As it is HiBy’s first real top-end DAP, the expectations are high. For this chapter, we used a whole series of IEMs and headphones. Like with the R8, the HiBy RS8’s tuning is more to the warmer side of neutral but it can’t be directly called a warm-sounding DAP. However, being an R2R ladder design, it certainly has musicality and romanticism. It reminds me of the old HM801 somewhat, although not that dark & warm in any way.
I can comfortably say that the RS8 has the qualities to be considered one of the very best portable audio players in the market today. It has what it takes in terms of technical performance, overall presentation and usability. If I put the giant desktop “DAPs” aside (Lotoo’s new Mjölnr or Sony DMP-Z1), this is the market’s top-level performance without a doubt.
The most noticeable quality of the HiBy RS8 is its super dark background, stereo imaging and full-bodied, textured sound altogether. I mentioned that this is a musical-sounding DAP, but that is not done in a way to perform mediocre in terms of overall technical achievement. The RS8 certainly is musical, but not too much. At the same time, it has spaciousness, air, separation and resolution.
It has a good amount of body and fullness, but I never felt it to be wrong or too much. It again sits just right and it hits the sweet spot. The RS8 is always perfectly in control, especially in the bass region and the overall PRaT, and the dynamism is very good. Turbo Mode takes this dynamism aspect and carries it further, resulting in a more engaging, focused delivery. That’s the strength of the RS8, it has many features and you can tailor its sound depending on your needs.
The RS8 also has great tonality and the midsection is where this impresses most. The separation, spaciousness and airiness are just right and it makes it a very natural, pleasant and engaging. The RS8 sounds musical and organic, but energy and clarity are also present. The note thickness of the RS8 is also just right, not too thick, and certainly not too thin either.
Sound stage wise the RS8 extends well in both width and depth. The depth and layering are fantastic, and this aspect has been noticeably improved over the previous R8. At the time I wrote the R8 review, the overall soundstage performance of the A&K SP2000 was apparently better. But now, the RS8 is much better than the SP2000, and on par with SP3000 and N8ii, which proves that it easily belongs to that level.
Looking at clarity and cleanness, the RS8 also performs great, and from bass to treble there’s excellent accentuation and texture. It’s on par with the best in the market, and it also has great transparency. The background is perfectly black in general, and that’s one of the most impressive qualities of the new flagship HiBy unit. Even with sensitive monitors, I couldn’t hear any background noise. There’s no doubt that HiBy has managed to produce a great device in terms of clean output.
The RS8 is always in control. Bass has a good kick and punch and the result is a powerful, tight and rumbling bass (when needed). It’s never too much in regards to the body, but it still has a touch more bass than what I’d call neutral. So if you like to have your bass well-textured, rumbling and impactful, the RS8 is an excellent DAP.
The bass detail is quite good and the sub-rumble and layering in particular are very impressive. The bass body is excellent and isn’t overpowering.
The mid-range is very clean sounding, with a high level of transparency and separation. There’s excellent timbre and naturalness here, without being too thick or too full-bodied. That’s the quality of the RS8. Everything is flowing, natural, and perfectly placed. It doesn’t place the mids on the back, or on the front of the stage. The overall mid-range presentation is just right, with neutral delivery and tonality.
The treble section extends well and has a lively character. It has great clarity and energy. It delivers a very articulated and extending treble.
Across the whole spectrum, the HiBy RS8 does it all effortlessly in a big soundstage. It results in a technically great, musical and natural presentation.
A flagship player deserves flagship comparisons, so we’ll be comparing it to the following DAPs. First, there’s the regular HiBy R8, then we have the Cayin N8II and finally the AK SP3000. The most used IEM for this comparison is the Unique Melody Mentor Pro, and we’re streaming from Tidal on all units using the 4.4mm balanced output.
The HiBy R8 was the brand’s flagship player up to now. It is still selling for $1,899 USD and it features a double AK4497 DAC chip. The original R8 is much more bassy and less in control. Compared to the RS8 it also misses clarity and cleanness. Going back to the R8 coming from the RS8 is difficult on the ears. The RS8 is more energetic, precise, spacious, and wider. In fact, it’s technically superior to the R8 on all fronts.
Listening to the R8 now feels intimate and dense with too much weight and warmth. The RS8 is more high-end and more balanced and linear. The difference is night and day. R8 move over, and the new boss is in town.
The Cayin N8ii (selling for $3,499 USD) features both tubes as well as solid state, but for this comparison, we’ll focus on the solid state output. The DACs used are Dual ROHM BD34301EKV. I Prefer the CLASS A setting with the UM IEM as it offers the best precision and extension. The Cayin N8ii and RS8 are much closer to each other than the R8 and RS8.
The main differences here are the more spacious presentation on the RS8 and it just has a slight edge over the N8ii when it comes to note extension. The RS8 also has this “je ne sais quoi” that the N8ii doesn’t have. There’s just that extra bit of energy in the RS8, that makes your eyes sparkle and foot tap even more.
For the rest, I have to say that these DAPs are very close to each other when it comes to the sound stage, depth, layering and extension. They’re also similar when it comes to weight, body and bass presence. Unlike the R8 where we had a night and day difference, it here is much more refined. It will purely depend on your personal preferences regarding which DAP you’ll like most, but both are performing at a very high technical level.
The Astell&Kern SP3000 ($3,699 USD) features dual AKM AK4191 (Dual Modulator) & quad AK4499EX (Dual + Dual DAC). Upfront I expected these DAPs to be very close and they of course are. These DAPs share the same tonality and they both have balanced presentation.
The RS8 has a little more bass presence and perhaps is a little warmer in the delivery of the bass and mids. The RS8’s vocals are slightly more to the front. The note extension on the RS8 is even more impressive than on the SP3K and combined with the extra energy the RS8 has, it’s the most expressive and musical sounding.
Sound stage wise both players impress, though the RS8 might have the advantage when it comes to airiness and naturalness. Anyway, both are great DAPs with a top-level sound and a very high technical level. The differences here are clearly present, but they’re not immense. It’s difficult to say which one of these is the best, it’s more what you prefer personally. For my ears, I love the extension and energy of the RS8, but I prefer the weight and bass presentation of the SP3000. Can these 2 DAPs have babies, please? You can’t go wrong with either of them.
Hiby RS8 + EE Odin +satin audio zeus 8 braid : killer combination