Disclaimer: the Hidizs AP100 unit was sent to me for review. I did not pay for it.
I’m known as the guy that swears by the 5G iPod Video and the original iPod shuffle. But just maybe, I’m also a geek; an audiophile that wants to hear as much detail from as much earphone as possible. You know, much earphone like the JHA Roxanne, or the Noble K10, or Dita Audio’s The Answer. Maybe I, too, want a player with a super-low Ω output, with high current, with support for high-resolution audio.
I submit the following evidence:
I’ve got faith enough in my geek. So, go ahead, believe me. Believe me when I say that the Hidizs AP100, a 24/192 8GB, coax in/out, button-festooned player, sounds good. It really does.
In fact, for its price, it is a phenomenal performer. Its price, by the way, is between 200$ and 300$. Here in Japan, it runs closer to the latter figure. But I’m the geek that gets off on good, holistic design. Usually, I do the sound thing at the end of a review.
Today is different. Why?
Simply put, the AP100 is a worthwhile investment if you are ready for a handful of very stiff, very qualmy provisos.
I was floored at my first listen. Here was a brand new company with a brand new product, with no real geek street cred who, lickety split, created a portable audio player whose sound can rival the Fiio X3. For my uses, the AP100 edges out the X3.
While both are similarly nuanced, the AP100 is clearer, more lively, and capable of bringing you closer to your music.
The major exception is that the AP100’s output is noisier by far than both iBasso’s and Fiio’s midrange player. Noise sits between something nasty, like a Sony Walkman Ax00 and a mostly quiet iPod nano 6G. It’s more than you want, but still palatable. It makes me wonder how previous generation Sony Walkmans garnered such praise from so-called music lovers.
In every other measurable and discernible way, the AP100 posts amazing results. Truly and utterly. It commands perfect control over every ridiculously low Ω earphone I’ve thrown at it, both dynamic and multiple armature. Resolution way down into the sub bass regions is high, fraught with nuance, and organically rendered.
The same is true as we travel up the frequency spectrum. No matter your headphone, no matter the load (or absence of load) it yokes onto an output source, the AP100 manages incredibly high resolution. Like the X3, it projects a breathier, richer sound than say, an iPod, an iPhone, or an iBasso DX50 or 90. Fans of iBasso’s DX50 and DX90 likely will find the AP100 to sound a bit thick. Fans of the X3 likely will love what they hear. I do.
I certainly do.
A lowering of stereo integrity in both bass an treble regions when driving low-Ω earphones, and certain high-current headphones is the only other slight misstep the AP100 takes. But I would argue that the level to which the AP100’s stereo signal falls when under extreme load is inaudible. Very few of us have ears that can differentiate between textured below 80Hz. Ditto above 16.000Hz.
While hiss levels are higher than I would prefer, L/R balance, and control over very sensitive earphones is perfect. Output cuts to absolute zero when set to 0. It goes to 80. At the moment, I’m jamming out to Broken Social Scene through my favourite Beyerdynamic DT880. Volume is set to 45/80. I think it may be a bit too high.
Low-current, high-Ω headphones sound pretty good. At volumes above 60 or so, the DT880 begins to sound reedy and thin. But below that, it’s quite at home. The AP100 has no problem controlling it, though it doesn’t quite output the necessary amount of distortion to mature up the sometimes-sassy DT880.
All that is to say that sound-wise, the AP100 is a winner. Absolutely.
It also packs a pretty robust USER EQ system. It comes replete with a software pre-amp. Frequency bands are labelled. If you can’t make up your mind, there are 6 other settings from which to choose. None induce audible levels of distortion. By enabling the pre-amp, you can either away the bass, or if you really dig the abyss, dig an endless hole below you. Flip the prepositions and ditto the treble.
The AP100 also bristles with output and input options. It takes coaxial input and thus can be used as a DAC for a lot of HiFi equipment including something like the iBasso DX90 (a player whose sound is above reproach). Naturally, I spent part of the afternoon listening to The A.M.’s KNEwwaVE spat from the iBasso into the Hidizs. As pointless as that exercise may be, it proves the AP100’s role as capable DAC. USB-heads, the AP100 doesn’t do your thing. Little matter, desktop HiFi is better enjoyed by something properly desktop. May I suggest the Linnenberg Vivace?
Coax-coax, however, a great way to AB certain players at volume-matched outputs. Got a partner? Have her or him switch back and forth between the DX90 to the AP100.
In case you’ve been wondering, the AP100 plays nice with the most popular file types. At this moment, I’m currently enjoying The Boom at variable rate AAC (M4A). Before it, I was rocking out to Interpol in ALAC (M4A), and Broken Social Scene in FLAC. I’ve had no problems with MP3, WAV, or AiFF, either. In fact, the AP100 even spits out wonderful square waves. (Hat tipped to you, Chase Emory.) The only file that stymied the AP100 was an AAC version of Paul Oakenfold’s Planet Perfecto podcast. That put the AP100 to bed.
It’s not all roses. Head to the next page to catch the flip-side.