Recent Reviews
Categories

When you purchase products via the links on our website, we may receive an affiliate commission. The process is explained here.

iFi hip-dac 3 Review

Discover the power of portable audio with the iFi hip-dac 3. In this review we dive deep into its features, design, sound quality, and performance.
iFi hip-dac 3

Disclosure: The iFi hip-dac 3 was provided by iFi for the purpose of this review. Please read more about our product review disclosure here.

If you’re a true audiophile, you understand the importance of having high-quality audio wherever you go. That’s where the iFi hip-dac 3 comes in. In this comprehensive review, we’ll dive deep into the features, design, sound quality, and performance of this compact battery-powered portable DAC and headphone amplifier. Priced at $199, the hip-dac 3 is a third-generation device that promises to take your listening experience to new heights.

Key Specifications

  • Core Processor: XMOS 16-Core chip
  • DAC Components: Burr-Brown True Native
  • Connectivity:
    • Unbalanced output: 3.5mm (280mW @ 32Ω; 3.2V @ 600Ω)
    • Balanced output: 4.4mm (400mW @ 32Ω; 6.3V @ 600Ω)
    • Input: USB-C for data, separate USB-C for charging only
  • Battery Life:
    • Up to 12 hours (2200mAh Battery)
  • Supported Sample Rates and Formats:
    • Up to 32bit 384kHz PCM
    • DSD256
    • MQA full decoding
  • Features:
    • PowerMatch (gain switch)
    • XBass
    • iEMatch
  • Supported Platforms:
    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Linux
    • Android and iOS/iPadOS devices
    • Game consoles
  • Case and Dimensions:
    • 102 x 70 x 14 mm (4.0″ x 2.8″ x 0.6″)
    • Weight: 135g
    • Analog volume control knob
    • Power Match button
    • XBass button
    • iEMatch switch

Overview

The iFi hip-dac 3 is the latest addition to the renowned hip-dac lineup, following in the footsteps of its highly acclaimed predecessors. With each new iteration, iFi Audio has managed to refine and improve upon the previous version, and the hip-dac 3 is no exception. This compact device is designed to enhance the sound quality of your music, giving you a more immersive and enjoyable listening experience while on the go.


Design & Build Quality

In the Box

With the iFi hip-dac 3, you get a USB-C to USB-C cable, a Lightning to USB-C cable, a USB Type A to USB-C cable (unfortunately omitted from my review unit), and a Quick Start card.

External Design

One of the first things you’ll notice about the hip-dac 3 is its sleek and stylish design. The device features a flask-like shape that is both ergonomic and visually appealing. The new “Titanium Shadow” color scheme adds a touch of elegance, making the hip-dac 3 look even more premium. The build quality is top-notch, with a sturdy aluminum and high-quality resin construction that ensures durability and longevity.

The front panel of the hip-dac 3 is adorned with a metal knurled knob that sits in the very middle, serving as both volume control and the power switch. The knob feels smooth and responsive, allowing for precise adjustments to your desired listening level. LEDs sit on both sides of the knob to indicate the audio format and sampling frequency being played, making it easy to verify if you are getting a bit-perfect signal or not.

On the very left side are the buttons for the PowerMatch and XBass features, which have been tightened up, eliminating any button rattle and providing satisfying tactile feedback. On the very right are the 4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm outputs. The button slider for iEMatch is on the bottom, and the back of the device holds the two USB-C connectors for data input and charging, with an LED below the charging port to indicate the battery level.

Internal Components

Inside the iFi hip-dac 3 we have a 2200mAh battery, which iFi says can provide up to 12 hours of playback. The LED for the battery level is on the back of the hip-dac 3 below the charging port, with various colors indicating specific percentage ranges. It’s an excellent way to check the battery level quickly. However, I wish there was a way to know the exact battery level, whether through an audio cue when a headphone is plugged in or through software.


Sound Quality

At the heart of the hip-dac 3 is a powerful DAC and headphone amplifier that delivers exceptional sound quality. The device can play a wide range of audio formats, including MQA, DSD, and PCM files up to 32-bit/384kHz. Whether you’re listening to high-res audio tracks or streaming your favorite songs, the hip-dac 3 ensures that every nuance and detail of the music is faithfully reproduced thanks to the Burr Brown DAC.

The hip-dac 3’s sound signature is characterized by its smooth and well-balanced presentation, which is similar to how other iFi DACs sound, thanks to the consistent use of the Burr Brown chip. It’s like having a ZEN DAC V2 in your pocket. Both the 4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm unbalanced connections sound excellent. While I didn’t notice any particular benefits to using the iEMatch feature with my Hiby Seeds II IEMs, that feature should help those with very sensitive IEMs that may be prone to popping or hissing with specific hardware.

I also found myself using XBass quite a bit, just as I do on my ZEN DAC V2. It’s a nice kick to the bass reproduction without sounding muddy or bassy. 


Performance

In terms of performance, the hip-dac 3 truly shines. The device utilizes advanced circuitry and components to reproduce clean and accurate audio. The XMOS processor and Burr Brown DAC work in harmony to ensure that every note and instrument is rendered with precision and clarity.

The hip-dac 3 also features the innovative PowerMatch and IEMatch technologies. The PowerMatch function adjusts the gain level to match your headphones’ impedance, ensuring optimal performance and minimizing potential distortion. The IEMatch feature, on the other hand, is designed to eliminate channel imbalance and reduce background hiss when using sensitive in-ear monitors (IEMs).

The conservatively rated power output of the 4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm connections ensures you can easily drive various mid-range and even high-end headphones and IEMs.

For the battery performance, I was able to get 9 hours with my DT 770 Pro 80 ohm (PowerMatch enabled) and 10.5 hours with my Focal Elegia headphones. These are very respectable results, and of course, your experience will vary with the type of headphones and volume level. 


Features

The iFi hip-dac 3 has various features that elevate its versatility and convenience. The device offers dual USB-C ports, one for audio input and the other for charging the internal battery. This allows you to use the hip-dac 3 while connected to a power source, ensuring uninterrupted audio playback. Ideally, I would have liked to see just one USB-C port that combines the charging and data input, making it more convenient when using a laptop or desktop. As it stands, if you get low on battery you will need to carry a second cable with you and have a way to charge the device.

The hip-dac 3 supports balanced and single-ended headphone outputs, with a 4.4mm Pentaconn output for balanced connections and a 3.5mm output for single-ended connections. The S-Balanced system implemented by iFi ensures improved crosstalk and lower distortion, providing a cleaner and more immersive listening experience. Additionally, the device features the XBass function, which enhances low-frequency response without muddying the overall sound.


Final Thoughts

The iFi hip-dac 3 is a remarkable portable DAC/Amp that delivers excellent audio performance in a compact and stylish package. With its sleek design, superior build quality, and outstanding sound reproduction, the hip-dac 3 is a great option for high-quality audio on the go. 

iFi mostly hits it out of the park with the hip-dac 3. If I had to point out any faults, they would be the lack of a way to see the exact battery status and the fact that the USB data input and charger port are separate connections. The fact that I’m nitpicking like this should tell you what a complete device the iFi hip-dac 3 is. Also, yes, the addition of bluetooth would be welcomed, but the hip-dac sounds and performs so well that you quickly forget it’s not there.

Whether you’re listening to high-res audio files or streaming music from your favorite streaming platforms, the hip-dac 3 ensures you’ll experience every detail and nuance of your music with utmost clarity and precision.

HiFi Oasis highly recommends the iFi hip-dac 3.


We are not always able to cover all details of a product, both hardware and software, in our reviews. If you have any specific questions you’d like answered about this product please feel free to leave a comment or contact us directly.

HiFi Oasis Verdict

HiFi Oasis Verdict
8 10 0 1
8/10
Total Score
  • Design & Comfort
    8/10 Very good
  • Features
    7/10 Good
  • Sound
    9/10 Amazing

Pros

  • Excellent build quality and design
  • Includes iFi features such as XBass and iEMatch
  • Smooth, natural, well-balanced sound profile
  • Enough power to drive most headphones and IEMs

Cons

  • Dedicated charging and data input ports means multiple cables for charging and listening at the same time
  • No way to know the exact battery level
Total
0
Shares

Leave a Reply

Previous Post
best portable dac

The Best Portable DACs for Audiophiles in 2024

Next Post
best bluetooth speakers

The Best Bluetooth Speakers of 2024