(Last Updated On: December 15, 2020)

The AP80 Pro is a mega-featured, marvelous, minuscule monolith.

In May 2018, Hidizs started crowd-sourced funding for the AP80 DAP, which (at the time) they described as the “Next Generation Ultraportable Hifi Music Player”. 1,795 backers supported it, and they raised more than $240,000 in funding. The AP80 is a tiny yet feature-rich digital audio player that retails for a mere $120 USD.

After a few aesthetic upgrades, including making the AP80 available in a stainless steel or copper body (rather than the standard aluminum housing), Hidizs has more recently released the AP80 Pro. Since the Pro model keeps appearing on ‘best-of’ lists of budget DAPs, I wanted to try it myself.

The Hidizs AP80 Pro would make a fine Christmas gift! :)

Hidizs AP80 Pro

"I’m genuinely floored by the amount of customization, features, and options that the AP80 Pro offers. It’s entirely bargain-priced, but virtually no aspect of its build quality or performance would lead you to believe that. However, those who would like to use a DAP for streaming services will have to look elsewhere."

Pros:

  • »Balanced headphone output delivers good power and sound quality.
  • »The screen is bright, crisp, and clear.
  • »The full-featured OS remains reasonably speedy.
  • »A combination of minimum size and maximum build quality.
  • »The sound is balanced and clear.
  • »Tons of connection and modes: DAC, Amp, Source, Bi-directional Bluetooth.
  • »DSD 256 support.

Cons:

  • »Single-ended output’s sound lacks the emotional impact of the balanced output.
  • »The volume control wheel is a bit wobbly.
  • »The sheer number of settings and features can be overwhelming.

The AP80 Pro is a real upgrade over the original model, including a move to a dual-DAC ES9218 chipset, support for balanced headphone connections, and a dedicated HBC3000 FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) chipset to support higher-rate DSD decoding. Somehow, Hidizs did this while retaining the first design’s diminutive shape and size (the Pro is just a mere millimeter or two larger).

These upgrades certainly seem like they deserve the ‘pro’ moniker. Dual DAC, DSD, and balanced output in a device not much larger than a box of matches? Not to mention, it includes a full-color OLED touchscreen.

Did I mention this teeny-tiny box of tech magic only costs $160 USD?

It is just a toy, or can the AP80 Pro deliver for audiophiles on a budget?

The copper clad AP80CU induces lust. (From: hidizs.net)
The copper clad AP80CU induces lust. (From: hidizs.net)

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Hidizs Overview

Hidizs (pronounced ‘hid-is’) was founded in 2009 by a group of technicians with HiFi audio research and development experience. Their goal was “to produce a superior and affordable pocket HiFi audio device.”

In 2010 they started researching the global HiFi audio market, and they officially finalized their team in 2012. The AP100, launched in 2014, was the first music player created by Hidizs. In 2017, they funded the AP200 DAP through Kickstarter. 2018 saw the release of the AP80 DAP, and in 2019 the Hidizs team branched out and produced the Mermaid MS4 IEMs.

Now the Hidizs company offers several different DAPs, IEMs, Bluetooth modules, amplifiers, and accessories.

Technical Specifications

  • Name: Hidizs
  • Brand: AP80 Pro
  • Price: $160
  • Form: Digital Audio Player (DAP)
  • DAC: Saber ESS9218P x2
  • Master Chip: Ingenic X1000
  • FM Radio: 4705
  • Pedometer Sensor: KX126
  • Operating System: HiBy Music HiBy OS 3.0
  • Screen: Samsung 2.45″ (480×360) IPS HD Touchscreen
  • External Micro SDHC Memory Card Support: 512 GB (FAT32) supports firmware upgrade
  • Support for FLAC, APE, WMA, WAV, ALAC, AAC, OGG, MP3, AIFF, DSF, DIFF, DSD 64/128/256 audio formats
  • PCM Support: 384kHz/32Bit
  • Gain Settings: High/Low
  • Digital Filters: 8
  • Bluetooth Version: 4.2
  • Bluetooth Audio Codec: Apt-X, LDAC, and HiBy Link
  • Outputs: 3.5mm stereo, 2.5mm balance, USB-C
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-90kHz
  • Total Harmonic Distortion+Noise: 0.0015% (1kHz)
  • Recommended Headphone Impedance Range: 8-200Ω

Single-Ended Output

  • Output Power (per channel): 70mW @32ohm
  • Dynamic Range: 115dB
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: 119dB
  • Channel Separation: 70dB (1kHz, A-weight, Rated Output)

Balanced Output

  • Output Power Balanced (per channel): 190mW @32ohms
  • Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise: 0.0015% (1kHz)
  • Dynamic Range: 116dB
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: 120dB
  • Channel Separation: 98dB (1kHz, A-weight, Rated Output)
  • Controls: Japanese ALPS Volume/Power Knob, three physical buttons: play/pause, previous track, next track
  • Battery: 800mAh 3.7V Li-Polymer Battery
  • Battery (hours): 6-8 (balanced), 8-11 (single-ended)
  • Deep Standby Time: 50 days (depends on actual usage)
  • Body material: aluminum, Rear: stereoscopic glass
  • Colors: red, blue, black, grey
  • Dimensions: 61x56x13.8mm
  • Weight: 68g
  • IPX: N
Whew! That might be the most extended list of specifications and features I’ve ever seen for a device!
The packaging is plain but professional.
The packaging is plain but professional.

Packaging

The AP80 Pro comes in a logoed black box. The packaging is all clean, professional and suitable for the product. It’s a simple black cardboard box with a few accessories inside and is absolutely sufficient for this budget device.

The accessories are sufficient but not especially generous.
The accessories are sufficient but not especially generous.

In the box

  • AP80 Pro DAP (front and rear screen protectors are pre-applied)
  • 2 Screen Protectors
  • USB C – USB A cable
  • USB C – Micro USB cable x2 (±19cm)
  • Silicone Case
  • Quality Certificate
  • Serial Number Card
  • 10% off e-Coupon
  • User Manual
There is a black or brown leather case available for $25 USD. I used the included 10% off coupon and ordered one!

Design

The AP80 Pro is a surprisingly well-manufactured device. It feels like a small, high-end smartphone, with a chamfered aluminum shell and glass on either side. The AP80 Pro is a bit thicker, but overall it’s only about 1/3 the size of my iPhone X. The AP80 Pro is beautiful and very reminiscent of high-end FiiO or Astell&Kern DAPs.

Fingerprints are the drawback to all that attractive glass.
Fingerprints are the drawback to all that attractive glass.
The fit and finish would be acceptable on a player ten times the price and is outstanding for such an inexpensive device.
The bottom has 2.5mm balanced, USB C, and standard 3.5mm ports.
The bottom has 2.5mm balanced, USB C, and standard 3.5mm ports.

The AP80 Pro is approximately square in shape, with the 2.45” Samsung IPS screen slightly offset to the left on the front. The left side has a micro SD slot (there is no internal memory, but it supports up to 512Gb cards). The bottom has a 2.5mm TRRS balanced headphone jack, USB-C port, and 3.5mm TRS headphone jack.

The micro SD card slot actually looks pretty large on the diminutive AP80 Pro.
The micro SD card slot actually looks pretty large on the diminutive AP80 Pro.

The right side has a small round aluminum volume/power knob and three aluminum buttons for forward, back, and play/pause. The aluminum case flares slightly on this side to protect the knob from accidental activation.

I prefer a device with a few physical buttons.
I prefer a device with a few physical buttons.
The volume knob is reportedly a high-quality Japanese Alps rotary potentiometer and is nicely clicky-feeling when turning. Still, it wobbles a bit when rocked back and forth, which decreases the otherwise high-end experience.

Ergonomics are excellent. The AP80 Pro is pleasantly weighted and gives the impression of intrinsic worth. It fits nicely in hand, the touch screen is responsive, and the buttons and knobs are intelligently located and work as they should.

Amazon Prime Day yielded a good quality Micro SD card for the AP80 Pro. Note that it does not come with one.
Amazon Prime Day yielded a good quality Micro SD card for the AP80 Pro. Note that it does not come with one.
The SD slot is tight and requires a tool or another SD card to fit in to pop the installed card out.

Screen

The Samsung 2.45” IPS touchscreen is clear and easy to read, even in bright conditions outside. Colors are great, and cover art pops. It features a resolution of 480×360, and icons are easily discernible.

The default font (small) may be a bit too small for some eyes. Unfortunately, upping the font size in the settings means the side of the screen cuts off words.

Software and Features

The AP80 Pro does not use Android as its OS; instead, it is based on the HiBy Music Player. While this means there is no support for Android APK loading or customization, HiBy OS 3.0 is undeniably feature-rich and impressive.

Updating the firmware.
Updating the firmware.
New features are added through firmware updates. As of writing, the most recent version is Firmware v1.3, which adds audiobook support and AAC Bluetooth codec transmission. Simply follow the link on a computer, download the update file onto a microSD card, and use the firmware update option in the AP80 Pro’s settings menu.
The firmware is updated to the newest available version.
The firmware is updated to the newest available version.

Seriously, the AP80 Pro’s list of supported formats and software features is pretty overwhelming. Just check out the Specifications section above! Digital filters, EQ, and sound shaping settings abound. It’s easier to point out that there is no app support for streaming services (such as Tidal, Spotify, etc.), and MQA decoding isn’t on the list. Beyond that, there isn’t much that this micro-marvel can’t do.

Although MQA is not a listed feature, the AP80 Pro does appear to support playback of MQA files. I’m unclear whether this is fully decoded or rendered.
MQA playback?
MQA playback?

Sound Settings

The menu structure is incredibly detailed and would take far too long to list everything. Instead, I will list some of the fascinating audio adjustment features found in the MSEB (digital signal processing) and Play settings in the Player app. If you like to tweak audio settings to fit your personal preferences, you will find the HiBy OS 3.0 much to your liking.

Mage Sound 8-ball Tuning. Now that's a name!
Mage Sound 8-ball Tuning. Now that’s a name!

MSEB (Mage Sound 8-ball Tuning) Settings (Player)

  • Overall Temperature: Cool/Bright – Warm/Dark
  • Bass Extension: Light – Deep
  • Bass Texture: Fast – Thumpy
  • Note Thickness: Crisp – Thick
  • Vocals: Recessed – Forward
  • Female Overtones: Detox – Vivid
  • Sibilance LF: Soft – Crisp
  • Sibilance HF: Soft – Crisp
  • Impulse Response: Slow/Musical – Fast/Hard
  • Air: Soft – Crisp
There are no shortage of available options to tailor the sound.
There are no shortage of available options to tailor the sound.

Play settings

  • Play mode
  • DSD Output mode: PCM, DOP, Native
  • DSD gain compensation
  • Resume
  • Gapless playback
  • Soundfield
  • Max volume
  • Fixed power-on volume
  • Crossfade
  • Gain: Low/High
  • Replaygain
  • Balance
  • Antialiasing Filter: Linear Phase fast roll-off, slow, Minimum phase fast, slow, Apodizing fast, slow, Corrected Minimum, Brick Wall.
  • Play through
The pop-up options are accessed by sliding up from the bottom of the screen.
The pop-up options are accessed by sliding up from the bottom of the screen.
Swiping up from the bottom pops up a quick access screen to change settings for Bluetooth, Gain, USB, Line Out, Brightness, Volume, and Play Controls.

Connection Options and Modes

In addition to an all-in-one digital audio player (DAP), the AP80 Pro can function as a USB DAC or transport (source for another DAC), connected via cables or a variety of Bluetooth codecs. It performs flawlessly for me regardless of how I connect it.

The HiBy Link connection screen on the smartphone app.
The HiBy Link connection screen on the smartphone app.

Cooked into all these features is another cool innovation entitled HiBy Link. Simply download the HiByMusic player app on your smartphone, pair it with your AP80 Pro, and you can control the AP80 Pro’s music playback from your phone without ever taking it out of your pocket. Wow.

Internals

There is an incredible amount of technology under the AP80 Pro’s hood. It features dual ES9218 SABRE DAC chips, an Ingenic X1000 processor (also used by FiiO and HiBy), and a custom HBC3000 FPGA chip (for noise and jitter correction).

All this means the AP80 Pro can support FLAC, APE, WMA, WAV, ALAC, AAC, OGG, MP3, AIFF, DSF, DIFF, and DSD 64/128/256 audio formats. PCM support is 384kHz/32Bit.

Adding the second ES9218 DAC chip allows for proper balanced-output playback, with the inherent output power increase. In this case, the AP80 Pro yields up to 190mW @32Ohms from the 2.5mm balanced jack, vs. 70mW from the 3.5mm jack.

Processing power is absolutely sufficient for this device. DSD support and navigation is reasonably quick, albeit slightly slower than FLAC. Somehow the AP80 Pro does all this without getting too warm.

Music database updates and scans take a few minutes to complete but are reasonably snappy even for extensive collections.

Battery

The internal Li-Po battery is rated as 800mAh 3.7V. Usage lifespan is about 12 hours (single-ended) and 8 hours or so for balanced headphone usage. Of course, these values vary significantly depending on the file format, Bluetooth, volume, screen on-time, etc. What is impressive is that a full charge happens in about 1 hour.

Bluetooth connection options.
Bluetooth connection options.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is only 4.2 (rather than the newer version 5); however, it does support high-quality aptX and LDAC codecs, as well as HiBy’s own UAT (Ultra Audio Transmission) codec. Bluetooth is bi-directional. That is, it can serve as a transport (source) for Bluetooth headphones or a receiver, or the AP80 Pro can receive a Bluetooth connection and play files from a different device.

AP80 Pro Sound Quality

Since there are almost limitless combinations of audio tweaks available through the software, I completed all my testing and notes with settings ‘flat’ and unaltered unless noted.

Overall, AP80 Pro’s sound signature is characterized as being reasonably neutral and natural. It leans towards clarity and brightness, and this produces a good impression of transparency. These impressions are essentially an aggregate average, and I compiled them using a variety of headphones, including the Meze 99 Classics, HarmonicDyne Zeus, Thieaudio Legacy 5 IEMs, and Mangird Tea IEMs.

The balanced headphone output yields a noticeable improvement.
The balanced headphone output yields a noticeable improvement.

The sound is noticeably improved using the balanced output for any headphones or IEMs that benefit from additional amplification. Channel separation, clarity, and dynamics are increased, making the listening experience more visceral and engaging. The single-ended output feels somewhat flat in direct comparison.

Format support is excellent for high-res file formats.
Format support is excellent for high-res file formats.
Let me caution you. 190mW @32Ohms from a reasonably low voltage device is not enough to drive inefficient headphones properly. Set your expectations appropriately, and you won’t be disappointed.

There was no noticeable hiss using highly-efficient IEMs, and the background remained silent.

Full disclosure, I have found the perfect pairing for the AP80 Pro, and I have adhered it to the bottom of my Chord Mojo, connected via a short, right-angle, USB C – Micro cable. This combo marries all the features of the OS with the Mojo’s outstanding sound quality.

Married to the Mojo.
Married to the Mojo.

They fit surprisingly well together. By adding some rubber feet to the top of the Mojo, they can sit comfortably with the AP80 Pro on top. It makes for an impressively solid lump of aluminum audio excellence.

AP80 vs. AP80 Pro Comparison

FeatureAP80AP80 Pro
DAC ChipsetESS9218PESS9218P x2
Headphone Outputs3.5mm3.5mm + 2.5mm balanced
Battery LifeUp to 15 hoursUp to 13 hours
Standby Battery LifeUp to 50 daysUp to 35 days
Bluetooth44.2
FPGA Chipsetn/aHBC3000
DSD Support64, 12864, 128, 256

Where to Buy

Conclusion

Thank you to Headphonesty for purchasing the Hidizs AP80 Pro at my request. I had done my homework, and this model kept popping up at the top of the bargain DAP list. I just had to know how it performed for myself!

The Hidizs AP80 Pro was purchased from Linsoul.

The iPod is long gone, and Apple firmly believes that the modern iPhone is a suitable replacement. Indeed, current smartphones offer a wide variety of applications. They can yield excellent sound quality and output power when paired with an external portable DAC/Amp.

House key for scale. Alicia Keys for the pun.
House key for scale. Alicia Keys for the pun.

However, this tiny portable Digital Audio Player has made me believe that phone-based portable audiophilia simply isn’t enough.

Benefits of the AP80 Pro over a smartphone

  • Dedicated design for headphone listening, including balanced output and physical buttons.
  • Removable high-capacity micro SD card support.
  • HiBy OS is staggeringly feature-rich with DSP and EQ options.
  • Integration for remote smartphone control via HiBy Link.
  • Tiny size for ultimate pocketable portability.
  • Frees up the smartphone for other uses.
  • Less expensive than a smartphone plus a portable DAC/amp.

I’m genuinely floored by the amount of customization, features, and options that the AP80 Pro offers. It’s entirely bargain-priced, but virtually no aspect of its build quality or performance would lead you to believe that. However, those who would like to use a DAP for streaming services will have to look elsewhere.

The only sonic compromises are of ultimate fidelity and power output, but the step to including a balanced output on the Pro model moves the AP80 line firmly in the right direction. I’ve entirely sidestepped this issue by pairing it semi-permanently with a Chord Mojo. This combination has become my go-to for daily listening and much of the headphone and IEM testing I do for Headphonesty.