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Review: HiBy R6 Pro II

Differently bold

Speaking of differently bold, I really like the design of the new Pro. Sure it looks nothing like the original, so that lineage is broken, but it freshens up the ‘masculine’ styling of HiBy’s DAPs that started with the original R8, and which to me doesn’t work very well on HiBy’s smaller DAPs like R6 and RS6. 

That R6 Pro II is different to just about any other DAP I’ve seen is an understatement. The front is familiar enough – that new 5.9” IPS screen is big, bright, colourful, detailed, responsive and…big. I’ve grown used to using ‘smaller’ 4” and 5” screens on Android DAPs, and the new screen is the first time that I’m getting ‘modern smartphone’ vibes with a portable music player. 

The screen features one of the nicer IPS panels I’ve seen, with minimal edge bleed and rich colours with deep blacks and bright highlights. It’s absolutely stunning, and super responsive too, with an outsized 1080×2160-pixel resolution that makes small lettering and images crisp and vibrant. 

Some will argue you don’t need such a fancy screen on a DAP, and that bigger screens are an unnecessary battery drain, but I’d rather see larger batteries than smaller screens. Most players are just as tall as the R6 Pro II anyway, it’s just that their screens have larger bezels. Shrink down the bezels, even better make them edgeless and curved like modern smartphones, and usability will jump in leaps and bounds. 

R6 Pro II might be a start in this direction – I hope so anyway. It’ll also double nicely as an occasional media player, something I’ll be testing out later in the review.   

Buttons and ports

R6 Pro is one of the few new Android DAPs that drops the volume wheel in favour of dedicated buttons, which you’ll find on the right side of the player below the power and button and LED status light. I personally prefer volume buttons over wheels, finding them more intuitive and less troublesome (I have a love/hate relationship with HiBy’s somewhat erratic volume wheels on their previous DAPs). 

Unfortunately, I find the buttons on R6 Pro II a touch too thin, with not enough travel to make for easy blind-touch clicking. Unlike the indented and angled buttons on the RS8, these buttons sit almost flush with the body of the player, and I feel a bit like a braille reader sliding my finger from the LED light downward trying to figure out where the volume rocker is located and which side is up and down. 

The press-by-touch method is made even harder when the case is on. Yes, there are indents in the leather that mark out the button locations underneath, but the leather is so thick and the buttons so slight that the braille reading becomes just that bit harder again, and I often find myself either pressing power by mistake or pressing volume up when I want it lowered.

Now that I’ve had the player for a while, my muscle memory is getting better and I’m able to find the right buttons more consistently, but I still find myself having to reach down and eyeball the buttons more often than I’d like. An easy solution to the usability issue would be to have cutouts made in the case for the buttons, although this does expose them to scuffing if the case is accidentally dropped. 

I personally don’t even try to use the pause/play/forward/rewind buttons on the left side of the player, and in fact disable them when the screen is off seeing how often I end up pressing them by mistake when squeezing the player looking for the volume rocker. But, moving on, I’ll just say the button story is one of those YMMV ‘issues’ that may or may not be an issue for you at all. 

You’ll find all the IO ports you need on the bottom of the player – a strange decision given the absence of a volume wheel on top. That said, I don’t mind the bottom facing buttons, and you can always rotate the screen 180 degree with a simple settings switch if you want the buttons on top (albeit the player feels odd in hand when you do so due to its asymmetric design). 

Like all other recent HiBy players, you’ll find two dedicated 3.5mm single-ended and 4.4mm balanced line out and headphone ports on either side of the USB-C port in the middle. The port type is etched into the aluminium frame above each port, but good luck reading it black on black. 

At least the ports are consistent with the rest of the R6 series, line outs to the left, headphone outs to the right – which is maddeningly opposite to how they’re placed on the R8-series players. Please be very careful and be sure to check the volume setting before hitting play, especially with sensitive IEMs. The last thing you need is death metal at full blast to permanently damage your hearing. 

Cleverly, HiBy made both line-out ports variable, and your last setting is remembered by the player. You can also set the player to automatically reset to a lower volume level, and limit the volume output to a specified level, all very useful features that will and do prevent painful accidents from happening.  

The back of the player is where the design aesthetic really shines. It’s a retro design mixing glass-plated carbon fibre with grooved aluminium, separated by a chromed logo panel. While very interesting to look at, and practical in that the top carbon fibre section houses the radio antennas that wouldn’t work too well beneath solid aluminum, that’s where the novelty ends too. 

Once you slap on the case, the design disappears, and both black and purple players look identical other than the colour of their cases. In fact, if HiBy provided a purple case with the black DAP, you’d be none the wiser knowing which is which.

Overall, I really like the sleek new look of the R6 Pro II. It’s very light, at 285g, and the curved indented sides (that naturally align with your thumb and forefinger), and the slimmed-down top panel makes the overall shape very ergonomic in hand. This makes it an ideal portable source, even with the bigger screen, as it will easily slip into a shirt or shorts pocket, and not weigh you down like the bulkier, heavier flagship DAPs do.      

Continue to specs and features… 

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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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2 Responses

  1. Fabulous review! With so much detail and thought.

    Any view on how these compare to the shanling m6 ultra? And would pairing the R6P2 with an amp like the Topping NX7, be able to drive full sized headphones like say Sennheiser HD650s?

    1. Thank you. I have not used the Shanling so can’t say, but yes, connecting the R6 Pro II via line-out to an external amp will easily power full-size headphones.

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