iFi HIP DAC
Smartly dressed in petrol blue with a touch of copper, the go-anywhere hip-dac is designed to slip discretely into a pocket and offers an extensive hi-res specification. The hip-dac replaces the inferior DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Convertor) and amp circuitry in smartphones, tablets, PCs and Macs to vastly improve headphone sound. Its design and performance set it apart from other DAC/headphone amps in its class – connect your playback device via USB, plug in your favourite corded headphones or in-ear monitors and the hip-dac delivers a sound brimming with bold dynamism and fluid refinement, effortlessly engaging the listener with all manner of music. The hip-dac’s 2200mAh battery lasts for around eight to 12 hours of playing time, depending on volume level and how power-hungry the connected headphones are. In the home, in the office, on a train or plane – the hip-dac is the music lover’s inseparable friend.
The DAC section is based around a Burr-Brown DAC chip that iFi uses extensively in its products, selected for its fluid, highly ‘musical’ sound quality and True Native architecture. This, combined with custom iFi circuitry, enables the hip-dac to deliver excellent sound quality across all manner of digital audio formats, including bitperfect PCM, native DSD and MQA – the hi-res streaming codec, as used by Tidal’s ‘Masters’ tier. Hi-res PCM and DXD audio data is supported at sampling rates up to 384kHz, alongside DSD from 2.8MHz to 12.4MHz (DSD64, 128 and 256). Thanks to the BurrBrown chip’s True Native design, PCM and DSD take separate pathways – this enables both PCM and DSD to remain ‘bit-perfect’ in their native form right through to analogue conversion, which is not the case with most other DAC/headphone amps. Either side of the rotary volume control reside a pair of LEDs that change colour to indicate the format and sampling rate of the digital audio being played.
The hip-dac’s amp circuitry is of balanced (differential) design – highly unusual in a DAC/headphone amp anywhere near this budget. Balanced audio circuits have long been championed by renowned high-end audio electronics engineer John Curl, now a technical consultant for iFi, given their ability to reduce noise within the signal path. Curl has worked closely with iFi’s in-house technical team, led by Thorsten Loesch, to produce an analogue stage of exceptional quality for a device of this kind. The circuitry incorporates a range of high-quality components, carefully selected for their performance in an audio context, including a custom iFi OV op-amp, TDK C0G class 1 ceramic capacitors, a precision low-noise power supply IC from Texas Instruments and a high-quality analogue volume pot (many portable DAC/headphone amps use inferior digital volume controls). The headphone amp has a nominal power rating of 400mW and is capable of delivering over 700mW from the balanced output depending on the impedance of the attached headphones – impressive in comparison with the hip-dac’s peers, driving all manner of headphone/earphone types with ease.
There are two USB ports – Type A for audio data and USB-C for charging. The Type A input features a ‘male’ connector, rather than a typical ‘female’ port. This provides greater mechanical integrity than USB/Micro USB ports.. This is an advantage for iPhone and iPad users, because it accepts Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adaptor directly without requiring an additional female-to-male USB adaptor. (The Camera Adapter is required to connect Apple iOS devices to third-party USB devices.)
Truly balanced circuits consist of both channels fully separated and mirrored, thus require twice as many parts versus single-ended designs. That’s why balanced solutions are inherently more complex, twice as costly to develop and far more difficult to implement. That’s also the main reason why they normally reserved for the ultra high-end audio components sold for four or five figures.
The amp stage features switchable gain, which iFi terms PowerMatch. This matches the level of drive to the load presented by the headphones, by adjusting input sensitivity and thereby signal strength. With high-sensitivity headphone types such as in-ear monitors, leave PowerMatch at its lower setting for ultra-low-noise performance. But if your headphones require more drive – most on/over-ear types, for example – press the PowerMatch button on the front panel to increase gain.
The hipdac is very much akin to the micro iDSD Black Label for a perfectly valid reason. Both products are based on the Burr-Brown DSD1793 D/A converter chip and share extremely similar digital and analogue stages.
The digital section of the hipdac is drawn from the micro iDSD Black Label. The USB type A OTG/CCK connector offers supreme portability and dependability and direct connection to Apple CCK/Android OTG.
This optional ‘bass boost’ enhances low frequencies without muddying the midrange, and is particularly useful with earphones and open-back headphones that may lack deep bass. It operates entirely in the analogue domain rather than messing with the digital signal via DSP.
Just about every iFi DAC offers MQA because we believe in the pursuit of better quality music and offering our customers the greatest choice. As usual, our engineers implemented this into the firmware. And as is our strength, we included DSD256/PCM384. Whatever the format, the hipdac has you covered.
TDK high stability C0G surface mounted capacitors - C0G dielectric close to Teflon in key areas that effect the smoothest sonics.
As you can see, the hipdac really is one of those products that looks spectacular on the outside but sounds absolutely wonderful because of what is inside.
- Technical Specifications
Web Reviews Colour Blue Warranty 1 year (local) Product Weight (g) 125 Availability Available Product Type Amplifier (Headphone), DAC (Digital-Analog Converter), Portable Amplifier & DAC Style/Type Portable Features DSD, Dual Headphone Output, High-Res Audio Certified, MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) DAC Burr-Brown DSD1793 Sampling / Bitrate 32bit/384kHz, DSD256 Output Power BAL: 400mW@32 Ohm ; S-BAL(SE): 280mW@32 Ohm Battery Life (hrs) Up to 12 hours Input Connectivity USB Output Connectivity 3.5mm Stereo, 3.5mm Balanced / 4-Pole, 4.4mm Balanced / 5-Pole
- User Reviews
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