I analyzed R5 sound with U18t while playing a variety of my favorite test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ariana Grande “Break up with your girlfriend”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”. Prior to staring my sound analysis, I let R5 play in a loop for 4-5 days.
R5 DAP has a more neutral natural tonality. The sound has good dynamics, with a decent vertical expansion of the peaks and a good layering and separation of sounds, though don’t expect too much airiness between layers. It’s not on the same level as some high-end flagships, but the performance is solid.
Thanks to a black background, the transient response of notes on/off has a clean transition, and I was also very pleased to hear no hissing (or just a very minimum) with a number of sensitive low impedance IEMs. Considering its high output power, R5 was tuned to keep the hissing low even in high gain on 4.4mm BAL output.
The soundstage has a little more intimacy because I hear the sound being more spacious in depth (more out of your head feeling) rather than width. Soundstage width is above average, just not as wide as in some other DAPs. But that doesn’t stop R5 from having accurate imaging with a good precision in placement of instruments and vocals.
3.5mm vs 4.4mm output.
The change in the sound going from SE to BAL is not too drastic. Besides the obvious difference in power where I have to raise the volume up with 3.5mm to match the same level with 4.4mm, I do hear BAL (4.4mm) to have a little more transparency (3.5mm is a little warmer in comparison) and to be a touch wider in soundstage.
Using 64 Audio U18t as my IEMs, I volume matched in each comparison and noted the following changes while testing each DAP pair. Please keep in mind, I’m describing the sound relative to U18t.
R5 (4.4mm) vs FiiO M11 (4.4mm) – Didn’t know what to expect in this comparison, considering these should be in the same price and performance category. To my HUGE surprise, they sound very close. From nearly the same soundstage expansion in both width and depth, to a very similar dynamics expansion and layering of the sounds. Even tonality is nearly the same. The only giveaway when doing A/B comparison was when I pause/idle, I can hear M11 slight hissing while R5 was nearly dead quiet. While M11 has a bigger display and dual micro SD (though with high capacity flash card, that’s no longer relevant), R5 is smaller, lighter, more compact, hiss-free with sensitive IEMs, has Google Play (while M11 doesn’t), and even cheaper in price, while sounding nearly the same.
R5 (4.4mm) vs Cayin N5iiS (2.5mm) – Both have a similar soundstage expansion in depth, with N5iiS being just a touch wider. Also, have a similar technical performance, though I do hear N5iiS having some improvement in dynamics and layering of the sound, with a little more air between the layers. The overall tonality is very similar, especially in mids where it’s nearly identical, but with bass N5iiS has a little more slam, especially in mid-bass. Also, N5iiS treble is just a little brighter, crisper. Overall, both are compact DAPs, but R5 has fully open Android and a much faster interface, while N5iiS has a more high-res fun tuning.
R5 (4.4mm) vs Shanling M5s (2.5mm) – Starting with a soundstage, these are very similar, just with M5s having a touch more width, while depth is the same. Technical performance is also very similar when it comes to vertical dynamics of the sound expansion, along with layering and separation of the sounds. But the difference in tonality is quite noticeable. M5s has a warm tonality with a sound being more colored while in comparison R5 is more neutral and more transparent. Also, relative to using U18t in sound analysis, M5s has more bass slam, with both sub-bass and mid-bass being more elevated in comparison to a more neutral R5. Of course, in general, R5 is Android based with Google play and access to apps, while M5s is lacking all that.
R5 (4.4mm) vs theBit Opus#1S (2.5mm) – Starting with a soundstage, these are very similar, though I do hear #1S having a touch more width, while depth is the same. Technical performance is also very close, I hear a similar vertical dynamics expansion, and a similar layering and separation of the sound. The tonality is where I hear some difference, but relatively to U18t, most of the difference is in mids/vocals where #1S sounds brighter and dryer, not as refined, while R5 has a richer, more natural tonality. I was curious about this comparison because both use a dual CS43198 DAC. While there are similarities in sound, I find R5 mids to be more refined and more natural. Plus, R5 is a fully open Android DAP with Google Play access.
R5 (4.4mm) vs Hiby R6Pro (4.4mm) – Last, but not least, is R5 big brother – R6Pro. Starting with a soundstage, while R5 is above average in width and deepth, R6Pro soundstage stretches even wider when comparing their balanced outputs. Both have a similar quality imaging. In terms of a technical performance, R6Pro has an edge, as it should, with the sound being more dynamic and layered, but R5 is not too far behind. In tonality, I hear a difference with R6Pro having a little more impact in bass, slamming a little harder while both have a fast and articulate low end response. Mids sounds brighter and more revealing in R6Pro while R5 mids are smoother and a little more musical. Treble response is nearly the same. In terms of technical performance, R6Pro still has the upper flagship hand, but at nearly half the price, smaller, and lighter R5 has a very decent mid-fi level performance and also nearly dead quiet balanced output while R6Pro has some hissing with sensitive low impedance iems.