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RMAF 2017: HiFi Man Surprises on the High and the Low

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I ran into Andy Regan at the Pint Brothers bar at RMAF on Friday when a good number of us audio nerds were having beers and a very late lunch.  He said he had moved on to HiFi Man along with his wife Sue and that I should stop by.  He really didn’t have to twist my arm.  HiFi Man always has an extra-wide booth at RMAF and I usually hear good sound so it was already on my list.  Seeing Andy and Sue was icing on the cake.

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HiFi has this incredible sounding flagship amplifier and electrostatic set called the Shangri-La selling for a cool $50,000 USD.  I heard it briefly at the LA Audio Show but wanted a longer listen.  That we did. This thing has to be seen in person.  My photos don’t do this thing justice.

Noble-RMAF-2017 940 x 300

RMAF 2017 coverage is proudly sponsored by Noble Audio.

Having a frequency response of 7 Hz (!) to 120 kHz, the Shangri-La is an all-out statement piece for HiFi Man.  The panels on the headset are less than a remarkable 0.001 mm thin.  The amplifier reminds one of those Hong Kong “junks” that patrol the harbour.  A reflective piece under the massive 300B vacuum tubes creates a nice mirrored effect that adds a touch of bling which is gently offset by a well finished black base.  A silver volume knob rests on top.  The volume piece has been given lots of thought utilizing some 24 individual resistors to control volume with transparency.

Sound quality from some demo files was superb, to my ears a little more clear than I’ve even heard with the similarly priced Sennheiser Orpheus.  The amount of detail retrieval was breathtaking but also musical.  This is not an overly analytical component.  My initial highly positive impressions from LA were confirmed:  This is a sublime statement piece.

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Also at the higher end was the superb $6,000 USD Susvarna magnetic-planar design, with a frequency response of 6 Hz to 75 kHz.  Another superb piece, it was paired with HiFi Man’s EF1000 amplifier which I listened to with a variety of their headphones. This deluxe amplifier sells for $18,000 USD coupled with the Susvarna and it has a separate silver case power supply.  A hybrid design, this amplifier operates in Class A in a SRPP design. The EF1000 delivers 20 watts of power using six 6922 vacuum tubes and six transmitters.  The design is said to offer ultra low distortion and a 108 db signal to noise ratio and 111 db of dynamic range.

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But this brings me to the most impressive piece of gear in a way.  A really affordable $500 USD magnetic-planar set of full-size cans called the Sundara.  Now I don’t have too much information on this product but I do know release is soon and it features an upgraded driver and headband at roughly the same price point of the HE-400i.  I love the 400s, but this is a different league in my opinion.  It sounded excellent.  I listened to the Sinatra cuts on my iPhone and it was even decent with just the crappy internal DAC.  But this was not a great source so I moved down the row to the left and plugged into the EF1000 which was connected to one of the HiFi Man players.  This sounded great.  At this price point and on first listen, it sure seemed like a lot of sound for the money.

First class set of products Dr. Fang, Andy, and Sue.  I look forward to learning more about the Sundara.

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About Lee Scoggins (57 Articles)

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Lee got interested in audio listening to his Dad’s system in the late 70s and he started making cassettes from LPs. By the early 80s he got swept up in the CD wave that was launching which led to a love of discs from Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs. Later while working on Wall Street in the 90s, Lee started working on blues, jazz and classical sessions for Chesky Records and learned record engineering by apprenticeship. Lee was involved in the first high resolution recordings which eventually became the DVD-Audio format. Lee now does recordings of small orchestras and string quartets in the Atlanta area.

Lee is a serious music collector and his current system consists of Audio Research Reference electronics and Magnepan speakers.

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