PROS: very small footprint with a compact design, responsive touch screen, dedicated playback buttons, bi-directional BT w/LDAC, USB DAC and Digital Out, impressive sound performance (improved over Aluminum version), FM radio and step counter.
CONS: premium price for copper chassis (and stainless steel).
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
When it comes to reviewing IEMs vs DAPs, you can review earphones even 6 months or later after the release and it will be still relevant. With DAPs it often feels like the interest is high for a month or two after the release, and then it dies out as soon as something new is announced. So, it begs the question why am I reviewing AP80, almost a year since its introduction on KS after their successful campaign with 1,800 backers? The simple answer – I just rediscovered it all over again after a brand-new Copper (Cu) version arrived at my doorstep.
I had the original AP80 Aluminum (Al) pre-production sample for a while, shared my initial impressions, but never got around to finish the full review since I was waiting to receive the final production model (cosmetic changes). I also don’t remember being as excited with Al out of the box as I was now while listening to their new Cu version, though during past year Hidizs issued a number of fw updates with various fixes and improvements. I’m not denying I’m a sucker for small gadgets, but this one definitely deserves a closer look. So, let us proceed!
Unboxing and Accessories.
I didn’t find anything fancy here; the unit arrived in a small black box. Also, because Cu version is so new, it looks like the spec on the back wasn’t even updated since it mentioned a lighter weight of Aluminum version. But regardless, it’s a small box with a foam cutout inside to keep AP80 secure during the shipment.
I think many will be more interested to find out about accessories which include Type-C usb charging/data cable, silicone skin protective case, Type C to micro-USB cable (maybe to connect to older devices), user manual, and a set of screen protectors with 2 extras while 1 was already applied.
Silicone case was a nice addition since it doesn’t add too much bulk, easy to take off, and enhances the DAP grip. But it does cover the copper finish, hiding it away. In theory, the DAP is small enough to have a secure grip in your hand even without a case. But if you need extra protection, this silicone skin case is actually not bad all.
If you want to take it to the next level, you can look into optional Hidizs leather case with arm-band. The case I received had a rich brown color leather finish, a nice match for copper sides. Got to admit, the fit was very tight, and I had to use a back of the pencil, pushing the end with eraser tip through headphone opening at the bottom to slide AP80 out.
The reason why this optional case is so tight because it intended to be used with arm-band attachment when you are working out or running or biking. It’s actually a very nice quality case with a proper cutout for playback buttons, usb port and headphone port, and enough clearance for the volume knob. Just keep in mind it has a very tight secure fit.
The small footprint of AP80 is what makes this design unique. Of course, it’s hard to beat the size of the original M0 micro DAP by Shanling, but after many months of using M0, I got a little frustrated with a small display and touch-only interface. At the same time, something like Hiby R3 or Cayin N3 was a little bigger for my mini-dap preference. AP80, similar in size to the original M1, hits the bull’s-eye for me in terms of the size, touch screen display, hardware playback buttons, and a physical volume wheel.
The main focus of the DAP is edge to edge front facing Samsung 2.45” HD IPS touch screen with a reasonable 480×360 resolution. The back of AP80 is glass as well, and the chassis around the sides are Copper in the model I’m reviewing. It is also available in either aluminum or stainless steel. As already mentioned, the DAP is very small, measuring 58x49x13.5 mm, and with weight of Al (70g), SS (97g), and Cu (100g).
Nothing is at the top, left side has spring loaded micro SD card slot (capable to support the latest high capacity flash cards), and at the bottom you have USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone port. USB-C can be used to connect AP80 as usb DAC, used as a Digital out transport, and can transfer data as well as charge the device (type-C fast charge). Headphone output is single-ended and can also accommodate headphones with in-line remote (needs to be enabled in settings) and could be also configured as Line Out (with a fixed max volume output).
The right side is where you have a volume knob at the top, Japanese ALPS. The volume knob has a nice click action as you turn in and some resistance for a better control which requires two fingers for a proper use. Volume knob also functions as a power button, long press to turn on/off, short press to turn display on/off. My only gripe here is that on some occasions turning the volume up/down also turned the display on/off. I was careful not to press the wheel itself, so not sure what happened. Not the end of the world since I preferred anyway to use touch screen volume adjustment which pops up as soon as I start turning the wheel.
Below volume knob, you have 3 identical hw playback control buttons with Play/Pause in the middle and skip/forward/back above and below it. The buttons are not marked, but it’s not hard to figure them out. Skip forward/back buttons had a more tactile click response, while play/pause was a little softer. Not sure if this was just my review pre-production unit, or it was intended by design. Also, these buttons don’t just skip forward/back with a single click, they also fast forward/back when you press and hold them.