June 16, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA
Headphones

HiBy R4 Review – Headfonics

Lynn reviews the $249 HiBy R4, which is a new cyborg-inspired Android 12 DAP that features a quad DAC and up to 525mW of Class A amplification.

Disclaimer: This sample was sent to me in exchange for my honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links. I appreciate Hello by for your support.

You can click here to read more about the Hello by Products previously reviewed on Headfonics.

Please note that this article follows our current scoring guidelines which you can read in more detail here.

HiBy R4 Review Featured Image

HiBy R4 Review

Summary

From a performance perspective, the $249 HiBy R4 is an excellent intermediate DAP with software and plugins capable of elevating the quality and features typically found in much more expensive alternatives.

Swipe here to add your team score!33 votes

8.9

Advantages

Unique design and excellent functionality.

Many sound signature adjustment options (PEQ, MSEB, plugins).

Good streaming/navigation capabilities.

Cons

The case is prone to fingerprints and fits perfectly.

Project Ace's interchangeable jacks are not marked for their position and will loosen over time.

The new HiBy R4 DAP has caused quite a stir within the community. Is this the replacement for the venerable R3IIan update of the R5 Generation 2or an exercise that arises from the lessons of the R8II that Marcus recently reviewed? Or even an alternative to affordable. M300?

Since I have the M300 and the R3 Pro, the two will be compared and after reading a lot on the forums, I would say that the R4 is not only in its own HiBy niche, but is a complementary option to the R3 II.

There is a lot of competition at this price, even discounting the HiBy models, such as the Shanling M1he Fiio M11Sor the TempoTec V6although all of these are a little older.

However, there's enough difference between HiBy's many models that the R4 can stand on its own, and I find out exactly how in my full review below.

As a bonus, on page 3, we also do a brief review of HiBy's new HiBy x f.audio Project ACE IEMs. These also sell for $249, but along with the R4 you can get both for $489.

HiBy R4 on a wooden benchHiBy R4 on a wooden bench

Characteristics

The $249 HiBy R4 is a competitively priced digital audio player. It features Qualcomm's Snapdragon 665 CPU (3GB RAM, 32GB ROM) along with open-top Android 12.

Although primarily aimed at IEM users, headphone lovers will also appreciate the R4's 525mW Class A power at 32Ω (4-OPA1652, 2-OPA1612) 4.4mm balanced jack.

Running four ESS ES9018C2M DAC chips (two dedicated for PCM, two for DSD), the R4 supports PCM up to 768 kHz/32-bit and DSD up to 256. 16x MQA deployment helps achieve snappy response to music.

These aren't impressive numbers or specs, but the additional features included, such as MSEB, PEQ, and the numerous add-ons offered, set the R4 apart.

Helping keep the R4 signal disciplined, in addition to jitter, are dual FPGA clocks at 45.158 MHz and 49.152 MHz, which keep noise in the audio path to a minimum, as well as externalities and an accurate sound path.

Bi-directional BT 5.0 means the R4 can send and receive Bluetooth signals supporting UDAT, LDAC, aptX, aptX HD, AAC, SBC and others. It should be noted that aptX and aptX HD only support BT output, while the others listed are bi-directional.

WiFi using 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz allows for fast connectivity over networks. You should have no problems downloading from the included Google Play Store and HiBy's customizable plugins.

HiBy R4 rear panelHiBy R4 rear panel

Design

Esthetic

There's no getting around the different look of the R4. I like the “cyborg theme” design more and more and it is still functional. Those edges also allow the user to hold the DAP, while other sleeker designs rely on a case to hold it. I preferred the R4 without the included case in hand.

That cutting-edge design carries over to the rear, where a section of dark glass can be customized to display three diagonal colors during operation. This looks much better without the dark gray casing and complements the color of the DAP.

The numerous color options have been highly anticipated, especially an all-black version. This is a limited edition only for the Chinese domestic market.

The orange color scheme they sent me is quite nice, and for most of the test I left out the dark gray plastic casing. That case fits pretty well and does a great job of protecting the R4 (don't ask me how I know this).

Form factor

The R4 is also solidly built, with a large 4.7” touchscreen that operates without any hassle. The placement of the buttons is good enough to prevent accidental bumps. The placement of the buttons helps with functionality and they can be used equally with either hand (not always the case).

The raised button “knobs” are tactile and I was able to quickly access all functions without any hassle. The R4's weight of 231g makes it a little lighter than my iPhone 13 Pro Max, but it feels much lighter due to the dimensions of 129.6*68.3*18.5mm.

Although some have called the R4 “thick” due to its depth, I appreciated that extra thickness, which gave me better grip.

Battery duration

The R4's 4500 mAh battery takes about two hours to fully charge using a 20W power supply. It's not the fastest, but it's not the slowest either.

I was able to verify approximately 11 hours of runtime using the 3.5mm SE jack, reaching 11.3 hours, 10.75 hours and 11.2 hours in three successive tests (at different volume levels up to my limitations, which were not greater than 50 low gain and 45 high gain, depending on the listening source).

Running my preferred 4.4mm balanced output with the Project ACE IEM reduced the R4's runtime to 9.8 hours and 10.25 hours respectively using the same parameters listed above.

While the R4 is certainly not the best in its category, it is quite acceptable, especially since most of us have access to available charging facilities.

HiBy R4 in handHiBy R4 in hand

Screen

The R4's 4.7” IPS display has a larger blank area underneath than other comparable DAPs. This is beneficial since many of us rest our thumbs there.

The side borders are acceptable, but I want a slightly thinner black area. The R4's 720×1080 resolution LCD screen offers 24-bit and 16.7 million colors, which I find perfectly acceptable, even when watching some videos.

While it's not the sharpest, I had no problems defining finer details in video content or accessing apps. Again, for a device like this, these numbers seem like a perfect fit.

In my testing, I was able to easily access any app on the R4's screen and scrolling was good. Not great, but good. I found that feel-wise it wasn't the best, but compared to its competitors, it handled all my queries well.

However, adjusting the R4's color scheme is not easy. To change the background, you must first enter “Applications” from the “Settings” screen. After that, go to “Default Apps” and then press the gear icon on the next screen.

This is where you can change the color scheme in “App Icon Style”, changing the colors from blue, green, orange and original to how they would normally appear on your phone.

I found this unintuitive and came across it by accident. Then, after watching several video reviews, I noticed I wasn't alone. A small price, but cumbersome if the mood allows it.

Changing the R4's actual background is done in “Display”, then “Choose Wallpaper”, including the “Live” options if you have them loaded.

Again, it's not intuitive and this makes a difference, especially if you've changed the theme of the app. I found that I could choose an acceptable medium, which would allow me to see the applications displayed on the screen.

HiBy R4 bottom panelHiBy R4 bottom panel

IS

The R4 has three inputs/outputs on the bottom: a USB-C is used for charging and use as a USB DAC, a 3.5mm SE jack, and a 4.4mm Bal jack.

Dedicated LO was recently added in the latest firmware. You can configure the USB for file transfer, audio input (with USB charging still available), audio input (USB charging disabled), and no data transfer. The maximum volume can be set in the “Audio” settings.

The top left side of the R4 has the micro-SD slot (up to 2TB, 32GB built-in) and the volume up/down buttons. Many don't exclusively use SD music streaming, but it's nice to see it included. However, from what I've been reading, many transfer their music to an SD card and listen to it this way.

The R4's USB port also functions as a coaxial connection, but a conversion cable is not included.

HiBy R4 playback buttonsHiBy R4 playback buttons

Control S

The right side (when looking at the screen) of the R4 has the function buttons in a typical and logical order. The power button is covered in orange plastic and I assume that keeps it color coordinated.

A long press (more than two seconds) starts the process. I found this a bit annoying because of the time consumed. The play, FF and REW buttons work when the screen is off, which is also typical for a DAP.

The top of the R4 features a slot for a strap, which is included as a default accessory. The left side of the R4 carries the micro-SD slot (up to 2TB, 32GB built-in) and the volume up/down buttons.

You can lock different modes using the switch on the top. The default option is to lock the volume buttons when they are on (even when the screen is on) so you don't accidentally raise the volume.

The logical operation of the R4 buttons is much appreciated, although the effort involved is deliberate. The tactility is also quite good and the necessary functions work correctly.

When the R4's display is on, the top left corner of the back lights up three lines colored with your choice of DAP (orange lights up orange, green lights up green, etc.). I notice that when the smokey gray casing is under the light it is harder to see.

HiBy R4 AccessoriesHiBy R4 Accessories

Packaging and accessories

The R4 comes in a two-part package, with a slide-out section containing the necessary specifications and other items. The inner lid of the case is then lifted to reveal the R4 drive placed in a soft foam insert.

The experience is simple, but functional. This wouldn't be mistaken for a luxury item, but I appreciate the simplicity of the unboxing. The included USB-C to USB-C cable can be used for data transfer and charging.

The smoked gray plastic case is underneath and provides good protection for the R4. It also carries a lot of fingerprints, in addition to being quite an effort to install. This is one of the rare times that I preferred to use an item without the case, knowing full well the calamity that could befall me.

Two front screen protectors are included, and of course I made fun of mounting the first one. Slightly turned off, so when the case is on the bottom left it shows as “raised”. However, I left it on during testing but took it off to take pictures.

Click on page 2 below to see my impressions of the software.

Click on page 3 below to see my sound impressions and recommended combinations.

Click on page 4 below to see my selected comparisons.

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