Audiophiles love wired headphones. Younger tech fans and music enthusiasts love everything to be wireless. For the past few months, I’ve reviewed nearly every high-performance Bluetooth headphone, from brands such as Sennheiser, Bowers & Wilkins, Mark Levinson, Focal, Technics, Apple, Bose, Sony, and so many others towards the top of the food chain. HIFIMAN falls into the bucket of high-end audiophile brands, but the Deva Pro headphones are very different from more traditional Bluetooth headphones. They are open-back, planar, traditional wired headphones that can be and are encouraged to be used via a 3.5 mm jack, ear-cup-based adaptor that connects right to the speakers making them fully Bluetooth compliant. Boom. How do they sound? How do they work in the real world? They are very different and often quite exciting. Let me tell you how…
What Makes the HIFIMAN Deva Pro Headphones Special?
- Although I don’t fully agree with this statement regarding many of the higher-end Bluetooth headphones out there today, some suggest that they all sound the same. The HIFIMAN Deva Pros do not sound the same as other wireless headphones – not even close. They are an open-back design, which means that they leak some sound out of the ear cups and take in some sound from the exterior. This is common with electrostatic and other higher-end headphone designs in the audiophile and pro-audio world. It isn’t a revolutionary design when it comes to headphones, but it is practically unheard of in the world of Bluetooth cans.
- It would be easy to make the argument that HIFIMAN has made the single most comfortable headphone in the category with the Deva Pro. They are light. They have big earcup that makes a good seal around your ears without needing to put your brain in a vice to get a little extra bass. You can wear the HIFIMAN Deva Pros basically forever before getting physically fatigued.
- The HIFIMAN Deva Pro sounds open and wonderful like you’d expect from a planar speaker. They might not be as tight and/or as accurate as other high-performance players in the market but they sound good. Very good.
- You can use the HIFIMAN Deva Pro Headphones as wired headphones or with Bluetooth. A simple USB-C to USB-C cable will connect your MacBook Pro with these headphones and they sound fantastic wired. You can use a headphone amp and possibly an external DAC if that is a better setup for you. You would go into the headphones with the plastic Bluetooth adapter disconnected and a traditional headphone cable in. I focused more on the wireless performance, but it is important to note why I call them hybrid as you can have your cake and eat it too.
Why Should You Care About the HIFIMAN Deva Pro Headphones?
There aren’t too many times where you get the best of both worlds in the audiophile hobby. Perhaps Class A operation amplifiers is an example where you get the sound of tubes without the grief of tubes. The HIFIMAN Deva Pro Headphones headphones offer you the advantages of a high-end audiophile wired headphone while allowing you the ability to make them a little bit more portable. For some, portability isn’t an issue and there are likely better options. For others, they must have the mobility that Bluetooth offers but they want most of what a traditional audiophile headphone offers. This is for the later person.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the HIFIMAN Deva Pro Headphones
- You don’t get an app. There’s no EQ. There are not a lot of the modern tricks that typically come with today’s best Bluetooth wireless headphones.
- There is no noise cancelation. For that matter, there’s no passive noise isolation. As such, external noise gets into your ears and can mess up your listening session. Additionally, the sound of your music may disturb those around you, as the openness goes both ways.
- The battery life of the HIFIMAN Deva Pro Headphones is pretty impressive, but nothing compared to comparable headphones in the wireless Bluetooth category. Others in the $400-and-up range can last 30 hours or more. The HIFIMAN Deva Pro Headphones last long but not that long. I checked my battery life right in the Bluetooth icon in the upper-left of my Apple devices. It was rare that these headphones ever dipped below 80 percent of a charge.
- If you have the Deve Pro paired with your laptop, you might need to turn it off if you want to pair to the cans with, say, an iPad or iPhone. I banged my head against the wall trying to make this work until I turned off my laptop. Future connections didn’t need this little trick, but it will help you as you get the HIFIMAN Deva Pro Headphones working with all of your devices.
Listening to the HIFIMAN Deva Pro Headphones…
The Deva Pro headphones have an open, almost soft sound to them that you just don’t hear from traditional Bluetooth headphones. Imaging and placement are simply excellent, with a round, tight bass as heard on “Fly As Me” from An Evening With Silk Sonic – a modern soulful classic (CD resolution 1440 AIFF file) (buy at Amazon on CD, MP3 or vinyl). In the first chorus, you hear the swelling, analog organ fill the dynamic window in a way that is fully engaging. The James Brown-inspired syncopation, thanks to Andersen Paak, sounds even better. The Bruno Mars-led vocal harmonies are just ear candy on the HIFIMAN Deva Pro Headphones. Simply put, other high-end wireless headphones can’t do what these headphones can do, especially in a quiet room. In a noisy room, you are going to get interference from your environment. My office is pretty quiet right now and thank God for that.
I’ve used “Mana I’m Coming Home” from Ozzy Osbourne from the No More Tears album (CD Resolution 1440 AIFF) (buy at Amazon) as a demo track in a number of my recent high-end wireless headphone reviews. On the Deva Pros, the bass isn’t the deepest I’ve heard, although it is close, but what is compelling is how open everything sounds. Even with big studio productions with tons of layering, lots of tracks, big drums, bigger guitars. and overdubs galore, you still hear this really compelling sound when playing the HIFIMAN Deva Pro headphones.
On “Jump” from Van Halen’s most famous album, 1984 (CD Resolution AIFF 1440) (buy at Amazon on CD, MP3 or vinyl), you hear a sound that has that in-the-studio quality that draws you right in. The midrange frequencies, including Roth’s vocals, sound open but have just a little bit of veil to them that I blame on the inherent nature of Bluetooth, as I have heard that sonic malady on other wireless headphones too. There are no glaring flaws to the sound of the the HIFIMAN Deva Pro headphones as they are open, warm-sounding, and engaging. The Mark Levinson No. 5909s and the Focal Bathys at three to four times the price are more accurate and tight in the mids, have EQ, longer battery life and more. Did I mention their price, though? Does the HIFIMAN Deva Pro Have Any Resale Value?
These headphones aren’t as expensive as you might expect, so it doesn’t really matter if they have much resale value as you will likely drain enough value out of the headphones over time to put them in the these-headphones-don’t-owe-me a penny category. With that said, I bet you could still sell them for something after a few years of use. But why? You could keep them as just wired, audiophile headphones unless you needed a little capital to make your next upgrade. The box is gorgeous. See if you could save that somewhere if you are looking to max out your resale value someday.
Who is the Competition For the HIFIMAN Deva Pro?
In a way, I don’t know of too many headphones that compete directly with the HIFIMAN Deva Pro. Some, like the Focal Bathys and a few others, will act like wired headphones but they don’t have the open-back design, so it isn’t the best apples-to-apples comparison. There are wired headphones like the all-time classic Sennheiser HD600s (buy at Amazon) but they are wired. If you want to mow the lawn wearing them, you need all sorts of other gear with you in your rig. If you want to be truly mobile, you need something like the very good-sounding Sennheiser Momentum 4 headphones (buy at Amazon) but they are really designed to be Bose Noise Canceling 700s Headphones (buy at Amazon) and Apple AirPods Max (buy at Amazon) killers in the wireless space.
Focal Bathys at $799 (buy at Amazon) come from one of the best headphone and certainly one of the top audiophile speaker companies. Leave it to the French to design an absolutely gorgeous speaker that is also just loaded with technology and performance that they can come to market at 50 percent more than Apple. Is it worth it? I think so, but you need to give a few players in the space a spin first. At that price, you need to love your wireless headphones.
Mark Levinson No. 5909 headphones at $999 (buy at Amazon) deliver on what may well be the most important words in high-end headphones right now: the Harman target curve which simplistically is their best math and science to make headphones sound to you like they are speakers in a room. Harman brings what they learned making some of the world’s best headphones under brands like AKG and JBL to their lauded Mark Levinson brand and the results speak for themselves. The No. 5909 have that tight fit that some, like me with big heads, find wearying. They are more resolute sounding in the mids and highs, thus they don’t have as much as that open or somewhat soft sound that you get from these HIFIMAN Deva Pro headphones. You get killer active noise cancelation, though, as well as an app with EQ and other goodies. The Mark Levinson No. 5909 are good, but so are the HIFIMAN Deva Pro and for a lot less money.
Bowers & Wilkins Px8s headphones at $699 (buy at Amazon) came with me on a trip to the Washington D.C. area to attend Capital Audiofest, and I got more attention from a pair of headphones in my travels than ever in my life when on a trip. The flight attendant on the way out was gushing over how good-looking they were in tan (I like the HIFIMAN DEVA Plus better in tan versus the more standard black that I tested). When I got to my Marriott, a young man went ga-ga over them and had to try them on right then and there. The Bowers & Wilkins Px8s are a show-stopper visually. Sonically they are excellent, too, but they do benefit from some EQ via their two-band internal EQ for the bass. The Bowers & Wilkins ANC is as good as it gets. Compare the Px8’s noise cancelation with that of Bose and Sony, which have for years been considered the best in the business. The Px8s aren’t as open sounding as the HIFIMANs but when torture tested in prime-time Friday night action in that Marriott’s bar with me feeling like I wanted to wolf-down my chicken Caesar salad and get back to my room, they have the edge with their powerful noise cancelation. On a plane, any of these other top Bluetooth headphones will be better as well as more polite to your neighbors, who likely don’t want to hear the new Björk record leaking out of the side of your open-back headphones. In terms of overall excitement and engagement, and especially at this price, these HIFIMAN headphones are a player in the space.
Final Thoughts on the HIFIMAN Deva Pro Headphones
Fun. Fun. Fun. ’Til, daddy took the T-bird away. The HIFIMAN Deva Pro headphones are just a blast to listen to and among the most fun products that I’ve had the privilege to review in my recent, unexpected return to the audiophile world. Are the HIFIMAN Deva Pro headphones the best headphones ever? Not even close. Are they best in the wireless category? No, they don’t win there either. But they are just a blast to listen to. They have that open sound that can only come from an open-back headphone. They are possibly the most comfortable headphone ever put over my ears, and that’s counting the reference STAX Headphones from Japan, costing many thousands of dollars. They look great, especially dressed in tan over the more traditional black leather. The HIFIMAN Deva Pro headphones are a somewhat impractical but not-too-expensive trip away from reality that pretty much any audiophile, regardless of age and buying power, can enjoy.