iFi audio hip-dac 2 Review

Technical Performance

The soundstage is not very wide and deep, so it’s somewhat average and boxy in this regard. However, it’s better than my expectations at this price level. The depth is a bit improved as well as layering with this second version, although again, it’s not a dramatic difference. The forward mid-range presentation creates a close stage just like the first model. Yet, the device has a nice ability to separate the instruments and reproduce a spacious stage. That sense of space is also a bit better with the new version.

The bass recovery is one of the positive points about hip-dac 2. Yet when you open the xBass effect, that ability is not the same. The feature is very nice just for the sake of fun, but not so good to me in terms of pure sound quality. But that’s just me, you might feel differently.

The best parts about the hip-dac 2, however, are the resolution and transparency. These two are very important factors for me and the hip-dac 2 is quite good from that standpoint. Balance-wise the mid-range is forward as I mentioned various times. Other than that there are no unnecessary peaks and lifts in the presentation. Separation is good with plenty of air and space. Tonality is realistic with good timbre as well. Overall the hip-dac 2 is quite likeable with good technicalities.

iFi Audio hip-dac 2

Synergy

I don’t recommend using the hip-dac 2 with very sensitive monitors. Take the Vision Ears VE7 for example. Its impedance is 12 ohms, and it has a sensitivity of 116 dB. This is one of the more sensitive monitors you can find. Is it impossible to use it with the iFi hip-dac 2? No, it’s not, but it’s not ideal either. But if you like your music a bit quiet like me, then it’s not your best pairing. Also, there’s a noticeable background noise with the 4.4mm connection.

The device is wonderful and very powerful for full-size headphones though. The result is excellent with the Hifiman Deva Pro, which I soon will review. The results with other monitors such as the P-EAR-S SH3 are quite good. Just be aware that it’s not ideal with very sensitive monitors, especially from the 4.4mm output.

Comparisons

EarMen TR-Amp Review

The Earmen TR-Amp is a very successful DAC/Amp device. It’s bigger and bulkier than the hip-dac 2, and surely in no way portable. It doesn’t have the slick design and sharp look of the iFi offering neither. Other than that, it has the same double USB inputs separately for power and data. The iFi offering has a 4.4mm Balanced output and xBass features in extra. The Earmen device doesn’t have those features.

However, sound-wise it’s one of the best performing DAC/Amps below 300$ mark. Its overall performance is superior to the hip-dac 2, with the cost of portability and style. It has a better sound stage, better resolution and better separation. The sound is more refined and relaxed with more spaciousness and layering.

Lately, Earmen put the price down a bit on that one as well, so now it costs $199 instead of the 249$ launch price. As a result, if you plan to buy a price/performance DAC/Amp for sole desktop use, you should consider the TR-Amp. If you need portability in a slim package, go for the hip-dac 2.

Violectric Chronos Review

In case you need even more portability and compactness, there’s the new Violectric Chronos DAC/Amp. It doesn’t have any extra features whatsoever, since you have a USB Type C input and standard 3.5mm headphone output. But it’s very tiny and easy to carry around.

Its sound performance is much bigger than its dimensions though. It’s quite powerful as well, so it’s not a huge issue to use full-size headphones with relatively low impedance levels. The Chronos sounds realistic, natural and reference-like with a flat and balanced presentation. The hip-dac 2 is more engaging and warm, so it might be a better choice for popular music. But if you need extra portability and if you listen to Jazz, Classical, Blues or Classick Rock, the Chronos is a seriously successful device.

Conclusion

The iFi hip-dac 2 has only one goal; improving your sound quality compared to the direct outputs of laptops and smartphones. After the time I’ve had with this device, I can smoothly say that it reaches that goal. The previous hip-dac was also quite successful on that. However, iFi put some small but rather important updates to the device to make it even better.

With its engaging mid-forward presentation the hip-dac 2 is a great companion for a music lover or a starting audiophile. There’s better detail and better separation than the first version as well.

iFi Audio hip-dac 2

The hip-dac enters our DAC/Amp Combo Recommendations, replacing the hip-dac 1.

Page 1: Intro, Design, Build

Page 2: Sound Quality

 

4.5/5 - (111 votes)

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A keen audiophile and hobby photographer, Berkhan is after absolute perfection. Whether it is a full-frame camera or a custom in-ear, his standpoint persists the same. He tries to keep his photography enthusiasm at the same level as audio. Sometimes photography wins, sometimes his love for music takes over and he puts that camera aside. Simplistic expressions of sound in his reviews are the way to go for him. He enjoys a fine single malt along with his favorite Jazz recordings.

4 Comments

  • Reply December 2, 2021

    Jamibibia Solmientos

    MQA is crap. If it has crap, only flies will buy it. I don’t want to pay for someting I find useless and MQA is stupid useless.

    • Reply December 2, 2021

      Tibor

      You dont pay premium for mqa at iFi. Hip Dac is a serious dac/amp with premium sound for little money. 🙂

  • Reply December 2, 2021

    Mark

    How does this device pair with Audeze LCD-1’s?

  • Reply December 6, 2021

    Roy

    Nice review but I was expecting more comparison against the original hip-dac.

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