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HiFiMAN’s Bluetooth Ananda-BT come with a USB twist

  • Ananda. For Buddhists, a state of extreme happiness. For Chinese headphone manufacturer, a mid-tier headphone model: full-size, circumaural and open back with the 1-2 micron-thick ‘NSD’ planar magnetic diaphragm easing power thirst. At 25 Ohms input impedance and 103 dB input sensitivity, the Ananda demands no muscle amp. Pretty much any portable player (or integrated amplifier headphone socket) would do.

    But which player? The tyranny of choice wades into view with numerous options from Astell&Kern, Sony, FiiO, iBasso, Shanling, Pioneer, Onkyo, HiBy, Opus or HiFiMAN’s own offerings. And how much to spend?

    A decision that HiFiMAN is now making for us. The company’s form with electronics might be why they are able to internally activating the Ananda for an additional two hundred bucks.

    Inside each of the Ananda-BT’s earcups sits battery-powered amplification circuitry that talks directly to the driver. The amplifiers are fed wirelessly via a Bluetooth streaming input that supports Qualcomm’s widely adopted aptX HD codec and HWA’s lesser-known LHDC that at time of writing can only be found in Huawei smartphones. There’s no word yet on support for the all-important AAC support — the iPhone’s only defence against the lesser-sounding SBC. AAC support is now confirmed.

    Playtime between charges is rated by HiFiMAN at 13.5 hours.

    Darko.Audio video editor attended last week’s Midtown Manhattan launch event where she also sat down with HiFiMAN CEO and product engineer Dr. Fang Bian:

    To say that the Ananda-BT’s Bluetooth connection will support 24bit/96kHz audio (as HiFiMAN’s own press release does) is to get a little slippery with the truth. No Bluetooth codec yet offers lossless audio transmission. Any hi-res support will be lossy. Got a case of the codec confusions? Cure yourself here.

    Where their hi-res talk holds firmer lossless ground is via the Ananda-BT’s hard-wired digital connection. Similar to B&W’s noise-cancelling PX, HiFiMAN’s battery-powered headphones don’t only utilise USB for recharging. They can pull digital audio – up to 24bit/192kHz – from any Mac or PC to bypass outboard DAPs, desktop devices and integrateds.

    Here we are reminded of digitally active loudspeakers where an incoming (lossy or lossless) digital audio signal is passed on to an amplifier tuned precisely to meet the driver’s exact specifications and to maximise its performance. A kiss-off to the lottery of shopping for one-size-fits-all outboard solutions and their cables.

    The Ananda-BT will sell for US$1199. Shipping begins later this month.

    Further information: HiFiMAN

    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John is the editor of Darko.Audio, from whose ad revenues he derives an income. He is an occasional contributor to 6moons but has previously written pieces for TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile. John used to live in Sydney. Now he lives in Berlin.

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