Today we check out the $199 Hiby R3 Pro for the first time before the full review.
Disclaimer: This post is part of our new First Look Sunday series, you can find all of the previous ones here.
About Hiby Music
HiBy music specializes in research, development and sales of high quality portable audio products. They have professional R&D staff and they also have quite a good history in the portable audio field. They’re also pretty famous when it comes to building software to playback music on your phone and on dedicated portable audio players.
When they released the original R6 DAP it was quite a big hit to the market. But developing software and producing a complete music playback device are two different things. So of course the first R6 had some small dents like the output impedance, general software and UI stability and overall sound quality. After some time, they decided to release the Pro version of the R6 which was also reviewed on Headfonia. The Pro has a 4.4m BAL output, a better output impedance and sound quality upgrades.
Their smaller R3 DAP has also become popular with its great form factor and eye catching, thoughtful design. Not to mention the luxury to have a streaming services in such a small device. I already have the original version to compare with this R3 Pro, and a detailed comparison will be available in the full review.
About Hiby R3 Pro
The R3 Pro is a very compact DAP with good features just like the previous model. We have the same UI and OS here with the streaming capability through Tidal once again, the same size and form factor, and the same design. In fact, it is not possible to distinguish the R3 Pro from the R3 on first sight, if they have the same color. For indication, you need to check the back of the player to see the R3 Pro text.
However, there are some important developments under the hood. The DAC chip is changed from ES9028Q2M to CS43131. That’s not it though, the new Pro model has double DACs, so it’s a dual DAC circuitry which in theory improves the separation and sound-stage.
The amplifying section had some overhaul as well. Now both the 3.5mm and 2.5mm have more power. To be exact, the 3.5mm output has %14 more power, and the 2.5mm has %47. The player now has a better noise floor too. So you will get a better performance with your low impedance monitors.
The battery run time is also better with the Pro version. HiBy claims a 20 and 16 hours of listening from SE and BAL outputs respectively. The claimed figures were 11 and 9 hours in the original model. This is a very nice addition for a better experience in the long run.
I personally experienced the R6, R5 and R3 DAPs before this model. All of the Hiby players left good impressions on me in terms of design and usability. However, the R3 series is somewhat a little bit of a downgrade in terms of overall user experience.
The screen has a lower resolution and the device doesn’t feel that premium in the hand because it’s very very light and feels somewhat hollow. The lightness of the body doesn’t play well for an elegant and quality feeling. Yet, I think these are necessary changes to make this player smaller, pocket-friendly and also budget-friendly.
Other than the build quality and premium feeling, the user experience is pretty good. You have a very small screen in today’s market standards, but this player is not a rival to those devices. But still it’s not very straightforward to get used to it, so expect to have an adjustment period. When searching something, typing with an old school “Nokia keyboard” is not the best thing you can have, but that is an expected compromise for the R3 Pro. Typing with a full keyboard in a small screen would not have been ideal as well.
Streaming works smoothly without a problem, including the master recordings from Tidal. I heard some people had problems with Tidal software with the original R3, but in my case everything is easy and flawless. The device is fast enough for day to day operation, including the booting time. I did not face a bug or another problem with the UI or software yet. But don’t expect a very snappy performance like the R6 and R5 models. I also found the battery life to be good.
Sound-wise of course I need to give it more time and effort with several IEMs and headphones to fully understand the performance. But for now, I can easily say that R3 Pro sounds better to the R3. It has better speed, dynamics, separation and sound-stage. The sound is cleaner and crisper, the instruments have better dynamism, and the bass has better control and texture.
I found the transparency part better as well with good overall tonal accuracy. This device costs 200 $ right now with pre-order, so I don’t think it would be fair to expect a Hi-End performance. But, it’s good to see the obvious improvement with the R3 Pro and the difference was already quite apparent with my first listening session.
Make sure not to miss out the full review of the HiBy R3 Pro on Headfonia in the upcoming weeks.