Dedicated streaming music players are mostly simplified versions of Android smartphones with smaller screens and improved audio circuitry. With smartphone manufacturers also incorporating improved D/A converters and the ability to play Hi-Resolution Audio (HRA) files, manufacturers betting again on dedicated music players need all the arguments they can get to differentiate their products and convince users that it's actually worth carrying another device just for music listening.
That's precisely what HiBy is doing, first with its R6 player launched in 2017, using a high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC handling processing duties and dual ESS ES9028 DACs (among other chips and components) handling audio output, offering a user experience as close as possible to an Android flagship smartphone operation while at the same time offering professional DAP-level audio performance for $569.00.
The follow-up to the R6, the smaller R3, makes much more sense, sold at an affordable price of $229.00 USD, and combining all the options that will truly matter for someone who subscribes to the premium options of streaming services. The R3 is a Portable Hi-Fi Lossless Music Player, featuring Bluetooth 4.1, apt-X and HiBy Link connectivity, which allows users to play Hi-Res music stored on the R3 via remote control on the smartphone and provides access to personalization options, based on a parametric equalizer (PEQ) and sound field adjustments. With its 1600mAh high-capacity battery, the R3 is good for up to 11 hours of playtime and more than 60 days of standby time, and it features WiFi, DLNA, Airplay, aptX, ESS Sabre DAC converters, and Native DSD support.
By using a premium ESS ES9028Q2M DAC chip, HBC3000 DSD256 capable audio controller and 8 Panasonic hi-polymer/tantalum POSCAP capacitors, the HiBy R3 player delivers an SNR of up to 117dB and THD+N down to 0.002%. The HiBy R3 supports most Hi-Res lossless formats, including FLAC, APE, WMA, WAV, AIFF, DSD, DFF, OGG, and native support for up to DSD256, and PCM up to 32-bit/384kHz on locally stored files. A bi-directional USB DAC interface also allows to use the R3 as a high quality USB audio dongle for any smartphone or as a digital audio source for other devices. The device comes with USB Type C but effectively only works in USB2.0 mode for data transfer.
Still offering a full touch screen experience accessing Tidal's online music library, instead of offering a full Android forked OS, the R3 implements a dedicated Linux-based OS - HiBy OS - allowing effectively for a faster and more fluid multithreaded experience, with the highest runtime permissions. To keep the price low, the HiBy R3 player does not have any internal storage, but comes with a micro-SD card slot for expandable storage that supports up to 2TB (512GB is the capacity with the best price currently available, and users need to be careful when ordering cards online with such capacities from unknown brands, which are mostly scams...)
As the company now confirms, an upcoming firmware update for the HiBy R3 will allow MQA compatibility, which should really please Tidal users, since the master MQA file is fully authenticated and is small enough to stream or download. The R3 can be connected to the Tidal's online music library via Wi-Fi and HiBy also confirms the intention to gradually expand supported music sharing with other music apps and more streaming services.