Other Wired/Wireless connections.
In this section of the review I will go over various wired and wireless connections I tested and verified with R3 Pro.
I tested USB DAC functionality with my T480s laptop where R3 Pro was easily recognized by Win 10Pro, and I was able to control the volume from both my laptop and DAP. But I also noticed a difference in sound where the same track being played directly from R3 Pro had a wider soundstage and better dynamics, while using R3 Pro as USB DAC from laptop had a narrower staging width and slightly inferior vertical dynamics.
With bi-directional 2-way Bluetooth support, you can pair up R3 Pro with external wireless headphones or speakers, or use R3 Pro as Bluetooth wireless receiver, turning it into a BT DAC.
I tested BT Rx with my Galaxy S9 phone, enabled w/LDAC codec. Upon successful pair up, the correct codec was shown on R3 Pro. Also, with LDAC, the sound from S9 through R3 Pro as a wireless BT DAC was identical to using R3 Pro directly with the same pair of IEMs and playing the same test track.
For my BT Tx test, I paired R3 Pro with Sennheiser HD1 M2 IEBT neckband IEMs. The connection worked in open space, 45ft away from R3 Pro. The sound was a typical IEBT sound sig, maybe just a little more neutral and slightly brighter. I know that in theory under the same codec a sound should be the same, but it probably varies depending on BT chipset since the same pair up with my Galaxy S9 yielded a little more neutral sound.
Line Out (LO).
In this test I was using portable FiiO E12A amp, which I usually find more neutral. With this external AMP the sound is a little brighter while playing the same song directly from R3 Pro sounds a bit warmer, smoother. To me this indicates that R3 Pro internal headphone amp is possibly coloring the sound a bit.
Digital Out (USB-C).
In this test I was using R3 Pro as a digital source, driving external DAC/amp from its USB-C port. I tested R3 Pro with iBasso DC01, and found it to pair up good, though you do need to keep the volume lower since DC01 output is high. Also, the sound was a little brighter in comparison to being connected directly with the same IEM to R3 Pro. Next, I tested R3 Pro with iFi Micro iDSD BL. It also connected without a problem, and I found the sound to be more transparent and better resolving in comparison to direct connection of the same IEM to R3 Pro.
I keep repeating myself like a broken record that audio market, both when it comes to IEMs and DAPs, is saturated. Thus, when people see a new model release with “Pro” suffix, their attention fades away because they assume it’s a small upgrade. In case of going from R3 to R3 Pro, the only thing that’s small is the same compact size and exterior look of this DAP. With so many changes under the hood, R3 Pro version feels like R3 on steroids.
Besides updated dual DAC, the playtime nearly doubled, Bluetooth updated to 5.0 and still supports 2-way LDAC, WiFi now supports dual 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and the power of 2.5mm BAL output doubled to 210mW. Plus, you still get native support of DSD256, full MQA decoding, MSEB sound shaping effects, WebRadio, and both Tidal and Qobuz streaming. It will not be easy to find another DAP with all these features under $200.