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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:

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]