Playback has reviewed a number of HiFiMAN’s earphones, headphones, and even a mid-priced tube-powered headphone amp, but we’ve never seen a product quite like the new EF-6 amplifier ($1599) from the creative Chinese headphone specialist. We say this because the EF-6 is the by far the largest, heaviest, most powerful, and most expensive headphone amp the company has ever built and it is arguably the product upon which HiFiMAN bases its most serious high-end/high-performance aspirations.
Another key goal for the EF-6 is to provide more than enough power to drive HiFiMAN’s superb but notoriously difficult to drive HE-6 planar magnetic headphone. To appreciate this latter goal, it helps to know that the HE-6 is, in principle one of the four or five best-sounding headphones we’ve ever heard, but it is also a headphone that precious few listeners had ever heard at its best, simply because it is so hard amps capable of properly powering the ‘phones in the first place. Having created the need for a great sounding an ultra-powerful amp by introducing the demanding HE-6 headphone, HiFiMAN now hopes to answer that need with the EF-6.
The bottom line is this amp is meant to compete with all comers, regardless of price or provenance, in terms of power output and sound quality. Given the plethora of worthy competitors now appearing on the scene, this is of course something easier said than done. Is the EF-6 up to the task? That’s the question we will try to answer in this review.