PROS: high output power (BAL out), super-fast Android performance, high capacity custom battery, Turbo mode to boost output voltage, large 5.5” HD display, MQA 16x and DSD512 support, system wide MSEB, luxurious collection of accessories.
CONS: price, large size, some hissing with sensitive iems (BAL out).
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
What is considered to be a flagship in today’s saturated market of DAP releases? Price is no longer a deciding factor, especially when comparing one brand to the other. The sound quality can scale up even in the entry and mid-fi level DAPs thanks to new DAC chips. And, if you are looking for extra features, any Android DAP got plenty. So, how do you earn the flagship status and get the attention of audiophiles without reinventing the wheel? According to Hiby, you just have to push the envelope, tick all the boxes, and offer something different and unique to stand out from the crowd.
Back in February when I visited CanJam NYC ’20, that “something different” was at Musicteck table where Hiby was showcasing their upcoming flagship DAP with a “unique” Turbo boost mode and a sim card (4G LTE). That DAP did fuel the interest of people wanting to combine a smartphone with a flagship quality DAP. The sim card in R8 wasn’t intended for voice calls, only for data use. And ironically, sim card option is not even available yet for use outside of China due to 4G LTE compatibility. But, even without it, Hiby’s latest R8 flagship can still tick most of the boxes for demanding audiophiles.
So, let’s take a closer look at what I found after spending the last month testing, pairing, and comparing the new Hiby R8 DAP.
Unboxing and Accessories.
To say that R8 unboxing experience is unique would be an understatement. Prior to receiving this DAP, I have seen a few on-line pictures, but I was still in for a big surprise when I opened a large black carboard box with “HIBY R8” and “DESIGN BY HIBY” printed on top and the side. Clearly, Hiby wanted to stand out with a premium unboxing experience, and they certainly achieved it with a retro looking leather suitcase scaled down to a briefcase size inside of that packaging box.
We are talking about a really cool vintage style leather briefcase with 2 belt buckles and a handle. Inside of a briefcase you will find 2 organizer foam trays covered in soft velour material, and another bonus tray in a separate box. It did take me a minute to figure out the purpose of that extra tray. When you open the briefcase, you see the top tray with just R8 DAP and a metal “HIBY R8” tag plate. Two small tabs on the side of the tray allow you to lift and remove it to reveal another tray underneath with a leather case and 2 organizer compartments with high quality usb-c charging/data cable and another custom usb-c/coax cable.
Once you remove the DAP from the top tray, and put the leather case on, you can use the bottom tray to keep the DAP in a case along with cable accessories. Then, you can discard the original top display tray and replace it with a bonus organizer tray which had two oval shaped openings to store IEMs with cables and a secure magnetic flap on top of it. Also, there were two small organizer pockets for eartips, adapters, and other smaller accessories, both with a magnetic cover (one solid, one mesh), and another long pocket to store and organize 4 micro SD cards.
And of course, there is a leather case. My review unit arrived with a custom genuine leather Dignis case. According to Hiby, the first production batch of 100 R8 DAPs will come with a bonus Dignis leather case, while after that another leather case will be provided. I can only speak for the case I received. It is a high-quality form-fitted leather case where R8 slides in from the bottom, keeping all the ports open and easy to access, cutout on the right side to access Power and hw playback control buttons, and cutout at the top for a volume wheel with a leather guard over it. The back of the case has a large cutout with a metal mesh grill and number 8, corresponding to R8 model number. The cutout on the back is not just for decoration, but also to provide extra cooling for the chassis of the DAP.
If you are traveling and have enough room in your luggage, this leather briefcase is probably all that you need to carry R8 along with a few pairs of IEMs, accessory cables, extra eartips, and micro SD cards.