iFi Audio hip dac review – a fantastic portable headphone amp dac with MQA support

Welcome to my review of the iFi Audio hip dac . The iFi Audio hip dac retails for £149.

The Key Features and Specifications

– Portable, slim design with up to 12 hrs of battery life and a slim.
– Hi resolution audio support including Spotify, Tidal MQA to MP3. Play any high res audio format with native digital to analogue conversion so you can listen to any song the way the original recording was intended.
– Powerful amp ideal for in ear monitors or over the ear headphones with 400 mW max power output from the on-board amplifier via the 3.5mm headphone socket or 700mW via the 4.4mm balanced.
– Connects via USB, works with iPhone with Apple Camera Kit
– Power Match and XBass offer adjustable analogue enhancements to customise your listening experience without compromising the digital conversion
– USB C and USB Type A

Review

iFi Audio history. iFi Audio was born in 2012 to produce ultra-fidelity audio products that push the sonic envelope whilst still priced within the mainstream. iFi audio is now under parent company AMR (Abbingdon Music Research), which designs and produces top-end luxurious audio products. AMR saw in 2010 that customer demand for wireless and portable headphones was expanding as the whole audio dynamic was changing. Thus, iFi Audio was launched.

The iFi Audio hip dac smart stuff. The DAC section is based around a Burr-Brown DAC chip that provides a lovely fluid, highly musical sound quality and also true native architecture. iFi Audio have then desgined their own circuitry. This means you get bit perfect PCM, native DSD and MQA. 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 Burr Brown 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.

There are two USB ports – USB Type A for audio data and USB-C for charging. The USB 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, as shown in my video review. The optional bass boost enhances low frequencies without muddying the mid range, 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.

Sound quality. For this review I used a range of headphones including the Focal Elear, Sennheiser HD599, AKG K371 and Fiio FA7. I also tested the 4.4mm balanced using the Fiio FA7 with the Fiio 4.4mm headphone cable. iFi Audio recommend activating the PowerMatch for over ear headphones. So for this review all my over the ear headphones had this activated. When using my Fiio FA7 IEMs this was turned off.

Genres. All genres were tested from electronic, jazz, blues, classical, pop, rock and alternative. I spent hours and hours testing the hip dac including a 10 hour burn in before listening to it. All the over ear headphones were driven with ease, scale and presence. The XBass feature is great to use, but there is already IMO enough drama without having to use it. However, my AKG K371 headphones just loved the XBass being on and transformed from being a fairly accurate sounding headphone to a Tyrannosaurus Rex. OMG what a chalk and cheese difference and for the better. The Burr Brown chipset provides a lovely musical presentation, slightly warm, but with plenty of scale, drama, soundstage across all genres. And speed too. The 4,4mm balanced output added a little hiss with my Fiio FA7. This hiss was not present using the 3.5mm option. So ultra sensitive IEMs are best used with the 3.5mm jack which is extremely powerful in its own right.

Video Review

Conclusion

The iFi Audio is a fantastic compact headphone amp dac and highly recommended and one of my favourite amp/dacs!

Useful Links

Latest pricing & more info on iFi Audio hip dac on Amazon

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