iFi audio hip-dac Review

iFi audio Hip-Dac

Sound Quality

 

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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

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

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.

Treble

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.

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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 with audio. Sometimes photography wins, sometimes his love for music takes him over and he puts that camera aside. Simplistic expressions of sound in his reviews is the way to go for him. He enjoys a fine single malt along with his favourite Jazz recordings.

18 Comments

  • Reply July 30, 2020

    CW

    I’m a big fan…got this w/ my Sennheisser 660s cans and am really enjoying the combo. Great for portability and I do use on my work-from-home desk. One great tip is to have the hip-dac plugged in to an external power source before turning on and it will draw from the external power and not the built-in battery.

    In fact, I also got the Zen DAC for my ‘den’ upstairs for convenience.

    • Reply July 31, 2020

      Berkhan

      Enjoy it. However if the device is only working with an external power source, the battery might get deteriorated.

  • Reply July 30, 2020

    Michael Norberg

    Nice review, but I wish there was a comment which DAC chip is actually used for the ifi Hip Dac.

  • Reply July 30, 2020

    Bob

    Do you have to “unzip” files to download the drivers??? If you do count me out. I have NEVER had any luck trying to do this.

    • Reply July 31, 2020

      Berkhan

      I think so yes. Let me know if you need any help.

    • Reply August 20, 2020

      james wilson

      Bob, there is no reason you should ever have a problem unzipping a file then using it… I’ve never heard such a thing in my life… maybe watch a youtube video on how to unzip a file?

      I think its in your head, brother.

  • Reply August 2, 2020

    Bobo

    What would you say in terms of difference to ifi micro black? I was thinking of downgrading since my cans are OPPO pm3 pretty easy to drive.

    • Reply August 2, 2020

      Berkhan

      There isn’t a big difference between them. I think the hip-dac even sounds more natural.

      * I answered this comment thinking what was mentioned is the Nano iDSD. It actually is the Micro iDSD BL so this one is not even in the same class. So a big difference. But Micro BL sounds warmer and more organic if we just think about the sound presentation. But technically this is no match for the Micro.

  • Reply August 4, 2020

    Musikverein

    Natural is the keyword here! Analogue, I would add. The first to my ears with 24Bit (classical) music material. Imho this iFi is a no brainer if you run it with neutral/analytical phones as I do:
    Tin Hifi T4 modded, K712 modded, DT880/600 (soon) balanced.
    It has replaced the Dragonfly in this chain. Another huge benefit: the Hip does not distort audibly, even under full load. Five stars, certainly for the sound to price ratio.

    • Reply August 5, 2020

      Berkhan

      You have nice pairings there. Enjoy!

  • Reply August 13, 2020

    Musikverein

    So true, Berkhan.
    I had the chance today to extensively listening to Hip Dac in combination with the brandnew Zen Can Amp and to run that into HD800s, DT880 600 and Diana Phi.
    In short, I consider this the mid-fi combination of the year so far. Organic and coherent in timbre, multifeatured, resilient to clipping. Well designed, except the USB cable which is made for the color blind.. Plus, all of this for a very affordable price point one might call Entry.

  • Reply September 15, 2020

    Fabio

    Very nice device! Got it last Saturday. At the moment I don’t have serious headphones. I tested it with my iBasso IT01S and Beyer DT770.
    The hiss with the IT01S connected to the balance 4.4mm is very audible and I don’t like it.
    Can you please suggest me good headphones to use in combination with the Hip Dac? Budget 200-400 € and I mostly listen to metal, rock and jazz in this order. Progressive Metal is my favourite genre.
    Many thanks!!

    • Reply October 7, 2020

      Roy

      Fabio, care to share your experience pairing Hip Dac with Beyer DT770?

  • Reply December 15, 2020

    Kidd

    Just curious, did you take out the hipdac from the dac/amp reccomendations?

    Anyhow, how do you think the hipdac compared to the Nano iDSD Black Label?

    Thanks!

    • Reply December 15, 2020

      Berkhan

      Seems like a slip-up on our part. Big thanks for the reminder. I fixed it.

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