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Audio files player + D/A/ converter / headamp

Price: 211 + 132 euro

Manufacturer: HIFIDIY

Wuhan Haierde Science and Technology Development Co., Ltd Add: 34#, Hanxi Road, Qiaokou Province, Wuhan.Hubei China, Zip: 430000
tel.: +86-27-85420526 | fax: +86-27-85840435


Manufacturer's website: HIFIDIY
Manufacturer's website (in English): HIFIDIY

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Pictures: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Marek Dyba

Mini APE is a file player. It plays WAV, FLAC, mp3 files and supports CUE sheets. Files can be stored on SD cards or pen drives. It offers playback of files up to – that's important! – 24 bit / 192 kHz. Mini USB DAC SE is a D/A converter and headamp. There are two digital inputs – S/PDIF that accepts signal up to 24/96 and USB for signals up to 16/48. There is also one line input. SE in the name suggest that it is a Special Edition – and that's a correct assumption. Despite its ridiculous price this device sports dearest passive elements money can buy (reasonable money). Even the basic version uses nice elements, but resistors, capacitors and so on used in SE version are nowhere to be found in the devices costing even 10 kPLN and more. And if you manage somehow to find such a device – grab it and be happy with it. Such a build quality with the price asked for it seems to be a dumping strategy. Well – as Customers we should use the opportunity without hesitation.


Some recordings used for listening sessions:

  • Brian Eno, Craft On A Milk Sea, Warp Records, WAV 24/44,1.
  • Cassandra Wilson, Silver Pony, Blue Note, 29752, CD;
  • Charlie Haden & Antonio Forcione, Heartplay, Naim Label, 24/96 FLAC.
  • David Sylvian, Gone To Earth, Virgin/EMI Music Japan, VJCP-68877-78, 2 x CD.
  • Diana Krall, From This Moment On, Verve, 1705042, CD.
  • Diary of Dreams, Freak Perfum, Accesion-Records, EFA 03647-2, CD.
  • Dominic Miller, Fourth Wall, Qrious Music, QRM 108-2, CD;
  • G. F. Haendel, Messiah (Dublin Version, 1742), Dunedin Consort&Players, Linn Records, CKH 312, FLAC 24/88,2;
  • George Michael, Faith, Epic/Sony Music, 7753020, 2 CD+DVD.
  • George Shearing Quintet with Nancy Wilson, The Swing’s Mutual!, Capitol/Toshiba-EMI, TOCJ-9468, CD.
  • Helge Lien Trio Hello Troll, Ozella Music, OZ021CD, FLAC 24/96;
  • Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto, Verve, 24/96 FLAC.

Japanese issues available at CD Japan.


At first I wanted to start to listen to the player but when both devices arrived and I saw the build quality of Mini USB DAC SE I simply had to start with it. It is not equipped with preamp stage, meaning that volume control knob doesn't control output signal. Thus I had to connect it in parallel with costing almost hundred times more Ancient Audio Air player. I used player's digital output to deliver signal to Mini USB DAC, and than connected both devices to Ayon Audio Polaris III preamplifier using exactly the same analogue interconnects. Unfortunately I couldn't used my favorite Acrolink 7N-DA6300, because RCA sockets in DAC sit to close to each other. So instead I had to use Wireworld Platinum Eclipse. I learned that DAC's output delivers bit stronger signal than a standard 2 V – so I had to adjust output level of Ancient player adding 2 dB more than I usually delivers.

Switching between these two devices I quickly found out (much to my surprise) that this small Chinese box was able to maintain same tonal balance as Air did. I'm not saying that Ancient offers perfect tonal balance – there is still some room for improvement, but still – it is one of the world's best CD players! Its sound characteristic lays somewhere between ultra-precise sound of dCS system, and extremely rich, saturated, warm sound of top, four-boxes system from Jadis. Anyway – timbre offered by both devices was very similar, which was a great advantage of Mini USB. With closer study I realized that DAC's upper midrange was bit too smooth and slightly rolled-off, and the same I could tell about treble. Bass on the other hand was bit stronger – not so taut, with less resolution, but with quite some volume. The differences were surprisingly small though which just made me shook my head and wonder how these Chinese magicians managed to achieve that. It seemed that a lot of credit should go to those high quality passive elements used. Of course I couldn't tell that for sure, as it is never only about quality of elements used but also about how they are applied. But from my own experience – each and every time I changed some resistors, capacitors and so on in many different devices it always resulted in better, more sophisticated sound, and better tonal balance. These two elements of sound are always clearly recognizable.

To make it clear for you – there is a huge difference in performance of both devices but it doesn't concern timbre – this aspect is very, very similar. These differences are in resolution and ability to differentiate sounds. Air is able to “extract” the essence of the music even from quite poorly made recordings whereas Mini USB simply banned recordings like Freak Perfum by Diary Of Dreams. With better recordings like Fourth Wall by Dominic Miller difference wasn't that big but still change from Air to DAC resulted in “loosing” half of the sounds, and kind of a “plastic” sound.
But … we are talking about a device costing 132 EUR, and for the price it is simply outstanding!!! I had to compare it to my reference player to find its weaknesses but if you compare it to any CD player costing 1000-1500 PLN you will easily hear the difference. Somehow lean sound, with flat dynamics, rolled-off or over-emphasized treble and so – these are characteristic aspects of such inexpensive CD players and in comparison Mini USB will sound like a million bucks.

There is also an additional feature - headamp. A very nice one I must add, offering well balanced sound with slightly softened, rounded attack. I liked it best with AKG K701, and it was not because Sennheiser HD800 sounded bit too bright – it was more about some kind of synergy. The smoothness of AKG wasn't lost nor exaggerated – just used to sound's advantage. System was able to deliver strong, well defined sound – like when playing new remaster of George Michael's Faith – nice treble, quite a kick – it was a pleasure to listen to. USB input also delivers nice performance – it's a real pity it is limited to 16/48!!! But still – CDs and mp3 files sounded nice, coherent.
It is an outstanding device that costs you same amount of money as three albums from Japan. I suggest you buy it to learn something and maybe also show some friend or relative what's so wonderful in our hobby. It should be relatively easy as in this case as you won't have to explain why they have to spend more money on audio system than they would on a car…

Mini APE

I would call Mini APE player many things but “user friendly” isn't among them. Its software requires still lot of work – an example – would be nice if “skip” button on remote really operated skip function - it didn't which made moving around player's menu quite difficult.

For some reason I couldn't play 24/192 WAV files even though it wasn't supposed to be a problem (playing FLAC 24/192 worked like a charm). To be exact – it played WAV files but with some clicks, cracks, skipping some notes and so on – obviously software requires an update.
I realize that the sound itself and device's features might be more important for many of potential users than what I just wrote above. From the very first moment I knew that Mini USB DAC was a better digital to analogue converter Although APE offered similar timbre (which means very good one), with no brightness, no harshness, with strong upper midrange, but its capabilities in aspects like resolution and volume of delivered sound were much more limited. Even when using high resolution files I couldn't really recognize this higher resolution, although sound seemed richer and delivered with more ease.
When it comes to dynamics I would compare it with some good quality CD player at a price level of 1000 PLN but, as already mentioned, with much better timbre. Some problem might be a combination of somehow compressed dynamics with quite narrow soundstage. The latter is clearly focused in the middle and only some instruments clearly placed in one channel allow it to appear bit wider. However most music is recorded with a rather narrow soundstage.

If you plan to buy this device you need to take into consideration what kind of system you have. As a stand-alone player it can be used instead of CD players from price level of 1500-2000 PLN. If you use high resolution files than APE's performance could be compared to CD players costing 3000 PLN (these are of course only some estimations of mine). The best players from this price level like Cyrus CD 6 SE or Music Hall cd25.2 will offer more open, dynamic sound but timbre offered by APE will be good enough to make it an easy fit to most budget systems. Its creamy, bit warm presentation will “cover” for some downsides of amplifier and loudspeakers. I think that it's real destiny is to work together with external D/A converter. Paired with Mini USB it delivered already much better sound, and when connected to Arcam's rDAC with additional TeddyPardo power supply it sounded great!!! It's a very inexpensive device, well build, that will require a software update from time to time but that makes it “timeproof”. Just add a good quality DAC and search for a file player no more!


Mini APE

HIFIDIY player is really tiny – it's a small cuboid with rounded edges, made of casted aluminum,quite rigid also thanks to heat sinks on side panels. Front is a separate thick aluminum plated bolted to the housing and the back panel is also a separate though not so thick aluminum plate.
There is a small display in the front panel, few control buttons, USB port and SD card port. Information displayed on the screen informs us about the names of files played but not their format. Of course covers are also not displayed. In the back panel you will find analogue audio output (pair of RCA sockets placed very close to each other), digital outputs – RCA S/PDIF and TOSLINK, digital inputs - RCA S/PDIF and USB port B Type that you can use to connect this device to a computer for firmware update. There is also one mini-USB port that is not used, at least for now – maybe it will be in future. Sockets are not of a high quality. Power is delivered via small 12 V DC power supply.

The circuit has been mounted on two PCBs. The smaller one in fact a player with its “heart” - DSP Ingenic JZ4750 chip (Ingenic Semiconductor Co., Ltd.). It is a 360 MHz signal processor – so called „Multimedia Applications Processor”, that can operate under e.g. Linux software. Next to it you will find memory chips – NAND by Samsung and additionally some Hynix ones. Still on the same board there are some voltage regulators plus two small master clocks.
The audio part was mounted on the second PCB together with quite advanced power supply circuit including high quality Nichicon capacitors. There is also a spot for lithium battery that would sustain memory chips but it was empty in the delivered device.
Signal after decoding to PCM goes to Wolfson Microelectronics WM8740 chip. It is a 24/192 DAC with nice dynamics of 117 dB. Just ahead of it there is a digital receiver by Wolfson - WM8805 24/192, accepting signal from S/PDIF input and DSP chip. After that there is a single NE5532 chip operating as an amplifier and a buffer. There is also a relay muting RCA outputs during switching between inputs.


Chinese DAC uses the same housing as Mini APE player with different front and back panel. Front is still a thick aluminum plate though. There is a very nice aluminum volume control knob, two LEDs, headphone jack socket and two switches. The latter are very nice looking – one is used to switch between SPDIF and USB input, the other to switch between analogue and digital input. One of the LEDs indicates that device is on, the other shows that the signal in the input has been detected.
In the back you will find a socket for plugging in an external 12-18 V DC power supply (quite o big one, which is good!) with mechanical switch, a pair of input and output RCA sockets and two digital inputs – S/PDIF and USB. RCA sockets are gold plated but of mediocre quality and placed too close to each other. Digital socket seems to be of much better quality. USB socket type B isn't gold plated.
I was really shocked when I opened housing and took a peek inside. If that device cost ten time more maybe I wouldn't be so surprised. The thing is – there are high quality passive and active elements used from best manufacturers: Wima, Nichicon, Dale, Alps, Burr-Brown.

Signal from USB input is processed by quite old Burr-Brown PCM2701 chip which is a 16-bit chip that can only accept signal of 32, 44,1 i 48 kHz. That doesn't allow us to use high resolution files. Next to it there is a small master clock. Signal from S/PDIF goes to a Burr-Brown DIR9001 digital receiver. It is not very modern chip as it accepts signal up to 24/96 – so we have to forget about 192 kHz files. Than signal goes to a common relay and after that to Burr-Brown PCM1793 DAC. This 24/192 chip is quite commonly used and delivers very decent performance. It is surrounded with the best passive elements I've seen in a long time in any device. I/U conversion and buffer are based on Burr-Brown OPA2134 chip. After that signal goes to a very nice Alps Blue Velvet pot. Than signal is amplified in another Burr-Brown chip. Output signal is amplified by bipolar transistors TIP42+TIP41, operating in A class in a push-pull configuration.
As I said there are very good elements everywhere – great Dale’s resistors, Wima's polypropylene capacitors and Nichicon's electrolytic ones – the output is coupled by four of these (made especially for audio use).

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  • CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air (previous it was Prime, tested HERE)
  • Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC (tested HERE)
  • Cartridges: Air Tight Supreme, tested HERE, Miyajima Laboratory Waza, tested HERE.
  • Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III with Re-generator Power Supply; version II tested HERE)
  • Power amplifier: Tenor Audio 175S, tested HERE and Soulution 710
  • Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom version (reviewed HERE)
  • Loudspeakers: Harpia Acoustics Dobermann (tested HERE)
  • Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, 600 Ω version (reviewed HERE, HERE, and HERE)
  • Interconnect: CD-preamp: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, article HERE), preamp-power amp: Wireworld Platinum Eclipse
  • Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, tested HERE
  • Power cables AC (all equipment): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
  • Power conditioning: Gigawatt PF-2 Filtering Power Strip (reviewed HERE)
  • Audio stand Base – under all components
  • Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD (article HERE)
  • Pro Audio Bono platform under CD