Hifiman HM-901 makes your wallet and ears bleed (with joy, presumably)

hm 901 Hifiman HM 901 makes your wallet and ears bleed (with joy, presumably)

In our forums we had some heated discussions about Hifiman’s prior ‘flagship’ portable audio player, the HM-801. For around $800 you got a gigantic brick with less than 8 hours battery life, based on a Chinese Rockchip SOC and an ancient PCM1704 DAC that was implemented with improper filtering, resulting in rolled off treble response. Besides inverting the signal phase it had very high output impedance and couldn’t drive multi-armature IEMs properly.

Now that the HM-801 is discontinued, Hifiman announced its successor, the HM-901. This new one sports a new user interface and revamped controls, which can be tried here, in an online Flash demo: http://www.hifiman.com/uidemo/

The HM-801 was a case study of how not to design an interface, time will tell if the new one is easier to operate. In my opinion, Hifiman should just have done the smart thing and put Rockbox on their players – a port for the HM-801 is already available, so I’m a bit bewildered why they didn’t take advantage of that and still cooked their own UI/firmware from scratch. With Rockbox the player would even play gapless audio, among other things – ‘as the artist intended’.

Some questions remaining are:

  • Will the HM-901 cost less than a kilobuck? [UPDATE: price appears to be closer to $1250, according to some rumors.]
  • Will its battery life be measured in minutes, or hours?
  • Will it have low enough output impedance to drive multi-armature IEMs properly?
  • Will it sound ‘better’ than the next average quality player, or will it have rolled off treble, like the HM-801? Or rather, will anybody make out any audible difference at all, considering almost all digital sources available are transparent and linear to human ears?

[Thanks to 3602 for the tip]


tds101 on May 13, 2012 10:23 PM

And, most importantly, will it also consist of all outdated, refurbished, cannibalized, and discarded parts?!?!?! Inquiring minds really don’t give a poop (unless you’re an easily duped audiophile).

john on May 14, 2012 6:00 AM

Looks like something from 2002. Who’d pay $800+ for an MP3 player?

Jaybee on May 14, 2012 7:00 AM

Looks sexy. What can I say, I’m stuck in the 80s.

But I think I’ll stick with my Clip Zip.

sideways on May 14, 2012 10:08 AM


Tony on May 14, 2012 7:27 PM

Most interesting comments. All I can say is that my experience of Hifiman products is at odds with your views. I have a 601 and an 801 and they provide some of the most astounding audio I have ever heard. I am very interested in the 901 and fully expect to be tempted to buy when it becomes available. Their players are appreciably better then all else I have heard (Sony X, Cowon J3 etc). If you are not able to appreciate the difference in sound quality then why would you find the price reasonable?

Marvin the Martian on May 15, 2012 4:24 PM

$1,250? Really? What utter crap.
Must be they couldn’t handle being upstaged by the price of the iBasso DX100, and had to have an even higher price…. for all that supposed higher-grade audio.

epithetless on May 15, 2012 4:26 PM

Good news! The HM-901 now sounds $450 better!

epithetless on May 15, 2012 4:27 PM

…That’s a greater than 50% improvement! It’s math, people!

Nick J on May 15, 2012 6:11 PM

Lemme throw a bit of complicated math at you:

If “$800″ equals “good”, then “$1250″ equals “gooder”.

Clearly, the logic is irrefutable.

tds101 on May 15, 2012 11:06 PM

The RMAA testing proved the HiFiMAN 801 was a overpriced POS. Then the internals were all recycled outdated crap, and it had/has atrocious software and battery life. This, apparently, equates to stellar SQ!!!

I guess audiophiles’ superior ears are all that matters. I guess “LOUD” is superior ANALOG SQ. Funny stuff,…I can’t wait for more HiFiMAN defense posts,…

rafa on May 22, 2012 9:49 PM

I love the caption! By looking at the price quote the wallet is diagnosed being a hemophiliac.

make_or_break on June 15, 2012 12:29 PM

Don’t care HOW good it sounds…@ $1250 that TWO Glocks!

Mark on June 22, 2012 9:27 PM

Well, Tube amps are outdated and almost as old as the light bulb, but tubes produce the warmest sound. Looks like old and outdated components is a meaningless argument. I guess a Subaru is better and newer than a Duisenberg yet, which would you rather own?

wuaffiliate on June 30, 2012 4:40 PM

Do they accept game boy carts?

Jim on July 27, 2012 6:18 AM

I think I’ll stick with my DX100. At $699.00 I couldn’t ask for more ;) . But if I could demo the 901 I’d give it a listen :P .

1312 on August 24, 2012 9:44 PM

tds101 – speaking of outdated, keep up on those “audiophiles are idiots ” comments.

Tympan on October 6, 2012 7:38 PM

Well, as an owner of a Hifiman 801 (with balanced amp), I can say that people can say whatever they want about recycled parts, rolled off treble, clucky look… I can honestly say that it is worth it for the DAC section alone!!! I have tried many, many DACs (up to $1500) and none come even close to that organic, lively, musical sound signature. The 801 makes all other DACs (under $1500) sound analytical, flat and cold.
Plus the 801 will power any headphones and IEM and truly show their potential (think of HD650, a jaw dropping combo btw…)
Anyway, music is not about numbers, specs, parts, and fancy names, it is about what one ends up earing… This hifiman could have only two outdated electronic parts in it, all matters to me is its sound signature, and I think it is fantastic. Can’t wait to demo the 901, very curious…
Just my two cents from actually owning one for two years.

NoBS! on November 1, 2012 4:52 AM

You get what you paid for! Some speakers cost less $200 and some costs over $200k!–More than many houses!
It is what it is! If you care about the Sound, you will be willing to pay for it! If you are a cheap MF who are happy with crappy MP3 free download, so be it! But there are people who DO care about the quality of sound!
So for those little bitches cry out about how much it will cost, shut the fuck up and go to 99 cents store to get some really cheap MP3!

NoBS! on November 1, 2012 4:55 AM

By the way, AVguide website gave the 901 very high remarks–and it is from the experts! No you MF Low IQs who knows nothing about music or sound, but frank read neck MF racists!

NoBS! on November 1, 2012 4:56 AM

read=red, typo.

Karl on November 3, 2012 6:35 PM

If its music sound right then that’s all that matters

tundoboy on December 31, 2012 11:08 AM

Man… the insult to facts % is too damn high. But perhaps it really doesn’t matter even if you spend a fortune for an overpriced POS player especially if you got a lot of paper to burn. But for people who seek good quality of sound for less, and with far more superior performance, it’s only logical to stay away from this intelligent insulting piece of plastic bricks.

Valentina on May 31, 2013 8:25 PM

The Sound Quality of the 901 is actaully pretty stellar. It has 2 Dual ESS DAC chips and those DAC chips itself is already about $1,500 each if im correct. Also the amp section is pretty expensive to. Yes the Build quality isn’t top notch. But It’s sound Quality is probably the Best DAP on the market next to the DX100. As a current owner of both DX100 and 901 I must say the the Sound Quality on this Product is absolutely stellar. I currently own the Esoteric K-01 CD player and the 901 comes very close to sound quality to it. The 901 was tuned to sound better than $8,000 CD players, so if you actually enjoy Audio for what it is. Then it’s definately worth the investment.

Jay on October 18, 2013 3:00 PM

Could be a marketing disaster for them to use that particular model number. Reminds me of another overhyped, overpriced piece of ‘hi-fi’ gear.

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