HiFiMAN is a name you’ve probably heard of a few times if you’ve been reading us for a while. They’re a manufacturer of high quality, relatively low-cost audio equipment that isn’t utter rubbish. When I was asked to send my address to a HiFiMAN rep and a few weeks later a box showed up with 3 pair of headphones/earphones, I decided I better start taking this seriously. That was 9 months ago, and I’ve been using the HiFiMAN Deva literally every day. I don’t usually take this long to review audio equipment, but these so quickly became a part of my daily life that I forgot I was meant to be reviewing them.
- Beautiful sound
- Crisp highs
- Tight bass
- Bluemini is awesome USB-DAC
- Bluemini battery could be better
- Still might be out of price range of many people
Specifications – HiFiMAN Deva
- HiFiMAN NsD (Neo super diaphragm)
- 20Hz-20,000Hz frequency response
- 18Ω Impedance
- Native TRRS socket (3.5mm)
- HiFiMAN Bluemini DAC/Amp included
- LDAC,AptX, AptX-HD, AAC,SBC supported codecs
- USB-C charging/ host mode
- Bluetooth connection
- 230mW Amp
Hardware – HiFiMAN Deva
The HiFiMAN Deva headphones are these gorgeous open-back planar-magnetic over-ear headphones and I am honestly in love, the build quality of these is pretty dang impressive, it’s a beautiful mix of metal, plastic and leather (or artificial leather, I can’t quite tell). The outer part of the ear cups, which perfectly encapsulate my ears is a silver plastic that is very well colour matched to the metal grille on the outside face of the earcup and the arms holding the cups to the headpiece. Initially, I didn’t like the tan and silver colour scheme, reminded me of a late 80s early 90s Ferrari you’d see Tom Selleck driving around in, but it’s really grown on me, and they definitely stand out in my office.
For a bit more detail, the inner diameter of the foam earcups is 57mm and the foam squish is 25mm, and given that the clamping pressure of the headband is actually quite light, the DEVAs often stay on my head for hours, even if I’m not listening to anything, just because they’re so comfortable. Speaking of the headband, it too has roughly 25mm of squish available to it. There is a surprisingly large amount of adjustability to the length of the cup distance. There are 9 discrete steps roughly 3.5mm apart, so whether you have a tiny noggin like me on the smallest setup or have a friend like bigfoot, these should definitely fit.
I do love just how minimal the branding on the DEVAs is, on the left arm connection point is the HiFiMAN branding, on the opposing side is the DEVA branding, on the insides, there are L and R markings, and right at the bottom of the earcups on the outside is the HiFiMAN logo. Below the HiFiMAN logo is the sole input on the headphones themselves, the 3.5mm TRRS jack, though the Bluemini is also available as a package with the DEVAs.
Audio Quality – HiFiMAN Deva
The DEVAs aren’t my first pair of open-back headphones, nor my first pair of Planar Magnetic headphones, but something about these are a big step up over the last ones I tried. The DEVAs aren’t “reference Quality”, in the sense they don’t have a flat audio signature, and whilst for some that is what they want, sometimes a little bump in the bass like we get here is pleasant without going full-on Beats by Dre.
Something trippy happens when you listen to open-back P.M headphones for the first time/for the first time in a while and that’s songs you think you know, song you think you know every nook and cranny of, suddenly have more depth and, for lack of a better word, space. For me, I listen to the TRON: Legacy soundtrack a lot, I use it when I’m studying, or when I just need to tune out, I’ve listened to it on £10 wired earbuds plugged into a phone through £50 Bluetooth buds, to £200 truly wireless buds and even once on a Sennheiser HE1 (£50k) at a tradeshow. Listening to “Derezzed” which is one of my favourite tracks, the only way I can describe how it sounds and feels is that when there is an electronic ripple in the track I can feel it/visualise it spreading out around me, like a ripple in a pond. It’s kind of cliche to say the soundstage of open-back headphones makes you feel like you’re in the centre of the recording, but, it’s true, at least for me.
I think it should be noted that 95% of my listening on the DEVAs was using the Bluemini in USB-DAC mode. I always have USB cables on me, not every phone I test has a headphone jack, and most phones have terrible DACs and amps in them, I’d rather just USB into the DEVAs and get great sound, even if it a bit bigger than a 3.5mm cable. On my desktop, I did try using 3.5mm mode and they honestly sound fine, 18 Ohms of impedance is impressively low for how great these sound, but I don’t have a desktop amp anymore (damaged in a move) and I have plenty of USB ports, so I just USB into my computer and get a great sound.
So going into a bit more detail, the low end of the DEVAs, the bass end was very noticeable and present, but not in a distracting way, I’m not vibrating my skull or shaking when I try to take them off, but they are tight and precise, each hit of the bass drum in “Spark-Again” is there, it is noticeable but it doesn’t overtake the rest of the song, it knows its place and it is working in tandem with the mids and highs to give you a slightly more pop-y version of studio/reference monitors, and I think that’s a wise choice.
Mids and Vocals
So on to Mids and vocals and these are a lot more flat and neutral than the lows. The vocals especially benefit from the open design feels like the person is standing next to you singing not screaming into your ear. Finally, I want to talk about strings. String instruments are usually high and mids, so violins, cellos etc, and to test the performance I went to the “2CELLO” Guys on YouTube, I know that’s not the best, Youtube compressed the ever-loving snot out of audio as well as video, but even so, their rendition of Pirates of the Caribbean sent shivers down my spine, it just felt so full and authentic, not overly processed, which makes me want to hear it in FLAC.
I think my perception of highs is somewhat damaged after years of not caring about my hearing and just playing bad 96kb/s MP3s at max volume on cheap earbuds throughout my early teenage years, but even so, even I can appreciate how noticeably sharper but not shrill the highs are on the DEVAs. Listening to Lindsay Sterling’s magnificent “Phantom of the Opera”, once again a compressed YouTube video still manages to make me smile, I don’t even know if it is reaching the limits of what the headphones are comfortable reproducing but they never felt like they were struggling, it didn’t sound tinny and shrill enough to make me want to put wax in my ears and never listen to music again.
Connectivity – HiFiMAN Deva
The DEVAs natively support 3.5mm TRRS (tip, ring, ring, sleeve) audio jack, and come with a 3.5mm-¼” adaptor in the box and I have used the DEVAs in this mode, but as I stated earlier, most of my listening was done with the Bluemini adaptor. The Bluemini is a DAC and amplifier that plugs directly into the headphone jack of the DEVAs and has a Bluetooth transmitter in it as well and a USB-C port for host mode, what does that mean? When if you plug these into a phone or computer they’ll just show up as a USB audio device, so it used the DAC and amplifier in the Bluemini instead of the likely disappointing one in your laptop, phone, desktop speakers etc.
I Cannot find many details on the Bluetooth chip inside the Bluemini, and I’m not cracking mine open to find out, but given that it supports both APtX and AptX-HD I’m going to go out on a pretty well-educated guess and say it’s a Qualcomm chip inside. I did test Bluetooth mode on a range of android phones, included the Huawei P30 Pro, the Google Pixel 4a, and about 5 different Realme phones, I also tested Bluetooth on my Huawei MateBook 13 as well as my desktop computer, but honestly, Bluetooth audio on windows is hilariously broken and unreliable, so I mostly used USB mode. On android the situation was a lot more positive and sounded practically identical to how it did when cabled via USB, which it should, it is the same DAC and amp, but it does have to them be transferred via Bluetooth, which whilst Bluetooth is a lot better than it was, it’s a wireless lossy transfer, cabled will win, but I was very impressed at just how good these sounded on Bluetooth though.
USB mode does differ a bit, on Windows, it is pretty much flawless, USB audio has been supported in windows for years and is really good. Same on Linux. I used elementaryOS on a few of my computers and that worked as well. On Android, though USB audio tends to be a bit iffy and if the phone has a headphone jack it usually doesn’t want to send audio out of the USB port, but more and more phones are sending users notifications when audio is playing as to which source to output the sound whether it be headphones, speakers, earbuds etc.
My biggest issue with the Bluemini though is the battery life. HiFiMAN claims you can get 7-10 hours out of it, I was lucky if I hit 5.5 hours most of the time I listened, and I usually only have the headphones at 40-50% volume, so I don’t know why I’m draining it so quickly. Also, the included braided USB-C cable is gorgeous, however, mine broke within a week, the internal wires must have frayed, thankfully, USB-C cables are pretty easy to find, though none of my other ones are quite as supple as the supplied braided one.
If it isn’t bloody obvious, I love my HiFiMAN DEVAs, they sound great, they are incredibly well built, the packaging is top-notch, and the inclusion of the Bluemini is something I appreciate and isn’t something they say “well you want this, go buy it” it is just included. They’re not perfect for sure, I really wish the Bluemini was a tad smaller or lasted a little closer to their average time, I would have also liked to see a version of the DEVAs with the DAC and Amp built-in so I can direct USB-C into the headphones instead of having to go through the Bluemini.
But, I’m having a tough time not being positive about these, because as I said in the beginning, I have had these for 9 months and not reviewed them purely because they got integrated into my daily life so fast I forgot to take notes, I just put them on and worked, these are so good they’re practically invisible for me, and that’s about the highest compliment I can give.