AP80 Review - Headfonics (2)
Hidizs AP80 Cu Review
Michael | January 8, 2020
The Hidizs AP80 Cu is a special edition of the company’s entry-level AP80 digital audio player featuring a copper housing and revised sound performance. It is currently priced at $249.
Disclaimer: The Hidizs AP80 Cu sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at Hidizs for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about Hidizs products we reviewed on Headfonics click here. Note, this review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2020 which you can read up on here.
A while ago, I received a small upgrade to the original Hidizs AP80 (AI/Aluminum) portable source player, but now in the form of a Copper exterior. It is nice to see upgrades offered after the fact and new models with different exterior options available.
I enjoyed the Aluminum AP80 in my prior 2018 review and have heard tales around the campfire that the CU Copper edition sounds a little different. But, did that hold true to the mythos?
My unit did not come with any accessories, just the standard AP80 box, and a USB charging cable. The retail version comes with a silicone protective case though and some paperwork. Again, mine arrived some time ago, perhaps before the full package was decided upon.
Well, the original AP80 Aluminum was tank-like, to begin with. The CU version is even better, heftier and most solid in the hand. If I had to rate it on a scale of 1-10, the build quality would win the day on small portable sources that I’ve ever played with.
It absolutely oozes some of the best builds feel in my hand and in my pocket that I’ve ever used, especially so in this price tier. I can’t see them doing a better job unless it was fully titanium or something absurd and needless.
The volume knob is immensely solid and gives a small click when pressed, which either turns the DAP on or off, of course. The side panel physical buttons are also hefty feeling and have no sway or jiggle to them.
Beyond that, the LCD screen is the same as the prior model at 2.45 inches and 360×480 resolution. Honestly, it doesn’t matter when the DAP is small. I actually don’t want an absurd screen quality, it will just ruin the battery life and ends up defeating the purpose of a portable unit, to begin with.
We don’t have the battery tech at the moment to keep up with the demands of great OLED full-color screens yet so no need for something insane. I am glad Hidizs offered a good looking screen, but even so, I could do with something even less good looking than this and still be happy. So, I feel like we were given something we didn’t even need and that sings high praise from me.
As for battery life, the original AP80 and this new Copper model are identical. This was a tough comparison because I use my AP80 Aluminum all the time and its battery has lessened in potency over the last year or so since my review was completed.
Comparisons made to the new Copper model are clearly in favor of the Copper version holding the best battery life now, but I find it exactly on par with the original model test data for duration achieved in battery life.
Both share the same 11 hours, with the screen off. However, stand by time was an issue on my original AP80 and that is no longer the case in the Copper model I have. It seems that letting the CU (Copper) version idle, with no music playing, will not drain the battery more than a 10% or so after about 9-10 hours during sleepy time. This is good!
This model still uses the ES9218P and I still dislike it a lot. In fact, I dislike most of the DAC’s in the $200 field because they just don’t sound as good as a dedicated $200 DAC. I can live with it because the MSEB system covers up the stock sound of the internal DAC. Subjectively, as a musical enthusiast and someone who personally doesn’t care for neutrality or accurate sound MSEB is the way to go.
The stock sound on most of these DAPs in this price tier, or really DAC’s in general, are fairly neutral and raised for accurate, cold sound. And that is true here as well. However, that changes immediately and in a lovely way with the DSP active.
Especially true when running the AP80 through the PC and into Foobar2000, where it is used as a pure DAC and where I can add in all sorts of custom options for output. This is why I sang high praise of the AP80 AI last year and why I love MSEB.
The AP80 CU is no different from the original and handles up to DSD128. Anyone else remembers the days when DSD128 in a portable source was nuts to even consider? It is just amazing that a unit at this price can offer DS128 and not lag when shifting through the playlist or album.
We’ve achieved insane tech in the last few years with regard to CPU power and internal RAM capabilities on such a small thing such as this. I am always impressed when loading and playing through a DSD album and I get to swap on shuffle as I please. I couldn’t do that on my Redwine AK120 from a few years ago and that DAP cost me well over a thousand dollars plus the costs of modding.
Let us be real, here. How many of us have more than one or two DSD256 albums anyway? I’m a reviewer, I have less than a handful. I have even less DSD128. Roughly 99% of my DSD library is in DSD64 because I hear absolutely no difference between 64 and 128.
I’ve tested and tested, went as far as trying to find proper unconverted albums sold in DSD64 and DSD128 and after extensive listening on very high-end audio equipment found no audible differences and also failing blind tests with any resemblance of accuracy in my judgment. I love DSD, I prefer it.
However, it drains the hell out of the battery on every source player I have and as mentioned, on the go specifically, the battery tech isn’t there to enjoy a full work shift with a single portable source that is playing DSD files.
My 11 hour off-screen FLAC experience turns into more like 7 hours with DSD playing. Which is amazing! The resilience of portable batteries, as proven with the original AP80 that played this for hours every day or each time I am on the go somewhere, is showing that pushing the battery that much and that often will reduce playtime in just a year or so of usage. But, then again, I’m crazy. So odds are good general consumers won’t ever push it with a full day of DSD like I do for a year straight.