Ok, so is the new Hidzs AP80 Pro-X better than the old one? Tough question as I didn’t own the previous one, but for the price, this DAP is a very good surprise.
As usual, I began my listening session with The Spoils from Massive Attack, one of my favorite tracks, followed by The Chain from Fleetwood Mac, an all-time classic. Out of the box, paired with the DT770 Pro X, the player offers a nice, flat, balanced signature that reminds me of FiiO small-but-mighty KA3. Clearly, through its 2.5mm TRRS output, the AP80 Pro-X was downright impressive, pushing clear mids and tight highs with no special efforts.
It’s fast and precise, at any level of volume, and the layering feels natural, with clean lows and sharp voices. Even at low volume, the AP80 Pro-X pushes micro-details, almost effortlessly, and if I didn’t listen to the previous version, the third time is the charm.
Digging deeper, I switched from the 2.5mm, to the 3.5mm, to see if what I heard through the balanced port, translates to the single-ended output. Fed with the usual audiophile tracklist (Eagles, Steely Dan, Jamiroquai) the small DAC did wonders with my UM Maestro and even sounded better than the EarMen Eagle, especially in the upper range. On the single-ended output, I even found it better than the Sparrow, but reverting back to the balanced out, the EarMen took back the lead.
Paired with the FiiO FD7, the difference wasn’t as striking: better detail retrieval on the Sparrow, wider soundstage on the AP80 Pro-X, it really depends on your IEM/headphone. Still, head to head, I found the Hidzs more charming, with a more balanced signature and precise timbre, even more once connected through the balanced output. Pan effects are delightful, with good depth, and the player was able to scale nicely with higher-end gear, such as my Shanling ME800, which displayed authoritative bass, something that I would have not expected for a DAP this small.
Out of curiosity, I compared the player with the ddHiFi TC44C, my go-to-DAC at the moment, which sports a dual Cirrus-Logic chipset, compared to the dual ESS of the Hidizs. And, if I didn’t expect the DAP to outperform the DAC, I was pleasantly surprised by both devices, especially paired with my CIEM. Sure, the TC44C provides more micro-details, but the AP80 Pro-X seems to give a better tonal balance, with softer high-mids.
On Ocean – Mahogany Sessions from Alice Phoebe Lou, a deliciously soft track, each layer just adds up the right way: the voice, the kicks, the bells, everything blends together to ensure a true, audiophile, sensation.
All in all, a very good DAP, that offers much more than you’d expect.
Highs: flat but sharp. The Hidizs AP80 Pro-X is pure ESS: good extension, acute trebles and a lot of micro-details, with the right headphones/IEM. In this regards, If I had to choose one device to pair the player with, that would be the Shanling ME800 (a true gem)
Mids: excellent layering and dynamic. This was especially true with big cans, like the Beyerdynamic DT900 Pro X, as the sound pressure delivers superb vocals when the track is well recorded. I was especially surprised by how well it sounded, paired with the Beyer, even compared to the TC44C. A very nice setup for someone who wants a sub-$500 combo!
Lows: clean and tight. The Hidizs AP80 Pro-X isn’t for bass heads, and the player did a good job, but nothing amazing either. However, you might be surprised by low-mids kicks sometimes, especially with IEM like the Shanling, or FiiO’s FD series. On Kaleo’s hit, the battery kick completely took me by surprise, and deeply resonated in my head, even after a few seconds.
Hidizs AP80 Pro-X + FiiO FD3 Pro: the new FDx series from FiiO is golden – and it could not be truer for the FiiO FDX – offering a powerful sound with a wide sound stage, packed in a very nice case. And, out of the three (FD3, FD5, FD7) the FD3 is my favorite choice, for the Hidizs.
It’s cheap, comes with a 2.5mm plug, and blends perfectly with the AP80 Pro-X, thanks to the big driver, delivering excellent dynamic range. Push the volume, and the soundstage widens even more, while the bass remains tight and deep.
Hidizs AP80 Pro-X + Shanling ME800: the new ME800 is the brand top-of-the-line IEM, and sonically, it sure is. Compared to the ME700, the improvements are quite interesting, even if the tuning switches were not of real interest, in my opinion.
Paired with the AP80 Pro-X, the result is – unexpectedly – quite impressive. Lows are damn sharp, thanks to the uncanny fast transients, and my biggest fear happened to be my favorite trait: highs are simply exquisite. Okay, it’s a bit of an expensive solution, for something as small as the Hidizs, but the end result is properly superb.
Hidizs AP80 Pro-X + BeyerDynamic DT900 Pro X: probably my favorite headphone of the year, with the DT700 Pro X. The Beyer offers is a solid upgrade from the old-but-still-the-reference DT990 Pro, with a new driver, renovated design, and overall, a better sound.
If I first tried the Beyer with the AP80 out of pure curiosity, the combo that came out was shockingly good. The soundstage is wide, accuracy is almost uncanny and the small DAP was perfectly able to output solid low-mids, even restricted to the classic 3.5mm headphone output. A must-try!
Let’s make it simple, price and size-wise, the Hidizs AP80 Pro-X is one of the most interesting players of the moment. It’s compact, sturdy, snappy and most of all provides good sound. Combined with a good IEM or some nice headphones, it can outmatch many similarly priced DAC/Amp, with the DAP function as a bonus.
It’s not a player that will replace your mid-to-high-end DAP, but like my AirPods Pro, it’s one that can be safely put in a pocket, or a backpack, and travel with you everywhere, to offer some audiophile experience on the go. A great player for newcomers, or simply for anyone that wants a good DAP, without breaking the bank.
Now, let’s hope Hidizs releases a mid-range version, like an AP180!