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ifi hip dac review (DAC & Headphone Amp)

AudioSceptic

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"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.
I know it's all about keeping the industry and advertisers "on side", but JA never ceases to amaze me with his ability to praise products that his own measurements show to be poor, and appalling for the money.
 

AudioSceptic

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OK, one more. From the ifi site
For music lovers everywhere
Our miniature DAC/headphone amplifier replaces the inferior DAC and amp in your smart device, PC or Mac. Simply connect the hip-dac via USB, insert headphones and away you go.
Apart from power, does any phone have worse performance (using an adapter if necessary)?
 

acbarn

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I know it's all about keeping the industry and advertisers "on side", but JA never ceases to amaze me with his ability to praise products that his own measurements show to be poor, and appalling for the money.
4805D54B-C4C1-416B-872A-2D431D5F82A9.jpeg
 

Katji

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Make that a ¼...
I thought so, just didn't want to exaggerate without checking.

Khadas Tone Board - Amazon showing $80-90 + housing $10-20 or so. "Case closed."
Khadas Tone2 - $200 good value. I just checked the website, it seems to have been improved a bit, good website, tech.details - or maybe I just didn't really look at the Tone2 last time I saw it (the site.) I'm going to check the SINAD chart now, although it hardly matters, I know roughly where the Tone1 is, and the details on the web page are clear, you know what you're getting, which XMOS, even capacitor ratings and so on.
Headless panther, I can't agree that a built-in headphone amp saves a DAC.
 
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Katji

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OK, one more. From the ifi site

Apart from power, does any phone have worse performance (using an adapter if necessary)?
That'll be the day. I'll put my faith in any mid or high-end Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, Apple amp and DAC rather than anything from iFi. Never mind the adapter DAC, I mean the standard.
And Fiio is not inexpensive but you do get value for money.
 
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raif71

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So, a portable DAP that needs a separate amp? If you're out and about, do you then have 3 devices (phone + DAP + ifi)?
I only listen music when I'm doing house work (mobile) or relaxing (listening to gears). The phone is a separate device and I don't listen to music when I'm out.
 

AudioSceptic

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I thought so, just didn't want to exaggerate without checking.

Khadas Tone Board - Amazon showing $80-90 + housing $10-20 or so. "Case closed."
Khadas Tone2 - $200 good value. I just checked the website, it seems to have been improved a bit, good website, tech.details - or maybe I just didn't really look at the Tone2 last time I saw it (the site.) I'm hinh to check the SINAD chart now, although it hardly matters, I know roughly where the Tone1 is, and the details on the web page are clear, you know what you're getting, which XMOS, even capacitor ratings and so on.
Headless panther, I can't agree that a built-in headphone amp saves a DAC.
Yeah, I went too far that time, but we don't need anything as good as the Khadas. ;-) I didn't check, but I guessed there might be some cheapo device on ebay that would be close to the ifi.
 

AudioSceptic

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That'll be the day. I'll put my faith in any mid or high-end Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, Apple amp and DAC than anything from iFi. Never mind the adapter DAC, I mean the standard.
And Fiio is not inexpensive but you do get value for money.
I included the adapter because many phones no longer have an analogue output.
 

Katji

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Whichever way I look at it - although I must admit I'm looking at this from a buyer's choice point of view, not in the context of an ASR review.
 

Katji

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I only listen music when I'm doing house work (mobile) or relaxing (listening to gears). The phone is a separate device and I don't listen to music when I'm out.
I hardly ever - not once in last 2 years - use the phone for music, but...when it does happen I need it - travelling. That's why the standard phone setup is good enough for me. And I need a new phone now, that's why my mind is on this track. :facepalm: Sure a phone is a different matter, and they all cost a lot more than a DAC like this, but... :) ...So I should "compare apples with apples." :)
 

Brianc

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I heard the IFI briefly at my friends place with his Sundaras. I thought it sounded good with the bass boost engaged but it seemed pricey. But my friend, who is blind, bought it and sold me his Topping DX3 because the HipDac is much easier for him to use. It's also at least somewhat portable (the flask comparison is actually apt) and pretty powerful compared to other portable amps.
 

The Shadows

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Joined the forum just to post this comment!

So happy you reviewed this.

I just bought my Hidizs S9 Pro on Tuesday and am receiving it tomorrow!

I was between the Hidizs S9 Pro and the iFi Hip DAC, because I prefer a U sound signature and wanted the extra bass from the Hip DAC. I cannot believe how much better the Hidizs S9 Pro is.

Been talking with a friend about all this and she told me how phone adapters are becoming so good that they are becoming desktop replacements and it was hard for me to believe, but the more reviews of yours I read, the more I believe it.

Thanks so much for all your work, Amirm. You're a true master of your craft!
 
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dtaylo1066

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Disappointing measurements for sure. I guess the harsh reality, and perhaps the design target consideration, is that most people buying these products are not critical listeners, but rather are Millennials or Gen Z consumers who want digital music, much of it streamed or saved on their phone, played through headphones/earbuds, much of it in a compressed format. So perhaps a low common denominator comes into play. I am not offering that as an excuse, defense or as logic for using old DAC chips or less than stellar design, but if most of the consumers don't give a poop and an attractive price point is hit, only those of us who are hi-fi geeks really care or are annoyed. At least we have some better choices clearly identified.
 
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