X marks the spot!
PROS: compact design with a very small footprint, balanced output, responsive touch screen, dedicated playback buttons, bi-directional BT w/LDAC, DSD256 and MQA 8x support, USB DAC and Digital Out, impressive sound performance, step counter.
CONS: no silicone case included, 2.5mm balanced, higher price of Pro models.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
I’m quite familiar with Hidizs line of AP80 mini-DAPs and have reviewed and compared many of their variants (per chassis material) in the past. Introduction of AP80 Pro, which I also reviewed 2yrs ago, was a noticeable step forward with addition of balanced output and even a dedicated FPGA for a higher rate DSD decoding. The crazy thing was them keeping a similar palm-size footprint while adding more functionality to Pro model. Then, early this year when AP80 Pro-X model was announced, I thought to myself it’s probably going to be a minor cosmetic refresh. After all, it looked similar, still had 3.5mm SE and 2.5mm BAL outputs, output spec didn’t change, and the main difference was going from dual ES9218P to dual ES9219C. Minor changes, right? Nope, I was wrong.
As I started listening and comparing Pro-X to Pro model, I came across a few noticeable improvements that scaled up the performance of this new model. If you are a fan of cool little audio gadgets or looking for something small, portable, and standalone, you might want to check out what I found after spending the last few weeks testing Hidizs latest AP80 Pro-X DAP.
Unboxing and Accessories.
Similar to original AP80 and AP80 Pro, Pro-X arrived in a small cardboard black box with a typical foam cutout tray to keep this DAP secure inside during the shipment. This was a straightforward basic small packaging for a small device. Top of the box has a product name with a glossy picture of Pro-X and all the certification stamps, while the back of the box has a detailed (and a very small print) spec in 4 different languages, including English.
Inside you will find a selection of accessories which include Type-C usb charging/data cable, usb-c to usb-c OTG cable to use Pro-X as usb dac/amp, user manual, and a set of screen protectors with one already applied. The short usb-c OTC cable is uni-directional, the plug with “Hidizs” logo has to be connected to a source.
I was a bit puzzled why Hidizs no longer includes a silicone protective case for AP80 Pro-X. I was able to use Pro-X with AP80 Pro silicone case, so there is no need to design a new one. I know, silicone case hides the beauty of this DAP, but I think it would have been a great idea to include one, especially when handling Pro-X outdoors to enhance the grip.
Similar to what I said in my original AP80 and AP80 Pro reviews, the small footprint of these mini-DAPs is what makes them unique. Of course, it’s hard to beat the size of the original M0 micro-DAP by Shanling, but after years of using M0, I got a little frustrated with a small display and touch-only interface. At the same time, something like Hiby R3/Pro or Cayin N3 was a little bigger to be considered mini-dap. Pro and Pro-X models, similar in size to the original M1, hits the bull’s-eye for me in terms of the size, touch screen display, hardware playback control buttons, and a physical volume wheel.
R3 Pro, Pro-X, M0
Please note that, with the exception of a slightly bigger footprint and additional headphone port, AP80 Pro-X exterior design is nearly identical to the original AP80 and almost the same as AP80 Pro. If you look closer, Pro/Pro-X versions are a little bit taller and a little bit wider with addition of a small, beveled area on the left side and in the lower right corner. But the difference is measured in a few millimeters, and you have to look closer when they are side by side to spot it.
AP80, Pro-X, Pro
Pro-X adds X-shaped design around volume knob and a little wider bevel on the left/right sides, giving it a more “angular diamond” like appeal. Overall, both Pro versions are very similar, but Hidizs made sure there is some distinction to make Pro-X stand out.
The main focus of Pro-X is edge to edge front facing glass screen and Samsung 2.45” HD IPS touch panel with a reasonable 480×360 resolution. The back of Pro-X is glass as well, referred to as stereoscopic glass with a 3D effect, and the chassis around the sides are aluminum alloy. Not sure if they will have Copper version, like in previous releases. For now, only aluminum is available in black, grey, and blue colors. The DAP is very small, measuring 61.2 x 54.5 x 13.8 mm and weighting only 70g.
Nothing is at the top, left side has spring loaded micro-SD card slot (capable to support the latest high-capacity flash cards), and at the bottom you have USB-C port, 2.5mm TRRS balanced port and 3.5mm TRS single ended port. USB-C can be used to connect Pro-X as usb DAC, use as a Digital out transport, and can transfer data as well as charge the device (type-C fast charge). The single-ended 3.5mm output can also accommodate headphones with in-line remote (needs to be enabled in settings) and could be configured as Line Out (with a fixed max volume output).
The right side is where you have a volume knob at the top, Japanese ALPS. The volume knob has a nice click action as you turn in and some resistance for a better control which requires two fingers for a proper use. Volume knob also doubles as a power button, long press to turn on/off, short press to turn display on/off. With previous Pro model, due to a smaller wheel and dual volume/power functionality, on some occasions I was turning the display off as I was changing the volume. In Pro-X, the volume wheel is a bit less sensitive, but I still preferred to use touch screen volume adjustment instead which pops up as soon as I start turning the wheel.
Below volume knob, you have 3 identical hw playback control buttons with Play/Pause in the middle and skip/forward/back above and below it. The buttons have a clear marking right next to them. All 3 buttons have a nice tactile click response, nothing rattles as you shake the DAP. Also, these buttons don’t just skip forward/back with a single click, they also fast forward/back when you press and hold them.