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Review: HiBy R6 III

Sound impressions

While I stand by the opinion that sources don’t necessarily have their own ‘sound signature’, I’ve come to appreciate that different sources can have a significant effect on how you hear the IEMs and headphones you plug into them. 

If I were to use one word to describe the sound I get from the R6 III with all the IEMs I’ve tried with it so far, it’s ‘clean’. That’s not to say I find it sterile, as I have done with several other Sabre-based DAPs, but rather that there are no errant peaks or troughs that draw my attention or significantly alter the sound I’m expecting to hear. 

Tonality is neutral, and while I suspect there’s been a slight lift to the mid or upper bass, and similarly upper mids, that’s more or less aligned with how HiBy seems to be tuning its DAPs of late (other than the RS6, perhaps). As such, bass has the impact I expect, albeit not quite as precise or visceral as I’m used to with the more powerful, expensive flagships, and vocal clarity is maintained without any glare or grain. 

Because R6 III is so ‘tweakable’ with MSEB, any deviation from your preferences can be quickly and easily adjusted with almost zero loss in sound quality. As a matter of fact, I have ‘quick-and-dirty’ MSEB presets for different IEMs loaded into every HiBy DAP, so switching from one to the other means no more fiddling with settings regardless of the music app I’m using. 

Technically you can’t expect a mid-tier DAP to perform quite as well as the top dogs, and that’s the case here. Some of the finesse of more complex DAPs like HiBy’s own RS6 and RS8 is lacking, the result of which is a slightly flatter, less nuanced sound that’s not as effortless as you’d otherwise hear it. That said, the differences are only obvious in direct comparison with these players, and with a few MSEB tweaks, you can easily nudge almost any IEM very close to its full potential. 

Where the delta sigma DACs of the R6 III excel is transient speed. Music is presented in a fast, lively manner. Resolution is also very good, especially at this price point, and I’ll say it again, mid-tier DAPs are performing at a very similar level to higher-end DAPs from just three or four years ago. The playing field has definitely been leveled up in terms of digital conversion and amplification, and the divide between DAPs like R6 III and $1,000+ devices is down to single digits, in my experience. 

The best way to describe these differences is by comparing to other DAPs at different price points, and also describing the pairings with different IEMs, so let’s do that now. 

Select comparisons

HiBy R5 II ($449). Having used HiBy’s R5 II myself, it’s difficult to justify choosing it over the R6 III, especially since the latter is only $50 more expensive. Sound-wise, R6 III is definitely more resolving, more incisive, with a slightly larger stage in all dimensions. R5 II wins out in raw battery life, with more than 30 hours available off a single charge, and is also smaller and lighter, so more pocketable. Aside from that, R6 III is the superior DAP in every metric, from sound to performance to features and build quality. If you’re looking to buy a DAP in this price range, unless you need the smallest possible device available, forget the R5 II and pick up an R6 III. 

HiBy RS6 ($1399). At the other end of the scale, RS6 is HiBy’s first 6-series DAP with the new R2R Darwin architecture. Unlike R5 II and R6 III, it’s tuned warmer and thicker, with added midbass and vocal emphasis, a good dollop of warmth to its notes, and more relaxed treble. As such, RS6 is probably less suited to some IEMs than the neutral-tuned R6 III, but for those IEMs that it does click with, it’s clearly the superior DAP. That said, RS6 lacks some of R6 III’s modern niceties, like Class A amplification (although RS6 is significantly more powerful even without it), and Android 12. It’s also much heavier, so if you need a lightweight DAP, RS6 might not be the right fit. 

Select pairings

HiBy Hela ($99). HiBy sent me Hela along with the R5 II, and while I enjoyed that pairing, the extra poise and resolve of the R6 III is audible even with this so-called ‘entry-level’ single dynamic IEM. I really like Hela’s neutral-with-bass-boost tonality, and it’s remarkably balanced and resolving for a ‘cheap’ IEM. Plugged into R6 III, I’m enjoying more bass emphasis and texture, and clearer, more forward vocals, while treble stays in its lane without being too splashy or strident. 

634ears LOAK-TC ($700). Moving up a few tiers to 634ears’single dynamic flagship, LOAK-TC (red copper) makes a fine match with R6 III. LOAK’s is a big, dynamic, punchy sound, and the copper backing gives it a smoothness of character too. R6 III gives it a touch of added midrange clarity that to my ears benefits the overall balance. The inherent resolution of the dual Sabre DACs is also evident here, with LOAK sounding just as resolving from R6 III as I’ve heard it from far more expensive DAPs. There’s something to be said for synergy, and there’s synergy aplenty in this pairing. 

HiBy Zeta ($1299). HiBy’s new titanium-shelled, 9-driver hybrid flagship is, unsurprisingly, a great match for HiBy’s newest DAP. There’s a distinct boldness to Zeta’s delivery, headlined by exceptional bass performance, and R6 III does nothing to diminish it. I have a ready-made MSEB preset that cuts some of the heat from Zeta’s excitable upper midrange, and while I do find there’s a touch less contrast and drive with Zeta compared to how I hear it with the more powerful and dynamic RS8, it’s still a great everyday pairing – albeit with a significantly more expensive IEM. 

Continue to closing thoughts…

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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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One Response

  1. Another most excellent review – lucid, readable and relevant!
    Most enjoyable, keep ’em coming.

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