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Hifiman EF499 DAC/Amp Review

Meet the EF499, Hifiman’s latest DAC/amp release, joining its sibling, the EF500, on the shelves. Priced at $299, the EF499 takes a different route, opting for R2R technology over Hifiman’s traditional Himalaya architecture. As I begin testing this new release, I’m curious to uncover what Hifiman has crafted with its latest DAC/amp. Read on as I share my thoughts and experiences with you!

What you get
EF499 DAC/Amp
Power cable
User guide

Build
The EF499 truly surprises with its build quality, surpassing expectations given its $299 price tag. Its upright design, reminiscent of Hifiman’s EF500 and EF600 models, not only serves as a practical headphone stand but also adds a touch of sophistication to my desk setup, keeping things organized and visually appealing. I’m particularly drawn to its striking black and copper color scheme, which exudes a sense of luxury that’s rare to find in this price range. Unlike its counterpart, the EF500, with its more subdued gray and silver tones, the EF499’s color combination elevates its overall look and feel. The attention to detail is evident, especially with the clear pane over the front panel, which creates mesmerizing reflections when hit by light. Plus, the EF499’s all-metal chassis gives it a reassuring weightiness, promising durability for the long haul. It’s clear that Hifiman has spared no effort in delivering a product that not only looks great but also stands the test of time, reinforcing my trust in their commitment to excellence.


Functionality 
The EF499 seamlessly integrates its features into its design. Positioned above two stylish copper knobs on the front panel, four indicator lights offer intuitive control over gain, oversampling, and volume settings while providing clear visual feedback on the selected mode. With both single-ended 1/4 inch and balanced 4-pin inputs, this DAC/amp caters to diverse audio setups, complemented by a distinctive R2R label for easy identification. On the rear panel, users will find a plethora of I/O ports, including balanced XLR and single-ended RCA outputs, a coaxial input, and an ethernet input for seamless streaming. Completing the package are 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.



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

Oversampling
The EF499 boasts oversampling controls, allowing users to toggle oversampling on or off in high and low gain modes. In testing, I noticed differences between oversampling (OS) and non-oversampling (NOS), varying with headphone choice. With the Final Audio D7000, oversampling widened the soundstage and improved clarity, while with the Liric II, it increased bass presence, especially in sub-bass frequencies.

Soundstage
The EF499 immediately captivated me with its expansive soundstage. When listening through the Final Audio D7000, I was struck by the impeccably balanced soundstage they offer, where each note resonated with a clarity and depth that made me feel like I was experiencing the 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. Switching to the Meze Liric II, this effect became even more pronounced, although the imaging seemed less precise, suggesting that the soundstage might be wider than the imaging capabilities can fully utilize.

Sound Impressions
I was genuinely impressed by the EF499’s impact on the sound during my listening sessions. Its balanced sound signature across the frequency spectrum made every moment enjoyable. The low end, characterized by its even and neutral presentation, provided just the right amount of punch without overwhelming the audio. Engaging oversampling subtly enhanced the sub-bass rumble, adding a delightful depth to the lower frequencies. Moving through the midrange, I appreciated the neutrality with a touch of warmth, which allowed vocals to sound transparent and instruments to retain their liveliness and potency. At the high end, the EF499’s clean and airy sound reproduction, coupled with commendable resolution and detail retrieval, made each note come alive. Throughout it all, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the cohesive and natural sonic experience delivered effortlessly by the EF499.

Summary
The EF499 DAC/amp from Hifiman stands out for its balanced sound profile and versatility. Its even and neutral low end, complemented by engaging oversampling, delivers depth and clarity to the audio. Transparent midrange and clean high-end reproduction further enhance the listening experience. At $299, the EF499 offers exceptional value, making it a worthy investment for audiophiles seeking quality sound.

Hifiman EF499 DAC/ Amp is available at Audio46

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