Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


iFi Hip-dac2 & Hip-case Deliver the Sonic Tonic

It’s small, powerful, easy to carry around and guaranteed to make your headphones sound a lot better. The iFi hip-dac2 is going to sell quickly.

iFi hip-dac2

iFi Audio truly gets it. The British manufacturer of portable and desktop headphone amplifiers and DACs really has the pulse of the Head-Fi community and products like the brand new iFi hip-dac2 and hip-case are proof of that. 95% proof.

The original hip-dac was a really powerful and well-designed portable DAC/headphone amplifier and we’re a little surprised to see it replaced so quickly.

I feel like I just listened to one recently. At CanJam 2020 in NYC. 18 months of pandemic have truly flipped things on their head.

iFi hip-dac2 with hip-case
iFi hip-dac2 with hip-case

The other key thing is that the iFi hip-dac2 is really affordable — $189 USD affordable. The matching hip-case will add an additional $29 USD to the package.

The new model’s obvious distinguishing feature is the Sunset Orange anodised finish applied to its aluminium enclosure, replacing the original’s Petrol Blue. Under the hood, a collection of carefully considered and painstakingly implemented circuit changes elevate the hip-dac2’s performance to an even higher level.

The 8-core XMOS chip, which processes the data received over USB, has been replaced by a new-generation 16-core XMOS processor, delivering double the clock speed and four times the memory.

This chip was initially introduced to iFi’s latest DACs at higher price points, such as the NEO and Diablo models, and is now trickling down to iFi’s entry-level devices, including the hip-dac2.

iFi hip-dac2 Circuit Board

This new chip’s enhanced processing power improves overall performance, as well enabling the hip-dac 2 to deliver full MQA decoding.

This means that the complete ‘three unfold’ decoding process is performed internally, as opposed to just the final unfold in the manner of an MQA ‘renderer’ – which accounts for the vast majority of MQA-supporting DAC/headphone amps anywhere near the hip-dac2’s price point, including the original hip-dac.

This makes the hip-dac2 an excellent device for anyone who subscribes to Tidal’s Masters tier, which uses the MQA codec for hi-res streaming.

Those of us who don’t really care for MQA or think it improves Tidal’s sound quality significantly can keep reading.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

There are other circuit improvements too, including a new version of iFi’s GMT (Global Master Timing) circuitry, featuring a new crystal clock. This results in even lower jitter performance, contributing to purer, crisper sound.

DAC’s The Way to Do It

The DAC section is based around a Burr-Brown DAC chip that iFi uses extensively in its products, selected for its fluid, natural musicality and True Native architecture. This, combined with custom iFi circuitry, enables the hip-dac2 to deliver excellent sound quality across all manner of digital audio formats, including bit-perfect PCM and native DSD, as well as MQA.

Hi-res PCM and DXD audio data is supported at sampling rates up to 384kHz, alongside DSD from 2.8MHz to 12.4MHz (DSD64, 128 and 256). Thanks to the Burr-Brown chip’s True Native design, PCM and DSD take separate pathways – this enables both PCM and DSD to remain ‘bit-perfect’ in their native form right through to analogue conversion, which is not the case with most other portable DAC/headphone amps.

iFi hip-dac2 with Smartphone and in-ear headphones

Either side of the rotary volume control reside a pair of LEDs that change color to indicate the format and sampling rate of the digital audio being played.

Extensive clock-locking eradicates jitter (digital distortion), using iFi’s GMT femto-precision clocking system – upgraded in the hip-dac2 – to maintain the integrity of the digital signal until conversion to analogue.

Bespoke customization of the 16-core XMOS chip via iFi’s in-house programming team further enhances sound quality, with proprietary digital processing technology making a major contribution to the hip-dac2’s class-leading sound quality. Firmware updates to elements like digital filtering help to keep iFi devices, including the hip-dac2, fully up to date as technology progresses, as well as allowing for a degree of user-customization.


The hip-dac2’s USB input handles audio data up to 32-bit/384kHz and supports the ‘SuperSpeed’ USB 3.0 standard, as well as USB 2.0 for backwards compatibility. It is asynchronous, meaning that the data rate is regulated solely by the hip-dac2’s specialized audio clock circuitry for accurate, jitter-free data transfer from the source device.

iFi hip-dac2 Connections Back

There are two USB ports – Type A for audio data and USB-C for charging. Unusually, the Type A input features a ‘male’ connector, rather than a typical ‘female’ port.

iFi hip-dac2 Connections Front

In addition, the 3.5mm output benefits from iFi’s proprietary S-Balanced circuitry, cutting crosstalk and related distortion in half when used with regular, single-ended headphone connections – this is especially beneficial with high-sensitivity in-ear monitors.

The hip-dac2’s 2200mAh battery lasts for around 8-12 hours of playing time, depending on volume level and how power-hungry the connected headphones are. It comes bundled with three USB cables: a USB-C OTG (On-The-Go) cable, ideal for connecting Android devices and PCs/Macs with USB-C ports; a USB-A cable; and a USB-A to USB-C charging cable. (The Apple Lightning to USB adapter required to connect iOS devices is purchased separately.)

For more information:

Where to buy: $189 at Amazon | Crutchfield

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.



  1. MadMex

    October 24, 2021 at 8:32 pm

    I don’t know. Locking in a 4.4mm versus 3.5mm makes me feel like a champ. Sounds better? Who knows.

    • Ian White

      October 24, 2021 at 9:08 pm


      I love it when I almost yank it off my desk.

      Ian White

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You May Also Like


When shopping for loudspeakers or headphones, most consumers don't even look at the impedance of the products they are considering. Do they need to?...

Headphone Amps

The ampsandsound Kenzie Ovation Rev 2 Headphone Amplifier is no ordinary component. Buckle up. It's going to be a bumpy night.


Questyle, DDHiFi and Hidizs earn top honors in our Best Dongle DACs of 2022 Buying Guide.

Headphone Amps

Has the Pass Labs HPA-1 finally met its match? The SparkoS Labs Aries Headphone Amplifier joins some elite company in 2022.


The Audioengine DAC3 joins the growing ranks of affordable Dongle DACs for only $149.


Our CanJam SoCal 2022 show report reveals some interesting surprises. See what headphones, earphones and DAPs caught our attention.

Digital Music Systems

The $1,299 iFi NEO Stream is a Roon Ready network streamer with open source architecture and no limitations of streaming platforms.

Dongle DACs

Does the Questyle M15 Dongle DAC deliver more for less and rival the Cayin, AudioQuest, and THX Dongle DACs?


ecoustics is a hi-fi and music magazine offering product reviews, podcasts, news and advice for aspiring audiophiles, home theater enthusiasts and headphone hipsters. Read more

Copyright © 1999-2022 ecoustics | Disclaimer: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Bluesound PSB Speakers DALI NAD Crutchfield ProjectorScreen SVS Pro-Ject ROTEL McIntosh