The Hidizs AP80 Pro is an upgraded version of the company’s entry-level AP80 digital audio player featuring a Dual-DAC ES9218 chipset. It is currently priced at $169.99.
Disclaimer: The Hidizs AP80 Pro 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.
The Hidizs AP80 Pro is a $169.99 powerhouse of a portable music player and one that happens to be adorably small too. Some people build homes out of bricks, but I am building my dream house out of my AP80 variant DAP chassis.
Let’s take a deep dive into this newbie on the block, the Pro variant, not to be confused with the standard AP80 or the AP80 CU, which I reviewed not long ago. I’m not complaining at all, Hidizs DAP’s are awesome. The more, the merrier!
Packaging & Accessories
The AP80 Pro still has the same box, small and cute in its own right. It comes with a few accessories, like a screen protector and a little silicone case. For $169.99, I am more than happy with this setup.
They also have a leather case for the AP80 Pro that sells for $24.99, which I didn’t receive and don’t know anything about. Just be careful if you want one, as they also have a standard AP80 leather case that doesn’t fit this Pro version. So, make sure you are clicking on the Pro model leather case link before you buy it.
Hidizs doesn’t pull punches in the slightest with their build quality. The AP80 Pro exterior is machined CNC’ed aluminum and damn is it a hefty little unit. Not as heavy as the AP80 Cu (copper materials) but this is just so lovely to hold in the hand.
IMO, the AP80 Pro is one of the more portable-friendly DAPs out there that is actually…portable. Each button feels steady and has zero jiggles, no sway what so ever. The volume knob is “Japanese” ALPS and has good resistance to it. I am a big fan of sticky volume knobs. (Giggity!)
And by that, I mean knobs that require more pressure to spin and that do not rotate like a fidget spinner dipped in oil. That is a good thing because when this is in your pocket, it isn’t going to suddenly volume hike itself by accident and blasts your ears out of your skull.
I absolutely dislike when DAPs or amplifiers have way too slick of a feel. My best example, the Hifiman EF-6, and the Airist Audio Heron 5 headphone amps. They have satisfying and heavy CLINKs to each dial-up of the volume knob.
I know we cannot get that in a small DAP like this AP80 Pro, but, I am just trying to prove a point here. A more resistant tendency is preferred. I do not want to accidental spin too much and go def, just because the wheel or knob has a ton of play to it.
Oh boy. Well…like I said in the last AP80 Cu review, this review will read like a Harry Potter book in page count if I talk about all the things this player can do. So, I need to draw this into a summarized, shorter narrative. Hyperstory! Finally, I get to invoke Hyperstory itself! Muaha.
The AP80 Pro has dual ES9218 DAC chips in it, which is fine so long as the quality is noticeably better than just one good DAC. I don’t feel any different from the AP80 Cu version I reviewed 8 months ago. I feel like some things were changed in terms of physical quantities between this newer Pro model and the last one. I’ll get into that in a bit.
For now, the DAC itself is just fine as a $169.99 portable player experience. Probably one of the nicer ones for the sub $200 genre. However, as a USB DAC connected to a PC or Mac, that story changes.
If you need an all in one portable player + a DAC, then the AP80 Pro is a solid option. If not, there are lots of $170’ish dedicated DAC’s that can perform better.
MSEB is still the Best
I like EQ. I like DSP. I like to alter the sound of my products on a personal level because I hate being stuck with just one sound. Some tracks don’t sound good without bass boosting. Others might require downing that hot treble. Still, others yet might need a complete removal of an entire frequency band down to zero value. That is the great thing about presets.
Why would you want to stick with your favorite song played only one way…forever, and ever and ever? No sir or madame. Not me. I want options. MSEB is the best overall DSP software that I’ve ever seen.
Rivals include Cowon’s Jeteffect but I cannot think of anything else that is quite as potent in what you can do. Customization is too fun to mess with and just the concept of having it is better than not having it.
With this DSP, you can really do some damage (in a good way) to the sound preference experience that comes your way. Stock EQ is never this good. Thank the audio deities for MSEB.
Seriously, who even has DSD256 files or even enough of them to play on the go? Am I alone here? I only have a few. 99% of my DSD library is DSD128 and I will likely never buy DSD256 due to absurd file size.
Thankfully, the AP80 Pro can track skip through DSD files smoothly. Not all DAP’s can do this, but I am so happy to see most of the modern DAP’s actually implementing some RAM and great CPU power to make DSD seem like it isn’t a problem in the slightest.
Testing normal FLAC files vs DSD files of the exact same album results in the FLAC files skipping to the next noticeably faster than the DSD. Such a little DAP like this though? I don’t expect it to house an immense CPU in there to handle track skipping huge DSD files as fast as some other powerhouse DAPs on the market.
Do you even know how lucky we are to have the ability these days to play DSD256 on the go? Blows my mind every time I think about how far we’ve advanced in 5 years.
Hmm. Well, dual DAC’s may be responsible for slightly less battery life than the AP80 and AP80 Cu models I reviewed a bit ago. Those two clocked in around 11 hours or so with intense files and the screen off, along with a fantastic 10% drop in the battery in stand by mode.
The AP80 Pro has more power and clearly uses it. I could not manage more than 9 hours and or so, just a bit less than the previous two. I tested this a few times over the course of my review experience. Same tracks, same volume, same deactivated EQ and DSP. Same results with maybe a few minute variants between each result.
The standby time is much better even than the AP80 Cu at 10+ hours, whereas 10 hours was the limit for the Cu model. I wonder if the battery is a little different in the AP80 Pro. I assume it is, because of the power requirements for the Dual DAC setup.
Either way, still a great battery life on this new model for standard 3.5mm mode. Expect a few hours less with Balanced mode being used, as your voltage is significantly higher while using the 2.5mm output option. This is to be expected.
This model has backward and forward Bluetooth (BT for short from now on). That means you can pair BT headphones directly to it and listen to whatever your microSD card is playing inside of the AP80 Pro.
Or, you can activate the opposite mode and stream BT to another device that allows for it. I can send my tracks via BT to my Harman Audio BT Citation Tower Speakers ($2,500.00) and the experience is fantastic.
Also, having the ability to MSEB my Citation’s is absurdly fun and enjoyable. Not like they need it, but you can if you want. Sending BT audio to a DAC that accepts Bluetooth is also fun, and a great way to save some CASH if you want with wiring needs.
True, BT isn’t as good as a wired connection but it is clear with the improvements lately that BT is swiftly becoming the new normal. A wired connection will be a thing of the past in the next few years, as lossless BT becomes more of a reality over time. Expect far less battery life with large files + BT usage.
As with all the AP80 variants, the AP80 Pro is no different in tonality presentation with EQ deactivated. The experience is a bit dry and lacking. It isn’t until the MSEB or EQ is activated and used properly that the experience is a blessing for portable consumers in this hobby.
The AP80 Pro fidelity factor is still very good for the price, but again, this is a can-do all or most things well DAP. So, that doesn’t shock me in the slightest.
Due to the extra power of this model, the entire bass experience feels more solid and dense. A noticeably different low-end texture and presentation, although I feel the fidelity to be the same as the previous model.
This further intensifies with Balanced Mode 2.5mm active. And that is directly due to the fact of higher output voltage…a lot more. More power = more firm bass, most of the time.
In a mid centric setting for review between all three models, I cannot differentiate them until balanced mode comes into the mix. After that, I can feel the texture differences in the AP80 Pro model as a superior offering than the previous two models potential maxed out.
That means the AP80 Pro is a bit better overall in quality. Despite the $249 price tag of the noticeably inferior AP80 Cu, this cheaper AP80 Pro is the better option. No doubt though, the Cu version is more niche and cooler, IMO.
I feel exactly the same about this model as I did the last two. I feel like I’ve reviewed this DAP three times.
Treble and Imaging
Since the Balanced Mode output is high on the AP80 Pro, things changed a little bit over the standard AP80. With more power comes a firmer low end and also a more controlled top side.
As a result, the imaging prowess is boosted a little, as the AP80 Pro sounds a little more fluffy and aired out than the others. But, only in Balanced Mode. In standard 3.5mm, it sounds exactly the same to my ear.
While imaging isn’t the best right now for the price, it is still one of the best out there even nearly 9 months after my AP80 Cu review. The market hasn’t changed much since. If you want great imaging I would invest in something else. If you want a good all-around balanced DAP, the AP80 Pro is a great option. I doubt anyone would disagree.
The now ancient AP200 still sounds better than all of these AP80’s. However, it is much, much slower and the battery performance is nowhere near as good as the AP80’s. For whatever reason, the AP80 Pro has more width factor, but less depth of field and realism than the AP100. Interesting.
Hidizs strives to improve and I’ll always be there to take a listen. They hit three home runs in a row. The standard AP80? Great Dap. The Cu variant? Just as good and also so fancy! This new AP80 Pro model? A bit better and refined than the last generation.
I want to see this sort of thing in my reviews, that constant “Oh ya, we can do this better. We will refine as much as we can and provide an even better product next!” And that is such a good sign for an audio company.
My advice is to step away from the DAC family used and opt for something more modern and new. If we are refining this much, we need some innovation too and some new tech in there. That’s my only real gripe and it is vividly subjective for this excellent AP80 Pro.
Hidizs AP80 Pro Specifications
Master Chip Ingenic X1000
DAC Chip ES9218P X2
FM Radio 4705
Pedometer Sensor KX126
Display Screen Samsung 2.45″ (480×360)IPS HD Touchscreen
Recommended Headphone Impedance Range 8-200Ω (Recommended value)
Color Options Aluminum alloy (black, gray, blue, red)
Net Weight 68G
Package List Type-C cable, Type-C to Micro USB cable,
silicone case, user manual, screen protector
Hidizs AP80 Pro
Hidizs strives to improve and I'll always be there to take a listen. They hit three home runs in a row. The standard AP80? Great Dap. The Cu variant? Just as good and also so fancy! This new AP80 Pro model? A bit better and refined than the last generation.
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