One of the best entry-level planar magnetic headphones is the Hifiman Sundara. It manages to capture the magic of the higher-end Hifiman headphones and does not have too many weaknesses. It is arguably the best headphone to have if you wish to experience the world of planar magnetic headphones for the first time.
Unlike open-back dynamic driver headphones, the Hifiman Sundara manages to give a punchy and enjoyable bass experience. This is done without sacrificing the fidelity of the mids and highs,
The midrange is perfectly balanced between the highs and lows. They exhibit excellent detail and clarity and have a good amount of separation from other instruments. Both male and female vocals are handled well by Sundara without encountering any noticeable peaks.
The highs are well extended without being as peaky as other headphones in its price range, such as the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro. It isn’t the most accurate sounding headphone. However, it is surely one of the most enjoyable.
But, of course, being a planar magnetic headphone means that it will need some power to perform at its best. In this article, we will be talking about the best options to pair with the Hifiman Sundara.
Best DAC/Amp For Hifiman Sundara
iFi Micro Signature
And that is mostly because of its output power, features, and build quality. With the new updated model, you can expect even better results.
Just like the iFi Micro BL, the Micro Signature is a transportable unit that is smaller than most desktop DAC/Amps but larger than traditional portable DAC/Amps. It has a long and flat design that makes it sit well in a desktop setup. It can also be easily stored inside a Pelican hard case if you want to transport it.
There are a few aesthetic differences and new ports in front and at the sides of the device. The Micro Signature has a blue color, which makes it distinct from the Micro BL’s black color and the original Micro’s silver color.
There is also now a dedicated USB Type-C port on the side of the device for charging. This is great since you can now charge the device without using the full-sized USB cable at the back.
The iFi Micro Signature also now has a 4.4mm balanced output along with the standard 6.35mm SE output. The 4.4mm balanced output is a welcome addition, especially given its popularity in recent years. Additionally, both outputs feature iFi’s “S-Balanced” Technology, which promises to give the benefits of a balanced connection in the single-ended output.
In terms of its sound quality, the iFi Micro Signature uses a dual DAC configuration (Burr-Brown Chip) that helps produce a natural and accurate sound perfect for the Sundara. The dual DAC configuration helps produce strong channel separation and lower noise floor in case you also want to use it with sensitive IEMs.
As for the power output, the iFi Micro Signature has several power modes that are designed to drive less efficient headphones and planar magnetic headphones. Even the eco mode should be loud enough for the Hifiman Sundara.
Additionally, you can modify the sound of your headphones without the use of a digital EQ. You can tighten the low end as well as widen the soundstage through the use of the xBass and 3D Holographic features.
Overall, if you are looking for a powerful and feature-packed DAC/Amp for your Hifiman Sundara, then you cannot go wrong with the iFi Micro Signature.
Power (max) 10.0V/4,100 mW
Power (continuous) >1,560 mW @ 64 Ohm >166 mW @ 600 Ohm
Normal mode Power (max) 5.5V/1,900 mW
Power (continuous) >100 mW @ 300 Ohm >950 mW @ 32 Ohm
Power (max) 2.0V/500 mW @ 8 Ohm
Schiit Magnius + Modius
If you are willing to go with a dedicated amplifier and DAC stack instead of the usual all-in-one DAC/Amp combo, then our top recommendation is the Schiit Magnius and Modius. Schiit is well known in the audiophile community not only because of its quirky name but also because of the excellent price to performance ratio of its products. The Schiit Magni 3 and Modi 3 combo, for example, is widely considered to be one of the best entry-level stacks that can even rival more expensive stacks.
The Magnius and Modius serve as the spiritual successor of the Magni and Modi. It takes everything that was good about the Magni and Modi while adding new features that help make it the best value DAC and amp stack in its price range.
One of the most impressive things about the Magnius is its driving power. It is capable of driving most planar dynamic headphones such as the Sundara, as well as hard-to-drive dynamic driver headphones such as the Sennheiser HD800S with authority. Additionally, the Magnius gives you a balanced XLR output, which gives you more options in terms of how you want to use the Hifiman Sundara.
You can choose to pair the Magnius with an existing DAC/Amp, such as the iFi Zen DAC, if you just need the extra juice for the Sundara. However, we suggest using the Magnius with the Modius since it is made specifically to be paired with the Magnius.
The Modius is like the Magnius since it is also arguably one of the best DACs in its price point. It has good measurements, good connectivity, and a clean output to make your music as transparent and as accurate as possible.
Overall, if you are looking for a setup that doesn’t have too many bells and whistles but has the capability of getting the best out of the Sundara, then the Magnius and Modius are worth a look.
Balanced Headphone Output:
Maximum Power, 16 ohms: 6.0W RMS per channel
Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 5.0W RMS per channel
Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 3.2W RMS per channel
Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 1000mW RMS per channel
Maximum Power, 600 ohms: 500mW RMS per channel
Single-Ended Headphone Output:
Maximum Power, 16 ohms: 2.2W RMS per channel
Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 2.0W RMS per channel
Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 1.3W RMS per channel
Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 300mW RMS per channel
Maximum Power, 600 ohms: 150mW RMS per channel
Note: Maximum power rated at 1% THD, high gain
Monolith THX AAA DAC/Amp
If you are looking for the most feature-packed headphone to pair with the Hifiman Sundara, then the Monolith THX AAA DAC/Amp is one of the best options in its price range. This doesn’t come as a surprise since Monolith is no stranger to making great value products. They are well known for hits such as the Monolith Liquid Spark headphone amplifier as well as the M1060 and M1070 planar magnetic driver headphones.
The THX AAA has everything that a good DAC/Amp should have. It has great measurements, enough driving power even for harder-to-drive headphones, and it has clean-sounding outputs. Additionally, it has an XLR balanced output if you want to use the Sundara in balanced mode.
But the good things do not end there. The THX AAA has a built-in EQ that can help dial in your preferred sound without using external software. This is great for analog or vinyl systems.
Also, the THX AAA features Dirac Sensaround II, which is a software-based algorithm designed to artificially increase the soundstage of your headphones. This feature can be a bit hit or miss depending on the song. But overall, it is a great tool to play around with.
Overall, if you are looking for the most feature-packed DAC/Amp that is also extremely competitive in terms of its sound quality, then the Monolith THX AAA is incredibly hard to beat.
16 ohms: 8800mW <1% THD
32 ohms: 6000mW <1% THD
300 ohms: 700mW <1% THD
600 ohms: 350mW <1% THD
iFi Zen Stack (Zen DAC + Zen CAN)
If you are a fan of iFi’s sound signature but are looking for a more budget-friendly option, then we highly recommend the iFi Zen DAC. Despite its entry-level positioning, it is widely considered a bargain, thanks to its driving power and features. It can easily compete with more expensive DAC/Amps.
In terms of its design, it has a small and flat form factor with a futuristic design that still manages to blend well with the other equipment on your table. Its flat design easily allows it to be stackable with other devices such as the Zen CAN, which we will be talking about later.
The iFi Zen DAC is USB Bus-powered and can be directly connected to your MAC or PC. Additionally, you can also use the 5V power supply for a cleaner signal or if you wish to use the Zen DAC with a device that cannot supply power over USB, such as smartphones.
In terms of the features, the iFi Zen DAC has a 4.4 balanced output as well as a 6.35 SE output. This isn’t normally seen with DAC/Amps at this price, which further adds to the Zen DAC’s value proposition.
Additionally, the Zen DAC also features a Power Match and True Bass feature. Power Match is basically a gain switch, while the true bass is a bass boost feature that is commonly seen on iFi’s other devices.
Lastly, like most of iFi’s DAC/Amps, the iFi Zen DAC has MQA Compatibility. MQA is starting to become prevalent with a lot of modern DAC/Amps, so it is nice to also see it in a budget model. If you aren’t familiar with MQA, you can learn more in our MQA FAQ.
In terms of its sound quality, the iFi Zen DAC is able to deliver a natural sound with spot-on technicalities. It is utilizing a Burr-Brown DAC chip, which helps differentiate it from ESS Sabre, and AKM powered DAC/Amps.
The power output is also very clean and has plenty of power for the Sundara. But if you want to get the best out of this combo, you can also add the Zen CAN to your setup.
The Zen CAN not only adds more power but also further enhances the sound signature of the Zen DAC. You also get access to the 3D Holographic Mode, which helps expand the soundstage of the Sundara.
Overall, if you are looking for the most feature-packed budget DAC/Amp or stack on this list, then the Zen DAC or Zen DAC + Zen CAN stack is one of the best choices for the Hifiman Sundara.
JDS Labs Element 2
If you are looking for a desktop DAC/Amp that can easily drive the Hifiman Sundara without the need for an external amplifier, and if you wish to have a neutral signature, then the JDS Labs Element 2 is a great option. This unit checks all the boxes for both professionals and audiophiles.
It has an all-aluminum chassis that feels considerably more premium than competing options. The overall design is also very clean and minimal. There is only a single potentiometer that acts as a volume control found on the top of the device. Other buttons, such as the gain switch and connectivity options, are hidden at the back. And on the front, only the 6.35mm input is found.
In terms of the power output, the Element 2 can pretty much drive anything from the Hifiman Sundara to even more demanding and less efficient headphones such as high-end planar magnetic headphones. It does this with authority, which helps bring Hifiman Sundara to life.
Also, the Element 2 does not introduce any coloration to your headphones. This is great if you plan on using the Sundara for professional applications such as sound mixing or video editing.
One potential downside with the Element 2 is that it is not the most feature-packed product on this list. It doesn’t have any hardware bass boost or soundstage expansion, and it does not have a balanced output. But if all you want is great output power and a neutral but smooth and detailed signature, then this is all you need to get the most of your Sundara.
Max Continuous Power, 600 Ω
165 mW (9.9 VRMS)
Max Continuous Power, 150 Ω
656 mW (9.9 VRMS)
Max Continuous Power, 32 Ω
1.3 W (6.53 VRMS)
The Chord Mojo has been one of the most popular portable DAC/Amps thanks to its small form factor, unique design, ability to drive high impedance headphones, and its sound quality. Chord claims it can power headphones with an impedance of 800 ohms, which is more than enough for the Hifiman Sundara.
The Mojo is small and light, making it a great device for portable use. It can also sit well in a desktop setting. Additionally, the Mojo can connect to the Chord Poly, which gives it wireless functionality.
One of the downsides of the Mojo is its button-based volume controls. Buttons are usually less efficient compared to a volume wheel, especially in a desktop environment.
In terms of its sound quality, the Mojo has a warm presentation that is known to alleviate any potential peaks in most headphones. Of course, this kind of presentation will not be as precise as competing options such as the iFi Micro BL or iFi Micro Signature. The Mojo presents a more fun and less analytical sound compared to those two models.
Overall, if you are looking for a warm and smooth-sounding source that can easily drive the Hifiman Sundara, then you should give the Chord Mojo a try.
Output Power @ 1kHz – 600Ω 35mW
Output Power @ 1kHz – 8Ω 720mW
Stephen is a musician, cinematographer, and headphone enthusiast who is passionate about reviewing audio equipment. He has been playing guitar for at least a decade, which introduced him to professional recording equipment such as headphones and in-ear monitors. With the help of reviews and online content, he was able to learn the ins and outs of the hobby. His goal is to give back to the community by providing quality content to help others enjoy the beautiful (and expensive) world of audio.
Favorite Headphones: Sennheiser HD660s