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iFi’s hip-dac 3 Features 2 USB Type-C Ports and iEMatch Tech For Your IEMs

More power, improved connectivity, and hi-res support for every relevant codec makes the iFi hip-dac 3 a real bargain at $199. iPhone 15 users need to check this one out.

iFi Audio Hip-dac 3 portable DAC/Amp in-hand

Having just recommended iFi’s hip-dac 2 as one of my favorite portable headphone amplifiers, it’s somewhat disconcerting to notice that its replacement has already arrived. The new iFi hip-dac 3 does offer some interesting changes that feel inspired by the launch of the new Apple iPhone 15.

iFi has also kept the price at $199 USD which makes this a tremendous value if it offers more power and improved sound quality over the model that it is replacing.

iFi Audio has been on a tear over the past two years delivering one great product after another including the GO Link Dongle DACxDSD Gryphon Portable Amplifier, and ZEN Signature Series.

The new battery-powered portable hi-res DAC/headphone amp is finished in a Titanium Shadow hue, which replaces the “Sunset Orange Crush” finish of the previous iteration; which I still find very sophisticated looking.

iFi Audio Hip-dac 3 rear angle
iFi Audio Hip-dac 3 has two USB-C ports.

Two USB-C ports simplify your cable management: one for audio and the other for charging. A switch on the underside activates iFi’s iEMatch technology, which is optimized for high-sensitivity headphones and earphones, making it especially beneficial for your in-ear monitors (IEMs).

Inside, the device boasts circuit enhancements, including new metal film capacitors for a better frequency response. Additionally, an updated version of iFi’s GMT circuitry, coupled with a new crystal oscillator, further reduces phase noise, delivering (in theory) a cleaning sounding signal.

iFi Audio Hip-dac 3 front

Is that a Headphone Amplifier in Your Pants or Are Just Glad to See Me?

With its sleek, robust aluminium enclosure, the portable hip-dac 3 discreetly fits in a pocket or bag. It replaces the subpar DAC and amplifier in smartphones, tablets, PCs, and Macs. Just connect via USB-C and you’re ready to listen.

iFi’s expertise with the Burr-Brown chipset ensures optimal performance. However, a superior DAC stage involves more than just the DAC chip. A crucial element is the XMOS chip for processing digital audio inputs.

The hip-dac 3 features a 16-core XMOS microcontroller, programmed by iFi’s in-house team to optimise sound quality and ensure a perfect hi-res partnership with the Burr-Brown DAC.

iFi Audio Hip-dac 3 inside case with IEMs

Unlimited Power?

One of the things I really like about the iFi hip-dac 2 is that it can drive a wide range of headphones and IEMs and it’s extremely quiet when it comes to hiss; perhaps one of the best that I have used with my Meze 109 Pro headphones from the balanced output. They certainly benefit from the additional power.

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The amp stage of the iFi hip-dac 3 can deliver up to 400mW (balanced) into a 32-ohm headphone load, making it compatible with a wide range of headphones; the hip-dac 2 offered 280mW per channel (32 ohms) from the single-ended output and the hip-dac 3 offers the same level of power output.

Additionally, it efficiently drives high-impedance headphones with an output voltage of 6.3V into 600 ohms from the balanced output.

iFi Audio Hip-dac 3 front angle

Format Support

Hi-res PCM and DXD audio data is supported at sample rates up to 384kHz, alongside DSD from 2.8MHz to 12.4MHz (DSD64, 128 and 256).

Full decoding of MQA is also supported, performing the full ‘three unfold’ decoding process (as opposed to just the final unfold in the manner of an MQA ‘renderer’).

Either side of the rotary volume control reside a pair of LEDs that change colour to indicate the format and sample rate of the incoming audio.

iFi Audio Hip-dac 3 portable DAC/Amp with Smartphone

Get connected

The hip-dac 3’s USB-C input supports up to 32-bit/384kHz audio, compatible with USB 3.0 and 2.0. Its asynchronous design ensures jitter-free data transfer. A separate USB-C charging port allows use while charging, preserving a pure audio signal path.

The hip-dac 3 provides two outputs: a 3.5mm socket for single-ended headphones and a 4.4mm balanced output for those with balanced connectivity, leveraging the device’s differential amp design. The 3.5mm output utilizes iFi’s S-Balanced circuitry, minimizing crosstalk and distortion for single-ended connections.

The hip-dac 3’s 2,200mAh battery offers up to 12 hours of playtime, varying by volume and headphone power needs. It includes a USB-C OTG cable and a USB-A to USB-C cable.

For more information: ifi-audio.com

Where to buy: $199 USD / £199 / €199 (coming soon)

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. ORT

    October 7, 2023 at 1:43 am

    It still has MQA. No intimate-coupling way.

    ORT

    • Joe

      October 9, 2023 at 6:53 am

      Dump that pos MQA and lower the price

  2. Cy

    October 7, 2023 at 9:26 pm

    There is no “uptick in power” compared to the Hip Dac 2.

    Both have exactly the same power specs 400mW balanced and 280mW single-ended at 32 ohms.

    • Ian White

      October 8, 2023 at 9:11 pm

      Cy,

      Interesting. I got an earlier draft that said 400mW singled-ended. Will correct.

      TY for catching that.

      IW

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