HiFiMAN Express HM-101 Portable USB Sound Card (Playback 56)

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Digital-to-analog converters,
USB interfaces, clocks, and soundcards
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HiFiMAN HM-101 Portable USB Sound Card

SET-UP & ERGONOMICS

The HM-101 was designed to be a plug-and-play device. On all the Macs (MacPro, MacPro portable, Mac Mini) and a Dell D-620 portable PC that I tried in my listening tests, the HM-101 proved to be plug-and-play as promised. Checking my Mac’s Midi Control panel showed the HM-101 supporting 32, 44.1, and 48 kHz files at 16-bits. Operation with iTunes, Amarra, Pure Music, and Audirvana Plus was glitch-free and without any operational issues. The only operational quirk I noticed was a very occasional issue with USB mouse movement causing low-level noise: a reboot immediately fixed the problem.

Since the HM-101 doesn’t have buttons, switches, or controls of any kind, volume must be controlled by software. If you’re in the habit of leaving your iTunes volume slider all the way up when you first begin playing music, you’ll want to rethink that unless you enjoy getting blasted by maximum volume at start-up.

The HM-101 comes with a short but serviceable 1-foot long USB cable. Naturally, some users will want to experiment with a better USB cable, but they should be aware that the HM-101 uses a mini-USB rather than a full-size USB connection, so standard USB cables won’t fit. For the review I used the supplied USB cable, as I suspect most HM-101 users will also do at first.

The only physical sign that the HM-101 is connected and working (other than playing music) is a bright blue LED light. The LED is brilliant, and so penetrating that in a pinch you could use it to illuminate your way home on a dark, moonless night.

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