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Review: HiBy Digital M300

Sound impressions

Let’s cut to the chase: M300 isn’t going to win any awards for high-end music playback. That said, it’s an extremely competent audio playback device which, when paired with the right software and earphones – particularly wireless earphones – provides a commendable upgrade from today’s basic smartphones.

DAPs don’t have their own sound, per se, but they can and do affect the sound of the IEMs you connect to them. Thankfully M300 keeps things fairly neutral, with a bit of jazz down low that makes for a sweeter sound many consumers will likely appreciate. Tonally I hear M300’s playback as neutral with a slight bass boost, with decent but unremarkable extension on both ends.

Technically, well, this isn’t a DAP I’m buying to maximise the performance of IEMs that cost ten or more times as much as the player itself. While I’ve been able to enjoy most of my higher-end IEMs – playback power is not an issue at all here – it’s not the most vivid, dynamic or detailed-sounding DAP I’ve heard. Still, it sounds better than my quad-Sabre DAC LG V60 smartphone with wired IEMs, and I can swear I’m hearing a smidge more detail and drive with wireless IEMs too.   

This last part is crucial because in my opinion that’s how M300 will be used most often. The fact that I can download and use the stored profiles in my Sony Headphones app, and also use LDAC Bluetooth for hi-res playback via UAPP, means the player is already much more useful to me than a non-Android player or iPhone with my TWS IEMs of choice.

Ultimately, critical sound performance of M300 is less important to me – and I would posit to most ‘non-audiophile’ users – than its performance as a versatile multimedia player, and in that regard, it’s not just good but outstanding for the money. 

Pairings and comparisons 

My M300 came bundled with HiBy Digital’s first wired IEM: XOE. This compact single dynamic driver set is designed specifically as an M300 companion, and is available in matching colours too. It has a fixed cable that hangs downward, with simple, small earpieces featuring a striking translucent window through which the playback driver is visible.

While I had great fun using expensive IEMs like Sony’s Z1R and HiBy’s own flagship, Zeta, with M300, I’d really only consider something like XOE for daily use. It’s tuned warm, with a full, meaty midbass response and just enough treble to bring in some detail, the perfect profile for users on the go, especially in noisy environments. 

I’ve already mentioned how much I enjoy using Sony’s XM5 TWS with M300, and this will be my personal combination of choice. Yes, XM5 costs more than M300 – and about ten times more than XOE – but because it supports multi-point connections, I can carry both my phone and M300 and seamlessly switch between them and XM5. This makes M300 an ideal gym, walking or general travel device, leaving the phone in the bag when all you want to do is listen to music or watch a video without being disturbed. 

Comparatively, I don’t think M300 is trying to do what dedicated DAPs – with or without Android – are going for. Similarly priced DAPs like HiBy’s new R3 II don’t have Android functionality, and their size and screens are limited to basic music navigation use. Sonically I think M300 is a match for the R3 II, although the latter is slightly warmer in its tuning, and also offers the option of balanced output for more power. 

Going up the line of dedicated DAPs, like R3 Saber, R5 II and R6 III, you’re getting further and further away from the M300 in both sonic performance and overall utility, not to mention price point. I also don’t think the sort of person likely to want an inexpensive multimedia device like M300 will want a dedicated music DAP for the same reasons. However, I do see M300 as an enticing entry point into the world of dedicated DAPs, even though it’s also going to find a (much larger) market for many of its other functions.      

Closing thoughts 

M300 is a very interesting gadget. I don’t use that word flippantly either, because I think that’s precisely its appeal. It’s a miniaturised Android smart device, but unlike a phone or tablet, it has a much narrower usage range – and that’s a good thing.

Think of what many commuters want a portable device to do: play music, watch the odd YouTube or TikTok video, maybe make some voice notes, or listen to radio. These are things you can do passively, without the distractions of voice calls and text messages, especially when you want to leave the phone at home to ‘disconnect’. It’s also a device far less likely to contain important private information and contacts, and so poses a much lower risk should it ‘disappear’ when out and about. 

I think it’s an interesting direction that HiBy is taking with the launch of HiBy Digital, trickling down it’s know-how in advanced audio playback devices and offering similar functionality in a more compact, cost-effective device with all the mod-cons for the younger, mobile generation. 

Whether or not it will succeed in stealing facetime away from phone users remains to be seen, but as a gadget and music lover, I can see the upside value and potential, and really hope it marks the start of a compellingly evolving product line for years to come. 

The HiBy Digital M300 is available to buy online from HiBy direct, or leading online retailers like MusicTeck.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of Guy Lerner

Guy Lerner

An avid photographer and writer 'in real life', Guy's passion for music and technology created the perfect storm for his love of portable audio. When he's not playing with the latest and greatest head-fi gear, he prefers to spend time away from the hobby with his two (almost) grown kids and wife in the breathtaking city of Cape Town, and traveling around his native South Africa.

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