• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

ifi hip dac review (DAC & Headphone Amp)

charleski

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 15, 2019
Messages
409
Likes
689
Location
Manchester UK
I cannot for the life of me interpret their measurements. Amir's and Wolf's are so much more simple. I do recognize some of them though.

If I'm interpreting the ones I see correctly, it's not that good.

"With a full-scale 50Hz tone in Solid-State, HiFi mode, the third harmonic was the highest in level at –60dB (0.1%, fig.15), though reducing the level to –3dBFS dropped the level of this harmonic to –67dB (fig.16).
...
there is still much to admire in its measured performance.—John Atkinson"
:facepalm:
You have to give him points for trying, though, as so few in this industry even do that.

This is a spectacularly bad product, especially given the $2.5k price tag.
 

DanTheMan

Active Member
Joined
Oct 19, 2020
Messages
149
Likes
189
My FiiO A5 died suddenly last night and in my mourning I was hoping this would be the replacement. First loves are impossible to replace. RIP A5. You’ll never be duplicated it seems. I wish I could understand why, when it’s already been done, no one has said “let’s do that again!” JDSLabs or Schiit should get on it. Topping doesn’t seem interested and FiiO has shown the last remaining folks like me the finger.
 

respice finem

Major Contributor
Joined
Feb 1, 2021
Messages
1,008
Likes
1,402
Oops... I thought DACs are commodities this day and age. Even my Musical Fidelity V90-DAC oldie measures better, OK it doesn't have that hip Hires sticker :D
 

Asylum Seeker

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 12, 2020
Messages
414
Likes
288
Location
Guatemala
On the chi-fi IEM boards this has been a bit of a darling. I, myself, counseled against it several months ago and recommended the Topping NX4 DSD. No one listened and everyone jumped on the hype train. I am vindicated.

Dr. Schweingruber of Cobalt Blue infamy was a cheerleader of this one too. Seems he likes the sound of broken gear.
 
Last edited:

THW

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 21, 2018
Messages
412
Likes
617
just a quick glance and I’m already asking: “why tf would I ever get this over a Topping NX4 DSD?”
 

raif71

Major Contributor
Joined
Sep 7, 2019
Messages
1,569
Likes
1,436
just a quick glance and I’m already asking: “why tf would I ever get this over a Topping NX4 DSD?”
I have both ifi hipdac and nx4 dsd. Both sound fine. I got the hipdac coz of the 4.4mm jack hp connection.
 

Azathoth

Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2020
Messages
46
Likes
105
Surprised to see that sort of distortion. Then again I probably won't be able to detect it, and the overall sound is going to be affected by whatever headphones it will be used with. It's all just subjective in the end. It looks really cool though, reminds me of my old Fiio Q1.
 

anphex

Active Member
Forum Donor
Joined
May 14, 2021
Messages
237
Likes
264
I can handle anything. 40db SINAD? No problem, but the sloppy tilted HiRes sticker breaks the deal. This would bother me limitlessly.
 

Azathoth

Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2020
Messages
46
Likes
105
JDSLabs or Schiit should get on it.
I still have my old JDS Labs C5, it has been repaired twice by them, once for the battery once it was dead, and another for a headphone jack replacement. The latter was outside of the warranty and quite recently, and they only wanted me to pay the shipping costs. What a wonderful company. I still use it to this day.
 

THW

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 21, 2018
Messages
412
Likes
617
MQA...LOL

In all seriousness, the ifi has more power from the HP output than the Topping one.

well yeah but it’s not like the Topping is a slouch in that department. 52 mW @ 300 ohms is perfectly respectable imho.
 

DivineCurrent

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 13, 2019
Messages
98
Likes
119
Thanks for measuring my unit Amir! Yeah I was pretty much expecting this performance, not surprised at all. I have since moved to the E1DA 9038S and 9038D, and couldn't be happier.
 

AudioSceptic

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 31, 2019
Messages
1,533
Likes
1,305
Location
Northampton, UK
This is a review and detailed measurements of the ifi hip dac combination USB DAC and portable headphone amplifier (with battery). It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $169 from Amazon including Prime shipping.

I don't know why ifi thinks this is a "hip" dac as the enclosure is a generic one offered by others:

View attachment 142832

Unusual here is inclusion of a balanced, 4.4 mm headphone jack which is nice. A bass boost function is provided which is also not present in other products.

I was surprised that I could not get the unit charged through its standard USB port but had to use USB-C:
View attachment 142834

As you see ifi continues to use male USB connection so has to provide you an adapter. Have not been a fan of its thick cable even though I understand their motivation.

Ifi Hip DAC Measurements
I started testing in balanced mode. Output was a healthy 6+ volts in high gain so I dialed that down to 4 volt and got this dashboard:

View attachment 142835

Wow, we are so used to exceptional performance in this class product that this level of distortion really stands out. SINAD of 70 dB lands the hip dac at the bottom of our 330+ DACs tested:

View attachment 142836

Unbalanced out has a max of 3 volts so I adjusted that to 2 volts and results were the same:

View attachment 142837

So for here on, I am going to use balanced output adjusted to 4 volts except power tests where it is at max.

Noise level is much more decent than distortion:

View attachment 142838

The reconstruction filter is both slow and doesn't attenuate enough:

View attachment 142839

Jitter spikes are not that visible but this may be due to high noise floor:

View attachment 142840

Linearity is not acceptable in this day and age:

View attachment 142841

It should be able to easily do 20 bits.

IMD distortion test shows that the output saturates early and allows distortion to rise:

View attachment 142842

Multitone which is run at lower levels does better as a result (than our dashboard):

View attachment 142843

Sweeping against frequency shows flat, high distortion:

View attachment 142844

Key here is power versus distortion into high and low loads. Let's start with 300 ohm:

View attachment 142845

While distortion rises good bit, there is also a lot of power available which is nice.

In low gain, we don't have a lot of power but do have distortion:
View attachment 142846

The xBass enhancement goes too high in frequency in what it boosts:

View attachment 142847

Without xBass activated, response is dead flat to 20 kHz so all the talk about the BurBrown DAC having mellow/laid back sound is nonsense. If anything, its high distortion can make things sound a tiny bit bright.

Finally, channel balance was surprisingly poor:

View attachment 142848

The sample you get may be different though.

Ifi hip dac Listening Tests
I started with my Drop Ether CX headphones using balanced mode. Here, I could only get to moderate levels beyond which, audible distortion set in especially with bass notes. As a result, turning xBass on severely degraded the sound causing me to listen at very mild volumes. Switching to Sennheiser HD-650, it sounded very good and was able to get quite loud. xBass effect was a bit much but not too bad if used at lower listening levels.

Conclusions
There are a lot of arrows pointing against the ifi hip dac. It doesn't look hip and has a very low performing DAC platform with high distortion. What saves it is that it has a lot of power with high impedance loads using balanced outputs. Even without balanced, it can drive headphones like Sennheiser HD6XX. So if that is your application, it may do. Otherwise, the game has moved on way, way past where ifi is. Company needs to build a new DAC platform to be in the running.

I can't recommend the ifi hip dac.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Appreciate any donations using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
iFi claims to be the affordable offshoot of a high end/pro audio company, offering high end performance at bargain prices. As such, the hip DAC is a disgrace.

The fact that iFi also sells snake oil products (power "purifiers" and digital "enhancers") is not encouraging. I will continue to stay well clear...
 

AudioSceptic

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 31, 2019
Messages
1,533
Likes
1,305
Location
Northampton, UK
fwiw, I love my hip dac and how it sounds. I pair it with fiio m6 dap. :)

View attachment 142933

Connected together by bluetack (in this case whitetack). I use this when I'm doing chores around the house.
fwiw, I love my hip dac and how it sounds. I pair it with fiio m6 dap. :)

View attachment 142933

Connected together by bluetack (in this case whitetack). I use this when I'm doing chores around the house.
So, a portable DAP that needs a separate amp? If you're out and about, do you then have 3 devices (phone + DAP + ifi)?
 
Top Bottom