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Pros: Fantastic sound signature, Price, Modern OS, snappy speed on OS, doesn’t get toasty during long pocket sessions
Cons: Slightly lower 720p resolution, Makes most $700 DAPs feel obsolete including some of Hiby’s own offerings, all the normal weird OS quirks of an Android DAP
I bought a Hiby R6 2020 when it launched but I had a lot of gripes with the heat it produced as well as a bunch of broken features within the Android OS it used. I ended up liking the size and feel of the R6 2020 but I wished it had been refined just a bit more given its initial $799 price when it launched. Since then we’ve had a few entry level and upper end DAPs in and out of our home. When I saw the announcement for the R6 III, I was in shock since it had a more current Android OS, a good mid grade SOC spec’d like a $800-$1k DAP but came in at $499. It even had new features like the option to switch between Class A or A/B. All seemed too good to be true given its price. So with my love-hate relationship with the R6 2020, I was super excited to see if the new R6 III was what I was hoping the R6 2020 could have been. The spoiler alert here is that I love the R6 III and if you want to simply skip all of this review, just buy it and give it a shot. For those who’re interested in a little read, let's get into it! The Hiby R6 is a DAP that is running a Snapdragon 665 SOC with 4GB or RAM and 64GB of internal storage. It is also running Android 12 and makes use of the ES9038Q2M DAC as well. It comes in at $499.00
Quick shoutout to my friends at MusicTeck for setting me up with a review unit at a discounted price. While I always appreciate stuff being sent in to test and review, It never affects the rating of my review.
The Hiby R6 can be picked up from MusicTeck below!
Gear usedTopping G5, Shanling M6 Ultra, Moondrop Variations, THIEAUDIO Clairvoyance, Letshuoer Cadenza 12
Looks and FeelIf you’ve seen the R6 2020 in person and held one, this will be the exact same experience. The R6 III has a really well designed body, if not a little on the thicker side. I do really like the placement of the volume knob on top as well as the button layout on the right side of the unit. The bottom of the unit houses all the output jacks as well as the charging port. I don’t quite like the placement nor having line outs next to headphone out but I personally stuff rubber plugs into the line outs so if someone needed to use my DAP, there isn’t any worries about sending max volume to their ears. The memory card slot is exposed to the elements and I would like to see a dust plug integrated. I don’t really take my DAPs out into any extreme conditions though. All in all, I liked the design of the R6 2020 and nothing has changed here with the R6 III.
Android performanceI’m happy to say that a mid range DAP finally has a modern OS with very snappy performance. The R6 III is running Android 12 and is using 4gb of RAM as well as a Snapdragon 665 SOC which really makes this feel like a speed demon compared to even some high end DAPs like the Shanling M6U but at a much cheaper price. I had no real issues with Android outside of some normal here and there OS quirks that show up on custom Android setups. Nothing immersion breaking at all though. This continues to be a very reliable and great experience for my daily use.
Accessories and unboxingThe R6 III doesn’t come with a whole bunch of stuff in the box but I do like the smaller box that holds the DAP, manuals, transparent harder silicone case, extra screen protectors(with some pre installed) and the charging cable. I would have liked to maybe see some AUX cables in either 3.5mm or 4.4mm for the line out jacks included with the R6 III. I think this is a good starting set of accessories and while a cheap small charging block would be nice to have in the box, it's an industry standard to not include it in DAP packaging I feel like. Plus, most people will probably have a USB-C power block. I would have preferred glass screen protectors as well but I believe with the slight bend at the end of the glass corners, it would need to be cut shorter to avoid the curves which probably costs too much to mass produce and that’s fine given the price.
Sound(overall)These final impressions were done via Poweramp. This will be what the Hiby R6 III sounded like with all the headphones I used. These impressions are also all based on the standard Class AB mode unless otherwise stated. Things like headphone pairings will produce different results and impressions vs what my ears hear on my specific gear.
I found the R6 III sound signature to be bright-neutral. I was somewhat surprised as I’ve always considered all of Hiby’s DAPs to sound somewhat warm overall. I found the R6 III does show a little “Sabre Glare'' and I’ll get into the effects of this shortly. The bass on the R6 III is on the neutral side. Though I do find it doesn’t quite allow headphones to hit as hard as I would like. The bass isn’t bad in any way and the lack of bass impact isn’t noticeable on IEMs but I can tell on full size cans. The Class A mode does help offset this a little. The mids are once again fairly neutral but I find the details do shine through and have good speed. Instruments sound accurate without any extra color added. Vocals are really natural and present well. Upper mids and treble are a little on the brighter side. I can hear the somewhat artificial ESS “Sabre Glare'' I've heard in many other ESS DACs and while I have no issues with the added sharpness, I know this can be a let down for others. I do find that DACs and amps don’t really add an extreme amount of flavor to sound but the little extra sharpness can be an issue on brighter sounding IEMs for sure. I do think the R6 III does extremely well at bringing in details. Overall I really like the sound signature and details that the R6 III produces.
Filters and fun featuresThe standard ESS filters are available to use and as always, I couldn’t notice any difference so I set it Apodizing like I do for all my ESS DACs and left that way. Hiby does have a built in MSEB EQ that I believe is system wide which is a fairly neat feature. As someone who almost never uses EQ, I didn’t test it other than for function checking but I see others liking it so I’m happy the option is available.
Imaging/SoundstageStaging is average here and not quite desktop level in terms of both width and depth but I do think it's good enough for its price. I do find that most IEMs I know excel at staging and imaging are running close to their full potential on the R6 III.
Battery life and heat levelsBattery life on the new R6 III has improved quite a bit over the R6 2020 model it replaced. Running it on the stock Class AB mode, we get 12 hours max from the balanced jack and 15 hours from the singled ended jack. When in Class A mode, it drops significantly to 6 hours from balanced and 9 hours on single ended. I find all of these claims are usually via low gain. I found using a few different IEMs on low gain at work, I got about 10 hours of poweramp upscaling to 176.4 kHz with about 15 percent battery left. So I would call the battery life claims fairly accurate.
When it comes to heat from this DAP on extended use, I actually had very little heat discomfort issues. Running it in Class AB mode and using normal streaming apps doesn’t cause any heat for about an hour or so when stuffed into my pants pocket. Upscaling to a high sample rate and using Sox for resampling does cause it to heat up fairly quickly but it’s never uncomfortable for me personally. The only time heat can be an issue is when the R6 III is being run in Class A mode. Letting the amp section run at full power does mean the R6 III gets to uncomfortable levels like many high end DAPs do. I don’t believe many people will be running Class A in their pockets and even when I do use it, I just let the DAP sit on the desk so it doesn’t cause me any discomfort. I think for 90 percent of people, the R6 III will never reach a heat level others find uncomfortable.
Bluetooth/Wired connectivityI didn’t really run a bunch of bluetooth headphones off the R6 III as I don’t really use bluetooth on my DAPs and I tend to use Airpods Pro 2 with my iPhone only when I know I need to take a call and stay hands free. That still stays true and while I did use some TWS like the new Bowers and Wilkins PI7 S2 in LDAC mode, I don’t normally use bluetooth on my DAPs and use airpods pro 2 on my iPhone if I need wireless playback. I did check range on LDAC and I had no issues at arms length which is normally the max range most LDAC stuff works in my experience without connection issues.
As for wired performance. Using the headphone jacks was the way to go for the best sound performance overall. Now onto maybe something a little different, I did use the R6 III as a portable DAC/amp for my Macbook Pro to see how it did as a DAP and dedicated portable DAC/amp for another source. I was very happy that the time to get the R6 III into DAC mode was very quick with little steps and they give you easy access to features like low and high gain. The R6 III will easily hit 768 kHz sample rate with some extra heat but I see no issue with that since the R6 III will probably be used in DAC/amp mode near the source device.
Personal grips with the R6 III?I would love to tell everyone about gripes I had with the R6 III but I really don’t have show stopping issues with it. I do notice some little OS quirks here and there but I’ve not had any bad experiences. I do think the biggest thing that bothers me is the inconsistency of the double tap to wake feature. It’s so hit or miss for me that I’ve just started pressing the power button on the side instead of trying to mess with the screen double tap to wake feature. Outside of that I haven’t noticed any concerning issues. Keeping an eye on the forums for the R6 III, it looks like some people are running into little random software quirks but Hiby seems to be active with making firmware updates to fix issues as they come up which I’m happy to see.
UPDATE 4/27/23: Since the most recent firmware update, they've fixed the double tap to wake feature! Happy they took feedback and fixed the issue!
Single ended and balanced power outputPower output is fairly good but I do find it a little on the low side given how well it does at everything and the fact it has the option to run in a Class A mode. It can do 125 mW into something and 405 mW into something as well. Unfortunately they don’t specify what ohms this is rated with. If I had to guess, I would say this is tested on a 32 ohm load but regardless of the paper numbers, I do find the R6 III can power everything really well. On low gain in balanced I can keep my collection of sensitive to power hungry IEMs all in the low gain mode. Some single ended power hungry IEMs do get me closer to max volume on low gain but I don’t see the need to run IEMs on medium gain. Full size cans are a different story. I only have two sets of full size headphones on hand but one is the 120 ohm Sennheiser HD 560S and the other a little more picky Monoprice M1570C planar. Both require high gain on the R6 III and both do show a slightly more bassy and wider sounding stage when using the Class A mode.
IEM pairing opinions
Moondrop VariationsThe Variations are normally my daily drivers at work when I know I’ll be able to use IEMs for a longer period of time. I was very happy at the result of this pairing. The Bass is still very punchy and I find it sounds a little tighter than I’m used to. Mids are very accurate and stay neutral with good speed on the decay of instruments. Vocals are great and natural sounding. The upper mids do sound a bit brighter than I like but the treble is also boosted a little which helps the Variations quite a bit. Staging was fairly wide and somewhat deep. Overall I found this quite a good pairing and probably one of my preferred combos both the Variations and the R6 III.
THIEAUDIO ClairvoyanceAhhhh, the Clairvoyance! My all time favorite IEM tuning even though I have a bunch of stuff that sounds better as the Clairs age in time. The bass is both tight and provides just enough impact to make me happy. Mids are laser accurate and I found the decay to be quick as well. Vocals are exactly what I expect from the Clair and it provides a good natural presentation with the R6 III. The upper mids and treble are extremely clear but never too intense. Decay is fast on instruments in the treble and I find the detail retrieval almost on par with my desktop system. Staging was both wider and deep and I found imaging wonderful as always. Keep in mind I have an extreme bias towards the Clairvoyance so take this specific pairing as you will.
Letshuoer Cadenza 12My current all time favorite “all rounder” TOTL from Letshuoer pairs extremely well with the R6 III and it was the only IEM I found to actually benefit from the Class A mode. On Class AB mode, the bass hits really strong and is well controlled and fast. The mids are still neutral sounding but they still sound really detailed. The Vocals are still very natural sounding, if not a bit more artificial on the R6 III. The upper mids are a little brighter with this pairing and the treble is really sharp but its still a little on the neutral side for sure. Staging is where I saw a difference between Class A and AB mode. Staging is slightly wider and deeper on Class A mode and swapping to A mode does add a small but noticeable extra sense of space to the stage. Overall, a very good pairing. I will say that I think this is very much “enough” gear for the Cadenza 12 but I do think it benefits from a good desktop source.
Over ear pairings
Sennheiser HD560S/Monoprice M1570CSo the only two wired full size cans I have on hand are two that I hate but I find they have good qualities in certain genres. Plus both are a little harder to drive so they act as power testbeds. I can confirm that the R6 III via single ended and balanced has no issues getting to a good volume. The lack of bass on these two slightly more demanding headphones can be somewhat counteracted by turning on the Class A mode but at the cost to battery life and heat from the R6 III. I don’t have an abundance of full size cans so it’s hard to say if the R6 III is enough to power other more demanding headphones but I think this is about 70 percent of the way to a good desktop amp or more powerful DAP in terms of amp output.
SMSL SU-9/SMSL SP400Does the R6 III compete with my trusty desktop stack? It gets close but it doesn’t quite match the performance when it comes to detail retrieval and staging compared to my review stack. The “gets close” part is very impressive to me however since I like to detach myself from my desktop setup as much as possible and things like the Topping G5 and now the R6 III make it much easier to have a solution away from my room or when I’m at work where I can’t confidently leave a mini stack sitting around on my desk. The only DAPs I’ve used that got close or matched the performance of the desktop all were near the $1k mark which is a lot in my book to spend on a dedicated player with a non user replaceable consumable battery.
The R6 III uses the same family ES9038 DAC that my SU-9 uses but the SU-9 has a more accurate and dynamic sound signature which is hovering closer to neutral while the R6 III goes for a bright-neutral sound signature. I also noticed the staging is a little more closed in on the R6 III over the desktop stack but given how much is packed into the R6 III without it overheating on Class A/B mode, I’ll take the slight loss in details and staging anyday for portable enjoyment.
Hiby R6 2020I don’t have a R6 2020 anymore but I was smart enough to note down all my issues with it as I had planned to give it a 2/5 star review but didn’t feel like wasting my time with it anymore back then. The big issues I had with the R6 2020 started with the internal design of the device itself. The device picked up an obscene amount of EMI noise and if I had anything like a cellphone, my apple watch or even my laptop near it, the R6 2020 would get that irritating static noise and clicking that really ruined the overall experience for me. It also heated up pretty intensely and caused discomfort when using it in a pocket for more than 20 min. Lastly I had a lot of issues with the Android 9 OS it was using at the time. I had lots of freezing and the worst was issues with sound popping through my IEMs when switching tracks on Tidal or Soundcloud. I believe a lot of the OS issues could have been fixed via firmware and they might have been over time. I’ll list the differences I found but I can easily say that the small headphone power output difference and the display resolution differences don’t amount to much in my book and I personally think the R6 III is a huge upgrade over the R6 2020 if you’re coming in fresh into the R6 line looking to buy either one.
The big differences I could find between the R6 2020($799) vs the R6 III($499) are as follows:
R6 III uses a Snapdragon 665 vs the R6 2020 660.
R6 III is running Android 12 and the R6 2020 is running Android 9.
Both have the same 64GB storage and 4GB of RAM.
The R6 III uses a 720p display vs the R6 2020 1080p display.
The R6 III has the option for Class A or Class A/B amplification modes. The R6 2020 doesn’t list which class it uses
Both use a ES9038Q2M DAC and same battery size
The R6 III has a max power output of 405mW vs the R6 2020 max of 750mW
Topping G5I like the sound quality I get out of the G5 and it continues to be one of my favorite portable DAC/amps for portable use when I don’t want to use a DAP. Even if it’s fairly bright sounding. Both do bass fairly well though I find the R6 III is a little stronger when it comes to impact/slam. The mids are more neutral sounding on the R6 III as well. I would say both allow vocals to come through well but I still find the G5 is a bit more sharper and somewhat less natural sounding. The upper mids and treble on both are fairly brighter and sharper and while both have noticeable “Sabre Glare”, I think the R6 III handles the treble better. The G5 can be a little too strong for a lot of gear where the R6 III can stay sharp and detailed without overdoing it. The Staging I found was wider on the G5 but depth sounded about the same between both. I would say the biggest difference between the two is the power output. You get a peak of 405 mW on the R6 III and full 1.2W from the G5 so for full sized headphones, I find the bass is stronger and things sound more spacious on the G5 over the R6 III when it comes to full size usage.
Overall thoughtsThe Hiby R6 III like I said at the beginning is a winner and I can easily recommend this DAP. I’m really happy to see a more modern DAP right at $499, though it makes a lot of older DAPs under $800 IMO seem fairly obsolete in a long term use scenario. Which is kinda a bummer. I also feel like we’re seeing multiple DAP releases per year from the DAP companies which I think kinda hurts their lineups when you don’t know how soon a better version of your recently purchased DAP might appear. I get Moondrop single DD IEM release feelings here haha I imagine we will begin seeing a lot more of these modern OS DAPs in the near future but for now, the R6 III is the king of mid range DAPs in my book! Good job to the Hiby team and I look forward to checking out what they have in the future.