HIFIMAN makes some pretty incredible headphones. With prices under $100 and surpassing $15,000 (yes, three zeros), HIFIMAN knows how to make a premium product. The focus of our review is on the HIFIMAN Deva. This $300 headphone may seem entry level, but when you compare it to other headphones in the same price range, there are clear differences.
Open-Back Planar Magnetic
This is what makes the headphone shine, and in some cases, makes the headphone not for everyone. Open-back headphones breathe. If you aren’t listening to anything, you hear everything around you. This helps for long listening sessions by allowing your ears to breathe, but may not be best in noisy environments.
Another characteristic of open-back headphones is that they also share the noise they make with those around you. If listening to these in bed or in an office, others near you will hear a bit more sound (and clarity) than they would from a traditional headphone. That is due to how planar magnetic diaphragms work. It’s important to understand these characteristics because they may not be the perfect solution for everyone.
If these characteristics aren’t an issue, then you will be rewarded with what I think is the most dynamic and accurate headphone under $300.
This is the most important part right? Planar magnetic headphones are completely different than traditional headphones which are often closed-back, voice-coil style drivers. The new NEO “supernano” Diaphragm (NsD) featured in the Deva is incredibly accurate. It responds to every nuance, frequency change, and subtly of whatever your audio source may be. The end result is an incredibly rewarding experience.
I often went back and forth with these and other high-end headphones in the same price range and the difference is night and day. The Devas do not have the same power handling as some other headphones at this price, but when you’re not blasting your ear drums out, the level of detail and imaging these provide is bar none the best I’ve heard yet. You hear things that are completely missed with other headphones. Suddenly you are transformed into the world where the audio comes from rather than spectating on the sideline. The bass is incredibly tight, which often sounds like much large speakers are around you. That is never an easy feat with headphones.
Features and Connectivity
The Deva continues to shine in value when you look at the included connectivity options. In addition to the long, braided 3.5mm cable (which is balanced on the headphone side), you get the option to use USB or Bluetooth. In USB DAC mode, the long, braided USB-A to USB-C cable allows you to connect the Deva to a computer and bypass the often terrible built in headphone amp. The USB-DAC is a great option, one without interference or buzzing, but it doesn’t get quite as loud as a good analog amp or, surprisingly, Bluetooth mode.
This is easily the best Bluetooth experience I’ve had yet. The included Bluemini provides an amazing amount of power with a minimum of 4 hours of battery life (up to 10). It includes a microphone, but volume control must be handled by your device. I found that in Bluetooth mode, the Bluemini had no trouble driving the Devas with good volume and clarity. I was surprised how much louder Bluetooth mode was over USB DAC mode. Either way, for HIFIMAN to provide three different connection options in the $300 price range with this level of sound, the value is incredible.
Although the peanut butter brown aesthetics may not be for everyone, these are incredibly comfortable. They seem to be built well, with no signs of defects after about 50 hours of use thus far. The headband uses metal construction and the ear cups are removable and feature dual fabric material to maximize comfort and durability. The cables are all long and built well enough to withstand a good amount of use.
If the concept of an open-back headphone works for you, I can’t imagine getting a better listening experience at $300. The imaging, accuracy, and comfort of these headphones are truly an ear-opener. I’d imagine as I review more headphones in the future, this headphone will be the golden benchmark I hold them to. I think that says a lot about how much I’ve enjoyed them.