The HIFIMAN Edition XS hits a good efficiency point in that you could run it off from almost anything that has a headphone jack.
However, I would use a clean source and a good power amplifier for the best results. I ran the Edition XS off my Motorola phone and it gave me an ample amount of volume but the dynamic range and transient response were sucked right out of the Edition XS and it was not an optimal experience, to be honest.
So to make a long story short, the more power the better and they scale upwards very well with increased input power. The good thing is that you don’t need a megawatt amplifier to run them as in for example the HE6 which was notoriously power-hungry.
The minimum I would use is a dongle DAC especially if they have a higher than the usual 2V output. Then again, I had a couple that worked well such as the Helm Audio Bolt with the Edition XS but it sounded best on dongles that have a 4.4mm out like a FiiO KA3, a Hiby FC5, or even something like an iFi GO blu.
The Edition XS really likes my iFi gear, starting with the GO blu, and the Gryphon, especially of the balanced output, and even off the 16-core hip-dac2 which is the least expensive of the 3.
To start off, obviously, the best comparison would have been against the Edition X but they seem to be on the discontinued list so what would be the point? So farewell to the Edition X and I give a warm welcome to its replacement the XS. However, right below the Edition XS in cost is the infamous and very popular Sundara.
There’s not a single forum out there that speaks of the best for under 500 bucks and that does not mention the Sundara. It’s almost as if they have a cult following but, to be honest, I think they’re fantastic myself since I’ve had a pair for some years now and also consider them to be one of the best bang-for-the-buck headphones out there.
The Sundara uses the original round cup design with hybrid angled PALI pads that are comfortable but of course, I prefer the asymmetrical pad design due to their larger size that supplies an extra level of comfort.
You could interchange cable assemblies between the two models since both use the 3.5mm positive tip configuration and both come with similar cables except the Edition XS cable variant seems heavier because the insulation is solid and not just surgical-type tubing wrapped.
The Sundara casts a softer and more gentle listening experience since it doesn’t have that ultra-low-end presence that was bought forward in the Edition XS. You have to equalizer boost those low frequencies on the Sundara to bring them out at least by a few decibels on the plus side.
The Sundara slows things down a bit, although no slouch in speed either it does seem to have a softer dynamic range. It seems the top volume range is the hardest to achieve with the 37Ω Sundara also since it seems to need more drive power to achieve the same volume levels compared to the 18Ω Edition XS.
I always liked the high-frequency response of the Sundara but compared to the Edition XS they seem polite and not as pronounced but the sharpness, detail, and airiness are traits the Sundara does portray. The highs of the Edition XS have more weight behind them although the Sundara can hit higher frequencies.
I would say overall the Edition XS presentation just has more meat on the bones. The soundstage is larger, the bass is more prominent and there’s more slam. Perhaps HIFIMAN should consider a revision of the Sundara, the Stealth Version. I could already see the smiles on your faces.
I love the HIFIMAN Arya for many reasons. Their accurate soundstage, accurate tonality, and a few other reasons plus the gorgeous larger-than-life sound they emit constantly keep me coming back for more.
Being an asymmetrical design offspring it shares the same cup size as the XS. My particular version is the second release which had the metal grill replaced with cloth perhaps due to the metal grill being too close to the magnets and affecting their performance or being too restrictive of airflow.
There is some debate on the net as far as which version of the Arya is the best. Of course, mine, joking. My version, which is version two is considered to be the one people lean to the most as the favorite iteration since it sounds the widest and seems to breathe easier compared to the first Arya release.
The headband design used on the Arya is the second HIFIMAN design that was introduced with the release of the HE1000 both headbands share many similarities but the most obvious difference is the matte black finish color scheme.
One of the things I like about the Arya headband style is that there seems to be the possibility of replacing the head strap if you ever need to renew them while on the Edition XS, it seems a bit harder to do so.
Comfort seems rather irrelevant to compare since I could wear any of these headphone sets all day long. The Edition XS seems to have the slightly tighter clamping force of the two. As far as weight is concerned both these sets weigh almost identically. The Arya weighs in at 404 grams and the Edition XS comes in at 405 grams.
Off the bat, the Arya has the closest true tonality performance that just emits a more realistic character. The high frequencies seem airier, taller, and sharper but never piercing. The midrange portrays a large soundscape that can be somewhat euphoric when driven with the right gear and with the right track.
The one area the Edition XS excels in is with its low bottom end which seems to kick harder and seems to have a better low-end presence overall. The one area HIFIMAN cans were usually considered somewhat deficient in by some was the bottom-end bass region but it seems HIFIMAN found a key and opened the door with the Stealth magnetic design.
I have not heard the Arya Stealth Edition yet and hope to do so one day but it seems from what I’ve read and gathered that they harnessed a better bass response at the cost of a slight narrowing in the soundstage generally compared to the second Arya. That is fine by me since I prefer an intimate soundstage and am fundamentally a bass lover.
HIFIMAN headphones seem to get better and better and seem to deliver higher degrees of performance every year and at a lower cost to potential buyers. It seems these traits have become common practice over at HIFIMAN and the Edition XS is a perfect example of that.
I will never argue with any of the many who already consider the Edition XS as one or possibly the best headphones at or under $500 because it would be foolish of me to disagree. In fact, I’m on their side and totally agree.
The HIFIMAN Edition XS has a large soundstage, precise placement, and imaging, an almost true tonality only rivaled by its much higher tier cousins plus the bass has finally arrived at the HIFIMAN house sound signature which I’m sure many of our readers have been yearning.