Hifiman EF499 DAC/Amp Review

Front view of the Hifiman EF499 DAC/Amp

We’ve seen a trend in recent years of balanced headphone amps becoming more affordable. Likewise, we’ve seen a rise in the popularity of R2R DACs. Of course, Hifiman has made a splash with its Himalaya R2R DAC system and the brand has been offering better and better value propositions with its DAC/amp lineup. Now enter the EF499, Hifiman’s latest DAC/amp, released in tandem with the EF500. Retailing at $299, the EF499 differs from the EF500 in that, while it does use R2R technology, it does not use the Himalaya architecture for which Hifiman has garnered praise. So let’s see what Hifiman was able to accomplish with its new DAC/amp. 

What’s in the Box:

  • EF499 DAC/Amp
  • Power cable
  • User guide


Based on the feel of this DAC/amp alone, I would have guessed that this is more expensive than $299. Let’s start with the look of the EF499. Opting for an upright design, similar to the EF500 and EF600, the DAC/amp advertises functionality as a headphone stand. While I do find the design of the EF600 to better accommodate this feature, the upright design of the EF499 still works. I’m becoming a fan of the upright trend. This design allows for a smaller footprint on desk setups and is overall more sleek and elegant to my eye. 

I am a huge fan of the colorway adopted on this device. The black and copper are beautiful together, making for a unique look. In fact, I think the EF499 looks better than the EF500, which sports a similar design, but a gray and silver colorway. The black and copper mix is dynamic and adds a sense of luxury to an item that fits in the budget/mid-fi price range. The attention to detail is fantastic, including a clear pane sitting over the front panel. This casts a beautiful effect when sitting in direct light. Overall, a beautiful device by Hifiman.

The build is exceptional on the EF499. The DAC/amp is surprisingly heavy with an all-metal chassis. This is a device that’s in it for the long haul. Compared to other amplifiers in its price bracket, the EF499 is extremely competitive. 

Side view of the Hifiman EF499 DAC/Amp


In terms of the functions built into the device, there are four indicator lights above two copper knobs on the front panel: one to control gain and oversampling, and another to control volume. The lights indicate which gain and oversampling mode you’re in. Then there’s the single ended 1/4 inch input as well as a balanced 4-pin input. At the very bottom is the R2R label and device name. 

On the back are plenty of I/O ports. You get balanced XLR and single-ended RCA outputs, a coaxial input and an ethernet input for streaming. You also get USB types B and C as well as a control switch for which input is selected. Lastly, you get the power switch and power connector. 

A picture of the back of the Hifiman EF499 DAC/Amp


Unlike the EF400 and 500 which use some form of Hifiman’s Himalaya R2R DAC technology, the EF499 opts for Philips’ R2R system. Of course what matters more than the specific chip used is how it’s implemented into the device. What’s most impressive here is that Hifiman is able to offer R2R tech in a desktop design at all at a $299 price tag. This in and of itself is a feat to applaud. 


One of the unique features on the EF499 is its oversampling controls. Both in high and low gain, you can choose whether to turn oversampling on or off. In my experience, the differences between OS and NOS were subtle and varied based on the headphones used. On the Ananda, I found the soundstage to widen a bit, with music becoming a little clearer. However, on the Liric II, I found the soundstage to stay about the same, though bass became stronger with an emphasis on sub bass presentation. 

Closeup of the Hifiman EF499 Oversampling system


The first thing I noticed on the EF499 was how wide the soundstage is. Starting off my listening with Hifiman’s Ananda, I was impressed by the width and depth offered by this DAC/Amp. It presented a great stereo image, but what really caught my ear was the depth and top-to-bottom nature of the presentation. Switching over to Meze’s Liric II, and this effect becomes more prevalent. Imaging is good, though I get a sense that the soundstage is wider than the imaging capabilities know what to do with. In other words, I wasn’t sure if sounds were necessarily in the correct locations, or sent out wider to create a better picture of soundstage width.

Overall, I was really impressed with the soundstage of this device. While imaging could be a little more precise, it’s hard to ask for more given the price point. 

Low End

The bass on the EF499 can best be described as even and neutral. There’s definitely some punch but it’s never distracting. Like I said earlier, I was able to get a little bit more sub bass rumble when using oversampling. If you like Hifiman’s general approach to the low end, I think you’ll be happy with what this device provides: a tactful and balanced experience. 


Like the low end, the EF499 is pretty neutral in the mids. I would describe this as a warm-leaning amplifier. To my ears, there is a little bit of a mid-bass hump that causes this. That said, I found vocals to be transparent and clean on the Hifiman DAC/amp. I was really impressed with the snappiness of the mid range. Snare drum hits specifically came across as lively and potent. 

High End

The top end, like the rest of the frequency response of this DAC/amp, is clean. It’s pretty airy and resolving for the price. However, I think this is a spot where I really noticed the difference between Hifiman’s Himalaya architecture and the Philips R2R DAC used here. While detail retrieval was good and the treble had a solid sonic balance, I found there to be a little bit of an artificial sound to the treble. That said, at $299, I can’t complain too much. While it’s not perfect, I still find the transparency and resolving capabilities of this device quite good. What the treble does best is round out an overall balanced and natural sound that the EF499 shows off from bottom end to top. 


The EF499 from Hifiman is an impressive device. It’s extremely rare to get R2R capabilities in a desktop DAC/Amp at this price range. Add in the oversampling functionality, flexibility to use it as a streamer via ethernet port, and its coherent and balanced sound signature, I think Hifiman has a winner. 

The Hifiman EF499 is available at Audio46.

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