The humble personal music player has seen many iterations over the last few decades. That doesn't mean that people aren't still giving the area some love, and HiFiMAN is definitely flying the flag with its HM-901 Reference Music Player. The unit incorporates dual Saber ES9018 32-bit DAC chips, with upsampling 20 24-bit / 96kHz. It claims to be able to play most lossless audio formats, including Apple lossless. Of course, it'll still play your regular MP3s too, should you so desire. One neat trick is a removable amplifier card which means -- at a future date -- you could be able to swap them out for other amp cards that bestow a different sound, much like different guitar amps etc. Other forthcoming features include gapless playback, and the ability to use it as a WiFi music server. If you want some hard numbers, then HiFiMAN states that the distortion is less than 0.003 percent, with a signal to noise ratio of 107dB. Want to know the stereo cross talk? That'd be 86 db (line) and 76 db (headphone). Head past the break for our impressions.
The HM-901 is the follow-up to the firm's 801 model we saw a few years ago. While the 801 took a minimalist modern design, the 901 goes takes a straight-up retro vibe. The finish is a mix of textured black plastic that you might find on a classic camera and silver accents. The controls are a mix of simple click buttons and a physical jog-wheel (rather than a touch surface). As you can see, there is a small screen, but this beast is definitely audio only, so if you thought you might be able to sneak an episode or two of your favorite show on there, we're sorry to say, that won't be happening. Memory-wise, it's all about the SD card, so pick your capacity all the way up to 128GB we believe. There is also a companion dock, that carries the same vintage look and feel. One thing's for sure, this definitely has a distinctive look. And while it's not exactly slimline or light in the hand, this only really serves to remind you that you are holding something more serious than just any old me-too media player. Of course, looks and finish are one thing, but with a device that is selling itself on audio quality, the proof is in the listening. We tried it out with a variety of sound sources on some of the firm's own headphones, and we were extremely impressed with the quality. Classic, Opera and Jazz sounded incredibly clear, but, sadly, we didn't get chance to check it out with anything electronic. We're confident it would do the business though. If this sounds like something you can get behind, or have a large collection of FLACs you want to give an appropriate home, you can bag yourself one for the uncompressed price of $999, add another $399 if you want the dock. Both shipping in March.
Sean Cooper contributed to this report.
HiFiMAN Launches HM-901 Reference Music Player
Company's High-Res Player Raises the Bar on What is Possible with Portable Audio
CES Las Vegas, NV January 7, 2013 -– HiFiMAN, a leading designer/manufacturer of high performance headphones and portable audio products, formally introduced its new flagship portable music player, the HM-901. In addition to offering unrivaled sound quality, the new HiFiMAN player accepts a wide array of audio formats, is expandable and easy to operate. HM-901 will be shipping in March 2013 with an MSRP of $999 for the player.
HM-901 High Resolution Music player
Three years in the making, this remarkable HiFiMAN reference player is destined to set the bar higher by incorporating:
Dual Saber ES9018 32-bit DAC chips for highest sound quality
Upsampling to 24/192
Accepts most lossless audio formats, including Apple lossless
Step potentiometer for the volume control
TAICHI UI for fast response and simplicity of operation
Sleek design with robust case made of high-tech composites
Expandable including amplifier card
Digital input/output and USB decoding through optional docking station
WiFi Music Server (will support via firmware upgrading)
Gapless playback (will support via firmware upgrading)
According to HiFiMAN Founder and President, Dr. Fang Bian, "The best technology and great sound is only as good as the user's ability to operate their device and access their music, quickly and easily. Ease of use was a high priority in designing the HM-901 along with creating a rich, sleek appearance. For example, on the User Interface for the HM-901, you'll notice that the buttons and a rotating navigation menu cleverly comprise the main interface. The innovative TAICHI UI and high quality volume controller also add value and performance to the entire operating system."
Dr. Bian went on to add, "We see a clear parallel between digital photography and portable audio. For example, an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera does a reasonable job of taking pictures but cannot begin to compare with the imaging quality of a professional SLR. Same holds true for an iPod. It has adequate sound quality but cannot compare to the finest digital playback systems. The HM-901 has been extensively tested in double-blind listening sessions and compares favorably to the highest quality digital players. I believe that when music lovers and audiophiles know that they can have this level of sound quality in a portable player, they will readily see the parallel with digital photography."
HM-901 with Docking Station
The HM-901 player alone will sell for $999 MSRP. The optional docking station will be available in April 2013 and sell for $399. WiFi music server and gapless playback function will be available at a later date TBA via firmware upgrading.
Music Formats: Wav, flac: 24/88.2, 24/96, 24/176.4, 24/192; Mp3, alac, aac, aiff:16/44.1, 16/48.
Distortion: less than 0.003%
Stereo crosstalk: 86 db (line output), 72 db (balanced headphone output)
Extension socket (Line out, coax input, coax output, USB cable, charge port)
HiFiMAN will be exhibiting at CES 2013 in # 21706 in the LVCC South Hall. In addition to the revolutionary HM-901, on display and demonstration will be the entire line of HiFiMAN award-winning full-size headphones, headphone amplifiers and high-res portable music players, including the new RE-600 and RE-400 in-ear monitors.
Key Features of the HiFiMAN HM-901:
Sound quality comparable to reference digital playback systems
Accepts most major audio formats
Easy to set up, Simple to operate
Expandable – optional docking station and modules will be available
Can function as a network music server