Home Entertainment

iFi looks to improve music on the move with second-gen hip-dac

iFi looks to improve music on ...
The iFi hip-dac2 can now handle full MQA decoding thanks to a more powerful processor
The iFi hip-dac2 can now handle full MQA decoding thanks to a more powerful processor
View 4 Images
The iFi hip-dac2 can now handle full MQA decoding thanks to a more powerful processor
1/4
The iFi hip-dac2 can now handle full MQA decoding thanks to a more powerful processor
A source audio device connects to the hip-dac2 over USB, with the listener plugging in headphones/earphones via a 3.5-mm jack or 4.4-mm Pentaconn output
2/4
A source audio device connects to the hip-dac2 over USB, with the listener plugging in headphones/earphones via a 3.5-mm jack or 4.4-mm Pentaconn output
The hip-dac2 can handle all MQA unfolding stages itself, while also supporting high-resolution PCM, DXD and DSD
3/4
The hip-dac2 can handle all MQA unfolding stages itself, while also supporting high-resolution PCM, DXD and DSD files
A PowerMatch feature on the hip-dac2 matches the drive level to the headphone load
4/4
A PowerMatch feature on the hip-dac2 matches the drive level to the headphone load
View gallery - 4 images

Early last year, Brit audio specialist iFi launched a pocket digital-to-analog converter called the hip-dac, which the company claimed would treat listeners to a "sound as flavorsome and richly detailed as a delicious single malt." Now the hip-dac2 has arrived.

The job of DACs like this wee nip in your pocket is to help improve the audio coming from a cabled device like a smartphone, tablet or laptop and into a pair of headphones or earphones, often leveraging much higher spec circuitry than source devices could ever hope to employ. And such is the case with the hip-dac2.

iFi has again opted to combine its custom circuitry with a Burr-Brown DAC chip, which as before supports playback of PCM and DXD audio files at sampling rates of up to 374 kHz, and up to DSD256. Components elsewhere include a custom OV op-amp, TDK C0G class 1 ceramic capacitors, and a low-noise power supply from Texas Instruments.

The new unit now benefits from a 16-core XMOS chip for improved overall performance while enabling the device to tackle full MQA decoding, rather than merely acting as a renderer – which means that instead of only performing the final unfold, all stages are undertaken by the hip-dac2. MQA audio technology was developed to deliver the kind of sound quality you'd get from an original master recording in a file format that's small enough for streaming, and is used by platforms like Tidal to deliver high resolution wireless music to listeners.

The hip-dac2 can handle all MQA unfolding stages itself, while also supporting high-resolution PCM, DXD and DSD
The hip-dac2 can handle all MQA unfolding stages itself, while also supporting high-resolution PCM, DXD and DSD files

The crystal clock, which has the job of removing digital distortion, has been upgraded as well, for the promise of a "purer, crisper sound," the hip-dac2 is said to be capable of handling even the most demanding of audiophile headphones, and a feature called PowerMatch at the amp stage increases the signal strength for headphones requiring more drive. There's also a function to up the bass response without bleeding into the midrange, something that could be particularly handy for earphones.

The hip-dac2 connects to a source device over USB 3.0 Type A (there's also a USB-C port for charging the 2,200-mAh battery), and listeners can plug ear candy in via an unbalanced 3.5-mm jack or balanced 4.4-mm Pentaconn output. It wears a striking orange aluminum jacket this time around, though a faux suede case in gray is available for folks who don't want to risk damage to or from a source device while out and about.

The iFi hip-dac2 measures 4 x 2.8 x 0.6 inches (102 x 70 x 14 mm) and tips the scales at 4.4 oz (125 g). It's available now for US$189.

Product page: hip-dac2

View gallery - 4 images
2 comments
2 comments
Eddy
If most of us are downloading MP3's which are heavily compressed how is this no doubt eyewateringly priced gadget going to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
ClauS
I would expected a short mention of the controversy regarding the actual merits of MQA format, considering that it is central to this DAC.