These days, Smartphones have evolved to a point that they can do everything well. That includes playing music. In fact, some are even equipped to specialize in it.
Despite all this, there are people like me, who still appreciate the benefits of having a dedicated music player. Personally, I’m one of those guys who wouldn’t mind carrying a separate device for music, simply because the sound that comes from it satisfies my ears more.
|OS||Hiby 3.0 Linux Version|
|Supported Formats||32-bit/348 kHz|
|DSD Support||DSD 64/128|
|Display||2.45″ Touch, 480 x 360|
|Dimensions||58 x 49 x 13.5mm|
|Storage||MicroSD Card, Up to 1TB|
Out of the Box
I like that Hidizs puts a lot of attention to the packaging of its products. Despite the AP80 being technically, a budget DAP, you still get more than enough goodies from the box.
Apart from the USB-C cable and manual, there’s the package also comes with a USB-C to MicroUSB cable. The length is a bit short, but it’ll come in handy. The company is also generous enough to include a jelly case. It’s not the prettiest case in the world, but having it on the device still gives you some peace of mind, which is better.
You also get screen protectors for both the front and back, and an e-gift card, which contains a code that you can use to get 10% off your purchase of a Hidizs product.
At 58 x49 x13.5 mm, the AP80 is one of the smallest DAP’s I’ve seen, apart from the Cowon Plenue D, and a Philips Go Gear that I had a few years back. Its edges are slightly curved, but still feel sharp.
The volume dial on the right has a satisfying clicky feel to it. Just below it is buttons for controlling playback – Previous, Play/Pause and Next. They’re pretty easy to distinguish, but it would’ve been nice if they were a little bigger.
Up front is a 2.45” IPS touch display with a resolution of 430 x 360. As expected, colors are really punchy, and brightness is more than enough. You’ll also notice that the screen doesn’t take up the whole face of the device, perhaps to give space to the components inside.
The display itself is quite responsive, though not as fluid as what you’d get from say a midrange Android Smartphone, which is totally fine.Under the hood is an Ingenic X1000 chip and an ES9218P DAC, the same one that you’ll find in the Shanling M0.
The AP80 can be used as a USB DAC for say, a laptop. While this feature can be considered as a bit of an extra at this price point, it’s there, if you want to use it.
It supports Bluetooth 4.0 and Apt-X, so you can pair this one up with your home speakers, or even with today’s trend, True Wireless Headphones. It also supports up to DSD 128, a format which is even higher than CD quality.
Volume can be precisely adjusted in single steps up to 100, though my ears are already ringing at around 60. There’s no volume normalization here of any sorts, so you may find yourself adjusting it as you skip through tracks.
Hidizs AP80 runs Hiby OS (Version 3 to be specific), the same OS that runs on Hidiz’s other DAP, the AP200, and the popular Hiby R3 and Hiby R6.
The interface is pretty much straightforward and easy to use. Updating the library is done in a single tap, and it gives you the options to select a particular folder where it will play the songs from. You can browse by folder, artist, album, genre or even format. Navigation is mostly done by swiping left and right.
You can also create playlists from the player itself. The Now Playing screen shows track info, time, a seek bar, playback controls, and supposedly album art. I had a Cowon Plenue D, and that shows album art perfectly every single time. If I remember correctly, even my previously owned AP200 showed album art perfectly fine. This one, I’m not so sure why it doesn’t, not that I really need it.
You can customize the color theme of the UI to your heart’s content, change the font size, adjust the display brightness, backlight time out, left and right balance, among a lot of other options. There’s also a small menu that appears when you swipe upwards, allowing you to control the volume, turn Bluetooth on and off, and more.
Perhaps my favorite part of this OS, is MSEB, or Mage Sound Eight Ball, which allows you to fine tune the sound signature by adjusting a bunch of sliders. What’s even more amazing is how responsive the player is to the adjustments that you make. There’s also a separate equalizer, though I don’t really use it.
Want your sound bright? No problem, want it warm? Move the slider more to the left. You can also set how forward the vocals are, and how airy the sound is.
Tested using the Sony XBA N3 IEM.
Bass. By default, the bass on this player is just right. In Reason for Breathing by Babyface, there’s enough thumping to keep your head swaying, but not too much that it ruins the other frequencies. Of course, you can sort of enhance it with MSEB or even the default equalizer, but for non-bassheads, this is a treat.
Mids. Vocals come across crisp and clear. In Patti Austin’s All Behind Us Now, the vocals go slightly above the instruments, to the benefit of the XBA N3, an IEM that I’d say specializes in presenting vocals. With everything going on, every “s” and “ch” is clearly audible, without being piercing.
Highs. In Maroon 5’s Maps, the percussion instruments at the back are presented with superb clarity and resonance. Again, the AP80 showcases its prowess of separating instruments, such that you can clearly distinguish individual sounds from each instrument even when there’s a ton of things going on in the background.
With MSEB and its Equalizer off, the AP80 is a pretty balanced-sounding DAP, offering just the right amount of bass, sweet vocals, and clear highs. It also offers good instrument separation, and just enough sparkle in the treble so that each song sounds as lively as it should be.
With the screen off, and volume ranging from 50 to 60, I was able to get around 11 hours of continuous playback time from the AP80, which is really good considering the player’s very compact size. The unit we had charged to 100% at around 2 hours when connected via my PC’s front USB port. It’ll most likely be faster when using a dedicated charger.
Emman has been writing technical and feature articles since 2010. Prior to this, he became one of the instructors at Asia Pacific College in 2008, and eventually landed a job as Business Analyst and Technical Writer at Integrated Open Source Solutions for almost 3 years.