RMAF 2018: HIFIMAN Electronics Arya headphone and R2R2000 streaming player

I have had numerous emails and a lengthy Q&A with Dr. Fang Bian of HIFIMAN regarding the company and several of its products, but despite all this electronic back-and-forth, I was not prepared for the huge smile that greeted me from him as I came up to the HIFIMAN booth at CANJAM in the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. As he got up and came around to shake hands with me I was struck by his soft-spoken and friendly demeanour and warmed to his enthusiasm as he briefly described the new Arya headphones and R2R2000 portable streaming handheld I was going to listen to.

It’s been my experience in the high-fidelity industry over the last several years that great people make great products and once again, after meeting Dr. Bian I couldn’t help but start to clearly see his love for music to be accurately reproduced through headphones in all his designs. It’s as if each model has a part of Bian in it and that to me is the mark of a product that not only carries the weight of originality in approach to design, quality in that design execution and most importantly in this context, quality of the sound being reproduced.

Arya headphones and R2R2000.

Because of my limited time between meetings, I focused my listening session with HIFIMAN on the new Arya headphones and the R2R2000 player, which I got into great detail with when they were announced with this previous InnerFidelity post. Playing a high-res FLAC version of Led Zepplin’s “Good Times Bad Times” I was struck immediately by how light the Arya was and how well they fit across the headband and around my ears – it was like wearing air-pocketed foam. The Arya is a planar-magnetic over-ear design that HIFIMAN has adapted HE1000 V2-series driver technology into, but bringing it in at a more palatable $1,599 USD price point.

The sound from this pairing was incredibly well balanced with a very high and wide sound stage presentation with plenty of “wrap around” in the sound field for a genuine feeling of being in the centre of the recorded event.

Spatial cues of band members in the mix was solid and without drift and possessed a realism to their placement with accuracy to the three-dimensional reproduction of mic placement to this cut (which I’ve heard a hundred times at least) that portrayed timbre and tone without exaggeration. Reproducing a Zepplin recording with geniality and real depth – making it sound full and rich – is a challenge even in the best curated set-up, but this combo succeeded in delivering an analog warmth coupled with astounding resolution.

I also cued up what seemed to be a CANJAM favourite this year for manufacturers which was Starker’s Cello Suites and got gobs of detail in the upper registers that never strayed into fatiguing treble despite the high level of detail present. Lots of bloom and decay off midrange notes which again recreated a beautiful sense of the recorded space and for added satisfaction the accompanying deep bass off the lowest bow-on-strings were fleshed out with palpable texture.

R2R2000 streaming amp/DAC/Bluetooth portable.

The R2R2000 interface was intuitive and easy to navigate and fit like a smooth river stone in my hand. It’s a much smaller player than many other portables out there and the fact that it is an all-in-one streaming audio amplifier/DAC/Bluetooth/player that features the company’s LHDC (Low Latency High Definition Codec) comes with a proprietary HIFIMAN operating system and dual R2R PCM1704U-K DAC chips that supports 8x oversampling makes for a persuasive argument when it comes to the $2,500 USD price tag.