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Hifiman 801 USB DAC vs Portable USB DACs

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hey guys, this is my first post in Head-fi, but like many other first time posters I've been lurking around here for months now. When I first heard of the new Hifiman it seemed like the answer to my prayers. Since I am a college student, I am not near a "home rig" most of the time, so i wanted something like this with which I could walk around without sacrificing sound quality. From the reviews I have read, it is the best sounding DAP and should meet that first requirement just fine. However, I would like to be able to use this as a USB DAC with my laptop as well. So what I am asking is how does the USB DAC compare to similarly priced USB DACs. I know people have said it sounds marginally better than the Pico DAC, but I am sure there are other DACs in the $700-800 price range and if they sound better, I think they might be a better deal for me overall. So please let me know what you guys think

post #2 of 16

Apparently the USB DAC in the HM-801 was poorly implemented and as a result doesn't perform very well. I'd be very surprised it it out-performed similarly priced stand alone DACs.

Regardless I'm interested to see what people say about this as I'm wondering the exact same thing but in relation to the newer 602.

 

Also can I ask what 'phones you plan to use with the 801? I'd hate to see you waste your money as a fellow student in a similar situation.

post #3 of 16
I want a potable rig bad too. I live in Chicago and missed canjam because I didn't discover this site until about a week after it was over :-(



I would have loved to hear the hifiman or an imod. My jh16's are coming tomorrow tho! Good luck on your purchase :-)
Edited by Python002 - 8/6/10 at 7:46pm
post #4 of 16

^ You might consider looking at the newer 602. At the moment with the inclusion of Head-Directs newest flagship IEMs the RE262and it's $80 USD cheaper than its estimated cost when it comes out.

To me that deal was too god to give it a try. I figure I can always sell it if I don't like it.

post #5 of 16

The USB DAC implementation isn't the best.  If you can feed it a Coaxial signal it'll be a lot better but for that you'll need something like the M2tech Hiface.  Alternativelly, playing the music off of the SD cards will give you the best quality.

 

Of course, its not like the USB DAC implementation is HORRIBLE and depending on your ears, earphones and type of music, you might not even be able to tell a difference.

post #6 of 16

In what way do you feel the dual-PCM-1701 DAC is poorly implemented in the HM-801?  It is the same chipset used in many CD players and other high-quality devices and in my opinion it outperforms most every portable DAC solutions, perhaps with the exception of the DACPort and higher-class, standalone DACs.  But that is not a fair comparison, since the HM-801 is an integrated, portable solution.

 

The Pico DAC is not in the same class as the HM-801 DAC, because it cannot process 24/96 content natively.  I did not directly compare the two on 16/44 performance, so I can't comment on that aspect, but I would expect it to perform somewhat better.

 

The HM-801, although it is not an ultraportable solution, certainly is versatile enough to be adaptable for a variety of portable and transportable uses.  You can always find one or more function or configuration where other solutions such as the iMods are more suitable, but as an overall performer in a similar form factor, the HM-801 is a pretty tough act to follow.

 

I have briefly auditioned the HM-602 prototype and it sounded impressive to me, but I did not have a chance to directly compare it with its bigger brother.  The value proposition is certainly there, especially at the pre-order price point and the fact that it has 16GB onboard flash memory vs. 2GB of the HM-801.

post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 

I was planning on using them with my rs1 and sr 225, though I am planning on getting an IEM soon to go with w/e I end up purchasing. If I was to use equipment that could feed the device through the SPDIF, would it sound as good as it does when played over the SD card? I only ask this because I have heard so many amazing things about the DAC in this thing so I would love to use it if it works well within my system.

post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 

I noticed that you cited the Dacport as being better than the Hifiman in your post Warp. I understand that its not a fair comparison, however for my needs something along the lines of a Dacport could work since I do often have my laptop at hand. Could you give me an idea as to how much better a stand alone portable dac would sound in comparison to the Hifiman 801? I would love to make use of the integrated system the Hifiman 801 presents so if the difference is small then I think it makes the most sense to me at the moment.

As for the whole 24/96 implementation to be honest I am pretty confused. The majority of my music is from the Zune Marketplace and is not lossless so I don't know whether it is 24/96 or 16/44; please forgive my lack of audiophile knowledge
 

post #9 of 16
Quote:

Originally Posted by Darkflame View Post
I was planning on using them with my rs1 and sr 225, <snip>


You should be happy with those and the HiFiMan. Some people around here are fools and pair ~$100 'phones with the HM-801.

Having not heard any of the above gear we are talking about take this comment with a big chunk of salt but I think the syngergy between the two would be great.

 

     Quote:

Originally Posted by warp08 View Post

In what way do you feel the dual-PCM-1701 DAC is poorly implemented in the HM-801?  It is the same chipset used in many CD players and other high-quality devices and in my opinion it outperforms most every portable DAC solutions, perhaps with the exception of the DACPort and higher-class, standalone DACs.  But that is not a fair comparison, since the HM-801 is an integrated, portable solution.<snip>

 

No one said it was a bad DAC so you can drop that argument here. I've just read that as a standalone DAC it doesn't perform as well as could be expected from such a great chip.

I seem to have an idea Edwood and DaveBSC support this.


Edited by Hero Kid - 8/7/10 at 3:58pm
post #10 of 16

Its not the PCM-1704 (not 1701) implementation thats bad.. its the USB chip before it that converts the USB signal that feeds the PCM1704 thats not great.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by warp08 View Post

In what way do you feel the dual-PCM-1701 DAC is poorly implemented in the HM-801?  It is the same chipset used in many CD players and other high-quality devices and in my opinion it outperforms most every portable DAC solutions, perhaps with the exception of the DACPort and higher-class, standalone DACs.  But that is not a fair comparison, since the HM-801 is an integrated, portable solution.

 

 

post #11 of 16

Transfer your audio files into a SD card and put it into your HiFiman and use the lineout of it will give you the best sounding.  A 32 GB will give you roughly 64GB wav files when converted to FLAC.  This is the best compromise between SQ and size of the audio files so far.  Then there is no need to use the Hifiman as an USB DAC and you can still play the audio files in a computer.

post #12 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hero Kid View Post



...Some people around here are fools and pair ~$100 'phones with the HM-801...


I bet there are $100 IEM's that could really sing with the HM-801. My iM716's sound better than they deserve to and cost like $50. There's little doubt in my mind that the 716's could pick up most of the benefits an HM-801 has to offer. You just feel full sized headphones are better suited for this application? I don't follow you. What about a Senn HD25? These can be had used for a little more than a bill, too.

post #13 of 16

There is no reason hwy cheap 'phones won't sound great from the HM-801.

 

The thing is they have their priorities wrong... $800 on a player and $100 on 'phones is not going to sound half as good as $800 on 'phones and $100 on a player, at least in my opinion. 

So no it's nothing to do with full sized vs IEMs. Just budget allocations.

 

And yes, the HD 25-1 would be at the lower limit of a 'phone that I would use with the HM-801.

post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GreenLeo View Post

Transfer your audio files into a SD card and put it into your HiFiman and use the lineout of it will give you the best sounding.  A 32 GB will give you roughly 64GB wav files when converted to FLAC.  This is the best compromise between SQ and size of the audio files so far.  Then there is no need to use the Hifiman as an USB DAC and you can still play the audio files in a computer.


I understand what you are saying, and i would most probably just do that for music. But if I am watching a movie or something else which I cannot do natively on the HiFiman I would still like to maintain a certain level of sound quality. A USB DAC would solve that problem but its not as portable. So my question has been whether or not there is a large enough difference in quality that I should consider sacrificing the extra portability. Now I can get SPDIF out from a portable dvd player for movies so if that is a better route to go I will look into it. But even so it seems like the HiFiman sounds best when played internally, and $700-800 is a lot of money so I am wary of pulling the trigger of a portable DAC can pull the job off better, especially when the DACport is cited as sounding as good as the HiFiman and is much cheaper.

post #15 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkflame View Post




I understand what you are saying, and i would most probably just do that for music. But if I am watching a movie or something else which I cannot do natively on the HiFiman I would still like to maintain a certain level of sound quality. A USB DAC would solve that problem but its not as portable. So my question has been whether or not there is a large enough difference in quality that I should consider sacrificing the extra portability. Now I can get SPDIF out from a portable dvd player for movies so if that is a better route to go I will look into it. But even so it seems like the HiFiman sounds best when played internally, and $700-800 is a lot of money so I am wary of pulling the trigger of a portable DAC can pull the job off better, especially when the DACport is cited as sounding as good as the HiFiman and is much cheaper.

Oh I see.  I can't comment much on this because I never use a DAC for movie.  Does the sound tracks of movies requires such a high SQ device or a powerful device is more preferable?  If you can forsake portability, then you may go elsewhere.  Otherwise the 801 is still worth to try.

 

My 2 cents.

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