Once mine arrived, Brent Butterworth had already reviewed his for the SoundStage Network with a Reviewer's Choice award; and Warsaw contributor Dawid Grzyb his for HifiKnights. Both referenced the HE-1000. Both felt that Susvara was a demonstrable evolutionary refinement over the half-priced sibling. Both had gone into their assignments with doubts that the diff could be significant enough. Both concluded that Susvara was amongst the very best if not the best they'd heard. Before I even got mine, I was suspicious of how much sameness I'd be guilty. If so, perfect consensus at times simply is the only appropriate conclusion; and all the more powerful and relevant for it.

The first item of repetitiveness was the cable. Whilst my box dispatched from France included only the 4-pin XLR—I'd use the 6.3mm of my HE1000—I sided with Dawid. Its appearance was poor to the extreme. Though Fang had explained throwaway status by stating that no buyer of statement cans ever sticks to stock cabling, turning that into justification to actually supply sub par stock seemed insulting to those investing in his product. Buyer reaction should be no different than spotting budget Wanli tyres on a brand-new premium car. You'd be appalled. Even the black cloth-sleeved cables of my 1000 looked far better than this cheesy plastic number. Inspecting the actual headphone, its metal work appeared finished nicer and also more impervious. Hopefully that will prevent the discolourations the HE1000 have accumulated with use. Susvara's veneer-covered frame was narrower, the ear foam more pliable and the leather outers and 'velour' inners of higher quality. The click stops, perf leather headband, metal bridge and wear comfort all were inherited. In effect and just as the photos predicted, the extra coin was mostly invisible. The plushly lined presentation box would end up in a closet or the garage as do all such things.

Again, those who for $3'000 called HE1000 optics and finish slightly marginal would feel doubly justified on Susvara. It really would be down to sonics. To awaken this inner beast from transit slumber, I first plugged the XLR leash into the COS H1's two 3-pin XLR via a splitter. At -10dB off full tilt, I had the usual SPL. This confirmed that, a/ Susvara was by far the least efficient load I had on hand and that, b/ my smaller amp actually was powerful and loud enough even without a 4V source. Metrum's Amethyst too had just enough power but as it turned out later, the most spectacular sound would come from Bakoon's AMP-12R which delivers 15wpc of zero-noise mega bandwidth with beaucoup headroom. Clearly smartphones and portables were out; far out. Typical headfi ports should be, too. For many of his tracks, even Dawid's Pass Labs HPA-1 loaner hadn't gotten up enough. In practice then, Susvara was an unapologetically elitist load. But we knew that already.

Sibling love. Between the two HifiMans, I'd not invoke any Shakespearian brother murdering brother. Yet with premium ancillaries, I clearly arrived at more repetitiveness. My colleagues had already called it. Susvara was the more refined. Take acoustical instruments like duetizing piano and cello. Throw in some upright bass and drums to move from the conservatory to the Jazz club. From roughly two octaves above middle 'C' on up, the HE-1000 showed some micro grit and glint like very fine powdered metallic dirt. The Susvara did not. On both tickled ivories and con arco cello close to the bridge, the 1000 played it steelier. On matters of separation—portraying intersecting/overlaid timbres, lines and locations as discrete—Susvara's draftsmanship used the harder sharper lead pencil. It had the fringe benefit of avoiding the slight cat-litter clumping which the stablemate could cause. That impression also tied to its slightly looser ringier bass which Susvara's diaphragm seemingly wrenched tauter. The somewhat fatter not quite as controlled LF of the 1000 might create an initial impression of more bass. That's especially likely with anything below top-calibre drive. However, Bakoon's AMP-12R made clear how Susvara reached very low and with proper volume. To mine those depths all the way is perhaps the key area where just because an amp goes loud enough without distortion may still not be equal to fully up to the task. It's where the potent current-mode Bakoon eclipsed the COS and Metrum.

Susvara's enhanced LF control meant that its tonality was slightly leaner/lighter than the 1000. As any such neutral balance usually does, it played up the sense of still greater transparency. Further underscoring it was the even more filigreed treble where the lighter membrane with its gold traces added more micro data. With Metrum's paralleled FPGA-corrected R2R ladders coupling to the outputs through just an impedance-conversion buffer, plugging in Susvara approached that futuristic notion of direct neural wiring to the cortex; in the here now. The illusion of nothing between my ears and the music was unusually strong. I truly felt inside the music; a very different sensation from speaker listening or even good regular headphones. In fact, the Audeze LCD-XC and Final Sonorous X—sealed designs both—were very different on 'cranial roominess'. With the distance between one's ears fixed, so should relative roominess - about what will fit in without overcrowding our head space. Here Susvara set new personal records. The sealed designs felt far more crammed. In speaker terms, one calls it less space between the performers. Acknowledging how narrow our skulls are to begin with, it seems ridiculous to claim any extra space once we shove four or more musicians in it. Yet the subjective experience diverged drastically. Susvara was the most spacious, uncluttered and 'walk-about' big. To get back to an approved audiophile term, it had the best separation. This seemed directly related to better air-flow management. It telegraphed as an absence of usual reflection and compression effects. Those can lead to greater beefiness and density but are paid for with lesser precision and articulation. Aside from its slightly different tonality, the HE-1000 did all the same things; just not as refined. As so often with upscale hifi, we don't know what we don't know until something resets a marker to open up new territory. That's what Susvara did. It moved a few markers.