CEntrance HiFi-M8

General Information

The Swiss Army Knife of portable DAC/amps, with selectable impedance gain, bass and treble tone shaping, iDevice or Toslink, and USB inputs. Various output configurations too, this unit is a jack of all trades and master of ALL, except no analog input.

Latest reviews

Pros: Extremely versatile, plenty of power
Cons: Mids could sound a bit smoother

Pros: Power to drive headphones, connection options, soundstage, sound tuning options, 'portable'
Cons: Battery life & power needs, driver needed for Windows
Review of the CEntrance HiFi M8 LX
LX model = Optical input
The CEntrance HiFi M8 has a lot of connection and feature combinations.​
This is the LX / XLR version.
What is the CEntrance HiFi M8?
The CEntrance HiFi M8 is a DAC+AMP combination, so you cannot use it as an AMP alone. This M8 LX features a USB and an Optical (SPDIF) input, combo toslink/3.5mm audio out jack, 6mm audio out jack and an XLR balanced output connection. It is a portable / transportable unit. It is small enough to carry in a small carrying bag, but to put it in trouser pockets you'll need army trousers with big side pockets.
The Specs:
Digital specs
24-bit (Also supports 16-bit)
Sample Rate
44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.2 kHz, 192 kHz
USB Protocol
Local clock
10 ppm precision, unmeasurable jitter
iPad, iPhone, iPod, Mac, PC, Andorid
Analog Specs
  Freq. Response
20 Hz...50 kHz (flat EQ circuit)
  S/N Ratio
113 dB (A-weighted)
0.002 % (mid gain position)
-103 dB (at 1kHz)
  Output Impedance
1, 2, 11 Ohm, selectable
  Output Power
1.4 W (max), 1 W (typical)
16...600 Ohm
  Output voltage
-2 dBV (nominal, max gain) use with less-sensitive over-the head headphones
   -10 dBV (nominal, mid gain) use for connecting to line-level consumer audio equipment
   -22 dBV (nominal, min gain) use with ultra-sensitive IEM headphones
Why did I choose for the CEntrance HiFi M8?
I got the M8 LX to combine it with my PC or with my Astell & Kern AK 100 II (my review) on the move. A the time of ordering I also just ordered my MrSpeakers Alpha Prime (see my review). Dan Clark, MrSpeakers himself, informed me that the AK100 II on its own might not have enough power to get the best out of the Alpha Prime, so I looked for options to power my new headset.
After a while of considering, reading-up on head-fi, and sniffing around on YouTube I decided that the CEntrance M8 might be the best solution for me, the LX version so I can use the optical connection from the AK100 II to the M8. So, decision made, order placed ....
Now I ran into the question of how to connect the DAP and DAC/AMP, luckily Jude had shown his setup on the Head-Fi YouTube Channel. He showed the very nice cable made by Sys Concept inc in Canada, so I got into contact with Sys Concept. They provided excellent input and advise, so I ordered the tiny, tiny custom made cable... another purchase on the way. Things where coming together.
smaller04.jpg Sys Concept inc "Super Short"
smaller07.jpg 43mm long, SPDIF turned 15°
Perfect fits AK 100 II and the CEntrance M8
All came together .... and I was astonished!
Once all the elements where in place I could get to the listening, using all the bits an pieces I have. Testing with all the headsets I have, although not impressive there was more then 1 difficult bugger in the list. I started out my Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro at 250Ohm, the CEntrance M8 had not difficulty what so ever in pushing these high impedance headphones.
(Selector settings: output impedance, gain, bass, treble, input selector USB/SPDIF)
The M8 has a very nice 3 position gain selector so it is easy to find the setting that best fits the head gear. With the setting on -2 dBV (nominal, max gain) the DT880 ran great. Wonderful open, precise and open sound. But the DT880 is a bit light on base, so ... of to the base setting, +1 on the bass setting was perfect. Nicely filled bass without changing the mids or trebles. Big smile and very happy with the CEntrance M8 and DT880 combination. Next in the list where my Sennheiser Momentum (over ear) and AKG K551. For these two last headphones all settings can return to default, the lowest gain and no bass enhancement.
MrSpeakers Alpha Prime with CEntrance M8 LX  
Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro with CEntrence M8 LX, 6mm jack
Now ... connecting the CEntrance M8 to my PC to use it as DAC ... I found it a bit strange that I needed to install a driver to get it to work. My FIIO E18 works without driver, so does the AK 100 II in DAC mode. So, up to the CEntrance website to download and install the driver. It might seem strange that I'm not happy with this ... but it means I cannot use the M8 on my work PC as we cannot install drivers on those controlled corporate machines. That made me a bit sad ... hence my remark about the driver.
Note: I found a solution to the driver problem, when my AK 100 II is connected to the Centrance M8 the AK serves as pass-trough for the M8. So no driver needed in this combination, but I need to take my AK 100 II to use the CEntrance without drivers ...
I've been listening to the M8 for some days now with the DT880 Pro's even using the M8 as DAC for gaming. The M8 provides my DT's with a great wide, open and deep sound. My DT880 was very happy in delivering a great Battlefield 4 game sound. Very good imaging and it was easy to hear the enemy sneak up behind a wall. Spatial perception is very good presented.
THE day of my musical 2014 year ... the MrSpeakers Alpha Prime got delivered!!!
This wonderful day my listening experience changed drastically. The combination of my completed set, the Alpha Prime with the Balanced XLR cable, AK 100 II and the CEntrance HiFi M8 combination. Was this a surprise!!! I had never experienced sound being projected so wide, profound, clean and clear. The CEntrance really made my Alpha Prime sing. Such a wide sound stage as the M8 could present was projected by the Alpha Prime's. The Alpha Prime is a closed back planar magnetic headphone. It is not easy to push although the impedance is not high, it needs a lot of volts to be well pushed. The CEntrance, as Dan Clark had said, pushed the Alpha Prime wonderfully. Gain is on medium setting, all the other settings are on default.
I started my listening sessions, Classical music, a bit of pop, moving to Trance/Dance ...
Absolute pure and clear sound is produced by the M8. The combination with a wonderful headset is quite an experience to behold.
The most remarkable is how the bass is powered and produced. It is like a very delicate sound but with such a deep vibration. You can hear the strings move, the very fast Alpha Prime makes the whole sound as if you're sitting in between the instruments. Of course, without the fantastic input from the M8, the Alpha's would be limited. No headset can produce what is not put into it by the source.
I can say the combination is solid, great sounding, provides a very wide sound stage, fast and deep bass; delicately presented. The mids and treble sound great.
Without trying to fall into huge words or descriptions ... this is the best I have experienced.
Now ... there are also some drawbacks
Size and portability
The CEntrance HiFi M8 is portable, but that is to take with a grain of salt. Yes, you can carry it and it fits is a small carrying bag, but you will not put this into any pocket very soon.
So its size limits its portable use. I use a "man bag" type of little carrying bag with a good solid shoulder strap. That holds my CEntrance M8 and the AK 100 II.
Battery Life
The device operates well on batteries, but of course pushing things like an Alpha Prime eats quite some power.
I estimate the battery life to about 6 hours or so, maybe a bit more.
Power Consumption & charging
The M8 comes with many options to power and charge it, however, they all demand serious power.
Simply charging by USB is possible, but not while you use it. You have to turn it off to charge over USB. This will also be a slow way to charge it.
The power brick (about the same size as the M8) that comes with the unit that pushes out 19V and 2630mA, that is 50 Watt!!!
That is a lot of power ... a USB port typically can deliver 2.5Watt.
The M8 is flexible in its charging specifications, so you can look for smaller or alternative charging devices. Specs:  +9...+20V DC (3A)
This means that you charge straight from the 12V of your car.
Missing input?
The M8 does NOT have an analog in, so you can not use is pure as an AMP (like you can with a FIIO E18 for example).
Although I do not really miss this feature now, it could further future-proof the M8 in my eyes.
USB Connector Size .... HUGE:
The M8 uses an USB type B connector, it is HUGE! Let alone for a portable device.
If you want to combine it with a phone (like a Galaxy S5) the cable is bigger then the phone.
I'll probably get to soldering my own Type B USB to Micro USB OTG cable for this one.
Windows Driver is needed
I found it a bit strange that the M8 needs a driver to function in Windows.
My FIIO E18 DAC/AMP does not require a driver, neither does my AK 100 II in DAC mode.
Verdict, what do I think about the CEntrance HiFi M8 LX?
Well, simply put, I love it.
I love it because it makes my headphones, and in special my MrSpeakers Alpha Prime fantastic!!!
Without a great source they could not be great headphones.
Sound is pure, very well balanced and with a very wide sound stage.
Note: There now is also a CEntrance Mini M8, a device more tailored to in-ear headphones. Smaller, flatter, more portable, but strangely also with full-size USB Type A and Type B connectors.
Greetings to all,
Pros: Fully balanced DAC/Amp, Numerous control features and output options
Cons: No audio input
Almost the only DAC/Amp I need to drive all of my headphones and IEMs, as a portable solution or on my desk.


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