CES 2013: HiFiMan HM-901 Wants to Be the Audiophile’s Portable Music Player

Sections: Audio, Digital

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The HiFiMan HM-901 — with its 32-Bit DACs, and ability to accept everything up to 192KHz/24-bit source files — definitely isn’t your little brother’s iPod. Featuring a replaceable amplifier card and expandable memory, the HiFiMan could be one of the best portable audio players on the market today. Our own Dennis Burger attended the breakfast last week at which the HM-901 was introduced last Wednesday, and sent this report:

One of the really neat features of the player is that its modular design allows you to compensate for the impedance curves and power requirements of different types and models of headphones. For standard, portable earbuds, you can use the stock amp. If you have a power power-hungry, less efficient hi-fi headphone, though, you can easily pop out the amplifier section and replace it with a sold-separately step up model.

They passed around a few demo units and let us test them out with HiFiMan ‘buds, and the build quality and navigability are a huge improvement over the company’s previous portable players — it felt really amazingly well-built, and I love the scroll wheel navigation — but the coolest demo, in my opinion, was the open air comparison between the DAC built into the HM-901 via its own dock, and a NAD DAC running in the neighborhood of $2000. There was definitely a difference between the two, but the funny thing is that no one really agreed on which one sounded better.

Here are the specs on the player:

  • Dual Saber ES9018 32-bit DAC chips for highest sound quality
  • Upsampling to 24/192
  • Accepts most lossless audio formats, including Apple lossless
  • Step potentiometer for the volume control
  • TAICHI UI for fast response and simplicity of operation
  • Sleek design with robust case made of high-tech composites
  • Expandable including amplifier card
  • Digital input/output and USB decoding through optional docking station
  •  WiFi Music Server (will support via firmware upgrading)
  • Gapless playback (will support via firmware upgrading)

Music Formats: Wav, flac: 24/88.2, 24/96, 24/176.4, 24/192; Mp3, alac, aac, aiff:16/44.1, 16/48.

Distortion: less than 0.003%

S/N: 107dB

Stereo crosstalk: 86 db (line output), 72 db (balanced headphone output)

Supplied Accessories:

  • Power supply
  • Amplifier card
  • Extension socket (Line out, coax input, coax output, USB cable, charge port)

At $999, the HM-901 certainly isn’t cheap, but no one can complain about its capabilities. The HM-901 should be available for pre-order in the near future and will begin shipping in March, with the dock following in April for $399 and, one would assume, new interchangeable amplifier cards for different sound profiles coming shortly thereafter.

Contact info:

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