The Android champ!
PROS: solid build, reference quality sound tuning, balanced output, fast android performance, beautiful display.
CONS: high output impedance (needs iEMatch in some pair ups), firmware is almost there.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
It probably sounds cliché, but you have to be living under a rock if you never heard of Hiby. Maybe not as well known yet for their hardware, Hiby has been behind many DAP releases (FiiO, Cayin, Shanling, Hidizs, Questyle, and others) with their custom firmware, as well as their own popular music app for smartphones. And thanks to their Android OS software workaround, many of these DAPs are free of Sample Rate Conversion (SRC) limitation which down-samples the audio. I guess it was only a matter of time before they decided to release their own DAP – Hiby R6. Considering the accumulated experience while working with other DAP manufacturers, Hiby did their homework to come up with an impressive hardware spec to boost the Android performance, something you would expect from higher end smartphones.
In their debut release, Hiby decided to introduce R6 DAP through Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, giving the project more exposure with a help of social media. The campaign was successful, over 575% funded, but a real surprise came later when they announced the shipment of the first batch of aluminum alloy R6 ahead of the proposed schedule – very rare for any crowdfunding campaign. Of course, nothing is perfect, and Hiby design decision of high output impedance did raise questions in audiophile community. But I found it to be not the end of the world, if you got iEMatch handy, and I will go into more details when discussing R6 pair up with numerous headphones in corresponding section of my write up. Now, let’s proceed to the review.
Unboxing and Accessories.
Here, unboxing was straight forward, with a basic black compact sturdy box, and R6 under the cover in a secure foam cutout. All the included accessories and documentation was underneath, found at the bottom of the box once you take the foam tray out. The back of the box had detailed highlights of the features with a graphic thumbnail illustration of each one.
The included accessories are basic, yet useful. You get “Hiby” branded usb-c charging/data cable (decent quality), and line out coax cable to connect digital output to external DAC/amp coax input (longer cable with a durable shielding). 3.5mm to 3.5mm line out audio cable was not included, though would have been appropriate here. You also get extra high-res stickers and a screen protector, while a pair on the front and the back has been already applied to R6. Plus, included is a pin-tool required to open the concealed uSD door to take out the tray with a flash card.
As part of Indiegogo stretch goals, a silicone case and tempered glass screen protector were also included. Silicone case is basic cheap case with covered buttons. It’s actually not bad to enhance the grip and provide friction when placed on the surface, but it’s not as “glamorous” as a leather case. Tempered glass has an advantage over a regular protection film in case if you have a direct impact which absorbs the shock, shattering only the tempered glass instead of the display.
The leather case is optional and cost $24 when ordered from IGG page. It has a dark blue color which from a distance almost looks black, and made of full-grain leather with felt inner lining to protect R6 metal finish from scratches. It has a slide-in design from the top, keeping the top fully open, and has generous cutouts around the buttons on both sides to allow direct access while keeping buttons recessed and safe from accidental pressing. It also has a generous opening at the bottom for usb-c port access. I like this case.
MITER is also working on a case for R6, to be released soon. Their cases are well known for their signature magnetic kickstand, as well as quality soft leather and secure fit. Kickstand is great when watching movies or videos, maybe even when listening to music with wireless headphones. The problem is that many DAPs don’t have an adequate hardware to support smooth playback of movies/videos like you would expect on your smartphone. Hiby R6, with its powerful Snapdragon processor and 3GB of RAM, is actually perfect for that and kickstand addition is a welcome enhancement.
The case I received for testing is their prototype, with a final product to be available soon (actually, already available HERE). As expected, the leather material is soft and smooth, the construction is durable and lightweight. The DAP gets inserted from the top, where the case is fully open. The left side has covered Volume buttons with an imprinted +/- which is easy to ID by swiping a finger. The right side has power button open, for a clear view of LED light, and the Playback (play/pause and skip) buttons are covered with corresponding imprint of functionality symbol. Again, buttons are easy to feel by sliding your finger. The bottom has a generous usb-c port opening to accommodate different cables.
In comparison to a stock Hiby leather case, MITER case has a rounded sides with a more comfortable and secure grip. The kickstand panel on the back does add to the thickness, about 2mm. Though magnetic flap of the kickstand opens up to keep R6 in portrait orientation at about 45deg, you can also rotate R6 to view in landscape without a problem. The “Tw6” imprint on the back was customized just for my case.
Comparison to Hiby leather case.
The fit with R6.
But, the #1 Recommended accessory for R6 is iFi Audio iEMatch, a very compact durable pigtail dongle which reduces the output impedance and nearly eliminates the issue of R6 high OI. It’s available in 3.5mm and 2.5mm variants, where you can also get a cut-down 3.5mm Ear Buddy version with a similar functionality.
To make their DAP pocket friendly, Hiby kept design very straight forward and slick. You have a typical “smartphone” rectangular bar shape, 116 x 66 x 15 mm in size with 190g (aluminum alloy) or 275g (stainless steel) in weight, and 4.2″ touch screen display occupying the front and glass panel on the back. While all the internal design/components are the same, you have a choice of either aluminum alloy or stainless steel (316L high-impact) chassis. Unlike some other DAPs, Hiby doesn’t claim any sound difference between these two.
While the general shape of the DAP is rectangular, the top and the bottom has this slight recessed arc shape to give it a more unique look. The sides have a little rounded shape for a more comfortable grip, though I still prefer to keep it in the case to make it less slippery, especially with a glass back. Using a case enhances the grip and prevents it from sliding across a flat surface.
Left upper side of the DAP has Volume up/down (+/-) nice concave-in buttons with a tactile response. Keep in mind, once you press the button to change the volume, you also get on-screen volume touch control which you can slide up/down for a faster adjustment. Toward the lower corner of the left side, you have a concealed micro-SD card slot which opens with an included accessory pin. It’s a small tray which is flush with chassis, keeping the card secure and dust free, similar to smartphone mechanism.
Right side has Power button at the top with a multi-color LED which indicates charging, playback, and different types of playback hi-res formats. Below it is 3 playback control buttons with a larger Play/Pause in the middle and smaller Skip Next/Previous above and below it. All the buttons have concave-in shape, etched with a corresponding functionality (except for Power button), rattle free, and have a very tactile click response. I like how they vary in size for an easier ID as you slide your finger, and I also appreciate the ergonomics of asymmetrical layout.
The bottom of R6 has usb-c port which becoming more popular with DAPs and allows high speed/current QC charging and faster data transfer. Plus, this port is used not only for charging, but also data transfer, USB DAC input functionality, and Digital Output transport control. The top of R6 has 3.5mm port which doubles as Line Out (LO) and Coax outputs (selected from audio settings menu). Next to it you have 3.5mm single ended (SE) headphone output and 2.5mm balanced (BAL) headphone output. Btw, I didn’t find any screws accessible from the surface.
Under the hood.
As I mentioned in the intro, Hiby did their homework and picked top performance components. To ensure the Android 6.0 OS runs smoothly, Hiby stepped it up with Snapdragon 425 SoC Processor and 3GB of DDR3 RAM. While some other DAPs use 1GB RAM just to make sure you can run a streaming app, or 2GB of RAM to be able to run other apps, 3GB of RAM doesn’t just enable you to run all apps, but to run it as efficient and as responsive like you would have with your smartphone. Internal storage is limited to 32GB, that’s a pity, but you have uSD expansion to support the latest max capacity card. Plus, wifi streaming and LAN support expands the playback variety.
Audio processing is under control of dual ESS ES9028Q2M DAC, SoundPlus OPA1612 audio opamp (2x used as Low Pass filter), and TPA6120a (2x hi-fi stereo headphone amp) driving both single ended 3.5mm HO (120mW @ 32ohm, 118dB SNR) and balanced 2.5mm HO (300mW @ 32ohm, 120dB SNR). That’s quite an impressive and powerful spec, though output impedance here is on a high side at 10 ohms. With a spec like this, you can play majority of hi-res lossless formats, such as FLAC, APE, WMA, WAV, ALAC, Apple LOSSLESS, DSF, DSDIFF where you have native support/decoding of DSD 128/256 and PCM up to 32bit/384kHz, as well as support of ISO DSD. Plus, support of lossy formats, such as MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG. Keep in mind, Hiby mentions to be able to bypass Android sample-rate conversion to ensure bit-perfect output from any app.
Its 4.2-inch touch screen IPS display is high-density 300 dpi, with an impressive resolution of 768×1280, supporting 16 million colors, and wide viewing angle. I know, these are just spec numbers, but when you look at the display, especially that color-splash wallpaper with its deep/rich colors, you will understand and appreciate the meaning of this spec. Furthermore, for a wireless connection, you have dual-band (2.4G and 5G) WiFi radio, and Bluetooth 4.x with aptX codec support.
The provided battery has 4000 mAh capacity and supports quick charging (QC 3.0) standard (140min to full charge), where you can use either DC 5V/2.5A or 9V/1.5A. While Hiby mentioned about 12hrs battery life which is impressive for high performance touch screen Android DAP, I actually found this number to be a little on a conservative side where in my best- case scenario I was able to get even more out of battery.
Before timing the battery performance, I let R6 run a few charge/discharge cycles to make sure battery is fully calibrated. I started with U18t and single ended cable, low gain, playing MP3 (320kbps, 44.1k/16bit) in a loop at a reasonable volume level with a display off, only occasionally turning it on to check the battery percentage. During this test, I got 12.5 hours of play time with 3% battery juice remaining. Later, I realized that I never turned the WiFi off, which I’m sure contributed to additional battery drain, thus making me believe that a best-case scenario would have been closer to 13hrs of total playback time.
Next, I switched to CFA Vega with a balanced cable, in high gain, WiFi radio on, pushing volume higher to drive these lower sensitivity IEMs harder while playing hi-res FLAC file in a loop. The result was 7hrs and 45min of playback time. Still not bad for this relatively worst-case scenario, though I’m sure with DSD files it would have been even lower, as expected. Btw, having LED indicator built into a Power button is quite convenient to get “visual” confirmation if you are playing a hi-res file without turning the DAP on.