July 12, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA

Hifiman EF499 Amplifier/DAC Review

Satisfy the EF499, Hifiman latest version of DAC/amp, joining its brother, the EF500, on the shelves. Priced at $299, the EF499 takes a different route, opting for R2R technology instead of Hifiman's traditional Himalayan architecture. As I start testing this new version, I'm curious to find out what Hifiman has created with their latest DAC/amplifier. Read on as I share my thoughts and experiences with you!

What you get
EF499 DAC/Amp
Power cable
User's guide

The EF499 really surprises with its build quality, exceeding expectations given its $299 price tag. Its vertical design, reminiscent of Hifiman's EF500 and EF600 models, not only serves as a handy headphone stand, but also adds a touch of sophistication to my desk setup, keeping everything organized and visually appealing. I'm especially drawn to its striking black and copper color combination, which exudes a sense of luxury that is rare to find in this price range. Unlike its counterpart, the EF500, with its more subdued gray and silver tones, the EF499's color scheme elevates its overall appearance. The attention to detail is evident, especially in the transparent panel above the front panel, which creates fascinating reflections when light hits it. Additionally, the EF499's all-metal chassis gives it a reassuring heft and promises long-term durability. It's clear that Hifiman has spared no effort to deliver a product that not only looks fantastic but also stands the test of time, reinforcing my confidence in their commitment to excellence.

The EF499 perfectly integrates its features into its design. Located above two sleek copper knobs on the front panel, four indicator lights offer intuitive control over gain, oversampling, and volume adjustments while providing clear visual feedback on the selected mode. Featuring 1/4-inch single-ended inputs and 4-pin balanced inputs, this DAC/amplifier adapts to various audio setups, complemented by a distinctive R2R label for easy identification. On the rear panel, users will find a host of I/O ports, including balanced XLR and single-ended RCA outputs, a coaxial input, and an Ethernet input for smooth streaming. The package is completed with USB Type B and Type C ports, a dedicated input selection switch, and a convenient power switch and connector, ensuring comprehensive connectivity options and user-friendly operation.

Unlike the EF400 and EF500, which uses Hifiman's Himalaya R2R DAC technology, the EF499 adopts Philips' R2R system. What's impressive is Hifiman's ability to integrate R2R technology into a desktop design at a price of $299. This feat underscores Hifiman's dedication to offering advanced technology in an affordable and stylish package.

The EF499 features oversampling controls, allowing users to turn oversampling on or off in high and low gain modes. In testing, I noticed differences between oversampling (OS) and non-oversampling (NOS), which vary depending on the choice of headphones. With the Final Audio D7000oversampling widened the soundstage and improved clarity, while with Lyric IIincreased bass presence, especially in the sub-bass frequencies.

sound stage
The EF499 immediately wowed me with its wide soundstage. By listening through the Final Audio D7000I was amazed by the impeccably balanced soundstage they offered, where every note resonated with a clarity and depth that made me feel like I was experiencing music in a whole new dimension. This exceptional clarity and depth added a level of immersion to the listening experience that truly enhanced the enjoyment of the music. What stood out most was the remarkable sense of depth and vertical dimension in the sound presentation. changing to the Lyrical Meze IIThis effect became even more pronounced, although the images seemed less precise, suggesting that the soundstage could be wider than the imaging capabilities can fully utilize.

Sound impressions
I was really impressed by the impact of the EF499 on sound during my listening sessions. Its balanced sound signature across the entire frequency spectrum made every moment enjoyable. The bass, characterized by its smooth and neutral presentation, provided just the right amount of power without overwhelming the audio. Attractive oversampling subtly enhanced sub-bass noise, adding delicious depth to the lower frequencies. Moving through the midrange, I appreciated neutrality with a touch of warmth, allowing vocals to sound transparent and instruments to retain their liveliness and power. At the top end, the EF499's clean, airy sound reproduction, along with commendable resolution and detail recovery, made every note come to life. Throughout all of this, I thoroughly enjoyed the natural and cohesive sound experience that the EF499 effortlessly delivers.

The Hifiman EF499 DAC/amplifier stands out for its balanced sound profile and versatility. Its smooth, neutral bass, complemented by attractive oversampling, provides depth and clarity to the audio. Transparent, high-quality media reproduction further enhances the listening experience. At $299, the EF499 offers exceptional value, making it a worthy investment for audiophiles looking for quality sound.

HiFiman EF499 DAC/Amp is available in Audio46

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