HiFiMAN HM-101

Score

Sections

Pros

  • Tightens-up low-end
  • Improves soundstage
  • Neat, light and cheap

Cons

  • Prone to interference
  • Adds light hiss

Key Features

  • Review Price: £29.99
  • Burr-Brown PCM2702 E DAC chip
  • MicroUSB port
  • Headphone and line out
  • 26g weight
  • 36 x 60.5 x 13.8 mm

The world of high-end audio is full of dubious claims, the deliberately baffling use of science-y terms, sky-high prices and products that resonate with ego. The HiFiMAN HM-101 isn’t like that. One of HiFiMAN’s “consumer grade products with Hi-Fi elements” and part of its new HiFiMAN Express range, it’s a dirt cheap USB soundcard that’s small, light and tremendously simple. And while it’s easy to make the assumption a £30 box couldn’t really improve sound quality, it’d be a false one.

Design
Matchbox-sized, button-free and 26g in weight, the HiFiMAN HM-101 doesn’t shout about what it’s for. It has no flaps, no batteries and no display. It’s a lot simpler than the rival Fiio E17 – and simpler even than the sub-£20 Fiio E6.
HiFiMAN HM-101 2
On its top edge is a miniUSB port. Plug this into a computer and the HM-101 will start acting as the computer’s soundcard, piping signal through the two 3.5mm jack ports on its bottom. These are line level and headphone outputs, letting you plug in speakers and headphones at the same time. From a quick look, the only way to know if it’s working or not is to look at the little power icon on its front, which glows blue when the HM-101 is drawing power from its USB connection.

For a device that doesn’t really need to be all that portable – it’s for plugging into computers rather than MP3 players – this thing is tiny. But it is also reasonably sturdy. A single band of metal forms its sides, and the front and rear are panels of glossy black plastic. It’s too light to feel super-strong like some of Fiio’s metal-bodied headphone amplifiers, but it can easily withstand being trodden into carpet – a likely occurrence.  HiFiMAN HM-101 4
   
Next to the retro HM-601 media player, the HM-101 looks positively sleek and modern. But what does it actually do?

The HiFiMAN HM-101’s main aim is to replace the DAC, the digital-to-analogue converter, of your computer. Because, in all likelihood, it’s probably not a very good one. This little box won’t work with iPads or Android tablets – while they may have a USB interface of sorts, it doesn’t have the requisite flexibility.

Specs
What the little box replaces your computer DAC with is a Burr-Brown PCM2702 E chip – Burr-Brown makes the DAC chips in the much more expensive Arcam drDock and rPAC. It’s a good start, isn’t it?
HiFiMAN HM-101 5
HiFiMAN claims the HM-101 provides 96dB signal-to-noise ratio, 20Hz to 20KHz frequency response and 26mW power output at 150Ohm. It should therefore be able to power over-ear headphones as well as teeny little in-ear buds. The numbers don’t really tell you what the HM-101’s really like to use, though…

More from TrustedReviews

N64oid

Is this proof an N64 Classic will follow the SNES?

Agents of Mayhem preview

cats 17

Why you’ll want to download this OnePlus 5 update today

Golf rory

British Open Golf Live Stream: How to watch online for free

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare for Xbox One down to under £9

Samsung Gear S3 finally gets Samsung Pay support in UK

Welcome to the all new Trusted Reviews

Netgear Arlo

Netgear Arlo Pro

Cat Amazon

Are you kitten me? Pet translation devices tipped for future smart homes

fire emblem warriors

Fire Emblem Warriors

pokken

Pokkén Tournament DX

TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi LED Bulb 5

TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi LED Bulb

Samsung Pay

Samsung Pay now lets you use your PayPal funds at the checkout

assassins creed origins

Ubisoft teases new games for Nintendo Switch, coming ‘quite soon’

amazon echo

Ask Vodafone: Mobile network’s first Amazon Alexa voice skill is revealed

Google Feed

The Google app’s new personalised feed might just drag you off Facebook

z2play 9

Moto Z2 Play

Mira Prism

For just $99 you can bring AR to the iPhone 7

Samsung Galaxy S8

Samsung Galaxy S9 displays may be the same, save one major new feature

movie theatre

The Netflix Effect: ‘Binge-watching’ is coming to movie theatres

Porsche MIssion E

Porsche’s latest electric car chargers put Tesla to shame

EE logo

EE’s new 20GB SIM-free deal is the best value tariff you’ll see all summer

Int-Ball

These are the first images from the ISS – as captured by a zero-gravity drone

iMac 21.5-inch 4K (2017)

LG V30 case

LG V30 design ‘confirmed’ ahead of IFA 2017 launch

iPhone 7 vs iPhone SE

Waiting for the iPhone SE 2? Sadly, it could be a one-and-done

Google Glass Enterprise

Google Glass 2 has arrived, sort of

Denon AH-C621R

Denon AH-C621R

BBC Proms

Get ready to listen to the BBC Proms like never before

Fender Newport Monterey Bluetooth speakers

Fender’s new Bluetooth speakers look just like tiny guitar amps

Garmin Vivosmart 3

Garmin Vivosmart 3

airplane

Is the laptop travel ban dead? Electronics restrictions lifted by TSA but UK fails to follow suit

KitSound Immerse

KitSound Immerse Wireless Headphones

Emojis

It’s World Emoji Day and Apple is showing off all of its newcomers

Porn Block

Privacy fears as UK plans age verification for porn sites

WhatsApp

New WhatsApp feature could give Apple’s iMessage a run for its money

Essential Phone

Andy Rubin’s Essential phone coming to UK, likely as a network exclusive

Nokia 8

Is this the Nokia Android flagship we’ve been waiting a decade for?

game of thrones 9

Watch Game of Thrones Online For Free: Season 7, Episode 2 ‘Stormborn’ trailer revealed

Honor 9 5

Honor 9