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Are Hifimediy Cheap DACs Any Good?

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Introduction
Hifime is a Chinese-based manufacturer of low-budget audiophile DACs and headphone amplifiers. My first encounter with them was back in 2015 when I was searching for a USB noise blocker and didn’t want to pay ludicrous “audiophile” prices to block unwanted chirping noises caused by my onboard soundcard. I liked their USB noise filter so much that I was constantly exploring (mor or less just lurking – didn’t buy anything yet) other products within in their range. They carved a nice niche for themselves by focusing on the mobile laptop crowd who owns nice headphones but are just craving for a good external DAC. While competitors have jumped the bandwagon, Hifimediy has retained its DIY audio spirit in terms of pricing. Audioquest, Chord and others are way more expensive, often beyond the budget of many music lovers. Home users are also targeted by Hifime offerings but I believe it’s not their main target audience.

Fortunately, Schiit Audio from the U.S. is offering fantastic alternatives that are super-affordable and great quality I must say. I personally own the Schhiit Mani and Sys (even thinking of going with the Freya some day). But let’s go back to Hifime and explore their product range a bit.

Digital-To-Analog Converters Based on ESS Sabre Chipsets

Hifimediy is offering a gigantic range of DACs starting from $30 to about $100+, all based on proven ESS Sabre chipsets. While the lower priced versions are based on the ESS9023 chipset, the “better” ones already utilize the top ESS9018 (this would be my personal preference). As you know, I’m not a huge fan of ultra-cheap DACs because I believe they won’t sound that much better than the laptop outputs themselves – unless of course you need to drive better headphones. I think their UAE23HD USB DAC for about 65 Euros is the sweet spot and excellent value. Plus it’s also suitable for home use.

For Toslink devices, I’d check out their “Optical DAC” which has similarly top-notch chipsets but with an optical input instead. That’s pretty clever if you don’t need USB and for instance just want to upgrade an ageing CD Player (although the quality gains may be marginal – depending on multiple factors).

If you’ve got a bit more money to invest and seek a desktop-class DAC, check out their HIFIME UH1 384KHZ USB DAC. It’s an interesting device featuring I2S outputs. This means you can for instance bypass the internal USB receiver and hook up something “better” such as the Singxer SU-1. I2S is not an obscure marketing term but refers to the internal data protocol between DAC chips originally invented by Sony/Philips.

Class D Amplifiers

What’s highly interesting in their lineup are their Class D amplifiers. Those are actually designed around PCM to Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) which means you won’t need a DAC. Well, technically the bits just get converted but nevertheless a pretty cool solution which I will definitely try out some time (not to drive my Logans though, maybe a smaller pair of bookshelf speakers). So if you have USB or Toslink sources, your are all set. I believe this miniatuarization trend is where the future is heading, especially in larger cities where space is limited and expensive.

Other Accessories

Hifime is also selling cables and other audio accessories which I’m not too interested in.

Summary

If you want to give them a try, please visit https://hifimediy.com which is NOT an affiliate link. Please note that since I have no experience with most of their products yet (except for the USB noise blocker which is fantastic), I won’t recommend them yet at this point. All I can say is that their stuff looks really promising and well made. I will update my recommendations once I’ve gotten to play around with some of their products.