True Wireless for Audiophiles!
PROS: hi-res sound tuning with a balanced tonality (DD version), LDAC codec support, IPX4 rating, very small footprint of earphones and the charging case, comfortable fit, customizable touch controls, up to 30hr playback with a charging case.
CONS: case doesn’t support Qi wireless charging, no active noise cancelation.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
In the last few years, the TWS scene felt like a rollercoaster ride. At first people were excited about the freedom to cut “umbilical” cord between their smartphone and both left and right earpieces. It was convenient, but the market got flooded with too many generic cookie-cutter TWS releases. Then, audiophile companies jumped on the bandwagon, replacing low-fi transducers with their higher-end drivers to improve the sound quality. With just a few exceptions, after a while that got old too, especially since you had to pay a premium for a sound improvement that was still consumer grade rather than audiophile quality, not to mention bulky design of earpieces or wireless adapters.
Hiby joined TWS party last year with DD/BA hybrid WH3 that featured a unique adjustable digital crossover (controlled in app) to customize the sound. I actually put a lot of miles on WH3 in the last half a year, using it quite often at work and at home, as well as featuring it in my DAP reviews as part of Bluetooth pair up test. But when Hiby approached me if I’m interested to check out their upcoming WH2 model, I paused for a second, assuming it will be a downgrade from WH3. But my curiosity was piqued when they mentioned support of LDAC since until now nobody else was able to implement it in true wireless stereo design.
From what I have been told, with previous Bluetooth chipsets the issue was a bandwidth limitation to have simultaneous LDAC connection between the source and left/right sides since earpieces will have to be paired up to each other using LDAC as well. Hiby was the first to be able to resolve this limitation. And, while they will be offering 2 versions of WH2 in their upcoming KS crowdfunding campaign, one with a single DD and another with dual-BA, I only received single DD which I’m going to cover today in my review. So, is this just another TWS with a new tech or something more? Let’s find out!
*** I also would like to add, since I already have WH2 in my hands, well, actually in my ears now, and Sony XM4 is about to be released, I refer to WH2 as the first with LDAC implementation. But in reality, WH2 Kickstarter campaign will start around the same time as XM4 will probably ship.
Unboxing and Accessories.
The unboxing experience of WH2 is very straight forward. You have a compact cardboard box with WH2 label on the front and the back, “lightbulb” outline of earpiece on the side, and mentioning of LDAC on the other side. Slide the cover up, and you are greeted with a compact rounded charging case. After removing the top tray with a case, you will find manual and warranty card, and underneath of it a box with accessories.
Accessories include a set of 5 silicone eartips pairs (XS, S, M, L, XL) with a truncated inner stem to accommodate short nozzle of these TWS. Also, included is usb-c to usb-A charging cable for the case.
The charging case is very small (60mm x 37mm x 22mm), metal, and with a nice heft at around 88g. The case felt good in my hand, and its rounded small shape reminded me of pebbles you find by the ocean. And while it does feel nice to hold, many will be carrying it in their pocket where you don’t want extra weight, thus some might find it a bit heavy. But still, the case felt “addictive” to hold, and I actually didn’t mind the extra weight.
Case has strong magnets to hold WH2 earpieces securely inside even when you flip it upside down with a case cover open. And speaking of the cover, it has an interesting hinge design where you can slightly slide the cover with a tilt and then flip it open. Inside, you will find 3 LED charging indicator that lights up for 3sec when you put earpieces in, with 3 LEDs showing fully charged, 2 LEDs – 70%, and 1 LED – 30%. The case does not support Qi wireless charging, and has usb-c port on the side with a status LED next to it.
As already mentioned in the intro, Hiby will be offering 2 different versions of WH2. One with a single DD driver (carbon nanotube diaphragm) I received for review, and another one with dual BA drivers that will also offer a digital crossover adjustment similar to hybrid WH3.
As far as earpieces go, they are small, compact, lightweight (about 4g), shaped like a lightbulb outline, fitting perfectly into concha cavum area of my ear without anything sticking out. I don’t have big ears, yet felt comfortable wearing these for an extended period of time. And I was even able to put my head down on the pillow with earpieces in my ears without any discomfort.
Each earpiece has a dual microphone, at the top and the bottom, and when I was talking on a phone indoors or outdoors, the calls were always clear and people on the other side mentioned the same. There is also a status led, white color highly visible LED on each earpiece. The inner side of earpieces is more bulbous with a short nozzle. With the right selection of eartips, WH2 stayed secure in my ears. Furthermore, at the bottom on the inner side you will find 2 gold-plated (to prevent corrosion) charging contacts. The outer part of the shell feels metal (aluminum) while inner part has a soft rubbery feel, and the earpieces itself are rated at IPX4.
Under the hood in the heart of WH2 you have Airoha AB1565 Bluetooth 5.2 dual mode chipset which is based on ARM Cortex-M4 platform with a built-in Cadence HiFi MiniAudio Engine DSP co-processor. While many other TWS use Qualcomm BT chips, perhaps the reason why they can’t implement LDAC yet, Hiby was able to config their WH2 with AB1565 supporting many different BT audio codecs, including SBC, AAC, LDAC (up to 990kbps) and their own UAT TWS (up to 1.2Mbps).
Another important “under the hood” spec is the battery capacity and playback time. The battery capacity of WH2 earpieces is 40mAh, while the battery case is 350mAh. Hiby specifies WH2 playback time of 6hrs and 4 additional full recharges with a battery case to give you up to 30hrs of uptime. But these numbers are based on playback of standard lossy codecs. In my testing using LDAC codec while playing a selection of flac files at a regular volume level I was able to achieve about 4.5hrs of playback time on a single WH2 charge.
And last, but not least, while WH2 doesn’t have active noise cancellation (ANC), from the spec of Airoha AB1565 I saw that this chipset does support it. So, I hope in the future Hiby will implement it in their higher end WHx models.
Functionality of WH2 is very straightforward. With earphones out of the charging case, search under your source’s Bluetooth settings to find WH2, and you will be paired up and connected within seconds, also with voice confirmation. After that, as long as Bluetooth is turned on, your source will pair up automatically, including earpieces to each other when they are out of the charging case. If not paired with a device within 3min, WH2 turns off automatically to preserve battery. And if you want to keep the connection mono, useful for phone calls, just take out one earpiece from the charging case. Furthermore, I was able to stand 50ft away from my source, and still had a good connection in the open space.
Very important and highly useful part of WH2 functionality is Hiby’s own Hiby Blue app you can download for free. It is designed for various Hiby Bluetooth products. In there you can confirm the pair up codec and the sampling rate, see the BT signal strength, and get a visual of L/R earpiece batteries status.
The app is still work in progress, and I have been told Hiby is working on more tonality profiles and EQ for WH2. Plus, you will have access to fw update, either locally or OTA (over the air). Just like in WH3, if you have WH2 model with dual BA design, you will have digital crossover adjustment option to finetune the sound. That option is not available in single DD model.
My favorite feature in the app is being able to customize controls of double and triple taps on individual left and right earpieces. You can configure play/pause, previous or next skip, trigger the assistant, or just no-action. One control that would be great to consider in the future is a long press of either left or right earpieces (not implemented yet) and adding volume up/down (not available yet) to the list of config choices.
Please keep in mind, once you customize left and right earpiece controls, the config stays with WH2, not the app. Meaning, you can pair up WH2 with any of your DAPs and the same touch controls will still be applicable.