HiBy R3 Pro

General Information

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Parameters

  • Operating System HiBy OS
  • Dimensions 82x61x13mm
  • CPU Ingenic X1000E
  • DAC Dual CS43131
  • Battery capacity 1600mAh
  • Play time (single ended) 20 h
  • Play time (balanced) 16 h
  • Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.0
  • WiFi bands 2.4GHz, 5GHz
  • 3.5mm output 60mW+60mW
  • 2.5mm output 210mW+210mW
  • 3.5mm THD+N 0.0007%
  • 2.5mm THD+N 0.0008%

Latest reviews

Pros: Sound.
- Use, handling and ergonomics.
- Reduced size and weight.
- Quality of the screen.
- Battery life.
- Connectivity and versatility.
Cons: Some gesture could be added to quickly access some menus.
- Somewhat limited power, at low gain, for headphones from 32Ω, or lower.
Introduction

HiBy... Finally...!
I've read a lot, about one of the most attractive brands in the DAPS world. First, because of its own operating system, the HiBy OS, exclusive for players: an alternative to the typical Android, that goes beyond the functionality, incorporating excellent features, such as MSEB Tuner, Two-way UAT, HiBy Link, High Speed Wi-Fi, DLNA, support for AirPlay, MQA playback, Bluetooth 5.0 (UAT, LDAC, aptX, AAC, SBC), etc..
Second, because of its technical characteristics, size, design and, of course, sound. All this and more, is what the HiBy R3 Pro has, powerful and attractive features, which made me choose it as my main player, for the day to day. It will be worth, very much, to describe all the qualities of this small great player.

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Specifications

  • Operating System: HiBy OS
  • Dimensions: 82x61x13mm
  • Weight: 95g
  • CPU: Ingenic X1000E
  • DAC: Dual CS43131
  • Battery capacity: 1600mAh
  • Battery life (3.5mm):20 h
  • Battery life (2.5mm): 16 h
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.0
  • WiFi bands: 2.4GHz, 5GHz
  • Output power 3.5mm: 60mW+60mW
  • Output power 2.5mm: 210mW+210mW
  • THD+N Output 3.5mm: 0.0007%
  • THD+N Output 2.5mm: 0.0008%
  • Storage expansion type: Micro SD card
  • Maximum storage expansion: 2TB
  • Maximum number of songs: 20000 songs
  • Output voltage (32Ω) 3.5mm PO: 1.4Vrms
  • Output voltage (32Ω) 2.5mm BAL: 2.6Vrms
  • Output voltage (Line output) 3.5mm PO: 2Vrms
  • Output voltage (Line output) 2.5mm BAL: 4Vrms
  • Frequency response: 20Hz-90kHz
  • Background noise 3.5mm PO: 1.2µV
  • Background noise 2.5mm BAL: 1.2µV
  • SNR 3.5mm PO: 120db
  • SNR 2.5mm BAL: 124db
  • Crosstalk rejection (32Ω loaded, @1kHz) 3.5mm PO: 73db
  • Crosstalk rejection (32Ω loaded, @1kHz) 2.5mm BAL: 106db

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Packaging

The HiBy R3 PRO comes in a simple white box, which contains only black and gold letters. Very few words on its main side, apart from the model name, the brand logo, the slogan and a QR code. On the back side, there are some features and specifications, in English and Chinese. The dimensions of the packaging are 113x161x45mm. After removing the cardboard cover, a black box with a rough texture appears, with the model name inscribed in the middle. Under it, there is the DAP, wrapped in a light white plastic bag, protected, around it, by a thick mold of dense black foam. After lifting the mold, there is a black cardboard folder, inside which there are two small boxes, also made of black cardboard, as well as a plastic cover to protect the repro. Once all the boxes have been opened, the overall content of the packaging consists of

  • HiBy R3 PRO
  • Plastic cover for the protection of the DAP.
  • 2 flexible screen protectors (one is already in place).
  • 1 Rigid screen protector.
  • Warranty certificate.
  • Instructions.
  • USB cable.

The screen of the DAP is protected by a film, which also indicates what each button or connection is for. The back is also protected.

The presentation and content is what you expect, of a proportionate size, with all the minimum indispensable accessories, a couple of extra films, to protect the screen, as well as a plastic case, very useful, to preserve, in an essential way, our beloved DAP.

A leather case is also available, totally custom made.

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Construction, Design and Comfort

The R3 Pro has a classic shape, within the HiBy catalogue, with fairly contained dimensions, somewhat larger than the palm of the hand. Its design is rather rectangular, which provides a fairly large screen size. The case has been manufactured in textured aluminium alloy, rounded, both on the sides, as in their corners. The upper and lower sides are slightly sunken, creating an uneven but very attractive and ergonomic shape. The back is made of tempered glass, with the brand logo in the center. The screen is touch-sensitive, perfect for exploiting the full potential of the HiBy OS. It is a 3.2" IPS TFT panel, protected by a 2.5D glass. The performance and size of the screen is excellent, being highly readable. In addition, it has a high viewing angle; something that sets the R3 PRO apart from its competitors.

On the lower side, there is a slot for the Micro-SD memory card on the left and a USB C-type port on the right. On the right side, from top to bottom, you can see the power button, a small oval LED, a back button, a Play/Pause button and the forward button. The Play/Pause button has a mid-point for easy location. On the upper side, to the left, is the 3.5mm connector, which also serves as a line output. On the right is the balanced 2.5mm output. Both connections are gold-plated, with a thick and distinctive flange. On the left side, there is a double button, to control the volume.

All the buttons make a slight click when pressed, and their operation is smooth and effective.

The shape is different from other players, being wider than others I own. But, what is most striking is its weight; with 95gr, it feels especially light, as well as manageable, something that its good ergonomics and design, allow.

As a conclusion, both the design, shape, controls and screen, are combined in harmony, to maximize the virtues of this small DAP, getting a high degree of satisfaction, to have it in our hands.

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Use and Handling

The use of gestures, complete and with one hand, is at the limit of operability. Most functions can be performed with one hand, either by using the buttons or the touch screen. The small size, allows such performance. However, due to the width of the device, it may be necessary to use both hands to safely perform all functions of the device. This feeling is an appreciation, based on my own lack of skill, which is not necessarily the same for other users. I understand that younger people who are adapted to using smartphones will have better skills in this respect than I do.

Entering the HiBy OS, your proposal is very simple and quite basic. The main playback screen shows the cover completely and in big size. In the upper part, you can see the volume, the output icon, the playback status, the time and the battery status, in percentage and in icon. Clicking on the cover page will display the lyrics of the songs, if any. In the lower part, from left to right, you can see the title of the song, the group (not complete if it is long), a heart icon, to add to favorites and, finally, the bitrate and the type of file. Under this information, you will find the playback time bar, whose access allows you to jump to any point of the song. Below the bar, there is the current playback time on the left and the total duration of the song on the right. Finally, at the bottom, you can choose the playback mode, there are the back, play/pause and forward buttons, as well as a shortcut to activate other functions (song list, add to playlist, equalizer, view album, properties or delete).

From the playback screen, sliding your finger up displays another menu, which allows access to functions such as Bluetooth, volume, WiFi, line-out, Air-play, etc.

Sliding your finger to the right from the playback screen displays the list of songs or folders, depending on how the played song was reached. By repeating the same gesture, you can go to the screen where you can choose between SD-Card or USB-Storage, navigate through folders, albums, artists or genres. You can also choose to browse your own lists, favourites, recent songs or songs recently added to the DAP. You can also access the Air-Play list, in case WiFi is activated, or search for songs by name. To do this, a simplified keyboard with keys containing several letters will be used, in the style of old mobile phones. Finally, there is also an icon, formed by vertical bars, in movement, through which you can return to the playback screen.

The last and most complete menu can also be accessed by sliding your finger repeatedly to the right until you reach it. From here, you can update the song database, import music via WiFi, enter the MSEB, the equalizer, the E-book function, the pedometer, the Wireless Playback Settings menu (Bluetooth, WiFi, DLNA, AirPlay, HiBy Link), the playback settings (mode, gain, balance, filters, etc), the system settings (many functions...) and finally the About From screen.

Almost all functions can be reached in one way or another, through shortcuts or, via the menu on the left. The only bad thing is that to get to the left menu, you have to make several gestures. I think you could have enabled one gesture to the left for this and another one down to complete the whole catalogue of functions by means of icons.

Another negative point is that there are some icons whose meaning is not clear, nor explained in the manual, so it is necessary to "play with them" to know their effect or function.

To finish with this section, the handling comes, clearly, from the apps of the Smartphones. This way, the use is very simple, fast and intuitive. Although, it is not completely perfect.

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Measures

These are the measurements, in Vrms, for the 3.5mm output, using a 100Hz sine wave, amplitude 1.

Low Gain​
High Gain​
No-Load
1.014​
2.01​
32
0.942​
1.73​
100
0.990​
1.953​
240
1.004​
1.99​
320
1.006​
1.99​
620
1.00​
2.00​

It seems that with low impedances, there is a power limitation, because, with hard to move IEMS, it is easy to get to use, a high volume position (in low gain), to obtain a medium-high sound pressure. With higher impedances, the volume is not limited and the output impedance can be perceived as very low, lower than 1Ω. I have not been able to make measurements on the balanced output, due to the lack of the corresponding accessories. But, it is something that I will solve in the near future.

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Sound

Profile

I find the HiBy R3 PRO quite neutral. I don't think it has a clear tendency towards warmth or a more analytical side; it generally looks very natural, showing a remarkable degree of refinement.

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Bass

The lower area is clearly linear. Its execution is quite smooth, not in the sense of little or low power and/or presence, but in its texture. The reproduction of the low zone has a quality that allows it to develop the bass in a deep, powerful, with good punch, but without sounding violent, or hard, or raw. It is true that it can suffer from a certain viscerality, in favour of a greater musicality, definition and more refined texture. But this implies that it possesses diverse virtues, better technicalities, greater capacity to represent planes, better representation of details, a fast and precise strike, greater width and depth, as well as a notable sensation of amplitude and cleanliness. The result is a very airy area, without congestion, which, a priori, deceives, because of that false sensation of less force. But in reality, it is a great improvement in the resolution of the bass, without losing any power in the whole segment. As a result of all this, the HiBy R3 Pro becomes a great ally of electronic music, because, in the long run, its qualities are appreciated in the long listener. But, above all, other more delicate genres will also benefit from the remarkable delicacy with which this small DAP attacks the low notes.

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Mids

The central range of the HiBy gathers the fruits of its technical capacity and embraces naturalness as its form of reproduction. In this way, its midrange sounds very organic and realistic, with a neutral tone, without being either cold or analytical or warm. The details are reinforced by his, more than remarkable, feeling of openness and his appreciated silence in the background. All this generates a clear sensation of expansion, in which both instruments and voices are reproduced, very well articulated and defined, with a very precise and high resolution drawing. The neutrality of its profile, however, provides a large dose of musicality. It is not a player that impresses, at first sight, but comparatively speaking, it destroys the rest of the DAPS I own because, simply, it makes everything better. And the big difference is perceived in the central range, combining a great scene, rich tonality, details, natural nuances, remarkable texture and its excellent musicality. Without being a mid-central DAP, the mids takes the lead.

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Treble

The upper zone reflects the power of resolution of the R3 Pro and its double DAC, providing refined, smooth, but not dulled, or trimmed treble, the result of its great flat response. HiBy has matured the sound of this new Pro version, achieving that the high zone, maintains the naturalness required to preserve the homogeneity of the whole. As a good gentle DAP, the treble is represented very nice, with a fair weight, without being thin, sharp, nor, much less, hurtful. Their balance remains neutral, without any reduction in extension, as their response remains flat up to 45kHz. With these specifications, the amount of air is totally palpable. In addition, the good level of definition, provides a large dose of realism, detail and nuances, demonstrating its excellent technical level, given its price range.

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Soundstage, Separation

The step forward, which I have achieved after acquiring this DAP, is distinguished by these parameters. The generated scene feels wider, more vivid and dynamic, with more height and three-dimensional feeling. The silence and the greater separation are also virtues assumed in this DAP, revealing a higher quality sound, a very clean, clear, pleasant and deep reproduction. The level of resolution demonstrated, allows the definition of the notes, is drawn with very good accuracy, great respect for the timbre and weight of the notes, reserving space and distance for each of them, generating a scene and instrumental recreation, totally desirable and enjoyable. For this alone, the price paid, justifies its purchase.

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Comparisons

xDuoo X3II

sound. However, as much as I was looking forward to this little R3 Pro, I was clear about all this. We'll see the differences:

The xDuoo has more power, the rest of the technical features are less. It doesn't have a balanced output either and its interface is simpler. Its screen is not touchable, it's smaller. It doesn't have Wi-Fi and it doesn't have the streaming possibilities of the HiBy either. The R3 Pro is a more versatile player than the X3II, also newer and more expensive.

In terms of sound, the xDuoo has more presence in the lower zone, its texture is rougher and has more impact. But, the recreation of this band, is perceived more blunt, compared to a greater clarity, better cleanliness and a superior expansive capacity in the R3 Pro. The bass of the HiBy is reproduced in a smoother and more exquisite way, its refinement is evident and the higher resolution offers better naturalness, neutrality, as well as more and better sound planes, and a realistic and precise decay.

In the mids, the differences prove to be greater. This is where the X3II succumbs to the R3 Pro's good work. The xDuoo's midrange is narrower, even dark, too smooth. In the R3 Pro, the midrange offers a musical widening, more spaciousness, where you can perceive a darker and quieter background, more separation, clarity, cleanliness, brightness, nuance and detail. It is a different segment, richer, more mature, harmonious and musical, which gives it a more pleasant and complete sound, as well as open and with greater resolution. In the xDuoo, you feel that the mids does not have so much extension, even, you perceive some limitation, greater narrowness and less brightness. Also, it sounds more raw, less refined, but with more violence, for better or for worse, it is something you can notice in the lows, in the high mids and first highs.

The treble of the xDuoo suffers from the refinement of the R3 Pro, showing that impetus, which makes the high zone, present with greater harshness. However, the detail does not benefit from this harshness, because, at the resolution level, it does not have the technical capacity of its rival. There is a good amount of air in both DAPS, but the better dynamics of the HiBy play a decisive role here too.

The size of the scene clearly benefits from the best parameters offered by the HiBy. Its size is wider, higher and deeper. The three-dimensionality is more easily noticed and the separation is superior, showing a more dynamic sound, with less background noise and a more perceptible silence. Instrumental recreation looks more natural, as opposed to the narrower focus of the xDuoo.

Both have a flat response and their output impedance is around 1Ω or lower.

The battery life is longer in the HiBy, achieving 20 hours, because of its 3.5mm output; while the xDuoo reaches 13h.

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Conclusion

Maybe the DAPS is my fetish device. But, instead of having an expensive, good one, I have a few more affordable ones. The HiBy R3 Pro is not the first $200 player I have bought, but it is the first one that has managed to convince me, because it has everything and practically everything does well. Its size, ergonomics and use are special: light, very comfortable to use and totally logical. This makes it a very attractive device. On the other hand, its connectivity capabilities and versatility, destroy the rest of DAPS I own. Besides, its battery life makes it an ideal DAP to be used every day without worrying about this aspect. Finally and most importantly for me, there is the sound: the R3 Pro presents a true high-resolution sound, neutral, musical, harmonious, extensive and pleasant. It is true that it is not spectacular, but it is good, very good. To such an extent that it has managed to calm my critical sense, towards the device, concentrating only on the music, so that I can finally enjoy it. And this, is a lot. Welcome home, little HiBy R3 PRO!

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Headphones Used During Analysis

BGVP ArtMagic DH3.
Ikko OH10.
ISN H40.
BGVP ArtMagic VG4.
Shozy Neo BG.
Smabat ST-10S
BLON BL-03
KBEAR KB04
SoundMagic HP150

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Ratings

  • Presentation and Content: 80
  • Construction, Design and Comfort: 94
  • Use and Handling: 95
  • Sound: 92
  • Quality/Price: 93

Purchase Link:

https://www.xtenik.com/product/hiby-r3-pro-music-player/

You can read the full review in Spanish here:

https://hiendportable.com/2020/06/27/hiby-r3-pro-review/
Last edited:
cqtek
cqtek
Thank you all very much.
Yeah, it's the Pro version, not the Saber version. The Saber version came out a week after my purchase... It was bad luck, because I would have preferred the DAC version of Sabre. After the time it took me to decide, this happened and I really regretted it. But this version is not bad at all, in fact, it didn't change my opinion about it.
hydroid
hydroid
Great review. Noticed you've used the ISN H40 during your analysis. H40 is my daily driver at the moment and curious to know if the R3 pro and H40 is a good pair?
Currently enjoying the synergy of my AP80 and H40 and also considering to buy the R3 Pro (not the Saber) soon.
Cheers.
  • Like
Reactions: cqtek
cqtek
cqtek
Of course, the ISN H40 is a perfect match for the HiBy R3 Pro. But, it's not complicated, it's also very well associated with a FULL BA, like the BGVP ArtMagic VG4.
Pros: Compact design
Battery time
Sound quality
Balanced output
Cons: No internal memory
REVIEW - HiBy R3 Pro

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Website - HiBy

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Parameters

specs.jpg

  • Operating System: HiBy OS
  • Dimensions: 82x61x13mm
  • CPU: Ingenic X1000E
  • DAC: Cirrus Logic Dual CS43131
  • Battery capacity: 1600mAh
  • Play time (single ended): 20 h
  • Play time (balanced): 16 h
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • WiFi bands 2.4GHz, 5GHz

Price: $199.

Available in Black, Gray or Red color.

The HiBy R3 Pro unit here was arranged by HiBy company for review.

Available directly from the HiBy R3 Pro page and also from
MusicTeck store and Amazon.

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Design

The new R3 Pro is identical to the first R3 model in terms of design. Build quality, dimensions and layout are kept with the only difference of the balanced 2.5mm output having a same gold ring as the regular 3.5mm. Both R6 and R3 follow a similar rectangular shape and have the audio outputs place at the top side, unlike the R5 with its curved sides and all connections set at the bottom side.

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Build quality is very solid on the R3 Pro. A main chassis made of single aluminum piece which seems thick and sturdy enough without adding much weight for the portable use. It has a very smooth finish; the R5 is even smoother around the curved borders. Both front and back are covered by glass panels and arrive with protective films already attached. Using the including plastic case is usually recommended. The device’s dimensions and weight are just right to make it very compact to carry everywhere and yet easy to use with all the needed buttons and decent screen size. It may not classify as ultra-portable player as the Shanling M0 or Fiio M5, but the R3 screen is much comfortable to handle before going for larger Android base options.

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The R3 Pro keeps the same layout as the R3, differing a bit from the R5 and R6, still having all needed dedicated buttons. The shape of the buttons is of small thin rectangles instead of the round ones from the upper models, but still very easy to use without looking at the player. The left side holds only the volume buttons at its upper side.

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The right side has four buttons, upper one is for power and screen, and features the LED light that indicates the different player battery status and played file quality. It can set off under system settings options. Right below are the three playback buttons, previous/back, play/pause and next/forward; the play button in the middle has a small dot so it is easier to recognize. All playback and volume controls can be set to be off when screen is off too.

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The bottom part has the micro SD card slot to left and the USB Type-C port to the right. There is no internal memory on the R3 Pro. The USB port works for charging, data management and also for digital audio input or output if the R3 Pro is used as DAC or connected as playing source to extra DAC. Also, the USB port can be used for external memory, accessible from the files menu.

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On the upper side are the two audio analog outputs, standard 3.5mm to the left corner and 2.5mm balanced to the right. The 3.5mm can be used as coaxial and Line-out output as well; the 2.5mm not. Volume will be set to maximum in Line-out.

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Screen size follows the compact design of the player being just a 3.2” IPS full touchscreen. It occupies almost the whole front panel leaving just a thin line at the bottom. Quality is good for such a small device dedicated for audio only. Do not expect highest resolution of Android based DAPs, but nevertheless the album art covers are displayed with rich vivid color and the screen has good viewing angles.

Inner components have been kept and others noticeable changed or updated on this ‘Pro’ version. For CPU it has a Ingenic X1000E processor, same as the R3 (and found on various small DAPs from FiiO’s as well). A main change lays on the audio DAC chip now implementing a Cirrus CS43131 dual DAC over the previous Sabre ESS. It is not the first by Hiby on a Cirrus Logic DAC as the R5 already has a higher dual CS43198. There are four digital filters available if you may pick up the differences. Output power, on paper, rates for 60mW at 32Ω load for the single output, while the balanced 2.5mm jumps to much higher 210mW.

Battery performance is great on the R3 Pro, rated to work up to 20hrs on single ended and 16hrs for the balanced. In practice, the numbers are fairly accurate, taking the wireless options are off and audio files rates are not of highest resolution. The 20hrs performance is already above the standard for portable players next to the recent Shanling Q1, and the balanced reaching ~15hrs is probably the best I tried so far. Not sure, but the reason behind might lay on the Cirrus DAC combined with the Ingenic that consume a lower battery time for just the 1600 mAh.

As for wireless hardware performance and audio quality, I cannot comment on the R3 Pro, unfortunately. Either a hardware or software issue on the unit I received of a previous batch or something. There should be no issues on the new units from Hiby store.


User Interface & Software

The interface works under the own Hiby OS, which is pretty much the same as the free Hiby Music App. The R3 Pro doesn’t allow extra applications to be added, but everything works similar to this app. First of all, there are two optional themes that can be chosen from the Settings menu, that no just differ in the colors used but also in the visual menus. One is almost identical to the Hiby Music app, having two shortcut menus, accessible from a swipe down or up from the screen top and bottom sides of the screen. The other theme has only a swipe-up menu from the bottom that holds everything in it. While I personally may be used to the first one due the similarities to the Hiby App, I do prefer the other one for a simple reason: the volume control on the screen is smaller and less prone to be changed by touching the screen as the first them style, and only by getting to the small bar in the middle. Worth noting that the volume control is much more accurate and comfortable to use on the R3 Pro than on the R6 Pro and even R5, especially with more sensitive earphones, where the volume changes are more subtle from each step.

The software is easy to understand. The main playback screen holds all the system and file info, touch playback controls, playing list and sequence, etc. The playing bar can be used to advance through the music. Music files can accessed from simply browsing through the Micro SD card, or specifically by album, genres and playlists. The navigation, scrolling and overall speed is good, maybe not as snappy and smooth as with the Snapdragon chips on the upper models, but nothing major to complain about. If anything, when scrolling through file lists the album covers take a second to show. As any Hiby device there is a list of EQ presets and a Custom option, and obviously the main popular MSEB parametric equalizer.

An extra feature on the R3 Pro is the option to rotate the screen to 180º having the audio outputs at bottom side. The playback and volume buttons are also correspondingly inverted, though it looks less natural having the power button and volume controls on the low part but just a matter to get used if you find it more convenient this way.

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Various screens of the HiBy OS below

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Sound Impressions

The sound quality is really good, especially for the small form factor and being the more affordable player from HiBy and compared to the other players on a more or less similar price range. Now, I have not tried the original R3, so no comparison with it, but yes both upper Hiby’s models, R6 Pro and R5. While the R3 Pro may not have all the full Android platform advantages of the R5, when it gets down to sound quality alone they are not far away. The tuning is a different in some aspects, and the R3 Pro could be considered something between the R5 and R6 Pro in terms of presentation. As usual, impressions are taken with all EQ options off.

The R3 Pro pairs well with practically any kind of signatures headphones and earphones may have. Reason for that would be for the good balance, or rather lack of major highlight to any region of the sound frequency. However, subjectively the R3 Pro is not completely neutral. There is touch of brightness at the treble area, at least compared to the more R5 or the Shanling M5s, and more in the line of the R6 Pro, tough more splashy, usually perceived with upper instruments. However, the R3 Pro is not as aggressive as the R6 Pro and more forgiving, specifically noticed with some bright sets such as the RE2000, Fibae 3 or the newer Earbridge E70 (Magneto static driver). Sibilance won’t be smoother, though. Moreover, the extension is quite good; despite not liking much the treble tonality on the R5 with the Cirrus DAC, the R3 Pro is more convincing and controlled, or at least more competitive for its targeted price. The bass is agile and may lack some density and decay, but otherwise it is well textured and shows good extension and layering.

It is one of the cleanest DAPs on this range. Transparency is excellent through the whole midrange, not dry but can sound a bit lean and not forward enough and misses some texture for vocals. The soundstage is well rounded. It makes a good reference for its price, much more than what R5 at the $400 performed. The extra tilt on the treble helps to create a more open, airy presentation too with a clean separation between instruments not being too sharp.

As for power, then it should be enough for any sensitive portable headgear, but those with a bit lower sensitivity or higher impedance the balanced 2.5mm output will be needed, and maybe the switching to High gain as well; the balanced output rates a higher driving power of 210mW over the 60mW out of the single end 3.5mm. Just as reference, for most standard IEMs the R3 Pro reaches to around 30~40 steps on low gain, while for more demanding earphones like the final E5000, Hifiman RE2000 or even Dita Audio Twins it is either going for balanced output or setting high gain no less than half of the available volume. For a small portable device as the R3 is there is no need to ask for more, and in exchange it shows no background noise or hiss.


Comparisons

FiiO M6


The Fiio M6 is also a compact portable player that no only features Bluetooth Two-Way but also Wifi streaming through various apps. The M6 is not as fast as the R3 Pro (the R3 Pro also startup if much faster), has no balanced output option and the battery is a bit below. On the other hand, the M6 is smoother in navigation and being Android based (though modified/simplified) it is more versatile if wanting to add multiple extra apps. The screen is nicer on the M6 too and be used for video playback as well.

In terms of sound, they have similar bass quantities, about same mid-bass impact, but the R3 Pro extension is easier to appreciate with a more solid sub-bass reach. The R3 is more linear overall, while the M6 can be a bit more forward on mids with sweeter texture on vocals genres. The treble is less extended on the M6, and has a bit more focus on the lower treble, whereas the R3 is more effortless and a brighter overall. Soundstage too is better on the R3, wider, more spacious and airy. The R3 Pro has more power if used in balanced mode.


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Shanling Q1

Sound wise they are both similar in their presentation, having a rather neutral, uncolored sound. The Q1 is a bit flatter through lows to mids, and there is a little less extension making the sub-bass less noticeable. Mid-bass amount is a bit less on the Q1 (as it next to the M6 too). The very neutral midrange on the Q1 makes the R3 Pro a bit leaner and less forward. The R3 in exchange is more spacious and airy, but both can be kind of colder in tonality. On the treble, Q1 keeps a more flat response while the R3 Pro is a tad brighter. The treble quality goes for the Hiby for being more natural and cleaner; neither will cut sibilance if present, but the R3 is still more pleasant to listen and has better resolution. Soundstage is close from the 3.5mm end and have similar driving power, however the 2.5mm is a step above.

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HiBy R5

The R5 may implement a higher Cirrus DAC, but it more about the actual tuning where it differentiates from the R3 Pro. Already mentioned on the main impressions, the R3 Pro would fall somewhere between the R6 Pro and R5. Bass quantity is not too much on the R5 over the R3 Pro, though it can sound more bodied and dense. Mids are dry on the R5, but have more body and texture. The main difference lays in the treble. R3 Pro is brighter making the R5 rather darker than neutral. I didn’t find the treble tonality too appealing on the R5, but on the R3 Pro it performs much better for the price. Of course in driving power the R5 is noticeable higher, especially from its 4.4mm balanced output. Even so, soundstage is not wider, and already about average among mid-fi DAPs, but the R3 is more 2D-sounding in comparison.

On non-audio terms, the R3 Pro is simply more portable and holds longer battery time. The R5 is still one of the most compact devices having full Android open system, and now with a lowered price to $300 makes a very good value taken as a whole package.


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Pros: access to Tidal and Qobuz streaming, full MQA decoding, sound quality, compact size, battery life, two-way Bluetooth w/LDAC, balanced output.
Cons: old-style T9 touch keyboard layout (a bit of a pain dealing with wi-fi and tidal/qobuz login).


The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally posted on my site, and now I would like to share it with my readers on Head-fi.

Manufacturer website: Hiby. Could be ordered directly or from MusicTeck.


Intro.

It used to be easy grouping DAPs into entry, mid-fi, and summit-fi categories. Today, we have mid-fi priced DAPs approaching flagship level of performance, and I also see more entry level DAPs crossing the mid-fi line. These feature-packed entry level DAPs have been very popular with the crowd of active lifestyle audio enthusiasts who value compact size and wireless Bluetooth performance, and not as picky about the sound quality.

Introduced in the spring of last year through crowdfunding campaign, the original R3 gained a lot of attention since it had a big enough display for easy viewing and navigation, and still a very compact and pocket friendly size, and even a balanced output. But one of the important features of R3 was a support of WiFi and built-in Tidal app for a portable streaming. Later, Hiby also added support of Qobuz, even so I still find people who are not aware of that.

With a recent release of R5 and the buzz around the upcoming R8 flagship, I think the release of R3 Pro flew under the radar. Perhaps, some assumed that “Pro” is a small upgrade, but I found it to be the opposite. After spending the last few weeks listening to R3 Pro on the go and using it to stream Qobuz, I think this little guy deserves more attention. So, let’s proceed with a review.

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Unboxing and Accessories.

Arrived in a small compact black gift box with a white exterior sleeve, the unboxing experience of R3 Pro is very basic. There is no picture or any graphics on the front cover, and on the back, you will find only a very limited spec. With a sleeve off and a foam-lined box cover removed, R3 Pro is sitting securely in a foam cutout to make sure it arrives safely on your doorstep.

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Underneath, you will find the accessories which include detailed user instructions, film and tempered glass screen protectors, quality usb-c data/charging cable, and a plastic back cover. An optional leather case is available for purchase; since this is a budget priced model, one wasn’t included.

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The included snap-on back cover, which you can consider like a case, has a transparent frosted finish, better looking than R3 white cover, and still good enough to enhance the grip of this little DAP.

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Design.

When it comes to R3 Pro exterior design, it is nearly identical to its R3 predecessor. We are talking about the same size of 82 x 61 x 13mm, and the same weight of about 95g. The front of the DAP is still occupied with the same 3.2” IPS touch display, and at the bottom you will find a spring-loaded micro-SD slot and USB-C port.

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The left side still has the volume up/down button, and the right side has a power button at the top, LED light below it (indicating charging status and file format to distinguish lossy vs lossless), and a cluster of three transport control buttons (Play/Pause in the middle and Skip above and below it). At the top, you will find 3.5mm HO/LO port and 2.5mm HO balanced output.

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The only visual change is a gold-plated ring around 2.5mm port.

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All the changes are hidden under the hood.

Under the hood.

As I already mentioned, from outside you won’t find any changes, but inside it is a different story.

Probably the only thing that remained the same is Ingenic X1000E CPU, an ultra-low power consumption processor common to many entry-level DAPs. Now, starting with a DAC, Hiby implemented a dual CS43131, to replace R3’s ES9028Q2M. I’m sure it is one of the contributing factors in increase of the play time using its 1600mAh battery. The overall improvement of playtime was quite noticeable, in SE (3.5mm) going from 11hrs to 20hrs and in BAL (2.5mm) going from 9hrs to 16hrs. Of course, as you switch to high res lossless files, especially DSDs, and depending on the amount of screen time and volume level, the battery life will decrease.

Another noticeable change was Bluetooth 5.0 (from previous 4.2 in R3), and support of all the popular codecs, including UAT, LDAC, aptX, AAC, and SBC. Plus, you have to keep in mind that R3 Pro still support dual (2-way) Bluetooth, both as a transmitter for wireless headphones and speakers and as a receiver for wireless DAC/amp application. When it comes to WiFi, R3 supported only 2.4GHz band, while R3 Pro added 5GHz to help with wireless coverage and connections which includes DLNA, AirPlay, and support of built-in Tidal and Qobuz apps.

As it was already mentioned, both R3 and R3 Pro have 3.5mm SE and 2.5mm BAL headphone outputs. R3 Pro single ended output has a similar level of power as R3. But the balanced output went up from 112mW to 210mW with 32ohm load. I will cover more in sound analysis section, and yes, the higher output power level was noticeable.

As far as playback, R3 Pro supports majority of popular lossy and lossless formats up to a native DSD256 decoding and PCM playback of up to 32bit/384kHz, including FLAC, APE, WMA, WAV, AIFF, DSD IOS, DFF and OGG files. Also, very important to note that R3 Pro supports full hardware decoding of MQA which I confirmed with a few of my MQA FLAC test tracks.

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Other features worth mentioning is WebRadio support, though you will have to do your own leg work to find available streaming stations and add it into a txt file to be stored into root directory and accessed from the Playlist. Another feature is E-Books, but it only works with txt files. For active lifestyle, Pedometer is included, though I didn’t find it to be very accurate. Last, but not least, when you are dealing with Hiby OS and Hiby Music app, MSEB sound-shaping effects are definitely worth checking out.

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GUI.

By now you had to be living under a rock if you never heard of HibyMusic app. It’s a free app you can install on your phone or other Android based DAP. In R3 Pro, the app is the main GUI of the DAP, integrated into its OS. I’m sure many are familiar with the interface already, but for those who don’t, here is a recap.

The main interface is organized in a logical way where starting at the top you have icon-menu with Settings, Music file sorting/view, Favorites and Playlists, Tidal/Qobuz, and Main playback.

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Settings menu has Update database (to scan for music on your card), Receive songs via Wi-Fi (provides URL to send files from another device connected on the same wi-fi), MSEB (10 sound shaping effects based around Parametric EQ, with a very effective finetuning to change the color of tonality, bass impact and articulation, vocals control and sibilance filtering, and airiness of the sound), EQ (10 band graphic EQ, with 8 genre specific presets, and a custom preset), E-Book (being able to load and to read E-books, though only in txt format), Pedometer (to allow recording your steps), Wireless setting (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, DLNA, AirPlay, and HibyLink), Play setting (everything from play mode to output selection, DSD mode, resume play, gapless, crossfade, replay gain, balance, digital filter, and play through folders and albums), System setting (button operation, time setting and idle/sleep timer, battery percentage display, standby, in-line remote access, status LED, screen settings, factory reset, and fw update), and About.

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Under Music file view, you can see all the tracks, select if you want to view specific folders on micro SD card or external usb-storage, and sort by Albums, Artists, and Genres. In Favorites menu you can view files tagged as favorite. In there, you can also see recently played songs. Then, view Playlist menu where you can create new, or save/load playlist, and access Custom Radio (need to have a separate text file with url links to internet radio stations). And last, but not least, view recently added.

Access to Tidal and Qobuz is definitely a unique feature of R3 Pro which makes it stand out from many other small DAPs. You have to press and hold the corresponding shortcut icon which brings up a choice of accessing Tidal or Qobuz. Please keep in mind, this is a custom app which only allows streaming, and not off-line storage. Since I only have Qobuz service, that’s the one I was testing. After you login once, R3 Pro remembers your login info, so you don’t have to enter it every time. Under Qobuz, you have Discover section with access to New Albums and New Playlists, access your Favorites where you can search by albums, artists, tracks, and playlists, and a separate Search.

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In the Main playback screen, you can view the artwork of the song, if one is available. Also, you can see the track and the artist name, file info, “heart” icon to tag is a favorite, playback scroll bar to advance through the song and to check the track time, and at the bottom you have playback mode (loop, single song loop, random, and play all), playback navigation buttons with play/pause and skip, and access to pop-up menu with various options like add to playlist, EQ, view album, song properties, and being able to delete the song.

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Also, worth mentioning, Notification bar at the top is visible from every screen, and it has lots of info with volume setting, current playback icon, time, wi-fi indicator, and battery with a percentage display (as enabled in settings). You also have access to shortcuts when you swipe up the screen which brings up BT toggle, WiFi toggle, gain select, replay gain setting, line out, and timer. Below it, you have a swipe bar to adjust brightness, volume, and a small window to control the playback of the song with play/pause/skip buttons and the name of the song.

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Sound Analysis.

I analyzed R3 Pro sound using U18t IEM while playing a variety of my favorite test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, Galantis “Hunter”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”. At the time of sound analysis, I had close to 100hrs between burn in and playback time.

I found R3 Pro to have a neutral sound signature with a more transparent and slightly more revealing tonality. In various pair up examples with IEMs and headphones, I found the sound of R3 Pro to have good dynamics (vertical expansion); the sound didn’t feel compressed or saturated. The soundstage expansion is also very wide, especially from BAL output, leading to a relatively accurate imaging and placement of sounds in space. I find layering and separation of sounds to be not bad at all, maybe not on the same level as their R6 Pro flagship, but closer to R5. Also, very important to me, I hear a black background with no hissing, even with sensitive IEMs from high power balanced output.

As far as the sound difference between 3.5mm and 2.5mm ports, the one that stands out to my ears is the soundstage width, with a balanced port having a noticeably wider expansion. I can also hear a little more transparency in mids (less coloring) and slightly blacker background listening from a balanced port. This was tested with the same pair of IEMs, playing the same track, and volume matched between SE and BAL ports.

Of course, the sound will depend on pair up synergy and the tuning of IEMs and headphones you are using with R3 Pro. Thus, to further analyze the performance of this DAP, I will continue with Pair up examples and Comparison to other DAPs in the follow up sections of the review.

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Pair up.

In the below examples, I tried a variety of different IEMs and full-size headphones to see how well they pair up with R3 Pro. Volume (v), Gain (HG or LG), and Single Ended (SE) or Balanced (BAL) were noted as well.

64 Audio U18t (v29, LG, BAL) - wide soundstage, a nicely balanced signature with a more natural revealing tonality. I can hear a solid black background, and no hissing what so ever. Actually, a pretty good pair up on the go.

Empire Ears Legend X (v32, LG, BAL) - wide/deep soundstage, a typical L-shaped signature with a booming bass, a little more overpowering which should put a smile on basshead audiophiles, but once you go to MSEB and make Bass Extension about “-20” light, the bass is reduced to a more enjoyable level with signature being more balanced. Of course, this is a matter of a personal sound preference, but it also shows that LX responds great to MSEB effects.

Campfire Audio Solaris (v25, LG, BAL) - wide soundstage, crisp airy sound with a more revealing tonality. Also, I hear a fast, articulate bass punch, leaner detailed mids/vocals, and crisp airy treble. But the most important part - zero hissing. Hiss-free pair up with sensitive iems, like Solaris and Andro, is an important requirement for many audiophiles, and R3 Pro with its black background passes this test without a problem.

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x (v64, HG, SE) - no issues driving these 470ohm open back large dynamic driver headphones even from single ended output. The sound was very open, natural, and detailed. It was more on a smoother side, so perhaps it wasn’t driven to its full potential. But still, this was surprisingly a very enjoyable pair up, even with extra headroom in volume.

Meze Empyrean (v46, HG, BAL) - no issues driving these planar cans either, except tonality was a bit thinner, lacking some body and having a little more relaxed bass punch, so not exactly driven to their full potential either. But again, not a bad pair up at all if you want a portable streaming source on the go – the sound was still quite enjoyable.

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Comparison.

I was using U18t in this comparison, volume matched in every case, and the focus was mostly on sound performance, though I added a few additional thoughts to cover other features. Each of these DAPs has their own Pros/Cons when it comes to features, all of which should be taken into consideration depending on your priorities and personal preference. Also, I will start off with R3 Pro vs R3 comparison in more details, and then continue with other DAPs.

R3 Pro vs R3 - Both DAPs have a more neutral, natural sound, but there are some differences. Pro has a little wider soundstage, while the perception of the soundstage depth is the same. Pro has a stronger and faster bass impact, making the bass sound tighter and more articulate. Also, I hear Pro having a little more revealing upper mids/vocals, while treble is identical to R3. In comparison, R3 bass is a little more neutral and slightly more relaxed, and mids sound a little smoother. Another difference is Pro having better dynamics, with the sound having some improvements in vertical expansion of peaks, giving it more room to breathe, while R3 feels a bit more compressed. It's not a huge difference, but after hours of A/B comparison with resolving IEMs, like U18t, I can hear the difference in a blind test (which I actually did multiple times).

Other differences and similarities worth mentioning: there is a noticeable difference in power where I had Pro about 8-9 clicks lower in volume when compared to R3, both playing the same track, volume matched. Battery drain difference is also noticeable since Pro last longer. You will also spot different digital filters, associated with corresponding DACs between Pro and original version. A cosmetic difference where Pro has a golden plate outside of its 2.5mm BAL socket while R3 is plastic. Similarities here are mostly based around physical dimension/appearance and Hiby OS where both support Tidal and Qobuz, have Pedometer, MSEB, and E-books in txt format.

Other DAP comparisons.

R3 Pro vs theBit Opus #1S - a lot of similarities here, from nearly the same soundstage expansion to overall sound signature and tonality. The only noticeable difference I hear in this comparison is with R3 Pro bass having a little more sub-bass rumble and stronger/faster mid-bass punch which I found when switching back’n’forth between these DAPs, volume matched and using U18t for monitoring. In terms of overall functionality, Opus#1 is playback only device with no access to apps, and without BT, though it does have internal storage.

R3 Pro vs iBasso DX120 - R3 Pro soundstage has more width in this comparison. With tonality, R3 is more neutral and more transparent, while DX120 is a little warmer and with more body in sound. Also, DX120 bass punches even stronger, being a little more elevated. Another noticeable difference is with sensitive IEMs where DX120 has a lot more background hissing, while R3 Pro is quiet. In terms of functionality, DX120 is a playback only device with no access to apps or BT, but it does have dual micro SD card.

R3 Pro vs Shanling M3s - this comparison is very similar to DX120. R3 Pro soundstage has more width. And M3s tonality is a little warmer and with more body, while R3 Pro is more neutral and more transparent in comparison. Also, M3s bass has a stronger punch, elevated in quantity. Lack of touch screen interface made M3s operation a little more frustrating in this comparison. Also, don’t expect any streaming apps with M3s. I know M2x would have been a perfect candidate for R3 Pro comparison, but I never tried it.

R3 Pro vs Hidizs AP80 - R3 Pro soundstage is a little wider in this comparison. With tonality, AP80 Copper is warmer and with more bass impact, while R3 Pro is more neutral and more transparent in comparison. Compared to AP80 SS, I also hear R3 Pro to have a wider soundstage, but tonality is closer to R3 Pro, being more neutral, more transparent, a little brighter. In R3 Pro to AP80 SS comparison, I hear Pro having an improved technical performance with better layering/separation of the sounds. While both have nearly identical Hiby OS, R3 Pro big advantage is Wifi and Tidal/Qobuz support.

R3 Pro vs Cayin N3 – in this comparison N3 really shows its age. R3 Pro soundstage is noticeably wider. R3 Pro tonality is more neutral, more transparent, with the sound being more layered, better separated. N3 is a lot warmer, more congested, and not as dynamic. Aside from lack of touch screen interface and any streaming access, overall sound performance of N3 in this comparison takes a noticeable step back.

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.

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Other Wired/Wireless connections.

In this section of the review I will go over various wired and wireless connections I tested and verified with R3 Pro.

USB DAC.

I tested USB DAC functionality with my T480s laptop where R3 Pro was easily recognized by Win 10Pro, and I was able to control the volume from both my laptop and DAP. But I also noticed a difference in sound where the same track being played directly from R3 Pro had a wider soundstage and better dynamics, while using R3 Pro as USB DAC from laptop had a narrower staging width and slightly inferior vertical dynamics.

Wireless Bluetooth.

With bi-directional 2-way Bluetooth support, you can pair up R3 Pro with external wireless headphones or speakers, or use R3 Pro as Bluetooth wireless receiver, turning it into a BT DAC.

I tested BT Rx with my Galaxy S9 phone, enabled w/LDAC codec. Upon successful pair up, the correct codec was shown on R3 Pro. Also, with LDAC, the sound from S9 through R3 Pro as a wireless BT DAC was identical to using R3 Pro directly with the same pair of IEMs and playing the same test track.

For my BT Tx test, I paired R3 Pro with Sennheiser HD1 M2 IEBT neckband IEMs. The connection worked in open space, 45ft away from R3 Pro. The sound was a typical IEBT sound sig, maybe just a little more neutral and slightly brighter. I know that in theory under the same codec a sound should be the same, but it probably varies depending on BT chipset since the same pair up with my Galaxy S9 yielded a little more neutral sound.

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Line Out (LO).

In this test I was using portable FiiO E12A amp, which I usually find more neutral. With this external AMP the sound is a little brighter while playing the same song directly from R3 Pro sounds a bit warmer, smoother. To me this indicates that R3 Pro internal headphone amp is possibly coloring the sound a bit.

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Digital Out (USB-C).

In this test I was using R3 Pro as a digital source, driving external DAC/amp from its USB-C port. I tested R3 Pro with iBasso DC01, and found it to pair up good, though you do need to keep the volume lower since DC01 output is high. Also, the sound was a little brighter in comparison to being connected directly with the same IEM to R3 Pro. Next, I tested R3 Pro with iFi Micro iDSD BL. It also connected without a problem, and I found the sound to be more transparent and better resolving in comparison to direct connection of the same IEM to R3 Pro.

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Conclusion.

I keep repeating myself like a broken record that audio market, both when it comes to IEMs and DAPs, is saturated. Thus, when people see a new model release with “Pro” suffix, their attention fades away because they assume it’s a small upgrade. In case of going from R3 to R3 Pro, the only thing that’s small is the same compact size and exterior look of this DAP. With so many changes under the hood, R3 Pro version feels like R3 on steroids.

Besides updated dual DAC, the playtime nearly doubled, Bluetooth updated to 5.0 and still supports 2-way LDAC, WiFi now supports dual 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and the power of 2.5mm BAL output doubled to 210mW. Plus, you still get native support of DSD256, full MQA decoding, MSEB sound shaping effects, WebRadio, and both Tidal and Qobuz streaming. It will not be easy to find another DAP with all these features under $200.
abitdeef
abitdeef
Only Andoid tidal does offline. They won't allow it with this custom hiby tidal app.
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Sophie 101
Sophie 101
Hi,

This R3 Pro might fit perfectly into my life. I dislike bulky items and live in small spaces. I wish to create a small setup with the R3 Pro at the centre. I already have a spare Yamaha MSP-5 speaker lying around. With this in mind, I should be really grateful if somebody can help address a few questions I have:
My portable radio tuner has SPDIF out. How can I feed this into the R3 Pro?​
Can I use a USB cable to send audio into the R3 Pro, and how does this work?​
Can the 2.5mm balanced out be used for a line out for me to run into an amp?​
Thx
Sophie 101
Sophie 101
Contuned:

And slightly unrelated:
I might happen across some LW/MW/SW/FM analog out radio tuners with 3,5mm headphone outs that I'd like to connect into the R3. I think I would want a USB ADC to convert 3.5mm analog into USB digital. I have seen lots of USB-3.5mm DAC, but those are the opposite of what I need.

All the best, So.

P.S These questions were inspired by a thread I started in
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/new-to-dacs-and-usb-audio-do-i-need-a-dac-amp.931712/

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