Hidizs AP60II Review

darmanastartes  |  February 4, 2018

Pros: accurate and neutral sound, great build quality and design, intuitive UI, USB and Bluetooth DAC functionality, HibyLink, gapless playback

Cons: Micro USB for charging/syncing, not-quite-perfect CUE support, and hiss while using sensitive IEMs

Introduction/Disclaimer:
I won a Hidizs AP60II late last year in a Facebook contest. I have been using it extensively for about a month. I am writing this review of my own volition and have had no contact with Hidizs other than to provide shipping details to them.

About Me:
I listen mostly to heavy metal, hip hop, and electronic music, as well as movie and video game soundtracks. I value detail, clarity, and soundstage above other acoustic qualities, and generally prefer a V-shaped sound signature.

The headphones currently in my possession include:
Campfire Audio Polaris, Mee Audio Pinnacle P1, Mee Audio Pinnacle P2, VE Monk Espresso, E-MU Teak, KZ ATE, Mixcder X5, and Archeer AH07

Source files and other equipment used:

I used 44.1kHz/16 Bits FLAC on a 128GB SD card for most of my listening. I have used the Hidizs AP60II as both a Bluetooth DAC and a USB DAC with a Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 smartphone running an Android Oreo custom rom to play Spotify HQ streaming. I have also used the Hidizs AP60II as a USB DAC with PCs running Windows 10 to play Spotify HQ streaming and both redbook and Hi-Res FLAC files. 

Accessories/Build Quality:

I requested my AP60II in silver. The unit I received came with a pre-installed screen protector, a USB-A to Micro-USB cable, a semi-transparent matte plastic case which covers the back and sides (not top and bottom) of the player, a quality assurance certificate, an extra screen protector, a screen protector for the glass on the back panel, a warranty card, a card with contact information for servicing, and a user manual in Chinese and English. The AP60II has an aluminum-alloy unibody construction with a 2.5D glass back panel. It feels very substantial in the hand despite its small size, and the fit and finish is exceptional.

Design/Functionality:

The AP60II has four mechanical buttons on the front below the screen (back/menu, up/rw, down/ff and enter/play/pause). The power button and volume up/down buttons are located on the left side of the player. The player is very intuitive to use, and I did not need to read the user manual to master basic navigation. That said, it might have been preferable to set the rewind and fast-forward buttons as the left and right buttons respectively, like on older iPod models. The only aspect of player operation that is not immediately intuitive is the menu option interface, which is accessed by holding down the enter key. The menu interface gives access to the following options while in the now playing pane: delete current song, add to playlist, add to favorites, repeat all, gain control, straight/shuffle control, and repeat one. These options are navigated by using the up and down buttons. While browsing songs, the menu interface gives access to the following options: play, delete, add to favorites, and remove from favorites. The volume controls can be used while the screen is off, but the track navigation buttons cannot. There is an option to access track navigation by long pressing the volume keys while the screen is off.

The AP60II boots up in less than 10 seconds. UI is very quick and responsive. After inserting an SD card (the AP60II does not have onboard storage), the AP60II will automatically scan for music. This scan can be cancelled by hitting the back button. This process typically takes a minute or two for a library of several thousand songs. Music can be synced using the included Micro USB cable while the player is in OTG mode, or by removing the SD card and moving files to it from a computer with an SD card reader. Music can be accessed either through a folder view or a category view. In addition to the artist, album title, and song title, the now playing screen displays the file format, sample rate, and bit depth of the currently playing song. The AP60II did not always recognize the album title from CUE sheets, even when it read the artist and track titles correctly. Gapless playback has worked flawlessly in my experience. The AP60II is advertised as being able to play music from OTG devices, like a flash drive, but I did not test this functionality. 

Because my smartphone lacks a dedicated DAC, I sometimes use the Hidizs AP60II as a Bluetooth DAC paired with my smartphone. Pairing the AP60II with my smartphone allows me to use the DAC/AMP section of the AP60II instead of my smartphone while still having access to the streaming capabilities of my smartphone. Unfortunately, the AP60II only supports apt-x in transmitter mode, and only supports the SBC protocol as a receiver. The AP60II is therefore useless for receiving lossless or hi-res music from local smartphone storage or Tidal. However, this limitation is shared by many more expensive DAPs, including the Cayin N3 and the Shanling M1 and M2S. I have heard that the Shanling M3S supports apt-x in receiver mode, and I will test for this functionality in an upcoming set of tour impressions, but the M3S is more than twice as expensive as the AP60II, so a comparison between the two players is not fair.

The AP60II also supports HibyLink functionality using the HibyMusic app, supporting both folder and category navigation. This allows the user to control playback from their linked smartphone.

It is possible to use the AP60II as a USB DAC as well, though given the abysmal state of USB OTG implementation in the Android world, I would hesitate to recommend the AP60II or any other DAP purely on the basis of this feature, at least to Android users. Even though the AP60II works as a USB DAC with my particular phone on my particular ROM, with my particular kernel and firmware, there is no guarantee that it would work if any of these items were different. In addition, the AP60II charges from my smartphone when connected as a USB DAC, draining the smartphone’s battery quickly.

However, I had no issues using the AP60II as a USB DAC with my Windows PCs. The AP60II was immediately recognized by my PC and set as the default audio output. While in use as a USB DAC, the AP60II will display the sample rate and bit depth being used. The player bizarrely has a default output of 32kHz/32 Bits when connected to my PCs. Although the AP60II is only advertised as supporting a maximum bit depth of 24bits, when used as a USB DAC with a Windows PC it appears to support a maximum sampling rate of 192kHz/32 Bits. Options appear in Windows for up to 384kHz in both 32 Bits and 24 Bits but these do not output sound. Curiously enough, it does not appear to output at 16 Bits at all, with the lowest sampling rate option being 44.1kHz/24 Bits. This is a potential issue for bitperfect purists.

The one design issue I want to raise is the use of Micro-USB in a 2017 product. DAP manufacturers seem to be several years behind the curve on this front. Cayin uses USB-C on the N3, which is not that much more expensive than the AP60II.

The battery life is advertised as being 10-12 hours using a 1000mA battery. I have not kept careful track of my use time and charging habits, so I cannot say for sure whether this is accurate or not. My impression is the battery lasts at least 8 hours.

Sound

I generally subscribe to the philosophy that if a source device is coloring the sound, something is wrong with the source device, so I will not wax lyrically about how the AP60II made such and such song sound different than with other source devices. It delivers a sound that is true to the source, which is exactly what I want and expect. It has also been my experience that the primary benefit of high-end amplification is to increase the maximum volume music can be played at while still having the instrumentation resolve clearly, with my definition of “high-end” being well over $500. The AP60II, which retails at $130, is not at the level at which I expect this kind of noticeable improvement to resolution, but being a dedicated DAP, I did expect it to be able to drive higher impedance headphones better than the average smartphone. The highest output impedance headphone I currently own is the 50 ohm Mee Audio Pinnacle P1, which the AP60II was able to drive comfortably on high gain at a volume setting of 40/80. I also tested the AP60 with the 16.8 ohm Campfire Audio Polaris and the 16 ohm Mee Audio Pinnacle P2. Both of these more sensitive IEMs had noticeable hiss during the quieter parts of songs.

Closing words

The Hidizs AP60II represents a superb value at $100, with accurate and neutral sound, great build quality and design, intuitive UI, USB and Bluetooth DAC functionality, HibyLink, and gapless playback. My only major issues with the player were the use of Micro USB for charging/syncing, not-quite-perfect CUE support, and hiss while using sensitive IEMs.

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