A pocket streamer!
PROS: access to Tidal and Qobuz streaming, full MQA decoding, sound quality, compact size, battery life, two-way Bluetooth w/LDAC, balanced output.
CONS: old-style T9 touch keyboard layout (a bit of a pain dealing with wi-fi and tidal/qobuz login).
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
It used to be easy grouping DAPs into entry, mid-fi, and summit-fi categories. Today, we have mid-fi priced DAPs approaching flagship level of performance, and I also see more entry level DAPs crossing the mid-fi line. These feature-packed entry level DAPs have been very popular with the crowd of active lifestyle audio enthusiasts who value compact size and wireless Bluetooth performance, and not as picky about the sound quality.
Introduced in the spring of last year through crowdfunding campaign, the original R3 gained a lot of attention since it had a big enough display for easy viewing and navigation, and still a very compact and pocket friendly size, and even a balanced output. But one of the important features of R3 was a support of WiFi and built-in Tidal app for a portable streaming. Later, Hiby also added support of Qobuz, even so I still find people who are not aware of that.
With a recent release of R5 and the buzz around the upcoming R8 flagship, I think the release of R3 Pro flew under the radar. Perhaps, some assumed that “Pro” is a small upgrade, but I found it to be the opposite. After spending the last few weeks listening to R3 Pro on the go and using it to stream Qobuz, I think this little guy deserves more attention. So, let’s proceed with a review.
Unboxing and Accessories.
Arrived in a small compact black gift box with a white exterior sleeve, the unboxing experience of R3 Pro is very basic. There is no picture or any graphics on the front cover, and on the back, you will find only a very limited spec. With a sleeve off and a foam-lined box cover removed, R3 Pro is sitting securely in a foam cutout to make sure it arrives safely on your doorstep.
Underneath, you will find the accessories which include detailed user instructions, film and tempered glass screen protectors, quality usb-c data/charging cable, and a plastic back cover. An optional leather case is available for purchase; since this is a budget priced model, one wasn’t included.
The included snap-on back cover, which you can consider to be like a case, has a transparent frosted finish, better looking than R3 white cover, and still good enough to enhance the grip of this little DAP.
When it comes to R3 Pro exterior design, it is nearly identical to its R3 predecessor. We are talking about the same size of 82 x 61 x 13mm, and the same weight of about 95g. The front of the DAP is still occupied with the same 3.2” IPS touch display, and at the bottom you will find a spring-loaded micro-SD slot and USB-C port.
The left side still has the volume up/down button, and the right side has a power button at the top, LED light below it (indicating charging status and file format to distinguish lossy vs lossless), and a cluster of three transport control buttons (Play/Pause in the middle and Skip above and below it). At the top, you will find 3.5mm HO/LO port and 2.5mm HO balanced output.
The only visual change is a gold-plated ring around 2.5mm port.
All the changes are hidden under the hood.