It’s been 21 months since iFi’s novel take on the portable DAC – the hip-dac – was released, and the hi-fi brand has spent that time concocting its latest attempt to improve audio on-the-go in the hip-dac 2.
Sporting an updated design, finish (Sunset Orange finish replacing the original’s Petrol Blue) and internal enhancements, the hip-dac 2 looks to repeat the trick of the original by delivering an extensive hi-res spec at an affordable price.
The great thing about a DAC is that its purpose-built to deliver excellent sound, where the DAC and amp circuitry in smartphones, tables and computers are often prone to encountering interference. The iFi hip-dac 2 aims to supercharge the performance even further with its latest generation 16-core XMOS processor that doubles the clock speed and offers four times the memory of the original.
One of the advantages of this increased processing is that it enables the hip-dac 2 to deliver full MQA decoding; performing the ‘three unfold’ decoding process onboard, so it can handle hi-res streaming audio from the music streaming service such as Tidal Masters.
Other improvements include a new version of iFi’s GMT (Global Master Timing) circuitry, for a lower jitter performance that contributes to purer and crisper sound.
Otherwise the specification is similar to what came before, as the hip-dac 2 can deliver bit-perfect PCM and native DSD playback; with hi-res PCM and DXD audio data supported at sampling rates up to 384kHz, alongside DSD from 2.8MHz to 12.4MHz (DSD64, 128 and 256).
The hip-dac 2 is also able to receive firmware updates to keep it up to date, while it’s capable of working with a wide range of headphones and earphones thanks to the amp stage’s ability to channel 400mW into a 32-ohm headphone load. High-impedance headphones benefit from 6.3V into 600 ohms via the balanced output.
Compatibility with headphones can be customised with the PowerMatch switchable gain feature that matches the level of drive to the headphone load, “adjusting input sensitivity and thereby signal strength.”
An example given is with high-sensitivity in-ear monitors, as leaving the PowerMatch at its lower setting offers “a silent, hiss-free background”, but if your headphones benefit from a higher level of drive then you can increase gain as you like.
Other customisable features include XBass, which boosts bass frequencies without “muddying the midrange”.
In terms of connectivity, the hip-dac 2 features two USB ports (Type A and USB-C), with its asynchronous USB input able to handle audio data up to 32-bit/384kHz. The Type A input features a ‘male’ connector, which offers an advantage to iOS users as it accepts Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adapter without requiring an additional female-to-male-adapter.
Also included is a 3.5mm output for headphones (naturally), as well as a 4.4mm Pentaconn output that enables headphones with balanced connectivity to take advantage of the hip-dac 2’s amp design.
The 2200mAh battery lasts for around 8-12 hours, depending on how hard the DAC is driven. Bundled with the DAC are three USB cables (USB-C OTG (On-the-Go), USB-A and a USB-A to USB-C charging cable. You can also protect the iFi hip-dac 2 from any scratches with the vegan-friendly ‘faux suede’ case.
The iFi hip-dac 2 is available to purchase now for an RRP of £189. The hip-case costs an additional £29. You can still get the original hip-dac for £169 while stocks last.