Listen out the Box!
The first time I unbox something I do so while taking my pictures so things look all fresh. I was rather surprised that when I removed the included pouch (nice quality) it contained a pair of earbuds so that if you don’t own any earphones you can listen right away. I guess it is a nice touch although if I am honest I skipped over listening to the buds. I chose to listen to it solely with IEMs as the power was clearly not up to the task for any headphones (that was quickly established through both my HD800s and Blackwoods) even on its “high” gain setting. Now, Hidizs claim that the output impedance is under 0.1 ohm, which is odd because I have found a cut in low-frequency extension with this DAP, which is usually a byproduct of a high output Z. That being said on further testing that seems to be a property of the DAP regardless of the impedance plot of the earphone used and I have also seen measurements back up this DAP being low enough, maybe not as low as 0.1 but far from a problematic number.
Something that is much more problematic for me would be the hiss I have found when pairing this DAP and some more sensitive IEMs, think Campfire’s Andromeda. To me, the whole reason for using a DAP with a weak power output would be to get that dead black background, something that is still so scarily overlooked on these so called audiophile music players. I was actually streaming the new Gorillaz song that shares a title with my favourite Campfires to the AP60 and I switched to my phone to listen directly and was met by less noise and a cleaner more neutral sound. It sort of takes away from its cool ability to act as a BT DAC when I am preferring the sound from my phone, and that is one of the worse sounding smartphones going around at the moment… sigh…. Funnily enough one of Hidizs big points in their campaigns is that this bests phones, mainly because it can do more formats, while that is true I think sound quality comes over hi-res and DSD compatibility, especially with limited storage on the go, redbook makes more sense.
Of the small budget players I have tried they have all come across a bit coloured and this is no different. Instead of being straight up bassy and dynamic like the Hippo Mu, this seems more akin to the Fiio M3 with a warmer signature. I still wouldn’t say they are sonically similar, with this having a higher sense of clarity at the expense of less refinement. I am not sure if it is just a byproduct of the hiss but I swear I actually hear a crackle through the upper mids and treble. I mean we are talking very small quantities, something you don’t always notice and is only audible on straining your ears but detectable to me nonetheless. It certainly lacked the smoothness of the M3. I will say it has no problem with top end extension as the player sounds very airy… or is that the hiss again….
The bass is a range that is almost fine but misses one single trick and that is the roll off we have already mentioned. This really is bizarre as most decent products aimed at enthusiasts have no problem covering the majority of the frequency range, even if cheaper stuff tends to be a little more coloured. For the most part, the bass seemed rather warm but generally firm enough and not bringing much up for discussion. It is only the sub bass that really will catch your attention and I find that really sad. The midrange doesn’t have any problems and is more present than on the Mu. I mean it has the technicalities you may expect at the price, not sounding as open and precise as say the HiSoundAudio S6 but being perfectly acceptable for more budget systems.
Jack of all Trades
There is no doubt that Hidizs have done an exceptional job in terms of making this very functional. It has both digital inputs and outputs as well having the traditional analogue output and everything has operated fast and efficiently, once you get past the finicky controls. The quality of the headphone output was my biggest concern, only being powerful enough for IEMs and yet not having the low noise floor needed to make them shine was very contradictory to itself. Even once you get past the hiss the sound still lacked the frequency range to be on the level of Fiio’s offering. At this price I can overlook sound quality because this can act as a cool, small, digital transport for powering USB DACs on the go, something that separates it from anything else I have reviewed near this cheap. Regardless, if you are looking for something cheap to plug your earphones directly into, then I am not sure this is the best place to be putting your money.