Sound-wise the hip-dac 2 retains the overall presentation of the hip-dac. Again, it is a bit warmer than neutral with a good sense of space and resolution. The overall separation is very good, and the sound-stage is wider and deeper than what I expected.
The hip-dac 2 has excellent imaging as well, which is better than the original version. And it is combined with good transparency, especially in mids. Presentation-wise I think the device is mid-centric just as the first version. The tonality in the instruments is very satisfying and you have a good body in the whole sound. So I liked the sound performance and I think it’s better than what hip-dac has to offer. The difference is not huge, but definitely meaningful according to my tests.
Bass is on the leaner side of things without a huge impact. The kick is there but it’s doesn’t take the spotlight fully. So I think the hip-dac 2 has a neutral bass with a slight warmth, when the xBass effect is closed. Lows have good resolution and the recovery is quite good. The texture is not on the same level as the flagship gear of course, but for the price it goes, I don’t think it’s bad by any means.
Yet, I think the second version has a bit more bass warmth, especially in the mid-bass area. That’s a slight difference though, not too big.
When the xBass is opened there’s much more depth in the bass and lower regions are much more emphasized. This effect may be enjoyable to listen to with popular and mainstream genres. But that of course depends on your IEM/Headphone. The kick is more prominent and the rumble is apparent. The sub-bass notes are much more defined and trackable. This button is indeed magical for bass lovers out there, and I think it works better with headphones rather than IEMs. Yet, I don’t really like the effect as it feels unnatural. I think the bass performance is good with xBass closed.
Mids are in your face with good resolution and cleanness, just like the original version. The instruments sound very transparent with good tonality and timbre. The sound in this particular area is quite dynamic and emphasized. All the vocals and the instruments are well defined with a musical tone. However, they’re a bit close to the listener so that takes away the feeling of depth in the soundstage. The great thing here though is the definition of instruments and details in mids.
The second version has more transparency and detail in this area, with sharper separation. The difference is small but audible. The tonality is just a bit thinner than I would’ve liked but you can’t have everything in one device, especially if it’s priced 189$. Other than that, the instrument timbre is ear-pleasing with a lifelike and breathy reproduction. So overall I think the hip-dac 2’s mid-range performance is good for the price.
Highs are not as emphasized as the mids, but they have very good energy and articulation. The micro detail ability of the hip-dac 2 is good and actually better than the first version. The extension is also improved with more breadth and detail. It is not the best but to be fair to this device, I honestly did not expect more either.
However, the treble is impressive in terms of not being sticky in busy and complex songs so the articulation is very well. In terms of presentation, the treble is not that forward like the mid-range, but it’s still definitive and the attack on the treble is good enough. So the treble is not too soft or smooth. I would say it’s a bit rounded and slightly smooth, but not on extreme levels. It’s more like a natural treble I should say with good definition and dynamism. Just don’t expect perfect sharpness.