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Mid-Fi Segment DAP Buying Guide 2022: FiiO M11S vs iBasso DX170 vs HiBy R5 Gen 2 vs HiBy RS2

Mid-Fi Segment DAP Buying Guide 2022: FiiO M11S vs iBasso DX170 vs HiBy R5 Gen 2 vs HiBy RS2

Most of us Audiophiles are always on the go, and we always want to carry our HiFi audio system anywhere we go. While there’s a huge market for portable DAC/AMPs but we need to use our smartphone as a source for them and that’s not always viable. Here come the digital audio players into the scene. A standalone device that can act as a complete HiFi audio system on the go. In today’s time, Digital Audio Players have come a long way when it comes to features such as open Android systems, faster SoC chips, premium DAC arrangements, powerful amplification section, etc. But the market is big, the category has a lot of products to offer that usually creates confusion in the buyer’s mind about which way to go. There are certain factors which will help you decide which one is suitable for you. Today, with the help of this blog, we will be discussing certain factors and we will also be telling you about some of the best mid-fi level DAPs that are currently available in the market under a budget of 500$. So without any further ado, let’s begin.

iBasso DX170-1

First of all certain features that you must be aware of before buying your next DAP!!

DAC Arrangement: Sabre Or AKM or R2R?

What DAC do you prefer? Sabre? AKM? Or the traditional R2R Ladder Array Arrangement? Well, ever since the fire broke out in AKM’s factory two years back, every other brand joined hands with Sabre but now AKM is back again and so are the offers. We have got the new Shanling M6 Ultra with quad AK4493SEQ DACs, the FiiO M11S with dual ES9038Q2M DAC chips, the HiBy R5 Gen 2 with dual ES9219C DAC chips, the iBasso DX170 with Dual Cirrus Logics CS43131 DAC chips, and the HiBy RS2 with R2R based Darwin Architecture DAC chipset. Well, as you can see the competition is tough, we have got DAC arrangements from all prominent brands in today’s players. But one thing you can be assured about is the fact that all these DACs are advanced 32-Bit DACs and supports decoding for high-resolution PCM and DSD audio signals.

DAP Buying guide-2

Amplification Power/Output Power: Power House?

An amplification circuit decides how powerful a given device is. While for IEMs you might not need a lot of juice, it’s always good to have some extra room for demanding IEMs or driving some headphones on the go. HiBy R5 Gen 2 offers class A amp mode that delivers crisp clarity with a cleaner background. When it comes to DAPs available under 500$, FiiO M11S has the most powerful output with 670mW of rated output power. It’s more than enough to drive any given IEM on the go. HiBy R5 Gen 2 can provide up to 475mW of power and the iBasso’s latest DX170 delivers 6.4Vrms of output. RS2 has got a power rating of 320mW which is good enough for IEMs but it might not suffice for headphones on the go.

Output Ports: Balanced, Unbalanced, Both!!

This plays an important role in deciding on your next digital audio player. While most of today’s players come equipped with a balanced(4.4mm) and a single-ended port(3.5mm), some devices also have an extra balanced port(2.5mm). FiiO M11S and HiBy R5 Gen 2 feature all three ports for output, 4.4mm, 3.5mm, and 2.5mm while the HiBy RS2 and iBasso DX170 house 3.5mm and 4.4mm dual headphone output ports. So if you use 2.5mm termination the most, either you choose between the M11S or the R5 Gen 2 or else get a 2.5mm to 4.4mm adapter if you plan to buy the DX170 or the RS2.

HiBy RS2-11

Operating System: Android or Non-Android!!

Do you want Android in your Digital audio player? Or do you just want a pure music experience? Well, most of the players in the market today come with an open Android OS that allows its users to install media applications and support every other function a regular android device has. iBasso DX170 comes with the latest Android 11 OS while M11S features Android 10 OS. HiBy R5 Gen 2 is also an android based DAP that comes loaded with Android 8.1 OS. Currently, Android 8.1 also supports most media applications so no need to worry on that front. M11S and DX170 with faster SoC chips and the latest Android OS offer smoother performance out of the three. HiBy RS2 on the other hand has a pure audio experience based on a Linux system. With the RS2 you might not get any Android features like installing media applications, Bluetooth functionality, or such, but HiBy makes sure you get a pure music player experience where you can just turn it on and start listening to your music!!

DAP Buying Guide-4

Battery Life: How Long is it Gonna Last?

Well, the battery is one of the biggest concerns for any portable device. But don’t worry most of the current mid-fi level DAPs provide you with quick charging and up to 10 hours of battery life on the go. Which is in our opinion quite good. What’s better is that FiiO M11S has got a durability rating of 14 hours, the DX170 has got up to 11 hours, RS2 has got up to 10 hours, and the R5 Gen 2 Provides you with a whopping 35 hours of battery life(standard mode). In our opinion, up to 10 hours with quick charging is a decent number and all the mid-fi DAPs pass that mark!!

SoC Chipset: Smooth Operation is all we need!!!

Nobody likes a slow, laggy user interface, Brands such as FiiO, HiBy, Shanling, and iBasso have upgraded their devices with advanced quad and oct-core CPUs for smooth performance. M11S and DX170 offer the smoothest performance in the segment with M11S housing Snapdragon 660 CPU chip while the DX170 houses an upgraded 4-core Rockchip chipset as SoC. HiBy R5 Gen 2 houses the last-gen Snapdragon 425 CPU which offers decent performance too!! Since RS2 doesn’t have any Android functionality, it comes with a simple X1000E SoC that provides smooth operation. There’s no lag with any of the above-mentioned devices, M11S/DX170 offers the smoothest experience!!

 DAP Buying Guide-5

MQA Support: Studio-Grade Master Quality Support!!

MQA, as we all know stands for Master Quality Authenticated. This is a new file enveloping technique that stores data in the empty places of a file restoring details and keeping the file size small. Don’t worry all the current mid-fi devices support MQA unfolding. M11S, DX170, R5 Gen 2, and RS2 all support decoding for MQA(Master Quality Authenticated) files.

Well, all these above-mentioned features will help you decide on your next DAP in not only the mid-fi but across any different segment. You can obviously check what any given product has to offer and decide for yourself, let’s check out what our mid-fi segment has for us right now!!

DAP Buying Guide-6

Fiio M11S: The latest from FiiO!!

M11S is the latest Android-based digital audio player from FiiO. It comes with a high-performance Dual DAC Chipset housing two ES9038Q2M DAC chips. FiiO has treated the M11S with Android 10 OS that allows for easy installation of media applications. It is supported by an eight-core Snapdragon 660SoC that enables it to have the smoothest user interface in the segment. M11S houses three headphone output ports 3.5mm single-ended, 2.5mm balanced, and 4.4mm balanced. Users can also take the benefit of a balanced line-out through the 4.4mm port. FiiO has featured its latest Honey-comb design on the M11S. The player features a large 5” 720p display. M11S comes at an attractive price point of 499$!!

DAP Buying Guide-7

iBasso DX170: Premium iBasso Sound At A Pocket-Friendly Price!!

iBasso recently upgraded its classic DX160 with the new and advanced DX170 digital audio player. It delivers crisp audio performance with its powerful Dual DAC arrangement housing two CS43131 DAC chips. iBasso has upgraded the SoC of DX170 for a smooth user interface. It’s the only DAP in the Segment today to feature the latest Android 11 OS. iBasso DX170 treats your eyes with its crisp 5” 1080P Full HD display. It houses a 3.5mm single-ended and a 4.4mm headphone output port with tremendous power to drive most IEMs with ease!! iBasso DX170 is priced at 469$!!

DAP Buying Guide-8

HiBy R5 Gen 2: Class A Amplification!!

R5 Gen 2 from HiBy is a compact music player with a 4.7” 720p display. It supports most audio formats out there with its high-performance Dual DAC architecture(2xES9219C). The main attraction of the R5 Gen 2 is its special Class A amp mode and its battery life. Class A amp mode produces a clean and precise output with ultra-low distortion and noise-free background. R5 Gen 2 houses three headphone output ports, 2.5mm, 3.5mm, and 4.4mm with good output power to drive most IEMs with ease. Class A amp mode allows the R5 Gen 2 to provide a battery life of up to 10 hours but on standard mode, it can play music continuously for up to 35 hours on a single charge!! You can grab the R5 Gen 2 for just 449$!!

DAP Buying Guide-8

HiBy RS2: R2R With Pure Music OS!!

Back in the day, R2R-based DACs used to have a huge form factor. But in today’s time, technology has advanced to the extent that we have got R2R in compact audio players now. RS2 is the most compact R2R-based Digital audio player to date. It features HiBy’s in-house developed Darwin Architecture and comes with a PureAudio OS. The biggest plus point with the RS2 apart from its R2R Darwin architecture is its dual microSD card slots. RS2 can read upto 2TB of microSD card on a single slot allowing you to take 4TB of music on the go!!! If you are looking for a Pure Music Player with no hassles with Android, just turn it on and enjoy your music, the RS2 is the one. It’s available for 480$, which also makes the RS2 the most affordable R2R-based digital audio player on the market today!!

We hope this guide clarifies your doubts about digital audio players in the market and helps you decide on your next purchase. Portable audio players are always a good experience as these are designed specifically to use for Hi-Res musical needs. A single device serving you all your requirements for HiFi audio on the go. For any further questions and queries, feel free to write to us at support@hifigo.com.

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Tom - May 30, 2023

No mention on sound quality comparison? It’s what we are after the most!

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