Review: Hiby R3 – Bringing Sexy Back

Hiby R3

R3 Design & Build quality


From the minute I opened the box I was in love with the look and feel of this little player. The Hiby R3 is light, small, fits in your hand perfectly, is easy to work with and above all, it looks oh so beautiful.

The screen covers almost the whole front side and with its rounded edges it looks and feels slick. The aluminum case also feels soft and looks great with its light grey color. These videos on Youtube give you a nice overview of how the R3 looks.


The Hiby R3 has the perfect size for on the go and it’s extremely pocketable. The build quality is top level as well and there are no loose buttons or sharp edges. The Hiby team did an exceptional job and they deserve a 10 out of 10 for the Hiby R3 design. The only thing I can complain about is that with its round edges and smooth finish, the R3 can be rather slippy in your hands. I have dropped it on a couple of occasions already, so a case really is needed in my opinion.

According to Hiby the R3 will be available in black, blue and green with many other colors to come.

R3 Lay-out

The full front part of the player is almost completely covered with the screen. There’s just a little part at the bottom of the front of about 1cm where there’s a black strip that does nothing. On each side you also have this black strip but there it measures only a few mm. While it maybe doesn’t sound so when you read this, it really looks as if the screen is covering the full front when the player is turned on. The black bar at the bottom has the Hiby logo on the right and there’s the typical little yellow Hi-Res Audio sticker on the left.

Hiby R3

Hiby R3

On the left side of the player you only have the volume control where the top is “up”. It basically is one big button and it doesn’t sit flush in the case but sticks out a bit. The volume control is very easy to work with, but you can also change the volume on the screen.

On the top of the R3 DAP you find the 3.5mm single ended headphone out, which also serves as the Line Out, on the left side. The 2.5mm balanced output is on the right side of the top. On the right side you have four buttons and one LED that does more than you think. On top there is the power button which also serves as the screen on/off button. Right under that button you can see a very small LED. This LED in our sample is fully functional yet but depending on what you’re doing or listening to, this LED will change its color. Once implemented (firmware update) these will be the different colors and meanings:

On (nothing playing): blue
Playing (under 48kHz): blue
Playing (48kHz-192kHz): green
Playing (192kHz+): orange-yellow
Playing (any DSD): white
Charging: pulsating red (faster on fast charge)

Under this LED you have the previous, stop/play and next button for controlling the unit. Just like the volume button on the right, it sticks out a little but they’re very easy to work with. At the bottom of the player you have the slot for the MicroSD-card on the left and the USB-C port is on the right side. The back of the Hiby R3 is grey but there’s nothing really special to report about it.

Hiby R3

Hiby R3

R3 Memory & Battery

The Hiby R3 doesn’t come with any internal memory so you will always need a MicroSD card unless you’re streaming from tidal.

The R3 is small and light so the battery inside it isn’t the most impressive spec-wise. The 1600 mAh battery fully charges under 2.5h and depending on the usage of the screen, the quality of the music file and the (headphone) output used. In theory it should be able to deliver between 9 to 11 hours of play time but I found this to be a little optimistic, especially as you’ll be looking at the beautiful screen a lot.

R3 Usability & Features

The following video gives you a very good overview of the Hiby R3 usability and its different features:

Using the R3 is easy and it’s very straightforward as well. It starts up reasonably fast and even reading the library on a full 200gb cards goes pretty fast. The screen is of excellent quality and the touch screen responsiveness is fast.

The button lay-out is easy and using the buttons with one hand is not an issue at all, even when the player is in your pocket. Of course because of the Hiby Link software, you don’t have to take it out of your pocket if you don’t want to. Some special features I specifically want to mention are the WiFi music import, Tidal, DNLA (sending only), Aiplay, the typical Hiby MSEB, the EQ and the color setting.

A lot of people have been asking about the R3 and Tidal and it works perfectly. In our engineering sample you can’t download from Tidal to the SD just yet, but it should be possible in the future according to Hiby. Working with Tidal is easy, as usual. According to Hiby, the R3 is the smallest and lightest Tidal device, though I can’t confirm this myself. It’s nice to know that other streaming services might follow with upcoming firmware updates.  If you don’t want to hook up the player to your laptop, then you can upload songs to the SD card using the WiFi music import function. I’ve never seen this before on any other DAP, but it’s really easy to use.

Hiby R3

Hiby R3

According to Hiby the DLNA function on the R3 is only for sending data to the R3, but I couldn’t find the R3 on any of my other units, probably that’s also related to this being a pre-production sample. It does seem that Headfonics did get it working on their unit. For those of you that don’t know MSEB, it is a sort of EQ function but it’s not like the typical 10-band EQ settings which the R3 also offers (manual + presets). With MSEB you can alter the sound signature of the R3 and the options are:

  • Overall temperature (cool/bright to warm/dark)
  • Bass extension (light to deep)
  • Bass texture (fast to thumpy)
  • Note thickness (crisp to thick)
  • Vocals (recessed/crisp to forward/radio edit)
  • Female overtones (detox to vivid)
  • Sibilance (soft to crisp)
  • Impulse response (slow/musical to fast/hard)
  • Air (soft to crisp)
Hiby R3

Hiby R3

Something that I like is how the R3 lets you change the template color of the software. It might sound stupid but I like being table to set the color to blue, red or grey as those are my favorite colors. The R3 also has the typical digital antialiasing filters as many other DAPs do but you can only choose between Slow / Early roll off and Fast / Late roll off.

Working with the Hiby R3 has been fun and I have not had any serious and specific issues during testing. One thing I came across is the fact that when you set the player to shuffle in the “all” files menu, it will keep playing the same song all over. When you’re in another folder it works just fine though. This has been reported to Hiby and they’re looking into it. Another thing I noticed is how the R3 doesn’t show the album art yet in the Artist/album folder. To get to that folder you need to go to the Artist index, and click the new button that pops up on your screen in the top right corner. The Hiby team has also been informed about that and it should be all good once the player is sent to the buying customers.

Updating the R3 for now is a manual task, although wireless OTA updating might be possible in the future. Another thing I like with the R3 is that you can set the output level to a specific volume when turning on the DAP. I always have it set at “10”, it’s safe for my ears and it allows me to go to 11 when that extra bit is needed.

All-in-all the Hiby is a very complete player for the money it is going for. It works really well and while there still are some small issues to work out, Hiby promised to get everything sorted out before the R3 launch.

The article continues on Page THREE, after the click HERE

4.3/5 - (109 votes)

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.


  • 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


      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


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

    • Reply March 22, 2018


      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


    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


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

      • Reply March 30, 2018


        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


    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


      it is but its not as noisy

      • Reply March 27, 2018


        Great feedback. That was what I wanted to hear!

  • Reply March 28, 2018


    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


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

  • Reply March 29, 2018


    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


    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


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

  • Reply March 30, 2018


    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


      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


        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 😉


        • Reply March 30, 2018


          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


            Thanks Lieven!

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

  • Reply April 2, 2018


    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 🙂


  • Reply April 9, 2018


    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


      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


    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


    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


    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.

  • Reply November 20, 2018

    Wim Cumps

    Hi, is it compatible with the With Android auto or Mirrorlink ?

  • Reply December 5, 2018


    Hi I would to know your thoughts if I was to upgrade my HibY R3 to a better dap what do you guys suggest? I do only use iem’s

  • Reply December 25, 2018

    Hiep Le

    How can i add WAV files’s cover like the second picture of this review? The cover appear when i play the file on pc but its gone when i play it with my Walkman A55

  • Reply May 19, 2019


    The usb-c can be used for coaxial out to external dac
    Can it also output usb using usbc cable to external dac?
    If so which cable should be used?

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