Review: Hiby R3 – Bringing Sexy Back

Hiby R3

Disclaimer: The Hiby Music R3 was sent to us and Headfonics.com free of charge in exchange for this review. Hiby is not related to Headfonia in any other way. We were selected to do the pre-market tests for this DAP using engineering samples on Beta firmware. It’s important to know that our unit and the beta firmware on it will most likely be different from the ones that you will receive after ordering. EDIT:The R3 Kickstarter project is live now!! https://kck.st/2IYPZPs

 Hiby Music

Hiby Music already was pretty famous when it came to building software to playback music on your phone and on dedicated portable audio players. And then a few months back, they released their own R6 portable player and it hit the market big, with excellent comments all over the web.

In case you completely missed that, I’ll repeat what Berkhan had to say about Hiby when he reviewed the R6 DAP:

HiBy music specializes in research, development and sales of high quality portable audio products. They have professional R&D staff and they also have quite a good history in the portable audio field. They have partnerships with brands like Cayin, Shanling and Questyle. As far as I know they make the software of those devices or at least give software support to them.

HiBy Music’s mottos are “Make Music More Musical” & “Ease of Use is not Optional”

Also, their HiBy Music application for smartphones has more than 500K users around. I’ve never used it since I don’t listen to music from my phone, but it’s not hard to see they have a good reputation and know-how about audio processing and software integration.

Hiby R3

Hiby R3

The Hiby R6

The Hiby R6 was launched late last year but as said, it received only positive comments and to many people it was the DAP of the year 2017. Our own Berkhan also loved it:

All I can do in the end, is simply congratulate the guys at HiBy Music for creating such a great Android player. It has tremendous build quality, a fantastic and eye catching design with a great screen. A very fast processor, a clean OS for efficiency and stable software are other crucial factors, especially with the DTA Architecture, which is maybe the most important thing.

The sound from the balanced output is wonderful to listen to. The single ended output, while still being very nice, is not an option for me after experiencing the balanced sound from the R6. I don’t think I’ll ever return to single ended mode.

I think it’s one of the best Android players you can buy in terms of pure sound, and it’s maybe the best in terms of speed and UI.

Now Hiby is back with the R3, the R6’s little brother, and because of the R6’s excellent performance we and everyone in to portable players, expect a lot from it.

Hiby R3

Hiby R3

Hiby R3

The Hiby R3 was only announced a few weeks ago, and it will be launched on the Kickstarter platform really soon (27 March!). The sample that we received is an engineering sample. That means our R3 (Headfonics and Headfonia) is not fully working just yet and it still shows some minor issues. These of course will be ironed out before the production version is sent out. Marcus and myself have been testing the R3 for a few weeks  already and we have been giving the Hiby team feedback about the things to address. I also want to take the opportunity to thank Joe for the support he gave during this process. There isn’t too much info about the R3 on the Hiby website just yet and there’s this thread on Head-fi: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/the-hiby-r3-is-coming-soon-a-new-little-brother-to-the-r6.872288/ .

Hiby R3

Hiby R3

You might be surprised about this but we actually don’t have all the R3’s specs yet. At this stage we do know that the DAC-chip used in the Hiby R3 is the ESS Sabre ES9028Q2M, this is the exact same chip that was used in a double configuration in their R6 DAP. You can find out all about this chip right here: http://www.esstech.com/index.php/en/products/sabre-digital-analog-converters/sabre-hifi-mobile-dacs/sabre-hifi-stereo-dacs/es9028q2m/ The DAC-chip does up to 64bit/384kHz PCM and DSD256 native decoding and you don’t need to install a driver in Windows to get it to work. The R3 uses dual crystal oscillators at 45.1584MHz, 49.152MHz.

The small R3 measures 82x61x13mm and weighs only 95gr. It has a 3.2″ screen with a resolution of 480x360px. It of course is a full touchscreen but it does have physical transport and volume buttons as well. The R3 has the usual features such as Wifi, DLNA, Airplay and Bluetooth (APTX) and it is equipped with a USB-C port. This port is used for charging, DAC-connection and serves as the coaxial digital output as well. To use this feature you need an OTG USB-C to Micro USB cable or a USB-C to 3.5mm Coax cable. You can use a Micro-USB OTG cable as well, but then you need to be sure your Micro to USB-C adapter is OTG as well. In all honesty, I didn’t get it to work as my usual cables and adapters don’t seem to work on the R3. Marcus however did find a cable it works with just fine.

Hiby R3

Hiby R3

The Line-Out function is available via the 3.5mm output, but it’s no real LO. The R3 according to Hiby is ideal for head- and earphones between 8 & 150Ohm. The power output of the 3.5mm output is: 56+56mW @32Ω and the balanced 2.5mm output is rated at 112mW+112mW @32Ω. The R3 will have less than 1 Ohm output impedance.

Price & Accessories

The official retail price was only confirmed last week and it is set at $229 USD. The engineering sample of the R3 came in a basic box but I do think this is the final retail box. The Hiby R3 comes with a white USB/USB-C data/charging cable, a user guide, warranty card, QC certificate and 3 screen protectors (one pre-applied on the screen).

Hiby R3

Hiby R3

The engineering sample didn’t have a screen protector, so if the R3 in the pics looks a bit beat up, it’s because of that. For the price is a nice and complete package, the only thing that’s missing is a pouch or (leather) case to protect the DAP.

The review continues on Page two, after the click HERE or by using the jump below

Review: Hiby R3 – Bringing Sexy Back
4.4 (88.92%) 74 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

31 Comments

  • Reply March 21, 2018

    Loganaden Balakrishna VEERAPEN

    Big thanks Lieven for the review (reviews which I always very much enjou btw). In terms of sound quality alone how would rate the R3 against the iBasso DX50?

    • Reply March 22, 2018

      Lieven

      Oh the good old DX50. It’s been so long since I listened to that one, I still have it somewhere but I always preferred the DX90
      The R3 is thicker and warmer sounding for sure, the DX’s were more precise

      • Reply March 23, 2018

        Loganaden Balakrishna VEERAPEN

        The DX50’s sq did get much better with fw iterations (especially the last one). The sqwise the R3 seems more of a sidegrade – however considering usability and sexyness its on another level. Might seriously consider it due to budget constraint but there are other interesting ultraportables on the horizon – like the Shanling M0 and Xuelin IHIFI790.

  • Reply March 21, 2018

    Bots

    The glossy finish and smaller form factor reminds me of iRiver’s new ACTIVO CT10 player.

    https://www.soundandvision.com/content/iriver-announces-mqa-support

    • Reply March 22, 2018

      Lieven

      MQA: I don’t know how to feel about that 🙂

      • Reply March 22, 2018

        dale thorn

        I’ve been investigating this for awhile, and trying to side-step the misinformation to get to the (mostly hidden) details. Here’s what I found so far – all subject to change.

        NOTE: I don’t have anything to say on the design or philosophy of MQA, I’m just trying to find the details to know what the effects are.

        The MQA firmware in some DACs are not going to be switchable. Meaning if you have an MQA stream coming in to a DAP, it will probably be decoded and rendered transparently. The differences in sound from non-MQA streams (or albums) seems to be mostly the normal differences in different masterings. That could change of course.

        When using a component system where the DAC is independent from the music player, to get the correct MQA decoding the music player and DAC have to cooperate with each other. In some cases, the DAC would just be a “renderer” and it would require the music player to decode the MQA before sending it to the DAC. If the DAC is a full decoder and renderer, then the music player would have to be set to “pass through” to let the DAC do everything.

        When a non-MQA album or stream is in the same playlist as MQA albums and streams, the music player should not attempt any MQA processing, because it would not “see” the MQA signature in the data. In that case the music player should send the data unaltered to the DAC, and what the DAC does then nobody seems to know for sure. The MQA guys say it just plays as normal. Firmware updates to most DACs would be optional of course.

        In cases where DSPs (equalizers etc.) are being applied to digital data by music players before sending the data to the DAC, I don’t yet know whether they could conflict with any MQA processing being done by the same music player.

  • Reply March 22, 2018

    Dmitri

    Can you confirm that the coaxial SPDIF output is realized through 3.5 mm?
    In another review I read, Coax SPDIF was described as being received via usb.

    • Reply March 22, 2018

      Lieven

      As far as I know: Coax is 3.5mm, USB output is just the normal OTG one

      • Reply March 30, 2018

        ALBERTO MARTINEZ

        Hi Lieven,
        Which cable (brand/model if possible) do I need to get COAX from R3 either 3.5mm or USB-C to pair with Mojo? Thanks

  • Reply March 23, 2018

    g_t_j

    Hi Lieven.

    From your description of the R3 sound, it seems more in line with the X5iii? Is that the case?

    • Reply March 25, 2018

      Lieven

      it is but its not as noisy

      • Reply March 27, 2018

        g_t_j

        Great feedback. That was what I wanted to hear!

  • Reply March 28, 2018

    Ken

    How does a user access WIFI at hotel or fitness center where server requires log in screen in a browser? Tidal only at home?

    • Reply March 28, 2018

      Lieven

      That’s the tough part indeed. I think Marcus wrote about it in his review…

  • Reply March 29, 2018

    Smoke

    Have you tested with difficult to drive headphones? There really is no mention that this has an amp built-in? I believe the ones you compare too all can..

  • Reply March 30, 2018

    HAWKEYE

    Planning to get LZ A4 for this – can you suggest alternative with same budget range as I’m little bit worried about LZ warranty process

    • Reply March 30, 2018

      Lieven

      I don’t know the LZA4 price, but maybe something like the ibasso IT01

  • Reply March 30, 2018

    Hans

    Hi Lieven, thanks for the review.

    I was wondering if you can share your thoughts on 2 questions:
    1) Are there gain settings to deal with the slightly lower output power? My V20 drives Pinnacle PX (same as P1) fine as well as HD600 but I’m wondering if the R3 will work out.

    2) For sound, are there any other DAPs to consider at this price range? I’m looking for an all rounder that I can still come back to, even when I upgrade later on. My V20 drives anything easily, but the SABRE implementation while detailed and resolving is a little cold. Also, both separation and soundstage aren’t the greatest. For example, would going with a X3 III or Shanling M3S work out better? Interface and wireless aren’t important to me as I usually listen on the commute using shuffle, so 3.5 unbalanced is what matters for me.

    I listen to anything from classical orchestral works (timbre matters), jazz (bass matters), EDM and Rock (details and congestion), and vocals (separation matters), so I unfortunately need to find a jack of all trades.

    Thanks and cheers!

    • Reply March 30, 2018

      Lieven

      1. You have low and high gain. Never had to turn gain on high. That being said, this is an IEM DAP

      2. The ones I compared it to in this review, the Shanling’s DAPs. But in this price range you will never get the best possible DAP for separation and sound stage. I would go N3 or this or Shanling

      • Reply March 30, 2018

        Hans

        Hi Lieven,

        Thanks for your reply! My daily listen is the 50ohm/96db sensitivity Mee Pinnacle PX (Massdrop version of P1) so if low gain is generally sufficient that’s great 🙂

        I’ve read your comparisons again and I think this is a good balance of characteristics – I may be moving towards more neutral IEMs in the future so the slight colouration may help me transition better from my V-shaped IEMs. Do you find the MSEB EQ effective or you prefer conventional EQ adjustments?

        There seem to be more entry-mid level DAPs coming with SABRE chips after the LG Vx0 series and premium DAPs. Look forward to your review of the Shanling M0 and how its implementation stacks up against the V30 😉

        Cheers!

        • Reply March 30, 2018

          Lieven

          I never do any EQ or MSEB. I don’t know if Berkhan will be doing the M0 though, we’ll see

          • Reply March 30, 2018

            Hans

            Thanks Lieven!

            Did you pick up any differences between the 2 digital filters?

  • Reply April 2, 2018

    Hans

    Hi Lieven,

    I just stumbled upon similarly-priced (for now) Onkyo DP-S1 and Cowon Plenue D. Do you have any advice on choosing between them?

    I listen to only FLAC through unbalanced 3.5mm Pinnacle PX (50ohms 96db/mW), so connectivity, UI, DSD support etc is not important, just sound 🙂

    Thanks!

  • Reply April 9, 2018

    Dilpal

    Hi..Nice review. I have very peculiar need. I want to stream Spotify or other Indian music streaming services on my smartphone through LDAC to hiby R3 for my wired earphones. Can hiby R3 do it?

    • Reply April 9, 2018

      Lieven

      I don’t think so no. Not 100% though. It will be possible in the future to stream Spotify directly on the R3 though

  • Reply April 10, 2018

    Jayce Ooi

    Nice little DAP. 🙂

  • Reply April 12, 2018

    Nat

    Hi, Lieven

    How would you compare the R3 to the Plenue D in terms of sound quality?

  • Reply April 26, 2018

    Marco Tesla

    The production unit with the newest firmware sounds much more neutral, with better soundstage and more detailed refined highs than the pre production units . A little gremlin told me that 😉

  • Reply July 27, 2018

    Tim

    Hi there,

    Thanks for this great review. Would you say that gapless playback is implemented perfectly? I use FLAC/ALAC and APE – and listen mainly to classical and concert recordings – so gapless which is not seamless would be a dealbreaker for me.

  • Reply August 1, 2018

    Tim

    Hi – any info about whether the gapless on this DAP is correctly implemented and actually seamless would be really greatly appreciated – can anyone let me know?

  • Reply August 31, 2018

    Allen Feinberg

    I have been comparing the R3 to the Shanling M0 for Bluetooth aptX sound on home hi-fi and aptX (Avantree) headphones. I like the R3 for its mass, its build, its operating system, the screen, and the sound. I like the M0 a little more overall. The M0 has better overall sound. Its screen is more responsive. I do find the R3 better than the M0 in its sound when listening to the Avantree Bluetooth headphones. It is a marked difference too.

    The M0 is a Standard Ruby Micronic for 2018. It is a real gem and I can hardly believe that in many applications, it sounds better than the R3. But the R3 shines as well, and the custom EQ is both fun to play with and helpfully responsive. I keep it in the plastic case it came with and found that helps to control the buttons better by keeping them recessed when being held. I like these two players so much, I have decided to expand my digital library. The R3 is a great, excellent player.

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