I analyzed R3 Pro sound using U18t IEM 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”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, Galantis “Hunter”, 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”. At the time of sound analysis, I had close to 100hrs between burn in and playback time.
I found R3 Pro to have a neutral sound signature with a more transparent and slightly more revealing tonality. In various pair up examples with IEMs and headphones, I found the sound of R3 Pro to have good dynamics (vertical expansion); the sound didn’t feel compressed or saturated. The soundstage expansion is also very wide, especially from BAL output, leading to a relatively accurate imaging and placement of sounds in space. I find layering and separation of sounds to be not bad at all, maybe not on the same level as their R6 Pro flagship, but closer to R5. Also, very important to me, I hear a black background with no hissing, even with sensitive IEMs from high power balanced output.
As far as the sound difference between 3.5mm and 2.5mm ports, the one that stands out to my ears is the soundstage width, with a balanced port having a noticeably wider expansion. I can also hear a little more transparency in mids (less coloring) and slightly blacker background listening from a balanced port. This was tested with the same pair of IEMs, playing the same track, and volume matched between SE and BAL ports.
Of course, the sound will depend on pair up synergy and the tuning of IEMs and headphones you are using with R3 Pro. Thus, to further analyze the performance of this DAP, I will continue with Pair up examples and Comparison to other DAPs in the follow up sections of the review.
In the below examples, I tried a variety of different IEMs and full-size headphones to see how well they pair up with R3 Pro. Volume (v), Gain (HG or LG), and Single Ended (SE) or Balanced (BAL) were noted as well.
64 Audio U18t (v29, LG, BAL) – wide soundstage, a nicely balanced signature with a more natural revealing tonality. I can hear a solid black background, and no hissing what so ever. Actually, a pretty good pair up on the go.
Empire Ears Legend X (v32, LG, BAL) – wide/deep soundstage, a typical L-shaped signature with a booming bass, a little more overpowering which should put a smile on basshead audiophiles, but once you go to MSEB and make Bass Extension about “-20” light, the bass is reduced to a more enjoyable level with signature being more balanced. Of course, this is a matter of a personal sound preference, but it also shows that LX responds great to MSEB effects.
Campfire Audio Solaris (v25, LG, BAL) – wide soundstage, crisp airy sound with a more revealing tonality. Also, I hear a fast, articulate bass punch, leaner detailed mids/vocals, and crisp airy treble. But the most important part – zero hissing. Hiss-free pair up with sensitive iems, like Solaris and Andro, is an important requirement for many audiophiles, and R3 Pro with its black background passes this test without a problem.
Audio-Technica ATH-R70x (v64, HG, SE) – no issues driving these 470ohm open back large dynamic driver headphones even from single ended output. The sound was very open, natural, and detailed. It was more on a smoother side, so perhaps it wasn’t driven to its full potential. But still, this was surprisingly a very enjoyable pair up, even with extra headroom in volume.
Meze Empyrean (v46, HG, BAL) – no issues driving these planar cans either, except tonality was a bit thinner, lacking some body and having a little more relaxed bass punch, so not exactly driven to their full potential either. But again, not a bad pair up at all if you want a portable streaming source on the go – the sound was still quite enjoyable.
I was using U18t in this comparison, volume matched in every case, and the focus was mostly on sound performance, though I added a few additional thoughts to cover other features. Each of these DAPs has their own Pros/Cons when it comes to features, all of which should be taken into consideration depending on your priorities and personal preference. Also, I will start off with R3 Pro vs R3 comparison in more details, and then continue with other DAPs.
R3 Pro vs R3 – Both DAPs have a more neutral, natural sound, but there are some differences. Pro has a little wider soundstage, while the perception of the soundstage depth is the same. Pro has a stronger and faster bass impact, making the bass sound tighter and more articulate. Also, I hear Pro having a little more revealing upper mids/vocals, while treble is identical to R3. In comparison, R3 bass is a little more neutral and slightly more relaxed, and mids sound a little smoother. Another difference is Pro having better dynamics, with the sound having some improvements in vertical expansion of peaks, giving it more room to breathe, while R3 feels a bit more compressed. It’s not a huge difference, but after hours of A/B comparison with resolving IEMs, like U18t, I can hear the difference in a blind test (which I actually did multiple times).
Other differences and similarities worth mentioning: there is a noticeable difference in power where I had Pro about 8-9 clicks lower in volume when compared to R3, both playing the same track, volume matched. Battery drain difference is also noticeable since Pro last longer. You will also spot different digital filters, associated with corresponding DACs between Pro and original version. A cosmetic difference where Pro has a golden plate outside of its 2.5mm BAL socket while R3 is plastic. Similarities here are mostly based around physical dimension/appearance and Hiby OS where both support Tidal and Qobuz, have Pedometer, MSEB, and E-books in txt format.
Other DAP comparisons.
R3 Pro vs theBit Opus #1S – a lot of similarities here, from nearly the same soundstage expansion to overall sound signature and tonality. The only noticeable difference I hear in this comparison is with R3 Pro bass having a little more sub-bass rumble and stronger/faster mid-bass punch which I found when switching back’n’forth between these DAPs, volume matched and using U18t for monitoring. In terms of overall functionality, Opus#1 is playback only device with no access to apps, and without BT, though it does have internal storage.
R3 Pro vs iBasso DX120 – R3 Pro soundstage has more width in this comparison. With tonality, R3 is more neutral and more transparent, while DX120 is a little warmer and with more body in sound. Also, DX120 bass punches even stronger, being a little more elevated. Another noticeable difference is with sensitive IEMs where DX120 has a lot more background hissing, while R3 Pro is quiet. In terms of functionality, DX120 is a playback only device with no access to apps or BT, but it does have dual micro SD card.
R3 Pro vs Shanling M3s – this comparison is very similar to DX120. R3 Pro soundstage has more width. And M3s tonality is a little warmer and with more body, while R3 Pro is more neutral and more transparent in comparison. Also, M3s bass has a stronger punch, elevated in quantity. Lack of touch screen interface made M3s operation a little more frustrating in this comparison. Also, don’t expect any streaming apps with M3s. I know M2x would have been a perfect candidate for R3 Pro comparison, but I never tried it.
R3 Pro vs Hidizs AP80 – R3 Pro soundstage is a little wider in this comparison. With tonality, AP80 Copper is warmer and with more bass impact, while R3 Pro is more neutral and more transparent in comparison. Compared to AP80 SS, I also hear R3 Pro to have a wider soundstage, but tonality is closer to R3 Pro, being more neutral, more transparent, a little brighter. In R3 Pro to AP80 SS comparison, I hear Pro having an improved technical performance with better layering/separation of the sounds. While both have nearly identical Hiby OS, R3 Pro big advantage is Wifi and Tidal/Qobuz support.
R3 Pro vs Cayin N3 – in this comparison N3 really shows its age. R3 Pro soundstage is noticeably wider. R3 Pro tonality is more neutral, more transparent, with the sound being more layered, better separated. N3 is a lot warmer, more congested, and not as dynamic. Aside from lack of touch screen interface and any streaming access, overall sound performance of N3 in this comparison takes a noticeable step back.
R3 Pro vs Hiby R5 – I actually found R3 Pro pushing soundstage wider in comparison to its bigger brother. In terms of the sound, R5 is a little bit warmer with a fuller body, while R3 Pro is a little more neutral and more transparent in a relative comparison. Bass response here is similar. Technically, R5 has some advantage with improved imaging and layering/separation of the sounds, but it’s by a small margin. Of course, R5 has a lot of other advantage such full Android OS, access to Google Play and all the apps flying under its fast processor.