HiFiMan is a brand that has made its mark. From their mid-to-top tier IEMs all the way up to their premium orthodynamic headphones. T
hey do more than just headphones when it comes to headphones however. They have media players, DACs, amps, and DAC+Amp combos as well. The EF100 is a DAC with a powerful amp that uses vacuum tubes to process some of the signal that is sent through it.
Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Input Impedance: 47 k
Output Impedance: 32 – 300 ohms
Output Power: 4.5 W (per channel, @ 4 ohm, speaker), 2 W (@ 7.2 v, 30 ohm, headphone)
In the Box
Vacuum Tube (pre-installed)
In the past, HiFiMan has predominantly used a simplistic box shape design for their amplifiers. However, with the new EF100, they have changed that. The EF100 utilizes a beautiful aluminum finish not so different from the Macbook that sits with me. The light sand-blasting sparkles quite nicely. The curves flow through the device to really give it a unique, yet attractive shape overall. In their most recent offerings, HiFiMan has done great things in their design department creating unique, attractive designs that catch the eye.
As you get higher up in the audio world, as things get more neutral to the touch, you quickly find out that garbage in equals garbage out. Well, the EF100 is definitely something the statement rings true for. Clean signals are required as the amp will pick up static noise from poor USB connections (quick fix to this is to lower the master volume on your device).
HiFiMan offers a number of inputs that one can use for your audio. You can use the EF100 as a pure amplifier if need be by utilizing the 3.5 mm side input or the RCA inputs on the back. Or if you wish to take advantage of the DAC, you can also use the standard USB input. The
The EF100 is extremely true to the source being a nearly neutral amp that more or less reproduces exactly what it is handed. It’s on the brighter side of things for other DACs and amps I’ve played with with some slight aggression, similar to some the internal offerings from Apple (on their iPods, iPhones, and iPads). Despite this, it does still have a warmth to it. The HiFiMan amp offers detailing that reveals just about everything in the recording. The bass has depth, but isn’t as prominent as you’d find with a neutral amp. For those acustomed to a warmer sound, this will be on the slightly colder, more analytical side, though this depends on the source of your material.
The EF100 is about as wide as my iPad Mini is tall while having a squarish base. The amplifier isn’t small by any means, but also not the biggest around. That said, it is hefty and feels quite strong and rugged. Much of that has to do with the aluminum used all around the housing. Everything up to the little things have been accounted for, from the volume nob and switches. Everything feels quite premium with the EF100. Personally, I don’t see any issues concerning build.
One of the first things I noticed when I first plugged in the amp and used it was that there was some distinct static noise that flew through the system. This went away within a couple of hours of running. Though if you use any sort of USB hub (which I have to to use my iPad with the EF100), it will produce the noise (most likely due to interference) unfortunately. This is the first amp I’ve ran into this issue with (all my others don’t have this issue). I should note, like I stated earlier in the audio section), that this can be remedied by reducing the master volume on the source (in this case, my iPad).
Otherwise, this DAC/amplifier combo is quite versatile. It has two sets of speaker outputs as well as a ¼ inch headphone jack. It has a wide variety of inputs, from auxiliary and RCA analog inputs to a single USB digital input. Optical isn’t an option however. Though this isn’t an issue for me, I can see others wanting this option. On the other side of things, this amplifier is capable of putting out 2 W of power to your headphones (if they need it). This allows them to drive virtually any headphone.
At face value, the 500 dollar price tag on this may look quite expensive. Yes, there are cheaper options out there, even for combo hybrids like this one. No, they don’t produce 2 W of output power to drive virtually any headphone. Add that and the flexible capability of the device in general, it might actually hold some value overall. This can easily be used to combine your speaker system and your headphones all in one. At the same time, some people may have little use for it.
HiFiMan is not new to DACs and amplifiers. The EF100 definitely shows that. It does exactly what it’s advertised to do, and does it great. The amplifier DAC is quite revealing overall in a neutral, slightly analytical fashion. Though it has a slight noise issue with some specific setups, it’s quickly remedied. At the end of the day, it’s a powerful amplifier that can drive speakers and virtually any headphone without any sacrifice to sound quality.