The mod – you may not really need it

An even better analogy for HiFi-M8 would be a crossover SUV. HiFi-M8 is really a crossover DAC/AMP, a new product category.

Naturally, the announcement of the Balanced Armature IEM mod created a lot of excitement.

Don’t be alarmed, the level of noise experienced without the mod is quite low. Look — You need to have balanced armature (read: ultra-sensitive) headphones with extreme amount of isolation and an ultra-quiet listening environment in order to hear the background hiss.

For example, if you are outdoors, or indoors with AC running, it’s not possible to hear any hiss.

Most people will not have a problem with the hiss, so I would caution against requesting the mod unless you know that balanced armature IEMs and a dead-quiet listening environment describe your situation exactly. Let me be clear – I don’t want to short change the owners of big cans. They need all the power they can get. The mod will reduce the max listening level by about 6 dB, which is quite noticeable if you are trying to squeeze the last bits of loudness out of the product.

We have designed a “Cross-over DAC/AMP”, a new type of product.

HiFi-M8 is about as powerful as our DACmini, which is universally regarded as having a very powerful amp. No other company has taken this much power and made it available in a battery-powered, on-the-go package. The CEntrance HiFi-M8 is the only product of its kind. It can provide over 1W of output power. The goal with this much power is to be able to drive the most demanding, hard-to-handle headphones.

When you use the ultra-sensitive IEMs, you find yourself at the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of needing 1 watt of power, you need roughly 10 milliwatts, which is one hundred times less.

Designing a product that can accommodate such a wild range of output levels is a true challenge. We need to lower the output level one hundred times when you switch to the IEMs! That’s where the cross-over analogy comes from. Part car, part truck.

We feel that we have achieved this goal and that HiFi-M8 does represent a new category of listening products, equally valuable to users of overhead and in-ear headphones alike. But it’s not possible to satisfy everyone, as we’ve learned during the long process of product development. Someone out there has a special request. We tried to accommodate as many as we could. This last mod for lower noise is just another way to demonstrate that CEntrance listens to its customers.

However, most people won’t need this mod, so it’s probably not necessary.

Of course, you can say that I don’t know anything — my hearing is shot over the years of standing next to a loud drummer. Oh well, he knows that. I told him many times to turn it down, but most drummers can’t really hear that request… :)

The Balanced Armature IEM mod

Using your HiFi-M8 with balanced armature IEMs is like taking your Aston Martin grocery shopping.

Our customer IronLung reported hearing some background noise with sensitive IEMs. He tried JH-13, Shure 535 and other headphones with balanced armature design. These are very sensitive headphones with very low impedance, a rare breed.

Other customers did not report excessive noise, but IronLung did not like it — his lungs may be made of iron but his ears are not — they are are very sensitive (no offence, just praise).

While I didn’t have too many IEMs laying around (I’m mostly an over-head guy), CEntrance is located relatively close to Shure and I have some friends there from way back when. I used to run an engineering Dept. at Shure… Ah, the good old days…

Long story short, we obtained a couple of pairs of 535 headphones and confirmed that you could indeed hear some very faint background hiss if you listen very carefully and if no music is playing. Of course, if music IS playing, you better grab a hold of that volume knob, as those headphones are ULTRA sensitive and you could blow your ears out.

You see, HiFi-M8 is way overpowered for IEMs. To compensate for that, it does have a gain switch, which reduces the output signal level by a lot, to make sure it doesn’t rip the IEMs (or your ears) apart, but it’s probably not fair to use its output might to drive sensitive IEMs, which require tiny amounts of power.

It’s like taking your Aston Martin grocery shopping — you won’t get to see what the Bond car can do.

When I listened to the 535s, I didn’t find the level of background noise offensive, but with CEntrance, the customer comes first. We’ve decided to help the customer,  tried several ways to lower the background noise and succeeded.

We now have a mod. We’ve modded the unit for the customer and will be sending to him shortly.

Please note — this mod only applies to users of balanced armature headphones with very little impedance of around 10 Ohm. Most IEMs are not like this, so very few people will be affected.

We could call the mod “IronLung mod”, but an even more appropriate name would be “The Balanced Armature IEM mod.”

Meantime, if you find yourself experiencing too much background noise, let us know. We have a mod for that.

Back after a short break

Set up a tent or rent a cabin and escape into the wilderness - that's what I did.

As the Summer comes to a close, the leaves begin to turn. The evening chill starts closing in on you and already it smells like Fall here in the Midwest.

It’s only fitting to bask in the remaining warmth of the departing Summer by re-uniting with nature during the Labor day weekend.

And that’s what I did. The family went to a secluded little spot in Michigan and spent quality time with friends near a campfire.

While nights are getting chilly, the air was hot enough to swim during the day, so the weekend turned out great.

A relaxing break before the final push to build and ship the HiFi-M8…

A couple of notes for people who asked questions on Head-Fi.

We are shipping units steadily now and are working through the backlog created in the recent months, as we discovered and fixed several bugs, namely the 1/4″ reversal, new firmware, etc.

We are in fact building everything here in the US. That is actually slower than in Asia. We could have built units much faster at a Chinese plant. But the quality wouldn’t be the same. Our ears won’t be available to test each unit and make sure it’s perfect as it leaves the factory. So… we’ve chosen the slower, but higher-quality route.

Several dealers received stock recently. They are TTVJ, Moon Audio, Jaben, HiFi Heaven and a couple of others. They have been waiting patiently in line, just like the pre-order folks. We are not shipping large quantities to dealers.  Just about a unit or two here and there, even though some have ordered a lot more. We will satisfy the pre-order cue before we ship the remainder to the dealers.

Parts for the build

Today we have purchased the parts for the upcoming HiFi-M8 build.
You may remember that we are planning a large build in September.
That’s still on schedule so far.
We just dumped a lot of money into parts… too much to think about.
Parts should be arriving next week and then will be sent to our suppliers for assembly of the PCBs.
I will be keeping you in the loop on this production build throughout the next month.

About the Shipping Cue

Let’s talk about the shipment cue.

As many of you know, we’ve chosen a personalized way of dealing with managing the cue, but it’s taking its toll. Other companies, such as Headamp, just put out a spreadsheet with expected shipping dates, listing all customers at once.

We decided not to do that and to deal with everyone personally instead. However, the amount of email coming in is overwhelming. Stacie, who is managing the pre-order cue has asked me to post this here:

Dear Evaluation Unit Customers,

I have received an overwhelming amount of inquiries regarding shipping dates for preordered units.
Please refer to the following dates to see where you are in the queue:

We are currently shipping units paid-for between October 1- October 31.
If you paid between November 1 – November 30, your unit will be shipped before Sept 16
If you paid between December 1- December 31, your unit will be shipping before Oct 7.

A more detailed shipping schedule for orders placed in early 2013 will be posted here on September 23, and the rate of production is expected to increase markedly at this time.

I appreciate your patience and continued support. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to email me [address removed to protect from spam bots - MG]


Webstore is back, and Video Review

Our Webstore is back.

You can place your orders and the security certificate on the site is valid. It was a temporary glitch, which is now solved.

Meantime as most reader probably know by now, Jude Mansilla has posted an excellent video review of the HiFi-M8., which you can see again and again here:

Webstore is OK

If you go to our web store today you may notice a message saying: “This Connection is Untrusted”.

Don’t worry. You can still trust us.

We are updating the security certificate today. This process will be complete shortly.

It’s safe to shop at, despite the warning.

Building a big new batch

HiFi-M8 is very popular. So much so that we ran out of stock pretty much right away.

We promised an awesome product. We delivered. We hear that people really like it!

We should be really taking advantage of that, but we don’t have stock at the moment.

We are making a new batch in September, a big batch — enough to satisfy all outstanding orders and then some!

We have allocated the original pilot production run to those who have waited the longest.

Now we need to build more and that means we need to wait.

This wait is killing me….

But this too, will pass and everyone will get their “Fix of M8″.

Breathe in, breathe out….

Watch next week

That’s all I am allowed to say today.

Look for something cool to come out on head-fi next week.

It may be related to HiFi-M8.

Whatever it is, it will come from the brightest minds out there.

That I can guarantee.

What flood looks like

My to do list for this week

This is my current to do list. It’s longer than usual, because of extra product release-related activity.

I sat down and put this list together from a bunch of little notes sitting on the desk, on the calendar, on the cellphone, etc.

This would normally be a no-brainer, but unfortunately, many items on the list are each a project in their own right.

Suddenly, we are not talking about “flying through” the list. Nope, we are talking about crawling through it.

And this is what “flood” looks like: A lot of stuff to do. Very little time to do it all. Things falling off the plate.

To do list, prioritized

Here is how I manage the flood.

I step into a coffee shop, get a latte and “turn off” the world.

I prioritize the list. I color code it. I take a deep breath and dive into it.

To the left is the processed version, where tasks are grouped into eight categories and prioritized. The categories range from Engineering, to Finance, to Marketing, to Consulting (our consulting business is doing well).

Grouping the tasks is very helpful, since several items can be accomplished at once.

Now that there is structure, we can attack the action items.