First off is the Fiio X7II with the AM3B amplifier module, that’s the one with the 3.5 single ended and the 4.4 balanced output, so the same as our R6 PRO. Sound wise they actually are pretty close and the X7ii shows more energetic, more extended treble. Bass is also maybe a bit less/tighter on the X7II but that’s about it for differences. This goes for both the balanced and single ended output. The Fiio X7II uses the ESS9028PRO and the R6 PRO uses the ES9028Q2M so there’s really no surprise here. These are the top competitors for the mid-fi market!
The little sibling of the HiBy family (the R3) sounds really good for its price but it’s just not playing at the level of it’s big brother, and that’s perfectly normal. Depth, width, separation, detail, layering and balance, the R6 PRO easily outperforms it by a lot. The R3 is fun, the R6 PRO is quality and fun. The difference between balanced and single ended in the R3 is also very small compared to that of the R6 PRO. The R6 PRO is also much easier to work with because of its size and the better worked out menu structures, etc
Unfortunately our regular R6 is in Turkey with Berkhan and so I can’t give you a direct comparison between both player at the time of publication of this review. I do promise to add it though as soon as I get my hands on it again. From what I understand from my colleagues I trust, I understand that the R6 PRO is and sounds more powerful but also more noisy. But we have covered the noise already and it’s really nothing to worry about. The R6 PRO also is said to present more body, bass and warmth (probably in balanced). From a direct comparison, the R6 PRO was named the most tonally correct one of both R6’s.
Another DAP we could compare the R6 PRO to is the Astell&Kern AK70II, it’s still available though it’s been replaced by the SR15 and that one (again) unfortunately has been returned to AK in South-Korea. From what I have in my memory the SR15 sounds more balanced and linear when listening to the 2.5mm output, with less bass and mid body, as well as impact.
For me the real only competitor at his price point is the Fiio X7ii as the other DAPs in our collection are either entry-fi, high mid-fi and high end and it makes no sense comparing it to those DAPs.
IEMs & Headphones
Pola is the universal IEM by Shozy and AAW we reviewed last week. Pola likes power and so you would think the combination works really well but I last week reported this: The Pola gets the nice full bodied sound of the R6 PRO and it makes the bass and mids shine. The R6 PRO is fairly neutral but bass and mids have good body. With this source the treble is the least impressive but mids and bass have excellent detail and layering. Treble is a little smoother here and for the POLA it’s missing some energy compared to with the other players. It’s not my favourite source for POLA even though I’m really loving this DAP. Of course that’s in single ended mode as Pola comes with the special 3.5mm terminated cable.
The JH Audio JH13V2 is the monitor I use when I want to enjoy my music on a non review basis and with the R6 PRO I actually prefer it in single ended mode. The JH13V2 has a full bodied sound and great bass (adjustable) on its own and with the balanced output it all for me personally becomes a bit much. In SE mode you get good body, detail/precision and musicality all in one, where the quality is hidden behind the body and bass in balanced mode.
The Unique Melody 3DD-Ti unfortunately is an IEM I have a hate-hate relationship with so far and with the R6 PRO I also can’t get to loving it either. To me it sounds overly airy, had disconnected bass, mids, highs and it just doesn’t sound natural, it’s wrong. I’ve liked all the UM units so far but this one just isn’t compatible with me.
Power also means you can easily hook up higher end, easier to drive, full sized headphones such as the Hifiman HE1000SE to the balanced output. With the Sennheiser HD660S you have to switch to high gain but the result is quite nice with good bass and clarity. It’s not the best sounding HD660S I have ever heard but directly from a DAP this is quite nice.
The Hifiman Ananda is extremely good and it won an award from us last year. On top of that it comes with its own 4.4mm terminated cable. The Ananda doesn’t need high gain and even on low gain at volume 30 it will play louder than you want. It’s not only about loudness of course but the R6 PRO drives the Ananda with such ease. It delivers perfect (big, impactful) bass, rich, deep mids, excellent layering from low to high and high energy treble. This is a stunning combination.
Meze’s Empyrean – the best headphone of 2018 – is also supposed to be real easy to drive yet it really does sound better when you hook it up to a big amp. The R6 PRO really surprised me here as I didn’t expect it to sound this excellent from the balanced output. No, it doesn’t doesn’t have the sound quality compared to the DAVE, Nirvana or Euforia, but it’s fun, it’s detailed, transparent and highly musical.
So in the end, and like with each source, not all IEMs and headphones will sound great straight from the headphone output, but overall it really positively surprised me with the newest full-sized headphones.
The HiBy R6 PRO, and especially the balanced output, has quickly grown on me. Not only does it sound excellent, it’s also a pleasure to just hold and work with. Beautiful design, superb UI, and great versatility. The R6 PRO gets good points all over and it’s hard to find any flaws. If I could change something it would probably be the SE output and the interference issue.
If that SE output had a bit more emotion, the R6 PRO would get a perfect score from me but that’s something personal. That being said, the R6 PRO still scores very high and it without any doubt goes straight to the recommended DAP list. It’s a serious contender already for the best of 2019 awards, I kid you not.
Regarding to the competition, its biggest contender still is the Fiio X7II. The advantage the Fiio has sound wise is small but it’s there, but the R6 PRO’s UI, versatility and usability just is a lot better than that of the Fiio.
For me the HiBy R6 PRO’s balanced output is performing above its price point and I actually prefer using the R6 PRO over the double as expensive AK SP1000M. It’s just that nice.
Last but not least: should you upgrade from the regular R6 to this PRO version? It depends. It is more powerful and has bigger body, bass and more warmth, so if that’s what you’re missing from your R6, you should certainly try the PRO version. If you don’t need the extra power and a 4.4mm balanced out put, and like the R6’s sound, then I’d just stick to the one you have now.