HiFiMAN EF100 Headphone Amplifier & DAC Review 3

HiFiMAN EF100 Headphone Amplifier & DAC Review

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Introduction


HiFiMAN is well known for their mid- and high-end planar magnetic headphones, but today, we will take a look at a brand-new HifiMAN product, the EF100 DAC/amp that packs quite a few tricks. For one, it is not just a headphone amplifier as it also features an amplifier for speakers, 4 W strong, all integrated into its very small foot print. The topology harkens back to the EF1 and EF5 amplifiers with a tube-powered input stage and a solid-state I/V conversion stage, which brings a lot of benefits over a fully tube-based design to the table and has proven to work very well with low-to-medium impedance headphones. The on-board DAC is the CM102S, and it is alright, but the interesting bit about the EF100 is that it has two analogue inputs as well, one mini-jack on its side and RCA inputs on the back.

The new EF100 is priced at $499, which is about as much as the headphone amplifiers it replaces in HiFiMAN's line-up.

Specifications

  • Headphone Output: 7.8v, 2000 mw @ 30 Ohm
  • Frequency response: 20-20khz +/- 0.2db
  • Power amplifier output: 4.5 w (4 ohm load)
  • D/N(A): 95db
  • Tube: 6N3J

Closer Examination


The EF100 does not look like any of the older HiFiMAN amplifiers we have tested, which is both a good and a bad thing. The new design seems sturdier, and its aesthetics are more consequent.


One of the major things HiFiMAN resolved with the EF100's design is in the way its controls are placed. The volume-control knob is easily reachable without accidentally messing about with any of the other controls. The layout here is really simple, with most of the inputs on the back, the controls at the right part of the front's face, and the headphone-out to the left.


The EF100's volume control is pretty solid. There is a minimal volume mismatch at the very bottom of the range, but the range itself is huge.


The inputs on the back are plenty and of really good quality.


At the front is the headphone-out, a normal 1/4" jack of good quality.


The position of the mini-jack's input is a bit odd at first, but makes sense if you place your player near the device.


Like the older hybrid amplifiers from HiFiMAN, the EF100 uses a tube-driven input stage, which gives the sound that distinct tube-specific flavor.
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