Under the hood.
Inside AP80 Pro you have Ingenic X1000 processor, common to many smaller non-Android DAPs, and at the heart you have a Dual ES9218P DAC, in comparison to a single ES9218P in AP80. The 3.5mm output has the same power rating of 70mW @ 32ohm load, while balanced 2.5mm steps up to 190mW @ 32ohm, plenty of power for IEMs and some efficient headphones. There are also two other DAP features, not very common for audio players: FM radio (using 4705 chipset), and a step counter (built-in pedometer sensor, KX126). Clearly, AP80 Pro is designed for users with active lifestyle, and it can even display a clock.
You will also find Bluetooth 4.2 supporting many protocols, including aptX, LDAC, and even the new UAT (ultra audio transmission). The BT is bi-directional, meaning you can use it as a transmitter to pair up with your wireless headphones or other BT DAC/amp devices. Or you can use it as a receiver to work as a wireless DAC/amp paired up with other sources. For example, you can pair it up to your smartphone to stream audio from various apps wireless to your AP80 Pro using lossless LDAC protocol.
The internal battery capacity of AP80 Pro is the same 800mAh, 3.8V LiPo battery as in AP80. According to Hidizs, this should give you 13hrs playback from 3.5mm and 9hrs playback from 2.5mm. My test results for original AP80 were a little bit lower, so I expect AP80 Pro to get you probably closer to 10hrs of playback on SE and less balanced. I didn’t have a chance to run battery test, so will update this section of the review when I get to it. And of course, keep in mind, when you start playing lossless files or go up to DSD format, the battery will drain faster.
The operating system under the hood is Hiby 3.0 OS which is based around HibyMusic Player, including all of its bells’n’whistles, even Mage Sound 8-ball DSP effects and EQ with genre specific presets and custom adjustment. And because you are running Hiby, you can also implement HibyLink to control AP80 wireless from your smartphone. Many lossy and lossless audio formats are supported, such as FLAC, APE, WMA, WAV, ALAC, DSF, DFF, SACD-ISO, and native support of DSD 64/128/256 and PCM up to 384kHz/32bit.
Original AP80 supported only up to DSD128 native decoding, while AP80 Pro added a dedicated HBC3000 FPGA for DSD decoding, taking it up to DSD256 which I confirmed to play without a problem. I will cover more about this in Sound analysis section, but DSD playback of AP80 Pro actually has a higher sound quality than AP80.
When you start the DAP, you can see the main navigation screen with icons of Player (HibyMusic), Step (step counter), FM (radio), Bluetooth (wireless controls), System setting (lots of options), and About. When you start Player, you are dealing with a scaled down version of HibyMusic which many are already familiar with. Also, swiping the display up brings up short cut controls for playback and some functionality settings.
I played a selection of the following test tracks to analyze the sound of AP80 Pro: Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Galantis “Hunter”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, Dua Lipa “Love again”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”. AP80 Pro had about 100hrs of play (burn in) time.
I prefer to describe the DAP sound based on the comparison to other DAPs and pair ups with different IEMs/headphones since the DAP by itself doesn’t have a “sound”. What we hear is how it sounds through IEMs/headphones connected to it or the difference from other sources using the same pair of IEMs/headphones for monitoring the sound. As a result, this section of the review usually summarizes what I find in the follow up Comparison and Pair-up sections.
I noticed across many different pair ups that AP80 Pro sound sig is neutral with a little more revealing transparent tonality. The sound is still natural, but has more sparkle in upper mids and treble, and more neutral slightly leaner body. The sound is not congested, and actually has a good level of detail retrieval. Being an entry level DAP, don’t expect outstanding layering or separation of sounds or dynamics expansion on the level of upper mid-fi or flagship DAPs. That’s just not a realistic expectation. But the sound is not compressed, has plenty of clarity, black background, and surprisingly good soundstage expansion and imaging, especially from the balanced output.
Similar to AP80, with Pro in low gain the sound was a bit dull and was lacking clarity and energy, especially in upper frequencies. Once you switch to high gain, almost in every single pair up the sound came alive with more clarity in mids and more expanded soundstage width. After that, I didn’t even bother using low gain.
Another important thing to note, there was absolutely no hissing with sensitive low impedance IEMs, not even with Andromeda. Even during the playback with volume down to zero or when idling, I didn’t hear any hissing.
And last, but not least, I hear a noticeable difference when playing DSD files. AP80 Pro DSD playback has a more dynamic, more layered, more multi-dimensional sound, while AP80 playback of the same DSD files sounds flatter in comparison.