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HIFIMAN Debuts the GOLDENWAVE Prelude Reference Headphone Amplifier

Featuring both single-ended and balanced outputs, the HiFiMAN GOLDENWAVE Prelude Headphone Amplifier is now available in North America for the first time.

HiFiMAN Prelude Headphone Amplifier

HiFiMAN have already introduced three new DAC/headphone amplifiers in 2023 with a great deal of fanfare. Behind the scenes, the Chinese manufacturer had been searching for an acquisition to bolster its product lineup and we learned more about this in June with the launch of the GOLDENWAVE Seranade DAC/Headphone Amplifier.

The HiFiMAN GOLDENWAVE Prelude is not entirely new and unlike the Seranade, it does not include a DAC which feels somewhat essential in 2023 considering the price point and options available from Schiit Audio and FiiO.

Originally released by the GOLDENWAVE brand that was acquired by HIFIMAN earlier this year, the Prelude headphone amplifier ($2,499 USD), which is GOLDENWAVE’s reference headphone amplifier, boasts several features that make it rather versatile for a desktop headphone system.

HiFiMAN Prelude Headphone Amplifier Front

“Prelude is a perfect example of GOLDENWAVE’s approach to amplifier design,” says Dr. Fang Bian, President and CEO, HIFIMAN Electronics. “The reference Prelude, in particular, stands out as a performance leader at its price point.”

The Prelude is designed for personal audio and music fans who want a personal listening experience that rivals full-size, audiophile-grade in-room systems. 

The amplifier uses a fully balanced class A MOSFET design that delivers high current output, providing clean and powerful sound reproduction.

The amplifier’s circuit is fully discrete, meaning it uses individual components rather than integrated circuits. This approach can lead to better control over the audio signal and potentially improve sound quality.

It includes a precise single-ended-to-balanced conversion circuit, allowing both single-ended RCA and balanced inputs to convey the benefits of fully balanced drive, which helps reduce noise and interference, enhancing the overall audio performance.

The Prelude’s preamplifier circuit is entirely independent of the headphone stage; In order to achieved balanced tone control, the amplifier uses an ALPS quad balance potentiometer, known for its high quality and precision, to achieve a natural and balanced tone control.

Specially customized for the Prelude, the high-power and low-noise toroidal transformer provides clean and stable power to all levels of the headphone amplifier, contributing to improved sound quality.

The amplifier’s housing is made from a single piece of aluminum, helping it to isolate harmful resonances that may degrade audio performance, ensuring cleaner sound output.

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The Prelude’s frequency response is measured at 20Hz — 50KHz, +-1dB@1KHz. 

The headphone amplifier power output is 10W@32 ohms, 6W@64 ohms, 2.5W@150 ohms, 1W@300 ohms, and 560mW@600 ohms.

It measures 330mm x 56mm x 260mm/12.99” x 2.2” x 10.2”, and weighs 6.5 kg/14.3 lbs.

The Prelude is currently available at a suggested retail price of $2,499 at

Related: View all stories about HiFiMAN



  1. ORT

    July 25, 2023 at 12:06 am

    They really need to make this thing look less like a half-sized pizza box and more like something WORTH $2,500.

    It’s too late for this thing. It is not “hideous”, just plain, well…P L A I N. Electronics are meant to be non-intrusive. They neither add nor subtract from the signal. They decode and amplify depending upon whether they are a DAC or Amp. Or both.

    And they don’t have to looks stupid plain. I refuse to purchase anything that does not visually add to my pleasure because most of the time these devices are just sitting there doing nothing and cost a lot to do that.

    This thing is plain not worth it.


    • Ian White

      July 25, 2023 at 12:23 am


      I have a few issues with it. I don’t get charging $2,500 and not including a DAC. I also find the industrial design less than inspiring. I’m currently reviewing the Cambridge Evo 150/Evo CD stack and it makes me happy to see it on my credenza every morning. I also love that you can get customized wood panels for it.

      Having not heard this unit yet, I really can’t say if it is worth the money on the performance end, but I agree that design has to matter and inspire.


      Ian DaVinci

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