When HiBy’s R8 was released two years ago, I felt at the time that the flagship Android DAP had finally come of age, combining the performance, stability, and features of a ‘smart’ Android DAP with top-tier sound quality and technical ability.
But R8 proved to be somewhat divisive, and didn’t win over too many summit-fi DAP users at the time, for a variety of reasons. Those shackles are gone now, and in RS8 I believe HiBy has created a unique summit-fi DAP that not only matches the performance levels of its peers, but also sets the bar with new features and technologies you won’t find in any of them.
While R2R technology is not new per se, RS8’s R2R performance in a fully-specced open Android DAP very much is. Some will argue there are still some sound quality gains to be had from specialist ultra-high-end R2R DAPs, but none will give you the flexibility, versatility and speed of RS8’s Android platform.
If, like me, you regularly use streaming apps, or rely on wireless technology for network playback and file management, or want to use your DAP for more than just listening to music, no other DAP on the market will give you all of that alongside desktop-grade R2R and Class A amplification performance in a portable player, compared to RS8.
Make no mistake, there are still improvements to be made, like finding better solutions for protecting the premium titanium finish, optimising file access speeds, and fine-tuning some settings and display options. RS8 is also not going to win any measurements awards against the leading Delta Sigma-equipped flagship players, and at 590g, some will even say it’s straddling the line between a portable and transportable player.
Still, what we have today in RS8 is what I consider to be the most complete, refined and mature of all the premium open Android DAPs, with sound quality that now matches, if not surpasses, everything that’s come before at this level. HiBy has managed to take the technical strengths of R8, fix some of its weaknesses, and double down on the already-excellent R2R voicing of its debut Darwin DAP, RS6.
Where we go from here is anyone’s guess, but I feel we’re starting to hit a fairly steep wall of diminishing returns at the top end of the DAP market, which is usually a sign of longer-term maturity. To that end, I feel RS8 is not just another high-end DAP with potential for improvement. Instead, it has the potential to become the foundation of a summit-fi system, for the discerning portable audio enthusiast, for years to come, and therefore earns my highest possible recommendation.
One more thing…
I’d be remiss not to mention a companion product that HiBy has just started shipping at the time of writing: the CR08 audio player dock. Designed specifically for the RS8, but compatible with any USB-C-equipped or line out-capable portable player, CR08 is an advanced desktop dock that provides sophisticated cooling technology along with digital and analogue pass-through support for connecting RS8 to external desktop hardware, including full-size DACs, preamps and amplifiers.
I haven’t been able to fully test CR08, but from my limited time with it so far, I’m seeing a well-built, well-engineered product that, while short of one or two important features, can certainly benefit the RS8 experience. I’ll cover CR08 in more detail in future reviews, but feel free to comment or contact me directly should you want more information about it. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a parting image of the two devices together.