iFi Audio hip-dac 3 Review


iFi Audio hip-dac 3 Review



iFi Audio is an award-winning audio tech company with headquarters in Southport, UK, specializing in digital audio products designed to improve the listening experience. Since launching in 2012, they’ve carved a niche for themselves with a focus on innovative technologies, high-fidelity sound reproduction, and a wide range of products catering to different budgets and needs.

This review will explore the hip-dac 3, a recent addition to iFi Audio’s hip-dac portable DAC/Amplifier lineup and an upgrade to the previous version, the hip-dac 2. The device features a sleek aluminum design with a titanium shadow finish, and boasts two USB-C ports for charging and audio input, a 3.5mm jack for headphones, and a 4.4mm balanced output for wider compatibility.

Under the hood, the hip-dac 3 packs a punch with a Burr-Brown DAC chip for high-fidelity digital-to-analog conversion, and an 16-core XMOS microcontroller for precise control. It also features gain adjustment to optimize the listening experience for different headphones, IEMatch technology to eliminate headphone hiss with sensitive in-ear monitors (IEMs), and a bass boost for those who prefer a bit more low-end thump. The hip-dac 3 supports a variety of file formats, including MQA, to deliver exceptional audio quality, and offers up to 12 hours of playback on a single charge.



I would like to thank iFi Audio for providing me the hip-dac 3 for review purposes. I am not affiliated with iFi Audio beyond this review and these words reflect my true, unaltered opinions about the product.


Price & Availability:

The actual price of the iFi Audio hip-dac 3 Portable DAC/Amplifier is about 199,99 US$. More information’s can be found under the link below;


Package & Accessories:

The iFi Audio hip-dac 3 comes in a relatively small rectangular box featuring an illustration of the device and some product-related branding on its surface.

The box of the hip-dac 3 is including the following items:

  • 1 x iFi Audio hip-dac 3 Portable DAC/Amplifier
  • 1 x USB Type-C to Lightning cable
  • 1 x USB Type-C to USB Type-C cable
  • 1 x USB Type-C to USB A cable
  • 4 x pairs of stickable silicone feets
  • Print Materials

While a protective case isn’t included with the hip-dac 3, iFi Audio offers a nice, optional case that I highly recommend adding to your purchase.


Design & Build Quality:

The iFi Audio hip-dac 3 is a portable digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier designed for audiophiles seeking high-fidelity sound on the go. Encased in a compact aluminum chassis, the hip-dac 3 boasts a minimalist design with a dark, greyish tone with a hint of metallic sheen, officially named “Titanium Shadow” by iFi Audio. The aluminum construction contributes to a feeling of solidity and durability, important for a device likely to be carried around, and the flask-like shape makes it easy to hold.

The device has dimensions of 102 x 70 x 14 mm (4.0″ x 2.8″ x 0.6″) and is pretty lightweight at approximately 135 g (0.30 lbs).

iFi Audio prioritizes user-friendliness with a central focus on the Volume / Power ON/OFF knob located on the front of the hip-dac 3. Its smooth rotation offers precise control over listening levels, while two flanking buttons provide additional customization.

Illuminated LEDs beside these buttons offer clear visual cues on the active function and incoming audio format.

The “XBass” button adds a subtle bass boost, while the “Power Match” button caters to high-impedance headphones by providing a welcome gain boost. The front side houses also two headphone outputs: a 3.5mm S-BAL output for standard single-ended Headphones & IEMs and a 4.4mm BAL output jack for balanced Headphones & IEMs.

The top of the device has a minimalistic appearance that displays the “iFi” brand logo right at the center.

At the rear surface of the hip-dac 3 is the IEMatch slider that allows you to toggle between 3.5mm/4.4mm and OFF. This is a thoughtful inclusion for those using sensitive in-ear monitors, offering further control over your listening experience.

This surface is labeled “hip dac 3” branding, icons and with additional markings indicating licensed technology and assembly origin.

The bottom surface of the hip-dac 3 has two labels (QR and Hi-Res) and provides connectivity interfaces for both charging and audio playback. It features two USB-C ports: one for charging the device and another for connecting to a source device such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

The build quality of the hip-dac 3 is impressive, thanks to its aluminum housing that adds durability, with no imperfections like burrs or gaps visible. This aluminum construction makes the hip-dac 3 feel very well-made and built to last, and it should be able to handle everyday use with ease.


Technical Specifications:

  • Model                          : hip-dac 3
  • Input                            : USB-C
  • Formats supported     : DSD256 / 11.3MHz PCM 384kHz full MQA Decoder
  • DAC                            : Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Burr Brown
  • Headphone Outputs   : BAL 4.4mm S-BAL 3.5mm
  • Power Output             : BAL 400mW @ 32Ω; 6.3V @ 600Ω S-BAL 280mW @ 32Ω; 3.2V @ 600Ω
  • Output Impedance     : BAL & S-BAL ≤1Ω, with iEMatch engaged: ≤4.5Ω
  • SNR                            : BAL ≥109dB(A) @ 0dBFS S-BAL ≥103dB(A) @ 0dBFS
  • DNR                           : BAL ≥109dB(A) S-BAL ≥103dB(A
  • THD + N                     : BAL <0.006X% (360mW/2.0V @ 600Ω) S-BAL <0.01% (100mW/1.27V @ 16Ω)
  • Frequency Response : 20Hz – 45kHz (-3dB)
  • Power Consumption   : <2W idle, 4W max
  • Battery                        : Lithium-polymer 2200mAh approx. 8 hours
  • Power System            : Charging via USB-C,BC V1.2 compliant up to 1000mA charging current
  • Dimensions                 : 102 x 70 x 14 mm (4.0″ x 2.8″ x 0.6″) Net weight: 135 g (0.30 lbs)



The iFi Audio hip-dac 3 is a very compact portable DAC/Amplifier that shows some interesting features. Let’s take a closer look at these features below:

Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) & MQA support:

The iFi Audio hip-dac 3 utilizes Burr-Brown’s True Native® chipset, promising bit-perfect playback. This ensures the digital audio signal remains unaltered during conversion to analog within the hip-dac 3. iFi prioritizes Burr-Brown chips for their natural sonic characteristics and True Native architecture. Their experience with these chips allows them to potentially extract maximum performance. This results in high-resolution, True Native playback compatibility for a wide range of music formats, including MP3, DSD256, PCM384, and DXD384. Furthermore, the hip-dac 3 offers full decoding of MQA, the hi-res streaming technology employed by Tidal’s ‘HiFi Plus’ tier. This decoding process includes the complete “three unfold” operation.

On the front of the device is the volume knob. On the left and right sides are LED lights that provide information about the current audio format using different color coding’s (listed below).

  • Yellow PCM 44.1/48kHz
  • White PCM 88.2/96/176.4/192/352.8/384kHz
  • Cyan DSD 64/128
  • Red DSD 256
  • Green MQA
  • Blue MQA Studio
  • Magenta Original Sample Rate


Amplification & IEMatch:

The iFi Audio hip-dac 3 is equipped with a true balanced circuit design, which the company claims minimizes signal distortion for a purer listening experience. This design is complemented by high-quality components for overall performance.

The hip-dac 3 caters to a wide range of headphones with its dual outputs: a 4.4mm balanced output and a 3.5mm S-BAL output. The balanced output offers a maximum power of 400mW into 32 ohms and 6.3V into 600 ohms that is able to drive even high-impedance headphones like the HiFiMAN Arya Organic. The S-BAL output delivers 280mW into 32 ohms and 3.2V into 600 ohms.

Output impedance is specified at less than 1 ohm for both balanced and S-BAL connections (increasing to 4.5 ohms with iEMatch engaged). A low output impedance can help reduce distortion and improve signal integrity.

The hip-dac 3 features a switchable gain function called PowerMatch to ensure optimal power delivery for the specific headphones in use. Additionally, iEMatch technology can be engaged to optimize the output for sensitive in-ear monitors. iEMatch is claimed to reduce hiss, enhance detail and dynamic range, and improve volume control range.

The results are pretty decent. It works as claimed by iFi Audio, even with sensitive IEMs like the Campfire Audio Fathom. I found it exhibited a very low amount of hissing, which is quite acceptable for such a small and well-priced portable DAC/Amplifier.

Both the balanced and S-BAL outputs boast a high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) exceeding 103 dB(A) and a dynamic range (DNR) exceeding 103 dB(A).



The iFi hip-dac 3 features a 2,200mAh battery, providing up to 12 hours of playtime on a single charge. However, this playtime can vary depending on factors like volume level, gain mode and how demanding your headphones are to power. In fact, the battery duration varying between 7 to 12 hours depending on the volume level and output you’re using (3.5mm S-BAL or 4.4mm Balanced).


16-core XMOS microcontroller:

The hip-dac 3 utilizes a 16-core XMOS chip for digital signal processing. This chip offers increased processing power compared to previous generations, potentially resulting in improved audio performance. Specifically, it has double the clock speed (2000MIPS) and four times the memory (512KB) compared to 8-core alternatives. Additionally, the chip supports the latest SuperSpeed USB standard for faster data transfer.

iFi has programmed the XMOS chip’s firmware in-house, aiming to optimize sound quality and ensure compatibility with the Burr-Brown DAC. This suggests iFi has made an effort to tailor the chip’s operation specifically for the hip-dac 3’s audio processing needs.


Equipment’s used for this review:

  • DAC’s             : iFi Audio hip-dac 3, Audirect Beam 4
  • IEM’s              : Meze Audio Alba, Campfire Audio Fathom, DITA Audio Project M
  • Headphones  : HiFiMAN Arya Organic, FiiO FT5
  • Source           : Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, MSI Vector GP68 HX


Albums & tracks used for this review:

  • Norah Jones – Come Away With Me (Apple Music Lossless)
  • Adele – My Little Love (Apple Music Lossless)
  • Sarah McLachlan – Angel (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Sertap Erener – Aşk (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Edith Piaf – Non Je Ne Regrette Rien (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Diana Krall – So Wonderful (DSF)
  • Aretha Franklin – I Say A Little Payer (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Michael Jackson – Billie Jean (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • George Michael – Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • David Bowie – Heroes (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Elton John – Rocket Man ((Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Barry White – Just The Way You Are (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Isaac Hayes – Walk On By (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Sting – Englishman in New York – (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Dave Gahan – Kingdom (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Radiohead – Live in Berlin “Album” (Apple Music Lossless)
  • Radiohead – Pyramid Song (Apple Music Lossless)
  • U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Muse – Hysteria (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers – Nobody Weird Like Me (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Michael Jackson – Billie Jean (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Bear McCreary’s – Valkyries (Deezer HiFi)
  • Bro Safari, UFO! – Drama (Deezer HiFi)
  • Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Daft Punk – Instant Crush (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Daft Punk – Doin’ it Right (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Lorde – Royals (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Massive Attack – Angel (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Toutant – Rebirth (Deezer HiFi)
  • Gogo Penguin – Raven (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Gogo Penguin – Murmuration (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Portishead – It Could Be Sweet (Apple Music Lossless)
  • Hans Zimmer – The Dark Knight OST (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Max Richter – On the Nature of Daylight (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Charly Antolini – Duwadjuwandadu (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Tchaikovsky – Symphony No. 5 (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Ferit Odman – Look, Stop & Listen (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Chopin – Nocturn No. 20 In C-Sharp Minor (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Clair de Lune – Claude Debussy (Spotify)
  • Fazıl Say – Nazım Oratoryosu (Live) (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Apple Music Lossless)
  • Pink Floyd – Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Apple Music Lossless)
  • Miles Davis – So What (Deezer HiFi)
  • Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Lunatic Soul – The Passage (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Deftones – My Own Summer (Shove it) (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Metallica – Dyers Eve (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Opeth – Windowpane (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Rush’s – Tom Sawyer (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Slayer – Angel of Death (Spotify)
  • Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Spotify)
  • Yosi Horikawa – Bubbles (Spotify)


Sound Analysis:

The iFi Audio hip-dac 3 prioritizes a natural and accurate sound signature, excelling in clarity and detail retrieval across the frequency range. While the bass leans slightly warm, it maintains tight control, and the midrange shines with exceptional transparency for vocals and instruments. The treble offers a good balance between detail and a smooth, fatigue-free presentation, making the hip-dac 3 a compelling portable source for various IEM’s and Headphones.

The iFi Audio hip-dac 3 review has been written after a burn-in period of about 70 – 75 hours. My sound experiences below are mainly based on my auditions with IEM’s like DITA Audio Project M, Meze Audio Alba, Campfire Audio Fathom and headphone like the FiiO FT5 and HiFiMAN Arya Oragnic cover the 4.4mm 4.4mm Balanced output.


The iFi Audio hip-dac 3 delivers a fairly natural sound signature with a touch of warmth created in the lows. The bass response is tight and controlled, extending well into the low frequencies. This approach prioritizes accuracy over artificial emphasis. For instance, in Daft Punk’s “Doin’ it Right,” the sub-bass rumble feels present and impactful without overwhelming the mix. Similarly, Lorde’s “Royals” benefits from the clean and textured bass, which maintains the punch of the kick drums.

The XBass switch caters to those who prefer a warmer, more impactful low-end. This feature shines with IEMs like the DITA Audio Project M, adding a touch more body to tracks like Metallica’s “Dyers Eve” without sacrificing the definition in the guitar riffs. However, for IEM’s like the Meze Audio Alba and headphones like the FiiO FT5, with their already powerful bass response, the XBass becomes less necessary.


The midrange is a clear strength of the iFi Audio hip-dac 3. It delivers exceptional clarity and detail, while listen to both instruments and vocals that was especially audible with IEM’s such as the DITA Audio Project M and headphones such as the HiFiMAN Arya Organic. This transparency brings vocals and electric guitars to the forefront, for a realistic and engaging listening experience. Tracks like Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why” showcase the delicate subtleties of female vocals.

The hip-dac 3 excels in revealing details in the midrange. Vocals shine with clarity, allowing subtle inflections like breath control to come through. This creates a sense of intimacy, evident in Adele’s “My Little Love” where vocal details are brought to light. The portrayal extends to male vocals as well, with David Bowie’s iconic delivery in “Heroes” retaining its richness and texture. Similarly, Elton John’s voice in “Rocket Man” is presented naturally when paired with the Arya Organic and the Project M.

The hip-dac 3’s clarity extends to complex guitar work. Intricate riffs are well-defined, allowing you to appreciate the details within the music, which is impressive for a product at this price level.


The treble of the iFi Audio hip-dac 3 shows a decent balance between detail retrieval and a smooth, fatigue-free presentation. It extends admirably well into the high frequencies, revealing the nuances of cymbals, bells, and other high-pitched instruments with remarkable clarity and resolution for a portable gear at this price tag. This capability allows you to appreciate the intricate flourishes in GoGo Penguin’s “Raven,” where the percussion work dances around the mix with a shimmering quality. The treble has a mildly roll-off at the very top end. The result is a slightly more relaxed listening experience, perfect for those who find overly aggressive treble fatiguing over extended listening sessions. This characteristic is particularly noticeable while listen to IEM’s like the Campfire Audio Supermoon and DITA Audio Project M as well as headphones like the HiFiMAN Arya Organic known for its natural treble response.

Ultimately, the treble presentation here prioritizes a comfortable and engaging listening experience, making it to an ideal portable source for various genres of music that meets my expectations from a portable device at this price level.

Soundstage & Imaging:

The iFi Audio hip-dac 3 offers an efficient sense of width and depth, which allows you to appreciate the spatial cues within recordings, such as the distinct positioning of instruments within an orchestra or the placement of sounds in a live venue, as exemplified by the dynamic performance in Charly Antolini’s “Duwadjuwandadu.”



iFi Audio hip-dac 3 ($199,99) versus Audirect Beam 4 ($239,99):

Both the iFi Audio hip-dac 3 and Audirect Beam 4 are strong contenders in the portable DAC/Amp market, but when it comes to sonic performance, the iFi hip-dac 3 takes the lead in several key areas. Let’s put them head-to-head:

This iFi Audio Audio hip-dac 3 prioritizes a pretty natural and accurate bass response. Tight and controlled lows deliver a satisfying punch without compromising detail in the overall soundscape. A subtle touch of warmth adds richness, particularly enhancing the listening experience for acoustic and jazz genres. Notably, the XBass feature empowers users to tailor the low-end according to their preferences. The Audirect Beam 4 on the other side offers a fairly fast and impactful bass response. While initially appealing, this emphasis on the midbass region potentially color the overall sound signature. This coloration is less than ideal for certain genres, particularly those demanding a more neutral and nuanced bass presentation.

In the midrange, the iFi hip-dac Audio 3 and Audirect Beam 4 take slightly different approaches. The hip-dac 3 prioritizes transparency and detail retrieval. Vocals and instruments are presented with remarkable clarity, faithfully reproducing every nuance, from a vocalist’s subtle breath control to the intricate details within a complex guitar riff. This focus on transparency fosters a realistic and detailed listening experience, ideal for critical listening and discerning audiophiles. In contrast, the Beam 4 offers a slightly warmer midrange presentation. While some listeners might find this warmth pleasing, it can come at the expense of detail. The warmth can potentially veil some of the finer nuances in vocals and instruments, resulting in a smoother yet potentially less revealing sound signature.

In the treble range, the iFi hip-dac Audio 3 and Audirect Beam 4 continue their contrasting philosophies. The hip-dac 3 strikes a perfect balance between detail and smoothness. It offers exceptional detail retrieval, revealing the sparkle and airiness of high frequencies without becoming harsh, making it ideal for extended listening sessions without listener fatigue. In comparison, the Beam 4, while detailed, lacks the crispness and spaciousness of the hip-dac 3. The result is a slightly more veiled presentation, muting the delicate nuances in cymbals or the high notes of instruments.

Finally, the soundstage presentation further distinguishes these two devices. The iFi Audio hip-dac 3 shows a tad wider and deeper soundstage, allowing a better sense of instrument separation and a more immersive listening experience. The Audirect Beam 4’s soundstage, while decent, feels a bit congested in comparison, cramping the overall sonic presentation. This can make it a bit more difficult to distinguish individual instruments and nuances within the music.



The iFi Audio hip-dac 3 delivers high-fidelity sound in a stylish and compact package, making it a compelling option for audiophiles on the go. Its Burr-Brown DAC chip ensures accurate digital-to-analog conversion, while the XMOS microcontroller provides precise control. The hip-dac 3 caters to a wide range of headphones with its balanced and unbalanced outputs, and its switchable gain and IEMatch technology help to optimize the listening experience for different headphone types.

Sound quality is a major strength of the hip-dac 3. It delivers a natural sound signature with a touch of warmth, tight and controlled bass, clear and detailed mids, and a well-balanced treble with a smooth presentation. The hip-dac 3 excels at revealing details across the frequency range, making it a great choice for audiophiles who value accuracy and clarity.

With its long battery life, extensive format support, and excellent sound quality, the iFi Audio hip-dac 3 offers exceptional value for its price.


Pros & Cons: 

  • + Excellent Sonic Performance for the Price
  • + Advanced Features (IEMatch, Power Match & XBass)
  • + Extensive Format Support (including MQA, True Native DSD)
  • + Decent Battery Life
  • + Solid Build Quality & Compact Design
  • + Impressive Value (combining excellent audio performance with portability)
  • – No protective case included (sold separately)




You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *