First Look Sunday: Hiby R3 Pro

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.

HiBy R3 Pro

First Impressions

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.

HiBy R3 Pro

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.

3.9/5 - (75 votes)

A keen audiophile and hobby photographer, Berkhan is after absolute perfection. Whether it is a full-frame camera or a custom in-ear, his standpoint persists. He tries to keep his photography enthusiasm at the same level as audio. Sometimes photography wins, sometimes his love for music takes over and he puts that camera aside. Simplistic expressions of sound in his reviews are the way to go for him. He enjoys a fine single malt along with his favourite Jazz recordings.


  • Reply December 15, 2019


    Do I spy a Hiby R3 Pro and Itsfit Fusion paring in the photo? I hope that analysis makes it to the review.

  • Reply December 19, 2019

    Raul B.


    So just because the device “costs 200 $ right now with pre-order, so I don’t think it would be fair to expect a Hi-End performance”.
    Isn’t that a certain quality bias based on the price of an item?
    Such a disappointment comment from a review. It really speaks volumes on what to expect from reviews here…

  • Reply December 19, 2019


    It’s not bias, it’s being realistic. It wouldn’t do justice to this player if you expect a high end performance, and in fact it would be stupid.

    • Reply December 20, 2019

      Raul B.

      Right! Because all expensive gear is so well ingeniered by default, right?
      How about some proper measurements apart from the typical unobtanium stuff?
      Don’t want to come across as a troll or anything, but this just doesn’t sound serious.
      You can almost anticipate a review based on the price of the item…

      • Reply December 20, 2019


        No, not every expensive gear is good or well engineered. What I said in the article has nothing to do with that.

        If the price is very high you naturally expect more because people pay much more for that gear. You can’t be satisfied with a mediocre sound quality from a device that costs 1000 $. That would mean that device is way overpriced.

        However if the price is intro-level, expecting too much would be unfair. You seriously don’t think that the actual manufacturer doesn’t take that into account?

        I don’t understand what you’re trying to point out here.

        Measurements don’t tell you anything. Measurements don’t tell the sound-stage, separation, resolution or background. So please stop it.

        I don’t base my reviews on the price of the item, but I expect more from high priced equipment. The R3 Pro is not Lotoo Paw Gold Touch, so it would be unfair to expect that kind of a sound performance.

  • Reply December 22, 2019


    hmm…would like to know how it compares to R5, is R5 200$+ better than R3 pro?!

    • Reply December 25, 2019


      Sound is close.

      R5 has much more features in terms of user experience.

  • Reply December 22, 2019

    Gopala Paruchuri

    I would like to compare it with XDuoo X10Tii for transport with Mojo. Also after sale support in the USA. Earlier I have bought R3 and its 3.5 mm port got broken and Hiby wanted me to ship it to repaint in China with my own money. If the support was in US, I should have shipped it but don’t want to risk to send it to China.

  • Reply December 30, 2019


    How does the R3 Pro compare in terms of sound quality & power to the Cowon Plenue D2? They both use the same DAC so I would assume them similar at least. I love Cowon, but the Hiby R3 Pro has more features and is $100 cheaper. If the D2 sounds better and has more power I’d REALLY like to know so I can decide between the two. Thanks!

  • Reply January 18, 2020


    How does R3 pro compare to ibasso DX120 and Shangling m2x in terms of sound?

    • Reply January 20, 2020


      No idea, I don’t have those to compare.

  • Reply February 29, 2020


    Hello, you mentioned “Streaming works smoothly without a problem, including the master recordings from Tidal” above. So, It will stream Tidal MQA? Does it also indicate this accordingly? I have heard it will not see the Tidal Masters elsewhere..
    Thanks a lot

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