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I have mentioned my good feelings about Hifimediy products in general but it’s time now to check out their products in the real world. And so I went ahead and ordered the fabulous looking HiFime UAE23HD USB DAC (ES9018K2M+SA9023) on October 22nd. It only cost me less than 75 Euros including shipping. I will keep this page updated regularly and share my experiences with you. I’m curious to find out how good a less than 100 bucks digital-to-analog converter sounds – even when compared with the mighty Gustard X20
As far as ordering is concerned, the whole process went pretty smooth. As soon as I provided my credit card details, I received a thank-you letter right away.
Talk to you later!
Update as of October 24th, 2019
I received a shipping notice this morning by mail. Kudos to their professional attitude. Can’t wait to receive the actual product. Excited.
November 6th, 2019 – it arrived!
Interestingly, my order was scheduled for delivery on the 30th of October but instead got delivered to the shipping company’s local warehouse. Somehow nobody left a note, grrr…I found out about the delivery and picked up my Hifimediy DAC. Here’s what it looks like:
As you can see, it is super-tiny and barely fits into the palm of my hands
Exterior build quality is so-so but the sound quality and egineering is what matters. I’m going to investigate its sound quality during this weekend and keep you updated.
November 11th, 2019 – first sonic impressions
I began my evaluation by trying out the Hifimediy DAC with my trusty MacBook Pro. The DAC was immediately recognised and I had no problems configuring it in Audirvana. What happened later I can only describe as sonic bliss. Wow! I have never heard my Beyerdynamic T51p like that before. I feel they have been lifted into serious audiophile territory. Damn! I can probably attribute the stellar performance to the fantastic headphone driver which mates extremely well with my Beyers. Next up, I will test the Hifimediy head to head against my Gustard X20u on my STAX headphones. Let’s see whether we’re about to get surprised :)
I listened to Annette Askvik’s fantastic album “Liberty” (heard it for the first time at the Munich show this year and immediately ordered the album thereafter). I have this album ripped to my NAS drive. Next, I sampled Vivaldi’s four seasons performed by Gidon Kremer, the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado (available on QOBUZ streaming service). You can easily hear the echos and reverberations of the recording session. Absolutely marvellous in my opinion. In both cases, Audirvana did a fantastic job. I also played around with different sampling frequencies but it had no audible effect which could be a result of the Beyerdynamics masking it. Let’s see how it runs on the bigger system.
December 5th, 2019 – head-to-head against the Gustard X20u
It’s been a while since updating my initial impressions. Here’s what I can report about trying the Hifimediy on my STAX headphones (KGSSHV amplifier) vs the mighty Gustard X20u DAC. Both DACs are sonically very similar and I was shocked how close such a cheap bus-powered device can get these days! However, the more I listened it turned out that the Gustard still has the edge although it would be a close call on a less resolving system. What annoyed me about the Hifimediy was its stronger sibilance on vocal tracks which suggested a higher resolution than there actually was. My Gustard sounded more balanced but allowed me to hear singers breathing. I also received more dimensional clues of the recording room when listening to the Gustard. That gave me the illusion of really being there. Yes, folks – those differences are pretty small for most people.
But it’s not just the sound you have to take into account (otherwise it would be an apples to oranges comparison). The Gustard offers DSD resolution and a wider range of sampling frequencies whereas the Hifimediy is limited at 96kHz. It also has a preamp function and multiple digital inputs – not just USB as the Hifimediy. Gustard is fully balanced whereas the Hifimediy requires a quarter inch jack to RCA cable to even work on your hifi system. Not to mention that MUCH better build-quality of the Gustard. But for under 100 Euros the Hifimediy more than ticks all the boxes sonically! I would even say that if you were just starting out, get a cheap DAC like the Hifimediy and get the best speakers / headphones you can afford. Only then consider a jump directly to a heavy-hitter DAC for a noticeable upgrade. “Incremental upgrades” are not worth the money IMHO because the differences are way too small. You are probably not going to get this advice in any hifi magazine :) That’s just my opinion, of course.
Let me know what you think!