The HiBy R2 II is a compact device that fits in the palm of your hand. Its polymer chassis weighs only 70.6g but feels sturdy and well-built. R2 II’s display is 2.45″ with a resolution of 480*360. While it doesn’t fill up the front of the device, there’s still plenty of screen real estate, making it easy to navigate the system.
On the top is the power button and one of the two built-in microphones. What I love about this power button is it also has an LED that glows while playing music and charging the battery. Speaking of the battery, it’s 1000mAh and provides up to 15 hours of uninterrupted playback and 20 days standby.
On the right side are the detented volume pot, playback control buttons and the second microphone. Lastly, on the bottom are the Micro SD card slot, USB-C port and 3.5mm digital coax/headphone-out combo jack.
Internals and Power Output
At the core of R2 II’s audio performance lies the ES9219C DAC, which boasts support for up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256. While the output power of 90mW may seem slightly modest, it proves to be more than sufficient for all IEMs, and even handles most mainstream headphones adeptly, except for power-hungry behemoths.
The versatile Bluetooth 5.0 functionality of R2 II allows for two-directional audio transmission and reception. Additionally, this device is equipped with 2.4G WiFi, enabling OTA firmware updates and effortless music transfer through both AirPlay and DLNA compatibility.
Lastly, driving the operating system of R2 II is the Ingenic X1000E SoC, delivering reliable and efficient performance.
Microphones and Call Quality
The microphone quality of the R2 II can be described as outstanding. It not only records your voice clearly, but it also provides the option to enable or disable Speech Noise Reduction. Additionally, you have the flexibility to choose the file format (WAV, mp3, FLAC) and rate (8kHz, 16kHz, 48kHz) that suits your needs.
Furthermore, the R2 II is excellent for making calls, ensuring that the person on the other end can hear you clearly and with a rich, natural tone.
OS and UI
The R2 II runs on Hiby’s self-developed HiByOS. It’s straightforward and easy to use and feels snappy running on the Ingenic X1000E SoC. It supports HiByLink which lets you use your smartphone as a remote control for the device. Setting up and using HiByLink is a breeze and it works really well.
Swiping from top to bottom on any screen brings up a shortcut screen with access to volume control as well as on-and-off buttons for Bluetooth, HiByLink and WiFi. In addition, there are standard playback controls here as well.
Another outstanding feature of R2II is its ability to stream Tidal and Qobuz via its native apps (these only work when using WiFi). I’m starting to get an idea of just how much value is packed into this tiny DAP.
Navigating the OS is simple and requires no steep learning curve. However, there is one thing missing that causes me some frustration: the lack of a shortcut back to the Home screen. The Shanling M0 Pro addresses this elegantly by allowing a single long press on any screen to take you back to the Home screen. I’d love to see something similar added to HiByOS.
The System and Music menus offer an extensive amount of options. There are too many to list them all but I will mention a few of the more necessary and interesting ones here:
USB current limited
Resume play from last
Fixed power-on volume
There’s no doubt that the R2 II is a highly versatile device. Here are some of the ways it can be used:
As an external DAC: connect the R2 II to your computer via USB to use it as an external DAC.
As a smartphone audio dongle: enough said.
As a Bluetooth receiver: Connect from your PC or smartphone and stream your audio to the R2 II.
As a Bluetooth transmitter: Connect to your wireless IEMs, headphones or Bluetooth receiver.
As a WiFi receiver or transmitter: Play music over your WiFi network and devices (including AirPlay and DLNA).
As a music streaming device: Stream music from Tidal and Qobuz over WiFi.
I really need to preface this section by mentioning the MSEB (MageSound 8-ball) and EQ. HiBy’s MSEB gives you a lot of customization options. Add to that the custom and preset EQ and you can really go to town tweaking the sound to your preference. Having said that, all my sound testing was done with both MSEB and EQ turned off.
R2 II’s sound signature is slightly on the warmer side of neutral with an emphasis on vocals and a softened treble. To my ears, it sounds as though the lower and upper mids are brought up a touch which in turn takes the treble down a notch.
The lows are punchy and firm. Listening with my Empire Ears Bravado IEMs, the bass exhibits texture and power without ever becoming overwhelming. Even if it were, I could easily rectify it with some adjustments using MSEB or EQ, or a combination of both. One aspect I appreciate about the Bravado’s bass is its spaciousness despite being heavily boosted, and I’m pleased to say that the R2 II maintains this quality.
Vocal lovers will love (pardon the pun) the R2 II. The mids are lush but articulate and work particularly well with brighter or leaner IEMs. But having said that, I enjoy the sound of this DAP with any IEMs or headphones I plug in.
Earlier, I mentioned that the treble on the R2 II is slightly softened. Nonetheless, the sound remains open, detailed, and airy. While the soundstage may not be the widest, I found the imaging to be excellent for a budget-friendly DAP. Additionally, the resolution is impressive, and overall, the audio quality of the R2 II exceeds my expectations.
Power Output & Pairing
So, we’re talking 90mW of output power which isn’t a lot. I mean, this device fits in the palm of your hand so you need to be realistic here. The R2 II is designed to drive IEMs and efficient headphones so don’t go and complain if it can’t drive your 600 ohm behemoth.
However, you might be surprised at just how well this device can drive certain headphones. For example, it has no issues with my 250Ω Beyerdynamic DT990 Pros and it’s a walk in the park for my Meze 99 Classics or HarmonicDyne Athena.
Shanling M0 Pro ($129)
The Shanling M0 Pro (reviewed here) has the same ES9219C DAC chipset but it’s got 2 of them. It’s significantly smaller which is great for portability but it comes with some drawbacks too, such as a single button for physical playback controls and less screen real estate. The R2 II’s extra display size allows room for album art while browsing your music library.
In terms of features, both of these DAPs are reasonably similar but the R2 II comes out ahead with Tidal and Qobuz streaming, WiFi connectivity, dual built-in microphones and MSEB.
When it comes to sound there is little difference when comparing the single-ended output – remember these use the same DAC chipset and have the same power output. If anything, I’d say the M0 Pro’s treble is more precise and its soundstage slightly wider.
The differences are greater when using the M0 Pro’s balanced output but since that takes its price (the balanced adapter is sold separately) up to around $56 more than the R2 II, it’s not really apples to apples anymore.
In conclusion, the HiBy R2 II is a compact and well-built DAP that offers exceptional value under $100. Equipped with the ES9219C DAC, the R2 II delivers impressive audio performance, supporting high-resolution formats. Its versatile Bluetooth 5.0 functionality allows for two-directional audio transmission, while the inclusion of 2.4G WiFi enables seamless music transfer and firmware updates. The HiByOS operating system is intuitive, and the device supports Tidal and Qobuz streaming.
In terms of sound, the R2 II offers a slightly warm and vocal-centric signature, with controlled and punchy lows. The mids are lush and articulate, while the treble, although softened, maintains detail and openness. Despite its compact size, the R2 II delivers a commendable soundstage and imaging.
Considering its extreme versatility, functionality and audio quality, I’m giving the HiBy R2 II DAP my highest recommendation and our PAR recommended award. If you’re looking for a DAP on a budget, nothing else comes close to this one.
Operating System: HiBy OS.
SoC: Ingenic X1000E.
Display Size: 2.45″.
Battery Life: Up to 15 hours of playback, up to 20 days standby.