Mis à jour le 24 January 2023.
FiiO, HiFiMAN, Shanling, Cayin, Aune Audio, iBasso, Xiaomi, TCL, Hisense… You may not be familiar with all of these names, however, these brands have taken the audio and video industry by storm.
What do they have in common? They are all Chinese.
Their goal: to win over the hearts of audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts across the world.
China has long been the factory of the West, mostly due to the very low cost of labour. Many European and American companies relocated production to China so they could provide consumers with attractively priced TVs, speakers, hi-fi devices and all sorts of electronic devices.
But the reputation of goods with the “Made in China” label has suffered for many years from the plethora of cheap merchandise of questionable quality that has flooded the market. As a result, it isn’t rare to see a wry smile when someone is told that a product is made in China. The implication being: “it must be of poor quality”.
However, China is bursting with brands specializing in sound and image, often young technological start-ups but also older brands that excel in a variety of fields: portable audio DACs, DAPs, hi-fi headphones, in-ear headphones, hi-fi tube amplifiers, 4K Ultra HD TVs, AV network streamers and projectors.
Founded in 2007, the Chinese company FiiO rapidly gained an excellent reputation thanks to its first portable audio DAC, the FiiO Alpen E17. Today, the manufacturer offers a wide range of portable hi-fi devices with remarkable audio qualities, including headphone amplifiers, portable headphone amplifiers, DAPs, earphones and Bluetooth receivers.
Among FiiO’s iconic products are the FiiO M11, FiiO M11 Plus II and FiiO M17 DAPs, the FiiO FH3, FiiO FA7S and FiiO FA9 in-ear monitors, but also the FiiO KA1-TC and FiiO KA2-TC portable DACs.
The HiFiMAN company was founded in late 2005 by Dr Fang Bian while he was still living in New York. First named Head-Direct, it officially began using the name HiFiMAN in 2007. Two small production units emerged in China in 2010 before the headquarters were moved to Tianjin in 2011.
HiFiMAN mainly produces hi-fi headphones featuring Planar Magnetic technology, such as the HiFiMAN Jade and HiFiMAN Shangri-La Jr Headphone, which are acclaimed by the specialized press. As these headphones have a low sensitivity rating, a headphone amplifier is a must. Because few models on the market were able to fully explore the potential of HiFiMAN headphones, the Chinese manufacturer decided to produce specially adapted headphone amplifiers.
Among the products in HiFiMAN’s catalog, the HiFiMAN Sundara, HiFiMAN Ananda Stealth Magnet and HiFiMAN Shangri-La Jr headphones rank high on audiophile wish-lists.
Founded in 1988, Shanling is a high tech company that designs, develops and produces DAPs, portable headphone amplifiers, hi-fi IEMs CD/SA-CD players, hi-fi amplifiers and many other hi-fi devices.
Notably, the brand has produced the high-end Shanling M3 Ultra DAP (32-bit/384kHz DAC, DSD256, USB DAC mode) and the very compact Shanling M0Pro. These two models are a big success and allow you to enjoy Hi-Res music on the go.
The Chinese manufacturer’s expertise is currently illustrated through its portable audio catalog that includes many DAPs, inlcuding the Shanling M6 (21), one of the best references on the market. To accompany the latter, the manufacturer also offers many IEMs, such as the Shanling ME80, Shanling ME200 and the high-end Shanling ME900. Shanling also lets you improve the listening experience with a smartphone thanks to its Shanling UA1s USB-C, Shanling UA2 USB-C and Shanling UA5 portable DACs.
More recently, Shanling has also made a name for itself in the traditional hi-fi market with the Shanling EA5 Streaming Music Center connected amp and its headphone version, the Shanling EM5 Streaming Music Center. They can access music shared over the local network as well as streaming services, and can be paired with many sources, including the Shanling EC3 CD Player.
Cayin is one of the first Chinese high fidelity brands to have conquered the West, especially with its tube hi-fi amplifiers that are regularly lauded by the specialized press for their natural and lively sound.
Cayin was founded in 1993 with the goal of producing the best audio equipment possible at competitive prices. Since then, the manufacturer has developed several hundred devices, including headphone amplifiers, tube hi-fi amplifiers, preamplifiers, stereo hi-fi amplifiers and CD players. More recently, Cayin has expanded its catalog with DAPs, USB DACs, audio network players and portable headphone amplifiers.
Among the Chinese manufacturer’s most popular stereo hi-fi amplifiers are the Cayin CS-55A EL34, which also has a vacuum tube version using KT88 tubes (Cayin CS-55A KT88). We were very impressed by the latter during our review (discover our review of the Cayin CS-55 KT88).
Equipped with a pair of iconic 300B tubes and a dedicated external power supply, the Cayin HA-300 MKII headphone amplifier is also a reference in its field. As for the Cayin N8ii DAP, it remains one of the best models available on the market today thanks to its dual amplification system: tubes and transistors.
Aune Audio is one of China’s leading companies specializing in high quality digital audio. It is famous for its headphone amplifiers (the Aune Audio X7S, for example) and its USB audio DACs (including the 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512 compatible Aune Audio X8 XVIII BT DAC). Aune Audio products combine an attractive design with solid technical specs to deliver great audio quality at a reasonable price.
The iBasso brand is very popular with traveling audiophiles, who have enjoyed its high-quality DAPs for over a decade. Founded in 2006, iBasso Audio also specializes in designing and manufacturing amplified portable audio DACs and in-ear headphones.
In 2011, iBasso successfully bypassed the ALSA Android driver and developed the world’s first Android-powered DAP with 24-bit/192kHz compatibility: the iBasso DX100. Today, iBasso’s range of DAPs includes many models that are true references in their price range, such as the iBasso DX170, iBasso DX240 and the excellent iBasso DX320. To suit the user’s preferences, many iBasso DAPs are equipped with a removable amplification section that can be replaced by the iBasso AMP8 and iBasso AMP13 modules.
Sivga and Sendy Audio
Founded in 2016, Sivga Electronic is a well-known name in the headphone industry. It is the brainchild of two childhood friends: Mr. Rongchun Pan and Mr. Jian Zhou. The latter is recognized in the world of high-end headphones, as he has been an R&D director for very big names such as Sennheiser, Bose and Sony for more than 20 years. Mr. PAN has been a passionate headphone enthusiast and audiophile for many years. His keen ear and his quest for the perfect sound have made him an expert in designing his own headphones.
Sivga Electronics currently has two brands whose products are entirely developed and manufactured at its factory: Sivga Audio and Sendy Audio. While Sivga mainly focuses on entry-level headphones, Sendy offers high-end models equipped with Planar Magnetic technology.
Xiaomi was founded in April 2010 as a software company to create a new custom ROM based on Android. The goal was to provide an operating system for smartphones with additional features that Android did not yet offer with an intuitive interface. MIUI, the ROM created by the team, has become a huge success and has been implemented on many smartphones.
In 2011, Xiaomi released the Mi One smartphone. The company demonstrated that it could not only create its own software, but also produce its own devices. With the Mi One, Xiaomi offered a high-end smartphone at a very competitive price. Making the best technology accessible to everyone has been the company’s philosophy since its creation.
Over the years, Xiaomi made a name for itself in the mobile telephone market before branching out. Today, the Chinese manufacturer’s catalog is extremely diverse: smartphones, smart objects (light bulbs, lamps, detectors, cameras, smart bracelets), small household appliances, electric scooters, headphones, video projectors, network media players… You can even find luggage! Their electric scooter is possibly one of the most popular models in the world. You’ve probably already come across one, if you don’t own one yourself!
The design and finish of its products, which are always highly sophisticated, as well as their intuitive functionality, have even earned Xiaomi the nickname of Chinese Apple. In the audio-video sector, Xiaomi stands out with several projectors, including the Xiaomi Mi 4K Laser Projector 150″ ultra-short throw model with Android TV.
The Chinese manufacturer also offers several network media players, including the mini Xiaomi TV Stick 4K and the more exhaustive Xiaomi Mi TV Box S 4K. The latter are ideal for enjoying streaming services with a non-smart television or projector.
Also in the video industry, China stands out with the brand TCL, which is the leader in the domestic television market. After developing in China in the 80s and 90s, the brand entered the international arena in the 2000s. TCL is now the second biggest television brand. The manufacturer creates LCD LED and QLED TVs that offer unparalleled value for money, such as the TCL 65X925, TCL 75QLED760 and TCL 85P731 models.
To accompany its televisions, TCL also provides several soundbars, ranging from the simple TCL TS8111 stereo model to the 7.1.4 channel Dolby Atmos compatible TCL X937U, capable of delivering 3D surround sound.
Founded in 1969, the Chinese company Hisense is also part of the TV and projector market. In 2017, Hisense acquired Toshiba’s television branch to accelerate the development of OLED technology, something that is currently expressed through the Hisense 65A85H and Hisense 65A9H models. The manufacturer’s catalog also includes many QLED models, including the 191cm Hisense 75U9GQ and Hisense 75A7GQ TVs.
The company from the port city of Qingdao also has a strong reputation in the projection industry, where it dominates the Laser TV market with many acclaimed models such as the Hisense 100L9G-D12 Laser TV, Hisense 120L5F-A12 Laser TV and Hisense 90L5HD Laser TV.
Quality Chinese equipment
It goes without saying that not all audio and video devices made in China are created equal. You can often find poor-quality devices in supermarket high-tech aisles that perpetuate the negative reputation of “Made in China” products.
But you shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! There are many Chinese hi-fi and high-tech manufacturers who are passionate about their trade and who strive to produce sophisticated, elegant and high-performance devices.
Don’t hesitate to try these devices in one of the many Son-Vidéo.com stores. They are proof of how the Chinese market has truly reinvented itself.