iFi Hip Dac is an entry level portable DAC with balanced output and MQA decoding. It is priced at 149$.
Sound quality for the price
The box is small, but well designed with nice in touch triangles embossed on the sides. Inside you can find rubber feet, a USB A to USB C cable, and OTG Cable with USB A on both sides. The first one is braided, the second one isn’t.
iFi Hip Dac is made from metal with plastic front and rear. Edges of metal are too sharp in my opinion, the paint may scratch off. The potentiometer at the front is made of metal, painted gold. Moreover, on the front we have two jack connectors, the first one is balanced 4,4mm and the second one is 3,5mm single ended. On the left side of the potentiometer, you can find two buttons which are not holding out securely – when you move the device they will start shaking. On the rear part, you can find two USBs. OTG USB-A and standard USB-C.
Nonetheless, i adore how the Hip Dac looks. This “Ocean” color really sets it apart from the competition, and that gold volume knob is just like a cherry on top. Sweet.
The battery life of built-in 2200mAh battery stands on a great level, it can easily hold up to eight hours, when I was testing (only on PC, but using OTG USB with Hip turned on as first, so only data was going through) it held for 9-10 hours, using Tidal Master from time to time, but it depends on the headphones and volume level.
iFi Hip Dac sounds similar to iFi xDSD and RHA DACAMP L1, even if Hip costs way less.
It is warm, pretty dense, with an objectively narrow scene and decent holography, but I think it’s the problem of many portable DAC’s. Hip sounds delicately smooth, but it isn’t imposing itself that hard. In two words, it is playing with a delicately warmed bass, natural sound, but straight to the ear caused by smaller soundstage compared to DACAMP mentioned earlier. Power match function works really great, Hip Dac can drive many headphones, Beyerdynamic DT770 80Ohm wasn’t a problem, but I think 250Ohm version could be problematic.
The bass is really strong. Not that fast, but it sounds very wide going around the head, but without a specific direction. Details and texture are great, you won’t hear the moment of pulling the string, but it is on a really high level considering the price.
You can also boost sub and mid bass by using the X-Bass option, it is like the popular option “Loudness” in amplituners. It works better than the boosting option in FiiO K3, Hip sounds more natural with X-Bass turned on.
The midrange is natural, slightly smoothed. It is well detailed for this price, placed close to the listener. Smoothness relies on soothing vocals and string instruments. I didn’t notice this behavior in any other situation. Both female and male vocals are quite engaging, they are able to keep us listening easily. When I matched Hip with Bqeyz Spring 1 with Satin Audio Chimera cable listening became a pure pleasure. It wasn’t so dynamic, but very comfy to listen to.
The treble overall is similar to midrange when it comes to sound signature. It is quite brighter than DACAMP L1, but I think a little softer than iDSD Nano LE. Detail reproduction is great, it is playing delicately further away than midrange.
The soundstage is delicately narrower and shallower than Zen Dac, but bigger than in FiiO K3. As a portable DAC, it is great in this price range. It wasn’t annoying until I was trying to listen to Dead Can Dance, then I felt something was missing. Same in the computer games, it didn’t satisfy me during gaming sessions. In daily listening, it didn’t bother me tho.
I was shocked by the possibilities of separation, I thought it would be much more difficult to distinguish a large number of sound sources, but wow. iFi Hip Dac is doing this very great, even if the holography isn’t spectacular.
iFi Hip Dac is a very good product in this price range, but I wish it would have had Bluetooth functionality. It sounds natural with boosted bass. After launching X Bass whole sounds becomes warmer, so it will please fans of this playstyle. It also provides much power, so it will feed most of the portable headphones. Recommended.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Shozy Form 1.1, Fidelio X2HR, Beyerdynamic DT770, Brainwavz Alara, Noble Audio Django, Meze Rai Solo, Bqeyz Spring 1
- Sources– RHA DACAMP L1, iBasso DX160, Topping DX3 Pro, iFi Zen DAC, FiiO BTR5, iFi iDSD Nano LE