In the following pair up testing I tried R5 with various IEMs and full size headphones, to analyze the synergy of this DAP with different monitors including low impedance and higher sensitivity, and more demanding higher impedance and harder to drive dynamic and planar magnetic headphones.
Campfire Audio Andromeda – wide soundstage with a little more depth; balanced sound signature with a smoother natural tonality and excellent retrieval of details; good bass extension with a punchy mid-bass, more neutral lower mids with a good amount of body, detailed revealing upper mids/vocals, crisp well-defined treble without any harsh peaks. Just a slight “waterfall” hissing when idling or volume is very low.
Campfire Audio Solaris – wide soundstage with a good balance between width and depth; balanced sound sig with a natural revealing tonality and excellent retrieval of details; deep sub-bass extension with a decent amount of rumble and authorative mid-bass punch, neutral lower mids with a good amount of body, natural revealing upper mids/vocals, crisp detailed and well defined treble without any harsh peaks. Just a slight “waterfall” hissing when idling or volume is very low.
64 Audio U18t – above average soundstage width with more depth than width; slightly mid-forward signature with a natural revealing tonality; good low-end extension with a more neutral rumble and impact, neutral lower mids with a good amount of body, natural detailed upper mids/vocals, extended natural well defined and controlled treble. No hissing.
64 Audio Fourte Noir – above average soundstage width with more depth than width; more v-shaped signature with warmer tonality; deep sub-bass rumble and harder hitting mid-bass punch, warmer thicker lower mids with more body, natural detailed upper mids, crisp airy treble. No hissing.
ZEN Omega Edition (ZOE) – above average soundstage width with more depth than width; balanced signature with a warmer thicker tonality; laidback relaxed bass, thicker body lower mids, smooth organic clear upper mids, slightly rolled off treble but still with a good smooth definition. R5 was driving these 320ohm earbuds with ease, but a little more on a warner thicker side.
Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd – didn’t expect these full-size Tesla drivers to pair up that well with R5, but they did! Soundstage is wide (surprise!), almost on a holographic level; signature is nicely balanced and with a natural revealing tonality; bass extends with a deep sub-bass rumble and mid-bass punches through the mix with a good speed, overall bass is fast, deep, and articulate, lower mids are neutral with a nice amount of body, upper mids are natural, very detailed, treble is crisp and extended with a nice airy sparkle. I was pleasantly surprised with a synergy of this pair up.
Audeze EL8C – wide soundstage with a little more depth than width; signature is more mid-forward and the sound is brighter, thinner, a little drier; bass is very neutral, not as much sub-bass, lower mids are lean and upper mids/vocals are on a brighter more revealing side, treble is very crisp and with extra sparkle and unfortunately with a few harsher lower treble peaks that give the sound a metallic sheen. This particular pair up with planar magnetic drivers wasn’t good.
Meze Empyrean – another big surprise how well R5 was able to drive Empyrean (only 40/100 volume in high gain). Soundstage was wide and expanded in every direction; signature is very balanced, more w-shaped with a balanced emphasis on lows/mids/highs, tonality is revealing and quite natural but a little more on a brighter side; bass extended low with a deep sub-bass rumble, mid-bass had a good solid punch, lower mids were neutral with a nice body, upper mids/vocals were natural but also quite revealing with a very good retrieval of details, treble was crisp, airy, and well controlled and well defined. While Empyrean sounded a little brighter here, the pair up was very enjoyable.
If you want to use R5 with an external portable amp, you need to switch to LO in Audio settings for corresponding port. If you want to use R5 as a digital transport, just connect USB-C OTG cable and it works by default.
While testing R5 LO w/FiiO E12A portable amp, I hear a clean transparent sound and some improvement in soundstage width. Very important here is that LO could be adjusted with a volume from R5 which is a big plus if you are connecting to external amp without volume control, like Oriolus BA300S portable 4.4mm balanced tube amp.
While testing R5 USB-C w/iFi micro iDSD, the pair up was flawless, just connect and start using R5 as a transport to drive this external DAC/amp. I found this pair up to be very good, with a similar natural tonality as R5, but on top of that an improved dynamics and soundstage expansion.
For a Bluetooth wireless pair up, I used Sennheiser Momentum 2 Wireless headphones (HD1 M2 AEBT). The initial pair up was fast and later it paired up automatically every time headphones where turned on. R5 notification bar was showing battery status of headphones, I found the operating range to be about 40ft, and I was able to control volume, play/pause, and skip tracks from Momentum 2 headphones. The sound was very transparent, crystal clear, with a nice sub-bass rumble. Typically, Momentum 2 wireless sounds a little warmer, perhaps extra transparency here was due to aptX HD pair up which was enabled on R5.
With access to WiFi, you can run any streaming service, of course. I don’t have any premium accounts, at least not yet, so my testing is usually limited to a free Spotify account. Here the sound was on par with playing the same tracks from micro SD storage. And as I was typing this review, Hiby just made the announcement that later in September their R5 DAP will be officially MQA enabled, assuming with upcoming fw update.
I did start my review on a bit of a negative note because DAP market is saturated, and people are overwhelmed, based on what I hear from my readers. And while being “overwhelmed” with too many choices can drive some audio enthusiasts crazy, it can also push manufacturers to be more competitive, trying to come up with something different and more unique, to stand out from crowd in order to be noticed.
While R5 certainly does sound good and has a very fast performance fueled by its Snapdragon processor, I think what makes it standout is a very compact pocket friendly size. On top of that, add the flexibility of both 3.5mm and 4.4mm Headphone and LO outputs. The Android benchmark performance is nearly identical to R6Pro, you have access to Google Play store and all the apps, you can use it with your aptX/HD and LDAC headphones or as BT wireless LDAC receiver, you can stream (MQA coming soon) or play from local storage (supporting up to 512GB uSD), you can use it as a digital transport or pair its LO with external amp and adjust the output from R5. Its audio performance will not outpace other flagships, but its design flexibility and the number of features is quite impressive on the go!