It’s almost into the summer of 2018 and the Ananda is presented at the High End 2018 show in Munich, Germany. Until that day both the HE-1000 and the Edition X already had their second revision, both hugely popular series living through the ages in the same or different form until this day with the HE1000 Stealth and the Edition XS. Back then something was still missing though. A headphone of a great caliber that would also be flowing right into the DAP push that set the mobile audiophile world ablaze and started a new era of colossal mobile players with tightly integrated tech. This headphone should be easy to drive for everyone, a high quality base right from the start, so to say, no power scaling needed like the HE-1000 and Aryas. Huge oval cups with big drivers pushing a lot of sound and stage right onto your ears, or shall we say, onto almost half your head, adding to a great sense of spatial quality and realism. Born was the Ananda – an instant hit.
Since then we saw a few revisions, from the integration of dust filters directly onto the cups n addition to minor improvements to the overall sound (in 2020). until the inevitable stealth upgrade that would take over the Hifiman lineup from top to bottom and especially improve clarity, imaging precision and thus the perception of finer details.
If we look back at history, Hifiman always lets improvements, technical advancements, lessons learned trickle down from their world contenders unto their entry line. No prisoners taken, no excuses made. Does Hifiman’s evolutionary approach devour its own children? Not quite, but they have to make their choices too. Evolve and adapt. A bloated portfolio with multiple revisions would only be a nightmare for production and parts service/support. I am also not sure if having to make a choice out of such a broad palette wouldn’t lead to a slight paralysis.
The Ananda Nano
Out of the all black batsuit right into a shining knight’s armour comes the Ananda Nano in front of Hifiman’s latest and greatest lineup charging with improved technicalities and finesse onto the front.
There’s not a world’s difference in the tonality in contrast to the Ananda stealth but Hifiman would never release a headphone without a good reason and given the technical merits, the sound surely changes for a different take. Let’s get into the details:
General sound impressions
The Ananda falls into the bright-neutral side of headphones with very far and deep extension into both directions, especially impressive as this headphone is as open as it gets. It’s plenty airy, open and stages big enough to fit an orchestra without any feeling of claustrophoby.
Driver control, start/stop is exceptional and defines the ziptight nature of the overall presentation. Bass, Midrange, Treble enjoy fast, slightly zippy transients, delineation, resolve of finer details and overall: transparency and clarity. The sound is more on the drier side than let’s say a HE1000v2 but can be matched accordingly with a warmer amp or a lusher tube.
The Bass presentation takes a middle-ground between how much is really needed according to the mix and when it’s time to slam and punch, it can absolutely push for a bit more. It’s no headphone for those who want a club around their heads and have their heads shaken and rattled. It doesn’t slam like the HE1000 Stealth or the Arya Stealth, but it improves upon its sneaky brother.
The Midrange is open, breathing, transparent, revealing. It’s not full and lush but on the slightly leaner athletic side. It stays in character so instruments are rendered tactile, palpable, quite precise with a good level of microdynamic balance as in different instruments, not being “linearized” in volume but instead having their own place, time and composition. Acoustic instruments are easily separated in the mix, not blended or homogenized at all if two of the same play. The Nano packs technical prowess into a never before seen price bracket. It almost makes you just listen to it because of that.
The Treble is very well extended on the Nano giving a sense of good reach into the depths and heights of the stage and how objects are placed within. There’s plenty of air and illumination overall with a notable incisiveness leading to the neutral-bright impression . Again, pairing is important. An amp with a slight romantic touch of warmth makes for a good pairing with these and balances out the accentuation of the treble character.
Comparison with the Ananda Stealth.
The Nano sports a new driver/magnet constellation that improves the density of force applied per square inch and you can feel it both in pressure and the tactility of transients, as well in tightening of the overall sound. It adds more physicality to the usually more delicate appearance of the Ananda sound and approaches the weightier sound of the latest Arya, the Organic and the HE1000 Stealth. Not quite at their levels, but not far from their heels, for sure.
With uplifting the technical foundation, the Nano feels both more forceful and more direct, intrusive in a good way. It’s not a relaxed listen at all, it’s a little show of force, a barrage of details, resolving power and illumination. The Nano certainly is a bit brighter than the Stealth but it is its own overall vibrancy that leads to this perception, not just a mere treble elevation. The Nano is a bit more transparent, a bit more open, lit up than its Stealth predecessor, it accumulates for a brighter listen and in that it’s impressive how technical it sounds contrasting itself with the warmer, more intimate Stealth. It’s remarkable that each iteration opens up more and is also quite open just through the window shade system, yet the unfolding reaches new heights each time. And in that context alone does the Stealth feel more intimate and less outreaching.
Staging, Imaging and composure go the Nano with it imaging sharper, more accurate, a bit bigger, a bit deeper, a better followup of the trails of sounds thanks to its technical flex. Composure is “measured” in the control and tightness of the overall sound when music gets more complex, more busy, both involves a lot of tension of the driver and yet is able to present finer nuances and delicacies. Here’s where the Nano again jumps ahead of the Stealth. It’s more nimble here, more unfathomed and in the end, almost flying away. Just for itself, not away from the Stealth. They are both close but the Nano manages to outdo it just a bit more everywhere.