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HiFiMan HM-101 Portable USB Sound Card

3.3 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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  • Texas Instrument PCM2702 16-bit, 48 kHz chipset
  • High-quality headphone stage
  • Line-out jack for powered speakers
  • USB-powered (no AC or batteries needed)
1 new from $79.00

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Product Description

Here's a ridiculously inexpensive upgrade that will make greatly improve the sound of headphones and desktop speakers. HiFiMan's Express HM-101 portable USB DAC is smaller than an old-school cigarette lighter. But it delivers big benefits to your digital music files. \"I wasn't expecting much from the Hifiman Express HM-101, it's just a $39 outboard USB digital-to-analog converter and headphone amplifier,\" reports Steve Guttenberg in his October 30, 2011 review for CNET.com. \"Well, this tiny USB-powered (it doesn't need batteries or an AC power supply) device definitely pumped up the sound of my Audio Technica ATH-M50 headphones! They sounded significantly better with the Express than they did plugged directly into my Mac Mini's headphone jack.\" At the heart of its DAC, the HM-101 uses a Texas Instrument PCM2702 16-bit, 48 kHz chipset. It also has a line-out jack, allowing you to connect a pair of powered desktop speakers. That's a lot of capability for such a small and inexpensive product!

Product Information

Product Dimensions 4 x 7 x 1.5 inches
Item Weight 3.2 ounces
Shipping Weight 3.2 ounces
Manufacturer HiFiMan
Item model number HM-101
Customer Reviews
3.3 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
Best Sellers Rank #128 in Computers & Accessories > Computer Components > External Sound Cards
#1,302 in Computers & Accessories > External Components
Date first available at Amazon.com November 11, 2011

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Customer Questions & Answers

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Verified Purchase
Picked this up to fix a problem with an old XP laptop with a noisy soundcard....didn't quite fix that issue (not the products fault) but does sound waaaay better than the built in headphone jack on my Latitude. Honestly this is without a doubt a great upgrade to any business class laptop and probably most consumer class laptops.
So why the 3 stars? well the headphone jack is noisy, whatever amp they used they should have spent a couple extra cents. Luckily the line out port is quiet and the DAC has a nice sound that I find pleasing, and is plenty loud on my headphones. I havent quite put my finger on it yet but there seems to be some coloration in the tunes...maybe I'm just getting old and ears are giving out.

All in all it's a keeper and a pretty good deal for the price, it really will work well for what I need it for. It sounds fantastic paired with my laptop and pushing tunes through my Rotel to my second fav speakers, and makes the headphones I have sound a little better. But in this price bracket there are USB cards with digital outputs plus the headphone jack, so your $20 buds sound better and you could offload the signal to a better DAC if you wanted. So I guess just pick what you need, it sounds great with all the headphones I have and even hooked up to a pretty nice rig for stereo, if you need a digital out or if your cans are hard to drive you might want to look elsewhere So it might deserve another star for sounding pretty good but you decide I guess. I'm not bashing it by any means.
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Verified Purchase
First of all let's understand that The HM-101 outputs at compact disc resolution, which is 16bit-44Khz. If you have higher resolution audiophile music files, they will be downsampled, so if your collection contains many substantially higher resolution files (certainly FLAC or uncompressed Wav), then you should look for a better DAC. Lower resolution files will actually be upsampled. This isn't magic. If the music isn't there, it doesn't really make it up. I have had the HM-101 DAC for almost a year now. The HM-101 uses the PCM2702 chip which is quite good, but not as sophisticated as the Wolfson WM8740 used in the Fiio E10 DAC for about $20 more, and for about $110 you can get a Fiio E17 DAC which is, from all reviews, clearly superior in every way to both the HM-101 and the E10. How small does your DAC have to be, and what demand do you have in sound quality? It comes at a price, but you will get slightly more for the dollar with the more expensive E10 or E17.

HM-101 Pros:
Connected to my laptop and into a 110 watt/channel amp into floor standing speakers (Pioneer Elite Bi-amped into Dali Ikon II) with volume high enough to rock a large living room, the HM -101 is excellent. Yes, much better than just connecting to the stock soundcard in either my laptop or my desktop PC playing just average music downloaded from the net. I hear a much wider soundstage using the HM-101 along with better, more defined midrange separating the midrange away from the bass. While a little light on the bass, the HM-101 produces a cleaner sound than the stock soundcards (Desktop or laptop) alone.

HM-101 Cons:
Unfortunately the HM-101 is sensitive to interference from cell phones, and computers (incl my HP laptop).
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Verified Purchase
Prior reviews state you hear things you never knew were on some of your favorite tracks. Well, it's true. The Hifiman USB DAC/Headphone amplifier delivers sound superior to most sound cards. I have a new Dell LS 702, supposedly tweaked for audio/video playback. This $39 matchbook sized piece of equipment bests the Waves Audio and the Soundblaster X-FI in my 2 week old system (I paid a pretty price too).
Some of the vibrant audio must be attributed to the fact there is a headphone amplifier, I told myself. I have a Fiio Headphone amp, so I plugged it in and did some A/B testing vs. the HiFiMan, and whatever they have inside the Hifiman box is now my preferred listening method. I am anxious to pair the Hifiman up with some nice powered speakers to see how much of this difference disappears in full room audio vs. headphones.

One thing that kept me from giving the product 5 stars is the slight bit of interference you hear during silence at beginning, during, or at the end of a particular track. This may be attributable to interference from the computer. I am going to use a longer length adapter cord to separate the little box from the computer a farther distance. With or without this distortion, I am sold on the Hifiman, and it being my first step into the world of DACS, etc. I feel it won't be long until I sink money into a more substantial product.

My testing was with iTunes format files downloaded directly and tracks ripped from CDs using iTunes, both at 256kbps. Other reviews talk of the user playing lossless files, and filetypes that are foreign to me. I'm just an average Joe who enjoys good sounding audio, and know enough to spot the differences. Black Eyed Peas, Shania Twain, Pink Floyd, and George Clinton tracks were exclusively used for testing.
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