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Review: HiBy RS2 – R2R To Go

Closing thoughts   

HiBy has created quite the anomaly in RS2. Not quite a fully-fleshed Android DAP, being devoid of any wireless features and lacking even basic onboard storage, RS2 is still far more capable and better sounding than some of the very best dongle DACs out there. 

As the smallest, and therefore most portable discrete R2R DAP available today, RS2 doesn’t need a source device for playback, while giving you all the input and output options you’d need for a versatile listening experience. 

Compromises have been made for sure; the screen, while bright and responsive, is oddly too small, inexplicably taking up only half the available space on the fascia. The discrete R2R array is, presumably, not the most precise or sophisticated either, sacrificing technical acuity despite its very pleasant tonality. And there’s no Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or any streaming options whatsoever.

But then there’s the upside. It’s small enough that you’re not getting much advantage from going even smaller with a dongle, and you get better-than-dongle performance in the bargain. It’s self-contained, so you don’t need an external source, and yet easily switches into DAC mode to elevate the audio performance of your smart device or laptop. It has two SD card slots for storing multiple terabytes of music, a rarity nowadays, especially at this end of the market. It also ditches Android, giving you a far purer path to the music, something that will be much appreciated by some listeners.

The appeal of any DAP is in its use case. I can think of several use cases where RS2 will excel, not least being the most convenient, throw-in-your-bag, high quality playback device for the local file listener on a budget. That it’s an R2R DAP might not mean much to many people, but believe me when I tell you it’s a welcome rarity. Couple all this with a premium build and rock-solid software stability – with surprisingly intricate functionality – and you have a very compelling product in a very compact package.

My personal view is that RS2 is a new type of device that’s more a showcase of what’s possible on HiBy’s Darwin platform than what’s necessarily the most appealing to most DAP users. I can see the day when a high-end flagship R2R player is made with the same musical purist design philosophy as RS2, and in fact, it already has a far superior user interface and software platform when compared to some of the most expensive non-Android R2R flagships. 

For now, though, RS2 would be my pick for anyone wanting R2R ‘to go’. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t want or need the complexity and hardware requirements of an Android DAP, who frequently travels, and who’s only interested in getting the most from your personal music library without breaking the proverbial bank, add the HiBy RS2 to your list.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

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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