Today, we review the HIFIMAN Svanar, the company’s flagship 9.2mm single dynamic driver in-ear monitor using topology diaphragm technology. It is priced at $1999.
Disclaimer: This sample was sent to us in exchange for our honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or status. We thank the team at HIFIMAN for this opportunity.
To read more about the HIFIMAN products we have previously covered on Headfonics click here.
Note, that this article follows our latest scoring guidelines which you can read here.
HIFIMAN has been tinkering with its Topology driver application as far back as 2017 I believe with the launch of the RE2000 and RE800 Gold IEMs, (silver editions launched in 2018).
Up to now, the top IEM model that employed HIFIMAN Topology technology was the RE2000. The tech has been more prominent in their RE series IEMs though they have not shied away from using it in their dynamic driver headphones such as the HE-R9 and the HE-R10D.
Although the RE2000 is a great IEM, knowing HIFIMAN I always had that gut feeling that something was brewing over the horizon, as they say.
So it seems to me a logical step for them to look at their IEM lineup once again and rev up the creative engine to come up with something new. Hence the HIFIMAN Svanar, their new top-tier IEM.
The HIFIMAN Svanar is a closed-back universal in-ear monitor with a single 9.2mm dynamic driver that uses a diaphragm ‘coated’ in the company’s Topology technology.
Topology refers to a topping or nano-coating applied over the driver diaphragm itself in various patterns to control any unwanted flexing and unwanted resonances. It’s also used to control the speed and overall acoustic properties of the diaphragm’s surface.
HIFIMAN’s main objective with the Svanar was to obtain a better balance between the three major frequency bands over past topology IEM iterations. The result will be discussed within the sound description.
By using a combined 9.2mm dynamic driver with their Topology implementation and a two-piece shell that was designed not only with aesthetics principles in mind but sonic improvements also, they seem to have hit that goal.
The shell was designed so that the inner cavity would assimilate a theatre that uses multilevel diffusion. In a theatre, this ensures all the sound reaches each attendee, in the Svanar it helps in that each frequency band is correctly represented.
HIFIMAN decided to make part of the Svanar shell out of copper zinc alloy, or brass. This particular metal composition has excellent acoustic properties and it’s not by chance that most wind instruments are made of Brass.
Brass is fairly malleable and HIFIMAN took advantage of that fact and spent some time developing a brass front chamber that improves the driver’s mechanical control.
Now I had a major concern because as you know, brass tends to develop a patina and that’s desirable on a piece of antique furniture perhaps but could be undesirable in an IEM. HIFIMAN’s solution to that was to 24k gold plate the brass portion of the shell, a no expense spared concept.
Now let’s talk about the shape. Was the shape designed to resemble a Swan or to contour to the human ear? HIFIMAN seemed to blur the lines between function and art here. At least on the brass portion of the shell which is a very uniquely designed shell.
However, the back portion which is made of aluminum visually contrasts the curvy brass chamber and is more industrial looking. I would have added some eye-catching artistry by highlighting the HIFIMAN logo minimum because it can strike some as being too vanilla-looking for a flagship IEM.
Comfort and Isolation
Brass has a thermal ability that’s not described or explained by HIFIMAN in their Svanar literature and they should capitalize on this thought or perhaps they already have but have not said so.
Brass tends to adjust quickly to your body temperature and it tends to retain the temperature very well so these IEMs will remain at body temperature as you wear them.
This aids comfort levels and felt it was necessary to mention it because some will assume if it’s metal it would more than likely feel cold inside the ear and that’s not the case here. The decision to use brass was a smart move on HIFIMAN’s part.
The shape is somewhat off-ball but it works far as comfort. The Svanar is one of the only IEMs I could wear for hours and forget I have them on most times and I would label them as having a high level of comfort. They also isolate well.
HIFIMAN includes just a small amount of tips and some of the included tips work well. I’m not a fan of triple-flange tips but the double-flange tips are fine for me. It would have been nice if they included a wider variety of tips, especially for a top-tier model and one that slightly changes sonically according to tip selection.
The buyer gets five tip sets, three are double-flanged and the other two are triple-flanged rubber tips. The Svanar schooled me which is funny because I’ve been using IEMs for years and never once realized until I used the Svanar that I needed two different-sized tips. But I had to supply my own to find that out.
That said, the Svanar is somewhat sensitive to ear tip selection, particularly with the bass and second with the midrange, not so much with high frequencies, or at least to my ears. It seems to me that the larger the output hole the deeper the bass becomes.
I used some foam tips which accentuated the bass and made the treble more relaxed and almost dark sounding categorically. Rubber tips all worked the same as mentioned above but seemed brighter generally. The tip selection is not all, they’re also sensitive to how deep you insert them.
The HIFIMAN Svanar stock cable has nice hardware, a matching brass centerpiece with a matching chinstrap adjuster and all the rest of the hardware is metal. HIFIMAN even includes some accessories with the cable assembly.
But at this point, the movie Mommie Dearest comes to mind, and that part where Joan Crawford screams at her daughter because she hung a 300-dollar dress on a wire hanger. Yea a flagship IEM with not-so-impressive cable leaves me unfulfilled. The Svanar is worthy of a better wire period.
While other manufacturers include braided multi-stranded cables and even include swappable tips or a couple of adapters at a much lower budget, HIFIMAN keeps slacking in this area and would benefit in a reputable sense if they improve that particular area of their product.
It’s not a bad wire, it’s just that the rubber tubing doesn’t seem durable, it’s too springy and is just not robust enough especially for a top-tier IEM and one that excels so well sonically. It’s also very thin at the top and has no ear loops. One good aspect it has is that it seems fairly resistant to microphonics.
HIFIMAN does includes a couple of extra 0.78mm connectors which they call H pin connectors I guess just in case something happens.
I didn’t take mine apart but from what I gathered, all you have to do is slip the connector cover off, slip the wires into the new connector, while observing polarity, and snap the assembly together. That’s a nice and unique inclusion on HIFIMAN’s part.
The ends of the stock cable have 0.78mm connectors that at first glance you might scratch your head as to why there are no polarity marks. So one would guess they can be installed in any position and that would be incorrect.
If you look closely there’s a slit within the IEM connector and a slot on the cable’s connector and what you have to do is just line them up. I almost connected the cable backward until something veered me to read the manual. HIFIMAN only mentions this small detail in a one-sentence section.
HIFIMAN also includes some silicon rubber hooks that you can attach to the cable assembly since the ends do not have a loop shape and are just straight cables with 0.78mm H connectors.
On the other end, there’s a robust 45-degree angled metallic single-ended 3.5mm plug that’s two-toned and partially gold-plated with silver accents. There’s no other type of connectivity included.
Packaging & Accessories
I’m not an unboxing fan but the unboxing experience is simple yet sophisticated here. The only oddity I found was the fit of the laminated sleeve over the product box due to the metal lock in front of the box. Perhaps that could have been resolved by using magnets for locks instead which would have added some stealthiness upfront.
The vinyl-wrapped hefty box is nicely badged with a brushed gold-plated plate that identifies the contents with the Svanar name along with the HIFIMAN ITAOL logo. That stands for “Innovating the art of listening” in case you didn’t catch it.
The flip top is on a metal hinge system and once you open it, the box smiles at you and shows off the hockey puck-style storage case, a small box with the cable inside, and another with a foam mold that houses the five included tip sets.
The IEMs are proudly displayed inside the hockey puck, which is not too easy to open due to tight tolerances. It also seems water resistant. The rest of the contents consist of some literature, a rather nice multilanguage owner’s guide, and a warranty card.
Click on page 2 below for sound impressions, pairings, and our selected comparison.