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Hidizs DH80S Portable Balanced DAC & Amp: Review

Do you hate using Dongle DACs because they drain your phone’s battery? The Hidizs DH80s uses its own battery and can drive your IEMs and headphones for only $140 USD.

Hidizs DH80s Balanced Portable DAC amp

The portable DAC market is certainly a segment experiencing some growing pains at the moment. There is an argument to be made that there are too many products and that consumers are becoming increasingly frustrated because they don’t know what to buy. Choice is never a bad thing if it encourages competition and the end result is a wide range of products that deliver better sound quality for less money — the Hidizs DH80s finds itself in a very crowded elevator and we wondered how it would compare.

We have covered the segment with greater intensity than any other N. American publication (outside of the headphone focused magazines) because it fits into our core focus — better quality audio for less.

Recent conversations, however, with a number of leading manufacturers at CanJam NYC 2023 provided some additional insight into the market and where things stand.

Portable DAC/headphone amplifier sales are slowing down and that’s not a good thing for the smaller brands that don’t have the marketing dollars to appeal to mainstream consumers who don’t spend hours each day on Head-Fi or eCoustics reading up on the topic.

Does anyone remember the last time AudioQuest refreshed the Dragonfly series?

We would suggest that there are at least a dozen Dongle DACs currently available that are superior for the money than the AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt.

Dongle DACs actually make a lot of sense if you care about both desktop and portable audio, but it is certainly a niche market; and one completely overshadowed by the wireless earbuds category.

Most consumers (99%) don’t want to carry around multiple devices anymore for music playback and there is an argument to be made that Dongle DACs offer better value than a DAP from a cost perspective and have enough power for most wired IEMs and high-sensitivity headphones.

Opponents will argue that Dongle DACs deliver a limited amount of power compared to a full-sized DAP and that they drain the battery on your smartphone

The battery issue is one worth noting. iFi have introduced Dongle DACs into the market with their own batteries and whist that does add weight to the device — it does negate the issue of draining your smartphone if you are listening all day.

The issue with the two iFi models is that they are not lightweight or that small; EIC Ian White has been schlepping the iFi hip dac2 with him from New Jersey to Florida for the past two months and has grown weary of explaining to TSA employees that he’s not carrying a flask connected to his iPhone 13.

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Enter the Hidizs DH80s portable DAC AMP.

Hidizs DH80s Balanced Portable DAC Amp with MacBook

Technology

The Hidizs DH80s is the first device to really hit the mark in my estimation; the company has hedged its bets as they offer a micro-DAP (AP80 Pro-X), the S9 Pro which is designed for difficult headphone loads, and the hybrid DH80s.

The DH80s packs a ESS9281C DAC and a pair of RT6863C op-amps along with a 1300mAh battery into an aluminum shell that measures roughly 2.5″ x 2″ x 0.5″ and weighs 76 grams.

It ships with an adhesive backed disk that will magnetically attach the DH80s to your phone or tablet for even greater convenience. We really wish that other manufacturers did this as well.

Aside from the basics, the DH80s goes a step further than many affordable dongles offering physical volume controls, 3 gain levels, and dual USB Type-C ports so it can be charged during listening sessions.

Hidizs ships the DH80s with a single USB Type-C cable; a lightning OTG cable is available for an additional $22.00 USD.

The DAC/AMP is compatible with iOS, Mac OS, iPad OS, Android, and Windows 10/11 devices; we ran tests with at least one device from each category and found no compatibility issues.

File formats supported include up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM, DSD64/128 and MQA which should be enough for most users listening to files on their devices or music through the various streaming platforms.

Hidizs DH80s Balanced Portable DAC Amp Kit

The HD80s proved to be rather versatile with 3.5mm single-ended and 4.4mm balanced headphone jacks; both offered enough power to drive headphones like the HiFiMAN R9s, Sennheiser HD58x, and Beyerdynamic Amiron Home.

We wondered if the single-ended output would run out gas driving the aforementioned headphones at moderate listening levels but it had more than sufficient headroom.

For those with slightly more demanding headphones or who prefer to listen at higher volume levels, the 4.4mm balanced output offers 210mW of power per channel; which is almost double the output of the 3.5mm jack.

We found that the Hidizs HD80s set on low gain was a good match with IEMs like the Campfire Andromeda and Ultimate Ears Live IEMs which are prone to some hiss if overdriven.

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Battery life?

We made a big deal about the Hidizs DH80s having its own battery and it proved to be one of its best features; using the 3.5mm connection with a pair of Cascade IEMs and the HiFIMAN R9, we managed to get almost 9 hours of playtime which was very impressive. The UE Live lasted almost 10 hours.

Switching to more demanding headphones and using the 4.4mm balanced connector (Sennheiser HD6xx with a Dekoni balanced cable), we managed to get roughly 5 hours of playtime at normal listening levels before the Dongle needed to be recharged.

It takes 2.5 hours to fully recharge the unit when drained.

Hidizs DH80s Balanced Portable DAC amp

Listening

What surprised me the most about the DH80s was the overall neutrality and detail retrieval; there was a mild degree of midrange emphasis but not enough to change the tonal balance of any headphones or IEMs on the other end.

Hidizs have opted for a very clean sounding DAC/AMP that will not smooth over poorly recorded tracks or flesh out vocals either. If you’re looking for an overly warm sounding amplifier that adds weight in the extreme low end or added coloration in the midrange — the DH80s will disappoint.

Vocals are not pushed forward of the instrumentation and there isn’t any bleed from the upper bass into the lower midrange.

Some might find the tonal balance to be a tad cool, but that is easily remedied with warmer sounding headphones.

Bass notes are well defined and quick, but don’t expect thunderous impact.

The soundstage width and depth are acceptable but this is not the most spacious sounding DAC/AMP you can find; it’s above average overall for the category and that isn’t the worst trade-off at $139 USD.

Hidizs DH80s Balanced Portable DAC Amp Side

Conclusion

The Hidizs DH80s is for a certain type of listener.

I remain a fan of DAPs because I like having a file library at my disposal and with phones moving away from micro-SD cards, they have forced users into the streaming model.

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The DH80s does not offer its own internal storage; which means that people like me have to use a DAP and a smartphone to have access to everything — and that includes telephone and internet access.

While I may not mind having to carry both a DAP and the DH80s in a carrying case, most people will likely pick the DAC/AMP option because it can be attached to their existing device and offer a rather significant power and sound quality upgrade.

99% of consumers use their phones to stream and don’t want a Dongle that will leave their smartphone at 1%; and that has happened on more than a few occasions reviewing products in this category.

When you factor in the low price, build quality, internal battery, and multiple connection options — the Hidizs DH80s has to be considered one of the best options below $200 right now.

Where to buy: $109.99 at Amazon | Linsoul | hidizs.net

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Nemoda

    March 30, 2023 at 5:04 pm

    very informative articles or reviews at this time.

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