HiBy R3 Pro Saber Review
HiBy was established in 2011 and is specialized in research, development and sales of Hi-Fi grade portable audio products such like DAP’s, USB & BT DAC’s and earphones. HiBy has also an experienced software team that has developed HiBy OS which is also one of the most widely used professional portable audio Operating Systems (OS) on the market.
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber that I will review for you is a pretty small but quite capable device with tons of features such like a Dual ES9218P DAC, MQA support, Two-way LDAC, 2.5mm balanced output and many more.
HiBy states that the HiBy R3 Pro Saber is not an “Upgrade Version”, instead it is just a variant of the original R3 Pro. The Saber version can be also regarded as a limited special version. The only differences lie in DACs, which lead to very slightly different music performance.
I would like to thank HiBy for providing me the R3 Pro Saber as review sample. I am not affiliated with HiBy beyond this review and these words reflect my true and unaltered, opinions about the product.
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber costs $209.00 USD and can be purchased under the link bellow;
HiBy R3 Pro Saber: https://store.hiby.com/products/hiby-r3-pro-saber
But it shows unavailable because of out of stock now. You can contact HiBy for further information.
Package and Accessories:
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber came in a relative small black box with an illustration of the device and some company brandings on the top.
This box contains the following items;
- 1 x HiBy R3 Pro Saber DAP (Digital Audio Player)
- 1 x USB A to USB Type-C cable for file transfer and charging
- 1 x Semi Transparent Protective Plastic Case
- 1 x Set of Screen Protector (Back and Front)
- 1 x User Manual
- 1 x Warranty card
Design, Buttons and Build Quality:
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber is a very pocket friendly ultra-portable Digital Audio Player thanks to its dimension of 82 x 61 x 13mm. The device has a solid appearance with its nice looking metal chassis in black color that shows a good build quality without any visible burrs or gaps.
On the front of the device is the 3.2” touch screen with a pixel density of 360×480. The touch screen of the device is pretty responsive and shows a good performance in terms of outdoor visibility. The sides/corners of the screen have a 2.5D curved design that fits nice with the metal frame of the device.
On the top of the HiBy R3 Pro Saber is the 3.5mm headphone jack that shares the Phone Out, LO (Line Out) & Coaxial outputs that you can select from the settings. Here is also the 2.5mm Balanced (TRSS) headphone output.
At the bottom of the device are the MicroSD card expansion slot and the multifunctional USB Type-C port that shares functions such like digital out (USB DAC/USB Audio), charging & data transfer.
At the rear side of the device are a glass surface and this surface sports information like the product branding some of the industrial certifications.
The right surface of the R3 Pro Saber features a power/lock screen button, a RGB LED that lights up in different color to shows the player status (file format, power status, etc.) and 3 additional button which are the previous, play/pause and next buttons.
The left side of the sports the volume up and volume down buttons.
All buttons are quite easy to use even if the device is in your pocket and are also pretty responsive.
- Operating System : Hiby OS
- Screen : 3.2’’ Touch Screen (480×360pixel)
- DAC : Sabre ES9218P
- CPU : Ingenic X1000
- Expanded Memory : 1 micro SD card slot up 2TB
- Wi-Fi Support : 2.4GHz + 5GHz
- Bluetooth : Bluetooth V5.0 with UAT, LDAC, aptX, SBC, AAC support
- Phone Output : 3.5mm TRS
- Balanced Output : 2.5mm TRRS
- USB In/Out : USB Type-C Charging / Data transfer / USB DAC
- Battery : 1600mAH
- USB Port : USB Type C
- Size : 82x61x13mm
Hardware and Software Features:
The HiBY R3 Pro Saber is an ultra-portable device with some pretty nice hardware & software features that I want know share with you bellow.
A. Processor & Storage:
Inside the heart of the HiBy R3 Pro Saber is the X1000E CPU of the company Ingenic Semiconductor with a processor speed of 1.0 GHz. It has an energy efficient MIPS32 XBurst RISC core with double precision hardware float point unit for low power consumption.
The performance of the X1000E is pretty good and offers a fluid operation of the R3 Pro Saber.
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber doesn’t offers an internal memory to store you music library, which means that you will need storage card that you can put in to the MicroSD card slot in order to listen to your favorite songs.
B. DAC & Audio Formats:
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber features the Dual ESS ES9218P SABRE HiFi DAC Chip which supports the company’s patented 32-bit “HyperStream” architecture that can support up to 32-bit 384kHz PCM and DSD256.
Supported File Formats:
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber is capable to play a wide range of audio formats such like MP3, FLAC, APE AIFF, WMA, WAV, ALAC and supports also Native hardware DSD (Dsf, Dff, ISO) Decoding up to DSD256.
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber supports also the new popular MQA Audio standard. MQA – short for “Master Quality Authenticated” is a new way to experience high-resolution audio.
MQA encoding folds studio-quality audio into files that are small enough to stream (or store in large quantities on a portable device). But the encoding process doesn’t just make hi-res music files smaller. It makes them sound much better, too.
You can buy a limited selection of MQA downloads now. They play through any equipment that can decode lossless file formats (WAV, FLAC, and ALAC).
C. Dual crystal oscillators & FPGA Chip:
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber has independent 22.5792MHz and 24.576MHz crystal oscillators supply correct time base signals to x44.1 and x48 sample rate music data respectively, reducing jitter, increasing accuracy of digital music reproduction and reducing the effect of phase noise on sound quality.
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber features a 2.5mm (TRRS) balanced output and a multifunctional 3.5mm unbalanced (TRS) output that is the phone out, Line Out & Coaxial output that can be easily selected/switched over the settings menu.
3.5mm Phone Out
- Output Voltage (32Ω Load) : 1.6Vrms
- Output Voltage (Line Out) : 2.0Vrms
- Output Power : 80mW + 80mW @32Ω
- Frequency Response : 20Hz – 90 kHz
- Noise Floor : ≤2uV
- SNR : 118dB
- THD+N : ＜0.0015%
2.5mm Balanced Out
- Output Voltage (32Ω Load) : 3.0Vrms
- Output Voltage (Line Out) : 4.0Vrms
- Output Power : 280mW + 280mW @32Ω
- Frequency Response : 20Hz – 90 kHz
- Noise Floor : ≤2.8uV
- SNR : 120dB
- THD+N : ＜0.003%
- SPDIF Output Voltage : -6Dbfs
- THD+N : 0.00001%
The R3 Pro Saber can also be used as an asynchronous USB DAC with both Mac’s and Windows PC’s. To use the R3 Pro Saber as USB DAC, you need to be set “USB mode” to “Audio” in the system settings and connect to your PC/MAC with the supplied USB Type-C to USB A data cable.
For more information and driver download, you can use the link below;
Download Link: https://store.hiby.com/apps/help-center
a) Bluetooth & Bi-Directional Connectivity:
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber comes with the latest Bluetooth 5.0 standard and supports also “Bi-Direction Lossless Bluetooth Connectivity” which can be used to transmit or to receive/stream your music from any compatible device.
Supported Bluetooth Codec’s are UAT, LDAC, aptX, SBC, and AAC.
This is a nice feature if you want to stream songs from online music services such like Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, etc. over Phone, Tablet or PC.
The Bluetooth connectivity performance of the R3 Pro Saber was pretty stable connected to my Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus during my tests, without to show drops and noise issue from a distance up to 9-10 meters.
b) Wi-Fi (DLNA, Air Play):
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber can also be connected to your Tidal and Qobuz Online music library via Wi-Fi and supports Wireless Streaming options such like DLNA and Airplay (for Apple devices).
The UAT (Ultra Audio Transmission) is an all-new Bluetooth audio codec developed in-house at HiBy. Supporting an industry-highest sample rate of 192kHz at an industry-highest data bandwidth of 1.2Mbps, it can even adapt and optimize itself to different music genres.
E. Battery Life:
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber is an ultra-small device with a good performance in terms of battery life.
I have tested the battery life of the HiBy R3 Pro Saber under the following condition and file formats.
IEM’s: Oriveti OH500 & Meze Rai Solo
- Flac 16bit/44kHz : approx 18 hours (Volume 60 out of 100 (3.5mm TRS) Screen Off
- Flac 16bit/44kHz : approx 15 hours (Volume 45 out of 100 (2.5mm TRRS) Screen Off
F. Other Features:
Step Counter (Pedometer):
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber comes with a built-in step counter sensor, while the program will run in the Background after activate manually. You can view your steps in real time and it supports also the viewing of historical actions.
G. The Software:
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber comes with an in house developed operating system (OS) that is called HiBy OS, which is a Linux based software specially created for portable audio devices, that we have I have seen also on the Hidizs AP80.
I do really like the simplicity of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) which is fluid and easy to navigate thanks to the pretty responsive swipe gestures.
On the top of the screen are informations about the volume, output selection, time and battery.
The Player shortcut links you to the player interface which is minimalistic but clean. Here are a number of swipe gestures you can do to open some new windows.
If you swipe from left to right, it will appear the player fine tuning menus where you can see the HiBy logo and some settings like Update Database, Import Music via Wi-Fi, MSEB (Mage Sound 8-Ball DSP Tuning), Equalizer, E-Book, Pedometer, Wireless Settings, Play Settings, etc.
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber has also EQ settings that can be adjusted manually or that can be selected from some presets like Rock, Pop, Dance Metal, etc.
If you slide up from the bottom of the screen, you will see shortcut functions which will give you access to quick adjustments like screen brightness, volume, gain, Bluetooth on/off, DLNA, play/pause, and more.
MSEB (Mage Sound 8-Ball) which was developed by the HiBy software team is a combination of multiple algorithms based on parametric equalizer (PEQ) and sound field adjustment (in short a DSP tool) that works pretty good If you like to play/transform the sound of your device. I normally don’t use any type of EQ settings on any of my devices but the MESB is one of the best solutions in this category.
The Play settings menu gives you access to the sound and outputs settings. Here you can select some options like DS output mode, Gapless Playback, Crossfade, Play mode, Line/Phone output and many more. Here is also the section where you can set one of the four digital filters featured by the ES9218P DAC Chip.
You can turn on and select several Bluetooth functions under the Bluetooth Menu. As I have mentioned before the HiBy R3 Pro Saber supports lossless transmission protocols like apt-X, LDAC, etc. and features two-way Bluetooth transmitting which can transform it to a so called Bluetooth DAC. These features can be enabled under this menu.
HiBy Link Application:
Another useful software application is HiBy Link, which allows you to play Hi-Res music stored on the R3 Pro Saber via remote control on your Smartphone. In order to do this, you will need to install the HiBy app that you can easy download to your phone/tablet.
I have tested only the Android version that you can download from the Google Play Store.
Equipment’s used for this review:
DAP’s : HiBy R3 Pro Saber, FiiO M6, Hidizs AP80 CU
IEM’s : Meze Audio Rai Solo, Oriveti OH500
Albums & tracks used for this review:
- The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
- Gogo Penguin – Raven (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
- Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (DSF) – Binaural Recording
- Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Wav 24bit/88kHz)
- Elton John – Your Song (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
- David Bowie – Black Star (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Eric Clapton – Unplugged Album (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- B.B. King – Riding With The King (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Edith Piaf – Non Je Ne Regrette Rien (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
- First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- London Grammar – Interlude (Live) (Flac 24bit/88kHz)
- Opeth – Windowpane (Wav 16bit/44kHz)
- Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Lorde – Royal (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
- Tom Player – Resonace Theory (16bit/44.1kHz)
- Massive Attack – Angel (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
- Portishead – The Hidden Camera (MP3 320kbps)
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber offers a slightly warmer than neutral tonality, with a bass character that is pretty strong and tight, and a midrange tuning that shows a good level of clarity and musicality, while the treble range is successful in terms of control and overall extension for a device at this price range.
PS: The reviews is written after a burn-in for about 80 hours and is based on my sound experiences over the 2.5mm balanced (TRRS) output which offers in general better dynamics and slightly more micro detail compared to the 3.5mm phone out.
The subbass range of the HiBy R3 Pro Saber shows good depth and extension. It is also pretty successful in terms of control and resolution which is fairly impressive for such a small device. The subbass quantity and intensity will satisfy most users with exceptions of bass-heads or those who prefer more subbass rumble and coloration.
The midbass region of the R3 Pro Saber is pretty accented and shows a good level of impact and tightness. The midbass tuning helps to give the overall presentation more musicality and fullness without to overwhelm or to affect the midrange clarity and overall level of airiness.
The bass of the HiBy R3 Pro Saber can be described in general as pretty linear and controlled which offers also a good level of resolution.
The midrange of the HiBy R3 Pro Saber has a slightly warmer than neutral tonality and shows a pretty musical presentation. The level of clarity and airiness is pretty good due to the well pronounced upper midrange tuning.
Vocals and instruments do sound quite neutral and are rendered with a good amount resolution thanks to the well implanted DAC chip. Instruments and vocals do sound pretty clear and musical without to be too much colored or lifeless.
The lower midrange is slightly less pronounced and detailed compared to the upper midrange that shows also a higher level of extension. Both male and female vocals do sound fairly natural and transparent while female vocals are more highlighted and pleasant to listen to.
For example, instruments like pianos are slightly bright, pronounced and vivid, while acoustic guitars are a bit warm, transparent and musical. Other instruments such like violins are bright but in general fatigue free.
The treble range of the HiBy R3 Pro Saber has a pretty neutral tuning that shows a tad of warmth which is not overdone. The overall treble extension is quite good for a DAP at this price category and is also pretty controlled. The level of detail retrieval is quite good for such a small device and will satisfy with most genres.
Instruments like cymbals do sound detailed and fairly natural in songs like in The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Take Five”. Crash and ride cymbals on the other hand don’t show any negative conditions like muddiness or mixings.
The soundstage performance of the HiBy R3 Pro Saber is good for a device at this price category. The soundstage of the R3 Pro Saber has slightly more width than its depth which is on a sufficient level. The performance in terms of separation and placement of instruments is on a good level and shows also enough air and space between the instruments & the vocals.
HiBy R3 Pro Saber versus FiiO M6:
The subbass region of the FiiO M6 has slightly more depth and extension, while the HiBy R3 Pro is superior in terms of terms of control and layering. The midbass of the R3 Pro Saber shows slightly less midbass quantity and intensity but has the upper hand in terms of detailed, control and tightness.
The midrange of the FiiO M6 has a warmer tonality compared to those of the HiBy R3 Pro Saber which offers a more neutral, transparent and airy presentation. Male vocals have slightly more depth and extension with the M6, while the R3 Pro Saber is superior in terms of female vocal performance due to its upper midrange character that offers a better level of extension, transparency and detail.
Instruments like bass guitar, the contrabass or the viola do sounds a bit more musical with the FiiO M6, while violins or flutes are more successful with the HiBy R3 Pro Saber.
The treble range of both devices is fairly detailed and is showing an above average extension. The treble range of the HiBy R3 Pro is slightly cleaner, has better extension and is also more transparent compared to the FiiO M6.
When it comes to soundstage performance, both have an above average soundstage wideness, while the HiBy R3 Pro Saber has a slightly wider stage. The soundstage depth is for both devices on a moderate level.
HiBy R3 Pro Saber versus Hidizs AP80 CU:
The Hidizs AP80 CU shows a tad warmer tonality compared to those of the HiBy R3 Pro Saber that has a slightly more neutral tonality and natural presentation.
The subbass of the AP80 CU has a little more depth and extension, while the R3 Pro Saber has the upper hand in terms of controlled. The midbass region of both devices shows a good level of impact and extension, while the HiBy R3 Pro Saber has the slightly edge when it comes to thingness and overall layering.
Both the HiBy R3 Pro Saber and the Hidizs AP80 CU do show musical and transparent midrange presentation. The midrange of the R3 Pro Saber offers a bit more clarity and resolution due to the slightly more pronounced/highlighted upper midrange and lower treble tuning.
The treble presentation of both, the HiBy R3 Pro Saber and Hidizs Ap80 CU is successful in terms of overall resolution end extension, while the R3 Pro Saber has an slightly advantage in the upper treble region that makes it a bit more detailed while listen to instruments like pianos and cymbals.
The soundstage performance of both devices is pretty equal in terms of separation and placement of instruments and the vocals. The HiBy R3 Pro Saber has the upper hand in terms of soundstage width while the performance for depth is pretty close.
The HiBy R3 Pro Saber is a real all-rounder when it comes to sound performance and richness of features. If you do search for an ultra-portable device with great build quality, good sound performance and with lots of features such like a fluid UI, Two-way LDAC, 2.5mm balanced output and well implemented MESB Parametric EQ, the R3 Pro Saber could be the right device for you.
Pros and Cons:
- + Overall Sound Performance
- + Size and Build Quality
- + 3.5mm Phone Out & 2.5mm Balanced Outputs
- + MESB PEQ
- + Two-way LDAC
- + Battery Life
- – Missing of Internal Memory
- – No other remarkable cons for a device at this price category