Review: HiFiMan Deva – on another Planar of existence
Another solid entry from HiFiMan.
HiFiMan has built its name on low-cost, audiophile-quality headphones, and the Deva headset that we’re looking at today is no exception. For $300, you get HiFiMan’s celebrated planar drivers, and one thing you’d not expect – a Bluetooth dongle that brings wireless connectivity to the usually hard-to-drive planars.
That sounds like a tempting value proposition, with DAC/Amp and headphones in a package deal that can also be used wired via USB-C or even an analog 3.5mm cable. Like all planars, you’ll probably want an external headphone amp if you’re going the wired route, as that driver type likes more current than your computer’s onboard sound can usually provide.
So, can you get audiophile audio over Bluetooth? Let’s find out.
Let’s talk design
There’s one thing I need to talk about before diving into the specifications. That beige color. It won’t be for everyone, but then again once they’re on your head you can’t see them and you’ll forget all about the color once the music starts. It’s nice to see HiFiMan go with another color for a change, as most of their headphones are black. Actually, most of their competitors are also favoring the basic black look, so maybe there’s a gap in the market for other colors.
Oh, the other thing that will help you forget about the color? Comfort. Oodles and oodles of comfort. The huge over-ear leatherette ear cups are filled with foam, and won’t warm up your ears over time due to the open nature of the drivers. The headband is similarly clad in the same material, and the mostly-plastic construction translates to a low weight of 360g (385g with the dongle), adding to your comfort.
Specs-wise, you get a frequency response of 20-20kHz, with 18-ohm impedance, making the Deva easy to drive by even your smartphone. The Bluemini Bluetooth DAC/Amp has a seven to ten-hour battery life depending on the codec used, and supports AptX-HD, AptX, AAC, SBC, and LDAC, so you’ll get the best of the high-res codecs from compatible smartphones, etc. If connected to your computer via USB-C, you get playback up to 24-bit/192kHz, with slightly shorter battery life. The only buttons on the dongle are for power, pairing, and controlling play/pause, so you’ll have to use your device for things like volume and track selection.
So, do they slam?
HiFiMan has tuned the Deva to a fairly neutral sound response, which might deter some bass-heads, but then you have to know that planars are known for their “slam” or bass response. You won’t be missing out here, even when using the Bluemini for wireless audio. That little dongle really impressed me, putting out enough of a sound level that I had to turn it down to not annoy my partner.
Yes, open-backs leak audio, so if you’re looking for a pair of headphones for the commute, Deva might not be the one for you. For any other use case, they’re superb, redefining what I thought a sub-$300 pair of headphones was capable of. I’ve mostly been using them to play games, like the recently released PC version of Horizon: Zero Dawn, where they’ve been outstanding. Every single footstep comes through crystal clear, every crunch of the snow, and whenever a robot crashes through the undergrowth near me I still jump a little. You don’t need surround sound for quality gaming audio, what you do need is a quality set of headphones. The Deva are a class above any set of headphones I’ve tried to date.
It’s really hard to quantify the jump in the expanse of sound in simple terms, the closest I’ve gotten is this: Imagine listening to a band in a small venue, such as a bar. The music is tuned to perfection, but it’s got that closeness from the enclosed space. Now imagine that same band in a concert hall, with the airiness that the larger, tuned for acoustics space brings. That’s the beauty of the Deva and its planar drivers. Wide soundstage without losing any of the clarity of sound.
So, should I buy the HiFiMan Deva headphones?
For $300, HiFiMan has knocked it out of the park with the Deva. The level of accuracy and wide soundstage afforded by the open-backed nature and planar drivers is suited to any musical genre, and there’s enough slam on the low end for them to be equally enjoyable while gaming. In fact, they’ve replaced my usual gaming headset completely and I’m not going back. Neither will you, if you pick up a pair.
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