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RMAF 2018: HiFiMAN Introduces the Jade II

KEF R Series

As usual at Rocky Mountain, the CanJam area was full of energy.  I went down there to cover the latest from Pro-Ject before hitting their room in the tower.  It’s a shame I don’t have time to cover as much of CanJam as in the past but I did run into Scot and he asked me to add HiFiMAN to the coverage list so I ambled over to their tables and ran into my friend Adam Sohmer who does their public relations work.

I grabbed a listen immediately to the Jade II electrostatic system which is a new lower-priced electrostatic amp and headphone combo for $2,500.  It sounded wonderful.  I’ve always been a midrange freak, firmly believing in J.Gordon Holt’s statement, “if the midrange isn’t right, then nothing else matters.”  Wise words and the electrostatics seem to have a liquidity and clarity on the midrange that is reference caliber.  The problem, however, with electrostatics is their hefty price tag which can require over $10,000 in funds for the best systems.  One rarely sees full-sized “ES” systems for less than $5K with the amp included and you need a special amp to drive these membrane-based cans.  So at $2,500, the Jade II system is a bit of a bargain.  I started to think I needed this.  Yeah, I have had a big audio year and really can’t justify this…but 2019 is around the corner, right?  Man, we audiophiles can rationalize everything!

I cued up some familiar tracks on the Jade system.  Cold Cold Heart by Norah Jones was rich in detail and full in the bass line. The Jade II appeared to have a coherence of the better, more expensive ES gear.  Frank Sinatra was next and the chestiness in the vocals and perfect phrasing we all love was spot on.  Rock?  Oh yes, Pink Floyd was superb.  This is a full electrostatic package one could fall for.

The industrial design of Dr. Fang Bian is always top-notch but I especially loved the design of the ES amp, a gorgeous ribbon-like oval outer wall in black with a black cube inset.  The Jade cans have the familiar tear-drop shape of the HiFiMAN man ES gear but the killer look is the jade-colored diaphragm visible through the electrostatic “cage”.  This is a beautiful rig at a nice, more affordable price point.  You can purchase the amplifier alone for $1,599 if you want to ease into it as well.  Frequency response is very wide at 7hz to 90khz.  The driver is made from nanotech material less than 0.001 mm thick.  This allows for “lightning fast” transient response which explains the clarity and realism I heard on the playback.

The other big hit at the show for HiFiMAN was the new HiFiMAN portable hirez player, the R2R2000.  This player has full-on bluetooth. streaming capabilities.  This their all-out assault on digital at $2,500, pretty expensive but far less than some of the Astell & Kern options.  It sounded spectacular!  The midrange was magical and the resolution very fine.  For the well-healed traveler, this should be on the must-audition list if you need a portable player for the road.  Something to get for the consulting or banking partner who has everything.  An especially great add for an Apple guy as it has a USB-C connection.  Battery life is strong at 8 hours of hirez or as much as 35 hours (!) on less intensive formats.  Charging to full from dead empty is under an hours.   A full range of formats from PCM to DSD are supported.  As an old-school, wire-loving guy, I am usually skeptical about bluetooth but my fears are unfounded here; this device uses SHDC bluetooth which fully supports high resolution streaming with distortion claimed of just 0.00005%.

I will let the press release describe the details but one of the strategic moves that Dr. Bian made was to buy up the inventory of the R2R chips.

HiFiMAN’s R2R2000 gives music-lovers the ultimate instrument for extracting the best possible sound from any source. A custom-designed, single-process operating system handles the sole task, ensuring jitter is kept to the bare minimum. Audiophile-quality circuitry, ultra-low analogue filters, a discrete left/right filter for each operational amplifier, and an advanced buffer design add up to sonic output that represents the best of any format’s attributes. 

Dual R2R PCM1704U-K DAC chips, which are famous for accepting input data of 20- and 24-bit lengths at sampling frequencies up to 96kHz, support 8x oversampling at the highest sampling rate. Signal-to-nose ratio reaches the maximum for all electronic devices, enabling a dynamic range of 115dB. 

Designed for the utmost flexibility, the R2R2000 features two balanced headphone output jacks – 3.5mm and 4.4mm. (A 4.4mm to XLR balanced connector adapter is included.) Balanced output power is rated at 500mW per channel, the same as many high-end desktop amplifiers, yet the R2R2000 measures a mere [dimensions] and weighs only 142 grams.

Thanks to the custom operating system, the CPU and control circuitry consume only 10mA (milliamps) of power; 95% of the R2R2000’s power consumption is channeled to the audio output. The lightweight compact battery lasts eight hours in HiFi Mode, and up to 35 hours in power-saving Eco Mode.

The hi-res. player section brings out the best in all popular lossy and lossless formats, including FLAC, DSD, WAV, ALAC, AIFF, MP3, etc. MicroSD cards up to 256GB are supported.

Frequency response of the R2R2000 is measured at 20Hz-40kHz, and total harmonic distortion (THD) is 0.0006%.

Also on display was the Shangri-La Junior which had a gloss black base for its four 6SN7 glass tubes to reflect into.  I had a listen and loved the presence and clarity on the midrange.  This amplifier and amp package sells for $8,000 and seems to offer a good bit of the flagship Shangri-La sound for a lot less money.

I’m truly grateful that Scot asked me to take a closer look at the HiFiMAN wares, it was a great set of products.  The Jade II and R2R2000 were very impressive.  It may finally be time to jump into the electrostatic game.  Congratulations Dr. Bian, Adam, and team!

About Lee Scoggins (90 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's current system consists of Audio Research Reference electronics and Wilson Audio speakers.

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