EF499 and EF500: Hifiman's New Twins Take on Desktop Audio

Hifiman recently dropped two new pieces of kit for the desk-bound audiophile crowd, the EF499 and EF500 DAC/amps. Let's dig into what makes these two stand out, without all the marketing fluff.

First up, the EF500. What's cool about this one? It's got Hifiman's own Hymalaya LE R2R DAC tech. For those not deep into audio tech, that's basically a fancy way of saying it converts digital music files into analog sound really precisely, making your tunes sound super clean and true to the original recording. Plus, it's got this design that lets it double as a stand for your headphones, which is pretty neat if you're trying to keep your desk looking sharp.

The EF499 takes a slightly different tack, opting for a Philips R2R DAC. This is a bit of a nod to the old-school, giving your music a warmer, more 'analog' vibe that some folks really dig. It's also designed to be a headphone stand, keeping that dual-purpose theme going.

Both models are pretty compact, designed to not hog too much space on your desk. They've got all the connections most folks would need, like balanced and unbalanced outputs, and a switch for toggling between digital and analog modes. They're built to last too, with features like an independent power supply and a case design that keeps things cool.

Price-wise, the EF499 is the more wallet-friendly option at $299, while the EF500 will set you back a bit more at $459. But what's the word on the street? Well, without diving into individual opinions, the general vibe is that these DAC/amps are hitting the right notes. The EF499, with its classic DAC chip, is getting nods for its smooth and potent sound, appealing to those who have a soft spot for the warmth of vintage audio gear. The EF500, meanwhile, is earning props for its precision and clarity, making it a strong contender even among pricier options.

In short, Hifiman's latest are shaping up to be solid picks for anyone looking to up their desktop audio game without cluttering up their space or emptying their bank account. Whether you're after that pristine, accurate sound or something with a bit more old-school warmth, there's something here that's likely to hit the spot.

Features and Technical Specifications

Hifiman EF500:

  • DAC Technology: Proprietary Hymalaya LE R2R DAC for accurate digital-to-analog conversion.
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): 0.0025% (-8dB), indicating extremely low distortion levels.
  • Channel Separation: 131±3 dB, ensuring clear separation between audio channels.
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR): 117 dB (A-Weighted), indicating a very low background noise level.
  • Maximum Power Output: 4.5 watts per channel (WPC) @ 32 Ω (balanced); 1.32 WPC @ 32 Ω (unbalanced), showcasing its ability to drive a wide range of headphones.
  • Weight: Approximately 3.37kg, solid and stable for desktop use.
  • Design Features: Dual-purpose as both an amplifier and a headphone stand, with a sleek design that adds to desktop aesthetics.
  • Connectivity: Fully balanced input/output connections, Coaxial/NET+USB function switch for versatile connection options.
  • Power Supply: Independent, ensuring clean and stable power delivery.
  • Thermal Management: Optimized tower case for efficient heat dissipation.

Hifiman EF499:

  • DAC Technology: Philips R2R DAC, known for its warm, full-range sound signature.
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): 0.008% (0dB), slightly higher than the EF500 but still very low, indicative of minimal signal distortion.
  • Channel Separation: 95±3dB, providing good audio channel clarity.
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR): 99dB (A-weighted, AP Open Loop Test), ensuring a clean sound with minimal background noise.
  • Maximum Power Output: 4.35 WPC @ 32 Ω (balanced); 1.28 WPC @ 32 Ω (unbalanced), indicating strong driving capabilities for headphones.
  • Weight: Approximately 3.3kg, also designed for stable desktop use.
  • Design Features: Similar to the EF500, it serves as both an amplifier and a headphone stand with a clutter-reducing design.
  • Connectivity: Offers balanced and unbalanced connections, with a focus on versatility for various audio setups.
  • Power Supply: Features an independent power supply for consistent performance.
  • Thermal Management: Designed with a thermal optimized case to maintain operational efficiency.
EF499 and EF500: Hifiman's New Twins Take on Desktop Audio



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