The tonality is the best part of the RS6. And the timbre, together with note thickness is very well with good texture. The overall resolution is fairly good, and I especially liked the treble transparency. I found the separation to be nice as well, together with the dynamism. However, I expected a better PRaT with more speed and quickness. Especially in the bass department, the RS6 feels a bit slow.
Even though it has excellent musicality and tonality, the RS6 has its shortcomings in terms of technical performance and delivery. The resolution to me is the biggest drawback of the RS6, especially in the mid-range. The mids don’t sound clean enough in terms of transparency, based on the price level. Sure, the timbre and naturalness are excellent, but the resolution is not the best.
On the other hand, the treble area has a good resolution. So when I look at the RS6 from that perspective, there’s a problem regarding consistency and cohesiveness. The bass is very strong, so with certain IEMs, the mid-range is not clear enough because of bass presence. When you pair it with a bright, crisp and airy IEM, the presentation becomes nicely balanced with great musicality. So the RS6 is not a type of DAP that goes well with everything (i.e. WM1A). As I repeatedly remark, you need to be careful about matching.
In terms of output, it has the power to drive many headphones out there. The HD660S for example is driven nicely from the RS6. With sensitive IEMs I didn’t hear any problems either. That means you probably won’t have issues with sensitive gear. I stayed around 25-35 volume levels at most with my IEMs (out of 100 – high gain). But I still recommend rather easy-to-drive headphones (full-size), since the others require a full-size amplifier to sound their best.
The SE180 is one of the best DAPs released in recent months. It has changeable DAC modules with additional costs. However, it comes with the SEM1 module as standard. I have reviewed the DAP mostly for its SEM2 module and the SEM3 is on its way soon. Yet, I will compare the SEM1 version for the sake of being fair to the RS6 based on price.
User experience is very different with the A&K. The UI is quite slow compared to the RS6, and it has a closed Android OS. You can’t install any app you want, instead, you need to find a suitable .apk file to install music services. A&K has added a “download” option in the services menu with the latest update, but the RS6 provides much more freedom and easy installation from the Play Store regardless. For the sole purpose of streaming, the RS6 is simply better with a much fast CPU and Wi-Fi.
Sound-wise the SE180 (SEM1) is a bit analytical when compared to the rich and colourful nature of the RS6. The RS6 has a bigger bass with more impact, smoother and warmer mids and a bit more sparkling treble. It plays more atmospheric and deep. The SE180 however, has better resolution, transparency and separation. It has more air and spaciousness in its stage with a wider stereo image. So if you want musicality and natural timbre, you can get the RS6. Otherwise, for technical performance, the SE180 is better.
The sound performance gap opens up more with the SEM2 module in the SE180. But it costs more of course.
The AK SA700 is the compact Astell & Kern which pays homage to the original AK120. Once again, the user experience is quite different then what the RS6 provides. They’re both reasonably compact devices with a little bit of heft since they’re around 300-315 grams. The same story with the SE180; the SA700 operates slower in a closed Android OS. The RS6 feels like a rocket when you switch to the HiBy’s offering.
Sound-wise they’re both warm and musical devices. Yet, the SA700 doesn’t take things too far to the ultra-warm area, whilst the RS6 is a bit more radical in that sense. The SA700 too has an impactful bass but less in quantity. So it stays more controlled with slightly better refinement. Its mid-range is a bit clearer with more transparency. They’re very close in terms of treble performance and sound stage.
Overall, I would give a slight edge to the SA700, since it has a better resolution and transparency in the mid-range.
I haven’t had a chance to check out the flagship R8 player from HiBy, but Lieven’s conclusion might convince you to get the big brother with 500$ more budget to spend.
“I have really enjoyed my time with the R8 and I feel it makes for an excellent TOTL player in this segment. Not only is the HiBy R8 an extremely versatile DAP, but it also sounds great. As you can read in the comparison part, I feel the HiBy R8 also is the best performing player in this segment at this moment.
If you’re looking into a higher-end portable player that can do it all (thank you Android & HiBy Music), then the R8 probably is the DAP to put on the number 1 spot of your shortlist.”
The HiBy RS6 is a wonderfully designed, elegant player that provides many features in a complete package. You have streaming, advanced DSP settings, DTA, Hi-Res Bluetooth, micro SD support, a very fast CPU with a clean UI, 4.4mm BAL and 3.5mm SE outputs in a very rigid copper chassis. This is a dream DAP when it comes to online music streaming. What more can we ask for?
The sound overall is a unique one with distinctive warmth and musicality. It has great texture and naturalness but I think the resolution and transparency part can be improved as well as clarity and separation. However, pairing is also very critical here. You can balance out the clarity with very resolving, flat and bright IEMs/headphones. You will have a very natural sound that is quite satisfying.
I appreciate HiBy’s first effort on their new, in-house “Darwin” R2R Architecture. I’m sure they can build upon this and reach greater heights. The RS6 is a very good statement from the brand.