HiFiMan EF2A Tube Headphone Amplifier Review

Patrick Nosker November 20, 2010 1
HiFiMan EF2A Tube Headphone Amplifier Review

It’s been a while since I’ve used full sized headphones.  Now that I’ve gotten the JH Audio JH-16 Pro’s, I rarely want to listen to anything else.  I still use my Grado SR-60i cans though, so I thought it would be helpful to have a dedicated amp for it.  Since I use it with my computer most often, I decided to give the HiFiMan EF2A Headphone amplifier/USB DAC a shot.


Immediately upon seeing the EF2A you will notice the twin tubes.  There’s a solid feeling volume knob on the front and two different inputs on the back: RCA jacks and a USB port.  An external power supply powers the unit for interference free DC power.

I plugged the EF2A into my computer and my Grado SR-60i’s into the front.  Powered by a Brown-Burr DAC, the EF2A requires you to raise your computer volume level up from 50% to max.  Make sure you keep the knob volume down though, as it is extremely sensitive.  I rarely went beyond the first marked line with the Grado’s.  I can see using it at a higher volume with some higher impedance phones but with the Grado’s it was almost silly how useless 75% of the volume knob was.

The neatest thing about the amplifier was the warm glow emitted by the tubes.  Even at low power, there is a dim red glow which reminds the user of the vintage technology being used.  Not only do they look cool, but they truly warm the sound up.  It’s a similar effect to hearing a guitar playing out of a tube amplifier.

I have heard of the EF2A’s magical abilities, but users of some other headphones including those by Denon and Audiotechnica have complained of increased bass corrupting their music.  With the Grado SR-60i, the coupling of the amp and headphones was almost a perfect collaboration.  I have never heard such great sound out of the Grado SR-60i.

If you want to experiment without spending too much with your headphones, try out the EF2A.  With many headphones, you could be very pleased with the warm sound it emits.  At its price point, it’s a great value.

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