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Too much rumorses, >17000 views, 10 pages of discussion and guessing on HeadFi, countless posts and comments in Facebook about the next Hidizs product and, finally, the wait is over! Hidizs has revealed their new, highly anticipated ultra-portable Hi-Res DAP — AP80 on Kickstarter!!!

ap80

We’ve been desperately waiting for this to happen since the time first rumorses about AP80 showed up in a hope to see the most balanced and advanced DAP on the market in its segment. The longer it took to get revealed, the more doubts we had that it would ever be finilized. But, we were wrong…

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Now, when we’ve finally got and examined our sample it became clear why it took Hidizs so long — they did a great job on polishing AP80 PRIOR to first market presentation. This clearly shows that Hidizs company has matured much in terms of market perception and quality control. We’ve also seen that approach in some previous excellent products like Seeds IEMs, Dawnwood ST08 IEMs, Sonata Dac&Amp  — common brand identity and perfect crafting. Therefore, our expectations about their new DAP were higher that before, and guess what —  Hidizs AP80 surpassed all and really astonished in almost every aspect…

So, here is our full review of the new ultraportable beast on Hi-Res audio market — Hidizs AP80 DAP:

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Link to AP80 at Hidizs store: LINK

Technical Specifications:

General:

  • CPU: Ingenic X1000
  • Screen: 2.45″, 360×480, IPS
  • Controls: touchscreen + physical buttons + jog dial
  • Storage: microSD card, up to 512GB
  • OS: Linux + HibyOS + HibyMusic + HibyLink
  • USB interface: type-C, file transfer / two-way USB DAC
  • Battery: 800mAh, LiON
  • Battery life: >15Hours
  • Charging time: ~1.5Hours, DC 5V/2A

Ports & Connectivity:

  • Audio: 3.5mm stereo headphones output & Line out
  • Wireless: Bluetooth V4.1 (aptX, (LDAC in process)), FM radio

Audio:

  • DAC: Sabre ESS 9218P
  • Stream: 32bit/384KHz
  • DSD64/128
  • Gain control: Low/High
  • Line out: enabled (with volume lock)/disabled
  • Digital filter: slow descent/sharp drop
  • EQ: 10band, +/-12dB, 8 presets
  • Frequency response: 20Hz — 40KHz
  • SNR: 119dB
  • Dynamic Range: >105dB
  • Channel separation: 105dB
  • THD+noise: 0.003%
  • Output power: 80mW @ 32Ohms
  • USB DAC stream: up to 32bit|384KHz

Case:

  • Materials: CNC, stainless steel / alluminum-alloy
  • Back cover: 2.5D glass planel
  • Dimensions: 58x49x13mm
  • Weight: 70g
  • Colors: black, grey, steel, red, violet

Additional features:

  • Step counter

Audio formats:

  • Lossless: DSD64|128 (.dsf, .dff), DSD64 (.iso), APE (24|192), AIFF (32|384), FLAC (24|384), WAV (32|384), WMA LOSSLESS (24|96)
  • Lossy: mp3, aac, wma, ogg, etc…

Plenty of good features packed in so small ultraportable DAP. When looking at stated figures and comparing to other DAPs in Hidizs lineup it gets obvious that AP80 stands in between AP60Pro enhanced entry-level player and flagship AP200. Sound quality is what bothers us the most and we would investigate on this a bit later.

BTW: LDAC function in AP80 is also expected in the nearest time as Hidizs already applied for the certification process.

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Additional info prepared together with Hidizs officials (Kevin):

1. Channel Separation

As you know for the audio system, lower crosstalk will bring a better stereo image and wider channel separation. The AP80 has very low crosstalk which means it can provide clearer sound on both channels together with high level of channel separation.

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2. Frequency Response

The AP80 reach way above the Hi-Res standard of 40kHz. Actually, it can reach up to 90kHz. This means, higher details and total control at higher frequencies which also leads to exceptional representation of the original track.

Frequency(20-90KHZ)

3. Output levels

Output levels for both Left and Right channels are 2.048Vrms. Such output figures show the capability of AP80 to drive various IEMs and most of highly demanding full-sized monitor headphones.

Output Level(ø_‘ÿ)

4. SNR

AP80 signal-to-noise ratio of 125dB means that this DAP can provide a crystal clear sound with almost non-existing level of noise.

Signal to Noise Ratio

5. THD+N Ratio

The THD+N Ratio of the AP80 is very low. It means very low distortion and that it is capable of reproducing audio recording with extreme accuracy.

THD+N Ratio

Box contents:

Hidizs sticks to their recent brand design guidelines and ships AP80 DAP in black satin box with logo and technical specifications embossed with silver paint. Strict, neat and solid box to secure the device during the delivery process. In addition to that, AP80 is placed to a foamy podium.

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Box contents are regular: 

  1. AP80 DAP with preapplied screen and back glass panel protectors
  2. Extra screen protector
  3. MicroUSB type-C ->USB A cable (file transfer, charging, USB DAC)
  4. MicroUSB type-C ->microUSB cable (USB DAC for microUSB OTG devices)
  5. Warranty and QC cards

There is no microSD card shipped along with the unit, neither it features internal storage. It means that you should bother to get one up to 512GB and feed it to player.

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Design and materials:

We like the overall approach of Hidizs to design as well as we like the new tendency towards implementing more complexity… Very familiar feel of perfectly crafted alluminum case with the introduction of further tiny details and much more efforts spent to shape the right part that includes jog dial and additional control elements.

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Not a mere squre or rectangle anymore but the new complicated and organic look that attracts the attention from the first glance.

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AP80 has unibody alluminum chassis with gorgeous screen almost covering the entire space at front and curved edge glass panel covering its back. It looks astonishing and creates an image of very valuable possession. Total device weight of 70g and cold solid feel in hands also add up to build perfect first impression. All elements are perfectly aligned, having no free play.

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MicroSD card slot is located on the left edge, microUSB type-C port and 3.5mm headphone output at the bottom. But the most important is the right side — it has newly introduced volume jog dial and 3 additional control buttons which are:

  • Next (long press: seek forward)
  • Play/Pause
  • Back (long press: seek backward)

Besides volume control, jog dial elements serves the function of ON|OFF switch. Press and hold to switch ON and OFF. All buttons have pronounced clicks and are easy to operate in a pocket.

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Jog dial is a good addition to such kind of device and serves its role well. Although, we would say that it is a bit smaller than expected and people with large fingers would have some hard times operating it. Rough and textured jog dial edges should help with that. The good news are that when you’ve turned jog dial a little bit to change the volume — you can continue changing it on screen by moving finger up and down.

What really shines in this unit is its screen. A giant step ahead comparing to AP60 series DAPs or even to AP200. 2.45″ size, touch-sensitive, 360×480 dots resolution, IPS panel with large viewing angles, excellent crispness, high contrast and brightness values… When placed next to prior DAPs, AP80 screen revelas all advantages over previous models. It has the largest brightness and contrast levels plus the extreme viewing angles won’t invert or bleach the image. Touchscreen sensitivity is high. We haven’t spotted and problems or difficulties while operating smallest UI elements.

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In overall, AP80 is the most universal and convenient DAP from the whole Hidizs lineup. It features physical control elements along with the sensitive touchscreen and it also introduced a new beautiful design with handy volume jog dial element. Hope to see the future product from Hidizs utilizing the same approach.

UI and performance:

BASED on 0.07beta FW

Perhaps, the most responsive DAP from Hidizs until now. Even the initial loading animation is unexpectedly fast… as well as total OS loading time of <8 seconds.

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AP80 features modern Linux-based HibyOS UI with logical touch control gestures. If you are using any smarpthones based on iOS or Android — you’d feel like being home. Each feature or program is represented by a separate icon. All general device and audio settings are gathered in Settings Menu, whereas all deep and more precise audio preferences like EQ and filters are located only in HibyMusic application. By the way, HibyMusic looks very similar to its versions for other platforms. No surprises here.  It also features such function as HibyLink that allows you to control this DAP from a smartphone.

Menu structure:

  • Main screen apps:
    • Player
    • FM
    • Step
    • System settings
    • About
  • System settings:
    • Language
    • Database update (Auto|Manual)
    • Brightness (1-100% slider)
    • Color theme (ON|OFF, pattern selection, slider selection)
    • Font size (small|middle|big)
    • Backlight (stay on|10-120 sec)
    • USB DAC (USB, DAC, DOCK)
    • Button operation when screen off (ON|OFF)
    • Time settings (date, format, time)
    • Idle timer (OFF, 1-10min)
    • Sleep timer (OFF, 5-120min)
    • Battery percentage display (ON|OFF)
    • Standby (ON|OFF)
    • Screensaver (OFF|Album cover|Dynamic cover)
    • Restore defaults
    • FW update
  • HibyMusic settings:
    • Update database
    • MSEB
    • EQ
    • Bluetooth
    • Play settings:
      • Play mode (thorugh list, loop single, shuffle, loop list)
      • Resume play (none, track, position)
      • Gapless play (ON|OFF)
      • Max volume
      • Power On volume (Memory, 0-100)
      • Crossfade (ON|OFF)
      • Gain (LOW|HIGH)
      • ReplayGain (none, by track, by album)
      • Balance
      • Antialiasing filter (LPFR, LPSR, MPFR, MPSR, AFR, ASR, CMPFR, BW)
      • Play through folders (ON|OFF)
      • Play through albums (ON|OFF)
  • Drop down PLAY NOW menu:
    • List now playing
    • Add to playlist
    • EQ
    • View album
    • Properties
    • Delete
  • PLAY NOW screen options:
    • PLAY|PAUSE
    • Seek slider
    • NEXT|PREVIOUS TRACK
    • PLAY MODE (shuffle, loop, etc)
    • Menu
    • Add to favorite

One additional and handy feature — you can drag down quick settings panel from the top of the screen to change gain, USB mode, toggle Bluetooth and toggle line out.

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Battery life is close to 15 hours of playing music… but you should understand that this figure depends of the total screen on time, brightness level, type of audio file and max volume. In general we got about 12 hours with mere screen usage.

One more feature is the ability to change overall UI color scheme by picking any color from color palette or by dragging color sliders. Although, we haven’t found the ability to change background image itself.

FM radio and step counter are present as declared. FM radio would only work when headphones are connected cause they serve the role of antenna. Autoscan and fine tuning functions are available. Scan range is between 76.00MHz to 108.00MHz.

The most important is that AP80 OS and UI is more or less polished despite that we are using very early 0.07beta FW. Playing with this UI and its functions for couple of days didn’t reveal any major or severe bugs. A couple of tiny visual problems — yes. But not more than that. Fully functional unit that shows that Hidizs spent much more time on fixing bugs before sending it to public.

Sound quality test:

As always, we have shared our reference Audio-Technica ATH-M50 studio monitor headphones among all DAPs to find the difference in their audio performance. AP80 was compared to AP60Pro, AP200 and Shanling M0. Audio material was mostly consiting of 24bit/96-192KHz lossless files of completely defferent genres — pop, electronic, hard rock, instrumental, opera, ambient, chorus, orchestra and many more…

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What we like the most that AP80 sounds neutral with no tendency to emphasize any frequency. Lows, mids and highs are in good balance making this DAP universal to feed it with any kind of music genre. We would call it a precise source for connecting any further audio equipment like headphones, large power amps, active speakers, etc.

We like the clarity and crispness on higher frequencies with the further ability to switch filter effects; precise texturing and presence of lows; powerfull, fast and punchy midbass; natural sounding at midrange with pleasing vocals and its weighted presence in the entire mix. ATH-M50 40Ohms load is easily driven by AP80 creating the feel of mature and balanced sound picture.

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The signature is a bit on the brighter side, no moody or tube-like performance, no cattle effect. Bass is completely enough to hear its nuances with ATH-M50, at least. Neither we’ve found the disturbing presence of sibilance in highest octave. Besides, we didn’t even try to play with HibyMusic MSEB feature that gives additional control over such aspects as:

  • sound temperature
  • bass extension
  • bass texture
  • note thickness
  • vocals
  • female overtones
  • sibilance LF
  • sibilance HF
  • impulse response
  • air

all of that was kept at default settings during out tests and the resulting sound didn’t require any changes. But the availability of such features, along with gain and filters, gives you a huge field for rurther experiments of tuning this source for the final audio equipment in chain. Perhaps, we should give another try to dramatically unbalanced KZ ED16 IEMs cause AP80 might handle it… 🙂

Channel separation is better than entry-level models demonstrate but not so distant as in case with flagship DAPs or AMPs with coupled DAC or OPAMP chips. The resulting sound stage width, depth and instument location is equal or even a bit more than we would expected from such portable device. Monaural recordings show good distance and intsrument placement on stage with clear horizontal and vertical position.

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We have also tested AP80 with Hidizs Seeds IEMs and found that they make a great pair. ATH-M50, sometimes, might emphasize low frequencies and are very straight forward. Excellent for detail analysis and tests but too strict for getting some rest… Seeds IEMs are softer, warmer and smooth. They create the additional fluency while maintaining the same amount of details…

V|S AP60Pro:

AP60Pro was released as the revision of AP60II which, in its turn, was released as the revision of AP60 🙂  Last revision was aimed at higher sound quality and this DAP has finally matured to a very good entry-level Hi-Res player.

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Feature and hardware-wise AP60Pro is not a competitor to AP80. Newest DAP has better screen, touch controls paired with physical buttons, more attractive design and much more audio settings in HibyMusic app. Additionally, AP80 untilizes next generation ESS DAC chip and bit more powerful amplifier.

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This is not a surprise that AP80 outperforms AP60Pro in terms of sound quality as well. Especially on lower frequencies where new DAP shows more texturing and more precise behavior. Highs are also reproduced more gently with a bit warmer and delicate feel. So, the advantages were spotted right away which shows that AP80 is a better and more consistent performer. In terms of soundstage and channel separation there is not much to talk about — sound similar.

V|S AP200:

This situation is vise versa. AP200 still holds the name of a flagship DAP among all other players in Hidizs lineup. Despite a bit slower loading time and less screen viewing angles and contrast — it still sounds the best. More power from the amplifier, more channel separation from paired DAC chips… Audio from AP200 is kind of even more intimate and gentle and more punchy at the same time if you’d want some juice at higher volume.

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Additionally, Android OS provides plenty of additional features and opens the whole world of different usage scenarios…

Comparison to Shanling M0:

This is very amusing. We don’t quite get who have decided that Shanling M0 is an appropriate rival to AP80….????!!!

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But for those who would like to know why it is not — here are our findings:

  1. M0 is much smaller, feels much cheaper
  2. M0 screen is too small to be convenient source of infromation and not too sensitive to operate. Besides, it has very low quality — our unit shows some strange dots (seems like a problem with glue between layers) and viewing angles are extremely low. Brightness is also low.
  3. It doesn’t have any physical controls apart from volume jog dial
  4. UI is very strange and not very logical. Especially when you are trying to move back from playing now screen to other apps…. Too much of swipes to perform
  5. UI screens are also not informative

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But the worst part is about audio quality of Shanling M0. It is far, far away from AP80 in almost any aspect apart from power output. Yes, M0 can drive our headphones to the same volume level but this is the only similarity… Lower frequencies are indistinct and feel very moody, there are not much of details — just some smudged bass… Highs sound more harsh and biting which is not good for many music genres. All instuments seems to be gathered closer to center with not enough air and room to take their sweet spot in the mix.

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Hidizs AP80 is much better product and should be compared to other mid-range DAPs on the market instead of entry-level Shanling M0.

USB DAC:

We always check this function because of spending some time watching live or recorded concerts on Youtube or other platforms. Short audio lag and good driver is what we chase in this test.

Hidizs haven’t shared a separate ASIO driver for AP80 yet. But Windows 10 OS would recognize it as USB DAC and let you use Wasapi instead which has the lowest possible audio lag. There is no problems in video to audio stream synchronization while watching videos and sending sound through AP80 to phones. Neither there are any problems of using it with Foobar2000 player over Wasapi (event or push).

We have also tried to use AP80 as external DAC for Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 smartphone with the provided microUSB type-C -> microUSB cable and it worked fine. HibyMusic app recognized this device and allowed us to send bit-by-bit perfect stream.

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Conclusion:

At this point we can definitely say that we are completely shifting to AP80 DAP from other ultraportable audio players. This one delivers the best sound quality of all, together with perfect crafting, high quality components and more convenient controls. Many people were waiting for AP80 to arrive to the market and we can tell for sure that they won’t be disappointed. Hidizs invested much of their efforts on polishing and finilizing this product to get the most positive feedback right after the launch. Additionally, Kickstarter bakers would have a chance of getting AP80 at lowest price or/and bundled with excellent Hidizs Seeds IEMs which makes such choice a very good bargain!

Link to AP80 at Hidizs store: LINK

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