Hifime SPDIF Optical 9018 DAC: No Fuss Crystal Clear Sound

HifiMe is a company that specializes in building bare-bones DAC with no frills, focusing entirely on price-to-performance ratios. That’s a good thing for audiophiles on a budget, and the new SPDIF Optical DAC from HifiMe is no exception.

The SPDIF Optical 9018 DAC is available here from HifiMe’s official website for $60.

Disclaimer: This review is based upon a sample unit provided to me by a manufacturer in exchange for my honest opinion and un-edited words. I do not profit in any way from the writing of the review. I would like to thank Wong at Shozy for providing me with this unit.

Preference and Bias: Before reading a review, it is worth mentioning that there is no way for a reviewer to objectively pass judgment on the enjoy-ability of a product: such a thing is inherently subjective. Therefore, I find it necessary for you to read and understand what I take a natural liking to and how that might affect my rating of a product.

My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, bass. The mids should be slightly less pronounced than the treble, but still ahead of the bass. I prefer a more bright upper range.

Tech Specs

  • Sabre ES9018k2m DAC chip and SABRE9601 headphone and line out driver
  • 122dB SNR
  • 110dB THD+N: 2V rms @ 600 ohm load
  • 100dB THD+N: 30mW @ 32 ohm load
  • No DC blocking capacitors on the output
  • Power usage: <80 mA depending on sample rate and volume
  • Dimensions:5.5 x 3.5 x 1.8 cm (without cable)
  • Weight 30g

Please note the above specs were taken directly from the official page for this product.

Packaging and Unboxing

Again, owing to HifiMe’s intense pursuit of high price-to-performance ratios, the SPDIF DAC came in merely a thin plastic container, with it’s cable and spare Optical to SPDIF adapter hanging out loosely in the packaging beside it.

Sound Signature

Sabre chipsets tend to have what’s often referred to as the Sabre “glare” or “shine”. This is in reference to a boost in treble response that certain Sabre chipset implementations have had in the past. Thankfully, it’s not present on HifiMe’s new DAC. There is an audible upgrade in sound quality on the majority of my IEMs when powered off the HifiMe DAC, especially when compared to devices such as the Nexus 6P, Surface Pro 3, and the assorted notebooks that exist in my house. There is actually no noticeable coloring, allowing my earphones to exhibit their qualities, not the qualities of a poorly behaved DAC powering them. It’s clean, clear, an unaltered — just how it should be.

I do, however, notice a low amount of hiss on certain IEMs, such as the AAW Q. However, once the audio signal from my PC goes into standby, the hiss disappears, meaning the hiss is not being generated from an electrical failure within the DAC itself.

Connectivity

This DAC does not have an internal power source. Therefore, it is powered off of a micro-usb connection, which does not carry an audio signal, meaning this DAC can not be used as a portable USB OTG DAC (that’s a lot of acronyms). The audio signal is accepted over SPDIF, and is capable of accepting bit-rates up to 192kHz, with a bit-depth of up to 32 bits, provided you have a good enough cable. Audio out is a 3.5mm port.

Build Quality

Build quality, isn’t spectacular, but doesn’t appear to be lacking in any particular way. The case is a very simple black plastic case, and is of a reasonable thickness. There are two informational LEDs that sit well, and aren’t too bright or too dim — leaving the DAC on in dark room won’t be distracting.

I don’t feel an wiggle in the the ports either. This is good, and goes a long way to making the DAC feel sturdy. While I personally have no qualms with the DAC’s aesthetics, I do not think people looking for fancy-full sized DACs will find very fulfillment in HifiMe SPDIF DAC, given its small size and plain looks.

Conclusion

HifiMe’s SPDIF DAC is a low profile, low cost, high-quality DAC with a crystal-clear and precise presentation. Honestly, for the price, you’d be hard pressed finding a DAC that outperforms this one.

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