8.6
Score
From $115

Disclaimer: The Hidizs AP80 sent to us for the purposes of this review is a sample and does not have to be returned. Thank you to Hidizs for giving us this opportunity.

Over the last few months, I’ve been privy to a few different review samples from Hidizs. Some were portable music players, some were portable DAC’s. I’ve enjoyed all of them so far and it seems very clear that this company is trying to achieve great things.

They are churning out multiple products per year and don’t seem to be stopping any time soon.

Today, we are going to investigate the AP80, their newest touchscreen portable music player that has a Kickstarter just about to begin. Visit the link below to grab that as soon as possible:

https://kck.st/2w6ks99

Accessories and Battery Life

You get a typical cardboard box with the logo, the AP80, of course, and also a USB-C cable. The player charges super quick via USB-C and is ready to go 0-100% in just over an hour for me. That is awesome and then some. This AP80 has a rating of 15 hours of usage and I capped out around 11 with the screen off. With it on, that number went down.

Standby time is terrible on my unit and I can’t say for sure if something is wrong with it or not. They quote 35 day standby time and I can’t seem to get through one sleep cycle. I can’t let it sit overnight on pause and shut the screen off without needing a full recharge the next morning.

Not really much else to deliberate on here outside of the typical peel off screen protection, which, thank the audio deities, was there out of the box because I near instantly scuffed my AP80 badly. Totally my fault.


Hidizs AP80

The Screen and Build

At 2.45 inches, this 360×480 monitor feels titanic compared to the much tinier Shanling M0 that I reviewed recently. Colors are vibrant, eye-popping and the UI lets you select some solid color schemes for the touch button areas. I like blue. So, I’ve opted for a Blue theme. It looks very pretty, indeed.

However and again, battery life drains much faster with the screen on. Thankfully, we have physical buttons on the side of the player, unlike the M0. The AP80 is also CNC’ed aluminum and has a very solid, weighty feel.

Hidizs AP80

File Formats

Naturally, DSD is a standard these days, even at entry-level and the AP80 allows up to DSD128. Which, as I’ve said in the past, is already pretty high. I can’t hear a difference from 128 to 256, so I don’t care if the player supports up to 256.

Beyond that, DSD plays wonderfully and responsively too. Meaning, the unit’s hardware can cycle DSD tracks without serious lag or problems in with stutter in the UI itself, or even crashing. So far, no crashes at all and no freezing issues on the current and most up to date firmware.

Yes, when I got the player on what I think was Beta pre-production firmware, the unit was a little laggy. But, that was immediately remedied and never became a problem when I was emailed the new firmware. While playing high-res files, the AP80 handles high-res motions very well for such a small little thing.

Hidizs AP80

The DAC

I am officially a huge fan of the 9218P, which, as you guessed it, is the same DAC in the Shanling M0. This little new school DAC is turning out to be fantastic and very adaptable in the way of EQ possibility.

No, I would not be using this as a USB DAC, for the price you can do better in a stand-alone unit elsewhere. However, right now, especially if you are like me and enjoy musicality over purity, this is a portable ‘Godsend’ for listeners like myself.

MSEB (DSP)

Well, if you are a purist, just ignore this section entirely. Turn off all the EQ function and play as is, stock and flat. You’ll enjoy that. Without EQ active, this DAC seems to perform in the semi-neutral territory with what I would consider small nuances of treble bloom. With it active, the world really opens up. That is due almost entirely to the MSEB system.

Wow. I am really speechless as to how well the DAC responds to EQ and how well the AP80 is at changing itself with small incremental toggling of the EQ system…but not in the music players EQ subset. Only in the MSEB, which is vastly superior to the normal EQ. Ignore the normal EQ, it does almost nothing when I change it that I found positive.

The available toggles inside the MSEB are magnificent. You can turn the player into a very bassy, very soft impact, or very harsh experience. You can alter the roll off and even directly control midrange to be more on the gentle side, or more neutral. You can do a lot with this and I found myself extremely happy with how easy this system is for the EQ aficionado like myself.

IMO, right now, this is the best overall EQ system available in a budget DAP. I am immensely impressed. I am having a lot of fun and enjoying the sound quality as well. The MSEB is found in the Hiby portable players, by the way, and also short for Mage-Sound 8-Ball.

Hidizs AP80

Sound Impressions

Bass

As mentioned, bass via the MSEB is absurdly responsive and amazingly customizable. With it disabled and no EQ active, the AP80 feels quite dry on the bass end. It lacks any interesting bite, tone or texture and feels very flat. Those after a reference type of a sound may enjoy it quite a lot. Musicality chasers will not likely enjoy it and will be playing with the MSEB a lot to fix that.

For the price, low-end fidelity, in a pure sense of the word is, is very nice. I feel like the lack of subjectively interesting appeal in tonality may be an issue to anyone with headphones that are not very neutral. I don’t think the flat sound on the bottom end will do justice enough for moderately boosted bass headphones or really anything that is known for excellent texture.

Quantity is also a bit of an issue on a flat EQ setup. Bassheads won’t be satisfied, of course. What is there though, is just fine in terms of quantity. So long as your headphone isn’t regarded as a bass enthusiast model, the +0dB EQ is more than sufficient.

Midrange and Vocals

Again, due to the ridiculous features in the MSEB, you can move the midrange around freely and even affect dynamism and physical tactility. Even tonal changes to sound “sweeter” via female enhanced vocals.

Without any EQ present, the experience feels moderate up and down the block. Meaning, moderately forward, not recessive, not intimate. But, can become either quite easily if need be. The vocal tonality is also extremely neutral feeling all the way up to the upper midrange, which is then affected by the very noticeable brightness factor hike in the normalized treble areas.

Yes, this DAP can sound very intimate with EQ. But without it, the AP80 plays it safe and caters to a wider appeal of listeners, instead of either intimacy or relaxed positioning.

Hidizs AP80

Treble

As mentioned, the treble is musical and very apparently so. What I enjoy about it is that I boost it with the MSEB only just a bit to sound less physically impacting. Beyond that, I try to keep it as flat as I can because the stock treble on the AP80 is beautiful. But, then again, so was the treble on the M0 from Shanling using the same DAC.

It seems this DAC is relatively neutral for the most part until you get to the top end, which has noticeable bloom and sparkle. That slight bit of musicality is very noticeably only because the midrange and bass are very flat feeling. That doesn’t mean the treble is problematic. It isn’t. It is quite gorgeous with EQ totally disabled. But, if you want it, there are a slew of MSEB options for you.

Imaging

Yep, it sounds larger and more dynamic than the Shanling M0 and every other budget level DAP I’ve got on hand. This sounds a lot more open than my original Fiio X3 and similar sub $200 systems I have for portability. The image is extremely coherent and well-formed.

The AP80s height factor and width are not offset by lacking depth or air between spaces. The curtain behind it all is very dark feeling and also quiet. This sound is good enough to be used with my Empire Ears custom CIEM The Nemesis ($1600) and have it sound fantastic in staging elements. As a stage buff, for the price, I’ve not come across anything like this. It is exceptionally open sounding for this price tier.

Hidizs AP80

Our Verdict

The AP80 is probably the best budget DAP I’ve ever touched and heard. It sounds much nicer than the Xduoo X3ii, my older Sony A17, and even the Shanling M0 by an audible degree. The screen is very nice and the added physical buttons make pocket play very easy, saves a lot on screen-battery usage as well.

The MSEB is magnificent, thanks to HIBY for that. Beyond all of this, the unit support aptX Bluetooth and Hiby Link, as well as included an FM tuner which is super rare these days. I am having a ton of fun messing with the sound properties and seeing what the player is really capable of. Not many DAP’s are responsive to EQ even when they have a really intuitive EQ on board. Thankfully, this DAC responds very well to small changes.

If you want a musical sounding player with a lot of bass, you can have it. If you want a neutral player with a soft impact, you can have that too. The AP80 is also of a high enough fidelity to make the Shanling M0 sound a little muddy by comparison and that is in all areas of listening: bass, mids, treble, staging, coherency.

These guys did a great job with this. It is the first budget tier DAP to really sound great with very expensive custom IEM’s that I’ve ever reviewed. What a fantastic little DAP and at a great price too.

Hidizs AP80 Technical Specifications

  • DAC: Sabre ESS 9218P
  • Stream: 32bit/384KHz
  • DSD64/128
  • Gain control: Low/High
  • Line out: enabled (with volume lock)/disabled
  • Digital filter: slow descent/sharp drop
  • EQ: 10band, +/-12dB, 8 presets
  • Frequency response: 20Hz — 40KHz
  • SNR: 119dB
  • Dynamic Range: >105dB
  • Channel separation: 73dB
  • THD+noise: 0.003%
  • Output power: 80mW @ 32Ohms
  • USB DAC stream: up to 32bit|384KH
Hidizs AP80 Review
4 (80.8%) 25 vote[s]

Tonality8.6
Build Quality8.5
Functionality8.6
Software8.6
Matchability8.6
8.6
Score
From $115
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34 Responses

  1. Michael Truman

    I read the review here so I decided to give one a try. It arrived today and have so far listened to a half dozen albums. The menu was a little confusing at first but am getting the hang of it. For the most part I agree with the reviewer…this is a great little player for not much money. The EQ setting are superb!

    One question though: How is the name “Hidizs” pronounced?

    Reply
  2. Piervittorio Trebucchi

    Hi, I bought a Hidizs AP80 convinced by the good reviews of this brand’s products.
    And I confirm that the product looks good, is well built and guarantees high quality audio, supporting all possible formats.
    Unfortunately, the instructions are inexistent, a few dozen lines which also refer to the Chinese version of the software.
    The real problem is the user interface, which seems to have been developed by a drunk who hasn’t seen any media player in his life.
    It seems impossible to get a directory view (folders with the titles of the discs), a display in alphabetical order or by author, play a complete disc by clicking on the folder with the name of that disc, have a search function for folders or files, have a random playback, etc.
    In fact, once I inserted the 128gb micro SD card with my 400 favorite lossless APE + CUE discs, mostly of audiophile quality, I simply found myself with an alphabetical list of about 4000 songs … Maybe, if there were any instructions, the problem could be solved, since the sw is anything but intuitive.
    But I don’t want to waste time and get nervous, so the AP80 is back in its box, and the MicroSD with my music is back in the smartphone, which with Neutron as an audiophile media layer, is a good solution.
    I have not yet thrown the AP80 into garbage, in the secret hope that in the future they will implement a user interface that is not ridiculous and demented.

    P.S. In their online shop, they publish only the five stars reviews, so there isn’t any possibility to write and read the truth about the AP80 (and this is the reason why they have only two reviews – probably fake – about the product), and they don’t answer in their facebook pages to any critic. Simply, you cannot post a critic comment.

    100% chinese mood and crap.

    Reply
  3. Michael Piskor

    Hi! I would probably be using the older Dragonfly from Audioquest, the original O2used, or the DH1000 from the same company, or even what I just reviewed yesterday in the Spectra X from NextDrive. It isn’t that I think the AP80 sounds bad, it sounds great as a DAC. But I felt like it was a bit too warm overall for a home DAC that would be paired with a lot of neutral amps and headphones that I review.

    Subjectively, this is what I want as a DAC, something fun. But, there is a noticeable clarity difference between the DAC mode AP80 and the SpextraX for example, both plugged into my Airist Heron 5 amp. While I prefer the meaty sound of the AP80+Heron5, its fidelity isnt as nice as the SpectraX+heron 5

    Objectively, I found the other DAC’s listed as sounding cleaner.

    Reply
  4. JOANNE YOON

    I ordered the Ap100 high resolution player after reading the good reviews here and elsewhere. Though the company was from China, I was willing to trust them because they are based in Hong Kong and ShenZhen, which are fairly more trustworthy than other parts of China. I received the product but it was not working well. I decided to return the item for a refund, which they approved, and they sent me their address for returns:
    8F Weisheng Business Building
    No.18 Yanhe Dong 3 Road, Changping Town
    Dongguan City
    Guangdong Province
    China
    Zip code 511700
    Tel:+86-15018644917
    Contact:Ken
    Tel:15807694396
    Contact:ZHANG MENG

    The customer service spoke excellent English and was very professional. However, it’s now been more than 2 months and they are ignoring my emails.
    I kept sending them emails (my seventh now) but they are not responding.

    Do not trust Hidizs. I trusted them, and was sent a faulty device from China, attempted a return which seemed legit and professional, and now no contact at all.

    Reply
  5. Thomas M

    Im in the same boat as you, placed the order on Nov 13th. I received an auto response email for order confirmation and a second email stating the unit will be on back order while they send out kick starter orders first. Ive since emailed them twice and have not received a response. Ive already placed an order for the Hiby R3 through there black friday promo of $149. Lets see how long to actually be able to cancel my order now.

    Reply
  6. steve

    Just an update, it has now been 7 days since I paid for a PA 80 I have tried to contact them 7 times through 3 different means trying to get confirmation of my order………..and……….nothing. I have proof of payment to them through my credit card account………..but ……….nothing. I would not recommend buying through these cowboys

    Reply
  7. Michael Piskor

    No do a pure DAC. But if the DAC/Amp has inputs (like RCA or 3.5mm) then of course. You’ll need a 3.5mm cable to whatever input your Amplifier has.

    I use the AP80 sometimes as a source for my amplifiers.

    Reply
  8. Michael Piskor

    I’ve never reviewed the N3, but I did have it for comparisons for a while on loan. I no longer have it on hand and would have to answer that based off memory, which is something I don’t enjoy doing for others because the information is more dated and subjective than I would be comfortable with. But, during the AP80 review, I had no real desire to seek out the N3 again. In my opinion, the AP80 is one of the better tiny DAP’s out there and I cant see how anyone would be unhappy with it considering it’s price tag being so low.

    “really good musical sound” is a strength of the AP80. It is very musical and enjoyable to me. The great EQ system will make sure of that.

    Reply
  9. Michael Piskor

    AP80 certainly is a bit superior sounding and has a much better EQ system that will let you achieve almost any tonality you want. It does warm very well.

    Reply
  10. Michael Piskor

    Drives 300ohms to plentiful volume, but is certainly not capable of driving it properly. The bass end always feels thinner and lacking compared to what I know it to be on a properly powered rig, or even a more powerful DAP. It is so musical and EQ friendly though, that I can mask some of that and still feel fine with it. It is still a good sound with the HD650, but it really isn’t suitable to come close to what the HD650 can scale up to.

    80mW into 32ohm is just fine for volume needs, but even on H. Gain mode, the AP80 will struggle with anything 300ohm.

    Reply
  11. BsB

    I see in the picture that you pair AP80 with HD6xx (maybe). So how does AP80 drive high impedance headphone like HD6xx (300ohms)?
    Thank you!

    Reply
  12. Michael Piskor

    Hi!

    Yes, you can build multiple saved presets for the MSEB. I currently have two of my own in there.

    From the now playing track window, swipping left twice gets you to the main menu list on the left side of the player. You can select MSEB from there, then the gear icon, then save/load. Inside the MSEB Menu, there is a small gear icon. Click that and you’ll see a save and a load button inside. From there you can save what is currently set in the MSEB as a profile. Or, load up one you saved prior.

    I see only one possible custom setting for EQ and you dont need to press save. It seems it auto saves for you. From the now playing track screen, three little …’s are in on the bottom right side. Tap that and select EQ. From there you have an EQ function that will let you tap another button to disable or enable, as well one another button to select your preset or your custom.

    Both the EQ and the MSEB work together.

    Reply
  13. Oscarf bg

    The sound signature. That must be the problem with the Cayin N3.

    I think the Hiby R3 is the best option… but the price difference with Hidizs makes it very tempting. It’s really hard to choose.

    Reply
  14. Oscarf bg

    Thank you very much!

    It’s curious. Although Hifiman does not sound good with many headphones (for example with Focal Sphear sound terrible), for some strange reason the sound with Flares is much better than the Cayin N3.

    I think that the sound profile of Cayin does not match with impedance and sensitivity of the Flares. It’s not easy to find a good companion to these headphones.

    I think I’ll consider the Hiby R3 as the best option.

    Reply
  15. Michael Piskor

    The AP80s EQ page has one preset save function that will merely stay as you wish it to, you dont need to tap save or anything. You just go into the EQ menu and toggle around and it will stay that way until you come back and change it. From that same area, there is a preset box that you can select from.

    Sadly, the MSEB also only has one save function and works the same as that the normal EQ page. Just set it and make sure it is enabled, and that stays as you customize it. Wish it had more than one setting to save because I do mess with it a lot and change things often depending on the track.

    Reply
  16. Fstop

    Thanks!
    My wording was unclear: i meant does the player have a way to save a Custom EQ setting (in the presets)? I agree, all “presets” ive ever heard on any device were totally useless and sound horrible. ;)
    Unlike many audiophiles, i do like and use EQ settings, IF they are customizable and well-implemented. (I have 31-band graphic and parametric EQ racks in home recording studio).
    Thanks again for the review, ive already backed in first tier, and fir that price it should be a fine portable player, and keep me from relying totally on my phone (LG v20) as music source.

    Reply
  17. Michael Piskor

    I have not heard the Hifiman, but have heard the Cayin. I don’t like the sound of the Cayin but that is subjective and feel the overall fidelity to be very good for the price. I dont think it housed a sound signature that matched the flares pro. But with MSEB that isnt really an issue. You can make it sound and mesh good. I am certainly recommending this AP80 and also the Hiby R3 for a bit more for around $200 total. Can’t go wrong with either, but the R3 definitely will sound a bit better due to the superior DACs used, and also having MSEB.

    Reply
  18. Michael Piskor

    I always use my 200gb sandisk microsd, yep. It is not a speedy player at all. You will get some lag between track skipping. The hardware just cant handle that speedy skips, expect roughly a 1 second delay when track skipping in succession.

    EQ presets are just awful: Custom,pop, blues, classic, jazz, rock, dance, metal, and voice. All are unusable to me. Graphical interface EQ with touch screen is a nightmare to use. No hard buttons to toggle up incrimentally makes it very hard to use. I dont and wont ever use the internal app EQ. I will only use MSEB, it is lightyears better sounding.

    Reply
  19. Oscarf bg

    Thanks for the review.

    How you would compare it with Cayin N3 and Hifiman Supermini? Do you consider it better? I currently quite like the duo Supermini – Flares Pro, but I am open to changes due to the limitations of Hifiman (BT, aptx and all stuff).

    I would like to know your recommendations, because there are not many players around $200 that have good synergy with Flares.

    Reply
  20. Fstop

    Did you try a large card (200gb+) with many files? How is the os response, speed? Is there customizable (the regular graphic) EQ presets?

    Reply
  21. Scott Muhlbaier

    A ha…and there it is…and it’s as good as i thought.

    Note: As of high-noon EST, they are down to single digits for the most popular base aluminum unit.

    Reply

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