If I had a dime for every time a customer asked us for a hi-res open-back Bluetooth headphone, I’d have 50 cents. But I applaud Hifiman for bringing wireless headphone technology to the next level. Maybe more people will start asking. I became a fan of Hifiman after I heard the original, wired Ananda. What I particularly loved about this model was how well balanced it was. Indeed, the Ananda can handle every genre with grace. And of course, level of detail was also impressive. So, I was curious to see how successfully Hifiman could translate the Ananda into a Bluetooth model. What level of fidelity can you expect? Let’s take a closer look in this HifiMan Ananda BT Review.
HifiMan Ananda BT Review
IN the BOX
Although the Ananda BT is slightly heavier (460g) than the original, wired Ananda (399g), it doesn’t feel too heavy on the ears. (The headband has a metal frame with a weight dispersing leather strap underneath). And it’s certainly nowhere near as heavy as something like an Audeze LCD, which admittedly, weighs more than a chubby toddler. Okay, I would say that the Ananda BT weighs around the same as the Focal Clear, for example.
The oval earpads are quite plush. Leather covers the sides of the earpads, while the contact area of the earpads is made from a ventilated material. So, your ears will stay nice and cool even through long listening sessions. (The earpads are also replaceable, FYI). The fit is quite snug around the ears, which I actually like. But if you prefer particularly loose fit, the Ananda BT may start feeling a bit obtrusive after a while.
Planar Magnetic with Hifiman’s ultra thin NsD diaphragm.
Just kidding. Actually, I’m not. The Ananda BT has a USB-C input. And using the included USB-C to USB-C cable, you can connect these cans directly into your computer and get 24bit / 192kHz resolution through the headphone DAC.
Controls and Functionality
With respect to button controls, you won’t get too much functionality. For example, the earcup doesn’t offer volume control or track skipping. However, it does have a button that allows you to play/pause and answer/end/reject calls (more about the mic below). The second button activates charging. And while, at first glance, it seems unusual to have to press a button to activate charging, there’s a reason for this; since there’s only one USB-C input, you have to tell these cans whether to go into charging mode or USB playback mode. And yes, you can activate charging mode and playback mode at the same time.
A great feature offered by Hifiman is their accompanying app that allows you to transmit high resolution Bluetooth (HWA supported by LHDC), which can support 24bit up to 96kHz. The app also allows you to sign into your streaming services, like Spotify or Tidal using this codec. And for the purposes of this review, I used the LHDC protocol to stream my Tidal tracks.
In addition to HWA, the Ananda BT also supports aptX, aptX HD and LDAC.
If you’re a gamer, podcaster or just a plain ol' chatty cathy, you’ll be happy to find a detachable mic that you can connect to the 3.5mm input on the side of the left earcup. The level of clarity is solid, though it certainly can’t compete with the resolution of something like Audeze’s new LCD-GX gaming headphone.
You can expect 10 hours of playtime from the Ananda BT, and it takes about 3 hours to fully charge. Well, 2.7 hours to be exact. Disclaimer: I didn’t put this claim to the test. So, if you only get 8 hours of use from the cans, please, no hate mail.
Final Note: If you tend to play your music at dangerously high levels (careful kids!), you may find that the amp on the Ananda won’t give you sufficient juice. But for my ears, the max volume level was more than sufficient. (I had it up to about 70%).
In terms of bass presence, Hifiman hits the sweet spot. Punchy enough to lend some oomph to pop tracks, but moderate enough not to scare the folks with bass anxiety. The bass is also quite controlled and feels pretty tight on funky tracks. If you listen to Bruno Mars' Locked Out of Heaven, for example, you’ll hear a very disciplined bass line. I also have to say, the level of detail is spectacular for a wireless headphone. Just listen to a Yo Yo Ma cello track that hits this range, and you’ll hear ample substance. In fact, all the most subtle contacts between the bow and strings are abundantly apparent.
The balance in the midrange is perfection. That is, if you’re like me and can’t live without present low-mids you should be more than satisfied with the sound in this range. The low mids come out in full force, while the upper mids avoid any artificial emphasis. Therefore, the balance has a relatively even feel to it. So, if you listen to tracks with heavy instrumentation, the sound doesn’t get more expansive and full-bodied than this. Imagine Dragons’ Next To Me is a great example. The chorus features a choir that progresses up the cleff from the low mids to the higher mids. Listening to this track on other headphones, the choir often sounds a little recessed until it reaches the higher frequencies. But with the Ananda BT, the choir is right in your face from beginning to end. The result is a thoroughly fleshed out mix that offers the full spectrum of sound in this range. And certainly, you won’t get any FOMO during you listening experience.
In terms of clarity, the layering feels very tidy even in the heaviest of arrangements. And level of separation is fantastic in general. I always like to use old folk tracks, such as Nick Drake tunes, to test out the separation of guitar strums, which can often sound muddy in the mids (especially low mids). Listening to Place To Be, guitar strums and picks were well delineated, while the nuances in timbre were obvious and natural. Overall, the level of articulation is quite impressive. And again, I don’t think I’ve ever heard this much detail on a Bluetooth headphone. (The in-ear Xelento Wireless by Beyerdynamic may be an exception). Listening to strings in this range, the Ananda BT hits a nice balance between texture and smoothness. In fact, all in all, the sound is so sweet to the ears that I didn’t want to take them off. And I’m usually not this generous with my compliments.
Again, transparency is top-notch in the highs. And female vocal performances may be my favorite thing about this range. Take Rihanna’s Love On The Brain, which I’m a sucker for. Though highly detailed and breathy, a sweet smoothness remains. And this cohesiveness really gives the track a beautifully fluid feel. Then moving back to pop, though percussion reveals enough of snap and crispness, the Ananda BT avoids becoming too bright. So, although the highs don’t feel rolled-off, there’s no sharpness to speak of. And folks who are particularly sensitive to high frequencies will find this balance easy enough on the ears to listen for long stretches of time.
Overall, you can expect the kind of spacious soundstage that an open-back Hifiman usually offers. And there was a nice sense of height and width. That being said, I was hungry for a little more depth. And gradations along this axis could have been a a bit more precise. Furthermore, in general, instruments placed at a distance lost a little definition and richness. But all in all, you can expect a reasonably holographic listening experience.
Like the original Ananda, the Ananda BT is one of the most beautifully balanced headphones I’ve ever tested. But of course, I’m biased because I love a relatively even keeled mix with generous mids. But objectively speaking, the sound signature is thoroughly versatile with respect to the genres it can handle. And it’s got more body than I have after 6 beers and a chicken parm sub. More important, in terms of clarity, I have yet to hear an over-ear Bluetooth headphone (open or closed) with a profile that’s this clean and detailed. There’s no question that Hifiman has brought high resolution wireless sound to a new level.
You can buy the Hifiman Ananda here:
Frequency Range: 8Hz - 55kHz
Impedance: 35 Ohms