CES 2014 Highlight: New Products from HiFiMAN

This one makes my "Highlight" list because of the shear quantity of new stuff shown in the HiFiMAN room this year. Two new pre-production planar-magnetic headphones were on display. The HE-400i ($499) with plastic earpieces, and HE-560 ($899) with wood ear pieces. Though the earcups look similar to previous HiFiMAN PM cans, but the headband design is all new featuring a metal headband and adjustable fabric headband suspended within, and gloss plastic bails. These headphones are quite different than previous HiFiMAN planar-magnetic offerings as they're a single-sided magnet design similar to the JPS Labs Abyss headphone I reviewed last year. Like the Abyss, these new cans sounded very fast and clean without being strident. Full listening impressions will have to wait for a real audition and measurement at home, but I was quite impressed with my initial listen at the show.

Also tucked away in a corner of the booth and somewhat hidden under a cloth was an early prototype of an electrostatic headphone to be release in the future. They had lovely large ovoid shaped earpieces with wood trim around the edges and metal headband. They sounded quite promising but possibly underpowered—no matter, these are prototypes and sound impressions don't mean much at this point. Nice to know they're in the works though.

Two new portable media players are ready for prime time were also shown: the HM-700 ($249) and HM-802 ($699). The HM-700 intends to bring better quality sound to a consumer grade player. Fang tells me the player uses a relatively standard player chip, but uses fairly high-quality analog electronics. He claimed 75% of the power used by the unit is consumed by the analog section. Also, quite unusually, the player has a 3.5mm TRRS (tip-ring-ring-sleeve) balanced output jack, which is why a balanced RE-400 is included with purchase—the player can be purchased with the RE-600 bundled in for $499. He also said the player will be available in the future with balanced cables for Sennheiser, Shure, and Ultimate Ears IEMs bundled in. Internal storage for the HM-700 is ample for standard resolution files at 32GB; MP3, APE, and FLAC files are supported to 16bit/48kHz, WAV files up to 24bit/48kHz. Here's the big surprise, Fang said 40% of purchases of this player so far has been female! Congrats to HiFiMAN for creating a quality audio product that's attractive for the ladies.

On the other end of the spectrum, the HM-802 is a high-resolution portable player for the audiophile on the go. Key to this gadget is it's 16V Li-ion battery that allows use of high-quality electronic parts like dual Wolfson WM8740 chips for digital to analog conversion duties, and a pair of the famous OPA627 op-amps as output buffers for the DACs—the HM-802 certainly qualifies as a high-end portable player. Storage is provided by removable SDXC cards up to 128GB, and the HM-802 will play 16 and 24 bit files in most formats up to 192kBs. The headphone amp section of the HM-802 is on a replaceable daughter board in the rear, and a number of different amplifier modules are available.

For more info check out the HiFiMAN and Head-Direct websites.

Eno801's picture

Hi Tyll! I was wondering if you were able to get a chance to hear Fang's new headphones while you were at the booth? Thanks for all the coverage on the audio products at CES!

Mangler's picture

Hi Tyll,

Any chance you got a good look at the plug type of the electrostatic prototype? More specifically, did it look like it will be compatible with current Stax amps?

Jazz Casual's picture

This guy's prolific. An Abyss for the rest of us eh? Go Fang!

Stefraki's picture

Coming with a set of good IEMs at that price is a hell of a deal. Hope it performs well, if it does it's pretty much a no brainer.