- Written by John E. Johnson, Jr.
- Published on 16 July 2014
HiFiMAN HM-802 Portable High Resolution Music Player Review Highlights
HiFiMAN is probably best known for their headphones and headphone amplifiers, some of which we have reviewed, but they also manufacture portable music players, as an alternative to the ubiqutious iPod. The HM-802 is one of several models, including the HM-700, which is less expensive than the HM-802, and the HM-901, which is more expensive.
You have the option of the standard unbalanced amplifier card, or a balanced amp card. In this review, I cover the model HM-802, with the standard unbalanced amplifier card, and also with the optional balanced amp card. It plays PCM music tracks up to 24/192 and DSD64, as well as wav, flac, mp3, alac, aac, and aiff files.
Portable music players have traditionally played mp3 music files, which is a lossy compressed format, because the amount of memory was limited. They also did not play anything above 16/44.1 sampling.
When players with more than 100 GB of memory became available, using uncompressed 16/44.1 wav files was manageable. So, we could listen to the sound in the same quality as the original CD.
In the past few years, a large number of websites began offering downloadable music in higher resolution than 16/44.1. Much of the music is taken from analog tapes that were recorded in the 1950's, '60's, '70's, and '80's. That represents a huge catalog of music that was on all that vinyl that we tossed away when digital CD's hit the market.
Not only have thousands of classic albums become available as downloads, they are available in higher resolution, such as 24/96 and 24/192 PCM, as well as DSD64, which is the codec for SACD. Although even higher resolution music can be downloaded, incuding 24/352.8 PCM and DSD128, those resolutions are only produced by one website (2L).
The HiFIMAN HM-802 will play music files up to 24/192 PCM and DSD64.
It uses an SD card for memory (not included), so I purchased a 128GB SD card and slipped it into my memory card reader, then dragged and dropped music files onto the card, then placed it in the HM-802 card slot.
Here is a screenshot of the menu with SD Card selected. You select menu items by rotating the dial on the panel below the LCD screen.
Album artwork shows up when playing music.
Unlike an iPod, the HM-802 can drive full sized headphones, such as the HE-500's, which I reviewed some time ago.
Navigation through my music files was done by using the "SD Card" menu, which is one of several selections on the front LCD panel.
The sound quality was vastly improved over what I was used to with my iPod, not only because the DAC (Wolfson) is of a higher quality than in an iPod, but also because of the higher resolution in many of my albums that I have downloaded.
HiFiMAN HM-802 Portable High Resolution Music Player Review Highlights Summary
- • Can drive full sized headphones
- • Plays high resolution music files
- • Excellent sound quality
- • Replaceable battery
- • Upgradable to balanced amplifier card
Introduction to the HiFiMAN HM-802 Portable High Resolution Music Player Review
When one used to refer to his/her "portable music player", the term iPod was what they said, because that was all there was. Then came iPhones and iPads, both of which can contain your music, and it can be played from those two devices. You have to use iTunes to manage your music and it is limited to 16/44.1 sampling, either as wav or Apple Lossless compression.
In spite of being able to store and play your music on the iPod, iPhone, and iPad in lossless format, it appears that most users still store their music in the lossy mp3 format. I really don't understand this, but that's the way it is. I know some audiophiles who still use mp3 to put their music on their i-devices.
Perhaps the reason has something to do with the fact that earbuds are the standard for listening to their music on these devices.
Over the past several years, full sized headphones (over-the-ear) have exploded onto the music scene. Apple purchased Beats in June, a company that makes very popular headphones, for $3 billion. They are also rumored to be developing a proprietary headphone connection on their i-devices.
HiFiMAN markets three models of portable players, the HM-700, HM-802 (reviewed here), and the HM-901, in increasing order of price. They are all available in balanced amplifier circuitry (optional - about $300 extra), but you need to get the balanced cable that fits your headphones and the 3.5mm balanced headphone jack on the HiFiMAN players. There are several balanced headphone jacks emerging on players: 4 pin XLR, 3.5mm, and 2.5mm. Apple may develop yet another size jack for their newly acquired Beats headphone line. I think it is really sad that the balanced headphone jack wil be in so many variations. This is a huge disservice to the consumer. The only way to beat it is to purchase the same brand of headphone as the headphone amplifier and portable music player.
- Design: Portable Digital Music Player
- Codecs: wav, flac, PCM up to 24/192, DSD64, alac, aac, aiff, mp3
- DACs: Dual Wolfson WM8740
- Amplifier: 1 Watt Unbalanced, 2 Watts Balanced
- THD+N: 0.003%
- S/N: 72 dB
- Dimensions: 1" H x 2.6" W x 4.5" L
- Weight: 1 Pound
- MSRP: $679 (with Unbalanced Amp Card), $979 (with Balanced Amp Card) USD
- Tags: HiFIMAN, Portable Music Players, HM-802