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Review: HiBy Crystal 6 – Crystal Clear

Hiby Crystal 6
Hiby Crystal 6

This may be HiBy’s first try in producing multi-driver IEMs, but the Crystal 6 produce a remarkably detailed and clean sound. However, there are a couple of things to be aware of…

Thank you to HiFiGo for providing the HiBy Crystal 6 for review purposes. If you would like to purchase the Crystal 6 they are available here at HiFiGo.

Introduction

HiBy is known for producing quality portable audio players such as the R6, R6 Pro, R3, R3 Pro, R5, R8, and the NEW R6. On the other hand, HiBy has only produced 2 IEMs under their brand, the Seeds and the Beans, both of which are entry-level IEMs with single dynamic drivers. So, when I first saw that the Crystal 6 has six balanced armatures, I was a bit skeptical.

Let’s see if my worries hold true.

Hiby Crystal 6
Bottom Line

In the past, I was not a fan of pure balanced armature driver earphones. However, the technology of BA drivers is constantly improving and newer balanced armature earphones are sounding much better than past models. Regrettably, the HiBy Crystal 6 does not have the same bass response that I enjoy from dynamic driver earphones, but there is no denying that they are very detailed and have strong technicalities.

What We Like
  • Detail retrieval and resolution is class-leading
  • Good treble extension
  • Airy and tall soundstage
  • Midrange transparency
  • Ergonomically-shaped to be worn comfortably
  • Great selection of accessories
What We Don't Like
  • Mediocre sub-bass extension
  • Upper midrange and treble forwardness can be harsh (dependant on the choice of ear tips)
  • Average soundstage width
  • The shell may be too big for smaller than average ears

About HiBy

The original HiBy R6 DAP was released in late 2017~early 2018. Despite having a high output impedance, it still was loved by many. At the beginning of 2019, the R6 Pro was released to solve the previous model’s impedance issue.

Recently, HiBy has brought out the R8 (not the Audi, but still a very powerful DAP) as their first high-end product. They have also renewed the R6.

HiBy also provides the firmware for many DAPs from Fiio, Cayin, Shanling, Hidizs, and others. There is no question that they are very experienced in the DAP market.

Wood faceplates in the Crystal 6!
Wood faceplates in the Crystal 6!

“Established in 2011, HiBy Music specializes in research, development, and sales of high-quality portable audio products. With over 40 professional audio R&D staff and nearly 20 years of experience in the portable audio field, we have developed dozens of portable digital audio players (DAPs), earphones, USB DACs, etc.

Our own HiByMusic smartphone audio player app also has a user base of 2 million users in over 100 countries around the globe and has won accolades from professional users regarding its audio quality.” – HiBy Music

Technical Specifications

  • Drivers: 6 Balanced armature drivers
    • Knowles driver 22955 bass x1
    • Custom driver 1006 mid x2
    • Custom driver 30098 high x1
    • Custom driver 31735 high x2
  • Impedance: 14 Ω
  • Sensitivity: 107 dB/mW
  • Frequency response: 5 – 60000 Hz
  • Chassis material:
    • Shell: Epoxy interior, German Nice-Fit™ UV cured enamel exterior
    • Faceplate: Dyed wood artwork
  • Cables: 3.5mm TRS Cable x 1, 4.4mm TRRRS Cable x1
    • 3.5mm: coaxial 4-core silver-plated OFC copper
    • 4.4mm: coaxial 4-core OCC (Ohno Continuous Cast) copper

Packaging and Accessories

I love the purple/bluish colour scheme of the box!
I love the purple/bluish colour scheme of the box!

The HiBy Crystal 6 comes in a beautiful box. I love the blue/purple color scheme, and I find it refreshing from the usual black/white/grey colors in which most other audio products are packaged. The model name is written prominently on top.

After removing the outer box, you are greeted by a white box. It has a more simplistic design compared to the outer box

Another box in the blue/purple box.
Another box in the blue/purple box.

After you remove the white box, you see the earphones themselves. The faceplates of the earphones look very cool, but more on that later.

Is the cover necessary? Maybe not. But does it look good? Yes!
Is the cover necessary? Maybe not. But does it look good? Yes!

Under the earpieces, you will find all the accessories that you could need. There are 10 pairs of ear tips, with 1 pair pre-installed onto the earpieces. The cables (yes, two of them) are kept inside the case.

HiBy has provided everything you might want for the Crystal 6. A big round of applause for HiBy right here.

Make sure to try out the different ear tips. Just like most other universal-fit IEMs, the HiBy Crystal 6 are tip-dependent, which means that the selection of tips will noticeably affect not only the comfort of the IEMs but also the sound. More on that later in the comfort section!

Presenting all the accessories in the unboxing!
Presenting all the accessories in the unboxing!

I would like to draw your attention to the cables. While they may not be the prettiest, I absolutely love the idea of having both a 3.5mm unbalanced and a 4.4mm balanced cable. For people like me who are using a player with a 4.4mm output, the balanced cable allows me to enjoy the full potential of my player without the need to purchase a third-party cable.

A lot of eartips, and a good carrying case are all provided.
A lot of eartips, and a good carrying case are all provided.

Both the 3.5mm and the 4.4mm cables have a coaxial design. This means the cable only has two strands instead of the more common four. Both cables are light, soft, and supple, making them very manageable and comfortable for daily usage.

In the more usual 4-strand cable designs, two of the strands are conductors for the left channel and two for the right. In a coaxial cable, each strand has an outer conductor surrounding an inner conductor (separated by an insulator). As a result, coaxial cables generally have a smaller size and lighter weight than a non-coaxial design cable
2 cables?! At this price range? That is a huge plus.
2 cables?! At this price range? That is a huge plus.

Design and Comfort

The faceplates of the HiBy Crystal 6 are made from stabilized wood. So, every faceplate will have a unique look. I am not a huge fan of wood designs in general, but the HiBy looks alright to me. You can appreciate the texture of the wood by looking at it closely, and they are covered thoroughly by a clear coating, so you don’t have to worry about scratching the faceplates.

The Crystal 6 have a semi-custom-shaped design, meaning that the IEMs are shaped to mimic and compliment the shape of the outer ears. As a result, for the lucky ones whose ears are shaped like the IEMs (me included), the Crystal 6 are one of the most comfortable UIEMs I have tried. However, for someone who has smaller ears (i.e., my sister) there may be some fit problems.

The shells of the Crystal 6 are shaped like custom IEMs. So they are very comfortable.
The shells of the Crystal 6 are shaped like custom IEMs. So they are very comfortable.

However, if you really have trouble fitting the Crystal 6 at first, fear not. The large selection of ear tips provided has got you covered. Even if the shape is not a perfect match, the IEMs still fit decently with the right choice of ear tips.

With the right choice of ear tips, the HiBy Crystal 6 offer excellent noise isolation. They isolate even better than my custom FIR M5 IEMs. This is because the HiBy Crystal 6 have balanced armature drivers, and they are fully sealed.

The Crystal 6 to be perfect for commuters as they have absolutely no issue blocking car engine noises or people chatting.

Sound Analysis

For this section, I paired the HiBy Crystal 6 with the Lotoo PAW 6000, the Cowon Plenue D3, and also the iFi ZEN CAN + DAC stack.

Although whether burning in fully balanced armature earphones are necessary or not is a controversial topic, I burned in the Crystal 6 for about a week before conducting the review to be consistent with my other reviews.

The Lotoo PAW 6000 are my go-to testing instrument, and testing the Crystal 6 is no exception.
The Lotoo PAW 6000 are my go-to testing instrument, and testing the Crystal 6 is no exception.

To summarize, the performance of the Crystal 6 is crystal clear. HiBy wasn’t messing around with this model name.

The Crystal 6 have a typical balanced armature sound. This means that the sound is clear and very detailed throughout the whole spectrum. The bass response is fast and controlled and the treble is always well-extended. Depending on the selection of ear tips, the overall sound signature can swing from being very neutral to a reversed L-shape. The choice of ear tips does affect the sound significantly, so make sure to try all of them out.

I used the foam tips and the bass tips to conduct most of the review. To me, the balanced tips pushed the upper midrange and the lower treble a bit too forward for my liking. More so for the crisp tips. The crisp tips turn the Crystal 6 into a bit of a treble monster and they sound sibilant to me.

The sound is more natural, neutral, and better suited to my liking with the bass tips.

Be amazed! Look at how many eartips there are! Make sure to try them all out to find the most suitable ones for you.
Be amazed! Look at how many eartips there are! Make sure to try them all out to find the most suitable ones for you.

Bass

As mentioned, the bass response from the Crystal 6 is what I expect from a good balanced armature driver. They aren’t bassy by any means. Instead, they are fast, clean, and detailed. The sub-bass extension is just ok. Though, there is still a healthy punch in the mid-bass so that the Crystal 6 do not sound dry.

The quantity of sub-bass is controlled and it is often felt rather than heard. The frequency response states that the Crystal 6 are capable of extending all the way down to 5 Hz, but to my ears, that is not apparent. The extension is ok, but don’t expect to hear a rich sub-bass rumble like you would in a pair of dynamic driver earphones.

Thankfully, when we move up to the mid-bass, the bass presence is back! The mid-bass of the Crystal 6 is fairly engaging and punchy. The quantity is much more noticeable than the sub-bass and so the Crystal 6 are not sterile sounding.

If you’re looking for IEMs with great bass response, punchiness, and richness, the Crystal 6 are not for you.

The Crystal 6 do not require excessive amount of power. The low gain on my Lotoo is more than enough to drive the Crystal 6 to a satisfying level.
The Crystal 6 do not require excessive amount of power. The low gain on my Lotoo is more than enough to drive the Crystal 6 to a satisfying level.

Midrange

The midrange in the Crystal 6 is very correct and accurate. Just like the bass response, the midrange is not boosted or particularly rich. Instead, the Crystal 6 provide a lot of detail and resolution in the midrange, while staying away from being dead neutral or boring.

The upper-midrange performance varies quite a bit with the choice of ear tips. The bass tips work the best for me, as they show maximum resolution while not being sibilant. The balanced tips, and even more so the crisp tips, push the upper-midrange a bit too forward, and the Crystal 6 become harsh and unenjoyable after 30 mins of listening. On the other hand, the foam tips tame the harshness but also take away some of the details.

Treble

I have a bit of mixed feelings about the treble, but let’s start with the positives.

The treble extension is very impressive for the price. HiBy claims the Crystal 6 are able to extend up to 60000 Hz. While I can’t prove it myself, there is no obvious roll-off as far as I can hear. The detail retrieval, again, is impressive. The number of micro details is phenomenal for the price range. Also because of the extended treble, they have an airy sound.

Unfortunately, the Crystal 6 are also quite problematic in the treble.

The lower treble can often be too harsh and sharp, depending on the tip selection. Even with the bass tips, the lower treble is still forward. With the crisp tips, the Crystal 6 become sibilant and unbearable. However, when we move up the spectrum, the mid and upper treble are back under control and relatively smooth.

Crystal clear sounding, living up to their name.
Crystal clear sounding, living up to their name.

Technicalities and sensitivity

The soundstaging ability of the Crystal 6 is again a mix. The height and the depth are outstanding, almost class-leading. This is mostly due to the well-extended treble which created an airy sound. Also, because of the depth of the soundstage, the layering ability is also great. However, what is not so great is the width. It is not bad, just average and not as impressive as the height and depth.

As if I haven’t mentioned it enough, the Crystal 6 are amazing at resolution and detail retrieval. Throughout the sonic spectrum, the Crystal 6 demonstrate excellent clarity. This is partly due to the calm and controlled bass and partly due to the forward treble. But nonetheless, the Crystal 6 are the IEMs for you if you’re trying to get maximum detail at this price range.

The Crystal 6 are one of the most sensitive earphones I have owned or tried. They are on par with the Shanling ME80 and the FIR Audio M5 in terms of ease to drive. Paired with the Lotoo PAW 6000, the volume sits comfortably at 45/100 at low gain or 26/100 at high gain.

So, you definitely do not need a powerful amp for them to shine. Instead, a source with a black background is welcome. During my testing I paired it with the iFi Zen stack, and it is absolutely overkill in terms of power, and hiss is very apparent.

The HS1551CU were in fact my first audiophile IEMs.
The HS1551CU were in fact my first “audiophile” IEMs.

Comparison

There are a lot of good earphones priced around $400. Some of them are newcomers in the market, some are long-time legends, and many are excellent. The earphones I am comparing to the Crystal 6 are my trusty Acoustune HS1551 CU, and the 64Audio A3e.

HiBy Crystal 6 vs Acoustune 1551CU

The HS1551 have been in the market since 2017, and they remain one of my favorite single dynamic earphones. The HS1551 are very different from the HiBy, almost as if they are the conjugate pair of each other. After all, one uses single dynamic drivers, while the other have 6 balanced armature drivers. So, big differences are to be expected.

The brass/copper inner shell makes the HS1551 stand out visually, and it also creates the unique and enjoyable sound.
The brass/copper inner shell makes the HS1551 stand out visually, and it also creates the unique and enjoyable sound.

The HS1551 have much better bass response and extension. The punch is more natural and organic. However, the Crystal 6 have more controlled bass and less quantity, so they sound cleaner than the HS1551. The Acoustune also have a warmer midrange presentation than the Crystal 6. They don’t have nearly as much detail, but they are more emotional sounding.

The treble response is a clear win with the Crystal 6, given you are not treble-sensitive. The extension is better in the Crystal 6, and so is the detail retrieval. The HS1551 aren’t lacking, just that the Crystal 6 are very good in this regard. However, some may prefer the HS1551 because it is not as aggressive or harsh, and for their relaxed and smooth sound.

The paint is chipping off. This shows how much they have been used throughout the years.
The paint is chipping off. This shows how much they have been used throughout the years.

HiBy Crystal 6 vs 64Audio A3e

This comparison may seem a bit random. One pair are custom IEMs and almost 1.5 times the cost of the other. However, the A3e have been my go-to pure balanced armature driver and are the benchmark I set for any balanced armature drivers earphones. Although the Crystal 6 are very comfortable for a universal-fit, they can’t match truly custom IEMs in this regard.

The A3e are rather unusual pure balanced armature earphones. They actually sound a bit like a single dynamic driver earphones. That means that the A3e have better bass extension and bass presence than the HiBy. While not to the extent of the Acoustune, the A3e sound more analog and organic than the Crystal 6. This is also the case for the midrange. The A3e are slightly warmer than the Crystal 6 and are more emotional.

Despite the price difference, the Crystal 6 put up a good fight in the treble region. The extension is very close between the two and so is the quantity of detail. The Crystal 6, however, have more pronounced treble response so they sound more airy, while the A3e are not as harsh and are less fatiguing.

Both are balanced armature earphones, but the Crystal 6 have twice the amount of drivers than the A3e. Does this means they sound twice as good? Well...
Both are balanced armature earphones, but the Crystal 6 have twice the amount of drivers than the A3e. Does this means they sound twice as good? Well…
I really wanted to compare the HiBy Crystal 6 against the Moondrop Blessing 2 and include it in the review. Unfortunately, although I did test the Blessing 2, I could not do a side-by-side comparison.

So, I’m unable to provide detailed information, the Crystal 6 are slightly ahead in terms of detail retrieval, but the Blessing aren’t far behind. In terms of tonality, the Blessing 2 have much more mature tuning over the Crystal 6.

Where to Buy

You can buy the HiBy Crystal 6 directly from HiBy right here, or from HiFiGo here.

Verdict

Because of the transparent shell, you can clearly see the internal structure of the Crystal 6.
Because of the transparent shell, you can clearly see the internal structure of the Crystal 6.

In the past, I was not a fan of pure balanced armature driver earphones. I often find that they lack realism in bass response and aren’t natural sounding. However, the technology of BA drivers is constantly improving and newer balanced armature earphones are sounding much better than past models.

Regrettably, the HiBy Crystal 6 does not have the same bass response that I enjoy from dynamic driver earphones, but there is no denying that they are very detailed and have strong technicalities.

The lower treble forwardness is the only major reason I hesitate to recommend them to everyone. Despite this, the Crystal 6 are technically advanced and if you are looking for maximum clarity at this price, they are more than capable.

Bravo HiBy! The Crystal 6 are a great first attempt at multi-driver earphones. But in order to be class-leading, a slightly better tuning is needed. I am looking forward to reviewing your future products!

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