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Asking for a DAP recommendation

Jimbob54

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Wow you guys! Thanks so much for helping me get up to speed on these things. Its going to take me a while to digest some of the finer points of your comments. I have some searches to run - to parse some of this. I'm sure that will spark more questions but I won't burn any more of your time with questions I can google.

A couple things that jump out from your responses. I spent some time searching reviews last night pitting the Hiby R5 series vs the R3 series, or comparisons of the various R3's. A few reviewers seem to come to similar conclusions on the sound signature that I did. So at least I have some confirmation from others that don't have my bolluxed hearing issues. I also read someone's opinion here on the ASR forum (he seemed to be an engineer with a ton of experience in the field) something to the effect that he never heard a CS chipset device that he liked, and that KN or ESS were
the only sets that he'd turn to for designing a player (or something to that effect)

Having owned one of these devices for all of a week, I have grown to really appreciate the Hiby Link feature. I dont think I would own a device without this feature now. It dovetails perfectly with my listening while reading the news, reviews, etc on my tablet. I can change anything from my chair without getting up, at a whim. How nice is that?! Looking at the Ibasso (- thanks for the suggestion -) I dont see them having a similar remote control ability?

On another related front, I now have two R3 Pro Sabers in my possession. The one that I was going to send back, and the one Amazon sent as a replacement. On a very weird note, the one that acted so wonky ran perfectly yesterday and didn't stutter or crash once. I have no idea why.
I may keep both because every time I sit down to listen to music played on it - I am blown away by how good it sounds. I still would jump on a player that is a bit larger and better built if it sounded as good for around 400 to 600 bucks. Its funny, 2 weeks ago 200 sounded like a lot for one of these.... little did I know :)

And on another related note Ive noticed that there are very few players running the ESS chipsets that are actually in stock and available for purchase. Many players, ESS and others are out of stock - across all manufacturer's. I dont know if this is due to Covid supply issues or some of the quality issues from ESS you have referenced above. Maybe its both. It is interesting that it seems to me (as a noob in this space) that the vast majority of whats available right now are running CS chipsets. Just now stumbled on this - guessing its a big part of the reason! :
Fire Destroys AKM Audio Chip Factory: Can 2020 Get Any Worse? | Audioholics

Lastly, on an unrelated topic that maybe is better buried in this thread, can I ask you guys why so much attention is showered on IEM's?
With my renewed interest in audio I also bought a pair of over ear HE 400i's (wow!!) and a set of IEM's - KZ ZS10's, which I burned in for 20 hours but still sounded to me like a swarm of angry bees.....I returned them for a pair of Moondrop Starfields which are definitely better and very highly rated - but to me, far below the glowing accolades that all the audiophile pages shower on them. They both sound incredibly thin even with EQ - especially in the lower frequencies and bass notes. With some gapping holes in some ranges. Its like guys that own Ferraris regularly evaluating the likes of ford pinto's and lower end Kia's?
Why are they even reviewed - what am I missing??

Regarding IEMs- sounds like you are not getting a "good" fit, which requires the right size, material and depth of insertion unique to your own ears . The better the seal, the more you get the proper bass levels basically. As a simple test, if you put them in and hum/ talk and get the effect you get if you cover your ears , you're there. If you dont and you hear your "external" voice, not right.
 

ZolaIII

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People on the move tend to like IEM's as they are small, pocket able, block environmental noise and cetera. Also they are fairly affordable (normal ones at least). I have full shoes box of them and rarely use any actually I do when I mow the grass. Don't like them for discomfort, the memory foam tips certainly help there but not enough for me. Instead I prefer open earbuds when on the go. It's actually good as long it's IEM's as attention recently shifted to TWS. I can't say that there ware no good IEM's for the deacent price (with so much attention that would be strange). It's ungrateful to recommend earphones/hedaphones as everyone's taste is different but I think it's safe enough regarding me that I can recommend Creative Aurvana Trio (stock cable isn't great) those don't have lot of bass (it's straight as an arrow) but can take a lot of it when you add it with EQ.
 
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Destination: Moon

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Regarding IEMs- sounds like you are not getting a "good" fit, which requires the right size, material and depth of insertion unique to your own ears . The better the seal, the more you get the proper bass levels basically. As a simple test, if you put them in and hum/ talk and get the effect you get if you cover your ears , you're there. If you dont and you hear your "external" voice, not right.

Thanks, I'll give it a shot.
 
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Destination: Moon

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People on the move tend to like IEM's as they are small, pocket able, block environmental noise and cetera. Also they are fairly affordable (normal ones at least). I have full shoes box of them and rarely use any actually I do when I mow the grass. Don't like them for discomfort, the memory foam tips certainly help there but not enough for me. Instead I prefer open earbuds when on the go. It's actually good as long it's IEM's as attention recently shifted to TWS. I can't say that there ware no good IEM's for the deacent price (with so much attention that would be strange). It's ungrateful to recommend earphones/hedaphones as everyone's taste is different but I think it's safe enough regarding me that I can recommend Creative Aurvana Trio (stock cable isn't great) those don't have lot of bass (it's straight as an arrow) but can take a lot of it when you add it with EQ.

Yup that's why I was excited to try them. Especially with the enthusiasm some reviews claimed. I'm going to try and tighten up the fit but from my experience so far, ear buds seem better - even if one is always dangling from its cord :)
 

ZolaIII

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Well earbuds really can't go to a sub bass range due to their design and that they are open they lose stime under 70 Hz (much like speakers do) and of course they don't block environmental noise. I find my perfect pair in Creative Aurvana Air, those are not the best sounding earphones/hedaphones and don't react all that good on EQ-ing but to me they sound fine, don't fall out on the move (not exactly for active sports) and I don't have to remove them to communicate. At least that's me.
 
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Destination: Moon

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Regarding IEMs- sounds like you are not getting a "good" fit, which requires th thee right size, material and depth of insertion unique to your own ears . The better the seal, the more you get the proper bass levels basically. As a simple test, if you put them in and hum/ talk and get the effect you get if you cover your ears , you're there. If you dont and you hear your "external" voice, not right.

Like night and day! An amazing improvement. I had hoped to let some sound in but I guess that won't work. I was thinking of using them instead of the BT speaker I use (UE Roll 2) while mtn biking, XC skiing etc. I'm not at the top of the food chain around here so I like to hear my surroundings.... Not sure how they will fit into my life but now, but I see the attraction. They have a nice sparkle to them and the bass is now much more cohesive and punchy. I never would have believed it before hearing the difference for myself
 
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Destination: Moon

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Regarding IEMs- sounds like you are not getting a "good" fit, which requires the right size, material and depth of insertion unique to your own ears . The better the seal, the more you get the proper bass levels basically. As a simple test, if you put them in and hum/ talk and get the effect you get if you cover your ears , you're there. If you dont and you hear your "external" voice, not right.

I'm not able to come up with a good understanding of the physics that make this is necessary? Do know what's at play here?
 
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Destination: Moon

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Found my way to a really good reviewer tonight, Alex Twister - and he says this about the R3Pro vs the R5. He really likes the R3 and says many of the things I picked up on. He's comparing the non saber version.
I'm kinda pleased it's so similar in view of my hearing....!

R3 Pro vs Hiby R5 – I actually found R3 Pro pushing soundstage wider in comparison to its bigger brother. In terms of the sound, R5 is a little bit warmer with a fuller body, while R3 Pro is a little more neutral and more transparent in a relative comparison. Bass response here is similar. Technically, R5 has some advantage with improved imaging and layering/separation of the sounds, but it’s by a small margin. Of course, R5 has a lot of other advantage such full Android OS, access to Google Play and all the apps flying under its fast processor

He also liked the Ibasso 160 a lot so maybe I'll grab one to try out.
 

Jura

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@ZolaIII is right - the HiBy R3 Pro with its dual CS43131 turns out better accuracy numbers per mfr's measurements (102dB SINAD, 124dB SNR) than the HiBy R3 Pro Saber with its dual ES9218P (94dB SINAD or less, 120dB SNR) from the balanced outputs. This is however a moot point. Most manufacturers of portable and BT DAC/amps and DAPs seem to put accuracy second to pleasing the ears of their target customer, which is more profitable. You will notice that while HiBy supplied the accuracy numbers quoted above, they have played coy when it comes to mentioning the accuracy of their R5 and R5 Saber models. Based on the subjective reviews you can find online, it seems the HiBy R6 Pro is tuned to be bass heavy, the R5 and R5 Saber to be V-shaped in FR distortion, the R3 Pro to be fairly neutral and the R3 Pro Saber to be treble-happy and upper-mids-happy ("analytical" is how HiBy describes it). My guess is that the appeal of the R3 Pro Saber to you is related to the drop-off in your hearing past 4kHz. I guess that the tuning of the R3 Pro Saber gives you more perceived texture (nuance) within your hearing range and an airiness in your diminished frequency range of hearing, and that the R5, R5 Saber and particularly the R6 Pro would all sound dull to you.

I would recommend the iBasso DX160 (2020 version) DAP for its accuracy at its price point of $400. With this DAP that uses dual CS43198 DAC chips and that runs Android 8.1, iBasso manage to achieve a 113dB SINAD and 130dB SNR out of the balanced jack, per their own measurements. I believe its high accuracy would give you superb instrument separation (which is what I hear). The software may not be quite as slick as HiBy's, but pretty competent all the same. I think you would be able to use the built-in PEQ to adjust the sound signature (primarily boosting upper-mids and treble) until it reproduces or betters the FR you get from the HiBy R3 Pro Saber. Great display, excellent touch screen, lots of power, stable OS though I prefer its Pure Music mode to Android mode. I own both the HiBy R3 Pro (non-saber) and the iBasso DX160 (2019 version) along with too many other DAPs haha. The DX160 sounds distinctly more detailed and has better instrument separation than the R3 Pro. FiiO and Shanling and perhaps Cowon have some competing DAPs but at a price point of around $600-$800. As pointed out by @Rottmannash, why not send your R3 Pro Saber for repair/replacement if it is within the warranty period, or else buy another (new) R3 Pro Saber?

Manufacturers tend to shy away from high-accuracy neutral devices which wind up being labeled "cold and analytical", i.e. neutral, by the head-fi crowd and others of their ilk. iBasso achieved a fairly neutral sound signature in their DX220 DAP (depending on the amp you picked), and it seems they achieved top-tier desktop gear accuracy with their limited-edition DX220 MAX. However, in their latest flagship DX300 DAP costing US$1300 (which uses four! CS43198 chips), with the default shipping amp they seem to have bowed to market pressures, and publish their own measurements of just 101dB SINAD on a 32 ohm load (though they do get 113dB SINAD on no/infinite load at 3Vrms). Doubtless it sounds magnificent, and is likely boosted in the bass harmonics like the $1300 dual-AK4499 FiiO M15 it competes with, which brings down the SINAD. Both iBasso's and FiiO's designers and engineers are highly skilled, and I believe the deviation from neutrality and from higher SINAD is deliberate. Since the DX300 (like the DX200 and DX220) features a swappable amp portion, hopefully iBasso would release a more neutral amp for it in the future. Based on what you say about the frequency characterization of your hearing, and on your experience with R3 Pro Saber vs R5 Saber, highly neutral and accurate equipment may not be the most satisfying for you.

Another good option would be to plug the E1DA #9038D USB dongle DAC-amp into your mobile phone, and tweak its FR to your taste using the provided software PEQ app on your phone.
Do you have any experience with Sony?
I'm planning to buy the Walkman NW ZX507
 

ZolaIII

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Do you have any experience with Sony?
I'm planning to buy the Walkman NW ZX507
Well that's a complex question.
Sony has a good software, certainly best Android implementation on any DAP up to date. Display is very good one for the DAP. Effect are gimmicks you will end up not using anyway. Performance should be a bit better than the A-105 regarding SINAD (thanks to better shilling as the SoC and DAC on it are the same). Unbalanced out is anemic (under the level of Apple USB dongle that costs 9$), Sony claims 4x output straight on balanced out which would get it at least close to 4V if they didn't lie.
Actual the output power unbalanced and SINAD are on the level of average Android phone (keap in mind for DAP that's still considered good).
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ny-nw-a105-digital-audio-player-review.12950/
Bild quality is great, made for heavy abuse (mono block aluminium body) and so are the ergonomics.
https://www.porta-fi.com/sony-nw-zx507-walkman-review/
For the price? Hell no!
If you ask my advice save your money. I recommend before and still do given it's price and the fact no one menaged to implement CS43131 really bad along with some rather good and intelligent software abilities the HiBy R3Pro and even that if you really, really need DAP.
 

JustAnandaDourEyedDude

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Do you have any experience with Sony?
I'm planning to buy the Walkman NW ZX507
Sorry, but no, I have never owned a Sony DAP. The NW-ZX507 may (or may not) have better Bluetooth range and bitrate performance than the iBasso DX160. I am skeptical that it would match or surpass the DX160's accuracy, especially since Sony carefully avoids any mention of which DAC chip/s they are using; one would need measurements to really know its accuracy performance. Although its tuning may please many listeners more than more accurate neutral tuning.

The NW-ZX507 delivers only 200mW into 16ohms, so about 100mW into 32ohms using high gain mode out of the 4.4mm balanced output, which is about 1.8V (double that of its single-ended output voltage in high gain), and so around 11mW or slightly more into 300ohms earpieces. The DX160 can deliver up to 6.4Vrms and so up to 1280 mW (though in reality lower than this) into 32ohms from 4.4mm output in high gain, and around 136mW into 300ohms headphones like Sennheiser HD650. At half the price of the NW-ZX507.
 
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