CanJam at RMAF 2012: HiFiMAN HM-901 Digital Audio Player and RE-600 Dynamic IEM

HiFiMAN HM-901 Digital Audio Player (~$999) and RE-600 Dynamic IEM ($399)
We headphone audiophiles are never satisfied. I remember lamenting the loss of the Denon DCP-150 portable CD player with digital outputs. I remember wanting bigger hard drives and better DACs in the first portable digital audio players. I remember frustration in not being able to get the digital output from classic iPods. And, now, as I listened to Fang talk about his new HM-901 DAP, I wondered if anyone would be willing to cut the umbilical to their smartphone for long enough to tune in to hi-rez tunes on a separate player. That's a tough one.

Nonetheless, on paper, HiFiMAN's new DAP looks pretty stellar. Dual ESS DAC chips; 24/192 playback; swappable SDXC 128 GB card media storage; and a full-blown docking station with analog, digital, and USB communications. If it sounds as good as its features, it just might satisfy...if we can drag ourselves away from our phones.

Fang also showed off his latest dynamic driver IEM, the RE-600. I've been quite impressed of late with a number of dynamic IEMs. They have the advantage of a more even impedance response relative to balanced armature earphones. This means that if you can make a really good sounding dynamic IEM, its flatter impedance will deliver more reliable results when being driven directly from portable players. The uneven impedance of balanced armature IEMs make them somewhat prone to coloration when driven by the relatively high output impedance from hand-held devices.

More info on HiFiMAN's HM-901 can be found in this press release from HiFiMAN's website.

John Grandberg's picture

The 901 looks to be shaping up quite nicely. The home dock is a clever idea as well - now that they mention it, I'm surprised they hadn't already done that before. 

Dinny FitzPatrick's picture

The 901, according to Fang, truly is built from scratch by multiple experts in their subject areas (e.g., hardware, software) across multiple continents.  I think the UI still could use some work, but there is no doubt this is an ambitious project. 

HeadphoneAddict's picture

At this year's RMAF I really was impressed with the HM-901 with the balanced RE-600 and my Westone 4 IEM, as well as with HE-500 full size headphones.  I daresay the sound quality was better than my HM-801, and power output was certainly increased over the previous models.  It even managed to coax average listening volumes out of the very low efficiency HE-6 headphones!   My HM-801 easily drives IEM and efficient headphones like Denon D7000 and 300 ohm HD800, but struggles a little to drive the inefficient  full size HE-500.  Those same HE-500 that I brought with me were easily powered by the HM-901.  In the past I reviewed my HM-801 with 24/96 and 16/44 music, and the sound quality beat my Red Wine Audio modded iPod with Vcap dock and portable amps, as well as beat my iPhone 4 with line-out dock and a variety of portable amps.  The HM-901 user interface is also an upgrade over my HM-801, and it's easier to use.  For max portable sound quality, in a package no bigger than an iPhone with amp strapped to the back of it, the HM-901 is going to be hard to beat.