Postcards from Las Vegas (part two)

A handful of high-end highlights from CES

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Audio

Great Sound, headphone based systems

HiFiMAN HE-100 planar magnetic headphones and EF-1000 hybrid valve/solid-state headphone/integrated amplifier

If you have ever wondered what a cost-no-object HiFiMAN headphone/amp package might be like, then the HE-1000/EF-1000 pair provides your answer. Both new components are spectacular in their own rights, but to our thinking the HE-1000 must stand as ‘first among equals’ for its ground-breaking design.

Company founder Dr. Fang Bian earned his doctorate in nano-chemistry and he brought his expertise in this field to bear in the development of the HE-1000 by creating for this headphone a true nano-material diaphragm (this in contrast to some other designs that apply nano-material coatings to much thicker diaphragm materials). The result is diaphragm that is extraordinarily light, low in mass, and incredibly responsive. Not surprisingly, then, the HE-1000 seems to offer traditional planar magnetic virtues aplenty (including powerful and nuanced bass, wide range frequency response, and vivid dynamics), plus staggering levels of resolution and detail. For the listener, the net effect is not unlike having one’s ears and brain ‘hard-wired’ to the original recording console, which affords an exceptionally intimate view of the music.

Supporting the HE-1000 is the also very impressive two-chassis EF-1000 amplifier. The amp can be used either to power headphones or full-size speaker systems, with output, in class A mode, of 50Wpc or, in class A/B mode, 150wpc. As you can imagine, the EF-1000 offers superabundant power for purposes of driving most any dynamic headphone you might care to name.

Pricing for the HE-1000 and EF-1000 has not yet been determined. Dr. Bian advises, too, that good though the HE-1000 prototypes shown at CES are, he has a few more performance tricks up his sleeve that he expects to implement before the headphones are released at some point in mid-2015. Judging by the sound of the system, we anticipate pricing to be very high (as the products are arguably worthy of premium prices).

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