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Crutchfield

HiFiMAN HM-101

USB digital-to-analog converter/headphone amplifier

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  • HiFiMAN HM-101

    Front

  • HiFiMAN HM-101

    Back

  • HiFiMAN HM-101

    Mini USB input

  • HiFiMAN HM-101

    Minijack headphone and line-level audio outputs

 

Our take on the HiFiMAN HM-101

by Dave Bar
HiFiMAN

Treat your computer like a real audio source

If you're still plugging your headphones or powered speakers directly into your computer's headphone jack, please stop — and read this! Computers are a fantastic source of movie and music entertainment, but most are saddled down with sadly sub-standard audio circuitry (yes, even the fancy expensive ones). And that means you're probably settling for sound quality that's just so-so.

Better sound for a song

HiFiMAN's HM-101 portable USB sound card is a simple and affordable solution that can help you discover what you've been missing. This tiny, outboard digital-to-analog converter plugs into one of your PC's USB ports, bypassing the computer's built-in audio circuitry and replacing it with hi-fi-grade hardware. By processing music files outside your computer's noisy electrical environment, you'll instantly hear more detail and dynamics in the music you love coming through on your headphones, powered speakers, or sound system. And it's not just about music. The HM-101 can boost the sound of all your computer-based audio sources, including game and movie soundtracks in stereo.

Easy to use

Operation is simple. Just connect the HM-101 to any USB port on your computer, and it will install itself and be ready for use in a matter of seconds. There are no settings or volume knobs to deal with, either. Simply continue using your computer's volume control to adjust the sound. And since the HM-101 draws its power through the USB connection, there are no external power supplies or batteries to worry about.

Highlights:

  • compact design for portability
  • built-in headphone amplifier
  • powered by USB connection — no need for external power supply
  • 1 Mini USB (Type B) input for connection to a computer (USB A to Mini B adapter cable included)
  • 1 minijack (3.5mm) audio output
  • 1 minijack (3.5mm) headphone output
  • supported sample rates: 44.1kHz, 48kHz
  • input bit depth: 16 bits
  • built-in USB driver — no downloads required
  • frequency response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • THD: 0.07%
  • stereo crosstalk: 78 dB
  • headphone output power: 62mW (at 36 ohms), 26mW (at 150 ohms)
  • 1-7/16"W x 9/16"H x 2-7/16"D
  • warranty: 1 year
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee
 

Hands-on research from the Crutchfield Labs (what are the Labs?)

Product Research
What's in the box?

Download owner's manual

  • Portable USB sound card
  • 16" USB cable (with Type A USB on one end and Mini-B 2.0 USB on the other end)
  • Instructions

Our Product Research Team

At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team — they open the box, verify contents, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

Features

Overview: The HiFiMAN Express HM-101 is a tiny portable USB sound card with a built-in headphone amp. It dramatically improves the quality of the sound coming out of your computer's on-board sound card.

Single Input/Dual Output: The HM-101 has a single USB (Mini-B 2.0) input and two 3.5mm minijack outputs. The HM-101 connects to your computer via the supplied USB cable. The line output lets you connect the sound card to an amplifier or a pair of powered speakers. The other output comes from the built-in headphone amplifier for plugging in your favorite headphones.

USB D/A Converter: The USB sound card uses a high quality Burr-Brown PCM2702 digital-to-analog converter for exceptional sound quality.

Headphone Amp: The HM-101 uses the TDA1308 headphone amplifier chip to provide a robust 50-70 mW headphone output.

Specifications:

  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20k Hz
  • Distortion: 0.07% (line output)
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: 96dB (line output)
  • Stereo Crosstalk: 78dB (line output)
  • Headphone Amp Output Level: 1.5v at 36 ohms; 2.0v at 150 ohms
  • Maximum Output: 62 mW at 36 ohms; 26 mW at 150 ohms
 

Product reviews from the Crutchfield Labs (what are the Labs?)

Quick impressions from the Lab

Comment by Ralph Graves Staff Writer - Creative,

Audiophile Sound 101

Written by Ralph Graves, Staff Writer - Creative, on 1/21/2013 12:19:00 PM

I didn't need many Crutchfield Lab resources to test out the HiFiMAN HM-101. I just plugged some headphones into one of the computers and listened to some music for a while. Then I pulled out the headphone jack from the computer, inserted the HiFiMAN's USB connector, plugged the headphones into the HiFiMAN, and listened to the same music.

The difference was quite impressive. The soundstage became more expansive, and the music became richly detailed — and considering some of my music sources, that was pretty impressive. In addition to listening to music files saved at various bitrates (including some uncompressed tracks), I also sampled Pandora® Internet Radio, MOG, and RDio.

Sound quality isn't always the best on these streaming services (especially if you haven't opted for the premium versions), and just listening directly through the headphones the music seemd somewhat closed-in and soft around the edges. Adding the HiFiMAN HM-101 made a dramatic difference. Although I could still tell this was compressed audio, there was much more detail at the high and low ends. Plus, the mids seemed much cleaner, too. It's difficult to describe, but overall the music sounded deeper somehow.

I also tried this test with different types of headphones. Overall, the better quality the headphones, the more noticable the differences were. It's small, portable, and delivers great sound. What's not to like?

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HiFiMAN HM-101 Reviews

Average Customer Review:

6 people say:

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1 out of 5

Why is this Product Sold?

Written By Tom G, Nope on Friday, January 24, 2014
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
This is a terrible product. Read any real review of this on any other site and you will learn why. It is poorly shielded and will emit constant, abrasive noise via whatever pair of headphones is plugged into it. The "amplifier" does next to nothing for the sound, and the DAC in my laptop's onboard sound must do a better job than this poor excuse for audio equipment. Crutchfield should be ahsamed for their staff review. This unit was actually out of stock due to demand for a while. It should be permanently out of stock. Please do not ever buy this. Spend more money and boycott this company. This device should not have been released.
Pros:
Looks pretty
Cons:
Horrible awful EMF noise due to poor shielding making the device unusable in any environment
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4 out of 5

Second Chance

Written By Ricky, San Diego, CA on Sunday, January 05, 2014
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
the first couple of times I plugged in the HiFi Man HM 101 to my laptop I got a green light which made me think it was on and working but no sound came thru the headphones but I think that green light means it is loading the drivers, the third time last ditch effort the light came on blue now it was on and surprisingly a much improved sound was coming thru Sennheiser HD518's all of a sudden there was much more clarity and more weight to the bass, percussion bass drum the highs were crisper and with the smooth mid's the frequency balance was very good and much more enjoyable, you can tell by my equipment that I don't have much of a budget but I love when products that are affordable actually produce, thanks HiFiMan I am now dreaming of a pay increace that will allow me to by the HiFiMan HE 300.
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2 out of 5

ok for the money

Written By lee, hillsboro, mo on Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
It was ok but had too much bass I think the computer is better it also has a sound like a mouse chewing on the cord sometimes it can be heard over the music. I got the nu force and am very impressed it sounds great if you can the nu force is worth the money the hifi man had to go.
Pros:
was good if you just need it a little louder and don't mind a little more noise, and a little more bass
Cons:
the mouse thing drove me crazy I don't know how much it happens but their was other reports of it online it also uses the volume on the computer to control it and that means the computer can change the bit rate if you turn it down a lot then the d/a is getting a bad signal according to the nuforce paper work the Crutchfield advisor and online reports agreed
2 out of 4 people found this helpful
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4 out of 5

Good

Written By Rick, Phoenix Az on Thursday, May 30, 2013
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
Got this to replace my Macbook Air's internal sound card to run my Audio Technica ATH-M50's and my creative gigaworks desktop speakers. For a Headphone amp there is a noticeable difference in sound reproduction while using the Hifi Man Express. Tighter Bass response, more a more realistic sound-stage. I didn't however notice much difference in my desk top speakers, using the DAC portion. But for the price its a steal. Great headphone amp, and im sure if I had better desktop speakers the difference in sound would be more noticeable.

If your on a budget and you spent more than $100 on your speakers or headphones and currently do not have a Headphone amp and/or DAC this product is a must. Unless you have the money for something like the Audio Engine D1.

The only reason it didn't get 5 stars is because there is a noticeable hum when plugged in. Sometimes depending on were the device is (next to a phone or close to my laptop) it can even be heard when listening to music witch is kind of annoying.

For the Price the sound quality upgrade is great.
Pros:
The value of the Hifi Man express is very high for the price, noticeable upgrade from Macbook Air's Sound card.
Cons:
Noticeable hum when no music is played, if next to a phone/computer hum is noticeable through music.
2 out of 3 people found this helpful
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2 out of 5

HiFiMAN HM-101

Written By ANDREI, BLUFFTON S.C. on Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
Doesn't work with apple mcbook pro lion
Cons:
Doesn't work with apple mcbook pro lion
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5 out of 5

HiFiman

Written By webbman, Waterloo,Iowa on Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
This is the best $ i have ever spent. This little amp brought my itunes and spotify to life. paired with my Beats Executive headphones to a new sharp, detailed and powerfull sound. Even at lower volumes the crisp sound is great. A" can't miss" on this one!!
14 out of 16 people found this helpful
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