REVIEW – Hidizs AP80 Pro

Zelda  |  August 25, 2020

The box is fairly compact matching the small design of the AP80 Pro. An all black colored box with some specifications on the back. Upper layer holds safely the AP80 Pro device inside a plastic bag surrounded by foam material. Underneath, all the accessories. They include the necessary stuff, two USB cables, one of Type-C to A and another Type-C to Micro-USB, extra protective films for the front and back glass panels, and finally a silicone case in semi-transparent smoke/gray color.

Design

The AP80 Pro keeps the same design as the original AP80 version. I hadn’t a chance to try the original one, but if specifications are accurate the Pro is very slightly larger in all dimensions and a little bit weightier. Compared to other recent compact portable players with touchscreen, the design of the AP80 Pro is more unique. All the others follow a rectangular or square shape in a smooth finish with well rounded corners. The AP80 instead, has a more refreshing sharp square shape through the whole contour. A very similar design to found on the upper Fiio players and which all look obviously inspired in some of the modern A&K players, including the volume wheel. The most important addition to the Pro version is the 2.5mm balanced port that now takes advantage of the dual DAC over the single on the first AP80.

Build quality looks solid enough. The main body is made of CNC machined aluminum piece in a smooth paint finish available a popular variety of colors. The weight is about 70g, a good standard for small portable devices; adding a proper armband can comfortable enough for active sport use. While the more unique sharp design does look more eye-catching it may have some impact in ergonomics for some users. The use of the silicone case will completely fix this issue if needed, though will make the player look rather unattractive. Front and back sides are covered by glass panels, both with protective films attached. The AP80 Pro won’t fall under ultra-portable players with devices as the Shanling M0 and Fiio M5 going around. Still a very portable player it is to compete with the Q1 and M6, even lighter, though smaller in its actual touch screen size.

The layout is simple. The right side has the four physical controls. The wheel button at the top that works as power and screen on/off if pressed and as volume control. It has enough resistant to avoid being pressed by mistake. The volume adjustment is accurate, without jumping more than a step per click. It can a bit stiff to operate one-handed if not applying extra strength. Below are the three playback buttons, rather small but easy to reach when not applying the silicone case.

To the left side there is only the micro SD card slot. There is no internal memory storage but it can read USB data from the Hiby player browser.

The bottom side holds the USB Type-C port in the middle, used for charging, data transfer and DAC in/out functions. The 3.5mm audio output is to the right, supporting TRRS plugs with in-line controls or for line-out (set to maximum volume, so be careful), and to the left the new 2.5mm balanced output.

The screen features a Samsung 2.45” touchscreen of 480×360 resolution. Despite the square shape of the front panel, the actual size of the screen is smaller, with a rectangular shape as it doesn’t reach the right side of the player. In comparison, it is a larger and of better quality than the M5, but smaller and lower than the Q1.

Aside from the added Sabre ES9218P DAC chip, no major changes in the hardware had been done. A Ingenic X1000 processor (found on various small DAPs from FiiO and HiBy too). Bluetooth has upgraded to 4.2v over the previous 4.0, now supporting LDAC. Output power rates for 70mW at 32Ω load for the single output, and now with the balanced 2.5mm gets higher to 190mW.

Battery size is the same 800mAh 3.7V. The performance time is standard, rated to work up to 13 hours for headphone out on single 3.5mm output (in practice is a bit lower ~12), and 9hrs for the 16hrs for the balanced. The good news is the charging time is very fast, around 1 hour for full charge.

User Interface & Software

The player runs under Hiby OS 3.0 which is Linux based. There are several players out there using this OS. Very simple to understand with everything pretty much self-explanatory. Upon powering on it takes a few seconds to start up. After a short animation with the Hidizs logo it reaches the main home screen. There are four icons on the first screen and the 2 more on the second. They cannot be hidden or rearranged, at least not with the current firmware, what I personally find a bit annoying as I’d rather see the Settings icon together with the music player and Bluetooth in a same screen. There is no ‘folder’ or file browser, instead the data is accessed from inside the Hiby player. A swipe up from the bottom side of the screen opens up a shortcut menu for music playback, volume and brightness adjustments, and Bluetooth, Gain, USB and LO switches, as found on the Hiby R3 DAPs. What I never liked about the Hiby system based DAPs is that whenever adjusting the volume it appears on the whole screen and it is very prone to be accidentally changed for what I to set the maximum volume to limited safe level. (The smaller bar found on the Hiby R3 is much more convenient.)

The navigation, scrolling and overall speed is quite good. Smoother than even the own Hiby R3 and way much comfortable than any of the MTouch OS on the Shanling devices. The file menus can list up to 4 files per screen. The font can be changed to medium or large, though due the small screen size longer texts will be better shown with the small font. Navigation is still not perfect; there are no shortcuts to main home screen, so when placed on the music player screen you need to go back to the left most Hiby player menu and hit the ‘exit’ button. Same wise, from the home screen the Player icon will return to the file menu screen so an extra left swipe is needed to get to the playback screen. It is not that much annoying, but places the AP80 Pro behind its competitors which allow various gestures for shortcuts taking advantage of touch screens.

Furthermore, having the Hiby software the AP80 Pro obviously includes the MSEB parametric equalizer along with the typical EQ presets and Custom option. Overall, it packs many of system and audio features, with the only catch that everything looks a bit small to operate with the limited screen size.

Sound Impressions

DAPs used: Shanling Q1, Hiby R3 Pro, Fiio M6 & M5.
Headphones: iBasso IT01s & IT04, Campfire Audio Polaris 2, Periodic Audio Be, final E5000 & B1, Earbridge E70, Akoustyx R-220; SoundMagic P55 (v3?)

All the sound impressions are based with all EQ and MSEB options off.

As usual describing the sound of a portable player will depend on the headphones used and other players it is compared with. I had not tried the original AP80, but have used other players on the $100~200 were the AP80 Pro is placed (listed above). The use of a known Sabre ESS DAC won’t tell about the sound quality of the DAP, even if shared by other players too, but some general capabilities and limitations can be expected.

The AP80 Pro performance matches properly its price tag as what could be categorized as ‘entry level’ portable and compact device. It is not offering a ‘better’ sound quality over the competition, but yes its own different flavor. Ultimately, the results will depend on the gears used, but there is as an overall presentation that can be described from different pairings. The AP80 Pro does not distant from ‘neutral’ sound, but subjectively it is less linear, putting some emphasis towards the treble area.

The bass is quick but low in quantities and soft in impact. There is a noticeable earlier roll-off and miss of depth and extension. Texture and layering are also average. This is most noticed with bass heavy or very warm sounding earphones. The Polaris 2 is a good example, where the low-end sounds quite underwhelming and boring out of the AP80 Pro, lacking in power, sub-bass and rumble. Very similar results with the very warm sounding Periodic Be. (Yes, the AP80 Pro may push the mids more forward with these IEMs and so add a tilt of extra sparkle on the treble, but without that dominant low-end they’re not worth.) The midrange is more positive, neutral to a bit more forward, especially on vocals. In result, there is less air and separation. The treble is more emphasized but very comfortable with very decent control. It adds more sparkle and treble details can sound clearer. Soundstage is average to narrow.

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