Fun size & feature packed
With kind thanks from Yihua of Aoshida hi-fi, the AP80 Pro has a retail price of $169.99. In typical Chinese style, it represents a price level that seems way below it’s true worth. Far be it from me to give the game away so early on into my review, but I’m hoping you get the gist of what this site is all about.
A tiny piece on what gets onto this site and what doesn’t make it
I don’t like to whinge. I especially don’t wish to waste my time moaning about audio products that don’t reach or exceed my expectations. My time is precious, and I, like your good selves, am holding down a demanding full time job. If I am sent a product that I don’t like, it simply doesn’t get on to these pages. Whilst I may not rave about every product I have reviewed here, there is always something engaging enough for me to warrant the many hours it takes to get the message out there. As always, the devil is in the details, read and research properly and you will find what you desire. I do not read any reviews on products that I am due to receive. This is the way in which I can keep my writing fresh, free from plagiarism, my own views and my own style. I trust that you respect this and take this as the reason as to why each review seems to have so much positivity in it. In a world full of so much bad news, my small part will try and take you away from that; for a little while at least.
Now; back to business
About the AP80 Pro
The question is not what the AP80 Pro does; it’s easier to mention what it doesn’t do! The Pro has no Wi-Fi and no app support. It doesn’t have a massive amp for your HiFiMan HE-6 or your Abyss or whatever crazy big headphone you’ve got. If you’re looking for this, thank you very much for your time so far, and I understand if you want to leave and seek elsewhere. I hope to see you soon. If I still have you with me, let us both take a look at what this thing can do.
You have balanced cables for your posh earphones and need something to try them out on without breaking the bank. Box ticked. The AP80 Pro has a 2.5 balanced and 3.5 jack. A note of caution. Do not try a 3.5 to 2.5 adapter, even if there is one out there. It might damage the amp in the AP80 in just the same way as it would affect any balanced connection. If you want to try a balanced output, get yourself a balanced cable. There are no shortcuts to this. And a balanced cable can be got for $20-$30 (or £). That will look much nicer than an adapter spoiling your new DAP. The AP80 has bidirectional Bluetooth. It can receive a Bluetooth signal, for example, from your smartphone, and it’ll handle LDAC with ease. There is an app you can download and it’ll allow you to control the features of the AP80 on your smartphone, which has a bigger screen than the AP80 so therefore should be easier to navigate. It doesn’t stop there. Bluetooth can be pushed from the Hidizs to a Bluetooth headphone or speaker.
Other inputs include a DAC facility which has DSD support for 64/128 formats. OTG is supported, so you can strap this to your phone for a wired connection, for example, and output Bluetooth to your wireless earphones. The AP80 has no internal memory but supports a micro sd card of 512 Gb and probably beyond. I can’t yet evidence that capacity but have had no problems with the 128 Gb I’ve been using. The UI on the Hidizs is fast and has plenty of features. There are many clunky operating systems out there for some otherwise good digital players; Hidizs are renowned for a high quality UI and licence this out to other manufacturers.
In short, they know what they’re doing, and it shows here. The touchscreen and the Samsung display are responsive and sharp. There are side buttons for next, pause and back, and a volume knob that’s both precise and dsicrete. Within the settings all can be switched off for on the move purposes. In practice, I didn’t find any problems with the AP80 whilst out running and in unlocked mode. I can’t see myself needing to use the app.
What, if any, qualities or personality does this little gem bring to the table? Compared to the AK380, or the Fiio M11, is there any discernible difference? I will put some audio clips on and clealry label which ones are from which DAP, then you’ll be able to make that decision yourselves. Bear in mind that the Fiio M11 retails for £449 and the Astell & Kern AK380 is a former flagship DAP. That will set you back £1649…..
Ok, have you had a listen? Good. Now all you need to know is what this will sound good with. Plug in all types of earphones, and some full size headphones will work outstandingly well with the AP80 Pro. I’d suggest you’d be looking at anything with an impedance of 50 Ohms or less would be a good match. For full sized headphones, there is a gain setting within the GUI which needs switching to High Mode. Full sized bluetooth headphones have their own Dac and Amp so are not an issue. I happen to have the Ananda BT which is about as good as it gets with wireless headphones. Of course one must realise that by using bluetooth outputs we are essentially limiting the AP8 Pro to 50% of it’s capabilities, because then it simply becomes a source rather than using it’s analog outputs. The Dac and amp become switched off as those duties are being taken up by the bluetooth headphones.
The need for a fast, good looking, feature packed DAP that can communicate with your smartphone and your bluetooth devices and hi-fi is never more important than now. If you want something disconnected from that world, don’t worry; chuck your files onto an sd card and listen in the traditional way. It’s got a clean looking, fast GUI and it hasn’t fallen over on me yet. The AP80 Pro doesn’t have WiFi and apps, which has undoubtedy kept the price level temptingly low. Your smartphone has all that, as has your laptop. So this does the next best thing and uses bluetooth with great efficiency. There is an app to control this from your smartphone when out and about. I can’t see the need indoors with a screen that is this good. My opinion on the sound is that it is difficult to fault at this level; I’m glad they didn’t try and cater for bigger headphones with a bigger amp section, because that would have pushed both the price and the size of the device up into another tier. And who, fellow bargain hunters, would want that to happen?