🔷 iFi Audio hip-dac 2

This is the official thread for the iFi hip-dac 2

This thread is for discussion and reviews.

  • Upgraded Crystal Clock
  • 3.5mm s-balanced and 4.4mm balanced outs
  • MQA Decoder

:red_circle: iFi Audio Link

[Reviews]

Z Reviews…

3 Likes

oh geez I was looking hard at the Go Blu to pair with my Celestee and now this… My guess is this is probably the option for me as it will give me better control and SQ over the GB.

I found the hip dac to not be very portable friendly if you plan to travel around with it in your pocket. The USB A cables are very clunky imo. I still kept it around to use at home as i like the sound signature and the xbass is handy with certain headphones.

2 Likes

I’d still recommend the Go Blu over the hip-Dac for the Celestee as well.

Great points here. Put your use case into account above all else when it comes to it!

1 Like

Even over hip Dac 2? I don’t care about MQA but I do care about sound quality. Having a bit of overhead might be nice.

Yep, the hip-dac 2 is the same sound-wise as the 1st from my understanding (I haven’t listened to it yet, don’t have a unit in the house).

1 Like

Just bought the hip-dac2 and have had it in use for about 3 days.

I cannot give the most objective feedback on this DAC because I lack experience with a wide variety, but I can say a few things.

The best DAC in my home is a 2021 model Marantz SACD 30n network streamer with dedicated headphone amp and Marantz ‘MMM’/DAC, which is connected to my Marantz series 30 amp. The Marantz MMM DAC(a custom DAC not available commercially) is pristine, clear, wide, detailed, and as loud as you need it to be without a hint of distortion. My DT1990s are used most often here.

My only comparison to this has been brief time spent on friends’ Schiit and Topping headphone amps, but Ive only spent a couple hours on those and I dont own them. I use my headphones most frequently on a fairly weak Focusrite (gen3) 8i6 USB audio interface, which sounds well enough but is basic at the level of headphone amp + DAC.

I also use a ddHiFi TC44b portable DAC + klipsch x10i earbuds for mobile, which sounds good – clean, loud, and forward image, but too sibilant and hot. Painful over time. Not enough bass response at all - below neutral, I would say. Retiring this DAC.

I also ordered a MiM Audio Dark Magician IEM last week, but dont expect it for at least 30+ days. Right now the only phones I can test with the hip-dac2 are 1) klipsch x10i 2) beyerdynamic dt1990, dt770, and an audio technica ATH 50x. Dark Magician will be my best/only true IEM when it arrives.

All that said, lol, the hip-dac2 instantly expanded my sound stage, instantly crisped up the image and snapped it forward, tightened up bass (and expands it well with Xbass), and provides much better space for each instrument, voice, and sound – on every headphone or earbud in the house.

I also connected the hip-dac2 to a pair of powered Klipsch The Sixes speakers, switching from the Focusrite 8i6 audio interface, and instantly noticed the same benefits I listed above in the room, over the air, coming from the Sixes. The image was obviously cleaned up, less muddy, and more ‘holographic’ sounding. Bass became more precise and a bit heavier(no Xbass - neutral sound), and my whole listening experience was elevated above where it was.

The hip-dac2 has no trouble powering my 250ohm DT1990s, with/without Xbass, which was a surprise. There was no need to turn the volume to 100%, and I was able to keep it around 60% for adequate sound pressure. You can also charge the DAC while playing it, so you can avoid killing the battery with the higher power requirements of big cans if you are at your desk.

I’ll have more objective feedback for this some day, and more feedback once I get the Dark Magician IEM, but I can tell by reading this forum that there is a lot of overhead ABOVE the hip-dac2. I already have my eye on their iDSD Diablo, which is iFi’s flagship portable DAC. Im into the portable DAC idea. =P

Everything tested on Tidal lossless or MQA using UAPP Pro. MQA firmware patch was fairly easy to install on the hip-dac2, though documentation could be clearer and more consistent. Included docs were out of date and I had to find my own executable files in the download, as those mentioned in the doc werent there. There are 3 versions of the same current firmware, and you should pay attention closely to which is the right version for you.

2 Likes

After a few weeks of use, my hip-dac 2 developed a hiss. Both outs, balanced and unbalanced, transmit a hiss, and the hiss is louder when you hit the ‘power match’ button. It is present regardless of volume, regardless of headphone, and the same source is hiss-free using other DACs and the same headphones. I may need to swap this out or get something else.

EDIT: I contacted the vendor(crutchfield) and they will replace my hip-dac2. It sounds like a defective unit and not a widespread production problem, so that is positive. I had them check their returns for this unit going back to december 2021 and they say they haven’t had any come back because of hiss.

Welp.

I managed to get a replacement hip-dac2, and it showed up today. Same issue…
Let me clarify and explain what I’ve learned - I think I made a mistake with the hip-dac2.

When I first bought the hip-dac2, I had a pair of Klipsch x10i earbuds and a pair of Beyerdynamic DT1990 headphones to use it with. Both of these headphones transmit zero ‘hiss’ to my ears.
Then I bought the MiM Dark Magician, as I mentioned above, which is 1) a balanced IEM, and 2) a much more sensitive listening device, apparently, than both the other headphones.

According to this review on head-fi, quote “Overall transparency and resolution was good for the price point, though again I could hear some roll-off in the upper-treble frequencies and separation was nothing exceptional. Moreover, the background hiss is noticeable with sensitive IEMs, so if you want a very dark background the Hip-DAC2 will disappoint.”

This is not even close to a “dark” or very dark background, and it honestly sounds defective. The hiss/noise floor is so prominent that it can clearly be heard during quiet moments in numerous songs, and the hiss gets louder with power match turned on.

I think I may get a full refund on this and try something else. Anyone have any recommendations for a PORTABLE DAC that:

  1. DOES NOT transmit annoying hiss over sensitive IEMs
  2. has balanced and unbalanced outs
  3. has some sort of bass boost or EQ functionality so I can play with bass
  4. of course, sounds good

I think my price point is a little higher, now that I’ve gone through this problem. I need a good DAC. : /

With all of that I can really only think of the gryphon from ifi (not heard, can’t comment, but has built in iematch which will likely take care of noise), or like a centrance hifi-m8 v2 (checks all boxes and sounds great, would be a solid step above the ifi, but might be on the large side of things)

There are also some dongle dacs that might be worth looking into like a luxury and precision w2 (has eq, but not bass boost, sorta) or lotoo paw s2 (same thing, also this one is more a sidegrade to the ifi rather than an upgrade)

If you took off the eq/bass boost or balanced requirement your options would open up more. Or you could look for a DAP instead but that’s not a dac/amp

Another thing to potentially consider is that a lot of the balanced portable dac/amps will sound worse through single ended, so given the 1990 are single ended, if you want to prioritize that you will want something that can do solid single ended (and if you do go for something only single ended, you can just recable your mim to se, but if your main priority is the mim then it doesn’t matter as much)

1 Like

lmao I was actually just looking at that. I read that iFi has dongles designed to… “cut the hiss” on sensitive IEMs and headphones, and I was searching for more info on that when I found the Gryphon, which allegedly has “hiss reduction circuitry built-in.” Yeah - “iematch” tech. I mean, I wish that tech was not necessary because hiss was not generated in the first place, but if it does not also cut out any desired frequencies of sound or spl, Im good. I may look closer at the Gryphon after I can find some solid critical feedback.

THANK YOU for the recommendations!! I will chew through this now and see if something jumps out at me. I am honestly much, much more concerned about sound quality than I am worried about size, convenience, etc. I am willing to sacrifice in almost any area BUT sound.

I hear what you are saying about single ended vs balanced, and indeed my main priority is the mim dm IEM. I put the dt1990s on the hip-dac2 as a test, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that they sounded fairly good and loud, but all I really care about is my IEM.

1 Like

With the standalone iematch, my experience has been generally positive, on ultra mode there’s not really that noticeable of a sq hit with most midrange to entry higher end gear, but once you get up there it can become noticeable enough to want to remove it (although if you have that nice of transducers you should be running them on sources that don’t need an iematch in the first place). It will likely do it’s job without much deterioration of sound. I’d assume it’s implemented similarly in the gryphon but no clue since I don’t have personal experience with it, but I bet background hiss would be a non issue on that unit

I feel you there lol. For my portable setups I typically run a luxury and precision p6 pro → mass kobo 424 or woo wa8 (in the past a bakoon hpa-21, wish I didn’t sell that lol) and it’s pretty great for being “portable” but it’s absolutely not convenient nor small, but hey the sound is what matters

Speaking of, you could look into portable amp only units and hook them up to a portable dac for a portable stack (as an example a vorzuge vorzamp duo ii is a standalone portable amp with a great bass boost), but that’s going to be more size and likely more expensive than an aio solution all in

You technically could just grab a DAP with a built in eq and use it as a usb dac/amp, but if you are buying a dap and aren’t going to use the player aspect of it, it’s not the best value to do (a dap with real solid eq and a very black background around/under 1k is the lotoo paw 6000 or hiby rs6, under 500 I’d look for an ibasso dx160 if they still sell them)

Gotcha, then you shouldn’t have many problems then.

1 Like

Thank you again for your responses!

I will do some deeper research on the Gryphon, which I (apparently) failed to do with the hip-dac2 pre-sale. I may go with that, but not until Ive done some serious thinking.

Wow that Vorzuge / Vorzamp combo is nice, and still under $1k. It definitely looks large and bulky but if the sound is pristine, Im good. Ill wear a fanny pack if I have to. =P

I have also been looking at DAPs, but was going to try to use my android devices + a presumably lower cost (than a DAP) DAC, but since Im sending the hip-dac2 back for a refund, I can apply that money toward something better. ; )

If you paired the amp with a nicer dongle dac or something you would be right at or a bit under a grand, but if you used a dap you would be over most likely. Since keep in mind that’s just an amp, so you still need some sort of dac to feed it (and you don’t really want to skimp on the dac either). It’s also single ended so you might want to recable your mim if you go that route. I’d personally suggest to try the centrance before looking at a separate dac + amp portable setup

:+1:

1 Like

What do you think of that iFi iDSD Diablo? Ive been checking that out and enjoying reading its specs, and I think I have lust for it. :rofl:

Reviews make it sound glorious. Im trying to come up with a way to negotiate this with my wife.

I personally thought it was good but not my personal taste, it was fast, neutral, and clean, with good control overall and nice macrodynamics, also solid impact and punch, but lacked microdynamics leading it to be a bit more of a dryer and duller sound, and spatially it felt pretty flat lacking good depth and some width. Timbre was ok, as was resolution. Overall good but I think the lack of space and micro performance was too off-putting for me (and I personally think that aforementioned hifi-m8 v2 does what the diablo sets out to do better most of the time, but the diablo can push harder to drive cans better). Just seemed like a decent well rounded portable powerhouse, but wouldn’t be my first pick in that range unless you would actually take advantage of that power (which the mass majority of the time, you really don’t)

I also didn’t like that you couldn’t line into the unit, since I have a sneaking suspicion the internal dac was holding it back. And no bass boost is also somewhat disappointing, since imo ifi does those really well. Both 2 things the older micro black label had (along with iematch)

1 Like

It sounds like the Diablo can easily damage hearing, and that a few people have trouble pairing it. Customer comments suggest this, and the thing is $999, so maybe I’ll fall back to the model under it. Considering Im never going to walk down the street wearing my DT1990s, lol, I dont think I need that kind of power on the go.

I think it will come down to the iFi micro iDSD Signature or just the Gryphon. Or the W2.
Ill probably obsess over this for a few hours.

I can confirm the iematch works great on the gryphon without degrading the sound. Volume will go down but that happens in a system that adds resistance.
Another possibility is the xCAN if you line in or use Bluetooth. Mine has a pretty black background without having iematch built in.

1 Like

I actually just spent like 2 hours reading and researching a few of these and really came to the conclusion the Luxury & Precision W2 is it. All the iFi devices above the hip-dac2 sound VERY appealing from a raw power and quality perspective, but the need to remove hiss is bothersome to me. One reviewer said “well, the iDSD Signature ($749) reduced the hiss by about 30%”, and that still bothers me because I want to start with a clean signal, not apply filtration to a dirty one.

The W2 is reviewed to have a “black background”, on top of sonic excellence and low end oomf, so this speaks to me. I dont need to be able to drive the larger phones with this, so I think this is good. Grabbed it. I will tell the tale when it arrives. ; )

2 Likes