Versus Sonorous X & LCD-XC. If this were an attempt to establish ultimate hierarchy, the Audeze should have been their very best LCD-4. As a Susvara review concerned only with mapping performance in context, any recognizable competitor fit the bill. Here the sealed model was a more current expression of Audeze tech than my old pre-Fazor LCD-2 v1. The LCD-XC played it warmer, with more fuzz and bloom around the edges. Overall precision was lower. By contrast, it also was minimally brash or coarse in the presence region and clearly darker on top. Susvara was 'quicker' and the more open and extended in the treble. Final's top over-ear design was Susvara's equal on perceived neutrality but of the three the most intense on color, pressurization and image density. On low-frequency bandwidth, all were equal. My biggest neural blocker with these challengers came from that reduced 'cranial roominess' when plainly, the sensation wasn't a case of wider Susvara staging. Observing an effect is one thing. Understanding cause to properly communicate the bigger picture is another.

Hi-current balanced mono drive off bridged Questyle CMA800R. Side by side, the HE-1000 'stack' is taller than Susvara's.

My 'aha' moment came during a lengthy evening swap session. I wasn't thinking about the effect but inquiring into it with my feeling awareness. Suddenly I saw its action most clearly. Its enabler was superior microdynamics. Let's backtrack. With headphones, one can't really talk of a layered depth perspective like one does with loudspeakers in free space. Those seem to cast images through the front wall and at clearly demarcated different distances for sundry sounds. Susvara outdid Audeze and Final by maintaining more variegated sonic precedence. Lead vocals or instruments were more clearly differentiated and distinguished from the enfolding background action. Even that background action had its various constituents more discrete. Whilst it all felt better mapped in a spatial sense—though it wasn't traditional layering—the actual mechanics were better articulated microdynamics. With the Sonorous X and LCD-XC, coincident sounds were far more alike on the loudness scale. That equalled spatial clumping. In speaker terms, it was more wall-of-sound. In terms of recorded dynamic range, it was more compressed. Greater sameness of loudness meant a lower tier of separation. Plainly why Susvara separated better to appear as the spatially more sorted and specific was that it magnified tiny loudness differences more than the others. A foreground sound was not 'nearer' on subjective listener distance as it would be in a conventional speaker setup. It had precedence by being louder even if by just a hair.

Once I looked at the effect in those terms, it became instantly recognizable with each swap. Fang's claims for Susvara's thinner/lighter membrane were greater bandwidth and resolution. After experiencing Susvara, I would redefine resolution as not just better micro-detail recovery but superior dynamic diction. A premium radio announcer for a curated music programme as we have them here in Ireland excels at not just proper enunciation like a BBC anchor. He also builds a melodious cadence of loquacious delivery with much dynamic expressiveness to inject humour and establish an emotional rapport with his audience. In similar fashion, Susvara's lighter faster more responsive diaphragm wasn't just about hearing more of the tiny plankton inside the sonic sea. It was about hearing more dynamic contrast because a minuscule voltage difference at the amplifier output translated into a perceptibly different loudness at the ear, for one sound versus another which occurred at the same time. And with music, it could be ten or twenty sounds which happen simultaneously. The more finely gradated they are on the dynamic scale, the more intelligible compositional complexity becomes. We understand what we hear to a higher degree.

Given Susvara's very low sensitivity whereas the above reads irreconcilably like an ode to the virtues of high-efficiency horns, a thinking reader is bound to spot a contradiction. It's where superior amplification, of what for headphones is copious current delivery, enters the picture. It's not just about playing loud enough without distortion and producing superior bass. It's about optimum current drive to maximize the design's dynamic expressiveness.

The second point of potential contention should be attainable bass reach and power. Dipole speakers like Magneplanars aren't known for ultimate bass unless their panels get very big. On that score, the sealed Sonorous followed by the equally sealed LCD-XC ought to have claimed an advantage by design. From what I heard once I'd graduated to my best Bakoon amp, they did not. Anyone accusing Susvara of not fully developed bass has simply not heard the last word. It's just not artificially elephantine like my original LCD-2 bass heads are. Equally true was that against the dynamic Sonorous X with its ultra rigid full-metal cups and sealed loading, Susvara came a clear second on colour saturation and raw radiation intensity. Different tools, different results.

Tabula brava. It's a brave new world for flagship headphones. With the shackles of fiscal restraint off for good and the race for ever-resettable peaks unstoppable, it's all too easy to get stuck on the money and never get to what it actually buys. For a change of obscenery, there's performance. When there is a noteworthy next step. In my book of planarmagnetics, Susvara delivers that next step. It offers more linearity, resolution and treble than any Audeze, Oppo or Fostex I've heard (in fairness, I've not clapped ears on an LCD-3 or 4). In trade, it's punishingly inefficient to demand premium amplification which should be costlier. It's surprisingly comfortable for its size and beautifully made though what, exactly, a buyer expects for $6'000 is up for grabs. It's likely that Final's top planar promised for later this year will break new ground on luxury orthodynamic builds. Not up to par at least with my delivery was the appearance of the accompanying cable. Hopefully that still gets sorted.

Beyond that, Susvara—as noisy cover quotes by book critics keep phrasing it—was quite unputdownable. I truly felt privileged for the opportunity to sample HifiMan's most current state of their art. It's bloody impressive. Brava! Of course my two colleagues already said exactly the same. For once, repetitiveness of opinion really does rule.

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