Home Amps/DACS HIFIMAN EF600 Review: Is It Worth $800?

HIFIMAN EF600 Review: Is It Worth $800?

by Stuart Charles Black
Published: Last Updated on
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Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!

Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions, so…

HIFIMAN’S EF600 looks like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I’m not complaining.

This elegant, Bauhaus-style industrial design is one of the most unique-looking products I’ve ever tested.

It’s tall, lean, very handsome, and also doubles as a headphone stand. Say whaaaaaaat?

THAT’S RIGHT YOU HEARD ME CORRECTLY.

HIFIMAN claims the Tower Case Design is also thermalization optimized for significantly lower noise floor.

It also contains oxygen-free copper wire wound around a toroidal transformer, in addition to a high-current amplifier circuit complete with a HYMALAYA PRO R2R DAC Module.

But what does this all mean, basil?

Oxygen-free copper wire

Using oxygen-free copper wire around a toroidal transformer reduces electromagnetic interference (EMI) and improves signal integrity.

Oxygen-free copper has superior conductivity, minimizing resistance and signal loss, resulting in cleaner power delivery to DAC components and arguably better sound quality.

Convection Cooling

Convection cooling and thermal optimization contribute to a significantly lower noise floor by efficiently dissipating heat generated by internal components.

The best Amp I have ever used, a Bryston BHA-1, utilizes a convection-cooled system.

By designing the DAC with effective heat management protocols, such as heatsinks and airflow channels, excess heat is dissipated away from critical components, minimizing thermal interference and reducing electrical noise.

This results in a quieter operating environment, enhancing the signal-to-noise ratio and overall audio fidelity of the DAC.

High-Current Amplifier Circuit

The high-current amplifier circuit delivers robust power to drive headphones and speakers with precision and clarity.

By utilizing components capable of handling substantial current demands, such as robust transistors and power supplies, the amplifier circuit ensures dynamic and accurate reproduction of audio signals across a wide range of frequencies and volume levels.

R2R DAC Module

The HYMALAYA PRO R2R DAC Module features an R2R (Resistor-to-Resistor) architecture known for its precise digital-to-analog conversion.

This design utilizes a network of resistors to convert digital signals into analog waveforms, offering a distinct approach to DAC technology appreciated by enthusiasts for its unique characteristics.

Front Panel

HIFIMAN EF600 Review

HIFIMAN EF600 ReviewThe front contains the rectangular volume knob, a balanced 4-Pin XLR headphone output, and a single-ended 1/4″ output.

The top portion’s left side houses your Gain options including High Gain NOS, High Gain OS, Low Gain OS, and Low Gain OS.

Just click the button to cycle through.

If you were curious:

  • NOS (Non-Oversampling): NOS DACs operate without oversampling the digital audio signal before conversion to analog. They typically have a simpler signal path and minimal digital processing, aiming to preserve the original characteristics of the audio signal. NOS DACs are favored by some audiophiles for their perceived warmth and natural sound reproduction.
  • OS (Oversampling): OS DACs employ oversampling techniques to increase the sample rate of the digital audio signal before conversion. Oversampling DACs often use digital filters to interpolate additional samples between the original samples, aiming to improve signal accuracy and reduce artifacts such as quantization noise. OS DACs are common in modern digital audio equipment and offer enhanced signal processing capabilities.

In terms of gain, NOS and OS DACs generally operate similarly in terms of gain control.

The difference lies primarily in their digital filter designs and processing methods, which can impact the overall performance of the DAC.

The right side is your input selector and includes USB/Coax, Bluetooth, RCA In, and Balanced In.

Back Panel

HIFIMAN EF600 Review

The back contains balanced XLR outputs for use with separate monitors or speakers, a pair of RCA inputs, a pair of RCA outputs, a pair of balanced XLR inputs, the USB Type-B jack, the Coaxial input, a Type-C port, and the Bluetooth connector.

Below that are the AC Power input and Power Switch.

The Bluetooth design supports LDAC, AAC, SBC, aptX, and aptX HD.

Just screw on the supplied BT Antenna and you’re all set.

Speaking of accessories, there aren’t many.

In the box, you’re getting the unit, a power cable, and the Bluetooth antenna.

Performance

HIFIMAN EF600 Review

The performance of the EF600 is excellent – same with most of the other 70+ I’ve tried. The signal-to-noise ratio is great and easily surpasses the SINAD standard of > 90dB – coming in at an excellent 118 dB.

In addition to Output Impedance, this is another super important metric when it comes to a DAC, and the EF600 delivers.

Outside of that, there’s not much more to say. Output Impedance is perfectly fine and there’s nothing to whine about. I also did a side-by-side comparison of the K9 vs. EF600 and found nothing notable to report in the way of “sound” differences. They both perform admirably.

That said, I’ll continue to test more tracks and headphones and update the article as needed.

If you’re new to my blog, I evaluate DACs based on versatility and price (i.e. the ultimate value), not the “sound.” Sound is for headphones, speakers, and source material.

That said, I’ve watched countless films/shows, played an array of games, listened to a slew of different songs and artists, and my bottom line is that I like the EF600.

It’s a solid product, but in terms of value, how does it stack up against some other notable competition?

Let’s discuss this as we give a final verdict and wrap things up.

Final Verdict

HIFIMAN EF600 Review

HIFIMAN’s EF600 is a well-built product and boasts a lot of nice features. You can connect it to almost anything in a home studio/theater environment, as it’s pretty versatile and also fun to use. I’ve had a blast with it and it looks pretty damn cool in my living room.

The design itself is rather eye-catching and will likely elicit some sort of reaction when company’s over.

That said, I’m not sure if the asking price falls in line with “excellent value.”

For one, the package contents are pretty sparse and HIFIMAN doesn’t even supply you with a Type-B cable. For $800, this is not acceptable. Heck, it’s not acceptable regardless of price.

If you received a Type-B cable in your package, kindly let me know down below. I did not.

Secondly, there are still some Quality Control concerns with the company.

The first unit they sent had faulty RCA connections on the back. As I was going to unplug the cables, the entire jack dislodged and fell out into 2 of the pieces that make up an RCA insert. This after a gentle pull.

For the price you’re paying, this is not acceptable under any circumstance and needs to be mentioned.

The second unit they sent has been fine, but they need to make sure these things don’t happen – period.

For Under $100? Yeah, shit happens.

But not for almost $1000. I’ve been harping on QC with this company since 2019. And this isn’t me nitpicking. Audio Advice dropped HIFIMAN from their lineup in 2019.

After that, and for a while, it seemed like things were getting better, but I’ll just say this: Get it together, HIFIMAN. There’s no excuse for it.

And, for all of their boasting about excellent Signal-to-noise ratio, FiiO’s K9 does it better at ≥ 124dB.

In addition to the XLR-4 and 1/4″ outputs, the K9 also has a 4.4mm headphone output and the add-on FiiO Control App. The latter is not a deal sealer, but it’s noteworthy. 

The former is pretty important as it’s now easier than ever before to listen balanced via 4.4.

Power-wise, yes, the EF600 has the edge: 5W into 32Ω Balanced vs. 2W into 32Ω Balanced for the K9. Still, both provide more than you’ll ever need, so DON’T OVERTHINK IT!!!!!

In terms of flexibility, both units are pretty comparable.

The K9 has a Type-B input, Coax, Bluetooth, Optical, Balanced 4.4mm input, A pair of RCA inputs and outputs, and the Balanced XLR outputs.

FiiO K9 Review

The EF600 matches in all regards but doesn’t have a 4.4mm input or Optical. Not a huge deal, since you can just hook it up to a DAC that can connect to a PS4 and then connect that DAC to the 600. Just make sure your DAC either,

  1. Can connect to a console instantly via USB or,
  2. Has an optical input that connects to the PS4’s optical out. The DAC should also have a line out or RCA outs to then connect to the EF600.

That said, it can be inconvenient for users who are looking for an Amp/DAC that already has an optical input (K9).

The other notable feature is that the EF600 doubles as a headphone stand; with its grooved, curvaceous design. Pretty neat.HIFIMAN EF600 Review

HIFIMAN EF600 Review

It also looks like a face when the lights (eyes) are on. Imagine the volume knob as the nose, the headphone outputs at the bottom being the mouth, and the headphone cups on the sides as the ears.

Did you immediately notice the face before I mentioned it? Let me know in the comments.

Despite all that, the kicker for me is that the EF600 is still overpriced (in my opinion) at $699 while the K9 sits at a pretty reasonable $499 (Subject to change, pictured above left).

And AIN’T NO SMILEYS GONNA CHANGE MY MIND!

For that, I think the K9 is a much better value and recommend it wholeheartedly.

Learn More:

 

Specs

  • Outputs: 6.3mm single-ended, XLR four-pin balanced, dual (L/R) XLR three-pin full balanced line outputs
  • Rear inputs: RCA, USB-B, and USB-C source connectors
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 118dB (weighted)
  • Channel separation: 131+/-3dB
  • THD+N (line out): 0.0014% (-8dB)
  • Maximum power output: 5.12 Watts per channel @32 ohm balanced/1.8 Watts per channel @32 ohm 
  • Dimensions: 104mm/4” x 135mm/5 1/4” (top); 104mm/4” x 165mm/6 1/2” (bottom) ; 283mm/11”(height)

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this HIFIMAN EF600 Review.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Let me know down below (please keep it civil) or Contact me!!

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

Is the EF600 worth a purchase? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

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