review

Hidizs DH80S Balanced DAC Amp Review Battery Powered MQA Enabled

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Anyone who is just getting into audio is probably finding out that anything audiophile related is a "rabbit hole" of confusion! More so, because of the different terminology such as dacs, balanced audio, headphone amps, tube amps, etc; all of which do the basic same thing and that is to improve the audio you listen to via headphones or speakers.
Dacs and amps are mutually inclusive audio interfaces so, they work in unison, although they can be bought separately or as a dac/amp combo like the Hidizs DH80S. The main reason you would ever want a dac and/or amp is to amplify the volume output as well as remove noise/interference to make the audio more clear and more defined. Another advantage of using a dac is for increasing the stereo crosstalk/channel separation. The Hidizs DH80S has 79dB of crosstalk (comparable to the S3 Pro dac amp), which is well above average and means no bleeding from the right into the left channel.
The Hidizs DH80S is the latest portable balanced dac/amp combo and one of the smallest battery powered dac amps on the market. Thanks to the internal battery, the DH80S dac amp doesn't need external power to work; hence you can use it with a phone without draining the phone's battery. A self-powered dac amp, like the DH80S, is even more necessary when using an iPhone because the power consumption of iPhones is traditionally capped by Apple.
The Hidizs DH80S dac amp has a metal body that has been CNC machined out of a single block of aluminium alloy and features a leatherette fabric fascia for styling. The Hidizs DH80S dac amp weighs 76 grams and measures 7cm high, 6cm wide (including the protruding buttons) and 1cm thick; hence it has a slimline profile. The shape of the DH80S dac amp is beveled so, the bottom is wider than the top part of the dac.
The DH80S dac amp has three small buttons and a power on/off switch, all made from aluminium alloy also. The buttons include a gain switch, as well as independent volume up and down buttons with 30 levels of volume control.The volume buttons have a subtle clicky response with a springy actuation. On the bottom side of the Hidizs DH80S dac amp, there are four connectivity ports and an status led that lights up different colors to indicate the current sampling rate frequency range of the audio being played. Red (44.1kHz-48kHz), blue (88.2kHz-384kHz) and pink (MQA)
Being self-powered, the Hidizs DH80S dac amp integrates a rechargeable 3.7V Li-Polymer battery (1300mAh capacity), which takes 2.5 hours to fully charge and can run for 6 hours when using the 4.4.mm balanced output and 8 hours when using the single ended unbalanced output. The Hidizs DH80S dac amp is equipped with top of the line hardware, including a Panasonic capacitor and dual crystal oscillators to lower audio jitter (distortion) and lower noise. In fact, the noise floor level is close to zero with a 116dB signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio.
The DH80S dac amp uses an ESS Sabre dac chip (ESS9281C Pro) that supports decoding up to 32 bit/384kHz, enabling the Hidizs DH80S dac amp to support MQA audio, which is useful if you enjoy listening to hi-res files via the Tidal or Hiby Music player apps. The MQA decoder inside the DH80S dac amp is able to do a complete “unfold” of MQA files; hence the DH80S dac is able to output MQA files beyond 24 bit/96kHz sampling rate, which most Tidal MQA files max out at. The Hiby Music player app doesn't currently support MQA files, aside from lossy audio formats such as FLAC and DSD, which the DH80S also supports natively (both DSD64 and DSD128).
The Hidizs DH80S also integrates two RT6863C opamps, which are operation amplifiers with high gain and high input impedance used to convert the output from current to voltage. Opams also perform other functions like differential-SE conversion and filtering. The DH80S dac amp integrates a balanced 4.4mm output and a single-ended 3.5mm output for unbalanced headphones/iems. The balanced output and single ended output are capable of 4Vrms and 2 Vrms respectively, which is significantly higher output than you can get from a phone's headphone jack (approx. 0.5Vrms) or even an iMac (1.4Vrms).
Speaking of headphones, the Hidizs DH80S dac amp has a gain switch with three settings (low, medium and high) to allow you to raise the base volume to suit higher and lower impedance headphones. The 4.4mm balanced output supports 210mW per channel at 32 ohms with less than 0.0004% THD+N (Total harmonic distortion + Noise). The 3.5mm singled ended output supports 125mW per channel at 32 ohms with less than 0.0006% THD+N. This means, the Hidizs DH80S dac amp can handle headphones/earphones with up to 150 ohms impedance via the 4.4mm balanced port and up to 75 ohm impedance headphones via the 3.5mm single ended port. Both ports can support a frequency response of 20Hz-80kHz (±0.6dB).

The Hidizs DH80S is easy to connect to an android phone via the include USB audio cable. You can use a third party cable but, it has to be a USB audio cable, which is important to note because the USB cable that comes with smartphones are only capable of transferring data and power; hence they cannot deliver audio. There is no USB driver support for older versions of Windows and one is needed in order to use it with a computer; hence it only works with Windows 10 computers. Neither of the headphone jacks support mic input.
The Hidizs DH80S also supports usb dac mode so, you can use it with Windows computer and MacOS, as well as iPadOS and iOS. The compatibility is wide; however, Windows compatibility is limited to Windows 10 only; hence older versions of Windows (i.e. Win 8 and Win 7) will not recognize the DH80S when connected, which is a pity because even the older Hidizs' AP80 mp3 player supports Windows 7. Speaking of the AP80 player, it comes with a rubber protective case, which would be a useful accessory to have for the DH80S. That said, the DH80S aluminium alloy shell has been painted on with an anti-corrosion coat, which should minimize scratches too.
A circular metal plate is included with an LSE adhesive backing, which is designed to stick the DH80S dac to a surface including plastic, rubber, concrete and wood. The circular metal plate is very thin so, it will fit inside a phone's protective case, allowing you to magnetically attach the DH80S dac amp to a phone. An unbranded 1.8 meters long charging cable (USB C to USB-A) is also included, as well as the mentioned USB-C to USB-C OTG USB audio cable, which measures 6cm long and has Hidizs branding on it. The audio cable is of high quality using metal plug connectors and a tinted semi transparent rubber sheath. Total weight of the audio cable is 5 grams.
If you have an iPhone 6 or newer iPhone, you will need an iOS Lightning to USB OTG cable adapter, which is not included. The iPhone or iPad has to be running iOS 7 or higher. Also, when listening to audio via your iPhone or iPad you won't be able to play 24-bit (96kHz or 192kHz) hi-res music; hence you won't be able to playback Apple iTunes or ALAC files via Apple's Music app. You can buy the Hidizs DH80S dac amp from Hidizs and you should also check out the Hidizs latest IEM launch - the MS2 in-ear earphones.

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