iFi audio hip-dac 3

genclaymore

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Separate Power and Data port
IFI match for sensitive IEMs
3.5mm and 4.4mm HP Jack
Comes with both Type C to C and Type C to usb A cables
Ifi match function, allows the use of Sensitive IEMS
Takes 3 Hours to charge
Battery Last 12 hours
Small,light weight and fits in pocket
Xbass function can be useful at times
I wanna thank IFI Audio for Providing me this hip dac 3 to review, this will be my honest review on it


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Lets start, when you open the box up, you will see that you have a manual, Warranty card as well as a IFI sticker, alongside that is the unit it self and both a Type C to Type C cable and a Type C to USB A cable, both of them are short. And then the stick on feet.

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For connections, you have 3.5mm and 4.4mm headphone jacks in the front, in the rear the Data port which is for plugging into your phone or PC, and a 5V DC port which is used to charge the hip dac 3, or for when you're using it with your desktop, you can keep it charged during your use and unplug it for portable usage. Then Finally the 3.5mm is an S-balanced plug which is design to minimize cross talk and distortion for SE connections.

For features there are two buttons located on the front called, Xbass and then Power match which is for increasing the gain to match your headphones. While Xbass for improving your headphones low end bass. Which I found to either work very well, or not so well depending on the headphones you use.


It takes up to 3 hours to charge it when used with a high powered charger, it last 12 hours each charged. Under the charging port is the power led that shows different colors based on how much charge the unit has left. The LED colors are Red flashing means its very low then, solid red means its 10%, green means its 25% or higher, and white means its 75% or higher.
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It takes up to 3 hours to charge it when used with a high powered charger and it last 12 hours each charge. Under the charging port is the power led that shows different colors based on how much charge the unit has left. The LED colors are Red flashing means its very low then, solid red means its 10%, green means its 25% or higher, and white means its 75% or higher.



Under the unit you will see all the labeling for each of the connections, as well the switch for ifi match, which allows you to use sensitive IEMS with the hip Dac 3, The function did it job perfectly, all the IEM's I tried with the function worked flawlessly. The switch allows you to select which output to set the IEM match to, You can either set it to enable it on 3.5mm or 4.4mm, but you can also disable it if you not using sensitive IEMs.

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KZ Castor Neutral ver (Tuning switch Off) (3.5mm IFI Match enabled)

I would say detail wise its good, not too little and not too much, With no issues with hearing any of the instruments or their locations, sound stage is right at my ears, with the singers coming off as being directly in my face or in my head I cant tell, nothing else in the mid's stick out at me.

Low end deep bass doesn't sound thin, nothing stick out to me here either. There's no problems here.



When I enabled Xbass, it worked very well, as it added more weight to the lower end and improve the over all bass, it didn't cause any distorting or issues at all. Castor (Neutral ver) worked perfectly with the IFI Dac 3,



Fiio EA1 IEM (3.5mm IFI Match enabled)

The bass is what I noticed right away, its kinda hits hard in the low end, and the kick drums also have some force behind their hits, this is with Xbass turned off. There are no thin sounds any where.

In another song I can hear the voice clearly, including the different instruments, As well as being able to locate them. Instrumentals and the singer voices are inside my head. I also tried Xbass with the EA1, It worked alright, It worked bit better with the EA1 due to he way it's existing low end bass is.



Hifiman Sundara (4.4mm Balanced)

I notice that the sound stage and image is very good, as I can hear the different instruments outside my head, separated from each other without any issues at all, and there’s no issues with hearing them, as there good enough details. Singers feel like there in front of my, I would say to me there on stage above me and I’m in the front row. Its the best way I can describe it.

The kick bass doesn’t sound thin to me and have enough power behind it, as its not too much and not to little, the bass and nothing else I can think of sticks out.

When I tried Xbass it doesn’t work so well with the Sundara, especially in songs where there too much going on in the low end. It messes up the low end bass notes too much, making it not clear in the low end with it enabled, I prefer Xbass off with the case of my sundara. The sundara simply doesn't pair that well with the Hip Dac 3.



Fiio JT1 (3.5mm)
Detail wise I find it to be a little too much at times. No issue with hearing the separate instruments or their locations, sound stage wise the instruments are not in my head and is just right outside it. Sounds like the singers are up on stage with me I would say in the front row, with them singing to my forehead if that make sense. The one thing I don't like about the singer voices is to me they sound kinda thin, doesn't have enough weight behind them to me.

I notice drum kits also sounding a little thin to me as well. The low end bass isn't thin, and goes deep enough, It just doesn't stick out but is there. I find that Xbass helps with they issues I was having with the bass, I prefer it being enabled for the JT1, It helps so much here.


Conclusion

Over all the hip dac 3 worked without any issues with my desktop PC or with my phone and Dap, every function on it worked flawless. I found the Xbass feature to be useful at times, but only for certain headphones and IEMs. It being a nice size which is a good thing as I didn't have an issue with carrying it around during portable usage.



The only thing I wish it had was a bit longer cable for desktop usage, so you can use with your PC, and then have it fully charged when you ready to go. But the separate Power and Data function is one of the best things I like about it, in compared to the other portable Dac/amps that I used that had one. Other then the desktop usage nit pick, nothing else comes to mind

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Redcarmoose

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Easy to use, plug and play music
Actually once set-up, it goes on digitally connected with your computer, once turned on
Enough power for pretty much any headphone
Enough dampening power to add image density and transients which affect image edge detail and stage
Enough dampening power to add bass texture and bass definition over many other Dongles
12 hour use per charge, yet two USB TypeC ports for simultaneous charge and music replay
Sexy (feeling) volume knob that doubles as an on-and-off switch
Typically I stayed at 1/4 volume, which meant the hip dac 3 barely moved above room temperature
XBASS to get you a polite yet potent bass boost
POWER MATCH means extra juice when you need it, useful at times with full-size headphones
While not equal to TOTL desktops with full-size headphones, the hip dac 3 performs about 85% as good, and such diffidences may be unnoticeable while on-the-move in busy locations
IEM resolution is far above average (especially for the $199.00 price) yet a blacker background and finer imaging placement will be found as you travel up the DAP ladder
Cons: None, probably the best product of its kind made today
ifi hip dac 3
Redcarmoose Labs May 28th, 2024
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ifi
I have always seen ifi around, you know if you are browsing Head-Fi you really can’t miss them. Belonging to the group AMR (Abbingdon Music Research Group) one of the largest if not the largest audio manufacturer in the UK, ifi has made a notch here at Head-fi. Endlessly imaginative they have created one-of-a-kind products like the xDSD, the Nano iOne, the Nano iDSD Black Label, the ifi Blue and most recently the ifi iDSD Diablo II.

Equipment tests:
This is where I started writing this review, literally the first written words. Why? It’s the most fun of course, plus this is a set-up that owned synergy. I mean good sound……that’s what this whole review is about. Good sound at a good price. Also I’m kinda playing hooky here, from writing about all the button functions and details. And while those features are ultimately important, I don’t really like reading instructions, hence don’t favor writing about them. Yet they are a fact of life and need to covered at some point, it’s just this review is about obtaining fun……and that is what I’m going to drop a few words about.

The set-up:
Apple MacBook Air, ifi hip dac, Penon GD849 Cable and 7Hz Aurora IEM, with my regular donut wide-bore ear-tips.

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The Music:

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga OST
Junkie XL
You’re Scum

48kHz - 24bit

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This song holds so many clues as to replay. So much that after experiencing the hip dac 3 I went and grabbed my Sony WM1A. Now to be fair the exact same file is there, for comparison purposes. But I have to say the two buttons that were missing with the Sony WM1A DAP were both the Power Match and the XBass Switch. So even though my audiophile purist half wanted the signal to remain as clean as possible here, there was an extra chunk of drama that was added by turning on both switches. See with the Aurora there is this room for extra XBass, that and missing was any off timbre of brightness found. What we are left with is the throbs………bigger throbs……and I like that. Sure the Sony is my reference, yet here is a surprise, in that the bass was traveling far-out into the reaches of the stage……..we are in the middle (and I hate to say this) but replay was better than the Sony. Not quite as detailed, but more musical, and more fun. There are other times where the Sony excels, yet think of this as a home theater experience, as that is exactly what it is. So in this case those bass throbs are clean yet deep and holding authority…….so much authority my Wife is asking me a question…….and I’m ignoring her………for a moment.

Intermission:
Look, all we are looking for is involvement. A hand to guide-us in sound, to reach musical communication. This is my first Burr-Brown chipset, and it may sound just slightly different from the 3 other ifi products I have reviewed, yet still holding what I consider the ifi house sound. Yet this being my forth ifi product, it is has only more features than the GO link. Meaning the GO bar, and GO blue have more stuff they do, more filters and more complications. So to hold the ifi hip dac up……it sounds great, I’m guessing because ifi didn’t have to concentrate on miniaturization? The ifi hip dac 3 is the largest ifi product I have reviewed so far. ifi can let reviewers review any product they want. I never chose the hip dac until now because I thought it was too big. When it truth it is incredibly small. But more than that it has a few features which totally float-my-boat. Of course sound, but also it has two TypeC USB ports, one for charging and one for a digital signal. You can’t hurt the hip dac 3 if you plug the charger USB into the digital signal input, and vice versa.

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Note lights will flash on and off if a digital source is disconnected, then return to consistent when a new source is switched over.

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Features:
So see that small silver button to the far left, that’s the Power Match feature, then you have the larger silver XBass boost switch. The center knob is many folks favorite feature here. Silky smooth with a consistent back pressure like turning a high-end stereo volume knob. As such wherever you place the volume it stays there resistant to movement, unless you really want it to move. I mean having the hip dac 3 around the house for a week started to make me realize the ifi corporation really put some time and effort into this little knob. Not only is it the on/off switch, it will find the exact volume your looking for with-out any of those annoying clicks.

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The knob?
Nope, no clicks. Just smooth as butter. All three silver switches have a knurl surface, and I like that. As such the knurling adds to getting finger touch friction on the two buttons and even adds to the feeling when your finger makes contact with a portion of the volume knob to dial it. This feeling is slightly warmer than a regular metal surface. The other nice feeling you will have is when picking the hip dac up, at 136 grams it’s neither heavy or too light weight. As such the rounded aluminum edges create a feeling almost as sexy as the volume knob.

Volume knob:
See this volume knob keeps creeping back into the review. As there are lights conveniently located to each side of the volume knob (just in case your use scenario blocks visibility to one side). Engineered to be the exact thickness of the case, if you lay the hip dac 3 on a flat surface and shine a light onto the knob sideways, you will only see light coming through the two knob bevels and behind the knob itself. I have to commend ifi for this idea to make the knob exactly the size of the encasement, on both sides......flipped-up or down. As such there is never any extra strain when laying flat. And while they give you four small rubber feet to use, without the feet there is a slight sticking out of the iEMatch switch if placed with the ifi logo up.

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Past ifi hip dacs:
I mean I never heard hip dac 1 or hip dac 2, yet this third version has the benefits of not using a (male) USB TypeA for digital input.

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The Sony MDR-Z1R Full-size headphone:
Well one of my biggest surprise was just how loud and authoritative my full-size headphones became. Both the MDR-Z7 and MDR-Z1R shined. And when I say shined, this is in relation to three things.

1) Power resulting in loudness
2) Dampening power
3) tone (especially vocals)

The ultimate generalization in regards to dampening power:

“This concerns sound replay (bass) density and dampening power, which results in spacial imaging and transient attacks of upper frequencies. So density is found (especially with full-size) as a difference in regards to both the individual headphone characteristics and their power needs, thus performed many different ways in regards to amplifier choice.”
Redcarmoose

Dampening or Damping Factor:
You see, many amplifiers can make headphones loud. And Noobs think that if the results of an amplifier make a headphone loud enough, well that’s all you need. When in fact it is Dampening too. Dampening is a feature besides power to where the amplifier has better control over the actual diaphragm in use. Meaning transients are improved simply due to better start and stop reflexes of the headphone driver. This often adds a character to the bass, where if a bass is in better control, it comes off clearer. This can almost be perceived as an extra amount of stage surrounding the bass. As such this imaging then walks upwards into the mids creating better pace and better imaging into how the treble is formed into images.

Tone:
While no headphone is perfect, we try to use amplifiers often which hold an intrinsic quality which will in the end balance a deficit or tonal drawback. In the case of both the Z7 and Z1R the mid-range vocal ability could be brought into question. Meaning at times amps and DACs will offer a midrange clarity or the opposite, a midrange sleepiness which will work against us.

So here in testing in many ways the hip dac 3 was even better than IEM playback just the way it had control over the full-size, but also that there was found extra clarity taking and making vocals come-into focus. On multiple occasions, and no matter what source or music I used, I smiled at these results. In fact I’m using the MDR-Z1R with the hip dac 3 as I write now. The MacBook Air remembered that the hip dac 3 was used last time and was already all set up, I like that. Here the XBass feature is not needed, but the Power Match goes to add dynamics. I have to laugh as yes, the MDR-Z1R is easy to drive, but staying at only 1/4 of volume borders on ridiculous. Also typically in my history if you are only using 1/4 of the power, often dampening goes along with that.

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Sony TA-ZH1ES:
And…….if you’re wondering what the $2199.99 USD TA-ZH1ES gets you? Slightly more resolution, where there is better separation, clearer formations (that’s the DAC) and a thicker meatier (amplifier) replay.

Is this hip dac 3 really 11 times less entertaining, no I would say only 15% less.

I mean yes the hip dac 3 is not drawing-up as dense of images, but in no way would these ideas of hip dac 3 output be thought of as thin, or not carrying weight. It is this fast yet firm item weight found lurking deep into the outskirts of the stage that has me smitten with performance.

And the fact that the hip dac 3 can go anywhere my laptop or phone can go.

Still to be honest the MDR-Z1R needs to get credit here too, as the Z1R is very thick, a home theatre on wheels. But at the same time I’m pretty easy going as far as finding entertainment in full-size replay. Just get me the dampening and the stage and I am a quiet (happy) camper. I was going to find a couple examples of how the hip dac 3 and MRD-Z1R were able to let you become a female vocal judge of recording quality, but then I realized this review is already maybe too long, and going to get much longer before it’s over. But let me just say this. Finding new female vocals, and listening, then dropping back to old reference (female voice) recordings proved with-out a doubt that the hip dac 3 has the personality for the MDR-Z1R to do vocals. And not only do them, but do them in a critical way that would even allow you to judge them, as well recorded or not.

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Sony MDR-Z7:



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Well I was trying to avoid it, but destiny intervened. First off, yes this is a vocal song. But straight off we note just how good the piano is. Density and harmonics, good decays. Singer Rose Betts vocals come in, and while not as forward as the Z1R, we are borderline fine, and when speaking Z7 that’s something to write down. Near the end, when more strings come in they are welcomed with beautiful tone and timbre. Where the Z7 may not be a lot of things, it does hold great timbre, that and staging, and of course bass, but we are not looking at that today? Or are we! Hehe.


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Sam Paganini
Satellite
Rave

44.1kHz - 16bit
ifi GO link and Sony Z7:

I mean I’m not totally into this music genre, yet I like this song, so maybe I’m in fact into it? Here once again we are using the authority of the Sony Z7 to drive the music beat home. The little GO link well, it needed to be maxed out, almost. I mean for the most part the GO link was fine, but really works way better with IEMs. In contrast finding the added authority and power that the hip dac 3 just naturally sports was different and beneficial. Where we find that 10% in extra hip dac 3 technicalities in how the stage falls (to be nicer) as well as the density of the bass…………especially in a track like this one!

So what we get out of these tests is (obviously) a hierarchy. Though it is obvious, let me explain how in simple English.

To where the GO link is to the ifi hip dac, as the hip dac is to the Sony TA-ZH1ES....with full-size headphones. This explains the relative image density and stage (between the three) also the imaging in separation and transient attacks in comparison.


So as a generalization here. The bass density which is enjoyed with the TA-ZH1ES is slightly compromised when a file is played on the ifi hip dac 3. And to the same amount trying to take full-size headphones over to the GO link. Yet the other drawback to the GO link is it only gets so loud, to where that (lesser) density dampening is still missing from the ifi hip dac 3, only it can get crazy loud. In reviewing various products, I’m attempting to simply go one step further than to just say the hip dac 3 sounds great. I mean any review writer can say that in a review. While yes, the MDR-Z7 is more power hungry than the MDR-Z1R, there is also more bass, a stupid amount of bass, yet with carefully chosen products that specific bass doesn’t have to be dumbed-down, but can open-up to reveal wonderful textures and extra clues as to the reality of what is there in the file........and that's what we get with the hip dac 3!

After a few Reddcarmoose reviews this hip dac 3 review finds itself at the end of the review cycle. Subsequently this review may end-up longer than the rest (as I have time) not concerned by dead-lines or other products getting in the way. If I could, I want to concentrate on the Z7 with EDM first. Here there is an added authority to the MDR-Z7 that adds to what the hip dac 3 brings to the table. While still not as dense as the TA-ZH1ES, really we are splitting hairs here. The full-on V shape of the Z7 signature moves forward to add a big stage for the midrange and treble imaging to live. And contrary to a few amps out there, there is an included smoothness that just makes this work-out. Working-out is called in the zone, and that’s where I am. Smooth, full-bodied and clear at only 1/4 volume with the Power Match feature in use.

The MDR-Z1R and MDR-Z7 with MUC-B20SB1 cable:

Here I’m breaking-out the MUC-B20SB1 “Kimber” a $170.00 aftermarket cable that adds a touch of smoothness to both the MDR-Z1R and MDR-Z7. And I have to say, the MUC-B20SB1 adds a slight noticeable improvement to the hip dac 3, to where if you were looking for the ultimate step in the right direction after a Sony Z7 or Z1R and hip dac 3 purchase, the MUC-B20SB1 is the quintessential update to the sound here. Where with the Z1R even more upgrades can be noticed. These up-climbs come as a form of separation and smoothness, both as a perceived spatial imaging, and added itemizations found freely existing into the stage.

Where at first (years ago) the MUC-B20SB1 was chosen to help with a brightness display into how the Z1R was powered by the TA-ZH1ES. Where now (maybe due to Burr-Brown) smoothness, no such form of correction is needed to start with?

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Further comparisons to other ifi products and the competition:
Here the ifi hip dac 3 (under the HiBy R3 II) goes against the ifi GO blu, ifi GO bar....and the GO link, with the Shanling UA3 and Simgot Audio DEW4X, which we will get to later.

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Penon Volt with GS849 cable.

ifi hip dac 3:
Really this all is very easy. And while this section of the review followed the full-size headphones, using the HiBy R3 II as a digital source as in comparison to USB TypeA from a computer was no different. The differences in hip dac 3 and Volt IEM volume settings were obviously noticeable, to where I basically turned-off the Power Match feature and left the volume the same for IEMs. Here I’m using the Penon Volt past TOTL IEM and “color free” GS849 cable in 4.4mm.

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https://ifi-audio.com
While ifi goes ahead to offer a guide to what would be best for your needs….I’m simply relating my experience with four of their portable products.

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ifi hip dac 3 verses GO bar.
While sure the hip dac 3 doesn’t offer four different GO bar filters, I never used the sound filters anyway. While yes there is high gain and low gain in a sense on both, the hip dac 3 doesn’t offer XSpace. XSpace is a style of adding stage, while slightly decreasing point detail inside that stage. Both offer 4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm S-Balanced output, though I have never seen a 3.5mm balanced before? There are 9 different lights on the top of the GO bar which will show 44/48, 88/96176/192, 352/384, DSD 64/128, DSD256, MQA, XSpace and XBass. Now with the hip dac 3 we do have exactly the same iEMatch (which reduces hiss on sensitive IEMs), and XBass. We decode MCA files on both yet the hip dac 3 shows also a purple light to designate original MQB sample rate when decoding MQB. So we end-up with Green for MQA, Blue for MQA Studio and the Purple for MQB studio.

Sound:
Lol, OK after 4 back and forth tries, I solidified my very first impressions at first listen. Where yes, the GO bar 32bit Cirrus Logic has a thicker sound…….and much of that was found down low………that sound is (to me) slightly more luxurious? Now the crazy part, and don’t let anyone tell you differently……the stages were both very much populated with musical instrumentation in different areas. Meaning the hip dac 3 had the high-hats sounding one way and in their own area in the stage. The GO bar slightly denser high-hats, maybe containing more high-hat information. Lol

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The GO bar to the left of the hip dac 3.

Look, this is the very epitome of confusion, as who is to say what the producers had in mind when they recorded the music, yet the GO bar (for all it’s worth) had a thicker darker and different sound, with items staged differently. Where maybe at times the GO bar stage was bigger, then depending on the music, the hip dac 3 stage was still as comparable?

Where maybe it didn’t matter so much with the Volt IEM?
But I did a quick MDR-Z1R test again. To where this hip dac 3 thickness in treble was gone……there was more spatial separation and slightly more openness to the Z1R. Maybe this is due to the GO bar being thicker, but the Z1R is already thick; it is known as one of the thickest sounding headphones? The hip dac 3 Burr-Brown chipset was offering a cleaner, yet less harmonically expanded tone, only just slightly less on the harmonically expanded part.

What that meant to me was that, sure the Volt sounds richer with the GO bar 32bit Cirrus Logic, yet this richness was not really an attribute when listening to the MDR-Z1R.

And if you go back to my GO Bar review, I actually mention the fact that while the GO Bar has plenty of power for the MDR-Z1R, I wasn’t so sure the mid-range was quite vivid enough, always? Sure here the sound is just slightly more stripped down that the GO Bar, yet the stage appears more open, and gone is any of that extra thickness.......that MDR-Z7 or MDR-Z1R doesn’t need in the end. While this sound may in-fact add to the lack of density in the end, still I will truly go with hip dac 3 playback here. $329.00 GO bar, versus the $199.00 hip dac? The operational amplifier of the GO bar puts out 475mW max into 32 ohms, yet only full power when you have USB 3.0 and above. Where the operational amplifier in the hip dac 3 has its own 12 hour 2,200mAh battery, at up to 400mW into 32 ohms. Really while using 1/4 of the volume level, both amplifiers featured enough dampening and got plenty loud enough.

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The ifi GO link front and center.

The GO link verses the hip dac 3:
Really I already went over this little guy. But as a product it shares a special application more for IEMs. Due to the power limits of the GO link, full-size headphones can be used, but fail to exhibit enough overall density. Where sure full-size can be used with the GO link (and it is always miles better than the Apple Dongle) with full-size headphones. It just doesn’t come into dramatic style till you join the GO link with IEMs. Remember this dampening thing with full-size headphones is independent of volume levels desired. LOL I can only go 1/4 on the MacBook Air with the Penon Volt IEM. In comparison to the hip dac 3, the GO link sound is not as vibrant. Being held closer to home inside the sound-stage, with less options of detail to fully spread things apart into a perceived density of imaging. Still as far as comparisons go, the Apple Dongle owns a thinner sterile sound offering none of the thickness on hand as the GO link does 24/7………it is just the hip dac 3 for just $140.00 more money, does worlds more in my book.

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Go blu third over left to right.

The GO blu verses the hip dac 3:
Where do I start? On a positive note you can place the 9V battery size GO blu in your front shirt pocket and run your best cable to your best TOTL IEM and have insane sound out and about. There is no product that I know of that does this. Yes, you are using Bluetooth to get there, and while Bluetooth is not perfect, this may be one of the closest examples of great usage, at least in my limited history. To where really the GO blu is two different devices, it is a Bluetooth receiver, and a wired Dongle working style of player. Yep, better sound wired. So if you see yourself using Bluetooth part of the time, and having a way smaller device than the hip dac 3 in use, well that may be a way to go? Where the GO link beats the GO blu in Bluetooth mode, the GO blu is a dramatic step forward in sound wired. Yep, all that separation and vividness really in many ways has challenged the hip dac 3! As such this GO blu Cirrus Logic CS43131 DAC Chip puts out the goods. When it gets down to it, the GO blu sound-stage is just slightly closer to home, except that sound in itself (wired) crosses over here at Redcarmoose Labs into great, just not as great as what the hip dac 3 does at exactly the same price……on a daily basis.

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Some competition:
The Shanling UA3 Dongle and Simgot Audio DEW4X Dongle:

The Shanling UA3:

Shanling sports dual AKM AK4493SEQ DAC chips and two dedicated Ricore RT6963 amplification chips. Now the wild thing is this Dongle sounds great but is the weakest tested today, all except the GO link. Yes, the GO link is less powerful. Yet remember I have been on hip dac 3 1/4 volume most of the time, so does it matter? I mean this UA3 staging is great, I love it, the way the separation goes, but I have to say the dampening with the MDR-Z1R is questionable. That and the UA3 chip tuning makes the bass even slightly softer, if you can believe that? The combination of results is a more refined almost a royal style of sound, minus the cannons. LOL. All joking aside (but seriously) they left a little cannon sound of the booms, or at least it's not emphasized. Still it is hard not to love this tone, especially if you haven’t heard it for a while! No not near as vivid or holding the separation of the hip dac 3.

The Simgot Audio DEW4X:
I mean Simgot is actually not new at Dongles. This is Simgot's 4th Dongle if my memory serves me correct. Where in contrast to the last UA3 it gets ungodly loud, even with full-size headphones. And you know with the MDR-Z1R this damping may make a difference, as I’m hearing better separation, faster transients, yet with an added dryness that is maybe just the personality of the Dual C43198 chips? Whatever it is, there a wider separation than the UA3? To almost where I would judge this as having slightly better realization into technicalities……I hate to say. Where images are bigger and more vibrant, yet holding that sizzle that comes with being more upfront and apart from the rest of playback. Offering a surprising amount of fun but missing a little of the bass density that is the hallmark sound of the hip dac 3.

Packaging:
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Conclusion:
Well there you have it, another ifi review in the books. I have done my very best to locate the quality sectors here for you to read, and tried to put them in a way you could understand. While not perfect, the ifi hip dac 3 remains a value. Not only is that value found in ease of use, but in build demeanor and quality of sound. If you were keeping score it beat out a large portion of the competitors here today, both made by ifi, Shanling and Simgot Audio. Of course usage scenarios means the most probably. Yep, you know how a DAC/Amp would perform in a given set-up. I say this because the market is truly flooded with choices.

Me, on the other hand (being an audiophile) look at sound quality (per dollar) as the number one choice factor…….and there the hip dac 3 (in particular usage scenarios) becomes number one. :hearts:

Number two is probably ease of use, just the fact that it went on (in-place) with-out any MacBook Air keyboard keystrokes the 2nd time I used it. As the hip dac 3 was remembered by the MacBook, and I like that.


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If you were worried about how long this thing will last, I can tell you it’s built like a tank at 136 grams! I mean the knob is the first thing you try before you even plug it in, I mean how can you not try it? It’s the main focus of a lot of reviews, only because knobs are very different item to item. I can say this little knob outperformed most knobs on my bigger full-size equipment. It does this offering a click less smooth and robust feeling, really the feeling of value. I know I may sound a little crazy, but this knob is something else, you’ll see. The form factor is way smaller than you think. Even after I got the hip dac 3 in the mail, viewing (other) photos of the hip dac 3.........it just looks bigger in pictures. After 12 hours or so you can recharge the hip dac 3 by plugging a TypeC USB cable into the rear, yet due to that being separate from the TypeC USB digital signal, you can have both cables plugged in and use the thing simultaneously. This may not seem like a big deal, but it can be, being the fun with this thing never stops. The small LED under the charging port has 4 color codes for battery status, white, green, then red, and lastly flashing red, which means you better get your Schiit together pronto like……as you have only 10% left in the gas tank.

While sure there are other units out there that offer more features, you have to ask yourself if they needed features. I mean this hip dac 3 thing is so simple it does not even have an on-off button. You turn it on by turning on the volume knob. Yep, as you rotate (right at first) the knob you feel the presence of extra friction holding the knob back……..then after 1/9th of a wheel-turn all the lights comes on and it says hello! Well it doesn't actually say hello, but you get my drift.

Really the iMatch feature I never needed, though I did use the XBass and Power Match features..........they were strategically implemented to sound both noticeable and nice.

Really that’s it, oh and ifi have included three USB cables to go with everything, that and a set of little feet, just in case you want to use them. To where other reviewers say this is the best hip dac sound out of the 3 so far, I have not heard the others, so I don’t know? Yet I do know one thing…….I can easily recommend this product as it is simple and effective in use, it does exactly what its intended purpose is, and for that I’m amazed.

The hip dac 3 retails at $199.00 USD.

https://ifi-audio.com/products/go-blu/
https://www.amazon.com/iFi-Audio/s?k=iFi+Audio

Disclaimer:
I want to thank Lawrence at ifi for the hip dac 3 review sample.

Disclaimer:
These are one person's ideas and concepts, your results may vary.

Equipment Used:
Sony WM1A Walkman DAP MrWalkman Firmware 4.4mm
Sony WM1Z Walkman DAP MrWalkman Firmware 4.4mm
HiBy R3 II DAP in 4.4mm balanced and USB TypeC to the hip dac both digital wired input and supplying Bluetooth
Apple MacBook Air USB TypeA digital output
Go Bar in 4.4mm balanced
GO blu in 4.4 balanced
GO link in 3.5mm

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Redcarmoose
Redcarmoose
J
jmwant
I have only positive things to say about the og hipdac. The USB c connector is a nice change for sure. Excellent review.
Redcarmoose
Redcarmoose
@jmwant,
Thank-you. Yes.......what was surprising was just how small the hip dad 3 was, and how well it did with both IEMs and full-size headphones. What more could you ask from a portable device at this price point? Cheers!

cqtek

1000+ Head-Fier
Three, ifi's Lucky Number?
Pros: A multitude of virtues in a very small space.
- High power.
- Good battery life.
- Sound on a par with similarly priced desktop solutions.
- Excellent price/performance ratio in a very compact size.
- Versatility, very useful and valuable in many scenarios.
Cons: No RCA or digital line out connections.
- It does not come with a case, it must be purchased separately.
Introduction

This is the first time I have reviewed an ifi product. Although I own the ifi ZEN CAN which I bought some time ago, I had not tried a source from this brand. Established in 2012 and with a distribution centre in the USA, ifi has its own way out of the other brands from the east. Very faithful to the Burr-Brown chips, the brand has a classic touch in its sound that is already a trademark of the house. This time I have been able to enjoy on loan for a few weeks this small portable DAC/AMP in its third generation, called if hip dac 3. It is a battery-powered DAC/AMP with a shape reminiscent of a small flask adorned with a Titanium Shadow tone. It has an aluminium casing and virtually all of the brand's signature features: iEMatch technology, metal film capacitors, updated version of ifi's GMT circuitry, along with a new crystal oscillator, Burr-Brown DAC, 16-core XMOS chip, true balanced circuitry, custom iFi OV op-amp, switchable gain selector called PowerMatch, Xbass bass boost selector, MQA support, DSD up to 256 and PCM up to 384 kHz. There are two USB Type-C ports, one for data and one for charging, with LED indicator included, two audio outputs (SE 3.5mm and BAL 4.4mm) and a 2,200 mAh battery that offers up to 12 hours of playback. Let's take a closer look at what this new ifi product has to offer.

ifi hip dac 3 01_r.jpgifi hip dac 3 02_r.jpg

Specifications

  • Input: USB-C
  • Supported formats: DSD256 / PCM384kHz / Full MQA decoder.
  • DAC: Burr Brown.
  • Headphone outputs: BAL 4.4 mm, SE 3.5 mm.
  • Output power (RMS): BAL 400mW @ 32Ω; 6.3V @ 600Ω.
  • Output power (RMS): SE 280mW @ 32Ω; 3.2V @ 600Ω.
  • SNR BAL: <109dB(A) @ 0dBFS.
  • SNR SE: <103dB(A) @ 0dBFS.
  • DNR BAL: <109dB(A).
  • DNR SE: <103dB(A).
  • THD + N BAL: <0.006X% (360mW/2.0V @ 600Ω).
  • THD + N SE: <0.01% (100mW/1.27V @ 16Ω).
  • Frequency response: 20Hz - 45kHz (-3dB).
  • Power consumption: <2W standby, 4W max.
  • Battery: 2,200 mAh lithium polymer.
  • Battery life: up to 12 hours.
  • Power system Charging via USB-C, compatible with BC V1.2 up to 1000mA charging current.
  • Dimensions: 102x70x14mm (4.0" x 2.8" x 0.6").
  • Net weight: 135g.

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Packaging

The ifi hip dac 3 comes in a small white box, whose dimensions are 126x93x38mm. On the front side there is a real picture of the product. At the top is the brand logo, at the bottom is the model name and the description of the model. On the back side there is a description of the motivation of the product, the main features, a description of the content, the specifications and the certifications it complies with. After sliding off the box, the product is shown inside a white protective pouch, inside a cardboard base. Attached to the pouch is a sticker with a smiley headphone smiley thanking you for your choice. Underneath is a double-sided quick manual card and the rest of the accessories. In a nutshell:

  • The ifi hip dac 3.
  • Quick manual.
  • USB-A to USB-C cable.
  • USB-C to USB-C cable.
  • Instruction manual.
  • MQA card.
  • 4 white rubber bases.
  • Brand logo sticker.

A protective cover is missing, but is sold separately. The cables are short, clearly for portable use. There is a difference between the two cables, while the USB-C to USB-C cable has a textile coating that makes it look better, the USB-A to USB-C cable is more generic, black and plastic-coated.
The packaging is really compact, with just enough and minimal frills. Just adequate, but nice in its size.

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Construction and Design

The hip dac 3 is a small, oval flask encased in aluminium alloy and painted in a shade called Titanium Shadow. The body is compact, the casing has a good thickness and the whole thing is relatively light at 135g. The top face has only the brand logo in the centre, in black ink. On the underside are all the informative legends and icons, including one that says something like "designed and built in the UK, made in China". There is also the iEMatch selector. On the front face, from left to right, is the Power Match gain selector, the Xbass bass selector, the potentiometer, the 4.4mm BAL headphone output and the 3.5mm SE output. The selectors have a white LED indicating their activation, while on both sides of the potentiometer there are two curved green LEDs indicating that the device is switched on. On the back, from left to right, is the USB Type-C data port, a sticker with a QR code, a sticker with the Hi-Res Audio logo, the USB Type-C charging port with an LED (red to indicate low battery and white while charging). Little else.
I don't like that the iEMach selector is underneath and its travel is a little short, while its movement is a little rough and unsteady. Otherwise the design is compact, feels quite robust, has LEDs indicating almost all options and the weight is low for its power.

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Connectivity

The ifi hip dac 3 can be connected to an Android smartphone via the USB-C to USB-C cable. It can also be connected to an Apple smartphone via a Lightning to USB adapter (not included). It can be connected to any PC, tablet or device with a compatible USB output, but only via the data port. For use with Apple iOS and Android devices, battery powered use is recommended,
otherwise you may receive error messages from your device. For use with PC it is necessary to download drivers. It has ASIO drivers and you can update the firmware from here:

www.ifi-audio.com/download-hub/

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Operativity

The ifi hip dac 3 is switched on by moving the potentiometer clockwise and after hearing the click. It is a powerful device and it is recommended to start listening from the lowest volume range. It has a gain selector, ifi calls it PowerMatch. It increases the gain by 10dB. It has a bass boost selector, which ifi calls Xbass. This is an analogue circuit designed to "recover" the lost bass response.
The LEDs on both sides of the potentiometer light up in different colours to give information about the format being played:

  • Yellow: PCM 44.1/48kHz
  • White: PCM 88,2/96/176,4/192/352,8/384kHz
  • Cyan: DSD 64/128
  • Red: DSD 256
  • Green: MQA
  • Blue: MQA Studio
  • Magenta: Original Sample Rate* (*MQB)

The iEMatch is a selector that reduces the output level. It allows more sensitive headphones to be used with the high part of the potentiometer, whose results are more linear. It is also used for more precision with the volume. It can be activated for 3.5mm SE output, 4.4mm BAL output or deactivated.
The device has a dedicated USB Type-C port for data and a dedicated USB Type-C port for charging. Charging the battery can take up to 3 hours using a powerful USB charger. It is recommended to use the included USB-A to USB-C cable, a smart charger or a standard charger up to 6.3V.
The battery indicator LED is colour coded as follows:

  • White* > 75%
  • Green* > 25%
  • Red* > 10%
  • Red* > 10%
  • Red (flashing) ≤ 10%
*The battery LED will flash when the battery is charging.

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Measures

Let's see how iEMatch behaves. In my opinion, it is an attenuator. Ifi could use three gain modes and save this circuit. Although, it is possible that it affects something else. The unloaded output at low gain almost reaches 1V RMS per SE, with the iEMatch activated in the 3.5mm position the voltage stays at 0.23V, a very drastic drop. Given that the output impedance per SE that I have measured is 0.32Ω, is it possible that the iEMatch decreases this impedance even more? Measuring that value is difficult for me because the voltage is low and my measuring equipment is not very accurate in that range. But, it seems that lowering the output impedance even further would be possible in an accurate circuit and achieve much lower background noise. In the same way, it is possible to use the potentiometer in the higher range, where the outputs are also more even between channels.
You can activate the iEMatch with high gain, but you can't go to the maximum volume because you see a clear distortion. The system stays at about 0.44V RMS.
Something similar happens at the balanced output. At the low gain output it delivers 1.9V, with iEMatch activated at the 4.4mm position it reaches 0.46V. Activating the high gain is the same as for SE, you can't reach the maximum volume with iEMatch activated, staying at 0.57V RMS without visible distortion.
The output impedance of BAL at low gain is almost negligible, 0.1Ω.

ifi hip dac 3 SE 1000 No Load Low Gain iEMatch 3.5.pngifi hip dac 3 SE 1000 No Load High Gain iEMatch 3.5 menos del maximo.png

ifi hip dac 3 BAL 1000Hz No Load Low Gain iEMatch 4.4.pngifi hip dac 3 BAL 1000Hz No Load High Gain iEMatch 4.4.png

ifi hip dac 3 SE Output Impedance.pngifi hip dac 3 BAL Output Impedance Low Gain.png

No Load SE

For SE at low gain you don't reach 1V RMS. At high gain you get up to 3.1V RMS.

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15 Ω SE

For SE at high gain you get 1.46V RMS, which means 140mW power and over 97mA. Very good.

ifi hip dac 3 SE 015.png

33 Ω SE

For SE at high gain you get 2.55V RMS, giving you 200mW of power and more than 77mA. The specifications say that 280mW should be reached and for that you should reach 3V RMS, something I have not been able to corroborate, as above 2.6V RMS there is visible distortion in the audible range.

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100 Ω SE

For SE at high gain you get 3.1V RMS, with the volume at maximum. 96MW and 31mA.

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No Load BAL

Without BAL load at low gain it reaches 1.92V and at high gain 6.25V RMS.

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15 Ω BAL

For BAL at high gain you get 1.54V RMS, which is 160mW and 100mA. Surprisingly powerful.

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33 Ω BAL

For BAL at high gain you get 3.31V RMS, giving 330mW and 100mA as well. 400mW is specified, for that the voltage should be 3.58V RMS. It's not far off, but it doesn't reach that value over the whole frequency range without visible distortion.

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100 Ω BAL

My surprise was that I could not reach the maximum volume with this impedance. It reaches 5.52V RMS and the power is 300mW. A bit disappointing considering that the current is only 55mA.

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Frequency Response

The frequency response is flat between 5Hz and 40kHz, as it should be for a Hi-Res product. No difference is observed between channels at medium volume.
Activating the Xbass selector gives an increase in the lower range which is 12dB at 5Hz, 10dB at 20Hz, 8dB at 40Hz, 4dB at 100Hz, 2dB at 200Hz and the curve joins the original without Xbass beyond 1khz.

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Sound

Audio brands usually have some kind of house sound. With ifi this is absolutely true. The ifi sound is often associated with a warm, organic, analogue sound. And a lot of that may be due to the technology it uses. Ifi is faithful to Burr Brown dacs, analogue amplification and the use of the best electronic components.
Although I have only tested the ZEN CAN amplifier and this hip dac 3, perhaps I should not generalise this premise to the rest of the devices. However, both the components used and the brand itself are looking for something in that direction. But when I tried the hip dac 3 I was surprised that this feeling was not so pronounced. I think this device has those certain nuances, but it also has a sound that tends towards a realistic, mature, descriptive and wide neutrality. I was surprised to find a wide and voluminous soundstage, superior to many dongles or similar devices I own, with more flesh, weight, body and size. At that point, I set about comparing the hip dac 3 with those small devices, looking for that juicy, physical, extended sound. In fact, I didn't find it and that's why I have admitted the first superior value of this music flask.
Starting with a more concrete description of the sound, in the low end, the hip dac 3 offers a very deep range, with a slight rubberiness associated with a sense of darkness that gives it that realistic, analogue feel. It has a bit more flesh and physicality compared to cooler dacs, which can sound more dry or sterile. The hip dac 3 is juicier in this respect, offering a rounder, fuller bottom end. I get the impression that the bass hit has more travel, offering a more discernible, rougher texture. Although it is also less compact, compared to Sabre dacs like the EarMen TR-Amp. In this way, I feel the bass is longer, subtly slower in its recovery, but also with that extra physical part, extension and texture, which makes it more exciting and fun, without losing its good technical capacity.
In the midrange I continue to get that sense of physicality and body, which enhances the sound and adds a sense of volume and space, without having to fiddle with the potentiometer to make up for it. In this way, male vocals feel full and very full, enriched by the warm character of the hip dac 3. On the other hand, the profile's orientation towards neutrality is demonstrated in the clarity of the midrange. Without feeling forced or exalted, the midranges are clean, transparent and separated, reproduced with ease, but in a very complete and descriptive way. This is how the instruments are described in a quite vivid, even lush analogue way, winning the emotional game against other more bland, cold and sterile dacs. My feeling is that the hip dac 3 offers a juicier, more organic and natural sound that makes it more enjoyable, at the same time more palpable, surrounding, even voluptuous and full of attractive musicality. Despite the above, the hip dac 3 doesn't lose detail, it just exposes itself on a slightly different plane. My sense is that the body and physicality of the bass remains at a closer point, while the micro detail remains explicit, albeit on a plane not quite as close as the TR-Amp represents it. Its visibility is about the same, but there is a subtly greater density surrounding it.
I find the ifi sound represented in the treble. The analogue aspect of the high notes means that they are represented in a softer way at their end point. While the TR-Amp is more vivid, sparkling and fine in the last flash, the hip dac 3 ends the treble in a subtly rounder way, which gives it that point of musical softness, which is appreciated after hours of intense listening. The result is an equally explicit, extended, transparent, clean and separated high end, but less sharp and penetrating. It's not that there is a drop in the energy level, it's not a nuanced treble, but that the energy is more controlled, more distributed and emitted with a little less drive and edge.
But if there is something that I liked and surprised me about this portable device, as I mentioned at the beginning of this section, it was the sensation of spaciousness and scene. Without being a monster in this aspect, the sensation of volume, occupied space and depth, made me compare it with several similar products, searching in those, the size of that scene to find out if it was superior. The truth is that it has not been easy to find a device at that price level. That is why I must conclude that the hip dac 3 is excellent in this respect. Thanks to the physical, powerful, energetic feel of the bass, coupled with its level of depth, rounder body and extension, the soundstage feels wide, voluminous and more three-dimensional. It doesn't quite have that enveloping, gaseous, head-over-heels sensation, as I think the analogue nature of the sound gives it a realistic spatial attachment, without becoming detached or volatile. However, this does not detract from the fact that it possesses a remarkable sense of height, openness, distance between notes and separation. In that more technical aspect, this ifi is able to discern the micro detail as other dacs more analytical, but without getting to expose it in a more preferential plane, but more realistic or perhaps, a little behind the voluptuousness of the bass or first midranges.

ifi hip dac 3 10_r.jpg

Conclusion

The ifi hip dac 3 is a very portable device that is powerful, musical, very versatile and highly equipped. Ifi didn't want to leave anything behind and has equipped this device with almost all the improvements of its big brothers: iEMatch, PowerMatch, Xbass, dual audio output BAL 4.4mm and SE 3.5mm, integrated 2,200 mAh lithium battery, analogue potentiometer, separate USB Type-C connections for data and charging, the best electronic components, Burr Brown dac, MQA, DSD 256 and PCM up to 384khz. All this in a small, slim flask with a Titanium Shadow aluminium body. Not to mention a very competitive price, the ifi hip dac 3 can be a very effective entry-level device for multiple scenarios, which will make it unnecessary to carry other more expensive, even more bulky dongles or desktop systems, given its power, sound quality, size, connectivity and all those features I've already mentioned. Does the rest of the competition have all that at this price? Answer for yourself.

ifi hip dac 3 11_r.jpg

Earphones and Sources Used During Analysis

  • Hidizs MP145 Golden Titanium
  • BQEYZ Wind.
  • Letshuoer S15.
  • Letshuoer Cadenza 4.
  • NiceHCK Himalaya.
  • Rose Martini.
  • Simgot EA1000 Fermat.
  • TinHiFi T5s.
  • Rose Star City 5 Pro.
  • Shozy P20.
  • Hidizs AP80 PRO-X Red Copper LE
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro

ifi hip dac 3 12_r.jpg

ifi Audio has lent me this model for a few weeks, in exchange for writing an honest review. I want to make it clear that all my opinions written in this review have not been conditioned by this fact, nor will I ever write anything that I do not really think or feel here. I will only write about my personal opinion in relation to the revised product.

ifi hip dac 3 13_r.jpg

Purchase Link

ifi hip dac 3 14_r.jpg

You can read the full review in Spanish here

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thaslaya

500+ Head-Fier
Third Time's a Charm
Pros: + Top notch build quality

+ Plenty of power

+ Volume wheel for precise control

+ Long lasting battery

+ IEMatch

+ USB-C finally!

+ 3 different cables included
Cons: - Not very pocketable when connected to device

- A sleeve or case would be a welcome inclusion

- Price might be a barrier for some

- XBass can get muddy depending on the headphones/iems
thaslaya's star rating system:
☆☆☆☆☆ - Best in class/buy it now
☆☆☆☆ - Highly recommended
☆☆☆ - Sound for thee, not for me
☆☆ - Can't see the appeal
☆ - Product is a failure

Disclaimer:
This product was provided to me by Ifi Audio in exchange for my impartial and honest review. I recieve no compensation and all thoughts and opinions are my own. A special thanks to Karina at Ifi for coordinating this unit for review.
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Gear used:
● LG v30+
● Samsung Galaxy s22 Ultra
● Samsung dongle
● Various iems

Source:
Listening was done through Amazon Music HD or Ultra HD.

Introduction:
Ifi Audio produces some of the best rated and most popular DAC/amplifiers on the market today. They have many choices in both the portable and desktop categories. Today I will be reviewing one of Ifi's newest portable releases, the hip dac 3. Despite the name, it is actually the fourth iteration but it comes with some substantial differences that will be showcased below.
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Design:
At first glance it may be hard to differentiate the variations in all of the hip dac models. They all boast a fantastic build quality and different colored finishes. The hip dac 3 sports a "titanium shadow" color that is a more neutral departure from the previous blue, orange, and gold options. I personally prefer the blue and orange colors of the first two as they are more fun but the newest colorway does look more expensive and classy. On the bottom of the unit you'll find two USB-C ports, one for charging and one for the source connection. Ditching the old USB-A input for a USB-C is one of the best upgrades of this newest version. I have owned both of the previous models and one of my biggest complaints was the awkward, cumbersome, and frequent disconnections with the USB-A cable. The volume wheel retains the same look and feel as previous models. It also functions as to power on the device. There are two indicator lights on either side of the wheel that change colors to denote the sample rate of the source. The overall build quality is outstanding with a premium finish that feels fantastic in hand.
1000018125.jpg

Features:
The "Power Match" and "XBass" buttons are back and their functions are the same as before. There are small indicator lights to show when these options are enabled. The Power Match is essentially a toggle for low and high gain. The XBass function injects a healthy amount of bulk to the lower end. It works really great with iems that are light on bass but can make others sound a bit bloated. It will mostly depend on the tuning and the user's penchant for bass. The hip dac 3 now features Ifi's IEMatch technology in the form of a toggle switch on back of the unit. It ensures a noise free background and is very helpful for reducing any hiss from high sensitivity gear. Included with the unit are three different cables with USB, USB-C, and lightning connections. It's a small inclusion but it ensures that the hip dac 3 can be used with any device right out of the box. There are also 4 little rubber "feet" in the box that are a nice little bonus.
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Power consumption:
The hip dac 3 can deliver up to 400mW@32 ohm for balanced output and 280mW@32 ohm for standard.The unit uses a lithium-polymer battery that's robust and definitely holds a nice charge. Ifi touts the battery lasting up to 12 hours depending on volume and enabled options. In my testing when using IEMatch, Power Match, and intermittent XBass, it easily offers 6+ hours of play time. The battery indicator light is the same as past models and changes color depending on the remaining charge. Also thanks to the separate USB-C inputs, the hip dac 3 can be used while being charged which is great for desktop use.
1000018138.jpg

Sound impressions:
The hip dac 3 still uses the same Brown-Burr chipset as the other iterations. These Brown-Burr DACs are known for adding warmth to the frequency response. To my ears it's a very subtle but welcome inclusion. There also seems to be a small increase in the overall soundstage. The hip dac 3 will faithfully and accurately reproduce the stock tuning of your favorite gear (with a touch a warmth) and take everything to the next level when using the extra features. I also had the chance to test the unit while watching Dune and Top Gun: Maverick. The added bass rumble with XBass enabled is awesome!
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Final thoughts:
Is the newest iteration of Ifi's excellent hip dac worth the $199 asking price? I'd say it's a resounding "yes!". It sports excellent options and features, packs plenty of power, and can move seemlessly from desktop to portable use. Now the harder question: is it worth upgrading to the 3 if you already own one of the previous models? That answer is more nuanced. Do you need the IEMatch feature for sensitive iems or headphones? Is the USB-A connection a deal breaker? (it was for me) Is the titanium shadow color calling to you? Only you can answer those questions. For myself I found that the newest iteration packs every feature I could want in a DAC/amp and also addresses problem areas found on previous models. The hip dac 3 sets a new high standard in the portable DAC/amp category and is another fantastic product in Ifi's stable.
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pradiptacr7

500+ Head-Fier
iFi Hip DAC 3 Review
Pros: Organic and analogue tonality, IEMATCH!!!, Premium build, Powerful enough even for Headphones, Great pricing
Cons: Imaging could have been better, Form Factor (Even if it's unique but dongles are catching up)
IFI HIP DAC 3: INTOXICATING FLASK OF AUDIO

Introduction: -


Today at Aural Cafe we are reviewing the iFi Hip-DAC 3 portable DAC and Headphone Amplifier. But before that let us tell you a bit about iFi Audio. iFi Audio is a subsidiary of Abbingdon Music Research (AMR) which is one of the UK's largest manufacturers of high-end audio products such as AmpliFiers, Active Buffer/PreampliFiers, DACs, and USB filters. Founded in 2000, AMR is based in London, United Kingdom. It is a subsidiary of the Abbingdon Global Group.

iFi Audio is one of the most respected brands in the audiophile world with hi-fi products across different prices and product categories with one aim- to improve music enjoyment. Founded in 2012 iFi oversee the design, development, and manufacture of more than 50 products from their headquarters in Southport, UK. iFi products and their packaging are made from recyclable materials, including Aluminium, Paper and Recycled plastics. There are no hazardous toxins in their components, and they ensure that every product released meets environmental standards. iFi prides itself on being an eco-friendly company.

iFi Hip-DAC 3 is competitively priced at US$ 199 only.

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Specifications: -
  • Input: USB-C
  • Formats Supported: DSD256 / PCM384kHz / Full MQA Decoder
  • DAC Used: Burr Brown Multibit
  • Headphone Outputs: 4.4mm Balanced, 3.5mm SE.
  • Power Output: BAL 400mW @ 32Ω; 6.3V @600Ω / UnBAL 280mW @ 32Ω; 3.2V @600Ω
  • SNR: BAL <109dB(A) @ 0dBFS / UnBAL <103dB(A) @ 0dBFS
  • DNR: BAL <109dB(A) / UnBAL <103dB(A)
  • THD + N: BAL <0.006X% (360mW/2.0V @600Ω) / UnBAL <0.01% (100mW/1.27V @16Ω)
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz - 45kHz (±3dB)
  • Power Consumption: <2W idle, 4W max
  • Battery: Lithium-polymer 2,200mAh up to 12 hours
  • Power System: Charging via USB-C, BC V1.2 compliant up to 1000mA charging current.
  • Dimensions: 102x70x14 mm, 135g
Disclaimer: -

The iFi audio Hip-DAC 3 is a loaner unit that was sent to us directly by iFi Audio. This review reflects our unbiased opinion as always.

Packaging & Accessories: -
  • iFi Hip-DAC 3
  • 4 x Silicone feet
  • USB-C to USB-A cable
  • USB-C to USB-C cable
  • USB-C to Lightning cable
  • iFi sticker
  • Documentation
Check out the full unboxing video here,



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Build & Design: -

iFi audio Hip-DAC 3 is the third generation of the Hip-DAC series and features a Burr Brown DAC chipset, iFi’s familiar iEMatch, Power Match and XBass. iFi Hip-DAC 3 follows the same timeless flask size design language as its predecessors Hip-DAC 1, and 2. While the flask design remains the same, Hip-DAC 3 has been revamped inside out. The Hip-DAC 3 now comes in a robust and sleek aluminium case with a titanium shadow hue manifesting a piece of timeless art with a touch of modern sophistication. The top panel hosts a top-notch analogue volume knob along with the 3.5mm and 4.4mm Headphone jacks plus the Power Match and XBass buttons. iFi Hip DAC 3 uses the same Power Match switchable gain button to ensure the optimal power for the power-demanding headphones. On either side of the elegant volume knob are a pair of LEDs that change colour depending on the sample rate of the file currently being played. We at Aural Cafe especially just loved this simple and sleek idea.

Although Hip DAC 3 has been marketed to listen to hi-fi music on the go we believe that it's not worth taking this piece of art outside as there are lots of chances of damage and scratches. To listen to hi-fi music on the go iFi Audio fans can try iFi Go bar.

The back of the Hip-DAC 3 now comes with iFi audio legendary iEMatch features which reduce background noise while using sensitive IEMs like Campfire Andromeda and many others. The iFi Hip-DAC 3 now utilizes an advanced 16-core XMOS microcontroller which helps the Hip-DAC 3 for efficient audio data processing and supports up to PCM 384kHz, DSD128, DSD256 and full MQA decoding. The circuit has been upgraded with the addition of new metal film capacitors for better power supply and frequency response. The iFi Hip DAC 3 was also upgraded with GMT circuitry along with a new crystal oscillator to reduce the noise and thus provide a purer sound experience. The upgrades now include two USB-C ports one for data input and the other for charging thus keeping the signal part clean and noise-free and for simultaneous use and charging. The Hip-DAC 3’s comes with the same 2200mAh battery which typically provides 7 to 12 hours of playtime on a single charge, varying based on the volume level and the power demands of the connected headphones.

So, when it comes to design and packaging one thing is sure Hip DAC 3 is a fully loaded flask with lots of useful added features and thoughtful accessories at just US$ 199 which is just US$ 10 more in comparison to the price of which Hip DAC 2 was launched.

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Sound Analysis: -
  • Tonality: - When it comes to the sound quality, we at Aural Cafe give a lot of importance to the tonality of the source. After listening to Hip DAC 3 for numerous hours with different IEMs and Headphones we can confidently say that Hip DAC 3 follows an organic and analogue tonality which sounds natural and balanced across the frequencies. The Hip DAC 3 excels in showcasing the sinuous nuances of instruments and vocal timbres. While listening to “Save Your Tears” by the Weekend the vocals sound very natural without any noise. Listening to “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin the Hip DAC 3 again showcases its excellent timbre.

  • Lows: - The bass reproduction on Hip DAC 3 is clean and leaner without any muddiness. The bass quality will depend mostly on the IEMs or Headphones with whom the Hip DAC 3 is being paired. With the XBass button on there is a slight increase in the mid-bass body which becomes useful while listening to Hip hop and EDM music. While listening to “Da Da Dasse” from Udta Punjab the bass sounds more vibrant and fun with the XBass button on.

  • Mids: - The Hip DAC 3 showcases above-average mids when it comes to DAC-Amps at a similar price range. The Hip-DAC 3 adeptly navigates the midrange, offering in a buttery smooth way without any sharpness. Surprisingly with the Power Match button on both the male and female vocals sound a tad bit more forward and natural with lots of soul while the rendering of the instruments such as flute and sitar is intensely felt while listening to “Indian Summer” by Anoushka Shankar.

  • Highs: - The Hip DAC 3 showcases a solid treble expression and extension while maintaining a natural and analogue presentation. The treble on Hip DAC 3 is clean with any shouty-ness and sharpness. While listening to “Paayaliya” by Amit Trivedi the Hip DAC 3 showcases just the right treble energy.

  • Soundstage & Imaging: - The soundstage and imaging are just average on Hip DAC 3. The stage width is better in comparison to depth, but it's still average in comparison to the competitions. The Hip DAC 3 just adds a bit of soundstage which primarily depends on the IEMs or Headphones you are using the Hip DAC 3 with. The instrument separation and imaging are just average at best which is clearly visible while listening to complex rock and metal genres of music.

  • Synergy: - Since the Hip DAC 3 showcases a natural and soulful tonality it synergises really well with neutral IEMs and Headphones. The Hip DAC 3 excels when it comes to background noise, control, and clarity. With the legendary iEMatch feature on board, it can synergise with ultra-sensitive and multi-BA IEMs. It has no lack of power for the most demanding IEMs and many Headphones available in the market. It runs Audeze’s LCD-2 a well demanding full-size Planer Magnetic Headphone without losing its characteristics.

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Conclusion: -

This is our first experience with iFi products at Aural Cafe and we are impressed with the well-thought-out design idea of Hip DAC 3. We believe that iFi audio Hip DAC 3 is a special product that will hold its ground strongly in its super competitive product category. It is not just a portable DAC-Amp but a high-quality piece of audio art that must be in every audiophile collection. The design is damn cool yet elegant with top-notch quality at such a price. If you listen to your music while at home and office through your laptops and want to elevate your experience then Hip DAC 3 would be the right choice as it excels in achieving pitch black background, control, and clarity across the frequency without breaking your bank balance. It also brings on board a decent amount of clean power to drive headphones. With iEMatch on board, it’s a must-have product if you have sensitive IEMs. While the Hip DAC 3 excels in achieving analogue timbre and clarity across the frequency, instrument separation and imaging are average to say at the very best.

Non-Affiliated Links: -
- https://www.amazon.com/iFi-hip-dac3-Headphone-Enhancement-PowerMatch/dp/B0CKFKNNJH
- https://www.moon-audio.com/hip-dac-3.html
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SenyorC

100+ Head-Fier
This put the Hip DAC finally on my radar!
Pros: Size, weight, aesthetics, performance, sound...
Cons: Not the cheapest option...
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TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - iFi Audio Hip DAC

The iFi Audio Hip DAC 3 has been loaned to me by iFi Audio for me to test it out and share my thoughts in this review. As always, they have not made any requests or comments and my review aims to be as unbiased as humanly possible.

You can find the official page for the Hip DAC 3 here: https://ifi-audio.com/products/hip-dac-3/

The above is a non-affiliate link.

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Intro…

Let me preface this review by saying that I am a fan of iFi in general, having tried out a lot of their stuff and liking the majority of it. That is not to say that I have liked all of their items, nor is it to say that they have all been without issues. In general, I like their house sound and a lot of their designs, but sometimes they come with other “issues” that make them not a great fit for me.

One of the items that would probably fit into the category of “nice sound but not for me” would be the Hip DAC, at least the 1 and 2. I have never reviewed them, nor have I spent a huge amount of time with them, in fact, the Hip DAC 1 I tried for like 2 minutes and the Hip DAC 2 for probably 5 or 6 songs at most. During those brief tests, I liked the form factor and I liked the typical iFi sound, what I didn’t like was the choice of a full sized USB connector (although I do understand the reason behind it) and the main issue, the background hiss with IEMs.

While I am sure that the Hip DAC 2 was (is) great for over ear headphones, I have never tried it, I don’t have much use for a small portable amp/DAC for over ears as I don’t usually wear them away from a desk set up. Therefore, left with only IEMs to use, I really didn’t want to put up with the hiss when there are other alternatives out there. This may be a little hypocritical as I use the Go Blu regularly which also has the background hiss, although I feel it is less present than on the Hip DAC 2 (and not really noticeable on the 3.5mm output which is what I usually use).

But anyway, why am I going on about a device that I never owned or reviewed?

Well, it may be that iFi have actually resolved these issues with the new Hip DAC 3, something that I was eager to find out.

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Presentation…

Honestly, I have reviewed so many iFi products and said the same thing about their presentation that I just feel that, at this point, I am copy and pasting myself.

They are well packed in a no frills but elegant way, containing the necessary items to get listening, which in this case are the device, two cables (USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to Lightning) and the quick start guide. Oh, and we must not forget the iFi sticker 😉

There really isn’t much more that needs saying but if you want more, just check out one of my previous iFi reviews 😊

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Build and aesthetics…

The Hip DAC 3 is identical in design and dimensions to the previous generation, measuring 102 x 70 x 14mm and weighing just 135 grams. Ok, that is 10 grams heavier than the Hip DAC 2 but it is still very compact and lightweight. To put it into perspective, I have a Google Pixel 7a phone, as it is one of the smaller options, and the Hip DAC 3 is around two thirds of the size and no thicker than the phone with the case on it.

With Hip in the name and a quick glance at the design, there is no need to say that it is meant to resemble a hip flask, although with its size, you wouldn’t be storing a lot of alcohol in it.

Where the original Hip DAC was blue, the 2 was orange, the 3 opts for a titanium coloured finish and I have to say that it looks very elegant. I have been carrying it around over the holiday period and people were guessing higher prices than it actually sells for just based on looks (admittedly those people are already used to me telling the crazy prices for headphone related gear, so they are going to guess high already). Still, it looks cool and certainly doesn't look cheap.

As far as build, it really hasn’t changed from the previous models, still maintaining the metal enclosure and buttons/knob, there have just been a couple of changes to the actual functions, which I am going to mention now.

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Functionality…

The main functions of the Hip DAC 3 remain the same, that is to say, those that are on the front of the unit. On the left we have the power match button (which is iFi for gain), followed by the XBass button. In the center we get the nice volume knob which is grippy and easy to turn. Then on the right we get the 4.4mm balanced headphone output along with the 3.5mm unbalanced headphone output (well, it’s actually S-Balanced but that’s another conversation). The two slotted LEDs, one at each side of the volume know, are still present here also.

Moving around to the back of the device, here we have major change number 1. The full sized, recessed, USB male connector has been replaced with a USB-C socket. This is probably the happiest I have been to see a USB-C connector on a device! To be honest, I am not as bothered by micro-USB as many others (although I do prefer USB-C much more) but the full sized USB-A connector on a device this small was just something that I could not get behind. So here, I am extremely happy for the update.

Also on the back, we get the second USB-C port, which was already present on the Hip DAC 2, that is to charge the internal battery. I know that some people would prefer to be able to charge the device with the same cable that is being used for dat but personally I prefer them to be separate on portable battery devices, that way it is not always charging when left connected to my laptop etc.

Underneath the device we get change number 2. The addition of IEMatch, something that can go a long way to resolving the hiss issue that was present on the previous model. For those that don’t know what IEMatch is, in simple terms it attenuates the output of the amplifier, helping reduce background noise but also allowing the amplifier to be used in higher ranges of the volume knob. Why would you want to use the higher ranges of the knob, well, as iFi use analog volume controls, there is always some kind of imbalance at the lowest ranges, which can be an issue if you use extremely sensitive IEMs and don’t listen very loud. iFi have sold IEMatch separately for quite some time now but it is nice to see them including it on more and more devices.

So, as far as functionality, plug in the cable to the iFi Hip DAC 3 and your device, turn the knob to turn it on, adjust volume to taste and start listening.

As far as formats, the device accepts PCM and DXD up to 384kHz, and DSD64/128/256, along with full decoding of MQA if that is something you need.

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Sound…

It would be very unfair for me to try and compare the Hip DAC 3 to the Hip DAC 2 in terms of sound because it has been a while since I heard the 2, I only listened to it for a short amount of time and I don’t have the same IEMs available. However, I do seem to think that the Hip DAC 3 is slightly less warm than I remember the other model being. This could be totally wrong, as I said, I can’t really compare, but that was the first impression I got.

Let’s be clear, I think this is noticeably an iFi sounding product, with that hint of warmth that I find to be present in almost all of their devices, but I feel that it is slightly more neutral than something like the Go Blu. In fact, I would say that it is very very similar in sound to the Gryphon, a device that I love and use regularly. I know that there have been modifications to the new model (although I don’t know what they are and haven’t really researched them) but I feel that the sound is still nice and relaxed but not quite as smoothed over as I sometimes feel the Go Blu is.

I have been using the Hip DAC 3 a lot over the holidays, with many kinds of IEMs and I have not had a complaint with any of them. Is is capable of 280mW (@32 Ohms) from the unbalanced output and 400mW (@32 Ohms) from the balanced output, so it will power most easy to drive over ears as well, but I really didn’t find myself reaching for them, I would just grab a set of IEMs and go and lounge around somewhere (being sick over the holidays also meant that I favoured lounging on a sofa more than sitting at a desk!).

Yet the biggest plus for me is the fact that the background noise has been reduced dramatically from what I remember on the previous generation. Again, I don’t have the same IEMs that I tested the 2 with, so it’s not really apples to apples, but with the ones I have been using, the only time I could hear hiss was when I had the volume level set way higher than I would ever listen to music to anyway. I am very happy that the IEMatch is there but, as with the Gryphon, I really didn’t find myself using it.

So to wrap up the sound section, I guess I could say that the Hip DAC 3 has the typical touch of iFi sound but without being overly warm, more towards the neutral side of things, making details and nuances very easily appreciated (with the right IEMs of course!).

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Conclusion…

I usually have positive opinions about the iFi products that I get to try out but I do find some more exciting than others. The Go Blu was something I was very impressed with when it was released (I bought one), the Gryphon was another (I also bought one) and the Go Pod were one of the most impressive things I tried out last year (I haven’t bought one… yet!).

To say that the Hip DAC 3 is the third generation of a device that didn’t really draw my attention, I have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed using it.

If you want a touch of the iFi sound, in a portable package, then I think that the Hip DAC 3 is a very good option. In fact, I would say that if you want the sound of the Gryphon but without all the bells and whistles, then this is also a very good candidate.

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As always, this review can be found in Spanish both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)
Discordiain
Discordiain
Thanks, great review.

hokagoteatimereviews

New Head-Fier
The hippest dac yet?
Pros: 1. Love the unique design

2. The overall sound is very musical and warm but not losing on the details

3. The xbass button!!

4. The xbass button sounds so good with some iems

5. The battery life is quite good from the 3.5mm
Cons: 1. Probably the only reasons its getting a 4.5 and not a 5 is because of the volume wheel, which is quite easy to knock and increase the volume

2. Nothing else that i could find.
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Introduction:-

Hello Guys, today I will be reviewing the IFI Hip dac 3. I have always been excited about the ifi products in general, one of the big reason been is the x-bass button. I have always wondered why more companies don’t do something similar like this. It such an awesome feature to have in my opinion.

This was my first time testing a feature like this and it lived upto to my every expectation. Also this is my first time testing an ifi product, so lets find out more about it.

I have also shared a video version of the review at YouTube any support there in form of a view, A like or A subscribe is greatly appreciated. But if you so wish to read the written version you can read this.



You can buy the Ifi Hip Dac 3 here or look for the local retailer here (Unaffiliated Link) - https://ifi-audio.com/products/hip-dac-3/

Before I start I want to say a huge thanks to Ifi audio for sending me this review unit, but all the thoughts and opinions you are about to hear are my own.

As usual since this is not an iem review the format of the review will be a bit different


I will be as usual following my bullet style format for better readability for those who are dyslexic and in general find it hard to read long paragraphs. I follow this guide in general from the British Dyslexia Association.





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Review:-



1. Well it looks awesome, it looks like a flask and every time I used it in front of anyone else they were curious about what this is. The device is built like a tank! Although the full metal body does make it a bit hard to use it without a case



2. It comes with the Xbass button which gives you a +10db of bass, the power match button which is basically a high and low gain switch, the Iematch switch which gives you a -12b of power for sensitive iems or rather increase the impedance from less than 1ohms to less than 4.5ohms. I highly suggest using this when using any iems as this give a lot of range for volume for iems.


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3. It has 280mw from single ended and 400mw of power from balanced, if I am not wrong these are the same power figures as the gen 2. Would have been nice if they had see a tad bit more this time around



4. The single ended of the hip dac is something what ifi calls the s-balanced where they state that you get all the power of balanced without the drawbacks of balanced (Thanks to paul wasabii for the wording of this)



5. The hip dac 3 has 2200mah of battery which ifi states should last upto 12 hours. On my testing of the dac I used a moondrop chu 2 via 3.5mm at around 30% volume in low gain mode without xbass and with iematch on and I got around 13 hours.



6. The orange colour of the hip dac 2 was really funky and I liked it, but it also probably would make it stand out too much so this new muted colour does look nice while giving it classy look.



7. It supports MQA, upto DSD 256, upto PCM 32bit/348khz and Upto DXD 256



8. There is a minor channel imbalance at the beginning of the volume range but it quickly disappears, If I am not wrong this existed in previous models too. Its not at the volume range I would generally listen too thankfully. Also it exists for a very small range at the beginning.



9. On the backside exists 2 usb c ports and they have moved on from that usb a port. One port is for charging other for connecting it to phones, computers etc. Also in the box it comes with usb c to usb c and usb c to lightning and also an usb c to usb a so everyone is covered!


10. You can use the hip dac 3 and simultaneously charge it via the charge port. One of the reason the port is separated because so that it get continuously get clean power something akin to the Muse hifi m4



11. Now talking about the biggest negative point of the hip dac 3 the volume knob. The volume knob is very robust and it is also knurled! But my god is It easy to knock and increase the volume suddenly, the hip dac 3 is targeted at a portable audio community so when moving about if you have it stacked with your smartphone or dap inside your pocket or your bag one unfortunate knock could suddenly increase the volume and blow your ears out!!!



12. This was probably the biggest con I saw with the hip dac 3. I wish there was a volume guard or better yet more resistance to the volume knob. The incident with me didn’t happen once but quite a few times, so much so that I almost stopped using it on the go. I really hope ifi can fix this in the next iteration. Its not that ifi cant make a good knob, the ifi go blu whose review will be coming next has a great knob and has quite a bit of resistance albeit it has stepped volume knob but I would rather have that than this for safety.



13. Now talking about sound. The ifi hip dac uses the burr brown dac, which is famous for its warm characteristics. But in the hip dac 3 the same characteristic does exist but with a slight sprinkle uptop and also a wider soundstage. The treble does become a bit smoother and that edginess of treble which the simgot has goes away.



14. Now the sound difference isn't apparent when you use it for the first time, but with the right iem like the simgot ea1000 it does make an impact and flavours the sound in quite an interesting way. I tested my entire collection here, but the simgot ea1000 was really well synergized with this even on the stock setting.



15. Now talking about the reason as to why I always wanted to review an ifi product, the xbass button. Now what can I say, it is amazing as I expected. It gives you that +10db of bass and it is just so enjoyable, but you need an iem which can reproduce that much bass without breaking down on the other range. Again as usual the ea1000 was superbly paired here and the Passive radiator of it worked so well in tandem with the xbass. That thumb, rumble of the bass was hitting so hard when listening to waltz by sunny, crack crack crackle by classy or Bjork’s Hollow 16 bit remix. I couldn’t stop playing with this button, its just to much fun.

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16. Now enough gushing about the xbass button lets be a bit practical here. One small thing I would like if the xbass button rather than giving a set amount of +10db of bass would be nice if there was a dial where in I can tune the bass to my liking like from +1db all the way to +10db of bass or if not that then atleast three steps of xbass like lets say +2db, +5db, +10db. Why I say this is because for some iems I would love that tad bit of bass and it could really help having something like this. While +10db of bass is amazing, it doesn’t good with all iems how the xbass works depends on the iem and the driver quality of the iems



17. The xbass also has a great advantage as a low volume listener. When listening at lower volumes I generally find the bass to be lacking but with the xbass on it helps so much! Really great feature I really hope they update the hip dac 4 with variable xbass.



18. The overall warm sound signature and smoother treble and a fantastic wide soundstage does also help in gaming a lot. When using it for FPS games it makes the experience even better and I love it.



19. Now I would also love if ifi added the xspace button which the bluetooth counterpart go blu has. It basically gives you an enhanced soundstage. I would really like to see that being added.



20. Another complaint or rather shall I say suggestion not only me but many other has. Is please add bluetooth to this! I have seen numerous complains on japanese audio twitter space and even on various comment section that most people would love to own the hip dac but it not having bluetooth does deter quite a few. Having bluetooth for a device like this would be so good!



21. I know I have suggested a lot of things which ifi shall add but to be honest if ifi ever does add that they would take an even great device to an even greater step and if that comes at a cost of price increase I think so it will be worth it. Although if I am not wrong that does put their higher priced ifi gryphon in a weird place. I personally like the whiskey flask design hip dac has, I would say this looks more hip (Pun intended)



22. I will leave a small graphic of what all the led indicators mean so that you can see it

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23. To finish my review of the hip dac 3, well what can I say I love it. If I ever have the best devices to suggest to someone for buying hip dac 3 will be on top of that list. Ifi has done an excellent job with it, specially with the implementation of the xbass button. Its a fantastic device and with the right iem or headphone these do sound and work fantastically.

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Thanks for stopping by and have a great day ahead! Bye!


If you have any questions please feel free to ask me and also if you have any issues regarding this format of review please do comment I will try to mend it. Also sorry to those who are used to reading long paragraphs of review in headfi. I hope my review was upto the mark, I appreciate any feedback.

Again a big thanks to Ifi Audio for making this review happen.

Have a great day ahead :)
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iFi audio
iFi audio
Thanks so much for your review of the HD 3, I enjoyed reading your thoughts!
hokagoteatimereviews
hokagoteatimereviews
Thank you very much! 🙂

William Apollo

New Head-Fier
Great sound for the price, good power, nice design. A few little flaws.
Pros: +Organic sound with almost no effect on tonality (reflects the main source as it is)
+High resolution, good separation
+Imaging
+Nice build
+Functional
Cons: -Battery life
-Not a very huge upgrade
***Hipdac 3 is the latest product in Ifi's Hipdac series. Available for $199. I purchased the device myself with the purpose of writing an independent review. I am writing this review after listening to it for about 100 hours.

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Specs

--> Input:
USB-C
--> Formats Supported: DSD 256 / 11.3MHz | PCM 384kHz | MQA Full Decoder
--> DAC: Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Burr Brown
--> Outputs: BAL 4.4mm | S-BAL 3.5mm
--> Power Output
BAL: 400mW @ 32Ω | 6.3V @ 600Ω
S-BAL: 280mW @ 32Ω | 3.2V @ 600Ω
--> Output Impedance: ≤ 1Ω (BAL/S-BAL) | w/ iEMatch on: ≤ 4.5Ω
--> SNR + DNR: BAL < 109dBA @ 0dBFS | S-BAL <103dBA @ 0dBFS
--> THD+N
BAL: < 0.006% (360mW/2V @ 600Ω)
S-BAL: < 0.01% (100mW/1.27V @ 32Ω)
--> Frequency Response: 20Hz - 45kHz (-3dB)
--> Battery: Lithium-polymer 2200mAh approx. 8 hours
--> Power System: charge via USB-C | BC V1.2 compliant up to 1000mA charging current
--> Power Consumption: < 2W idle, 4W max
--> Dimensions: 4.0" x 2.8" x 0.6"
--> Net weight: 0.3 lbs (137g)

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Foreword

Hipdac 3's sound puts many digital players to shame. There is not an incredible difference compared to the previous version. Still, it's very competitive against other devices.

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Build

Box contents:
Hipdac 3
Type c to type a cable
Type c to type c cable
Type c to lightning cable
Sticker and stabilizer pad (4 pcs)
Instructions for use and a warranty card come with it.

It looks like a small flask. The metal surface feels like it will be scratched, I make sure that my pocket is empty when I put it in my pocket. Other than that, it feels quite high quality in the hand. the ports and switchs seem like they will not break easily. Hipdac 3 has 4.4 and 3.5 outputs on it. It has two type c outputs. It has a potentiometer for volume adjustment, this is also the on off button.

The cables that come out of the box are also of sufficient quality. Only the fabric covered ones (the yellow ones) are a bit stiff and hard to bend.

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Hipdac 3 vs Hipdac 2

The first thing that stands out is the iEMatch feature with Hipdac 3. Next is the type c instead of type a in Hipdac 2. As an upgrade, Hipdac 3 uses metal film capacitors and a low phase noise crystal oscillator. Both devices have the same dac chip.

The result? Both have similar output power and the same sound profile (the Hipdac series almost no play with the source audio), while the Hipdac 3 has a slightly more refined sound, slightly better separation and imaging. There is no night and day difference, just a slight difference. Add iEMatch (which works very well) and you can decide if the upgrade is fair or not.

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Usability

The way it's used reminds me of the Fiio Q1mk2. Of course the Hipdac 3 sounds much better.

I would like to categorize the use of this device in two categories: desktop and portable. From a desktop point of view, there is no problem. It can already drive many over-ear headphones. Portable, it's not easy to carry in a pocket, but it plays better than any dongle. Easy to carry in a coat pocket in winter. In summer it can be challenging when you're just wearing shorts and a T-shirt.

There are 3 main advantages over dongles. Sound, power and iEMatch. iEMatch is a technology that optimizes sound for sensitive earphones and especially for iEMs. This technology allows you to get the maximum out of both a hard-driving over-ear headphone and a sensitive iem with the same amp. All this makes the size of this device tolerable for "portable" use.

As for battery life, it's not bad, but honestly not enough. Roughly 8-9 hours in daily use tests. We usually see 10 hours of performance in this type of amp/dac. I think this is insufficient because the device cannot transmit and charge from a single port at the same time. There are two different ports for these. This is good for signal quality and good for desktop use (you can charge and transmit from two ports. But it is a disadvantage for portable use. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a technology/mode that could perform both functions from a single port when the battery is about to run out?

When we look at the other functions, you can think of the Power match button as H/L mode. XBass increases the lower frequencies very clearly and distinctly. I can say that I found it successful for hiphop and edm.

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Sound

You will like what you read in this part.
We said that it adds almost nothing tonally to the sound. "Almost" because it has a touch of warmth, even if it's very little. This is very good, especially if you are using a current or flagship phone or if your computer has a high-end motherboard. Otherwise there are no downsides. Apart from that, you get a good resolution and an incredible imaging for the price band. The Hipdac 3 reproduces a very natural and realistic sound and does so without destroying the low frequencies as some devices do.
This $199 device has technical specifications that will crush many entry/mid-level devices. Detail reproduction is not extreme but very good, if you are listening to a high quality format you can easily get microdetails (this also depends on the headphones you are using). I think the output power is enough for everything except for some limited headphones and extremely difficult to drive
planars. Maybe it won't scream at 600ohm, but it's sure to be loud enough.


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Epilogue

It's a device that does the best it can for its price in terms of sound. For desktop use, you might want to consider something bigger, but this is good enough. If you're going portable, it's not as easy as a dongle. If you have a good phone, I think it's a much cheaper and more reasonable option than buying a DAP (put your money on headphones).
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Headphones and Coffee

Previously known as Wretched Stare
Better than ever
Pros: Build is solid, good power, that ifi sound, lots of features.
Cons: despite internal upgrades power is the same
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My thanks to ifi for the review unit to test out. As always, my opinion is my own.

The ifi HIP-DAC V3 comes in the same style box same assortment of cables and basically a similar metal body with new titanium shadow coloring. Inside there are a lot of micro changes and upgrades. It still is built exceptionally well and has that ifi house sound I love so much via those great Burr-Brown, XMOS 16-Core chips and other quality components inside.

SPECIFICATIONS
Input: USB-C
Formats supported: DSD256, PCM 384kHz, MQA Decoder
DAC: Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Burr Brown
Headphone Outputs

Balanced: 4.4mm
S-BAL: 3.5mm
Power Output
Balanced: 400mW @ 32Ω; 6.3V @ 600Ω
S-BAL: 280mW @ 32Ω; 3.2V @ 600Ω
Output Impedance
Balanced: ≤1Ω , With iEMatch engaged: ≤4.5Ω
S-BAL: ≤1Ω , With iEMatch engaged: ≤4.5Ω
SNR
Balanced: <109dB(A) @ 0dBFS
S-BAL: <103dB(A) @ 0dBFS
DNR
Balanced: <109dB(A)
S-BAL: <103dB(A)
THD + N
Balanced: <0.006X% (360mW/2.0V @ 600Ω)
S-BAL: <0.01% (100mW/1.27V @ 16Ω)


Frequency Response: 20Hz - 45kHz (-3dB)
Power Consumption: <2W idle, 4W max
Battery: Lithium-polymer 2200mAh approx. 8 hours
Power System: Charging via USB-C, BC V1.2 compliant up to 1000mA charging current
Dimensions: 102 x 70 x 14 mm (4.0" x 2.8" x 0.6")
Net weight: 135 g (0.30 lbs)

FEATURES
MQA (Master Quality Authenticated)
Hi-Res True Native® playback of all music formats from MP3 to DSD256, PCM384 and DXD384.
The Burr-Brown True Native® chipset means file formats remain unchanged or ‘bit-perfect’.
The XMOS 16-Core chip processes the audio data received via the USB digital input.
It is a superior method to the traditional single-ended circuit approach. Balanced circuits reduce noise and crosstalk.
XBass is an analogue headphone spatialiser.
iFi’s exclusive S-Balanced® circuit delivers maximum performance from single-ended and balanced headphones alike.


IN THE BOX
iFi hip-dac3
USB-C Male - USB-C Male Cable
USB-A Male - USB-C Male Cable
Warranty Card
User Manual
Quick Start Guide

Opening up the box for the Hip-Dac3 one finds simple accessories but pretty much all you will need. The cable is a better quality this year and of the same copper one found in the Gryphon. The Hip3 is lightweight and thin, easily taken anywhere. I love the satisfying click when turning on the unit. Buttons and switches are all in easy-to-use locations and features are well implemented.

Sound Impressions:
The Xbass feature noticeably increases the depth of the lower end, it does this tastefully and without muddying up the rest of the frequencies. Features like the power match and the new ie match greatly improve the quality of headphones and IEMs performance. Using the Hip3 there is way a noticeable difference between stock audio in both volume and quality, the Hip-DAC3 has extremely low noise and even my most sensitive all BA IEM had no hiss as with some external units. Clarity and details with a touch of that ifi warmth would be my sound impressions in a nutshell.
It has good dynamics and decent soundstage not overly wide but perhaps very natural sounding. Power-wise it may not be a Diablo2 but it certainly has enough for everyday use and even my planar IEM and headphones sounded very good on this little device.

Afterthoughts:
The ifi Hip-Dac3 is a budget friendly portable DAC/Amp with a bunch of useful features and excellent internals.
The constant evolution of the product line is always done to a tasteful degree. The inclusion of ie Match and dual USB-C as well as internal updates make this the best Hip-Dac yet, but I would have liked a little more power out of the S-balanced and 4.4mm, the sound while mostly unchanged is clearer and louder. If you don't have the Hip2 or really need the ie match feature, then defiantly get this one it's a gem for sure.

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mars chan
mars chan
Nice review , I'm thinking of buying a dac in this form factor and this is one of the top contender.
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