Portable DAC and amplifier CEntrance HiFi M8 – as close to the ideal 12




Portable DAC and amplifier CEntrance HiFi M8 – as close to the ideal 12

Hardware Review

1 Main Pic

One of the facts that I was almost one hundred percent sure that’s what portable audio equipment will almost always yield a stationary technique. To a limited extent, and a battery-powered hard to achieve the same things that are making in stationary devices. Now with a clear conscience I can admit that I was wrong, and do almost uncompromising portable device it is possible – it is about him and discussed today. Meet, Centrance HiFi M8 .

HiFi M8 (reads like a mate, that is, “friend”) is a shining example of how a competent engineer (and founder CEntrance Michael Goodman – such) is able to achieve the maximum, regardless of the set of constraints. Here, of course, would look beautiful legend about how Michael, worn low-quality portable sound, I decided once and for all change this situation, but, alas, I do not know history, so tell about HiFi M8 already in its present incarnation. I must say that M8 – device not cheap, its price tag is exactly $ 700, but the money he regains his full, but all this below.

First you need to understand that there are eight versions HiFi M8.


There are two “subspecies”, which differ in the input jacks: standard, with input for iOS-devices, and the LX version, TOSLINK-entrance. It is worth noting that there are so many in the world have DACs that are certified from Apple, and can receive a digital signal from the device, and CEntrance among them. Of course, many portable DACs can be connected via the Camera Connection Kit, but, firstly, it is not good for the sound of the growth of jitter, and secondly, it turns out a design rather cumbersome. All these drawbacks product Centrance completely deprived. HiFi M8 is connected to almost all iOS-devices and get them to digital data in asynchronous mode 44 kHz / 16 bit. This allows you to bypass the built-in DAC and amplifier device, giving as a result the sound is not available for iOS-devices.

LX-equipped version TOSLINK-input, allowing you to connect HiFi M8 to many modern players (such as AK-120 and many others).


In turn, each of these two embodiments is divided into four sub-variants with different output terminals. Unfortunately, the compact size of the device does not allow you to implement all possible interfaces, so you need to think and to choose the most suitable option available for you.

4XL – 4-pin balanced XLR connector, 6.3 “unbalanced TRS and 3.5” TRS, combined with a TOSLINK-yield
RSA – 4-pin balanced RSA connector, 6.3 “unbalanced TRS and 3.5” TRS, combined with a TOSLINK-yield
CMB – two 3-pin XLR connector for balanced connection, combined with two 6.3 “unbalanced TRS
PRO – two 3-pin XLR-type connector “dad”, this option is intended primarily for connecting professional equipment

In sum, this gives the best 8 of options from which you have to choose, though the selection is simplified by the fact that RSA- and PRO-options – a rarity, and the choice between the LX and simple version will be driven by your existing digital audio sources.

Front Panel

Note that in versions 4XL and RSA has TOSLINK-output, allowing you to use HiFi M8 as USB-transport for other DACs.

Characteristics of the digital signal

Resolution: 24 bits (16 bits is also supported)
Sampling rate: 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.2 kHz, 192 kHz
USB-protocol: asynchronous
Jitter: outside the measurable
Compatibility: iPad, iPhone, iPod (not LX-version), Mac, PC, Android

Characteristics of the analog signal

Frequency range: 20 Hz – 50 kHz (with the equalizer off)
Signal / noise ratio (A-weighted): 113 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (on average Heine): 0.002%
Channel separation: -103 dB @ 1 kHz
Output impedance (switchable): 1Ω, 2Ω, 11Ω
Output power: 1.4 W peak, 1 W average
Recommended Headphone Impedance: 16Ω – 600Ω
Output voltage: -2 dBV (high gain, to connect the most complex in the buildup of overhead headphones), -10 dBV (average gain, to connect most audio equipment), -22 dBV (minimum gain, for the most sensitive IEM)

General characteristics

Audio outputs (depending on model): balanced XLR, a combined 3.5 mm TRS / TOSLINK, unbalanced 6.3 mm TRS
Headphone Amplifier: Class A
Power supply: 9V + – + 20V, 3A
Power supply: Universal networks for AC 90V – 240V complete
Internal power supply: ultra-clean power ± 10V battery with isolated
Dimensions: 127 mm x 82 mm x 33 mm
Net Weight: 0.9 kg

The rear panel
Packaging and delivery

M8 comes in a cardboard box of medium size, with “dust jacket”, decorated in black and white colors. During unpacking, immediately draws attention to a fair amount of branded seals, which are sealed with box and package with the device itself. Besides HiFi M8, you will receive instructions, USB-cable, a few rubber bands to attach the amplifier to the player, and a very large power supply. Dimensions of power supply due to its quality and the need to provide a current of 3 amperes.

View angle

On the one hand, from the packaging unit in $ 700, you want something more sophisticated, on the other hand – the developers wisely and all the money was sent to the most important thing – the sound, leaving the marketing hulls of wooden boxes and embossed leather “overboard”.
Design and Management

In principle, HiFi M8 device rather big, in size and weight, it is teetering on the verge that still allows it to be considered portable. Housing – all metal, black with bumps at the corners. All controls are focused exclusively on the front and back sides of the Mate.

Located in front volume knob and one set of output that you have chosen.

XLR connector

Backside interesting: the first thing that catches the eye here – a 4-position switch. These switches are one of the main features that distinguishes M8 from the rest. Describe them from left to right.

Select output impedance allows you to choose between 1Ω, 2Ω, 11Ω. I have already written about the role of the output impedance of the source in this article , so if you are interested in the theory, I recommend it to reading. In principle, relative to the output impedance of the most commonly the principle – the smaller, the better. But sometimes a higher output impedance combined with high-impedance headphones makes the sound more “relaxed” and music.
Choice of gain. Since HiFi M8 has a really big for a portable power amplifier, the developers made it possible to subtract it to achieve normal operation of sensitive headphones. Three-position adjustment allows the amplifier without problems to work with almost any existing headphones, starting with sensitive IEM and ending tight AKG K702.
Bass boost. This switch allows you to raise, if desired LF device. In positions other than the extreme left, it leads to increased bass around 80 Hz at 3 dB and 6 dB, respectively. I prefer to keep this switch in the neutral position, although sometimes rise to +3 dB can be appropriate. +6 DB to my ears are irrelevant.
RF gain. Operates in the range of 2 kHz and above, so that accurate compensate for the blockage that exists in many headphones in this range. RF amplifier is very neat, almost does not lead to the appearance of sharpness in the sound, but adds compositions of airiness and lightness.


Also located on the rear side of the power socket. HiFi M8 operates on a single charge of about 6 hours, and is charged from the complete power supply somewhere same. This figure may initially seem small, but given the power HiFi M8 – in fact it is an excellent indicator. The battery level is displayed three LEDs located on the back side also. Another indicates whether the currently charging battery.

More on the back side to put two different USB-connector and a three-position toggle switch to choose between them. In the middle position switch – M8 is turned off. Both positions other than neutral, are used to select from the connectors. USB Type B to connect to a computer, allowing HiFi M8 operate asynchronously at frequencies up to 192 kHz. In OS X device connects automatically, Windows will need to download the driver from the manufacturer’s website. Also miracle DAC from CEntance can work with Android-enabled devices through the audio USB-OTG.

USB Type A connector is used to connect iOS-devices. In LX-version instead is TOSLINK-connector.

To implement the USB-interface uses a dual-core processor with XMOS-proprietary firmware from CEntrance. It is possible to achieve high-quality transmission of a digital signal with a low jitter.

Retina MacBook Pro Late 2013 as a source of
Fidelia as a player
Headphones Philips Fidelio X1 , AKG K702, Fostex ZMF , Fischer Audio FA-003 Bog Oak Limited Edition, Fischer Audio FA-011 Limited Edition Japan , Sennheiser HD600
Recording in lossless format

HiFi M8 some foreign editions are called “cable with gain” – is so neutral and uncolored sound it produces at the output. The device easily copes with any, even capricious type headphones AKG K702. Also great M8 amenable and HD600 from Sennheiser, and judging by the reviews on the web – even Audeze LCD-3 it is quite “tough”. On the “opposite side” of the range headphones are sensitive IEM-model, with them at HiFi M8 also have no problem in selecting the minimum gain is almost no noise, and the stock volume adjustment – very, very good.

The rear panel

To characterize some aspects of the range of the DAC is very difficult, since there are no accents in its sound is not. Beginning with the booming bass beats to the smallest details of HF – all equally good at it.

Bass served with stunning accuracy, for which in the first place we have to thank a successful power scheme. Dynamics, texturing feed, energy – are all present. Bass lines do not merge into a mess, you can hear each individual instrument. In the same brutal metal genres this often gives a completely different perception of the material.

Mids – very honest, great detail allows them to transfer all the information about the vocals and instruments, including ill defined nuances of emotion invested performers in music.

HF is also worthy of all praise. They are extended, are of good resolution across the entire range and added to the air sound and volume. Decay of notes, especially the studio or concert hall – all this passed as much as allow your headphones.

Naturally, HiFi M8 admirably with the construction of the scope of the virtual scene, he manages to convey well as its depth and width. All the instruments are separated from each other in complex instrumental records can be distinguished even the same tools by their nature (the same Cello Apocalyptica).

With Fostex

Any genre preferences of offspring CEntrance not, it is equally good job with all that it offers. The main requirement – quality headphones and lower quality recording. DAC well give all the flaws, if they were to occur.

Portable harvester from CEntrance – the device is very expensive, massive, and is of considerable size. Nevertheless, I can safely say that his peers are almost nonexistent. Rich customization options, a wealth of options, you can connect to iOS-devices – all that distinguishes HiFi M8 from the competition. Given the uncompromising sound quality and ability to work with virtually any headphones – this amp will be a good diamond in the arsenal of any fan of high-quality portable sound. The opportunity for the most portable devices disclose any headphones, from small to large – is unique and perhaps has no parallel.


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