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CEntrance Hifi-M8 V2 Review (DAC and headphone amplifier)

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#61
Total piece of garbage. Thanks Amir for exposing these poorly designed, yet somehow expensive, products and helping people avoid money wasting decisions. Another reason ASR has changed the way I look at audio. Can’t imagine buying a piece of gear without checking here first.
 

Veri

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#62
I think the bashing on this older product is a bit much though. Yes, it's far from stellar and very pricy, but the manufacturer is offering to look into it... which is always nice to see.
The previously measured Dacport HD is one of the better transportables around with very healthy power output and not too bad of a DAC stage:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...rements-of-dacport-hd-and-dragonfly-red.5977/
 

LTig

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#63
Well, it is Sunday morning and we are barely not allowed to leave our homes due to coronavirus, so this is the result then.
Luckily we can go hiking and walk as we wish as long as we keep distance or wear a mask if not. Which we did today. I don't think the rules in Rheinhessen forbid this.
 

Nango

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#64
Total piece of garbage. Thanks Amir for exposing these poorly designed, yet somehow expensive, products and helping people avoid money wasting decisions. Another reason ASR has changed the way I look at audio. Can’t imagine buying a piece of gear without checking here first.
The mfr @radioman very quickly claimed he wants to have a closer look on this unit as it might been defective. At least until this to happen we should give him a 2nd chance. Other mfr don't even respond. Though other gear from this comp has been tested very well by @amirm.
 
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#65
The mfr @radioman very quickly claimed he wants to have a closer look on this unit as it might been defective. At least until this to happen we should give him a 2nd chance. Other mfr don't even respond. Though other gear from this comp has been tested very well by @amirm.
According to them the first units are being extensively tested before shipping. They had an issue with the first batch of boards, and they say they picked the good ones, fixed some others and tested them to ensure they work fine.
 
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#66
According to them the first units are being extensively tested before shipping. They had an issue with the first batch of boards, and they say they picked the good ones, fixed some others and tested them to ensure they work fine.
I remember them mentioning this in their email correspondence. Can imagine how owners would feel after the great lengths they've gone through just to see this measurement outcome. Let's hope it can be resolved somehow
 

SIY

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#68
I'm glad that Michael dropped in to try to straighten out any issues, and I hope they get resolved.

The CEntrance drivers reliably crashed (and I mean freeze the computer requiring a hard reboot) several pieces of software (including the AP). This happened over several different versions and on several different computers. So @amirm 's experience isn't unique, and it's something CEntrance has heard about before, for example here. That said, it seems to work fine with JRiver, my usual player, and Amazon HD, my usual streamer. I have their DACportable headphone amp and it drives my 1More Triple Driver Over Ear headphones very well. It would be great if they fixed the driver.
 
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Nango

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#69
According to them the first units are being extensively tested before shipping. They had an issue with the first batch of boards, and they say they picked the good ones, fixed some others and tested them to ensure they work fine.
Well, even then, exactly here could rely their mistake.

I remember them mentioning this in their email correspondence. Can imagine how owners would feel after the great lengths they've gone through just to see this measurement outcome. Let's hope it can be resolved somehow
If they didn't notice about the failure, this is up to them, not the mfr.
 

radioman

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#72
I remember them mentioning this in their email correspondence. Can imagine how owners would feel after the great lengths they've gone through just to see this measurement outcome. Let's hope it can be resolved somehow
Haha, yeah, this feels quite weird. Not sure why Amir did not even try the cool end. He would be impressed by the pitch-black noise floor and would have given the product more justice. He mentioned nothing about BT input either. The design language is not for everyone, but that first impression may have been formed too quickly. We got a ton of customer emails overnight. So many people love the unit's sound that something is off. We feel that the story has not yet been fully told and therefore the bashing is a bit premature,

What's the best way to contact Amir to send him another unit?
 
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radioman

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#73
I'm glad that Michael dropped in to try to straighten out any issues, and I hope they get resolved.

The CEntrance drivers reliably crashed (and I mean freeze the computer requiring a hard reboot) several pieces of software (including the AP). This happened over several different versions and on several different computers. So @amirm 's experience isn't unique, and it's something CEntrance has heard about before, for example here. That said, it seems to work fine with JRiver, my usual player, and Amazon HD, my usual streamer. I have their DACportable headphone amp and it drives my 1More Triple Driver Over Ear headphones very well. It would be great if they fixed the driver.
Note: The new ASIO driver rev is in beta testing now. It's much faster and works great.
 

Robbo99999

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#74
This is a review and detailed measurements of the CEntrance Hifi-M8 V2 portable headphone amplifier and USB DAC plus Bluetooth. It was kindly sent to me a member who waited over a year for it to ship! The Hifi-M8 V2 costs US $750. Yes, popcorn blew out of my nose too when I saw that price. :)

The unit strives for a pro/field recorder look:
View attachment 94944

I was quite surprised that the slide switches for gain and such are completely recessed and cannot be changed without a tool. I used a screwdriver but some paper clip looking thing comes with the unit for that purpose. Why, oh why? I get that you don't want that switch to change while in your pocket but there are plenty of switches that are flush mounted yet you don't need a tool to change them. And why protect the gain switch when the volume control can change easily with a brush of hand?

The side that you see is the low power output which I did not test. The other side is the high power one:

View attachment 94945

You can't see it well here but the 1/4 headphone jack pokes out quarter of an inch. It is a threaded jack and they left out the nut. You can see it better in this shot:

View attachment 94946

That thing is going to poke a hole in my pocket in short order and then I will really be mad!

Then there are those white LEDs. They say they are calibrated. Calibrated or not, why would I want dancing VU meter in my pocket when I am trying to conserve battery power? Surely if I want something dancing I have it in my source. And in pro applications, there are ton of other meters elsewhere as to not need a row of LEDs this way.

I just don't understand the focus of this product other than empty appeal to pro market which they say is their motivation.

Mind you, it is not super bad like say, Chord products are. I could use the unit and figure out what it did.

What I could not figure out is the ASIO driver. The Hifi-M8 is one of the few devices which Windows thinks (at WDM level) is only 16 bit, 48 kHz capable. This causes the ASIO wrapper interface I use to get confused and perform a very low quality sample rate conversion which messes with measurements. So I was pleased to see that they have ASIO drivers. First bit of annoyance was that they would only email a link to you to the driver. Why? I tell you why: they really wanted to pile on reasons to annoy Amir!

I install the package which was painless enough but then it kept reporting that it could not find the device. Multiple reboots, re-installs, plug and unplug the device before or after install/reboot made no difference. It would not whatsoever recognize the device even though Windows would.

What happened next was the biggest annoyance: my PC became quite unstable. It hung once and it would no longer even reboot properly! After pulling some teeth I got the system rebooted and uninstalled the package with a sigh of relief.

Just so there is no confusion, all sample rates are exposed through Windows USB class driver. So your media player should have no trouble using them all. The above only applies if you are trying to use an ASIO wrapper (i.e. ASIO4ALL) or their native ASIO interface.

Hifi-M8 V2 Measurements
Given the limitations above, I could not run my full suite of tests but we have plenty of data to assess its performance as you will shortly see. Let's see our usual dashboard, treating the unit as a DAC with 2 volt output:
View attachment 94947

Man, this is really poor. Look at the high level of second harmonic (at 2 kHz) which with a couple of dBs of noise, pushes our SINAD down to unacceptable level:
View attachment 94948

This is a DAC performance level which I expect in a $9 dongle, not in a nearly $800 audio device designed for "Pro" applications. Even for 16 bit music you don't have transparency here.

So as a DAC, this is a bust. Let's look at it as a headphone amplifier, first using a 300 ohm load in both balanced and unbalanced:

View attachment 94949

Unbalanced performance with just 30 milliwatts of output is barely good enough. With balanced output though, it easily exceeds my 100 milliwatt threshold so I am happy about that. But notice that noise and distortion are fairly high.

Switching to 33 ohm we get:

View attachment 94950

Again, distortion and noise are rather high. Not a lot of power but if it steps up in balanced mode, that should be remedied.

Channel matching is perfect due to the level control actually being digital:
View attachment 94951

You could sense this as there are distinct steps in volume control.

Hifi-M8 V2 Listening Tests
As usual, I start with my inefficient 25 ohm Ether CX headphone. I took advantage of the balanced output and queued up my track. There was good bit of volume. Alas, the last 20% was not usable due to excessive distortion and harshness. I then switched to Sennheiser HD-650 using 1/4 unbalanced jack. Now there was just enough volume and gain, the last 20% of the volume range resulted in distortion especially in bass and brightness in highs. I highly recommend that you stick to the balanced output for any standard to inefficient headphone.

Conclusions
When I see a nearly $800 price tag on portable amp and DAC, I expect flawless execution. Sadly we don't that anywhere. Measured performance is very poor starting the DAC. Unbalanced out has insufficient output. And while balanced remedies that to some extent, it does so with noise and distortion at the limit. Subjective results were also disappointing unless you use the device with low level output in which case I question why you want this instead of a $9 dongle.

I just can't understand why a device like this exists. A pro product should be about performance and that is sorely lacking here. As a consumer device usability is poor and price way out of proportion with what the unit does. There are plenty of portable devices that perform superbly and cost a fraction.

Needless to say, I can't recommend the CEntrance Hifi-M8 V2.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Appreciate any donations using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
lol, love the popcorn comment at the beginning of the article, seriously made me chortle!

EDIT: feel like we should come up with some kind of group funding to reimburse the guy that waited a year to receive this thing & send it to you!

EDIT #2 : having read all the comments now, I'm pleased the manufacturer has stepped into the forum and offered another unit for Amir to test as well as working with the guy that sent in this particular unit......so all is not lost for the guy that sent this in, (and potentially in further testing on this site).
 
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Billy Budapest

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#75
I was duped with the original version. I was an early adopter. The beta version debuted at a canjam event and received raved reviews. I waited a over a year to get mine, though promised 3 to 4 months. Then he was outed with lying about specs most notable balanced headphone output which was proven to be a lie after someone did a teardown. Also promised was 1 watt of power which of course was another lie. And as bad as this piece of junk was, the customer service was even worse. I had two to fail on me. They replace the first one with one that was defective out of the box, but didn't honor the warranty on the second. The worse thing was, the version that was finally released was a serverly dumbed down version of the beta one that debuted at canjam. I'm surprised this guy is still in business.
I gotta respond. CEntrance isn’t some guy. CEntrance is an engineering-focused business with a long track record of well-received pro and consumer DACs, headphone amps, and mic preamps.

Years ago, I had brief discussions with Michael Goodman about becoming a reseller for CEntrance (which didn’t pan out due to a change in my business model). He was a gracious gentleman. Since then, I have been receiving regular emails from CEntrance about product development and I know that their development cycles are long and well thought out.

As discussed by others above, there were some production issues which led to a lengthened development cycle for this product. Maybe that’s what led to some of the performance failings. Or maybe the “kitchen sink” nature of the product created performance issues.

Finally, as noted by another person, the design language of the product is confusing and could lead to user error—and should be rethought, in my opinion.

But to damn the whole company because of one miss after a string of hits? That’s just wrong.
 

radioman

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#76
lol, love the popcorn comment at the beginning of the article, seriously made me chortle!

EDIT: feel like we should come up with some kind of group funding to reimburse the guy that waited a year to receive this thing & send it to you!
He is sending it to us for investigation. And we will send a brand new unit to Amir to evaluate. Would like to reserve judgement until that happens. So many people love the product that this review doesn't align with our experience -- something must be off. We will work with Amir to understand what happened.
 

Robbo99999

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#78
He is sending it to us for investigation. And we will send a brand new unit to Amir to evaluate. Would like to reserve judgement until that happens. So many people love the product that this review doesn't align with our experience -- something must be off. We will work with Amir to understand what happened.
Cool, I tend to post my initial reaction to a review before reading any comments so as not to be biased.....I've edited my first post to reflect that I'm pleased that you (the manufacturer) are working with the guy who sent it in (& Amir potentially).
 

vkvedam

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#79
I never had any expectations from CEntrance and this has reassured my premonitions
 
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