A Comparison with HiFiMan Ananda and Arya Stealth Magnets
It's been a minute, but HiFiMan has retrofitted another headphone with their Stealth Magnets technology. The new Edition XS updates the original Edition X with the proprietary driver tech. The Stealth Magnets made their debut in HiFiMan's top-of-the-line SUSVARA in 2017. In 2021, HiFiMan added the technology to the Arya headphone, re-releasing it as the Arya Stealth Magnets.
At $499, the Edition XS is $800 less than the Arya Stealth Magnets, and it's priced between the Ananda, the Sundara, and the HE-R9, HiFiMan's other under-$1,000 planar magnetic headphones. I'd heard good things about the Edition XS before it hit my desk, so I was eager to have a listen.
- Natural, transparent sound
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Great value for price point
- High-end presence may bother sensitive ears
- Intimate soundstage for an open back
- Basic-looking design
Materials, Quality, & Comfort
The Edition XS looks like the Ananda, except for the headband. Instead of a steel headband with a suspension strap underneath, the Edition XS sports HiFiMan's latest headphone design, which appears similar to the headband on the pricier HiFiMan HE-R10P and HE-R10D headphones. The headband on the Edition XS is generously padded on the underside, but it even has some padding on the top. The headband is about an inch wide.
The Edition XS weighs about the same as the Ananda and the Stealth Magnets. At 405g — that's less than a pound — it's pretty lightweight. It's got a monochromatic black design, save for the silver grilles and silver screws. The yokes appear to be made from aluminum. The large ear cups, which are plastic, have the signature HiFiMan ovular shape. They swivel inward and outward but not side to side. 3.5mm cable sockets can be found on the bottoms of the ear cups. The sides of the foam ear pads are covered in leather, while the surface area is some sort of fabric. Note that the ear pad feels much squishier than the foam in the headband.
HiFiMan headphones always feel a bit large for me. The bottom of the ear cups will graze the top of my jawbone. That being said, I can't say they're uncomfortable. To the contrary, I find them easy to wear. Clamping force is pleasant. It's about as relaxed as could be without feeling loose. I know some people might prefer a tighter clamp, but this level felt good to me.
The stock cable is, well, a stock cable. It's rather thin, black, and covered in a rubbery material, The cable terminates in a 3.5mm TRS right-angle plug, and HiFiMan includes a 6.35mm adapter. On the other end, there are two 3.5mm connectors.
The Edition XS is one of those headphones that just "clicked" for me the moment I started listening. It's easy for me to like and listen to. The Edition XS showcases some of the best things about planar magnetic headphones: punchy, textured bass; lots of detail; an airy soundstage. Note that I said "airy." The stage feels natural, not cramped or compressed, but it favors intimacy over width. Bass is assertive and funky when it's called for, but it's well-behaved and stays in its lane. Mids have a slight warmth to them, lending emotion to vocals and a nice tonality to instruments. Highs are prominent. I wouldn't say they're bright, but they're assertive.
The funky bassline on Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" came out of the gate with a pleasing punch, set nicely against the synth-driven shaker sound. At the opposite end of the sound spectrum, I picked up on a subtle violin accent about midway through the song. The sound is peppy and satisfyingly full, and Jackson's voice shines with acerbic denial.
"One Horse Town" by the Southern rock band Blackberry Smoke echoed the sorrowful, reflective tone of the lyrics. Lead singer Charlie Starr's voice sounded gorgeous on its own as well as against the backdrop of harmonizing vocals.
Dolly Parton's voice presented with its signature sweetness on "Jolene." While her vocals were quite prominent, the weight in the lower registers balanced this out and kept the track from sounding syrupy.
"The Obvious Child" by Paul Simon is an auditory treat, with a cascade of percussion that tantalizes the ears and hypnotizes the listener. The drumming is actually a live street performance from a percussion group out of Brazil called Olodum. While this song sounded perfectly good on the Edition XS, I would use it as an example of where this $499 headphone may not give you what you're looking for in terms of resolution with the detailed instrumentation.
"Billie Jean" (Michael Jackson)
"Jolene" (Dolly Parton)
"One Horse Town" (Blackberry Smoke)
"The Obvious Child" (Paul Simon)
With a few exceptions, HiFiMan makes planar magnetic headphones. I am a big fan of planars. They tend to have a fast, smooth, spacious sound with enhanced upper-level detail and punchy, well-defined bass. Planar magnetic headphones are, to me, are the musical equivalent of a big hug.
Let's take a quick look at what makes planar dynamic headphones different by comparing planar drivers to dynamic drivers. Dynamic drivers use conductors that vibrate certain areas of the driver's diaphragm. This results in a significant portion of the diaphragm not being directly driven, leading to somewhat lessened performance. Planar magnetic drivers differ in that their weight (the conductors plus the diaphragm) is much lower than dynamic drivers. This leads to superior performance, particularly in the upper frequencies. In planar drivers, conductive layers are distributed throughout the surface of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is easily driven by the magnetic force, so planar headphones produce lower distortion compared to dynamic headphones. Generally speaking, the lower distortion lends a more detailed listening experience with excellent imaging and a wide, natural soundstage. Like dynamic drivers, planar magnetic drivers utilize magnets. ("Magnets" in the name probably gave that away, huh?) Typically, degradation of sound occurs when sound waves pass through conventional magnets. The magnets get in the way of sound waves.
HiFiMan's "acoustically invisible" Stealth Magnets seek to correct this. The Stealth Magnets made their debut in HiFiMan's top-of-the-line SUSVARA in 2017. The unique shape of the stealth magnets enables sound waves to pass through the magnets without generating interference. The Edition XS features HiFiMan's Stealth Magnets working together with their upgraded NEO supernano diaphragm. (Kinda sounds like a comic book character!) The NEO supernano diaphragm is 75 percent thinner than the original version, resulting in lightning-fast response for detailed sonic output without discernible distortion.
Unlike the sound waves created by a conventional magnet, the special shape of Stealth Magnets enables the waves to pass through the magnets without generating interference.
HIFIMAN's advanced magnet design is acoustically transparent, dramatically reducing wave diffraction turbulence that degrades the integrity of the sound waves. The reducked distortion yields pure sonic output that is accurate and full-range.
In some ways, the sound on the Edition XS is reminiscent of the Ananda. This makes sense, as the Ananda was the successor to the Edition X v2. Aside from having similar styling, both of these headphones are transparent and detailed. They have similar bass and lots of high-end resolution. However, the high end on the Ananda is smoother. The Ananda also has more forward mids. Overall, the Ananda is the more detailed, neutral headphone. When I listen to "The Obvious Child" on the Ananda, I am able to discern a subtle background vocal "whoop" with a higher degree of clarity than on the Edition XS.
Ananda (vs. Edition XS): More articulation, less low/mid weight, more neutral.
The Arya Stealth Magnets also shares DNA with the Edition XS, as the original Arya was a spin-off of the Edition X v2. The sonic similarities between the Edition XS and the Arya Stealth Magnets is undeniable. They both have a warm side of neutral signature, though the Arya's sound overall is crisper and more neutral and its top end smoother. These differences were noticeable when I compared "Jolene" on the two headphones. After all, it's a $1,300 headphone, and there is a little more "wow factor" to the sound.
Arya Stealth (vs. Edition XS): More neutral, more clarity, smoother top end.
The stock cable with the Edition XS left me wanting in the way of soundstage, so I opted to use a Blue Dragon Headphone Cable. The copper-based Blue Dragon doesn't alter the sound signature of your headphones, but it gives you an upgrade in clarity, detail, and staging. It's a great way to ensure you are getting the cleanest sound.
Now, if you were looking to tame the treble on the Edition XS, I'd recommend a Black Dragon Headphone Cable to smooth out the top end without sacrificing detail. Given that detail is a highlight of the Edition XS, I certainly did not want to lose anything there. The copper-based Black Dragon also subtly warms the bass and midrange for added fullness. It's a great way to achieve an immersive, "I'm there" in the concert hall or recording studio feeling from your headphones.
About Dragon Cables
Generally, stock audio cables are manufactured with subpar materials, metals with impurities, poor geometries, and an overabundance of layers to make them look and feel like a fire hose. Inconsistency and lack of quality control in stock cables can lead to poor sound quality and a veiled sound vs what the musician intended for you to hear and feel from the music. Dragon cables are handcrafted with the highest standards and made to order according to your specific needs. At Moon Audio, we create a custom cable for you using the highest quality UP-OCC silver or copper conductors that can be manufactured. UP-OCC metals are void of impurities and are optimized for signal transfer and sound quality. We have one of the largest collections of audio and headphone connection options available online and we create limitless audio cable options depending on your specific gear and needs.
The Edition XS is a wonderful addition to the HiFiMan headphone lineup. It's got a great sound that is easy to like at a highly attractive price point. The tuning is natural with some warmth but still plenty of detail and a bit of excitement. The most sensitive ears might find the treble to be a bit fatiguing, but this was not an issue for me personally. I enjoyed the sense of airiness in the sound, and detail that to me felt adequate but not analytical. Like other planar magnetic headphones, the Edition XS will do well with extra power. Even though you could conceivably drive it from your phone, you're going to get maximum sonic enjoyment if you use a quality headphone amp/DAC or DAP. Pair your Edition XS with a Dragon Cable for the cleanest, clearest sound, and you've got yourself a darn good pair of audiophile headphones.
Standout genres: Folk, Americana, Rock (Classic, Indie, Alternative), Soft Jazz, Classical.
What's in the Box
- HiFiMan Edition XS Headphones
- 1.5m headphone cable (3.5mm plug)
- 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter
- Owner's guide
- Warranty card
Comparison and Review Video
Headphone Type: Over-ear, open-back
Driver Type: Planar magnetic
Frequency Response: 8Hz-50kHz
Impedance: 18 Ω
Weight: 14.28Oz (405g)