Hifiman DEVA Review – Ode to Progress

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Sound –

Tonality –

As one would expect given the near-identical specifications to the Sundara, the sound too draws many parallels. What we observe is a similar presentation, just a bit more energetic and engaging but still pleasantly balanced overall. The low-end has a moderate mid-bass bump that creates a nice, full and punchy bass note. There’s a very slight bolstering of the lower-midrange contributing to a full-bodied vocal presentation but mids retain good cleanliness despite the warmer bass. The treble is similar to the Sundara, lying on the smoother side but introducing a little more crispness and energy in the foreground that complements its generally more engaging style of sound. Seeing as the DEVA is positioned as a wireless headphone, I think it is most appropriate to evaluate it with the Bluemini attached over an LDAC connection. However, I will also detail what buyers can expect with a wired source or over USB-DAC below.

BT vs Wired – 

Connected to my Pixel 4 over LDAC, it was evidently not as good as my dedicated wired sources, but admirable considering the size of the BT module. Compared to my THX789 with Khadas Tone Board, the Blue mini provided a slightly more coloured sound, being warmer and less extended in either direction. Bass extends deeper on the 789 and is cleaner in the mid-bass. However, the Bluemini did showcase impressive control, no bloat or smear but a tight and nicely defined, albeit slightly less dynamic presentation. The midrange was also cleaner on the 789, sounding a bit more intimate with less body and a bit more contrast to the bass on the BT module. The desktop setup simply sounded wetter, more resolving and even-metered if not an overt difference at a glance.

The top-end was noticeably more linear and textured on the desktop source as well. The Bluemini was thinner and crisper with less detailed by a fair degree but upheld a similar tonality and presence which makes this less evident unless under direct comparison. The desktop source introduces higher resolution and greater headroom as well. This impression is no doubt aided, by the wider soundstage provided by the 789 combo. That said, the Bluemini showcases very similar overall balance and tone so these smaller technical niggles aren’t as apparent to the listener. You don’t lose a lot of bass nor treble presence even if the quality isn’t as good. As such, I found the Bluemini to remain very useable and didn’t leave me wanting when I was away from my wired sources.

USB-DAC

Plugging the Bluemini up to my desktop PC and we see the gap between wireless and a proper wired source reduce. Most notably, the bass and treble haziness was lifted to some degree, with noticeable increases to driver control, note texture and cleanliness in addition to soundstage width. However, some colouration did remain, I heard the warmer and less extended low-end observed on BT, albeit to a lesser degree. However, the midrange was fairly similar to my reference setup which will please the majority of listeners. Of course, spending $200 on a good desktop AMP and DAC setup yet alone a the THX amp here, represents a large cost relative to the cost of the DEVA. As such, the Bluemini, representing the performance of a low to midrange portable source, gets close enough to my ears that most listeners won’t feel prompted to upgrade unless spending substantially more.

Bass –

Those wanting that physical, deep-reaching planar bass won’t find it here, but what remains is still a presentation that is easily enjoyed. There’s some sub-bass roll-off and, in turn, less linearity between the sub and mid-bass relative to the Sundara. In return, the DEVA provides a slightly punchier mid-bass afforded by a small bump in this region in addition to its lesser sub-bass presence that gives the mid-bass more room to breathe. The upper-bass feeds naturally into a slightly bolstered lower-midrange instigated a slightly more organic neutral/natural sound not dissimilar to the Sundara, which comes across as just a touch cleaner here.

The quality of the low-end is really appealing to my ears, controlled, defined and well-separated, even with over BT and driven by the Bluemini module. Again, you don’t get huge dynamics and depth but slam is solid and rumble very low-distortion, in turn, high definition. The mid-bass too is reined in by great driver control, with a concise attack that contributes to that punchy presentation. The decay comes across as slightly quicker than the Sundara, enabling a well-paced and organised presentation that has good PRAT and essentially no drone on slower tracks. The DEVA doesn’t quite match the Sundara from a technical point of view but with its small mid-bass lift, is just as engaging and a little more aggressive.

Mids –

I really enjoy the vocal presentation on the Sundara as, though a little laid-back, the accuracy of its timbre is not so easy to come by in its price range. The DEVA, thankfully, doesn’t excessively deviate here and some may even enjoy the changes Hifiman have made here more. The Sundara comes across as the lusher headphone, being smoother in its articulation and warmer in tone. On the contrary, the DEVA has a bit more contrast due to its greater mid-bass and centre-midrange which makes its lower-midrange seem less present by comparison. As a result, the DEVA offers a more forward vocal range than the Sundara, sitting in better balance with the bass and treble, sometimes even a touch in front. However, the timbre is changed in so doing.

Though remaining somewhat full-bodied, the tone is cleaner but the voicing also a touch drier. There remains good clarity and openness alongside a natural vocal presentation overall. The lower-treble also isn’t overdone which means articulation is quite accurate, minimising sibilance and contributing to a bit more openness than the smoother Sundara. Contrarily, that headphone is more powerful in its voicing and has more complete and wholly-resolved notes. The DEVA sounds more vivid at the cost of individual note resolution, it also is no more defined than the Sundara despite being more revealing. In the grand scheme of things, the DEVA still strikes as a natural-sounding headphone and is a very welcome addition to a price range that is littered with models that don’t even land in the same ballpark when timbre is of prime concern.

Highs –

Surely, the top-end presentation quite resembles the Sundara with just a little more energy in the foreground in exchange for slightly less extension and headroom up top. It is a little less linear, in turn, but also offers more clarity and crispness that some may enjoy. Still, this isn’t a bright, crisp or remotely sharp sounding headphone. It has a balanced foreground detail presentation where the Sundara was rather smooth. It also isn’t the most linear tuning with slightly thin instruments and lifted clarity. There appears to be a small bump in the middle-treble as well, that contributes to this impression in addition to enhancing perceived air and openness. The resolution and headroom on offer are certainly great for a headphone of this price.

The presentation never sounds claustrophobic nor constricted, showcasing a nice, natural shimmer and decay in addition to good cleanliness and linearity besides the aforementioned peaks. The transient response is also relatively clean if not quite to the same extent as the Sundara. In turn, detail retrieval is good but you do miss out on some texture and note body relative to its pricier sibling. In the grand scheme of things, the DEVA does offer a nicely layered presentation with good contrast and uptick of engagement without ever overstepping any boundaries. It is a clean and well-detailed performer if not showcasing quite the same refinement as the smoother yet also more linear Sundara.

Soundstage –

Similar to the Sundara, the DEVA doesn’t provide the widest soundstage, but pleasant and natural expansion that retains a good level of coherence. It offers similar width, outside of the head with some recordings albeit less perceived depth on account of its more forward vocal range. Nonetheless, the excellent imaging of the Sundara is also mostly present here, showcasing good balanced and portrayal of distance and layers. Localisation is also accurate and directional cues are even more apparent on the more energetic DEVA. Separation, however, is not quite as good, with a bit more competition between frequency bands due to its more sculpted sound.

Driveability –

Here, the DEVA is essentially identical to the Sundara with a 37ohm impedance and 94dB sensitivity. This means that it is definitely harder to drive than most DD headphones, but still not overly taxing to the source as a much higher impedance design might be. What the DEVA loves is a low output impedance source with good current output. I personally most preferred more neutral sources too such as the THX789 and JDS Atom which provided the most even-metered experience. Surely even a cheap desktop amp like the Atom suffices here, providing a clear step up in overall cleanliness, bass depth and driver control as opposed to a portable source. A midrange DAP will also do the job quite well though arguably, there is little benefit to be had here compared to the Bluemini module, besides a slightly more balanced bass, given the small mid-bass colouration I observed prior.

Comparisons –

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Sony WH-1000XM3 ($349): Of course, the Sony is much more compact and folds for storage, it blocks infinitely more noise than the open-back DEVA so it naturally is more orientated towards portable use. The raw sound, however, is nowhere near as good. The bass is more present but doesn’t extend as well. It is much warmer and tubbier, lacking the definition, texture and natural timbre of the DEVA. The midrange feels the same, the Sony sounding very veiled and muffled relative to the open and clean DEVA. The top-end is much more extended and open on the DEVA as is the soundstage, there is simply no comparison when it comes to either tonality or technicality. That said, take them onto a train and the DEVA loses much of its bass presence unless driven to likely unsafe listening volumes. Its large drivers do an admirable job at combatting ambient noise, though the closed-back ANC Sony’s provide the richer experience simply by virtue of their design. These headphones really cater to different users. Those primarily using headphones at home would be wise to invest in some budget IEMs for outdoor uses while those primarily using headphones outdoors may still investigate the Sony’s while bearing in mind that the M4 is around the corner, likely bringing better sound or, at the very least, price cuts for the M3.

Hifiman Sundara ($499): The Sundara is the most obvious comparison given the similarities in price and driver. The Sundara provides a slightly more balanced and linear sound overall, it sounds smoother and more refined but also less revealing. The Sundara has a bit more bass extension and slightly more sub-bass presence too, granting it a bolder bass note presentation. Meanwhile, its mid-bass is a bit more linear as is its transition into the midrange. In turn, its vocal presentation is more laid-back but also more natural and accurate in timbre. It sounds wetter and more wholly resolved where the DEVA is clearer and more open. The top-end is more even on the Sundara and, to my ears, more detailed. There’s a more linear extension and a bit more resolution and detail retrieval though neither offers much sparkle and upper-treble presence. The DEVA does have a crisper foreground but also thinner instrumentation with less texture. The Sundara has a rounder soundstage and is generally more multi-dimensional.

Verdict –

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So there we have it, Hifiman’s cheapest yet best realised wireless headphone yet. Though the design shares many commonalities with the lauded Sundara, it carves out its own niche with numerous small changes that create a new identity. The DEVA is flashier in both design and sound. Though I am partial to the more refined Sundara, I can’t discount the many listeners that will prefer the slightly less technical albeit appreciably more engaging DEVA. Similarly, I have heard of many much preferring the new headband design and swivelling hangars despite the plastic build. The DEVA does not come across to me as a headphone designed for portable use, rather its wireless connectivity serves to enhance convenience in a home setting. Hifiman’s Bluemini module also isn’t perfect but does represent tremendous value to me with its impressive driving power and codec support alongside USB-DAC functionality. The DEVA’s versatility makes it an easy recommendation. It best suits those looking to invest in a reasonably priced open-back who may also like the convenience of wireless for their movie or PC setup without compromising musical performance. For those wanting a more refined sound and don’t mind skipping wireless, the Sundara remains my go-to recommendation around this price range. However, jump a price class down and the DEVA still seems like a clear choice to me over something like the HD6XX, being considerably more technically able at just $19 more sans BT module.

The Hifiman DEVA is available from Hifiman (International) for $299 USD with the Bluemini or $219 without at the time of writing. I am not affiliated with Hifiman and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.

Track List – 

Arcade Fire – Funeral

Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel

Daniel Caesar, H.E.R – H.E.R

Kehlani – Honey

John Legend, WENDY – Written In The Stars

Joji – Sanctuary

keshi – skeletons

Nirvana – Nevermind

Pixies – Doolittle

Radiohead – The Bends

Social House – Haunt You

Sun Rai – Pocket Music

The Cranberries – Something Else

The Cure – The Head On The Door

Weezer – Weezer

Yosi Horikawa – Wandering

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About Author

Avid writer, passionate photographer and sleep-deprived medical student, Ryan has an ongoing desire to bring quality products to the regular reader.

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