Welcome to Linus’ new interview series on Headfonia.com! Every two weeks we will publish an interview with an insider of the audio industry. They will give us a little insight on how they started and what they are up to. We are thrilled to be able to share a little something with all of you.
HFN: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at HiFiMAN
FB: I am the CEO and founder of HIFIMAN. I am in charge of product/ technology/research and part of marketing.
HFN: How did HiFiMAN start?
FB: We started in 2005 as head-direct, a distributor and online retailer in portable audio and headphone business in NYC. We registerred HiFiMAN trademark in 2006, and started to do our own products after 2007.
HFN: What is it that got you personally into audio?
FB: I became a portable audio hobbyist since mid 90s’ when I was in high school. I hoped to find the best sounding gear at that time. After I start up HiFiMAN, I decided to make/realize the best portable audio gear of my dreams.
HFN: What’s driving HiFiMAN forward?
FB: The desire and ambition to make the best portable audio and headphones.
HFN: HiFiMAN has created a state of the art product, namely the Shangri-la. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of it?
FB: One of the HiFiMAN founders and partners, Mr. He, started to build an electrostatic headphone in 1999. The first finished Semi-DIY product for head-fi’ers are Jade at 2008- 2009. We noticed that the product needed further development at that time. I set up our lab to solve the nano particle coating on the nano-thickness diaphragm problem. I also started to work with the designers since 2010. After we got some ideas about the electrostatic design, we noticed that it will take more time to develop the best sound quality: the amp and the better mechanical structure. So we kept working on this project for a several years, and finished all the work at 2017: Shangri-La.
HFN: What people has probably taken by surprise was the sudden increase in price of Shangri-la. At first it was priced at 15.000 USD and now it is 50.000 USD if I am not mistaken. Can you explain the reason behind this big jump?
FB: No 15000 was just a rumor. We never talked about 15000 USD price before we release 50000 USD price officially.
HFN: You have also recently introduced a new flagship Digital Audio Player, the R2R2000. It uses R2R ladder DACs. Can you let us know more about the product and why you chose to use this kind of digital to analogue converters?
FB: R2R2000 is not using a non-oversampling DAC, it is using an R2R ladder DAC. R2R DACs also can do oversampling. I personally like non-oversampling DACs because they sound better than oversampling DACs. The reason is that oversampling is not lossless. It actually hurts sound quality quite a bit, resulting in loss of detail and emotion from the original sound. Real concerts give you the best sound quality because there is no conversion of sound. LPs don’t have D/A conversion but they require to read the audio from LP discs, so its sound is not as good as a real concert, especially there are high level noises which users can hear. R2R Non-oversampling (NOS) DACs need to convert digital format to analogue, but digital format has much less noise level. Delta-sigma DAC has one more step (upsampling to bitstream format) can further improve specificatinos such as S/N, but this very step hurt objective listening for lacking detail/emotion comparing to LP or concert.
HFN: Will there be more products like the R2R2000? Maybe trimmed down versions?
FB: No comment.
The interview continues on page 2!