Overview of GAME card amplifier module for Hifiman HM-801 player

Before moving on to the semantic part of the article, I would like to say that for its full understanding it is simply necessary to read the review of the Hifiman HM-801 player. Some points, of course, will be repeated in the article - but the picture will be incomplete. In any case, let's start with an introduction to the topic of portable amplifiers.

Introduction

Probably, while listening to music on your favorite player, you have repeatedly caught yourself on a simple thought: you can “squeeze” more out of it. In this case, the situation is often solved simply - by searching through the players, sometimes - by searching through the headphones. Only two components, a fairly simple technique.

Yes, I agree that there are hard-to-find headphones and players, but most people do not know about them, and thus the choice comes from the available set. Usually these are Cowon, Apple, Sandisk, Sony players, plugs or “monitors” from Sennheiser, the same Sony. In general, everything that you can listen to in the store.

The most persistent take flash drives and laptops with them to the store, looking for players through acquaintances. Less "confused" create topics on the forums dedicated to choice. From experience I can say that few people can formulate requirements for sound, basically everything ends with vague statements like “you need to have bass and top”. Basically, newcomers are involved in the creation of such topics, while old-timers, on the contrary, try to listen on their own, without relying entirely on the reviews of other users.

However, the path of the Jedi does not end with the selection of headphones. There are also companies that manufacture portable headphone amplifiers. In Russia, the most famous company of this kind is perhaps iBasso. There are also little ones like the T3 model, with "pop" MegaBass switches and a stereo expander.

And there are monsters the size of a couple of iPods, for example, the D10 Cobra - in such a thing you can replace operational amplifiers (there are even several options in the kit), and there is also a USB-DAC function, i.e. You can also use the device as a sound card. Output impedance and gain switches are sometimes seen for better compatibility with low- and high-impedance headphones.

If you pay attention to amplifiers made in the USA, you can buy both a miniature (matchbox-sized) Ray Samuels Audio Shadow, and a truly huge Triadaudio Lisa III, powered by two nine-volt cells.

Let's say the amplifier is bought - what should I connect it to? The first option is a player with a line-out. Fortunately, the iPod has this, however, you will have to purchase a special adapter, the iPod Line Out Dock (LOD).

It all depends on your needs and the availability of money. You can buy a ready-made and neat solution for 100 dollars, or you can buy a fairly large LOD from the same iBasso. The photo shows the LOD produced by Ray Samuels Audio.

Yes, instead of an iPod, you can use some kind of recorder like Korg MR1 or Sony PCm-D50, use an ultra-expensive cable to connect the amplifier to the sound source - so we get a lot of degrees of freedom to adjust the sound.

On the site www.head-fi.org you can see the resulting kits, there are quite interesting options.

Generally speaking, the games of music lovers and audiophiles with amplifiers, cables, sources are due to the eternal search for a non-existent ideal. It just so happens that modern recording and playback technologies do not give a person the opportunity to to feel like at a concert or in a recording studio. As a result, in small but sure steps, people approach the desired sound by changing components.

Unfortunately, often, without listening to a piece that has the best sound, it is impossible to find any shortcomings in the existing one. Likewise, the first cars were absolutely objectively fast, but at the moment their speeds cause only a grin. So it is with audio equipment. The model of the player, headphones can be favored by both users and reviewers - but the veil of an unattainable ideal is not eternal.

Over the past couple of years, the arms race in portable audio has accelerated. New amplifiers, headphones, players come out more often, deserving high marks. This is probably why the concept of a modular system arose in the HM-801 - why change the frame, if it is enough to replace its component? In addition, the player is large enough that it was not so difficult to place a slot for an amplifier board.

In addition, purely psychologically, one, albeit a large, box is perceived better. No need to charge two devices, no need to look for or make your own interconnect cable. The disadvantages are obvious - you can not place a large number of components in a small compartment, there may be power problems. Yes, and the proprietary nature of the connector leads to natural problems. As a result, convenience grows, and there are fewer degrees of freedom.

Owners of HM-801 players, of which there are already about two dozen in the Russian Federation, will be interested to read about a replaceable amplifier for their device. But first, a little about the ideology of HM-801.

Modular system in HM-801

The HM-801 has two parts that can be replaced - the amplifier board and the battery. With the last part, there are no alternatives yet, you can only buy a battery similar to the complete one, it will cost $ 90 including shipping. However, the developer plans to release a larger battery when batteries with a higher energy density become available. In addition, it is possible to install an additional battery in the amplifier compartment.

The manufacturer claims that replacing the amplifier in the HM-801 is quite simple. Looking ahead, I will say that this replacement is not so simple, especially the first time. In addition, there are only two options so far - a module that comes with the device and is already installed, and one purchased separately, which is called the GAME card. However, on the manufacturer's website there is also information about the pinout of the connector for the amplifier, as well as the dimensions of the printed circuit board - i.e. it is theoretically possible to make your own module.

The main declared difference of the new version of the amplifier is improved compatibility with low-impedance headphones with high sensitivity. As mentioned in the review of the Hifiman HM-801, the UE11 earplugs play quite loudly with it already at one-eighth of the maximum volume. In addition, in a quiet home environment, you can hear the noise of the amplifier.

To correct these shortcomings in the GAME card, the gain was reduced from 1.6 to 0.9, in fact, instead of amplifying, the module attenuates the signal passing through the player's buffer stage.

In addition, instead of inexpensive operational amplifiers, "top-end" BurrBrown OPA627AU chips are used. Their use is possible only with sufficient power, but, apparently, when designing the HM-801, a certain margin of safety was laid.

Replacing the amplifier

The instructions on the manufacturer's website are laconic and do not quite correctly illustrate the replacement process, so we will not focus on it.

You will need a screwdriver from the Hifiman HM-801 kit, as well as an object that looks like a toothpick - pointed, but not scratching the coating and tracks on the board.

For starters, turn off the player, take out the memory card.

Then we remove the battery compartment, take out the battery.

Turn over the player, prepare a screwdriver.

Unscrew the two screws, remove the module compartment cover.

Next, we turn our attention to the latches along the edges of the board.

Now comes the hardest part. With a toothpick, carefully bend the latches, if the board does not release, then carefully, using a toothpick as a lever (the point of application of force is near the slot, and not at the free end of the board), push the amplifier out of the connector. Do not hold on to the elements on the board, you can damage them. As a result, the amplifier should pop out of the connector like a RAM module in a laptop.

Then you can get it and replace it with another one, just insert a new board into the slot and, pressing on the dangling part, fix it.

Thus, despite the large dimensions of the player, the replacement is not very convenient. Remembering again about laptops - replacing memory there is much easier because of the normal latches.

Appearance

As you can see, the GAME card differs from the standard amplifier in appearance:

GAME card left

GAME card right

The declared operational amplifiers are available, the manufacturer did not deceive. Part of the standard board is filled with epoxy, which makes it difficult to replace the "opamps" - otherwise it would be easy to put "cribs" and change the microcircuits until the desired result is achieved.

The comparison was made from memory, then as a result of alternate control listening to identical recordings on two devices (thanks to Roman Zaitsev from mycroft.su for the second provided HM-801 with a standard amplifier), the following picture was drawn.

Perhaps I will disappoint someone, and please someone, but there is a difference between the two boards, and quite significant. The problem is that there is no qualitative change in the sound, there are changes in its presentation.

For starters, compatibility with low-impedance devices is excellent, Ultimate Ears UE11PRO "catch" the hiss of the amplifier only closer to the maximum volume, in addition, now it is easier to adjust the signal level.

Next - the comparison was carried out exclusively on the UE11PRO, since these are the headphones I use most of the time and I have a very good idea of ​​what and how they win back.

So, the general change in the nature of the sound - it has become more "thick", saturated, as one of my acquaintances aptly noted, "fatter". There was no loss of detail. On the contrary, the feeling of that famous asphalt skating rink grinding music is somewhat gone.

With the new amplifier, the transparency of the sound has also improved, but only slightly.

More important is the feeling of dividing an imaginary scene into "layers" by volume level. The vocals on many tracks seem to rise above the main musical canvas, on the second level the main parts are actually reproduced, and on the third - clearly audible, but at the same time not at all intrusive minor details. Of course, all this is accompanied by a clear separation of instruments on the second level, a high-quality stereo panorama (slightly wider than that of a standard amplifier). Getting used to such a feed is fast. The standard amplifier does not have a clear separation into levels, perhaps this leads to the heaviness of the feed.

However, there is also an unpleasant moment - the vocal rising above the whole composition has acquired a tendency to whistle (sibilance).

Also, both boards were compared by Roman from Mycroft, using Sleek SA6 headphones. He also heard some of the above moments, some not.

Output

So obviously the result depends on the headphones as well as the listener. I can’t say which amplifier I personally liked best in terms of sound - but thanks to the low gain, the choice became obvious.

By the way, in the latest HM-801 players, the developer initially sets the gain to low. That is, for the buyer of the player at the moment, the issue will be quite acute.

So, about the price. The cost of the module with delivery compared to the price of the player is low - 179 US dollars. The difference in quality is small, there are significant differences in sound delivery. If the sound of the HM-801 suits you completely in the original version, but you want to experiment, the purchase is worthy.

In addition, you can wait for the next amplifier - the developer promises to do something qualitatively new.

In the end, I will say that changing the amplifier could be easier. By the way, the replacement experiment showed that the sound goes to the line output even without an inserted board - i.e. there is no cheating, as is the case with the Sony PCM-M10 and its combined socket.

Declared characteristics

  • OpAmps: OPA627
  • Buffer: OP634
  • Gain: 0.9
  • Distortion: 0.02%
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 101 dB
  • Input impedance: 20 kΩ
  • Max power: 75mW into 33 ohms, 60mW into 150 ohms

Ilya Tarakanov
Published - June 16, 2010

Overview of GAME card amplifier module for Hifiman HM-801 player

Before moving on to the semantic part of the article, I would like to say that for its full understanding it is simply necessary to read the review of the Hifiman HM-801 player. Some points, of course, will be repeated in the article - but the picture will be incomplete. In any case, let's start with an introduction to the topic of portable amplifiers.

Introduction

Probably, while listening to music on your favorite player, you have repeatedly caught yourself on a simple thought: you can “squeeze” more out of it. In this case, the situation is often solved simply - by searching through the players, sometimes - by searching through the headphones. Only two components, a fairly simple technique.

Yes, I agree that there are hard-to-find headphones and players, but most people do not know about them, and thus the choice comes from the available set. Usually these are Cowon, Apple, Sandisk, Sony players, plugs or “monitors” from Sennheiser, the same Sony. In general, everything that you can listen to in the store.

The most persistent take flash drives and laptops with them to the store, looking for players through acquaintances. Less "confused" create topics on the forums dedicated to choice. From experience I can say that few people can formulate requirements for sound, basically everything ends with vague statements like “you need to have bass and top”. Basically, newcomers are involved in the creation of such topics, while old-timers, on the contrary, try to listen on their own, without relying entirely on the reviews of other users.

However, the path of the Jedi does not end with the selection of headphones. There are also companies that manufacture portable headphone amplifiers. In Russia, the most famous company of this kind is perhaps iBasso. There are also little ones like the T3 model, with "pop" MegaBass switches and a stereo expander.

And there are monsters the size of a couple of iPods, for example, the D10 Cobra - in such a thing you can replace operational amplifiers (there are even several options in the kit), and there is also a USB-DAC function, i.e. You can also use the device as a sound card. Output impedance and gain switches are sometimes seen for better compatibility with low- and high-impedance headphones.

If you pay attention to amplifiers made in the USA, you can buy both a miniature (matchbox-sized) Ray Samuels Audio Shadow, and a truly huge Triadaudio Lisa III, powered by two nine-volt cells.

Let's say the amplifier is bought - what should I connect it to? The first option is a player with a line-out. Fortunately, the iPod has this, however, you will have to purchase a special adapter, the iPod Line Out Dock (LOD).

It all depends on your needs and the availability of money. You can buy a ready-made and neat solution for 100 dollars, or you can buy a fairly large LOD from the same iBasso. The photo shows LOD produced by Ray Samuels Audio.

Yes, instead of an iPod, you can use some kind of recorder like Korg MR1 or Sony PCm-D50, use an ultra-expensive cable to connect the amplifier to the sound source - so we get a lot of degrees of freedom to adjust the sound.

On the site www.head-fi.org you can see the resulting kits, there are quite interesting options.

Generally speaking, the games of music lovers and audiophiles with amplifiers, cables, sources are due to the eternal search for a non-existent ideal. It just so happens that modern recording and playback technologies do not give a person the opportunity to to feel like at a concert or in a recording studio. As a result, in small but sure steps, people approach the desired sound by changing components.

Unfortunately, often, without listening to a piece that has the best sound, it is impossible to find any shortcomings in the existing one. Likewise, the first cars were absolutely objectively fast, but at the moment their speeds cause only a grin. So it is with audio equipment. The model of the player, headphones can be favored by both users and reviewers - but the veil of an unattainable ideal is not eternal.

Over the past couple of years, the arms race in portable audio has accelerated. New amplifiers, headphones, players come out more often, deserving high marks. This is probably why the concept of a modular system arose in the HM-801 - why change the frame, if it is enough to replace its component? In addition, the player is large enough that it was not so difficult to place a slot for an amplifier board.

In addition, purely psychologically, one, albeit a large, box is perceived better. No need to charge two devices, no need to look for or make your own interconnect cable. The disadvantages are obvious - you can not place a large number of components in a small compartment, there may be power problems. Yes, and the proprietary nature of the connector leads to natural problems. As a result, convenience grows, and there are fewer degrees of freedom.

Owners of HM-801 players, of which there are already about two dozen in the Russian Federation, will be interested to read about a replaceable amplifier for their device. But first, a little about the ideology of HM-801.

Modular system in HM-801

The HM-801 has two parts that can be replaced - the amplifier board and the battery. With the last part, there are no alternatives yet, you can only buy a battery similar to the complete one, it will cost $ 90 including shipping. However, the developer plans to release a larger battery when batteries with a higher energy density become available. In addition, it is possible to install an additional battery in the amplifier compartment.

The manufacturer assures that it is quite easy to replace the amplifier in the HM-801. Looking ahead, I will say that this replacement is not so simple, especially the first time. In addition, there are only two options so far - a module that comes with the device and is already installed, and one purchased separately, which is called the GAME card. However, on the manufacturer's website there is also information about the pinout of the connector for the amplifier, as well as the dimensions of the printed circuit board - i.e. it is theoretically possible to make your own module.

The main declared difference of the new version of the amplifier is improved compatibility with low-impedance headphones with high sensitivity. As mentioned in the review of the Hifiman HM-801, the UE11 earplugs play quite loudly with it already at one-eighth of the maximum volume. In addition, in a quiet home, you can hear the noise of the amplifier.

To correct these shortcomings in the GAME card, the gain was reduced from 1.6 to 0.9, in fact, instead of amplifying, the module attenuates the signal passing through the player's buffer stage.

In addition, instead of inexpensive operational amplifiers, "top-end" BurrBrown OPA627AU chips are used. Their use is possible only with sufficient power, but, apparently, when designing the HM-801, a certain margin of safety was laid.

Replacing the amplifier

The instructions on the manufacturer's website are laconic and do not quite correctly illustrate the replacement process, so we will not focus on it.

You will need a screwdriver from the Hifiman HM-801 kit, as well as an object that looks like a toothpick - pointed, but not scratching the coating and tracks on the board.

For starters, turn off the player, take out the memory card.

Then remove the battery compartment, take out the battery.

Turning the player over, preparing a screwdriver.

Unscrew the two screws, remove the module compartment cover.

Next, we turn our attention to the latches along the edges of the board.

Now comes the hardest part. With a toothpick, carefully bend the latches, if the board does not release, then carefully, using a toothpick as a lever (the point of application of force is near the slot, and not at the free end of the board), push the amplifier out of the connector. Do not hold on to the elements on the board, you can damage them. As a result, the amplifier should pop out of the connector like a RAM module in a laptop.

Then you can get it and replace it with another one, just insert a new board into the slot and, pressing on the dangling part, fix it.

Thus, despite the large dimensions of the player, the replacement is not very convenient. Remembering again about laptops - replacing memory there is much easier because of the normal latches.

Appearance

As you can see, the GAME card differs from the standard amplifier in appearance:

GAME card left

GAME card right

The declared operational amplifiers are available, the manufacturer did not deceive. Part of the standard board is filled with epoxy, which makes it difficult to replace the "opamps" - otherwise it would be easy to put "cribs" and change the microcircuits until the desired result is achieved.

The comparison was made from memory, then as a result of alternate control listening to identical recordings on two devices (thanks to Roman Zaitsev from mycroft.su for the second provided HM-801 with a standard amplifier), the following picture was drawn.

Perhaps I will disappoint someone, and please someone, but there is a difference between the two boards, and quite significant. The problem is that there is no qualitative change in the sound, there are changes in its presentation.

For starters, compatibility with low-impedance devices is excellent, Ultimate Ears UE11PRO "catch" the hiss of the amplifier only closer to the maximum volume, in addition, now it is easier to adjust the signal level.

Next - the comparison was made exclusively on the UE11PRO, since these are the headphones I use most of the time and I have a very good idea of ​​what and how they win back.

So, the general change in the nature of the sound - it has become more "thick", saturated, as one of my acquaintances aptly noted, "fatter". There was no loss of detail. On the contrary, the feeling of that famous asphalt skating rink grinding music is somewhat gone.

With the new amplifier, the transparency of the sound has also improved, but only slightly.

More important is the feeling of dividing an imaginary scene into "layers" by volume level. The vocals on many tracks seem to rise above the main musical canvas, on the second level the main parts are actually reproduced, and on the third - clearly audible, but at the same time not at all intrusive minor details. Of course, all this is accompanied by a clear separation of instruments on the second level, a high-quality stereo panorama (slightly wider than that of a standard amplifier). Getting used to such a feed is fast. The standard amplifier does not have a clear separation into levels, perhaps this leads to the heaviness of the feed.

However, there is also an unpleasant moment - the vocal rising above the whole composition has acquired a tendency to whistle (sibilance).

Also, both boards were compared by Roman from Mycroft, using Sleek SA6 headphones. He also heard some of the above moments, some not.

Output

So obviously the result depends on the headphones as well as the listener. I can’t say which amplifier I personally liked best in terms of sound - but thanks to the low gain, the choice became obvious.

By the way, in the latest HM-801 players, the developer initially sets the gain to low. That is, for the buyer of the player at the moment, the issue will be quite acute.

So, about the price. The cost of the module with delivery compared to the price of the player is small - 179 US dollars. The difference in quality is small, there are significant differences in sound delivery. If the sound of the HM-801 suits you completely in the original version, but you want to experiment, the purchase is worthy.

In addition, you can wait for the next amplifier - the developer promises to do something qualitatively new.

In the end, I will say that changing the amplifier could be easier. By the way, the replacement experiment showed that the sound goes to the line output even without an inserted board - i.e. there is no cheating, as is the case with the Sony PCM-M10 and its combined socket.

Declared characteristics

  • OpAmps: OPA627
  • Buffer: OP634
  • Gain: 0.9
  • Distortion: 0.02%
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 101 dB
  • Input impedance: 20 kΩ
  • Max power: 75mW into 33 ohms, 60mW into 150 ohms

Ilya Tarakanov
Published - June 16, 2010

Overview of GAME card amplifier module for Hifiman HM-801 player

Before moving on to the semantic part of the article, I would like to say that for its full understanding it is simply necessary to read the review of the Hifiman HM-801 player. Some points, of course, will be repeated in the article - but the picture will be incomplete. In any case, let's start with an introduction to the topic of portable amplifiers.

Introduction

Probably, while listening to music on your favorite player, you have repeatedly caught yourself on a simple thought: you can “squeeze” more out of it. In this case, the situation is often solved simply - by searching through the players, sometimes - by searching through the headphones. Only two components, a fairly simple technique.

Yes, I agree that there are hard-to-find headphones and players, but most people do not know about them, and thus the choice comes from the available set. Usually these are Cowon, Apple, Sandisk, Sony players, plugs or “monitors” from Sennheiser, the same Sony. In general, everything that you can listen to in the store.

The most persistent take flash drives and laptops with them to the store, looking for players through acquaintances. Less "confused" create topics on the forums dedicated to choice. From experience I can say that few people can formulate requirements for sound, basically everything ends with vague statements like “you need to have bass and top”. Basically, newcomers are involved in the creation of such topics, while old-timers, on the contrary, try to listen on their own, without relying entirely on the reviews of other users.

However, the path of the Jedi does not end with the selection of headphones. There are also companies that manufacture portable headphone amplifiers. In Russia, the most famous company of this kind is perhaps iBasso. There are also little ones like the T3 model, with "pop" MegaBass switches and a stereo expander.

And there are monsters the size of a couple of iPods, for example, the D10 Cobra - in such a thing you can replace operational amplifiers (there are even several options in the kit), and there is also a USB-DAC function, i.e. You can also use the device as a sound card. Output impedance and gain switches are sometimes seen for better compatibility with low- and high-impedance headphones.

If you pay attention to amplifiers made in the USA, you can buy both a miniature (matchbox-sized) Ray Samuels Audio Shadow, and a truly huge Triadaudio Lisa III, powered by two nine-volt cells.

Let's say the amplifier is bought - what should I connect it to? The first option is a player with a line-out. Fortunately, the iPod has this, however, you will have to purchase a special adapter, the iPod Line Out Dock (LOD).

It all depends on your needs and the availability of money. You can buy a ready-made and neat solution for 100 dollars, or you can buy a fairly large LOD from the same iBasso. The photo shows LOD produced by Ray Samuels Audio.

Yes, instead of an iPod, you can use some kind of recorder like Korg MR1 or Sony PCm-D50, use an ultra-expensive cable to connect the amplifier to the sound source - so we get a lot of degrees of freedom to adjust the sound.

On the site www.head-fi.org you can see the resulting kits, there are quite interesting options.

Generally speaking, the games of music lovers and audiophiles with amplifiers, cables, sources are due to the eternal search for a non-existent ideal. It just so happens that modern recording and playback technologies do not give a person the opportunity to to feel like at a concert or in a recording studio. As a result, in small but sure steps, people approach the desired sound by changing components.

Unfortunately, often, without listening to a piece that has the best sound, it is impossible to find any shortcomings in the existing one. Likewise, the first cars were absolutely objectively fast, but at the moment their speeds cause only a grin. So it is with audio equipment. The model of the player, headphones can be favored by both users and reviewers - but the veil of an unattainable ideal is not eternal.

Over the past couple of years, the arms race in portable audio has accelerated. New amplifiers, headphones, players come out more often, deserving high marks. This is probably why the concept of a modular system arose in the HM-801 - why change the frame, if it is enough to replace its component? In addition, the player is large enough that it was not so difficult to place a slot for an amplifier board.

In addition, purely psychologically, one, albeit a large, box is perceived better. No need to charge two devices, no need to look for or make your own interconnect cable. The disadvantages are obvious - you can not place a large number of components in a small compartment, there may be power problems. Yes, and the proprietary nature of the connector leads to natural problems. As a result, convenience grows, and there are fewer degrees of freedom.

Owners of HM-801 players, of which there are already about two dozen in the Russian Federation, will be interested to read about a replaceable amplifier for their device. But first, a little about the ideology of HM-801.

Modular system in HM-801

The HM-801 has two parts that can be replaced - the amplifier board and the battery. With the last part, there are no alternatives yet, you can only buy a battery similar to the complete one, it will cost $ 90 including shipping. However, the developer plans to release a larger battery when batteries with a higher energy density become available. In addition, it is possible to install an additional battery in the amplifier compartment.

The manufacturer claims that replacing the amplifier in the HM-801 is quite simple. Looking ahead, I will say that this replacement is not so simple, especially the first time. In addition, there are only two options so far - a module that comes with the device and is already installed, and one purchased separately, which is called the GAME card. However, on the manufacturer's website there is also information about the pinout of the connector for the amplifier, as well as the dimensions of the printed circuit board - i.e. it is theoretically possible to make your own module.

The main declared difference of the new version of the amplifier is improved compatibility with low-impedance headphones with high sensitivity. As mentioned in the review of the Hifiman HM-801, the UE11 earplugs play quite loudly with it already at one-eighth of the maximum volume. In addition, in a quiet home, you can hear the noise of the amplifier.

To correct these shortcomings in the GAME card, the gain was reduced from 1.6 to 0.9, in fact, instead of amplifying, the module attenuates the signal passing through the player's buffer stage.

In addition, instead of inexpensive operational amplifiers, "top-end" BurrBrown OPA627AU chips are used. Their use is possible only with sufficient power, but, apparently, when designing the HM-801, a certain margin of safety was laid.

Replacing the amplifier

The instructions on the manufacturer's website are laconic and do not quite correctly illustrate the replacement process, so we will not focus on it.

You will need a screwdriver from the Hifiman HM-801 kit, as well as an object that looks like a toothpick - pointed, but not scratching the coating and tracks on the board.

For starters, turn off the player, take out the memory card.

Then remove the battery compartment, take out the battery.

Turning the player over, preparing a screwdriver.

Unscrew the two screws, remove the module compartment cover.

Next, we turn our attention to the latches along the edges of the board.

Now comes the hardest part. With a toothpick, carefully bend the latches, if the board does not release, then carefully, using a toothpick as a lever (the point of application of force is near the slot, and not at the free end of the board), push the amplifier out of the connector. Do not hold on to the elements on the board, you can damage them. As a result, the amplifier should pop out of the connector like a RAM module in a laptop.

Then you can get it and replace it with another one, just insert a new board into the slot and, pressing on the dangling part, fix it.

Thus, despite the large dimensions of the player, the replacement is not very convenient. Remembering again about laptops - replacing memory there is much easier because of the normal latches.

Appearance

As you can see, the GAME card differs from the standard amplifier in appearance:

GAME card left

GAME card right

The declared operational amplifiers are available, the manufacturer did not deceive. Part of the standard board is filled with epoxy, which makes it difficult to replace the "opamps" - otherwise it would be easy to put "cribs" and change the microcircuits until the desired result is achieved.

The comparison was made from memory, then as a result of alternate control listening to identical recordings on two devices (thanks to Roman Zaitsev from mycroft.su for the second provided HM-801 with a standard amplifier), the following picture was drawn.

Perhaps I will disappoint someone, and please someone, but there is a difference between the two boards, and quite significant. The problem is that there is no qualitative change in the sound, there are changes in its presentation.

For starters, compatibility with low-impedance devices is excellent, Ultimate Ears UE11PRO "catch" the hiss of the amplifier only closer to the maximum volume, in addition, now it is easier to adjust the signal level.

Next - the comparison was carried out exclusively on the UE11PRO, since these are the headphones I use most of the time and I have a very good idea of ​​what and how they win back.

So, the general change in the nature of the sound - it has become more "thick", saturated, as one of my acquaintances aptly noted, "fatter". There was no loss of detail. On the contrary, the feeling of that famous asphalt skating rink grinding music is somewhat gone.

With the new amplifier, the transparency of the sound has also improved, but only slightly.

More important is the feeling of dividing an imaginary scene into "layers" by volume level. The vocals on many tracks seem to rise above the main musical canvas, on the second level the main parts are actually reproduced, and on the third - clearly audible, but at the same time not at all intrusive minor details. Of course, all this is accompanied by a clear separation of instruments on the second level, a high-quality stereo panorama (slightly wider than that of a standard amplifier). Getting used to such a feed is fast. The standard amplifier does not have a clear separation into levels, perhaps this leads to the heaviness of the feed.

However, there is also an unpleasant moment - the vocal rising above the whole composition has acquired a tendency to whistle (sibilance).

Also, both boards were compared by Roman from Mycroft, using Sleek SA6 headphones. He also heard some of the above moments, some not.

Output

So obviously the result depends on the headphones as well as the listener. I can’t say which amplifier I personally liked best in terms of sound - but thanks to the low gain, the choice became obvious.

By the way, in the latest HM-801 players, the developer initially sets the gain to low. That is, for the buyer of the player at the moment, the issue will be quite acute.

So, about the price. The cost of the module with delivery compared to the price of the player is low - 179 US dollars. The difference in quality is small, there are significant differences in sound delivery. If the sound of the HM-801 suits you completely in the original version, but you want to experiment, the purchase is worthy.

In addition, you can wait for the next amplifier - the developer promises to do something qualitatively new.

In the end, I will say that changing the amplifier could be easier. By the way, the replacement experiment showed that the sound goes to the line output even without an inserted board - i.e. there is no cheating, as is the case with the Sony PCM-M10 and its combined socket.

Declared characteristics

  • OpAmps: OPA627
  • Buffer: OP634
  • Gain: 0.9
  • Distortion: 0.02%
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 101 dB
  • Input impedance: 20 kΩ
  • Max power: 75mW into 33 ohms, 60mW into 150 ohms

Ilya Tarakanov
Published - June 16, 2010

Overview of GAME card amplifier module for Hifiman HM-801 player

Before moving on to the semantic part of the article, I would like to say that for its full understanding it is simply necessary to read the review of the Hifiman HM-801 player. Some points, of course, will be repeated in the article - but the picture will be incomplete. In any case, let's start with an introduction to the topic of portable amplifiers.

Introduction

Probably, while listening to music on your favorite player, you have repeatedly caught yourself on a simple thought: you can “squeeze” more out of it. In this case, the situation is often solved simply - by searching through the players, sometimes - by searching through the headphones. Only two components, a fairly simple technique.

Yes, I agree that there are hard-to-find headphones and players, but most people do not know about them, and thus the choice comes from the available set. Usually these are Cowon, Apple, Sandisk, Sony players, plugs or “monitors” from Sennheiser, the same Sony. In general, everything that you can listen to in the store.

The most persistent take flash drives and laptops with them to the store, looking for players through acquaintances. Less "confused" create topics on the forums dedicated to choice. From experience I can say that few people can formulate requirements for sound, basically everything ends with vague statements like “you need to have bass and top”. Basically, newcomers are involved in the creation of such topics, while old-timers, on the contrary, try to listen on their own, without relying entirely on the reviews of other users.

However, the path of the Jedi does not end with the selection of headphones. There are also companies that manufacture portable headphone amplifiers. In Russia, the most famous company of this kind is perhaps iBasso. There are also little ones like the T3 model, with "pop" MegaBass switches and a stereo expander.

And there are monsters the size of a couple of iPods, for example, the D10 Cobra - in such a thing you can replace operational amplifiers (there are even several options in the kit), and there is also a USB-DAC function, i.e. You can also use the device as a sound card. Output impedance and gain switches are sometimes seen for better compatibility with low- and high-impedance headphones.

If you pay attention to amplifiers made in the USA, you can buy both a miniature (matchbox-sized) Ray Samuels Audio Shadow, and a truly huge Triadaudio Lisa III, powered by two nine-volt cells.

Let's say the amplifier is bought - what should I connect it to? The first option is a player with a line-out. Fortunately, the iPod has this, however, you will have to purchase a special adapter, the iPod Line Out Dock (LOD).

It all depends on your needs and the availability of money. You can buy a ready-made and neat solution for 100 dollars, or you can buy a fairly large LOD from the same iBasso. The photo shows LOD produced by Ray Samuels Audio.

Yes, instead of an iPod, you can use some kind of recorder like Korg MR1 or Sony PCm-D50, use an ultra-expensive cable to connect the amplifier to the sound source - so we get a lot of degrees of freedom to adjust the sound.

On the site www.head-fi.org you can see the resulting kits, there are quite interesting options.

Generally speaking, the games of music lovers and audiophiles with amplifiers, cables, sources are due to the eternal search for a non-existent ideal. It just so happens that modern recording and playback technologies do not give a person the opportunity to feel at a concert or in a recording studio. As a result, in small but sure steps, people approach the desired sound by changing components.

Generally speaking, the games of music lovers and audiophiles with amplifiers, cables, sources are due to the eternal search for a non-existent ideal. It just so happens that modern recording and playback technologies do not give a person the opportunity to feel like at a concert or in a recording studio. As a result, in small but sure steps, people approach the desired sound by changing components.

Unfortunately, often, without listening to a piece that has the best sound, it is impossible to find any shortcomings in the existing one. Likewise, the first cars were absolutely objectively fast, but at the moment their speeds cause only a grin. So it is with audio equipment. The model of the player, headphones can be favored by both users and reviewers - but the veil of an unattainable ideal is not eternal.

Over the past couple of years, the arms race in portable audio has accelerated. New amplifiers, headphones, players come out more often, deserving high marks. This is probably why the concept of a modular system arose in the HM-801 - why change the frame, if it is enough to replace its component? In addition, the player is large enough that it was not so difficult to place a slot for an amplifier board.

In addition, purely psychologically, one, albeit a large, box is perceived better. No need to charge two devices, no need to look for or make your own interconnect cable. The disadvantages are obvious - you can not place a large number of components in a small compartment, there may be power problems. Yes, and the proprietary nature of the connector leads to natural problems. As a result, convenience grows, and there are fewer degrees of freedom.

Owners of HM-801 players, of which there are already about two dozen in the Russian Federation, will be interested to read about a replaceable amplifier for their device. But first, a little about the ideology of HM-801.

Modular system in HM-801

The HM-801 has two parts that can be replaced - the amplifier board and the battery. With the last part, there are no alternatives yet, you can only buy a battery similar to the complete one, it will cost $ 90 including shipping. However, the developer plans to release a larger battery when batteries with a higher energy density become available. In addition, it is possible to install an additional battery in the amplifier compartment.

The manufacturer assures that it is quite easy to replace the amplifier in the HM-801. Looking ahead, I will say that this replacement is not so simple, especially the first time. In addition, there are only two options so far - a module that comes with the device and is already installed, and one purchased separately, which is called the GAME card. However, on the manufacturer's website there is also information about the pinout of the connector for the amplifier, as well as the dimensions of the printed circuit board - i.e. it is theoretically possible to make your own module.

The main declared difference of the new version of the amplifier is improved compatibility with low-impedance headphones with high sensitivity. As mentioned in the review of the Hifiman HM-801, the UE11 earplugs play quite loudly with it already at one-eighth of the maximum volume. In addition, in a quiet home environment, you can hear the noise of the amplifier.

To correct these shortcomings in the GAME card, the gain was reduced from 1.6 to 0.9, in fact, instead of amplifying, the module attenuates the signal passing through the player's buffer stage.

In addition, instead of inexpensive operational amplifiers, "top-end" BurrBrown OPA627AU chips are used. Their use is possible only with sufficient power, but, apparently, when designing the HM-801, a certain margin of safety was laid.

Replacing the amplifier

The instructions on the manufacturer's website are laconic and do not quite correctly illustrate the replacement process, so we will not focus on it.

You will need a screwdriver from the Hifiman HM-801 kit, as well as an object that looks like a toothpick - pointed, but not scratching the coating and tracks on the board.

For starters, turn off the player, take out the memory card.

Then remove the battery compartment, take out the battery.

Turning the player over, preparing a screwdriver.

Unscrew the two screws, remove the module compartment cover.

Next, we turn our attention to the latches along the edges of the board.

Now comes the hardest part. With a toothpick, carefully bend the latches, if the board does not release, then carefully, using a toothpick as a lever (the point of application of force is near the slot, and not at the free end of the board), push the amplifier out of the connector. Do not hold on to the elements on the board, you can damage them. As a result, the amplifier should pop out of the connector like a RAM module in a laptop.

Then you can get it and replace it with another one, just insert a new board into the slot and, pressing on the dangling part, fix it.

Thus, despite the large dimensions of the player, the replacement is not very convenient. Remembering again about laptops - replacing memory there is much easier because of the normal latches.

Appearance

As you can see, the GAME card differs from the standard amplifier in appearance:

GAME card left

GAME card right

The declared operational amplifiers are available, the manufacturer did not deceive. Part of the standard board is filled with epoxy, which makes it difficult to replace the "opamps" - otherwise it would be easy to put "cribs" and change the microcircuits until the desired result is achieved.

The comparison was made from memory, then as a result of alternate control listening to identical recordings on two devices (thanks to Roman Zaitsev from mycroft.su for the second provided HM-801 with a standard amplifier), the following picture was drawn.

Perhaps I will disappoint someone, and please someone, but there is a difference between the two boards, and quite significant. The problem is that there is no qualitative change in the sound, there are changes in its presentation.

For starters, compatibility with low-impedance devices is excellent, Ultimate Ears UE11PRO "catch" the hiss of the amplifier only closer to the maximum volume, in addition, now it is easier to adjust the signal level.

Next - the comparison was made exclusively on the UE11PRO, since these are the headphones I use most of the time and I have a very good idea of ​​what and how they win back.

So, the general change in the nature of the sound - it has become more "thick", saturated, as one of my acquaintances aptly noted, "fatter". There was no loss of detail. On the contrary, the feeling of that famous asphalt skating rink grinding music is somewhat gone.

With the new amplifier, the transparency of the sound has also improved, but only slightly.

More important is the feeling of dividing an imaginary scene into "layers" by volume level. The vocals on many tracks seem to rise above the main musical canvas, on the second level the main parts are actually reproduced, and on the third - clearly audible, but at the same time not at all intrusive minor details. Of course, all this is accompanied by a clear separation of instruments on the second level, a high-quality stereo panorama (slightly wider than that of a standard amplifier). Getting used to such a feed is fast. The standard amplifier does not have a clear separation into levels, perhaps this leads to the heaviness of the feed.

However, there is also an unpleasant moment - the vocal rising above the whole composition has acquired a tendency to whistle (sibilance).

Also, both boards were compared by Roman from Mycroft, using Sleek SA6 headphones. He also heard some of the above moments, some not.

Output

So obviously the result depends on the headphones as well as the listener. I can’t say which amplifier I personally liked best in terms of sound - but thanks to the low gain, the choice became obvious.

By the way, in the latest HM-801 players, the developer initially sets the gain to low. That is, for the buyer of the player at the moment, the issue will be quite acute.

So, about the price. The cost of the module with delivery compared to the price of the player is low - 179 US dollars. The difference in quality is small, there are significant differences in sound delivery. If the sound of the HM-801 suits you completely in the original version, but you want to experiment, the purchase is worthy.

In addition, you can wait for the next amplifier - the developer promises to do something qualitatively new.

In the end, I will say that changing the amplifier could be easier. By the way, the replacement experiment showed that the sound goes to the line output even without an inserted board - i.e. there is no cheating, as is the case with the Sony PCM-M10 and its combined socket.

Declared characteristics

  • OpAmps: OPA627
  • Buffer: OP634
  • Gain: 0.9
  • Distortion: 0.02%
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 101 dB
  • Input impedance: 20 kΩ
  • Max power: 75mW into 33 ohms, 60mW into 150 ohms

Ilya Tarakanov Published - June 16, 2010