The HiBy RS2’s advantage in the sound department is that it’s a pure device. No unnecessary components inside from a pure sound perspective. This decision may seem questionable in today’s world of screaming apps everywhere. But I still think there’s a certain market where people just look for a pure music player to play their Hi-Res archive.
Since the release of the flagship R8, HiBy is quite serious about music playback, and the RS2 is surprisingly good sounding in that regard. The DAP technology has evolved very well, so we see budget players that can perform on a high level. You don’t need to pay a premium price for good sound anymore. Hence, the competition is very high but HiBy has some things to say here.
The RS2 is, unsurprisingly, a warm-sounding unit. Their “Darwin” RS6 is also like this with the ladder DAC design, so the RS2 carries the trend over, in a smaller package. The unit sounds organic, natural and lively. The midrange is vivid, the bass is controlled and full, and the treble is softer but well-defined.
The bass in the RS2 is definitive. There’s good texture and resolution here, and it’s deep and impactful when asked. It’s even more controlled than the RS6 I reviewed a while ago, so that’s a surprise. The midbass is especially quite full, and that’s always a good thing for tonality if it’s not overdone. And the RS2 is not overdone at all in terms of mid-bass presence.
The bass separates from the mid-range nicely, so the separation in this area is good. The decay and quickness of the bass are on a good level, especially for this price. With a little tweak inside the “MSEB” sound adjustment menu, you can perfectly set the bass to your liking. Yet, these are artificial effects at the end of the day.
So overall, lows in the RS2 are controlled but full, with nice impact, definition and warmth. If you have a flat-sounding monitor, you might get the most ideal balance here, since a warm IEM wouldn’t be a good match because of the full and warm bass.
The mid-range has great note thickness and tonality. The warmth of the RS2 is very satisfying if you like musical-sounding gear. It presents a very fluent mid-range, creamy nature, good definition, and great timbre. I especially liked the presentation of various instruments, particularly acoustic guitar and sax. The musical quality of the RS2 is fabulous.
I guess this is the biggest benefit of ladder-resistor design. When you buy a “Darwin” DAP from HiBy, you do that for musicality and mids, period. Even the most analytical and flat monitor can come to life in the mid-range with the RS2.
The smoothness of the mids is the key factor in the RS2. It doesn’t have the most transparent mid-range, nor the most resolving. But it plays instruments and vocals in a very musical and smooth way. Some players have a bit better resolution in this area, such as the SR25, but that one doesn’t have the timbre of the RS2.
So again, the choices come into play. If your IEM has good clarity and resolution, it will balance out well with the RS2 since you’ll get excellent timbre and tonality, as well as good note weight. It reminds me of the old Hifiman DAPs; the HM801 and HM601 LE. Similar timbre quality and smoothness.
The treble region is nicely controlled but well extended. The Treble sounds very clear as well. There’s a good balance here with good resolution. It doesn’t sound harsh, but it doesn’t play it too safe either. It has clarity, crispness, and extension with a resolving sound here.
So don’t expect a recessed treble just because it is a warm-sounding player. The treble is right there with good definition and presence. However, it’s never harsh or piercing. That’s the most important thing. It keeps the treble under control with all of these qualities I mentioned. There’s good transparency here as well.
So overall it’s a very nice treble reproduction with excellent balance and timbre. The treble is not too thin sounding, but not too thick either. It sounds just correct. There’s a good resolution here with plenty of detail.