Hiby R8

Turbo-charged!

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.

Manufacturer website: Hiby. Available for sale from Musicteck.


Intro.

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.

Page 2 – Design, Under the hood, and GUI.
Page 3 – Sound Analysis and Pair up.
Page 4 – Comparison, Wired/wireless connection, and Conclusion.

50 thoughts on “Hiby R8

      1. I think the pros are that both are neutral. The R8 pro is price . They both have speedy operating systems. The pro of the LPGT is that I think it is better with sensitive IEMs.

        Maybe the deciding factor is customer service of the respective companies. Maybe that is not a factor since they are sold by the same vendor,, Musicteck.

        I am not buying until November.

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  1. Hi Alex,

    I’m currently using sp2000cu with elysium,odin and anole vx. I cant forget how good my wm1z but i am using tidal most of the time so I am looking for a warm dap with technicalities like wm1z. Is hiby r8 the right choice? Any other suggestions?

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    1. R8 is not warm, more neutral and natural. For Tidal and steaming or running any other app R8 would be one of the best choices. And you can use its MSEB effects to fine tune the tonality.

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    1. Will be hard to match. I have some comparison notes in my review, maybe it will help. Also, keep in mind, R8 is especially good when dealing with harder to drive headphones.

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      1. LP6k is warmer, smoother, with more elevated low end response, but technically (soundstage, dynamics, layering of sounds) R8 is on a higher level, similar to LPGT as I mentioned in the review, the same way how LPGT is technically superior to LP6k.

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  2. For those of you coming from higher end dap’s this is not for you. However I’ve seen a number of posts where people were asking would it be worth doing this coming from for example the I Basso DX 160. I had the I Basso DX 160 and I loved it. Awesome sound for the price. However there were limitations especially with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth performance. Unfortunately for me I dropped it not from that high of a table onto a tile floor but it became unusable. So I really wanted the R8 for the 4G. So I was a little disappointed when that version was not available. Still as Twister said it checks all the other boxes so I pulled the trigger and I received it today. So obviously no 200 hours burn in time. I also have no experience with other Higher end dap’s. However I have also heard the FiiO X7 Mark II and the PLENUE R. Even after just a few hours I can easily tell you this player is heads and shoulders above those. If you’re coming from those types of players this gives you that Wow factor. Now I know it costs 4 to 5 times more money than those players. And no it’s not 5 times better. But it is twice as good. And I’m just talking about the sound right off the bat. When you add in the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth which are equal to a smart phone it knocks it out the park. So if you’re on the fence jump over it. I will do a more extensive review of it later. Just want to give a big shout out to you Twister, you give us the knowledge we need to make good decisions thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Alex,

    Just tell me Hiby r8 is closer to tonality in Wm1z and let me buy it 🙂 , or else I will straight away buy the wm1z and leave the streaming be or use it as a dac live streaming with pc. Damn I can’t forget how good wm1z was.

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    1. It will be closer, but of course, everything is pair up dependent. For example, I just did a/b comparison of WM1Z and R8 using EE Odin. With Turbo on, Odin sounds brighter and more revealing, but with Turbo off it is smoother, warmer and closer to pair up with WM1Z. Plus, keep in mind, R8 advantage is not only streaming and fast android performance. Sony DAPs are under powered, so you will also have the advantage of being able to drive more demanding headphones when using R8.

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      1. I’m confused. I thought the R8 was neutral and that would make it pair great with Phantom. I always hear the WM1Z is awful with Phantom.

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      2. nothing is 100% neutral. They are centered around neutral with variations toward warmer or brighter. And it will always depend on pair up and other factors, like Turbo more here with extra output voltage. That’s why I tried to brake it down in my Pair up analysis. Thus, for example, Odin will sound a little different with turbo on and off.

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  4. I feel Odin is too much in your face compared to Ely or Anole with sp2000cu and hugo2. More or less we have the same iems. I decided to give R8 a try. Though 90% of my iems and cables are 2.5mm terminated. The 4.4 adapter is huge.

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  5. Hope sp3000 will be 4.4 then I will replace all my cables once and for all. I already ordered the Cayin PH-4X adapter. Since it’s very short I hope it will have no effect on the tone.

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  6. One more question. With an IEM like the Phantom that has thick mids, is the R8 mids transparent enough that it will not add to the thickness? I think the answer is yes, but want to confirm. The R8 is in my cart at Musicteck, but I want to be sure before I hit checkout.

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    1. Mark, it is hard to tell, bud. Not sure if anybody will reply to your question in R8 thread, I have seen you posted it there as well. Without actual testing it will be only a speculation. I have seen in some iems switching to Turbo creates more transparent sound. But Phantom hisses, right? And that could make hissing a little stronger if you are listening to classical and other instrumental music.

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      1. So maybe I should go with the LPGT. I am pretty sure is is quiet based on your and other reviews. It also floats to my top two every time I narrow down the choice.

        I will just have to wait until Black Friday or December so I can save more versus buying the R8 now.

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      2. I read in your review comparison with the LPGT the following:

        “Mids are very similar, being more transparent and closer to reference (more revealing) quality. ”

        If that is the case, the R8 should pair with the Phantom just fine.

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  7. Hi Alex,

    R8 is already on the way, thanks for the help but still I can’t forget how lovely wm1z was, what do you say for wm1z vs n8? Wondering the warmth of those tubes as well vs the warmth of Sony. Also I’m pretty sure you had your hands on the new n3pro. Is it a viable alternative or nothing close to N8 and Wm1z?

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    1. My best suggestion to you since R8 is on its way, stop driving yourself crazy, wait for your new toy, and enjoy it with your favorite iems and headphones. Yes, I have N3 Pro, will be working on the review next, but like I said – you will drive yourself crazy with second guessing or buyers remorse because every few months there is a new release. Also, keep in mind, Andy (Cayin rep) mentioned a few months ago that Cayin might be working on a portable tube amp, so hopefully that will be a future option to “warm up” the sound of a solid dap.

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  8. Yeah I will enjoy R8 very much but still I have one more bullet to shoot, do you think n8 is worth the extra premium for the tube sound or n3pro is more or less closer to n8 with a very good price. Just help me one more time and let me complete my final purchase in peace 🙂

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    1. I only had N8 for a month 2 years ago when I wrote the review. I don’t even remember how it sounds, and the reason why it was never mentioned in any of my latest reviews since I can’t compare it by memory 😦 Tbh, N3 Pro tube output is really good, has a very detailed dynamic sound and smooth tonality, it’s Solid State output is just ok, but tube output is better. There are portable tube amps that cost more than N3 Pro itself. So you can enjoy R8 and treat yourself to N3 Pro when you don’t need streaming or don’t need a very powerful output or don’t move around too much (keep in mind, when you shake N3 Pro, tubes have some ringing). And also, it is always about the synergy where some iems will pair up great with one DAP vs the other.

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    1. bud, you have a lot of questions not related to R8 here 😉 Can you ping me on FB in a messenger or on Head-fi in PM instead? Just don’t want to go off topic since this is R8 review comments.

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  9. Hi Alex,

    Got my R8 and something seems to be off, it seems like it plays the music at 1.25x speed and the vocals seem to be out of phase, very tiny like the chipmunks are singing all the songs.

    Like

  10. Hi Ilker

    Sorry you’re having problems. So far been lucky absolutely nothing wrong with my R8. What is the source that you’re using are you using a micro card or are you streaming? If you’re getting it from both streaming and your micro card then you might have an issue with your unit. But make sure you’re getting it from both sources. It might just be a micro card they can go bad really quickly. Hope your issue gets resolved quickly so you can enjoy your unit

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  11. Hi Raymond,

    Tried internal storage and tidal both. Seems like there is some fr filter or some digitizer applied. Might be a broken cap or something. Tuning is very much off, it’s like a higher octave tuned guitar.

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    1. hang on, broken hardware like a shorted cap will smoke your DAP, it’s not going to play audio at faster speed or change the pitch of the sound. Do a full factory reset and then update fw to 1.2 through OTA.

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  12. Did factory reset from android settings, 1.20 was already installed, still the same , it is very annoying, Freddy Mercury sounds like Alvin Simon, Theodore :))) It’s as if there is no decay in the sound, notes come and go very fast no decay. Gods are cursing me for trying to doubt if Sp2000k is the best.

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    1. Have you tried to download another app to test playback or maybe free Spotify? Curios if this is only these two apps. Tried with wifi and Bluetooth off, for local playback? Never heard anything like this before, pitched up playback? Holy crap! You hit the jackpot! 😀

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  13. For local didn’t try with wifi off, bluetooth was always off anyways, tired Spotify its same and I am very sure its a software problem and may gods burn me if I use anything other than ak or Sony from now on. I already texted Andrew also lets see what Hiby has to say. Tried all the dac filters nothing changes.

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  14. It applies some stupid upsampling or something, 48khz doesn’t have the issue, 44,1khz and multiples up to 705.6 kHz have the pitch shift. YouTube is 48khz. no issues, Spotify is 44.1 kHz with same issue. I don’t know how to fix this.

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  15. awesome review. i have been running my phone and an ifi xdsd. i want to upgrade to a dap to keep my phone free. would this be an upgrade in sound quality? i mostly run iems. righ tnow i have the u12t and EE odins. how bad is the hiss? the u12t i am using 3.5mm out

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    1. Odin was covered in pair up section, and U12t will be similar to U18t, and since you are using 3.5mm, should be quiet. Definely will be an upgrade over what you have now.

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  16. Such an exciting time for premium DAPs. Hope to see a review of the Kann Alpha and Fiio M15, two other quite interesting recent DAPs.

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    1. Exciting and confusing at the same time because of so many choices 😀 M15 review won’t happen since it’s a one year old dap and fiio is not interested to send review samples of old products. And Alpha is also not exactly a new flagship, close to entry level, and I don’t see too much interest from them to send one for review either. Sorry. I would have checked them out at CanJam shows, but nothing happened this year or happening any time soon.

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