Here the pair of Questyle CMA-800r monos are Bakoon alternates though they do sit just a bit lower on refinement. With Denafrips' flagship Terminator Plus DAC on the organic rather than rez-über-alles side and the ER50 a hot-rodded form of the lit-up 45 DHT, I had my ideal surroundings for framing Wodan. With it, I put Questyle's attenuators at 12:00/half, then Vinnie Rossi's preamp at 38. With Susvara, Questyle's attenuators opened to max, the preamp's didn't move. That created identical SPL.
iMac ⇒ Audirvana ⇒ Soundaware D300Ref ⇔ Denafrips Terminator + ⇒ Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature ⇒ Questyle CMA-800r
HifiMan Susvara. On perceived build quality, Wodan scored higher. Susvara uses veneer not solid wood. It runs pressed not natural leather to feel more synthetic. Its metal bits are flimsier. On wear, Susvara was lighter though so still comfier. On sonics, things now were really close. In the end, I had to give the far pricier Chinese a minor edge on transparency and dynamics. That made Wodan feel like wearing the exact same shirt only washed once to have shrunk a tick. On more electrostatic speed/directness, Susvara are our top planarmagnetics. They're trumped only by the Serbian ribbons which remain the best headphones I know. Because it would suggest more of a gap than I heard, I can't even call Wodan a Susvara-lite version. That's really HifiMan's own HE-1000. Wodan more than split that difference. This confirmed how it really is a very quick, detailed, neutral and linear design at the top of a class where one expects precious little personality and instead a boatload of untouched data. Naturally ice-water ancillaries will telegraph straight through. This ideally warrants support kit which mirrors our Denafrips/Vinnie Rossi injectors of tone and fluidism. Here Wodan subscribes to the notion that any flavor/character shouldn't be built into a transducer which already must convert voltage/current into mechanical motion to switch domains. It should come from what precedes it purely in the electrical domain. Here listeners use different approaches. None is more or less correct. It's only about knowing where to insert a rudder if one wants a course correction. For Wodan, I'd look primarily at the source, so Aqua Hifi or Denafrips types, not Chord or Questyle.
Another €69 TK Maxx headphone stand. The floating Buddha head on the desktop is from the same discount store. Shopping beyond hifi can net unexpectedly useful but fun finds.
With my two pairs of loaner pads, I found the already mounted thus presumably default ear pillows with bigger perf holes more linear. The alternates were bassier and more contoured in the midrange. To simplify, I'll call the first critical voicing, the second fun. Though visually identical, I was surprised by the shift's clarity. €78/pr for the extra pair will have you roll in plush pillows to your heart's content.
This leads to my inevitable conclusion. Better built, far easier to drive, nearly 1/3rd the price yet of the exact same mix of qualities just to a slightly lesser extent, my book calls the Wodan from St. Peterburg's Kennerton a shoo-in for our original HifiMan Susvara ('original' because I haven't the foggiest whether Fang Bian and team issued any revisions since).
Being my first dip into Kennerton's product pool, I was admittedly a bit shocked. With nearly a decade in the biz, it just wasn't them who were new to it but I. What a wakeup call, especially when in the Russian pantheon Thridi, Thekk and Thror still situate above. Their basic driver is the same but tweaked. Certain parts of it become carbon fiber as shown left [opposite the company's own graphite/mylar dynamic version] and the acoustic geometry thus loading of their wooden chambers changes. Those might become stories for other rainy winter days?
For today, Wodan delivered exactly what I had asked Vladimir for when I referenced the Raal SR1a then HifiMan Susvara as my favorites in our collection. Knowing his creations, he'd hand-picked the model whose voicing he expected would most overlap. It did.
How my publisher's mind works, all of it meant an award. 95% of sonic goodness for ~40% of a popular reference's ask was basic math I could still handle. Add the useful far higher sensitivity. Add the three desirables of more robust more luxurious build and custom options. Given my hardware background, this ending wrote itself. No need to hear Wodan's dearer fellow gods. Whatever weapons they yield won't modulate today's assessment by one raven feather. So yes, sky god Wodan does join Yevgeny Mravinsky & Co. as a Russian artist who will gift today's music-loving public with many great performances if you just listen to him.
Because some people only read tail ends, here's the recap in bullet points: very comfortable; superbly built; customizable with natural or enhanced wood species and different leather textures/dyes; cables on par with aftermarket providers like our Forza Audioworks; easy to drive so mobile devices apply; 3-year warranty; very useful camera-style bag; tuned to be linear, neutral, quick and detailed thus very different from early Fostex, Audeze and Oppo planarmagnetics; like water not chocolate to misquote the title of Laura Esquivel's famous novel. For shoppers in this league, must be mentioned in the same breath as Final's D8000 or Meze's Empyrean flagships.