Sound-wise the hip-dac 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 has excellent imaging as well, and it is combined with good transparency, especially in mids. Presentation-wise I think the device is mid-centric as a whole. 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 xDSD and CAN had to offer in the past.
Bass is on the leaner side of things without a huge impact. The kick is there but it’s doesn’t take the spotlight. So I think the hip-dac has a neutral bass when the xBass effect is closed. Lows have good resolution and the recovery is quite good. Layering 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.
When the xBass is opened there’s much more depth in the bass and lower regions are much more emphasized. This effect is 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 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, such as the Thieaudio Phantom.
Mids are in your face with good resolution and cleanness. 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 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 149$. Other than that, the instrument timbre is ear-pleasing with a lifelike and breathy reproduction. So overall I think the hip-dac’s mid-range performance is excellent for the price.
Highs are not as emphasized as the mids, but they have very good articulation and detail. Micro detail ability of the hip-dac is excellent and it shows that ability in this area the most. The extension 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. So the treble is not too soft, warm, or smooth. It’s more like a neutral treble I should say with good definition and dynamism.
The review continues on PAGE 3 with technical performance, synergy, and conclusion.