Today we look at the $750 USD HiFi-M8 V2 by CEntrance, a respected company on the market.
Disclaimer: The CEntrance HiFi-M8 V2 was sent to us directly by CEntrance for the purpose of this review. CEntrance is not related to Headfonia in any way. This review reflects my own subjective opinion.
CEntrance – Making audio personal
CEntrance goes back a long way and we’ve looked at several CEntrance Products here on Headfonia in the past such as the DACPORT and DACMINI. But that easily was like a decade ago, we’re getting old! One of the CEntrance products that always fascinated me was the original HiFi-M8, so I’m thrilled to get to review its successor now after all this time.
For those of you that don’t know CEntrance, let’s have a quick look. From the CEntrance website:
CEntrance excels at developing innovative, portable devices with exceptional performance and sound quality. The name (pronounced “sentrance”) means “at the core”. The company’s product line is focused on personal audio, inspiring the tagline: “Making Audio Personal™” and reflecting its dedication to serving customers, quality and perfection. Stereophile Magazine suitably dubbed CEntrance products “Affordable Digital Excellence,” a sign of approval from the worlds’ top golden ears.
CEntrance was born in Chicago and still performs strict quality control of its products in the USA. Dozens of famous recording artists, producers, voice-over professionals, and sound designers endorse our products. With its passion for sound rooted in pro audio, CEntrance continues doing what it does best – delivering innovative recording and playback products that delight customers with their ease of use and great sound quality.
The original CEntrance HiFi-M8 saw the light back in late 2013. It was a time when we were still using iPods and phones to listen to music and the first audiophile DAPs just made their introduction to the market.
I remember seeing the HiFi-M8 for the first time in real when Jude and Tyll brought it to the Philips Lab in Belgium. I myself was carrying an iPod & Cypherlabs/Alo stack. It was also the first time I saw the Astell&Kern AK100/AK120. It was a time when high end personal audio was seeing the light and compared to 2021 we’re basically living in a different audio world.
Back then the HiFi-M8, just like the CypherLabs stack and AK DAPs were revolutionary, delivering a sound quality on-the-go that we never had experienced before. As a result, all of these unit, were incredibly popular and successful. The HiFi-M8, as far as I can remember, was one of the really first all-in-one DAC/AMP units which let you listen to portable and desktop gear at the same time.
Like I said, it back then really was a revolutionary unit. So let’s see what the V2 version now offers and let’s find out if it’s still as jaw-dropping as it once was.
CEntrance calls the new HiFi-M8 V2 the next generation of portable amplifier for the demanding audiophile. So what’s new? Well that’s fairly easy:
In Version 2, we updated the D/A resolution, further improved noise and distortion specs, added Bluetooth input and four headphone outputs (two balanced and two unbalanced). We further added a LED VU meter, a USB-C jack, and many other improvements! So the HiFi-M8 V2 now has more power, less THD/lower noise. The V2 comes in a smaller case and features more modern components. In 7 years, many things have improved in electronics and battery technology, and CEntrance states have updated the product accordingly.
The new HiFi-M8 V2 is selling for $750 USD. It’s aimed at the audiophile and pro market. Too bad I don’t have the original HiFi-M8 here with me to compare the V2 to.
HiFi-M8 – Closer look
On the inside of the HiFi-M8 V2 we find the VelvetSound™ AKM AK4493. The AK4493 is a popular chip and it’s being used by many popular devices on the market. The same DAC section feeds all amps (four separate headphone outputs, meaning 8 mono amps inside). And yes, it’s possible to use all outputs simultaneously.
Our colleagues over at ASR have done their usual measurements of the device and to be honest, they were not fully convinced by the noise and THD performance. To that CEntrance replied: “HiFi-M8 V2 does not try to be what it’s not. It’s NOT your lowest-THD Desktop DAC. Many of those already exist. Instead, it’s a capable, portable workhorse, a “Swiss Army knife” solution for the audiophile on the move”.
We here at HFN appreciate measurements and the ack of noise but we don’t focus on measurements. If that’s your thing however (and that’s perfectly ok) do head over to ASR to check out the results there.
The HiFi-M8 has a smart power management system that adjusts battery life to match your lifestyle. It uses a rechargeable battery as a buffer, to fully isolate the sensitive circuitry from the noise and interference coming from wall power. The battery circuit reconditions the supply voltages to deliver clean power to your ear/headphones. If 10h of listening time isn’t enough for you then turn on the Stamina mode (no hot side/Meter. See later) and enjoy up to 15 hours of continuous playback.
The professional VU meters on the top of the unit can’t be missed. They according to CEntrance are calibrated to 0dB FS, with over 40 dB of dynamic range. While not really needed, it’s a nice extra for those who like looking at meters. If you don’t like it, you can turn them off or just set the light intensity to the lowest setting. I myself listen to a lot of music at night, and I quite like the LED meters.
The article continues on the next page. Go there by clicking HERE, or just use the jumps below.