DAC Chip: AKM AK4493 (Single)
PCM 32bit – 768khz DSD512, SNR: -117dB, Power: 2 Vrms SE, 4 Vrms BAL, Type-C Female, 2.5mm BAL & 3.5mm SE (Microphone: No), Aluminum Chassis
Listening Equipment: Etymotic ER4SR, FOSTEX T40RP MK3, TForce Yuan Li, 7Hz Timeless, KZ EDX Modded, VE Monk SM, SeeAudio Bravery, Shure KSE1500. Xiaomi Redmi 10 & Sony Xperia Z5 Compact. HiBy Music Player (USB 2.0, USB Exclusive Mode)
LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING
- Neutral and natural warm smooth timbre
- Smooth and polished dynamics, well controlled vibrancy
- Superb coherence with pristine clarity and transparency
- Intimate Mids, richly textured and smooth
- Realistic Male/Female vocals
- Crispy smooth Treble offering great depth, extension, and textures
- Well balanced fast Mid-Bass responses, smooth decay
- Deep, richly textured Sub-Bass with smooth decay
- Excellent details retrieval, Macro and Micro
- Realistic and crisp guitar, piano, cello, and bass guitar tones
- Spacious soundstage with great depth
- Great imaging, holographic spatial staging
- Reference grade speed and transients handling
- Super clean with zero floor noises
- Devoid of any coarseness or grainy edges overall
- Very powerful SE and BAL output with commanding drive
- Great driving power for anything below 600 Ohm
- Good battery draw on the host
- No hardware volume adjuster
- Odd cylindrical design may not appeal to some
- Slightly warm after prolonged usage
- Drains battery slightly more on BAL mode
HAA FEE by SaoMai Audio. The version that I tested here is the higher end model which offers both 2 Vrms SE 3.5mm and 4 Vrms BAL 2.5mm. 80% of the impressions were done on BAL mode.
Among the many Dongles that I have owned and tested, this HAA FEE is definitely the one that retains AKM native signature the most, being generally warm, analogue and smooth. Thankfully it does not sacrifice transparency and details while at it. It was quite apparent SaoMai Audio placed huge amount of tuning expertise to make this HAA FEE a very polished sounding unit that pairs amazing especially with an already bright sounding partners.
Driving power is nothing short of being stellar. Just like the rest of 5 Star performers, the HAA FEE on 4 Vrms (with HiBy Music Player USB Exclusive Mode) delivers great fidelity to drive both of my favorite Magnetic Planars the FOSTEX T40RP MK3 & 7Hz Timeless. While it is a bit warmer on the T40RP MK3, transparency level is great and does not sound dark at all, very organic yet detailed and sparkly. End to end dynamic range well extended to exhibit satisfying Treble and Bass extensions with smooth audible decays. On the Timeless, it is a bit brighter overall, but equally natural and analogue-ish. There was no hint of distortions or unsavory sibilance at any frequencies.
Pairing with my longtime favorite of Etymotic ER4SR was equally effortless. Much similar to the way the ER4SR paired with Ovidius B1, CEntrance DACport HD & Apogee Groove. It’s airy and naturally organic sounding. HAA FEE helped to impart a good sense of soundstage to the otherwise narrow sounding BA unit. While being musical and organic, the technicalities remained highly competent with reference grade resolution, imaging and details.
On the opposite side, driving highly sensitive and efficient TForce Yuan Li, SeeAudio Bravery and KZ EDX Modded, the HAA FEE exhibited great synergy as well. I was very relieved it did not end being dark sounding as the three IEMs I regard as warmer than the rest. HAA FEE was able to keep the presentation as neutral warm as possible yet retaining the same sparkle as exhibited with my planar devices. This is quite impressive. It shows that HAA FEE has been meticulously tuned to have the versatility on different type of IEMs/HPs/Earbuds. Technically, the speed, resolution, staging, imaging, tonality and dynamic range all presented in great fidelity – perhaps if I am to nitpick, the layering and separation can be perceived as not razor sharp as exhibited by the rest of #donglemadness top performers. But then this can be attributed to the fact that most AKM based DAC are natively smooth edged. Another element that impressed me a lot, super clean background with zero floor noises even with the most sensitive of IEMs in my collection – all driven on the 4 Vrms BAL port, such a contrast when compared to the likes of Ovidius B1 or Apogee Groove (B1 being outright noisy and Apogee Groove being a bit more forgiving). I can actually place HAA FEE on the same level of CEntrance DACport HD on this clean background aspect.
As usual, the final test being done with the pairing to my Shure KSE1500, serving as Analogue AUX feed (via 3.5mm SE) to the Electrostatic unit. As per expected it is nothing short of being stellar due to HAA FEE being super clean and natural (despite being a little warm-ish). The overall sonic experience decidedly analogue-ish organic yet amazingly transparent and detailed with great articulation throughout the dynamic range. It was so lifelike with great airy touch to the notes. It’s just mesmerizing.
Best Pairing: Performs the best with bright sounding partners
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3 responses to “HAA FEE”
Nice review Andy , this looks very interesting looking to add a AK chip dongle to my collection , impressive power specs , but hardly ANY reviews anywhere on this dongle looks to be a bit of a sleeper , is this a warmer sounding dac than the usual ESS dongles?
Thanks!. I would not call HAA FEE being warmer compared to ESS dongles as some ESS based dongles do sound warmer too. It is more like properly neutral and natural, washout that digital sound timbre that most ESS Sabre DAC emitted
Thanks Andy. its arriving in the next dew days so i’ll post my impressions here, it’ll take something to beat my current favourite ESS dongle the Apogee groove, as you say OLD IS GOLD, the groove has so much power to drive my 701 from my PC unlike any other dongle i have used it must be the constant current drive technology it uses, smooth analogue like sound
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