Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Hifiman Express HM-101

CNET reports: [edited]

I wasn't expecting much from the Hifiman Express HM-101; it's just a $39 outboard USB digital-to-analog converter and headphone amplifier. Well, this tiny USB-powered device definitely pumped up the sound of my Audio Technica ATH-M50 headphones. Sure, the Mac's sound is perfectly acceptable - until you compare it to something better. The Express is a lot better.

It also has a line-out 3.5mm jack you can run to a set of desktop-powered speakers. Switching over from the computer's headphone jack to the Express, the first thing I noticed was that the Express could play a lot louder.

When playing drummer Ginger Baker's "Going Back Home" CD at equal volume levels from the computer and the Express, the Express unleashed more of the drummer's hard-hitting dynamics.

And it's not just power; I heard a difference when I played Gillian Welch's gorgeous "The Harrow & the Harvest" CD; her vocals and banjo were clearer over the Express. The background noise level was lower, so I felt closer to Welch's performance.

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