Hot on the heels of the $1999 Svanar IEMs, HIFIMAN gives us the Svanar Wireless at $499. Svanar Wireless shares some design similarities with the original Svanar, despite the large price difference, even using a Topology Driver from the same family as the original Svanar’s driver. Does Svanar Wireless provide Svanar’s flagship sound in a TWS package? How does it stack up against the current top tier of HiFi TWS products?
Build and Design
Svanar Wireless has a strong sense of style, with the IEMs themselves and the accompanying case having an angular, futuristic aesthetic. The case is a little bit large for the average pocket, and the angles look great, but can also make for a very strange looking bulge in your skinny jeans. On the bright side, it supports wireless charging and the combined total playback time of the earphones and charger is a pretty solid 28 hours. The case is also designed so that you can use whatever tips you want without having to worry about the size of the tips impacting device charging.
One of the most unique features of Svanar Wireless is how each earphone has an R2R DAC. HIFIMAN designed Svanar Wireless to have the best complete audio chain possible for the space for each of your ears. This results in an above average size, but they remain quite light, and are quite comfortable with a good fit.
Svanar Wireless uses both ANC, which actively blocks louder noises and nearby talking, and ENC, or Environment Noise Canceling, which counteracts constant sounds like HVAC fans or the sound of a jet engine from within a plane. You can cycle ANC, Transparency, and “High Fidelity” modes by pressing on the left earbud. The touch controls are generally good. And I appreciate the audible feedback for each registered touch that lets you know your tap has registered when you’re dealing with 3-tap functions like skipping a track.
Having used HIFIMAN’s TWS800 previously – which sounded amazing, but was very barebones and experienced a number of connectivity and charging issues – I was concerned that Svanar Wireless would be in the same boat: great sound and audio engineering, but poor quality and implementation of the expected TWS feature set. I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of connecting and using Svanar Wireless, and while there isn’t anything groundbreaking about the feature set, it’s a big step up from previous HIFIMAN efforts and on par with current standards.
On elementary school report cards in America, there will often be non-academic criteria – “cooperating with classmates” or “completes work independently” – where a child is gauged on a scale like “Developing Skills,” “Meets Expectations,” and “Exceeds Expectations.” For its feature set, Svanar’s checks the box for “Meets Expectations,” but with a $499 price tag, Svanar Wireless needs to sound REALLY good to not simply be drowned out by the crowd of TWS IEMs with stronger marks for “Doesn’t Completely Drain My Wallet.” Luckily, even with my expectations calibrated to the price point, Svanar Wireless hits “Exceeds Expectations'' with its incredible sonic delivery.
Svanar Wireless very much captures the sound of the original Svanar, with a balanced tuning that emphasizes bass and treble in equal measure, without forgetting about the mids. The bass is just a little bit punchy, with great texture and extension. It’s clearly emphasized, but doesn’t overpower. There is a slight feeling of bleed up into the mids and the occasional hint of bloat there, but in most cases it just comes off as a slight warmth to the sound. Not unlike the original Svanar, the treble provides great balance in the tuning, but is slightly smooth at the top and doesn’t do much to stand out – other than being generally well executed and non-fatiguing.
Svanar Wireless’s imaging is absolutely incredible. While aspects of the tuning and general performance, compare favorably to other TWS options, they aren’t definitively better. But the imaging is highly competitive, not just for a TWS, but for any sub-$1000 IEM. Svanar Wireless throws out a huge, well-rounded, three-dimensional soundstage, and offers excellent positioning and separation on instruments and voices. The imaging is truly one of a kind in the TWS category.
For a great demonstration of Svanar Wireless’s imaging, you can check out “Ego Death” by Polyphia featuring Steve Vai (it’s probably worth checking out no matter what headphones you’re using). The song opens with guitars playing in the distance, and Svanar Wireless provides the genuine feeling of a huge space and far off guitars. The feeling is further enhanced as more instruments start playing in the foreground, offering a strong sense of differentiation in the space. When the full band starts in earnest, there’s excellent separation and clarity in the presentation of the guitars, bass and drums. The low end hits hard, with a powerful but tight impact, and the details are all crystal clear with none of the complex technical wonder of the song being lost.
If guitars shredding over insane polyrhythms isn’t really your thing, lo-fi artist Mujo’s “Everything Gone” offers a stunning display of imaging (and also bass) with some much more chill vibes. The swirling, organic synthesizers move in the space around your head, with a mesmerizing, disorienting feeling, and then the bass hits with a fat, wet kick drum that instantly centers you. The song is only two minutes long, but I found myself hitting the repeat button to catch a texture or countermelody that I missed the previous time. Svanar Wireless brings it all together in a wonderful, but somewhat bizarre soundscape.
Twenty One Pilots’ MTV Unplugged set was less “unplugged” and more about the duo building their heavily layered electronic alternative songs from scratch in front of – and with participation from – the audience. On “Ride/Nico and the Niners,” Svanar Wireless has great dynamics on the slow build of electronic layers, which includes a drum kit built from audience sounds, along with emotional vocal and harmony delivery. The vocals are well placed in the mix, lifelike, and personal sounding. Svanar Wireless sells the live aspects well, putting you in the audience just a few rows from the stage.
While Svanar Wireless can provide a fluid, lush delivery of electronic music, it does just as well in offering a natural, organic presentation of acoustic instruments on tracks like Esperanza Spalding’s “I Know You Know.” The recording here is more personal and intimate, with the imaging putting you front and center at a small jazz club. The bass has a bit of pop and pluck, and the kick drum a tight punch. Esperanza’s vocals feel slightly pulled back from the rest of the band, straining to stand out from the small instrumental ensemble. The whole thing feels quite lifelike, with Svanar Wireless delivering the band with a strong natural timbre.
In direct comparison to the original Svanar – maybe for those of you asking, “If this sounds so good for $499 without wires, why would I buy the $2000 one?” – the originalSvanar has a much stronger sense of resolution, and a much faster, crisper feeling. The small bit of congestion Svanar Wireless experiences in the low mids is also nowhere to be found on the original Svanar. In the imaging, probably the simple fact of replacing Bluetooth with wires, gives the original Svanar a completely black background, enhancing each aspect of the image.
Comparison: Noble FoKus Mystique, Final Audio ZE8000
When Noble released the FoKus Pro, there wasn’t much genuine competition in the HiFi TWS space. Being head and shoulders above AirPods Pro in sound quality was pretty much all Noble needed to do to secure a clear win in the space. Now we’ve had to juggle the TWS crown around a little bit, with the FoKus Mystique and Final ZE8000 consistently sitting at the top of the ranking. Does Svanar Wireless step into the ring and come out the clear winner?
In terms of general features, none of the three are quite at the same level as the top consumer brands. Final ZE8000 probably boasts the best ANC/transparency implementation, with Svanar Wireless being a close second. ZE8000 and FoKus both have well put together apps, while at the time of this review, there was no app available for Svanar. One of the big standouts for me in general use was the fact that Svanar Wireless has excellent ear detection, and pauses music when it’s removed from your ear. I honestly discovered the feature by accident, and used it quite a few times during my testing without any issues.
FoKus Mystique and Svanar have tunings that are a little closer together, while ZE8000 is more unique. In the bass, FoKus has the most impact and power, while Svanar has some emphasis here, but not as much. ZE8000 can hit pretty hard, but it doesn’t feel as strongly emphasized as the other two. Where Svanar demonstrates an advantage here is how it matches the strongly textured ZE8000 for detail in the bass, while having dynamics and impact that are closer to FoKus Mystique.
ZE8000 is the midrange king and Svanar falls in between FoKus Mystique and ZE8000 in the midrange presence and level of detail that’s delivered. In the treble, FoKus demonstrates a more v-shaped feeling, with a little extra energy in the top end. In overall treble presence, FoKus Mystique has the most, with ZE8000 coming in second, but while FoKus has more treble, ZE8000 and Svanar demonstrate a better sense of resolution here.
Svanar Wireless has the strongest overall imaging performance, providing a wider soundstage and the best balance between the separation and cohesion in the imaging. ZE8000 is close in the soundstage, and gives a stronger sense of separation, but can feel slightly unnatural in the separation. FoKus Mystique is more cohesive and organic, but lacks the width, and isn’t as holographic. Svanar basically gets all the best characteristics, with size, holographic presentation, and cohesion.
Not too long ago, we compared the ZE8000 and the FoKus Mystique, and one of our takeaways was that the FoKus was more natural sounding and a little more fun, while the ZE8000 had the clear edge in technical performance. In many ways, Svanar Wireless combines the best of both worlds, delivering strong technical performance, but also a natural timbre and a little bit of extra fun to go with it.
The Bottom Line
Boutique HiFi audio companies have been delivering TWS IEMs that sound significantly better than mainstream consumer options for years now, but it’s only been recently that they didn’t have a significant give-and-take between the features and usability, and the sound quality. Svanar Wireless completely blows HIFIMAN’s previous effort, the TWS800, out of the water, providing an excellent feature set, great connectivity and usability, and some of the best sound quality available in a TWS.
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