Could the high inflow of new driver types and hybrid IEMs be the reason that makes me excited to see a classic single DD earphone? Hifiman released RE2000 back in 2017. Several years have passed since then, having new technologies and drivers being presented to the industry. The industry also got competitive as the audiophile pool shrinks. Just about when the community started to question the worth of a single driver IEM, Hifiman released their new successor IEM, the Svanar. Is Svanar any worth the price tag, and can it compete with all sorts of flashy hybrid IEMs? Time to find them out.
Packaging: The usual stuff
Hifiman’s classic packaging also applies to the Svanar. The black leather packaging box gives a premium feeling and could also be used as a various storage box. Once unboxed it reveals the IEMs and the accessories. Other than the earpieces, Svanar comes with a 3.5mm stock cable, a storage case, 5 pairs of eartips, 1 pair of ear hooks, 2 pairs of spare 2pin male connectors (for future maintenance), and a paper book that describes the product and its usage.
The included accessories are rather ordinary (if not identical) ones found in previous Hifiman products. I do feel the need for Hifiman to improve the quality of their accessories and cable which unfortunately haven’t changed much on Svanar. They aren’t bad, yet they aren’t up to standards either. The 5 pairs of eartips are consisted of a variety of flanged/non-flanged eartips but do not provide enough variety in size for getting a pleasant fit.
Earpieces are elegant.
Although I’ve made complaints about the accessories, the IEMs themselves are made beautifully. The word “Svanar” is a Swedish term for “swans” and Hifiman took this term for naming the IEM due to its shape resembling a swan floating on water. As usual, Svanar uses a single dynamic driver with Topology diaphragms. Since there are countless brands incorporating all sorts of hybrid and multiple drivers for their flagship IEMs, there’s a reason why Hifiman only uses a single driver – along with the purpose behind this “Topology” diaphragm.
It’s no surprise that IEM drivers inevitably produce inadequacies and distortions, and especially more for balanced armatures & multi-driver setups. This would cause general inaccuracy and inconsistency in sound production. This is why Hifiman created Topology diaphragms. Topology diaphragms are coated with special Nanoparticles with particular geometric patterns that carefully manipulate the sound wave formation – so that the inevitable distortions would be corrected as a result. Hifiman claims that varying the shape, pattern, and thickness of this geometric coating will manipulate the sound signature and characteristics, making them possible to achieve the specific sound they’re looking for.
The cable is barely.. mediocre.
As for the cable, I’m not too impressed. I can tell it has gotten less springy and rigid than the one from RE2000. However, it still doesn’t feel reliable in durability. No strain reliefs could be found for the upper portion. The large L-shaped plug feels less convenient and the non-balance 3.5mm termination doesn’t do a whole lot for the high-end users. Meanwhile, the sound quality of the stock cable is promising enough and the storage case feels durable. Hifiman has a lot to improve in this area since such matters have been brought up by users for a while now.
Sound Impression – Lows
Casually yet skillfully, Svanar is like an experienced craftsman. Fully embodying the charms of a single dynamic driver could have, the bass is rich but done with a very flawless, gentle attitude.
Tightly controlled with a profound texture but streamlined flow and smooth surface. The elastic damping and meaty texture. Overall, the bass provides continuous, flowing-like dynamics. The bass quantity is just about similar to those that are slightly v-shaped. It may not be enough for those who listen to metal or hip-hop tracks – but unless you’re a basshead, the amount would be ideal for most genres.
Although considered an indirect element, one thing that determines a good bass has to do with the background quality. A clean, dark background makes the bass cleaner and clearer. Svanar is particularly well done in this area. Svanar’s pitch-black, calm, and quiet background allowed a more vivid bass presence than the actual quantity of the bass.
The gentle bass reverbs are also done cleanly with control. The depth retrieval is also very pleasing. The bass temperature is neutral-warm, giving an organic feeling but not dulling the timbre. Svanar evenly highlights both ultra-lows and upper-lows. It somewhat gives me a feeling of a bass played through a planar headphone.
Sound Impression – Mids
Graininess from an IEM offers a pleasant high-res experience yet is also vulnerable to bad timbre and roughness. Perhaps other IEMs may have sounded rough if they were to attempt to expose this much grain with a single driver. However, Svanar vividly reveals the vocal texture while retaining great smoothness.
The next thing that Svanar greets me from its mids is a creamy and clear tone. It’s very natural yet also sweet. Even seducing in a way. Svanar makes its sound memorable and fun to listen to – without sounding colored or bland. Vocals take a gentle step forward from the bass, staying clearly separated from the lows. The transition is done very naturally that doesn’t feel choppy.
Could it be the Topology structure that Hifiman applied to Svanar? The tone doesn’t get shouty but the vocals are very prominent and refreshing. Great consistency could be found throughout the mid-range, keeping the flow linear without causing audible spikes or dips. An adequate, consistent amount of airiness keeps the atmosphere refreshing too.
Sound Impression – Highs, etc.
Svanar is not a treble machine but still does its job very well on the highs. Details are prominent and textures are fine in grain. It doesn’t feel too much like I’m missing out on treble resolution and analyticity despite the single DD setup. But that also means that highs aren’t the wow factor either. This is more about the tuning concept, however.
Dedicating multiple EST or BA drivers for ultra-highs would offer a good amount of refreshment and openness. Yet that isn’t necessarily considered “natural”. In the books of Hifiman, those kinds of trebles would probably be considered exaggerated. In fact, the phasing accuracy is one of the strongest reasons why many brands still persist in using a single driver and Svanar is one of them. It simply sounds right.
Svanar’s highs soak in harmonically with the rest of the frequencies, all while exposing the necessary details as a flagship IEM. This is what Svanar differentiates from typical IEMs with recessed trebles – Svanar is high in resolution yet incredibly comfortable to listen to. With the right timbre and quantity, highs provide pleasant shine and air to the upper end and keep the music fatigue-free.
The size of the soundstage is adequately generous – not really grand nor congested. Feels similar to a decently large studio room. Svanar’s headroom feels more organized, neat, and better to focus on the details.
Svanar is a direct upgrade from RE2000 as expected. The overall tone is cleaner, calmer, and simply more “accurate” than RE2000. It’s the type of change that makes you feel the sound to be more organized and neutral. The background has also gotten quieter and darker, allowing the music itself to pop out better and keeping the atmosphere clean.
As for the bass, Svanar dives deeper and is thicker in color, producing a stronger bass presence than RE2000. Apart from that, the sub-bass quantity has also increased on Svanar. Another difference is that there’s a significant improvement in ultra-low extension and depth retrieval too. Mids are also creamier, smoother, and less shouty than RE2000. Feels more tamed throughout the mid-range. Svanar’s headroom is also fuller and richer than RE2000, providing a wider and more spatial soundstage.
Overall sound signature and characteristics of these two are more similar than expected. Yet there are still some differences that are worth mentioning. Timbre is more on-focus on Svanar which makes the overall sound cleaner and clearer. As for the bass, Svanar’s bass is slightly cleaner but Luna carries more weight and punch. The bass quantity is very similar to each other. Trebles are a bit clearer on Svanar, but then again, Luna’s trebles feel denser and more agile.
Now for the mid-range. Svanar’s lower mids are relatively thinner than Luna which gives the vocals better separation with the lows. However, this also means Svanar’s vocals are less fuller in the body. If you want meaty vocals, then Luna would work better. If you’re into neutral or female vocals, Svanar should fit you well. It’s an evenly matched game that can’t say either one is better. Both are at the same performance level with only minor differences (yet important for us audiophiles).
Verdicts for Svanar
The silky smoothness and grainy texture details are two elements that are difficult to coexist with each other – but not impossible. Who said dynamic drivers are inferior to hybrid drivers? Through Svanar Hifiman has once again proven that a single-driver IEM can possess immaculate performance that competes or even outperforms multi-driver flagship IEMs.
I would say Svanar is one of the most balanced-sounding 1DD IEMs to this date. Everything is precisely organized and the musical touch is done just about the right amount, allowing Svanar to be a great all-rounder. Svanar is particularly a recommendable choice to make if you’re looking for a reference monitor IEM as its clean, reference tuning is not only analytic but also enticing to listen to.