Today we review the Hifiman Svanar Wireless, the all-new TWS from the Chinese brand. A new model available for $499 USD / €549 Euro.
Disclaimer: the Hifiman Svanar wireless was sent to us free of charge by the brand, in exchange for our honest opinion.
Founded in 2007 by Dr. Fang Bian, Hifiman has become, throughout the years, one of the most renowned hi-fi brands – pretty much like FiiO, which began around the same time.
An unexpected success, as the manufacturer succeeded in the audacious challenge of bringing orthodynamic transducers, back to the forefront of the scene. A real challenge, taken up in less than a quarter of a century, especially since Hifiman did not benefit from the aura of a BeyerDynamic, or AKG, true secular institution.
If the brand was located in New York during its beginnings, it quickly moved to China, and more precisely to TianJin, to be closer to its production plants. A choice that allowed Fang and his team to expand their catalogue, while fixing some early mistakes – hello HiFiman HE-400!
But, before headphones, Hifiman also produced DAPs – who remembers the HM-801 and HM-601? – followed pretty quickly by DAC. The quirk? Almost all of them used R2R DAC at the beginning, instead of the traditional delta-sigma setup favored by… everyone else? A difference nurtured by the brand which recently gave us the amazing Hifiman EF400 – and the EF600, review in the writing – a desktop DAC/Headphone-Amplifier that I found so good, it earned my personal recommendation.
Yet today, I won’t be reviewing a DAC, nor a headphone, but a wireless in-ear. And not any in-ear but the Hifiman Svanar Wireless, the brand’s new TWS, based on their TOTL IEM, packing the same “Topology Dynamic Driver” introduced in the previous RE200 and Svanar, fitted in a wireless shell now.
Enough to replace my AirPods Pro 2? That’s what we’ll find out today.
Design & Build Quality
Inspired by the Svanar, the Svanar Wireless shares the same chassis as its predecessor, with a few visual variations. In fact, the TWS adopts the same semi-custom shell, more in line with nowadays standards, only trading the precious brass plate for an equally precious carbon fiber one.
Compared to the previous model – the TWS600 – the difference is striking, both visually and physically, the new Svanar displaying a real high-end feel, compared to my old TWS600 and TWS400, now completely outdated.
Moreover, if I wasn’t entirely convinced by the overall design, I have to admit that the chassis is of excellent quality, with the black/silver finish reinforcing the precious look of the carbon fiber. A true Hifiman through and through.
As usual with the brand, build quality is ambivalent. The shell, being made of a mix of carbon fiber, aluminium, silver-toned plastic – gives a premium look from afar, even if the convoluted shape makes them look a bit silly.
Same goes for the charging case, whose clamshell design and fake leather cover suits surprisingly well. In hand, that feels kind of clunky and definitely too big to be handled correctly on a daily basis, but sitting on my desktop, charging the Svanar, it looks pretty cool – must be the chrome lines.
I put them in my pocket during all my commute, without any protection whatsoever, and I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of any scratches, marks or bruises. I found the closing magnet to be a bit too soft but, to be fair, that’s really me nit-picking.
And if the delimitation between the aluminum and carbon fiber plate is a bit too prominent for my taste, especially when you look up close, I dropped them a few times and never encountered any issue with those new IEMs. Same goes for the stem – not a big fan – that allows the ear to communicate with each others.
Now, for the bad part: for a $499 USD IEM the overall quality isn’t on par with what the competitors have to offer. Take the Devialet Gemini for example, sold for $300 less, and head to head you’ll definitely pick the Devialet, every time, if build quality is mandatory for you. Compared to Apple’s AirPods, that’s another debate: I usually tend to prefer the Apple shape but in this case I prefer Hifiman’s design, even if the overall shape make them look quite silly.
Still, compared to the TWS600, those ears remain a steep upgrade.
Again, compared to the TWS600 and TWS400, the new Hifiman Svanar Wireless gives a completely different vibe in terms of comfort. Thanks to its semi-custom shell, those IEMs are a world apart compared to the previous models, embracing the full outer ears, when the TWS600 always felt a bit clunky in that regard.
And, with a nice inner bump and stiff carbon-fiber almost impervious to temperature variation – no cold sensation when inserting the ears – the Svanar Wireless never was a hindrance over long listening sessions. The brand, if a bit too prone to rank this new model as one of the most comfortable, form-fitted in-ear monitors on the market, provides us with a very potent TWS here.
My only real drawback? The sheer size of those ears: they are gigantic.Once again, the tip choice remains essential here and I can’t stress to you enough how important it is to take some time to test and compare each and every silicon tip provided in the box. Personally, I ended up with a set of medium silicon tips, giving me the best sealing out of all the various solutions provided.
And, if in my opinion, acrylic semi-custom shaped IEM remains the best option available at the moment, the carbon-fiber touch felt almost as good – almost as good as the brass – and I can whole-heartedly recommend those in-ears, for anyone seeking a comfy TWS.
Like most modern TWS, the Svanar Wireless comes with a noise-canceling function, or ANC.
For recall, Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) in TWS works by using microphones to pick up external sounds. Then the internal DSP generates a sound wave that is the exact negative (or opposite) of the external sound. When these two waves combine, they cancel each other out, effectively reducing or eliminating the unwanted noise, allowing the listener to hear the audio more clearly without background interference.
At the top of the game, you’ll find Bose and their QuietComfort series, followed by Sony’s WF IEMs and Apple’s AirPods Pro 2, three wireless IEM that offer an outstanding isolation from outside noises. In fact, on a daily basis, those ears can even compete with CIEM solution, thanks to their better performances in low rumble situations (train, plane, subway)
Sadly, the DSP used in the Svanar Wireless doesn’t hold a candle to those models and even with ANC on, I could distinctly hear the various noises occurring in my vicinity. There are worse options there, but there are far better ones too. Same goes for the transparency mode, which I can’t recommend either : voices are distorted and even the lightest breeze will cover your contact voice.
So, time to check the specs.
Inside the box
In terms of bundle, the HiFiman Svanar Wireless is definitely on par with others TWS. In the box you get:
- the Hifiman Svanar Wireless
- a set of silicon sleeves
- the charging case
- an USB-C to USB-A cable
- an user’s guide
A dire bundle for the price but, since Apple, everyone stepped down and slimmed down their packaging. Good for the planet somehow!
If you want to go further with your Svanar, there are only two upgrades you should do:
- get a DAP or a smartphone with LDAC compatibility
The TWS doesn’t support apt-X or apt-X HD, but supports LDAC and AAC, so you better get a source that’s compatible with Sony’s Hi-Res bluetooth format.
For the nitpickers and nerdy ones here, I’m giving the specs and technical sheets. For all the others, you can just go lower to see how the Hifiman Svanar performs.
Introduced a while back now, the Topology driver has become Hifiman’s signature. Simply put, this technology allows Hifiman to greatly reduce the distortions that occur with dynamic drivers, by applying a special coating on the diaphragm. A technology inspired by Fang Bian’s own thesis: “how different Nanomaterials have different structures and each of those materials have its own properties” (sic).
How does that translate? By varying the surface pattern, the compound used, thickness or geometric pattern, the final sound wave can then be manipulated to achieve the desired audio effect and control. A process that gave very good results on the wired Svanar, so we should get equally good performances on the Wireless Edition
But, the real gimmick here doesn’t come from the driver, but from the DSP. Why? Because the Svanar Wireless is the first TWS to embed a R2R DAC – in opposition to your classical Delta/Sigma IC chip. An high-end feature directly stripped from the EF-400, one of the best DAC/Amp I’ve tried in the sub-$500 bracket.
R2R DAC – Himalaya
As stated before, the Svanar Wireless uses the same R2R architecture DAC you can find in their desktop solution: the HIMALAYA DAC.
In case you’re not familiar with R-2R DAC, this kind of digital to analogue converter use two precision resistors, to convert a digital binary number into an analogue output signal, proportional to the value of the digital number. Needless to say that compared to your usual sigma Delta DAC, they can be quite bothersome to produce, and expensive.
An impressive technical feat, considering the size of the chipset and the inherent complexity of R2R conception induced by miniaturization. It’s definitely overkill and the amount of time and dedication needed to fit all that little world on a tiny PCB like this one really deserves some praise.
On paper, the set offer high-end specs with :
- excellent Signal to Noise ratio thanks to the R2R chip
- solid output power with a dual amplifier on each channel
- super low total harmonic distortion (0.005%)
Enough to compete with the big names? We’ll find out soon.
- Type: TWS (True Wireless Stereo)
- Style: 1DD + R2R DAC
- Drivers: 1x 9.2mm Topology Diaphgram with special Nanoparticle coating
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 (LDAC, AAC, SBC)
- Shell: aluminum/plastic outer chamber + carbon fiber inner chamber
- Frequency Response: 10Hz – 35KHz
- Impedance: 32 ohms
- Battery life: up to 4h (HiFi mode) / up to 6h (ANC Mode) / up to 7h (Transparency mode) // 3 additional charge available for up to 20h of battery life
- Sound Isolation (up to): 25dB
- Weight: 8g per ears / 83.7g for the case
- Price: $499
.Page 1: About the brand, design and build quality
Page 2: Sound Performances