Hiby R8

Sound Analysis.

I analyzed R8 sound with Odin, U18t IEMs, and Empyrean 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”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Dua Lipa “Love again”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”. I let R8 burn in for 200hrs before starting my sound analysis. People have different opinions about the effect of burn in, but to my ears out of the box the sound was thicker and warmer in mids, while after about 200-250hrs it opened up and became more transparent.

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 relative to 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 hear R8 in many pair ups and comparisons to have a neutral tonality with a stronger (a little more impactful) low end response, more revealing and transparent (less colored) mids/vocals, and more natural (a little less sparkle/air) treble. It’s an interesting combination which makes the sound natural yet still revealing. The Turbo switch, which boosts output voltage of internal headphone amp, plays an important role in a number of pair ups where the tonality can go from being smoother and a touch warmer (with turbo off) to more transparent and revealing (with turbo on). That will certainly depend on pair up synergy of R8 with your IEMs/headphones, but I found it to be consistent in many pair ups, benefiting more full-size headphones.

Also, depending on pair up, I noticed in some cases the improvement in speed and control of the bass (faster attack and shorter decay with turbo on) and rendition of the treble (adding more sparkle and airiness with turbo on). This improvement was more noticeable with full size higher impedance and planar magnetic headphones. But the sound also scaled up with some IEMs when turbo was enabled, though here you have to be more cautious when dealing with sensitive IEMs and the type of music you are listening to because the background waterfall hissing could be an issue for some. For example, it is not bad with EDM, top40, pop, rock, and r’n’b, but when it comes to instrumental or classical tracks with less busy arrangements where you have single instrument playing at a time – background waterfall hissing will be more noticeable.

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Overall, I do hear the sound to be layered and dynamic, and the background was relatively black with many headphones and earphones, except for pair ups with sensitive IEMs where I had to turn off the Turbo mode or switch to 3.5mm port. The soundstage had a good width and depth, on par with many other flagship DAPs, not exactly holographic or exaggerated, but more natural and realistic. And the same goes for imaging, relative to the tuning of earphones/headphones, the sound never got congested and the positioning of instruments/vocals was quite convincing.

Turbo on/off

In the following Pair up section of the review I will cover each example with turbo mode off and on to describe the difference in sound as I’m hearing it. Also, turbo mode sound change does apply to 4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm single ended.

4.4mm vs 3.5mm

While in some DAPs the difference in tonality and technical performance has a wider gap when going from BAL to SE, here is was surprisingly close. There is a touch more transparency from the balanced port, but the soundstage expansion is nearly the same and so does the overall tonality. The big difference here is in output power which going to affect pair up synergy and could result in sound variation. Also, single ended 3.5mm output is friendlier with sensitive IEMs.

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Pair up.

The sound of a DAP is based on pair up synergy with different headphones. Afterall, you are hearing the sound of headphones connected to the Source. In this section of my review I will go over how various earphones and headphones pair up with R8.

Empire Ears Odin (4.4mm)
  • turbo off: wide spacious soundstage, balanced signature with a smoother tonality, especially in upper mids and treble, making the sound more natural, more musical, a little more laidback, though the bass is still powerful with a deep rumble, mids are very detailed and layered, and treble is resolving as well.
  • turbo on: wider soundstage, more holographic expansion, balanced signature with a more reference revealing tonality, improvement in micro detail retrieval, better layering and more air between layers, more treble sparkle and air.
  • some waterfall hissing when idling or at low volume or instrumental less busy parts of the song, less noticeable at normal listening volume, and more noticeable in turbo mode. Even less noticeable from 3.5mm.
Venture Electronics Sun Dice (4.4mm)
  • turbo off: VE Sun in this pair up sounds very natural and open, with a wide soundstage. Bass has a soft analog texture, more laidback and less aggressive, but still with a noticeable presence, especially in sub-bass. Mids/vocals are natural, detailed, very organic, a little thicker but still with plenty of clarity. Treble also has plenty of clarity and sounds very natural. No issues at all driving these 180ohm earbuds.
  • turbo on: noticeably wider soundstage, and mids are brighter and more resolving.
  • no hissing.

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Empire Ears Legend X (4.4mm)
  • turbo off: wide holographic soundstage. The signature in this pair up is L-shaped with a very deep and textured elevated sub-bass and fast and lifted mid-bass punch. The bass is still well controlled, but its quantity does push mids/vocals into the background. Those are still clear and detailed but more in the background, and treble is crisp and airy. Analog bass slam of LX DD cannons is a spotlight here due to their overwhelming quantity. No hissing.
  • turbo on: call it a “magic” button, soundstage gets even wider while still retaining its 3D holographic quality. But the biggest change here is mids that come more forward, balancing more linear with the bass. After switching to turbo, there is no going back to listen to LX without it.
  • no hissing.
64 Audio U18t (4.4mm)
  • turbo off: wide/deep soundstage. The sound signature here is balanced, bass has a nice punch and not bad sub-bass rumble, though not as pronounced since I hear more mid-bass punch. Mids are forward, layered, very detailed, not analytical, but approaching it with their micro-detailed level. Treble is crisp and airy.
  • turbo on: soundstage as wide/deep, maybe just a little more 3D after the switch. Mids have a bit more presence here, even more body, making them sound a little fuller. Treble is still crisp and has a little more air now.
  • faint waterfall hissing when idling or at low volume or instrumental less busy parts of the song, hardly noticeable at normal listening volume, and more noticeable in turbo mode. Even less noticeable from 3.5mm.
Dunu Luna (4.4mm)
  • turbo off: the soundstage is wide/deep on a holographic 3D level. The tonality is more revealing, more micro-detailed, with the sound being more layered and faster. Bass is fast and articulate, I do hear sub-bass rumble, but it is a bit distant; instead, mid-bass is the low-end star here. Mids are more revealing, layered, and micro-detailed, a little more forward, and treble is crisp, airy, and extended, but not harsh.
  • turbo on: only a slight change in mids, being a little more revealing and slightly more forward.
  • faint waterfall hissing when idling or at low volume or instrumental less busy parts of the song, hardly noticeable at normal listening volume, and more noticeable in turbo mode. Even less noticeable from 3.5mm.
Vision Ears Elysium (4.4mm)
  • turbo off: very wide holographic soundstage expansion. The tonality is natural, revealing with a deeper sub-bass rumble and faster mid-bass, natural organic layered mids with a more textured analog tonality and great retrieval of details, and crisp airy treble while still being well controlled.
  • turbo on: the soundstage is still 3D holographic after the switch, mids are a touch brighter, which is OK, but treble got crisper and a little harsher. This is probably one of the few pair ups where I preferred turbo mode off due to treble.
  • no hissing.
Campfire Audio Solaris ’20 (4.4mm)
  • turbo off: The soundstage is wide/deep, a very spacious sound, approaching holographic level. The signature is W-shaped, with a balanced emphasis on lows, mids, and treble, maybe having just a little more emphasis on mids, bringing them forward. Bass is deep with a strong punch and deep sub-bass rumble, mids are natural, detailed, revealing, treble has a little extra sparkle.
  • turbo on: mids have more clarity and slightly more forward, and lower treble is a little brighter, but still not harsh or splashy. This is another example where I enjoyed turbo mode being off.
  • noticeable waterfall hissing when idling or at a very low volume or instrumental less busy parts of the track, less noticeable at normal listening volume, and more noticeable in turbo mode. Reduced from 3.5mm.
Meze Audio Empyrean (4.4mm)
  • turbo off: Plenty of power to drive these planar magnetic cans, the sound is balanced, natural and very detailed. You get a textured analog bass, natural detailed mids, and natural sparkly airy treble. Good pair up, but mids are a little smoother with vocals being slightly laidback.
  • turbo on: setting it to high gain and switching turbo on transforms sound into a more spacious 3D holographic soundstage with a faster sound, punchier bass, more revealing and better layered mids, and overall, more transparent sound. Definitely driving Empyrean to their fuller potential.
  • no hissing.
Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd (4.4mm)
  • turbo off: The overall sound is very balanced, also natural and detailed, bass is deep and textured, though a little bit softer and not as punchy. Mids have a natural retrieval of details, not too smooth, but a little more relaxed and organic. Treble has a good sparkle, sounds natural and detailed. Soundstage is wide and expanded, but the depth/height of the soundstage has more intimacy, bringing you closer to the stage.
  • turbo on: bass shines when you switch turbo on, going deeper, with a punchier mid-bass, better layered and articulation. Also, mids/vocals gain some clarity and focus, and treble gets a little more air. Furthermore, soundstage gets more depth. Turbo more is “it” in this pair up.
  • no hissing.
Audio-Technica ATH-R70x (3.5mm)
  • turbo off: These demanding 470ohm open back headphones are not easy to “satisfy” since they are very source picky. You have to push them harder. Here, the sound is open, wide, not super wide, natural, detailed, bass is deep, with a nice sub-bass rumble and softer mid-bass punch, mids/vocals are natural, smooth, a little laidback. Treble is smooth and natural.
  • turbo on: like a different pair of headphones and you do need to keep in mind that I’m using 3.5mm SE output in this pair up, with a faster punchier sound, sub-bass rumble is deeper, mid-bass punch is faster, overall bass is more articulate, mids/vocals are more open, more revealing, more layered and detailed, and treble scales up significantly with more sparkle and airiness. In addition to turbo on, I also switched to high gain.
  • no hissing.

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Page 4 – Comparison, Wired/wireless connection, and Conclusion.

44 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. 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.

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  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.

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  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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