HiBy R5 Gen 2 Review


The HiBy R5 Gen 2 basically has two different modes in terms of sound. The software provides you with a ”Class A mode” switch.  When this switch is closed, the new R5 uses its ”DAC/Amp mode” basically to preserve the battery.

When you open the Class A switch, the player switches the discrete Class-A amplification on, so you can utilize this new circuit design of the new R5. However, this limits your battery juice substantially. Whilst you can use the R5 for around 30 hours with the ”economy mode”, the Class-A mode typically gives 9-10 hours of playtime. That’s a huge difference right there.

The departure from Cirrus Logic to ESS means that we have a change of presentation and signature, which is indeed the case. The new R5 departs the presentation of the R5 Saber which was musical and smoothed out. This new R5 Gen 2 sounds more technical and even analytical when compared to the previous version. So, the R5 Gen 2 presents a studio-type sound which is technical, and a bit clinical overall.

Standard Mode

In standard mode, the new R5 sounds thin, analytical and laid back. The tonality is a bit off and you don’t have the warmth or fullness, especially in the mid-range. The mids and treble suffer the most without the Class A amp, and the layering takes a huge hit as well as dynamism, resolution and transparency.

It gets the job done with popular music, especially if you don’t hook up a high-calibre IEM to it. The battery life is great, almost like a Sony Walkman (Class D), but the sound performance is pretty much limited and compromised, substantially.

The advantage of this mode is basically having a long-lasting battery in scenarios like commuting or maybe doing activities like walking when you don’t mind much about the overall sound. However, if you’re serious about your sound, I don’t recommend getting the R5 Gen 2 for battery life only, because I bet, you’re not going to utilize its standard DAC/Amp at all.

Class A Mode

This is where the R5 Gen 2 starts to show what it’s capable of. The sound immediately becomes clearer and crisper with much better dynamics, layering and texture. The bass has more pace and timing, the mids have more body and breath, and the treble is more coherent. The sound stage expands and becomes more holographic, especially in terms of depth.

I know what a Class A amp can manage to do, so this result didn’t surprise me one bit. This, I think should be the sole reason for you to buy this player, to be honest with you. Yes, you would lose a lot of playing time as it ”only” gives around 10 hours, but most DAPs have these similar figures anyway. I used Sony ZX2 and WM1A in the past and I know the great user experience because of the battery life, but if it’ll sound this good, I’m ready to give that playing time away for the sake of it.

Analytical Approach

But again, don’t expect the musical and soft/smooth nature of the R5 Saber and RS6 with this DAP. Whatever you listen to, you hear that certain coldness and analytical approach to sound with this double ESS DAC + Class A setup. But from the pure sound perspective, the R5 Gen 2 makes it work with great PRaT, transparency and resolution.

In fact, if you have warm sounding headphones and IEMs, I’d recommend you to get this R5 Gen 2 instead of the much higher priced RS6, only because of synergy. This new R5 is technically quite strong and pairs very well with warm-sounding gear. Just pair it with your IEM from the 4.4mm BAL output with the Class A mode, and you’ll be surprised.

More Details

The bass reaches deep but it doesn’t have an incredible texture like in the RS6, but the decay and quickness of the bass are on a high level. The midbass is nicely executed with a good definition. It’s a bit flat in the bass and doesn’t get in the way of things too much and stays quite clean. I think the overall bass performance of the R5 Gen 2 is quite a reference for low to mid-range audiophile players.

Mids have good attack and dynamism, together with excellent transparency for the price. The presentation in this area is a bit cold and detail-oriented, but it doesn’t sound that analytical like an old QLS QA360. The tonality is good and neutral without any colouration. This is an important feature of the new R5. It’s the first time I’m hearing a HiBy player sounding reference-like and neutral.

The treble is sharp, but not overly aggressive with good extension and articulation. I would’ve liked a bit more refined treble with a hint of smoothness though. That’s just me, but other than that, the treble area is nicely defined with a sharp attack and good timbre.

Page 1 – Intro, Package, Design & Build
Page 2 – User Experience & Software
Page 4 – Comparison & Conclusion
4/5 - (131 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 June 2, 2022


    I have the R5 II and agree it’s quite neutral with or without the Class A on. I put a Graham Slee voyager in the path and it warmed it really well. No loss of the clean sound, but a bit more tubey!

  • Reply June 2, 2022


    Nice review.
    Somehow, I prefer SR25 (or maybe SR25 MK II) than hibby R5 Gen 2. But there is one thing that bother me for a long time. Are SR25 and R5 Gen 2 heating a lot when you play it more than 30 minutes or an Hour?


    • Reply June 13, 2022


      I own hiby r5 ii for a week now, when switched to Class A amp, i dont feel any heat on the back of the DAP

    • Reply June 16, 2022


      Not really.

  • Reply June 29, 2022

    roland lickert

    I have the unit since 3 weeks and compair to my old DAP Cayin N5 MK2 it is a big improvment as the AMP A setting makes all the difference.So far I,m happy with the unit and for me its great value for the money you pay.Congratulation to HIBY for a job well done

  • Reply July 28, 2022


    In your honest opinion who makes the most reliable/durable/well built DAPs?:


    Not to mention Sony since they’re on a league of their own when it comes to quality control.

    • Reply July 28, 2022


      I wanted to say AK, Cayin :-D. I think all of these are good really, I use AK, Cayin, Fiio and HiBy the most.

  • Reply August 1, 2022


    Do you change your units quite often?

    I’m not the type of guy to change my devices, that why I ask about reliability since I’m planning to use my next DAP for at least 3 years before I make another purchase.

  • Reply October 12, 2022


    Hi, I’m a newbie and I’m currently using a Hiby R3 Pro Saber. I very much enjoy using the MSEB to tune up sound to suit my taste. Recently I have been thinking what should it be for my next step. With a limited budget, I find this R5 Gen 2 is very attractive to me because of the MSEB, the Class A amp and of course the price. With almost the same price, the other choice I have in mind is a second hand WM1A (1st gen). Since I read that you used a WM1A before, I’d like to know, in your opinion, which is a better choice between the two? Many thanks.

  • Reply December 21, 2022


    How does this compare, sound quality wise, to the iBasso DX170?

  • Reply October 20, 2023


    Two questions.
    Can the Hiby R5ii easily power something like a Sennheiser HD 598 via single ended class A?
    And can it power a sennheiser HD 650 via balanced class A?

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