAN Deva: Mark Knopfler doesn’t keep us waiting too long and after entering with his guitar here is his hoarse voice. I feel like turning up the volume.It is a 1985 record but very well recorded (and remastered here). Bass, mids, treble perfectly calibrated. You can't stop listening to it

    AKG K712 Pro: less engaging as a whole, but Knopfler's voice is more separate from the rest, percussions in great evidence, guitar even more.The sound is cold, different, not necessarily unpleasant. A diametrically opposite interpretation.

    HIFIMAN Arya: Brothers in arms, sweet and soft with the rhythmic section over the head. Compact, dense, convincing sound.

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    HIFIMAN Deva: The 1751 Testore Milanese violin played by Franziska Pietsch has a metallic, cold voice that contrasts a lot with the Mediterranean tones of Ravel's violin sonata. The piano that accompanies it is less bright because it is played so as not to overpower the violin.

    AKG K712 Pro: the presentation is similar, but I have to turn up the volume to feel the same balance. The violin is lighter, less metallic, more prominent. But the sound is elegant, light.

    HIFIMAN Arya: here too the violin is not as metallic as with the Deva, on the contrary, it’s sweet, and the piano is very sweet. The sound is fast, delicate.

     

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    HIFIMAN Deva: Teodor Currentzis' latest madness and his vision of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Perfect tonal balance with generous bass and a majestic orchestral full. Good extension of the soundstage to the outside.

    AKG K712 Pro: there is less impact although the volume is higher. The texture of the violins, however, is very precise, as are the upper harmonics of the wind instruments. It is as if there was a magnifying glass on the right side of the spectrum and the left one was a little compressed.

    HIFIMAN Arya: wide, concert hall sound, without being artificially spectacular. In the third movement every single instrument is heard.

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    HIFIMAN Deva: Ton Koopman's "spectacular" Bach in 96/24 edition is bright, clear, fast. You might want a little more pedal but that is certainly not missing in the Passacaglia in C minor which closes the disc.

    AKG K712 Pro: The bass is there but it is behind. Instead the treble is present. The sound is unbalanced and one would like to equalize it, but to avoid any form of contamination I wanted to make this comparison without any filter in between, using the corresponding audio driver directly.

    HIFIMAN Arya: The organ is excellent, the bass is there but it is the full that highlights a tangible thickness in which every single voice is heard.


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    HIFIMAN Deva: I close with Lady Gaga's A star is born. The guitar is here, somewhere. The voice of the unsuspected Bradley Cooper seems to me a bit to nasal and a little unbalanced in the medium-high frequencies. Lady Gaga is perfect, exciting, with some echo and the violin in background. Bass without tails and reverberations. And she climbs the stairs to heaven.

    AKG K712 Pro: Shallow is less exciting, the sound is more monitor-like with AKG. The guitar is clear, Bradley's voice is more subtle. Lady Gaga’s voice sounds detached from the rest of the music. But she is more behind than before. And yet the rest is all more subtle.

    HIFIMAN Arya: the scene is the stadium, open wide. Bradley's voice sounds finally like I remembered in the movie. The guitar is not so evident but very delicate, in short he doesn’t look bad compared to Lady Gaga who, when she enters, gets the due applause. Here too, she can sing as high as she wants, Arya follows her even higher. The two voices are well blended.

     

    So, to recap and with the natural subjectivity of such a comparison, I can say that HIFIMAN Deva offers a balanced performance in all types of music, with a coherent sound, favoring bass and medium, with treble not too evident and always without sibilants.
    The performance is more captivating than that of AKG's K712 which have a different setting, with the mids back and increasing highs. It is the Central European monitor sound, designed for long working / listening sessions.
    Compared to Arya - which is 5 times more expensive – Deva is at first more spectacular and more captivating.
    In a quick switch we might even like it more. But Arya’s sound is more refined, intended for educated ears, mids and treble texture is of a higher class and bass is more extensive even if it may seem less powerful.
    In the case of the organ, for example, there is no comparison. But also with chamber music and well-recorded female voices.

    But not everyone will be able to understand it without long listening session. Which is good for the Deva, since you don't need to drain your bank account to buy it.
    What surprised me is that in the comparison I used the amplifier for the two traditional headphones and the Bluemini for the Deva, but it was the Deva that sounded louder and louder.

    With very little power this can makes a show of force.

     

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    Coupling :

    I used Deva with the desktop amp in high gain mode. No problems whatsoever (and my amp is able to deliver many watts).
    With iPhone and Android tablet in Bluetooth.
    With a desktop computer using streaming web-services.
    With the Fiio 5 and its built-in amplifier.

    Deva is always an easy load and is always able to play loud.

    I believe they will never be a problem for anyone under any circumstances.

    Conclusions :

    Pro's

    • it’s beautiful and well built
    •  capable of classy sound like all HIFIMAN planars
    • flexible, able to play wired and wireless
    • simple to use and not requiring complex setup procedures. When you want to listen to music, they are ready to please you
    • sound is clear, powerful, it needs little power to make it play loud. The soundstage should satisfy everyone with good ears. A little bit raucous with a frequency response that looks like the Harman curve.
    • no equalization required: it sounds good in its natural state and out of the box it doesn’t require any  break-in. After many hours of use, the sound is still the same
    • impressive price / performance ratio. Indeed, miraculous. It’s inexpensive, but it’s difficult to find decent planar cans for the same money, let alone wireless and of this quality

    Con's

     

    • Bluemini is small, compact and light, but still it slightly unbalances the seating over the head
    • Deva is not as comfortable as Sundara and much more uncomfortable than the other two headphones used in the tests (but there is worse, much worse, I assure you)
    • the supplied USB cable is nice, very soft, maybe it could be a meter longer to allow some more freedom. But this is a headphone designed for wireless use mainly
    • the 6.3 mm jack adapter did not convince me, it is not screwed-on, it fits, but it seems that it is not completely housed. It’s more an aesthetic issue than a real one.

    In a nutshell, I believe that, all in all, starting from flexibility combined with high sound quality, the possibility of working with any source, at this price Deva is given away!

    We hope that HIFIMAN will not change its mind and increase price.

    Does Ananda sound better? It's possible. But Ananda isn't for everyone.

     

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