HiBy R5s (Saber) – retrieving maximum details

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About a year ago we had our hands at HiBy R5 – one of the best mid-class HiRes audio DAPs around, running on relatively fresh version of Android 8.1 OS, quite good HW configuration (Snapdragon 425 CPU, 2GB RAM, 16GB ROM) and packed with all modern features like direct audio transport, USB DAC, Bluetooth DAC, streaming services, LDAC and UAT codecs, etc. Of course, time passes and such configuration inevitably getting less capable. Definitely, it is not about HiBy R5 if you consider what it is intended for.

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If we are to use this DAP for its main purpose – music in all of its forms and with all necessary applications – HW configuration still stays snappy, compatible and even excessive. Do not load it with games or unnecessary utilities and R5 would serve you till the end of times. We have used it heavily for about a year and have not experienced any problems ever since. There were several OTA FW updates pushed by HiBy that brought R5 even closer to perfection and neither one led to UI slow down, only the improvements. Since the main application that utilizes all HW possibilities is HiBy Music – HiBy, as a sole coder and manufacturer of the device, knows its capabilities and limitations. This gives HiBy a great chance to polish all edges and resolve any compatibility issues. And they are taking this chance very serious, indeed. The performance of R5 stays perfectly adequate, despite one year from release.

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New HiBy R5s has been announced one month ago and is already on sales. It is based on similar HW configuration and runs similar Android version. The only difference to its predecessor stated among other specification is changing from two Texas Instrument 1612 to 1642 operational amplifiers (OPA) serving a role of low-pass filters (the latter is true JFET OPA and has lower quiescent current) which are paired with two AD8397ARDZ high speed OPAs from Audio Devices to deliver the impressive 564mW/channel @ 32Ω at balanced output. Such high power output allows R5 and R5s to lead in the class and drive “hard loads” (low sensitivity | high impedance IEMs and headphones). Sound wise, HiBy states that the changes in HW are resulting at better retrieval of details and slightly colder tonality. But we would examine this later.

So, let us remind you about the full specs list for HiBy R5s:

General HW&SW:

  • Operating System: Android 8.1
  • SoC: Snapdragon 425
  • No. of CPU Cores: 4
  • CPU Max Frequency: 1.4GHz
  • Display: 4.0 inches, IPS
  • Resolution: 540*1080
  • PPI: 300
  • Touchscreen control
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Internal Storage: 16GB
  • External Storage: Up tp 512GB + via 1 micro SD card
  • Firmware Update: Over-the-air or from a file
  • Text Size: Ajustable
  • 3rd Party Apps Unrestricted access via Google Play and apk download


  • DAC: CS43198 x 2
  • C43198 dual crystal oscillators (45.1584 + 49.152MHz)
  • LPF:1642 x 2
  • OPA: AD8397ARDZ x 2
  • Max output power: 1040mW+1040mW@16Ω / 564mW+564mW@32Ω
  • Headphone Impedance: 16~300Ω
  • EQ Adjustments: 10 bands (±12dB)
  • MSEB function
  • Channel Balance: L 10dB to R 10dB
  • Gain Level: Low / High
  • USB DAC: PCM/DoP/Native
  • Headphone Output: 3.5mm
  • Balanced Headphone Output: 4.4mm
  • Line Out: 3.5mm LO
  • Balanced Line Out: 4.4mm LO
  • Digital Out: SPDIF (USB out)
  • MQA up to 8x unfold


  • WIFI: 5GHz/2.4GHz, supports IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n protocols
  • Two-way Bluetooth 4.2 (supports: apt-X, apt-X HD, LDAC, UAT)
  • Bluetooth Bidirectional DAC
  • HiBy Link function
  • USB Type C (USB2.0 data rate)
  • USB USB storage, USB DAC IN/OUT


  • Buttons: 6 physical buttons
  • Button Definitions: Power/Previous/Pause/Next/Volume Up/Volume Down
  • Dimensions: 107.7*61.2*15.6mm


  • Power Supply: 9V/1.5A
  • Battery: 3500mAh
  • Charge Protocol: QC3.0
  • 18 hours playback with 3.5mm SE and 11 hours with 4.4mm BL

Most important features of this DAP:

Dual Cirrus Logic’s CS43198: Cirrus Logic audio products with the MasterHIFI™ and SmartHIFI™ designed to meet the highest standard in high-fidelity audio playback. MasterHIFI and SmartHIFI products deliver the very best performance in sound clarity and pure, euphoric audio listening.

Combines Headphone & Line Out functions: both 3.5mm and 4.4mm ports support headphone and line out functions. Thanks to battery space and efficiency optimizations, this palm-sized powerhouse outputs balanced power up to 1040mW+1040mW@16Ω and 564mW+564mW@32Ω, yet manages to last up to 11 hours balanced / 18 hours SE.

DTA Architecture: Android sample rate conversion bypass. Its DTA Android global lossless output technology ensuring that sound output and reception would not be interfered with.

UAT (Ultra Audio Transmission): the ultimate Bluetooth HiFi audio quality provided by audio codec developed by HiBy. Supporting an industry-highest sample rate of 192kHz and data bandwidth of 1.2Mbps.

Two-way Bluetooth: HiBy R5s supports two-way Bluetooth, which can be used as a Bluetooth transmitter or receiver.

MQA: R5 and R5s support MQA unfold up to 8X.

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Packaging and design:

HiBy R5s box differs slightly from its previous version as of R5. It still has similar dimensions and color theme but there are few new design elements: additional layer of outer wrap with glossy DAP picture at facing part, “R5 Saber” label on the edge and large “S” sign at the back. Therefore, the box clearly states which R5 version it belongs to. The insides haven’t changed: R5s rests in a soft insert on the top level while all of the accessories are stored at two separate compartments underneath.

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Box contents:

  • HiBy R5s DAP (with pre-applied screen and back panel protective films)
  • Memory card insertion clip
  • USB type-C -> USB cable
  • Leather case
  • 1 extra screen protector
  • User manual
  • Couple of leaflets concerning warranty
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The difference with R5 here is the new high quality leather case instead of a silicone one. This case is looks great, perfectly crafted and has special cutouts with very thin leather layers over the buttons. It even allows you to see the color of the state LED on power button. No problems with accessing any of outputs on the bottom edge.

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Although, one thing you should be aware of – take care when putting R5s inside for the first time. This case has a very slim and tight fit and might peel off both protective films from screen and back panel. It would stretch a bit later and the problem would not bother you anymore.

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Physically, HiBy R5s reminds of golden era of smartphone introduction to the market. It dimensions are close to such great representatives as HTC Desire and Google Nexus 1. Perfectly comfortable for one hand operation with the screen size of 4 inches. Although, the resolution and screen density is quite high for such physical display size – 300PPI. Its chassis is a unibody piece of aluminum with tiny surface grains and 15.6mm thickness that makes it feel very secure and monolithic in a hand.

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Front and back almost completely covered with screen and glass panels and if there were smaller curvature of the edges – this device would be very close to what we call “frameless”. Moreover, beautiful glass panels also cover top and bottom edges and serve a design purpose as well. We like those are nearly transparent and you could see the housings of the output ports through it.

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One more reason to admire R5 and R5s design is the physical buttons. First, it is always better to have such convenient way of control over the main functions of music application and second – buttons look good and feel good. The force that you need to apply is close to perfect while the actuation ends up with a tangible click. Furthermore, buttons are tight enough to eliminate any accident presses in a pocket.

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Additionally, power button is equipped with multi-color LED that indicates different DAP states as well as the sampling rate of the currently playing track. Such feature is shared across all HiBy DAPs, plus you would find the same in FD1 DAC.

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R5s top edge is left blank of any elements and controls while all line out, phone outputs and USB port are located at the bottom. Right edge contains power, play|pause, next and previous buttons. Volume controls are on the left edge together with the microSD card slot.

HiBy R5s in use:


Some paragraphs in the sections below would be directly deposited from our review of HiBy R5 since there is no change in the HW, SW or performance in R5s DAP version.

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Surely, this is one of the best screens you would find among all current DAPs. HiBy didn’t hesitate to provide excellent user experience in terms of virtual controls in its Android-based player. Expect similar behavior of 4 inch multitouch IPS as in any high-quality smartphone. Virtually, there is no distance between screen glass and panel, all finger interactions with virtual elements are precise.

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Screen density of 300PPI is totally enough for this physical size to maintain the balance between very detailed picture and size of the elements. HiBy R6Pro still holds the lead as the DAP with the best screen but R5s is a only a fraction behind: brightness level and contrast are almost equal while the sensitivity and sharpness of R6Pro screen is still slightly better.

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No visible change in LCD quality in early R5 v/s current R5s versions. The only thing that we were able to distinguish is a slightly colder LCD calibration visible only in the direct comparison. Picture is bright, crisp and vibrant in both DAP versions.

UI and usability:

In general, Android OS and stock UI feel great on the chosen Snapdragon 425 platform. It’s working fast, with fluent system animations and good response. 2GB RAM might become a limitation in case if to load too many apps but the main idea of this device is to deliver best audio quality with stock HiBy Music app. Several other apps like Youtube, Tidal, etc won’t do much difference and would coexist perfectly. Just remember not to open to many tabs in browser, as always. Some slight hiccups when scrolling through songs were found in HiBy Music application right after the initial track list was populated by running SD card scan function. When indexing was over — scrolling became more smooth and predictable.

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As we have already stated in the begging of this article – despite incorporating quite average platform specifications as for now, R5s and R5 DAPs both keep up perfectly in all scenarios they are intended for. Main music application, Google Play, Tidal and Qobuz are running smooth and snappy. Furthermore, concerning the stated applications – neither freezes or any kind of misbehavior were met. At least almost for a year of using R5 and for about a week of using R5s. But again: we have never loaded any apps apart from Tidal & Qobuz. Hiby Music was always the default one for local audio tracks.


One of the best thing about R5 and R5s is the amount of connectivity options leading to the different usage scenarios. First of all — they have combined 3.5mm SE / 4.4mm Balanced phone outputs with LO options.

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Next is the bi-directional Bluetooth that allows the reception or sending audio stream with the most sophisticated wireless protocols such as Sony LDAC. Moreover, Bluetooth supports UAT codec as well — highest quality of Bluetooth audio (192kHz, 1.2Mbps) currently available on the market and developed by HiBy. Usage scenarios are numerous: you can send audio from DAP to wireless headphones / end gear, from a smartphone to DAP to wireless or wired headphones / end gear, you can also gain full control over DAP from a smartphone over Bluetooth with HiBy Link function. Or you can use HiBy Link as audio server.

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Dual band Wi-Fi (up to “n” protocol) is also on board to allow internet connection, HiBy Link function and streaming audio services. The quality of the connection is not that perfect as you have used to with smartphones but it is enough to deliver no hiccups in audio streaming services and no problems with Youtube buffering. Just keep in mind that such problems might occur if you have some shady reception areas at your home.

Finally, there is USB DAC / SPDIF out functions to use this player as external USB audio card or as a transport. Besides the native Windows driver for USB DAC, HiBy released a dedicated ASIO driver for their DAP lineup. Such driver delivers the best audio quality in Windows environment, bypassing any system processing. At the same time, ASIO drivers regularly produce more audio lag and the best option to use R5 and R5s while watching video with no lag would be to use Windows native driver instead.

Power usage:

Both version of players are equipped with 3500mAh batteries and quick charging ability with Qualcomm QC3.0 standard. Such capacity would usually give us ~17 hours of music playback with 3.5mm SE output and ~11H hours with balanced output. Those figures are almost similar to declared ones but only achievable with the screen off and at ~60% volume. Battery deterioration on R5 after a year of use is not significant, ~5%. Since R5s has the same battery and power output – we do not expect any changes here.

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In contrary to some less customer-oriented brands, HiBy actively supports its products and constantly increases functionality and usability. Moreover, FW upgrades can be performed manually by downloading update file and launching update function from system menu, or updates could be delivered over the air (OTA). We remember at least 6 upgrades to R5 in one year. And there was the first FW upgrade to R5s already. ASIO driver was also added some time after the initial R5 launch. Therefore, we expect HiBy to make further improvements and bug fixes of any would be reported by the community in future. As a company, HiBy is pretty responsive and value product feedback coming from the wild.

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Tested with AudioTechnica ATH-M50, Tanchjim Oxygen, Magaosi K6, Earnine EN2J, Moondrop Kanas Pro, Anew U1, HIFI BOY OSV3…  

Lows and midbass:

R5s has textured and perfectly outlined lows with enough presence and absence of the accent on this range. Bass is deep with fast decay. Lows are clear, naturally fill the space and perfectly separated from mids and treble. Bass remains fully perceptible at all volume levels. Midbass section feels powerful and have enough dynamics to deliver drums naturally. Sound stays neutral here — no evident influence from lower or higher ranges. Bass texturing is obvious, large amount of details and clear contouring.

Mids and vocals:

Vocals as well as the instruments in mids are quite thick and dense. The perceptible resolution is impressive and seems to be slightly raised by the influence of treble. Very slight emotional bloom here and there on female vocals and upper mid range instruments. Although, no screaming notes and no hisses. Male and female voices sound naturally and equally exposed. Instrument separation is decent which also helps to define a larger stage. In overall, mids feel smooth, quite thick and mellow with a slight emotional touch on higher portion.

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Treble is clear and crisp while seems to be very slightly more exposed than lows. It produces a bit cold sound with no tendency to show the excessive amount of sibilance. It is less delicate than in R6Pro, thus giving the sound more transparency and brightness. The overall signature of R5s is slightly brighter and colder because of that (in comparison to R6Pro). The resolution on this range is great, huge amount of details and impressive extension.


R5s produces large imaginary stage in both — width and depth. Stage is very large when paired with good IEMs over balanced type of connection. Precise instrument locations, defined contours, good layering between the ranges and distinct sound of all the instruments.

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Compared to R5:

Honestly, it was kind of a quest for us to understand the difference in sound signatures of R5 and R5s DAPs. They sound very similar at first few tries. The more you listen, the more R5s reveals its nature in A|B test comparisons. But the important note here is the end gear. If we were trying to find any differences with average-quality IEMs | speakers – no luck. Switching to a high-quality gear gives the expected results. Therefore, R5s is more demanding than R5 concerning the quality of IEMs, speakers or headphones. For instance, the most revealing IEMs for us were Tanchjim Oxygen, Moondrop SSP, Shozy & NEO BG… All of those have one thing in common – high resolving potential and slightly cold -> very cold tonality. The best pair were SHOZY & NEO BG – pure armature multi-driver units with fast response, excellent dynamics and high resolution. Such tandem shows more details and assertiveness in sound when compared to R5 as a source. The majority of details and more aggressive delivery occurs on mid -> lower high frequencies best served by specifically tuned IEMs. V-shaped, high-quality gear is ideal. In case of pairing R5s with warm or neutral IEMs – these deviations with R5 sound fade away, still leaving you with an impressive audio quality in overall, a bit warmer and slightly less detailed.

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Compared to R6Pro:

R6Pro definitely has more reference-like neutral sound with a little accent on delivering and resolving lows. It sounds mellow and warm with high amount of harmonics in lower and mid ranges. Treble is very delicate and calm. HiBy R5s is less oriented towards lows, exposing and resolving treble more. This leads to more emotional, energetic and brighter sound signature. Although, R5s and R6Pro have similarly good texturing on bass and large soundstage.

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The main question is to be or not to be, as usual. Currently, HiBy has both DAPs – R5 and R5 Saber edition on sales. Is $50 price difference justified by the resulting improvements in sound? We would say – yes, with a couple of exceptions. In fact, Saber sound version is definitely more resolving and delivered more aggressively but the DAP is dependent of end gear quality and tuning. It is a demanding source that hides the full potential until released by the right type IEMs, speakers or headphones. Fortunately, even with less capable end gear, R5s sounds similarly impressive as its predecessor – neither changing the tonality nor the overall perception. Consequently, the only one correct conclusion we can make: go for R5s in case of possessing/planning high-quality end gear to pair with this DAP or in case of willing to invest in a source with more potential. Otherwise, you can stick to R5 base version, save some budget and still get stellar performance and class-leading sound in mid-class DAP segment. Choose one…. 🙂

HiBy R5s can be purchased at HiBy official store HERE

Hiby R5 can be purchased at HiBy official store HERE

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