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The HIFIMAN Arya Stealth: cohesion personified!

Hi y’all, and welcome back to The Neighborhood. Today we’re taking a look at the Stealth Magnet Version of the Arya-Stealth. I previously reviewed the original variant of the Arya on the channel, and let me tell, you a lot has changed- both in the build and the sound… So, let’s get InToit!

*click here for my prior Arya review of the original variant of this headphone!

Beginning with the build, the Arya consists of a metal frame with a suspension strap, and large a-symmetrical ear cups. Unlike cheaper HIFIMAN headphones with plastic, similarly-shaped cups, the grille and other parts here seem to be crafted exclusively from metal. Compared to the prior Arya I reviewed; the weight of the stealth version seems much lighter. I suspect that the original Arya employed more steel in its components, while the stealth version might be constructed more from aluminum parts. Because it is lighter, the stealth version of the Arya is easier to wear for sustained period of time. Relatedly, the general fit also appears improved. On the original Arya I didn’t need to adjust the suspension strap at all, while on this one I went up a number of holes on each side- suggesting that the stealth variant will fit people more universally.

With regard to the suspension strap and the pads themselves, neither feel like they’re real leather, but they’re “nice enough” for a substitute, and for once I loved the sound profile of the Arya with its stock pads. Like other HIFIMANs with this style ear cup, the pads are comprised of a fenestrated leatherette on the inside, solid leatherette on the outside, and mesh, cloth material for the portion that touches the face. I’d prefer the pads to be all leather or leatherette, but there is a generous amount of space to the internal cavity of the pads here, so I don’t think many will have any issues from a fit perspective.

The cable the stealth version comes with was not upgraded; however, and it’s a black, cloth-lined wire that initiates in dual 3.5mm TRS connectors and terminates in a single-end, 6.35mm jack. Other, less expensive headphones from HIFIMAN have included balanced cables in the box in the past, so I’m not sure why HIFIMAN won’t do so with a headphone that costs as much as this one does, and obviously appeals to an audiophile who might make use of a balanced connection. The provided, single-end cable itself is also appears too short for use in most desktop setups, and I’d suggest that HIFIMAN at least consider including a 6–7-foot cable with their next batches of this headphone. This portion above the Y-split is abnormally long (almost 2 feet in length), and the length of the cable after it is only about 3 feet in length. In this case, and extra foot or two, would go a long way.

The driver itself employs HIFIMAN’s Stealth Magnet Technology with a conductor that is a submicron thick and diaphragm that is a nanometer thick. HIFIMAN claims that with this design these Stealth Magnets are acoustically invisible; enabling waves to pass through magnets without generating auditory interference by drastically reducing wave diffraction turbulences. While this sounds like a bit of clever marketing to me, I will say, as a general rule of thumb, the stealth variants I have heard to date have sounded notably more “HIFI” in comparison to the non-stealth varieties. With that said, this improvement in sound quality does come at somewhat of a cost, as those stealth variants have universally exhibited a reduction in soundstage when compared to their non-stealth forms. And the Arya Stealth is no different- demonstrating a much more intimate sound in comparison to the original Araya that I reviewed.

And, although the Arya Stealth does sacrifice a lot of the soundstage of the original, it also makes up for it in just about all other aspects. In fact, pound for pound, this may be the best headphone money can buy right now! What I mean by this, is that the dollar for performance value here is off the charts. While it may be an expensive proposition to spend $12-to-13-hundred-dollars on a headphone for many, one is likely getting the most bang for their buck in doing so. These have also recently gone on sale for just under $1000 dollars, which makes them even more of a deal!

Is it the most revealing headphone out there? No, but it is timbre accurate and reveals in a pleasant way, while also delivering an extremely balanced, tremendously coherent and exceedingly cohesive auditory picture to its listener. Don’t get me wrong, resolution and clarity are still excellent, but there are higher resolution cans out there at more expensive costs. And still, most of those headphones aren’t as versatile in their overall presentation as the Arya Stealth is. HIFIMAN’s own HE100se and Susvara are examples of such headphones, as they are certainly more resolving, but less musical and lacking in tonal balanced in comparison. Prior to receiving the Arya Stealth from HIFIMAN, I would have said that the Susvara was my favorite headphone they make, but after hearing these, the Arya Stealth has now become the headphone in their lineup that I treasure the most! Its not technically perfect in every category, but when looked at as a whole it doesn’t get much better than this right now.

Still, compared to the prior iteration of the Arya, the sub-bass is less emphasized, but like the character of this headphone as a whole, the general bass in the Arya Stealth is better balanced across the rest of its frequency response. So the low-end has become more assistive in the case of the Stealth variant, but is almost perfectly tuned to produce an articulate and detailed low-end that is flexible enough to work with practically any genre. The low-end here never really slams, but dynamics and sustain are appropriate- providing warmth to the overall sound in a natural manner. Initial strikes and decay also appear natural to my perception, as transients mostly articulate themselves well for the Arya Stealth’s listener.

Vocals were also well-articulated and elevate themselves for both male and female vocalists alike to standout just atop the rest of the mix. The midrange as a whole though rides the neutral line or sits just below it in terms of presence levels. As a result, mids never come across as harsh, sibilant, or overly aggressive- aiding in this headphone’s generally detailed, but pleasing, operation.

The treble is where things can get a tad bit spicy, but it’s certainly less assaultive compared to prior iterations of the Arya, which came across somewhat sharp and bright up top. There’s still enough treble extension and air here for the sake of detail, but nothing is over accentuated or emphasized too much; which limit any trace of artificiality.

I simply can’t gush about this headphone anymore! Compared to the Sennheiser 8XX from Drop, the Arya Stealth presents as less scooped in certain mid-range frequencies, more balanced overall, more natural without the assistance of tubes. The bass response is also much more appropriate. The 8XX plays for team “No Bass,” while the Arya Stealth could play for any team. And while I think the timbre of the 8XX is a certain improvement over the 800s for example, the note weight of the Arya Stealth is even more properly robust, and the Arya Stealth produces even more of a reference sound, as its note weight is less thin, and more appropriately full-bodied.

Compared to the Empyrean, the Empy is softer with its general delivery. The Arya Stealth feels more alive and amplified, while the Empyrean is smoother. There’s also more slam and sustain in the bass of the Empyrean. Mids, especially earlier mids, are more laid back in their sound and less forward in the Empyrean, and although the stage of the original Arya was certainly larger the Empyrean, the stage of the Arya Stealth is smaller than the Empyrean’s and less three-dimensional in its atmosphere. The Empy is also a noticeably lighter headphone on the head, even though the Arya Stealth weighs noticeably less than its predecessors. I also know that some have knocked the resolve of the Empy with the Alcantera pads, but with the sheepskin pads the Empy is slightly more resolving than any version of the Arya I’ve heard, and also more delicate in its delivery. With that said, the Empyrean is undoubtedly more source dependent than the Arya stealth, and this is why I think other reviewers may have misrepresented Empy to their audience, as they may not have made use a synergistic source. As such, sound stability across sources is a feather in the cap for the Arya Stealth.

To wrap things up, when I listen to the Arya Stealth, I think: “This is the way…” It is unquestionably one of my favorite headphones among those that are readily available right now. And, with its current cost coming in at under a grand, it is, without a doubt, the best headphone under $1000 dollars- for sure! Its coherence is a defining characteristic, and it presents a collectively accurate and detailed sonic picture to its listener that is not only pleasing to listen to, but also reference and largely unequaled by its competition. I can’t recommend the Arya Stealth enough, and if you haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, I hope you get an opportunity to experience one soon.

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