PROS: Discrete resistor R-2R DAC (w/updated Darwin II architecture), natural resolving tonality, balanced sound with a deeper bass response, no hissing even with sensitive IEMs, turbo mode with a voltage boost, fast Android 12 performance (665 SoC, 8GB RAM, 256GB ROM), MQA 16x, DSD1024 and PCM1536 support, hi-res 5.5” screen, Titanium chassis, phenomenal battery life.
CONS: weight, price, and at the time of writing fw still required tweaks.
The product was provided to me for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
Lately, I find it challenging to review flagship DAPs. Many are getting bigger in size, becoming transportable rather than portable. They run optimized versions of Android on fast Snapdragon processors and with plenty of RAM for multitasking. They have higher output power to drive even some of the demanding headphones. The price gap is also not as wide anymore. And every flagship DAP is tuned to sound its best, showcasing years of accumulated manufacturer’s experience. So how do you choose which one is better or the right fit for you when you are dealing with so much overlap? You must look deeper while trying to find something unique about it, something that makes it stand out, especially in pair ups with your favorite IEMs and headphones.
After spending a month with RS8, testing it with different earphones and comparing to other audio players, I’m ready to share my findings about this latest flagship release from Hiby so you can decide for yourself if this is the right DAP for you.
Unboxing and Accessories.
To celebrate the release of their latest flagship DAP, Hiby designed a custom full-grain premium leather box which they referred to as “suitcase”. Actually, the leather box was inside of a silver cardboard storage box and that box was inside of a premium material drawstring bag. The leather storage box was beautifully crafted with stamped diamond-shaped patterns and a buckle design across the top cover. Once you lift up the cover, everything inside is lined with a soft suede like material. The top tray has a precise cutout for RS8 where you will find the star of the show and next to it you have a titanium nameplate, the same material as the chassis of the DAP. It would have been cool to have a serial number etched on that Ti plate, but this is not a limited-edition release so the plate is probably the same across every box.
Under the top tray, at the bottom, you will find a slightly bigger cutout for a storage box with a leather RS8 case, also full-grain genuine premium teal/bluish color leather material, and cable accessories. There was also an envelope with a spare screen protector, with one already applied to the screen, warranty card, and a manual. The included cables are usb-c to usb-c charging/data cable and usb-c to RCA coax cable, both high quality durable built cables. I guess Hiby recognized that most of today’s chargers are usb-c based, so no more usb-A to usb-c, but it would have been useful to include usb-c to usb-A adapter. Some people still use old chargers and many laptops only have one usb-c thunderbolt port used for a laptop charging, meaning you will need usb-A adapter to use the included cable with a regular usb port.
The leather case design is unique. RS8 slides from the top, so its top is fully open, and the bottom has a full cutout for all the ports, only covering the bottom edges of the chassis. Left side is fully covered, hiding direct access to spring loaded microSD card slot, and Right side has a generous cutout for Playback control and Power buttons, including status LED. If you prefer a tactile response of physical buttons, this cutout gives you direct access to all of them. But the unique part of the case design is on the back where you have a huge cutout exposing the back of titanium chassis, allowing unrestricted air circulation to keep it cool. A lot of today’s DAP cases are following popular Dignis designs with metal grill on the back that makes it look pretty but blocks some air. This is different and I can confirm that RS8 never got warm to the touch. One thing to mention, after a while the open titanium back got a bit oxidized, turning a shade darker which is visible when you take RS8 out to reveal a brighter edge area that was covered by the case.
Not included with the package but offered as an optional accessory, Hiby came up with CR08 cradle docking stand with a heat dissipation backplate and small integrated fans. I don’t have this docking stand, but according to Hiby spec, it has 5 outputs: 3.5mm LO (RCA stereo output), Coaxial digital output, 4.4mm Balanced LO (XLR balanced stereo output), Optical Digital output, and USB DAC out/usb OTG storage expansion. You do have to take RS8 out of the leather case to magnetically “attach” to CR08 and need to keep it in landscape orientation. But if you are using RS8 mostly at your desk, I’m sure some will find it useful. Personally, I use RS8 in a leather case on top of the desk without a problem, never getting warm during playback of local hi-res flac files or while streaming.
And here is the final thought about the storage box. The leather storage box is beautiful and would be a shame to put it away collecting dust. If you are keeping your RS8 in a leather case you obviously can’t put it back into the original top tray slot which can accommodate only a naked DAP. But, the bottom tray with a cutout for the leather case box can be removed and switched with a top tray. This way the bottom tray is now at the top and has a big enough cutout for RS8 in a leather case and two additional cutouts for the cables, making it a perfect storage case for your DAP.
No other way to say it but Hiby RS8 is a big and heavy DAP, nearly the same dimensions as their previous flagship R8 but heavier. iBasso MAX is still the thickest and the heaviest I’ve tested so far at 700g. But RS8 with its dimensions of 143mm x 82mm x 22mm and the weight of 590g is starting to get closer, moving right into the transportable category. I’m sure big contributors of an addition weight here are a bigger battery and a copper case around the battery. But even with a bigger battery, relative to R8, these two are not too far off, RS8 is just a bit thicker.
The body/chassis of RS8 are all Titanium, and according to Hiby it is 6-stage CNCed from a single solid slab of titanium which involves over 19hrs of labor including polishing. And that also includes a removable Titanium back panel. The cost of the material and the more labor intense manufacturing process are probably big contributors to a higher price of RS8. The focus of RS8 front is a big 5.5” IPS 1080p HD display. While a film screen protector was already applied, the glass itself is one of the latest gen Corning Gorilla, so we are talking about a scratch resistant high-end glass display with oleophobic coating. The touch screen supports multi-finger gesture and double-tap to wake sensor.
While it is a basic rectangular shape DAP with a glass touch screen dominating the front, Hiby tried to add custom design touches to give it some personality, the same overall design as R8 and scaled down versions of R6’20 and RS6. The sides have an angular facet cut so it is not flat, and even with a leather case on you can still see and feel the unique shape of the sides. On the left side you will find a spring-loaded micro-SD card slot (up to 2TB). With leather case on, micro-SD card is covered to protect from dust, and you will have to take RS8 out of the case to replace the card.
On the right side, you have evenly spaced power button at the top (long press for Power on/off and Restart with on-screen confirmation, short press for screen on/off), LED multi-functional status light, and Play/Pause and Skip buttons. All buttons have a nice tactile response. Power button is a little bigger, while playback buttons are narrower, but still big enough and spaced far apart to press without hitting button next to it. Buttons have angled design/placement to complement the shape of RS8 chassis with one side sticking up a little bit higher, exactly the same as in R8.
The LED light is RGB and indicates not just when power is on (pale blue) or when charging (pulsating red, with faster pulsating when quick charging and slower pulsating for regular charging), but also format of the audio playback with blue (48kHz and under), green (64k-192kHz), orange (over 192kHz), and white (DSD files). At the top in the upper right corner, you have Alps digital encoder volume knob with a wavy pattern around it to enhance the grip when turning, butter smooth action as you turn it (prototype RS8 I tested before had a click action), and guards on each side to keep the knob recessed with a top edge of the DAP.
At the bottom you have 4.4mm BAL (6Vrms, 7.5Vrms in Turbo, 780mW @32ohm max) and 3.5mm SE (3Vrms, 280mW @32ohm) headphone ports to the left, and 4.4mm BAL and 3.5mm SE Line Out ports to the right. Each port has a dedicated functionality without a need to switch between PO/LO. In the middle at the bottom, you have USB-C multi-function port for charging, data transfer, USB DAC in and Digital Out, and Coax Out with included custom cable.