Pocket audio toys!
These products were provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
It is not easy going back and forth between reviewing kilobuck and budget DAPs because there are different expectations in sound quality, build quality, and driving capability, giving a clear advantage to flagship audio gear. But on the other hand, despite their entry-level price, it is still fun to watch budget DAPs continue to shrink in size while the list of supported features keeps growing. And speaking of size, looks like we reached a usable limit with the smallest 1.54” display (Shanling M0 and FiiO M5) down from previous 3.2” (Hiby R3 Pro), then went up to 2.7” (Shanling Q1) and down again to 2.45” (Hidizs AP80 Pro). In their latest release, Hiby settled on 2.45” display in R2 DAP and added more interesting features to this palm-sized device, making it the smallest and the cheapest Tidal/Qobuz streaming mini-DAP.
Also, Hiby came up with a matching size companion for R2, FD1 3.5mm and 2.5mm headphone DAC/amplifier which can add a balanced output to R2 or any DAP/smartphone and works with any platform, even having a clever way to bypass USB compatibility issue with older Windows releases. As icing on FD1 cake, Hiby added some nifty features not found on other portable DAC/amps, such as full remote playback control (play/pause/skip) and volume adjustment, as well as providing a collection of usb-c cables and even a cool mounting sticky pad. And last, but not least, Hiby finished this budget trifecta with a pair of Beans IEMs with a typical consumer sound tuning and surprisingly good solid build.
For some of my readers this Intro will probably sound like a Conclusion, but I wanted to give you a taste of what I’m about to cover in this review and why I’m combining all three together. My review queue is growing every week, each write up takes time, and often I can’t physically get to everything. So, it made sense to combine and to cover all three in one detailed review. Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these new budget Hiby audio products.
Beans Unboxing and Accessories.
Beans arrived in a small all black box with a golden outline of IEMs on the cover. Inside you will find a user guide, a set of silicone eartips (S/M/L), and a rather nice-looking synthetic leather storage case with a canvas style finish. The case has a magnetic flip cover and roomy enough to hold Beans, FD1 and one usb cable or R2, FD1 and usb cable. As a matter of fact, that is how I have been using it, carrying R2 and FD1 together.
Beans Design and Under the hood.
Beans feature a very compact bullet-shaped shell where the housing is aluminum with a brushed silver finish and the front part of the shell has a gold-plated pure copper nozzle. Hiby and Beans names are printed on aluminum shell. The nozzle has a decent lip to hold eartips secure. And there is L/R marking and DD vent by the 2pin connector. Yes, despite its budget price, Beans come with a removable cable and standard 2pin 0.78mm socket.
The cable is very soft, non-microphonic, has silver-plated copper OFC wires. It is terminated with 3.5mm gold plated plug with aluminum silver color housing matching the y-split and chin-slider hardware. Its 2pin plugs are marked with red/blue dots to indicate the polarity and left/right orientation. The 2pin socket in the shell also has red/blue dots to make sure polarity is not reversed when these are plugged in. And, since there is no memory wire or pre-shaped earhook, you can wear Beans either wire down or wire up – very comfortable either way.
Inside, Hiby used 10mm customized dynamic driver with carbon nanotube (CNT) diaphragm. According to the spec, the overall sensitivity is 109dB and the impedance is 32ohm, all are average and easy to drive from any source. The passive isolation is rather good, but of course you have to select the right size of eartips for a perfect seal. To my surprise, stock eartips worked quite well for me.
Beans Sound Analysis.
I analyzed Beans, as well as R2 and FD1, 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”.
Beans have a typical consumer oriented tuning with a lift in sub-bass (a warm non-overwhelming rumble) and mid-bass (a rounded analog bass with average attack/decay) and a little extra presence in lower treble with a bit of a shimmer around 7kHz peak. It doesn’t sound too sibilant, just adds extra clarity and sparkle to upper frequencies. There is a good presence in mids as well, sounds smooth and natural and with plenty of clarity thanks to a peak around 3kHz. I wouldn’t call the signature V-shaped due to mids presence, so it is close to W-shaped with a middle “peak” being a bit less prominent than bass/treble.
You have to be realistic because this will not match resolution, layering/separation, or the soundstage of high-end IEMs I’m more familiar with, but it’s a very nice tuning when you are on the go, or exercising, or binge-watching your favorite show on the phone/tablet, or just catching up with your favorite YT channels. What I like about it, there is nothing overwhelming in this tuning, the bass is present with a nice analog impact, but it doesn’t throw off the tuning balance into L-shaped direction. And even with a healthy bass impact, mids are not muddy and maintain their natural clarity. Treble is not too extended or airy, it is clear, a little shimmery due to that 7kHz peak, but at the same time not too sibilant or harsh, definitely tolerable during extended listening sessions.
It is just a good budget IEM for $69 with a quality-built shell, a nice looking soft removable cable and a cool storage case, and the IEM itself has a consumer-friendly tuning and rather good isolation. Plus, I love the comfort of wearing Beans with the cable down. And while these are not intended for critical audiophile listening, they have a fun non-fatigue tuning for daily listening on the go.