iFi Announces Second-Generation hip-dac Portable Headphone DAC/ Amp
iFi's Applause Award-winning hip-dac is understandably one of the company's most popular portable USB DAC/headphone amps. However, as it edges towards its second birthday, it has been given an update.
The iFi hip-dac 2 boasts a raft of upgrades and updates, with the most obvious being its StereoNET-friendly 'Sunset Orange' anodised finish applied to its aluminium enclosure, replacing the original's 'Petrol Blue' hue.
Perhaps more meaningful is the 16-core XMOS chip that's employed to process data coming via USB and used in iFi's higher-priced DACs, such as the flagship iDSD Diablo. This boasts double the clock speed and four times the memory of the first iteration's 8-core XMOS chip.
As well as the uprated processing power, the new XMOS chip hands the hip-dac 2 the skills to deliver full MQA decoding. We are talking about the complete onboard 'three unfold' decoding process, instead of merely the final unfold in the manner of an MQA 'renderer' as undertaken by the original hip-dac and many other DACs at its price point. So, if you are a TIDAL Masters tier subscriber, you can now unleash the full potential of that particular hi-res catalogue.
Additionally, the iFi hip-dac 2 gets the updated version of iFi's GMT (Global Master Timing) circuitry, featuring a new crystal clock that promises to further eradicate jitter in the digital-to-analogue conversion process.
The hip-dac 2 retains the goodies that made the original so many friends, such as the Burr-Brown DAC chip with PCM and DXD support up to 384kHz and DSD from 2.8MHz to 12.4MHz (DSD64, 128 and 256). LEDs on each side of the hip-dac 2's volume dial indicate the format and sampling rate of the audio file being played.
The amp stage promises to deliver 400mW into a 32-ohm headphone load, which should cater for most headphones and earphones with iFi stating that even high-impedance headphones are welcome thanks to a quoted output voltage of 6.3V into 600 ohms (from the balanced output).
Furthermore, iFi's PowerMatch switchable gain helps match the amount of drive to the headphone load, adjusting input sensitivity and thereby signal strength. For example, iFi recommends leaving PowerMatch at its lower setting with high-sensitivity in-ear monitors to promote a silent, hiss-free background. But if your headphones benefit from a higher level of drive – such as many full-sized cans – try pressing the PowerMatch button to increase gain.
Also onboard is iFi's XBass, which is touted as a “sophisticated form of 'bass boost' that enhances low frequencies without muddying the midrange”.
The iFi hip-dac 2's connectivity suite includes two USB ports – Type A for audio data and USB-C for charging. The Type A input features a 'male' connector, enabling iPhones and iPads with Lightning ports to use Apple's Lightning to USB Camera Adapter. Good news then for those enjoying Apple Music's new Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless tiers.
You also get a 3.5mm headphone port and a 4.4mm Pentaconn output that caters for headphones equipped with balanced connectivity and so taking full advantage of the hip-dac 2's differential amp design.
According to iFi, the hip-dac 2's 2200mAh battery should see you through eight to twelve hours of playing time. But, of course, this all depends on how loud you play it and how power-hungry your headphones are.
iFi doesn't skimp on bundled cables either, as the hip-dac 2 comes with three USB cables: a USB-C OTG (On-The-Go) cable, a USB-A cable, and a USB-A to USB-C charging cable. However, the 'Dove Grey' vegan-friendly 'suede' protective slipcase is an optional extra costing £29.
The iFi hip-dac 2 is available now at an RRP of US$189. The inaugural hip-dac remains available at an RRP of US$169 while stocks last.
StereoNET’s resident rock star, bass player, and gadget junkie. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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